EMERGING star jumper Flying Agent has had an ideal preparation for Sunday's Thackeray Steeplechase at Warrnambool but a win would be a bonus for the eight-year-old, according to trainer Amy McDonald.
Flying Agent scored a thrilling victory in Warrnambool's Brierly Steeplechase in May and McDonald was satisfied her New Zealand-bred jumper had achieved enough for this jumps season.
"We had set for Flying Agent for the Brierly and he won it so any other win is a bonus," the Ballarat trainer told The Standard.
"Flying Agent has trained on very well. He won on the flat last time at Bendigo which got him in top shape for the Thackeray.
"It was a massive thrill to win the Brierly. We have not rushed Flying Agent's campaign.
"I've got a real healthy respect for Bit Of A Lad in the Thackeray.
"He's a good tough jumper and won the Thackeray Steeplechase last year. He's the horse to beat."
Bit Of A Of A Lad, trained by the powerful Ciaron Maher-David Eustace combination, rounded off his preparation for Sunday's jumping feature with a jumps trial at Warrnambool last Thursday.
The trial pleased Maher's brother Declan, who has overseen Bit Of A Lad's preparation at their Ballarat stabling complex.
"Flying Agent beat us in the Brierly but we meet him two kilograms better in the weights for the Thackeray," he said.
"We're quietly confident the two-kilo weight swing in our favour will help our chances on Sunday.
"Bit Of A Lad has a great record in jumps races around Warrnambool and I think that's a real advantage."
The Maher-Eustace stable will be well represented in the other jumps races.
It saddles up Flickitova and Norway in maiden hurdles, Wil John lines up in the restricted hurdle while Saunter Boy takes his place in the Lafferty Hurdle.
Maher, who was raised in Winslow, said all the jumping horses should run well in their respective races.
"Saunter Boy's last run on the flat in town was excellent leading into a jumps race," he said.
"Saunter Boy has been down at our Caulfield stable and the reports from the staff are really positive about his chances in the Lafferty.
"Wil John has worked along solidly since his last two wins."
Warrnambool Racing Club racecourse manager Daniel Lumsden said the track would be a heavy 10.
"There's a few showers predicted for Friday, Saturday and Sunday," he said.
"The track will be pretty heavy but safe for winter racing. The running rail is out four metres for the whole course."
The first of eight races is scheduled for 11.40am and the last at 4.15pm.
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