Gallops racing in New Zealand is not expected to resume until the first week of July but the Hastings racetrack is set to stage what will look like a mini-race meeting next Wednesday.
Jumpouts have been scheduled for the Hastings track on May 27 and local trainers cannot wait to step their horses out in some sort of competition after weeks of lockdown and hibernation caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
More than 40 horses are expected to line up in what will be the first of two sets of jumpouts scheduled for the Hastings racetrack in the coming weeks. The second is planned for Tuesday, June 9.
At any normal jumpout day at Hastings there would be six or seven heats, at varying distances, attracting four or five horses in each heat. But, judging by the number of trainers spoken to this week, there will be significantly more than that next Wednesday.
Unfortunately, only registered licensed personal will be able to attend the jumpouts.
The Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen partnership, who are presently the leading Hawke's Bay trainers on 12 wins so far this season, could have as many as 15 horses line up at next Wednesday's jumpouts, some of them raced horses but also several unraced youngsters.
The raced horses include the Group 1 winner Wait A Sec and two-race winner Shez Ekstra as well as Ruie's Crumpet and Shady Lady.
Others expected to line up from the stable are Blakkalberry, Vin Rouge, a Savabeel-Baby Shakes 2-year-old filly, a Per Incanto-Queen Aly 3-year-old gelding, a Swiss Ace 2-year-old gelding, an Atlante 2-year-old gelding, a Roc de Cambes 3-year-old gelding, a Ferlax 3-year-old filly, a Prince Conti 3-year-old filly, a Darci Brahma-Diplomacy 2-year-old filly, an Iffraaj-Madam Marju 3-year-old filly and a Per Incanto 3-year-old filly.
Grant Cullen, who prepares a team of the stable's horses from a farm property near Dannevirke, said he has eight horses that could potentially line up at the jumpouts but his horse float can only fit four so he will need another truck for the others.
"If we can arrange another truck we could have another four up there, those being Vroom, Swish Az, Mercy Hill and Red Sunday," Cullen said.
Cullen and his partner Nikki Lourie have been able to keep working their horses on their private property during the lockdown, which would seem to be a huge advantage over those trainers relying on getting their horses fit by working them on racetracks that were closed during the country's lockdown.
The talented mare Shez Ekstra should also be ready to perform well at the jumpouts as she has spent several weeks stabled at Mary Darby's property in Porangahau, where she has undergone plenty of beach work.
John Bary, who sits one behind the Lowry/Cullen stable in number of wins this season, said this week he plans to line up at least eight horses at next Wednesday's jumpouts.
They include the four-race winner The Bandito as well as Louboutin, Manhattan Girl, Spydapus, Smokin' Oak, Lady Godiva, Ask Pa and Eleventh Hour.
Bary has his own 1300m track at his stabling complex and has been able to get sufficient work into them to have them ready for a jumpout followed by a subsequent trial before they go to the races.
"The horses I've got ready to go are just about there and their gallops have been good," Bary said.
"They are certainly forward enough to have a jumpout."
Bary added that he has another 12 2-year-olds now back in work that should be ready to line up in the next lot of Hastings jumpouts on June 9.
Lee Somervell, who has six horses in work, said they could all have a jumpout next Wednesday providing there were enough heats at distances to suit.
The four-race winner One Prize One Goal could be one of them stepping out, along with Thousandkissesdeep, Pas de Giant, Fabulous Fleet, a Rock 'N' Pop 2-year-old filly and a Sun Ruler 3-year-old filly.
The Paul Nelson and Corrina McDougal stable has a number of jumpers they are keen to get a jumpout into and could have as many as 10 horses at next Wednesday's jumpouts.
They include top jumpers No Change, Perry Mason and Second Innings as well as Revolution, Rocky, Wagner, The Cossack, Teapot and Matovani.
Hastings owner-trainer Tim Symes has three horses in work at the moment in My Tommy, Call Me Jack and a Jakkalberry 3-year-old gelding and could line up all three at next Wednesday's jumpouts.
Symes said My Tommy was close to racing fitness when the country went into lockdown so it has not taken long to get his fitness level up again.
Another owner-trainer, Richard McKenzie, has his capable mare Estefania back and looking in great order in preparation for another winter campaign and she is ready for a jumpout next week while two other Hastings trainers, Patrick Campbell and Fred Pratt, are also likely to have at least two horses ready for next week's jumpouts.
Bosson to stay with Te Akau
Te Akau Racing has confirmed that the stable's leading jockey, Opie Bosson, will remain as their number one retained rider for the upcoming 2020/21 racing season.
Te Akau Principal David Ellis made the announcement on the Te Akau Racing website.
"Opie and Te Akau go back a very long way – he started working with us when he was 14," Ellis said.
"He is a truly gifted rider, with beautiful balance and the best instinct you will see.
"His record again this season in the 'Te Akau tangerine' has been phenomenal, riding nine of our 11 Group 1 winners including Te Akau Shark, Melody Belle, Avantage, Probabeel and Cool Aza Beel with these elite wins coming in both New Zealand and Australia.
"Our trainer Jamie Richards leads the NZ Trainers' Premiership (99 wins) and the combination of Jamie with Opie has proven formidable. They work so well together and the results they achieve speak for themselves."
Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards added: "Opie is such an asset to the team – obviously on race day as he is in a class of his own. His feedback from track work and trials is invaluable, he just has such a unique feel of where each horse is at."
Bosson also reiterated his commitment to the stable in the statement.
"I definitely strongly considered relocating to Australia for the new season," he said.
"However I have been to Te Akau Stud and the Matamata stable and after seeing the quality of yearlings David [Ellis] has bought, and also seeing how the older horses had spelled – I wanted to be part of the future success I know is coming.
"The talent the stable has just blew me away.
"I also really enjoy working with Jamie – he's a freak of a trainer who understands a horse better than anyone I know."