A trip to the beach will determine if Bit Of A Lad backs up in the Grand Annual Steeplechase after surviving a protest to win on the opening day of the Warrnambool three-day carnival.
Bit Of A Lad took out Tuesday’s feature, the Brierly Steeplechase (3450m) with co-trainer Ciaron Maher saying he will make up his mind after the gelding goes to the beach on Wednesday morning.
Ridden by Steve Pateman, Bit Of A Lad scored a 1-1/2 length win from last year’s Brierly winner Gold Medals with Dormello Mo in third place.
Clayton Douglas, rider of Gold Medals, lodged two protests, one after jumping the third last fence, another following the second last jump.
Racing Victoria stewards heard from Gold Medals’ trainer Symon Wilde that Pateman had nearly put the gelding over the inside fence after the second last jump.
“I mean that’s improper riding,” Wilde told the hearing.
“That interference there has cost him three lengths.”
Pateman countered saying he was dictated to by the leader Newbury who initially ran wide after the second last jump before crossing back towards the fence, forcing Bit Of A Lad inwards.
After deliberating for more than five minutes, stewards dismissed the objection telling Douglas they had considered a number of factors, including the margin.
After a successful hurdling career with the now disqualified Darren Weir, Bit Of A Lad was transferred to Maher and David Eustace and had his first steeplechasing start at Pakenham on April 19, finishing fifth.
In claiming a fourth win in the Brierly, Maher praised his brother Declan who is in charge of the Ballarat stable out of which Bit Of A Lad is trained.
“Taking on Ballarat was such a good opportunity and Dec’s had a lot to do with this horse up at Ballarat,” Maher said.
“We’ll get him down the beach, see how the horse is first and foremost and make a Grand Annual plan from there.
“He’s very fit and he’s got a nice weight in the Annual.”
Maher has John Allen on standby to ride the gelding in Thursday’s 5500m-race.
The pair combined to win the 2015 and 2017 Grand Annuals with Regina Coeli.
“There’s nothing like winning a Group One but these jumps races here are the Group Ones of jumps racing,” Maher said.
“Everyone wants to win them.”
Pateman was later outed for 10 meetings, incurring two five jump/highweight race careless riding bans after his placing on Hursley in a maiden hurdle and his win on Bit Of A Lad which stewards said are to be served concurrently.
He received a further five races for a whip breach aboard Bit Of A Lad.