It was the two girls down the bottom of the page that fought out the finish in this year’s edition of the Group 1 Goodwood, as Royal Merchant ($17) proved too strong for Another Award in the closing stages.
It’s yet another Group 1 victory of the campaign for the training duo of Ciaron Maher & David Eustace, cleaning up all but one of the major prizes during the South Australian autumn carnival.
It’s been an incredible training effort considering the long preparation for the lone three-year-old filly engaged, having her first-up run back in December of 2022.
The race didn’t fall into their lap though as Michael Dee produced an absolute peach ride, slicing between gallopers, before holding off the closing challenge of Another Award ($6) whose ultra-consistency almost paid maximum dividends.
Well backed second favourite Lofty Strike ($4) just continues to find one or two better, flying down the middle of the course for fourth, while Zapateo ($3.50) was an unfortunate watch, finding trouble turning for home as she did in the Group 1 Robert Sangster.
2023 Group 1 The Goodwood Replay – Royal Merchant
Royal Merchant proved too good for the older horses though as David Eustace was glowing about his progressive filly after the victory.
“Unbelievable,” said Eustace.
“I can’t honestly say we came here thinking we’d win. We were hopeful of getting some more black-type and maybe a placing.
“Credit to her, she’s incredibly tough and I was saying to the boss (Ciaron Maher) before and his first Group 1 winner was Tears I Cry, who had a similar campaign to this.
“She’s had to dance every dance and we’ve served it up to her, and she’s delivered.
“Full credit to Micky Dee as well, he’s riding incredibly well and he just kept it really nice and smooth.
“I wouldn’t say it was a comfortable watch, but I was confident at the top of the straight she’d have a crack.”
Michael Dee spoke about his relationship with this filly since heading to Melbourne and she’s been rewarded nicely with Group 1 glory.
“I’ve been lucky enough to stick with her,” said Dee.
“She had the light weight today and she gave me a far better feel then what she did last start, so credit to Ciaron (Maher) & Dave (Eustace) and their team. It’s just amazing to get her from early spring, just trying to get her black-type and she got that last time.
“She’s going very well and here we are today.
“I got a little bit nervous because I had to do it the hard way.
“She jumped away okay, but we never had any cover there, so I was just trying to nurse her around the corner, and I actually pressed the button too soon.
“She was holding pretty strong on the line but yeah, what an amazing effort.”