English jockey repays Maher’s faith with big double
ENGLISH riding sensation Tom Marquand has had a career-best result after teaming up with trainer Ciaron Maher to secure the Group 3 two-year-old double at Royal Randwick.
Marquand guided Away Game to win the $160,000 Widden Stakes (1100m) on Saturday and then 35 minutes later rode stablemate Prague to take out the $160,000 Canonbury Stakes (1100m).
"It doesn't get much better,'' Marquand said after riding his first Australian stakes winners.
"This has exceeded expectations, to find two favourites in two Group 3 races on a big Saturday, I have never had that at home.
"I was shocked to get an opportunity like this as I have only been in the country for a relatively short amount of time.''
Maher confirmed both winners are now on the path towards the $3.5 million Golden Slipper (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 21, where the trainer already has the early $6 favourite, Cellsabeel.
In fact, Maher, who trains in partnership with David Eustace, has such a wealth of two-year-old talent this season it is likely he will have multiple runners in the world's richest juvenile race and has indicated there is every chance he will ask Marquand to return to Sydney for the Golden Slipper.
.@mmsnippets winner Away Game is in the Slipper! That's 3 in a row for the @cmaherracing / @eustacedj galloper, and what a tough win it was with @TomMarquand in the saddle... @royalrandwick @atc_races pic.twitter.com/KTECumroER— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) February 1, 2020
Marquand, 21, is due to return to England after the Apollo Stakes meeting on February 15 but is hopeful of getting a Golden Slipper ride.
"I'd be jumping on a plane, it would be a great opportunity,'' Marquand said.
Magic Millions winner Away Game ($2.10 favourite) led throughout and dominated the Widden Stakes, winning by two and a quarter lengths from Centimental ($6.50) with Philizzy ($5) a half neck away third.
Away Game ran the 1100m in 1m 4.43s (last 600m in 35.60s) in blustery conditions and although times don't mean everything, they are a reliable guide in two-year-old racing, so Prague's effort to win the Canonbury in 1m 3.94s (last 600m in 34.68s) should be noted.
Prague ($4.40), a $1.6 million Magic Millions Sale yearling purchase, maintained the unbeaten start to his career when he defeated Breeders Plate winner Global Quest ($2.80 favourite) by one-and-three-quarter lengths to give owners Aquis Farm the Canonbury quinella. Return With Honour ($6.50) was a neck away third.
Marquand was asked to compare the two Golden Slipper hopefuls and his reply suggested he might have a slight leaning to Prague.
"Obviously the filly (Away Game) has probably shown some of her best hand already,'' Marquand said.
"She has shown she is extremely talented and extremely tough but this lad has a hell of a lot of improving physically and mentally.
"They are two very nice horses going places and Ciaron has a stable full of good two-year-olds who are extremely well managed.''
Maher said Away Game might go straight to the Golden Slipper but indicated Prague was likely to have at least another lead-up run.
"Away Game had to add another string to her bow by leading today,'' Maher said.
"She looked a bit lost out in front there then she looked a bit lost on the rail as she didn't see much of it at the Gold Coast.
"But she is now a dual stakes winner very early in her career and she is en-route to the Slipper.
"We will see where she sits monetary-wise but we might not see her again before the Slipper. She doesn't need a lot of racing.''
Maher described Prague as a "beautiful colt with an extremely bright future".
"I just had a bit of a feeling about him today,'' he said. "With the shades on and the way he had come on in the coat from his first-up there was a bit of timing about him.
"Tom Marquand…he is riding up a storm here. He had the feel for him there, the colt got a bit lost when he hit the front but Tom is a very strong rider.
"He is a very relaxed customer and I think he has a lot of improvement in him again. He will take a lot from that today. He actually pinned the ears back and started to work out what it is all about.
"But he might need another run as he might need more money and a bit more experience.''