Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Marsha Wins Nunthorpe Stunning Frankie Dettori

Marsha Win Nunthorpe Stakes
Foaled in Ireland on March 16, 2013, Marsha was a daughter of high-class multiple winning sprinter Acclamation but, unlike some of his more precocious progeny, didn’t see a racecourse until the September of her two-year-old season. Bred and owned by the Elite Racing Club, in whose familiar colours – black cap, white jacket with three large black spots – she raced and trained by Sir Mark Prescott at Heath House Stables in Newmarket, Suffolk, Marsha made her racecourse debut in a maiden stakes race, over 6 furlongs, at Kempton. 

Ridden by stable jockey Luke Morris, who would partner her to all her major successes, Marsha took a keen hold and kept on to finish second, beaten a length, behind Zhui Feng, who won the £200,000 Tattersalls Millions Median Auction Trophy at Newmarket on his next start. Just over two weeks later, though, Marsha readily won her maiden, over 6 furlongs, at Catterick and comfortably followed up in a small European Breeders’ Fund confined race, over 5 furlongs, at Dundalk, under Declan McDonogh, three weeks later. Two weeks later, she took on older horses in the Mercury Stakes, over the same course and distance but, having been short of room around the first bend, could only keep on to finish third, beaten 2¾ lengths, behind Take Cover. 

After a 204-day break, Marsha was beaten on her first two starts as a three-year-old, both over 6 furlongs, in a 0-105 handicap at Newmarket and the Group Three Ballyogan Stakes at the Curragh. However, thereafter, she was campaigned exclusively over the minimum trip and began to show the consistent, high-level form that would eventually see her fetch 6 million guineas (£6.3 million) – a European public auction record – at Tattersalls December Mare Sale at the end of her racing career.   

Marsha opened her account for the season with a facile victory in the Land O’Burns Fillies’ Stakes at Ayr, quickening clear on the bit in the closing stages to win readily by 2½ lengths. She followed up in the City Walls Stakes at York, beating Scurry Stakes winner Easton Angel by a neck, and consequently started 5/1 joint-favourite for the King George Stakes at Goodwood three weeks later. In the latter contest, she took keen hold in the early stages and, although staying on strongly in the final hundred yards, couldn’t quite reach the leaders and came off worst in a five-way photograph, beaten a neck, a head, a short head and a head. 

Nevertheless, after a six-week break, she was made an outright favourite, at 2/1, for the Prix du Petit Couvert at Chantilly. She finished a creditable second, but could never lay a glove on Just Glamorous, who made all the running to win, unchallenged, by 3 lengths. The following month, though, Marsha returned to Chantilly for her first attempt at Group One level, the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp, run at northern French track during the redevelopment of Longchamp Racecourse. 

Sent off a just seventh choice of the 17 runners, at 16/1, behind the dual Nunthorpe Stakes winner, Mecca’s Angel, who headed the market at 6/4, Marsha tackled the favourite in the last 75 yards and was driven out by Luke Morris to win by three-quarters of a length. Washington DC finished second, with Mecca’s Angel a further short-head away in third place. 

On her reappearance the following May, Marsha beat Washington DC again, this time by a neck, in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket. She subsequently ran respectably in defeat in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, won by Lady Aurelia, the Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh, won by Caspian Prince, and the King George Stakes at Goodwood, won by Battaash, before crossing swords with Lady Aurelia again in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York. 

Having her first race since Royal Ascot, and hitherto unbeaten over the minimum trip, Lady Aurelia unsurprisingly started odds-on, at 10/11, with Marsha joint-third favourite of the 13 runners at 8/1. Lady Aurelia broke quickly and, along with Take Cover, to the field along in the centre of the course, while Marsha tracked the leaders on the stands’ side. As Take Cover weakened approaching the furlong marker, Marsha set off in pursuit of the leader and, despite edging left in the closing stages, led on the line to win by a nose.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Which Horse Recorded the Fastest Grand National Win?

Embed from Getty Images

Here at sprinters to go, we are all about speed.

For the most part, this blog is dedicated to thoroughbred sprint horses - specifically the Nunthorpe Stakes, which is run over the flying five furlongs at York's Knavesmire. The fastest horse to win this Group 1 race was Borderlescott, trained by Robin Bastiman. He won in a time of 56:09s. 

As the saying goes: ''speed is relative''. Linford Christie, UK Olympic sprint champion in 1992, was fast but compared to Borderlescott - even over 100 metres - he was pretty damn ''slow''. 

Let's consider the Grand National. Not a race for sprint horses. It's a four-mile three-and-a-half furlong slog. The great sprinter Dayjur struggles with jumping shadows so heaven knows what he would have thought about a ten-foot fence in his path with Captain Becher pocking his head over the top smiling like a Cheshire cat. 

