The connections of Hastings-trained Pablo Esk had to decide whether to head north or south with the horse last weekend and they made the right call in the finish.
The four-year-old Alamosa gelding picked up his third win with a game performance in a $27,500 Rating 74 race over 1400m at Te Rapa, in Hamilton.
The other race being considered was also a $27,500 Rating 74 event, over 1600m at Trentham in Wellington.
Pablo Esk had finished a close second over 1600m at Trentham at his previous start, on a heavy-10 surface, so it meant a drop back in distance going to Te Rapa.
But what influenced the decision in the end was that the Trentham track was expected to be at least as heavy again, if not worse, while the Te Rapa track was rated a slow-8.
Pablo Esk needs reasonably good footing to perform at his best, as he showed when winning two races on his home track earlier this season on dead footing. He has now had 12 starts for three wins, a second and a third.
The horse had to be good to win last Saturday as he lumped 59kg and overcome traffic problems during the running.
Experienced jockey Michael McNab, who had ridden Pablo Esk to win his maiden race at Hastings during the summer, was back aboard and got him into a good position, midfield on the inside, in the early stages.
But, coming to the home bend, McNab suddenly found he had a wall of horses in front of him and nowhere to go. He finally spied a narrow gap one off the fence and drove Pablo Esk through to challenge the leaders Tammie Wynette and Equinox.
The three horses then fought out the finish with Pablo Esk edging clear in the final stages to win by half a length.
Pablo Esk is officially trained by Michael Warren but former trainer Dean Howard does all the work on the horse.
Howard trained successfully from a Hastings base during the 1980s and 1990s before moving across the Tasman and basing himself in Victoria. He returned to New Zealand a couple of years ago and is back riding trackwork on the Hastings track.
Howard was aboard Pablo Esk when the horse turned in a strong final track gallop at Hastings last week before heading north.
Michael Warren races Pablo Esk in partnership with good friend Terry McGarva, with the two being workmates at a local freezing works.
The horse was purchased privately from Manawatu vet John O'Brien, who bred him out of the Gold Centre mare Waiana Gold.
He is the second horse to race out of the mare, the other being Triple Triple, who was sold to Hong Kong after winning a Foxton trial in December 2017 and has since gone on to record a win and seven minor placings in that continent.
Cameron to make a comeback
Matthew Cameron is planning a return to the saddle after calling time out on his career in December last year.
The two-time champion jockey surprised many when stepping away from racing as it entered the peak of the racing season, but after seven months away from riding, the talented 34-year-old has had a chance to properly re-charge the batteries.
"I've been thinking [about returning] for the last month or so," Cameron said.
"I've been getting a little bit of itchy feet here watching the races, and being so close to the Cambridge track I can hear it next door which is quite exciting.
"I want to come back and get stuck into it again."
Cameron hung up his boots on a winning note after riding the Ross McCarroll-trained Initiative to victory at Awapuni but admitted his desire to ride had faded.
"I think I just burnt out," he said. "I'd been doing it for so many years consistently other than the odd holiday every year. I just needed a bit of time to myself and to get away from the game.
"I still love it to bits, but it can be tough and hard on the body, and I just needed that time away mentally to just cruise and have a bit of time off."
Cameron has no concerns about his weight, admitting he has actually shed some during his sabbatical.
"I think I am one of the lucky jockeys that doesn't have a weight problem," he said.
"I have lost a couple of kilos since I have stopped riding, which is crazy. I'm thinking it is a bit of muscle I have lost not trying to hold on to those horses for the last six months."
Cameron is looking to ease back into trackwork and building his riding fitness again before trials and jumpouts and eventually a return to riding.
"Hopefully I'll know when it's time to go back to the races."
A former champion apprentice, who commenced in the industry as a 15-year-old, Cameron sits on a tally of 1408 New Zealand wins and has 94 Group or Listed victories to his credit, including 15 at Group 1 level.
Cameron has ridden 150 or more winners in a New Zealand season three times and has five times won more than 100 races in a season. He currently sits 15th on the New Zealand all-time winners list.
Rusof granted Singapore licence
Former New Zealand-based jockey Shafiq Rusof, who recorded his two biggest wins aboard champion mare Melody Belle at Hastings in the spring of 2018, is set go make a return to raceday riding in Singapore next month.
The Malaysian 34-year-old is among nine jockeys who were granted a six-month licence from July 1 to December 31 by the Singapore Turf Club.
Rusof was attached to the powerful Mark Walker stable when last riding in Singapore and kicked home a string of winners for not only his boss but also other trainers.
But at the end of 2017 his licence was not renewed for 2018.
Luckily Te Akau Racing threw him a lifeline with a job back in New Zealand where he made a good impression with 34 wins from 274 rides, including two Group 1 events and two at Group 2 level
His Group 1 victories came aboard Melody Belle in both the $200,000 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) and $200,000 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at the Hawke's Bay spring carnival in 2018.
But the dream run was short-lived when he had to return to Malaysia for family reasons.
"I was very happy with my success back with Te Akau and their trainer Jamie Richards in New Zealand. I won Group races on Melody Belle and Our Abbadean," he said.
"But when my father got sick, I had to go back home. My wife was also not too well, but they're both okay now."
Rusof started back riding in Malaysia and was kicking home winners there but his heart wasn't in it. He just wanted to get back to Singapore and is thankful he has now been granted a six-month licence there.
Collett bags five in a day
Ex-pat Kiwi jockey Alysha Collett set a new personal record at Newcastle last Saturday when she booted home five winners on the eight-race card.
Victory aboard the Brad Widdup-trained Pensera in race two was quickly followed by another for Widdup aboard Queen Bellissimo in race three, before making it three in a row in race four on the James Cummings-trained Honeycreeper.
Collett then guided home the Kim Waugh-trained Linguee in race six and made it a fabulous five aboard the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Briars Kingdom in the final event of the day.
Naturally delighted with her day's work, Collett was feeling even better when she received confirmation from her mother that it had eclipsed her previous record of four.
Collett, who relocated to Sydney from Singapore during the Covid-19 pandemic just over a year ago, is currently sitting fourth on the New South Wales Provincial Jockeys' premiership with 35 victories and over A$1 million in prizemoney.
Her run of success is a welcome change of fortune for the talented rider after the ups and downs she had experienced since making the move from New Zealand to Singapore in 2018.
Just as she was starting to gain momentum with her riding there, she was sidelined for a number of months after suffering damage to her L1 lumbar vertebra and a fractured right heel in a nasty fall.
Back in the saddle again for the 2019/20 Singapore season, she was starting to kick home regular winners again when the Covid-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, which put a halt to all racing there for an extended time.
"We were initially locked down for six weeks and then another month after that. It made me realise I really wanted to be closer to home, so I ended up cutting my time over there short.
"I had wanted to come back to New Zealand but the job opportunities for my partner Luke [Marlow, Australian racecaller] weren't as good as they were in Sydney so that's where we shifted to."