Leading Australian trainer Ciaron Maher is eyeing off a trip to Hong Kong for the QE II Cup with his star mare Jameka, but first she has to prove her mettle in the Group One Australian Cup at Flemington.
The reigning Caulfield Cup champion is the second favourite for Saturday’s 2,000m feature but Maher insists he’s not heading overseas unless the four-year-old can show her best.
“This race and then The BMW [in Sydney] are her target races and then we’ll look at the QE II Cup in Hong Kong,” Maher said.
“It’s 2,000 metres and then we’ll look to go over to Europe. But that’s providing she’s still racing well.
“We want to go over there and be competitive, not just go over there and compete.”
Jameka has enjoyed a strong build-up to the Australian Cup, flying home in the Group One CF Orr Stakes over 1,400m first-up before finishing less than a length behind Stratum Star in the Group Two Peter Young Stakes (1,800m) last start.
Her record at 2,000m is strong – she’s yet to miss a place in four tries at the trip – while she came second to Hartnell in last year’s Turnbull Stakes, her only run at the course and distance.
Champion jockey Hugh Bowman has the ride and Maher expects her to be in the finish.
“I couldn’t be happier with her, her action’s super, she’s very free, and she’s improved every run,” the trainer said.
“You could throw a blanket over the field a bit, there are a number of chances there, but I’m very happy with her and I wouldn’t swap her.”
The Darren Weir-trained Humidor is the $3.80 favourite in local fixed-price markets, ahead of Jameka ($4.20), while Joao Moreira’s mount, Tally from the Godolphin yard, is an $18 hope.
The Magic Man has a much better chance of capturing the other Group One at Flemington when he combines with Extreme Choice in the Newmarket Handicap (1,200m).
The Mick Price-trained three-year-old colt is already a dual winner at the highest level, having claimed the Blue Diamond Stakes and the Moir Stakes, while he flashed home for third in the Oakleigh Plate last start.
Moreira was initially booked to ride stablemate Flying Artie in the straight track sprint, but he was found to have a low-level lung infection and was withdrawn.
Price doesn’t think the swap is a downgrade.
“He’s an outstanding colt. He can win,” Price said.
“History says three-year-olds in the Newmarket, they have to be outstanding to win. But he has beaten the older horses at weight-for-age in the Moir.
“I think if we’re in the right part of the race and he gets the good ride with 53 kilos, he’ll be in the money.”
Extreme Choice has won races both sitting on the speed and coming from behind, but from the outside gate, Price doesn’t want get too far back.
“I have my plan, but I’m not sure what the conversation I have with Joao Moreira will be like,” Price said.
“I think he’s a jockey that goes a lot on feel … hopefully we’re on the same wavelength. We shouldn’t be too far off them.”
Spieth, who will be ridden by Bowman, is the $3.60 favourite, with Extreme Choice ($5.50), Star Turn ($6) and last start Group One winner Sheidel ($7.50) next in line.
The Jockey Club will simulcast six races from Flemington meeting, starting from 11.05am.