But even in the slowest, toughest, hardest races, there is one horse who, although slow, is fast as a snake down a hole, when it comes to the Grand National Steeplechase.

If you are horse racing quizzer you will know the answer to this question in the time it takes to say: ''National Sweepstake''.

The appropriately named Mr Frisk achieved a record-breaking time in the national back in 1990. Trained by Kim Bailey, ridden by Marcus Armytage, he finished in 8m 47.8s. That record has stood the test of time even though in 2013 the distance of the race was shortened by over 300 metres. Many punters returned home with cash-laden pockets after the 16/1 shot. However, it was a fight to the line as Durham Addition lost by just three-quarters of a length, some twenty lengths clear of the third, Rinus. 

Mr Frisk, a son of Bivouac out of the mare Jenny Frisk was a popular horse after achieving this honoured mantle trumping the likes of Red Rum. 

This fast chestnut gelding pulled up when competing for the next year on good to soft going. That was a telling point. In 1990, the ground was firm, which even in the good old days where health and safety sat somewhere at the back of the grandstand, it wasn't the norm. Many pundits have reflected upon his record as a matter of circumstance as it was talent. 

In these modern days, it would seem unlikely a horse will ever threaten the time of Mr Frisk. The going conditions and routine watering of courses to make them safe means firm ground on the national course simply couldn't happen in this modern era. 

Mr Frisk, the winner of nine of his twenty-five National Hunt races, is odds-on to remain the fast of them all.  

Monday, 4 February 2019

Bahamian Pirate Wins Nunthorpe Stakes Group 1

Embed from Getty Images Foaled in Kentucky on March 3, 1995, Bahamian Pirate was a son of Housebuster, who won the Eclipse Award for Male Sprinter in 1990 and 1991, and is the horse for whom his sire is best known in Europe. Owned by Lucayan Stud, under the auspices of the late Edward St. George, in whose famous black-and-white colours he ran, Bahamian Pirate began his racing career, as a three-year-old, with the late Con Collins at Conyngham Lodge Stables in Maddenstown, Co. Kildare, Ireland. 

However, after two unplaced runs, over 7 furlongs and a mile, Bahamian Pirate was transferred to the late David ‘Dandy’ Nicholls, a.k.a. ‘The Sprint King’, at Tall Trees Farm in Sessay, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire. Even so, it was over a year, and half a dozen runs, later that Bahamian Pirate broke his duck, making virtually all to win a maiden stakes race, over 5 furlongs, at Ripon under Nicholls’ wife, Alex Greaves, despite hanging right from halfway. 

Bahamian Pirate wasn’t seen again until May, 2000 and, although finishing only twelfth of 24, beaten 6¼ lengths, on his handicap debut, over 5 furlongs, at Thirsk, apprentice Clare Roche was suspended for eight days for making ‘insufficient effort’. Six days later, under Nicholls’ son, Adrian – at that time, himself still an apprentice – Bahamian Pirate won a lower grade handicap, over 6 furlongs, at Carlisle. Indeed, that year proved to be the most successful, numerically, of his career, with four more wins, including the Ayr Gold Cup and the Bentinck Stakes at Newmarket. 

Thereafter, though, Bahamian Pirate was campaigned almost exclusively in Listed and Pattern company for the next three seasons and, while he suffered a few agonising ‘near misses’ – he was second in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp in 2001 and second in the July Cup, behind stable companion Continent, in 2002 – he won just one race in that period. His sole success came, by a short head, in the Phoenix Sprint Stakes, over 6 furlongs, at Leopardstown in August, 2001, and was followed by a 26-race losing streak that would last until he made his seasonal debut, as a nine-year-old, in March 2004. 

Nevertheless, on his return from a 178-day break, Bahamian Pirate demonstrated his well-being by winning a small conditions race – in which he was, very much, favoured by the race conditions – over 5 furlongs at Nottingham. He again failed to make impression in Listed and Pattern company, but did win two more small conditions races, both over 5 furlongs, at Beverley and Newmarket, in May and July, respectively. In fact, on the latter occasion, he beat the 115-rated three-year-old, Balmont, who’d finished third in the July Cup on his previous outing, to whom he was conceding 8lb. 

The pair met again in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York but, despite being 6lb worse off for the neck he finished behind Bahamian Pirate at Newmarket, Balmont remained the better fancied, at 13/2 joint-fourth favourite, with Nicholls’ veteran only eighth choice of the twelve runners at 16/1. Nevertheless, in the hands of Seb Sanders, who was riding him for the first time, Bahamian Pirate stayed on well to lead inside the final furlong and was driven out to win by a neck from The Tatling with the strong-finishing favourite, One Cool Cat, a further length away in third place. In so doing, he not only provided Nicholls with his second win in the Nunthorpe Stakes – after Ya Malak dead-heated with Coastal Bluff in 1997 – but became the oldest winner of a Group One race in Britain.