Hastings stables have had a week to remember with four wins and two thirds from two race meetings.
The Hastings training partnership of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen saddled up two winners at the Taupo meeting on Wednesday last week and also picked up a third placing with first starter Mohaka.
John Bary also produced his first winner for the new season when Vinnie's Volley was successful at Taupo, while Hastings owner-trainer Tim Symes produced My Tommy to finish third at the same meeting.
Then, at Te Aroha on Saturday, the successful roll being enjoyed by Paul Nelson continued when Perry Mason took out the $50,000 Pakuranga Hunt Cup.
The Lowry/Cullen stable unleashed two potential star 3-year-olds at Taupo in Xpression and Mohaka, who finished first and third respectively in the 1100m 3-year-old race.
Xpression was having her first start since winning the Group 2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1200m) at Trentham in December last year.
That was only her second start and followed a debut third over 1000m at Otaki.
Injuries and a minor illness prevented her from contesting other major 2-year-old races last season but she looks to have come back better than ever.
Jockey Samantha Collett settled the Showcasing filly at the rear of the six horse field at Taupo and bided her time until just before the home turn before making a move.
They swooped up wide out on straightening for the run home and Xpression kept up a strong run to the line to win by a long head.
Mohaka, making her race debut, finished a close third.
She led at the end of the first 300m and looked likely to weaken out when headed early in the home straight.
But she rallied again late to finish less than three-quarters of a length from the winner and was in cramped quarters as she went across the line.
Xpression is by Showcasing out of the Don Eduardo mare Xpress and was bred by Haunui Farm studmaster Mark Chitty in partnership with his childhood friend Iain Renton of Hawke's Bay.
The pair now race the filly with other close Hawke's Bay friends Paul Bayes, Mark Apatu and Fred Coates.
She will now head to the Group 3 $70,000 Hawke's Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings on September 22.
Carillion was also resuming from a spell when she scored a game win in the Maiden 1000m race at Taupo.
The 5-year-old Per Incanto mare hadn't raced since finishing second over 1200m at Hastings in May but indicated the she was ready to produce a top fresh up performance by winning a 750m jumpout at Hastings on August 2 by five lengths.
Carillion began quickly and jockey Samantha Collett positioned her outside the leader in the early running.
They went to the front early in the home straight and Carillion dug deep in the final stages to hold out second placed Grand Mayson by a short head.
Carillion races in the colours made famous by horses bred and raced by the former Te Parae Stud in Masterton.
She was bred by Wairarapa-based Angela Williams and is raced by a syndicate that is managed by Auckland's John Duncan.
Vinnie's Volley is another who rallied gamely to win a Rating 65 race over 1000m at Taupo after looking beaten at one stage of the race.
The Iffraaj mare was a shade slow to begin but quickly rushed up to take a clear lead at the end of the first 300m.
Jockey Chris Johnson had the mare under a good hold coming to the home turn and, after being clearly headed by Kamikaze Rebel early in the home straight, Vinnie's Volley came again in the final stages to win by 1-1/4 lengths.
It was Vinnie's Folly's second win from only five starts and she had shown she was ready for a big fresh up performance by winning a 750m jumpout at Hastings on July 20 by 10 lengths.
Vinnie's Volley is raced by the Too Posh Syndicate, a large group of keen racing enthusiasts.
Several members live in Hawke's Bay and are Carl Taylor, Renee Dever and Trent Miller, Wink and Andrew Hildreth, Brian and Karen Strachan, Rob Hardie, Craig and Vicki MacMillan, Vicki Sanders, Arron and Vicki Cook, Tina King, Tracey Saxton, BJ Moleta, Richard Koorey, Doug Callaghan, Lex Verhoeven, Merv Dudley and Robbie Lawton.
Nelson second equal on premiership
It has been a long time since a Hastings trainer has featured in the top four on the national premiership at any stage of a racing season but Paul Nelson is currently second equal after a month of the 2018-19 year.
