The Shackler (Aaron Kuru) leaps the final fence on the way to winning the Porritt Sand Waikato Hurdles.
Leading jumps trainers Paul Nelson is well known for the conditioning he puts into his horses, but he wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence about the fitness levels of The Shackler ahead of today’s Porritt Sand Waikato Hurdles.
In his first preparation with Nelson last winter, The Shackler won the Wellington Hurdles and today he was lining up in the first Prestige Jumps Race of the season in the with the benefit of just one raceday start on the flat.
But once again Nelson had the benefit of a clever ride by Aaron Kuru to lead for the final round of the 3200-metre contest and score by a length and a quarter from It’s A Wonder. It helped in the first instance that the early leader Danza Lad was running his fences down, offering The Shackler with an invitation to take over the running.
Most of all, however, a mistake by It’s A Wonder at the penultimate fence when he was throwing down the gauntlet to The Shackler left the gate wide open for an unchallenged win.
“We got a bit lucky,” commented Nelson. “It was looking pretty interesting, but I suppose the fences are there to be jumped.
“I went into the race thinking he wasn’t quite there but it’s worked out well in the end.”
Kuru, who has built a tremendous partnership with the Nelson stable, paid a compliment to the Hawke’s Bay horseman’s conditioning skills.
“He was fit enough alright,” said Kuru as he unsaddled the big brown. “He’s a horse that gives you everything.
“Would he have won if the other horse hadn’t made a mistake? I can’t answer that but I know he wouldn’t have given ion easily.”
Nelson prepares the 11-year-old for Shaun Dromgool, whose brother Michael trained him to win eight flat races before he bowed a tendon.
The family partnership that originally raced The Shackler also included the Dromgool brothers’ father, former successful trainer Stuart Dromgool. He made a rare visit to the races today and was as pleased as anyone at the result.
“Good on Shaun, he stuck with him and he deserves it,” Dromgool senior said. “When he did a tendon the rest of us pulled the pin, but Shaun said he would get him right – and he did.”
Nelson was unable to say whether he would return to Te Rapa on Queen’s Birthday weekend for the K S Browne Hurdle, but did state that winter plans will hinge on finding races when tracks are not too heavy.
It’s A Wonder’s rider Will Gordon did a commendable job to retain his seat when the horse met the second-last fence off-stride. The horse picked himself up bravely to hold second place from the maiden hurdler Notabadrooster, who did well to beat Yardstick by half a length, with New Zealand’s best jumper Sea King a length and a half away in fifth place.
Sea King settled midfield in the nine-horse field but was under pressure well before the home turn and was unable to make any headway in the final straight.