Tough mare Regina Coeli outstayed a gallant Lord Of The Song to deliver trainer Ciaron Maher his third victory in the 2015 Grand Annual at Warrnambool this afternoon.
Regina Coeli was settled into a lovely position by John Allen from the outset and the talented hoop was happy to keep the mare just behind the speed throughout the race, while Lord Of The Song and Seeking The Silver battled for the lead.
Lord Of The Sky and Dhaffer looked as though they were going to clear out to fight out the finish when they came around the final turn, but Regina Coeli loomed on the outside and responded well when asked for an extra effort to record the biggest win of his racing career.
Maher won the Grand Annual in 2010 and 2011 with Al Garhood, the half-brother to Regina Coeli, and the rising trainer was clearly delighted to have won his favourite race for the third time in his training career.
“It is a great effort from the team,” Maher said.
“It is great to win a Grand Annual for Colin McKenna, he has really wanted to win this race and it was a super ride from Johnny Allen, he timed it to perfection.
“She has always been pretty straightforward, she is pretty genuine and she is an exceptional wet tracker.
“Being a mare they always get in well with the light weight.
“She was pretty keen again today, but I just felt that she needed the run on Tuesday to back her off a bit.
“She should only improve, she is still only relatively lightly raced for a jumper at this level.
“This is the best race, to prepare your house takes so long, to season them and have them ready for it and the thrill of the race is just amazing.
“I was only telling some of the other trainers at Caulfield the other day that they need to have a runner in it because it is something else.”
Allen could not have given Regina Coeli a better run in transit in the Grand Annual, but the jockey was quick to pay credit to the training performance of Maher.
Allen admitted that he was concerned he had given Regina Coeli too tough a time when she finished fourth behind Thubiaan in the Brierly Steeplechase earlier in the week, but he believes that she likely needed the run to be ready for the Grand Annual this afternoon.
“It is unbelievable and it was a great training performance from Ciaron,” Allen said.
“I was actually a bit worried after the ride that I gave her on Tuesday because I gave her too hard a race, but he said she was spot on again today and he was right.
“I was in a good spot pretty much all the way and she jumped super.
“I was always pretty confident the whole way and I was never really under any pressure.
“When she jumped the second last and I gave her a little squeeze she gave a kick for me and I knew then that it would take a good way to get past me.”
All nine horses in the Grand Annual Steeplechase were able to finish the course without incident and there was not a single fall in the race.