The Blue Diamond Stakes has been a long-range target for Jukebox and Ciaron Maher has carefully planned the colt’s assault on the $1.5 million race via a less orthodox path than most other trainers.
The two-year-old has bypassed both traditional lead-up races – the Blue Diamond Preview and Preludes – with Maher preferring to take softer options with three-week gaps between races into the colt’s grand final on Saturday.
Jukebox won his maiden at Geelong on debut last month and secured his Blue Diamond berth with victory in the $250,000 sales-restricted Inglis Premier on February 4.
Now he’s set for his big test in the big dance.
“He was quite soft at Geelong,” Maher said.
“He improved into the last run and in terms of shaping a prep, you couldn’t have asked for two better lead-up runs.
“He hasn’t been asked the question really yet. If they put one around his bum, he might find another length.”
Maher said Jukebox was precocious and professional from the time he walked into the stable, and the Blue Diamond was always the aim.
“With every horse you try to have an aim or a goal and that’s the art – that is training, I feel,” Maher said.
“It’s getting a horse to peak when you want it to peak.”
“I thought he could win the Debutant Stakes (in October),” Maher said.
“I was very confident, and he just had a little hamstring injury.
“He had a bit of inflammation in his hamstring so we just spelled him. And the Blue Diamond was always the race for him.”
Another piece of the puzzle fell into place on Tuesday when Jukebox drew barrier four.
“You hope he bounces cleanly and you would think all things being equal he should land in a good spot,” Maher said.
“And it sets him up pretty well for the race.”
Jukebox, to be ridden by Luke Nolen, is at $7.50 with Catchy at $5.50 ahead of Pariah ($6), Property and Tulip ($6.50).
“There’s quite good depth to the race this year. There’s about half a dozen chances,” Maher said.