The Hastings training partnership of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen have won Trentham's Group 1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph Sprint twice in the past five years and they could complete a treble in this year's race.
The stable will be represented by the talented mare Xpression in tomorrow's $250,000 feature and, although the Showcasing mare has not raced for six weeks, her connections are confident she will perform well.
The Lowry/Cullen partnership saddled up Irish Fling to take out the prestigious sprint in 2014 and then produced Adventador for an upset win two years later.
Irish Fling was an $8.60 chance when she beat Natuzzi by a neck, with Jaggard 1-1/4 lengths back in third place.
Mark Du Plessis was the winning jockey and he settled Irish Fling eighth in the early running before angling her into the open to lodge a challenge with 300 metres to run. The Darci Brahma mare dashed clear soon after for decisive victory.
Adventador's win two years later was filled with a lot more drama. The big Fast 'N' Famous gelding took charge of jockey Matthew Cameron and dislodged him going out onto the track to commence his preliminary. The horse broke through the inside running rail and travelled a short distance before being captured.
Cameron was examined by St John's personnel and cleared to ride while Adventador underwent a veterinary examination and was passed fit to travel to the starting barrier. Once there he underwent a further veterinary examination before being declared fit to start.
Adventador bounced straight to the front from a wide draw and set up a strong gallop all the way. Cameron decided to put a break on the field soon after the field joined up with the course proper and the horse never looked like being caught, crossing the line a length in front of Miss Seton Sands, with Trepidation a further 1-1/4 lengths back in third.
Adventador was one of the rank outsiders in that year's race, returning a dividend of $80.90 for a win and $18.60 for a place.
Xpression won't be at such lucrative odds when she lines up tomorrow, but she is currently a $26 chance on the Fixed Odds win market, which represents good value for a mare who was Group 1 placed as a 3-year-old.
Xpression has only had 15 starts for three wins, two seconds and four thirds. She won the Group 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1200m) at Trentham as a 2-year-old and the Group 3 Barnswood Farm Stakes (1400m) at Ashburton as a 3-year-old before a game third behind Media Sensation and Valalie in that year's Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.
Xpression was then sent across the Tasman to join the powerful Chris Waller stable but she never reached her full potential there, with her best placing being a third in the Group 3 Toy Show Stakes (1100m) at Randwick last August.
The mare rejoined the Lowry/Cullen stable two months ago and has only had one start since, that resulting in a second to the highly rated Tavi Mac over 1200m at Trentham on December 7.
Despite not having raced since then, co-trainer Guy Lowry said this week Xpression is ready to produce a big performance fresh up.
"The plan was to get her fit and keep her fresh and I think we've done that," Lowry said.
"I couldn't be happier with her condition and she worked very strongly over 1000 metres at the Hastings track last Saturday."
Xpression has also had the benefit of an exhibition gallop between races at Otaki on December 20 and at Hastings on New Year's Day and Lowry rates her much better than a 20 to one chance.
"I give her just as good a chance as when Irish Fling won the race for us," he said.
He added that this will be Xpression's last start as the mare is in foal to top Australian sire Snitzel.
Xpression has drawn well at barrier three and will be ridden by experienced jockey Michael Coleman.
Jumping races loom for Carnaby
Carnaby, part-owned by five Hawke's Bay people, picked up another win on the flat at last Saturday's Greymouth meeting but is expected to be seen in a jumping role later this season.
The 7-year-old Danroad gelding, prepared by astute Wanganui trainer Kevin Myers, followed up a fresh up second over 2000m at Greymouth on January 5 with a dominant 1-1/2 length victory in a Rating 65 race over the same distance last Saturday.
Carnaby wanted to over-race a bit when midfield in the early stages of the race but experienced jockey Terry Mosely got him to settle going down the back straight before letting him slide forward to challenge for the lead, three-wide, on the home turn.
He went clear early in the home straight and raced right away from the opposition over the final stages.
It was Carnaby's seventh win from 47 starts and he has also recorded seven minor placings. The horse was bred by well-known racing administrator Alan Fenwick of Marton and Feilding-based Michael Collinson and they initially raced him with Alan's wife Sue and Carn Arnott, from Palmerston North.
