One of the most dramatic Group One finishes of the Flat season could have a sequel in California next month after Marsha, who beat Lady Aurelia by a nose in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in August, was committed to a final run for the 10,500-strong Elite Racing Club in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar on 4 November. Sir Mark Prescott’s filly will be the Club’s first runner at the meeting, and heads to the December bloodstock sales a few weeks later.
Frankie Dettori, who rode Lady Aurelia at York, was so convinced that he had beaten Marsha that he punched the air in celebration a stride after the line, and said afterwards that he was “dazed” to discover that Marsha and Luke Morris had got up in the final stride to win by the minimum margin. Lady Aurelia, who is trained in the US by Wesley Ward, is also being trained for the Turf Sprint and is 11-8 favourite to gain her revenge in San Diego, with Marsha on offer at 5-1 with several bookmakers to confirm the York form.
Morris and Prescott will also be making their debuts at the Breeders’ Cup meeting, in a race in which Marsha will be chasing the richest prize of her career. The Turf Sprint, which has yet to be won by a European-trained runner in eight previous runnings, is worth $550,000 (£416,000) to the winner, more than twice the £198,000 that Marsha earned for her owners in the Nunthorpe.
“We were offered a place [under the Win-and-you’re-in scheme] after York,” Dan Downie, Elite Racing Club’s manager, said on Wednesday. “We didn’t want to say anything until after Chantilly [where Marsha was second in the Prix de l’Abbaye], and we just made the final decision earlier this week.
“It doesn’t look the strongest division [in US racing] and that was another reason that we felt she’d got nothing to lose. It’s going into the unknown travelling her over there, and it’s five furlongs at Del Mar, but she’s done everything so far and we think she’s obviously very smart and should take her chance.
“It’s great for the Club to have a runner at that meeting. We were meant to have one a couple of years ago but it rained at Santa Anita and she was a late withdrawal. There are 10,500 members in the Club now and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the last time she will run in our colours as she will be going to the sales afterwards.”
Marsha and Lady Aurelia are likely to have several pounds in hand of next month’s field in terms of ratings, and Downie is looking forward to the possibility of a rematch.
“We thought we ought to try again to see if we can beat her by a bit further this time,” he said. “I saw her on Monday and I have to say she looked fantastic. You’d want them both to arrive in top form and both to run their race and it will be a real spectacle, hopefully.”
Bryan Cooper suffered an unfortunate start to his new role as Alan Potts’s retained jockey in Britain on Wednesday, when he was unseated from the second of his two rides at Ludlow, just as he appeared to be moving into contention. Mick Thonic jumped the third-last fence well but then stumbled on landing, giving Cooper little chance to stay in the saddle.
Earlier on the card, Cooper was last of 12 finishers aboard Exxaro in the card’s feature handicap chase, after his mount made several jumping errors.
Ayr racecourse, which lost all three days of its biggest Flat meeting in September due to a patch of waterlogged ground, will stage a precautionary inspection at 8am before its final Flat card of the season on Thursday. The meeting is due to be run on the hurdles course and the going was heavy, soft in places on Wednesday with more rain forecast during the day.
Thursday’s tips, by Chris Cook
Ayr 2.00 Soldier’s Minute, 2.30 Ingleby Angel, 3.05 Green Howard, 3.35 Jay Kay, 4.05 Druid’s Diamond, 4.40 Mixboy (nap), 5.10 Bo Bridget.
Chelmsford City 5.45 Alaska, 6.15 Pretty Baby, 6.45 Rua Augusta, 7.15 Boynton, 7.45 Valley Of Light (nb),
8.15 Master Of Heaven, 8.45 The Juggler, 9.15 Knight Commander.
Exeter 2.10 Enniscoffey Oscar, 2.45 Good Man Pat, 3.15 Pengo’s Boy, 3.45 Triple Chief, 4.20 Wotzizname, 4.50 Minella Treasure, 5.20 Sandy Cove.
Worcester 1.50 Dusky Legend, 2.20 Lambeau Field, 2.55 Cereal Killer, 3.25 Shoal Bay, 3.55 Counter Shy, 4.30 Kings Ryde, 5.00 Sissinghurst, 5.30 State The Obvious.