Nelson has produced six winners from only 20 starters since August 1 for an outstanding strike-rate of 3.33 and horses from his stable have already amassed more than $111,000 in stake money in that time.
Only Wanganui's Kevin Myers has won more stake money ($152,000) and he currently leads the national premiership with seven wins.
The only others to have chalked up six wins this season are the Ruakaka partnership of Chris Gibbs and Michelle Bradley, and Team Rogerson.
It is fair to say Nelson won't hold his high position in the premiership race with the bigger stables likely to dominate over the spring and summer months but his winning strike-rate should hold up well until the end of the season.
His tremendous run continued last Saturday when he took out the $50,000 Pakuranga Hunt Cup at Te Aroha with Perry Mason.
It was Nelson's second consecutive win in the race following Amanood Lad's success last year, when the race was run at Ellerslie.
The winning jockey both times was Hastings-born Aaron Kuru, who produced a masterful performance in getting Perry Mason home an easy 2-3/4 length winner in Saturday's 4800m feature.
Kuru, as his customary ploy when riding over fences, saved every inch of ground by hugging the inside and taking shortcuts wherever he could.
He moved Perry Mason up to take on the leader Zamora 900m from home and they went clear after jumping the third to last fence.
Kuru nursed his charge over the two remaining obstacles before comfortably holding out the late charge of Old Countess, who stormed home from last in the early running.
Trainer Paul Nelson had some concerns prior to the race about his charge coping with the very heavy nature of the Te Aroha track but they came to nothing as Kuru picked the correct path throughout the contest.
"That was very very good," Nelson said.
"We thought he might have to get out a bit but he got that far in he got on the better ground and seemed to miss all the chopped-up stuff."
Nelson is in two minds about returning to the venue on September 9 to contest the Irvines Great Northern Steeplechase (6400m) with his charge, who has now won three of his five starts over the big fences.
"I don't know about the Northern as it's another third as long as this one," he said.
"He has to get home and get over this and then we will deal with that."
Kuru admitted he hadn't followed pre-race instructions regarding his positioning during the race.
"The plan was to be out wide for the last round," he said.
"Going down the back the last time there was untouched ground on the inside of the steeples so I just tried to get to that and things worked out well.
"I didn't plan to put the acid on like we did but that was how the race panned out. I just had to put the foot down and carry on.
"His form says he will get the Northern trip so we should have a crack at it."
The race proved a further triumph for Grangewilliam Stud stallion Zed who sired the quinella in the event.
Bonneval Horse of the Year again
Bonneval has become a dual Horse of the Year winner.
The Cambridge mare defended the title she won last year, as a 3-year-old, when taking the premier prize at the New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards in Auckland last Sunday night.
She is the fifth successive Horse of the Year winner trained by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.
The record-breaking training partnership prepared the 2014 winner Dundeel, who was followed by Mongolian Khan (2015 & 2016) and Bonneval.
The Horse of the Year Award was introduced in 1971 and Bonneval is the eighth horse to have earned the title more than once. The other multiple winners have been Sunline (four times), Show Gate, Rough Habit, Xcellent, Seachange, Mufhasa and Mongolian Khan.
Bonneval was also voted the champion middle distance performer for the 2017-18 season and the Baker and Forsman partnership was named Trainer of the Year.
Kawi (sprinter-miler), Avantage (2-year-old), Savvy Coup (3-year-old), Charles Road (stayer) and Wise Men Say (jumper) were the winners of the other horse categories.
Premiership winner Sam Collett was voted Jockey of the Year and Isaac Lupton was named Jumps Jockey of the Year, for the third time.
The prestigious New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Contribution to Racing Award went to prominent breeder Nelson Schick, who has been the driving force behind Windsor Park Stud.
Schick has devoted a lifetime to the thoroughbred breeding industry and developed Windsor Park into a brand that was recognised around the thoroughbred world.