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Image: Steve Hart
Ciaron Maher provides an update on Melbourne Cup favourite Circle Of Fire

Ciaron Maher strengthened an already-powerful Melbourne Cup hand via Berkshire Breeze at Flemington on Saturday, further elevating himself in a market that is headed by a Group 1-winning stablemate.

Circle Of Fire is advancing in his work towards providing Maher with a second win in Australia’s most famous race, two years after Gold Trip won the race for he and then-partner David Eustace.

The son of Almanzor shot to the head of Melbourne Cup betting after winning the Sydney Cup and Maher hinted that if he improves from autumn to spring like he did during his initial settling in period he could be in for some campaign.

“He came over and, for a horse to absolutely thrive and peak that early, we haven’t seen that (before),” Maher said of the gelding who is in work at his Cranbourne stable.

“He’s probably the benchmark for a horse that just went forward.

“He didn’t come in ‘ridden quarantine’ (Werribee in spring) either, he came out in normal quarantine and just thrived.”

Circle Of Fire arrived in Australia with one win and three Listed placings from six starts in England and finished fourth in benchmark races at his first two Australian starts before winning the Group 2 Chairman’s Quality (2600m) a week before his Sydney Cup (3200m) success.

He heads Melbourne Cup betting at $11, from soon-to-be-stablemate Middle Earth ($13) with Saturday’s stunning Banjo Paterson Series Final winner Berkshire Breeze on the $15 third line.

Maher is yet to lock in a path to the Melbourne Cup with Circle Of Fire and said while he would be concentrating on trying to get into the 3200m Group 1 with as light a weight as possible, he remains opens to a start in the $5 million Caulfield Cup (2400m).

“We’re not that naïve to think that he’s too good to run in a Caulfield Cup,” he said.

“If he won it, I’d say ‘well done’, so he might go through a Caulfield Cup.”

Circle Of Fire is a $26 chance in Caulfield Cup betting with Berkshire Breeze on the $15 second line behind the Annabel Neasham-trained Fawkner Park ($11).

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