They may not have had a runner in the day’s feature, but the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace stable was able to steal the show on Grand National Steeplechase Day at Ballarat.
The stable prepared the first five winners on Sunday’s six race program, the final jumps meeting of the 2021 season and watched on as the Grand National Steeplechase was run.
Neither Maher nor Eustace were on course on Sunday, but they were ably represented by Maher’s brother Declan who oversees the jumpers at Ballarat.
Champion jockey Steve Pateman opened the card on the heavily backed Raise You Ten in the Ciaron Maher Says Thank You Hurdle and later rode their fifth winner when Mawaany Machine switched to the bigger jumps to claim the Henry Dwyer Steeplechase.
But it was Irish-born, former US-based rider Willie McCarthy who was the toast of the Ballarat racecourse with three straight winners for the stable on Heberite, Light Pillar and Saunter Boy.
McCarthy could be lost to racing if the Australian Jumps Racing Association is unable to get the rider a visa to stay in Victoria for the next couple of seasons.
“I’ll try that, if they can do it,” McCarthy said.
“But if that can’t happen because of the pandemic, I’ll leave here in October and if I can’t get back, I won’t race in the US again and that could be it if I can’t get back here.
“I won’t be racing anymore.”
Saunter Boy returned to form claiming the day’s feature hurdle, the J J Houlahan Hurdle (3250m).
The gelding had won the Australian Hurdle and the Kevin Lafferty Hurdle at Warrnambool before being a leading fancy in the Grand National Hurdle at Sandown on August 1.
However, Saunter Boy jumped indifferently that day and was retired from the race.
“When he ran in the National we just thought that he didn’t quite get the trip as it was a bit too far,” Declan Maher said.
“So Ciaron made the decision that we’d go to this instead of putting him out for the season and it has rounded off his prep beautifully.”
Maher said he had been in constant contact with his brother throughout Sunday’s program.
“He’s rapt. He’s ecstatic. Dave’s the same, as would the whole team be,” Maher said.
“It’s just super.”