The Hastings training partnership of Paul Nelson and Corrina McDougal unleashed another potential jumping star when The Cossack recorded a 20-length maiden hurdle win at Te Aroha last Sunday.
Nelson is regarded as one of the best conditioners of jumpers in the country and has taken McDougal on as a training partner in the past 12 months. The latter was also a successful trainer in her own right.
The Cossack showed ability as a jumper when recording two seconds and a fourth from three starts over hurdles last winter but Nelson believes he has gone to another level now.
"He has really taken to his work this time in and he is pretty exciting."
The Cossack resumed from a spell with a second over hurdles at Te Rapa on July 18 and started a warm favourite for the 3100m hurdle race at Te Aroha last Sunday.
He was a bit keen in the early stages for rider Aaron Kuru but the talented jumps jockey got the horse to relax, just in behind the leaders, with a round to go and then bided his time before applying the pressure.
Kuru sent The Cossack forward to take the lead with 700m to run and went clear soon after.
They came to the third-last fence, at the top of the straight, five lengths clear and steadily increased that margin over the last two obstacles to win untested.
"He was pretty impressive. He has always shown us plenty but has wanted to over-race in the past," Nelson said.
"He settled a lot better the other day."
The Cossack was bred by well-known Hawke's Bay thoroughbred owner Ivan Grieve, who originally raced the horse with Hastings trainer John Bary.
The Mastercraftsman gelding won two races on the flat from Bary's stable before the pair decided to put him on the market.
Grieve's brother Peter Grieve and his son Doug bought the horse in partnership with Nelson and another well-known Hawke's Bay racing identity, John Frizzell.
Nelson said The Cossack will now return to Te Aroha for a 0-1 win hurdle race over 3100m on August 23 but he has no big plans for the horse after that.
"He's a nice horse and doing everything right but we wouldn't want to get too carried away with him just yet," he said.
The Nelson/McDougal stable should be a force to be reckoned with in the two feature jumping races at today's Waikato meeting at Te Rapa.
They will saddle up impressive last start winner Revolution and experienced jumper No Change in the $50,000 Waikato Hurdles (3200m) and Perry Mason in the $50,000 Signature Homes Waikato Steeplechase (3900m).
The latter was pulled up mid-stages in his last steeplechase race, at Te Rapa on July 18. But Nelson is predicting a much better performance from the horse today, especially after he finished fifth in a 2100m flat race at Hastings on Wednesday of last week.
"That was a big run on the flat at Hastings and I think he's right now," Nelson said.
Kuru has been Mason's regular jockey but has opted to ride exciting new steeplechaser Zedman in today's prestigious event so Nelson and McDougal have engaged Hamish McNeil for their runner.
Kuru will ride Revolution in today's Waikato Hurdles and Emily Farr has been engaged for stablemate No Change.
Napoleon rules over the big fences
Napoleon, part-owned by Otane-based Don Poulgrain, showed he could be a major force as a jumper this year when winning a restricted open steeplechase over 4000m at Awapuni on Friday of last week.
The 7-year-old Shinko King gelding was having his seventh start over the big fences and now boasts a record of three wins and a third. He recorded back-to-back wins in steeplechase races last winter, winning over 3900m at Te Rapa and 4000m at Trentham.
Napoleon's success at Awapuni last week was a bit fortuitous as he was left in front when race leader Magic Wonder crashed at the second-to-last fence. But the horse was running on well at the time and, after being left clear in the lead, rider Shaun Fannin guided him to a 3-1/2 length win.
Napoleon, who is trained at Wanganui by Kevin Myers, has now won six races from 42 starts. He is raced by a five-member syndicate that includes Poulgrain and former New Zealand trainer Rachael Frost, who is now based in Australia but had prepared him for a winning double on the flat at Wairoa in February 2017.
Trainer Kevin Myers and Hastings-born jumps jockey Shaun Fannin dominated last week's Wellington meeting at Awapuni. Napoleon's success was one of four victories for the combination; they also took out the maiden hurdle with Bakela, the Restricted Open Hurdle with Ave Maria and the maiden steeplechase with Albaron.
Myers won five of the nine races on the card as he also produced Aigne to win the main flat race, the Parliamentary Handicap (2100m).
Hastings race days this season
Hastings will stage 14 race days in the new racing season, which commenced last Saturday.
The first date will be on Saturday, September 19, when Hawke's Bay Racing will stage the first day of the Bostock New Zealand Hawke's Bay spring carnival. Feature races this day will be the Group 1 $200,000 Tarzino Trophy (1400m), Group 3 $70,000 Hawke's Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) and the Listed $50,000 El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m).
Hawke's Bay's two prestige jumping races, the $50,000 AHD Hawke's Bay Steeplechase (4800m) and the $50,000 Te Whangai Romneys Hawke's Bay Hurdle (3100m) will also be run on this day. They would have normally been run in June but racing was cancelled because of Covid-19.
The second day of the spring carnival will be on Saturday, October 3, where the main races will be the Group 1 $200,000 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) and Group 2 $100,000 Dundeel @ Arrowfield Hawke's Bay Guineas (1400m).
The final day of the spring carnival will be on Saturday, October 17, and will feature the Group 1 $250,000 Livamol Classic (2040m) and the Listed $50,000 Red Badge Sprint (1400m).
The next Hastings race day after that will be the Waipukurau Jockey Club's meeting on Sunday, November 8, which will feature the running of the Waipukurau Cup.
A Christmas at the Races meeting will be staged at Hastings on Wednesday, December 9 and the traditional Hawke's Bay New Year meeting on Friday, January 1.
Thursday, January 28, will be the date for the Bostock New Zealand Raceday and Hastings will also have a new date on Sunday, February 21.
The Group 3 $70,000 Lowland Stakes (2100m) will be the main race on Wednesday, March 3 and the Listed $75,000 Power Farming Hawke's Bay Cup (2200m) and Poverty Bay Cup will be the feature events at Hastings on Saturday, April 17.
Hastings' May race days will be Saturday 1 and Wednesday 26.
Saturday, July 3, will again feature the $50,000 Hawke's Bay Steeplechase and $50,000 Hawke's Bay Hurdles.
The last Hastings race day for the season will be run on Thursday, July 22.
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing has announced that no nomination and acceptance fees will be charged for all races except open class events and that stake money will be paid back to 14th place in those races.
Melody Belle back on track
Glamour New Zealand racemare Melody Belle has a wide draw to overcome when she makes a return to racing in the Group 2 $217,000 Missile Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill in Sydney today.
The 6-year-old Commands mare, trained by Jamie Richards and part-owned by Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters, has drawn 11 out of 13 in what will be her first start since finishing sixth in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on April 11.
The mare remained in Australia after that run and was given a brief spell there. She showed she is ready to resume when winning a recent 850m trial on the Kensington track at Randwick.
Australian jockey Kerrin McEvoy has been engaged to ride Melody Belle in today's feature, where her main dangers include the impressive last start winner Eduardo and the Godolphin-owned pair of Flit and Savatiano.