With the possible exception of a two-day camel race in the sands of Dubai, there is no race in the world where stickability counts for more than in this afternoon's $100,000 Rodd & Gunn Great Northern Steeplechase at Ellerslie.

Which is why Ima Heroine should win.

The plucky little mare almost redefines the word stamina.

If you doubt that, watch again last year's Pakuranga Hunt Cup and Great Northern Steeplechase victories.


In both, Ima Heroine was all but out of it coming down the hill the last time, but found remarkable reserves of stamina from somewhere to triumph. She will probably replicate that in today's feature.

Which will give the race a final drama because owner and trainer Ann Browne declared yesterday it will almost certainly be Ima Heroine's last race appearance if she wins.

"She's a small mare and it wouldn't be fair to her to ask her to carry the impossible weights she'd get if she won this time.

"I'd have to retire her."

Ima Heroine 1, stablemate Tom's Myth 2 and take your pick for third.

Ann Browne and her late husband, Ken, have dominated this race for decades and this afternoon is unlikely to be different.

Southern Countess will go close to making it a double/double in the $100,000 Meadow Fresh Great Northern Hurdles.

Trainer Peter Brosnan said he thought the classy mare might have been just one run short when she ran on Pakuranga Hunt Cup day but she won despite clipping the last hurdle.

With the natural improvement she will take all sorts of beating.

Useful each-way bets early in the Ellerslie programme today could be Have No Mercy (No1, R1) and Ginga Ninja (No9) in Race 2.

The open sprint, Race 4, is a tricky affair. Carrick (No9) represents class and is likely to sprint well while fresh. He is best known as a stayer, but has won at this 1400m distance and has won his only fresh-up race. Full Of Spirit (No12) is full of class and so is Postman's Daughter.

Marea Alta (No2, R8) might be a fraction better racing right-handed, but she comes into this race nicely. Intransigent (No3) and Indikator (No1) are fine stayers.

Iponi (No5, R10) made up a huge slice of ground when second at Tauranga last start and looks well placed here at 1600m.

The Wanganui Guineas and the Fordell O'Leary Fillies Stakes are very tricky races at the start of the new season and with these runnings being performed on a slow surface, this column prefers to watch the action with an eye to following form on better tracks.

Watch what the likes of Warhorse and Swiper The Fox do in the Guineas.