Amanood Lad wins McGregor Grant

Amanood Lad (Steve Pateman) on his way to another McGregor Grant Steeplechase win. (Photo: Trish Dunell/ NZ Racing Desk).

Amanood Lad (Steve Pateman) on his way to another McGregor Grant Steeplechase win. (Photo: Trish Dunell/ NZ Racing Desk).

Cambridge trainer Ben Foote pulled off a great training feat at Ellerslie today to give top Australian jumps jockey Steve Pateman confidence in his Great Northern dream.

Thornton produced Amanood Lad fresh-up in the 4150-metre $50,000 Rheem NZ McGregor Grant Steeplechase and with Pateman aboard for the first time the Germano 10-year-old proved superior.

After leading to the first fence then trailing Rosetown Joe, Amanood Lad took over with 1600 metres to run and, though challenged hotly by McCulley in the run home, he shook off his main rival inside the last 200 metres and drew clear to win comfortably by three and three-quarter lengths from the favourite Carinya.

It was back-to-back McGregor Grant wins for Amanood Lad and the dominance he showed today proved he could also successfully defend his Great Northern Steeplechase crown.

Pateman makes no secret of the fact he wants to win the Great Northern Steeplechase, especially after getting a sniff of victory last year when chasing Amanood Lad home aboard Toubouggie Nights.

“It’s a real ambition to win the Great Northern,” said Pateman after breaking through for his first New Zealand win. “It’s a tough one to conquer, but this (Amanood Lad) may be the one.”

Pateman then went on to elaborate on why he holds the Great Northern in such high regard.

“The Great Northern in itself doesn’t get enough international recognition,” he said. “It’s a four-mile race up the hill (three times) and it’s probably one of the most stamina-testing races in the world.

“I’m sure there’s a big percentage of racing people that don’t know anything about it. It’s a shame, but it’s great to be part of it.”

Pateman was thrilled to be offered the ride on Amanood Lad after regular rider Craig Thornton retired.

“He’s a dashing horse, a crowd-pleaser and I couldn’t believe I got the opportunity to ride him,” said Pateman. ”He gave me a great spin, though the whole way I thought his revs were up too much, he was just doing a bit too much.

“It was some training effort. The kick he gave me after the last was like a horse fully wound up and ready to go but he’s going to improve a lot on that, naturally.”

Amanood Lad not only carried the topweight of 70kg, he hadn’t raced since his Great Northern Steeplechase win last September. Foote had used three trials, the latest an open steeplechase heat (which he won) to ready him for today’s race.

“I knew he was forward but obviously without that raceday fitness I really thought it might tell when they hit the course proper,” said Foote. “He’d done a bit of hunting this year so probably he was reasonably forward.”

Though naturally thrilled with the win, Foote’s immediate thought after the race was the weight Amanood Lad could have to carry in this year’s Great Northern.

“The first thing to come into my head when they went past the post is more weight so I’m going to have to be careful now,” said Foote. “Basically the plan was to get this one out of the way and concentrate on the Northern.”

Amanood Lad won last year’s McGregor Grant Steeplechase by two lengths in the hands of Richard Cully when on the 65kg minimum then had three further starts before a nose second to Toubouggie Nights in the Tony Richards Pakuranga Hunt Cup sealed his tilt at the Great Northern.

Pateman climbed aboard Toubouggie Nights in last year’s Meadow Fresh Great Northern Steeplechase, but Amanood Lad, ridden by Thornton, turned the tables on the John Wheeler-trained jumper, taking Ellerslie’s major jumps race by one and a quarter lengths under 67kg, 2kg above the minimum.

Foote says he will be guided by Pateman’s assessment of Amanood Lad in the build-up to the Great Northern.

“I’ll see what Pateman has to say,” he said. “He’s the main to listen to so we’ll go from there.”

Today marked Foote’s third McGregor Grant Steeplechase win as a trainer, the first being with Proposition in 2008 when also ridden by an top Australian jumps jockey, Craig Durden.