Hawke's Bay-owned Cutadeel is held in such high regard by co-trainer Murray Baker that he now intends nominating the 3-year-old for the Group 1 New Zealand Derby in March next year.
The Dundeel gelding made it two wins from only four starts when scoring a dominant 1-1/4-length victory in a $16,000 Rating 65 1600m race at Te Rapa last Sunday and Baker is confident he will leave his mark over longer distances from now on.
"He's a horse that has had a few problems but he's just coming to it now," Baker said following Sunday's win.
"I do think he'll stay well, which is a big thing."
Cutadeel is owned by Hawke's Bay couple Sharyn and Mike Craig and raced by them along with other family members and close friends.
Adrian and Angela Herd, who are Sharyn Craig's son and daughter-in-law, have a racing share along with her other two sons, Brendon and Darren. Mike Craig's Wellington-based son Jamie and his wife Fleur also have a share while the other members of the syndicate are Hawke's Bay women Kathleen Wright and Cheryl Leonard.
Mike and Sharyn were part of Waimarama New Zealand Limited, a company set up by Sharyn's brother Murray Andersen and who raced the outstanding galloper Dundeel. He was the winner of 10 races including six at Group 1 level, the Australian Derby, ATC Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Spring Champion Stakes, Randwick Guineas, Rosehill Guineas and Underwood Stakes and has now gone on to be a successful sire.
Waimarama New Zealand Limited bred Cutadeel out of the Dylan Thomas mare Dineeta and the Craigs bought the horse off the company when it was wound up. The mare Dineeta has since been sold.
Cutadeel credited Dundeel with his first Australasian winner when he won on debut over 1200m at Tauranga in January of this year. However the horse then suffered a fractured pelvis and had to be boxed and rested for six months before he could be put back into work.
"We are lucky that we have been able to get him back racing, let alone winning," Sharyn said this week.
"He won his first start so well but then was out for six months and you never know whether they will come back."
Cutadeel's first start back resulted in a fourth over 1200m at Hastings on September 22 and Baker and training partner Andrew Forsman felt the horse had come through that race well enough to line him up next in the Group 2 Hawke's Bay Guineas (1400m) at Hastings on October 6.
"He actually went a very creditable race for sixth in the Hawke's Bay Guineas for how much racing he'd had," Craig added.
Top jockey Opie Bosson was aboard Cutadeel at Te Rapa last Sunday and was impressed with the horse's winning performance.
He settled the gelding in the last six in the early stages before starting to improve inside the last 600m. He then angled around heels at the top of the straight and once Cutadeel got into the clear he finished strongly for a decisive win.
"It was a good run. He got held up a bit but when he got clear he really sprinted well," Bosson said.
"He's not big but he's got a good turn of foot."
The Baker/Forsman partnership will now aim Cutadeel at a Listed $50,000 race over 2100m at Ellerslie on December 16 and how the horse performs there will determine whether or not they push on to the New Zealand Derby.
South Island success for HB owner
Hastings owner-breeder Chris Russell looks to have found a new haven for his horses in the South Island.
Southern Jazz credited the owner with third success in the deep south in the past two months when he took a 2130m maiden at Invercargill on Thursday of last week.
The Niagara gelding is one of two horses Russell sent to the South Island to be trained by Riverton's Stephen Blair-Eddie and the other one is Moss Jazz, who has had three starts from that stable for two wins and a second.
Southern Jazz and Moss Jazz are siblings as they are both out of the Hey Baba Riba mare Whistling Jazz. Both horses were originally in training in Hastings stables but Russell decided they would be better suited down in the South Island, where the competition is not so strong and the training fees are a lot cheaper.
Southern Jazz was in his sixth race start when he lined up at Invercargill, with his best previous placing being two fifths, over 1200m at Wingatui and 1600m at Winton.
Trainer Stephen Blair-Eddie said he always thought the horse would come into his own once he stepped up to a middle distance and last week's Invercargill race was his first attempt at a distance beyond 1600m.
Apprentice jockey Amless Bohorun took the four-year-old straight to the front and, after kicking clear on the home turn, they held off the challengers to win by half a length.
The mare Whistling Jazz was the winner of one race and at stud she has now produced five individual winners, the others being Tinryland Lad, Between The Beats and Tavijazz.
Since Southern Jazz she has produced two more unraced fillies by Niagara and has not ceased breeding.
Top HB pair in Otaki feature
Hastings stables will have a strong two-pronged attack on today's Group 3 $70,000 Wellington Stakes at Otaki, with impressive last-start winners Miss Labasa and Yossarian entered for the 1600m feature.
Miss Labasa, from the stable of John Bary, will be looking to make it three wins from three starts after bolting in by 3-1/4 lengths on debut over 1400m at Tauherenikau last month and following that up with another strong win over 1600m at Hastings on November 11.
Yossarian, who is prepared by new Hastings trainer Lee Somervell, has also only had two starts for a fast finishing debut third over 1300m at Woodville last month and a decisive half-length maiden win over 1300m at Hastings on November 11.
John Bary holds Miss Labasa in very high regard and has already laid plans to get the Swiss Ace filly to the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham in March next year.
Lee Somervell is pleased with the way Yossarian has progressed since his last start win and is keen to test the Rip Van Winkle gelding in a black type race against his own age group.
"I know it will be a big step up in class for him but he's done very well and they are only 3-year-olds once so you have got to have a go," he said this week.
Two HB race meetings
Hawke's Bay racegoers are in for a pre-Christmas treat with two Hawke's Bay race meetings in the space of four days coming up.
The Waipukurau Jockey Club will stage its annual Christmas race meeting on the Waipukurau course on Sunday, December 9 and then Hawke's Bay Racing will have a twilight meeting at Hastings on Wednesday, December 12.
The main race at the Waipukurau meeting will be a $16,000 Rating 72 race over 2200m, which will be a qualifying event for the $100,000 Dunstan Feeds Stayers Championship Final (2200m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day.
The main race at the Hawke's Bay meeting will be a $10,000 Rating 65 race over 1400m which will serve as a qualifier for the $80,000 Dunstan Feeds 1500 Championship Final (1500m) at Ellerslie on December 26.
Melody Belle back in tune
Hawke's Bay spring carnival star Melody Belle enjoyed a winning outing at the trials on her home track at Matamata on Tuesday and looks set to add to her Group One haul.
The Jamie Richards-trained mare is unbeaten in three races this season having won the Group 2 Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa before taking out a Group 1 double at Hastings with victories in the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) and Windsor Park Plate (1600m).
The 4-year-old cruised to victory in a 1000m open heat in the hands of retained rider Opie Bosson.
"She had a couple of weeks in the paddock after Hastings and has come back looking a picture," Richards said.
"She really freshened up nicely so it was good to see her trial so well today.
"Opie said she felt good and did everything perfectly."
The first target for Melody Belle is the Group 1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 1 with Richards indicating the mare would go into the race without a preparatory run beforehand.
One of last season's leading 3-year-old's, Demonetization, underwent a gelding operation on Wednesday after disappointing his connections with his runner-up performance behind Gundown over 1600m at Pukekohe last Saturday.
"He should have won that race in a canter," trainer Nigel Tiley said.
"He went past Seventeen Seventy and he just pulled himself up. It might have looked a great run, but it was far from what he is capable of doing."
Demonetization won the Group 2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) back in January and was subsequently installed a warm favourite for the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) but failed to make the race due to a stress fracture of the fetlock.
Tiley believes in hindsight Demonetization should have been gelded during his recovery from that injury, but is hoping the operation will get the son of All Too Hard's mind back on the job.