2009 Great Eastern Steeplechase winner Pentacolo, pictured here with Brad McLean on board, will start in today’s $30,000 hurdle at Sandown for Ciaron MaherWINSLOW trainer Ciaron Maher today ramps up preparations for next month’s Oakbank Easter carnival when the Victorian jumps racing season opens at Sandown.
Nanjing Night Net

He opens his 2012 campaign with comeback jumper Art Success in the $30,000 steeplechase (3300m) and former Great Eastern Steeplechase winner Pentacolo in the $30,000 hurdle (3300m).

The return of Art Success to the track is a victory in patience for Maher.

The 10-year-old won the 2010 Yalumba Hurdle at Oakbank and suffered a tendon injury while preparing for a return to the famous course in the Adelaide Hills last year.

Today will be Art Success’ first jumps race in a year.

Maher said Art Success’ last run on the flat when he was fifth in a 3000-metre race at Moonee Valley earlier this month had been his best since returning from injury.

He trialled at Sandown last week and “was quite good”, Maher said.

“That was his first step over them and he seemed to take to them pretty well.”

Maher said after the gelding suffered the injury, he had left Art Success to enjoy the spelling paddock.

“I think the break has done him good,” he said.

“He wasn’t the easiest horse to ride but he seems to have settled down a bit.”

Maher said he was aiming Art Success at both the Von Doussa Steeplechase (3250m) on Easter Saturday at Oakbank and the longer Greater Eastern Steeplechase (4950m) two days later.

His preferences for firmer tracks meant he had already had three runs on the flat and two trials over obstacles this preparation.

The country’s leading jumps jockey Steven Pateman will ride the veteran today in what is shaping as a wide-open race.

The 11-runner field includes quality jumpers like the Darren Weir-trained Pay The Aces, the Eric Musgrove-prepared Rabbuka and Gravitas, trained by Fran Houlahan and Brian Johnston. Warrnambool jumper Megapixel from the Bill and Symon Wilde stables is also expected to put in a good performance after an impressive 50-length trial win at Warrnambool on March 13.

Maher is also charting a course towards the Oakbank double for 2009 Great Eastern winner Pentacolo.

“Pentacolo gets back in his races and rolls home. It’s just a run for him leading into Oakbank,” he said of today’s hurdle start.

The seven-runner hurdle field is full of class with the Eric Musgrove-trained Our Aristocrat a likely favourite.

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