Eynon flies in to ride team
Richard Eynon will make a fleeting visit back from Melbourne to ride at the Hawke's Bay meeting at Hastings today.
The leading jumps rider has been temporarily based in Melbourne over the winter, returning to New Zealand on hit-and-run missions to ride only when required by New Plymouth trainer and his employer John Wheeler.
The last time the talented cross-country rider came back was early this month when he was successful on Sir Heelan in the McGregor Grant Steeples at Ellerslie. Today, Eynon has been booked to ride five Wheeler-trained jumpers at Hastings.
Engagements completed, Eynon will jump on a plane straight back to Melbourne. He is booked to ride Tobouggie Nights and Seeking the Silver for the Wheeler stable at Warrnambool – a three hour drive from Melbourne – tomorrow.
Wheeler is confident of success at Warrnambool and also at Hastings where he will line up eight runners on the nine-race card.
Heading the attack is proven chaser Volkswagin who two starts back was runner-up behind Myths And Legends in the Waikato Steeplechase at Te Rapa.
Last start, Volkswagin was unsuited by the holding track when fourth in the McGregor Grant Steeples at Ellerslie on June 4.
"It looks like the track will be quite good (at Hastings) so that's going to suit him," said Wheeler yesterday. "The track at Auckland was probably too heavy for him."
Wheeler said Volkswagin was "going super" and was ready to run a big race in the Hawke's Bay feature race which has drawn just seven acceptors. "He'll be a good chance in the race," he said. "It appears to me the opposition is reasonably soft."
Wheeler planned lining up Sir Heelan in he race but the horse suffered a setback and missed some work.
"He developed a bit of filling in a leg. I've had it scoped and it seems to be alright," said Wheeler, adding the horse would be set for the Grand National Steeplechase at Riccarton in August.
The Wheeler stable has a good chance to claim the Hawke's Bay Steeples/Hurdles double today with the capable jumper At The Top and stablemate Banna Strand both competitive chances in the the hurdle leg.
At The Top will be ridden by Eynon and two starts back looked good when runner-up behind Morpheus at Ellerslie before a battling sixth of nine runners in the Awapuni Hurdles on June 16.
The expected improved track conditions will be expected to suit him and Banna Strand who, while better known as a chaser these days, won over the smaller fences against restricted open opposition at Hastings two starts back.
Banna Strand only managed sixth of nine runners in the open hurdles at Ellerslie last start, finishing 9.3 lengths behind winner Morpheus who is again a rival today.
"Banna Strand should be thereabouts and the (dead) track should suit him too," said Wheeler.
"He's quite sharp and stays well so the distance of the race (3100m) is going to suit."
Riviera Star (R1) Ayatollah (R2) and Batatius (R5) will represent Wheeler in the maiden jumping races on the Hawke's Bay card, with Batatius probably the pick of the trio on lead-up form.
In the flat events, the stable lines up I Gotta Feeling in race seven for rating 75 horses, while stablemate The Pooka resumes following a layoff in race eight, the open 1200m sprint.
The Pooka, a rising eight-year-old, hasn't raced since last January and has a good record fresh up. Wheeler said the group one Two Thousand Guineas winner had come up well in his latest preparation and finished second to Keyora in a 1000m jumpout earlier this month.