There was no more deserving winner of last Saturday's Listed $50,000 Wanganui Cup than Hastings-trained Hunta Pence.
The eight-year-old gelding had been runner-up in the 2040m feature in the last two years, going down by 1-1/4 lengths to subsequent Auckland Cup winner Glory Days in 2018 and then finishing three-quarters of a length behind former Group 1 New Zealand Oaks winner Sentimental Miss last year.
So it was fitting that the Patrick Campbell-trained gelding should finally prevail in last weekend's race.
Hunta Pence was recording his ninth win from 54 starts but his first success since taking out the Foxton Cup (2040m) on the Wanganui track in June of last year. He is now the winner of nine races from 54 starts and has also notched up five seconds and three thirds for stake earnings of just over $200,000.
Campbell, who also owns the major racing share in the horse, sent him up to Samantha Logan's Cambridge stable earlier this year to be educated as a jumper. The horse passed his qualifying jumpers' ticket while there and is likely to be seen over hurdles next year.
But in the meantime, the son of No Excuse Needed still has what it takes to be competitive on the flat and will have his next start in the Group 3 $100,000 Manawatu Cup (2300m) at Awapuni on December 19.
Hunta Pence's win last Saturday also saw the combination of trainer Patrick Campbell and jockey Darryl Bradley reunited in another black type race win.
Bradley, 54, has ridden numerous winners for Campbell over a long period of time, particularly during the mid-1990s.
In the spring of 1994, Bradley rode the Campbell-trained Avedon to win the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m), Group 1 Levin Bayer Classic (1600m) and Group 2 Wellington Guineas (1600m) and they only went down by a head when second behind Look Who's Talking in that year's Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m).
Bradley produced a heady ride aboard Hunta Pence last Saturday. He had the horse travelling nicely in second position behind the tearaway pacemaker Sir Nate in the middle stages before taking off at the 600m mark and putting pressure on the rest of the field.
Hunta Pence quickly opened up a break on the others rounding the home turn and kept up a strong run to the line to win by a length from Overtheriver, with Sir Nate a further 4-1/2 lengths back in third.
Campbell races Hunta Pence in partnership with five other Hawke's Bay people in Lindsay McIntosh, Dean Smith, Shan Govsky and Mike and Wendy Timmins along with Ashburton-based Norm Stewart.
Injury-plagued mare back in form
Troublesome Hastings-trained mare Magic Incanto returned to her best form with a strong winning performance at Otaki on Thursday of last week but it could be at least three weeks before she races again.
The eight-year-old mare scored a runaway 3-1/4 length win in a $27,500 Rating 74 race over 1400m at the Levin meeting but was sporting a bandage on her off-side hind-leg covering an injury that almost prevented her from starting.
Trainer Fred Pratt has had no end of injury problems with Magic Incanto, which is why the mare has only had 25 career starts. She bares a huge scar on her offside hind-leg, the result of her going through a fence as a young horse which side-lined her for almost two years. She also had to be late scratched from a Waipukurau meeting last year when she injured herself during the float trip from Hastings to the races.
Magic Incanto finally started to fulfil her potential when recording two wins and a second in the space of four starts earlier this year but has again caused her trainer much consternation since then.
When the mare kicked off a fresh campaign at the start of this season she began to be troubled by tying in the muscles and it was not until last month that Pratt was able to get on top of that problem.
Magic Incanto showed she was on the way back to form with a good third over 1200m at Hastings on November 8 and Pratt was confident she would be hard to beat at Otaki last week. But when he took the mare out for a pick at the grass on the roadside outside his stables on the eve of the race she suddenly lashed out with her back legs, catching the offside one on the fence which opened up the cut again.
"She saw another horse in the paddock about 15 metres away and tried to kick out at it," Pratt said.
"It seems that the fitter she gets the more of a problem she becomes."
Pratt immediately applied a pressure bandage to the leg which stopped the bleeding but he was unsure whether she would be fit enough to race at Otaki the following day. He informed the stipendiary stewards of the injury when arriving on course and, after a veterinary inspection, she was allowed to start.
Hastings apprentice Jordan Bassett was aboard Magic Incanto when she finished third at Hastings last month but, with her presently side-lined with a back injury, jockey Ryan Bishop took the mount at Otaki. He settled her midfield in the early stages before improving his position quickly from the 700m to be third rounding the home turn.
Magic Incanto took the lead early in the home straight and raced clear over the final stages to comfortably beat Aquila Star and race favourite Our Hail Mary.
It was Magic Incanto's fourth success and she has also recorded two seconds and three thirds from her 25 starts.
"She won well but probably won't race for a while now," Pratt said this week.
"She opened up the cut on the leg during the race and so we will have to patch her up again."
Magic Incanto was bred by Woodville butcher John Shannon and Wellington's John Fokerd and is raced by Shannon's wife along with several other butchers' wives from around the central districts, and some other family friends.
Fred Pratt is a former successful jumps jockey who has dabbled at training for many years. He was based in Woodville for a start before crossing the Tasman where he spent 20 years training with success in Victoria.
He decided to return to New Zealand about nine years ago, first spending time assisting Levin trainer Peter McKenzie before shifting to Hastings.
HB twilight race meeting
Hawke's Bay Racing will stage its twilight Christmas race meeting at the Hastings racecourse next Wednesday.
There will be an 10 race programme, with the first timed for 1.35pm and the last at 6.49pm.The gates will open at 1pm.
There will be a $10 admission charge but patrons will be able to use the Members Stand free of charge.
Asano heading north
The South Island's leading jockey, Kozzi Asano, will leave the mainland next week for a couple of months in a bid to further his riding career.
The gun apprentice will take up an opportunity with Wexford Stables at Matamata where he will get the chance to learn from co-trainer and former champion jockey Lance O'Sullivan.
Asano surprised many last season, coming out of the blue to lead the national jockeys' premiership for much of the season before being overtaken late by Lisa Allpress.
He currently sits in 10th place on the premiership this season and said he is spending a couple of months in the north to try and improve as a rider.
Asano is indentured to Riccarton trainer Andrew Carston, who presented his apprentice with the opportunity.
A focused McNab reaps rewards
A stint on the side-lines last season appears to have done jockey Michael McNab the world of good.
The Waikato-based hoop rode a winning stakes double at Ellerslie last Saturday, bringing his stakes tally for the season to three, which equals his haul from last season.
His winning rides came aboard the Tony Pike-trained Tellall in the Listed Trevor Eagle Memorial Three-year-old (1500m) and the Bruce Wallace and Grant Cooksley-trained Gino Severini in the Group 3 Eagle Technology Stakes (1600m).
McNab kicked home another winner at Rotorua on Wednesday to take his season tally to 26, two more than last term where he spent a large portion on the side-lines and he said he used that time to reflect and reprioritise his life and riding career.
"I have dedicated myself to being a jockey," he said. "I haven't been cutting any corners and I haven't been silly off the racecourse, and the results are really showing now."
Mental health has been forefront of McNab's mind, and he has put steps in place to try and help him when he is having an off day.
"I have been really working on the mental side of things, like how to deal with things if I don't have a good day and also what I do in my spare time," he said.
"I am using my time wisely now and doing the small things well and enjoying life.
"I have been sticking to my diet and training and being really focused.
"That was something I struggled with majorly before my break.
"I just decided that I have to hold myself accountable for what I do on and off the racecourse, and I have been doing that."