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Plaiting makes perfect for prolific Marelli.

Byline: Graham Green

CLAUDIA MARELLI has lost track of the number of best-turnedout awards she has won, but that is understandable with more than 350 to her name and the tally continuing to climb on an almost daily basis.

True to form, she was in the money again at Lingfield yesterday, when Spice Fair became the fifth runner in a row she has led up from Mark Usher's stable to win her a prize - although the gelding finished a well-beaten sixth.

That sequence was later broken when the preparation of New York Lights went unrewarded, but the filly's temperament prevented her from benefiting from the plaiting which is the secret of Marelli's success.

"I kept count for the first two years and it was over 200 then, but now I don't know how many I've won although it's well over 350," said the 25-year-old equine sports science graduate from Nottingham Trent University, who joined Usher nearly four years ago from Martin Bosley.

"I learned to plait when my first pony was really naughty, and the only class I could ride him in at shows in the beginning was the best-turned-out. That's how it started.

"I like the horses to look good and I think it reflects well on the yard. Once I've been to declare the horses, I tend to stay with them and, if they keep still, I can get them plaited in under an hour. Spice Fair took about an hour and a half today because he's a fidget."

In addition to the pounds 25 payments, bottles of champagne and betting vouchers she regularly picks up, Usher is convinced that Marelli's labours also bear fruit on the track.

The trainer said yesterday: "I remember when Calculating won the Queen's Prize at Kempton, he got himself in a right stew when he got to the track, but as soon as Claudia started plaiting him he settled down.

"I'm not saying it's therapeutic, but it's comforting when a person is paying them attention.

"Claudia travels with the majority of my horses and turns them out very well. To have won so many awards is a credit to her, and she does a very good job."

Marelli's long-term ambition is to train but her more immediate aim is to make more use of the amateur licence she has held since last year.

She added: "I just love going racing and I'm so proud of all my horses."

CAPTION(S):

Five in a row: Claudia Marelli's efforts give her another best-turned-out prize with Spice Fair at Lingfield yesterday
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:426
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