09/19/2009 11:00PM

Marchfield in top form for big test

Michael Burns
Marchfield, winner of the Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes on Polytrack on July 1, will return to 1 1/2 miles on turf for the Grade 1 Northern Dancer on Sunday at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Marchfield has gotten better as the season has gone on, and he will contest what may be his preferred distance of 1 1/2 mile on the grass Sunday in the $750,000 Northern Dancer Stakes, the supporting feature on the Woodbine Mile card.

The Grade 1 Northern Dancer has lured an all-star cast that also includes Marsh Side, Champs Elysees, Just as Well, and Musketier, but the stretch-running Marchfield is the hot horse in the field.

Marchfield took the .

Marchfield closed stoutly from far off an honest pace to prevail in his last start, the over 1 3/8 miles on the grass.

Trainer Mark Casse said Marchfield, a son of A.P. Indy, has reached full bloom this year at age 5.

"A lot of A.P. Indys get better with age," Casse said. "Fortunately, we've been able to give him some breaks here and there, and it's paid off. Personally, I think he's better on synthetic surfaces, but he's been running pretty good on the grass, and that's where the money is."

Casse also entered Medjool, who wound up third in the Aug. 23 Sky Classic.

"Medjool loves a mile and a half," Casse said. "I thought he breezed much better for this race than he did for his last race, but he still has to prove that he's in the same league as these."

Marsh Side finished second in the 2007 Northern Dancer and was a wide/closing fourth in last year's running, an effort that set him up nicely for his longshot victory in the Grade 1 Canadian International.

Trainer Neil Drysdale acknowledged that the Northern Dancer is once again Marsh Side's prep for the Oct. 17 International.

"I think we're looking at a similar scenario," he said.

Marsh Side prefers ground with some give to it, and the course figures to be quite firm Sunday, which may hinder his chances.

The regally bred Champs Elysees won last year's Northern Dancer by a nose over Quijano, before ending up third in the International. Most recently in the Sky Classic, he rallied in unison with Marchfield to finish a close second in his best effort of the year.

Just as Well finished second to the continent's top turf runner, Gio Ponti, in the in August. He won the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap in his previous engagement.

Musketier was a pacesetting second behind Gio Ponti in the last month at Saratoga.

Quijano rallied for third after awaiting room in the Man o' War and was a tired sixth in the Sword Dancer.