09/17/2010 1:26PM

Softer ground may be all Marsh Side needs to repeat


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Marsh Side will continue his march towards the Canadian International on Sunday at Woodbine in the Grade 1, $750,000 Northern Dancer Turf, the supporting feature on the Woodbine Mile card.

Marsh Side captured last year’s running of the 1 1/2-mile Northern Dancer over Just as Well and Champs Elysees. He went on to finish fourth in the Grade 1, $2 million International, a race that he won at 29-1 in 2008.

Marsh Side was in mediocre form prior to his last outing here in the Grade 2 Sky Classic Stakes, which he won convincingly over a course labeled soft.

Patrick Lawley-Wakelin, the racing manager for owner Robert Evans, said Marsh Side finally got the right ground in the Sky Classic.

“His preferred footing is some give in the ground,” said Lawley-Wakelin. “The course last year in the Northern Dancer was firm, and he did run a brilliant race on it, but his preferred footing, without any doubt, is some give in the ground, and he got that in the Sky Classic.”

Lawley-Wakelin said the Neil Drysdale-trained Marsh Side adores Woodbine.

“He prefers a sweeping turn,” Lawley-Wakelin explained. “He trains brilliantly there, and seems to really love the surroundings. He really settles in, and always runs a bang-up race.”

Lawley-Wakelin said Marsh Side is a candidate for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, after he runs back in the Oct. 16 International.

“It will be a little bit quick [back], but we feel that we’re possibly going to get our ground,” said Lawley-Wakelin.

Windward Islands finished second in the 1 1/4-mile Sky Classic. He had been idle for more than a year when he upset stablemate Grand Adventure over nine furlongs of yielding turf in the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes on July 24.

“He’s been delicate all his life,” said trainer Mark Frostad. “He’s had lots of nagging problems. He hasn’t been the soundest of horses, but he’s been sound this year, and he loves to compete.”

Spice Route was scratched from the Aug. 22 Sky Classic because of the course condition. He hasn’t started since his impressive come-from-behind triumph following a six-month layoff in the Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes here July 4.

Redwood finished second three weeks ago over soft ground in the Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville in France, and is making his first start in North America.