Marz Express prevails in Eleanor Casey Memorial

Make it three straight for Marz Express.

The two-year-old West Coast filly prevailed in a thrilling renewal of the $75,000 Eleanor Casey Memorial for West Virginia-bred juvenile fillies Saturday for her third consecutive win and second in stakes company. The top four finishers all were within one length of the lead.

The frantic finish mirrored the season to date for the juvenile distaff set at Charles Town. The three stakes contested locally – also including the Rachel’s Turn and West Virginia Triple Crown Nutrition Breeders’ Classic – have been won by two different horses, and none of the three went to the post time favorite. In fact, the first two filly stakes went to longshots, with Lightnin Runner 12-1 in the former and Marz Express 13-1 in the latter. All were decided by a half-length or less.

But it was Marz Express who prevailed Saturday, and she won both of the division’s two-turn stakes to advance her claim as the top state-bred two-year-old filly.

Under jockey Jose Montano, Marz Express, off at 3-1, was away alertly to press the pace of 18-1 outsider Keep On Spurrin with Gerald Almodovar in the irons. Those two led through a half-mile in 48.52 seconds, and rounding the far turn, they put some distance between themselves and the rest.

Marz Express put a head in front turning for home, though Keep On Spurrin stayed on stubbornly. In the lane, Strong Willed (Jeiron Barbosa) and Lucky Blonde (Christian Hiraldo) both made strong bids.

But none could get to Marz Express, who won by a half-length and stopped the timer in 1:30.69 for seven furlongs on a fast main track. Strong Willed was second, Keep On Spurrin held third, and Lucky Blonde was along for fourth. It was more than three lengths back to the rest.

Marz Express is trained by Anthony Farrior for Ultra Championship Racing LLC and was bred in West Virginia by Jim Miller. Farrior trainees filled out the exacta, as he also trains Strong Willed, for Nikki Horses Racing and John Fanelli.

Marz Express paid $8.40 to win and topped an exacta that returned $49.10 on a one-dollar wager. Rachel’s Turn winner Lightnin Runner, off as the 2.80-1 favorite, had some early trouble, mounted a middle move, and then tired to finish seventh, five lengths behind the winner.

Marz Express did not break her maiden until her third outing. But she’s made up for lost time and now has three wins in five starts with earnings of $100,061.

Marz Express
Marz Express held off the charge in the Eleanor Casey Memorial Stakes. Photo by Coady Photography.