No end to 'chase for Marildo at 7

October 14, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

David Smaga will be trying to upset North America's best grass horse, Paradise Creek, tomorrow with an ex-French steeplechaser in the Washington D.C. International.

Paradise Creek is such a prohibitive favorite that when the nine-horse field was drawn yesterday at Laurel Race Course, track oddsmaker Clem Florio made him the 2-5 favorite, the kind of price reserved for a champion.

Even Smaga is realistic about the International's probable outcome.

"Second chance," is how he summed up the shot of his 7-year-old horse, Marildo.

But as in every horse race there is the lingering suspicion that anything can happen, and the career of Marildo is a case in point.

Few horses peak at 7, but that's exactly what has happened to this sleek dark-brown French runner, a son of a modest sire, Romildo, who was trained during his career by Francois Boutin.

Smaga, a former assistant to "Mr. International" Maurice Zilber, purchased the horse as a yearling pretty much as a family project. His wife, Dominique, gallops Marildo and refers to him as "my baby."

But the horse was so backward at 2 that he trailed in his races. When he did get the idea of running, he went through his handicap conditions at 4 "and I thought he had reached his top level," Smaga said. "So I made him into a jumper."

The horse won in his third start over fences and, according to Smaga, "was the hot favorite in a big steeplechase at Autueil. But he went lame during the race and finished last."

Marildo pulled up with a hock (hind leg) injury.

After the requisite rest, he returned to the flat and remarkably has gotten better each year.

"At 5, he won a Group III. Then last year a Group II and now this year, last spring at Longchamps, he won the Group I Prix Ganay," Smaga said. "His absolute best distance is at 1 1/4 miles. He can't stay at 1 1/2 miles and he doesn't have enough speed to be a miler."

Martin Pearce, whose company, World Racing Network, solicits European nominations for the International, describes the Prix Ganay as France's top race at 1 1/4 miles and adds that he regards Marildo as a better horse than such recent French representatives as Sillery, who was second in the International in 1992, and Leariva, the French filly trained by Smaga that pulled off a 44-1 upset in 1991.

But going up against Paradise Creek is another matter.

Of the three European horses running in tomorrow's International, Pearce rates Marildo first, followed by English runners Beneficial and Zoman.

Marildo has a European Timeform rating of 126. Beneficial is at 123. Zoman, who recently came out of retirement to try to duplicate his 1992 International victory, has made only one start in two years and has no current rating.

Marildo proved infertile at the National Stud in Newmarket (England), and was returned to training this summer.

Pearce said Zoman astounded the European racing public when he made his debut earlier this month on Arc day in a Group II stakes and finished sixth, beaten by about three lengths. "That effort in such hot company was a real eye-opener," Pearce said.

"But he still has to be considered a dark horse in the International since he has only raced once in two years."

The three European runners have never competed against each other, but both Marildo and Beneficial have faced, and been beaten by, a horse named Muhtarram.

Muhtarram is the key, Pearce believes, in figuring how Marildo and Beneficial stack up against Paradise Creek.

When Muhtarram challenged Paradise Creek in August in the Arlington Million, Paradise Creek swept by him in the stretch and beat him by 2 1/2 lengths.

"I have to think both of these horses will have a hard time beating Paradise Creek, but I'll be really surprised if they don't finish in the first four," Pearce said.

Even though Smaga isn't enthralled with shipping his horse from Paris to face a runner like Paradise Creek, he said he made the trip because there are few world-class turf races at 1 1/4 miles.

"And this horse loves to travel," his trainer said. "Just 12 days ago, he won a Group III stakes in Germany at 1 1/4 miles at the Hopegarten racetrack.

PD "He became the first French horse to win a race in East Berlin."

INTERNATIONAL TURF FESTIVAL

Where, when: Laurel Race Course, tomorrow and Sunday

Tomorrow's races: 7th Laurel Dash, purse $200,000, 3-year-olds and up, 6 furlongs, post 4:13 p.m.; 43rd Washington D.C. International, purse $600,000, 3-year-olds and up, 1 1/4 miles, post 5:25 p.m.

Sunday's races: 7th All Along Stakes, purse $250,000; 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares; 1 1/8 miles, post 4:35 p.m.; 30th Governor's Cup, purse $150,000; 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 miles, post 5:37 p.m.

TV: The International will be televised on ESPN's "Racing Across America."

Special attractions: A two-day Horse Fair featuring a variety of exhibitions, including dressage and miniature horses, will take place between races. An equestrian trade fair will be located in the grandstand both days.

TOMORROW'S FEATURED RACES

$200,000 Laurel Dash

.` Grade III, Post time 4:13 p.m.

PP, Horse, Country, Jockey, Odds

1. Cool Air, U.S.A, Antley, 2-1

2. Lazy Luke, U.S.A, Petersen, 20-1

3. Home Of The Free, U.S.A, Verge, 15-1

Roman Envoy, Bravo, U.S.A, 4-1

5. a-Sticks & Bricks, U.S.A, Seefeldt, 20-1

6. Soviet Problem, U.S.A, McCarron, 9-5

7. a-Higher Strata, U.S.A, Pino, 20-1

8. Brave Note, France, Prado, 15-1

9. Anjiz, U.S.A, Miller Jr, 20-1

10. Honor The Hero, U.S.A, Gomez, 20-1

11. Goldminer's Dream, U.S.A, Day, 20-1

a-Robert Meyerhoff entry

$600,000 Washington D.C. International

, Grade I, Post time 5:25 p.m.

PP, Horse, Country, Jockey, Odds

1. Redcall, U.S.A, Bravo, 12-1

2. Zoman, England, Pino, 12-1

3. Marildo, France, Guignard, 8-1

4. Maryland Moon, U.S.A, Reynolds, 15-1

5. Astudillo, U.S.A, Delgado, 30-1

6. Paradise Creek, U.S.A, Day, 2-5

7. Beneficial, England, McCarron, 10-1

8. Turk Passer, U.S.A, Prado, 12-1

9. Binary Light, U.S.A, Antley, 30-1

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