With a late surprise consideration, Atigun is now being
pointed toward the 1 ¾ mile Breeders’ Cup Marathon. Trainer Ken McPeek has confirmed that Golden
Ticket is being pointed toward the Classic, but his other 3 year old trainee,
Atigun, would be headed to the Marathon.
By Istan, out of the Dynaformer mare Rimini Road, Atigun is
still looking to find his calling card in this year’s crop of 3 year olds. His sire, Istan, was a multiple graded stakes
winner at distances up to 8.5 furlongs, so if Atigun does have stamina influences, they are likely coming from the female
side of his family.
Atigun made a name for himself by being “the other guy” in
the thrilling 2012 edition of the Belmont Stakes. While the dual of Union Rags and Paynter may
be the flashback we all remember, it was the move by Atigun around the final turn
that helped set the whole scene into motion. Coming into the stretch, he was 4 wide and gaining ground on Paynter with Unstoppable U on his
inside. This late outside surge forced Mike
Smith to swing Paynter wide coming out the turn, leaving room for Union Rags to
sneak by on the rail. The finishing
order of the race was Union Rags, Paynter, and Atigun respectively, all
separated by less than 2 lengths.
Atigun then followed up his Belmont performance with a disappointing run through the slop at Saratoga in the 9 furlong Jim Dandy. McPeek was not discouraged and entered Atigun a month later in the 10 furlong Travers. Travelling 4 wide through the first turn, and 5 wide on the second turn he closed to finish 4th less than 2 lengths behind the dead heat winners. Again he showed his preference for distance with the improved finish and a wide trip.
Next up for the Istan Colt was the grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup to face his elders. His trip in this 10 furlong race once again was wide, and he crossed the line 4th some 7 lengths behind the winner Flat Out. It is interesting to note that Atigun was tracking about 4-6 lengths behind the eventual winner the entire race, showing he didn’t lose as much ground as the rest of the field. Flat Out was something special in this race, wearing down Stay Thirsty, but if Atigun had not been caught 6 wide, maybe he could have been closer for the finish.
So what do these performances mean for the Marathon? His best finish this year came at 12
furlongs, while his worst stakes races have come at 9 furlongs or less. Although he doesn’t demonstrate the explosive
acceleration or the high cruising speed of a sportscar, he seems to have the
gas mileage of a Toyota Prius.
Atigun has as good a chance as any of the horses in this year’s Marathon, and he will be the lone equine flag bearer for three year olds at the grueling distance of 14 furlongs. In his only workout since the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Atigun breezed 5 furlongs in 1:01.02 (10/24) at Belmont Park on October 13th.
Photo Credit to Al Bello/Getty Images