Drama-filled Grand Annual

Drama-filled Grand Annual

Veteran campaigner Al Garhood etched his name into the history books by winning an action-packed Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) at Warrnambool on Thursday.

In a remarkable race, just two horses completed the journey over 33 fences with Al Garhood beating home Awakening Dream by five lengths to seal back-to-back Grand Annual crowns.

But it was earlier in the race where the most dramatic incident occurred as the riderless Banna Strand jumped on top of race fans at the Tozer Road double.

Banna Strand leapt a 2m high fence and landed in a crowd of approximately 100 people, before continuing on down the road where he was eventually rounded up by police.

Seven people were taken to hospital after being attended to by ambulance crews. All jockeys and horses were not seriously injured.

Winning jockey Steve Pateman aboard Al Garhood soaked up victory as he strolled to the finish post ahead of Awakening Dream.

It was poised to be a totally different finish when Plumtastic (Paul Hamblin) looked the winner as he charged into the race, but fell at the penultimate hurdle.

That left Al Garhood to become the first horse since Hibernian Prince (2001-02) and the fifth since 1970 to win consecutive Grand Annuals, leaving trainer Ciaron Maher overcome with delight.

“He's an unbelievable horse, I don't think I breathed for the whole five minutes,” Maher said.

“He's a great jumper, he always has been. He makes his own luck, had a lot of weight (Al Garhood carried the top-weight of 69kg), but he was able to overcome that.”

Pateman was overjoyed with what he described as his greatest career triumph.

“This is all about Al Garhood, I'm not sure what happened, but not many came home,” Pateman said.

“That's what this race is all about, there's 33 fences and they've got to be jumped. The jockey's got to come home with the horse.”

“This is the race I wanted to win, if I retire tomorrow, I could be satisfied. To win it for my mate Ciaron Maher, I just can't believe it.”

Favourite Petushki and second-elect Vindicating both spoiled their chances during the middle stages of the race.

Having thrown rider Richard Eynon, Petushki took off up a chute, while Vindicating lost rider Gavin Bedggood on a flat part of the course.

Categories: Horse Racing, News