Star Hastings-trained filly Miss Labasa maintained her unbeaten record and took another step towards the Group 1 $400,000 New Zealand Oaks in March with another dominant performance at Awapuni last Saturday.
The big Swiss Ace filly was having her first start for almost two months when she lined up in the $25,000 three-year-old race over 1400m.
Jockey Johnathan Parkes bounced her out quickly from the barrier to take up a handy position and then took her to the front inside the last 1000 metres. From there he dictated the pace and when he asked the filly to quicken in the home straight she powered away to win by 2-1/2 lengths from Sir Nate, who was also fresh up from a third placing in the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton in November.
"She's still learning but she's a quality filly and has got a great turn of foot," Parkes said after the win.
Trainer John Bary was both pleased and relieved by the filly's performance. He revealed the efforts his staff had put in to get the filly back to the races after she suffered a bruised heel following her last start win over 1600m at Hastings in November. She had also been a dominant winner when making her race debut over 1400m at Tauherenikau in October.
"It was a stone bruise that developed into a bruised heel and it has just been patience and time that has got her back," Bary said.
"All the handling we have been doing with her has helped her a lot.
"A big thank you to my staff as they've done a lot of soaking her feet and things, so it has worked out all for the good."
Although pleased with Miss Labasa's performance, he had envisaged rider Johnathan Parkes would look to take a sit on the filly rather than press on and lead like he did.
"I think he could have taken a sit when he tried to go forward, but he's the man on top and he's done the job," he said.
Bary said Miss Labasa's next assignment will be the $1 million Listed Karaka Million Three-year-old Classic (1600m) to be run at Ellerslie on January 26. That will serve as another lead up to the New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on March 16.
Miss Labasa was a $30,000 purchase for her Auckland-based owner Narendra Balia from the Select session at the 2017 National Yearling Sale.
The filly is out of the Charge Forward mare Savoia, who is also the dam of top South Island performer Starvoia who numbers the Listed Hazlett Stakes (1200m) amongst her six career victories.
Trentham next for Real Beach
Hastings-trained Real Beach is now likely to be stepped up in distance after consecutive wins at 2100m in her last two starts.
The Nadeem five-year-old stepped up to a middle distance for the first time this campaign at Awapuni on December 15 and scored a three-quarter length win. She was even more impressive when racing away from her opposition for a 1-3/4 length victory in a $25,000 Rating 72 event at Awapuni last Saturday.
The mare, who has now won three races from 15 starts, is prepared by the partnership of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen and they now intend setting her for a $30,000 rating 82 race over 2400m at Trentham on January 26.
"She won well and I think there's a bit more improvement in her," Lowry said this week.
Real Beach is raced by former Hastings trainer Kelly Burne in partnership with her Perth-based son Vinny Meenehan, Kevin Papuni and Trevor Burbery from Hastings, Paul Toothill (Wairoa) and Pat Baker and Mike Taylor (Wellington).
Xpression turned out for a spell
Classy Hastings filly Xpression has been turned out for a spell and won't be seen racing again until at least the autumn.
The Showcasing three-year-old was to have contested tomorrow's Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham but trainers Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen have not been happy with her progress since finishing third over 1400m at Awapuni on December 22. She had been freshened for that race after finishing a game third in the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton in November.
"She was disappointing last start," Guy Lowry said. "She seemed to be working up well before the race and she should have gone a lot better than she did. There had to be something wrong.
"We had her thoroughly checked over after the race and her bloods weren't 100 per cent.
"It's not viral, but she's just got a few niggling issues and we've backed off her.
"She'll go out for a spell and we'll monitor her. Before we do anything with her we'll wait until she has a clean bill of health."
Xpression won the Group 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1200m) at Trentham as a two-year-old and was in fine form during the recent spring, adding two more wins to her tally, including the Group 3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m) at Ashburton, and being runner-up to Avantage in the Group 3 Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings.
The Showcasing filly then headed to Riccarton and ran a highly creditable third behind Media Sensation in the New Zealand 1000 Guineas.
"We're devastated she'll miss the Levin Classic and it would be nice to think she could be at Te Aroha for the Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes, but that's unlikely now," Lowry said.
While Xpression is now on the easy list, her Group 1 winning stablemate Wait A Sec is ticking over nicely as he prepares for a return to racing in the autumn.
Wait A Sec became the stable star when winning the 2017 Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings, but has been off the scene since winning the Wairoa Cup (2100m) 11 months ago.
"He had a tear in his tendon and has had a good long break," Lowry said.
"We've been scanning him the whole way through and we've really been taking it day by day with him, but he seems to be coming up well.
"He's not far off having a jumpout, but we've got no big plans for him.
"The main goal is to get him going again and set him up for a really good prep in the spring."
The eight-year-old Postponed gelding has won 13 races and almost $400,000 in prizemoney with his last campaign also bringing a win in the Group 3 Anniversary Handicap (1600m) at Trentham.
Hiflyer pleases in final hit-out
Group 1 performer Hiflyer pleased his trainer Peter Lock with his trial performance at Cambridge on Tuesday ahead of his next assignment, the Group 1 $250,000 JR & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham tomorrow week.
The six-year-old son of Tavistock finished third in his 900m heat behind Pop Star Princess and Cyber Attack and Lock said his charge did enough to show that he is spot-on ahead of the Telegraph.
"I was more than happy with him. It was only 900m, but he settled lovely and Shaun McKay (jockey) said he felt like he had two or three more gears if he really wanted them," Lock said.
"Shaun got off him this afternoon and said that he feels better, bigger and stronger than what he did last time in. We are pretty confident that we have got him in the right space."
Hiflyer posted a runner-up performance behind Melody Belle in the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings in the spring and Lock is hoping he can go one better this time in.
"If you look back over his record, whenever he's gone into a race fresh he's very hard to beat," Lock said.
"You can't be too confident going into a Group 1 with just the one trial under your belt, but he went to Taupo on a nice track over 1000m and went 59 (seconds) and ran home the last 600m in 33. That showed us he was pretty close to the mark.
"We were more than happy with what's happened today. He has pulled up well, he had a little blow. That's his final hit-out, he will head to Wellington from here."
Vale Kevin Crampton
Popular farrier and former trainer Kevin (George) Crampton passed away on Friday after a short illness.
Affectionately known as K.G, the 82-year-old had been a race day farrier for over 50 years.
He was the regular farrier for Champion three-year-old McGinty, while he enjoyed good success as a trainer himself, preparing Beechcraft to win the 1983 Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) and 1983 Hawke's Bay Guineas.
Long-time friend and trainer Kim Clotworthy remembers Crampton as an extremely strong man, well known for always wearing shorts, no matter the conditions.
"He was a prop for Manurewa and one of the strongest men you would ever see," Clotworthy said.
"Even when the doctors gave him less than a week to live, he lasted another six."
He is survived by his wife Valerie, his children Alan, Gary and Sheryl and five grandchildren.