Stern Idol set for Grand Annual Steeplechase

Declan Maher knows only too well what is required to win Australia’s longest race, Warrnambool’s Grand Annual Steeplechase.

A round table discussion between those involved in Stern Idol has led the jumper to the Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool.

The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained former French jumper had been entered for the Brierly Steeplechase on Tuesday and there were some raised eyebrows as to why he missed the race.

Maher’s brother Declan, who prepares the jumpers for the ever-increasing Maher-Eustace team, said after a discussion between champion jumps jockey Steven Pateman, and the Maher brothers, it was decided to focus solely on the Grand Annual.

Declan Maher, who has been heavily involved in his brother’s six previous Grand Annual victories, said Stern Idol had done the work for the gruelling 5500m trip on Thursday, Australia’s longest race.

Stern Idol ended his first season in Australia at Ballarat last August and returned to work in October with a view to the Warrnambool May Carnival.

That grounding paid off with a first-up flat win over 3000m at Sandown on March 22 before Stern Idol strolled home to a 15-length win over 3500m at Pakenham on April 16.

Maher said the 5500m is no doubt a question mark, but he noted Stern Idol was now starting to relax.

“He’s had the prep, even though it wasn’t the plan at the start, it’s been a prep to enable him to run that trip,” Maher said.

“He’s been in work since October. He had the grounding to run and win over 3000 metres first-up on the flat and then it was only 3500 metres the other day and he did it in a hand canter.

“If you can win a 3500-metre race, not expelling yourself too hard, it probably gives you a little bit of confidence going into it.”

Maher and Eustace will also have Irish import Rockstar Ronnie contest the race while Declan Maher has Epizeel running in his name.

“You cannot discount Rockstar Ronnie,” Maher said.

“His first ever flat run was at 4200 metres, so he’s an out-and-out stayer. He probably doesn’t want a bottomless Heavy 10, but he likes wet ground and is a very nice jumper.”

Maher said the further the race goes the better it will be for Epizeel.

“I reckon he would probably run 7000 metres if I could find a race that long,” Maher said.

“He’s an out-and-out stayer, but not as fast.

“The heavy track may help him and that’s the great question of that race.

“Ciaron and I say it’s the greatest race in Australia and if we could run first and second and mine had its nose in front, I don’t think Ciaron would be upset.

“I think he would be very proud.”

About RS NewsWire

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