Last year’s Grand National Steeplechase (5500m) winner, Shamal, looks like he is right on track to add another coveted jumping prize to his locker after he took out the Ken & Roger Browne Memorial Steeplechase (3900m) at Te Rapa on Saturday.
The Te Rapa event is the traditional lead-up to the Signature Homes Waikato Steeplechase (3900m) in a fortnight, a race where the Zabeel eight-year-old will look to improve on his fourth placing in 2018.
Unsighted since finishing third in the Great Northern Steeplechase (6300m) at Te Aroha in September, Shamal entered Saturday’s event with just one 1600m trial under his belt. Trainer Ken Duncan had put plenty of work into him and that preparation showed as he looped the field from last at the 800m to hit the front with two fences to clear.
In the hands of regular rider Buddy Lammas, Shamal flew the last and kept up a resolute gallop to score by a length from Arabian Duke with stablemate Justnametheprice providing Duncan with a top result when finishing third.
Duncan was thrilled with the win as he went into the race thinking his charge may have been a run short. “It was a huge effort that took me by surprise a wee bit as I thought he needed one,” Duncan said. “He does like being on top of the ground though. “I actually missed his move at the 600m when he went from last. I was thinking that’s a great possie for him and the next minute he was in front.”
Duncan confirmed he was planning to have Shamal tackle the major steeplechasing events this season although he was worried about the consequences of a re-handicap following the victory. “I just hope I haven’t shot myself in the foot with the handicapper,” he said. “He will take a similar path to last year, although he is a day-to-day proposition, but at the moment we have him pretty right.”