The Samantha Logan-trained Lacustre laid down the gauntlet to his steeplechasing rivals heading to the prestigious Great Northern Steeplechase (6400m) in a fortnight with a comprehensive victory in Saturday’s major dress rehearsal, the CLC Pakuranga Hunt Cup (4900m) at Ellerslie.
Logan has bided her time with Lacustre who hadn’t been sighted in the winner’s enclosure since winning a maiden steeplechase at the venue on Great Northern day in 2017.
The Postponed eight-year-old has been thereabouts in most of his starts since then and enhanced his burgeoning credentials for the Northern with an eye-catching run for third in the McGregor Grant Steeplechase back in June.
Handy throughout for rider Shaun Phelan, Lacustre jumped proficiently in mid-field before being sent forward by Phelan as the field climbed the famed Ellerslie hill with 1000m to run.
Lacustre and outsider Kokanee Gold scooted down the hill and jumped the last fence together before Lacustre forged clear in the final stages to win by five lengths from a fast finishing The Arabian Duke with Kokanee Gold battling on bravely for third.
“This is just fantastic and my best moment in racing,” Logan said.
“This horse is a marvel and so is Shaun Phelan who gave him a great ride.
“We’ve set him for this race for the last two years. Craig Thornton used to train him and when he gave up, he gave him to me thankfully and said if I did my job right, he could win the Pakuranga Hunt Cup.
“We waited and didn’t do much with him last year, messed around and got his jumping right and waited for Ellerslie.
“It’s just huge to come back here and get this done.
“He (Thornton) developed the horse through from a two-year-old so is just as much to thank as me.
“The owners have been patient and are a great bunch of hunting people so to get it on a hunt day is huge.
“We will just tick him over now and if we get the same happy horse on Northern day then he will go just as well.”
A patient ride by Shaun Fannin saw topweight Laekeeper take out the days other feature jumping contest, the Corson Maize Pakuranga Hunt Hurdle (3350m).
Having his first ride on the Simon Rees-trained Keeper gelding, Fannin timed his winning bid to perfection after settling well off a red-hot speed in the early stages.
Fannin bided his time in second-last position before setting off after the leaders with 800m to run. Race favourite No Tip adopted similar tactics and the pair took over at the top of the Ellerslie home straight.
Laekeeper was travelling better than his rival as he stepped the final two fences in grand style to defeat No Tip with King Oberon battling on well to take third.
“It was a great run and a great ride by Shaun, Rees said.
“Everything went perfectly.
“He (Laekeeper) wanted to win and he went for it.
“He relaxed beautifully today so we will now go on to the Great Northern (Hurdle).”
The Network Visuals Great Northern Steeplechase and Boutique Body Corporates Great Northern Hurdle (4190m) are the headline events at the Ellerslie meeting on September 7. – NZ Racing Desk