Toast bidding fairytale comeback in marathon
Classic glory might be a comeback too far-fetched even for the implausibly romantic realm of Hollywood movies, but a glass or two will be raised to Toast Of New York if the Jamie Osborne-trained colt crowns his return to the States with victory in the Marathon.
Dramatically denied by a diminishing nose in the 2014 Classic at Santa Anita when splitting Bayern and California Chrome in an epic finish, Toast Of New York was retired soon after with a tendon injury, having been bought by Al Shaqab Racing.
An unsuccessful stint at stud followed, and a decision was made last year to geld the 2014UAE Derby winner and send him back into training. Toast Of New York made a successful return to the track in a low-keyLingfield race last December, before blowing out behind Gun Runner in the Pegasus World Cup in January.
However, Osborne kept the faith, and an admirable second to Classic dark horse Mind Your Biscuits in a Churchill Downs Grade 3 last month kept the flame flickering.
Since then, the son of Thewayyouare has remained on the back stretch with groom and work-rider Jimmy McCarthy for company.
A second reserve for the Classic until the field is finalised on Friday morning, Toast Of New York would nonetheless complete the most unlikely resurrection were he to win Friday’s Marathon.
“It has been a huge journey for us,” McCarthy said. “Obviously, we never thought we’d get a second bite at the cherry and it was hugely disappointing that he never got his four-year-old career, because when you look at what California Chrome went on to do, you would hope that you wouldn’t have been more than a couple of lengths off him – or maybe a couple in front of him; somewhere around where he’d be anyway. He turned into the most wonderful horse the following year.”
California Chrome, the superb 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, ended with seven Grade 1s and also chased home Arrogate in the 2016 Classic, so it is a mark of Toast Of New York’s lost promise that he had him behind at Santa Anita.
“He’s always had a huge amount of ability,” McCarthy says. “To think he can still pitch at this level as a seven-year-old is a huge credit to him.
“To go through the training, the whole regime, the work; because you can’t hide coming to these places. You’ve got to have done the work. And it’s a huge credit to him mentally to go through all that and be as keen as ever for it.”
If the Grade 2 Marathon, over a mile and six furlongs on the dirt, is where Toast Of New York ends up, it could open the door to a staying campaign. He is poised to face ten rivals under Julien Leparoux in the Marathon.
Regardless of what unfolds at Churchill Downs, McCarthy will next week begin the journey back to Lambourn for the first time since September.
A former jumps jockey colleague of Osborne, he will be glad to get home, although caring for one horse in this ethereal Kentucky setting has hardly been a penance.
“It has been a great rest to my brain rather than the daily regime I have to go through running a yard with 80-odd horses,” he said.
McCarthy’s fellow County Cork native Brendan Walsh, who is based in the States, has won the Marathon twice in the past three years and again has a live contender in Honorable Duty, a Grade 3 winner at the track last year and third behind Toast Of New York there last month.
Bob Baffert’s lightly raced four-year-old Dabster, also stepping up markedly in trip, is on a hat-trick and could be one of the main threats.
Baffert said: “He’s doing well and I like him – he likes to win and that’s very important. It’s a little far, it’s unknown territory, but you want to be involved in the racing. He’s a horse I want to take to the Dubai World Cup in future.”