Hawke's Bay-owned Mizzena brought up her second win on the flat when successful at Wanganui last week - but it is as a jumper that her future lies.
The 5-year-old Zed mare, aided by a vigorous ride from jockey Ryan Elliot, showed real toughness to get in the deciding stride at the finish of a 2060m highweight.
Mizzena was having her first start since November last year but was perfectly conditioned by Wanganui trainer Kevin Myers and started as favourite for the race.
After settling sixth in the early running, Elliot sent the mare on a wide run to be third rounding the home turn and they took the lead soon after. Mizzena then fought off a determined challenge from Justa Charlie to score by a head.
Mizzena was bred by Barry Smyth, a former longtime board member of Hawke's Bay Racing. He races her with his Sydney-based brother John and six other close Hawke's Bay friends, Simon and Melissa Turner, John McKenzie, Ron Robbie, Neil White and Malcolm Campbell.
Smyth said this week the mare has always been very tough and proved a handful to break in as a youngster. That job was done by experienced Hawke's Bay horseman Dean Smith, with the help of Lisa Beacham who is a stable employee of trainer Patrick Campbell.
"She was a real tough horse to do anything with and they nicknamed her 'Zena Warrior Queen' so that is how she got her race name Mizzena," Smyth said.
"She wouldn't have suited some of the Hastings trainers so that is why we sent her to Kevin Myers to train, and even his staff found her difficult to do anything with for a start."
Mizzena was having her fifth start when she broke through for a maiden win in a 2200m amateur riders' race at Ellerslie on Queen's Birthday Monday last year.
She was having her 15th start when she lined up at Wanganui last week and now has a record of two wins, a second and four thirds.
Kevin Myers is renowned for producing top jumpers and Smyth said he has indicated Mizzena will soon be seen over hurdles.
"I didn't go to Wanganui but some of the other owners were there and they said Kevin dropped a hint by saying: 'I hope you like jumping,' Smyth said.
He added that Mizzena has been schooling over the jumps at the Myers property for some time and seems quite proficient in the role.
Smyth said he got the feeling Mizzena was ready to perform well at Wanganui after Myers, who rarely has a lot of contact with his owners, rang him three days beforehand.
"He told me she had just won a jumpout that day, over 1600 metres at Stratford.
"That followed a third in a 1200m Foxton trial at the beginning of June and she also had a run at the Waverley Point-To-Point before the Stratford jumpout. So, she was pretty fit."
Smyth bred Mizzena out of the Al Akbar mare Moonlighter, who recorded one third from seven starts.
"She was a mare that needed time but the syndicate that raced her didn't want to wait around so I actually gave her away as a show hack for a while until I was ready to breed from her," Smyth said.
Moonlighter has only produced two foals to race, the first being the Iffraaj mare Iffonlynaomi who only had three starts for a third.
"Unfortunately she had a wind problem and so we never saw the best of her and I ended up giving her away," Smyth added.
However, he is still breeding from Moonlighter, with the next foal after Mizzena being a Per Incanto filly who was unfortunately injured as a young horse and never got to the races.
He now has high hopes for a Rip Van Winkle 2-year-old filly out of the mare, that is presently in work with Hastings trainer Kate Hercock. She had a jumpout over 780m on the Hastings track in early June and was entered for another jumpout there yesterday.
Moonlighter has also left a Per Incanto rising 2-year-old colt that has been sent to Australia.
"I've sold the majority share in him but have kept a small share and he is going to the stable of Matt Cumani at Ballarat," Smyth said.
"He is a really big horse and weighed 530kg before he left New Zealand. He lost about 30kg in travelling as he had to be floated up to Auckland, flown to Sydney and then floated down to Ballarat, but he is doing well now."
Bosson keen on Australian spoils
Leading Kiwi jockey Opie Bosson would love to head back to Australia for the rich spring racing carnivals but, with a transtasman bubble looking less likely by the day, he may have to instead concentrate on New Zealand racing in the early stages of the new season.
The star rider, who has made an impact on both sides of the Tasman this season, is currently putting in the hard yards as he gets back to racing trim after an enforced layoff.
With 11 Group 1 victories this season, comprising six in New Zealand and five in Australia, Bosson has proven he is right up with the best of his profession.
The retained rider for Te Akau Racing returned to New Zealand from a bumper Sydney autumn carnival but was faced with a mandatory two weeks' quarantine upon entry, a scenario not ideal for a jockey that has struggled to keep his weight down in the past.
"I was in quarantine in Auckland for two weeks and I got out for two walks the whole time I was there," Bosson said.
Bosson is pleased to now be home at his Pukekawa sheep and beef farm and now working on his fitness, which involves regular forays to Te Akau Stud for training sessions under the watchful eye of principal David Ellis.
Bosson rode at last week's Te Rapa trials and expects to be back riding raceday by the beginning of the new season, which starts on August 1.
"David [Ellis] wants me to focus on New Zealand, but it would still be nice to go to Australia through the carnivals to ride in those big races," Bosson said.
"I made as much money in two months in Sydney as I did for the whole season in New Zealand, so that can be pretty lucrative.
"The prize money is just unbelievable over there, even though some of the races through the Championships were only worth half of what they normally are."
As a sportsman, Bosson takes heart from the New Zealand Warriors being able to gain entry into Australia under the Covid-19 restrictions.
"You could probably get in there, but doing the two weeks' quarantine is another matter," he said.
"It would be a challenge but if I was hard-fit before I went, it might make it a bit easier."
McDonald to appeal three-week ban
New Zealand jockey James McDonald has appealed a three-week suspension over a running and handling charge.
McDonald was found guilty of failing to take all reasonable and permissible measures to win or obtain the best possible placing on Threeood in a race at Randwick on June 20.
Threeood started favourite but finished second-last and McDonald appeared before a racing NSW stewards' hearing on Friday of last week.
Twenty-four hours later, the former New Zealand rider landed a Rosehill treble to give him a century of winners in consecutive seasons on Sydney tracks.
McDonald said the "harshness" of the penalty had prompted his decision to appeal it, which will rule him out for most of the final month of the season.
But with a fourth Sydney premiership all but sewn up, McDonald said he was planning to have a break from the saddle after riding at Randwick today.
His initial ban was due to start tomorrow and end on July 26.