Richard Pegum’s Muhannak got a dream trip under jockey Patrick Smullen to win the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Marathon (VIDEO) in track-record time at Santa Anita Park Oct. 25, second day of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
As expected, the early pace in the 1 1/2-mile Marathon was pedestrian, even with an early tussle between Booyah and Zappa. Muhannak rated kindly in fourth through fractions of :50.08 for a half-mile and 1:18.71 for six furlongs.
The pace picked up through a mile in 1:41.65, but the leaders didn’t give the rest of the field the slip. Muhannak rallied near the center of the Pro-Ride synthetic surface as the field bunched up, slipped away by a length, and gamely held off fast-closing Church Service, who finished a head back in second. Big Booster finished third, three-quarters of a length behind Church Service.
The final time was 2:28.24, almost a full second faster than the 1 1/2-mile record set by Niagara Causeway in March 2008 on a different synthetic surface at Santa Anita. It is now the Breeders’ Cup Marathon track record.
Muhannak paid $26.80 to win. It was his fourth victory in five starts this year, and seventh in 14 starts overall.
While the winner got a superb trip, favored Sixties Icon did not. Sixties Icon, regarded as the class of the field based on the company he has kept, rallied on the final turn along with Muhannak but got jammed up a bit along the inside. He eventually found room under Frankie Dettori but was too late.
Delightful Kiss finished fourth in the field, which was reduced to eight when Add Heat was scratched the morning of the race. Trainer Barry Abrams said Add Heat sustained a minor injury to the suspensory of his right front leg, and he didn’t want risk further injury by racing the horse.
Muhannak showed a fondness for synthetic surfaces in Europe; he had four wins and never was worse than third in seven starts coming into the Marathon. The 1 1/2 miles suited him perfectly as well.
After the race, Pegum, who lives in England and has about 10 horses in training, credited trainer Ralph Beckett for Muhannak’s recent success. Beckett took over the gelding’s training in the summer, and Muhannak is now three-for-three under his care.
“He got the perfect trip," Beckett said. "Pat (Smullen) just said they were crawling. We worked it out beforehand that he had to be running going into the bend. Whether that meant he hit the front too soon or not, he had to be rolling going into the bend.
"He got that part of it right. I felt that he was just idling a little bit there the last 50 yards, but maybe he was running on empty. I don’t know. Who cares? He has trained very well all week. He’s not an easy horse to train. A big, big part of this is the team at home because he hasn’t been easy.”
Muhannak is a 4-year-old son of Chester House out of the Forzando mare Opera. He was bred in Ireland by Mount Coote Stud. Chester House won the Arlington Million (gr. IT) during his career. Opera has had six foals, five of which have raced and two of which have won stakes.
Muhannak’s other two victories came on the turf, a surface on which Chester House excelled.
Mount Coote Stud was established by the Greenall family and is now owned and managed by Luke Lillingston, who established Lillington Bloodstock in 1991.
|Breeders’ Cup Marathon|
|2. Church Service||$9.60||$6.80|
|3. Big Booster||$6.80|