The champion hurdler of the past three seasons Saunter Boy is coming off a rare loss when he participates in the $126,000 Brendan Dreschler Hurdle (3500m) at Pakenham on Sunday and his connections are expecting him to bounce back.
As Declan Maher, who oversees the jump’s horses for his brother Ciaron and David Eustace, pointed out, Saunter Boy doesn’t lose too many races over the hurdles.
Saunter Boy’s record stands at 11 wins and two seconds from 16 starts so his last start fourth in the Australian Hurdle stands out as an anomaly.
The ten-year-old gelding has never lost two races in a row over the jumps.
He was undefeated last year winning the five feature jumps races he contested. This year though his record stands at three starts for a win, a second and a fourth.
He will be ridden by the in-form Willie McCarthy who has ridden him once for a win in the 2021 J.J Houlahan Hurdle.
“He’s a horse who people love and get disappointed when he gets beaten but it doesn’t happen that often over the jumps,” Maher said.
Maher said a win in a Traralgon Hurdle trial on July 5 proved was enough to convince his connections he still had a lot to offer.
“If there was any doubt in him, he wouldn’t be running. He’s sound and well and he’s showing us he still wants to be there,” he said.
Maher said at Saunter Boy’s last start he was brought undone by a combination of his big weight, a Heavy10 track and being awkwardly placed.
“It was a combination of the heavy track and his big weight of 73kg; things didn’t go to plan. Also, he didn’t end up in the best spot for him; he likes to be outside or in front and he was stuck on the inside,” he said.
“He trialled up nicely at Traralgon the other day. He’s nice and sound and he’s a lot better off at the weights.”
“He’s going to enjoy being on top of the ground as it makes it easier for him to carry the weight and use his action.”
Saunter Boy will be attempting to win the Brendan Dreschler Hurdle for the second year in a row. Last year he also carried 71 kilos and won by four lengths.
The Maher and Eustace stable will also have the other drawcard on the six race Pakenham jumps program which is Stern Idol in the Ecycle Solutions - Mosstrooper Steeplechase (3500m).
Stern Idol is also looking to bounce back after being eased out of the Grand Annual Steeplechase with 600 metres to go.
The former French horse returns to Pakenham where he has had two starts for two wins by 15 lengths.
They were at this meeting last year in the Benchmark 120 hurdle and in the J.E.H Spencer Memorial Steeplechase in April this year.
Maher said the distance of the Grand Annual proved too far for Stern Idol and he also wasn’t suited by the tight turns in that race.
“Stern Idol is a big free striding horse with a huge action and that’s why his record is so good at Pakenham as that’s a real gallopers track,” Maher said.
“In the Mosstrooper he should get into a nice rhythm, do his thing and roll along.”
Stern Idol will also be ridden by Willie McCarthy who has a strong book of rides at the program. At the last feature jumps meeting at Warrnambool on July 2 he rode a treble.
McCarthy will also ride one for Declan Maher, Nelson in the Ecycle Maiden Steeplechase.
Maher said Nelson had trialled well over the fences and should be better suited over them than the hurdles.