National contenders impress at Riccarton

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Chief Sequoyah

Emerging hurdling talent Chief Sequoyah did everything trainer John Wheeler was looking for ahead of Wednesday’s Hospitality New Zealand Canterbury Grand National Hurdles (4200m) when he took out Saturday’s Avon City Ford Sydenham Hurdles (3100m) at Riccarton in fine fashion.

The seven-year-old son of Redwood has taken to the jumping game like a duck to water, winning two of his last three starts leading into his latest challenge.

Settled at the rear of the five-horse field, Chief Sequoyah jumped economically throughout before looming into contention for rider Emily Farr with three fences to clear.

Farr asked for a serious effort at the last fence and Chief Sequoyah bounded away to win easing down on the testing Heavy 11 surface by five lengths from pacemaker Beau Geste, with race favourite Aigne battling on well for third.

Wheeler was delighted with the performance as he sets his sights on the major prize of the Grand National Hurdles.

“He jumped nice and evenly today and he got to have a good look around,” Wheeler said.

“We will look forward to Wednesday now as he didn’t seem to mind the track.

“I think you have to ride him cold like Emily did as he has top end speed like a number of the others don’t.

“I’m pretty happy with where he is at.”

Chief Sequoyah has now won three of his six hurdle starts to go with the two flat wins he achieved when trained at Cambridge by Stephen Marsh, who retains a share in his ownership.

Tallyho Twinkletoe
Tallyho Twinkletoe and Shaun Phelan cruise to the finish line at Riccarton. Photo Credit: Race Images South

Another who looks to be rounding into his best form ahead of a possible challenge for a premier event during the Riccarton winter carnival is champion jumper Tallyho Twinkletoe.

The winner of nine of his thirteen attempts over fences, including the Australian Grand National Hurdle (4200m) and Steeplechase (2500m) double in 2019, along with the 2015 Grand National Hurdles (4200m) at Riccarton, simply toyed with his rivals in the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Koral Steeplechase (4250m), winning by 16 lengths.

The Kevin Myers-trained eleven-year-old may tackle next weekend’s Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) and looks a hot favourite after defeating most of his likely rivals on Saturday.

Rider Shaun Phelan was blown away by the ease of the victory.

“I should have to pay for that,” he said.

“It was just unreal and I just sat there and enjoyed it.

“It was pretty lonely up the home straight as he was out in front by that much, he’s just a machine.

“He is pretty straight forward but when you come up to a big fence and need an effort, he can just take off a mile away.

“I’m not sure if he will be here next weekend for the National as there is talk he may go to Australia for the big money jumping races there, but I think his rivals will be hoping he does make that trip,”

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