Hawke's Bay couple Paul and Carol Nelson brought up one of the most satisfying wins of their illustrious career as racehorse owners when The Shackler led all the way for a gallant victory in last Saturday's K S Browne Hurdle at Trentham.
The 3200m event was named in honour of the late Ken Browne, one of the icons of New Zealand jumps racing and whose wife Ann is a cousin of Carol Nelson. The Brownes were also instrumental in giving the Nelsons their first big racing success almost 41 years ago.
Back in 1987 the Nelsons won the Wellington Steeplechase at Trentham with Storm, a horse that was twice owned by the Brownes before they finally sold him to Waikato owner-trainer Jack Tims.
"He [Tims] didn't want to carry on with the horse. I think they thought he was too slow," Paul Nelson recalled this week.
"Kenny jacked it up for us to lease the horse off Jack Tims and then we ended up buying him off him."
Storm, ridden by Hastings amateur jockey Sue Thompson, took out the 4000m steeplechase on the first day of the 1987 Wellington winter meeting and backed up a week later to score a four-length victory over Sir Hugh in the Wellington Steeples.
In the 40 years since then Nelson has added more than 190 wins to his tally and has taken out most of New Zealand's feature jumping races. But last Saturday was his first success in the K S Browne Hurdle.
"It's a real pleasure to win it," Nelson said.
"Carol and Ann are first cousins and Ken and Ann got us started, they found Storm for us."
The Shackler produced a dominant front-running performance to win last Saturday's feature, just as he had done when taking out the Waikato Hurdles at Te Rapa the start before.
Hastings-born jockey Aaron Kuru had the horse travelling easily in front, on a long rein, and the horse picked up the tempo when he asked him to quicken inside the last 800m.
They were challenged, first by Wee Biskit and then by Thatz David, over the last 600m but The Shackler shook them both off and had enough in reserve to race away for a 7-3/4 length win.
"I was a bit worried when they started coming at him," commented Nelson, "but in the end he was too tough."
It was The Shackler's 13th win from 70 starts. Nelson prepares the 11-year-old Istidaad gelding for Te Awamutu-based Shaun Dromgool, whose brother Michael trained him to win eight flat races before he bowed a tendon. The horse has now won five of his nine starts over hurdles, including last year's Wellington Hurdles.
Nelson said The Shackler is likely to contest this year's Wellington Hurdles again, on July 14, although he fears the horse could get weighted out of hurdle races from now on.
"It's ridiculous really," Nelson said. "He went up four points and 2.5kg after his last start in the Waikato Hurdles and the handicapper has now given him another four points from last Saturday's win so I don't know what weight he'll give him next time."
The Shackler's win at Trentham last Saturday completed a winning double on the day for the Nelsons and jockey Aaron Kuru as they also combined to take out the maiden steeplechase with Perry Mason.
The 8-year-old Zed gelding made up for a last jump blunder at Te Rapa at his previous start to score a gritty two-length victory over Adequacy and Zamora.
Perry Mason looked the likely winner of a maiden steeplechase at Te Rapa on May 19 when leading approaching the last fence but crashed through it and both he and Kuru were left sprawling on the ground.
The horse never put a foot wrong last Saturday and, aided by a great ride from Kuru, he proved too good for his rivals.
Perry Mason settled back in fifth place in the early stages of the 4000m event and Kuru just bided his time until the last quarter of the race. He then quickly improved his position to challenge the leaders before going clear as the field entered the home straight.
Perry Mason was only marginally in front of Adequacy as they jumped the last fence but kept up a strong run to the line to comfortably hold that horse at bay.
It was Perry Mason's fifth win and his second over fences, after a maiden hurdle victory at Te Rapa last month. He is raced by the I See Red Syndicate, a group of jumping enthusiasts who have raced horses from the Nelson stable since 2004.
The syndicate has now had 29 wins in those 14 years, with their best performer being Just A Swagger. His wins included the Grand National Hurdles (twice), the Wanganui Steeples, the Hawke's Bay Steeples and a Grand National Steeplechase.
