08/17/2006 11:00PM

Marathon fever is catching

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It seems like a stretch, but some owners with horses in Sunday's C.J. Hindley-Humboldt County Marathon are comparing the race to the Kentucky Derby.

"The purse is very low, but there's something special about it," said Cindy Olsen, who will start Derby Rider along with partners Jack Retzloff and Roy DeMarta. "This is like the Kentucky Derby here at Ferndale."

It's not just locals who feel that way.

"I called six in a row," said Vic Stauffer, whose regular assignments are at Gulfstream and Hollywood Park. "I always thought how cool it would be to run in it. It's as big a thing in Ferndale as the Kentucky Derby is in Louisville."

Stauffer is part of a group, along with trainer Billy Morey, that owns Quagmire.

Runners in the 1 5/8-mile race, whose purse was raised to $15,000 this year, will pass the finish line four times.

Olsen, Retzloff, and DeMarta won the 2003 edition of the Marathon with Smokeville. They had to run Derby Rider for a $12,500 claiming tag at Santa Rosa to qualify for the Marathon, which is contested under starter handicap conditions for horses that have run for a $12,500 tag this year. Derby Rider drew post 1.

"I didn't think anyone would claim him off his recent form," Olsen said.

"I was very nervous," DeMarta said.

"We knew what they were doing, and we thought about claiming him," Stauffer said.

Stauffer helped Morey get a horse named Potri Cacho for the Marathon two years ago, but he ran second at 1-5.

"Right after he took second, both Billy and I said we wanted to claim somebody to win the race," Stauffer said. "When Quagmire was entered at Pleasanton, Billy called and said he thought he had a perfect horse for the Marathon. When I heard that, I said it was done, that I was in."

Quagmire, who drew post 6, rated nicely to win a prep race at Santa Rosa.

"I was really happy to see him settle that day," Stauffer said. "In this race, you have to be able to gallop. You can't be headstrong whether you're first or fourth. If you can't settle, you can't win this race."