El Corby's Te Aroha win a Great Northern guide
El Corby continued his meteoric rise through the hurdling ranks with another success at Te Aroha on Sunday.
In a restricted hurdle race which could prove a definitive guide to the upcoming Great Northern Hurdles, El Corby got the better of another emerging talent Laekeeper in a driving finish.
Last season's Northern winner D'Llaro hinted he is returning to top form with his third placing and another up-and-comer Fast Catch ran fourth.
El Corby's win was a welcome home present for owner-trainer Graham Falconer who has been in the USA watching his grand-daughter win a World BMX title.
"He [El Corby] might be as good as the grand-daughter," Falconer smiled after the race.
Falconer is now thinking he will need to set his Istidaad gelding for the Northern.
"You would have to think you would be having a go wouldn't you?" he said.
Victorious jockey Gary Walsh was certainly thinking along those lines.
"He was pretty tired at the finish," Walsh said. "He toughed it out - he's a class act.
"He hasn't done a lot of jumping and he's pretty much learning the job as he races."
As a winner of three from four hurdle starts, his future looks extremely bright.
El Corby is likely to meet several of those that chased him home in Sunday's race when the Northern comes round.
Hesalljazz got his jumps career off to a winning start taking out the maiden hurdle giving James Seivewright his first win in New Zealand.
The experienced English jockey arrived in New Zealand via an Australian track work stint and was delighted to break his duck.
"It's my first win in New Zealand," he said. "I can't believe he's done it that well.
"I thought on the bend we must have a lap to go he was going so well."
The Stephen Ralph trained and co-owned jumper looked the winner after Seivewright urged him to the front around 800m from home.
The horse maintained a strong gallop and won comfortably from El Fernando with outsider Crackthegoodstuff running well on hurdles debut for third.
Ngatira Gold won the day's feature steeplechase ridden by Aaron Kuru for trainer Samantha Logan after a battle with second placed Thenamesbond and Noah Jon in third.
The newcomer to the big fences is likely to be set for the Pakuranga Hunt Cup at Ellerslie as he settles into his new role after previously winning on the flat and over hurdles.
It was a welcome change of luck for leading rider Kuru who endured falls earlier in the day and also at Riccarton on Saturday.
Missing from Sunday's action was Shaun Fannin who was a little the worse for wear after also taking a tumble at Riccarton.
Dylan Turner stood down from further rides at Te Aroha after taking a fall from Wilbur in the maiden steeplechase but early indications were his injuries weren't too serious.