The 26th World Championships got off to a thrilling start in the $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Marathon when Man of Iron hung on to defeat 9-year-old Cloudy's Knight by a nose Nov. 6 at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
A 3-year-old son of Giant's Causeway making his first start in the United States, Man of Iron won the Marathon, which was increased in distance to 1 3/4 miles this year, for trainer Aidan O’Brien and owners Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor.
Ridden by Johnny Murtagh, Man of Iron was taken back to last early on while saving ground on the rail. He then settled into ninth position while expected pacesetter Black Astor took the field of 10 along through the backstretch. With Alex Solis aboard, Black Astor opened up a comfortable advantage on the field, setting fractions of :48.23, 1:13.66 and 1:39.11 for a mile. Nite Light and defending Marathon champ Muhannak stalked the leader.
As they made their way into the final turn, Cloudy’s Knight came roaring toward the front with a bold, three-wide move under Rosemary Homeister Jr. The Lord Avie gelding took the lead at the quarter-pole, while the 7-5 favorite, Mastery, also circled the field with his eager bid.
But Man of Iron, who had inched closer approaching the final turn and was angled out for his bid, found his best stride when they straightened away. Murtagh found a big opening along the inside and began chasing down Cloudy’s Knight, who was racing down the middle of the racetrack. Man of Iron overtook Cloudy’s Knight inside the sixteenth-pole, but the hard-trying veteran wasn’t finished yet and came back at Man of Iron in the final strides.
Man of Iron, who was getting anti-bleeder medication for the first time, just hung on for the win. The final time on the Pro-Ride surface was 2:54.11. Mastery finished third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Cloudy’s Knight.
“It was his first time over the course so I let him just go along without any hurry,” Murtagh said. “I wanted to stay out of trouble. I asked him at the three-eighths pole and he responded beautifully. He got the win right on the wire so it worked out just right.”
Homeister said she thought she had the win: “He kept trying and forging forward. He's an amazing horse to ride. He's a big, long-striding horse. I thought I lasted. Galloping out, he was still in front. It was just a bob of the head. As long as (trainer) Jonathan (Sheppard) is happy, I'm happy.”
Man of Iron prepped for the Marathon on Oct. 16 at Dundalk Racecourse in Ireland by winning a 10-furlong allowance race by 3 1/2 lengths. Prior to that, he was fourth to Mastercraftsman in the Diamond Stakes (Ire-III) over the same course. This was the chestnut’s first try at more than 1 1/4 miles.
The winner was bred in Kentucky by Shell Bloodstock and is out of the Deputy Minister mare Better Than Honour. He has now posted a 4-0-1 record from 10 starts with earnings of $325,617.
“That was brilliant,” O’Brien said. “We’re delighted. Johnny gave him a wonderful ride. Johnny said that he was just going to take his time because that’s the way he likes to be ridden. That’s what he did. It was just a marvelous ride.”
Sent off as the fourth choice, Man of Iron paid $14.80, $7.20, and $4.40. Cloudy’s Knight returned $7.40 and $4.60, and filled out a $60.10 exacta (9-4) for $1. The $1 trifecta (9-4-6) was 225.10.