IN Racing
The Cossack earns the highest rating from his Hastings trainer
John Jenkins | June 22, 2024
Geriatrix in full stride winning over 1400m at Rotorua on May 11. The Almanzor colt went on to win his Australian debut in a A$85,000 race in Brisbane

Hastings trainer Paul Nelson has produced numerous outstanding jumpers in almost 40 years as a trainer but he had no hesitation in labelling The Cossack his best after the horse produced another herculean effort to record back-to-back wins in last Saturday’s $60,000 Waikato Steeplechase.

The Cossack produced one of the best performances of his illustrious career, showing true champion qualities in lumping topweight of 73kg in the 3900m feature and fighting back to regain the lead close to the finish after being taken on in front for nearly the entire race and looking beaten at one stage in the straight.

It was the 10-year-old gelding’s 18th success from 58 starts, with 14 of those victories coming in either hurdle or steeplechase races.

To make last Saturday’s win even more remarkable, it was his first jumping start since he finished second to West Coast in the Great Northern Steeplechase (6500m) at Te Rapa in September last year.

Besides the two Waikato Steeplechase victories, The Cossack has also notched up prestigious jumping wins in the Great Northern Hurdles (twice), Grand National Hurdles, Wellington Hurdles, Hawke’s Bay Hurdles, Waikato Hurdles, K S Browne Hurdles and the Pakuranga Hunt Cup Steeplechase.

He also finished a close second, beaten a short-head, in the 2022 running of the Australian Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) at Ballarat, in Victoria. 

“He would be the best I’ve trained, and it makes it hard for the ones underneath him. I think he just knows how to win a race; he’s got a huge heart and is the best winded horse you could have,” Nelson said after last Saturday’s success.

To put those words into perspective you only need to look back on some of the outstanding jumpers that have come out of the Nelson stable since he recorded his first major jumping success with Storm in the 1987 Wellington Steeples.

There was No Hero, whose eight wins included the Hawke’s Bay Steeples (twice), Grand National Steeples, Manawatu Steeples, Koral Steeples and Great Western Steeples. Just a Swagger, who took out the Grand National Hurdles twice as well as a Grand National Steeples, Hawke’s Bay Steeples and Wanganui Steeples. Just Not Cricket won the Great Northern Hurdles twice as well as a Grand National Hurdles while Chibuli won the Crisp Steeplechase in Australia as well as a Great Northern Hurdles and No Tip won a Pakuranga Hunt Cup Steeples, Manawatu Steeples, Poverty Bay Hunt Cup and the Wellington Hurdles.

Nelson has been training in partnership with Corrina McDougal for the last five years and the combination have won the last four runnings of the Wellington Hurdles, with No Tip in 2019, The Cossack (2021), Nedwin (2022) and Suliman last year.

The Cossack was sent out a $1.40 favourite in last Saturday’s Te Rapa feature and was conceding all four of his rivals 7kg in the weights.

Jockey Hamish McNeil let the horse flop out of the barrier but, when nothing else wanted to lead, he found himself in front.

Portia Matthews, riding Torque Time, sent her mount forward to pressure the favourite and the two horses went head-to-head from then on, with Hey Happy and jockey Joshua Parker settling back in third place.

The Cossack and Torque Time had a handy break on Hey Happy entering the home straight but the latter stormed into contention, after cutting the corner, and was neck-and-neck with The Cossack jumping the final fence.

Hey Happy fought valiantly and, for a brief time, looked as though he would gain the upper-hand. But The Cossack would not be denied and lifted in the final few strides to score a three-quarter length win, with Torque Time weakening to be 20 lengths back in third. 

Nelson applauded the talent of his charge, particularly with his 73kg impost.

“It was a huge effort and he does know how to fight,” Nelson said.

“I know Hamish is light, but you pick that saddle up and you think ‘poor horse, he has to carry this’, but he did it.”

Nelson indicated The Cossack’s next target would likely be the $75,000 Wellington Steeplechase (5500m) on July 13, with a shot at the Grand National Steeplechase (5500m) at Riccarton Park in August also a possibility.

A thrilled McNeill shared Nelson’s high opinion of the gelding post-race.

“He (Torque Time) gave it to me, but fair play to this horse (The Cossack), he’s the best horse I’ve ever sat on,” McNeill said.

“He’s a warhorse, a veteran. Hey Happy is an up and coming horse that I’ve won on before and he’s a nice one for the future, but you’re not going to beat The Cossack.”

The Cossack is by Mastercraftsman out of the now deceased Galileo mare Stellardelmar and was bred by Hawke’s Bay man Ivan Grieve.

He initially raced the horse in partnership with Hastings trainer John Bary, who prepared the gelding for his first 29 starts, picking up two wins on the flat and two seconds and a fourth over hurdles.

