You never forget your first.
Marsha will become Sir Mark Prescott’s first Breeders’ Cup runner on Saturday night when she renews rivalry with Lady Aurelia in the Turf Sprint.
Due to the tight configuration of the Del Mar track the Turf Sprint has been reduced in distance to five furlongs from the customary six and a half, enabling the two flying fillies to clash once more after Marsha downed Lady Aurelia by a nose in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August.
Marsha is a best-priced 11-2 to confirm her superiority over Wesley Ward’s 6-5 favourite.
Marsha will break from stall six to Lady Aurelia’s three, and although the master of Heath House is looking forward to the experience he does not expect Marsha’ final race before she goes to the sales to be a victorious one.
“I think it is great and very exciting,” he told Racing UK.
“There was a lovely week when she was the highest-rated sprinter in the world. Having the fastest horse in the world is like having the heavyweight champion. It didn’t last very long but it is very exciting.
“With the form with Lady Aurelia we are perfectly entitled to go. She is owned by thousands of people, it’s her last hurrah and we haven’t a lot to lose.”
Prescott’s pessimism derives from a racecourse workout at Chelmsford last week, when the Elite Racing Club-owned filly struggled to deal with the tight turn there.Marsha has been training on the dirt track at Del Mar under the gaze of assistant William Butler (Penelope Miller/ABR)
It is compounded by the fact that Del Mar has a very short straight and most of the winners at the Californian seaside course on Thursday were prominent racers.
Marsha’s hold-up style will make it tricky for regular jockey Luke Morris, also having his first Breeders’ Cup experience, to get the fractions spot on.
“I have seen a few replays [of Del Mar races] and the more I have seen them the more difficult I think the task will be.
"I normally like local jockeys and Del Mar is a course that needs knowing, but everybody wanted Luke to have a go and he knows her and understands her and understands what is likely to happen and that is the most important.
“She has won at Dundalk and Catterick going around a bend over five, but the trouble is she goes a lot faster now and she is up against better horses.
“We took her to Chelmsford and she absolutely flew around there. She didn’t rail as you would want your red jacket on a greyhound track to do, she was a couple of places wide. It won’t play to her strengths like it would be Lady Aurelia.”
Lady Aurelia impressed in her two gallops in midweek and although Lady Aurelia is expected to race close to the pace under John Velazquez the trainer stopped short of saying she will lead.
“I taught her to be fast at first and that’s why when the gates would open, she’d be gone before in her races, but I don’t see her on the lead Saturday,” Ward said on Thursday. “We took the blinkers off this year and got her to settle and come with a run and she’s done that well.
“(Progeny of Scat Daddy) all are very smart and often very fast,” Ward continued. “Those are two qualities you want in a racehorse and they come in all shapes and sizes. They seem to all like the grass and some really like the dirt.”
Lady Aurelia often draws comparisons to Group One-winning Royal Ascot victor No Nay Never, also a son of Scat Daddy, whom Ward trained to a heart-breaking photo-finish loss in the 2014 Turf Sprint as the 7-2 favourite.
Unlike that colt, who was packed off to the breeding sheds, Lady Aurelia is set to race on as a four-year-old and is already the joint 4-1 market leader with Battaash for the defence of her King Stand Stakes’ crown.
“No Nay Never really never got a chance to show what he could really do,” Ward said.Lady Aurelia's preparatory work for the Breeders' Cup has been impressive (Keeneland)
“I would have liked to kept him in training at four to do that, but they wanted to retire him to stud because he was unfortunately too valuable. He would have been a tremendous 4yo sprinter on either turf or dirt and I really think he could have won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on the dirt.”
Marsha is one of three European representatives along with the Charlie Hills-trained Cotai Glory and Aidan O'Brien's Washington DC.
O'Brien said of the latter: "He's a horse with an awful lot of ability.
"Five furlongs on fast ground has always been what he's wanted, but it's just hard to get those conditions for him.
"He's very comfortable coming from off a fast pace. I don't know how far Ryan (Moore) will want to have him back as it will be a tight and fast five furlongs around a bend here, but he has the speed to do it.
"He's a horse that we've always thought was Group One level, things just haven't always dropped right for him, but he's coming here in good order and we'll hope for the best."
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