In the second part of his series on jumping racing, Paul Bockman, one of Australia's leading jumps racing form analysts, discusses the key form factors he uses to beat the big Carnivals at Oakbank and Warrnambool.

Oakbank and Warrnambool stage two of the most exciting and successful racing carnivals in Australia. Their unique undulating tracks and party atmosphere make them shrines for novice racegoers and seasoned veterans alike. But how can these parties be turned into profit?

My advice is to make sure your serious wagers are on the marathons; the Great Eastern Steeplechase at Oakbank and the Grand Annual Steeplechase at Warrnambool.

The Great Eastern Steeplechase is a time-honoured event that was first run in 1876. The staying test is run over 27 fences and 4950m. The venue in the Adelaide Hills boasts an undulating steeplechase track that is used for professional racing only at Easter.

The Great Eastern usually takes the winner just under six minutes to complete, so it's value for money in terms of punting entertainment ... if your constitution is as strong as the victorious steeplechaser's.

Ironically, given the demanding nature of the marathon event, in the past dozen years there have been 10 winners at starting prices of 6/1 or less. In the same 12 years, seven favourites have saluted and not a single one started odds-on with the bookmakers!


  1. Give priority to well supported runners. Stick to those below double-figure odds.
  2. Strongly consider non-South Australian-based runners. Turkey Lane and Brown Cast are the only locals who have won in the past two decades. If you're a loyal punter and really want to have a wager on a local runner, you could do worse than select the winner of either of the traditional lead-up steeples at Gawler or Murray Bridge. You would need to have been patient, but would have found both Brown Cast and Turkey Lane (in 1998 at 33/1).
  3. Place plenty of emphasis on the following trainers: John Wheeler, J.J. Houlahan, Eric Musgrove, Kevin Myers and John Leek jnr. They have proven records of preparing runners to peak for this marathon event.
  4. Don't downgrade your opinion of a horse if it doesn't flash home to win the Von Doussa Steeplechase on Easter Saturday (3250m). A number of Great Eastern winners have been placed in the Von Doussa before finding peak form in the longer event on Easter Monday.

The Grand Annual Steeplechase also has a magnificent historical background, being first run in 1872. The Warrnambool-based event is raced over 33 obstacles spread over 5500m. The marathon circuit is unusual in that runners actually travel the Sydney way of going (clockwise) for more than half of the journey and cross two public roads.

The Grand Annual is 550m longer that the Oakbank marathon and usually takes the winner a tick under seven minutes to complete.

One would expect the Great Eastern form to be an excellent guide to finding the winner of the Grand Annual. After all, the events are the only steeplechases run in Australia over undulating cross-country terrain at a distance of about 5km!

If you expected the form to ring true, you are correct. In the past 12 years, only seven Great Eastern Steeplechase winners have attempted to win the double in the same year. The results are in the table below.

YearGreat EasternGrand Annual
1998Turkey LaneLost Rider
1995Light HandLost Rider
1990Commission Red1st
1987Spring Fortunte1st
These statistics are spectacular. Of the seven Great Eastern winners who started in the Grand Annual (in the same year), four have won and Tyrolia finished an unlucky runner-up in 1994. The other two contenders for the double lost their rider in the Grand Annual.

Although favourites have a worse record in recent Grand Annuals than in the corresponding Oakbank steeplechase, it is interesting to note that the longest-priced Grand Annual winner ever was Hoki in 1995 at 25/1.


  1. Give plenty of respect to the Great Eastern winner of the same year. Horses who have run a minor placing in the Great Eastern also have a useful record. Recent Grand Annual winners The Sundance Kid and Straight And True qualify under this clause.
  2. Consider favourably any jumper who has won the Grand Annual the previous year. The unique nature of the course and distance tends to favour a small group of agile, dour-staying specialist jumpers. Both Commission Red and Hoki were incredibly one-paced on the flat in Restricted class. Both won back-to-back Grand Annuals at good odds in the past decade.
  3. Don't bother searching for real bolters to win this event. Like the Great Eastern, aside from rare exceptions, the bulk of winners is found in the first five lines of betting.

Click here to read Part 1.

By Paul Bockman