The man who won the Punter of the Year contest at Hastings nearly did not make it on course.

Kel Whitehouse arranged to get back from Miami specially for the contest, but delays at Los Angeles and Auckland airports meant he was racing against time to get on course.

He didn't get on to the course before race seven, and only remained in the contest thanks to family members.

But a huge collect on the last race lifted his total to $27,303, more than enough to get his Wharema syndicate home.

"The only thing that was going to stop me was delays, and Air New Zealand did their best to keep me away," Whitehouse said.

"But I still had some money going in the last and I put it all around Floral Star."

Whitehouse had $2000 to win and $1000 to place on Floral Star, which paid $6.15 and $2.50, and also had $5 worth of the $1954 trifecta and $50 worth of the $48.65 quinella.

He won a car and $50,000 in cash for winning the competition.

* The group one Thorndon Mile is a possible long-term target for Nitty Gritty after he scored a stunning victory in the Hastings Commercials.

Having his first start for the season, Nitty Gritty went straight to the front for jockey Matt Cameron and was never troubled, winning easily from the favourite Superalloy.

The gelding's Bulls trainer, Sam Trotter, said he was not scared to take on the top horses in black type events.

"He's run against a lot of good horses in his career and he's up to taking them on."