Mark Oulaghan is a truthful man, but in the Riccarton birdcage on Saturday he told a lie.

Asked what led to Upper Cut's dramatic and historic back-to-back victory in the Grand National Steeplechase, Oulaghan said: "Luck".

If you believe that go straight to your fireplace and sit under the chimney and wait until December 24.

Luck played absolutely no part in this. Oulaghan's self effacing, humble demeanour masks one of horse racing's most astute brains in the area of planning and carefully crafting victories in extreme staying contests.


This victory had its birth 364 days before it happened, roughly about the time Oulaghan tipped Upper Cut's breakfast into his feed bin the morning after the tough, then 10-year-old, scored his first win in the Grand National.

The veteran did not win an interim steeplechase, nor could he afford to. His sole victory in four previous starts this preparation was in a maiden hurdle in May. He bravely shouldered his clear topweight of 69kg in a desperate late struggle with southerner Kina Win and an additional 1kg from a recent steeplechase win would have reversed those placings.

Like gin and tonic and peaches and cream, Oulaghan and the stock of Upper Cut's sire Yamanin Vital are a match made in heaven. The Manawatu trainer's style perfectly matches the staying power of the stock of the unraced son of Sir Tristram.

"I put a lot of it down to his sire Yamanin Vital, one of his progeny [Ready Eddie] won the National Hurdle on Wednesday and they can stay," he said on Saturday.

Yamanin Vital has sired top-class jumpers Hypnotize, Climbing High and the Oulaghan-trained Yourtheman and Counter Punch. Oulaghan won $430,535 including the 2014 Auckland and Avondale Cups with another son, Who Shot Thebarman, just before he was transferred to Chris Waller's Sydney stable, from where the rugged stayer was placed in the Melbourne Cup.

If you have reason to doubt Mark Oulaghan's Bart Cummings-like ability to manage a horse's preparation to the exact day, consider he has now won the Grand National Steeplechase a record six times, before Upper Cut with Counter Punch (2010, 2011) and Deecee Seven (1997, 1998).

That is a remarkable statistic.

Having an equally good day Saturday was winning rider Shaun Phelan's father, Cambridge trainer Craig Phelan. After watching his son win the Grand National on television in the Pukekohe grandstand, Phelan senior saddled up Worthiswaitngold to win the last race at the northern meeting.

"What a day," he said yesterday. "I'm walking around in circles this morning bumping into things. Shaun is freakish, I can't believe what he is achieving. Everyone can see how tall he is and he has to work hard to keep his weight down. He'll be running, working or boxing and I'm so proud of him." Shaun Phelan tipped his father both Upper Cut and Worthiswaitngold before leaving for Christchurch. "Shaun schooled this horse over some hurdles on Thursday and said he'd be hard to beat in the Pukekohe race the way he felt." The big gelding has been a work in progress. "He could make a very good jumper if that's the way we decide to go." The gigantic Worthiswaitngold was ridden by Jason Waddell, who earlier in the day scored on hot favourite Suliman in his first ride back after having plates removed from an injured leg.

• If you're wondering how good apprentice Kate Cowan might become as a jockey ask Nashville's co-trainer Harry Bull.

Better still, ask Nashville himself.

It's not unfair to say Cowan saved the racing career of the near millionaire. "We'd been disappointed with the attitude Nashville was at times showing up with at the races," said Bull. "We were toying with the idea of retiring him, then we put Kate on him and it's turned him around."

That was in March this year and no one else has been on Nashville's back on raceday since. The resulting bankroll from those races has been a little more than $136,000.

Even though dropping back from 1600m to 1400m at Riccarton on Saturday Nashville looked a racecourse certainty.

He carried 60kg to easily win the $100,000 Winter Cup the previous week and with Cate Cowan's 3kg apprentice allowance had just 55.5kg this time, just 2.5kg above the minimum weight. He officially started at $2.70, but as much as $3.20 was bet about him.