Hawke's Bay men Tony Lyndon, Peter Johnstone, Peter Unverricht, Greg Horton and Bruce Yanko took over a 50 per cent racing share in him at the end of 2017 and got an instant return on their investment when the horse won at odds of 20 to one at Greymouth in January 2018.
He has since won another three races on the flat but his connections are keen to see him race over fences.
"We bought into him as a jumper and he's done a lot of schooling, so he'll probably start a jumping career in May," Tony Lyndon said this week.
He added there was a fair bit of confidence the horse could win last Saturday.
"He was chucked in at the weights as he carried five kilograms less than he had on the first day," Lyndon said.
"He had raced a bit too keenly on the first day because he was a bit fresh and that run took the edge off him for last Saturday," Lyndon said.
Ormsby enjoying great run
Year 2020 has certainly started well for Waipukurau racehorse owner Michael Ormsby and things could even get a lot better this weekend when Avantage lines up in tomorrow's Group 1 $250,000 JR & N Berkett Telegraph Sprint at Trentham.
Ormsby is sold on Te Akau racing syndicates and is enjoying an incredible ride by being involved in some of them.
The treasurer and long-time committeeman of the Waipukurau Jockey Club is part of the Te Akau Galway Syndicate that owns Spirit Of Galway, arguably the most impressive winner at the Hawke's Bay New Year's Day race meeting.
He is also a member of the Xplosive Te Akau Syndicate that races the 3-year-old filly Xplosion, who recorded a maiden win over 1340m at Wanganui on Thursday of last week.
The 3-year-old Showcasing filly broke through for a deserved success after three thirds and two fourths from her previous eight starts.
She started favourite and was given the perfect run by jockey Craig Grylls, setting fifth in the early running before improving to challenge the leaders on the home turn.
Xplosion took a clear lead early in the home straight and raced away to win by 1-1/4 lengths.
Avantage has already been a Group 1 winner for Ormsby, taking out the Manawatu Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni in March 2018.
The daughter of Fastnet Rock also won the Group 3 Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) as an early 3-year-old before she headed across the Tasman and was successful in the Group 3 Birthday Card Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill in Sydney.
Avantage has had one start back in a new campaign for a close second behind Pretty To Sea in a Listed 1200m race at Ellerslie on Boxing Day. She is one of the favourites for tomorrow's Telegraph Sprint.
By-monthly award winner
Hastings trainer Steven Carey is the recipient of the Kevin Wood Memorial by-monthly trophy for the month's of November and December 2019.
The award is presented by the Hawke's Bay Racehorse Owners Association.
Carey is the trainer and co-owner of Matt Cain, who followed up a third placing at Awapuni in November with a maiden win over 1300m on his home track on December 11.
It was Carey's first training success and he owns the Danroad 6-year-old in partnership with another Hastings man, Eric Verhaul.
Star gallopers shine at trials
Exciting gallopers Te Akau Shark and Catalyst had their first hit-out of the year at the Matamata trials on Tuesday and they pleased their connections with their efforts in a 1000m heat.
Catalyst jumped well and settled in the one-one for jockey Troy Harris, while Te Akau Shark sat three back on the fence for the majority of the trip in the hands of Michael McNab.
A gap opened up nicely for Catalyst turning for home and he ran away to a two length victory over Te Akau Shark.
Trainer Clayton Chipperfield was pleased with Catalyst's performance, particularly his starting manners.
"I am very happy," Chipperfield said. "We took the hood off and he put himself right there and to finish off the way he did, with his ears pricked, was very encouraging."
Catalyst has an impeccable formline as a 3-year-old, having won all four of his starts this season, including a last start victory in the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m).
The son of Darci Brahma will be out to continue that run in the Group 3 Henley Park Mr Tiz Trophy (1200m) at Ellerslie tomorrow week before heading across the Tasman next month.
Matamata conditioner Jamie Richards was just as pleased with the effort of Te Akau Shark and he is looking forward to targeting Australia in the autumn with the last start Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) placegetter.
"We are really happy with him," Richards said. "He lobbed three back the fence and came up in behind them with no pressure.
"It wasn't about chasing Catalyst or having a race today, it was just about building fitness and doing the right thing by the horse. We are pleased with how he is coming to hand.
"He will go to the BCD Sprint (Group 1, 1400m) at Te Rapa on February 8 and then he will go to Sydney."