LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Since its inception two years ago, the Breeders' Cup Marathon has been criticized as being a yawner of a race, a lengthy contest that lacked the purse, prestige, and drama of other Breeders' Cup events.
No one will say it lacks drama any longer, not after Friday's Grade 3, $500,000 Marathon. The 1 3/4-mile race proved a thriller and then was capped by a stewards' inquiry and fight between losing jockeys Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano, just outside the winner's circle.
The fight took the spotlight away from a powerful performance by Eldaafer, who in the biggest victory of his career, rallied from midpack to outfinish Prince Will I Am by 1 3/4 lengths.
Prince Will I Am – ridden by Castellano – came out on the final turn, shutting off Romp and nearly causing a spill. He was disqualified by the stewards from second and placed 10th.
The move by the stewards elevated the pacesetter Gabriel's Hill into second and moved A. U. Miner into third.
A. U. Miner, under Borel, also was impeded as a result of the incident on the turn.
Giant Oak, the 7-2 favorite, crossed the wire fifth but was moved up to fourth on the disqualification of Prince Will I Am.
A marathon specialist who won the Grade 3 Turfway Park Fall Championship in his preceding start, Eldaafer settled kindly in fourth early under jockey John Velazquez before kicking on powerfully from behind a slow pace to win the Marathon's test of stamina.
The win gave trainer Diane Alvarado her first Breeders' Cup victory and resulted in a quick return on investment for IEAH Stables, which bought an interest in Eldaafer from co-owner Mansour Albaroudy just a couple weeks before the Marathon.
Eldaafer, a 5-year-old gelded son of A. P. Indy, ran 1 3/4 miles on a fast main track in a track record 2:59.62, just bettering the mark of 2:59.64 set by starter allowance winner Caslon Bold in 1995 over the infrequently contested distance. Eldaafer paid $23.20.
Michael Iavarone of IEAH Stables praised Alvarado in the winner's circle, noting her hard work with a small stable of horses.
"She deserves all the credit for this -- we were just along for the ride," he said.
Velazquez kept the winner clear of trouble, which, in a roughly contested race, may have proved the key to victory.
The same wasn't true of several others in the field, most notably Romp and A. U. Miner.
Martin Garcia, the jockey on Romp, seemed pleased after the race just to be standing. His mount clipped heels when Prince Will I Am came out to secure room, and Garcia was nearly tossed to the ground.
"I came out of the saddle," he said.