Via BEN DORRIES 

@dorries_cmail – The Courier-Mail

CIARON Maher insists mighty mare Srikandi has improved since winning the Stradbroke — which is as well since Saturday’s Group 1 Tatts Tiara is arguably a tougher race.

The Gold Coast’s first Group 1 race shapes as potentially the best of the Winter Carnival with Srikandi set to face stiff opposition from the likes of Najoom, Lumosty, Catkins, Avoid Lightning and Real Surreal over 1400m.

Online bookmaker sportsbet.com has Najoom as the $3.50 Tiara favourite, followed by Srikandi ($4), Catkins ($5) and Lumosty ($6).

Maher is in the training form of his life and has enjoyed more success in the last few days with Hard Romp winning at Flemington and Bashboy savouring a Steeplechase success at Warrnambool.

So you can be sure the popular Victorian trainer is on the money when he insists Srikandi will be even better for her Stradbroke win.

Srikandi also thrives on the Gold Coast where she is unbeaten from two runs, winning the Group 2 Victory Stakes there this year and the Silk Stocking 12 months earlier.

“Her coat has come on since the Stradbroke and she will run every bit as good in the Tiara, if not better,’’ Maher declared.

“She loves the Gold Coast and pings out really well around there, I feel the track really suits her.

“She ran the Stradbroke out really strong to the line and I am sure she will be running Saturday’s race out just as well.’’

Maher will be in Brisbane on Tuesday morning to watch Srikandi have a spin around Doomben in an important piece of work that is sure to be closely watched.

Those who saw Srikandi work at Doomben on the Tuesday before the Stradbroke were convinced the mare was on song and was ready to put her best hoof forward in the Stradbroke.

Tommy Berry will also be in Brisbane on Tuesday morning to partner Gai Waterhouse’s flying filly Najoom at track work ahead of the blue-chip Tiara clash.

Najoom was the Stradbroke favourite at one stage before being withdrawn from the rich sprint to focus on the Tiara. Maher has high respect for the Waterhouse sprinter.

“The three-year-old of Gai’s is a quality horse who gets in well into the Tiara,’’ Maher said.

“Lumosty is another class horse and she was well in the betting market of the Stradbroke but things really didn’t go to plan for her.’’

Another Gold Coast feature on Saturday is the Group 2 Tattersall’s Cup (2400m), with Shoreham to have his first run for Sydney trainer Gerald Ryan.

Rain is expected on the Gold Coast on Tuesday and Wednesday before several days of mostly sunny conditions leading into the Tattersall’s meeting.