More than 200 people turned out for a memorial service for long time Hawke's Bay Racing stalwart Sholto Matthews at the Hastings racecourse last Saturday.
Matthews passed away on December 19 and a private funeral was held soon after. But the family wanted to put on a memorial service for a man who had left a lasting impression on so many people, in various ways, and so it was held on what would have been his 80th birthday.
Matthews was born in Gisborne, where he spent most of his early life. He later made moves to Ashburton, Wellington and the Waikato before finally settling in Hawke's Bay.
During his life he had been an amateur jockey, a stock agent, a successful polo player, a club administrator, a highly regarded polo commentator, a farmer, an accountant, a successful racehorse owner and a much-valued board member and steward of Hawke's Bay Racing.
Matthews represented Poverty Bay in polo for many years, competing alongside the famous Kirkpatrick brothers in teams that took out several national titles.
He dabbled as an amateur jockey, when working for a Gisborne trainer, but only ever rode one winner and that was at the beach races.
Matthews and his wife Diana left Gisborne and moved to Ashburton where Sholto continued playing polo and also became a committeeman of the Ashburton Racing Club. Another move saw them shift to Wellington where, unfortunately, there was no polo club for him to continue his pursuits as a player. But his passion for the sport never waned and, after moving to the Waikato and then to Hawke's Bay, he took up a role as a polo commentator and was regarded as one of the best in the country. He also served many years as a committeeman of the Hawke's Bay Polo Club.
His other passion was thoroughbreds and he had shares in several horses over the years, most of whom were trained by Bruce Marsh.
Sir Nova was undoubtedly the most successful. The son of Sir Avon was small in stature but had a heart as big as a lion, chalking up 12 wins and nine minor placings from 48 starts and amassing more than $180,000 in stakemoney.
The horse's biggest success came in the $A100,000 Chairmans Handicap (2020m) at Doomben, in Queensland, in May of 2000 and he showed his versatility by winning a 1400m race at Eagle Farm a month later.
Fulmar was another successful galloper Matthews had a share in and he included the listed Townsville Cup (2080m) among his 11 wins while he and trainer Bruce Marsh also bought a Vice Regal yearling from the sales one year that was later called Snowbound.
I was given the job of syndicating that horse, with Matthews and Marsh both retaining a share. He won on debut over 1200m at Gisborne and picked up another two wins in Queensland before being sold to a group of Australian buyers.
Matthews qualified as an accountant through attending night classes and had his own private accountancy business, one that started off with just a few clients and built to around 100.
He was a long serving board member of Hawke's Bay Racing and, upon retiring from that position, he continued as a race day steward for the club up until the time of his sudden death.
Matthews was a peoples' person, who endeared himself to everyone he met with his very forthright, yet jovial manner.
He had an infectious smile and, in later years, he played an integral part in the area of hospitality at Hawke's Bay Racing. He was a regular figure in the special winners' circle room on course where he greeted owners, trainers and visitors and catered for their needs.
He is survived by his wife Diana, his three children Susie, Annie and Henry and many loving grandchildren.
Lowland Stakes next for star filly
Hastings racegoers will get to see glamour filly Jennifer Eccles in action on February 26, when she is expected to contest the Group 2 $100,000 Little Avondale Stakes.
Following her dominant win in last Saturday's Group 2 $100,000 David & Karyn Ellis Classic, trainer Shaune Ritchie said the 2100m feature at Hastings will probably be her next start and will serve as a final lead-up to the Group 1 $400,000 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on March 14.
A picture-perfect ride from Jason Waddell allowed Jennifer Eccles to show her undoubted quality as she dashed away from her age-group rivals in last Saturday's 2000m feature at Te Rapa.
It was her second success, with her first coming in the Group 2 $100,000 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie back in December, and she has not finished further back than fourth in her nine starts.
Jennifer Eccles is owned by the Challenge No. 10 Syndicate, managed by bloodstock agent Adrian Clark. Among the syndicate members are Napier couple Brian and Lorraine Henneker and Taupo-based Allan and Judy Payne.
