John Wheeler rolls out big guns for Awapuni

TONY BIRD
Last updated 16:23 13/06/2014

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John Wheeler will be lining up three of his big guns in the jumping game at Awapuni tomorrow.

The New Plymouth trainer has made a low key start to the jumping season compared to recent years with only a handful of runners over the fences so far this winter.

But he steps up his attack tomorrow with at team of four jumpers entered at the Manawatu Racing Club's winter meeting.

Resuming after almost a year off the scene with leg problems will be the talented Tobouggie Nights who, along with his well-performed stablemate Volkswagin, line up in the $50,000 Manawatu Steeplechase (4400m).

Earlier on the card, the Wheeler-trained Yamanaurais topweight with 69kg in the $50,000 Awapuni Hurdles (2900m), while stablemate Athenry tackles the $10,000 maiden hurdle.

Jumps rider Corey Perrett, who works for Wheeler, will partner Tobouggie Nights and Yamanaura, with Matthew Cropp taking the mounts on Volkswagin and Athenry.

Perrett has schooled and rides in trackwork all four horses and the 33-year-old horseman is looking forward to the chance of competing in two of the country's time honoured jumps races tomorrow.

Tobouggie Nights, Yamanaura and Athenry will be having their first race over fences this winter. All three have had at least one run around on the flat to prepare them for the rigours of jumps racing.

''They are still at the improving stage and whatever they do on Saturday they should improve on,'' Perrett said yesterday. ''But they're still hard fit and are definitely chances.''

Tobouggie Nights went amiss after finishing second to Karlos in  the Koral Steeples at Riccarton early last August. 
The 2012 Great Eastern Steeple winner was given a lengthy spell and has been back in work for more than five months before a run around in the flat race on his hometrack earlier this month.

''He's such a beautiful jumper and jumps anything you put in front of him,'' Perrett said. ''We've given plenty of time and haven't rushed him back to racing.'' 

Rising nine, Tobouggie Nights has come up extremely well this preparation and with one middle-distance flat race behind him is ready to go a bold race, according to his race rider.

''I was really impressed with his gallop on Tuesday," said Perrett. He and Volkswagin galloped together and it as impressive work for jumpers.'' 

He said he was more than happy to be riding Tobouggie Nights, but was keen on the chances of Volkswagin in the Manawatu Steeples, despite finishing a battling ninth of 12 horses in the McGregor Grant Steeples at Ellerslie on June 2.

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At his previous start and first this campaign, Volkswagin finished second against restricted company lumping topweight of 73kg over the big fences at Hastings on May 22.

Perrett rode the horse in the McGregor Grant and admitted it was a disappointing effort from the horse. 

''I'm not too sure what the problem was in that, whether it was just the sticky track conditions, because being by Volksraad you question whether he's really suited by the heavy track. But he's come back well since the race. He's got a little bit more fitness under his belt now and  should be really on the mark and should go a good race.''

Perrett sees McGregor Grant winner Amanood Lad the hardest to beat in the Manawatu Steeples. ''He was pretty impressive in that so if he's on his game, he'll be pretty tough to beat.''

Athenry had a taste of hurdling last winter as part of his education in the jumping game.

Perrett expects the son of Lucky Unicorn, who has had two flat races to help fit him for a return to jumps racing, to win his share this winter.

''I thought he went quite a good race on the flat at Trentham the other day and shouldn't be far away on Saturday.''

- Taranaki Daily News

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