Classy jumper Tarawera could be a surprise runner in the Warrnambool Cup with connections literally weighing up their options.
The five-year-old put his jumps campaign back on track with an impressive steeplechase trial at Warrnambool on Wednesday but is no certainty to run in either the Brierly Steeplechase (3450m) or the Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) at next week’s three-day Warrnambool carnival.
While co-trainers Fran Houlahan and Brian Johnston have entered Tarawera for both feature jumps races, they have also nominated him for the Warrnambool Cup (2350m) on the same day as the Grand Annual as a back-up after an interrupted campaign.
Houlahan is fearful big weights the gelding may have to carry over the jumps at Warrnambool may jeopardise his future and is also concerned about his fitness after he missed lead-up trials and a run last week at Sandown.
“A couple of schools were cancelled on him and he has missed a couple of runs so his preparation hasn’t been ideal by any stretch of the imagination,” Houlahan said.
The winner of four of nine jumps starts, Tarawera hasn’t raced since easily winning on the flat over 2400 metres at Sandown on March 23.
At his last public appearance he was placed in a steeplechase trial at Cranbourne on March 30.
Connections wanted Tarawera to run in last Wednesday’s steeplechase at Sandown but when that race was called off because of a lack of runners he was accepted for a flat race before being withdrawn following a mild colic attack.
Houlahan said his Warrnambool trial on Wednesday was encouraging when, ridden by Trent Wells, he finished second to Royal Laddie.
“Brian (Johnston) took him down there and he said the horse jumped well,” Houlahan said.
“He and Trent were both very happy with him and now we will just see how he pulls up.
“He’s entered for both races (the Brierly and the Grand Annual) and we have entered him in the Cup in case we are not satisfied with his condition.
“We are also waiting to see what the handicapper does.
“Once you get into the 70s (kilos) it makes life very difficult with him.
“He (Tarawera) is only a five-year-old and we have got to look to the horse’s future.
“We thought the Warrnambool Cup was a suitable race for him just in case.”
Last August Tarawera fell carrying 69kg in the Grand National Steeplechase at Sandown.
There were only 13 nominations for next Thursday’s Grand Annual, including last year’s winner Al Garhood and last Monday’s Great Eastern Steeplechase winner Petushki.
Robbie Laing’s three entries are Vindicating, Plumtastic and The Member.
The Warrnambool Cup has attracted 39 entries headed by Buccellati, Banana Man, Capecover and Rainbow Styling.