Warrnambool successfully delivers revamped Carnival

The revamped two-day 2020 TAB Warrnambool May Racing Carnival has been hailed a success, having allowed some of Australia’s most iconic country races to be conducted under strict biosecurity protocols on 5 and 6 May.

Victoria’s biggest ever jumps racing card saw eight races conducted on Tuesday, 5 May with young gun Ablaze delivering trainer Ciaron Maher his fifth Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) and his co-trainer Dave Eustace and jockey Shane Jackson their first.

Ablaze’s owner Rod Lyons can now claim to having both Australia’s toughest and fastest horse with speed machine Nature Strip also carrying his distinctive blue, red and yellow colours. Lyons shares in the ownership of Ablaze with eight friends hailing from New Zealand where Ablaze was bred and purchased from 12 months ago.

New Zealand owners were also to the fore in the day’s feature hurdle, the $135,000 Galleywood Hurdle (3200m), with visiting jumper Gobstopper landing an upset win for trainer Eric Musgrove and young Irish jockey Ronan Shot.

Also celebrating the thrill of racehorse ownership on the day one was Bendigo owner-trainer Nick Smart whose $1,000 yearling purchase Getting Leggie achieved a career milestone when winning the $135,000 Brierly Steeplechase (3450m).

Day two on the flat belonged to trainer Lindsey Smith who prepared three winners, including the Listed $225,000 Warrnambool Cup (2350m) with Too Close the Sun, and narrowly missed an historic quartet when Superhard was defeated by the Danny O’Brien-trained Order of Command in the Listed $157,000 Wangoom Handicap (1200m).

Too Close the Sun, was bred and is raced by Western Australian Geoff Evans who has enjoyed Group 1 success with the four-year-old’s older half-brother Trap For Fools who won a Mackinnon Stakes.

David and Jenny Moodie’s Hesket Bloodstock was another owner-breeder operation to strike it lucky at Warrnambool with the Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra-trained Chrome Angel landing the $115,000 VOBIS Gold Strike (1000m) for two-year-old fillies.

RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, said: “We thank and congratulate the Warrnambool Racing Club on their efforts to successfully conduct the revamped Warrnambool May Carnival in accordance with the industry’s strict biosecurity protocols. We also wish to thank all industry participants, essential staff and the local community for their adherence to the protocols and congratulate all winning owners on their success.

“Whilst this year’s unprecedented circumstances required a revamped racing program with no crowds, this did not affect the quality of racing which was outstanding. Given the commitment by the Warrnambool Racing Club and Bill Gibbins to develop and nurture the Jericho Cup, we were particularly pleased to see this season’s Cup winner, Ablaze, complete a unique Warrnambool double by claiming the Grand Annual Steeplechase.

“Testimony to the quality of racing is that we’re now going to see the Warrnambool Cup winner Too Close the Sun chase a start in the Melbourne Cup by contesting The Andrew Ramsden at Flemington on 16 May, a race which offers the winner a ticket into Australia’s most famous race.

“Whilst year-on-year comparisons are difficult due to the unique circumstances of this year’s event, anecdotally it appears that the strong fan engagement and growth across media and wagering channels that Victorian racing has experienced during recent weeks was maintained throughout the week at Warrnambool which is pleasing.

“Given the inability for people to attend, our feedback is that this year’s event has only served to strengthen racing fans’ love of the Warrnambool May Carnival and we are pleased to read and hear of so many people already committing to the ‘Bool in 2021.

“We look forward to working with the Warrnambool Racing Club to restore the May Carnival to its full glory in 2021 and ensuring that we can all get back to support the local Warrnambool businesses.”