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Irish jockey Shane Jackson had an all-the-way victory in the $250,000 Grand National Hurdle (4200m) at Sandown in Australia, this morning, on the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Ablaze.
The win over the fast-finishing Bee Tee Junior, who he held off by a length, and Gobstopper, maintained the 9-year-old’s undefeated record in five starts over obstacles.
The gelding won Australia’s longest flat race, the Jericho Cup (4600m), last December before easily claiming the country’s longest race, the Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) at Warrnambool in May. He had also won the J.J. Houlahan Hurdle over 3200m last year.
Jockey Shane Jackson, who piloted Ablaze to his Grand Annual win, had the son of Raise The Flag in an excellent position throughout the Grand National Hurdle, with Maher praising the Irishman’s riding of the favourite:
“Shane really let him roll down the hill (from the 1000m) and use that weight advantage and his staying ability.”
Speaking after the win, the Wicklow rider said he believes Ablaze would be better suited to wet ground:
“The wet ground, he’ll probably be better again. He went well today but I think he’ll be more comfortable on the wet ground which we’ll get at Ballarat (for the Grand National Steeplechase). He likes the bigger fences, he jumps neatly. It’ll take a good one to beat him.”
Today’s win was another major victory for the Kiltegan jockey who has had much success in the past year. Jackson has won the National and the Grand Annual on Ablaze, as well as the Mosstrooper Steeplechase on Slowpoke Rodriguez and the Thackeray Steeplechase and Australian Steeplechase on Bit Of A Lad.
Joint-trainer of the winner, Ciaron Maher said of today’s victory:
“I get a great kick out of that. I’ve never won a Grand National Hurdle so it’s a big thrill. He’s very fit and he had the weight pull on the other horse so I thought we may as well use it – he was a bit lairy in front at a couple of the hurdles and you could see him flicking his ears so he looked like he was really enjoying himself.”
The New Zealand-bred Ablaze will now be aimed at Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) at Ballarat in three weeks’ time this month, as he bids for an achievement never before matched in Australian racing of winning the Grand Annual Steeplechase, the Grand National Hurdle and the Grand National Steeplechase in the one season.
His trainer has indicated he would love to campaign Ablaze towards the Aintree Grand National Steeplechase at Liverpool in 2021.