The Pakuranga Hunt Cup has drawn a ripping field of chasers headlined by the Raymond Connors pair of Wise Men Say and Max.
With Great Northern Day only a fortnight away, today's Ellerslie features are critical lead ups to New Zealand's most prestigious jumping races.
With little depth in the flat races, the Pakuranga Hunt Club in conjunction with the Auckland Racing Club made the innovative decision to showcase the jumping action by running the four jumping races as the last four races, with the Pakuranga Hunt Hurdle and Pakuranga Hunt Cup the last two races.
The Pakuranga Hunt Cup has drawn a ripping field of chasers headlined by the Raymond Connors pair of Wise Men Say and Max. However, for mine, Raisafuasho, winner of his last two steeplechases, goes on top.
The veteran has been a revelation since reverting to the bigger fences and has a sense of timing about him heading to the Hunt Cup and then to the Great Northern. We know he will handle the wet track and, while he is yet to run over the Ellerslie hill, you get the feeling that will be the least of his worries.
Lacustre and Max look the hardest for Raisafuasho to beat. Lacustre was a good fourth at Te Aroha last start and excels over the Ellerslie hill while Max was an impressive winner of the McGregor Grant Steeplechase at Ellerslie in June. The Pakuranga Hunt Hurdle is down a fraction on class compared to previous editions but will still be in an interesting affair.
No Tip, a good winner of the Wellington Hurdles two starts ago, goes on top. We know he will handle the wet and is ridden by high class jumps jockey, Aaron Kuru.
The obvious dangers are King Oberon and top weight, Laekeeper. It is likely that King Oberon would prefer better ground but he is fit and does possess good flat ability. Laekeeper lost his rider on both occasions at Riccarton but we know how capable he is on his day.
The Kick On Maiden Steeplechase is very even but I have landed on the Kevin Myers trained Mandalay. While she is no star, she was a good second in a Maiden Steeplechase at Wanganui at her last start.
The Bridges Insurance Maiden Hurdle is a very difficult race with many of the runners yet to even place over hurdles. Ali Baba was very good at Hastings running fourth in a Maiden Hurdle. His ability on the flat and his two wins on heavy tracks tips the scales in his favour.
• The Craig and Shaun Phelan-trained Bay Rocker has been withdrawn from today's Pakuranga Hunt Hurdle after sustaining an injury. The in-form hurdler was a $4.60 second favourite for the event after winning at Te Aroha last start.
Pakuranga Hunt Cup — Raisafuasho (win) — $3.80 FF
Pakuranga Hunt Hurdle — No Tip (win) — $3 F
Pakuranga Hunt Cup
4900m, Saturday 3.39pm
1. Wise Men Say (7) Reece Cole (69.5) $16.00 $4.20
2. Max (6) Isaac Lupton (68.5) $4.00 $1.75
3. Gagarin (10) Mathew Gillies (68) $6.00 $2.25
4. Perry Mason (14) Aaron Kuru (67.5) $6.50 $2.40
5. I've Got This (1) Bradley Thomas-Rantall (65.5) $41.00 $7.00
6. Old Countess (5) Buddy Lammas (65) $16.00 $4.20
7. The Arabian Duke (13) Gary Walsh (65) $26.00 $5.50
8. Raisafuasho (8) Shaun Fannin (65) $3.80 $1.70
9. Zamora (11) Charlie Studd (65) $41.00 $7.00
10. Lacustre (3) Shaun Phelan (65) $9.50 $3.10
11. Mr Enthusiastic (2) Emily Farr (65) $18.00 $4.80
12. Caballo Noir (4) Toni Moki (65) $31.00 $6.00
13. Kokanee Gold (12) Mathew Cropp (65) $51.00 $8.00
14. Kings Kite (9) Michael Roustoby (65) $126 $16.00