Exciting jumper West Coast has arrived at the scene of his biggest victory and he will attempt to replicate his feats from last year.
The Central Districts gelding was dominant when winning the Koral Steeplechase (4250m) and Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) double last year and this weekend will get his chance at going back-to-back in the former.
West Coast has continued his supremacy over the bigger fences this year, winning the Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase (4800m) last month before claiming the scalp of Champion Jumper The Cossack when victorious in the Wellington Steeplechase (5500m) at Trentham.
He carried 71kg to victory around the figure eight circuit and has been lumbered with one more kilogram in this weekend’s Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge-sponsored feature jumps fixture.
While aware it is a big weight to lumber, trainer Mark Oulaghan is confident his charge can continue his fine form line on Saturday.
“He is doing things right and I am happy enough with the way he is going,” he said.
“It was a good effort last start and it was good to see him perform like that, especially at Trentham.
“He handled the weight alright there, but he is up a kilo here, so he is going to have to be on his game again.
“Off a 66kg minimum, he is giving all but one six kilos, but I think if everything goes to plan, he should be good enough.”
West Coast is set to back-up in a week’s time at the Christchurch track to defend his crown in the 148th Racecourse & Motor Lodge Grand National Steeplechase (5600m).
He will likely be joined in the Koral Steeplechase by stablemate Super Spirit, who is also accepted for the Speight’s Summit Ultra On Tap Maiden Hurdle (3100m).
“He has had a few tries in maiden hurdles and I don’t know whether that all together is his thing,” Oulaghan said.
“I know the Koral is a big Chase to start him off in, but he could possibly start in that.”
Stablemate Kentucky Boy will take his place in the maiden hurdle, however, his future also lies over the bigger fences.
“Kentucky Boy is a maiden hurdler, but once we take him back to the North Island, he will go steeplechasing too,” Oulaghan said.
Rounding out the Awapuni trainer’s quartet of representatives on Saturday will be Berry The Cash in the Avon City Ford Sydenham Hurdles (3100m).
The seven-year-old gelding fell in the Wellington Hurdles (3400m) last start but Oulaghan said he has come through the incident well.
“He was a little unlucky at Wellington,” he said. “He made a little mistake, which you can put down to inexperience, but he seems to have gotten over that okay.
“He has got to be competitive here on Saturday. What he does on Saturday will give us an idea of what he is capable of doing in the National Hurdles.”
Oulaghan has been pleased with the way his team has settled in down south, having come down a couple of days earlier than planned to ensure their trip wasn’t affected by ferry cancellations.
“The horses arrived at lunchtime on Wednesday and they all seem good,” he said.
“They usually come down a day or two later, but the ferries were a bit dubious about sailing, so we decided to get them down early.”
Oulaghan enjoys travelling down for the carnival and is looking forward to seeing what his team can achieve over the next week.
“It is usually a good jumping track here and the money is good, so it is worth coming down for,” he said.