Ellerslie bosses have thrown a career lifeline to one Australia's greatest racehorses who is being forced into an early retirement.
The Auckland Racing Club has spoken to the connections of champion steeplechaser Bashboy about starting in the iconic Great Northern Steeplechase at Ellerslie on September 3.
Bashboy, a three-time winner of the Grand National in Australia, has been banned from entering that race again on August 21 as Victorian rules prevent him from racing once he turns 13 on August 1.
While horses racing in flat races past the age of 10 are rare, jumpers often race until they are 11 or 12 or even as old as 14 in recent season here while there are several harness horses who have won this season who are aged 12 or even 13.
ARC chief executive Cameron George said his club would love to welcome the Aussie hero to Ellerslie for what is considered one of the iconic jumping races anywhere in the world.
"He is a truly great horse and we have a very special race, so he would be perfect to have here," says George. "We actually invited him last season but they had other options at home. Whereas this time they obviously won't have those because of the rules.
"So I have spoken to his trainer Ciaron Maher and he will speak to the owners and pass our offer on to them. If he comes it will be a real bonus for our race and I am sure a lot of Australian fans would love to see him here too."?
Maher has been angered by moves to force his superstar into retirement.
"I just think that's why we have boards so people can make decisions and I think in this case they have really made the wrong one," Maher told RSN Radio in Melbourne today.
"It just seems ridiculous that our jumps season finishes in September and this horse - that has run in the same four jumps races for the last four years and has been very successful - can't compete in them again for the sake of three weeks."I don't think he's even turned 13 at that stage from when he was born."
The Great Northern Steeplechase is New Zealand's longest horse race, covering 6400m with the runners climbing the famed Ellerslie hill three times.