Racing: Grand National buzz coming up

By Mike Dillon

Roodyvoo (right) showed he was in the right form for the Grand National Steeplechase next Saturday by winning the Koral Steeplechase.    Photo / Race Images
Roodyvoo (right) showed he was in the right form for the Grand National Steeplechase next Saturday by winning the Koral Steeplechase. Photo / Race Images

Here's a line that's difficult to believe.

Yesterday, we asked Hayley Curran about her big moment steering dashing jumper Wotabuzz to victory at Riccarton to earn favouritism for Wednesday's $60,000 Grand National Hurdles.

How many wins is that? We asked the 21-year-old virtual unknown.

"Not sure, five or six."

C'mon. Jockeys with single-digit wins know those horses' stable names, where they were born and how many feeds they've had since birth.

"No, I swear I'm not sure. I think it's probably six."

You hope the young woman from Hawkes Bay remembers better her effort on Wotabuzz in Wednesday's Grand National.

She said yesterday she wasn't aware she had been engaged again for this big assignment.

"Mark, [trainer Mark Oulaghan] hasn't said anything."

That's not unusual - Oulaghan is a man of few words, but he managed to tell the Herald yesterday that, yes, it was a likely decision.

Oulaghan is so laid back he makes the decision on who will ride the favourite in a $60,000 Grand National sound as no more important than whether he'd clean his shoes today or tomorrow.

"Yeah, she probably ends up riding him again."

Until we hear differently we'll assume that to be right.

Which Hayley Curran says she's going to take care to try not to worry about the big moment in one of New Zealand's most historic races.

Curran created nervousness among punters who sent Wotabuzz out a $2.20 favourite in the Sydenham Hurdles by allowing the favourite out to a 25-length lead early in the back straight. Usually, when those tactics are adopted it's a matter of whether the horse can hold on after expending so much mid-race energy.

It looked to be doubtful when the pack got to within four or five lengths of Wotabuzz on the home bend, with the long run down the Riccarton home straight looming menacingly.

Fears were unfounded, Wotabuzz saved his best jump in the race until the last fence and once given a shake-up by his rider, increased his lead as he galloped strongly to the finish eight lengths clear.

Oulaghan said he had told Curran to lead: "But I'm not sure I said by that much."

"I admit I didn't know how far I was in front in the back straight. I was going to sneak a look, but I was happy with the way he was travelling so I didn't. He was always galloping well within himself," said Curran.

The stylish element - and what makes Wotabuzz the perfect horse for Wednesday's marathon - is the way in which he worked strongly away from the opposition again late in the race.

The Grand National is a tough, long race and pacemakers are not always suited.

What we saw is enough to convince us this year could possibly be different.

Forty minutes is a lifetime in horse racing.

Kevin Myers must have thought his luck was out when the favourite Malachite was run off at the first steeplechase fence in the back straight on the last lap of the Maiden Steeplechase at Riccarton.

Golden Crowns, who had fallen at an early fence, ran Malachite to the outside of the fence, which had a set of barrier stalls on its immediate outside and rider Isaac Lupton was lucky to stay in the saddle.

But 40 minutes later, Lupton and Myers combined to win the $25,000 Koral Steeplechase with Roodyvoo in a tight finish with Ho Down.

New Zealand-bred Roodyvoo is back from Australia for a crack at next Saturday's Grand National Steeplechase and he has to be respected on Saturday's effort.

- NZ Herald

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