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Classy steeplechaser Wells is ready for a return to the big jumps after an absence of almost two years.

Wells hasn’t raced in a steeplechase since winning the Grand National in July 2014 and will make his reappearance at Sandown on Saturday in the Australian Steeplechase.

Former champion jumps jockey Craig Durden, now assistant trainer to his wife Kathryn, said the gelding missed the 2015 jumps season after suffering a joint infection.

“We’re lucky to still have him,” Durden said.

“We got him up to Ballarat where they operated on him and washed the joint out.

“The way the season was placed last year it was too short a time-frame for him to come back so he ended up having a good break.”

Durden said in hindsight the break had been beneficial as the gelding was now retaining more condition than in previous campaigns.

While he didn’t race in 2015, Wells was in and out of work during the year.

The Australian Steeplechase will be the fifth run for Wells this campaign.

He has had three flat races and one over hurdles at Warrnambool earlier this month.

“He got a bit tired from the back of the last hurdle at Warrnambool,” Durden said.

“He got to third then he just blew out which was not surprising as it was his first jumps run for close to two years.

“He’s more of a steeplechasing horse now, more so than a dashing hurdler.

“He’s a couple of years older and they don’t get any faster, unfortunately, but we’re very happy with the way he’s going.”

Wells rounded out his preparation for Saturday’s race in a steeplechase school at Cranbourne on Friday on heavy ground.

Durden would like a relatively dry week for Wells.

“As he’s got a bit older he’s not as happy on real heavy, testing ground,” Durden said.

“He gets through it and still tries, but you’d rather go there on a nice slow track with just enough cut in it for all the jumpers.”

 
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