Marsh coasts past goal for season


Thee Auld Floozie (Danielle Johnson) on her way to recording the 16th black-type win for Stephen Marsh in last Wednesday’s Gr. 3 McKee Family Sunline Vase at Ellerslie. (Photo: Wally O’Hearn).

Thee Auld Floozie (Danielle Johnson) on her way to recording the 16th black-type win for Stephen Marsh in last Wednesday’s Gr. 3 McKee Family Sunline Vase at Ellerslie. (Photo: Wally O’Hearn).

It seems Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh may have under-rated his stable at the beginning of the season.

Marsh achieved his best innings two seasons ago when saddling up 30 winners (from 205 starters), including three at black-type level. That was the season he won the Karaka Million and Gr. 1 Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes with Ruud Awakening and his stable earned over $1 million in prizemoney.

He came close to matching that personal record of wins last term when winding up just one short, but again had three stakes winners.

So when the current season began Marsh set himself a goal of 35 winners which seemed a reasonable target. But what has happened this year has seen him surge past that tally effortlessly.

Just into the eighth month, Marsh has saddled up 39 winners from 170 starters and his stable has earned $679,115 in prize-money. That success puts him into fifth placing on the NZ Trainers’ Premiership, which is clearly led by fellow Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman on 76 wins.

But when it comes to strike rates, Marsh is currently the number one in New Zealand with 4.36, slightly ahead of the Baker and Forsman partnership on 4.53, while third on the list is Tony Pike (4.63).

“It’s an unbelievable season,” said Marsh, who first began training in partnership with his father, Bruce, in the 2002-03 season. “I thought I could get to my goal of 35 wins, but it’s been better than I expected.

“The team is going great and a lot of that comes down to the better quality of horses I’ve got and, even more so, the staff.

“Rhys Mildon, my foreman, has been with me for a while now and he does such a great job. And I’m lucky I’ve got some of the best track riders around in Troy Harris, Michael McNab and Cliffy Shaw.

“It’s such a great help when you’ve got riders like them who can get off and tell you so much about a horse. They’ve been riding work for me for a long time now and know all the horses.”

Marsh also gives credit to his band of owners, particularly syndicator Albert Bosma and Bruce Perry and Perry’s Wellington client Lib Petagna.

“I’ve got a great bunch of owners, some of them are long-time clients of mine and before me they were clients of Bruce (his father), people like Ali Cunningham,” said Marsh. “I’ve also been getting more support from some of the major studs and that’s been a big boost.”

Marsh had a memorable Auckland Cup Carnival, lining up 10 horses over the three days for five wins, two seconds and a third.

He had to wait until the last race on the first day for his first runner at the Carnival, but the wait was worth it with Procurement recapturing her best form and putting herself in contention for this weekend’s Gr. 3 $70,000 Cuddle Stakes at Trentham.

“If she can win or go close in the Cuddle Stakes, we’ll look at the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes at Te Aroha with her,” said Marsh. “She deserves a crack at Group One.”

Marsh then strung together three wins and a quinella with his first four starters on Auckland Cup day. The promising King’s Cross, owned and bred by Monovale Holdings, charged home to win the first event from the stablemate Silver Rod, then Alicudi (owned by Petagna) cleared maiden ranks in the third race.

“They were both $30,000 maiden races so well worth winning,” said Marsh. “When you get stakes like that on offer you’ve got to have a go, especially when you know the horses have ability. I thought those ones were up to it.”

Marsh lined up two horses in the Gr. 3 McKee Family Sunline Vase and watched with pride as Thee Auld Floozie, part-owned by Cunningham, took the $42,000 winner’s purse. Stablemate Stars In Align finished second-last, but Marsh believes she will bounce back.

Santiago was Marsh’s other runner on Derby Day and he tried hard to cap last Wednesday off in style in the final race, going down by a mere head to the Tony Pike-trained Hollywood Lad.

Marsh’s attention then turned to last Saturday and though his major contender, Rocanto, had to settle for third behind Dal Cielo in the Gr. 1 Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes and Bingo was fifth in the ninth event, he ended the carnival with Panna Cotta winning the final event.

Panna Cotta became Marsh’s 355th winner and Thee Auld Floozie was his 16th black-type winner. And now he’s hoping to add to those tallies this week, particularly the black-type record at Trentham on Saturday.