Riccarton Park has been a happy hunting ground for the I See Red Syndicate and the large contingent hope to add to their Grand National Hurdle-winning record with talented hurdler Suliman this Saturday.
Prepared by Hastings trainers Paul Nelson and Corrina McDougal, the son of Redwood has impressed this campaign claiming both the Awapuni Hurdle (2800m) and Wellington Hurdle (3400m) after breaking his maiden near the end of last year.
The consistent 10-year-old will face his biggest test in the Hospitality NZ Canterbury 133rd Grand National Hurdles (4200m) this weekend and will be guided by in-form stable jockey Jack Power.
“He’s very well, we had a jump out at Hastings on Monday and we’re very happy with him,” Nelson said.
Suliman is owned by the I See Red Syndicate, a mix of racing enthusiasts and close friends that Nelson combined into one syndicate back in 2002.
“We’d always had friends asking if we had a horse for them to have shares in, so we ended up putting three horses together with 30 shareholders, which would’ve equated to about 55-60 people,” he said.
The syndicate has enjoyed over two decades of success, predominantly in the jumping races, with successful names such as Just A Swagger, Perry Mason, Solid Steal and now Suliman associated with the group.
Just A Swagger built a solid record at Riccarton Park, winning both the Sydenham Hurdles and the Grand National Hurdle in his first season of jumping in 2004, and returned to Christchurch the following year to successfully defend his Grand National title.
The son of Just A Dancer also went on to win the 2008 edition of the Grand National Steeplechase, earning more than $220,000 in stakes for the group in his career.
“Undoubtably Just A Swagger was the star of the syndicate down in Christchurch, he seemed to grow another leg when he ran down there,” Nelson said.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing in the south for the synditcate as Nelson recalled, when another of their top-flight jumpers Solid Steal was brought down by a fallen runner in the 2009 Grand National Hurdles.
“The disappointment came when he fell when it looked like he was going to win or run second, so you have your good times and your bad times,” he said.
George Moore, a Wairarapa semi-retired farmer and brother-in-law to Nelson’s wife Carol, has experienced some of his biggest thrills as a member of the I See Red Syndicate at Riccarton Park.
Moore and wife Fern were not involved with racing prior to the syndicate’s establishment in 2002, however, loved the idea of being a part of Paul’s racing team and jumped at the opportunity.
“The syndicate’s journey has been really fantastic, we started with a lovely little horse named Just A Swagger and what a wonderful run we’ve had all the way through to now,” Moore said.
“We could not have had a better investment for fun and for value, the syndicate is such a good advertisement for racing and getting a lot of people involved.”
Moore recounted their star jumper’s victories at Riccarton extremely fondly and said the couple alongside many of their fellow members made the trip down to Christchurch when ‘Swagger’ was in his prime.
“The first win with Swagger was such a journey for us, we had very little experience with any sort of winning and it was beyond belief,” Moore said.
“We didn’t really know what we were in for, and to go down and win something as big as the Grand National Hurdle was amazing.”
The Moores will head to Christchurch once again this weekend hoping to repeat past heroics in the iconic race, and have unwavering faith in the Nelson/McDougal team to prepare their charge.
“Suliman’s surpassed a lot of our expectations, to win the Manawatu Hurdle and then Wellington, it was such a thrill,” Moore said.
“I think the amount of work Paul and Corrina put in is something special, and the results confirm that.
“We’re all happy to leave them to make the decisions, we know when our horses are starting and who they will be ridden by so we can’t fault them.
“It has been the happiest, best fun we could’ve had, and I can’t endorse the concept of syndicate racing more."