Brian and Shane Anderton are chasing the main prize at Riccarton on Saturday and testing the water for two of the other major events over the three-day Grand National Carnival.
The highly successful Wingatui father and son training partnership are pinning hopes on the stakes-winning mare Fascinate in the Gr.3 Winning Edge Presentations 121st Winter Cup (1600m) and looking for top performances from stablemates Jackfrost and Gold Leaf in supporting races.
Jackfrost will start in the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Sydenham Hurdles (3100m) with a view to backing up next Wednesday in the Hospitality NZ Canterbury Grand National Hurdles (4200m) and if Gold Leaf performs well in the Avon City Ford Maiden Steeplechase he could sneak into the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) on the last day.
Fascinate is in the twilight of her racing career and Saturday will be one of the last throws of the dice with the eight-year-old Falkirk mare.
“She’s going to stud any time soon and this is a good chance to have a crack at another good one,” Brian Anderton said.
“If she happened to run well, she could line up in the Winter Classic on the last day and that would probably be her swansong. She’s been a good mare for us.”
Bred and owned by Anderton and his wife, Lorraine, in partnership with Eric Parr, Fascinate has won 10 of her 40 starts with the highlight coming two starts ago at Riccarton when she won the Listed Great Easter Stakes (1400m).
Fascinate has had one start since the stakes win and disappointed when seventh at Ashburton, but she had an excuse for that failure.
“Her white cell count was through the roof,” Anderton said. “We’ve treated her and she’s good again.
“It’s a good field on Saturday, but she should give a good account of herself.”
Fascinate will be ridden by Anderton’s grandson, Jacob Lowry, who will be chasing his second Winter Cup win, having won the race three years ago on Timy Tyler.
Meanwhile, Stuart Higgins will ride Jackfrost, who emerged as an exciting hurdler at last year’s Grand National meeting, scoring runaway wins in both his first two jumps starts.
He has had three flat starts this campaign, for a couple of placings, to prepare him for a return to hurdling, in which he has had an on-going tussle with The Energizer in each of his latest three hurdle appearances. He beat him at Timaru and has chased him home when second at Wingatui and again last start, also at Timaru.
“He’s been bucking and kicking in his paddock so he’s ready to go,” Anderton said. “We’re being a bit ambitious going for the Grand National at this stage, but if he measures up to what he did last year he deserves a chance. We’ll know more after Saturday.”
It will be a fairytale result if Gold Leaf could run in this year’s Grand National Steeplechase, let alone happen to win it.
The Gallant Guru 10-year-old suffered a tendon problem 15 months ago after winning the Great Western Hurdle at Riverton. He was retired and given to Anne Beattie, the Andertons’ long-time friend and office manager at White Robe Lodge.
“Then one day Anne said we had better take another look at him,” Anderton said. “His tendon looked good and he was worth trying again.”
So as the winner of four flat races and two hurdles, Gold Leaf returned to the Anderton stable and has been taken along one step at a time, with two flat runs and two hurdle starts before being tried as a steeplechaser.
In two starts over the bigger country he has recorded two thirds placings, both behind Tai Ho at Timaru.
“He’s taken to ‘chasing well and he’s a good chance to win the maiden ‘chase on Saturday,” Anderton said. “If he does go well, we might be cheeky and have a go at the Grand National Steeples.” – NZ Racing Desk