Bay in grip of renaissance

By ANENDRA SINGH - Sports Editor

All roads in the horseracing industry, figuratively speaking, used to lead to Hawke's Bay in the yesteryear.

Somewhere along the way potholes emerged on the well-trodden thoroughfare of breeding and training thoroughbreds.

Other arterial roads beckoned, prompting owners to bundle their galloping dreams into floats to a then new racing empire up north.

Waikato, that is.

Hawke's Bay lay in dormancy. Every so often, amid Chinese whispers, someone or other merged from the cradle of racing civilisation to slip on the emperor's clothes, as it were, with the promise of reversing the trend.

Promising dynasty after dynasty mushroomed but, frustratingly, failed to find traction in an age-old craft.

But three years ago, something changed. Rookie John Bary entered a humble paddock with little to stand on.

The Hastings trainer didn't despair.

"I hadn't had my first winner yet and now here I am a Cox Plate and hometown favourite for this Saturday," the 41-year-old Hastings trainer says before the third and final leg of the Rush Munro's Hawke's Bay Spring Racing Carnival on Saturday.

His hometown favourite is the remarkable Jimmy Choux who will charge out from barrier No 2 in the feature 2040m race of the meeting, the $300,000 group one New Zealand Bloodstoock Insurance Spring Classic at the Hawke's Bay Racecourse in Hastings.

The 4-year-old Thorn Park colt is coming off an emphatic victory in the group one $200,000 Winsor Park Plate a fortnight ago, living up to his favouritism over 1600m despite drawing an undesirable barrier.

Jimmy Choux was runner-up in the opening leg of the carnival, the $200,000 Makfi Challenge Stakes, although it was over 1200m and favoured veteran sprinter Mufhasa.

The New Zealand and Bay Horse of the Year winner, who has earned owners Richard and Liz Wood close to $3 million, is a yardstick of success but that and other frills and ribbons aren't what Bary considers to be the indicators of a racing renaissance here.

It's the return of Bay owner/breeder such as Graham de Gruchy (of the Horlicks fame) and the Ormond dynasty.

"Over the last year or so they have started bringing horses here.

"I think it's a great thing to have that reputation in Hawke's Bay again," he says.

Bary isn't naive enough to believe the revival is solely his brainchild and prowess.

Trainer Guy Lowry, of Hastings, shares the kudos.

"Myself and Guy are making that renaissance, as far as training goes."

Lowry has pipped Bary 22-21 in the number of victories for the 2010-11 season, spanning from July 31 to August 1.

Needless to say, Bary's four group one wins over that duration eclipse Lowry's in the quality stakes.

"Some trainers go without a group one win in their lifetime," Bary says, but reiterating in the bigger scheme of things that's not important either.

"We've got the know how and that's great for Hawke's Bay."

In the communal equation is Wood's breeding nous, which is having a rippling effect in Australia. Jimmy Choux will head off to the A$3 million Cox Plate in Melbourne and then to Hong Kong with Jonathan Riddell in the saddle.

No doubt he accepts favouritism breeds success.

He is mindful Booming and Hold It Harvey had strong runs in the Windsor Plate and Red Ruler had a group one win last season.

"We've never raced him [Red Ruler] before," he says of the John Sargent-trained horse.

Kevin Myers, trainer of another hopeful and past Auckland Cup winner Titch, has won the spring classic here with almuse.

A former Greenwood Cup amateur golfer and polo player, Bary has ice running through his veins come big races.

"I have no worries. I help out the saddle on, give a leg up to the jockey and wish him well.

"I know it sounds strange but some trainers get butterflies but it doesn't affect me.

"All I do is my best.

"If my best is good enough and the horse is good enough then everyone gets a kick out of it.

"If not, that's life and there's always the next race," Bary says.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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