Wilde about Grand Annual success

Count Zero has taken out the Grand Annual Steeplechase to go with his Jericho Cup success at Warrnambool.

COUNT ZERO winning the Brandt Grand Annual Steeplechase in Warrnambool, Australia.
COUNT ZERO winning the Brandt Grand Annual Steeplechase in Warrnambool, Australia. Picture: Racing Photos

Local trainer Symon Wilde has registered a third victory in Australia's most gruelling race, the Grand Annual Steeplechase when outsider Count Zero staged a form reversal to land the prize. 

Count Zero was backing up from finishing last in the Brierly Steeplechase (3450m) on Tuesday, more than 35 lengths adrift of the winner Stern Idol but relished the 5500m journey on Thursday to outbob the more highly fancied Bell Ex One. 

Wilde explained the decision was made to ride Count Zero more aggressively on Thursday after the gelding seemed disinterested under Darryl Horner on Thursday. 

"We had a bit to look at after the Brierly," Wilde said. 

"He didn't jump well, and I think that was due to him being out the back and Darryl was terrific. 

"He said why don't we put him up the front like he usually is. I'll kick him hard out of the gates, and he jumped beautifully today, just with a better look at them. 

"It was like he was disinterested in the Brierly when he got too far back off them. 

"We were really lucky with the ground as he's a top of the ground horse, but we know he can stay. 

"He's won a Jericho and he just needed to get that jumping right, and that happened today." 

Count Zero became the second horse to win Australia's longest flat race, the Jericho Cup (4600m), run at Warrnambool in December, and the Grand Annual. 

Ablaze completed the double, first winning the Jericho in 2019 before his Grand Annual success the following year while Count Zero completed the double four years apart. 

Count Zero follows Gold Medals (2018 and 2021) as Wilde's previous Grand Annual victories. 

Horner took some time away from race riding without totally giving up on the sport he loves. 

He said the Grand Annual was the race every jumps jockey strives to win, but in the lead-up to the race he was wondering whether the weight loss, to get down to 64kg, was worth the effort. 

"It's not the reason I came back riding, but it's the race every jumps jockey wants to win," he said. 

"I went home about two hours ago to pull the last kilo off, and I was lying in the bath thinking was it all worth it. 

"I can tell you it is."