Ciaron Maher knows better than to second guess which version of Enigman steps out at Pakenham on Saturday.
As the name suggests, the evergreen sprinter has a mind of his own, one that thrives on doing next to no work and lots of travelling, having clocked up more than 11,000km the past 12 months alone.
The quirky galloper has had 12 gear adjustments in this time for nine starts with seven jockeys at six tracks in the hands of three trainers across three states and a territory.
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While the overall record looks good, eight wins and four minor placings in 28 starts, the past 12 months has been a mixed bag with the gelding being on the receiving end of some heavy defeats and a shock 40-1 win.
“He should be called Enigma not Enigman,” Maher said of the seven-year-old gelding part-owned by his father, John and close family friend, Colin McKenna.
“It’s great to have him back in some really good form, he can be very hard to catch, it will be interesting to see if he strings two together.”
Enigman flashed late to grab third at Ballarat last start, his first race back with the Maher-David Eustace team after six wildly inconsistent races in South Australia and Northern Territory.
He was beaten a combined 12.5 lengths in the first two starts in Adelaide on loan to trainer Will Clarken then showed a glimpse of form running second — in a lot lower grade — at Port Lincoln.
With McKenna keen to get a runner to Darwin for the August carnival, a bit of fun for some Territorian friends, Maher nominated Enigman after being unable to find a cup contender.
He was second-last on debut for astute Darwin mentor Gary Clarke but returned three weeks later to win the Territory’s marquee dash, the $70,000 Palmerston Sprint on Darwin Cup Day, as the $40 outsider.
“We obviously couldn’t get up there because of COVID but the lads there went along to the races,” Maher said.
“Their second (race) day of ownership … to get up in what is the biggest sprint race up there on the line at 40-1, they had an absolute ball of a day.”
Enigman had one more start in Darwin, running last in a five-horse field, before returning to South Australia to a freshen after a possible trip to Cairns was aborted.
“We don’t do a lot with him,” Maher said.
“He’s the type of horse the less you try and train him the better he goes.
“If you let him fluff about and put a saddle on him a few days a week he seems to enjoy it.”
Maher has no travel plans beyond Saturday for Enigman, who went close to being sold to Hong Kong interests as a three year-old bar for an untimely defeat at Caulfield.
Enigman is likely to be ridden cold again on Saturday and saved up for the last crack at them with in-form stable apprentice Teo Nugent — the eighth jockey to ride the horse in 10 starts — in the saddle.
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