Ciaron Maher hopes to snare a Group 1 win with Loving Gaby in the Champagne Stakes. Picture: Jay Town
Ciaron Maher hopes to snare a Group 1 win with Loving Gaby in the Champagne Stakes. Picture: Jay Town

Maher salutes Loving Gaby’s fighting spirit

LOVING Gaby is about to join an elite band of juvenile fillies to contest four Group 1 races in their debut season when she contests the $500,000 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained filly is earning a "iron horse" reputation after contesting the Blue Diamond Stakes (sixth), Golden Slipper (fourth) and ATC Sires Produce Stakes (second) at her last three starts.

Guelph (2013) was the last filly to run in four Group 1 races as a two-year-old, finishing unplaced in the Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper before winning the Sires-Champagne double.

Prior to Guelph, you need to go back to 1986 when Bounding Away won three of the four Group 1 races, just missing a clean sweep with her Sires second behind Diamond Shower. Bounding Away earned Horse of the Year honours that season and remains the only two-year-old to win Australian racing's most coveted award.

Maher said Loving Gaby is coping well with her debut race preparation and believes the filly will appreciate 1600m after running on to finish a close second behind Microphone in the Sires last start.

"Loving Gaby was strong through the line in the Sires so I don't think 1600m will be an issue,'' Maher said. "She's a big, scopey horse and seems to be handling it (extended race campaign) very well.''

Maher and Eustace also have Naantali entered for the $600,000 Schweppes All Aged Stakes (1600m), Sydney's final Group 1 race for the 2018-19 season.

However, Maher is still considering options for Naantali who is also entered for the Group 3 $160,000 Victoria Handicap (1400m) at Caulfield on Saturday.

Loving Gaby is coping well with the workload in her first campaign. Picture: Getty Images
Loving Gaby is coping well with the workload in her first campaign. Picture: Getty Images

Naantali was impressive winning at Listed level at Caulfield last start giving Maher reason to consider the Randwick Group 1 weight-for-age test.

"We are still 'nutting' out which race to go for with Naantali,'' Maher said. "She was very good other day, it was her best run this preparation.''

Emerging filly Etana gives Maher and Eustace another big-race chance on the final day of the Sydney autumn carnival when she contests the Group 3 $160,000 James HB Carr Stakes (1400m).

Maher and Eustace are coming off a Group 1 success with Kenedna in the Queen of the Turf Stakes at Randwick last Saturday. Kenedna's win was significant for the Melbourne trainers as they have established a Sydney satellite stable out of Warwick Farm this season.

"We were at Rosehill initially before getting the 25 boxes at Warwick Farm,'' Maher said.

"Our strike-rate in Sydney has been good but it was great to get that Group 1 win last week, that is what it is all about.

"Kenedna was good when she resumed then put the writing on the wall second up. You need things to your way in these big races and she did the splits at the right time, it was a very good John Allen ride, but she did hit the line strongly. She will go to Queensland for the winter carnival for races like the Hollindale Stakes and Doomben Cup now.''



Chris Waller with Winx after a win. Picture: AAP
Chris Waller with Winx after a win. Picture: AAP


WHAT does Chris Waller do with all the trainer trophies after every big race win?

"I keep all the Group 1 trophies but give the others to my staff,'' Waller said.

That's a lot of trophies to dust as Sydney's champion trainer took his career total to 101 with a Group 1 hat-trick at Randwick last Saturday, including Winx's farewell win in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Waller has become only the sixth trainer in Australian racing history to prepare at least 100 Group 1 winners behind Tommy Smith (282), Bart Cummings (268), Gai Waterhouse (140), Lee Freedman (124) and John Hawkes (112).

Winx (seven Group 1 wins) and The Autumn Sun (four) have helped propel Waller to a personal best 17 Group 1 winners so far this season and he is now within three majors of equalling the all-time record set by Cummings in 1974-75.

There are 13 Group 1 races remaining for the 2018-19 season including the $600,000 All Aged Stakes at Royal Randwick on Saturday where Waller has Youngstar representing the stable.

Waller, who has already secured his ninth Sydney trainers premiership, has prepared the winners of nearly $36 million prizemoney - a new Australian record and there is still more than three months remaining this season.

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SYDNEY'S reigning premier jockey Brenton Avdulla will ride at the Easter Monday meeting on Randwick's Kensington track before taking up a month-long riding stint in Japan.

Avdulla has a contract with the Japan Racing Association to ride there from April 27 to May 26. However, he has not set a date for his return to Sydney racing.

Brenton Avdulla will head to Japan for a month-long riding stint. Picture: AAP
Brenton Avdulla will head to Japan for a month-long riding stint. Picture: AAP

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WARWICK Farm trainer Greg Hickman's decision to open a 10-horse Gold Coast satellite stable two months ago is already proving beneficial to his business.

"We have picked up some new owners since opening the Gold Coast stable,'' he revealed.

Hickman's reasons for expanding his training operation was to have a stable base for the Brisbane winter carnival and Magic Millions each year and to have easier access to country racing in the NSW Northern Rivers region.

"Sydney racing is very, very strong and not every horse in the stable can be competitive here,'' Hickman said.

"But (NSW) country prizemoney is so good that some of our horses can be based on the Gold Coast and they are only 90 minutes away from some of those northern NSW racetracks. We can still have our horses eligible for the BOBs series in NSW racing out of the Gold Coast.''

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ARROWFIELD Stud is expected to announce the service fee for super sire Snitzel next Tuesday. Snitzel, who has sired the winners of more than $20 million in prizemoney this season and is virtually assured a third successive national sires premiership, stood at a fee of $220,000 last year and it is expected that figure won't change for the coming spring breeding season.