2024 Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight Stakes - analysis, picks, and predictions (GRADE: 70%)

Pick Pony |April 29, 2024, 4:37 p.m.

About the Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight Stakes

Kentucky Derby week kicks off with the first stakes of the week

The Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight Stakes are named after American Hall of Fame jockey Isaac Burns Murphy, who is considered one of the greatest riders in Thoroughbred horse racing history. He was the first jockey to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at its creation in 1955.

Isaac Burns Murphy, born into slavery on January 1, 1861, in Clark County, Kentucky, started his racing career at the young age of 14, riding for Williams and Owings stables in 1875. He went on to have an illustrious career and became one of the highest-paid athletes of his time and one of the most famous black men in America. Murphy participated in eleven Kentucky Derbies and emerged victorious thrice, riding Buchanan in 1884, Riley in 1890, and Kingman in 1891.

The Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight Stakes were inaugurated in 2019 for three-year-olds and up. It was changed to four-year-olds and up in 2021.

2024 Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight Stakes entries

Dai Vernon

Dai Vernon comes into this race with sharp works but with uncharacterically little rest since his last race. Speed is trending down which isn’t a good sign for one of the slowest horses in the race. He’ll be perfectly happy pressing throughout the race but with declining late pace numbers, the early runners will push him beyond his capabilities. Toss.

Donegal Forever

Donegal Forever starts right next to Dai Vernon and will likely finish right in front of him. He has little race experience, but having the best trainer and jockey in the group will go a long way. We’re one of the few who think he could finish close to being in the money. Give him just a race or two more and Pletcher will put him on the board, just not today. Toss.

Red Run

Red Run has the second-best speed number at this distance (behind, of course, Next). However, his speed, mid and late pace are all declining. In fact, speed is trending down so fast it’s like watching a car crash in slow motion - unless you note those speed numbers dragging him down were during his foray on turf. After five tries, it became clear he ran much better on dirt. We think he’s going to surprise a lot of people in this race, but he will miss making it on the board by a hair.  The potential underlay won’t help matters.

O P Firecracker

O P Firecracker’s works are just short of peaking. His speed is on the rise, and despite declining mid- and late pace, AI thinks it will bounce upward in this race—just not quite enough to put him in the money. We think he’ll barely miss a spot on the board.

Classic Causeway

Classic Causeway may end up being the overlay we want. He had very slow works last time out. His speed and late pace are trending up. Early and mid-pace are trending down. He’s one of the fastest horses in the race, right up there with Next and Red Run.

Classic Causeway has shown us time and time again that he prefers the dirt, yet Kenneth Mcpeek insists on running him in the grass. This is uncannily similar to what we see with Red Run, and like two peas in a pod; they will finish together - 1 and 2. The overlay on this one could be a massive moneymaker when Classic Causeway wins.


Masqueparade’s works have peaked. That’s almost all we can say is going well for him. All pace numbers are collapsing and despite an impressive win in his last race, speed is trending downward at an alarming rate. But what about that stunning speed he demonstrated in his race last month? He even beat Classic Causeway by a nose. He’ll stay off of Lasix in this race for the second time in a row, something we haven’t seen before, but unlike the last time he quit furosemide, he lost weight. His weight looks good for this race too and despite all the alarming trends, we expect his performance to follow suit.

This race could come down to Masqueparade and Classic Causeway. The key will be Next’s performance. If Next and Classic Causeway get into a battle for the lead, Masqueparade could slip in and steal the win right from under them. It’s a tough call either way, but we will put Masqueparade in the Show spot. There could be a nice overlay, so be on the lookout for a betting opportunity with this one.


Three wins in a row - then a seven-month layoff. Next hasn’t proved he can compete when returning for a layoff which makes him a nasty one to handicap in this race. He’ll still come in as the favorite with odds so bad, it won’t be worth the effort. That, however, does not necessarily mean he will win this race.

Winning five of his last six starts, including a 25-length blowout in the Greenwood Cup (G3) at Parx in late 2023, Next is easily the fastest horse in this race. He has the best speed at this distance, the best speed on dirt, the best in-the-month percentage, the best trainer/jockey ROI, the prettiest hooves, etc. However, even though his speed was trending up (but beginning to flatten), his early and mid-paces were declining before his long rest. We’ve seen his speed decline before, but it didn’t take a layoff to correct. And let’s not forget that some of his worst performances occurred at Churchill Downs.

As for his only loss, the 3rd place finish in last year’s Isaac Murphy Marathon Overnight Stakes, everything in that race looked fine. He led most of the race, choosing to run off the rail on the straightaways. There was an erratic lead change and a near collision on the stretch, but other than that, there appeared to be no reason for the loss. He gave up in the last yards and ended up with his worst speed rating in over a year.
In short, he’s shown he can be beaten at this distance, in this very race, at this same track. And yes, history will repeat itself. Next will finish in the money - but won’t take home the gold.

Master Game

Master Game’s works look better than ever, but the cratering mid and late pace and disastrous finish in his last race have us running for the door. Toss.

Predicted finish

    1.    Classic Causeway
    2.    Masqueparade
    3.    Next
    4.    Red Run
    5.    O P Firecracker
    6.    Donegal Forever
    7.    Dai Vernon
    8.    Master Game