Horse Race

Royal Merchant Defeats Older Rivals in Goodwood

Another bold move from Ciaron Maher and David Eustace reaped rich rewards at Morphettville May 20 as Royal Merchant got the better of her older rivals to land a thrilling edition of The Goodwood (G1), in the process becoming the first elite-level winner for Kooringal Stud’s new recruit Merchant Navy .

It is the second time this season the Maher and Eustace team have thrown a 3-year-old filly into open group 1 company and came out the other side with a victory, having repeated the trick with Ruthless Dame against her own sex in the Robert Sangster Stakes (G1) two weeks ago.

Royal Merchant, clashing with some seasoned older sprinters, was the only 3-year-old in the field and younger legs and a lightweight won the day as she battled on resolutely under Michael Dee to defeat Robert Sangster Stakes runner-up Another Award by a neck. Zapateo finished three-quarters of a length away in third.

With the victory also came a little slice of history, as Royal Merchant became only the third 3-year-old filly to prevail in the time-honored Goodwood since the Pattern was introduced, joining 1989 winner Boardwalk Angel and Lone Rock, who won the 1200-meter (about six furlongs) sprint in 2011.

While Eustace was confident the filly would run well, he admitted the team was coming into the race with realistic expectations.

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“I was under a bit of pressure today, the boss had been delivering the goods,” Eustace told post-race. “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. I was saying to the boss beforehand that his first group 1 winner was Tears I Cry and he had a similar campaign to this filly.

“She’s had to dance every dance. We served it up to her and she’s delivered. Full credit to Micky Dee as well–he’s riding terrifically well and he kept it nice and smooth.

“I wouldn’t say it was a comfortable watch, but I was confident at the top of the straight she was going to have a right crack.”

With the filly thriving on racing, Eustace did not rule out sending the 3-year-old to Queensland, where she could contest the Tattersall’s Tiara (G1) June 24.

The Goodwood victory capped off a tremendous Adelaide carnival for Maher and Eustace, who, as well as celebrating their first win in the Robert Sangster Stakes, saddled Affaire A Suivre to win the Australasian Oaks (G1), handing the partnership their maiden victory in the 2000-meter group 1.

The Australian Derby (G1) was the only contest that eluded Maher and Eustace from a group 1 clean sweep in South Australia, with the stable having come up just short in the Classic when Promises Kept was narrowly denied victory by Dunkel.

After all the good work in South Australia over the last couple of weeks, the powerhouse training partnership’s group 1 tally for the season now stands at 10, a figure which sees them trail only James Cummings and Chris Waller by one in that metric. The victory handed the trainers their 25th elite-level success since Eustace was promoted to co-trainer in 2018, while they are well on track to clinch their first Australian trainers’ premiership title at the conclusion of the season.

Royal Merchant was bred by Edinburgh Park’s Ian Smith, who is in the process of selling all his stock unreserved at the Magic Millions National Sale and, after a successful weanling sale, the dispersal will conclude on Tuesday when Smith sells 40 mares during the broodmare element of the Gold Coast sale.

The 3-year-old filly was purchased for AUS$160,000 (US$106,416) by Ciaron Maher Bloodstock from the Edinburgh Park Stud draft at the 2021 edition of the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale. Royal Merchant is out of the three-time winner Seventhchic and hails from the same family as 1993 Golden Slipper Stakes (G1) winner Bint Marscay.


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