09/09/2013 4:43PM

Breeders’ Cup Marathon: Top contenders have yet to emerge

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Barbara D. Livingston
Calidoscopio (left) won the Brooklyn Handicap in June but subsequently was retired.

As the racing calendar inches closer to the Breeders’ Cup, the biggest topic surrounding the Grade 2, $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon is not who’s emerging in the division, but who isn’t running.

The Marathon division lost its only bona-fide star in August when last year’s winner, Calidoscopio, was retired to begin his stallion career in his native Argentina. Prior to the announcement, the 10-year-old son of Luhuk stood a good chance of becoming the Marathon’s first repeat winner, following an electrifying last-to-first win in the Brooklyn Handicap in June.

Who will take Calidoscopio’s place as the Marathon division’s new standard-bearer remains to be seen, as the field rarely takes its full shape until the days before entries are taken for the Breeders’ Cup.

The only horse we know is certain to be pointing for the 1 3/4-mile race is the one following the same path Calidoscopio took to the winner’s circle last year. That horse is Ever Rider, the winner of the Group 2 Clasico General Belgrano in Argentina – the Marathon’s only Win and You’re In race.

The 5-year-old son of Rider Stripes earned his first stakes victory in the General Belgrano, a roughly 1 7/16-mile race. Ever Rider has spent the bulk of his career running at distances between seven furlongs and a mile, but his career has dramatically improved since stretching out to greater distances in 2013 for owner Alberto Ibáñez and trainer Juan Carlos Bianchi. He’s in training at Santa Anita.

Domestically, the roster for the Marathon will take shape in the coming weeks, with key platoons on the East and West coasts and European invaders revealing themselves as the race draws closer.

Most recently, Eldaafer established himself as a prime contender to become the first two-time Marathon winner after outlasting Indian Jones by a nose in the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing on Sept. 2. The 8-year-old A.P. Indy gelding won the 2010 Marathon and has competed in the race every year since 2009.

In California, Richard’s Kid stands out among a solid division of long-distance horses, by virtue of his second consecutive win in the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap at Del Mar on July 26. However, a solid fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic could make the 8-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid a flight risk for the BC Classic instead.

Jeffrey More than 1 year ago
Count me as one of the biggest proponents of long distance racing. Unfortunately, races beyond 9F have pretty much withered on the vine. That being said, I take great interest in the few main track races (as well as turf races) held over a measure of ground. That being said, I think the distance of the Marathon should be tweaked to reflect the unfortunate realities of the racing calendar. Given the absence of prep races beyond 12F, it seems impractical to expect horses to compete at its current distance. The rationale behind lengthening the marathon from 1 5/8 miles to 1 3/4 miles is somewhat dubious (perhaps the hope is to attract international runners). My preference would be to revert back to 1 5/8th miles (or better yet, 1 1/2 miles). Also, they should raise the purse to 1 million dollars, which would create another viable alternative to the classic. All BC races have purses of a million dollars or greater with the exception of the Marathon, which offers a paltry $500,000. Raising the purse to one million dollars would also create the possibility of a long distance main track race (besides the Belmont) with Grade 1 status. Any hope at creating a legitimate marathon division should better reflect the current realities of racing. Races like the Brooklyn, Greenwood Cup, and Cougar II are held at 1.5 miles. The length of the Marathon should be consistent with the spattering of races still held over a measure of ground.
Anthony Brancato More than 1 year ago
1 1/2 miles for the Marathon is a terrible idea, because it's too close to the distance of the Breeders Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles. But I do support increasing the purse to $1 million - and more prep races, including Win And You're In races - would attract more interest to the division; NYRA, for example, could revive the Display Handicap, except this time run it at Belmont, perhaps just after they get back from Saratoga, at 1 5/8 or 1 11/16 miles (I doubt 1 3/4 miles would be feasible because of the surprisingly short stretch at Belmont). And Woodbine could bring back its Valedictory Stakes, which was in fact run at 1 3/4 miles.
Amy Hurley More than 1 year ago
At this point, it looks doubtful that Eldaafer will make a return appearance in the Marathon. Trainer Diane Alvarado told Dick Jerardi immediately after the Greenwood Cup that "We learned our lesson in California last year." Apparently, they are considering the Hawthorne Gold Cup instead. Too bad. He's a game horse and it would be cool to see him in the B.C. Marathon again.