09/09/2013 5:43PM

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.