Any fears Hastings-trained Hunta Pence had left his race on the training track were dispelled when the 9-year-old recorded a decisive win in the $65,000 Taupo Cup on Thursday of last week.
Although he is not normally one of the stars in trackwork at Hastings, Hunta Pence turned in the best gallop of the session there two days before the Taupo meeting when running a solo 1000m in a tick over 60s and the last 600m in a quick 35.3s.
There were thoughts that such a strong workout may have taken the edge off the horse for his Taupo Cup assignment over 2000m, where he was up against a good field. But it just showed that his trainer Patrick Campbell obviously had him in peak condition.
Aided by a great ride by Lisa Allpress, Hunta Pence scored a game three-quarter length win in the Taupo feature.
Normally a good beginner from the barrier, Hunta Pence was a shade slow to get into stride and had to settle towards the back of the 13-horse field.
Allpress didn't panic, letting her mount get into a rhythm in the middle stages of the race before tacking on to the back of New Zealand Derby winner Sherwood Forest when that horse started to improve.
Hunta Pence was presented, wide out, rounding the home bend and kept up a strong run to the line to hold out the fast finishing Lincoln King, who was 1-3/4 lengths in front of third placed Sherwood Forest.
Campbell was delighted with the success, especially as he not only trains the No Excuse Needed gelding but also shares in the ownership with five other Hawke's Bay people, Dene Smith, Lindsay McIntosh, Shaun Govsky and Mike and Wendy Timmins along with his close friend Norm Stewart, who lives in Ashburton.
"I am tickled pink," a jubilant Campbell said after the win.
"I was pretty optimistic. I think what helped him is the firmer track doesn't hinder him too much because he is a lightly framed horse.
"We were expecting him to be a little bit handier, but through circumstances he got pushed back.
"He was beautifully handled and kept his balance and got into a rhythm when he was back in the field and then followed the right horse into the race."
Campbell was also pleased about the level of prizemoney on offer for the race.
"It's fabulous, it is the richest country cup in the country," he said.
The winning stake was $37,375 which took Hunta Pence's stake earnings tally to more than $312,000. He is now the winner of 11 races from 68 starts, including a Wanganui Cup and a Manawatu Cup, and has also chalked up six seconds and four thirds.
Hunta Pence will now head back to Trentham next Saturday for another crack at the Group 3 $80,000 Trentham Stakes (2100m), a race he finished a luckless seventh in last year.
"It is a suitable race for him because it is run under set weights and penalties," Campbell said.
HB horses dominated on home track
Locally-trained horses had a field day at the New Year's Eve Hawke's Bay meeting, winning five of the eight races on the programme.
Hastings trainer John Bary saddled up two winners in Korubela Miss and Blissful Belle, while Pam Holden trained No Time To Jazz to win her second race. Waipukurau's Simon Wilson produced Scutar for an all the way victory in the day's main middle distance event and the Lowry/Cullen stable picked up a maiden victory with Five Fortune.
The win by Korubela Miss in a 3-year-old maiden over 1200m was particularly satisfying for trainer John Bary as he also has a racing share in the filly along with her Wairarapa breeders Pat and Rosie Laffey and the Red Meat Rules Syndicate.
The latter is a large group of employees from Silver Fern Farms Limited.
Apprentice jockey Taiki Yanagida bounced Korubela Miss out quickly from the barrier but then took a hold of the filly and got her to settle fifth in the running. He improved her three-wide coming to the home turn and she accelerated quickly to put a break on the field early in the home straight.
Two other Hastings-trained horses, Darwin and Secret Falls, chased hard in the final stages but Korubela Miss kept up a strong run to the line to win by 1-1/4 lengths.
Korubela Miss is by Belardo out of the unraced Sir Percy mare Miss Percy and was having her sixth start. The win followed an unlucky third over 1200m at Hastings last month, where she was badly hampered in the middle stages and made up a lot of ground late.
Blissful Belle's win in a 1400m maiden was well deserved after the filly had two previous starts for a debut second over 1200m at Awapuni and a game third against race winners over 1400m at Trentham.
She was not quick away from the barrier and was a clear second last in the eight-horse field in the early stages. Jockey Lisa Allpress managed to quickly improve her position between horses coming to the home turn and was there to challenge turning in. The filly hit the front early in the home straight and dashed clear to win by 2-3/4 lengths.
