THE south-west’s leading trainers are primed for a major assault on the feature jumps races at next month’s Warrnambool May Racing Carnival.
A number of trainers yesterday rounded out formal preparations for their jumpers during a series of trials and schools around the Warrnambool course.
Yangery trainer Jarrod McLean declared former Perth Cup winner Cats Fun ready for his maiden tilt at a steeplechase, the Brierly (3450m), after the gelding jumped impressively in a 2800-metre trial.
McLean said he was pleased with Cats Fun, which had only jumped four steeplechase obstacles on Thursday morning for the first time.
Ridden by McLean’s brother Brad, Cats Fun made significant ground after crossing the Tozer Road double to finish third.
“Brad said he showed them great respect, which is good,” Jarrod said.
The trainer said the nine-year-old had pulled up well from Wednesday’s second behind champion Black And Bent in a hurdle race at Sandown.
“He was as credible as he could be,” he said.
“We didn’t go there expecting to win, we went there for the fitness.”
McLean is leaning towards running stablemate Big Jam in the $250,000 Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m), believing the Brierly field could be too quick for him.
Big Jam was fourth in his trial behind the Quinton Scott-trained Sea Town.
“I’ve only had the one runner in the Grand Annual. To be 13 days out and on track to have two runners is exciting times,” McLean said.
Winslow trainer Ciaron Maher gave dual Grand Annual winner Al Garhood a trial around his favourite course. Despite being a 12-year-old, Al Garhood took up his customary front-running position and led all the way until Sea Town edged ahead in the run to the line.
Maher said he was pleased with his veteran, which seemed ready for a fourth Grand Annual appearance.
He said he was unsure whether he would run him in the Brierly.
“He’s probably better off being a little fresh,” he said.
His other leading hope is the emerging Iguazu, which, like Al Garhood, led all the way, before being eased down to finish third in his trial behind the Aaron Purcell-trained Rusky Ya Ya.
Maher said he put blinkers on Iguazu for the first time and the move worked. He intends nominating him for the Brierly and Grand Annual.
“He’s come up really well. He looks like a horse who is ready to run a trip,” he said.
Purcell’s Rusky Ya Ya is being geared towards a restricted steeplechase at the carnival. Warrnambool trainer Symon Wilde looks set to have two Brierly runners, with Megapixel and Key Symbol completing the course. Wilde was upbeat with their performances.
Quinton Scott-trained Royal Laddie, which ran third in last year’s Brierly, turned in an impressive trial win and is again being set for the 3450-metre race.
Scott said the 11-year-old was as fit as last year.