By Michael Manley
Ciaron Maher loves nothing more than winning the Grand Annual Steeplechase and he’s hoping he can continue his amazing habit of doing that at Warrnambool on Thursday.
As a born and bred Warrnambool boy and also a former jumps jockey, the Grand Annual is a race Maher has been brought up on and one which has a special place in his heart.
If he can win the 2021 Grand Annual Steeplechase he will become part of the Annual's folklore as he will have won the race for a sixth time, which will be a record.
Last year he recorded his fifth win in the race and equalled John Wheeler on five wins when Ablaze won.
Maher and co-trainer David Eustace will be represented by Yensir and Bit Of A Lad in the Grand Annual Steeplechase this year.
“I love the race and it’s a special thrill to win it,” Maher said.
Yensir is favourite for the event and Maher said the former English jumper was the perfect horse to win the Annual.
Yensir took out the Von Doussa Steeplechase at Oakbank two starts ago which was his Australian jumps debut.
Yensir won four races in England over the hurdles but Maher had little hesitation in turning him to the fences in Australia as they were similar in size to European hurdles.
Maher said he expected Yensir to run a big race in the Grand Annual Steeplechase.
“I think he’s the right horse with the right weight. He’s had a really good preparation and he’s a good jumper,” Maher said.
Maher said he was still deciding whether Bit Of A Lad would back up in the Grand Annual Steeplechase after his gallant second in the Brierly Steeplechase.
“He’s come through that race pretty well. He’s got an outstanding record at Warrnambool so he’s a good chance to run him,” Maher said.
“That was a great run in the Brierly with that weight. He’s in great shape.”
Champion jumps jockey Shane Jackson has answered an SOS call from Ciaron Maher to ride Bit Of A Lad in the Grand Annual Steeplechase.
Jackson retired earlier this year but said he was happy to make a cameo with a farewell ride in front of the Warrnambool crowd.