Rockstar Ronnie wins Grand Annual Steeplechase

Punters expected trainer Ciaron Maher to collect a seventh Grand Annual Steeplechase but it was not the one they expected.

Stern Idol was sent out the $1.85 favourite in Thursday’s 5500m marathon but was pulled-up prior to the last obstacle by jockey Steven Pateman.

Instead, it was left to stablemate Rockstar Ronnie who led throughout to give Irishman Chris McCarthy his biggest victory on Australian soil.

Under McCarthy’s urgings after jumping the last fence, Rockstar Ronnie ($6.50) scored by 3-½ lengths from Police Camp ($21) with Crosshill ($10) a further 2-¼ lengths away third.

Maher, who trains in partnership with David Eustace, said it was a good result for McCarthy who has worked for the stable for a number of years.

“But Steve (Pateman) rides most of our jumpers,” Maher said.

“He thought he’d spread his wings a little bit but when the ride came up, he jumped at it.

“The team have done a super job.

“My brother Dec especially. I thought his preparation was derailed at Sandown when he belted in the mounting yard, but it’s great to win another Annual.

“It is unbelievable.

“There’s so much that goes into a preparation and a lot of the guys in the ownership group are avid jumps supporters.

“You can see the tears of joy on their faces.”

McCarthy left school at 16 to become a jockey but was mainly riding trackwork.

He made the decision to come to Australia after watching fellow countryman John Allen win the 2019 Galleywood Hurdle at the May Carnival.

“I was elated for him but there was a small part of me that thought ‘why don’t I give that a crack’,” McCarthy said.

“Thank God I did.”

McCarthy said the first lap of Thursday’s race was a difficult ride for McCarthy who was trying to get Rockstar Ronnie to settle.

“I didn’t think I was going quick, but he wanted to go a stride quicker than I wanted but I got a breather up the hill the second time,” McCarthy said.

“I could hear them early and then I couldn’t hear them and I thought ‘beauty I’ve got away from them’.

“The horse jumped absolutely super. Full credit to the horse.

“I’ve never been so lonely in my entire life, but it was the best feeling in the world.”

McCarthy said he could hear the crowd roaring as Police Camp, who finished second in the Grand Annual last year, beaten by the Maher and Eustace-trained Heberite, made a gallant attempt at victory.

Steven Pateman, who rode Stern Idol, said the former French jumper failed to stay the 5500m trip.

“He hit a couple of jumps because we were trying to hang on to him to run the trip,” Pateman said.

“But he didn’t run it.

“There has been plenty of times I’ve ridden the boom horse and it hasn’t worked out.”

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