Fine end to jumps season for Houston

Shelley Houston winning the 2009 Hawke's Bay Steeplechase on Climbing High

Cambridge jumps jockey Shelley Houston walked off Ellerslie racecourse yesterday feeling very pleased with her day’s work.

“It was a nice feeling to finish the (jumps) season on that note,” said Houston referring to her three wins and a second from five rides. “I was pretty happy.”

Houston got a special thrill from winning the Solutions 3Sixty Steeplechase on her favourite horse, Climbing High. Houston had the choice of three rides for the open steeplechase, having also ridden The Fox and Tom’s Myth in their latest races.

She had switched from Climbing High to Tom’s Myth for the Great Northern Steeplechase, believing the Ann Browne runner would see out the testing 6400 metres better than Climbing High, especially on a heavy track. She was proved right with Tom’s Myth finishing fifth and Climbing High being pulled up.

However, Houston was back on Climbing High last time in the Rotorua — Bay Of Plenty Hunt Cup and though it was back to hurdling and a much shorter distance the fine jumper ran on resolutely for second to Joerok. On the strength of that performance Houston was not going to get off Climbing High
yesterday and her confidence grew after experiencing the track earlier in the day.

“The track was better than a lot of people thought it would be and I knew Climbing High would be hard to beat,” said Houston. “And in the race I was pretty confident the majority of the way. The only worry was down the back when he hit a few sticky patches, but he grabbed the bit and zoomed up the hill.”

Houston purposely waited on Climbing High coming to the final fence. “I just wanted something to chase and after the last I knew he’d get up, even though The Fox is a good horse and I do rate him,” said Houston. “I was very happy to finally win there with him.”

Climbing High, who is trained at Te Awamutu by Bill and Mark Weal, had been runner-up in two Pakuranga Hunt Cups and a McGregor Grant Steeplechase, each time being bogged down in the run home.

Houston has formed a great record with Climbing High, taking over after Arron Tata (now training at Cambridge in partnership with Danny Walker) won two hurdle races on him. Houston has been aboard Climbing High in each of his eight steeplechase wins, including two Hawke’s Bay Steeplechases and a Waikato Steeplechase.

“He’s a special horse for me,” said Houston. I haven’t ridden another one like him. Hopefully he’ll be back again next winter.”

Houston was also very pleased to win on two Cambridge horses, Shakeitup and Handsome As, and was runner-up on Conquistador. Shakeitup is trained by Michael Roustoby and Jennifer McIlroy, who also race the Shinko King six-year-old. Shakeitup never gave his rivals a chance in the first event, the Xmas @ Ellerslie Hurdles, streaking off to a clear lead and running his rivals ragged to score by 12 lengths from another Cambridge horse, Moni Nui.

“If I had my way he would have run a few seconds slower,” said Houston. “ He’s a funny horse. He’s got so much energy and he’s always looking to do more. He just grabbed the bit and wanted to go yesterday. He’s his own worst enemy, but if he can learn to settle he could do well.”

Shakeitup has won four races for his connections with two of the wins coming from six starts over hurdles. Both his jumps wins have been at Ellerslie.

Roustoby is also an amateur rider so after enjoying Shakeitup’s win he competed in the FLAIR Amateur Riders’ Series Final, but had  no joy, finishing sixth on Pauhatu. The event was won by the Ralph Manning-trained Old Drumble, who was ridden by Jacob McKay, son of Matamata trainer Peter McKay. Manning has provided McKay with both his amateur wins, the other being at Paeroa earlier this year on Tookie.

Four Cambidge-trained horses were successful on National Jumps Day with Denise Venn preparing Handsome As and Michael Wallace taking the last event with Hunters Creek. Adding to the Cambridge haul was a quinella by jumps riders Richard Cully and Matthew Cropp, riding Yorkie and Solid Steel
respectively for Hastings trainer Paul Nelson.

Photo: Shelley Houston is pictured above winning the 2009 Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase on Climbing High.