“It makes you feel good that a horse can maintain that level for such a long period,” Sheppard said. “I have a lot of respect for him.”
Sheppard took over the training of Cloudy’s Knight this year after the winner of more than $2.2 million recovered from a soft tissue injury that kept him away from the races for a year.
“On my farm, we have paddocks that he can be turned out in, and then we can build him back up to a peak for his next race. So he’s not constantly on edge all the time. He’s not overly laidback or lazy; he seems to be calm and have confidence and poise, just the way you’d want a horse to be.”
Cloudy’s Knight will make his first start on a synthetic track in 1 3/4m Marathon after running 37 times on grass and once on dirt.
“I really don’t have much of an idea what’s going to happen,” Sheppard said. “One thing I do know about him, if he handles the track at all, the distance is no problem. He has tremendous stamina.”
Rosemary Homeister Jr., who has been aboard for Cloudy Knight’s two victories this year, will have the return mount.
Father Time – Trainer Henry Cecil’s Dansili colt had a busy morning, cantering 3 1/2f, quickening for a 2f work with stablemate Midday, and schooling in the starting gate.
“I put him in the stalls with the bell, just to make sure he isn’t bothered by the bell,” Cecil said. “And I had two handlers in the stall, which we don’t have at home. He quite enjoyed that.
“The Marathon will suit him. He’s a very active horse,” Cecil said. “He’s fine at a mile and a half. He won the King Edward at Royal Ascot. He’ll get the mile and six (furlongs) on this track. He’s got a turn of foot. Maybe he’s got credentials. Whether it works out is another matter.”
Man of Iron – Trainer Aidan O’Brien sent the Giant’s Causeway colt to canter on the main track Thursday morning.
Man of Iron has won two of three starts on the synthetic surface at Dundalk in Ireland. He will be ridden by John Murtagh.
Mastery – The Godolphin runner, morning-line favorite for the Marathon starting from post 6, schooled in the gate Thursday, also galloping around the main track with stablemate Delegator (Mile).
The 3yo son of Sulamani is coming off a game victory in the Group 1 St. Leger Stakes, a performance that marks him as the horse to beat Friday.
He shows just one start over a synthetic track (a 4th at Kempton in March), but trainer Saeed bin Suroor said lack of experience on the surface should not be a problem.
“He trains on the Tapeta track at home,” the trainer said, “and it’s close to the same ground here, which will suit him.”
Bin Suroor said there is a possibility that Mastery will be sent to the Japan Cup later this month after the Breeders’ Cup.
Muhannak – Trainer Ralph Beckett said the increased distance of the Marathon – from 1 1/2m to 1 3/4m - should not be a problem for the 5yo gelding, who won the inaugural running of the Marathon last year.
“Initially, I thought it was an unusual move. I wasn’t sure that it would suit us,” Beckett said. “Now, I think it will suit the horse. It looks like he wants to go further. In his last start at Ascot, he was never closer than he was at the line. That was over a mile and half on turf. So, yeah, a mile and three-quarters on synthetic will suit him well.”
Muhannak went to the training track for light exercise Thursday morning. The son of Chester House, who is winless since his Marathon victory, will be ridden by jockey Ryan Moore.
Nite Light – A Breeders’ Cup Challenge winner at Turfway Park (Fall Challenge) two starts back, Night Light should go off as one of the favorites in the 10-horse field for the 1 3/4m Marathon.
“He’s a pretty straightforward kind of horse,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who sent the 5yo Thunder Gulch horse out for a somewhat short 1 ¼m gallop Thursday morning over the main track at Santa Anita.
“He wants to do a route of ground. I don’t think you train them (distance runners) a whole lot differently. The key is, you have to identify that this is what they want to do. He’s a fit horse.”
John Velazquez is scheduled to ride the Edward P. Evans runner, who has been in the exacta in 12 of 15 career starts.