Today at Te Aroha racetrack we will witness the 17th running of National Jumps Day, a concept that began in Paeroa in 2002 with horses and trainers travelling from as far south as Wingatui for the inaugural event, and jockeys coming from as far away as Australia.
We don’t have any Otago horses this year, but we do have one from Canterbury, and we again have jockeys coming from Australia to compete at the racecourse with the most stunning backdrop of any in the country.
We greet Lee Horner for the third big meeting in a row, but veteran Paul Hamblin will be here for the first time this year. He has just clocked up 1,000 jumping rides in Australia, where he has had 78 jumping wins, but two weeks ago he won an 800 metre BM65 handicap at Nanango! He has had two jumping wins here as well.
One thing we don’t have to worry about is who will win the Jockeys’ Premiership for 2018. That title is safely in the hands of Aaron Kuru, with 17 wins already, and a chance to pick up more today. The fight for second, though, is not over yet. Buddy Lammas and Stuart Higgins each have 11, although Stuart won’t be there because of his suspension, and Shaun Fannin has nine, with more than a couple of winning chances. Aaron has the hurdles title sewn up, with 10 wins, but the steeplechase title is still up for grabs, as Aaron and Buddy have each had seven wins. The UJR title for consistency is also Aaron’s, with his rating of just over 0.4 being way ahead of anyone else.
The money prize will also go to Aaron, as his mounts have so far earnt $381,897 this year. Likewise Buddy can’t be beaten for second (currently $284,500), but the third and fourth placegetters are both missing – Shaun Phelan and Stuart Higgins. That leaves a chance for fifth placegetter Emily Farr to get on the virtual podium if she can win at least one of the big races, and pick up another win or several placings. She needs a tick under $26,000 to get past her partner and into third place.