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Maher filly knocks their Socks off in Oaks

Ciaron Maher and Ryan Maloney have combined to orchestrate a major upset in the Queensland Oaks, winning it with one of the rank outsiders of the Group One field. Starting at 100/1, Socks Nation stalked the speed before hitting the front at the top of the straight then raising another effort to beat off the bid of eventual runner-up Our Gold Hope.

Ciaron Maher and Ryan Maloney celebrate their Queensland Oaks success; picture Racing Queensland/Michael McInally

In an incredible training performance, the filly has been in work since making her debut in August last year, Maher crediting the odd trip to the beach and interstate excursion for keeping her happy.

"The team has done a super job. She has been in work for thirteen months this filly and she just keeps running really well," Maher said.

"She has been to a lot of locations. She gets to the beach and sometimes a change is as good as a holiday."

While Maher has his main training base in Victoria and Maloney is domiciled in Queensland, the pair go back a long way. That relationship made Socks Nation's Queensland Oaks (2200m) victory all the sweeter for Maloney, who brought up his fourth major on the filly.

"It's great to win my fourth Group One, especially for him [Maher]," Maloney said. "He used to put me on when I had just come out of my time and he had twenty horses at Warrnambool, so it's very fitting."

Despite Socks Nation being unwanted in betting, Maloney said he went into the race positive, having learned to never underestimate a Maher-trained horse. Knowing the three-year-old was hard-fit and would stay, he used those attributes to advantage when he got her moving into the race on the home turn.

"She was 100/1 but you just can't rule any of Ciaron's horses out," Maloney said. "Whether it be a 1200-metre sprint race, two-year-olds, jumpers, stayers, he can do it all.

"When I pushed the button, I had in the back of my head that she was fit and I obviously had got a bit of a margin on them, and I didn't want to be letting them come to me because I thought if they did, they'd out-sprint me, so I got going that little bit early.

"Once Craig [Williams on Our Gold Hope] came to me, I thought I was all out, but she is very tenacious and she just lifted and was too good."

In a result for the bookmakers, Socks Nation ($101) scored by a long neck over Our Gold Hope ($16), who would have been a first Group 1 winner for her trainers Robert and Luke Price.

Miss Jolene ($19) was third, another two lengths away, with Mare Of Mt Buller ($5) doing best of the fancied runners to finish fifth.

Scarlet Oak started a $4.80 favourite but didn't raise the hopes of her supporters and was eased down late by jockey James McDonald, who felt she had come to the end of her campaign. "She's done a marvellous job and is a very good filly, but it was probably just a bridge too far today," he said.

Socks Nation was the biggest-priced Queensland Oaks winner since Miss Keepsake ($31) in 2010.

What the beaten jockeys reported:

Blake Shinn (Molly Bloom): “I was happy in transit and found the rail, she relaxed reasonably well but we were beaten at the 500-metre mark, so she may have come to the end of a long prep.”

Adam Hyeronimus (Amazonian Lass): “It’s been a long prep but she went well enough.”

James McDonald (Scarlet Oak): “She’s probably just come to the end of her prep. She’s done a marvellous job and is a very good filly, but it was probably just a bridge too far today.”  

Michael Dee (Moonlight Magic): “She was probably a bit flat after last week. She travelled strongly but just didn’t have the same finish.”

Carleen Hefel (Mollynickers): “It was a good run. She travelled beautifully but just whacked away towards the end. She’ll probably have a break now because she’s been up a long time.”

James Orman (Miss Joelene): “It was a big run, I just would’ve liked to have drawn a better alley and snuck a bit closer. It wasn’t to be but she ran a huge race to finish in the placings.”

John Allen (Ahuriri): “It was a very slowly run race so it was hard to make ground.”

Jamie Kah (Good Banter): “Disappointing. She didn’t settle the way we know she can and didn’t finish off.

Tommy Berry (Mare Of Mt Buller): “The weather over the past week or so probably played against her. A softer track would’ve suited her a bit better, she held her form and I was very proud of her but the track was probably just a touch too firm for her today.”

Craig Williams (Our Gold Hope): “We had a good plan and came close to executing it, just didn’t quite get the right result. But it was a very brave performance by her.”

Damien Thornton (Oceans Of Energy): “It was a good run, she just didn’t quite see out the trip.”

Mark Zahra (Kind Words): “She ran well from that barrier. If we’d drawn in, I reckon she would’ve been in the finish.”

Zac Lloyd (Gentileschi): “She’s a lovely filly, I think she’ll go for a spell now which should be the making of her because she just lacks a little bit of strength. Next prep I think she’ll be a top mare.”

Michael Rodd (Unique Ambition): “It was a slowly run race and it wasn’t her day.”

Vlad Duric (Concello): “When the pace went on she was left a bit flat-footed. She stayed on well, just needed a turn of foot which she didn’t have.”

Nash Rawiller (Firestorm): “We didn’t get a lot of favours out there today, but she was really honest to the line.”

Ron Stewart (Callistemon): “She just went back from the awkward alley. I followed Miss Joelene and thought we’d work into the race nicely, but she struggled from the half mile marker and she’d probably just had enough.”

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