NOVICE jumpers Heberite and Vanguard - trained by two former Emmanuel College students - will fire up for a mouthwatering clash in Thursday's $350,000 Warrnambool Grand Annual Steeplechase.
The New Zealand-bred jumpers, led by Ciaron Maher and Symon Wilde, will try to replicate the efforts of recently-retired jumping stars Gold Medals and Zed Em around the famous jumps course.
Heberite is having his first steeplechase start and Vanguard just his fourth when they line up in the 5500-metre race.
Wilde, who saddles up Vanguard, is after his third Grand Annual win in five years while Maher, who trains in partnership with David Eustace, is chasing a record-breaking sixth victory in Thursday's contest.
Maher said it was time for a new jumping star to emerge and write their own piece of history.
"Who knows Heberite or Vanguard may be the new steeplechase star," he said.
"They're both still learning the jumping caper but they're promising. I must admit I was quietly confident Heberite was pretty right to try and win the Grand Annual but I was impressed with the win of Vanguard in Tuesday's Brierly.
"It was a very good win by Vanguard. I can't fault Heberite - he's in super condition. We've given Heberite a similar preparation to Ablaze who won the race in 2020. The team at our Ballarat stable have done a great job having Heberite ready for Thursday."
Wilde said Vanguard had caught the attention of everyone following his Brierly win but he added his stablemate American In Paris was ready to run well.
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"I've always got a very healthy respect for horses that Ciaron trains, especially in Grand Annuals," he said. "We've always had a good opinion of Vanguard since we got him from New Zealand. Vanguard can stay all day and that's what's needed in Grand Annuals.
"I've got no doubt the forgotten horse in the Annual is American In Paris. He might lack the class of the other jumpers but he is crying out for the 5500 metres and he's a safe jumper."
The Grand Annual is scheduled to start at 2.30pm.
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