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Aaron Purcell
Image: Pat Scala

Warrnambool trainer Aaron Purcell has already realised the thrill of winning a Grand Annual Steeplechase and a Galleywood Hurdle at his home track.

He would love to add one of the feature flat races with his runners this year but knows the 2020 Warrnambool carnival, to be held this week, will not be the same as usual.

Only key personnel are allowed on course because of restrictions which have enabled racing to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with no crowds, the annual three-day May carnival which mixes flat and jumps races, has been reduced to two days and split into a jumps program on Tuesday and a flat meeting on Wednesday.

Purcell prepared Ginolad to win the Grand Annual in 2008 while in 2018 he won the Galleywood with Two Hats.

He only has one runner on Tuesday, Harvard, in a maiden hurdle, while his runners on Wednesday include Guizot in the Listed Wangoom (1200m) and Instigator in the Listed Warrnambool Cup (2350m).

“Obviously the Warrnambool carnival is a big deal for Warrnambool trainers,” Purcell said.

“This year is a completely different thing.

“Usually you have hundreds of owners make a week of it. They all want to have their horses running and running well and there’s a lot of social activities that are involved, so this year it’s a completely different thing.

“The whole vibe of the carnival is not going to be the same but it’s always good to win races at Warrnambool and the feature races are even better again.”

Purcell said he had not had many runners in the Wangoom while he has been around the mark in the Warrnambool Cup in recent years without success.

He has had a top-four finisher in three of the past four Warrnambool Cups including Instigator who was fourth in 2019 and is a $41 chance this year coming off a last-start sixth in the Terang Cup.

“He’s probably got to improve a bit to win the Warrnambool Cup but he likes the soft ground and the distance is probably his preferred distance,” he said.

“It’s probably not the strongest Cup ever.”

Purcell gave stakes winner Guizot a couple of weeks in the paddock after he was unplaced at Caulfield last month over 1600m and decided to run him in the Wangoom because he was “bouncing out of his skin”.

“He’s really well so I thought we’d throw him in fresh and see what happens,” he said.

“The 1200 metres is too short but he’s got a good record at Warrnambool and with a higher rating it’s hard for him no matter where he goes.

“It’s going to be hard for him but I’m sure he’s going to run well.”

The Danny O’Brien-trained Order Of Command is favourite for the Wangoom which has a capacity field while the Lindsey Smith-trained Too Close The Sun is favourite in a field of 12 for the Warrnambool Cup.

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