The 14-year-old Amanood Lad (Aaron Kuru) breaks an age record in the Koral Steeplechase.
When a fall at the final fence turned the NZI Koral Steeplechase upside-down at Riccarton this afternoon, one of New Zealand’s most accomplished jumpers of recent times was in the right place at the right time and took full advantage.
Amanood Lad already has a Great Northern Steeplechase and a Wellington Steeplechase to his name, and today the 14-year-old became the oldest recorded winner of the Koral – the traditional lead-up to next Saturday’s Grand National Steeplechase.
“I marvel at this old horse,” trainer Paul Nelson said fondly. “He’s won a Great Northern and a Wellington Steeplechase, and this is his final season, so our aim was to bring him down here to try to add the National and get the big three.”
Amanood Lad’s victory in the Koral Steeplechase, only a couple of hours after stablemate The Shackler was pulled up during the Sydenham Hurdles due to an indifferent action, provided a vivid illustration of the ups and downs of jumps racing. As well as the contrasting fortunes of the Nelson stable during the day, the 4250-metre steeplechase itself featured plenty of twists and turns and fluctuating fortunes.
The favourite was the Kevin Myers-trained The Big Opal, who had won the race in 2016 and 2017. According to jumps statistician Chris McQuaid, the Storm Creek gelding was attempting to become only the second horse after Deecee Seven (1996, 1997 and 1998) to win it three years in a row.
The Big Opal ran a bold race out in front, leading by as much as 12 lengths, but he gave rider Buddy Lammas a hard time as some perfect jumps were interspersed with the occasional lunge towards the outside of the track.
The Big Opal had tired himself out by the time the field turned for home, when Notabadrooster swept to the lead in what looked like a winning move.
But Notabadrooster threw victory away when he fell at the final fence, and the strong-finishing Chocolate Fish had to avoid the fallen runner.
Amanood Lad was out of trouble on the inside and full of running, and he surged to victory by half a neck from a brave Chocolate Fish.
The Koral was the 200th career training success for Nelson, and the 32nd for the formidable partnership with jockey Aaron Kuru.
“He’s just a wonderful horse,” Nelson said. “We’re very lucky to get him to train. I have to thank Ben Foote (former trainer) and the owners for letting us be a part of it.
“It was very bad luck today for Chris (Faulkner, trainer of Notabadrooster), but all of us in jumps racing know all about that feeling of not jumping the last fence.”
Amanood Lad has now had 71 starts for 10 wins, 19 placings and just under $330,000 in prize-money. He has won once on the flat, once over hurdles and eight times over the bigger fences.