Muhannak Primed for Marathon Challenge

English-trained gelding can get the 12-furlong trip.

There are two British-trained challengers in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, a new race this year over 1 1/2 miles on the main track at Santa Anita Oct. 25.

Sixties Icon is the one getting all the attention, and might be sent off the favorite among the nine runners. He leads the morning line at 2-1 with British bookmakers generally offering 7-4 or 2-1.

Out of the limelight is Muhannak,a four-year-old Chester House gelding who is the first Breeders’ Cup runner trained by Ralph Beckett.
Muhannak is a specialist on synthetic surfaces, with four of his six wins coming on them — two at Kempton Park, one at Lingfield Park, and the latest at Dundalk in Ireland Sept. 26. Even so he is rated a 20-1 chance.

Muhannak came into that listed event on a rating of 97, and won by a neck after challenging in the final furlong of the race, run at one mile, two furlongs, and 150 yard. He is rated some 20 pounds behind Sixties Icon.

The gelding has made his way up the tree through handicaps, but Beckett is not daunted by the race.

The 37-year-old trainer commented: "I am very pleased with him — he is enjoying himself, and Pat Smullen will have a sit on him tomorrow morning and then I think we are ready.

"They are looking after us very well here and the horse is enjoying the variety of it all. It is very different to where I train at Whitsbury.

"Muhannak seems to be coming right at the right time. He did two good bits of work before he left England and has not needed to do much here.

"He might have a little blow in the morning just to clear his pipes. He has a chance because he is an all-weather horse running over his optimum trip.

"Pro Ride seems very similar to Polytrack though it might ride a bit quicker."

Muhannak is owned by Richard Pegum, an Australian who is based in London. Bloodstock agent Luke Lillingston bought the horse out of Mick Easterby’s stable in July on behalf of Pegum, who part owned Brew, winner in 2000 of Australia’s most famous race, the Melbourne Cup (Aust-I).

Since joining Beckett, Muhannak has won both of his races and who knows, it could be third time lucky, too.