The weather forecast said showers and wind but the day stayed fine at the Woodville Races on September 18 when the Woodville and Pahiatua Racing Club held its first meeting since March.
Response to the day was massive with so many horses registered (168) that 12 races had to be run – a number hardly ever seen at Woodville in recent years.
There were many entries from the Waikato including Stephen Marsh whose Cambridge stud brought six entries accompanied by Stephen's dad and mum Bruce and Kay Marsh. Bruce was a major trainer at Woodville from 1968 and had many winners before trying his luck in Singapore.
His first winner there was the Singapore Derby and his most famous horse Gingerbread Man won many events in the 14 years they lived there. Now semi-retired in Cambridge, he helps Stephen and both he and Kay really enjoyed their return to where they raised their kids in Woodville.
Fields of 10-12 made the challenge to pick a winner all the more difficult, especially since the racebook did not show much recent form thanks to Covid restrictions reducing meetings.
Obviously the crowd had missed racing too because despite the predictions of dodgy weather a very good crowd in excess of 300 filled the visitor lounge. Some had travelled from Hawke's Bay, Manawatū and the Wairarapa to join the locals.
Racing started at 11am on a well-grassed track rated "a heavy 10" and continued uninterrupted throughout the day.
Most interest was in Race 8, the Kem Keene Memorial, after the local vet who was a great servant to Woodville racing. The family had generously raised the stake to $16,000 with an extra strapper's prize of $500 and 14 entries left the starting gates on the 1400 metre journey.
Bellissimo prevailed by four lengths although 100 metres out it was between the three place-getters.
Owner and trainer Brian Marriott – at 91 years of age the oldest registered trainer in New Zealand – was thrilled saying it was an honour to win and that he will view the trophy with great pleasure.
He says he has no plans to retire with a young horse Show Me Where looking very promising.
Racing concluded at 6pm and many of the crowd were still in attendance. President of the Woodville-Pahiatua Racing Club Andrew Bolton said the day "Just shows what people have been missing in recent months."