It's almost the silly season in horse racing but there's nothing frivolous about the intentions of the playmakers who turn up at race meetings around the country.
While most of the 5000 crowd - easily the largest of any in the past year - soaked up the sun and admired each other's ensembles when watching the finish line at the Hawke's Bay Racecourse in Hastings yesterday, the jockeys, strappers and budding trainers kept their focus on the seven-race Russell Roads New Year's Family Raceday.
If anything, it was a great time for rookies to establish their credentials and rapport here while the big boys and girls jostled for positions at the Ellerslie meeting in Auckland.
In the feature race 6, apprentice 3 jockey Bridget Grylls stole the thunder from favourite Kaptain Kirkup when she rode Have No Mercy to victory in the $15,000 Russell Roads City of Hastings Cup over 1400m.
"I went to the front straight away and kicked from there and my horse just kept going," she said after Robert Hannam rode the Corrina McDougal (Hastings)-trained Outback Girl to second place.
"He's a pretty cruisy horse so I just pretty much sat on him and was a passenger for a really good ride," said a shy and softly spoken Grylls, who started racing last July.
She claimed three kilograms for the 4-year-old brown gelding to take 51kg on the track as opposed to Kaptain Kirkup lugging 59kg to settle in fourth place in the five-horse start.
The Jason Bridgman-trained Gunsmoke (injured) and Glad (opted to go to Ellerslie instead) were scratched.
"He [Kaptain Kirkup] was carrying a lot more weight than I was," Grylls said.
At this stage, any win is a good win for the 20-year-old from Palmerston North. Yesterday she registered two wins, a third and a fourth placing. Her other victory came in race 3, the $7000 New Zealand Bloodstock Insurance for 3-year-olds, when she took the Ralph Manning-trained Little Rocket past the post over 1200m.
Her brother, Craig Grylls, 22, was riding at Ellerslie yesterday.
"I get a little help from him in bits and pieces. He's come a long way in a short space of time," she says, adding the Grylls were "all midgets", with father Gary Grylls a former jockey.
Kurt Hillis, 18, son of Matamata trainers Vanessa and Wayne Hillis and wearing a shocking pink T-shirt that struck a chord with jockey's silks, said the plan was to employ the services of an apprentice to gain a weight advantage.
The younger Hillis said Trentham was a possibility for Have No Mercy on January 19 but he was more likely to be bracketed for a bonus race in Greymouth at the end of the month. The gelding had a hairline fracture on his "pedal bone" of the front leg.
"He's all right now. He's had a bit of time off and is a strong horse who should go up through the grades."
It was an equally productive day for the Hillises, with Michael McNab riding Armadio Estrada to victory over 2100m of the $8000 Windsor Park Karaka Yearlings 2013 in race 4.
The youngster left school at 16 to focus on horses and worked in Sydney last year.
The Hillis-trained Nothing Trivial was second to the Bridgman-trained Single Act in the Russell Stock 1400m race 7.
Hillis said Nothing Trivial might be heading off to Australia.