Tony Ebbett described it as "like winning the Melbourne Cup" while his wife Penny said "it was something you dream about".

They were the raw emotions of two of the most liked people in Central Hawke's Bay when referring to their horse Royal Ruby's success in last week's $20,000 Best Travel Waipukurau Cup.

The close-knit couple had taken out the most prestigious race run on their home track and were clearly overjoyed.

Waipukurau couple Penny and Tony Ebbett display the trophies Royal Ruby won them with her popular her home town victory.
Waipukurau couple Penny and Tony Ebbett display the trophies Royal Ruby won them with her popular her home town victory.

"It's great to win any race but this is something very special," Penny Ebbett added.


The win was even more significant in that Tony Ebbett is the manager of the Waipukurau racecourse and also a steward of the Waipukurau Jockey Club. He and his wife Penny are Waipukurau identities, with Penny also operating a successful business in the township.

What made the win by Royal Ruby even more special is the fact that the Ebbetts are hobby trainers.

They only have two horses in work, the other being Pincanto who was unplaced in an earlier race at last week's Waipukurau meeting. The couple work their horses early in the morning, doing all the work themselves, before fulfilling their day jobs.

For Tony, last week's win by Royal Ruby provided him with a great tonic. He is still recovering after suffering several broken ribs when he took a heavy fall from Pincanto in a track gallop a few weeks ago.

"I think it's about time I gave up riding gallops and leave it to the younger ones," he quipped.

He said it wasn't until after he took the tumble that Penny told him that Pincanto is a horse that you have to talk to while riding her and tell her to whoa when you want her to stop.

"I wasn't saying a thing. I didn't have any steering gear and I was just sitting there trying to hang on," Ebbett said.

"She started heading for the fence so I decided it was time to bail out and I must have pulled her over with me, which obviously did all the damage."


The pain Tony has been in was certainly not evident as he and Penny were presented with their trophies following Royal Ruby's game cup win last week.

Although it was only Royal Ruby's third win from 35 starts she has been a model of consistency, with four seconds, six thirds and three fourths also to her credit.

The country's leading jockey Samantha Collett jumped Royal Ruby away quickly from the 2100m barrier to take an early lead before dropping back to take the perfect trail behind the pacemaking Lady Guinness.

Approaching the home turn Collett sent Royal Ruby forward to challenge for the lead and then kicked her clear early in the home straight. Race favourite Missy Moo started to mount a likely challenge inside the final 100m but Royal Ruby had established a winning break and held on to score by half a length.

The Ebbetts race the Per Incanto 5-year-old on lease from her Hastings breeders, John and Colleen Duncan. The mare won her maiden race on her home track at Waipukurau, in March last year. She then added a second victory over 2000m at Hastings at the beginning of last month.

They are hoping that Royal Ruby has earned enough rating points to get a start in the Listed $75,000 Hawke's Bay Cup (2200m) at Hastings on April 14. The mare was on a rating of 69 before her win last week and has now gone to 73 points.

In the past that rating would not be enough to get a start in the Hawke's Bay Cup but last year there were only 12 final acceptors for the 2200m Hastings feature and the bottom two were Pure Lode (72 points) and Tiffany's (65 points).

Unlucky second in cup

Hastings-trained Hunta Pence is still on target for next month's Listed $75,000 Royston Hospital Hawke's Bay Cup after his close and unlucky second in the Masterton Cup at Tauherenikau last Sunday.

The No Excuse Needed 5-year-old went down by the barest of noses in the 2050m event, with commentator Tony Lee actually calling him first across the line and thinking he had got in the deciding stride.

There is no doubt Hunta Pence should have won the race. After enjoying a good trailing position, three back on the inside, he became boxed in coming to the home turn and was late getting clear. The eventual winner Overtheriver had put a break on the field early in the home straight and Hunta Pence's late charge saw him come up fractionally short.

He will now go straight into the Hawke's Bay Cup on April 14.

Queensland trip beckons

Speedy filly Prom Queen will have two chances next month to earn herself a travel pass across the Tasman.

"She'll run at Te Rapa on April 14 and then into the Cambridge Breeders' Stakes two weeks later," said Kenny Rae, who trains the multiple stakes winner with his wife Lisa and their daughter Krystal Williams.

"After that we'll decide whether she goes to Brisbane. We need to make sure she's on target for a trip."

Prom Queen has won eight of her 11 starts, including the Group 3 Barneswood Farm Stakes (1400m), the Group 3 Northland Breeders' Stakes (1200m), the Listed Champagne Stakes (1000m) and the Listed Welcome Stakes (1000m).

The Super Easy 3-year-old hasn't raced since she ran fourth in the Group 3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie in early December.

"She won a trial at Ruakaka recently, but she didn't beat much," Rae said. "She's definitely strengthened up and she doesn't need to get any faster."

Stablemate Kaharau is also in the running to make the trip to the Queensland winter carnival.

"I'd love to take Kaharau over for a race like the Caloundra Cup," Rae said.

Third in the Group 3 New Zealand Cup (3200m) back in the spring, Kaharau won the Nathans Memorial (2400m) at Ellerslie last month before he was unplaced at his latest appearance in the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m).

Focus on HB carnival

Talented mare Devise has been put aside with connections already eyeing next season's Group 1 carnival at Hastings.

"She's having a break and we know she goes well at Hawke's Bay so she'll likely chase the Triple Crown series there," trainer Shaune Ritchie said.

The Darci Brahma mare won the Group 1 Haunui Farm WFA Classic (1600m) last month before she was unplaced in the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington, where she suffered a minor fetlock injury.

Milseain's future undecided

Immediate plans for the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks placegetter Milseain have yet to be finalised.

"We'll keep her ticking over and see how she is in the next few days," co-trainer Andrew Forsman said. "She won't be going to Sydney though and she'll be much better next time in."

A sister to the multiple Group 1 winner Werther, Milseain has also placed in the Group 2 Sir Tristram Fillies' Classic (2000m), the Group 3 Lowland Stakes (2100m) and the Group 3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) this preparation.

Stablemate Marcellina, who finished sixth in the Oaks, will race on but where has yet to be confirmed.

Harris has a winning way

Troy Harris has exceeded his own expectations since resuming race riding.

The Cambridge jockey has been back in action a little over a fortnight and the 29-year-old has quickly returned to his winning ways.

"Everything is going really well and my manager Dean Williams is doing a great job," Harris said.

"I couldn't have asked for anything better and hopefully the good rides keep coming."

Harris won on Woodloveto at Rotorua in his second day back riding and gained further success aboard Virtuoso Lad and Ambitious Winner at Te Teko on Wednesday of last week. He also won on Wehadadeal at Waipukurau the following day and aboard O'He Can at Avondale on Friday.

"I was out for three and a-half months after I strained my back," he said.

"I do a lot of running to keep the weight off and when I can't do any exercise I get heavy, I have to work really hard at it.

"I can do 57kg easily and I was 56.5kg last Saturday. My weight is the best it's been for a while."