A morning spent wading in the shallows at the beach has helped Palmero regroup before his sternest test of his career in the Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool.
A tough 5500-metre course featuring 33 steeples will stand between Palmero becoming the first horse since Frankoo Verymuch to complete the Brierly Steeplechase and Grand Annual Steeplechase double.
Palmero gave a dashing display in Tuesday’s Brierly but trainer Ciaron Maher monitored his recovery before declaring him a certain Grand Annual starter.
Maher trained Al Garhood to win the Grand Annual Steeplechase in 2010 and 2011 but he missed the double in his first year when runner-up in the Brierly.
Palmero thrilled the crowd with his dashing Brierly display but Maher said consistency rather than speed should be jockey Steven Pateman’s focus on Thursday.
“It’s all about rhythm,” Maher said.
“There’s 33 jumps and you have to get them into a lovely, relaxed breathing rhythm.”
Palmero is the $2 favourite ahead of the Patrick Payne-trained Chaparro and Lord Of The Song, the winner of the Great Eastern Steeplechase by 22 lengths at his last start.
Maher said Lord Of The Song was Palmero’s biggest danger but he gave an outside chance to the Brierly Steeplechase third placegetter Via Savoia.
Warrnambool jockey Brad McLean will chase his first Grand Annual win when he partners Lord Of The Song after riding him to victory at Oakbank.
McLean eased Lord Of The Song down to a canter in the final stages of the Great Eastern Steeple to look after the gelding ahead of his Warrnambool assignment.
He said Lord Of The Song would handle extra distance with ease while wet ground would suit him perfectly.
The Grand Annual is the only major Victorian jumps race to elude McLean in his brilliant career, an anomaly the rider is desperate to fix.
“Being a Warrnambool boy, I have always wanted to win the race since I was a kid,” McLean said.
“I’ve been second in it before but to win it would be something special.”