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Oulaghan topliners primed for Manawatu features

3 minute read

Awapuni trainer Mark Oulaghan will head over the hill to Woodville on Sunday with two of last season’s star jumpers in Berry The Cash and West Coast set to make their return over the fences in the features.

WEST COAST winning the RACECOURSE HOTEL MOTOR LODGE 148TH GRAND NATIONAL STEEPLECHASE
WEST COAST winning the RACECOURSE HOTEL MOTOR LODGE 148TH GRAND NATIONAL STEEPLECHASE Picture: Race Images Photo

A son of Mettre En Jeu, West Coast  was near-unbeatable over the steeplechase fences last season, claiming the Hawke's Bay Steeplechase (4800m), Wellington Steeplechase (5500m), Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) and Great Northern Steeplechase (6500m), all in the hands of Shaun Fannin.

The gelding returned this year with a sharp effort for fourth over 2200m on the flat, and Oulaghan was satisfied with his final fitness preparation on May 9 at Wanganui.

"We were happy enough with his two flat runs, the track was pretty dead at Wanganui the other day which anchored him a bit and nothing was really coming from the back," he said.

"The run before that was pretty good.

"Condition wise, he's pretty fit and will probably take some benefit out of a steeplechase run, but he's pretty much up to the mark at this stage."

The eight-year-old's rating of 99 sits well clear in Sunday's LJ Hooker Manawatu Steeplechase (4000m) and grants him the 73kg topweight, an impost he carried to victory in the Northern, alongside 72kg in the National.

"He's got a bit of weight, but being realistic, 73kg is the sealed topweight now so when you look at his record, you can't really complain based on what he's won," Oulaghan said.

"We'll just stick to the program, Shaun will just ride him where he's comfortable and go accordingly from there."

The other half of Oulaghan's Riccarton clean sweep was Berry The Cash's five-length romp in the Grand National Hurdles (4200m), and his fitness runs this time in have been equally as impressive winning the Jumpers Highweight (2200m) at Woodville earlier this month.

He will be partnered by regular rider Portia Matthews, aiming to go one better on his narrow second-placed effort in the Manawatu ITM Awapuni Hurdle (3000m) last season to Suliman.

"He's doing well and he's done everything right coming into Sunday," Oulaghan said.

"He's in the bigger field there, but Portia (Matthews, jockey) knows him and we're pretty confident based on his form and how he's worked in the last couple of weeks."

With a long season ahead for the talented pair, Oulaghan plans to save West Coast for July features, while Berry The Cash may head to Te Rapa to contest the Waikato Hurdle (3200m) on June 15.

"We don't want to burn the candle too quickly at this end of the season, the money races are a bit later on, so we'll just take the opportunities as they come," he said.

"West Coast probably won't do too much until the Wellington or Hawke's Bay Steeplechase potentially, we'll keep him for a bit later on.

"If Berry The Cash gets through Sunday alright, he might go to the Waikato Hurdle next month."

Matthews will also guide Super Spirit in the Speldhurst Mates Steeplechase (4000m), the Super Easy gelding returning to maiden company after running fourth to Izymydaad at Wanganui last-start.

"He just plods away, the run at Wanganui probably brought him on a fraction and the three horses in front of him were all chase winners," Oulaghan said.

"He was the first maiden home so we can take that from the run, he was a wee bit away from the winner, but we were happy enough.

"I think if he can put things together on Sunday, he should be a pretty good show."

Oulaghan's stable will also be represented in the Property Brokers Woodville-Pahiatua Cup (2100m) by Pinkerton, a three-win son of Niagara that he also bred and owns.

The six-year-old won fresh-up at the course in April and is on the back-up after running second to Tavi Ann at Hawera last Sunday.

"I had this race in mind a little bit earlier on, and he missed a race a couple of weeks ago with a bit of a skin problem that took a wee while to get over," he said.

"I don't think the back-up will worry him too much."


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