CHESTER - Stretching out his legs doesn't seem to bother Romance Argentino. On Nov. 30 of this year, the 3-year-old gelding led at every call, while establishing a track record of 3:51.81 for the 2 1/8-mile distance at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort.
Today, Romance Argentino will go a furlong further. He's the 9-5 morning line favorite in a 2 -mile marathon that anchors the closing card for Mountaineer's 2012 live racing season.
He'll be ridden by Christian P. Pilares, who won with four of his eight mounts at Mountaineer this past Tuesday. Eduardo Caramori owns and trains the gelding.
Romance Argentino set a track record for 2 1/8 miles at Mountaineer on Nov. 30, and is the favorite in today's 2 1/4-mile marathon. (Photo courtesy Coady Photography)
Overall, Romance Argentino has made 12 career starts, from which he has gained six victories. His sire, Bluegrass Cat, finished second in the 2006 edition of the Kentucky Derby. Romance Argentino's dam, Alice Belle, is a multiple stakes-winning daughter of Street Cry, who also sired the 2007 Kentucky Derby winner, Street Sense.
Romance Argentino did not race at age two. He broke his maiden at second asking at Tampa Bay Downs in late March of this year.
"He had some physical problems early on," Caramori said, "and he needed time to mature. But he's become a nice surprise for me. You don't see many 3-year-old marathon runners. Usually horses have to be at least four or five before they go such distances."
At Beulah Park on Nov. 6, Romance Argentino was a 10 -length winner at the two-mile distance. His November 30 score was achieved by a comfortable 4 lengths. Starter allowance company suits Romance Argentino, and Friday's marathon at Mountaineer carries a purse of $30,000.
Romance Argentino will face nine challengers. Among them is the 6-year-old gelding Getta Rhythm, who is the prevailing Mountaineer record-holder for 2 miles, having clocked a time of 4:03.16 for the distance back on Sept. 3. Terry D, Houghton was Getta Rhythm's jockey for that event, and will ride him again on Friday.
The field further includes Spiritwood, a 9-year-old gelding who will be making his 109th career start. He has gained 14 wins and 31 placings from those efforts, and was second to Romance Argentino on November 30. The third-place finisher in that race, Joey's Best, will also go postward on Friday. Betty Jo Williams and Kirk Johnson will ride Spiritwood and Joey's Best, respectively.
Eighteen furlongs is the longest distance that has ever been run at Mountaineer. But there have been lengthier events at other tracks. Back on Nov. 2, 1974, a 4-year-old gelding named Victory Tour won a 4 1/8-mile race at Finger Lakes in western New York.
The distance that Victory Tour went was a rather astonishing 33 furlongs (a furlong is one-eighth of a mile). The race required more than four complete circuits of the Finger Lakes one-mile oval. To help promote the race, a quartet of Playboy bunnies was brought in from Rochester to stand on a platform adjacent to the finish line. Each time the field completed a circuit of the oval, one of the bunnies would climb down from the platform.
Go further back and one will find that marathon races were not that unusual. Kelso, one of the great racehorses of the 20th century, won five consecutive runnings of the Jockey Club Gold Cup from 1960 through 1964.
During each of those years, the Jockey Club Gold Cup was a two-mile event. Kelso win in 1964 (achieved when he was age seven) was accomplished in a track-record time of 3:19.20, which remains, today, the standard at Aqueduct for that distance.
One of the more prominent marathon runners in Mountaineer history is Sovereign M.D., a gelding who, at the age of seven, set track records of 3:27.66 for two miles and 3.28.40 for 2 1/16 miles in December of 2000. Sovereign M.D. was trained by Ramon Schiano-DiCola and was ridden in both those efforts by Dana Whitney.
Post time for today's first race will be 7 p.m. The marathon will be the eighth race on the nine-race card.