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Curlin Named '2007 Horse Of The Year'

SANTA ROSA, Calif., Jan. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Jess Jackson, the tenacious attorney-turned-wine-entrepreneur who some have called "the man who invented chardonnay," has entered the world of thoroughbred horse racing with characteristic zeal - and results.

Curlin, the three-year-old colt owned by Jackson, was honored at the Eclipse Awards as the "2007 Horse of the Year" and "Three-year-old Male of the Year" at a Beverly Hills awards ceremony Monday night. The Eclipse Awards are given each year to horse racing's top performers. The awards are voted on and presented by The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers Association, and Daily Racing Form in recognition of excellence in thoroughbred racing.

Jackson also revealed the future plans for Curlin and announced that Curlin is pointed towards a four-year-old racing campaign. "As long as he is fit," Jackson said, "we're going to bring him back to the track for 2008 -- where he's happiest. He wants to run and my family and I love seeing him run. I realize that this is not the conventional career path for a horse like Curlin, but then I'm not sure there's ever been a horse quite like Curlin."

In a year when three-year-old thoroughbreds shocked the racing world with performances that outmatched some of the fastest four-year-olds in the industry, Curlin's accomplishments are particularly special. Curlin's historic 2007 racing campaign saw everything from the colt "breaking his maiden" to winning the 2007 Breeder's Cup and The Preakness, finishing third in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont Stakes -- all in the span of eight months. "Curlin has lived up to all expectations," said a beaming Jackson. "From the moment I laid eyes on him, I could see his true potential and shining greatness. The similarities of producing a world-class wine and raising a world-class thoroughbred horse are uncanny -- hard work and dedication to quality!"

"We should also take our hats off to the horses that ran against Curlin," said Jackson, a lifelong racing fan. "This 2004 vintage of elegant upstarts shook the racing world this year. The field made for perhaps the most memorable Triple Crown in the past fifty years - great horses like Rags to Riches, Street Sense, Hard Spun and Any Given Saturday. Who would have thought it possible that such an amazing field of three-year-olds would arrive all at once ... and bring all of us together in what's been a marvelous, magical year for horse racing?

"There's simply nothing that compares to horseracing. Not in excitement. Not in beauty. Not in history. But in order to preserve this pastime, we have to work together to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy this ancient and honorable sport."

Jackson said much of the credit for Curlin's success goes to the Stonestreet Stables team, which includes trainer Steve Asmussen, who fashioned a brilliant campaign to achieve our goal of winning the Breeders' Cup, assistant trainer Scott Blasi, whose constant attention guided every phase of Curlin's development, his exercise trainer Carmen Rosas, and his groom Javier Gutierrez. Jockey Robby Albarado, an amazing athlete himself, was a perfect fit for Curlin's 2007 campaign. From Curlin's discovery through each of his amazing triumphs, John Moynihan, our bloodstock agent who assembled the team, advised and attended to every detail of his season.

Having founded the successful Kendall-Jackson Winery twenty-five years ago and watched it grow into one of America's favorite wine producers, the 77-year-old Jackson has recently turned his attention to racing, a passion since he was nine years old and witnessed the legendary Seabiscuit win at San Mateo's Bay Meadows.

In four short years his investments in thoroughbred horses, and purchase of farms in California, Kentucky and Florida, have paid great dividends and have led Jackson to become one of the key figures in the horse racing industry. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of the Thoroughbred Owners of California and is a founding director of the Horse Owners' Protective Association.

"We're having a tremendous year," says Jackson. "Kendall-Jackson celebrated its 25th Anniversary, was awarded 'Winery of the Year' at the San Francisco Wine Competition and was also named 'Winery of the Year' by Wine & Spirits magazine. It's a delight to cap it with Curlin's 'Horse of the Year' honors."

More than a few financial analysts and wine writers have compared Jackson's family wine business to Curlin's strength and endurance in the homestretch. In the early days of 1982 when Kendall-Jackson launched its first wine, one skeptical writer referred to Kendall-Jackson as a "flash-in-the-pan." Jackson's drive to succeed and innate determination to provide highest quality at a reasonable price has vaulted Kendall-Jackson to the top of the wine industry.

Not only did Jackson's family wine company surprise everyone with its popularity, numerous imitators scrambled to copy the trademark Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay wine style. Not content with his early success, the dogged Jackson elevated -- both literally and figuratively -- the grape sourcing and wine style, instituting a bold move to an "Estate-Grown" winery with the 2004 vintage. Kendall-Jackson has chosen to concentrate on highest quality wine grape growing while other producers have chosen to cut corners and chase volume.

"Our commitment to excellence has served me well in both the wine and horse business," says a reflective Jackson. "I'd like to believe that our efforts have laid a solid framework for future generations of my family to succeed and flourish, whether it's wine or horses."


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