The build-up to the feature steeplechase races for two-time Australian Jumper of the Year Bashboy is set to begin at Bendigo on Thursday.
The Ciaron Maher-trained 10-year-old is nominated to kick off his 2014 racing campaign in a flat race over 1600m.
Maher said the gelding would have a similar campaign to last year but what weight he gets would decide whether he attempts a third-straight Grand National Steeplechase win in late July.
“He’s had a couple of jump-outs at Terang and is in great order,” Maher told Racing Victoria.
“It’s hard to improve once you get to his age but he seems to have come back really well and he’s probably in similar condition to this stage last year. Maybe even a little bit more forward.”
The Mosstrooper Steeplechase (3600m) at Bendigo in June, the Thackeray Steeplechase (3450m) at Warrnambool and the Crisp Steeplechase (3900m) at Sandown are expected to be Bashboy’s starts over the fences before a decision is made on a Grand National start.
Meanwhile, the Robert Smerdon-trained Brungle Cry, winner of the 2012 Grand National Hurdle and last year’s Galleywood Hurdle, has been ruled out of the jumps season with a suspensory injury which could threaten his career.
Trainer Robert Smerdon said Brungle Cry landed awkwardly after a jump in a steeple trial at Warrnambool last Friday.
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