Hastings-trained King Farouk has frustrated his connections in the past but the talented 5-year-old finally put it all together with a decisive maiden win at Waverley last Sunday.
The Jimmy Choux 5-year-old, trained by his co-owner James Bridge, has promised plenty but has been his own worst enemy on occasions. He was sidelined by injuries as a young horse and then ruined his chances by being slow away in three previous starts this campaign.
The gelding finally began on terms with the rest of the field at Waverley and, after settling midfield in the early stages of the 1400m race, he started to move into a more forward position coming to the home turn.
In-form apprentice Hazel Schofer was aboard King Farouk and angled the horse to the outside at the top of the home straight and he unleashed a powerful finish to win by three-quarters of a length.
It was the horse's first win from seven starts, with his best previous best placing being a second over 1200m at Awapuni in May last year.
James Bridge bought King Farouk for $1500 from the thoroughbred auction site Gavelhouse and races him in partnership with his father John and other Hawke's Bay friends, Danny Blair, Buck Dailey and Richard Liley.
The horse showed immediate potential with two trial wins before a debut second over 1200m at Wanganui in May last year. But he then suffered an injury that sidelined him for 18 months.
King Farouk resumed this season with a second in a 1000m trial at Foxton in early September and then competed in strong special condition races on all three days of the Hawke's Bay spring carnival.
He finished sixth of 12 on the first day, where he missed the start and was last on the home turn before running home strongly late.
He then lined up over 1300m on the second day where he was again slow away before rushing around the field to dispute the pace coming to the home turn but then weakened to finish eighth of 11.
The horse's connections were hoping his starting manners would improve when he stepped out over 1400m on the last day at Hastings but he again gave the others a head-start as they jumped away and was well back on the home turn before running on late for eighth out of 14.
"We knew he only had to do things right at the start and he would be hard to beat and that's what happened at Waverley the other day," a happy co-owner John Bridge said this week.
King Farouk is certainly bred to win races. His sire Jimmy Choux chalked up 12 wins, five of them at Group 1 level, while his dam Keffiya had 16 starts for four wins, two seconds, two thirds and three fourths.
John Bridge said King Farouk is likely to have his next start in a Rating 65 race over 1300m at Hastings on December 9 and his connections are hoping that he has finally learnt that he can't give his rivals a head-start and then try and beat them.
Form reversal by Miss Labasa
Hastings-trained Miss Labasa produced a total form reversal when she led practically all the way in taking out a Rating 74 race over 1400m at Rotorua on Tuesday.
The 5-year-old mare, prepared by John Bary, was the winner of three races from 11 previous starts but had not graced the winner's stall since taking out a 1400m 3-year-old race at Awapuni in January last year.
She was having her third start in a new campaign following a distant last of 11 runners at Hastings on September 19 and a 13th out of 14 over 1600m at Hastings a month ago.
At Rotorua on Tuesday the mare jumped away quickly from the inside barrier and jockey Samantha Collett had her clear in front at the end of the first 200m.
From there Collett dictated the pace of the race and then kicked her mount clear again rounding the home bend.
Miss Labasa was starting to tire in the final stages but managed to hold on to win by a neck from the fast-finishing Saignon, with three-quarters of a length back to third placed Valetti.
Miss Labasa was a $30,000 purchase for her Auckland-based owner Narendra Balia from the select session at the 2017 National Yearling Sale.
She is out of the Charge Forward mare Savoia, who is also the dam of top South Island performer Starvoia, winner of six races including the Listed Hazlett Stakes (1200m) at Wingatui.
Sir Nate back in form after absence
Sir Nate, who promised plenty when winning four times as a young horse including one at Listed stakes level, made a long-awaited return to that sort of form when successful over a middle distance at Awapuni on Friday of last week.
The Nadeem gelding, trained on the Awapuni track by Lisa Latta, is raced by a syndicate that includes two Hawke's Bay people, Kathryn Donoghue and Merv Dudley.
