Bring on the Great Northern

Tony Ihaka can’t wait for the Great Northern Hurdles at Ellerslie next month with Cambridge jumper Big Brownie.

Ihaka ended a drought of winners when successful on the Ann Browne-trained and part-owned Big Brownie in the Piako Mitsubishi Open Hurdles at Te Aroha today. “It was Big Brownie’s first win for two years and it seems it’s been about that long since I had a winner,” quipped Ihaka.

Big Brownie’s most recent win had been in June 2010 when taking Ellerslie’s Ken Browne Hurdles, the same race in which he was runner-up to stablemate Mount Sinai last year and third to Morpheus this year.

Big Brownie ran fourth to Southern Countess in last year’s Great Northern Hurdles at Ellerslie when ridden by Richard Eynon and Ihaka is counting down the days until September 8, the day he hopes to get his chance to chase victory in the $100,000 Rodd and Gunn Great Northern Hurdles on the Heroicity nine-year-old.

“He’ll be a big chance in the Northern,” said Ihaka, who began riding Big Brownie this winter and from five rides has managed a win, a third, two fifths and a sixth.”Lately the ground has been too puggy for him, but it was looser today and he loved it. I could get him going at the 1400 this time and he wound right up.”

Big Brownie’s path to victory was made easier when the pacemaker, Cambridge jumper El Marino, fell at the top of the home straight and caused Grabbit to lose his rider. After the carve up, Ihaka urged Big Brownie through along the inner and the horse won by a length from The Strutter.

Big Brownie has now won three races and could pick up another on route to the Great Northern. He is likely to start at the Pakuranga Hunt meeting on August 25.

Also at today’s meeting Cambridge trainers Jeff McVean and Emma-Lee Browne celebrated a win with Kingqueen in the P.M. Contracting 2200. It was the first win for the Shinko King mare from six starts and she completed a treble of wins for Cambridge jockey James McDonald, fresh back from a break and a stint in Hong Kong.

McDonald was also successful on She’s Vain and So Keep Me from four mounts on the day and he was feeling the effects off being off the scene for so long.

“I plan to take just four or five rides a meeting for a while until I get my fitness back,” said McDonald, who heads off to Sydney later in the month.