The Palace House Stakes has gone to plenty of high class sprinters over the years, and Marsha has the potential to be as good as any.
Trained by Sir Mark Prescott, the four-year-old defied a Group 1 penalty to defeat a strong looking field in Newmarket’s Group 3 on Saturday. Ballydoyle’s Washington DC is a classy sort, and ran consistently throughout last summer in the most prestigious sprints. He had a fitness advantage following runs at Meydan and Navan, yet was unable to handle the raw speed of this talented filly.
This was her first outing since winning the Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly in October, and it showed, as she drifted markedly under pressure in the final furlong. Despite that, she was well on top at the finish. Luke Morris did the steering, and he was impressed: “Fair play to the team at home. They got her spot on for today. She has really filled out and when I pushed the button on her, I got there too soon to be honest, she got a bit tired up the hill. All her best form is over five, so races like the King's Stand and the Abbaye will be right up her street.”
It was no surprise to see Goldream run so well on fast ground that he loves, though he never looked likely to land a blow, finishing a well held third. He’d won this race in 2015, and went on to win the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Robert Cowell’s classy sprinter finished that campaign with victory in the Abbaye.
Profitable was last year’s Palace House winner. That was the start of a trio of victories, taking in the Temple Stakes at Haydock, and then like Goldream a year earlier, winning the King’s Stand at Ascot.
Sole Power won back to back Palace House Stakes in 2013 and 2014. Ed Lynam’s fabulous sprinter also followed those victories with success in the King’s Stand, and added the Nunthorpe Stakes in 2014.
In 2011, Tangerine Trees failed to follow his Palace House victory with success at Ascot. Though, he bounced back to form at Longchamp when capturing the Abbaye. Equaino was an exceptional sprinter, and took the Newmarket event at the start of his 2010 campaign. He became yet another to follow-up in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot a month later.
There’s been plenty of others that followed wins in the Palace House with further major success. Avonbridge did the Palace/Abbaye double in 2005. Kyllachy was an unlucky third in the King’s Stand, yet won a fabulous trio of Palace/Temple/Nunthorpe Stakes in 2002.
Lochsong was one of the all-time greats, and was the last filly to win the Palace House under penalty in 1994, a year when she captured virtually every major sprint in the calendar. The King’s Stand, Temple Stakes and Prix de l’Abbaye all went her way, during a stunning campaign.
Marsha is now second favourite for the King’s Stand at the Royal Meeting, and her trainer suggested that she would bypass the Temple Stakes and head straight to Ascot. If she’s in similar form in June, she must have an outstanding chance in the showpiece sprint.
She’s likely to face Wes Ward’s flying filly, Lady Aurelia. She provided one of the highlights of last year’s meeting, when romping to success as a juvenile in the Queen Mary. She proved her wellbeing at Keeneland last month, and is currently favourite for the King’s Stand.
Aidan O’Brien’s Washington DC will find it tough to land the spoils at the highest level, but the Ballydoyle master has a new inmate that could challenge for top honours. Easton Angel was an expensive purchase for Coolmore in February, and she is being trained for an early season campaign by Aidan O’Brien. The length of her season is likely to depend on how she performs on the track, before attention turns to breeding. She was runner-up in the Queen Mary as a juvenile in 2015, and closely matched with Marsha as a three-year-old last year. Currently 20/1 for the King’s Stand, she could prove a leading challenger in June.
I’m a huge fan of the season’s sprints, and I’ll be keeping a close watch on Marsha during the Summer. The trend of successful campaigns for Palace House winners looks likely to continue.