An enduring paradox in marathon races is that speed tends to do well. If that holds true Saturday, when the $100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship is run at 1 1/2 miles over Polytrack, Frank Stronach might have an automatic ticket to the Breeders' Cup.
Stronach bred and owns Sligovitz, a 5-year-old with the right mixture of speed and class to be a factor throughout the Fall Championship, a Grade 3 race that carries a Win and You're In designation toward the Breeders' Cup Marathon at Churchill Downs in November.
"I'd say he'll be sitting pretty handy," said Sean Smullen, a 41-year-old Irishman who trains a small string of Stronach runners at Woodbine while mainly overseeing a larger contingent at the Ontario branch of Adena Springs Farm.
Sligovitz earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in his only previous outing over the Polytrack surface at Turfway in Florence, Ky., when running third last fall in the Kentucky Cup Classic. He will be ridden by Jimmy Lopez and will break from the outside post in a field of 10 older runners Saturday. Sligovitz also was cross-entered in the Kentucky Cup Turf but will run at Turfway, Smullen said.
Smullen said he is working on the assumption that if Sligovitz wins, "he will prove he's a true distance horse, and I can't see any reason we wouldn't want to run back in the Breeders' Cup."
The $500,000 BC Marathon will be run at 1 3/4 miles Nov. 5 on the Churchill Downs main track.
Presumably, most of the other owners and trainers with runners in the Fall Championship also would want to take advantage of the Win and You're In provision in case of victory. Besides Sligovitz, those with the best chances include Coolcullen Times -- who also is cross-entered in the KC Turf -- along with another speed horse, Smarten Destiny, a former claimer who adds Calvin Borel after leading most of the way in a runner-up finish in the Claiming Crown Jewel. Eldaafer, Lignon's Hero, and Odds On also rate.
The Fall Championship (race 12), the lone stakes of the 16-day Turfway fall meet, is one of 10 Turfway races on a 16-race melded card with Kentucky Downs. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.