Topweight Tai Ho gave his rivals weight and a beating when he took out the time-honoured DT Kings Transport Ltd 112th Great Western Steeplechase (3900m) at Riverton on Sunday.
The Ellis Winsloe-trained eight-year-old has been one of the most consistent jumpers in the southern region for the last few seasons and numbers a runner-up finish in the 2018 Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) at Riccarton amongst his best career performances.
Winsloe had made no secret of his desire to win the Great Western and was rewarded when Tai Ho and rider Stuart Higgins delivered the trophy with a picture-perfect effort on the testing Heavy11 surface.
Winsloe had chided Higgins for an impatient effort on his charge at his most recent run with Higgins paying heed as he settled Tai Ho back off the speed before joining issue with 1000m to run. Carrying 69kgs, Tai Ho dashed to the front with three fences to clear before staying on gamely to defeat race favourite Delacroix by a length and a half at the winning post.
“He is a really good jumper who doesn’t really handle the wet ground,” Winsloe said.
“Stuey rode him better today, what he did the other day I wasn’t happy with, but he waited a wee bit longer although I thought he still went a little early.”
Winsloe is resigned to having to travel his charge to compete, as the local jumping scene struggles to attract enough numbers to fill fields for feature jumping events.
“It looks we will have to travel to the North Island with him as they will struggle a bit with the jumping down here,” he said.
“We might head to Hawkes Bay later on or Waikato, but we will sit down and have a look at that.
“The main plan is the National (at Riccarton) but we will have to see how the handicapper treats us as we get a bit knocked around down here.”
Earlier in the day local runner The Energizer came from a long last in the mid-stages to down race favourite Banbury Lad in the day’s feature hurdle event, the Donald White Hedgecutting Great Western Hurdle (2500m).
The talented Shinko King eight-year-old bided his time at the rear of the field throughout for rider James Seivwright and still spotted the leaders more than ten lengths with less than 800m to run.
Seivwright got busy on the Kelvin and Aimee Tyler-trained runner before looming into contention at the second to last fence. The Energizer cleared the final obstacle in fine style as he shot clear to defeat Banbury Lad and record his fourth win over fences and the tenth of his 80-start career.
Co-trainer Kelvin Tyler cut a satisfied figure as he waited for his charge to return to the Riverton birdcage.
“This was the one we were after,” he said.
“We’ve just been ticking away, and James said he was going to ride him a bit more patiently today as that’s how he seems to race best.
“To be fair I was a bit worried about the 800m, but he hit the line good so we’re pretty happy.
“We’ll have a chat to the owners and we might go to Wellington (Wellington Hurdle) with him next.”
Seivwright gave the crowd something more to cheer about as The Energizer dropped him as he made his way into the birdcage with Seivwright providing a good-natured bow and wave after collecting himself and the horse once he was back on his feet. – NZ Racing Desk