Kuru, Nelson land big jumps double
The Wellington Steeplechase completed a wonderful day for the combination of Hastings trainer Paul Nelson and Cambridge jockey Aaron Kuru at Hastings on Thursday.
Early on the programme they won the Wellington Hurdles with The Shackler before adding the second $75,000 feature with Amanood Lad in the steeple.
The victors are newcomers to the stable that has consistently churned out winners of major jumping races, the first 30 years ago with a horse named Storm, and the rescheduling of the features from Saturday’s abandoned Trentham meeting saw them run on Nelson’s home track.
Adding to the home town flavour was Kuru’s upbringing in the province where he began his riding days before his shift north.
‘‘It’s very special to pick up two nice ones,’’ Kuru said. ‘‘I was brought up here so it’s very special.’’
Amanood Lad is an extraordinary steeplechaser as he proved when prepared by Ben Foote throughout his career before his shift to Nelson this season.
Foote has scaled back his training endeavours as he concentrates on preparing young flat horses for racing and sale.
He moulded Amanood Lad and won seven races with him including the 2014 and 2015 McGregor Grant Steeplechases and the 2015 Great Northern.
Experienced horseman Nelson admitted his latest was ‘‘a great thrill’’ as he deflected praise to Foote.
‘‘It’s a big thank you to Ben Foote,’’ Nelson said.
‘‘We’ve had a really good association with Ben for many years and when he felt he couldn’t do justice to the horse this year he sent him down to us.’’
Owners John and Shirley Blair were told of the change of stable was when Foote rang them to say he had sent him south to Nelson who they didn’t know but the move has been a win-win.
The combination can look forward to a good season with the rising 13-year-old who has found a new lease on life on the Nelson’s farm. Second home was Wise Men Say with Nells Belle third while favourite Just Ishi put in poor jump or two as did Mr Mor.
● Meanwhile hearts were in mouths when The Shackler bungled the second-last obstacle in the Wellington Hurdles earlier in the programme. Several big investments had been placed on the emerging hurdler to win the $75,000 rescheduled race after Trentham was abandoned last weekend due to the storm that hit the country.
The punter who made a last minute $10,000 bet to return $27,000 may have momentarily wished the race had been abandoned as well when the Istidaad gelding went down on his nose after hitting the jump.
But when he recovered and then scrambled over the final jump and went on to victory the grateful punter, along with others who made the horse a firm favourite, would have been singing the praises of Kuru.
Super cool Kuru has formed a powerful combination with Nelson, and he was thanking the trainer for having The Shackler rock-hard fit.
"I’m just lucky enough he stayed up," Kuru said.
"A tired horse would have gone down - I thank the horse too after that."
The rising 11-year-old has now won 11 times from 65 starts with earnings approaching $150,000.