The Grand National Steeplechase is almost certain to be Amanood Lad's final start.
Veteran jumper Amanood Lad has bounced through yesterday’s Koral Steeplechase and now it’s a matter of counting down to what is almost certain to be his final start in next Saturday’s Grand National Steeplechase.
The 14-year-old was a fortuitous but still popular winner of the NZI-sponsored steeples feature on yesterday’s Riccarton carnival opener after Notabadrooster fell on landing when in front over the final jump. Chocolate Fish, travelling directly behind Notabadrooster, had to jump over his fallen rival, while Amanood Lad made the most of a trouble-free run to the finish and was able to withstand Chocolate Fish’s late charge by a half-neck.
While conceding that the rub of the green went his way, Amanood Lad’s trainer Paul Nelson was still understandably proud to see the Germano gelding take his winning tally into double figures.
“He’s a mighty little horse who always gives his best and he's come through the race in good shape,” Nelson said. “To still be winning at his age says everything about his attitude, just how much he loves what he’s doing.”
Nelson knows that at 14 years the clock is ticking for the winner of 10 of his 71 starts in what is now his twelfth season of competition, but he will leave the final decision to owner-breeders John and Shirley Blair.
“It will be their call; I think it’s fair that they should be the ones to make that decision. Which ever way they decide we’ll be guided by it. We just feel fortunate to have been able to train the horse for the final chapter in his career.”
Amanood Lad was transferred amicably to Paul and Carol Nelson’s farm-training operation in Hawke’s Bay at the start of 2017 after Cambridge-based Ben Foote had prepared him for seven wins headed by the 2014 Great Northern Steeplechase.
He added last year’s Wellington Steeplechase and the Pakuranga Hunt Cup Steeplechase and victory in next Saturday’s Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Grand National would complete the treble of New Zealand’s “big three” steeplechases.
With his Koral win, Amanood Lad is now New Zealand’s highest rated active jumper with a rating of 102, one point ahead of Wise Men Say, who dropped one point to 100 after his sixth placing in the Koral.
Wise Men Say will still be the Grand National topweight at 71kg, however, as Amanood Lad’s Koral win was penalty-free and he will carry 70.5kg.
Hopes for stablemate The Shackler adding the Hospitality NZ Grand National Hurdles to his record have been dashed by a tendon injury he sustained during yesterday’s Sydenham Hurdles.
“We got him back after an earlier tendon issue and it’s a pity that another one has cropped up,” Nelson said. “We’ll take him home and then decide what to do.”
The Nelson stable will still be represented in Wednesday’s Grand National Hurdle, with Sydenham Hurdle fifth placegetter Second Innings set to back up, while Kings Deep will join Amanood Lad in the Grand National Steeples after finishing fourth in the Koral.
Awapuni trainer Mark Oulaghan has also decided on a wait-and-see approach for his dual Grand National Steeplechase winner Upper Cut, who was pulled up in the Koral with a tendon injury.
Like The Shackler, the 12-year-old has had previous issues and while he will reassess the situation when Upper Cut arrives back in the Manawatu, Oulaghan concedes that time may count against the Yamanin Vital gelding.
“We’ll get him home and at the very least it will probably mean 12 months off,” Oulaghan said. “Time goes by though and it may mean retirement.”