PATRICK Ryan will join the late legendary Warrnambool trainers Kevin Lafferty and Jocka Baillie if his jumper I’ll’ava’alf wins the $300,000 Grand Annual Steeplechase on Thursday.
Lafferty and Baillie are the only local trainers to have snared the two features, namely the Warrnambool Cup and Grand Annual Steeplechase.
Ryan, 41, who won the 2008 Warrnambool Cup with Video Star, said it would be great to be mentioned in the same breath of the two south-west household name trainers if his New Zealand bred jumper was successful.
“It would be very special to be linked with Jocka and Laffy,” he said.
“I'll’ava’alf is in great shape since his flat win on Tuesday.
“I was really happy to see he won on Tuesday as we've been under a bit of pressure since he got a virus at Oakbank.
“We've got the services of champion jumps jockey Steven Pateman.
“He knows his way around the tricky steeplechase circuit.”
Pateman, who is trying to win his third Grand Annual, said he was confident about I’ll’ava’alf’s chances in the 5500-metre race.
“I reckon I’ll’ava’alf has the right weight to win,” he said.
“He's got 66.5 kilograms. It's just such a tough gruelling race the top-weighted horses face a tough task.
“It's better if you’re down in the weights and I reckon I've got the right weight to win the race.”
New Zealand trainer Shelley Houston is confident about the chances of her runner Lucky Tonight in the famous race.
“We schooled him at Warrnambool on Sunday and he went well,” Houston said.
“Lucky Tonight is in good shape and we've got Richard Cully on board.
“Richard knows his way around in the annual as he's won two of the last three.”
Cully said he was impressed with the way Lucky Tonight handled the circuit in the school.
Imported jumper Dormello Mo was scratched from the annual by Warrnambool trainer Simon Ryan after the seven-year-old put in a poor performance in the Brierly on Tuesday.
Mannertone, Saddle The Stars and Deliberate are other south-west annual runners for their respective trainers in Anne McGrath, Chris Ryan and Jane Baker.
Former top jumps jockey David “Butch” Londregan, who won the famous race four times, saddles up King Of The Forrest after the eight-year-old put in a solid performance to run third in the Brierly on Tuesday.
The Grand Annual, which is race seven on the program, is scheduled to start at 2.35pm.