Warrnambool's Grand Annual Steeplechase hailed 'greatest race in the world'

POSITIVE: Warrnambool Racing Club chairman Des Roberts says the Wheelie Waste Grand Annual Steeplechase is the best jumps race in the world. Picture: Vicky Hughson
POSITIVE: Warrnambool Racing Club chairman Des Roberts says the Wheelie Waste Grand Annual Steeplechase is the best jumps race in the world. Picture: Vicky Hughson

THE Grand Annual Steeplechase is the greatest race in the world, Warrnambool Racing Club chairman Des Roberts says. 

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that is the greatest race in the world,” he said in the mounting yard on Thursday. 

“I’ve been backed up by many fine judges on that, it’s not just a parochial thing.” 

Following No Song No Supper’s thrilling victory in the time honoured race, Mr Roberts said it was easy to see jumps racing had improved on previous years. 

“Everyone now believes that jumps racing is right back on track,” he said. 

“We saw how bunched together the field was, this is because the horses are better schooled and there is better quality horses coming into the race. 

“Instead of seeing five or 10 lengths between each runner, we are now seeing quality horses bunched up.

“It’s a tribute to Margaret Lucas and Inez Musgrove with the Australian Jumps Racing Association.

Gai Waterhouse describes it as a national treasure, so what more could you want?

Des Roberts

“They have worked tirelessly on safety improvements and jumps racing is now right back on track.”

Mr Roberts said the three-day carnival had lived up to expectations once again. 

“The weather never shone on us on Tuesday as everybody knows, but Wednesday’s crowd was up about 1400 people. 

“I’ve got no idea how many are here today (Thursday), but you’d run out of fingers and toes trying to count them. 

“Gai Waterhouse describes the carnival as a national treasure, so what more could you want?” 

Mr Roberts said he wasn’t concerned about a small, but vocal, group of anti-jumps racing protesters at the main gate. 

“I don’t think anybody takes much notice of an irrelevant group,” he said. 

The Warrnambool City Band was also set up outside the Grafton Road entrance, the brainchild of former jumps jockey Frank McCarthy, who said he wanted to put people in a “festive mood” as they approached the course. 

“I think Frank McCarthy fixed them up,” Mr Roberts said.

“Sometimes that’s the problem with racing, they are prepared to listen to half a dozen minorities who mean nothing. 

“They’d be far better off listening to the majorities who are hell bent on making this successful.” 

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