Scorpz preparing well as Marsh seeks to extend Derby reign
Scorpz winning the Gr.3 Wellington Stakes (1600m). Photo: Grant Matthew (Race Images)
Stephen Marsh has Group Three winner Scorpz just where he wants him for this month's Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie.
Marsh will saddle the Charm Spirit colt in Saturday's Gr.2 Jamieson Park Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie, looking for a bold run ahead of the Derby two weeks later.
Scorpz has already hinted at his potential with wins in the Gr.3 Wellington Stakes (1600m) at Otaki and the Listed 3YO Salvor (2100m) at Ellerslie and a meritorious last-start third placing in a 1600m open handicap at Te Aroha last month.
"We were rapt with that third. He's a horse that's going super," Marsh said.
"Getting him back to Ellerslie and back over ground is the real key to him. He's going really well and I can't wait to see him get to the 2400m. He's right on track."
Marsh purposefully gave Scorpz a light summer campaign and he believes that will serve the colt well when it comes to Derby time.
"We gave him a little break after his win in the 3YO 2100m at Ellerslie and he's freshened up nicely," Marsh said.
"He was out resting when the tracks were very hard. I know they are still hard at the moment but I'm pleased I've got him off them for a while and that has meant he's got good fresh legs and he's feeling great."
Marsh produced Crown Prosecutor to win last year's New Zealand Derby after an unplaced run in the Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) at Te Rapa but he was hoping for a more convincing lead-up this year.
"This one won't be at 110 to one (for the Derby) anyhow. He's a different horse too. His temperament is much better. Crown Prosecutor nearly got late scratched at the barriers before the Derby but Scorpz is much easier to train. He's just a gentleman," Marsh said.
"He'll just jump on Saturday, put himself somewhere there and I think he'll go really well. I think he can run top three and we'll see that real improvement when we get him up over 2400m.
"We haven't got the blinkers on. We'll keep that up our sleeve if we think we need them for the Derby."
Marsh will also produce Ekraar six-year-old gelding Felaar and Savabeel five-year-old gelding Starrybeel in Saturday's Gr.2 Joe McDonald Avondale Cup (2400m).
Felaar is going into the race off the back of a last-start second at Ellerslie to subsequent Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) winner Tiptronic.
"You look at it on the day and you think we were beaten a long way there but then the winner comes out and wins the richest weight-for-age race in New Zealand, so that was very nice to see. He's been working well and he goes into the race really well," Marsh said.
"Starrybeel came back to form in the Whakatane Cup of all races. He's going super and he's a real lightweight chance in the Cup."