May Racing Carnival hero Gold Medals will return to the scene of his greatest triumph when he leads the field into Sunday’s Haymes Paint Jericho Cup (4600m), which commemorates the 100-year anniversary of Australia and New Zealand’s light horse involvement in World War One.
Gold Medals, who in May became the first horse for 13 years to complete the Brierly Steeplechase-Grand Annual double, will bid to create more history when he attempts to win the race which was first run on the desert sands of Palestine in 1918.
He faces 11 rivals, including his stablemate Doc Holliday and runners from the yards of multiple Group 1 winners Darren Weir and Anthony Freedman, in his bid to carry the topweight of 70kg to victory over Warrnambool Racing Club’s famed Grand Annual course.
The nine-year-old gelding, who is trained by local horseman Symon Wilde, will break from barrier six in the Highweight contest, which is worth $320,000 in prizemoney and bonuses and is the brainchild of philanthropist and racing enthusiast Bill Gibbins.
Like Gold Medals, the Henry Dwyer-trained The Dominator (66.5kg) – who will be ridden by jumps jockey Tom Sadler – also tasted success in the May Racing Carnival with a bold display of jumping in the Decron Dunroe Steeplechase (3450m), but his most recent win came on the flat over 3200m at Echuca on Melbourne Cup day.
Weir will send two gallopers from his satellite stable in Warrnambool to contest the race, with Truly High (66.5kg) and Kiwi import Penthouse Playboy (64kg) aiming to delivery more success for Victoria’s leading trainer.
Last-start Moonee Valley winner Truly High will be ridden by Shane Jackson, who was on board for Gold Medals’ victory in the Brierly Handicap (3450m), whilst his fellow Irishman John Allen will attempt to continue his outstanding recent form when he partners five-year-old gelding Penthouse Playboy.
Versatile hoop Clayton Douglas, who had his first Group 1 ride in this year’s Schweppes Thousand Guineas (1600m), knows what it takes to triumph on the Grand Annual circuit, having piloted Gold Medals to glory in May.
He returns to Warrnambool to attempt a unique double on the Freedman-trained High Mode, who has been assigned 65kg.
The field is rounded out by the Emma and Lucy Longmore-trained Thunder Road (65.5kg); Weave (65kg) for trainer Anne Yates and jockey Richard Cully; and Havana Haymaker (trained by Pat Carey), Barge And Charge (Michael Townsend), Crafty Cruiser (Bryce Stanaway) and Grassini (Brett Charry), who will all carry 64kg.
The full field of 16 includes four emergencies, who will gain a start in the event of any withdrawals.
In keeping with the tradition of the original Jericho Cup, all runners must have been conceived and born in either Australia or New Zealand.
The Jericho Cup is scheduled for 4.50pm with the support card set to feature a consolation race, which will be run over 4065m on the course proper and carry $60,000 in prizemoney and bonuses, for any horses which accepted for the Jericho Cup but did not gain a start.