12/12/2003 12:00AM

Marathon entry looms large


LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. - Thoroughbred bloodlines and horsemen will have a major influence on Sunday's $175,000 Marathon National for Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos.

The three horses who make up the heavily favored entry - Coolmore, Heros Call, and Oak Canyon - are by Kentucky-based Thoroughbred stallions and were bred by trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Owned and trained by Lukas's ex-wife, Laura Pinelli, Coolmore is by Carson City, while Heros Call and Oak Canyon are by Grand Slam. They are out of Quarter Horse dams and are registered as Quarter Horses.

Three Thoroughbreds are among the eight qualifiers for the 870-yard race - Johnny Be Good, a winner at Hollywood Park in June 2002; Santano, a winner at Golden Gate Fields in February trained by Doug O'Neill; and Brishane, a stakes winner over 870 yards earlier this year for trainer Blane Schvaneveldt.

Jockeys in the race include Hollywood Park journeyman Tyler Baze (Heros Call), Felipe Martinez (Santano), and New Mexico leader Jorge Bourdieu (Coolmore).

Pinelli's three-horse entry is part of an experiment by her and Lukas to instill prominent Thoroughbred bloodlines into Quarter Horse racing. While none of the three have won an important race at 300 to 440 yards, they have improved rapidly since they began campaigning at 870 yards, or "running around a turn," in Quarter Horse parlance.

"I was just waiting," Pinelli said. "It was one of those things that if you'll breed to those Thoroughbreds, you can't give up. Just sit tight and wait. If they don't work around the turn, you have a pony.

"It does test your patience. It was hard to have all those Grand Slams and not be competitive in the futurities. You feel left out."

Bred in Kentucky, the three geldings were raised by Jim and Kathy Herbener of Georgetown, Ky., before being broken at Calumet Farm.

Heros Call, 3, is the strongest member of the entry. A winner of 5 of 15 starts in his career, he has won half of his eight starts at 870 yards, including the Gold Rush Derby last May. On Nov. 22, he had the fastest qualifying time for the Marathon National, finishing in 44.66 seconds.

All three members of the Pinelli entry had been given brief vacations before the trials.

"By design, I went into the race fresh," she said.

Heros Call drew post 5 and could get an ideal trip on the outside of Available Credit and Harbor Beach. They are Quarter Horses with multiple stakes wins at 870 yards this year and pose a major threat to the Pinelli entry.