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Thoughts on Pre-Entries: BC Marathon

Let’s start by taking a look at the Friday races, or Ladies Day…or Filly Friday…or whatever name the Breeders’ Cup has come up with this year.

1 ¾ Miles

The first thing you should know about this year’s BC Marathon is that the race is listed as a quarter mile longer than in 2008, 1 ¾ miles versus 1 ½ miles. I’d like to think I follow this stuff pretty closely but I had no clue that a distance change occurred with this race. And really, the only effect that this will have on the race is to probably tilt race even greater in favor of the European horses.


Black Astor
Black Minnaloushe
Lisa Lewis

Cloudy's Knight
Lord Avie
Jonathan Sheppard

A.P. Indy
Diane Alvarado

Father Time
Dansili (GB)
Henry Cecil

J. Keith Desormeaux

Man of Iron
Giant's Causeway
Aidan O'Brien

Sulamani (Ire)
Saeed bin Suroor

Muhannak (Ire)
Chester House
Ralph Beckett

Nite Light
Thunder Gulch
Todd Pletcher

On Fire
Barry Abrams

Sir Dave
Jack Carava

Muhannak (IRE) comes back to defend his title against a group comprised of average American horses and some group winning Europeans. The class of this group is certainly Godolphin’s Mastery (GB), a three year-old colt by Sulamani (IRE) that comes into this race off of a very solid performance in the Group 1 St. Leger Stakes at Docaster (119 - Racing Post Rating). This colt hasn’t been out of the top three in any of his five Group races in Europe this season and has the look of colt that fits very nicely in the Marathon.

Competing with Mastery (GB) for the spot of "Key Euro" will be Aiden O’Brien’s Man of Iron, another three year-old colt but this one by European Champion Giant’s Causeway. Class wise, Man of Iron is clearly a step below Mastery. He hasn’t been successful at the Group 1 level, nor has he really excelled against other top competition around Europe. Man of Iron does, however, have a very important factor on his side and that’s a familiarity with synthetic surfaces. Man of Iron’s last three races were all over the plastics at Dundalk in Ireland, with this colt winning two of those events. His RPR’s are low (with a high of 106 last out), but compare Man of Iron’s pre-Breeders’ Cup races with that of last year’s champion Muhannak; they are quite similar. Muhannak, like Man of Iron, made his final prep at Dundalk over the Polytrack, and had spent most of his recent career running in listed and low level stakes events on synthetic surfaces. If you liked Muhannak last year, you’ve got to love Man of Iron this year.

The collection of American horses in this race is really nothing to write home about. Mainly an assembly of horse that have been running at 1 ½ miles on the turf, the Americans are generally an unimpressive bunch. Cloudy’s Knight is coming off a pair of Grade 3 scores on the turf but will be facing a race ¼ mile longer than anything in his long career. This is true with all of the American contenders: none have ever competed at this distance.

Gangbuster has experience over the synthetics at Turfway and Del Mar but he’s never been able to do better than finish 4th in a Grade 3 stakes event. Black Astor is likely the pace of the race and will have to take them all the way around to win. This gelding did win the Grade 2 Sunset Handicap at Hollywood in mid-July but that featured a weak field of only four horses. Eldaafer is a stretch to call a Grade 3 animal. He did win the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont last June but that came over a sloppy track (something he won’t get at Santa Anita) and he look like a horse that doesn’t want anything to do with synthetics (0-for-2 lifetime with a 4th and a 10th to his name). The Todd Pletcher trainer Nite Lite has won over a synthetic track (Turfway) and appears to be in good form, but he also likes to show some speed and will likely duel with Black Astor early on. A pace duel in a 1 ¾ mile race? That’s not a recipe for success.

On Fire, the five year-old gelded son of Pulpit, has never raced in a Graded (or even ungraded) stakes in his life; he’s strictly an allowance horse and one that has never gone past a mile and a half. Finally, Sir Dave, a low lever Graded Stakes horse that came up a nose short in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap in August, will attempt to transfer his turf form to the Santa Anita surface. And like all the other Americans, he’ll try to bridge a big class gap between him and the Euros.

The final Euro is Father Time (GB), a colt that finished behind Matery in the St. Leger and notched a Group 2 victory in the King Edward VII at Ascot earlier this summer. On a pure class analysis, Father Time and Mastery tower over this field.