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Big Brown team challenge Curlin

BIG BROWN'S connections have thrown down the gauntlet to Curlin after the Kentucky Derby winner came through his Breeders' Cup tune-up on the turf in fine style.

America's top three-year-old heads to the Classic after holding off the grass specialists in the $500,000 Monmouth Stakes on Saturday.

However, Curlin may not defend his title, owing to his connections' wariness over the all-weather surface at Santa Anita.

"I can't wait to run against Curlin," said Big Brown co-owner Michael Iavarone. "If he's gonna show up, he should show up at the Breeders' Cup. That's where we are going to be. That would be a great place for us to run against each other."

Despite the doubts about his participation, Curlin is vying for ante-post favouritism with British bookmakers at a best-priced 9-2. Big Brown is as big as 6-1 generally.

Colonel John, winner of the Travers Stakes on his most recent outing and 8-1 for the Classic, worked out on the new Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita. The son of dual Classic winner Tiznow went four furlongs for trainer Eoin Harty.

"I thought it was great," Harty told the Blood-Horse. "He did it very easily and handled this surface very well. He had such a hard race in the Travers that I gave him a little break. This was his first work since."

Colonel John heads straight for the Classic without a prep run. Worries over the all-weather surface are likely to cause a number of absentees at the Breeders' Cup.

Curlin's stablemate Pyro and Proud Spell, the nation's leading three-year-old filly, may also be pointed elsewhere.

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