It's a breeze as Marcus throws caution to the wind
Jockey Anton Marcus produced the ride of the season so far to win the second event on Popular Choice, stealing the lowly distance race from his rivals as a scrimmage ended the chances of at least two of them. Marcus settled the Ivan Allan-trained gelding in midfield but a lightning raid on the lead passing the 600 metres saw him turn for home with what proved to be an unassailable four-length break in the Class Five over 2,000m.
'I guess it was one of those things that looks great if it comes off, and you get a bagging if it doesn't,' Marcus said after the first leg of his double prevailed by three-quarters of a length to break his maiden status. And it was not the first time we have seen the South African in a similar, innovative role. Late last season, he won on David Hill's Glasgow Kiss in the lowest grade after taking off around the field before the turn and playing catch-me-if-you-can.
'It wasn't anything I planned, and I rode it by feel more than by the times they were running,' Marcus said. 'My horse had travelled quite well and I saw the bit of scrimmaging that was happening up ahead and I thought I'd take off.
'Popular Choice looked a bit of a one-pacer in his last run at Happy Valley and I figured it was better to do that than sit back and think he was going to sprint when we straightened. And in Class Five, a lot of the horses don't get to the line that strongly. If you have a margin on them, it can be important in your favour.'
Marcus made his move almost immediately after the incident in which College Town (Rod Quinn) almost fell after his hoof struck the leg of another runner. Not Guilty (Eric Legrix) was following College Town and was put out of the race as that horse cannoned into him and another three runners suffered backwash from the incident which stewards deemed to be accidental.
Marcus completed his double on highly promising young stayer Keen Marshal (left), who made it two wins from three starts in the seventh event (1,800m). Still on the green side, Keen Marshal found his way to the front passing the 200m but looked as though he would have to settle for a brave second soon after when Douglas Whyte (Universal Charger) pounced.
Whyte had tracked Marcus throughout and brought Universal Charger to win for certain until Keen Marshal's character took a role. 'That was really a very courageous win,' Marcus said after the three-year-old fought back to win by a head. 'He is still an inexperienced horse and you don't see too many horses fight back to win after they have been headed. That was very brave, indeed.'
Trainer Tony Millard has barely had a chance to scratch the surface with Keen Marshal, who is owned in similar interests to the trainer's 2000 Derby victor, Keen Winner, and the Irish-bred colt looks like he might also be headed in that direction.
Keen Marshal was one of three winners yesterday for super sire Danehill, with Popular Choice and Tony Cruz's Ferrule (Felix Coetzee) in race eight taking the rest of the spoils.