Blissful Belle is also a 3-year-old filly by Belardo and is out of the unraced Elusive City mare Elusive Bliss. She was bred by South Island-based Kathryn Picton-Warlow, who has raced horses from the John Bary stable in the past.
She decided to sell the filly and Bary's racing manager Mike Sanders set up a syndicate to buy her.
"It is a large syndicate, with people from Australia, Hawke's Bay and all over the country involved," Sanders said this week.
Good fortune for HB couple
Five Fortune, a gift-horse for Hawke's Bay trainer Grant Cullen and his partner Nikki Lourie, repaid their perseverance when he broke through for a maiden win over 1600m at Hastings on Friday of last week.
The 6-year-old Australian-bred gelding was originally sold for A$170,000 as a yearling to a Hong Kong buyer but never raced there. He was instead sent to New Zealand to be trained by Pukekohe-based Richard Collett who gave him three starts in late 2019 for two seconds and a third.
"He is a horse that obviously showed a lot early on but unfortunately he had tendon issues which stopped him from racing," Grant Cullen said this week.
"We got to know about the horse through Andrew Calder, who is married to Richard Collett's daughter. He asked us whether we wanted to take him and rehab him at our place here in Dannevirke.
"We agreed and he spent 11 months on our treadmill before he went back to the races. We gave him a couple of starts but he didn't show too much so we put him aside again and gave him a good spell on the hills that we've got here.
"He has now come back a lot better horse and doesn't seem to have any problems."
Five Fortune was having his fourth start this time in. He was a close second fresh up over 1200m at Wanganui in November before putting in a couple of ordinary runs when stepped up to 1600m at Hastings and Te Rapa last month.
Cullen said Five Fortune is a bit one-paced so the instructions to jockey Leah Hemi were to take up a handy position from the start last week and she followed it to the letter.
Five Fortune bounded out of the barrier to take an early lead before dropping into a trail behind Do The Maths when he went to the front going down the back straight. The two horses worked clear of the rest rounding the home bend and then settled down for a battle to the line, with Five Fortune pulling out a bit extra in the final stages to win by three-quarters of a length.
Cullen said Five Fortune is bred to get over longer distances as he is by Myboycharlie out of a Carnegie mare so he will now look at stepping him up in distance.
"He has come through the win very well so we may look at a 2100m race at Otaki next Thursday," he added.
No Time To Jazz on song again
No Time To Jazz made it two wins from four starts when taking out a Rating 65 race over 1200m at Hastings last week.
The Swiss Ace mare led most of the way when winning a 1400m maiden at Hastings in November but then only managed ninth out of 13 runners when stepped up to 1600m at her next start.
Trainer Pam Holden freshened the mare and added blinkers to her gear for last week's race and it proved a winning formula.
Apprentice jockey Faye Lazet hunted No Time To Jazz out of the barrier and took a clear lead at the end of the first 300m. She then rated her nicely in front before asking her to extend again rounding the home turn.
No Time To Jazz quickly opened up a sizeable break on her rivals and Lazet only had to keep her going with a hands and heels ride over the final stages to score a four-length win.
No Time To Jazz is raced on lease by Holden in partnership with Stephanie Russell from the horse's Hastings owner-breeder Chris Russell.
She is out of the Dieu D'Or mare Donna Jazz Donna Jazz, a horse that recorded two wins and has also left the good performers Shesalljazz (five wins) and Hesalljazz (seven wins).
Scutar led rivals a merry chase
Scutar followed up a win in a 1600m jumpout at Waipukurau on December 23 with a dominant all the way victory in the Rating 65 race over 2100m at Hastings last week.
The O'Reilly gelding was formerly trained by the Cambridge partnership of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, who prepared him to win a maiden race over 1600m at Te Aroha in February 2020.
He was transferred into the care of Wilson at the beginning of last year and he has taken a share in the 6-year-old.
Scutar drew the number barrier at Hastings and apprentice Faye Lazet took him straight to the front. The horse wanted to over-race in the early stages but settled a lot better going down the back straight and Lazet kept him rolling along in front.
They opened up a break on the rest of the field rounding the home turn and never looked like being caught over the final stages, crossing the line with a two-length margin.