It's not impossible the best bet of the card at Ellerslie this afternoon could be in the first of the 10 races. Appropriately for Great Northern day it's a jumping race.
From limited exposure, Cruiseo (No1) is a small spoon of luck away from winning his first jumping race. The second here last start was a terrific effort and the key could be the engagement of Troy Harris.
The top class flat hoop, cum jumps jockey, again takes a rare ride over fences on Cruiseo, oddly his only ride on the programme. In what will be testing conditions, the 1.5kg allowance Harris is able to claim will be extremely valuable.
Only seven acceptors for Race 2, but that does not make it an easy race. Adriatic Pearl (No5) is a mare who has come solid this winter and developed the form she always promised. Oddly, she has not raced at Ellerslie and a couple of her best efforts have come at the left-handed Te Rapa, but she is trained right-handed at Tauranga and is a four-time winner there. She has been freshened and at her best she would give these a shake.
Admiral (No2) was staggeringly good in winning at Pukekohe two back and it was no shame to finish second to Megablast here last time. Megablast would be $1.50 favourite if he was in this. Von Tunzelman (No3) is very smart and the 4kg claim here is enormous. Tough race.
Paddy Owen (No3, R3) is a relatively inexperienced jumper being brought along steadily by the patient Mark Oulaghan. He forced the pace in the Grand National Steeples last start and ran out of puff before being pulled up late in the race. He drops back to maidens here and can make his presence felt over the shorter distance. Istimagic (No2), Decoy (No5) and My Magician (No1) make this an interesting contest for a maiden.
Our Jackson (No6, R4) has had just four race starts and is making his steeplechase debut here. The way he finished off to win his maiden hurdling run last time showed he is a horse with a future. Being one of Raymond Connors' team he will be well schooled over the bigger fences. Lacustra (No1) is another who is relatively inexperienced, but is threatening to win one quickly. That's How It Goes (No2) falls into the same category.
In the $125,000 Schweppes Great Northern Hurdle Monarch Chimes (No6, R5) is unbeaten over jumps and is all class. He badly blundered the last here two weeks ago and was talented enough to pick himself up and still win. What beats him wins. Look to The Shackler (No3) to do something an awful lot better than his distant effort here two weeks ago. He did not like the sticky track, he was having his first start in five weeks and on returning home his blood was found to be sub-standard. Don't forget his stylish Wellington Hurdles win two back when summing up his chances here. Raisafuasho (No4) was second in this last year. He races like a slug, getting well back early, but is a sound stayer and will be running into this late.
El Corby (No5) is extremely promising, but the favourite nearly fell and picked himself up to beat him two weeks ago, so place money might be his best.
If Blizzard (No1, R6) starts here in preference to the first race he can go close. He has been impressive at the barrier trials and he has form in better races than most here have competed in. The others are an even lot with Myrcella (No8), Mighty Me (No7) and Kensington (No5) all having some appeal.
The $125,000 Irvines Great Northern Steeplechase is a magnificent spectacle apart from the punt. No surprise Wise Men Say (No3, R7) and Amanood Lad (No1) are joint favourites. The oldtimers would say Wise Men Say stays like a mother-in-law, but the Whanganui jumper is much more popular than that, he simply does not know how to give in. But then Amanood Lad showed he can stick on not badly when he won this a couple of years ago. He is as dashing as Wise Men Say is dour and even without the seven others, this pair would put on an exhibition worth the entry fee.
Upper Cut (No2) and Kina Win (No6) will be right in it.
Races 8 and 9 are wide open. Jayla Monet (No3) was stylish winning last start after some useful runs and Catarina (No5) has been impressive. King Oberon (No2, R9) has not run for a year and has had just one barrier trial to fit him for what will be a tough race. He was beaten on the home bend in that trial and it's a matter of whether his great class can carry him through over 1600m. Philipa Charlotte (No4) is one of the better chances.
If there is a deserved winner on the day it will be Quantum (No1, R10) in the last. He has produced a succession of top runs in tough footing and the 3kg claim will again be to his great advantage. No Loitering (No2) is right in it.
Interesting that champion Sydney trainer Chris Waller has decided to kick off former New Zealand galloper Qiji Phoenix against topliners Pariah and Menari in the A$200,000 Run For The Roses at Rosehill today.
The Sydney pair are widely regarded as Australia's best 3-year-olds and look strong chances to make the final field for the A$10 million Everest. Waller must feel the former Kiwi is training up sensationally. This will be interesting.