The win by Smokin' Oak at last week's Waipukurau meeting held special significance for his Hastings trainer John Bary and jockey Jonathan Riddell as it was their 50th New Zealand victory together.
The Bary and Riddell combination has been a dominant force on New Zealand racetracks in the past eight years and they have also joined forces for success in two important races in Australia.
They are best remembered for combining with the outstanding performer Jimmy Choux, who was the winner of 12 races from the Bary stable, five at group one level.
Riddell was aboard the Thorn Park entire in 11 of his 12 victories and all five of his group one wins.
Jimmy Choux, with Riddell in the saddle, took out the New Zealand 2000 Guineas, New Zealand Derby, Windsor Park Plate, New Zealand Spring Classic and Rosehill Guineas.
Bary and Riddell's first success together was when The Hombre won a 2-year-old race at Hastings in April 2009 and that was also Riddell's first win in a 2-year-old race.
The Hombre went on to race in Australia where Riddell rode him to win the group three Rough Habit Plate in Brisbane in May 2010.
Of the 50 wins Bary and Riddell have had together, 13 have been in black-type races.
Smokin' Oak is a 3-year-old by Burgundy out of the Australian-bred mare Silk Slipper and was bought by John Bary for $45,000 at the Select session of the 2016 Karaka yearling sales.
Bary's racing manager, Mike Sanders, said this week that the horse was bought for a prospective buyer but that person pulled out.
Bary then tried to sell the horse at the 2-year-old Ready To Run sale later that year but he failed to attract a bid.
Bary and Sanders set about organising a group to race the horse and he is now owned by the Burger Boys Syndicate, which is managed by Sanders.
Several members of the syndicate are based in Hawke's Bay, including John and Ros Stace, Doug and Jill Callaghan, Michael and Pam Thomson, Johnny and Pauline Campbell, Mike White and Ian McLean.
The other members are Peter, Gerard and Paul Gillespie and their Australian-based sister Anne, Narendra Balia and Mike and Christine Phillips.
Smokin' Oak started a warm favourite on debut over 1200m at Hastings in April this year but banged his head when he burst through the front of the barrier before the start.
He was declared fit to start but was a bit hesitant to jump away when the start was finally made and was caught three-wide throughout before dropping out to finish last of the nine runners.
Bary decided to give the horse a break after that one run and gave him a 1000m Foxton trial and a 1000m Waipukurau jumpout to prepare him for last week's return and he finished second on both occasions.
Riddell positioned Smokin' Oak perfectly just behind the leaders in the early stages of last week's 1200m maiden at Waipukurau and they shot to a clear early in the home straight.
The horse then kept up a strong run to the line to win by three lengths from Son Of Surf, with Rio Star half a length back in third.
Sanders said Smokin' Oak had come through his winning performance in great order and Bary would now plot a path for the horse towards a run in the 3-year-old Karaka Millions (1600m) at Ellerslie on January 27.
First home track win
Do Ya provided her trainer and part-owner Kirsty Lawrence with a personal milestone when she took out the $12,000 Rating-65 race for fillies and mares at last week's Waipukurau meeting.
Lawrence has been training a small team of horses on the Waipukurau track for a number of years but it was her first win on her home course.
Do Ya stunned the punters when she scored a runaway win in the 1400m event at odds of 18 to 1.
Jockey Leah Hemi settled the mare midfield in the early stages before improving her position coming to the home turn.
Do Ya established a clear lead early in the home straight and raced away over the final stages to score by 5-1/4 lengths.
Lawrence wasn't surprised by Do Ya's winning performance, saying she had always been an honest mare and had no luck when 11th at Hastings at her previous start, when caught three-wide throughout. She was also dropping back in class.
Lawrence and her husband Steve race Do Ya in partnership with Steve's Australian-based brother Chris, Gisborne's Dinah Newman and her Rotorua-based sister Christina and Susan Best, who works in the Lawrence stables.
Kirsty Lawrence acquired Do Ya by pure chance.
She was one of several horses owned by the late Lenny Adin, a Palmerston North owner-breeder who raced several from the stable of Kevin Gray.
When Adin died, his estate wanted to get rid of all of his horses and Lawrence was told several running in a paddock needed a good home.
She picked out the Howbaddouwantit-Miss Aquarius mare from a photograph and took her sight unseen.
Lawrence is best known as the trainer and part-owner of Intransigent, a horse that won 11 races including the 2014 Hawke's Bay Cup and had three consecutive wins in the Kiwifruit Cup at Tauranga.
Do Ya is one of eight horses Lawrence has in work at the moment but she and Steve have also taken in retired horses to look after, with three-time group one winner Sangster one of them.
Dee's first Group 1 win
Former Hastings apprentice jockey Michael Dee kicked home his first group one winner when successful aboard Foundry in last Saturday's A$750,000 The Metropolitan in Sydney.
Dee, 21, produced an immaculate ride in the 2400m feature to get Foundry home a half-length winner over Big Duke, with New Zealand-trained Chocante 1-1/4 lengths back in third.
A son of former trainer Richard Dee, Michael started out as a probationary apprentice with Hastings trainers Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen.
He then transferred to Wanganui trainer Kevin Myers for a time before completing his apprenticeship with Caulfield trainer Mick Price in Melbourne.
A natural lightweight, Dee has been in keen demand in both Victoria and New South Wales in recent months, regularly kicking home winners.
His previous best placings in group one events were a third on Allergic in last year's Metropolitan and a second on Rising Red in this year's New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie.
Chasing Melbourne Cup start
The John Wheeler-trained Pentathlon has arrived in Melbourne ahead of a campaign aimed at gaining a start in the Melbourne Cup (3200m) on November 7, a race he finished ninth in last year.
He is likely to follow a similar path to what he did last year, but Wheeler will wait to see how his runner pulls up after his first Melbourne assignment tomorrow before setting any plans in stone.
"His first race will be the Bart Cummings (2500m) this Saturday at Flemington and after that I won't be sure until I see how everything works out," Wheeler said.
"Obviously the long-term goal is the Melbourne Cup. He will have to win a race beforehand to get in, but what happens between now and then I don't know."
Wheeler was pleased with Pentathlon's two lead-up races in the first two days of the Hawke's Bay spring carnival, where he finished 11th over 1600m and fourth over 2000m.
"They were outstanding runs," he said.
"They were both on tracks that didn't suit him and he sat three-wide all the way in his last race over 2000m and finished it off really well.
War Affair coming home
Former Singapore Horse of the Year War Affair will be returning to New Zealand for a six-month spell while his connections ponder his future.
Trainer Bruce Marsh and his owners, the Ong family, are hoping the greener pastures and fresher air can fix the horse's well-documented wind issues.
War Affair, who was bred in New Zealand, was a $3 million earner in Singapore, where he was crowned Horse of the Year in 2014.
Whether he can get back to such heights, let alone race again, will depend on how well he spells in New Zealand.
The 7-year-old O'Reilly gelding last raced in the $S200,000 Jumbo Jet Trophy (1400m) on September 10, where he finished sixth.
McKenzie back on NZTR board
Experienced racing administrator Dean McKenzie is to join the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Board.
McKenzie will take up the role after the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing annual meeting next month.
He will replace retiring board member John Stace, who has been a director since a change in the NZTR constitution led to the formation of an independent board in 2011.
Two other current directors - deputy-chair Victoria Carter ONZM and Rick Williams - will retire by rotation at the annual meeting but have been reappointed by the NZTR Members' Council.
McKenzie has served on the NZTR Board previously and was deputy chairman of the initial six-member independent board.
He relinquished his position later that year, when appointed chief executive of Addington Raceway.