Updated on 11/01/2013 5:57PM

Breeders' Cup Marathon: London Bridge strongest in stretch under Mike Smith

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Debra A. Roma
London Bridge wears down the leaders in deep stretch of the 1 3/4-mile Breeders' Cup Marathon.

ARCADIA, Calif. – For the first mile of Friday’s $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Santa Anita, London Bridge was giving Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith few positive vibes.

Smith worried London Bridge was struggling on Santa Anita’s dirt track, in his first start on the surface. When the field reached the end of the backstretch in the race over 1 3/4 miles, the scenario changed.

“At the three-eighths pole, all of a sudden, he jumped on the line,” Smith said of what he felt through his reins. “It was the first time.”

London Bridge was fifth with a quarter-mile remaining and rallied wide in the final furlong to win by a length over 7-1 Blueskiesnrainbows. London Bridge ($20) was timed in 2:58.32. He made his graded stakes debut in the Grade 2 BC Marathon.

Worldly finished third, followed by Suns Out Guns Out, Indian Jones, Old Time Hockey, Pool Play, Commander, and Cease. Ever Rider, the 9-2 favorite and a stakes winner in Argentina in June, was eased with a half-mile remaining and did not finish. Jockey Gary Stevens said Ever Rider “was done after six furlongs. I took care of him after that.”

[BREEDERS' CUP FRIDAY: Video replays and race results]

Ever Rider was not injured, according to veterinary officials.

Commander, a stakes winner in Canada this year, set the pace, closely followed by Ever Rider and Blueskiesnrainbows through the first mile. Blueskiesnrainbows, winner of the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park in 2012, led in the stretch, but could not hold off London Bridge.

“No complaints,” said Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains Blueskiesnrainbows. “He ran very well. What an exciting race.”

For Smith, the all-time leading rider in Breeders’ Cup history, the victory aboard London Bridge was a pleasant surprise.

“I had to ride him and then take a hold, give him confidence and let him move forward,” Smith said. “I didn’t believe in him, but the connections did.”

Owned by Waratah Thoroughbreds, London Bridge is trained by Jo Hughes, who is based in England. Mikael Magnusson, Hughes’s assistant, was the initial trainer of London Bridge before the 3-year-old New York-bred changed hands privately. Magnusson attended Friday’s race and paid tribute to Smith’s ride.

“We made a plan,” Magnusson said. “We said the race will be overpaced. Mike made all the difference today.

“When [London Bridge] came to the backstretch the second time, I thought he had a chance. He’s a very lazy horse. When he turned for home, I thought he’d win it. The other horses looked pretty knackered.”

London Bridge is by Arch and was purchased for $130,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale. London Bridge has won 4 of 9 starts and $307,962. He had career earnings of $32,962 before Friday’s race.

Payoffs:
$2 exacta (7-8), $192.40
$1 trifecta (7-8-10), $695.30
$.10 super (7-8-10-5), $474.22
$2 double (5-7), $188.60
$1 pick-3 (10-5-7), $1,103.50
$.50 pick-4 (9-10-5-7), $29,725.25

Greg Rouch More than 1 year ago
From New York to England to California to win a BC race! Is it time to give up the pretense that there is such a thing as European racing vs. American racing? Declaration of War, a legit contender in Saturday's Classic, is said to be "from Europe." He was bred in West Virginia! If you start your career in Europe, but come to the States in time to make three or four starts stateside before Breeders Cup, we claim you as an American-based horse. If you have an Arab owner, an Italian-born trainer, a French jockey, but you live in Ireland or England and one or more of your parents is American, what are you? A horse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Call me crazy but I love this race. Last year's win by Calidescopio was so much fun to watch and handicap. Just look for the horse that excels at loooong distances. This year's race was much the same. I pick horses with average win distances of 10F or better and you have few to choose from. But the winner has been there. Dismiss the notion of "ever raced on dirt, ever raced on egg shells?", stamina is key. Today's winner had a 15f turf prep as his last race! I heard that he prepped lousy on dirt. Mike Smith even admitted that he didn't think his horse could do it! Then, he said he thinks the horse was training poorly because he was unhappy going out by himself instead of the customary European group outing. Well, game day and, gee whiz - he noticed - London Bridges was on He got to do something fun for a change!
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
Sorry, but what a waste of half a million dollars. Apparently any mediocre European horse can win even though it never set foot on dirt. Simple survival race.
Casey More than 1 year ago
It's not a waste of a half a million dollars...well, maybe right now it is. This race has the potential to be a great race. However, we just continue to breed speed speed speed in this country with no stamina, and pump horses full of medication...then wonder why we can't find anything to run more than 9 or 10 furlongs. What's great about London Bridge is that he just won this race today, and they can probably run him again next weekend if they wanted to. I've been watching races from the UK and the rest of Europe for a few years now, and trust me, we have a lot to learn here in the US.....switch this race to the grass and make it a real international stayers' race. Wait a minute, there's already one this weekend and it's worth about 8 times the BC Marathon...the Melbourne Cup.
Horse Cents More than 1 year ago
No argument here. But most of what you want won't happen, so it is a waste of half a million.
Greg Rouch More than 1 year ago
The Marathon isn't just open to "mediocre" horses; It's open to any horse, three and up, including any horse you think is better than the first few winners. If they want the winner's share of the purse, they can come and get it. If no champion stayer like Yeats has jumped at the chance, it is not the race's fault.