Less than 24 hours after being crowned Hawke's Bay/Poverty Bay Horse of the Year for last season, Hastings owned and trained Peso scored his equal biggest success when taking out the A$45,000 Murtoa Cup in Australia last Saturday.
Peso and his Hastings owner/breeders Paul and Carol Nelson were the toast of the Hawke's Bay/Poverty Bay Racing and Breeding Awards function held at the Hastings racecourse last Friday evening when Peso was not only crowned the district's Horse of the Year but his dam All Magic also took out the Broodmare of The Year title.
The following day Peso, who is being campaigned in Australia in the care of Ballarat trainer-jockey Richard Cully, showed a welcome return to form with a strong win in the 2050m feature at the Murtoa meeting.
It was the 9-year-old gelding's fifth start in Australia, with his previous best performance there being a fifth over 2000m at Warracknabeal on August 29.
Jockey Jack Martin had Peso in a handy position from the outset last Saturday and, after taking the lead with 800m to run, the tough galloper kept up a sustained finish to win by a neck.
It was Peso's eighth win and took his stake earnings past the $270,000 mark.
He was crowned Hawke's Bay/Poverty Bay Trained Horse of the Year for the 2019-20 season by amassing the most stake money of any horse trained in the district.
He had eight starts last season for a win in a $40,000 Open 2000m race at Hastings, second to Melody Belle in the Group 1 $250,000 Livamol Classic (2040m) at Hastings and third in the Group 3 $70,000 OMF Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie.
Peso is by Colombia out of the Victory Dance mare All Magic. She was unplaced in her only start and is now deceased but also left No Quota, who won four times over jumps, a hurdle and three steeplechases.
Havelock North's Dave Morison picked up the trophy for the Hawke's Bay/Poverty Bay Owned Horse of the Year.
Morison owns a 10 per cent share in Alabama Express, who had five starts as a three-year-old in Australia for three wins, including the Group 1 A$502,000 C F Orr Stakes at Flemington and Listed A$175,000 Gothic Stakes at Caulfield.
The Hawke's Bay/Poverty Bay breeder with the most wins during the season was Chris Russell, with six. He bred New York Jazz (three wins), Jonny Russ (two wins) and Maria Dior (one win).
He and Waipukurau-based Chris Walker shared the other breeders award which was decided on points based on the performances of horses they bred during the season.
Walker and his wife Rae are owners of the mare Boomchuckalucka who left Chuck A Luck (two wins) and Thunder Bay (one win) last season.
Chuck A Luck was also the highest earning 3-year-old bred in Hawke's Bay/Poverty Bay.
He picked up $33,250 in stake money in New Zealand and was second in the Group 3 War Decree Stakes at Riccarton. He was then exported to Australia where he picked up another A$31,000 from a second and a fourth.
Simon Wilson won the Owner of the Year trophy. He is the part-owner and trainer of Dez, who recorded a win, a second and two thirds from six starts last season with his victory coming in the Group 3 $100,000 Winter Cup at Riccarton.
The partnership of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen took out the trainers' prize for the most wins in the season. They produced 12 winners, one more than John Bary.
However, Bary pipped them for the trainers' strike rate prize as his 11 wins from 132 starters gave him a rate of 12.00 compared to 12.17 for the Lowry and Cullen stable who had 12 wins from 146 starters.
Hastings mare's win a godsend
Hastings-trained Can I Get An Amen made up for an unlucky fresh up second at Taupo last month with a game win in a $30,000 Rating 65 race over 1400m at Hastings last Saturday.
The Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen trained mare was desperately unlucky not to win over 1200m at Taupo on September 13, where she was used up a lot in early stages after missing the start, and then had to come across three sets of horses' heels in the straight to get clear. She lunged at the leader right on the line but came up a neck short.
Can I Get An Amen was sent out a hot favourite last Saturday on the strength of that Taupo run and rider Danielle Johnson bounced her out quickly from the barrier to lead early before taking a perfect one out and one back trail.
The mare looked set for a comfortable win when she went up to challenge the leaders Marroni and Matt Cain early in the home straight but that pair both fought back doggedly and the trio produced a tense battle over the final stages.
Johnson used all her strength in the last few strides to get Can I Get An Amen's nose in front over Marroni, with Matt Cain only a short head back in third.
It was Can I Get An Amen's second win from six starts and she has also recorded three seconds.
The mare was bred by Cambridge-based Tony Rider, who races her with some close friends, and continued Rider's tremendously successful run he has enjoyed over the first two days of the Bostock New Zealand Hawke's Bay spring carnival.
Rider is also the breeder and part-owner of Miss Aotearoa, who won the Group 3 $70,000 Gold Trail Stakes on the first day of the carnival, as well as Shezzacatch, who took out the Listed $50,000 El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy on the same day.
He also part-owns Rum, who won the last race on the first day and Moana, who was an unlucky third in last Saturday's Group 2 Dundeel at Arrowfield Hawke's Bay Guineas.
Melody Belle shows her class
Melody Belle showed all her champion qualities when getting in the deciding stride to take out last Saturday's Group 1 $200,000 Windsor Park Plate, feature race on the second day of the Bostock New Zealand spring carnival at Hastings.
The Commands 6-year-old was expected to be vulnerable in her first start back after being freshened following two lack-lustre performances in Sydney in August.
Trainer Jamie Richards gave her just one easy 1215m Rotorua trial to help her fitness for last Saturday's 1600m event and thought she would probably need the run.
But Melody Belle is a true winner, as she had previously shown by crossing the line in front 15 times from 32 starts.
Jockey Troy Harris gave the mare a perfect run from an inside barrier draw and she challenged Callsign Mav early in the home straight after the latter had taken the lead off the tearaway pacemaker The Mitigator.
Avantage, who had tracked Melody Belle into the race, joined the pair and they set down to fight out a tremendous finish.
Avantage got her head in front of Melody Belle inside the last 200 metres but the mare showed that great will to win she possesses to dig on all her reserves to get her nose back in front on the line.
In the end it was a perfect result to one of New Zealand's prestige races. Melody Belle became the first horse to record a hat-trick of wins in the 1600m event, after victories in 2018 and 2019, and she brought up the 11th Group 1 success of her career.
Melody Belle is owned by the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate, which is managed by Auckland-based John Galvin. Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters own a 10 per cent share of the syndicate and are the biggest shareholders.
Besides her 16 wins, Melody Belle has also chalked up a second and five thirds and her latest victory took her stake earnings to more than $3.6million.
HB third day races a sell out
The sold out sign has already gone up for the third day of the Bostock New Zealand Hawke's Bay Spring Carnival next Saturday.
All the hospitality packages have been taken up for what is the biggest day of the season on the Hastings track and the limit has been reached for general admission.
There will be a 10 race programme, with the first timed for 12.20pm and the last at 5.37pm. The gates will open at 11am and there are a limited number of members stand passes available at a cost of $65.
The Group 1 $250,000 Livamol Classic (2040m), the third leg of the Hawke's Bay triple crown, is the day's feature event while the other main race is the Group 3 $50,000 Red Badge Sprint (1400m).