The Big Opal produced a gem of a performance yesterday to complete a dream opening to the Grand National carnival at Riccarton for Kevin Myers.
The Wanganui jumper produced a flawless display off the front to win the NZI Koral Steeplechase in a canter ahead of the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Grand National Steeplechase in seven days' time.
The Big Opal was partnered by Mathew Gillies and completed a clean sweep of the jumping events for Myers following the earlier successes of the Shaun Fannin-ridden duo of Ngario and Mailly.
For Gillies, it represented a perfect return to riding after a nasty fall at Trentham last month left him side-lined with concussion.
"That was great and it was Kevin's decision for me to ride him so well done to everybody involved," Gillies said.
The Big Opal jumped well at the head of the field and he was never in danger of defeat, cruising to victory and remains unbeaten after four steeplechase starts. "He travelled well all the way and I had a lot of horse left under me," Gillies said.
The Big Opal won by nine lengths from Upper Cut with Gargamel third ahead of the defending Grand National Steeples champion High Forty, who made late ground from the tail of the field.
Meanwhile, Samantha Wynne's timing was faultless at the track when she reined Miss Three Stars to victory in the feature flat event.
A documentary crew from her native Ireland is in New Zealand to film the 27-year-old in action and they were on hand on Saturday to capture her success in the group three eStar Winter Cup.
Wynne took a calculated gamble on Miss Three Stars at the top of the straight and it proved to be the winning move aboard the Tommy Beckett-trained 7-year-old.
"I took a chance coming up the inside, but I knew she would handle the mud and cutting the corner paid dividends," she said.
Miss Three Stars finished doggedly in the straight and the daughter of Perfectly Ready was rewarded with the ninth win of her 39-start career.
Runner-up Platinum Command tried gamely to complete a winning treble for Lisa Latta after the Awapuni trainer had earlier produced Lincoln Bay and Master Platinum for under card successes.
In the last couple early, Platinum Command finished well down the outside to get within a short head of the winner while the performance of the third placegetter Taurus was again to be admired after he conceded four and a half and seven kilos respectively to the winner and runner-up.
- NZ Racing Desk