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SANDOWN HILLSIDE PREVIEW June 13, 2009 AUSTRALIAN HURDLE (3400M) With the Group 1 racing in hiatus for a week, we are going jumping and to Sandown Hillside. After a wonky start to the season, the winter jumps racing season kicks off in the most wintery of conditions – a bog track (heavy 10) and rain forecast – with the Australian Hurdle and Australian Steeplechase. Some pretty good horses have won the Australian Hurdle – first run in 1882 at Caulfield – including modern stars Karasi (2004), Marlborough (1999) and The Shu, who won in consecutive years in 1995 and 1996. Usually the form line for the Australian Hurdle comes through the Galleywood, run at Warrnambool, and the Houlahan and Lachal Hurdles, run at Flemington, but a change to the dates this jumping season sees only the Galleywood and the Yalumba Hurdle, run at Oakbank, as the key guides to the form. The Lachal won’t be run until August 16. This year’s Galleywood was won by the grey Desert Master from Hooker Road. The pair clash again in the Australian Hurdle. The Yalumba Hurdle winner, Pentiffic, is one of seven horses in this year’s Australian Hurdle – although only Karasi has completed this double. The best form in Saturday’s race is not from a horse, but a trainer – John Wheeler. The master horseman is on a high after training Court Ruler to win the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm last Saturday, and on Wednesday, back home in New

Zealand, Wheeler trained five winners at Te Aroha, including four winners over jumps. Wheeler hasn’t won an Australian Hurdle – his sole Australian Steeplechase winner was Crafty Dancer in 2002 – but he has a real chance this year with the lightly-raced Yamanaura, to be ridden by champion jockey Brett Scott, who also runs Wheeler’s Mornington stable. Yamanaura ran third in the Yalumba Hurdle, but he resumed from a 51-day break to win well over 3300m on the Sandown Hillside jumps course on June 3, when Scott was required to use all his strength to get the gelding home (3/4len) in front of Juan Carlos – Pentiffic was third. Wheeler said after Sandown that he had a big opinion of Yamanaura, a horse who won twice on the flat and who also ran fifth behind AJC Derby runner-up Harris Tweed (2100m flat) at Ellerslie in March. You can expect the heavy track to hold no fears for this tough gelding, who is part-owned by Wheeler and former Auckland Racing Club chairman Barry Neville-White. Pentiffic, Desert Master and Hooker Road, who beat Desert Master at Mornington in the heavy on May 24 when Scott rode him – Brad Mclean rides on Saturday – all have strong claims. You can judge by their two meetings at Warrnambool and Mornington that there is little between Desert Master and Hooker Road, and both are just as capable on the flat as they are now starting to show over jumps. The tips: Yamanaura to beat Pentiffic, Desert Master, Hooker Road and Juan Carlos.



Predicted positions on settling

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Race 4, 2.05pm (Melb time)

AND ALSO Two horses stand out most in this racing tragic’s dimming memory of Sandown race meetings – Zipping, for his low-flying finish over the final 100 metres in the 2400m Sandown Classic last November; and Mazzacano for his two steeplechase wins in June 2007. The first was the Australian Steeple (3900m) on the 16th, as he toyed with very handy jumpers Enzed and Conzeal to win by 20 lengths when Gavin Bedggood let him go. The second was the Crisp (also 3900m) two weeks later, when Bedggood let him go and then appeared to ease him down as he beat Conzeal again. A few strides past the post Bedggood hopped off and led Mazzacano back, limping. Bowed tendon No. 3, Zipping might have another Classic crack in the spring, but on Saturday the big M, finally, is back on his favourite track in another Australian Steeple (R3). That’s enough to get this jumps fan to Sandown, whatever the weather – rain is on the radar and a heavy 10 has been posted. Mazzacano hasn’t been idle as trainer Robbie Laing has run him into fitness, without putting too much pressure on those bowed but unbeaten legs, with eight barrier trials since March 30, the last couple (one over hurdles, one over fences) on the same day (Tuesday). So, don’t worry about miles in the legs; instead remember Laing’s Grand Annual winner at the ’Bool last month, 9YO Sir Pentire – he got the bikkies at his first run for two years, and after a swag (12 in his case) of barrier trials. Mazzacano is only an 8YO, so jump on. Stephen Howell

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