West Coast tops Oulaghan masterclass

Star steeplechaser West Coast (NZ) (Mettre En Jeu) added another crown to his impeccable record for Mark Oulaghan with a tough victory in the L J Hooker Manawatu Steeplechase (4000m) at Woodville on Sunday.

The phenomenal record of West Coast over the bigger fences commenced when he won a maiden steeplechase at Hawke’s Bay in June of 2022, and he has made nearly every post a winner since with a Koral Steeplechase (4250m), Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase (4800m), Wellington Steeplechase (5500m) and a pair of Grand National Steeplechases (5600m) to his name.

West Coast secured his Champion Jumper title with a win in the Great Northern Steeplechase (6500m) to complete an incredible campaign last year, and punters were out in force supporting a successful return for the son of Mettre En Jeu at Woodville, backing him into $2.

Last-start winner Izymydaad assumed his regular role as pacemaker in the early stages, with Shaun Fannin settling West Coast midfield as he comfortably negotiated the first lap of the course.  

Several runners went up to contest the lead heading into the second circuit, while West Coast bided his time in behind before moving strongly into contention at the 800m, in pursuit of the leader alongside the Kevin Myers pair of Hey Happy and Interllectus.

Izymydaad and West Coast jumped the final two fences in unison and the pair fought in a tight struggle to the post, but even the 73kg impost could not stop the gelding from claiming the feature by a neck in emphatic style.

“He sneaked through and got the inside run, he was pretty well ridden by Shaun and at the end of the day he got there, even if only just,” Oulaghan said.

“He’ll take a bit of improvement out of that race, you can give them a few flat runs and think they are fit, but by the time they get over the steeplechase fences, it brings them on a lot more.”

“He’s just got that ability, his strongest attribute is probably that he can really find at the end of a race, other times he’s looked a bit flat at the top of the straight and he’s been able to pull it out at the end of 4000 or 4400m, which is pretty unusual for a horse. Not a lot of horses can do that.

“I think he was the first horse in 50 years to win the three big ones in a row (Wellington, National, Northern) so it puts him right up there for me.”

With plenty of options ahead, Oulaghan is unsure where the gelding will appear next.

“He’ll take a bit of improvement out of that race, you can give them a few flat runs and think they are fit, but by the time they get over the steeplechase fences, it brings them on a lot more,” he said.

“I’m not 100% sure where he will go next.”

Bred by Wanganui nursery Letham Stud, West Coast is out of the Grosvenor mare Testament, and he has earned north of $402,000 for the Williamson’s in 34 attempts.

Awapuni-based Oulaghan emulated his feats at Grand National Week in claiming the feature double with Berry The Cash (NZ) (Jakkalberry), who was a dominant victor of the Manawatu ITM Awapuni Hurdle (3000m), and incredibly he also claimed the Property Brokers Woodville-Pahiatua Cup (2100m) with Pinkerton (NZ) (Niagara).

The son of Niagara has become something of a course specialist at Woodville, picking up his two most recent successes at the course including a Rating 65 Highweight over the mile in April.

A strong showing up in grade at Hawera had Pinkerton a $3.40 favourite for Sunday’s race, and jockey Lisa Allpress had him travelling quietly near the tail of the field through the mid-stages.

The in-form hoop got busy at the 800m and Pinkerton powered into contention turning for home, holding out a strong late dash by Masso to score by a long neck.

“We just let him stick to his pattern, he’s a back runner so he relaxed nicely and ran home well,” Oulaghan said.

“He’s not very big and being a six-year-old, it’s taken him a long time to mature into a reasonable sort of horse. He’s physically not probably ideal for a jumper, we haven’t done much schooling with him but it may be something we look at further down the line.”

Oulaghan bred the six-year-old out of his late mare Bidthemobgoodday, and he has earned $54,470 in 20 starts.

A highly-regarded trainer on both the flat and over fences, Oulaghan has enjoyed many successes in both roles and was pleased to have a successful outing close to home.

“It’s always good to win the major jumping races, and getting two of those today was nice,” he said.

“I’m a Woodville boy, so it was good to come home and win the Cup here. “We’ll just head home and feed a few young horses now.”

Related posts