Ngatira Gold and Aaron Kuru are at full stretch over the last fence before winning the feature steeplechase at Te Aroha today.
A stirring contest was finally settled in favour of the Samantha Logan-trained Ngatira Gold when the promising chaser held out a desperate bid by Thenamesbond in the closing stages of the feature steeplechase at Te Aroha today.
Having just his second start over the bigger fences after winning on debut at same the venue last month, Ngatira Gold and rider Aaron Kuru sat behind a steady pace set by the leading trio of Mr Kanton, Thenamesbond and Nells Belle who took turns in front.
Things started to get serious with 1200 metres to run as Thenamesbond succeeded in putting enough pressure on his rivals to split the field up. By then Kuru had Ngatira Gold trucking along nicely in fourth before dashing to the lead with two fences to negotiate.
The anticipated victory suddenly came into doubt as Thenamesbond began to claw his way back into the fight along with Mr Kanton and Noah Jon who was running on resolutely. A bungle at the last fence nearly cost Ngatira Gold victory, but he picked himself up to out-duel Thenamesbond in a torrid last 100 metres and score by a long head.
Logan cut a relieved figure as she welcomed last year’s Great Northern Hurdle placegetter back to scale.
“That got a bit messy in the end but he will learn from that,” she said. “He’s the type of horse who can sometimes throw it away but he loves steeplechasing and he just toughed it out today.”
“I’ll have a talk with the owners but if he comes through the race well then we will look at the Pakuranga Hunt Cup at Ellerslie next.”
Kuru was thanking his lucky stars after such a close call at the last fence. “Full credit to Sam and the team as he’s taken to this steeplechasing game really well and has a future there,” he said.
“I was quite lucky that Thenamesbond mucked up the last as well but I knew I had the horse, it was just really whether he wanted it or not. He can go to Ellerslie now and be competitive just as long as he wants to do it.”
There was also a close finish earlier in the day when the Graham Falconer-trained El Corby thrust himself into contention for the remaining Ellerslie hurdle features this season when he scored his third win from just four starts over brush in taking out the main hurdle race on the programme.
Runner-up Laekeeper, who had scored so emphatically in his hurdle debut at Te Aroha last month, lost no admirers with a brave second, going down by just a head.