By Don Farmer
Jumping is the name of the game this week with the yearly three-day carnival kicking off at Riccarton Park tomorrow and culminating in the running of the iconic Grand National Steeplechase the following weekend.
Tomorrow sees the running of the Koral Steeplechase and the return of Wairarapa jumper Eric the Viking to contest the race he won two years back and then went on to capture the Grand National.
His trainer Aaron Bidlake was undecided as to whether he would take the Tauherenikau jumper down south this time as the tracks there have not been nearly as rain affected as at home and Eric, as he is known round the stable, must have it heavy.
In fact it is a case of the heavier the better for Eric and Bidlake even contemplated flying the chestnut gelding over the Tasman where the Australian tracks have been given a fair old thumping from rain squalls.
But when it seemed Riccarton was at last copping some wet weather Bidlake decided to take Eric down to have a crack at the jumping features.
The 11-year-old absolutely blitzed his rivals over steeples in the Trentham mud on July 16 to prove he still has what it takes, especially when deep going slows down his younger rivals and works to his advantage.
Going south to ride him will be Matthew Cropp who has an impeccable record on the gelding, being one ride for one win.
Eric will lump 66 kg but is better off in the weights than his two most obvious rivals being High Forty and Mr Mor.
High Forty will carry an impost of 71kg over the gruelling 4250m journey and Mr Mor 68.5kg.
Further down in the weights are a couple of others likely to make Eric work for his money with The Big Opal from the formidable jumping stable of Kevin Myers sure to be a threat.
Accompanying the veteran Wairarapa jumper on the trip will be his younger stablemate Kingiesstar who will be contesting race 5, a maiden steeplechase.
The 6-year- old has had three attempts over hurdles, two of those being last year and the other his latest start, at Timaru on July 22.
On that occasion Kingiesstar put in a fairly promising effort to wind up fifth of 11 and certainly did not have much luck in the running.
He was squeezed for room late in the piece and had to be steadied and shift ground in order to finish the race off.
Bidlake expects the Zed gelding to be pretty competitive tomorrow and said he would be disappointed if Kingiesstar failed to place tomorrow.
He said Kingiesstar was able to handle better tracks and although he had not had a raceday start over steeples he had schooled over them.
The ride tomorrow goes to stable rider Emma Goodinson who rode the gelding at Timaru.
Goodinson,22, is from England where she worked in stables and rode point-to-point.
She has had four winners in New Zealand so far and besides her stable ride tomorrow has picked up a ride in the Koral, riding The Oysterman for Awapuni trainer Stephen Nickalls.
Eric set for another Southern raid
By Don Farmer