Nelson/McDougal seeking first Northern crown

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  • September 18, 2023
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By Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

There are few prestige jumping trophies missing from Paul Nelson’s mantlepiece, but the Great Northern Steeplechase is one that has eluded the Hastings trainer over his career.

Nelson went into partnership with long-time stable member Corrina McDougal in 2019, and the pairing have since collected a Jumps Trainer’s Premiership (2021/22) alongside a multitude of prestige jumping victories, including nine from their superstar The Cossack.

The son of Mastercraftsman will aim to give his trainers an elusive first crown at Te Rapa on Sunday, when he and stablemate Raucous contest the Ben and Ryan Foote Racing Great Northern Steeplechase (6500m).

“We’ve always wanted to win one,” Nelson said.

Nelson admitted he felt the relocation of the iconic race to Te Rapa following the sale of the famed Ellerslie hill put a dampener on its significance, however the desire to win remains.

“I’m disappointed we’re doing it around Te Rapa and I feel the Northern has lost a bit of its prestige or importance not being at Ellerslie, but it would still be great to win it,” he said.

The Cossack has been a force to be reckoned with over his jumping career, collecting the Great Northern Hurdle (4190m) in his first and second seasons, also adding a Grand National Hurdle (4200m) to his list of achievements.

Reverting to the bigger fences this year, The Cossack has been unbeaten in steeplechase events aside from a luckless third in the Wellington Steeplechase (5500m) behind key race rival West Coast, who aims to add a Northern title to his dual Grand National Steeplechases.

Nelson acknowledged the significant hurdling achievements of The Cossack, however felt the 73kg weight allocated to both his ten-year-old charge and West Coast may not be on par with their respective steeplechasing efforts.

“I don’t think he (The Cossack) should have the same weight as West Coast, he’s probably a kilo-and-a-half more than he should be,” he said.

“He’s won two prestige steeplechases and was second in the Australian Grand National, whereas West Coast has won four prestige races including two Grand Nationals.

“I think we’ve been handicapped on his hurdling performances as well.”

West Coast was absent from the contest when The Cossack romped home to a five-and-a-quarter length victory in the Pakuranga Hunt Cup (4800m), where visiting Victorian-based jockey Aaron Kuru piloted the gelding and will be aboard on Sunday.

“Bar having a bit of a big leg from banging that fence, he’s been very good since Pakuranga,” Nelson said.

Raucous has not been far behind his star stablemate this season, recording two steeplechase victories and two placings this campaign including third in the Pakuranga Hunt Cup, surprising Nelson after a less consistent showing last year.

“Raucous has done everything and more than he’s been asked to do,” he said.

“It’s surprised me, he’s gotten so consistent and hardly been out of the money all season.”

Stable jockey Jack Power will return to partner with Raucous after a brief injury layoff last week, following a fall at Hawera a fortnight ago. 

“His hand was pretty sore for a while, but he seems to be using it well now and got medical clearance on Monday,” Nelson said.

The Nelson/McDougal stable also possess current equal favourites ($3.20) with bookmakers in the other feature event, with Taika and Nedwin featuring in the Peter Kelly – Bayleys Great Northern Hurdle (4200m).

The classy pairing were second and third respectively behind an impressive English Gambler in the key lead up race, the Open Hurdle (3200m) at Te Rapa in Foxbridge Plate day, however Nelson would favour a downgrade in track conditions for Nedwin.

“They’re both very well, I’d be far more confident with Nedwin if we got a decent shower of rain up there and they could be getting it I’m not sure, but he’s probably not as strong on a good track,” he said.

“Taika is a lovely mover and he only has wet track form having been on those tracks this year, but I think he could go better than Nedwin on a better track.”

The Hastings stable will also be represented by six-year-old Galileo Invader in the Holah Homes Hurdle (2800m) earlier on the card.

“He’s gone alright for his two races but he’s been jumping the Wanganui-style fences which are a bit more like mini-steeplechase fences, and I’d like to see him go over the more conventional hurdles at Te Rapa.

“I think he’ll like them more.” – LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

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