Australian-based Irish jockey Shane Jackson rode favourite Ablaze to win the 2020 $315,000 Waterfront by Lyndoch Living Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) at Warrnambool on Tuesday.
Ablaze, trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, defeated two previous winners and remains unbeaten from four jumps starts, and becomes the first horse to claim Warrnambool’s marathon double, the Jericho Cup (4,600m) on the flat and the Grand Annual Steeplechase.
Kiltegan, Co. Wicklow-born Shane Jackson aboard the son of Raise The Flag made full use of his weight advantage over 5500 metres against Zed Em and Gold Medals, both of which had won the Grand Annual Steeplechase once each in the past two seasons.
The 33-year-old jockey admitted that winning the Grand Annual Steeplechase was the “pinnacle” of his career to date:
“He’s a good horse and he’s the star of the next few years. It’ll take a damn good one to come out and beat him. To have that one ticked off (the Grand Annual Steeplechase), it’s the race I’ve always wanted to win. I know there’s no crowds here, but it doesn’t matter, it’s such a thrill.”
Zed Em, under replacement jockey Arron Lynch, attempted to lead for the majority of the race, and while he negotiated the course of 33 obstacles faultlessly, with 7kg more than last year’s Jericho Cup winner Ablaze, Lynch’s mount couldn’t match the eventual winner for speed once the jumping had concluded.
Gold Medals got past the weakening Zed Em inside the final 150 metres to finish second, eight lengths behind Ablaze.
Ciaron Maher was full of praise for the Irish jockey, who moved to Australia in 2012, saying:
“They rolled along at a brilliant tempo. He is inexperienced so full credit to Shane Jackson. To win the Jericho and to come back in his third start over jumps to win a race like this is phenomenal. Full credit to my brother and the team at Ballarat and to Jacko (Shane Jackson).”
Maher, who trains in partnership with David Eustace, indicated that Ablaze would campaign through the winter months and could be prepared for a title defence of the Jericho Cup, the 4600-metre flat race at Warrnambool restricted to Australasian-bred horses in November.