Local Group 1 winning horseman Ciaron Maher is confident he can secure his maiden Wangoom Handicap in 2016 with his recent stable acquisition Girl Guide one of the best fancied in the Warrnambool feature on Wednesday afternoon.
Maher has a stellar record during the annual Warrnambool Carnival with the jumpers especially and has a stable near the beach on the Victorian south-west coast.
He is yet to train a Wangoom Handicap winner however, but hopes to change that this afternoon in the $150,000 feature with former Lindsay Park-raced mare Girl Guide.
“To win any of the features at the carnival is great, it would be awesome,” Maher told The Herald Sun.
There are 14 remaining runners in this year’s Listed Wangoom Handicap (1200m) including the now Maher-trained Churchill Downs six-year-old Girl Guide.
She hasn’t won a race since the Group 3 How Now Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield in September of 2014, and was out of touch during last year’s Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival including her eighth in the same race.
Maher has been working his magic with the six-time winner however and Girl Guide returned to racing on April 23 at Caulfield when runner-up to Sheidel in the Listed Bel Esprit Stakes (1100m) in her debut for her new trainer.
On the line she was beaten only a short half-head after jumping from barrier 13 of 14 with Dean Yendall in the saddle.
Yendall retains the ride in this afternoon’s Wangoom Handicap, dubbed the “Newmarket of the Bush” because of the depth of sprinters the event attracts, and Girl Guide has drawn wide again out in gate 13.
She went out as a 31/1 outsider in betting first-up, but won’t be found at the same odds this afternoon currently paying $5 in the Wangoom Handicap betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au.
“Going into these sort of conditions, she loves them and now she’s had a run under her belt, it should be ideal,” Maher said of Girl Guide’s chances on the rain-affected track in the Wangoom.
“She’s always had that really good ability, but she just hadn’t recaptured it for a while. So we changed it up and trained her down here off the beach and she has just thrived.”
Girl Guide trails only the Darren Weir-trained three-year-old Stellar Collision ($4.50) in the Wangoom Handicap odds; Weir also shooting for his first win in the race.
Melbourne Cup winning hoop Michelle Payne takes the ride on Stellar Collison in just her second ride for Weir since the spring.
Jumping from barrier three, the Star Witness gelding has won four of his six career starts to date and is out to improve on his ninth to Japonisme in Randwick’s Group 2 Arrowfield 3YO Sprint (1200m) last start during ‘The Championships’.
“We’re happy with him, he’s drawn well, he likes the wet and we’ve put the blinkers on him,” Weir said.
“He doesn’t get a great pull in the weight from horses like Rain Affair but he’s a good chance and hopefully he can win it.”
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