Ciaron Maher could have up to five Golden Slipper runners after Prague booked one of the final places with a return to form in the Pago Pago Stakes at Rosehill.
English jockey Tom Marquand flew into Sydney on Friday night to renew his association with the Aquis Farm-owned colt, the pair combining to win the Canonbury Stakes in February.
Prague ($7.50) was subsequently unplaced in a slowly run Skyline Stakes but with Marquand back in the saddle, the juvenile has reignited his Golden Slipper bid with a 1-1/2 length win over Kumasi ($4.80) in Saturday’s lead-up.
Maher believes Prague is open to further improvement and has him ready to peak when he returns to Rosehill in seven days.
“He’s a very relaxed horse and he’s still learning his craft,” Maher said.
“You saw last start off a slow pace he just over-raced a little bit and Tom really suits him, he’s a good, strong rider. Hopefully he will stick with him for next week.”
While Stratum 15 years ago was the last horse to win the Pago Pago Stakes and back-up to claim the Slipper, Maher says Prague has the right temperament to cope with the task.
“We thought in the run in, if we had to back up it would work because he had his runs well spaced early and then you tighten them up and hopefully peak him for next week,” Maher said.
“He is still quite progressive. There’s a bit more in the tank and I think the back up will be ideal.”
Maher and Eustace already have Magic Millions winner Away Game and Muntaseera safely in the Golden Slipper field while Cellsabeel and Rathlin are borderline.
Marquand, who has committed to riding in Sydney for the next month, appears likely to stick with Prague in the Slipper.
“It was worth coming back for,” Marquand said.
“He’s a lovely big horse and he’s not done an awful lot of racing so there is no reason why he shouldn’t handle backing up.”
Gerald Ryan was happy with the effort of Kumasi, who was having just his second start, and was likely to head to the Sires’ Produce Stakes.
I Am Swerving ($11) finished third another half length away while Nash Rawiller said punters did not see the best of Victorian Ilovemyself, who started favourite.
“He got badly checked at the start, raced a bit green. He didn’t handle the ground but he’s a very nice horse,” Rawiller said.