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Upper Cut delivers National success For White Robe Lodge and friends

The 142nd running of The Grand National Steeplechase at Riccarton Park on Saturday saw another name written onto its illustrious role of honour. That of Upper Cut (NZ) (Yamanin Vital(NZ)- Volucidate(NZ)) who provided trainer Mark Oulaghan with a record 5th win in the South Island's Blue Ribbon event. Paul Hamblin gave the 10 year old gelding an astute ride staying on strongly through the soft ground to beat the Australian Mr Mor by ¾ of a length. This success follows victory doubles from both Decee Seven(NZ) (Bandmaster II (IRE)-Valoir(NZ)) 1997, 98 and Counter Punch(NZ) (Yamanin Vital(NZ)-Tripartite(NZ)) 2010, 11.

Upper Cut was bred at White Robe Lodge Stud by Brian "BJ" Anderton's long standing vet of 52 years Jim Murray and his wife Shelly. Now both sadly deceased, Jim is described by Brian as a canny and astute man whom enjoyed mixing his professional life with that of his personal passions. Horse breeding was a hobby more than that of a business to Jim. In 1985 he gained recognition through Our Sophia(NZ) (Noble Bijou(USA) – Mellition(NZ)) whom he jointly bred with Anderton and the Browne brothers when successful in the AJC Oaks at Randwick.

A visit to the South Island Sales in 2005 led to the acquisition Of Upper Cut's dam Volucidate(NZ) (Volksraad(GB) – Elucidate(NZ)). Brian was requested by Jim to view several marked prospects in his absence. Volucidate(NZ) an unraced and unproven daughter of champion sire Volksraad(GB)(Green Desert(USA) – Celtic Assembly(USA)) passed through the sales ring somewhat inconspicuously. Jim's initial assessment was not lost on Brian and the mare duly returned to White Robe Lodge. As a loyal friend, Jim sent Volucidate(NZ) the following two seasons to resident stallion of the time Yamanin Vital(NZ)(Sir Tristram(IRE) – She Might Hula(USA)). She duly delivered a colt and filly but a declining health saw an end to Jim's breeding program but never his passion for the horse.

Typical to most of Yamanin Vital(NZ) stock, given time to mature and with Jim never in need to sell, both youngsters developed into nice types on the Murray property. An enquiry from Mark Oulaghan to Brian Anderton on the whereabouts of up and coming progeny by Yamanin Vital(NZ) led to the purchase of the then untouched 3 year old gelding.

After being broken in by Paul Richards he entered the racing yard of Mark Oulaghan at Awapuni. Some early promise on the flat as a 4 and 5 year old saw him being given his chance over the sticks. On debut over fences in July 2012 he duly won by ¾ of a length from Victory Morgan with Rangatira (future Great Northern and Wellington Steeplechase winner) further back. A second victory followed in August of that year, but a resulting tendon injury saw an almost two year absence. Careful handling and race planning by Oulaghan has since seen Upper Cut(NZ), who is the only progeny from Volucidate(NZ) to race, climb back up the steeplechase ranks.

Future racing plans for the remainder of the season will see the lightly raced Upper Cut(NZ) return to Ellerslie on 3rd September in a bid for Great Northern supremacy. The iconic steeplechase over 6400m carries a total prize fund of $125,000 – Richard Wright