Ciaron Maher is planning on his Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet becoming the pre-eminent weight-for-age performer in the country at a middle distance.
Maher said the style of Sir Dragonet’s Cox Plate win at what was the former Irish galloper’s Australian debut suggested it was an attainable goal.
“That was a star-studded Cox Plate field and he put them away quite easily,” Maher said.
“I don’t know if he’s got any more improvement but if we can keep him at that level that’s going to make him hard to beat in weight-for-age races over 2000 metres.”
The former Aidan O’Brien-trained galloper, who was purchased by clients of Maher and co-trainer David Eustace, flew home to win the Cox Plate, running away from the well-credentialed raider Armory to win by 1-1/4 lengths.
With the Cox Plate win firmly in Maher’s thoughts, he will target Australia’s four richest 2000 metre weight-for-age races next year.
In the autumn, Maher and Eustace will initially set Sir Dragonet for the $1.5 million Australian Cup at Flemington on March 6 and the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on April 10.
Maher said Melbourne’s weather and the firmness of the tracks would dictate whether Sir Dragonet ran in the Australian Cup.
“I think the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, with the cut usually out of the ground, will suit him perfectly,” Maher said.
In the spring, Maher has his sights on a tilt at back-to-back wins in the Cox Plate while the Mackinnon Stakes is also on the radar in preference to another attempt at the Melbourne Cup.
Maher thought Sir Dragonet’s Melbourne Cup effort was good considering he suffered some bad luck, but he questioned whether 3200 metres suited him.
Sir Dragonet ran on strongly to finish sixth, beaten just over three lengths, and Maher believes if he had jumped well he might have won.
“I think two miles is at the peak of his distance range,” he said.
“The thing that stopped his chances was being slowly away and because of that he had to settle further back than we wanted and he had to regain that four lengths.
“If he had of been four lengths closer he would have been able to use that sprint to win the race, rather than getting into the race, and that would have made the difference.
“‘Bossy’ (jockey Glen Boss) said it was an outstanding effort in a race which was controlled from the front.”
Maher said Sir Dragonet felt those spring runs and was given a good spell.
The horse has been back in pre-training at his Balnarring facility for a couple of weeks.
“He’s ticking along very well there and he’s introducing himself to the dolphins,” he said.