The Challenge No. 10 Syndicate also owns Cinzento, who is trained at Hastings by John Bary and has recorded a win and three minor placings from 12 starts.
Jockey Jason Waddell produced a great tactical ride aboard Jennifer Eccles last Saturday, settling her perfectly in the trail from barrier one before angling her into the clear rounding the home bend.
When Waddell asked Jennifer Eccles to quicken in the straight the response was instantaneous as the filly hit top gear in a few strides and dashed clear of a game Showbeel who chased hard to finish in second ahead of Loire in third.
Waddell was having his first ride on the filly and said it would take a crowbar to get him off now.
"She's top class," Waddell said.
"We got a gorgeous run and wow she came up underneath me approaching the home corner.
"She was fair flying coming past the furlong and it would have taken something very special to beat me.
"There was nothing in the race that could do that today."
Trainer Shaune Ritchie was also pleased with the way the filly relaxed during the running with a view to her stepping up to the 2400m distance of the New Zealand Oaks next month.
"I feel a lot better about it [the 2400m] after today," Ritchie said.
"She did get a very economical trip but I liked the way she relaxed down the back and she didn't appear aggressive at all.
"She will almost certainly go to Hastings now and we have to have a crack at the Oaks as well."
With the victory Jennifer Eccles now heads the table in the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year series with 24.5 points ahead of Loire on 20.5.
Colgan eyeing a seventh Derby
When the most successful jockey in New Zealand Derby history says he believes he can add another victory in Ellerslie's blue riband three-year-old classic then it pays to take note.
Matamata rider Vinnie Colgan has his sights set on victory in the Group 1 $1million Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) on February 29, having first taken out the race aboard the Roger James-trained Roysyn in 1995, a feat he has then repeated on another five occasions since that inaugural success.
Colgan will be hunting Derby victory number seven at Ellerslie aboard the Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained filly Two Illicit after the pair combined for the perfect dress rehearsal at Te Rapa last Saturday when demolishing their rivals by more than 7 lengths in the Group 2 Legacy Lodge Waikato Guineas (2000m).
Although not currently nominated for the Derby, Two Illicit's connections are expected to make a late payment to get her into a race that Colgan believes is perfect for her.
"She is a very talented filly who I don't think we have even scratched the surface on yet," Colgan said.
"The feel she gives you when you ride her is very special and I can say with certainty that there have been several of my Derby winners that haven't provided me with anywhere near the feel that this filly does."
Colgan admits he is a good place with his riding at present as he contemplates how much longer he will continue his career in the saddle.
"I'm feeling pretty good at present although the aches and pains are a little more frequent," he said.
I'm 44 now and getting a bit long in the tooth but I'd like to think I've got at least another six years or so in the saddle to come.
"I find these days the injury niggles are a little harder to overcome and when you walk in the jockeys' room there are all these 18 to 20-year-olds bouncing around with boundless energy but I feel I can still compete with them."
Safety Fund open for applications
Racecourses can improve safety with this year's second round of funding from the Racing Safety Development Fund.
Minister for Racing, Winston Peters, has announced the second funding round of 2019/20 is open with $347,875 available for distribution.
"The racing industry is integral to the economic and social fabric of New Zealand," Peters said.
"While the Government is in the process of implementing reforms to revitalise the racing industry, health and safety will always be of the upmost importance.
"This fund allows racecourses the opportunity to improve health and safety activities to ensure animals, staff and spectators can enjoy and reap the benefits of this industry."
Past projects have included improvements for safety running rails, irrigation and drainage, lighting upgrades, and grandstand repair.
All racing clubs and racing code bodies should consider the condition and standard of their facilities and equipment, and assess whether they are safe for animals, staff and customers.
he Racing Safety Development Fund covers up to half the costs of a project with between $7,500 – $50,000 funding being available for each project.
Applications must be submitted by April 1.