Racing: Rain would lift Rising Tide

By James Graham

Volkswagin looks a leading chance in the $50,000 Wellington Steeplechase tomorrow.Picture / APN
Volkswagin looks a leading chance in the $50,000 Wellington Steeplechase tomorrow.Picture / APN

Awapuni trainer Mark Oulaghan isn't usually concerned by heavy track variations at this time of the year.

His formidable jumping stable is, after all, invariably tough to roll on anything winter throws up.

But in his chase for a unique Trentham treble, Oulaghan is praying the heavens open well before the $40,000 Parliamentary Handicap tomorrow.

Although unbeaten on the course in three appearances, Oulaghan believes Rising Tide is vulnerable on a puggy surface.

"If he doesn't get rain on Friday or Saturday, it [the track] might not be his thing," admits Oulaghan, who is yet to add the Parliamentary to his impressive winter CV. "He doesn't like it too puggy; he prefers it loose."

Showers are forecast before the 1.30pm post time but so too are gusty northerlies likely to keep Trentham at the same testing Heavy (11) it's registered all week.

On the positive front for Oulaghan, who also saddles emerging star Wotabuzz in the Wellington Hurdles and 2010 champ Brushman in the Wellington Steeplechase, his main Parliamentary rivals also go into the race with question marks.

Likely favourite Indikator has shown a distinct dislike for puggy surfaces and last year's winner, rising 11-year-old Brompton, has neither the same build-up nor the raceday form to recommend him.

Oulaghan also has Rising Tide in the best nick of his life for rider Lisa Allpress, his partner in his past two appearances, the latest for a brave win over 2100m at Awapuni on July 7.

The fast-improving 5-year-old is suited to the step up to 2200m, a test that should seal a next-up run in the listed Taumarunui Cup at Te Rapa on July 28. Meanwhile, the biggest test for stablemate Wotabuzz will be coping with the rise in class in the $50,000 Wellington Hurdles (3400m), believes Oulaghan.

A handy performer on the flat until now, the prestigious winter feature will be just his fifth raceday appearance over hurdles.

But anyone who saw the 7-year-old crush a 0-1 win field by 17 lengths at Trentham last month will be willing to take that risk.

"It remains to be seen whether he's up to it, but I think he might be," concedes Oulaghan, who also won the same race with Rand in 2000 and Counter Punch nine years later.

Oulaghan has a Grand National follow-up programmed in next month for the mount of Isaac Lupton.

The 7-year-old has already campaigned at Riccarton for the past two years. In 2010, he beat just one home in Showcause's New Zealand Cup, but returned just last August for an unlucky second to Moonlighting in a special hurdles event.

Brushman is headed in the same direction if he lives up to Oulaghan's expectations in the $50,000 Wellington Steeplechase later on the card.

The surprise winner of the 2010 event - Oulaghan's main chance that year was favourite Yourtheman who fell - was sidelined for most of 2011 with tendon issues.

But he has thrilled Oulaghan with his three runs back this campaign, the latest for a brave chase third at Awapuni over 4400m on June 16.

"Condition wise, he's up to the mark and he likes the track so I'm reasonably confident. I don't think the track will worry him a lot; he'll go on whatever ground they dish up."

Volkswagin who deadheated with another race rival Penstar in the Hawkes Bay Steeplechase last start also looks a leading chance in the Wellington Steeplechase.

Last-start winner Golden Miss looks the best stable hope on the undercard. The Trentham specialist scored comfortably in R75 company this course and distance on June 9.

With 2.5kg less tomorrow, Oulaghan is confident the 4-year-old can make the step against R85 rivals.

Allpress, who was just two winners behind premiership leader Matthew Cameron yesterday, again takes the mount.

- NZ Herald

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