The connections of Hastings jumper The Cossack have been left in a quandary after the horse's gallant win in last Saturday's $30,000 NZB Airfreight Road To Jericho Handicap at New Plymouth.
Trainers Paul Nelson and Corrina McDougal were using the 3210m event to help build up the horse's fitness for what was to be his penultimate aim this campaign, the $125,000 Great Northern Hurdle (4190m) at Ellerslie on October 3.
The Mastercraftsman 8-year-old won last year's Great Northern and also added both the Waikato Hurdle (3200m) in May and the Wellington Hurdle (3100m) in July to his list of nine wins.
But, by winning last Saturday's 3210m race at New Plymouth, The Cossack has also been guaranteed a start in the unique A$304,000 Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool, Victoria, on November 28.
First run in 2018, the Jericho Cup is restricted to Australian and New Zealand-bred horses and commemorates a race held in the desert in Palestine during World War I.
Nelson races The Cossack in partnership with Peter Grieve and his son Doug, along with John Frizzell, and they now have three options to ponder.
The first is for the horse to defend his title in the Great Northern. The second is to freshen him and aim at the Jericho Cup and the third is to try to take in both races.
Nelson was hesitant to say which way the team was leaning when spoken to this week but did hint that it could be a stretch to keep the horse up until the end of November.
The Cossack resumed from a spring and summer spell with a third in a 1950m highweight at Rotorua in April and has had five starts since for four wins and a second.
"It's been a long season for him. He hasn't really had that many starts but he's had some hard races and been up a long time and I'm not sure where we want to head with him next," Nelson said.
"If he stays in New Zealand he wouldn't have another run before the Northern.
"There is a chance he could run in the Great Northern and still go to Australia because that race is two months away but it is still all up in the air and we won't decide for a while yet."
The October 3 meeting at Ellerslie will, Covid levels permitting, be the last time jumps racing is held on the track with plans to have the famous Ellerslie hill developed into housing which will enormously boost the finances of the new club Auckland Thoroughbred Racing.
The Cossack got home by only a nose in last Saturday's 3210m race at New Plymouth and his connections then had to survive a protest.
Shaun McKay, rider of runner-up Brucie, alleged interference by the winner to his mount about 350m from the finish.
A video of the race showed that Brucie shifted across heels near the 350m and McKay had to momentarily steady his mount behind The Cossack but the judicial adjudicator dismissed the protest.
The Cossack's win was mainly attributed to a great ride by jockey Leah Hemi. She got the horse to settle perfectly in fifth position in the early and middle stages before asking him to improve starting the last 800m.
The Cossack loomed up three-wide coming to the home turn and took control soon after. He shot clear but was then put under pressure by the fast-finishing Brucie and the two horses crossed the line locked together.
The judge deliberated for some time before confirming that The Cossack had prevailed by the narrowest of margins.
It was The Cossack's ninth win from 41 starts and he has also recorded five seconds and three thirds for stake earnings of $248,000.
"I wasn't sure we had won originally as it was a desperate finish," Nelson said.
"The judge actually called us in second for a start, but he had stuck his nose out at the right time.
"The inquiry didn't look too good either, but when you saw the footage, it was actually the grey horse inside (Twin Spinner) moving out that caused the problem, so we managed to hold on to the win."
Nelson said The Cossack was given a few easy days after the win but was back on the walking machine on Wednesday.
Nelson was full of praise for the horse who has been a revelation over the past year, winning the Great Northern Hurdle, Waikato Hurdle (3200m), Wellington Hurdle (3100m) and the Grand National Hurdle (4200m) within a 12-month period.
Entriviere's outstanding fresh up win
New Zealand mare Entriviere put her name to the forefront for selection to run in the A$2million The Invitation (1400m) at Randwick on October 23 with an outstanding return in last Saturday's Group 2 Sheraco Stakes (1200m) at Kembla Grange.
It was a belated spring kick-off for the Jamie Richards-trained mare, who was scratched from the Group 3 Toy Show Quality (1100m) last month due to a foot abscess.
