Mixed luck for Maher and Eustace in Randwick barrier draws

The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable had contrasting luck with the barrier draws for two of the Group 1 races at Randwick on Saturday.

The stable’s three runners in the ATC Australian Derby (2400m) have drawn inside barrier six while their sole starter in the Doncaster Mile (1600m), Lighthouse, drew barrier 23 but will start from gate 19 when the scratchings are taken on Saturday.

Maher and Eustace saddle favourite Hitotsu (4), Can’t Be Wong (6) and Elzamee (1) in the Derby and Maher could not be happier with their preparations.

However, the track condition is a concern with Hitotsu who is aiming to become the first horse since Mahogany (1994) to win the Australian Derby and the Victoria Derby in the same season.

Since the Australian Derby transferred from the spring to the autumn, only Dulcify (1979) and Mahogany have taken out the two Derbies.

Randwick track manager Mike Wood is optimistic the track can improve on its heavy 10 rating.

“The unpredictability of this rainfall is probably the key,” Wood told Sky Thoroughbred Central.

“We’ll remain positive although there are some showers forecast over the next few days.

“There was a fair amount of rain at Rosehill (on Saturday), but we received none of that.

“The track, grass wise, is in great order and continues to drain well and we push on to Saturday.”

Hitotsu, who won the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) first-up at Flemington on March 5, has remained in Melbourne to complete his preparation for the Derby.

“He’s a stronger, better horse than he was in the spring, as they all are,” Maher said.

“He hasn’t missed a day’s work. He’s had a couple of reverse gallops but he’s yet to travel up but I’m very happy with him.

“Can’t Go Wong and Elzamee have similar form and are both fit and well.”

Giving Maher heart for the Doncaster was a statistic that 19 of the last 30 winners have started from barrier 10 or wider.

Maher said his first Group 1 winner, Tears I Cry, jumped from barrier 16 when successful in the Emirates Stakes (1600m) at Flemington in 2007.

Maher said Lighthouse, despite the draw, will love the conditions on Saturday.

“She’s as fit as flee, gets in with a nice weight, and she’ll be somewhere thereabouts,” he said.

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