10/20/2008 11:00PM

Marathon field lacks early pace


Somewhere in the field of nine that entered the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Marathon, you'd think there would be an obvious pacesetter.

But when front-running prerace favorite Fairbanks switched over to the BC Classic, it muddled the pace scenario for the 1 1/2-mile main-track Marathon and left it with a favorite (Sixties Icon) whose 16 career starts have all been on grass.

The two most likely candidates to set the pace are former claimers. Zappa and Booyah both won stakes this season setting bogus fractions - Zappa won the 1 1/2-mile Cougar II this summer at Del Mar after six furlongs in 1:16.17; Booyah won the 1 1/8-mile Hinds Handicap this fall at Fairplex Park after six furlongs in 1:13.82.

"If the pace is slow, we'd like to be on the lead," Zappa's trainer John Sadler said.

Rest assured the pace will be slow. The challenge for Zappa is holding off the rally of likely favorite Sixties Icon, a Group 1 winner from Europe; the Mike Mitchell-trained stakes winners Big Booster and Church Service; and Cedar Mountain, a Grade 2-placed turf runner who won a Polytrack maiden race by seven lengths in early 2007.

The BC Marathon is being run this year for the first time and includes two others who have been successful in synthetic-track marathons. Delightful Kiss won the Grade 3 Turfway Park Championship at 1 1/2 miles on Polytrack; European import Muhannak, who has never faced group company, won 3 of his last 4 starts on synthetic tracks in Ireland and England.