With the new flat season now underway I cast a look back at one of the stories of last year, the Elite racing club homebred, Marsha, who was sold for a record 6,000,000 guineas in the Tattersalls mares sale in December.
Born in 2013 out of the Elite Racing’s broodmare, Marlinka, Marsha immediately caught the eye, taking the first few months of her life in her stride with the minimum of fuss. She was sent to Sir Mark Prescott as a two year old where it became apparent she was seen to best effect doing her own thing on the gallops. Whenever Marsha worked with others, she would be headstrong and seemed to rarely put her best foot forward. Under the patient and expert eyes of staff at Heath House, Marsha was ready to make her debut on the September 4th 2015, finishing a pleasing second. The experience wasn’t lost when she was next seen just a fortnight later at Catterick, running on well to break her maiden tag. Marsha was last raced as a juvenile in a listed contest at Dundalk, where she finished a valiant third against her battle hardened elders and subsequent Group 2 winner, Take Cover.
2016 didn’t start as planned for the Acclamation filly, proving far too keen over six furlongs and was well beaten in the Group 3 Ballyogan Stakes at the Curragh. The plan was made to drop her back to the minimum trip for a Listed contest at Ayr. It would prove a masterstroke, Marsha relished the strong pace and bolted clear on the run-in by three lengths. The performance was repeated just three weeks later at York, against some smart opposition in Easton Angel, Muthmir and Caspian Prince, Marsha was once more too good in the final furlong, running her rivals down to get up by a neck.
Solid efforts in Group contests at Glorious Goodwood and Chantilly followed, before Elite management made the decision to give their star filly one more run, in the Group 1 Prix de L’Abbaye. Marsha seemed to take her racing well and was at her best tracking a strong pace on good ground. She found her ideal conditions on that October day in France, once more showing her trademark late thrust for the line to land the spoils and just Elite Racing’s second Group 1 in more than a decade.
With thousands of Elite Racing Club members dreaming of Royal Ascot success in 2017, Marsha made her reappearance and prep run in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes at Newmarket on 2000 Guineas day. The stable star produced a mesmerising effort to become the first horse to win the contest with the 7lb Group 1 penalty since Lochsong in 2014, once more getting the better of Washington DC. It prompted many bookmakers to make her second favourite behind the Wesley Ward trained superstar, Lady Aurelia.
Sadly for her supporters, Marsha couldn’t land a blow in the King’s Stand Stakes as Lady Aurelia routed the field to win by three lengths. Marsha still produced a commendable effort to finished third on a red hot summers day in Berkshire. The tables would be turned in dramatic fashion two months later in the Nunthorpe at York. Lady Aurelia looked set for another breathtaking success before Marsha hit the afterburners in the final furlong. They passed the judges together, but everyone’s eyes were fixed on Frankie Dettori, who held his arm aloft, believing he had gained more top level success on the American filly. Slow-motion replays shown just seconds after confirmed his mistake, Marsha trailed Lady Aurelia on every frame bar the one they past on the winning post; the ultra game Marsha sticking her head forward to win by a nostril.
Shortly after her second Group 1 win, connections confirmed Marsha would be sold at the end of the season. With Elite Racing continuing to have success with her Dam, Marlinka, they believed the time was right to cash in on their prized asset. Her supposed final start at that point was the Prix de L’Abbaye, however soft ground scuppered her bid and she was no match for the classy Battaash, finishing second.
With Marsha coming out of the race well and once more holding her form, Elite made the decision to take up her ‘win and your in’ entry for the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint in Del Mar. While the firm ground was more to the fillies liking, the tight track and short finishing straight put paid to her chances. Marsha still produced a game effort, closing at the line to be beaten less than one and a half lengths in sixth, confirming the Acclamation filly as one of the most consistent horses in training.
The December Mares Sale arguably produced more drama than her any of her racing career. John Magnier, on behalf of Coolmore, and John Gosden for Godolphin went toe to toe over several riveting minutes before the auction was finally settled for a European record six million guineas in the favor of Coolmore. It was confirmed afterwards Marsha would visit Galileo this spring, once more introducing more speed to their champion Sires stock.
The Elite Racing Club will hope Marlinka continues to produced winners, with Marsha’s half brother and sister; Judicial and Marseille, both performing well above average, plus a yearling by Dark Angel already pleasing Oak Lodge Stud. Funds are already being spent from the windfall with Marlinka being sent to Frankel this spring. One thing is for sure, another horse in the white and black silks with the quality of Marsha may not be too far away if connections have anything to do with it.
MARSHA – The six million guineas horse
By Chris Price