Two close neighbours have joined forces to boost one of the most iconic races on the Hawke's Bay racing calendar.
Royston Hospital, which is situated alongside Hawke's Bay Racing's headquarters at the Hastings racecourse, will be the new sponsor of this year's Listed $70,000 Hawke's Bay Cup.
The time-honoured feature event will be known as the Royston Hospital Hawke's Bay Cup and will be run over 2200m at Hastings on April 14.
Royston Hospital's links with the Hawke's Bay racecourse date back to 1931 when the hospital, then in Avenue Rd, was severely damaged by the earthquake.
Scores of injured flocked to Royston Hospital for medical treatment but, as the building was deemed unsafe, volunteer drivers transported patients and those injured in the quake over broken streets to the racecourse where the disused jockeys' tea kiosk was converted into a make-shift Royston Hospital.
It was used as a disaster relief centre for some time after the quake until the Royston Hospital was re-established in Prospect Rd, alongside the Hastings racecourse.
"This community minded spirit has continued with Hawke's Bay Racing for nearly 90 years and we are delighted to be supporting our neighbour in this prestigious event on their racing calendar," said Denise Primrose, general manager of Royston Hospital.
Hawke's Bay Racing chief executive Andrew Castles said he has wanted to increase the profile of the Hawke's Bay Cup and the race day in general and, by having an iconic Hawke's Bay identity involved, will certainly help in this regard.
"The two organisations have a long lasting association of working together," Castles said.
"With Royston agreeing to take up the naming rights of what is one of the most prestigious races on the Hawke's Bay racing calendar it will only serve to further strengthen that association."
Royston Hospital is owned by the Australian company Evolution Health and managing director Ben Thynne and his wife will be special guests of Hawke's Bay Racing on cup day.
The Hawke's Bay Cup was once rated the most important race run on the Hastings track, before the introduction of the spring carnival with its three Group 1 events.
Some of New Zealand's best gallopers have won the cup in the past, including Hi-Jinx, who took out the 1960 running before crossing the Tasman to take out that year's Melbourne Cup.
Glengowan won the Hawke's Bay Cup in 1972 and finished a close second in the following year's Melbourne Cup while Fury's Order was successful in 1974 and went on to win a Cox Plate.
Mr Brooker won the Hawke's Bay Cup in 1990 and finished third in that year's Melbourne Cup while Surfer's Paradise won in 1993 and went on to win a Cox Plate.
Chenille won the Hawke's Bay Cup two years ago and 11 months later she took out the Group 1 Auckland Cup while last year's winner Five To Midnight went down by a nose when second in last Saturday's Auckland Cup.
This year's Hawke's Bay Cup is expected to draw a strong field of progressive stayers, with the Hastings-trained Hunta Pence rated one of the main chances.
The No Excuse Needed 5-year-old, prepared by Patrick Campbell, has recorded five wins from only 24 starts and was an impressive last start winner over 2100m at Hastings on March 1.
Onawing flies with blinkers
The addition of blinkers brought about a significant form reversal by Onawing, a horse part-owned by Hastings couple John and Greta Flynn, at Trentham last Saturday.
The Mastercraftsman mare was having her fourth race start when contesting a 2100m maiden event. She finished fourth on debut over 1600m at Whanganui in January but then only managed a seventh over 1600m at Hastings on February 1 and was last of 10 runners over 2100m at Hastings on February 24.
The Flynns took up an 11 per cent share in the horse after her second start but were disillusioned with the horse's last start performance, as was the horse's Awapuni trainer Jeff Lynds.
"Jeff thought the horse would go all right at Hastings last start and he was at a loss to explain her poor performance that day," Flynn said this week.
"He decided to put blinkers on her at Trentham last Saturday and they obviously worked the oracle."
Onawing drew the outside barrier in an eight horse field and apprentice jockey Holly Andrew settled her back second last in the early running. She then improved her position coming to the home bend before angling for a rails run early in the home straight.
Onawing surged through an inside gap and quickly put a break on the field before hanging on to win by three-quarters of a length.
Onawing is by Mastercraftsman out of the Thorn Park mare Hymn For Her and traces back to the very good racemare Oncide.
"She is a horse that has just need a bit of time and blinkers on," Flynn added.
The Flynns have raced a number of other horses in the past and also have a share in Thien Ly, another horse trained by Jeff Lynds who finished ninth out of 10 in a Rating 75 race over 1200m at Trentham last Saturday.
Waipukurau races Thursday
The Waipukurau Jockey Club will stage its most important race day of the year next Thursday with the running of the $20,000 Best Travel Waipukurau Cup the feature event on the eight-race programme.
The 2100m race has been won by some of New Zealand's top open handicap gallopers in the past with Rose And Thistle taking out the 1983 running and then going on to finish fourth in the following year's Melbourne Cup.
Exocet won the race in 1985 and went on to win the New Zealand Cup in 1989 while Marlon was successful in 1986 and went on to win a Brisbane Cup.
Von Trapp won the Waipukurau Cup in 1991 and took out the Hawke's Bay Cup the following month at odds of 50 to one.
There will be free admission to next Thursday's Waipukurau meeting, with the first race timed to start at 1pm.
Walker to ride Kiwi filly
In-form expatriate New Zealand jockey Michael Walker will partner the Donna Logan and Chris Gibbs-trained Danzdanzdance in Sydney.
He has been engaged to ride the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) placegetter in the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill on March 31 and in the Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) at Randwick a fortnight later.
Walker rode the 20th Group 1 winner of his career when he guided Harlem to an upset victory in Saturday's Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington. He then took out Monday's Group 2 Adelaide Cup aboard the former New Zealand-trained Fanatic.
Bonneval recovering well
New Zealand Horse of the Year, Bonneval, is making an encouraging recovery from a career-threatening leg injury.
Co-trainer Andrew Forsman has given a positive update as the multiple Group 1 winner deals with a suspensory ligament issue.
The winner of the Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) last year, Bonneval was being prepared for another offshore autumn campaign when she suffered the setback.
Forsman, who trains with leading New Zealand horseman Murray Baker, is upbeat after the 4-year-old's most recent scan.
"We had another scan done 10 days after the initial scan and things look fairly positive at this stage," Forsman said.
"She'll have a good break and hopefully all going well we can get her back to the track in the spring."
Bonneval has won seven of her 12 starts and earned prizemoney of $1.6 million.
As well as the Oaks in Sydney, Bonneval won the New Zealand fillies classic and returned to Australia as a spring 4-year-old to win the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield.
Julius taking a break
Exciting sprinter Julius won't be seen in action again this season with trainer John Bell deciding to turn the big Swiss Ace gelding out for a winter spell.
"We've turned him out as there's nothing left for him and we'll concentrate on next season," he said.
A patiently-handled 6-year-old, Julius has won six of his 10 starts and is yet to finish out of the placings and was an ultra-impressive last-start winner of the Group 3 Darley Stallions Plate (1200m) at Ellerslie.
"He's in a beautiful grass paddock on rolling country so he won't put on too much condition. He's a very, very big horse and you have to be careful with him, but he has Group 1 talent," Bell said.