In its brief 5 year existence, the Breeders' Cup Marathon
has slowly been climbing the ranks as a graded stakes event. What started as listed stakes, became a grade
3 in 2009, and in 2010, became the grade 2 we know it as today. Less than 48 hours before the first debate
for the US Presidency, I decided to spike a debate of my own. What would it take for the Breeders' Cup
Marathon to become a grade 1 race?
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Grade 1 horses will never race in the
Marathon unless it is a grade 1 race.
But, the Marathon will not be a grade 1 race until grade 1 horses start
running in it. So many arguments can be
made as to why the Marathon will or will never be a grade 1 event. If the race organizers just made it a grade
1, it would draw higher tier horses, and give something to offer owners, trainers,
and the race’s namesake: breeders. It would
first need to have a 7-figure purse to match the other grade 1 Breeder’s Cup
races. All worthy arguments but lets
look at some in detail.
Argument 1 Against:
“You can’t attract grade 1 horses without a grade 1 purse,
Waa waa waa, those poor, little,
half million dollar races. While the Marathon
and Juvenile Sprint boast half million dollar purses, they do not have quite
the juicy enticement when compared to the 13 other million dollar plus races on Breeders' Cup weekend. It just makes financial sense. If I owned a horse good from 10-12+ furlongs
(cough, cough Richard’s Kid, cough, cough), why not take a shot at the Classic, where a 4th place finish will pay almost as much as a win in the Marathon. There are plenty of grade 1 races during the course of the year that do not offer huge purses, and likewise there are other grade 2 and 3 stakes that offer million dollar pots. Its all in perspective, and when the only other staying distance Breeders' Cup race (the Turf Classic) offers a 3 million dollar purse, it is easy to see what would draw the limited number of staying distance grade 1 horses willing to make the trip.
higher purse is required to tempt grade 1 horses during a weekend where just
about every US based grade 1 horse is trying to make millions.
Argument 2 Against:
“There are not enough staying distance dirt prep races to
get grade 1 horses ready for the grueling 14 furlongs.”
There are 73 “win and you’re in” races for the Breeders' Cup
in 2012, and only 2 were for the marathon.
Of the 2, the Clasico Belgrano was run in Argentina! Seldom do we see US
horse ship to Europe or Asia, but it would take one determined set of
connections to fly their horse to South America for a $50,000 purse to get a
free ride to the Marathon. I do like and
respect the organizers for trying to get some South American exposure in the US
need more 12+ furlong races in the USA and more than 2 “win and you’re in
races” for the Marathon.
Argument 1 For:
“The Breeders' Cup is supposed to be a year end racing
finale that is non stop grade 1 events that lures the top competition in the
world. Make the Marathon a grade 1, and it
will increase the international competition.”
Given the dirt influences from many classic US bloodlines
becoming more frequent in the world, a grade 1 status could make some
international trainers ask if those influences hold any merit in their
stayer. Per the current contenders list, 5 different countries are likely going to be
represented in a possible 9 horse field. For a year-end championship event, I
would hope the race would draw a full field of 14.
sport is evolving. It is no longer only
domestic. A grade 1 status could
increase international exposure and draw more international connections eagerly
wanting to prove their charge as the best stayer in the world.
Argument 2 For:
“The US Thoroughbred lacks the stamina it demonstrated
20-30 years ago. A Grade 1 victory in
the Marathon could be a stamina bloodstock advertisement used by stud farms.”
A multiple (or even single) grade 1 victory can vastly
improve the quality of mares a stallion will see in stud duty. If the horse can claim a Grade 1 at 14
furlongs, it would have a far more rare quality than simply saying he is a
stakes winner at 8 furlongs. If a filly/mare takes the crown, she would likely have some valuable offspring given the abundance of speed sires available. It may not
be the most exciting things for buyers to see at the yearling sales, but being
able to say the sire won a grade 1 contest at 14 furlongs could come to mean
much more than just stamina. It takes a
tough horse to race at 14 furlongs, win or lose. But to win, it shows durability and
perseverance, two traits that may start to become more desirable after the
meltdown of the sophomore class of 2012.
effect may not be instantaneous, but a grade 1, 14-furlong race could be one of
many small steps needed to bring stamina back to the US Thoroughbred
So will the Breeders' Cup Marathon ever become a grade
1? Only good things would result if it
did, however, someone needs to make the first move. A larger purse is the necessary first step,
but with patience, time, and increased exposure, this race could become one of
the most desired wins in a horse’s career.
What’s your argument?