IN Racing
Nickalls chasing Group One glory
Rangiotu trainer Stephen Nickalls is hoping the rain sticks around in Hastings ahead of the second day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival on Saturday.
Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk | September 26, 2023
Trainer Stephen Nickalls pictured with his Group One performer Chase. (Grant Matthew)

Rangiotu trainer Stephen Nickalls is hoping the rain sticks around in Hastings ahead of the second day of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival on Saturday.

Nickalls is seeking further Group One spoils with Chase in the Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) and he believes his best chance of upsetting the applecart is on rain-affected footing.

“I was talking with some people in Hastings last night and it was raining and that made me even happier,” he said.

“We are just saying a few prayers to the man upstairs about the rain sticking around. If it stays a (Heavy)8, or gets a little bit worse, he will be right in there.

“The rain-affected footing just deadens the others a little bit, so he is right in there with them.”

While Chase will come up against some stiff opposition this weekend, facing elite-level company is nothing new to the son of Zed, having placed in the Gr.1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) and Gr.1 El Cheapo Cars WFA Classic (1600m) last season.

“He ran third, beaten a length, in the Captain Cook behind Prise De Fer and Aegon, beating some good Group One horses, and the same at Otaki,” Nickalls said.

“We are under no illusions, it is a serious field – you have got Derby winner (Sharp ‘N’ Smart) and Australian Guineas (G.1, 1600m) winner (Legarto).

“We have never been afraid to have a crack at something. It was a hell of a thrill last season to get those two placings and it would be a similar thrill if he did the same thing on Saturday.”

Chase finished seventh when first-up over a mile at Hastings on the first day of the carnival and Nickalls expects to see plenty of improvement from his gelding.

“I was really pleased with his run. He got caught behind one that was going backwards a little bit and then he came again. Leah (Hemi, jockey) said he hit the wall first up at about the 100m,” he said.

“He has trained on really well and galloped fantastic this (Tuesday) morning at Foxton and I can’t fault him.”

Chase is nominated for the Gr.1 Livamol Classic (2040m) and Gr.3 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m) and Nickalls said Saturday’s result will dictate what his next major assignment will be.

“I am not 100 percent sure about the Livamol. He has had three goes over 2000m and never really finished it off. He is in there and if he went a big race on Saturday we would possibly press on,” he said.

“He gives every indication that he would run 2000m but on his three runs, evidence says maybe he doesn’t.

“It is always good to go to Christchurch, so we have put him in there (Coupland’s Mile). But those Group One placings pushed him right up the ratings and he would be reasonably high up in the weights, so whether he goes down there I am not too sure.”

Meanwhile, stablemate Manolo is dual nominated for both Hastings on Saturday and Woodville on Sunday, with Nickalls leaning towards the former with the prizemoney and wet conditions on offer.

“I was originally going to go to Woodville because of the Heavy track, but the rain keeps coming at Hastings, so he may got to Hastings. We will just see what the track is like in the next couple of days,” he said.

“We all complain that there is no stake money around and there is $65,000 at Hastings with 10 or 11 noms, so why wouldn’t you have a crack where there is real money.”

Chase Stephen Nickalls Gr. 1 Arrowfield Stud Plate Sam Spratt