The head or the heart?

Which to use to decide the winner of tomorrow's $125,000 Great Northern Steeplechase?

The heart says Amanood Lad, the head says Wise Men Say.

It comes down to logic. That's something that rarely raises its head in horse racing, but tomorrow's historic race - in this writer's opinion one of the world's greats - almost reduces itself to a mathematical equation.


Two weeks back in the Pakuranga Hunt Cup Amanood Lad beat Wise Men Say by 1.5 lengths with 2.5kg between them in the latter's favour. This time the differential is 3.5kg. That does not sound an enormous difference - but remember this is the Great Northern, three times over the fearsome Ellerslie Hill and it's 6400m, 1500m further than the Pakuranga Hunt Cup.

In the closing 200m that 1kg can make the difference in a race like no other.

Another thing, Wise Men Say may well have beaten Amanood Lad two weeks ago but for bungling the last fence, checking his momentum.

They are completely different types. Wise Men Say is a dour stayer with no Flash Freddie about him, but you know he'd be right in this if it was 10,000m. Despite having won this race a couple of years ago, Amanood Lad, remarkably, is a much more dashing type these days, even at 13.

His relatively new trainer Paul Nelson explains why.

"We have a hill at home reasonably the same as Ann Browne's and he works up it a lot.

"He used to carry a lot of condition, but he's fined down significantly and that has made a difference to the way he races. He's a lot keener and it comes down to the less weight he carries around the racetrack." Amanood Lad looked as though he raced a touch too keenly in the Pakuranga Hunt Cup and that there might be a touch of fitness improvement in him, but Nelson does not agree.

"He hadn't raced for five weeks and he had to be pretty much up to the mark to do what he did." Nelson says nothing much will change this time.

"He's done the work, don't worry. He went up the hill twice on Tuesday morning and worked very well. We also have a hill on our work track. He's done plenty." But the 71.5kg takes a bit of getting past. Three-time winner, the mighty Hypnotize, won it in 2007 and 2008 then came back in 2010 and carried 70.5kg on a 63kg minimum, which is now 65kg.

The last six winners are Ima Heroine (2011) on the 63kg minimum, Tom's Myth 68kg, Rangitira 65kg, Amanood Lad 67kg, Jack Romanov 65kg and Kick Back last year under 65kg.

Don't underestimate the task facing Amanood Lad and the bottomless stamina of Wise Men Say and the 71.5kg might just turn it the way of the latter. The Grand National runner-up Kina Win and the horse that beat him, Upper Cut, deserve attention.

Regardless of the result, sit back and watch the unmatched drama unfold from a field of extremely brave horses and equally brave horsemen competing around arguably the world's greatest steeplechase course.

That will be after you decided whether to use you head or your heart.

Ellerslie pointers

Really deserves one: Quantum, R10, Ellerslie. Running terrific races and just being topped off. Gets a useful claim and might be too fit for them.

Can make it two: Worthiswaitngold, R8, Ellerslie. Took a while to measure up, but did it in style at Pukekohe last start. Bit harder here, but can step up.

On the way up: Our Jackson, R4, Ellerslie. Covered the last 300m to win a hurdle race at Wanganui like a Group 1 sprinter. Steeples debut here, but will be well schooled.