By Jon Lees
An outlay of just over £1,000 to buy a share in Marie’s Diamond has already gone a long way, but next week it will stretch even further when the colt takes his 20 small-time owners on the next leg of a voyage of discovery to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup.
The Mark Johnston-trained Marie’s Diamond, who runs under the Middleham Park Racing banner, is the colt who money could not buy at the Goffs UK Horses-in-Training sale at Goodwood in August, despite a substantial offer.
Having won the Group Three Anglesey Stakes at the Curragh, Marie’s Diamond was led away unsold after the bidding reached £675,000 – not quite enough to match his reserve price of £700,000, a sum set by a vote among the owners.
When the colt finished second the following day in the Group Two Richmond Stakes, there was not a hint of regret among connections more than content to stay along for the ride.
“Some of the smaller guys are not in it for the money,” said Middleham Park partner Mike Prince.
“They would rather have a horse that can take them to the Breeders’ Cup and run in races like the Middle Park and fulfil their dreams rather than have a cut of a nice pot. They would rather live the dream and there were no regrets.”
Marie’s Diamond stayed at six furlongs after Goodwood – a below-par Prix Morny effort being followed by fourth place in the Middle Park, a performance that fuelled hopes he could be just as competitive at a mile in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Florent Geroux, who rode Gun Runner to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year, has been booked to ride Marie’s Diamond who will be only record-breaker Johnston’s second Breeders’ Cup runner and his first since Fruits Of Love contested the Breeders’ Cup Turf 18 years ago.
“We are all very excited about it,” added Prince. “We have kept him to sprint distances so far but he is actually bred to want further than a mile, certainly on the dam’s side, but he has shown so much speed.
“We wanted to avoid the seven-furlong Too Darn Hot-type division. In the Middle Park he got outpaced but was staying on again, and his best race was in the Anglesey which was over six and a half furlongs.
“We know he wants further, but we thought the six-furlong division was slightly weaker.
“He is bred to want a mile and more, needs the ground to be quick as his two blowouts at Epsom and in the Prix Morny were on soft and tacky ground. Apart from that he has been really consistent.
“We think he will improve for the step up in trip, should have early speed as he has been running at sprint trips so should be able to bag an early pitch and he has run round Chester, which taken together makes us think the style of the race will suit him.
“There are 20 owners, all run-of-the-mill people, who are really excited. A two and half per cent share would have cost just over £1,000.
“They have had some great wins already and he has run well in a Group Two and the Middle Park as well, so they are having a whale of a time.”