Form reversal by Onawing
Onawing, part-owned by Hastings couple John and Greta Flynn, turned her form around with a game win in the amateur riders' race at Trentham last Saturday.
The 4-year-old Mastercraftsman mare, trained at Awapuni by Jeff Lynds, was a maiden winner over 2100m at Trentham back in March but had finished well back in two subsequent starts.
However Tracey Collis, acting foreman for the Lynds stable, said the horse's last start failure at Trentham was best overlooked as she thought the mare may have swallowed a clod of mud during that race.
"She was coughing for about half an hour after the race so there was obviously something there," Collis said.
Experienced amateur jockey Linda Wheeler produced a perfect ride to get Onawing home first in a slog to the line in last Saturday's 2200m race. The 50-year-old settled the mare in the back half of the field and saved as much ground as she could before improving her position, up against the inside rail, coming to the home turn.
Burlone and Fort Knox looked to be fighting out the finish inside the last 300m but then Wheeler drove Onawing between the pair and the mare surged clear in the final few strides to win by half a length.
Wheeler, who is a wife of top trainer John Wheeler, was recording her 21st win as an amateur jockey.
The Flynns are part of a large group that race Onawing and they also share in the ownership of the Lynds-trained Thien Ly, who has won four races.
Two in a row for Rippin
Not many horses win their next start after a maiden victory but Rippin did so with another game performance at Te Rapa last Saturday.
The 3-year-old Rip Van Winkle filly looked beaten when clearly headed half-way up the home straight in a $22,500 Rating 65 race over 1600m but showed real tenacity, under a strong ride from Matthew Cameron, to wrest back the lead in the final few strides to get a head decision.
The win followed a similar performance by the filly in a 1400m maiden race at Hawera on May 27 and she has now had five starts for two wins and a fourth.
Rippin was bred by Havelock North couple Dave and Jenny Morison who have retained a 40 per cent shareholding in the horse. They race the filly with Dennis and Pip Glenn from Napier and Cheryl Leonard and Kathleen Wright from Havelock North and she is trained at Cambridge by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.
A winning habit
It was fitting that Hawke's Bay-bred Impulsive Habit won at Te Rapa last Saturday, on Australia's Stradbroke Handicap day.
The 4-year-old is a close relation of former champion galloper Rough Habit, who is arguably the greatest winner of Queensland's feature sprint race. The Roughcast gelding, winner of 29 races and more than $5 million in stakemoney, scored back-to-back victories in the Group One Stradbroke in 1991 and 1992.
He produced one of the most amazing performances seen in the second of those wins, coming from a seemingly hopeless position on the home turn to weave a passage through the field and get up by a neck.
Impulsive Habit is by Echoes Of Heaven out of the Mellifont mare Special Habit, whose dam Bella's Habit was a half-sister to Rough Habit.
Hawke's Bay's Isabell Roddick bred Rough Habit and she and husband Graham, and other members of Graham's family, are the breeders of Impulsive Habit.
The Echoes Of Heaven gelding is now trained by Cambridge-based Lee Somervell, who bought him for $14,000 at the 2015 Karaka yearling sales and then set up a syndicate to race him.
The 4-year-old brought up his third win when recording a comprehensive performance in a $22,500 Rating 65 race over 1600m at last Saturday's Waikato meeting. His winning margin of 1-3/4 lengths flattered his rivals as his jockey, promising apprentice Wiremu Pinn, dropped his whip early in the home straight and could only ride him hands and heels over the final stages.
The Roddicks presently have an unraced 2-year-old half-brother to Impulsive Habit on their Hawke's Bay property. He is by Colombia and they intend to have him broken in soon and educated. They unfortunately lost a full-sister to Impulsive Habit last year, with the mare producing a filly by Echoes Of Heaven that died.
Foal walk on July 1
The Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay Thoroughbred Breeders Association will stage its annual foal walk on Sunday, July 1. The day will start at Guy Lowry's property in Kawera Rd, Okawa, and will then take in several other properties.