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I’ll’ava’alf wins flat lead-up for Annual

Patrick Ryan is hoping victory in a flat race is the perfect pipe-opener for a bigger prize at Warrnambool.

The Ryan-trained I’ll’ava’alf took out the Cally Hotel Handicap (2350m) on the opening day of Warrnambool’s three-day carnival and will return on the final day for the feature, the Grand Annual Steeplechase.

Ryan has previously run I’ll’ava’alf on the flat before a feature steeplechase.

Three days before winning the Crisp Steeplechase at Sandown last August, the gelding ran in a flat race at Warrnambool, finishing just out of the placings.

The traditional Grand Annual path is to run in Tuesday’s Brierly Steeplechase but Ryan thought it may take too much out of the gelding.

“We went to the Von Doussa (at Oakbank) full of hope but he got a virus over there and was on antibiotics,” Ryan said.

“He missed a week’s work so it was all a bit of a hurry and I said to the guys we really need to give him something on Tuesday.

“My gut feeling was as he was fresh and toey he could run a real race today and last year he ran second in the same race and was a bit unlucky.

“Hopefully that will take the edge off him for Thursday.”

Ryan said to win a Grand Annual while having only two horses in work would be amazing.

“Coming from a racing family and being brought up in Warrnambool, to win races at this carnival is the pinnacle,” he said.

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