09/16/2005 12:00AM

'Itstuff' has only 3 foes in marathon


AUBURN, Wash. - Itstufftobegood has just about run out of competition in the Harley H. Hoppe and Associates Marathon Series, so it may be just as well that the popular series will conclude with Sunday's 1 3/4-mile finale at Emerald Downs.

Only three intrepid rivals will challenge Itstufftobegood, who will be shooting for his sixth straight win, all under regular rider Kevin Krigger, at a steadying 128 pounds.

Itstufftobegood, a 4-year-old son of Soft Gold from the barn of trainer Neil Knapp, skipped the initial 1 1/8-mile leg of the marathon series, but won the 1 1/4-mile leg by 3 1/4 lengths and he comes off a two-length victory over Horatio in the 1 1/2-mile leg on Aug. 27, when he carried 126 pounds.

Horatio, a distance-loving son of Sea Hero from the barn of Sharon Ross, again looms as the biggest threat to Itstufftobegood. The 6-year-old Horatio, a former Gottstein Futurity winner, established his distance credentials last season when he set an Emerald Downs record for two miles, getting the distance 3:22.60 while winning the last leg of the 2004 marathon series. Horatio looked a winner when he came to Itstufftobegood at the quarter pole on Aug. 27, but he simply could not get by that rival and was losing ground at the finish. Debbie Hoonan will again ride at 116 pounds.

A newcomer to the series, Cleard for Action, looms as a possible upsetter. Cleard for Action, a stoutly bred son of Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop who is trained by Robbie Baze, comes off a smart win over $10,000 claimers at 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 10. He gets in under 115 pounds on Sunday with Leslie Mawing up, and he may relish the added distance.

Road to Recovery rounds out the field. Road to Recovery, a 4-year-old son of Cahill, is the only member of the field to be entered in all four legs of this year's marathon series. He finished third at 1 1/8 miles, fourth at 1 1/4 miles, and seventh and last at 1 1/2 miles.

By competing on Sunday, he guarantees a $1,000 bonus for trainer Pat Mullens. The bonus goes to the trainer of the highest point-earner among the horses who have run in every leg of the series.