Sir Nate won his first two starts as a 2-year-old including the Listed Wellesley Stakes (1000m) at Trentham and went on to win another race as a juvenile.
He was then successful in a Rating 72 race over 1600m at Trentham as a 3-year-old before finishing third in the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.
He was unplaced when stepped up in distance in the Group 2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) and Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) and he failed to recapture his best form last season.
But the now 4-year-old returned to his best with a game win in the $32,500 open handicap over 2100m on his home track last week.
The horse began well from the barrier but clipped heels and dipped with a round to go when crowded by Skyphyta, who had come across from a wide draw to take the lead.
It caused Sir Nate to fire up and he over-raced for the next 300m before jockey Kozi Asano finally got him to settle down third.
He then angled him out to challenge for the lead on the home turn and the horse wore down Skyphyta in the run to the line to win by a long neck.
The addition of blinkers to Sir Nate's gear probably had a bearing on his improved showing and he also appreciated the reasonably firm track conditions. He certainly has the ability to go on with it now.
Home track success well received
It has been a long time between celebration drinks for the connections of Akela Belle but the 6-year-old mare finally prevailed again when taking out a $22,500 Rating 65 race over 1550m at Awapuni on Friday of last week.
The Mastercraftsman mare was recording her third victory, the last one being in a Rating 65 race over 2100m at Hastings on January 1, 2019.
She was having her 16th start since then when stepping out on her home track last week and had indicated another win was not far away by recording a fourth and a third in two previous starts this season.
She had to overcome difficulties in the running to win last week and credited Palmerston North apprentice Faye Lazet with her first riding success.
Trained at Awapuni by Lisa Latta, Akela Belle is raced on lease by a large group of people with the 16-member Hawke's Bay Footy Boys Syndicate having a 25 per cent share.
The syndicate is managed by Napier-based Heath Caldwell with the other members being Dave Caldwell, Leon Birnie, Perry Cotton, Stuart James, Ian Gearey, David Gearey, Richard Gearey, Mike Daly, Stu Wilson, Russell Booth, David Winson, Steve Clark, Simon Pain, Robbie Parker and Dean Johnston.
Akela Belle is out of the Al Akbar mare Akela, who was the winner of six races up to 1400m and finished second in the Group 3 Fayette Park Stakes (1400m) at Hawera.
HB syndicate shares in Riccarton win
Plushenko's last to first win in a $40,000 race over 2500m at Riccarton last Saturday had six Hawke's Bay people jumping for joy.
The six make up The Water Bar Napier No. 2 Syndicate, which has a significant racing share in the Rock 'N' Pop 6-year-old, who is trained at Waiuku by Grant and Tana Shaw.
The six are Donna and Mark Carter and Morgan Cook from Napier and Irene and Graeme Downey and their son Josh from Hastings.
Plushenko was recording his fourth win from 33 starts and his second from his last three outings, after taking out a 2100m event at Te Rapa last month.
In between the two wins he had finished a creditable sixth in The Metropolitan Trophy (2500m) on the first day of the New Zealand Cup meeting at Riccarton.
Plushenko performs best when ridden cold in the early stages of his races and experienced jockey Lisa Allpress adopted perfect tactics, letting the horse drop back to a clear last before setting him alight with 600m to run.
Allpress managed to pick a path through the field and Plushenko ranged up to challenge for the lead inside the final 300m before surging clear late to win by half a length.
Hickey new Owners President
Bernard Hickey is the new president of the Hawke's Bay Racehorse Owners Association, replacing Tony Lyndon who has stood down after holding the position for more than three decades.
The club's annual meeting was held last Sunday with Hickey being appointed president and Hastings thoroughbred trainer Lee Somervell is the new vice-president.
Lyndon retires as president after 31 years at the helm.
He has been an integral member of the Hawke's Bay thoroughbred racing scene during that time and was awarded the Horlicks Salver several years ago in recognition of his many years of great service to the industry.