October certainly started with a bang on the racing front, with a thrilling edition of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp. However, just one day later, we were met with far sadder news, as rumours began to circulate that the superstar sprinting mare Marsha had passed away at 10 years of age.
Tragically, those rumours were later confirmed by connections of the horse, as tributes began to pour in for this tough and talented mare, who amassed over £650,000 in prize money and registered two Group 1 successes – one on each side of the English Channel. Having been retired in 2017, Marsha then entered the history books when fetching 6,000,000 Guineas at the Tattersalls December sale, making her the most expensive broodmare in history.
All set to enjoy a second career in the comfort of the Coolmore facilities, Marsha’s time in Ireland has now been cut short, as she heads to the pastures in the sky. Gone, but not likely to be forgotten anytime soon by trainer Sir Mark Prescott, regular jockey Luke Morris, the Elite Racing club, or the countless fans who enjoyed her numerous excellent displays on the track. Here, we look back at the career of one of the most popular sprinting mares of the modern era.
Bred for the Job, and Early Promise
Sired by top speed influence Acclamation and out of the Listed class sprinting mare Marlinka, Marsha made enough appeal on paper to excite the swathes of part owners involved in the Elite Racing Club. Pedigree potential doesn’t always translate to the track, but in Marsha’s case, it wasn’t long before she was threatening to follow in the hoofprints of her talented parents. When all was said and done, she would surpass the achievements of both!
Second to subsequent Royal Hunt Cup-winner Zhui Feng on debut, she quickly built on that effort to land back-to-back events at Catterick and Dundalk before earning black type for connections when third in a Listed event back at the Irish track on her final start as a juvenile. However, her finest hours came later, as she proved herself a Stakes-class filly of the highest order.
Marsha: Five Greatest Wins
Rarely out of the places in her 18 starts, Marsha landed seven wins and here are her pick of the bunch.
5. Land O’Burns Fillies’ Stakes (Listed Race) – Ayr 2016
On pedigree and racecourse performance, Marsha had hinted that she was a Listed/Group Class filly in the making. Having been denied in her first two attempts in elevated company, her breakthrough finally came in one of the classiest sprint events of the year at the Scottish track of Ayr.
Sent off as the 7/4 favourite, this didn’t look like a straightforward task on paper, but in the end, Marsha won like a 1/10 shot. Cantering all over her toiling rivals at the 2f pole, it was simply a matter of when Paul Mulrennan opted to push the button. A mere flick of the reins later, Marsha had shot clear to win by an effortless 2½l.
4. City Walls Stakes (Listed Race) – York 2016
Kept to Listed level for her next start, Marsha looked to face a far sterner assignment, with dual Listed winner Easton Angel, two-time Group 2 scorer Muthmir, and the speedy Kachy amongst the opposition.
Smuggled into the race just off the pace as she had been at York, Marsha didn’t find the leaders giving way so easily this time around but flew home once finding a seam up the stand side rail – grabbing Easton Angel in the dying strides, under a strong Luke Morris drive.
3. Palace House Stakes (Group 3) – Newmarket 2017
Returning to the track following a 216-day break, Marsha would need to be at peak fitness to claim this 5f Group 3 affair, with Aidan O’Brien’s Washington DC, old rivals Muthmir and Kachy, and the Clive Cox-trained Priceless, who arrived on the back of a sizzling success at Bath, amongst the opposition.
Despite having landed a Group 1 on her previous outing (coming up next), Marsha was allowed to start at a chunky price of 8/1 for this, but that confirmed class came to the fore. Held up on the near side rail, Marsha quickened into the lead inside the final furlong before showing real guts to hold off the tenacious Washington DC.
2. Prix de l’Abbaye (Group 1) – Chantilly 2016
Following her success in the City Walls Stakes, Marsha was upped in class to Group 2 level for the King George Stakes, and had a crack at a Group 3 in the Prix de Petit Couvert. Having come up short in both, many were writing off her chances ahead of one of the hottest sprint contests of the year as she returned to Chantilly for the Prix de l’Abbaye. Nunthorpe Stakes winner Mecca’s Angel started as the hot favourite in a field which also included Windsor Castle winner Ardad, King’s Stand champ Profitable, and the highly touted Washington DC.
A win didn’t look likely headed into the final furlong, with Marsha travelling well but seemingly trapped behind a wall of horses. However, the gap opened just in time, and the flying filly shot through in sizzling style to hold off the fast-finishing Washington DC for a famous Group 1 success.
1. Nunthorpe Stakes (Group 1) – York 2017
Backing up that Prix de l’Abbaye triumph with her win in the Palace House, Marsha then came up just short when third in the King’s Stand and a narrow second in the Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh. Nevertheless, there was still time for one final Group 1 hoorah, and it came at York in one of the most prestigious 5f events of the season.
A red-hot field went under orders on the Knavesmire, with the stellar line-up featuring the brilliant Battaash, who arrived seeking a four-timer, and former sparring partners Washington DC, Priceless, and Profitable. Wesley Ward’s flying filly, Lady Aurelia started as the odds-on favourite on the back of her blistering win in the King’s Stand but would not prove good enough for Marsha on the day.
As they approached the line, it looked as though the favourite would indeed deliver – Frankie Dettori certainly thought so when celebrating with abandon. Marsha, however, had other ideas, and when the photo finish was scrutinised, it was the Sir Mark Prescott star who had bobbed her head at just the right moment to come out on top in one of the most memorable finishes of the season.