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Ciaron Maher focused on Derby double with Group 1 star Hitotsu

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Australian Guineas winner Hitotsu is aiming to be the third horse in more than 40 years to win the Victoria-Australian Derby double.

Ciaron Maher has ruled out backing up star colt Hitotsu in next week’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes with the stable’s full focus on chasing a historic win in Saturday’s Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick.

Maher and co-trainer David Eustace plan keep the multiple Group 1 winner against his own age during The Championships in a bid to capture a memorable Victoria Derby-Australian Derby double.

Hitotsu is vying to become only the third winner of the Victoria Derby-ATC Australian Derby double since the Randwick classic was switched to the autumn in 1979.

He will need to overcome extremely testing conditions in Sydney to complete the feat as he prepares to tackle a heavy track for the first time in the 2400m staying test.

“I want to run him,” Maher said.

“He is fit, well and ready. He is an unknown in the wet and his fitness is very good.

“He is a proper good horse so hopefully he does handle it.”

Hitotsu was a drifting $3.50 favourite with TAB for the Australian Derby following Tuesday’s barrier draw where he was allocated barrier four.

The dual Group 1 winner is also rated a $15 chance with TAB for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes a week later, however Maher gave a firm “no” to the idea of backing him up in the $4m test.

A last-start winner of the Australian Guineas, Hitotsu will look to deliver Maher and Eustace back-to-back Australian Derby victories.

The stable won the race last year with the classy Explosive Jack, who outlasted Young Werther in a thrilling finish.

“Jack was a bigger, stronger and more furnished while Hitotsu has made really good improvement from the spring but he is a more athletic type,” Maher said.

“He is scopey and more athletic, where as Jack was a strong horse physically as well.”

The powerhouse Victorian-based stable are set to saddle up three runners in the Derby with Hitotsu the clear top seed over Can’t Go Wong and Elzamee.

Both stablemates are rated $26 outsiders in betting and come through a similar lead up after running well in the Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes last start.

Can’t Go Wong ran on well to finish runner up to Prix De Turn in The Valley while Elzamee produced a solid Derby trial when finishing fourth.

“The Alister Clarke has been a good stepping stone for our horses in the past,” Maher said.

“Ruthven ran fourth in the Derby (2017) and ran well in that race and another one (Global Exchange) came up here after winning that race to run in the Derby.

“Can’t Go Wong, we put the blinkers on first time and thought he would improve, which he did and it’s bit of an unknown in the wet.

“But he is a Kiwi so you’d hope he has his red bands on and Elzamee is a Deep Impact from a good family.

“He has had a good preparation and couldn’t have worked any better than his last piece of work but again it’s bit of an unknown.”

John Allen rides Hitotsu, Jamie Kah is on Can’t Go Wong and Chad Schofield is on Elzamee.

Originally published as Ciaron Maher focused on Derby double with Group 1 star Hitotsu

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