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Maher leaps to the top with Crown Oaks triumph

Ciaron Maher added a second group 1 victory to his tally when lightly- raced filly Set Square outstayed her rivals to win the $1 million Crown Oaks at Flemington yesterday.
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Trainer Ciaron Maher and jockey Hugh Bowman share the spoils after they combined with filly Set Square to win the $1 million Crown Oaks at Flemington. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Maher sprung onto racing’s biggest stage when Tears I Cry won the 2007 Emirates Stakes as a 100/1 outsider. Tears I Cry’s win stamped him as a trainer with above average ability, before winning two Warrnambool Grand Annual Steeplechases with Al Garhood and countless other feature jumps races.

The 33-year-old trainer, who has stables at Winslow and Caulfield, said training jumpers had given him the confidence of getting horses like Set Square ready to run in distance races.

“I don’t rate training horses to run a distance a big issue,” he said.

“I’ve had to make a living out of training jumpers to run two miles or more for years. It’s just that I’ve got better-bred horses now.”

Set Square’s win in the Ethereal Stakes at Caulfield on October 18 gave him confidence that the three-year-old filly could win the Oaks.

“I’ve been quietly confident she could win.

“She just improved so much after her win at Caulfield. She’s a high-class filly.

“I’ve got to thank the owner Ken King and his syndicate for giving me the chance to train her.

“She’s just kept on improving since her first run when she ran third in a maiden at Donald over an unsuitable distance.

“It’s a wonderful thrill to win another group 1 on the biggest racing stage in Australia.”

Set Square hit the front at the 300-metre mark in the 2500-metre classic, running away from Thunder Lady and Golconda to register her third win from four starts.

“She’s been so progressive,” Maher said.

“We didn’t enter her for this race, she was a late nomination, but she’s just kept on improving from her Ethereal Stakes run.”

Champion jockey Hugh Bowman spoke in glowing terms of Maher and Set Square after the Oaks victory.

“She’s a good filly and Ciaron Maher is an excellent conditioner of these middle-distance, staying horses,” Bowman said.

“It took me a bit to settle her. I didn’t settle her until about the 1800-metre mark.

“I was a bit concerned early that she was doing too much within herself.

“Once I got her into rhythm the pace was moderate, but when the pressure went on I was in the perfect position to pounce and I had the perfect horse to pounce for me.”

Set Square gave Bowman his second victory in a VRC Crown Oaks. He previously won on the Kris Lees-trained Samantha Miss in 2008.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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