Exciting Hastings-trained filly Shezzacatch made it two wins from as many starts with another impressive performance in a $25,000 three-year-old race over 1300m at Awapuni last Saturday.
The daughter of Savabeel only got home by half a neck but the margin flattered her rivals as jockey Lisa Allpress didn't over-tax her in the final stages once she knew she had the race won.
Shezzacatch was also in need of the run because it was her first start for two months.
She created a huge impression on the first day of this year's Bostock New Zealand Spring Carnival at Hastings when, as a maiden having her first start, she upstaged several more experienced and better performed three-year-olds in the $50,000 El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m), winning at odds of 36 to one.
In stark contrast to that day, Shezzacatch started an odds-on favourite at Awapuni last Saturday.
After being a shade slow to begin, the filly got back to third last in the early stages and started to over-race.
Allpress got her to settle a lot better coming to the home turn and stuck to the inside, quickly making up several lengths on the leaders. She then angled her for a run between horses inside the last 300m and the filly dashed through to take the lead.
Such was Shezzacatch's lightning acceleration that she quickly put a length on the rest of the field but then two others, Love For All and Perfect Scenario, started to mount a challenge late and closed the margin significantly on the line.
Shezzacatch is prepared at Hastings by the partnership of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen and they were both pleased with the filly's performance.
"I thought her run was good," Lowry said.
"She had full blinkers on and probably didn't see the other horses coming at her late. She ran through the line well when the others came up alongside her, so I thought that was quite good.
"She will benefit a lot from the run and certainly wasn't cranked up."
Shezzacatch will have her next start in the Group 3 $70,000 Eulogy Stakes (1600m) at Awapuni on December 12 and another good run then will see her aimed at the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham in January.
"The problem will be where to run her between the Eulogy and the Levin Classic," Lowry said.
"There isn't a lot of suitable races around and we may have to give her a jumpout somewhere and a trial to keep her fitness up."
Shezzacatch is by Savabeel out of the O'Reilly mare Elusive Nature and was bred by Cambridge-based Tony Rider, a loyal client of the Lowry/Cullen stable.
He races the filly in partnership with Guy Lowry and his wife Brigid, along with their close friends Paul and Maree Apatu, Grant and Ali Syminton, Sam and Anna Wood and John and Diane Bongard.
Shezzacatch's dam Elusive Nature was unraced but is out of the Elusive City mare Elusive Dreams, who was a four race winner and is also the dam of Savvy Dreams, who only won twice but finished third in the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham and recorded three Group 1 fourth placings, in the South Australian Derby (2500m) in Adelaide, Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham and Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie.
Chasing Trentham Group 1 success
Talented galloper Rock On Wood has two Trentham Group 1 assignments on his agenda in the coming months.
The Redwood six-year-old, who brought up his seventh win from only 16 starts when successful in the $32,500 Bulls Country Cup (1400m) at Awapuni last Saturday, will now tackle the Group 1 $200,000 Rydges Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham next Saturday.
Safely through that Levin trainer Leeanne Elliot will then aim the horse at the Group 1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham in January, a race he finished an unlucky fourth in last season.
Rock On Wood was recording back-to-back wins in the John Turkington/Wai Pine Bulls Country Cup, after beating Wyndspelle by a long neck last year. He was ridden in both wins by the trainer's son Ryan Elliot.
Rock On Wood only got home by half a head in last Saturday's feature race at the Rangitikei meeting but it was a game performance because he had to lump 61.5kg and was conceding second-placed Weaponry seven and a half kilograms in the handicap.
Elliot let his mount settle at the back of the five-horse field and waited until the home straight before asking him for an effort. The horse gradually got the upper hand over his rivals and went to the line strongly.
Rock On Wood, whose other performances last season included a third in the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa, will go into next Saturday's Captain Cook Stakes a bit more forward than this time last year.
"He has had two races under his belt this time in, for a second and a win, and this time last year he had just had he one, so he is a little more forward," she said.
Synthetic track gets a thumbs up
The Cambridge Jockey Club's new synthetic track has received the tick of approval from jockeys and trainers alike after the first set of official trials were run on it last Tuesday.
Leading jockey Samantha Collett was having her second experience of riding on the track, after previously riding at jumpouts earlier this month, and heaped praise on it.
"I think it is really fantastic," she said. "The club can be really proud of what they have produced.
"I was fortunate to have a few rides on it at the jumpouts prior to the trial meeting and it really impressed me then."
The jumpouts were conducted in inclement weather and Collett said the track handled just as well then.
"You could feel the moisture under the horses feet but there were no inconsistencies. It seemed to ride just as well both times."
Collett said the track is a godsend for trainers in the region and horses will benefit a lot from trialling and racing on the surface all year-round.
Trainers spoken to said the track is very forgiving and provides a nice even surface that can be used all year round, especially in the winter months when the turf tracks start deteriorating.
The first race meeting on the new surface is not scheduled until May of next year.
Collett said there wasn't a noticeable difference in the amount of kick-back from the synthetic surface in comparison to New Zealand's regular turf tracks and the universal consensus in the jockeys room was positive.
New Zealand's second synthetic track will soon start construction at the Riccarton racecourse in Christchurch, while another is mooted for the Awapuni track in Palmerston North.
Jockeys to get a pay rise
Jockeys will receive a pay increase from February 1 next year with flat riding fees going up from $145.23 to $160 and jumps race riding fees moving from $197.10 to $220.
In making the decision New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing considered the fact that riding fees had not been increased since August 2018 and also took into account consultation with the NZ Trainers' Association, NZ Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners' Federation and the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders' Association.
The increase in riding fees is across the board, with the rider engagement fee going up to $80 from $72.61 for flat races and the rider engagement fee for jumps races going from $98.55 to $110. Riding fees at trials have also had minimal increases.
Aligned to the pay increase was a reminder from NZTR to jockeys that there is an expectation that they fulfil obligations around media and communication with owners.
"Jockeys have an important part to play in the promotion of our industry and, as such, they do need to be aware that a component of their role is to make themselves available to undertake interviews and assist in raising the profile of themselves and the industry overall," NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry said.
The fee increases will remain in place until the end of the 2021-22 racing season.
Cambridge stablemates favoured
The Cambridge training partnership of Roger James and Robert Wellwood will likely line up two of the first three favourites for the next Group 1 race of the season, next Saturday's $200,000 Rydges Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) at Trentham.
The duo is set to contest the feature event with in-form runners Concert Hall and Hypnos with both horses rated strong chances after coming off impressive last-start wins.
The TAB has opened a Fixed-Odds Futures market on the race with Concert Hall the present favourite at $3.50 and Hypnos on the third line of betting at $6. Splitting them is last Saturday's impressive Awapuni winner Rock On Wood at $4.
Concert Hall and Hypnos will go into the race with similar form lines.
Hypnos finished runner-up when fresh up at Hastings in early October before winning the Group 3 Red Badge Spring Sprint (1400m) there on October 17 and then the Group 2 Coupland's Mile (1600m) at Riccarton earlier this month.
Concert Hall has also been on song, winning the Group 3 Thompson Handicap (1600m) at Trentham and Group 2 Tauranga Stakes (1600m) at her last two starts after finishing runner-up over 1400m at Ellerslie first up.