Entriviere showed no signs of that issue last Saturday, unleashing a devastating burst down the outside to defeat Fituese by 1-1/4 lengths with Marboosha another three-quarters of a length away third.
The Kiwi raider, raced by a syndicate that includes Waipukurau's Michael Ormsby, has now won six of her eight starts and Richards says she is a pleasure to train.
"It was great to see her win so well first up. We didn't have a lot of luck leading into the Toy Show and had to scratch, but she had trialled well since," Richards said.
"She is the ultimate professional. She has natural gate speed if we need it or she can take a sit.
"They went hard and she was able to get to the outside and finish off very strongly, which sets her up nicely for 1400m."
Entriviere is likely to go to the Group 2 A$400,000 Golden Pendant (1400m), scheduled to be run at Rosehill next Saturday, but her main mission is The Invitation, a set weights and penalties race for fillies and mares at Randwick on October 23.
"We will look to go a month between runs from the Golden Pendant into The Invitation with a little quiet trial somewhere in between," Richards said.
"If any rain was to arrive, that is only another plus in her corner as she does like to get her toe in."
Winning jockey James McDonald believes Entriviere is open to further improvement and agrees she will appreciate a rain-affected track.
"She's a lovely mare. She has an impeccable record. She's had a couple of blemishes but apart from that her determination is just incredible. I think there is more to come from her," he said.
"I think she is just crying out for a bit of rain or a bit of give in the ground. You wouldn't want to see her too many times on firm ground."
Bred by Central Districts training doyenne Kevin Gray and his wife Kathleen, Entriviere is by Tavistock out of the three-win Golan mare Marcey's Belt, and hails from an extended family that includes multiple Group 1 winner Maldivian.
The patiently handled 5-year-old has now won $289,938 in prizemoney.
Entriviere's success capped a good week for owner Michael Ormsby as he also has a share in another Te Akau syndicate that races Pure Imagination, who made an impressive winning debut in a 1200m maiden at Te Rapa on September 4.
Pure Imagination is a 3-year-old colt by Darci Brahma and his first up victory followed a win and two thirds in barrier trials. He holds a nomination for the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 6.
Michael Ormsby retired this year as treasurer of the Waipukurau Jockey Club after 18 years and has also stepped down from the club's committee after serving 22 years.
Major Cup weights released
The weights for the A$5 million Caulfield Cup (2400m) and A$8m Melbourne Cup (3200m) were released last Tuesday, with reigning Melbourne Cup champion Twilight Payment allotted 58kg to head the weights for the two-mile feature with Irish St Leger (2800m) winner Sonnyboyliston.
Both horses are unlikely starters in the Melbourne Cup, with the Flemington showpiece attracting 124 nominations.
Kiwi bred star Verry Elleegant was allotted 57kg for the Melbourne Cup, a race that is likely to be on her radar after a tilt at the A$5m Cox Plate (2040m) on October 23.
New Zealand-trained runners The Chosen One (54kg), Beauden (53.5kg), Ocean Billy (53.5kg) and Quick Thinker (53kg) are all on-track to gain a Melbourne Cup start, should they elect to go there.
There are 26 New Zealand-bred nominations in the Melbourne Cup, including the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace trained Explosive Jack (54kg), who burst on the scene winning three Derbies in Australia last season.
The talking point of the weights release was the allocation of 55.5kg in both Cups to last Saturday's Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) winner Incentivise, with the progressive Peter Moody-trained stayer likely to have incurred a couple of kilos for that win.
Last year's Cox Plate winner Sir Dragonet will be asked to carry the topweight of 58kg should he choose to contest the Caulfield Cup.
Verry Elleegant voted Victoria's best
New Zealand-bred mare Verry Elleegant has been crowned Victorian Racehorse of the Year after her exploits in the Australian state last season.
The Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) champion, who also won the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) in Melbourne last spring, was voted the best performed horse on Victorian tracks by a panel that includes members of Victoria's racing administration and media.
The daughter of Zed polled 100 votes to finish well clear of Arcadia Queen (53), Russian Camelot (15) and Twilight Payment (15).