It was looking good for a local win as the field swung around the home turn and sprinted home in the New Zealand Bloodstock 1400 at Hastings yesterday, but the Hawke's Bay horses had to settle for second and third behind an aptly named late developer, Grey Power.
Trained in Rotorua, the 6-year-old gelding, not surprisingly grey in colour, was making just his seventh career start in yesterday's feature. And those seven starts have been spread over a period of almost three years since making a winning debut in February 2010. But despite limited opportunities to show racetrack crowds what he's capable of, Grey Power has packed a lot into those seven starts. This was his third win, and he has another three top-four finishes to his credit.
And this performance was his best to date. Powerful local front-runner Just Call Me Bond kicked strongly on the corner, and he looked to have his rivals on the ropes. But though Just Call Me Bond showed no signs of tiring, Grey Power started to lengthen stride and eat into his advantage. He slowly but surely drew alongside the home-town hope and edged past him in the shadows of the winning post.
This terrific performance added a couple of strings to Grey Power's bow.
With his other wins coming over sprint distances and nothing to show from his two efforts at 1600m before yesterday, this was evidence that he can stretch out to a metric mile. And he also proved an important point in terms of track conditions. His first two wins had come on slow and heavy tracks, but yesterday's triumph was on a true good track on a hot summer's day in Hastings. The race time was a slick 1:36.06.
It was a gut-wrenching defeat for Just Call Me Bond, whose winless record at his home track now sits at 13 starts. But he went desperately close to breaking that drought, and surely it must now only be a matter of time.
The other big local hope, Jakob Gambino, started favourite in the race, but it all started to go awry very early in the piece. He was unable to get across to a favourable position as the field charged towards the first corner from the notoriously tricky 1600m start. He still loomed as a realistic hope at the turn, but being trapped wide early eventually took its toll and he wilted slightly down the straight to finish a solid but comfortably beaten third.
And an already good day for Grey Power's Rotorua trainers Tracey Parnwell and Emily Holmes became an extraordinary one just over 30 minutes later. The other significant race on the programme, the westburystud.com Karaka Yearling Draft 2013 1400, went the way of Grey Power's stablemate Call Me Maybe.
The win was Call Me Maybe's second from just five starts, and after a disappointing seventh at Ellerslie last start, this was a pleasing return to the sort of form that saw her run second to Quintero in a strong race here on Spring Classic day in October.