A return to Hastings brought about a terrific form reversal for talented northern visitor Have No Mercy, the surprise winner of yesterday's Russell Roads Hastings Gold Cup.
Have No Mercy hit a purple patch of form earlier in the season, scoring a couple of impressive victories in a row, including on Spring Classic day at Hastings.
But he had been unable to recapture that form in four starts since. The Savabeel gelding's efforts haven't been without merit - all were top-five finishes - but just lacked that something extra he showed at Hastings in October.
But he rediscovered that on his return to the same venue, fighting ferociously all the way down the straight to repel the challenges of Kaptain Kirkup, Outback Girl and Oak Park in a desperate battle to the line.
Have No Mercy has now won four of his 16 and has earnings in excess of $50,000. He holds a nomination for the group one Thorndon Mile at Trentham later in the month, and if he produces a similar performance there to what he showed at Hastings yesterday, he wouldn't be without an upset chance in what is one of New Zealand's great handicaps.
Outback Girl's strong late bid along the inside rail just came up short, but it was a strong effort that came very close to delivering a popular local win in the feature race of the day in front of a huge crowd.
But the locals did win one earlier in the day - the Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen-trained mare Colourful Lady capped a solid form line in her six-start career to date with her maiden win in the Red Badge Security 1400.
One of the most impressive performances of the day came in defeat. Nothing Trivial came into the Russell Livestock 1400 with a perfect one-start-one-win record, but looked a forlorn hope of keeping that in tact halfway down the home straight. But he produced a phenomenal turn of foot to power home and snatch second behind impressive winner Single Act.
Both are worth watching through the rest of the season. On the big day at Ellerslie, Hawke's Bay hopes lay with The Hombre as he sought to go one better than his second in last year's group one Railway. But that task was made more difficult by a wide barrier draw, and it became an impossible one when he blew the start.
The Hombre played little part in the race from that point.
Victory went to Fleur De Lune - a wonderful race mare well-known in the Bay for her two group one placings behind Mufhasa in the Hawke's Bay Spring Racing Carnival over the past two years.
She's had five group one placings, but hadn't managed to win one until her richly deserved victory yesterday.