There’ll be no crowds, no third day and no racing to the top of the hill to watch the Grand Annual this year, but we can rest assured Ric McIntosh will bring the feeling of being at the ‘Bool to our lounge rooms.
This year’s event will see 17 races over just two days: Tuesday, May 5 and Wednesday, May 6. All jumps races will take place on Day 1, highlighted by the Brierly Steeplechase (3450m) and the Grand Annual (5500m). The flat races on Day 2 will feature two Listed events, the Wangoom Handicap (1200m) and the Warrnambool Cup (2350m).
As usual, the Warrnambool May Carnival will be raced on a rain-affected track, which is expected to be a Soft 7.
Best bets for Warrnambool Carnival Day 1
A bumper eight-race card is kicked off by three maiden hurdles, with the first at 11:45am AEST. The day is highlighted by Zed Em, which is facing a monster task with 73kg in an attempt to make it back-to-back Grand Annuals. His main rivals are Gold Medals and Jericho Cup winner Ablaze in Australia’s premier steeplechase event.
An ex-Macedon Lodge galloper brings superior flat form into the 3200m Carlton Draught Maiden Hurdle, coming from some of Australia’s feature Group 1 staying tests just a few seasons ago. Now with the Maher and Eustace stable, Sir Isaac Newton has had a relatively quiet preparation with just one race for a third-place finish over the obstacles a little over two weeks ago. He has since trialled very well at Warrnambool and with leading jumps jockey Steven Pateman on, we think he is one of the better bets of the day.
Slowpoke Rodriguez has been knocking on the door every race this prep with flashing late runs. Paddy Payne typically places his horses very well over the Warrnambool Carnival and we expect this to be no different. He maps to settle towards the back of the field, so barrier 10 shouldn’t be an issue for him as Lee Horner can just cut across the back of the field and pick them off late. The wet track will suit him down to the ground and we think that he can add a fourth win over the jumps to his record here in the Brierly.
The Grand Annual Steeplechase is the feature race of the Warrnambool Carnival with 33 obstacles over 5500m. This year’s edition sees the quinella of the last two editions back to fight it out again with Zed Em and Gold Medals. The latter horse is 4kg better off at the weights, which will prove crucial by the business end. The favourite, Ablaze, is the up and comer over the obstacles and certainly gets in well at the weights, but we are with Simon Wilde’s 2018 winner here. His trial last week was superb, while the weight swing on Zed Em and the class edge over Ablaze should make a world of difference.