Kenedna extends Maher’s winter love affair
Ciaron Maher's love affair with the Queensland carnival grew to another level after he combined with jockey John Allen to land Saturday's two Brisbane features, with Kenedna and Etana.
Allen delivered a masterful display on Kenedna to win the $750,000 Group 1 Doomben Cup before a similarly sharp display on Etana in the Doomben Roses 40 minutes later.
The Cup is the third Group 1 race Maher has won at Doomben, following the 2015 Stradbroke with Srikandi and 2017 Queensland Derby with Ruthven.
"What can I say? This track I love it," Maher said.
"This is unbelievable. God I love coming here. It's a great carnival."
Maher also won the 2015 Tatt's Tiara at the Gold Coast with Srikandi.
Maher first came to Queensland in the winter of 2014, where Srikandi won a string of lead-ups and started favourite in that year's Stradbroke and he has been a regular visitor ever since.
This was his first Queensland major since starting a training partnership with David Eustace.
He is chasing more Group 1 glory this weekend when he tips talented two-year-old colt Dubious into battle against the older horses in the Kingsford Smith Cup at Eagle Farm.
Kenedna won the Doomben Roses at the venue two years ago before being close up in Egg Tart's Oaks that year.
She was switched to the stables of Maher and David Eustace after the disqualification of Darren Weir earlier this year and the pair have now coaxed two Group 1 wins from her following her upset Coolmore Legacy success last month.
Maher said it was Weir who had suggested to Kenedna's owners to keep her in training rather than send to the breeding barn because her best days were still ahead of her.
"The Coolmore Legacy was a bit of a bonus. This was always their target race," Maher said.
"I thought she was pretty right to go. She took a bit of improvement out of the Gold Coast and was probably in the worst part of the track. Those conditions didn't really suit her and it's all panned out perfectly. They've got a multiple Group 1 winning mare and she's very valuable."
This was Allen's fourth Group 1 for the season across three states.
"Unreal. She's a filly pretty close to my heart. I've had a lot of success with her and she just keeps backing up every time and doing her best for you," Allen said.
"We had a beautiful run in transit and I just didn't want to present her too early. I might have missed the boat a bit, but we were able to duck back to the inside and that opened up and she really hit the line good.
"She won the Roses two years ago and she was a little bit unlucky in the Oaks so to get back and win another Group 1 on her is unbelievable."
IN DARK ON ZOUSTYLE'S NEXT QUEST
Tony Gollan continues to play his cards close to his chest with rising star Zoustyle, who made it six from six when easily fending off the fleeting challenge of Plague Stone at Doomben.
Punters did not see it as a match race, backing Zoustyle into $1.60, as Plague Stone drifted to $3, having started the week ahead of Zoustyle in the betting.
Zoustyle is a pronounced favourite for the $1.5 million Stradbroke in three weeks, but Gollan has to this point refused to commit to a start in that race.
At his present rating, Zoustyle would most likely have to win a race like the Moreton Cup to qualify for the Stradbroke should connections choose that option.
Otherwise, Gollan can wait another week and run against his own age in a support race on Stradbroke day and then go into the Group 3 Healy Stakes a fortnight later.
The trainer did reveal yesterday that it hadn't been a trouble-free preparation this time around.
"I won't tell you everything that's happened this preparation," he said.
"But we're here today, he's a really impressive horse."
Gollan admitted to being a little on edge this week, especially as he's waited an extra fortnight to get to the races after the Gold Coast Guineas return was abandoned just 30 minutes before race time.
"Whenever they are unbeaten you get a little bit more anxious coming to the races," he said.
"He was a bit fresh, he needed the run. But he's executed really well today. He had a very good horse chasing him and he's done a great job."
"I don't know (what's next). I will worry about it after this."
There was a gasp from the crowd when Zoustyle got his head up in the middle stages, but he quickly settled again.
"He was just feeling well and wanting to get on with things," Stewart said.
"He raced a little bit fresh, they can do that at times. I wasn't too worried about it. It was only those two strides and then he settled again good."
Plague Stone set out after Zoustyle in the straight, but Stewart said he never felt under siege.
"I wasn't too aware of what was around me," he said.
"I had a good turn of foot when we straightened and if something ran me down they were too good.
"I would have been surprised if something did."