Ciaron Maher came of age as a top-class trainer when he guided troubled mare Srikandi to victory in the $2 million Group One Stradbroke Handicap at Doomben on Saturday.
Srikandi ($12) took full advantage of her inside alley to shoot clear in the straight and beat Boban ($16) by 1-3/4 lengths with a long head to Generalife ($12) in third.
The four-year-old mare was an unlucky third in last year’s Stradbroke and had been early favourite for this year’s race on the strength of her first-up win in the Victory Stakes on the Gold Coast on April 25.
However, her campaign started to go wrong when she bungled the start in the BTC Cup and was below par in the Doomben 10,000 two weeks ago.
Maher decided hard work was the way to get Srikandi on track and he spent the week in Brisbane supervising her lead-up to the Stradbroke.
“I had been travelling up and down from Melbourne. But I got here early this week and I could tell she was back on course,” Maher said.
“Her work with Excellantes on Tuesday was very good and then we drew barrier one and I felt things were coming together.
“Excellantes won earlier in the day and my confidence grew.
“This race was her target and a lot of people helped get her past the post first,” he said.
Maher prepared the VRC Oaks winner Set Square this season and has been among Victoria’s leading trainers this year.
However, he admitted the Stradbroke win is special.
“This mare has a big following and to win a Group One is extra good. She really deserves to be a Group One winner,” he said.
Maher said it was a pity jockey Damian Browne had been unable to make the weight for the Stradbroke.
“But Kerrin (winning jockey McEvoy) is a big-race jockey and he handled her perfectly.”
McEvoy said barrier one had been a great advantage for Srikandi and he had been determined to use it.
“I wasn’t going to let them go around me and catch me on the fence,” he said.
Glyn Schofield, who rode Boban, said the gelding did good job considering he was giving the winner 5kg.
“I don’t know if she outsprinted him but she was a bit too strong at the finish,” Schofield said.
Trainer Chris Waller said Boban would now go for a spell.
“His second justified the decision to run him in the Stradbroke,” Waller said.
Jockey Hugh Bowman said one of the runs of the race had been from Generalife who came from the outside barrier.
“It was a great run and to finish close-up to Boban franked his run behind that horse in the Doomben 10,000,” he said.
The joint $6 favourites Charlie Boy (14th) and Lumosty (10th) were never winning chances.