Leading Australian trainer Ciaron Maher makes surprise visit to Ascot sale

Among the spectators at the Tattersalls Ascot December Sale on Monday was leading Australian trainer Ciaron Maher, who is in Britain to oversee the preparation of his yard's star hurdler Big Blue for the Grade 2 Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday. 

Big Blue has raced three times over hurdles in Australia, and former Irish jump jockey John Allen was in the plate when the pair won a hurdle race worth A$150,000 (£77,300/€91,800) at Warrnambool in May.

"We're trying to see where he fits in," said Maher, who trains in partnership with David Eustace from bases in Ballarat and Sydney.

"He stays well enough and handles the worst ground that we get in Australia. The ground over here is much more testing but he has plenty of potential, and should go well based on his Flat form.

"We chucked him in the International Hurdle - I'd have preferred an easier assignment for him but he needs to run in a conditions race to earn a handicap mark."

The seven-year-old son of Galileo was bred by Dayton Investments out of the Anabaa mare Board Meeting, and won a 1m7f Listed contest while in the care of Andre Fabre in France.

Big Blue was switched to Maher and Eustace ahead of the 2018-19 season and quickly struck up a winning sequence culminating with a win in the St Leger at Randwick.

Allen, now an accomplished Flat rider in Australia, partnered the Maher- and Eustace-trained Kenedna to two Group 1 wins during the 2018-19 season, in the Coolmore Legacy Stakes at Randwick and the Doomben Cup.