LEADING Warrnambool trainer Symon Wilde is in a race against the clock to have his evergreen jumper Gold Medals ready to take his final bow at the May Carnival next month.
Between mother nature and father time, Wilde is caught in the middle, attempting to overcome a series of small niggles that may deny the 12-year-old from winning his third Grand Annual Steeplechase.
"We're behind the eight-ball with Gold Medals' preparation leading into the Grand Annual," Wilde said.
"It's fair to say his career is at the crossroads. We will not run him in the Grand Annual unless he's 100 per cent right.
"He's been a wonderful horse for his owners and our stable.
"Last year we had a couple of issues with him leading into the Grand Annual, but we overcame them.
"This year, he's probably a week behind where we want to be, but we'll try and get over it.
"We should have a clearer idea if he's heading in the right direction over the next fortnight as we have a track gallop and a jumps trial planned for him.
"Gold Medals has been in work since before Christmas, and we've put a lot of miles into his legs, but, as I've said previously, if he's not right, he will not run in the Grand Annual."
This year's Grand Annual loomed as a promoter's dream, with the champion Kiwi jumper Zed Em and Gold Medals possibly lining up against each other for a fifth time.
Gold Medals started his career winning a two-year-old race at Warrnambool in 2012 before winning 12 other races, including the Grand Annual in 2018 and 2021.
Under the rules of racing, 12-year-old horses must retire from jumps racing before the new season, which commences on August 1.
Trainer Simon Ryan sang the praises of jumps jockey Braidon Small after his winning ride on Blenheim Palace, who was making his jumps debut in a maiden hurdle at Hamilton on Sunday.
Blenheim Palace won the 3200-metre race by three lengths.
"I must give a lot of the credit to Braidon," Ryan said.
"He's done all the schooling on Blenheim Palace.
"Braidon is a great asset to my stable.
"He puts in plenty of time educating my horses.
"I think Braidon is very underrated.
"With a bit of time, I'm confident Blenheim Palace will go through his grades.
"The hurdle trial at Warrnambool last Wednesday really helped Blenheim Palace for Sunday's race.
"There's a restricted hurdle at Pakenham on April 18.
"It looks the obvious next race for him before going to the novice hurdle at Warrnambool on May 5."
Blenheim Palace had won two races on the flat before making his debut over the jumps.
The win by the import was the first leg of a double for Ryan on Sunday.
Astral Knight, who is destined for a jumps career, had an impressive win in a high-weight race on the flat for the former jumps jockey turned successful trainer.
A change in environment to Warrnambool's Lady Bay beach helped Prospectus win an open handicap at Mount Gambier last Friday, according to his trainer Aaron Purcell.
Having his fifth start for Purcell, Prospectus beat Pewter to win the $26,000 race over 1550 metres.
"I was quietly confident Prospectus would run well," the multiple group one winning trainer said.
"It was just a matter of finding a suitable type of race for him.
"We've done a lot of beach work with the horse and he's thrived on that type of preparation.
"We're not getting carried away with him; we're just taking little steps.
"We may look at a race on Easter Sunday at Stawell for his next run before going onto the Warrnambool May Racing Carnival for his following run."
From his 34 starts, Prospectus has won six races and picked up more than $248,000 in stakemoney for his connections.
The jumps riding ranks in Victoria will receive a boost over the next few weeks.
Warrnambool's Daniel Small, younger brother of Braidon, is ready to make his debut as a jumps jockey, while French-born Selim Agbal is only weeks away from getting his ticket to ride in jumps races.
Agbal, who has ridden over the obstacles in France, Italy and England, works for Victoria's leading trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace at their Ballarat stables.
The 23-year-old has to ride in six more trials before he's granted his licence.
Top Irish born jumps jockey Will McCarthy has arrived back in Australia and will try to follow on from his successful season last year in the saddle.
McCarthy rode The Dominator to win the Thackeray Steeplechase at Warrnambool in July.
Jockey Mitch Aitken will be on the sidelines for eight meetings after pleading guilty to a whip infringement charge following his ride on Hollerlujah at Bendigo on Saturday.
Stewards found Aitken used the whip five times more than permitted prior to the 100-metre mark.
His suspension commenced at midnight on April 2 and ends midnight April 8.
Aitken was also fined $2000 by stewards for the infringement.
RUE DE PALAIS: made a nice debut at Bendigo in a 1000-metre race on Saturday. He was well back in the run before going to the line strongly over the concluding stages. One would think he will improve with that run under his belt.
PATRICK PAYNE: pound for pound one of the best trainers going around. Payne showed his ability, training two winners at Bendigo. The former champion jockey is at home training jumpers or flat performers. It always pays to respect runners from the Payne stable.
GUNDEC: impressive 1400-metre winner on Saturday. He's only had a handful of starts but shows a big race win could be on the cards.
MILFORD: caught the eye with his third placing in the Golden Mile on Saturday. He finished the 1600-metre race off in good style and should be hard to beat next time.
NEIL FARLEY: underrated jockey who doesn't get the chances he deserves. He showed his skills with a double at Ararat on Saturday and another winner at Hamilton on Sunday.
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