2012 Breeders' Cup: Marathon preview

Fame And Glory winning the 2011 Ascot Gold Cup. - Alan Crowhurst

The Marathon has produced some of the biggest payouts at the Breeders' Cup over the last four years. Will 2012 follow suit?

Grade 2 Breeders' Cup Marathon
1 3/4 Miles, Dirt
Three-years-old and up
$500,000

Day: Friday, Nov. 2nd
Post Time: 1:48pm Pacific
TV: NBCSN

Perhaps the oddest race at the Breeders' Cup is the 1 ¾ mile Marathon, a race run at a distance rarely attempted by horses in North America on a daily basis. Every year the Marathon features a field of European stayers that are comfortable at the distance but have never tried running on dirt, and a bunch of American horses that are neither bred nor experienced at covering 14 furlongs in a race. Perhaps that's why the Marathon has produced a double digit winner in all four of the previous races ($26.80, $14.80, $23.20 and $85.20).

The class of this year's field is the European Fame And Glory (GB), an accomplished stayer in England and Ireland with multiple stakes victories over the course of his career. He won the 2011 British Champions Day Long Distance Cup at two miles, as well as the 2011 Ascot Gold Cup at 2 ½ miles. Despite all of his accomplishments in his native country, Fame And Glory has never run on a dirt surface nor any surface that can rival the speed of the Santa Anita main track. He's struggled in recent races and since his odds will likely be quite short at the Breeders' Cup he's a tough horse to enthusiastically back at the windows.

Sense of Purpose (IRE) is the type of European runner that could unleash a big race when switching to a hard and fast surface in America. Over his last ten races, Sense of Purpose has struggled mightily when running over yielding or soft turf courses in Ireland and England. However, he's run quite well (and has a Group 3 win) over courses rated "good". His record suggests, at a minimum, that he prefers harder ground. Whether that will translate to the dirt is still anyone's guess, but it's a point in his favor when handicapping his chances.

Juniper Pass might be one of the most intriguing horses from the American contingent, although his 14 post position is going to make if very difficult for him to save ground during the early stages of the race. (The last thing any American horse needs to do is to lose ground in a 1 ¾ mile race.) Juniper Pass has won a race over the main track at Santa Anita (although it was the ultra-rare Santa Anita "sloppy" track), but he's shown plenty of stamina in his prior race and has the talent to be competitive against this field.

The Pick

This might be the most difficult race on the weekend to predict primarily due to the question of stamina and surface for almost every horse in the field. I'm leaning towards taking a shot with Sense of Purpose but I probably won't be surprised by any result in this race.

Atigun is the lukewarm morning line favorite at odds of 9/2, with three other horses at 5/1, one at 6/1 and two at 8/1. The other seven horses in the field are all at 10/1 or higher, including my top two picks.

You can't win big if you're not willing to take a chance on some long shots once in a while.

13-Sense of Purpose (IRE) (15/1)
14-Juniper Pass (30/1)
2-Fame And Glory (GB) (5/1)

The Field

Post Horse Jockey Trainer ML Odds
1 Atigun M. Smith K. McPeek 9/2
2 Fame And Glory (GB) J. Spencer A. O'Brien 5/1
3 Balladry J. Graham E. Harty 30/1
4 Grassy G. Gomez M. Jones 30/1
5 Jaycito J. Talamo B. Baffert 6/1
6 Calidoscopio (ARG) A. Gryder G. Frankel 8/1
7 Not Abroad N. Petro M. Petro 5/1
8 Romp (ARG) J. Rosario K. Mullhall 30/1
9 Alumdena (PER) J. Valdivia J. Suarez 30/1
10 Eldaafer R. Santana D. Alvarado 8/1
11 Commander M. Gutierrez T. Taylor 15/1
12 Worth Repeating M. Pedroza M. Machowsky 5/1
13 Sense of Purpose (IRE) P. Smullen D. Weld 15/1
14 Juniper Pass F. Dettori T. Bell 30/1

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