Ciaron Maher has only had one race in mind for Regina Coeli since she returned to work to prepare for a winter jumps campaign.
Australia’s longest and toughest race, Thursday’s Grand Annual Steeplechase over 5500m and 33 obstacles at Warrnambool, has been Maher’s sole focus for the seven-year-old mare.
Regina Coeli won last year’s Grand Annual going into the race with better form off what her trainer said was a more suitable program.
Maher has been able to get the miles into Regina Coeli’s legs and believes being more dour this year will hold her in good stead on Thursday.
“She was a bit sharper last year and she carried a lighter weight,” Maher said.
“She’s had more weight right through this time and the programming is not as nice for her because they were restricted races last year and it’s an ordinary program for the open handicappers getting to the Annual.
“I haven’t worried too much about her races as this has been her sole focus.
“She goes into the race in great order.”
Regina Coeli has had three starts over jumps this campaign along with five steeplechase schools.
She rounded out her preparation by finishing a little more than 16 lengths from the winner Valediction in Tuesday’s Brierly Steeplechase over 3450m.
“She’s come out of it beautifully,” Maher said.
“She was walking through the water down there at the beach today and seems in pretty good order.”
The Grand Annual has been reduced to nine runners with the scratching of the Patrick Payne-trained pair of Lord Of The Song and Arwoc as well as South Australian jumper Nishiazabu.
Payne scratched Lord Of The Song when the horse was found to have a bruised heel on Wednesday morning before stewards could rule on whether he could take his place.
After he finished 25 lengths from the winner in the Brierly, stewards referred his performance to the Jumps Review Panel saying they believed it was not up to standard.
Valediction, who gave Gai Waterhouse her first feature jumps success with his win in the Brierly, is the $2.80 favourite for Thursday’s race.
The Payne-trained No Song No Supper is the $4.20 second choice while Regina Coeli is an $8 chance.