RIVAL trainer Robert Smerdon says two-time jumps horse of the year Bashboy is the one to beat in Sunday’s $100,000 Thackeray Steeplechase at Warrnambool despite having to carry 72 kilograms.
Smerdon, who saddles up Kirribilli Gold in the race, fears his impressive mare will struggle to upset jumps racing’s current poster boy.
“At the weights, no,” Smerdon said when asked if Kirribilli Gold could win.
“As much as he (Bashboy) has got 72 kilograms, he’s probably at the maximum rating and on that rating he should have 74 kilograms. He’s not badly treated. He’s a superstar on his day.”
Kirribilli Gold was beaten by Bashboy in three major jumps races last season. She was fourth in the Thackeray, third in the Crisp Steeplechase and second in the Grand National Steeplechase. The natural progression would be first place in the pair’s first meeting this season after they were yesterday confirmed as starters.
While Smerdon said Kirribilli Gold was “ready to go”, he said Bashboy had the potential to extend his impressive record in feature races.
“Last year they were talking about taking him overseas. On his best form he would stack up anywhere in the world. If he brings his A game, he’s the one.”
Winslow trainer Ciaron Maher is quietly confident his star jumper can claim consecutive wins in the Thackeray. Last year he carried 71.5kg when he defeated Warrnambool-owned Cats Fun by two lengths over the 3450m cross-country circuit.
“I reckon he can (win),” Maher said.
“It’s a big weight but he’s a big horse. He had 71.5 last year, it’s virtually the same.”
Maher said Bashboy and jockey Steven Pateman would not treat the event as a match race against Smerdon’s mare, even though Kirribilli Gold was the “next best horse”.
He said Cats Fun, which has had four consecutive seconds over jumps this season, and emerging jumper Krase, from the Patrick Payne stable, had strong chances.
Maher said Bashboy trialled at Cranbourne on Wednesday, 10 days after he was pulled up in the 3600m Mosstrooper Steeplechase at Bendigo where he was found to have had an irregular heart rhythm.
Maher said the 10-year-old had recovered well.
“He will benefit from the run.
“He’s been in work a long time. I’m really happy with where he is at. I would have liked to have been able to finish the other day but he’s come through that really well.”
Bashboy defeated four of Sunday’s five rivals last season in major races but Payne’s Krase is the only one he hasn’t met.
At the close of final acceptances yesterday, the other feature jumps race — the Kevin Lafferty Hurdle — had eight runners.
The steeplechase will be run on the course proper instead of the paddocks due to recent heavy rain.