Monday 26 February 2018

McCutcheon eyes Ascot for magic Maarek

Maarek with Declan McDonogh up (right) gets the better of Astaire in the Duke of York Stakes. Copyright Martin Lynch, Racing Post.
Maarek with Declan McDonogh up (right) gets the better of Astaire in the Duke of York Stakes. Copyright Martin Lynch, Racing Post.

Nick Robson

As well as giving weight and a beating to some talented sprinters in the Duke of York Clipper Logistic Stakes, Maarek gave young trainer Evanna McCutcheon her first winner.

The seven-year-old was carrying a 5lb Group One penalty for winning last year's Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp when trained by Barry Lalor, who then had McCutcheon as his assistant.

Maarek travelled powerfully for Declan McDonogh up the middle of the track before challenging for the lead inside the final two furlongs. Kevin Ryan's Astaire proved his main threat, but Maarek stuck on doggedly to win by half a length. Thrilled to send out her first winner from her Fethard, Co Tipperary yard, McCutcheon is now eyeing a trip to Royal Ascot.

"He has a habit of being very slowly away so we asked to go into the stalls late today. He still had a little dance, but not too bad," she explained. "He'll go to Royal Ascot if there's an ease in the ground. He's in both races (King's Stand and Diamond Jubilee) and he's very effective over both distances. There would be a possibility of running in both, but it would be very ground-dependent."

McDonogh added: "He's hitting the gates better and travelling with me. He's in a good place at the moment. We're nearly getting to the front too early and he does nothing when he gets there, but he's a class horse."

Earlier, Kieren Fallon's renaissance continued apace in the Oaks trial with victory on Madame Chiang in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes.

David Simcock trains the unbeaten filly which was settled at the back of the pack by Fallon, who recently struck in the 2,000 Guineas and has a leading Derby chance in True Story.

Lily Rules took over two furlongs and appeared set for victory, but Fallon was only beginning to wind up his mount and having joined the leader, she knuckled down to win by a length and a quarter at 8/1. Boylesports are a stand-out 20/1 for Epsom.

"I had to work hard on her, but we did go quite quick," said Fallon. "She's a beautiful big filly and David had a lot of confidence in her. She didn't do a tap in front and I just had to give her a couple of flicks to keep her going."

David O'Meara hailed That Is The Spirit (5/2 favourite) as "potentially" the classiest horse the Cork native has trained in his short career after shouldering top weight to victory on just his second start in the Conundrum HR Consulting Stakes.

Given a mark of 90 after winning on his debut at Doncaster, he led all the way under Danny Tudhope and looked a cut above his 18 rivals.

OBVIOUS

"This is only the second run of his life, but he looks pretty exciting," said O'Meara. "The obvious race at Royal Ascot would be the Jersey Stakes, if he was good enough for it. He's got a lot of natural ability and looks potentially the classiest horse we've had."

Former National Hunt jockey Peter Niven teamed up with another former jump jockey Graham Lee to saddle his first winner at York as Clever Cookie maintained his unbeaten record on the Flat in the opening StanJames.com Stakes.

A smart hurdler, his only previous experience on the level came in a Doncaster maiden last month. "He needs another run to qualify for the big handicaps," said Niven of the 7/1 chance.

"I think I'll find another race for him and then give him a break before looking for a target. We might come back here for the John Smith's Cup and I mentioned the Ebor for him 16 months ago."

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