The red-hot run of form for the Paul Nelson and Corrina McDougal training partnership continued at Te Rapa on Saturday when stable runner Argyll took out the Signature Homes Waikato Steeplechase (3900m).
Just one race after the partnership combined with Shaun Phelan to land star hurdler The Cossack a convincing winner in his steeplechase debut over 3900m, the trio were at it again as the eight-year-old son of Gallant Guru proved too tough for the Kevin Myers-trained pair of Albaron and Carnaby in the closing stages of a keenly contested feature jumping contest.
Phelan ensured the race was run at a solid tempo as he pressured the early leader Flyingwithoutwings before taking Argyll to the front at the 1200m mark.
Attacked by Delegate and then Carnaby in the closing stages, Argyll kicked away approaching the last fence and held out all challengers to win by five and a half lengths and register his second and most important career victory.
With Nelson looking after the horses at the track, McDougal was watching from at home where she admitted she made a fair bit of noise in the concluding stages of the contest.
“I’m at home by myself this afternoon so I got to jump around and carry on without anyone telling me to be quiet while the race was on,” she said.
“It was really exciting watching Argyll win, especially after The Cossack the race before that.
“We got Argyll off Ben Foote who did the early work with him and we gave him a couple of hurdle races but he crashed into his fences like it was a bit of a demolition derby.
“He got a little crook so we got the chiropractor to have a look at him and since we did that he has been like a new horse.
“He has found his groove over the bigger fences and that was a really good win today in a nice race.
“Shaun rated him beautifully and the work we do with them over the hills paid off as he kept up a steady gallop and held them off with a tough effort.”
McDougal will leave it to Nelson to plan the rest of the winter for Argyll while the immediate plans for The Cossack are still being decided as well.
“Paul makes the planning decisions and we haven’t really spoken about what to do with Argyll as today was the big test for him and he has risen to that challenge,” she said.
“We will have a look at what is coming up and decide from there.
“Plans for The Cossack are still being made with options here and in Australia on the table.
“It’s great he has got that win over the bigger fences as that has given us even more possibilities, however I think the focus will still be on getting him back over hurdles sooner rather than later.”
Bred by Garry and Jan Sherratt who share in his ownership with Kim Rogers and Ben Foote, Argyll is out of the four-race winner Politic and comes from an extended family that includes dual Great Northern Hurdle (4190m) and Grand National Hurdle (4200m) winner Just Not Cricket, who was also trained by Nelson.
The victory also capped a stellar day for Phelan who won the other feature jumping race on the day, the Fairview Motors Waikato Hurdle (3200m) aboard Dr Hank.