The owners of The Puketapu Lad, who broke through for a maiden win at Otaki on Thursday of last week, are so devoted to their horse that they have even invited him in for a drink at their local pub.
Sean O'Connor, who manages the See You At The Puke Trap Syndicate that races the 4-year-old Roc de Cambes gelding, says that even though the horse is only a one-race winner he is already a legend in the country area of Puketapu, north-west of Napier.
"It was when he was in his first preparation, at the end of last year, that we arranged to have him come into the bar of the Puketapu," O'Connor said this week.
"It was a big occasion and I have to thank Mary Danielson , the proprietor of the Puketapu Hotel, for allowing it to happen. But she has got a share in the horse anyway so that helped."
Asked whether The Puketapu Lad had a drink while he was up at the bar, O'Connor replied: "We gave him a beer. He had a sniff of a jug but probably preferred something else."
The Puketapu Lad, who is prepared by the Hastings partnership of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen, was having his seventh start when he broke through for his first win over 1600m at Otaki.
The horse was slow away and a distant equal last for the first 400m of the race before jockey Sam O'Malley managed to pinch runs down on the inside and improve to midfield approaching the home turn.
O'Malley stayed hard up against the inside rail swinging round the home bend, so he never had to go around a horse, and The Puketapu Lad hit the front early in the home straight to put a break on his rivals.
Rex Royale put him under pressure inside the last 100 metres but The Puketapu Lad managed to hold him out by half a head on the line.
It was the horse's first glimpse of form, with his best placing in six previous starts being a fifth over 1600m at Hastings on New Year's Day.
O'Connor said there are 13 members in the See You At The Puke Trap Syndicate and most of them are first time owners.
They include a couple from Palmerston North, who were on course at Otaki to celebrate the win, and one member who lives in Papua New Guinea.
"I couldn't get there myself because it was a mid-week race meeting and I had to work," O'Connor said.
"Most of us in the horse are from around the Puketapu area and we meet and drink at the Puketapu Hotel."
O'Connor and his wife Angela and two other syndicate members, Garry and Heather Collins, bred The Puketapu Lad out of the Danske mare Boxer Fluffies.
Boxer Fluffies won four races and finished second behind subsequent Group 1 winner Baldessarini over 1300m at Awapuni in December 2004.
"Angela and I and Garry and Heather are the Mow The Lawn Syndicate and we own the mare Boxer Fluffies," Sean O'Connor said.
"We are still breeding from her and Guy and Grant have got a 2-year-old full-brother to The Puketapu Lad in work now.
"We've also got a weanling full-brother coming on but the mare missed getting in foal this year."
The Puketapu Lad has spent most of this preparation working over the hills on the Dannevirke property operated by Cullen and his partner Nikki Lourie and that has obviously built up the horse's stamina.
"He really fought on well when he won the other day and the heavy-10 track obviously helped him," co-trainer Cullen said.
"He might now go back to Awapuni on May 30 for a Rating 65 race over 1550 metres or else to Wanganui on June 1 for a Rating 65 over 2040 metres.
"It all depends on the tracks and he'll go wherever it is the heaviest."
Top goal is finally achieved
Hastings-trained One Prize One Goal picked up a well deserved win for his connections when taking out the $22,500 Awapuni-Water Force 1400 at Awapuni last Saturday.
The Ekraar 5-year-old had recorded four seconds, three thirds and a fourth from nine starts since New Year's Day and had been narrowly beaten on several occasions.
"He certainly deserved that win," trainer Lee Somervell said this week. "He's gone so close a number of times and has been just beaten by some pretty good horses."
"I told the girl that rode him to give him a good look at the winning post on the way to the start just so he knew where it was," he quipped.
Somervell was worried that the heavy-10 track at Awapuni could have been a bit too testing for One Prize One Goal so he instructed promising apprentice Hazel Schofer to be positive on the horse and get him up into a handy position from the start.
Schofer followed the instructions to the letter, bouncing the horse out quickly from the barrier to get up outside the leader Pincanto at the end of the first 400m.
