Grand Annual jumpers out to settle score

Gold Medals and Zed Em are set to renew their Grand Annual Steeplechase rivalry when they meet for a third time in Australia’s longest race at Warrnambool.

The Grand Annual Steeplechase over 5500m is the highlight of a shortened Warrnambool carnival, cut from three days to two this year, and crowd free, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tuesday’s meeting features an all jumps card with 73 acceptances and eight races after the maiden hurdle was split into three divisions.

Gold Medals and Zed Em have filled the quinella in the past two runnings of the Grand Annual and have six rivals on Tuesday.

The score stands at one-all after Gold Medals won by a narrow margin in 2018 with Zed Em getting his revenge last year by three lengths.

They will be up against Ablaze, a relative newcomer to jumps racing trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, who has opened the $1.95 favourite ahead of Gold Medals at $3.40 and Zed Em at $3.90.

Ablaze and stablemate Bit Of A Lad ($15) will attempt to give Maher a fifth win in the Grand Annual following victories by Al Garhood (2010, 2011) and Regina Coeli (2015, 2017).

The Brierly Steeplechase (3450m), traditionally run two days before the Grand Annual, has 10 acceptors, while the feature hurdle race at the carnival, the Galleywood (3200m) has a field of eight.

Day two of the carnival, an all-flat program on Wednesday, features the Listed Warrnambool Cup (2350m) and the Listed Wangoom Handicap (1200m) with final fields declared on Monday.

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