Right from his early years trainer Robert Smerdon has been attending Warrnambool’s three-day May carnival.
Growing up in Derrinallum, about 45 minutes from Warrnambool, Smerdon got his first taste of the carnival from the small country town before his family moved to Ballarat.
“I went there as a kid before we shifted to Ballarat and I wouldn’t have missed many years since,” Smerdon said.
“It’s one of the few surviving country carnivals.
“Bendigo used to be two days, so did Hamilton, Ballarat and Geelong.
“Swan Hill has survived, they go there for good going, but it’s the jumps that gives Warrnambool its unique flavour.”
Smerdon has trained many carnival winners over the years, both on the flat and over jumps, and in 2010 won the keys to a new Mercedes-Benz after preparing seven winners, including a feature winner.
The Caulfield-based horseman is again featuring at Warrnambool this year, but not quite to the same extent as in previous seasons.
He has two runners on Tuesday’s opening day, including Western Kingdom who makes his debut over the bigger jumps in the day’s feature, the Brierly Steeplechase.
After a successful campaign over hurdles last season, Western Kingdom has switched to the larger obstacles in a bid to chase down a feature race win.
“His form last year was quite OK and in five starts over hurdles he had two wins and three placings but he was always going to go around in restricted grade over hurdles,” Smerdon said.
“He’s still got to make the transition but he’s a conservative jumper and has schooled well over fences and I think that’s where his future lies.”
Western Kingdom has won two of his three steeplechase schools.
Although he had gained his ticket to race in a steeplechase, Western Kingdom needed to school through the paddocks of the demanding Brierly course.
“He schooled around there well last week,” Smerdon said.
“I wasn’t there but I’ve seen the school and a number of jockeys who were around him in the trial said he’s an efficient jumper.”
To be ridden by Jamie Mott, Western Kingdom is a $15 chance with Zed Em the $2.50 favourite with Luxbet.