Harvey Wilson was unable to switch to hands-free mode but was still able to give a good push to his Te Rapa chances from the driver’s seat on It’s A Wonder (NZ) (Istidaad) on Thursday morning.
Wilson graciously took the NZ Racing Desk call between hill climbs as he put the finishing touches on Signature Homes Waikato Steeplechase (3900m) favourite It’s A Wonder.
“He’s already had one run up the hill and I’m about to give him another,” Wilson said.
“He does all his work on the farm, all his fast work on the hills. He pulls too hard on the track, especially for an old fella like me.”
TAB bookmakers have installed Istidaad 10-year-old It’s A Wonder as a $4 favourite for the Waikato Steeples ahead of Zedman NZ) (Zed) at $4.40, Delacroix (NZ) (Zabeel) at $5 and Napoleon (NZ) (Shinko King) at $5.50 in a field Wilson describes as “formidable”.
“It’s a good field, no doubt about that, but we’re happy with our bloke,” Wilson said.
“He did start in a chase at Te Rapa last year when he had to settle for second to Shamal and he did struggle with the turns into the middle. He does like to get on with the job a bit but we think he will have learnt from the experience and should be better this time.
“He’ll go pretty freely again and he’s going well. We were surprised how well he went in the hurdle at Wanganui.”
It’s A Wonder resumed with a second placing to Aigne (NZ) (Sufficient) at Wanganui in a 3000m hurdle race and has since had an unplaced flat race at the same track in preparation for his favoured role.
His steeplechasing record reads five starts for three wins and two placings, the wins culminating in success in the Koral Steeplechase (4250m) and Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) at Riccarton last year.
“It’s a shame there won’t be a National this year,” Wilson said.
“After this he’ll miss Awapuni and then go to Hawke’s Bay (for the AHD Hawke’s Bay Steeples over 4800m on September 19) and then on to the Pakuranga Hunt Cup (4900m at Ellerslie on October 4).
“How he goes in the Pakuranga will dictate whether we press on to the Northern (Great Northern Steeples over 6400m at Ellerslie on October 17). Whether he’s a true Northern horse or not, I’m not 100 percent sure. He did handle the 5600m of the Grand National but the Northern is different, three times over the Ellerslie hill.”
Wilson will give himself a shot at Te Rapa’s feature jumps double with Bad Boy Brown (NZ) (St Reims) tackling the Fairview Motors Waikato Hurdle (3200m) earlier on the card.
Only once out of the top two in hurdles, when regular rider Isaac Lupton was forced to pull him up with a slipped saddle, Bad Boy Brown has won four of his eight starts in the role, winning last year’s Great Northern Hurdle (4190m) at Ellerslie, having finished second in the Grand National Hurdles (4200m) at Riccarton.
“He’s good. We’ve been happy with his work,” Wilson said.
“The dead track might be a little concern. It shoudn’t be too good for him but it will assist the others more.”
St Reims nine-year-old Bad Boy Brown has had two flat runs to fit him for his return to jumping, finishing third and fifth at Wanganui, performances that pleased Wilson.
“He meets a strong field on Saturday and it’s never easy with top weight to carry but he’s going well.”
Bookies have Bad Boy Brown as a $7 equal fourth favourite with Laekeeper in a market headed by Ave Maria and Ali Baba at $5.50 and Revolution at $6.
Wilson said Bad Boy Brown would contest the Manawatu ITM Awapuni Hurdles (2900m) on August 22 on his way towards defending his Great Northern crown.
Rounding out the Wilson team at Te Rapa is Zed gelding Password (NZ), who contests the Foster 2100 as he looks to build on a win and second placing in two runs since racing resumed after the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We’re pretty happy with him too. It’s a stronger field but we’ve got a good rider in Sam Spratt and he likes to get on speed which should help at Te Rapa,” Wilson said.
“(Well-known racing journalist) Michael Guerin is a part-owner and it’s close enough for him to come and watch too. He knows how to jump too but while he’s going like he is, we’ll just stick to the flat with him.”