The pair then wanted to sell the horse and Ivan Grieve’s brother Peter decided to take him on, purchasing him in 2020 and taking in his son Doug, trainer Paul Nelson and good friend John Frizzell as partners.

 The Cossack has since gone on to win them 16 races and more than $620,000 in stakes.


New Hastings Track Manager

Bryce Mildon is the new Hastings track manager

Bryce Mildon, a man with a wealth of experience working on racetracks in both New Zealand and Australia, has been appointed General Manager of Track Development and Operations at the Hastings racecourse.

New Zealand-born Mildon, who commenced his new role last Monday has worked on racetracks for most of his working life.

The 41-year-old comes from a racing family, with his younger brother Rhys being assistant trainer for highly successful Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh while their grandfather, Jim Mouat, owned and trained the top winter galloper Danzapride, who won 15 races.

Bryce Mildon has been a keen racegoer from an early age and, upon leaving school, he studied horticulture and now holds a Level 5 endorsement in Sports and Turf Management.

His first racetrack position was at Matamata where he worked for 10 years as an assistant to long-time racetrack manager Graeme Styles.

Mildon then went to Australia to further his experience, working at the Stawell track in Victoria for 12 months and then at Sale for three years before taking up a position at the Pakenham track from 2016 to 2018.

He then returned to New Zealand where he was track manager at Pukekohe Park from 2018 to 2019 before heading back to Pakenham where he has held the position of track manager for the last six years.

 Whilst in Australia Mildon was part of the management group at the newly built Pakenham training and racing centre, which features both a turf and synthetic racing surface and presently stages 38 race meetings a year.

Mildon said there is now close to 600 horses in work at the Pakenham complex.

Although he enjoyed his time in Australia Mildon thought it was time to move on to something new and, being New Zealand-born and with family ties here, he has decided to return to his homeland.

There will be two race meetings staged on the Hastings track in the next couple of weeks. The first will be the Hawke’s Bay Hunt meeting on June 29, featuring the running of the $60,000 Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase and the $60,000 Hawke’s Bay Hurdles.

With the Awapuni turf racing surface undergoing reconstruction the Marton Jockey Club’s race meeting on July 6 has been transferred to the Hastings track.


Itza Charmdeel back to her best

It has been a long time between celebration drinks for the connections of Itza Charmdeel but the three-year-old repaid them in spades when winning a $35,000 race at Te Rapa last Saturday at odds of eight to one.

The Charm Spirit gelding bounced back to his best with a game neck victory over Mister Roquette in a Rating 75 race over 1500m.

It was his first win since he took out the Listed Ryder Stakes (1200m) at Otaki in July last year and that followed a maiden two-year-old win over 1320m at Rotorua in the same month.

All three of his wins have been on heavy tracks and he clearly appreciated the heavy-10 conditions at Te Rapa last Saturday where he settled back third last in the early running before improving quickly around the field coming to the home turn.

Mister Roquette had established a handy lead early in the home straight but Itza Charmdeel, in the hands of Sam Weatherley, was able to wear him down over the final stages.

Itza Charmdeel is by Charm Spirit out of the unraced Dundeel mare Whatadeel. He was bred by Hawke’s Bay couple Mike and Sharyn Craig through their company River Valley Bloodstock Limited and was initially passed in for $60,000 at the 2022 Karaka yearling sales.

The Craig’s then set about syndicating the horse amongst several friends, most of whom own properties at Waimarama Beach in Hawke’s Bay.

The Craig’s have retained a racing share with the other members being Pat and Kirsty Heavey, Bryce and Janeen Clifford, Pip and Denis Glenn, Dave and Jenny Morison, Dermot Miller, Sue Lawrence, Michael and Katrina Morison and Matt and April Hartley.

Itza Charmdeel, who is trained at Cambridge by the partnership of Roger James and Robert Wellwood, has now been nominated for the $60,000 Winter Championship Final (1600m) at Ruakaka on July 13.


Tony Lee guest speaker at luncheon 

This year’s annual Hawke’s Bay/Poverty Bay Thoroughbred Breeders weanling walk will be held on Sunday, June 30, culminating with a luncheon at Valley d’Vine Restaurant at Eskdale, where the guest speaker will be widely renowned race caller Tony Lee.

The weanling walk will commence at 10am, with the first lot of weanlings to be viewed at Butch and Lu Thomas’s Willow Tree Farm property at 191 Matapiro Road, Crownthorpe.

It will then proceed to Guy and Brigid Lowry’s property at 305 Kawera Road and finish up at Linden Estate Winery, Eskdale.

Vicki Wilson, who operates Hau Ora Farm, will be parading the stallion Mongolian Falcon and progeny on the lawn in front of the Valley d’Vine Restaurant at Linden Estate.

Tickets to the luncheon can be booked by emailing