The Hastings stable of Paul Nelson and Corinna McDougal, renowned for producing top-class jumpers, is gearing up a sizeable team for an assault on the country's hurdle and steeplechase races in the coming months.
Paul Nelson said this week the stable has 12 prospective jumpers that are being put through their paces and most will be seen either hurdling or steeplechasing this winter.
The training partnership took six horses to a point-to-point jumping trial at Levin on Tuesday, with Nelson saying overall he was pleased with the way they all performed.
The six were Peso, Nedwin, Al's Red Zed, Noess, Suliman and Motivation.
"They all went quite well really, but out of the six I'd have to say that Nedwin was the most impressive," Nelson said.
"He had one hurdle race last year where he finished fourth, but was at the end of it then after a big campaign that included a trip down to Christchurch.
"He looks to have come on from that and we'll see how he is going on the flat before giving him another maiden hurdle race."
Nedwin is one of three horses the Nelson-McDougal stable will line up at Saturday's Rotorua meeting and will resume in a rating 74 race over 1560m. The other stable representatives are Peso and The Cossack.
Nelson and McDougal have held off starting Peso over fences because the horse has been such a good performer on the flat, recording eight wins, seven seconds and eight thirds. But the time has come to try the 10-year-old as a jumper.
"We've had trouble finding suitable races for him and, if I'd known the Taranaki meeting this Saturday was going to be run at Hawera, we would have started him there. But instead he'll run in the Rotorua Cup, which is not ideal, but it will be a run that he needs."
Peso is likely to line up in a maiden hurdle race during winter.
Last season's New Zealand champion jumper The Cossack will line up in a rating 65 race over 2200m at Rotorua in what will be his first start since he won the Great Northern Hurdle (4200m) at Te Aroha in October.
Nelson said the now-eight-year-old is coming up well again and will probably have another run on the flat before contesting the $60,000 KS Browne Hurdle (3100m) at Hastings on June 6.
This year's Manawatu Steeples and Awapuni Hurdles meeting on May 21 has been transferred to the Trentham track because the Awapuni racecourse will be out of action with the construction of a synthetic track there.
The Nelson-McDougal stable intends to start No Tip in the Manawatu Steeplechase and could also have The Anarchist in a maiden steeplechase that day.
No Tip had a run on the flat over 2200m at Otaki on Friday last week. He was the winner of two steeplechase races last winter and has also two over hurdles.
The Anarchist had his first start back from a spell in an open hurdle race over 3000m at Wanganui on Thursday, while stablemate Argyll contested the maiden amateur race over 2060m in preparation for a special condition steeplechase at Trentham on May 28.
Class mare Mohaka retired
Hastings-trained mare Mohaka, a horse that won at listed stakes level and recorded several other black-type placings, has been retired to stud.
The Nadeem six-year-old had her last start when finishing fifth in the listed Hawke's Bay Cup (2200m) on her home track on April 16.
Although she was the winner of only three races from 35 starts, Mohaka also recorded six seconds, nine thirds, four fourths and five thirds, and amassed $148,150 in stakemoney.
She started 20 times in black-type races and returned a dividend in eight of them.
She won the listed Feilding Gold Cup (2100m) at Awapuni and finished runner-up in the listed Warstep Stakes (2000m) at Riccarton.
She also finished third in the Gr.2 Avondale Cup (2200m), Gr.3 Trentham Stakes (2100m), Gr.3 Taranaki Breeders Stakes (1400m), Gr.3 Cuddle Stakes (1600m), listed Zacinto Stakes (1600m) and listed Wanganui Guineas (1340m).
Mohaka was trained by the Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen partnership and was bred by Lowry's Taupo-based father Pat.
Pat Lowry raced Mohaka in partnership with two other Taupo people, Len Vickers and Lissie Hobson, as well as Hawke's Bay couple Fred and Juliet Coates.
The daughter of Nadeem is out of the No Excuse Needed mare Diplomacy, who was the winner of four races. She will be mated in the spring with a stallion that has yet to be finalised.
