10/16/2008 12:00AM

Lots of questions in Marathon


Of the 14 horses that were pre-entered in the new $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon, just three have won a 1 1/2-mile race on a synthetic surface: Muhannak, who invades from England, and Delightful Kiss and Zappa, who are both in training in California.

They are part of a broad mix of horses who have signed on for the first running of the Marathon, which will be held over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

Fairbanks could go favored after his dominant win in the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup, but the Marathon will be his first start at 1 1/2 miles and his first on a synthetic surface.

Sixties Icon will be another top choice, and while he is a three-time group winner at a 1 1/2 miles, he has raced exclusively on turf. His trainer, Jeremy Noseda, is hopeful he will handle the surface switch in the Marathon.

"He's trained on Polytrack here in England consistently ever since he's been in training, since he was a 2-year-old," he said. "He's done most of his cantering and the majority of his works on Polytrack, and I'm hopeful he will adapt well.

"The one thing for sure is he'll stay every yard of the trip, and he'll have a kick at the end of it."

Frankie Dettori will ride Sixties Icon, Noseda said.

Muhannak is 4 for 7 on synthetic surfaces, and he will come into the Marathon off back-to-back stakes wins on Polytrack. His latest was in the Diamond at 1 1/4 miles at Dundalk in Ireland on Sept. 26.

"One of the reasons we sent him was to see if he would cope with traveling," said Ralph Beckett, who trains Muhannak. "He clearly handled it well. Dundalk is not an easy place to get to from us. He came home very well and has trained well since."

Muhannak will be Beckett's first U.S. starter. He said the horse would be ridden by Pat Smullen. Muhannak and Sixties Icon are scheduled to fly out on Sunday.

* Casino Drive was pre-entered in the Marathon but is expected to run in the Classic.