11/30/2013 7:34PM

Fair Grounds: Versatile Marchman has no problem with Woodchopper distance

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Hodges Photography/Lynn Roberts
Marchman leads the field into the stretch of the Woodchopper.

None of the seven races in Marchman’s career had included a second turn until he contested the one-mile Woodchopper Stakes on Saturday over the Fair Grounds turf course, and only one of those races – albeit a victory – had come on turf. 

But 3-year-old Marchman ran like a seasoned grass-route veteran, relaxing beautifully on a dawdling pace for Jamie Theriot, and, with a nice burst just after turning into the homestretch, opening a lead far too vast for late-running Marine Patrol to surmount. Marchman, scoring his first stakes victory for owner Bill Martin and trainer Bret Calhoun, won by 2 3/4 lengths, Marine Patrol clearly besting Brown Almighty for second.

Marchman, a son of Sharp Humor, is a horse for all surfaces. Switched back into Calhoun’s string in Kentucky this fall, he finished a decent sixth in the Grade 3 Phoenix Stakes over six furlongs on Keeneland’s Polytrack, and then was second Nov. 2 going the same distance on dirt at Churchill Downs in the Bet On Sunshine Stakes.

Marchman led through an opening quarter-mile in about 21 seconds in the Bet On Sunshine, and somehow, after shrugging off early pressure from Alvear into the first turn, went a first quarter in the Woodchopper nearly four seconds slower, in 24.73. Marchman never pulled hard on Theriot or express any discernible desire to go faster than his slow half-mile in 50.45 seconds, and Theriot didn’t even ask his mount for run until he had negotiated the far turn and straightened for home. With Marine Patrol, mid-pack and wide on the far turn, just finding his best stride on the far outside, Marchman took a four-length lead to the stretch call and never seriously was threatened. He was timed in 1:39.53 for one mile on yielding turf with the inner rail set out at 10 feet, and paid $12.60 to win.

Gentlemen’s Kitten finished fourth, followed by second-choice His Race to Win, Leadem In Ken, Alvear, Impassable Canyon, with 5-2 favorite General Election last in his first start since being privately purchased for $450,000 at a November auction by Arlington chairman Richard Duchossois.