The least-experienced filly in the race and a jockey who has crafted an affinity with the Flemington 2500 metres combined to win Thursday’s $1 million Group 1 Crown Oaks (2500m).
The Ciaron Maher-trained Set Square, with Hugh Bowman aboard, claimed the feature event of the third day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
The victory came at just the fourth start of a career that had a modest beginning in a 1354m maiden at Donald on 15 September, when she finished third, and was a second Group 1 success for Maher following Tears I Cry’s 2007 Emirates Stakes success.
The daughter of Reset only booked her spot in the race when she won the Listed Ethereal Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on 18 October – a victory that won connections the $55,000 they needed to pay the late entry for a start in the Oaks.
“She’s just been one out of the box,” Maher said. “Obviously she wasn’t in (nominated) and I didn’t even think she would actually get to the races this time around.
“As I was getting through her preparation she just started to lighten off a little bit but as soon as I told Ken King that she just thrived and here we are. It’s just unbelievable.”
Set Square made the most of an economical run three horses back along the fence to exert her strength over her rivals in the straight.
She embraced a gap when it appeared it at the 400m to take control of the race and then fought hard when challenged inside the final furlong by last Saturday’s Wakeful Stakes winner Thunder Lady.
Set Square, who started at $7.50, scored by 1.5 lengths from Thunder Lady ($10) with Golconda ($21) working home solid to claim third.
Lumosty ($5 to $4.40 fav, sixth) enjoyed a sweet run just behind the speed and looked poised to challenge at the top of the straight but failed to run out the 2500m, while Group 1 winner Go Indy Go ($5, seventh) remained in the second half of the field the entire race.
“Through the run I just had so much confidence,” Bowman said. “I was behind Lumosty, I felt it was the one to beat, and when the pressure went on about the 650 I was just in a perfect spot to pounce and I had the horse to deliver for me.”
It was the second Oaks success for Bowman, following Samantha Miss’s victory in 2008, and rests nicely alongside Victoria Derby wins on Sangster, Lion Tamer and Polanski in between Oaks victories.
The star Sydney rider was denied what would have been a fourth Derby victory last Saturday, aboard Preferment, following a suspension incurred on Caulfield Cup Day, but was thrilled to emerge from the Carnival with a feature win.
“To regroup and come back here and win a major I’m very proud, because I was really disappointed with what happened,” he said.
“But that’s racing and we all know safety is paramount and at the end of the day it’s just great to be here.
“This is a great distance for me, that’s five Group 1s now at the distance and it’s such an honour to get the opportunities to ride these good horses in these races.”