The most surprising thing about Hawke's Bay-trained Penny Royal's win in a 1300m maiden race at Taupo last week was her dividend, $27.90 for a win and $5.80 for a place.
The 4-year-old Per Incanto mare was having her first start for six months but had recorded a third, a fourth and a fifth from four starts last season and had been an impressive winner of a 1000m jumpout at Hastings on August 2.
Penny Royal hails from the Hastings stable of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen but has spent a large part of her life down at the Porangahau property of Mary Darby, where she has undergone extensive work on the beach and over the hills.
She showed a glimpse of her ability when finishing third over 1400m at Gisborne on February 17 and followed that up a week later with another useful performance for fifth over 1400m at Wairoa.
Penny Royal was then given a good spell and seems to have come back a lot stronger horse.
"She's improved a lot from last season, as was evident from her win at the recent jumpouts," Darby said this week.
"The wet track at Taupo certainly suited her and she's the type of mare that only does as much as she has to so having Vinnie Colgan as the jockey also probably helped. He is a strong rider and was able to get the best out of her."
Colgan bounced Penny Royal out quickly from the barrier to have her trailing the pacemaking Gallagher and kept niggling at her all the way. He urged her forward to take the lead rounding the home bend and then kept her up to mark over the final stages to win by a long neck from the fast finishing Parisian, with Shezathinka a nose back in third.
Penny Royal was bred by Feilding farming couple Neil and Yvonne Managh and they race the mare in partnership with their son Andrew and daughter Geraldine.
She is out of the Perfectly Ready mare Mint, who was the winner of four races. Penny Royal is the first foal she has produced and the Managhs now have a yearling full-brother to Penny Royal coming on and the mare is now in foal to Time Test.
Immediate plans for Penny Royal have not been finalised but there is a strong chance she could now go to Wanganui tomorrow week for a Rating 65 race over 1600m. She obviously operates best on soft footing and will be spelled once the tracks firm up.
Special race day at Hastings
The stage is set for the first day of the Bostock New Zealand Hawke's Bay Spring carnival tomorrow with Hawke's Bay Racing and its partners again getting behind a good cause to support the Hawke's Bay Cancer Society.
Over the past five years Hawke's Bay Racing has raised more than $135,000 to provide care and support to local families affected by cancer.
This year the TAB is doubling its donations, handing over $2000 per winner in the Daffodil Raceday silks to the Cancer Society.
Former All Black and World Cup hero Stephen Donald will be the guest speaker at a High Tea for Hawke's Bay Cancer Society volunteers.
Admission on the day is by $5 donation to the Hawke's Bay Cancer Society.
"It's a special day for us here at Hawke's Bay Racing to be able to contribute to our local Cancer society," Hawke's Bay Racing chief executive Andrew Castles said.
"It's a terrible disease that afflicts so many people and no one is immune to being caught up in it. My mother this year has had cancer treatment and she was able to capitalise on the great stuff that the cancer society are able to provide.
"It is special to all of us here and we are thrilled and privileged to be able to raise money for that cancer society and see them make a difference in our community."
In addition to a quality programme of racing, there is the promise of plenty of action with The Hits free family zone with children's entertainment, live music, and a food precinct offering Hawke's Bay's finest outdoor catering.
HB pair claim jump features
Hastings-born jumps jockeys Shaun Fannin and Aaron Kuru recorded major successes on both sides of the Tasman last weekend.
Fannin took out the $50,000 Pakuranga Hunt Hurdle at Ellerslie aboard Laekeeper to bring up the 85th New Zealand win of his career.
The 23-year-old, who began his career working for the Hastings stable of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen, has notched up four wins from 16 rides in the new season for a winning strike-rate of 4.00.
A patient ride saw topweight Laekeeper take out the 3350m feature.
Having his first ride on the Simon Rees-trained Keeper gelding, Fannin bided his time in second-last position before setting off after the leaders with 800m to run.
Race favourite No Tip adopted similar tactics and the pair took over at the top of the Ellerslie home straight.
Laekeeper was travelling better than his rival as he stepped the final two fences in grand style to defeat No Tip by 2-1/2 lengths with King Oberon battling on well to take third.
Last season's premiership-winning jumps jockey Aaron Kuru secured the biggest scalp of his riding career when taking out the $380,000 Australian Grand National Steeplechase (4500m) at Ballarat on Sunday aboard the Patrick Payne-trained Tallyho Twinkletoe.
The duo scored a runaway 9 length victory in the feature, retaining their 100 per cent strike-rate after combining to win the Grand National Hurdle (4200m) at Sandown earlier this month
Kuru, 27, is on 99 career wins in New Zealand. He began his career from the Hastings stable of Patrick Campbell before a stint with John Bary and is now based in Cambridge.
He was delighted with the win although he said the 9-year-old gelding was overly eager in the early stages of the race.
"In the first half of the race he was probably doing a bit more than he needed to. He was a bit fresh and a bit keen and fired up.
"Nevertheless, he settled into his work and he finished the race off nicely."
Kuru was quick to divert praise to part-owner Jo Rathbone and former trainer Kevin Myers after the win.
"I am only a small piece of the puzzle," he said. "I have only sat on the horse twice and both times they were at the races.
"I don't know what goes on behind the scenes with them, but what they have done with this horse is pretty amazing.
"Jo did say to me before the National Hurdles that no one has seen the best of this horse. She proved that with what he did on Sunday.
"I think that was one of the strongest fields I have been up against in my career. It was a really good field and it wasn't going to be easy, but he made it look that way."
HB-owned black type wins
Hawke's Bay-owned horses won 16 black type races last season and not 14 as was published in this column last Friday.
The two omitted were Xpression's win in the Group 3 $70,000 Barnswood Farm Stakes (1400m) at Ashburton and Peso's victory in the Listed $50,000 Jakkalberry Classic (1950m) at Rotorua, both wins coming on October 20 last year.
Xpression was trained on the Hastings track by Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen. She was bred by Hawke's Bay's Iain Renton and Haunui Farm studmaster Mark Chitty and raced by them along with other close Hawke's Bay friends Mark Apatu, Paul Bayes and Fred Coates.
The daughter of Showcasing, who was also placed third behind Media Sensation and Valalie in the Group 1 $300,000 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton, is now in the Australian stable of Chris Waller and showed her first glimpse of form since crossing the Tasman with a fast finishing third in last Saturday's Group 3 $174,000 Toy Show Quality (1100m) at Randwick.
Peso is owned by his Hawke's Bay breeders Paul and Carol Nelson and was trained at that time by Paul Nelson.
Te Akau Shark in Sydney
Exciting galloper Te Akau Shark has arrived in Sydney in good order and will kick-off his Australian campaign in the Group 2 A$200,000 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick tomorrow week as a lead-in race to the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) at the same course on October 5.
Te Akau Shark, who is trained by Jamie Richards and part-owned by Cronulla-Sutherland Shark's captain Paul Gallen, will be ridden by champion jockey James McDonald in the Tramway.
Another Jamie Richards-trained star nearing a racetrack return is the Brendan and Jo Lindsay-owned Probabeel.
The daughter of Savabeel is also in Sydney ahead of what could be a lucrative spring and will kick-off her campaign in the Group 2 A$200,000 Furious Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on September 7.
"She was a little bit behind in her coat coming out of the winter, so that's why we wanted to get her over a bit earlier and get some sun on her back," Richards said.
"She seems to be eating well and we're happy with her. We think 1200m is a nice race to kick off and she should be very competitive when stepping up to 1400m and a mile through the three-year-old fillies Princess Series."