Big Blue brings home Maher’s maiden Galleywood

By Georgie Dennis

Ciaron Maher has won it all on his hometown track in Warrnambool but the Galleywood Hurdle is one race that has eluded him.

On the middle day of this year’s carnival, former Godolphin galloper Big Blue broke the hoodoo and claimed the feature hurdle of the three-day carnival at just his fourth ever start over the jumps.

We were confident leading into the race that he had taken great improvement from his first-up run over the hurdles, but we were still crossing our fingers for some rain to come.

The forecasted rain never arrived but it didn’t matter, the class of Big Blue prevailed in the final three furlongs of the race and he went on to win by an official margin of 2.75 lengths.

Regular rider Steven Pateman was unable to make the low weight so Group 1 hero John Allen took the reins, despite having not ridden in a jumps race since last season.

Allen backed the horse in during the run and gave credit to his toughness.

“Ciaron (Maher) was pretty confident beforehand and just told me to have faith in his toughness, his fitness and told me not to be afraid to make use of him if he was travelling well,” Allen told Racing.com.

“He rode a nice gallop without them going overly quick and then jumped his way into it down the side when Gai’s (Goodwood Zodiac) was jumping out.

“Down the back, I took it up and made it a true test. These Galileos, that’s their forte – their toughness – and he showed that.”

Big Blue was bought at a tried horse sale in December 2017, but he wasn’t picked out by his trainers or owners, but by Annabel Neasham, our head of owner communications turned assistant trainer.

“Annabel had a lot to do with buying the horse, she picked him out and convinced us to buy the horse,” Maher explained.

“When we bought him, if you took away his Australian form, he’s probably a million-dollar horse, his form just tapered off here.

“It’s been a great effort by the whole team to get the horse ready, he’s improved his second season in (over hurdles) and this race has eluded me so it’s great to get it ticked off,” the trainer said.

Big Blue is likely to head to the Australian Hurdle on the 26th of May as his next assignment and could potentially progress onto the steeples from there.