She then let One Prize One Goal slide forward to take the lead coming to the home bend and he quickly established a break on the opposition early in the home straight.
Paddy Bourke mounted a big finish from the back inside the last 300m but One Prize One Goal, with Schofer keeping him balanced with just a hands and heels ride, managed to just hold on for a nose decision.
"It was a good ride by young Hazel, who is building a good record. The 4kg allowance that she gets certainly helped because this track didn't really suit the horse," Somervell said after the win.
One Prize One Goal was recording his fourth win and his first since taking out a $22,500 Rating 65 race over 1200m at Hastings in April last year.
He is owned by Somervell's Napier-based partner Shirin Wood and her son Calvin and raced by them along with the estate of Shirin's late husband Kevin.
The Woods bred One Prize One Goal out of the Towkay mare Sheeza Kinda Magic, who was unplaced from three starts but was out of Wake Up Suzie, a mare that recorded five wins and 11 minor placings.
Somervell had intended turning One Prize One Goal out for a winter spell after last Saturday's race but said the horse has come through it so well that he might give him one more start, in a Rating 72 race over 1600m at Wanganui on June 1.
"I'd like to give him a break and then bring him back for some of those good races at Hawke's Bay in the spring," Somervell said.
Napoleon rules in maiden steeples
Hawke's Bay owner Don Poulgrain has waited 15 years to get a good horse and Napoleon could be the one that fulfils his life-time dreams.
The 6-year-old Shinko King gelding created a big impression when winning a maiden steeplechase at Te Rapa last Saturday.
It was the horse's fourth win and his second over fences after he took out a maiden hurdle at the same Te Rapa meeting last year.
He now looks destined for much bigger things as a jumper.
"He's certainly looking good," Poulgrain said earlier this week.
"He seems to be a two course specialist at this stage because he's raced twice at Te Rapa and won and twice at Wairoa and won."
Napoleon started out in the Otaki stable of former New Zealand trainer Rachael Frost, who still has a share in the horse, but is now based in Victoria, Australia.
She transferred him to Wanganui trainer Kevin Myers just over 12 months ago with the plan to develop him into a jumper.
Myers has adopted a patient policy with the horse and it should now start to reap rewards.
He finished second in his hurdle debut over 3000m at Wanganui in May last year before winning a 2800m hurdle race at Te Rapa.
Poulgrain has been mad keen on racing since he was a youngster and has had shares in a number of horses over the years with limited success. But he was keen to get into another one.
"I asked Rachael if she had anything I could take a share in and she said yes and that is how I got a 10 per cent share in Napoleon," Poulgrain said.
"He now looks a very promising steeplechaser."
The only drawback Poulgrain can see is that the horse doesn't like heavy tracks at the moment and we are now heading into winter.
"He might have to go to Australia where the tracks don't get quite so heavy and he could be competitive there."
In the meantime Napoleon could contest a minor steeplechase race over 4000m at Trentham on June 8 and then maybe the Hawke's Bay Steeplechase (4800m) on June 29.
Myrtle chalks up fourth victory
Hawke's Bay-owned Myrtle made it four wins from 15 starts with another dominant victory in a $25,000 Rating 72 race over 1600m at Awapuni last Saturday.
The Keeper mare, trained on the Awapuni track by David Goldsbury, added to her good record on her home track where she has had six starts for two wins and a third.
She is a mare that has had niggling injuries in the past but looks to have come back this season better than ever, with two wins from her last three starts.
Myrtle was bred by Napier's Tony Aldridge and Hastings-based Gerard Moughan.
They are both members of a big syndicate that races Myrtle with Moughan's wife Vera and Aldridge's Wellington-based brother Pat also among the members.
The others are Ken Lynch and Morrie Belle from Napier, Alan Hunt, Bevan Bramley and Alistair Poulgrain from Hastings, Terry Coffey and John and Stephen Dine from Taradale and Peter Wilkins from Havelock North.