Though the Marathon Stakes (GII) no longer carries the Breeders’ Cup imprimatur, it still exists. This makes me very happy, as it was my favourite race of the Breeders’ Cup back when it was part of the Breeders’ Cup.
I love long races, the longer the better, and this one fits that bill: a mile and three quarters over the main at Keeneland. The race also drew an eclectic bunch, something any sucker for a story can enjoy. Looking over the form lines for Friday’s Marathon reveals everything from the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) to a $5,000 maiden claimer at the Pea Patch.
How often does that happen?
Marathon Stakes (GII), three-year-olds and up, one and three fourths miles on the dirt, post time 6:10pm EDT
Selections: Dynabeaver (12), Neck ‘n Neck (4), Lynx (8)
Longshot: Desvelo (11)
Last year’s Marathon Stakes had a clear standout in Cary Street: a horse who was coming into the race in the right form, and was firing on all cylinders in dirt marathons. This year sees no such star. You do get the obligatory Greenwood Cup (GIII) winner, Neck ‘n Neck, and perhaps he is the most likely winner of this race. He did stave off Majestic Harbor and For Greater Glory two back in the aforementioned Greenwood Cup, and stretches back out after finishing second in the Dirt Mile Dry Run at Keeneland last out. Though he is among several who will be forwardly placed here, his ability to take, relinquish, and regain the lead in the Greenwood Cup bodes well for his chances here on the island of misfit toys. He is hardly the “single and move on” sort of horse that Cary Street was last year, but his form and speed compare well enough against this set to warrant covering him. Still, he will not be much of a price here.
The one horse in here whose pedigree screams “send me long”, however, will be one of the longer shots of the bunch: Oregon-bred Dynabeaver. Grandsire Unbridled won the Kentucky Derby, sire Grindstone did as well, and Grindstone sired a Belmont winner in Birdstone. Underneath, he is out of a Dynaformer mare, and third dam Coraggioso performed at graded stakes level going a route of ground. Pacewise, he has shown some versatility as well, having been relatively forward in both of his wins, but also closing from well off to finish second three starts back. Dynabeaver showed last out that he can handle the Keeneland course, winning over it on October 18. The race was his longest attempt yet, nine furlongs. Sure, that came in a $7,500 starter allowance, and his other career win came in a $5,000 maiden claimer this summer. Though class is the question, he has enough else going for him to be attractive against this bunch going this distance at anything approaching his 20/1 morning line. It merits swinging for the fences.
Lynx and Desvelo also have some appeal here. After being off the rails for most of this year, the switch to the Martin Wolfson barn seems to have gotten Lynx going the right way again. Though his second-place finish last out may be at least as much because he is a slop monster than because of the barn change, it was also his best showing in almost a year. Here, he comes second off the barn change, and stretches out from that 1 1/16 miles of last out. He has not tried a marathon distance yet, but his one attempt at a “longer” distance went pretty well for him. In the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie last year, he chased Coltimus Prime around the track and held safely for second. That ability to keep going suggests that this son of Curlin inherited some stamina from his sire, something that could serve him in good stead at a solid price here.
Unlike Lynx, Desvelo has gone distances as long as this — and even longer. Three starts back, he finished third in the Birdstone Stakes at this same fourteen-furlong distance. That was in a field of just seven, short enough that he may have been knocked a bit off his best game. In this full field of fourteen, with enough pace horses in the field, Desvelo should be able to drop back farther off without worry of losing touch, and be able to make his one run like he did in the two-mile H. Allen Jerkens. He may not be the most consistent horse in the world, but his ability to get the distance of this race is less of a question than anyone else’s here, and this race should set up well for him to drop back, close, and grab a share at a price.