A niggling stone bruise prevented unbeaten Hastings filly Miss Labasa from contesting last Friday's Group 3 $70,000 Wellington Guineas at Otaki but trainer John Bary is confident he will have her fully fit again for important 3-year-old races in the coming months.
Bary said the stone bruise, which was causing the filly obvious discomfort on the eve of the Otaki feature, had still not burst at the beginning of this week but he was hopeful the filly will be 100 per cent fit again by this weekend.
"At this stage the immediate aim is the Eulogy Stakes at Awapuni next Saturday week but we have just been waiting for the stone bruise to burst out," Bary said.
"Hopefully it will clear up and they will allow me to give her a gallop between races at Waipukurau this Sunday.
"If she isn't right by then we might be able to gallop between races at Hastings the following Wednesday.
"The good thing about her is that she is naturally clean-winded anyway so she doesn't need a lot of work to keep her fit."
Miss Labasa is certainly an exciting 3-year-old and Bary has some big plans for her later in the season.
The Swiss Ace filly won her debut over 1400m at Tauherenikau in October by 3-1/4 lengths and followed that up with a game win over 1600m at Hastings on November 11.
"Hopefully she will get to the Eulogy and then the aim is the Eight Carat Stakes at Ellerslie on Boxing Day," Bary said.
"We want to give her a run at Ellerslie as she is Karaka Million nominated and that race is run there at the end of January."
Bary said providing Miss Labasa makes the right progress she will then head to the Group 2 Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings in February and then on to the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham in March.
Another well performed galloper from the Bary stable, High Spirits, has also been sidelined with an injury.
The Darci Brahma mare, winner of four races from 27 starts, was to have contested last month's New Zealand Cup (3200m) at Riccarton following an impressive victory over 2400m at Trentham.
But she unfortunately got cast in her box and whacked a tendon in one of her legs.
"It wasn't a tear or a hole and she was never really lame on it but there was obvious bruising there and so we decided to turn her out for a spell until Christmas time," Bary said.
"It will mean that she won't be ready for the Wellington Cup in January but we might be able to look at the Auckland Cup in March.
"It hasn't been a great time for the stable but hopefully things will improve."
First South Island success
Former Hastings-trained Xcuses Xcuses recorded her first win in the South Island when taking out a $26,000 Rating 72 race over 1400m at Sunday's Cromwell meeting.
It was the No Excuse Needed mare's fifth success but her first since she prevailed in a Rating 75 race over 1200m at Awapuni in March last year.
Back then Xcuses Xcuses was prepared by Hastings trainer John Bary who bred and owned the mare in partnership with long time stable client Ivan Grieve.
The pair decided to lease her out to a South Island syndicate earlier this year and she was transferred to the Rangiora stable of John Blackadder in March.
"We thought if we sent her down south she might be able to pick up some black type and we could then sell her as a broodmare," Bary said this week.
He added that Xcuses Xcuses need a firm track to show her best and finally got conditions to suit last Sunday.
Australian-born jockey Jake Bayliss settled Xcuses Xcuses in the first half dozen in the early stages of the Cromwell race and then angled her into the clear early in the home straight.
She then finished the race off strongly for a convincing 2-3/4 length win.
Xcuses Xcuses was the first foal out of the Shinko King mare Xpectacular, which won one race from the Bary stable.
The second foal was Rawhide, which has been placed twice from 10 starts, while the third foal is the one race winner Chouxperb.
Bimonthly award winners
Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters are the recipients of the Kevin Woods Memorial bimonthly trophy for the months of September and October.
The award is presented by the Hawke's Bay Racehorse Owners Association and will be presented to the Walters at next Wednesday's Hawke's Bay meeting.
The couple own a 10 per cent share in the multiple Group 1 winner Melody Belle, that is trained at Matamata by Jamie Richards.
The Commands 4-year-old won the first two legs of the Group 1 triple crown at the Hawke's Bay spring carnival, the Tarzino Trophy (1400m) on September 1 and Windsor Park Plate (1600m) on September 22.
She has not raced since that last success but was impressive when winning a 1000m Matamata trial on November 27 and is expected to resume racing in the Group 1 $200,000 Sistema Railway (1200m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day.
Twilight race meeting
The final Hastings race day of the year will be a twilight meeting next Wednesday, with the first of eight races timed for 3.07pm and the last at 7.15pm.
It is a Christmas at the Races meeting and one not to be missed, with live entertainment, great food, exciting thoroughbred action and all the joys of Christmas.
The gates will be open from 2pm with a $10 gate charge and there will be a limited BYO for patrons on the public lawn.
Delay over revamped turn
The reconstructed home turn at Awapuni racecourse in Palmerston North will make a race day return on March 1 next year, however, it is reliant on a satisfactory trial day in January.
Trials were held on the reconstructed section on Tuesday of last week, but a small section of the track did raise a slight concern for RACE Group tracks manager Kim Treweek.
"The majority of the new section raced really well (at the trials) but there was a 50m inside section, around the 600m, which was a bit softer and this created some inconsistencies," Treweek said.
"Horses had been working around the turn for a number of weeks but we had 32mls of rain in the 48 hours before the trials and that showed that it needed a bit more time. We want everything to be 100 percent before we commit to racing on it."
As a result, the 2100m races scheduled for the Christmas meeting at Awapuni, including the Group 3 Manawatu Cup, will be extended to 2200m.
Close Up retired
he racing days are over for Close Up, the horse that motivated Shelley Hale back into training after a serious illness.
Close Up was scheduled to run in the Group 3 Eagle Technology Stakes (1600m) at Ellerslie last Saturday, but instead he began his retirement on Hale's property.
"He's feeling the wear and tear on his fetlock joints so we've decided to retire him," Hale said.
"He had a trial at Matamata last week and I was happy enough with his run (for third), but there was a bit of swelling afterward.
"It's not as bad as we first thought, but we don't want to risk racing him anymore."
Close Up credited Hale with her first Group 1 success when he won last year's Tarzino Trophy (1400m) at Hastings in the hands of regular rider Grant Cooksley.
Either side of that win he had been runner-up, chasing Underthemoonlight home in the Group 2 Lisa Chittick Foxbridge Plate (1200m) at Te Rapa in the lead-up, then going down narrowly to Gingernuts in the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at Hastings.
Close Up won 10 of his 34 starts and was placed on a further 10 occasions.
Weatherley making hay while he can
New Zealand apprentice Sam Weatherley is making ever post a winner on Australian racetracks while he can.
"I don't know how much longer I have left with my weight and height,'' Weatherley said recently.
"It'd be good to make a career and a name for myself while I can.
"I don't know how much growing I've got, if I can stay like I am then I'll be all right. If I grow any more we might have a couple of issues.''
Weight got the better of his father Darryn, whose father Dan was also a jockey, and, like his dad, a career in training may also be in Sam's future.
But, at the same time the likes of Hugh Bowman and Tye Angland are taller than average and have, not without some weight battles, managed to carve long careers in the saddle.
Weatherley, 19, was a new addition to the Sydney riding ranks in June on a three-month loan with Chris Waller.
He made such an impression he's transferred over full-time with an eye on winning a Sydney Champion Apprentice title to go with his two New Zealand awards.
In his first year of riding he won 67 races – 19 more than his nearest apprentice rival – while last season he racked up 66 winners at home including his first Group 1 on outsider Enzo's Lad in the Telegraph Handicap at Trentham in January.
He rode city eight winners from 43 rides at the end of 2017-18 in Sydney and has quickly established a healthy lead on his apprentice peers this season.