HRN Original Blog:
55,000 Furlongs to the Finish

2012 Breeders' Cup Marathon: Forever a Grade 2?


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, can you?”


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.


Conclusion: A 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 racing scene.


Conclusion: We 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.


Conclusion: The 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.


Conclusion: The 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?



comments powered by Disqus

Older Comments about 2012 Breeders' Cup Marathon: Forever a Grade 2?...

agree completely that we need a turf marathon, something to try to attract some of the great european stayers, and maybe encourage some more breeding for stamina. Question though, what preps are there for the dirt marathon? it seems that a lot of stakes are being shortened nowadays, what would one do to qualify for the dirt marathon?
kay, I agree, personally I'd like to see the Ladies' Classic (and the Personal Ensign) run at 10f. I don't know why these races were shortened except maybe to attract larger fields. Or was the thought with changing the Ladies' Classic distance that the ones capable of getting 10f should run with the males?
The Marathon should absolutely be a Grade I with a bigger purse. They should also add a 16 furlong turf Marathon, also a Grade I. While they're at it, the Distaff/Ladies Classic should be at 10 furlongs and the Classic at 12 furlongs, and the Juvie and Juvie Fillies should be at 9 furlongs. Maybe if they started carding more prestigious Grade I races at longer distances, more breeders might take a chance on breeding for stamina rather than pure speed.
You're not one of my aliases, footy? :)
should be your, not our.
lol, Mary Z. Just saw our comment. There are many races in Europe where the pace is slow. Most of the races in Europe have a slow pace. t_v likes to be annoying and is successful at it.
If the14f BC Marathon was run over grass instead of dirt, it would attract more top Euros.
footy, How dare you irk the grammar and usage police?
Most not many
right. The pace pressure in many Euro races is slow, so maybe that is why the can stretch their horses out at two successfully
the pace pressure of a marathon is MINIMAL to their joints as it is so slow
notobsessed- 2 yr olds do run 10f in Europe, I am assuming there is at least one 12f race
Are the two year old's bodies developed enough to risk running a 1 1/2 mile race?
I would like to see a Juvenile Marathon and more 1 1/2 Miles races as 3 yr old. As preps for the belmont, it would help get distance horses back into the mix.
OK, here's my solution (and I wish they'd hurry up with it!): Day 1: Juvie Filly, Juvie Sprint, Filly & Mare Sprint, Juvie Turf (colts AND fillies), Filly & Mare Turf, Ladies Classic. DAY 2: Marathon, Sprint, Juvie Boys, Mile-T, Mile-D, Turf, Classic. By combining the Juvie Turf to boys AND girls, and dropping the Turf Sprint, it puts it back to 13 races (6 on day 1, 7 on day 2), thus freeing up the money to make the Marathon a Gr I !! See? Very simple, Very easy!
I like both of the arguments for the Marathon being a Grade 1 and racing also needs more distance races throughout the year. Why not have 5 or 6 "win and you're in" races for each Breeder Cup race?
i think the distance should make it grade 1, it is a distance few of our great horses can really handle gracefully. so many full short.
some folks believe the track at the Breeder's Cup this year is out of whack.
As suggestea above, up the purse and make it a Grade 1, and "they will follow". What is ironic is this: In Europe, a 1 1/2 mile race is classified as a "Middle Distance" race, and yet, in the U.S. how many 1 1/2 mile races do we see these days, let alone 1 3/4 miles (like the BC Marathon). Better yet, how many owners/trainers even aspire to run in the longer races. Answer: almost none! Because, in the breeding shed, long distance - stamina - horses are not valued, only the early-maturing, speed horses are the highest rated at stud. In contrast, overseas, at least half of their races are at distances of 1 1/2 miles or longer. No drugs, overseas, either, and horses can run back on short rest. The argument that the public in the U.S. won't support longer races is just nonsense, put out there by trainers who don't want to do the extra work preparing a runner for the longer races, breeders who don’t support stamina horses, and owners who want the high stud fees brought by speed (but oh so fragile these days!) horses. Royal Ascot (granted a special event) had at least half their races at the longer distances, and I along with many others -- as this year, these races were available "live" worldwide -- just drooled at watching international stars show up in droves, literally, for these races. Even above the din of Frankel and Black Caviar, a horse by the name of Simenon won a 2 1/2 miles event, and then 4 days later, won an event at 2 3/4 miles! The world's most famous and celebrated marathon, at 2 miles, the Melbourne Cup, will take place in early November. Billed as "the race that stops a nation," the world, not just Australia, indeed will stop to applaud the winner. Yes, I would love to see the Breeders Cup brand step up to support longer-distance races. They have taken the lead in banning lasix for 2 year olds, why not target the marathon races as worthy to support the breed?
It would have been nice to see a real quality individual like Redeemed in the Marathon, but alas he is injured and retired. Richard's Kid is probably Classic bound, but I agree, he would be a good name for a race that needs some big names.

Related Pages

Meet Matt Scott 

My horseracing journey began when I was 16 years old and my mom took me to Hollywood Park. Although I did not fully appreciate it at the time, the experience stuck with me forever. 10 years later, during one of my many international business trips to Hong Kong, I visited Sha Tin racetrack to watch the races. This is where my true passion began. 


Holding a masters degree in mechanical engineering, the puzzle of handicapping intrigued me. I have made a career of making decisions based on trends, patterns, and formulas, which is why I think I was initially drawn to the sport. However, I have truly learned to appreciate the horses and how magnificent they are as athletes. 


I currently live in San Jose, CA, and when not following racing, I like to spend time with my wife, mountain bike, and design high-speed bicycles that I build and race For reference, 55,000 furlongs is the distance from Hong Kong to my home in San Jose. Also, I have 1-year-old dachshund (aka wiener dog) that I am training to race in the annual Wiener Nationals held at Golden Gate Fields.   


The purpose of this blog is to help give people the viewpoint of a fan that is newer to the sport and eager to learn. I like to respectfully speak my mind, and often the ideas come out of left field, which could give a fresh perspective on a sport rich with tradition and history. hope to represent the many future fans that I wish to follow my footsteps into the Sport of Kings. 

Related Stories

Top Stories