Maher mares chase Newmarket history

8 March 2024 Written by Racing & Sports

Bella Nipotina and Ruthless Dame will attempt to give the Ciaron Maher a first win in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington.

Trainer Ciaron Maher is happy to utilise the handicap conditions of one of Australia's toughest sprint races at Flemington on Saturday. 

Maher will saddle two mares in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) and potentially his first win in the race that dates back to 1874. 

Ultra-consistent Bella Nipotina and Ruthless Dame take on Saturday's race where another mare, Imperatriz, is topweight, and favourite, in the 1200m sprint. 

Maher is aiming Bella Nipotina at a start in the Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on March 23 and said the Newmarket, and its handicap conditions, suited his mare on the way through to The Valley's weight-for-age contest. 

"With Imperatriz in it, it makes it attractive for Bella as she gets some weight off her," Maher said. 

"The William Reid is a race we are working towards, and she has come through her first-up run really well, so she can have a shot at this race on the way through. 

"She's always thereabouts down the straight." 

The only time Bella Nipotina didn't fire  down the straight was in last year's Newmarket, in which she finished 12th, and Maher put that down to the mare having an 'off day'. 

She ran third in the Black Caviar Lightning en route to her below par run in last year's Newmarket but has since finished fifth in the Darley Champions Sprint and fourth in this year's Lightning. 

More importantly though, Bella Nipotina is in receipt of 2-½ kg under the handicap conditions from Imperatriz who led her home in those last two Flemington starts under weight-for-age conditions. 

Maher thought the handicap conditions would also be ideal for Ruthless Dame as she aims to win the Newmarket first-up and repeat the effort of Redkirk Warrior in 2017. 

"Redkirk Warrior, he won pretty well, and her best is very good," Maher said. 

"She's still furnishing. She's won down the straight, she's a Group 1 winner so we thought that Group 1 handicap might really suit her. 

"It's a race we've targeted with her for her whole preparation, and we've wanted to have her right to go on the back of her last prep. 

"The handicap conditions with Imperatriz in it, it's going to be a tough race, but it's been our plan."