10/21/2008 11:00PM

Sixties Icon's European form stands out


ARCADIA, Calif. - The Breeders' Cup Marathon eventually may become an appealing option for horses that are a cut below the best long-distance horses on grass.

But if the BC Marathon, at 1 1/2 miles on the main track, does find a permanent home, it will not happen overnight. And the nine older horses that entered the inaugural $500,000 race on Saturday are not exactly murderer's row.

Sixties Icon arrived early this week from England, where three successive Group 3 turf-race wins are sufficient credentials to make him the Marathon favorite.

"Looking at the race, he appears to be the class horse in the event," trainer Jeremy Noseda said.

Noseda is confident the 5-year-old will have no trouble handling the new Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita after training extensively on Polytrack in England.

"He's done the majority of his training on Polytrack and always handled it very well, very well," Noseda said. "Ever since I saw this race was added to the card, I felt it would suit him ideally."

Some of the other starters are simply looking for easier spots. Zappa was unplaced in successive Grade 1 races in California, but a daylight win three starts back in a $150,000 Polytrack marathon at Del Mar, the Cougar II, makes him the second favorite. His trainer, John Sadler, recognizes the Marathon probably will require time to mature.

"Maybe it will grow into something," Sadler said. "When you do something different, you need to make it go for a while, and give it a couple-year test period."

The placement of the Marathon as race 1, along with its comparatively small $500,000 purse, insures the race will fall below the radar in the first year of its existence. First post Saturday is 10:10 a.m. Pacific; the Marathon is the only Breeders' Cup race with a purse less than $1 million.

Zappa's last two starts were better than they look. He had traffic trouble through the lane in the Pacific Classic and finished fourth, and was buried inside finishing seventh in the Goodwood last out.

"He doesn't like that claustrophobic trip, he likes to be in the clear," Sadler said. "He was constantly jammed down there all the way around, he never really got off the fence. He'll get more of an easy trip going a mile and a half."

Big Booster is the stronger of the two Mike Mitchell trainees in the field, although he swears that Church Service is at least as good. Both horses are racing for the first time since summer.

"They are fresh and ready to go," he said.

Big Booster won the once-prestigious San Juan Capistrano in April at Santa Anita, then followed by winning the $102,000 Gallant Man at 1 3/8 miles on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park. Two starts later, Big Booster finished a distant third behind Zappa at Del Mar.

That race still bugs Mitchell. He thinks Zappa stole it by setting a false pace, and that late-runner Big Booster never had a fair chance. So when front-runner Fairbanks skipped the BC Marathon to go in the Classic, Mitchell was once again left hoping that there's someone to keep Zappa honest.

"I still think there's enough speed in the race so that Zappa will have company up there," Mitchell said.

It might be Booyah, front-running winner of the $122,000 Hinds Invitational Handicap on Sept. 21 at Fairplex Park. He has won two of his last three starts by making the lead, and could fall into the lead, with Zappa in close pursuit. They will not be going fast.

In fact, the Marathon figures to unfold at a soft tempo, and the field is likely to be bunched into the far turn. The race will be won by whomever is the fastest finisher.

Delightful Kiss, who won successive Grade 3's at Turfway Park and Golden Gate, arrived Tuesday after an eventful ship from Northern California. Trainer Pete Anderson said an accident on the Interstate 5 caused a two-hour delay. During the trip, Delightful Kiss hit his head inside the van and sustained a superficial scratch. He galloped 1 1/2 miles on Wednesday at Santa Anita and is ready to roll.

Other starters include Add Heat, Muhannak, and Cedar Mountain.