Otaki stakes double for Marsh
Scorpz winning the Gr.3 Lucia Valentina Wellington Stakes (1600m) at Otaki on Friday. Photo: Grant Matthew (Race Images Palmerston North)
Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh had a memorable day at Otaki on Friday, winning a stakes double and unearthing another Derby prospect.
The Waikato conditioner won the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) with Crown Prosecutor this year and he has next year’s edition in his sights with Scorpz after his win in the Gr.3 Lucia Valentina Wellington Stakes (1600m).
The son of Charm Spirit hit the lead at the top of the straight after racing midfield for the majority of the race, and he showed his determined spirit when holding out promising gelding Shenanigans to win by a half-head.
“Gee he’s a lovely colt,” said Marsh, who shares in the ownership of Scorpz. “He travelled beautifully, but I wasn’t sure on the line.
“He got there (to the front) quickly, he just does what he has to. I think he just buttoned off a bit too, but there’s a fair bit of upside to him.
“He’s nominated for the Derby and some other races. He is a lovely colt on the way forward.”
Jockey Jason Waddell was pleased with the win, but admitted the length of the straight felt like an eternity after hitting the lead earlier than planned.
“He gave me a beautiful ride. He’s had a bit of racing but he’s just coped with it well. I ride him in all his work and his work leading into it has been fantastic,” Waddell said.
“We hit the front too soon to be honest, but sometimes things are out of your hands. I was three back on the rail and the opportunity to push off just presented itself, so I took it.
“It was a long 350m, I don’t normally say too much but I screamed at him a couple of times to keep his mind on the job.”
Waddell has a lot of time for Scorpz and shares Marsh’s sentiments about his Derby credentials.
“He can get the Derby distance, no doubt,” he said. “2000m will be fine, he switches off in his races beautifully.
“He’s a big strong colt, he doesn’t know he’s a colt. He’s the complete opposite of what Crown Prosecutor was last year.”
Earlier in the card, Marsh was celebrating another stakes victory when stable newcomer Evalina took out the Listed Fasttrack Insurance – Levin Stakes (1200m).
Formerly trained in Australia, where she finished runner-up in the Listed Reginald Allen Handicap (1400m), the four-year-old daughter of I Am Invincible was having just her second raceday start for Marsh.
The Cambridge trainer was optimistic heading into the race, but said he was just hoping for another black-type placing with the mare, foreseeing a red-hot pace in the race.
“I thought it would be a blistering speed and she would get back off the bit and I would have been happy if she ran home for a nice third,” he said.
“But the speed wasn’t on and she did relax really well.”
Evalina settled at the rear of the field for jockey Danielle Johnson after jumping away tardily from the gates.
She continued to trail the field turning for home, however, Johnson was able steer her charge into a gap out wide and Evalina went on to gather in her opposition and run away to a comfortable two length victory over What A Smasher.
While Marsh was pleased with the mare heading into the race, he admitted to being pleasantly surprised in how dominant Evalina was on Friday.
“Her trial before she went to the races was enormous and her work has been good, but I certainly didn’t expect her to power over the top of them like she did, especially at this speed, but I am rapt,” he said.
Johnson, who recently returned to raceday riding from injury, was also delighted with the win.
“She did it pretty easily. She had that black-type second in Sydney, so coming back here and getting that black-type win in New Zealand will help her as a broodmare,” she said.
“They still ran along and had me off the bit. I got a pretty good outing at the top of the straight and she put them away easily.”