10/12/2011 11:31AM

Breeders' Cup: Cease not your typical Marathon runner

Barbara D. Livingston
Cease backed up an easy Saratoga maiden win with an impressive allowance score there.

Al Stall Jr. says he is 50/50 on whether to run Cease in the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon.

“Five hundred thousand is $500,000,” Stall said. “It’s either that, or give him a good breather for next year, when we’d be looking at $500,000-type races with him. I’ll train him the next two weeks and see how he does.”

If Stall does run Cease in the Marathon, then he will be running the sort of lightly raced, rapidly improving horse that you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a 14-furlong race such as this. Moreover, that would make Cease a dangerous win candidate, especially since the Marathon has lost a top contender in Jockey Club Gold Cup runner up Drosselmeyer, who is now being pointed to the Classic.

A 4-year-old gelding owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm, Cease only made his stakes debut last Saturday in the Hawthorne Gold Cup. And while it is true the Hawthorne Gold Cup wasn’t the strongest Breeders’ Cup prep of the year, Cease’s close third-place finish was an admirable effort considering he was conceding considerable experience to his opposition. What Cease also did in the Hawthorne Gold Cup is underscore how far he’s come since being introduced to dirt racing less than two months ago. At the start of his career, Cease looked like a nice but essentially nondescript turf and synthetic-track horse. But then Cease won a maiden event rained off the turf onto a muddy Saratoga main track by more than 13 lengths Aug. 21, earning a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure. He returned 15 days later and won off again on the dirt at Saratoga. And that was all the dirt experience, or winning experience, Cease had going into last Saturday’s stakes debut.

“We were clouded a little bit by that War Chant on top, which is turf,” Stall said, referring to Cease’s sire. “And I was thinking about it the other day: he had nagging injuries when he was young, and every time he came back from a layoff to train he trained on Poly, so we never really got a good line on him on dirt outside of a little training at Fair Grounds.

“He looks like his female side,” Stall added, noting Cease is out of a Cox’s Ridge mare. “Cox’s Ridge is dirt, so that’s why I had no problem running him at Saratoga when that race came off the turf.”

Stall also had little problem pitting Cease against much more seasoned opposition in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, noting that his horse fit with that field on the basis of speed figures.

“I know it may have looked like I was throwing him to the wolves a little bit, but I also wanted to keep him on dirt, and the only place to do that where we are right now here in Kentucky is Hawthorne,” he said.

Yet as well as Cease ran at Hawthorne going a 10-furlong distance that is about as far as most horses will ever be asked to run, it is a sobering thought that if he is to start in the Marathon, he must go an additional half-mile. Stall, however, does not see that as a problem.

“If he was a whole horse, he’d be on the shelf already readying for a big, hard run next year,” Stall said. “But running in this race won’t affect next year because he’s going to get a break either way. This is a $500,000 race. He has old-school legs, big and strong, like tree stumps. And he’s fit to go from here to the end of the world.”

– Mike Watchmaker