High-class jumper Thubiaan is being challenged for favouritism ahead of his bid for back-to-back wins in the Brierly Steeplechase at Warrnambool.
The Eric Musgrove-trained Thubiaan is at $3.50 for a repeat performance on Tuesday with Valediction at $3.70 for trainer Gai Waterhouse.
This year Thubiaan rises 2kg on the 68kg he carried 12 months ago and Musgrove said there were a number of live chances.
Valediction carries 64.5kg.
The performance of the eight-year-old will determine whether he backs up in the feature jumps race of the carnival, Thursday’s 5500m Grand Annual Steeplechase.
“We’ll make up our mind on Wednesday,” Musgrove said.
“I’ve got to discuss it with the owners. He’s had the preparation for it but it’s just a matter of which way we go.”
The other option is the Australian Steeplechase at the end of the month.
The winner of the Brierly, the Australian and the Grand National Steeplechase wins a $300,000 bonus.
Thubiaan, who won the 2015 Brierly and Australian before being beaten a half-length in the Grand National by the recently retired Bashboy, hasn’t raced since winning the Great Eastern Steeplechase at Oakbank on March 28 over 4950m.
Musgrove is not concerned about Thubiaan entering Tuesday’s race off the five-week break.
“He had three days off after the Great Eastern and ten days down the beach without being saddled,” Musgrove said.
“But he’s done plenty of work since, he’s been schooling and should be spot-on.”
Martin Kelly, who rode Thubiaan to victory in last year’s Brierly, was also aboard at Oakbank.
He has had four rides on the gelding over the bigger jumps for as many wins.
“He seems to suit him,” Musgrove said.
“He gives him a bit of rein and the horse seems to relax for him.”
Musgrove will also be represented by last start Sandown winner Earthbound, a $6 chance, who won’t be a starter in the Grand Annual and will be aimed at the Australian Steeplechase.
“The Brierly looks a good race for him,” Musgrove said.
“It’s a long season and the Grand Annual is a tough race.
“We’ll keep him for the Australian after he runs on Tuesday.”