The massive smile on the face of jockey Masa Hashizume at Ōtaki yesterday said it all.
The 28-year-old was grinning from ear to ear coming back to scale, so impressive was Zabmanzor in winning the $100,000 Elsdon Park Wellington Stakes (1600m) at the Levin Racing Club meeting.
The edges of Hashizume’s lips probably started curling when his mount kicked well clear of a handy field halfway down the straight. It was a full-blown smile when the jockey saluted the judges on return to the birdcage, and he still couldn’t wipe it when undoing the saddle.
Hashizume didn’t say too much as he went to weigh-in, but the knowing nod he gave trainer Robert Wellwood spoke volumes.
For Wellwood and co-trainer Roger James, the effortless win was validation of their high opinion of the son of Almanzor, as was the winning margin of four lengths and the race time of 1:34.41.
“He’s a very, very good horse and we’ve really liked him from day one,” Wellwood said after the race. It was just the fourth start for Zabmanzor, having scored his maiden win at Tauranga earlier in the month over 1400m on a heavy track.
Zabmanzor was slow away and settled towards the rear of the small field, before rounding the field on the turn and finding the front easily at the top of the straight. He quickly put on a winning break over runner-up Charmer and third-placed Chantilly Lace, with favourite Geriatrix running fourth.
While there were now plenty of options for the connections of Zabmanzor, one tempting carrot must be the $500,000 Group One Cambridge Stud Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham on January 13.
Few major prizes in New Zealand racing have eluded Roger James in a stellar training career that started in the early 1980s, but the Cambridge Stud Levin Classic is one of them.
Meanwhile, Hashizume wasn’t the only jockey full of smiles at the Levin Racing Club meeting.
Chris Dell could hardly believe he got the judges’ call aboard Foxton horse Sergio at the finish of the $80,000 Vale BAV Preston Levin Stakes at healthy win odds of 36-to-1.
Sergio led the strong field of sprinters throughout and was challenged by favourites Express Yourself and Wild Night, the winning margin the width of a cigarette paper.
It capped off a good day for Sergio’s Foxton trainer Chrissy Bambry, who later notched up a Group placing with Chantilly Lace in the Wellington Stakes.
It was a good day for Foxton-trained horses in general, Chase winning the $50,000 Central Districts Trainers Association 1600m for Stephen Nickalls, Marotiri Molly taking out the $25,000 Racingthistimeontv Facebook Maiden for Matt Dixon, and Never Look Back winning the $40,000 Feildtech Communications 1600m for Gail Temperton.
Meanwhile, the late November raceday has always been a highlight for locals, with businesses and social groups using it as an early Christmas get-together or function.
John Stevenson was one of a group from the banking technology sector who worked for a company with people spread around the North Island. An afternoon at the races provided an opportunity to relax and socialise.
They’d been doing it for the last four years.
“You have lunch, a few bets for those that do, and it’s a chance to be together and be sociable. It’s great. We love it,” he said.
Even All Blacks coach Scott Robertson was on-course, enjoying the day at the invitation of rugby associates.
Levin Racing Club president Mark Goodwin said the club would now turn its attention to the Christmas meeting at the Ōtaki-Māori Racecourse on December 21, another meeting that always seems to draw a big crowd.
“Our corporate and marquee village spots for the Christmas meeting are almost completely booked out,” he said.
“But it’s always been a good day out. It’s laid back. You can’t beat it.”
- Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ on Air.