The 2014 Crown Oaks has been taken out by Set Square after she produced a strong staying performance in just her fourth race start.
Set Square was not included in the original nominations for the Crown Oaks, but connections opted to pay the late entry fee of $55,000 to get her into the race after she took out the Ethereal Stakes at Caulfield on October 18.
Jockey Hugh Bowman was having his first ride on Set Square, after she was ridden by Nick Hall in the Ethereal Stakes, and the leading hoop gave the Reset filly an ideal run into the race before asking her for an extra effort at the 400 metre mark.
Pre-race favourite Lumosty loomed as the winner while Golconda made run on the rails, but Set Square was too strong in the final stages of the Crown Oaks and she recorded a tough staying win from Thunder Lady and Golconda.
Bowman admitted after the race that he felt Set Square may have been over racing in the early stages of the race, but he said he eventually got the three-year-old into a good rhythm and he was thrilled with the acceleration she showed in the final stages of the Crown Oaks.
“She is a good filly and she raced herself into contention here,” Bowman said.
“She wasn’t nominated as everyone knows and Ciaron Maher is just an excellent conditioner of these middle distance to staying type horses.
“I haven’t ridden a lot for him, but I couldn’t think of a better way to start the association off.
“It is great to be here at Flemington on Cup week and it is great to be involved as a jockey.
“It is our biggest week of the whole year and to be featuring again in a Group 1 is just unbelievable.
“It took me a little bit of settling and I was a bit concerned early days that she was doing too much within herself, but once I got her into a rhythm the pace was moderate.
“When the pressure went on I was just in the perfect spot to pounce and I had the perfect horse to pounce for me.”
Trainer Ciaron Maher was faced with a difficult decision after Set Square took out the Ethereal Stakes in just her third start, but the rising trainer revealed after the race that he was always confident that the filly had the staying talent to compete at the highest level of racing.
The win was Maher’s second at Group 1 level after he took out the 2007 edition of the Emirates Stakes with Tears I Cry, but the typically modest trainer was quick to pay credit to Bowman and owner Ken King.
“Big thanks to Ken King, he has put a lot of trust in the stable, he has quite a few horses with us and also Hughie Bowman,” Maher said.
“He sat on her a couple of times in trackwork and I actually tried to put her on in the Derby, but he ended up getting suspended in the lead-up, so I was glad he could get one back.
“She has been so progressive, obviously we didn’t enter her for the race and she was a late nomination, but she has just really thrived this preparation.
“Every time I have put a saddle on her she has just got better and she has always shown me that she was a natural stayer.
“After her Caulfield win she just thrived and it has been a great effort from all the team at home.
“There was no question at all, I train a lot of stayers and she always had a good constitution and had that staying type action.
“There was never any question at the trip.”
Lumosty was well-backed heading into the race, but looked to die on her run in the final stages of the Crown Oaks, while Go Indy Go was settled at the tail of the field and was never able to work her way into the race.