Proud mother Eileen Maher had plenty of reasons to smile after the Grand Annual Steeplechase

EILEEN Maher was telling anyone who would listen – her sons’ horse Regina Coeli would win the Grand Annual Steeplechase.

The proud mum’s bold prediction came true on Thursday when the eight-year-old mare won the famous Warrnambool race following a detailed preparation nutted out by her sons Ciaron and Declan.

“I was confident. I’ve been telling everyone, anyone who bumped into me I’d tell them he’d win,” Eileen said.

“When Declan told me ‘Ciaron said this horse had never looked better’ I knew then that it would win.”

Caulfield Cup winner Ciaron trained Regina Coeli with younger brother Declan doing the work behind the scenes.

The Maher clan, which hails from Winslow, now has links to four Grand Annual Steeplechase victories.

Ciaron broke through for his first win in 2010 with Al Garhood and backed it up the following year with the same runner.

His next triumph came in 2015 with Regina Coeli. 

Eileen described Regina Coeli’s second win as “the most wonderful experience ever”.

She said her sons wanted the horse to bounce back after its poor showing 12 months ago.

“Our youngest son Declan, who works for Ciaron did all the work with the horse,” Eileen said.

“Ciaron said he had the horse looking better than ever and just going extremely well.

“He hadn’t left a thing undone.

“He’d been taking it to the beach all the time.

“He was completely focused from the time he bought the horse in.”

Eileen said it was a special moment for the brothers.

“Father (John) Fitzgerald (from Warrnambool St Joseph’s Church) said ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if Declan could pull it off’,” she said.

“I said ‘they’d kill each other’. It’d be stacks on in the middle and that’s what happened.

“We’ll have the biggest party ever at the Woolsthorpe pub with Mr (Colin) McKenna (who is a part-owner) and all the crew.”

An emotional McKenna – a prominent Warrnambool businessman – embraced connections in the mounting yard after Regina Coeli’s win in the action-packed feature.

“I am just elated,” he said.

McKenna, who had tears of joys after the 2015 triumph, said the race’s finale was a blur, as nerves and excitement took over.

“It was unbelievable. I can’t remember it,” he said of the run down the home straight. “She’s a great mare. That’s two – her brother has won two and she’s won two. You don’t expect them to win it twice.”

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