Ciaron Maher is not willing to give his opposition an even break and openly declare his hand with Cox Plate tactics on x-factor runner Grandslam.
But Maher insists there is no specific blueprint for the three-year-old, a likely leader or on-pace runner, to take off and go for home at a certain point of the famous race on Saturday.
The colt led up the Caulfield Guineas field before hanging on well to finish third and with just 49.5kg in the Cox Plate it would be no surprise to anyone if in-form jockey Jye McNeil adopts a catch-me-if-you-can mantra.
However Maher, who co-trains with Dave Eustace, says McNeil won’t be locked into scooting for home at a designated point in the weight-for-age contest.
“Grandslam will be on pace but I’m not screwed down to saying that he has to lead or he has to take off at a certain time,” Maher told Racenet.
“There is no firm plan in regard to that but I guess, even if there was, I probably wouldn’t be telling you anyway.
“In all seriousness, Jye is riding in really good form and he had a nice feel of the horse the other day when he rode him at work.
“I think this horse has improved and if you look at the horse’s pedigree you would think he would be better at 2000(m) and beyond.
“We will be up there but it’s a Cox Plate and if you think you were going to get it in a hand canter, you would probably have another thing coming.
“It’s a high pressure race, it’s why the Cox Plate is the Cox Plate.
“Nothing is easy, they go from start to finish and some of them take off early.”
There was high controversy before the Cox Plate barrier draw on Tuesday when Lloyd and Nick Williams were in “shock” over Buckhurst being initially rejected from the field by the Moonee Valley Committee.
“We didn’t even consider we would miss the field … somehow that three-year-old is in front of him,” Nick Williams said, before going on to suggest Buckhurst should also be in the field ahead of Master Of Wine and Sir Dragonet.
Grandslam, the little brother of Caulfield Cup winner and three-time Group 1 winner Jameka, currently only has just one win in a Benchmark 66 race in Adelaide from his six starts.
And he is an unknown on wet tracks, never having raced on anything worse than a good.
But McNeil says the fact he is a close relation to Jameka gives him confidence he can handle a rain-affected track on Saturday.
It could potentially even play into his hands.
“He has never been on a wet track before, which is obviously the unknown, but being a brother to Jameka who handled wet ground it gives us some confidence,” McNeil said.
“He was forward in his Guineas run the other day so all going well we will be trying to do something similar here.
“It wasn’t my plan to be riding this light but it was an offer I obviously couldn’t refuse and my weight has been good since last week when I rode 50.5kg in the Caulfield Cup (Chapada).”
Grandslam (left) ridden by Jye McNeil gallops with Tanker ridden by John Allen during Breakfast With The Best trackwork at Moonee Valley on Tuesday. Pic: Racing Photos via Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
Maher has no doubt Grandslam, rated a $19 Cox Plate chance by TAB, will run a big race in the Cox Plate.
“This race is all about opinions isn’t it – if I trained Buckhurst I would probably think the same thing that he should have been in field initially,” Maher said.
“But these things happen, last year I trained Humidor and he didn’t get in.
“I think this colt will run a very good race.
“Statistics would tell you that three-year-olds who run well in the Guineas run well in the Cox Plate.”
Shamus Award was the last three-year-old colt to win the Cox Plate in 2013.
Shamus Award also ran third in that year’s Caulfield Guineas before breaking his maiden in Australasia’s weight-for-age championship.
Maher and Eustace’s other Cox Plate contender, import Sir Dragonet, will be ridden by big-race specialist Glen Boss and is a $13 chance.
Sir Dragonet is likely to be helped by the prospect of a wet track, given the only concern about his Cox Plate credentials is whether he could find the 2040m too sharp.
Originally published asTactics for x-factor runner add spice and intrigue to Cox Plate
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