Racing: Times changing for Maher

By Mike Dillon

Owner Colin McKenna, jockey Nick Hall and trainer Ciaron Maher celebrate the Cup victory. Photo / Getty Images
Owner Colin McKenna, jockey Nick Hall and trainer Ciaron Maher celebrate the Cup victory. Photo / Getty Images

If you walked on to a Melbourne racecourse looking for an ex jumps jockey and former dirt bike rider who might have just won a Caulfield Cup you wouldn't give Ciaron Maher a second glance.

Shove a mandolin under Maher's arm and you've got Bob Dylan circa early 1970s, right down to the tight curls overlapping his collar.

That's where the comparison ends. The late Tommy Smith is a better role model. Smith was the son of a dirt poor butcher from the back and beyond of New South Wales.

Even after Smith pulled off a remarkable betting coup with his only horse, a castoff named Bragger, to train 10 winners a season from that point forward looked an impossibility.

So little ceiling and so much self belief did Smith possess he won the Sydney trainers' premiership for an astonishing 33 consecutive years.

Maher has Smith's idea of a ceiling - there isn't one. Maher came up with the quote of the day after Jameka won Saturday's Caulfield Cup.

Asked if he'd gone beyond his budget when he forked out A$130,000 for the not-so-brilliantly-bred Jameka as a yearling he said: "No, because I didn't have a budget - it was all on credit."

Curlilocks doesn't believe in limitations He was on his way to becoming the premier trainer in his home town of Warrnambool when he shocked everyone by moving into Caulfield.

Being the best in Warrnambool wasn't enough.

Fortune certainly does favour the brave because last year Maher inherited not only the Caulfield stabling block of Peter Moody, who was suspended on a cobalt charge, but half of Moody's horses, something he could not have anticipated when he made his big move.

Jameka is not bred to stay, but that is mere detail to her trainer.

The classy mare became the first to win the VRC Oaks and Caulfield Cup in consecutive seasons.

This is a victory that owes so much to young rider Nick Hall, who would not have consumed more than a couple of lettuce leaves in the 24-hour lead-up to ride the mare at 52.5kg.

Deprivation did not show as Hall used Jameka up a little early to land into the spot just behind the leaders he had claimed for himself before the field left the mounting yard.

From there, he dictated the race to allow Jameka ample opportunity to use her fine finishing sprint. When that sprint came at the 300m it was instantly game over.

Pacemaker Scottish fought bravely, but Jameka put him to the sword without too much effort. Exospheric made it a 2-3 result for the Europeans with his fighting third.

That was brave after Exospheric experienced foot problems in the lead-up and like the other Northern Hemisphere raiders would not have been entirely happy on the firm Caulfield surface.

Kerrin McEvoy was delighted with Scottish's effort, declaring the horse lost ground jumping into the air when the start was made,

forcing him to use plenty of gas to get around the field to lead at the 1400m. "As a result he was getting tired late, but he fought bravely."

Michael Walker just loved the effort of fourth-placed Almoonqith, who ran the fastest last 200m of the race - 11.95 seconds. "We should have been second. We got held up around the home bend. Outside of the winner it was the best Melbourne Cup trial."

Maher doesn't flinch when asked about Jameka for the Melbourne Cup, even though history may record that 2000m-2400m may be the mare's target range. "Why not?" he asks.

That's pretty much his answer to all of life's challenges.

Dancing to own beat

Ciaron Maher has come a long way from Western Victoria to a training a Cup winner.

Jameka proved too classy for the foreign invaders at Caulfield on Saturday

Michael Walker was pleased with the run of Almoonqith from a Melbourne Cup perspective.

- NZ Herald

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