By Ray Hickson
Despite appearing to have a mortgage on the Inglis Millennium, trainer Ciaron Maher is likely to turn his back on next month’s $2m feature to chase the Golden Slipper with exciting filly Cellsabeel after her explosive win at Rosehill.
The filly took a tight grip on favouritism with TAB at $1.80 for the race that launched Castelvecchio to stardom a year ago but the prizemoney won’t count towards the Slipper ballot and that’s a risk Maher says at this point he isn’t prepared to take.
Cellsabeel threw down the gauntlet in the two-year-old ranks with a runaway six length win, over Godolphin pair In Flanders and Beyliks, in the Iron Jack Handicap (1100m) and moved to the top spot at $7 the $3.5m Golden Slipper (1200m) on March 21.
“The Millennium might not be an option, the idea is the Slipper,’’ Maher said.
“She put the writing on the wall in her first start, she got right back and Robbie (Dolan) got her through her gears really well and the sectionals were great on a day they weren’t making any ground.
“She’s always been a real high quality horse but we just put the shades on to give her that little bit of focus and that was just the trick she needed.’’
The Hinchinbrook filly was the eye-catching run out of the $1m Golden Gift back in November where, as Maher alluded, she stormed home from the tail without blinkers to run fourth to Dame Giselle, the filly she deposed as Slipper favourite.
Maher suggested the Group 2 $250,000 Silver Slipper Stakes (1100m) on February 22 could be Cellsabeel’s target to secure a place in the world’s premier two-year-old race a month later.
Magic Millions winner Away Game is in Sydney following her Gold Coast win last week and Maher said she will also chase a Slipper berth.
After a slightly slow start, Tommy Berry guided Cellsabeel along the inside before coming off the fence nearing the turn and in a striking position.
“It was a kind ride and he produced her at the right time,’’ Maher said.
“She’s en route to the Slipper and she looked to do that pretty easy.’’
Cellsabeel’s win continued the superb run Ciaron Maher and co-trainer David Eustace are having with their two-year-olds, after winning with $1.6m colt Prague at Canterbury on Friday night Cellsabeel made it 12 juvenile wins.
Berry stopped short of declaring the filly the best two-year-old so far this season but he clearly has a big rap on her.
“Is it a good 4 out there? It felt like it,’’ Berry said.
Cellsabeel wins easily at Rosehill on Saturday
“The best part is she beat them by a margin and she was floating the last furlong, she doesn’t know how to put a race away yet.
“I know that sounds silly because she won by so far.’’
Punters Intelligence sectional data shows Cellsabeel ran 35.31 for her last 600m, almost six lengths faster than the next best, runner-up In Flanders (36.21), in the heavy ground.
“I gave her a clip before the corner just to stay on the back of them and she ended upl pulling me right through them,’’ he said.
“I got there way too early but she was just going two to their one.’’
In comparing Cellsabeel and Prague, Berry said the filly is a lot sharper and will be a Slipper contender while the colt is an ideal type to target the Group 1 Sires’ Produce (1400m) and Champagne Stakes (1600m).