Photo: Mark Oulaghan, Northern has proved elusive
Oulaghan may have Upper hand at last
Mark Oulaghan is banking on the fresh legs of Upper Cut to give him his first victory in the Great Northern Steeplechase on Saturday.
The Meadow Fresh-sponsored event is one of the few prestige jumping races to have eluded the Awapuni trainer, whose trademark patience has been evident with his latest Ellerslie candidate.
Upper Cut won his first two starts over the big fences at Wanganui and Riccarton two winters ago before he was side-lined by injury.
“He had a crook tendon and he had last year off,” Oulaghan said. “He’s come back well and he can develop into a pretty good horse.”
Upper Cut’s Great Northern preparation hasn’t gone entirely to script with a slipped saddle forcing him to be pulled out of the Koral Steeplechase before he made good ground late for fourth in the Pakuranga Hunt Cup.
“He got home well and I’m pretty pleased with him,” Oulaghan said. “He’s one of the fresher runners in the race – he hasn’t exactly had a busy season.”
The son of Yamanin Vital will be ridden by Isaac Lupton, who has won the Northern four times – three with the Ellerslie specialist Hypnotize (2007, 2008, 2010) and on the dashing Rangatira 12 months ago.
While Upper Cut is a lightly-tried jumper, Oulaghan’s other big race candidate Harvest The Gold is at the opposite end of the scale with the wily veteran back to defend his Schweppes Great Northern Hurdles crown.
Also a former KS Browne and Hawke’s Bay Hurdles winner, he was fifth in the Wellington Hurdles three runs back and was then given a run on the flat before he finished a long way off Just Got Home at Ellerslie last time out.
“He was pretty disappointing, but the track was quite holding,” Oulaghan said. “He likes it better or looser and he gave up. He’s getting on a bit and it just didn’t suit him.
“He was a fair way from the winner and it would have to be a form reversal, but I think he can bounce back on the right track.” – NZ Racing Desk.
Oaks winners on collision course
This weekend’s $A125,000 Gr.3 Tramway Handicap at Randwick will provide a further insight into New Zealand’s spring carnival prospects.
While the 1400 metre event will be short of the cups contenders’ best, it will feature as another important stepping stone toward the Melbourne features for classic winners Kirramosa and Rising Romance.
The respective winners of last season’s Gr.1 VRC Oaks and the Gr.1 Australian Oaks will meet for the first time in the Tramway, which could also see the return of the former Kiwi Lucia Valentina, successful in the Gr.1 Vinery Stud Stakes as a three-year-old.
“It will be a very strong field, but that’s what you expect,” Kirramosa’s trainer John Sargent said.
“The track was too wet last Saturday for her and the Tramway was always the back-up.
“She will go to the George Main in two weeks’ time and then get up to 2000 metres in either the Craven Plate or the Turnbull at Flemington. After that it’s another two weeks to the Caulfield Cup.”
An encouraging sixth when resuming in last month’s Gr.2 Missile Stakes, Kirramosa has made steady progress since her first-up effort.
“She’s probably still a run away and she ran a good 1000 metres on Tuesday morning and had a good blow afterwards,” Sargent said.
“She’s a lot bigger and stronger this year and is carrying more condition now.”
Blake Shinn will ride Kirramosa on Saturday while Tim Clark will be aboard the Donna and Dean Logan-trained Rising Romance, who finished midfield in a Warwick Farm trial last week.
Kris Lees has booked Kerrin McEvoy for Lucia Valentina, who has had two trials at Newcastle to further her return.
Other New Zealand-breds in a strong edition of the Tramway are Tiger Tees, Vilanova (formerly Catalonia), Zephyron and My Sabeel. – NZ Racing Desk.
Peter Hollinshead is confident his exciting mare Ponderosa Miss will make it back to the racetrack. It’s a just a matter of when.
The exciting daughter of High Chaparral suffered a crushed skull and a sunken cheekbone when falling in a spectacular skirmish at Hastings last Saturday.
The jockey who caused the fall, Marco Chui, was given a four-week suspension. Many experts said he got off lightly.
Ponderosa Miss underwent two hours of surgery on Sunday and needed 28 stitches to close the wound.
Vets have told part-owner and trainer Hollinshead they are happy with the operation, but that the risk of infection is serious and worrying.
They will check the horse’s condition again Friday.
Australian scouts had their cheque books out after her second race start when she came from last into third at
Ellerslie. Hollinshead was offered $400,000 for her but her syndicate of owners had no interest in selling.
Hollinshead had planned to start her in some of the decent races here in the spring and summer with the long-term plan being a tilt at Australia in the autumn next year.
All that is on the backburner, possibly for good.
Unlikely runner Caulfield Cup topweight
GOLDOLPHIN’S six-year-old Shamardal horse Mukhadram, although highly unlikely to run, tops the weights of the 220 hopefuls for this year’s $3 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup with 58kg.
Hong Kong champ Dan Excel is next on the list at 57kg, while Japanese galloper Admire Rakti and last year’s winner Fawkner were allotted 56kg.
Evergreen international raider Red Cadeaux has 55.5kg while The Offer has 54.5kg.
If Mukhadran does not arrive, weights will rise to ensure the topweight on the day is 58kg.
La Amistad, from the team Hawkes yard, headed the betting at $15 with TAB Fixed Odds before weights were released on Tuesday was allotted the minimum weight of 50kg for the world’s richest 2400m handicap and will need luck to secure a start.
Puccini tops free handicaps
Puccini, El Roca and Vespa head the Free Handicaps.
New Zealand Derby winner Puccini heads the three-year-old division at 1601 metres and beyond with a rating of 60.5kg.
The colt heads a trio of Group One-winning fillies – Rising Romance (Australian Oaks), Kirramosa (VRC Oaks) and Lucia Valentina (Vinery Stud Stakes) – all rated at 58.5kg.
“At the top end with the Group One horses they sort themselves out, but the Australian form can throw in a few hurdles,” said Scelly, who has now twice framed the Free Handicaps.
New Zealand Oaks winner Miss Mossman has been allotted 57kg with the New Zealand Derby placegetter Glorious Lad on 56kg.
In the 1200-1600m class, the stakes winner and Group One performer El Roca tops the table with 60kg ahead of the Gr.1 Railway Stakes winner Bounding, who has been assessed at 59kg.
The Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas winner Atlante has been given 58.5kg, a half-kilo superior to Franzac. His stablemate Recite, who downed Franzac in the Gr.1 Levin Classic, also shares a 58kg rating with the Gr.1 NZ 1000 Guineas winner Costa Viva, NZ 2000 Guineas runner-up Chambord and Puccini on 57.5kg.
The Gr.1 Diamond Stakes and Listed Karaka Million winner Vespa leads the juvenile Free Handicap on 59kg ahead of Prince Mambo, second in the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes, with 57.5kg.
The Awapuni feature race winner O’Marilyn has been given 57kg, a weight she shares with the Gr.3 Phoenix Park 2YO Classic and Group One-placed Artic Wolf and the Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes winner Lady Royale.
Steel Rose, who won the Gr.2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes and was runner-up at Matamata, and Al Pacino, third in the Wakefield, were both given 55kg. – NZ Racing Desk.