Two weeks after the thrilling jumps day at Hastings the premier jumping show heads to Trentham today for the running of the Grant Plumbing Wellington Steeplechase and the Anuka Smoker Wellington Hurdle.
The Wellington Steeplechase is certainly one of the highlights of the jumping season with its unique figure eight course and two distinctly different sections of ground. The centre of course, where the majority of the race is run, provides much firmer footing than in the straight where that section is generally very heavy.
Those who witnessed the running of the Hawke's Bay Steeplechase would have seen Chocolate Fish making good ground late to finish second to the impressive Perry Mason. The extra distance today, coupled with the fact he ran a gallant second to Wise Men Say in last year's renewal, has him the horse to beat.
Jockey, Shaun Phelan is excited about the horse's prospects today.
"The Hastings run will really bring him on. We know he will appreciate the extra distance and the unique figure eight course holds no fears," says Phelan.
Perry Mason backs up after his good win at Hastings. While his class will take him a long way, I suspect he might be vulnerable in the concluding stages given the extra distance and the testing conditions.
The Wellington Hurdles, run over 3400 metres on the course proper, is one of the more taxing hurdle races run all winter. For that reason, it is impossible to go past the former Sydney Cup winner, Gallante.
The son of former champion galloper and reliable source of stamina, Montjeu, Gallante was a good winner of the Awapuni Hurdles a month ago. While he missed a start in the Hawke's Bay Hurdles, you would expect him to be fit enough to win today.
The hardest for Gallante to beat is Tommyra. He probably found the footing too good for him in the Hawke's Bay Hurdle when running a battling sixth. The heavier track will be more to his liking.
Bad Boy Brown, a Trentham hurdle winner in June and a winner of three hurdle races, is not without a chance.
At Hastings, Zedace went on top in the Maiden Steeplechase.
In hindsight, the track was too firm and he was beaten into third by the promising It's A Wonder and Zedman. While Zedace is not a prolific winner, he does look well placed to break through in today's Norm Bevan Memorial Maiden Steeplechase. While you would not have your last on him, he will relish the wet track and has the services of Shaun Phelan.
In an even affair, Zartan looks a good chance in the Super Fence Maiden Hurdle. While his last start sixth placing at Hastings only looks fair on paper, he will certainly appreciate the wet track conditions. Three starts ago, he was a good second behind No Tip over course and distance.
Wellington Steeplechase — Chocolate Fish, FF $3.50
Wellington Hurdle — Gallante, FF $2.40
• Craig Baker is the racing manager of the Auckland Racing Club and jumps racing enthusiast.