Waipukurau trainer Kirsty Lawrence's right-hand woman Susan Best got a birthday present she will cherish forever when Pep Torque won a $40,000 Rating 65 race over 1600m at Trentham last Saturday.
Best, described by Lawrence as the most conscientious worker she has employed, is not only a part-owner in Pep Torque but also his devoted caregiver.
"She just loves the horse and for him to win a race on her birthday was just out of this world," Lawrence said this week.
"Susan has worked for me for seven years and you would not get a better worker. She used to work for Margaret Bull at Awapuni years ago and she just loves what she does.
"She rides Pep Torque in work and she loves him to bits."
Pep Torque was one of several big priced winners to rock the punters at Trentham last Saturday, returning a dividend of $55.90 for a win and $14.40 for a place.
Lawrence was surprised by the long odds considering the 5-year-old had recorded a second, two fourths and a seventh from his four most recent starts.
"He actually built to that win," she said.
He'd been going really good races but was just run off his feet at Trentham the previous Saturday.
The step up to 1600 metres was the real key. It just slowed the pace of the race down early and he was able to get travelling."
Apprentice Charlotte O'Beirne bounced Pep Torque out well from the barrier and had him travelling well outside the leader in the early stages.
They took the lead at the top of the home straight and Pep Torque kept up a resolute finish to hold out second placed Lincoln Sky by a neck.
It was Pep Torque's second win, his first being in a 1000m maiden race at Tauherenikau on Waitangi Day, almost 12 months ago.
Kirsty Lawrence and her husband Steve bought the horse from the thoroughbred trading operation Gavelhouse for just $2600 and he has now picked up $36,565 in stake money from two wins, two seconds, a third, two fourths and a fifth.
The Lawrences race Pep Torque in partnership with Susan Best and the sisters Diana and Christina Newman, who have been long time stable clients.
Pep Torque is out of the Star Way mare Cosmic Flight, who recorded two wins and seven minor placings from only 20 starts.
Kirsty Lawrence said Pep Torque is not overly big but he has been very honest and is a delight to train.
"He's a lazy trackworker and will hit the line and pull up before you have even gone 20 metres past the winning post. But yet he is a different horse on race day."
She said the horse has come through last Saturday's win in perfect order and she intends backing him up in a $25,000 Rating 72 race over 1600m at Trentham tomorrow.
Miss Labasa primed for Karaka Million
Hastings trainer John Bary says his unbeaten filly Miss Labasa is right on target for tomorrow's $1million Karaka Million Three-year-old Classic at Ellerslie.
In a Trackside TV interview last Monday, Bary said he is delighted with the progress the daughter of Swiss Ace has made since her last start win over 1400m at Awapuni on January 5.
"I'm really happy with her and looking forward to Saturday," Bary said.
Bary has his own training track at his property in Mutiny Rd but took Miss Labasa into the Hastings track last Friday for a gallop on the grass.
"She galloped reverse over 1200 metres and ran her last 1000 in 1:02 and I was really happy," he added.
Miss Labasa has drawn barrier nine for tomorrow's 1600m feature and will again be ridden by Johnathan Parkes.
Auckland Cup plans for Peso
Hastings owned and trained Peso is ticking over nicely as he prepares for the Group 1 $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup at Ellerslie on March 9.
Trainer and co-owner Pal Nelson brought the big Colombia gelding into the Hastings track on Tuesday where he was given an easy 1200m workout in 1:30.1, the first 600 in a leisurely 46.3 and the final 600 in 43.8.
The big Colombia 7-year-old, who has returned a dividend seven times from his last eight starts, looks in great order and has obviously trained on well since finishing second in the City Of Auckland Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day. He has been weighted at 55.5kg in the Auckland Cup (3200m).
Hastings races Wednesday
Hawke's Bay Racing will stage its annual Bostock New Zealand race day on the Hastings track next Wednesday.
There will be eight races carded, with the first timed for 1.15pm.
There will be no gate charge and the Members Stand will be open to the public.
Overseas races for Pitman speedsters
Riccarton trainer Michael Pitman is eyeing a start in the Group 1 A$500,000 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) in Melbourne on February 23 with his Group 1 performer Sensei.
Pitman prepares the son of Dream Ahead in partnership with his son Matthew and was delighted with the entire's effort to dead-heat for third in last Saturday's Group 1 Telegraph Sprint (1200m) behind stablemate Enzo's Lad.
"Enzo's Lad's owners won't be disappointed in me saying this, but Sensei is the better horse, he is only a 4-year-old," Michael Pitman said.
"He has started to get to where I have always rated him and everyone that has ever ridden him thinks the same."
Sensei raced wide throughout with no cover in the Telegraph after drawing barrier 17.
He has won five of his 17 starts, with a further eight placings and Pitman said the horse was likely to head straight to the Oakleigh Plate without another run.
"He won't have another run because we have learnt over the last six months that he is probably better off just aimed at a certain race and he doesn't seem to pull too hard if we don't race him as often.
"Maybe that is the reverse of what most people would think but he is still an entire and he won't need a run because it is only five weeks away."
Pitman is hoping to campaign his back-to-back Telegraph winner Enzo's Lad internationally as well, and has already spoken to a representative of the Hong Kong Jockey Club regarding a start in the Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize (1200m) on April 28.
Authentic Paddy not finished yet
Hawke's Bay-owned Authentic Paddy still has a chance to reach 100 career starts despite a setback at Trentham last Saturday.
The Group 1 winner dropped out alarmingly before the home turn in the Group 1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) and was eased right down by rider Robert Hannam to completely tail off.
A post-race veterinary inspection revealed he was suffering from cardiac arrhythmia, but trainer Lisa Latta reports he has bounced back.
"He's well, but I'll get my vet to check him over tomorrow morning,'' Latta said on Monday.
''He'll probably have a let-up and provided he's all right he'll race again.''
Hastings sisters Marilyn Te Paa and Christine Gray and their Havelock North brother Tony Gray own Authentic Paddy in partnership with their Paraparaumu-based brother Phillip and their sister Janice Berry, who lives in Upper Hutt.
The Howbaddouwantit 9-year-old has started 93 times for 11 wins and 48 placings and earned more than $750,000 in prizemoney, with his best win coming in the 2017 Group 1 Zabeel Classic (2000m) at Ellerslie.
Fifth Group 1 for Beauty Generation
New Zealand-bred galloper Beauty Generation took his Group 1 tally to five at Sha Tin last Sunday when he dominated his rivals in the Stewards' Cup (1600m).
The reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year was pushed forward early by jockey Zac Purton and was never headed, winning by 3 lengths over Conte, with a further short-head back to Southern Legend in third.
His trainer John Moore hailed Beauty Generation the best he has trained after the victory and said he is keen to test his stable star on foreign soil after a tilt at further Group 1 glory in Hong Kong.
"He's the best of the lot," he said.
"I'd love to travel him, but it's important that I fit into the route that the Kwok family wants to take. I know their Grand Final is the Champions Mile, so that's our number one focus now – my job is to get him ready for that.
"If he wins the Champions Mile, it'll be down to the family as to whether we go to Japan for the Yasuda Kinen (G1, 1600m) or we put him away for next season. It's always up to the owner."
Beauty Generation's next assignment is likely to be the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) next month, where he will aim to make it back-to-back victories in the Group 1 race.
Beauty Generation was purchased for $60,000 out of Highden Park's 2014 New Zealand Bloodstock Select Yearling Sale and raced as Montaigne in Australia before his sale to Hong Kong.