Sofia Rosa big improver in Makybe Diva

Sofia Rosa (Danielle Johnson) drawing clear of her rivals in the Little Avondale Stud Lowland Stakes.

Sofia Rosa (Danielle Johnson) drawing clear of her rivals in the Little Avondale Stud Lowland Stakes.

Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh is confident of a huge improvement from his Oaks winner Sofia Rosa second-up in Melbourne on Saturday.

In her first start since winning the ATC Oaks in Sydney last autumn, Sofia Rosa finished 10th of 12 runners in the Gr. 1 A$500,000 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield last Saturday week, winding up seven and a half lengths behind the winner, Black Heart Bart.

She will again face Black Heart Bart and runner-up Rising Romance (plus other Memsie contestants) in the Gr. 1 A$500,000 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) at Flemington and Marsh is sure she will give a better glimpse of her talent.

“That’s a race to totally forget for her,” said Marsh referring to the Memsie Stakes. “They went so hard she never got a chance to get her footing.

“She’s up to a mile at Flemington and that will suit her a lot more.

“Unfortunately she’s got the visitor’s draw – 13 of 13 – but her work has been really good.

“She’ll get back from the draw but I really expect her to be doing good work late and looking forward to 2000 metres.”

Though pleased with Sofia Rosa, it hasn’t all been plain-sailing for Marsh and the mare’s owners.

A suspension incurred by Michael Walker at Moonee Valley last weekend required a change of rider for Sofia Rosa. Fortunately Marsh didn’t have to look further than his home for the replacement with his partner, Danielle Johnson, being booked to take the mount.

Johnson has a fine record on Sofia Rosa, having been first past the winning post in each of her four rides on the daughter of Makfi, however, she lost one of those wins, a major one — the Gr. 1 NZ Oaks when Sofia Rosa was relegated to second behind Fanatic.

Johnson’s first win on Sofia Rosa was at Hastings on the first day of last year’s Spring Carnival. She then won the Gr.2 Mongolian Khan Royal Stakes and Gr. 3 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes before the relegation in the Oaks at Trentham.

Johnson has ridden in Sydney and Brisbane, but Saturday will mark her introduction to the Melbourne scene.