Gold Medals (NZ) ridden by Clayton Douglas wins the Waterfront by Lyndoch Living Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool Racecourse on May 03, 2018 in Warrnambool, Australia. (Pat Scala/Racing Photos)
The star of the 2018 TAB Warrnambool May Racing Carnival, Gold Medals, showed he is on track for this year’s feature jumps contests at the “the ‘bool” with an encouraging first-up flat run at Bendigo last Saturday.
Gold Medals, who last year became the first horse since 2005 to complete the Brierly Steeplechase-Grand Annual double on a dramatic final day of Australia’s premier jumps carnival, finished 11th behind Mosh Music in a restricted race over 2400 metres for Warrnambool trainer Symon Wilde.
Speaking afterwards, Wilde revealed that while Gold Medals would defend his Brierly Steeplechase (3450m) title on the opening day of the May Carnival, a tilt at back-to-back wins in the Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) two days later was not guaranteed at this stage.
“I thought it was a top flat run,” Wilde told the Warrnambool Standard.
“We’ve had a trouble-free campaign with Gold Medals to this stage of his preparation, so we couldn’t be happier with him.
“We’ll run in the Brierly first and see how he goes before making a decision about a start in this year’s Grand Annual.
“He’s been a very versatile horse for his connections, but we won’t take any risks with him.”
The nine-year-old’s next assignment is likely to be in the Terang Cup (Sunday 14 April), a race he won in 2017.
One of his probable rivals in the Brierly Steeplechase is Dormello Mo, trained by Wilde’s fellow Warrnambool horseman Simon Ryan.
Dormello Mo returned to action with an impressive first-up win in a 3100 metre flat race at his home track last Friday.
Despite having been off the racetrack for 11 months, Dormello Mo triumphed by a whopping 14 lengths.
The imported galloper, who has collected just under $300,000 for his connections, will now be set for the Brierly Steeplechase.
“I think he appreciated the soft track,” said Ryan.
“He’s now had 16 starts for me for six wins, which is a pretty good strike rate. I thought he’d run a reasonable race so the win didn’t really surprise me, but the ease of it did.
“We gave him a long break, and it appears to have paid dividends.
“I’ll aim him at the Brierly Steeplechase, but he won’t run in the Grand Annual. I’ll look at some other feature jumps races later in the season for him.”
Another Warrnambool trainer, Matthew Williams, is also aiming to enhance his strong record in his hometown showpiece. Williams trained three carnival winners in both 2009 and 2015 and is hoping to strike early this year with two-year-old filly Kuramae, who is part-owned by Melbourne Football Club ruckman Max Gawn.
Williams has secured the services of leading jockey Willie Pike – aka the “Wizard of the West” – who will make his second visit to Warrnambool, having recently been announced as TAB’s May Racing Carnival Ambassador.
“It has been over a decade since I’ve been at Warrnambool and I’m really excited to come back, because I’ve got some great memories,” said Pike, who rode two winners from 16 rides when he made his carnival debut 12 years ago.
“Hopefully I can ride a few more winners this year and give the punters something to cheer about.”
The TAB Warrnambool May Racing Carnival runs from Tuesday, 30 April to Thursday, 2 May. For the first time this year, the prizemoney on offer will top $2 million, with the Brierly Steeplechase, VOBIS Gold race (1000m), Galleywood Hurdle (3450m), Listed Wangoom Handicap (1200m) and the Grand Annual Steeplechase now worth a combined $925,000.
For more information, visit the Country Racing Victoria website here: https://country.racing.com/warrnambool