Marsh proud to be part of Wellington Cup history

By Dennis Ryan

2 Feb 2022

Marsh proud to be part of Wellington Cup historyLincoln King (Craig Grylls, outer) downs stablemate Starrybeel (centre) and He No Opilio in the Well

“No, any way you look at it, that was a great result for both sets of connections.”
Stephen Marsh may have spent the past two decades of his training career based in Cambridge, but there’s no denying his origins, nor the pride he took from producing the Wellington Cup quinella at Trentham last Saturday.
“I’m a CD boy,” declares Woodville-born and raised Marsh, the son of former leading jockey and trainer Bruce Marsh, in reference to the label given the lower North Island racing region. “The Wellington Cup will always be an iconic race and to get a result like that was just so cool, something I can always be proud of.”
Three days out from the 3200-metre highlight of the Trentham carnival, Cup calculations were thrown wide open with the shock withdrawal due to a tendon injury of the Allan Sharrock-trained 2021 winner Waisake. Along with all others involved, Marsh knew that the defection of the ruling favourite was a boost to the prospects of his two runners, Lincoln King and Starrybeel.
“You had to feel for Waisake’s connections,” he says. “It’s one of those things that can happen to any of us – and for virtually all of us it has – but that’s the game.
“Obviously I liked both my horses, I knew this was their sort of race, but I never dreamed they would quinella it. Lincoln King deserved to get a big win, he had been unlucky before, like when he ran such a close second in the New Zealand Cup two years ago.”
Starrybeel, the winner of the 2019 Dunstan Stayers’ Championship, had a better formline than his stablemate with recent placings in the Waikato and City of Auckland Cups, and even though he had to settle for another placing last weekend, it was an outcome that his trainer can live with.
Both horses carry ubiquitous colours, Lincoln King the red, black and gold of breeders Wellfield Holdings and Starrybeel the blue and white stylised Go Racing strip.
“I’ve got a share in both horses, but Bruce and I have 20 per cent each in Starrybeel, so that might have been a better result,” Marsh said in jest. “No, any way you look at it, that was a great result for both sets of connections.”
Marsh was clearly taken aback to learn that his Wellington Cup quinella was the first since 1955 when Percy Burgess produced the £115 bolter Golden Galleon to lead for the last six furlongs (1200m) and hold out his stablemate Sombrero by a head.
Burgess, who also happened to be based in Woodville, was a successful jockey before transitioning to training. He won numerous domestic feature races and went within inches of the ultimate victory with Howsie, who was the middle element to an all-New Zealand finish bracketed by Hi Jinx and Ilumquh in the 1960 Centennial Melbourne Cup.
The only other trainer to come close to a Wellington Cup quinella in the intervening 67 years was Foxton-based Paddy Busuttin, when his Hall of Fame stayer Castletown notched the first of three wins in 1991 from the Errol Skelton-trained Shuzohra, with Busuttin’s second runner Coconut Ice third.
“Hey I know the Wellington mightn’t be the race it once was, but that’s quite something I guess,” was Marsh’s candid response to the above information.
Perhaps even more proud is Marsh’s father Bruce, now retired after two decades in Singapore and famous as the rider of 1971 Melbourne Cup winner Silver Knight.
“Stephen’s Wellington Cup record is way better than mine, in fact when it came to that race I was bloody useless!” says the equally candid senior. “As a jockey Silver Knight was by far my best chance in the same season as his Melbourne Cup, but by the time Trentham came around he was weary.
“And I can’t recall going into the Cup as a trainer with anything you could say had much chance. But to see Stephen do this, it’s just a fantastic result.”
Stephen Marsh is enjoying another rewarding innings, currently second on the premiership with 58 wins, 19 behind Jamie Richards, his nemesis in the two previous seasons as well. Richards’ imminent departure for Hong Kong may well provide the opportunity for the top two placings to be reversed by the end of the season, but for the meantime Marsh has more immediate goals.
“We’re a bit quiet at the moment but I’ve got a nice team coming together for late summer-autumn, which includes these two boys. The Auckland Cup is the obvious next target, so we’ll see if we can do it again.
“Now that would be something, wouldn’t it?”