Hastings trainers Paul Nelson and Corrina McDougal are hoping for a case of déjà vu when they head to their local feature jumping meeting this Saturday.
The training partners carry fond memories of the annual Hawke’s Bay Hunt Raceday, having won both features in the Te Whangai Romneys Hawke’s Bay Hurdles (3100m) and the AHD Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase (4800m) on multiple occasions, including doing the double last year with The Cossack and Argyll.
Their strong team of jumpers will be back at Hastings with some leading hopes in this year’s editions, with 2022 victor Argyll returning to contest the AHD Hawkes Bay Steeplechase (2800m) alongside stablemate Shackelton’s Edge.
Argyll produced two feature wins on the trot last season, taking out both the Waikato Steeplechase (3900m) and the Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase (4800m), and has come back into similar form when finishing runner-up in the Te Rapa feature this month behind Champion Jumper The Cossack.
“He should be happy in the going and he ran a good race at Waikato, he would’ve won if The Cossack wasn’t there,” Nelson said.
A son of Thano, Shackelton’s Edge has been lightly raced in his nine years due to injury, but returned from a season on the sideline to win convincingly in a 0-1 Steeplechase at the Hastings venue earlier this month, his second victory after breaking his maiden over the bigger fences in similar fashion in 2021.
Nelson, although confident in the gelding’s fitness and jumping ability, had questioned whether the track may pose an issue for Shackelton’s Edge.
“I’m not sure about the really heavy going with him, I know he goes on better footing, but we probably haven’t tested him in the heavy,” Nelson said.
Heavy track specialist Suliman will face his preferred track conditions on Saturday, looking to add to his Awapuni Hurdles (2800m) victory at Wellington in May when contesting the Te Whangai Romneys Hawkes Bay Hurdles (3100m). Jumps jockey Hamish McNeill will partner the Redwood gelding after guiding him to victory in the Awapuni feature.
Suliman is owned by the I See Red Syndicate who have raced horses, particularly jumpers, with Nelson and more recently McDougal since 2004, and annually sponsor the maiden steeplechase event at the meeting in honour of their retired Grand National Steeplechase and Hurdle winner Just A Swagger.
“It’s a bit of a step-up, probably a stronger field than he met last time (at Wellington) but he does like the heavy ground, and I’m certain he’ll get that.”
The Nelson/McDougal team will also be represented by Mettre En Jeu six-year-old Taika, who will step out in the Best Forsyth Electrical Maiden Hurdle (2500m), following a strong second on debut over the fences behind The Mighty Spar at Te Rapa.
“Taika had a very nice run at his last start, hopefully he can improve,” Nelson said.
Nelson and McDougal will hope their runners can produce a strong result for the stable, after they retired star jumper No Tip this week following injury.
No Tip, despite his diminutive stature, was a winner of two hurdle and five steeplechase races, including the Wellington Hurdle, the Poverty Bay Gold Cup, the Manawatu Steeplechase and most recently the 2022 Pakuranga Hunt Cup.
He also placed in several prestige jumping events, including the Great Northern Hurdles and Steeplechase, earning nearly $260,000 in stakes for owners and breeders Nelson and wife Carol during his career.