09/28/2008 11:00PM

Marathon a good fit for Fairbanks

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Hawthorne's main track during opening week played nothing like a speed palace. Closers consistently ran over tiring front-runners, no one ran especially fast, and more than one jockey termed the surface demanding. But at the finish of the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Saturday, Fairbanks and jockey Richard Migliore had 2 3/4 lengths on their nearest pursuer, and the pair still appeared to be traveling comfortably - reason for Fairbanks's connections to consider moving from the Gold Cup's 1 1/4 miles to the 1 1/2 miles of the Breeders' Cup Marathon on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.

"His strong suit is his high cruising speed," Barry Irwin of owner Team Valor Stable said in an e-mail Monday. "He can rattle off 12-second furlongs seemingly forever."

Irwin said shortly after Saturday's race that he would talk to trainer Todd Pletcher, "talk to the Mig, and see what we want to do," and as of Monday, a trip to the inaugural BC Marathon still seemed like a viable option. Fairbanks never has raced on a synthetic track before, but he did at one point train over the Cushion Track surface at Hollywood Park.

Fairbanks "did not seem particularly brilliant on it," Irwin wrote Monday. "But the Santa Anita surface is somewhat different. Bottom line: Who the heck knows!"

With his Gold Cup win, the 5-year-old Fairbanks's career earnings climbed to almost $880,000, still well short of the $1.85 million Team Valor paid, making him the sales topper at the 2004 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select auction. As a handsome multiple-graded-stakes-winning son of Giant's Causeway, however, Fairbanks has some sort of future at stud.

"How about that?" Irwin said in the winner's circle Saturday. "A sales topper that can run."

Fairbanks didn't look like a runner from the start, though. A pulled muscle kept Fairbanks from debuting until he was 3, Irwin said, and the horse didn't bowl his connections over training on dirt. His first two starts came on turf, and produced middling performances, but once he switched to dirt, Fairbanks woke up. Somewhat in and out the last two years - Irwin attributed this to soreness in his stifles - Fairbanks now has put together two straight open-lengths wins, and might be hitting peak form at just the right time.

Wise River may try Miami Mile

Trainer Clark Hanna notched his first stakes win and first graded stakes win at the same moment when longshot Wise River held on to win the Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap late on the Saturday card.

Hanna, a former assistant to trainers Jeff Jacobs, Dewey Smith, and Carl Bowman, is in his ninth year as a head trainer, but was saddling just his fifth stakes starter. Wise River, with Cisco Torres earning his first victory of the Hawthorne meet, paid $33.40 to win, and he, too, won for the first time in stakes company.

"I thought we had a pretty good shot, and the reason I thought we did was [favored] Galantas was coming off a big layoff, and some of those other horses were coming off a seven-day layoff," Hanna said Monday.

The 5-year-old Wise River had strong form at 2 and 3, finishing second to Barbaro in the 2006 Tropical Park Derby, but he was out of action with an injury from May 2006 until July 2007, and never quite looked like the same horse thereafter. Hanna's owner, Don Benge, purchased Wise River at Keeneland's January sale this past winter.

Wise River has returned to Hanna's Churchill Downs base, and is being considered for the Miami Mile on Oct. 18 at Calder, but Hanna said no firm plans have been set for the horse.

Cardinal a possibility for Ciao

Ciao, who gave apprentice rider Inez Karlsson her third career stakes victory in the Indian Maid Handicap on Saturday, could make her next start in the Cardinal Handicap on Nov. 15 at Churchill Downs, trainer Frank Kirby said shortly after Ciao posted a late-running half-length victory in the $115,650 Indian Maid.

"She likes that turf course down there pretty well," Kirby said.

Indeed, Ciao almost pulled off an upset last November at Churchill in the Mrs. Revere Stakes.