Maarek storms to Sprint success at Ascot
Report: Ascot, Saturday
Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group 2) 3yo+, 6f
MAAREK won by far the biggest prize of his career for Irish trainer David Nagle and jockey Jamie Spencer after flying down the stands side rail to win the Sprint from Hawkeyethenoo and Sirius Prospect.
It marked the high point of a hugely productive season for the five-year-old, who has claimed two Group 3s and finished third in the Ayr Gold Cup last month. Yet just a week ago he was turned over as an odds-on favourite in a £32,000 Listed sprint at the Curragh, and here he was in a race worth £250,000.
"The Curragh didn't work out but they also didn't really go fast enough for him and he was beaten by a very good filly," said Nagle.
"He loves soft ground and this was a big pot so I thought why shouldn't we come?"
Sent off at 5-1 due to his proclivity for running on soft or heavy ground, Maarek was given a good lead in a small stands side group by The Cheka, while Jimmy Styles led a far larger charge down the centre of the track.
Although many of the big players, including Society Rock and the French-trained pair Wizz Kid - the Prix de l'Abbaye winner - and Restiadargent were all prominent in the final furlongs they were frustratingly one-paced in the rain-soaked turf and many of the early leaders appeared to tire over the last stretch.
Maarek, by contrast, thundered through like a locomotive and went readily clear, while Hawkeyethenoo and Sirius Prospect also came from deep to take second and third.
Spencer said: "He's been busy and very, very consistent all season. He loves soft ground and I got a good lead into the race from Neil [Callan on The Cheka]. Everything worked out perfectly."
Jim Goldie, trainer of runner-up Hawkeyethenoo, added: "He's done us proud and must be the best Hawk Wing [his sire] about. It's always difficult when they split into two groups. He won his group fair and square and with two Group 1 winners around him he elected to go that way. He does love Ascot."
Despite its considerable prize fund the Sprint was not quite as classy a contest as its organisers may have hoped. Beyond the winner, neither the second nor third - both experienced sprinters - had ever even placed in a Group-level race before.