Hastings trainer John Bary is keen to tackle black type races now with last week's impressive Wanganui winner Serena.
The 4-year-old Swiss Ace mare capped off a string of minor placings with a decisive three-quarter length victory in a Rating 74 race over 1340m.
That success followed three thirds and a second from her last four starts, the most recent of those runs being a close second behind Dawn Jessie over 1600m at Hastings on New Year's Day.
"It was a good win and well deserved," Bary said this week.
"I am going to chase black type with her now and she can run next in that Breeders Stakes race at Tauherenikau next month."
The race Bary was eluding to is the Listed $50,000 Wairarapa Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes (1600m) on February 8.
He is confident Serena can be competitive in the race given the fact that last year the winner was Sinarahma, who was on a rating of 79 points, and the second and third horses were Vee Cece and Vichy who were both rated on 72 points.
Serena earned four extra points for her win last week and is now on a rating of 75.
Her latest success was her third from 15 starts and she has also recorded two seconds and four thirds.
Bary bought the horse for $17,000 at the 2018 Ready-to-run Two-year-old sale and races her in partnership with Hamilton's Todd Bawden.
Serena won her race debut, as a 2-year-old, over 1200m at Wairoa in February 2019 but was then found to have a bone chip in a fetlock joint after finishing sixth at her second start and underwent an operation that saw her sidelined for the next six months.
She then chalked up her second win in a Rating 65 race over 1300m at Hastings 12 months ago.
Serena has steadily improved with age and was strong at the finish when winning at Wanganui last week, despite wanting to lay in over the final stages.
Rider Leah Hemi bounced her out well from the barrier and then took up a trailing position, one-out and one-back. The mare took the lead early in the home straight and, despite not wanting to run straight, she still managed to stave off a late challenge from topweight Grand Mayson.
Bary said Serena was racing in side-winkers for the first time in that race and that may have caused her to race a bit erratically.
"But she is settling a lot better in her races now and should be even better next start," he added.
Napier owner well in step
Napier racehorse owner Garry Trow is 'living the dream' as a part-owner of Military Step, who brought his second win from only 11 starts when taking out a Rating 65 race over 2040m at Wanganui last week.
Trow, who has had a life-long interest in thoroughbreds, owns a 25 per cent share in Military Step, making him the biggest shareholder in the Te Akau Quick March Syndicate that races the 5-year-old from the Jamie Richards stable at Matamata.
"It is quite funny because I tried to purchase the horse myself but then David Ellis from Te Akau bought him for $62,500 from the 2017 Karaka sales," Trow said.
"I initially took a 20 per cent share and then someone pulled out so I got another five per cent."
Trow said he was sold on the horse because he has been an avid fan of the gelding's sire Tavistock.
"I'm in love with the Tavistocks," he said.
"I wanted a stayer and he leaves good stayers and the fact that the horse needed time to mature didn't worry me.
"He (Military Step) was a late foal and was three months behind most of the other horses his age. He is just starting to come to it now and I think he will be even better in another 12 months."
Military Step has now had 11 starts for two wins, three seconds and three thirds.
He was sent out a hot favourite at Wanganui last week and gave his backers little reason for concern in the running, with jockey Danielle Johnson giving him the perfect run in sixth place before sending him on a quick forward move to challenge for the lead rounding the home turn.
Military Step quickly took control and Johnson only had to ride him hands and heels over the final stages as he crossed the line 2-1/4 lengths clear of the opposition.
Trow said Military Step is now expected to line up next in a Rating 74 race over 2100m at Te Rapa on February 3 and the horse should develop into a good stayer later this year.
As a youngster Trow started out working on the Awapuni racecourse after school, mowing lawns and cleaning up the course.
He then took up a position as a strapper for the late Eric Temperton, a legendary Awapuni trainer who prepared Silver Knight to win the 1971 Melbourne Cup.
"I was strapper for some of the best horses he trained including Young Ida, Purdie and Thun," Trow said.
Lucky charm for HB owner
Long time Hawke's Bay racehorse owner Noel Nicholson celebrated another win when Charms Star took out a 1600m maiden race at Wanganui last week.
Nicholson, who has bred a raced numerous winners over many years, races Charms Star from the Awapuni stable of Lisa Latta and the 3-year-old Per Incanto filly has now had five starts for a win, a second and two fifths.
She was sent out favourite for last week's Wanganui race and, despite being caught three-wide in the running, still managed to easily out-finish her rivals to score by 3 lengths.
Charms Star was a $65,000 purchase from the 2019 Karaka yearling sales and is out of the Zed mare Anniesstar, whose five wins included the Listed 2014 Feilding Cup (2100m).
Anniesstar is a full-sister to the seven race winner Jacksstar and a half-sister to this season's highly promising 3-year-old Bourbonaire, who only went down by a nose when second in the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton in November.
Sixth Group 1 win for Avantage
Class mare Avantage became the ninth horse in the history of the Telegraph Sprint at Trentham to score back-to-back victories in the prestigious 1200m event when she dominated her rivals again there last Saturday.
The 5-year-old Fastnet Rock mare scored a 2 length victory in the $250,000 event, chalking up her sixth Group 1 success in the process.
The Telegraph, rated one the biggest sprint races in the country, dates back to 1890.
King's Bowman was the first horse to win it two years in a row when successful in 1895 and 1896 while Blazer won it three years in succession in 1900, 1901 and 1902 and Blue Blood also completed a hat-trick in 1975, 1976 and 1977.
Other horses to have scored back-to-back victories in the race are Statuette (1920 and 1921), Meadow Lark (1929 and 1930), Serena (1967 and 1968), Courier Bay (1987 and 1988) and Enzo's Lad (2018 and 2019).
Avantage also completed New Zealand's major sprint double when winning last Saturday as she was coming off a last start win in the Group 1 Railway Sprint (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day.
The mare now boasts a record of 13 wins, five seconds and two thirds from 23 starts. She has won at distances ranging from 1200m to 2000m and has amassed more than $1.8 million in stakemoney.
Avantage was a $210,000 purchase from the 2017 Karaka yearling sales and is raced by the Te Akau Avantage Syndicate, with one of the syndicate members being Waipukurau's Michael Ormsby.
Trainer Jamie Richards said Avantage will now be aimed at another New Zealand Group 1 event, the $200,000 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa on February 13. He would then like to take her back to Australia where a Group 1 success there would add further to her already immense value as a future broodmare.
Avantage has had two Australian campaigns in the past, with her best result there being a win in the Group 3 Birthday Card Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill, Sydney, in March, 2019.
HB races next Thursday
Hastings racegoers will get to enjoy a second day of action on the Hastings track this month when Hawke's Bay Racing stages another meeting next Thursday, January 28.
At this stage there are eight races scheduled, with the first timed for 1.02pm and the last at 5.12pm.
Admission is free and the Members Stand will be open to the public.
Being an Industry Raceday, it is a meeting that caters for minor class horses with the main race being a Rating 74 event over 1400m.
As is usually the case, there are also jumpouts scheduled to be held on the Hastings track the day after the race meeting, on Friday, January 29. These normally begin at about 8.30am.