Run over a variety of trips and contested by a range of horses from every background imaginable, it is incredibly hard to pin down important trials for the Turf Sprint. Of the nine renewals of the race, six have been run at Santa Anita and the unique sprint track there heavily favours course and distance form, further skewing the notion of established prep races. It is notable that in the nine runnings of this race, eight of the winners had previous form over the distance, suggesting that five-furlong form is important.
Perhaps the biggest trend so far is that no European runner has ever won the Turf Sprint. Marsha will look to rectify that and, in fairness, she is undoubtedly the most talented runner Europe has ever sent. This admirably consistent filly doesn't know how to run a bad race and she should enjoy the conditions having been no match for Battaash on bad ground in the Prix de l'Abbaye.
Clearly her victory over Lady Aurelia in the Nunthorpe at York is a key formline and Lady Aurelia will re-oppose with connections fancying their chances of turning the form around on better ground with a bend. She was absolutely devastating on firm ground at Royal Ascot when hammering a field that included Marsha, and trainer Wesley Ward has spoken glowing about how well she is training. However, Ward was also quick to point out that the sprint track at Del Mar can benefits closer (a potentially dubious claim), and this may compromise the chances of his stable star.
While no match for either of the fillies, Cotai Glory was a good third in the Nunthorpe and has been running consistently without winning all season. He is battle hardened but looks short of the required standard here, having only managed second in a Woodbine Grade 2 this month. Another Nunthorpe runner, Washington DC, was well held in last year’s BC Turf Sprint after taking a lot of money (6-1). His race in the Nunthorpe was a non-effort after trouble at the start. He’s been very close to Marsha in their three meetings and he gets some extra points for having good left-handed form at 5 furlongs, something not even Lady Aurelia boasts (though her win at Keeneland was over 5.5 though so close enough).
Third in the betting is Disco Partner, a talented turf sprinter for Cristophe Clement. He impressed in the Belmont Park Turf Sprint Invitational, demonstrating as he had on the Belmont Stakes day undercard that he loves six furlongs at Belmont. He could possibly topple the top two with his A race but he has to prove that he can transfer the east coast form out west.
Preference is given to him over Clement’s other runner, Pure Sensation, who has run some big races but figures suggest he might be tailing off at age 6. One of the runners he beat on good ground last time in the Turf Monster at Parx was Holding Gold, a runner for Mark Casse who likes it firm. He’s run a couple of monster number on his preferred surface since he was gelded earlier this year and rates an each-way chance at 25-1 or higher.
Another in there was former Sprint champ Mongolian Saturday, another who looks long in the tooth at age 7. He was beaten last time in the G2 Woodford stakes, an important prep in theory as it was run at 5.5 furlongs on firm ground, albeit at Keeneland.
The winner from that race, Bucchero, will line up in the Turf Sprint but he was 26-1 there and should be longer here. The second-place finisher, Hogy, has a couple of races that might put him in the frame. He was claimed at Saratoga for $80,000 and has since won and placed in graded stakes. This is obviously a more difficult spot.
Verdict: Marsha is an appealing bet at 4-1 or so. Lady Aurelia is a slightly more likely winner but the difference in prices is just too great.