Top New Zealand jumpers Shamal (pictured) and Alfie Dee have joined trainer Amy McDonald’s Ballarat barn. Photo: Trish Dunell
With COVID-19 curtailing the jumps season in New Zealand, Hunterville trainer Ken Duncan has elected to send two of his stable stars across the Tasman to try and nab some Australian spoils.
Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) winner Shamal (NZ) (Zabeel) and Grand National Hurdles (4200m) winner Alfie Dee (NZ) (Zed) arrived in Australia last week where they joined the Ballarat stable of new trainer Amy McDonald.
McDonald was impressed with their condition upon arrival and on Thursday she lined them up in qualifying trials at Cranbourne.
“They arrived very fit and very well-conditioned when they got here. They both travelled well,” she said.
“They had to have a qualifying trial on Thursday, so they both went down to Cranbourne for that and they went super.”
McDonald began an association with Duncan last year when he campaigned Shamal in Australia.
“Kenny stayed with us when he came over last year for the National, so I have known him for less than 12 months,” she said.
“He is a ripping bloke and I am sure he would like to be over here with them, but obviously with the restrictions at the moment (as a result of COVID-19) it makes things a bit difficult.”
In the short time they have been in her stable, McDonald said she has been impressed with what she has seen and some lofty targets could be on the cards for the pair.
“I think they are both talented horses and good jumpers. They have been well schooled and educated,” she said.
“I think one of their biggest assets is their toughness and Kenny has obviously been a very important part of that, getting them where they are and having that tenacity in the finish.
“Shamal will likely head to the Australian Chase (3900m) and Alfie Dee the Australian Hurdle (3900m).”
McDonald is looking forward to campaigning the Kiwi pair and she is hoping more New Zealand jumpers will cross the ditch to tackle feature jumps races this year.
“Although the Kiwi jumpers who come over here more often than not absolutely destroy us, I am looking forward to seeing the likes of Tallyho Twinkletoe come over again,” she said.
“Hopefully Dummy (Kevin Myers, trainer) has a couple of others in his back pocket he can send over.”