Dry weather is working against Warrnambool trainer Aaron Purcell’s attempts to have imported jumper Dhaafer ready for the $250,000 Grand Annual Steeplechase at his new home track.
Dhaafer, who arrived at Purcell’s stables four weeks ago, has won one of 11 jumps starts in England but the firm ground has Purcell worried he won’t be ready in time for the big race n May 3.
“He’s good but it’s been a bit hard to push him because it’s been quite dry,” Purcell said.
“He probably needs a few hard hit-outs but the track’s just too firm.
“He got here a bit late but if we get rain he’ll probably trial about ten days before so he’s not completely ruled out yet.
“Looking at the weather map, there’s no rain coming and it’s probably not going to happen.
“We haven’t given up getting him there but it’s getting more difficult by the day.”
Purcell said the flat options for the five-year-old at the May carnival included a 1700m maiden on May 2 or a 2000m Class One May 3.
The gelding had an exhibition gallop at the last Warrnambool meeting on April 2.
Purcell had planned for Dhaafer to run in both the Grand Annual and the Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) at Sandown on July 29.
The trainer completed that double in 2008 with Ginolad who he later sent to England where he was trained by Venetia Williams.
Purcell said his other new stable acquisition, 2010 German St Leger (2800m) winner Val Mondo, would arrive in Australia in four or five weeks.
Val Mondo, who will be set for this year’s Melbourne Cup, had solid form in Germany where he raced in nine stakes races for one win and three placings.
He was later prepared for several months by Williams and had shown some ability in jumps races in England with a second and a third from six starts.