HB races transferred
The Hawke's Bay race meeting scheduled for Hastings on Thursday, May 26 will now be conducted by the Otaki-Maori Racing Club at Otaki.
The Hastings track has undergone remedial/renovation work post the Hawke's Bay Cup meeting and this work has taken longer than anticipated.
The rating 65 2000m race scheduled for this meeting will now be run over 2100m.
Walker happy with Queensland results
Mark Walker is still upbeat despite having to settle for the runner-up cheque with both his runners at last Saturday's Gold Coast meeting in Queensland.
Lightly raced four-year-old stayer Soprano Supreme chased hard but came up just short when beaten by half a length in the Gold Coast Cup (2400m) behind fellow Kiwi-bred Stardome, before talented three-year-old colt Sword Of State went down in a head-bobbing finish to Prince Of Boom in the Gr.3 Gold Coast Guineas (1200m).
Walker saw plenty of merit in both runs, saying the pair were unsuited to the heavily rain-affected surface on the day.
"I guess you can say it was frustrating but they both showed their class on a track that didn't suit," Walker said.
"I actually thought Sword Of State was going to fall away a little in the last 200m, but he just wouldn't give in and missed the bob on the line.
"He has come through the race nicely, with his next run likely to be in the Gr.1 Kingsford Smith Cup (1300m) at Eagle Farm at the end of the month."
Soprano Supreme will also have her next run later in the month, with Walker keen to get a little more condition on her in the meantime.
"Soprano Supreme showed she would cope with the quality of racing she will meet over here and she certainly didn't shirk her task in the run home on Saturday," he said.
"I was a little concerned she had lightened off a bit since arriving so I'm keen to get some weight back on her.
"She will have three weeks between races so that should give us the chance to achieve that aim and then work out how we progress from there."
Walker also reported that high-class mare Entriviere had settled in nicely and was working well in preparation for Saturday's Gr.1 Doomben 10,000 (1200m).
The Doomben meeting has been transferred to the Eagle Farm track because the Doomben course was unsuitable for racing after days of persistent rain in the Brisbane area.
Entriviere will be ridden by Opie Bosson in today's A$1million feature but has unfortunately drawn the extreme outside barrier in the 15-horse field.
Gospodin now heads to Queensland
A tilt at the Gr.1 A$1.5million Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) at Eagle Farm on June 11 is a possibility for New Zealand galloper Gospodin after a highly encouraging Australian debut at Gosford last Saturday.
Gospodin faced quality sprinters in the listed Takeover Target Stakes (1200m). After backing off from an early speed duel, he made his challenge three wide rounding the home turn and was out-finished late by Blondeau, who didn't have to go around a horse.
Gospodin's Tauranga trainer, Jim Pender, said prior to the race that his prime aim at Gosford was to see how the horse measured up to the Australian sprinters and he was pleased with the outcome.
"It was a huge run. I didn't realise it until I looked at the stats and he actually ran 5m further than the winner and was beaten by a short neck, so there's even more merit in the run," Pender said.
Gospodin emerged as a good wet-weather sprinter last winter, winning six races in a row between early June and early October. After a summer break, he resumed with a fifth placing in March before a half-length second behind Johny Johny in the listed Power Turf Sprint (1200m) at Hastings on April 16.
That run and the prospect of carrying big weights in New Zealand throughout the winter persuaded Pender to take Gospodin to Australia, the first time he has done so for 10 years, and last Saturday's effort has convinced him to send the horse to Queensland's Sunshine Coast to prepare for the Gr.3 BTC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben on May 21.
If he goes well there, a tilt at the Stradbroke on June 11 is a possibility.
"I've chucked in a nomination for the Stradbroke because I thought that if we're over her, it would be stupid not to nominate," Pender said.
Once his Queensland campaign is finished, Pender hopes to bring Gospodin back home and set him for the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) on the first day of the Colliers Spring Racing Carnival at Hastings on September 10.