ONE of the favourites for Thursday’s $250,000 Grand Annual Steeplechase is out of the famous race.
The John Wheeler-trained Cape Kinaveral was yesterday declared a non-starter by stable foreman Brett Scott after the gelding pulled up sore from a trial at Cranbourne on Friday.
Cape Kinaveral finished second in both the Von Doussa and Great Eastern steeplechases at Oakbank earlier this month behind stablemate Tobouggie Nights and was expected to give Wheeler a strong hand in the Tabcorp May Racing Carnival’s showpiece.
Scott said the horse had pulled up with a bit of filling in his off-front leg.
“We could have run him in the annual but I believe we may have buggered the horse up,” Scott said. “He’s got a lot of ability.
“He will go back to New Zealand to be saved for next year.
“He still would have been competitive but we were not taking any risks.”
The nine-year-old was a notable absentee from yesterday’s schools around Warrnambool’s steeplechase course.
Grand Annual favourite Tobouggie Nights successfully negotiated the tricky Tozer Road double twice in an impressive debut on the course.
Scott and stable jockey Richard Eynon were pleased with the big horse’s final hit-out before Thursday.
“He went super, the horse just loves to jump, put a fence in front of him and he will just jump it,” Eynon said.
“He’s done well since Oakbank — I reckon he will be competitive here.”
Other Grand Annual hopefuls to school yesterday were dual winner Al Garhood and 2009 Great Eastern winner Pentacolo from the Ciaron Maher stables.
Maher was delighted with his pair’s preparation.
He said jockey John Allen described Al Garhood’s performance in the school as good.
“He’s nice and sharp and he jumped well,” Maher said.
Maher said Trent Wells had been booked to ride Al Garhood on Thursday.
Yangery trainer Jarrod McLean used Big Jam’s searching school yesterday to decide whether he would start in tomorrow’s Brierly and Thursday’s Grand Annual.
McLean ruled out a Brierly start for the jumper, opting to save him for Thursday.
McLean was rapt with his Brierly Steeplechase hopeful Cats Fun, which had an easier assignment yesterday ahead of tomorrow’s $100,000 classic over 3450 metres.
The scratching of Big Jam from tomorrow’s Brierly opens the door for Wheeler’s Thomond Park, which is the second of two emergencies for the race. He now needs one other horse to be withdrawn to get a start.
He schooled alongside Tobouggie Nights.