A nail-biting win in Saturday’s NZB Airfreight Road To Jericho (3210m) at New Plymouth has thrown up an interesting dilemma for the connections of champion hurdler The Cossack.
The victory by the versatile performer has guaranteed the Paul Nelson and Corrina McDougal-trained eight-year-old a start in the unique AUD$304,000 Jericho Cup (4600m) at Warrnambool on November 28.
First run in 2018, the Jericho Cup is restricted to Australian and New Zealand-bred horses and commemorates a race held in the desert in Palestine during World War I.
Saturday’s contest at New Plymouth was the first of two New Zealand-based qualifying events, with the second run at Riccarton on October 23.
Nelson, who part-owns the son of Mastercraftsman, along with Peter and Doug Grieve and John Frizzell now has to decide whether to defend the title they won last year in the prestigious Great Northern Hurdle (4190m) which is run at Ellerslie next month or take a punt at the Jericho Cup.
“It was a great effort to win on Saturday, but it has placed us in a little bit of a quandary,” Nelson said.
“The horse has had a very big season and we had originally planned to have the run on Saturday and then go straight to the Northern at Ellerslie.
“Now he has guaranteed himself a start at Warrnambool, we are going to have to sit down and make a decision about what we do as I don’t believe he can do both.”
It was a close run thing on Saturday with The Cossack staving off a bold late run from Brucie to win by a nose and then having to survive an inquiry alleging interference against the runner-up on the point of the home turn.
“I wasn’t even sure we had won originally as it was a desperate finish,” Nelson said.
“I was standing behind Jimmy Walker and those ex-jockeys are pretty accurate and he thought we had just got up.
“The judge actually called us in second, but he stuck his nose out at the right time.
“The inquiry didn’t look to good either, but when you saw the footage, it was actually the grey horse (Twin Spinner) moving out that caused the problem, so we managed to hold on to the win.”
Nelson will allow The Cossack a few easy days in the paddock before the team decide on which path they will take but was full of praise for his charge who has been a revelation over the past year, winning the Great Northern Hurdle, the Waikato Hurdle (3200m), the Wellington Hurdle (3100m) and the Grand National Hurdles (4200m) within a 12-month period.
“He has really developed into a good horse and it is something special to win the races he has over the last year,” Nelson said.
“I am a little bit wary of going to the well once too often with him, as although he looks a picture, you just never know when he might bottom out from the tough racing he has had.
“I guess the good thing is that we have a little bit of time to make the decision on what we are going to do and we will be doing what is best for the horse.”