WINSLOW trainer Ciaron Maher is hoping a year of hard work and planning pays handsome dividends when he chases consecutive victories in tomorrow’s $250,000 Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) at Sandown.
Maher is set to unleash a two-horse assault on one of jumps racing’s biggest events as he looks to back up last year’s win by Man Of Class.
Maher, one of four south-west trainers with runners in the Grand National, saddles up last-start Crisp Steeplechase winner Bashboy and Thackeray Steeplechase winner Regal Heir. Bashboy, which won the Crisp by 17.8 lengths two weeks ago, will start a better chance than stablemate Regal Heir, which fell in the Crisp as he looked to be working into the race nicely.
Bashboy is building an impressive jumps record, having had five starts for four wins and a second.
Maher said he had identified the eight-year-old as a wet-tracker and saved him for an assault late in the season.
He said Bashboy, owned by Ian Macdonald, had come to his stables at the start of the year having not raced for 18 months.
A tendon injury sustained in a hurdle race, in which he finished second in June 2010, was his last start.
Maher said the horse’s rehabilitation had included work with a number of pre-trainers.
Based on the pair’s last run, Maher said Bashboy might have an edge.
“I’m happy with the horse, he came through training really well and I’ve been happy with his work. I couldn’t ask for him to be going into the race in any better form.”
Maher said the pair’s involvement in tomorrow’s race was part of a plan hatched late last year.
“Both of them are wet-trackers and I thought this was the best race for them.
“A lot of the other horses have gone to Warrnambool and Oakbank but we held these two back,” he said.
Warrnambool trainer Symon Wilde is hoping Megapixel can produce another winning performance after an impressive jumps season winning two features — the Australian Steeplechase and the Mosstrooper Steeplechase.
He is second in the running for the Jim Houlahan jumps champion award.
Wilde said he and his co-trainer, father Bill, had accepted with Megapixel but would wait until tomorrow morning before deciding whether to run the jumper. Koroit hobby trainer James McNamara has Dinna Latar entered in the race alongside Warrnambool trainer Aaron Purcell’s imported jumper Dhaafer.