2017 SA Grand National Steeplechase and Hurdle Review

Class showed in two of SA’s premier jumping races at Morphettville on June 10, as Patrick Payne’s ANGELOLOGY took out the SA Grand National Steeplechase, while ABEBE was a brave winner for Eric Musgrove in the Kevern Klemich Memorial SA Grand National Hurdle.

ANGELOLOGY, with Daryl Horner Jr aboard, put in a near faultless jumping display over the Morphettville fences to ultimately record a comfortable win in the chase. The top-weighted favourite settled well back in an evenly-paced race and was bringing up the rear of the field, which included accomplished jumpers like the 2017 Great Eastern Steeplechase winner SPYING ON YOU, as they completed the first circuit.

However, in recording his first Grand National win, Horner judged the ride perfectly, starting his run three jumps out before easing to the front at the top of the straight, from which point he never looked in danger, coasting over the last two fences in the straight to win by about eight lengths. There was an encouraging run by 2015 SA Grand National Hurdle winner BOLD ZAMOUR in second, for whom this was a first start over fences in almost a year.

2017 SA Grand National Steeplechase Winner Angelology
Angelology, winner of the 2017 SA Grand National Steeplechase (Image Credit: Tom Huntley)

The 3500m Kevern Klemich Memorial SA Grand National Hurdle was a much tighter affair, with a strong field of nine, including last year’s winner HONEY’S STEEL GOLD and SEARAVEN, victorious in his previous start over hurdles at Morphettville three weeks before.

Martin Kelly took ABEBE to the front from the off, with he and SEARAVEN disputing the lead over the first couple, before Rob David took Barry Brook’s last-start winner to the front as they came down the straight the first time around. SEARAVEN continued rolling along in front and David was enjoying setting the pace, with the pair establishing a lead of about three lengths over the field at the 1200m mark, where they began making a break for home. 

Eventually, Kelly and ABEBE closed SEARAVEN down as they turned into the straight and managed to get a couple of lengths clear, but the race was far from over, as I’M A BLUEBAGGER (Richard Cully) and HONEY’S STEEL GOLD (Shane Jackson) mounted a charge over the last two hurdles in the straight. However, the gutsy ABEBE gamely held on, despite looking out on his feet, to give the Musgrove stable their first win in SA this season.

As always at Morphettville, there was strong support from the crowd for the jumping races, and demonstrated yet again that there remains a strong appetite for hurdles and chases at Adelaide’s major metropolitan track.

More SA jumpers on the track in 2017

In 2017, SA jumps racing has been all about little victories, as the industry begins to consolidate again after its future was assured late last year.

To this end, it was incredibly encouraging to see two recent hurdle races feature fields made up entirely of SA-trained jumpers.

The BM120 3100m Hurdle at Morphettville on Wednesday 24 May, which was won by Barry Brook’s SEARAVEN and which saw Rob David record his first Australian win over jumps, featured a field of eight locally-trained runners prepared by five trainers, including 2017 Great Eastern Steeplechase winning trainer Grant Young.

Following on from this, the BM120 3432m hurdle at Balaklava Wednesday 21 June saw a field of five go around, again all SA trained. This race produced one of the outstanding finishes of the season, with Shane Oxlade’s CABLE BAY (Daryl Horner Jr) coming from about 15 lengths back with three to jump and just overcoming SEARAVEN and Rob Wilkinson’s EXALTED KANGA on the line.

Further encouragement should be taken from the fact that on SA Grand National day at Morphettville on 10 June, 8 out of the 17 runners (47%) in the hurdle and chase were trained in SA. 

One of the criticisms that has long been levelled at jumps racing in South Australia is that there is no real industry here. However, what the 2017 season has demonstrated is that there is an appetite amongst SA owners and trainers for developing jumping horses, and that greater certainty for industry participants has — as we have long argued —  resulted in increased numbers of local horses racing. 

SAJR is working with TRSA to introduce further incentives for SA trainers and owners to get more locally-trained horses going over jumps throughout the rest of 2017 and beyond. The progress that has been made this year, however, is not to be underestimated, and bodes well for an industry that is once more working towards being the highlight of winter racing in South Australia.

New TV deal great news for SA jumps racing

An exciting new partnership has been announced between Thoroughbred Racing SA (TRSA) and racing.com that will see SA racing return to free-to-air television on C68/C78 from 1 August this year.

This is an exciting media deal for jumps racing in particular, as it means the Oakbank Easter Carnival will once again be screened on free-to-air TV, along with other major jumping races such as the Grand National Hurdle and Steeplechase, and Irish Jumps Day at Morphettville.

This enhanced coverage is crucial to jumps racing in South Australia as it will go a long way to raising awareness of the number of local horses and trainers who are currently competing and achieving success.

Many people, both inside and outside of racing, are under the misapprehension that the industry in SA is not viable because there are few local participants. What this increased broadcast coverage will show is that SA jumps racing is alive and well, and that the number of local trainers and horses is actually growing, despite the difficulties and uncertainties of recent years.

We are all greatly looking forward to seeing jumps from Oakbank and elsewhere in SA return to free-to-air TV, where it belongs.

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