Taupiri gelding Quinn Tait celebrated his return to the scene of his greatest triumph with a determined victory in the Wairoa Business Supporters Stayers yesterday.
The John Morrell-trained runner hasn't won in the 12 months since his Wairoa Cup win last year but he turned his form around in impressive style to defeat versatile Hawke's Bay galloper No Cash by a head in the $12,000 event.
Te Kupenga is clearly Quinn Tait's favourite racecourse. Of his five career wins, three have come at the Wairoa circuit, and he is undefeated at the track. Racing at Wairoa in February seems to bring out the very best in Quinn Tait. While he runs consistently well without threatening to beat a similar class of opposition at other tracks, Quinn Tait goes to another level when the Wairoa meeting comes around. He becomes a different horse altogether, boosting his performances by a good two to three lengths. That improvement lifts him from a solid performer to an irresistible force.
Quinn Tait has now had 41 starts for five wins and 10 placings, and yesterday's win took his earnings past $60,000. He will be back on Sunday, bidding to become one of the few back-to-back winners of the Wairoa Cup in the race's long history.
No Cash, who has competed with merit in stakes races over 1000m, 3200m and everywhere in between, again produced a performance that was full of merit. The Paul Nelson-trained runner has won in excess of $135,000 for his connections. On yesterday's performance, he looks the likeliest of the beaten runners to turn the tables on Quinn Tait in Sunday's Wairoa Cup.
Beaten favourite Soph ran a reasonable race, but she appears to be falling into a habit this season of running strong races without winning. Yesterday's third-place finish was her fifth placing in her last eight starts. She may have been disadvantaged by having to lug the top weight yesterday, but is unlikely to be any better off in that regard when she takes her place in the Wairoa Cup field.
But even though Kevin Myers missed out with Soph in the day's main race, he still had two winners on the nine-race programme.
Reynards Vixen romped away to win by almost four lengths in the Elders Maiden, and Conserves La Foi, owned by Cellarmaster's owner-breeder Judge Clapham, scored in a thrilling finish to the last race. Only half a length covered the first four home. Conserves La Foi won by a long neck, while Harriett Girl and Feisty Chick dead-heated for second and Star Of Show was only another neck behind.
It was an exciting day's racing, but Sunday looks set to be even better.
It'll be worth making the trip to Te Kupenga on Sunday to see Quinn Tait try to defend his 2010 Cup title.
If he can - and on yesterday's effort, he must be very tough to beat - he will only add to a burgeoning reputation and popularity in Wairoa, and he will go down as one of the time-honoured meeting's most popular and outstanding performers.