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Aaron Kuru reaches star status after amazing win 20 Jun 2018

   Hastings-born jockey Aaron Kuru earned himself a piece of New Zealand racing history with an outstanding display of horsemanship in the opening event at Awapuni last Saturday.

   Kuru’s mount Des De Jeu crashed on landing over the first fence in the 3200m maiden steeplechase and looked down and out as it slid along the ground sideways, with Kuru still holding onto the reins.

   Des De Jeu only took a few seconds to regain its feet as it came up Kuru managed to miraculously sling himself over the horse’s neck and then get back in the saddle before encountering the next jump, less than 50 metres away. He even had time to shout out at the clerk of the course, positioned a few metres after the first jump, who advised him to keep going.

   As a result of that first fence mishap Des De Jeu was a distant last in the early stages but Kuru managed to quickly improve the horse’s position through the field to the stage that he had him chasing the leader and race favourite Gagarin entering the home straight.

   Des De Jeu closed the gap on Gagarin coming to the last fence and, after jumping that well, he had enough in reserve to forge clear of that runner in the run to the line to win by half a length.

   The fact that Kuru was able to remount Des De Jeu in a blink of an eye was unbelievable and then to continue on to win the race was one of the most outstanding performances seen in a jumps race for a long time. Video coverage of the incident and has since gone viral on social media both in New Zealand and overseas, earning a humble Kuru a folklore following.

   “It’s just one of those things that just happened,” Kuru said.

   “It was his first go over the bigger fences and I think he was probably a bit fresh and he’s just jumped the fence a bit big and we’ve landed a bit steep.

   “Looking at the replay, my mount went down and as he stopped sliding he was coming back up onto his feet and I did exactly the same and got back on.

   “The horse felt one hundred percent. I would have been the first jockey to pull him up if he didn’t feel sound. I’m only a small factor in the win, the horse was out there running and jumping and it’s all credit to him. He was amazing.”

   A modest Kuru, who was last year’s New Zealand Champion jumps jockey, avoided the media until Monday as he switched off his phone to go on a hunt in the Rangitikei on Sunday.

    “I’m just out there to do my job,” he said, when finally contacted. “I’m happy with the win, but I know all this (media attention) comes with racing. But I basically just switched my phone off.”

   Kuru said it was not until his partner was driving him back to their Cambridge base on Sunday evening that he finally started answering the phone and replying to messages.

    “My phone went flat a couple of times because of the fact that there had been a lot of notifications and emails, it’s been crazy.”

   Des De Jeu is one of only a few horses Kuru has ridden for Awapuni trainer Mark Oulaghan and said it was one of the highlights of his riding career to date.

   “I haven’t had many rides for Mark Oulaghan and we all know what he’s done as a trainer. It would definitely have to be up there with one of the nicest wins I have ever had.”

   Kuru, 26, began his riding career from the Hastings stable of Patrick Campbell before transferring to fellow Hastings trainer John Bary.

   At that stage he was only an amateur jockey but was also a valuable member of the New Zealand Black Sox softball team.

   I asked him back then whether he wanted to pursue a career as a jockey or follow his sporting passion in softball and his reply was: “I think I’ll be a jockey because there is more money in it.”

   Kuru has now ridden 75 winners from 468 race-rides and his mounts have earned more than $1.2million in stakemoney.

   Des de Jeu was the middle leg of a treble of wins Kuru brought up last week. The first was aboard the Hastings-trained Peso at Wanganui on the Thursday and, following Des de Jeu’s incredible win, he managed to maintain his composure to take out the $50,000 Awapuni Hurdles two races later on Iffitel.

   Peso was one of two horses Hastings trainer Paul Nelson lined up in the Rating 75 highweight at Wanganui, the other being No Change who finished fourth.

   Kuru rode a copybook race on Peso, jumping the horse out quickly from the 1600m barrier to take an early lead before settling him into a perfect trail once No Change went to the front. He then took control again just before the home turn and always had a winning advantage over his rivals in the home straight, crossing the line 2-1/2 lengths clear.

   Peso was recording his fourth win from 20 starts and was coming off a last start fifth in last month’s Group 3 Rotorua Cup (2200m). The six-year-old Colombia gelding is raced by Paul Nelson and his wife Carol and is now likely to back up in a $25,000 Rating 75 race over 2100m at Tauranga tomorrow.

 

Miss Wilson at peak for tomorrow

   Hastings trainer John Bary says his top mare Miss Wilson is in great order going into tomorrow’s Group 1 $A500,000 Tattersall’s Tiara in Brisbane.

   “She’s done well since she’s been here and her condition and weight is top notch,” Bary said from Brisbane this week. “I’m really happy with her.”

   Bary sent the horse across the Tasman a fortnight ago and she cruised to a 6 length win in a 1000-metre trial at Eagle Farm on June 12.

   He said she wouldn’t have blown a candle out after the trial so he is pleased with the mare’s fitness, despite her not having raced since winning the Group 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes (1600m) at Te Aroha two months ago.

   Miss Wilson has drawn barrier 10 in tomorrow’s 1350m weight-for-age event but is likely to come into barrier eight as two emergencies for the race have drawn inside her. New Zealand jockey Vinnie Colgan rode the mare to her last start victory and will again be aboard tomorrow.

   Bary said Miss Wilson should be suited by the distance of tomorrow’s race, the weight-for-age conditions and the Doomben track. She is also likely to strike a good racing surface and Bary believes she performs at her best on reasonably firm footing.

   “I think her pet distance is about 1400 and Doomben is a front runner's track and she likes to race close to the pace.”

   Miss Wilson is owned by Havelock North couple Richard and Liz Wood and is a half-sister to their former outstanding galloper Jimmy Choux. She is the winner of seven races from only 25 starts, with her other major wins being in the Group 3 Cuddle Stakes (1600m) at Trentham and Group 3 Red Badge Spring Sprint (1400m) at Hastings.

 

Hastings races next week

    Two of the most prestigious jumping races on the New Zealand calendar, the $50,000 Simon’s 50th Birthday Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase and $50,000 Te Whangai Romneys Hawke’s Bay Hurdle, will be the features at the next Hastings race meeting, on Saturday June 30.

    They are among at least nine races programmed for the Hawke’s Bay Hunt raceday, with the first race timed for 11.35am and the last at approximately 4.15pm. There will also be a maiden steeplechase and a maiden hurdle event.

   The gates will open at 10.30am and there will be a $10 admission charge, with those under 18 free.

 

HB weanling walk

   The Hawke’s Bay Thoroughbred Breeders Association will stage its annual weanling walk on Sunday, July 1, the day after the Hawke’s Bay Hunt raceday at Hastings.

   It will commence at 10am sharp at Guy and Bridget Lowry’s property at 305 Kawera Road, Okawa and then progress on to four others. The first of these will be Chris Russell’s property at 793 Valley Road (off Highway 50) followed by Mike Newrick’s lifestyle block at 51 Turamoe Road, Paki Paki; Gary and Raewyn Quinn’s property at 912 Middle Road and finishing at John Bary’s racing stables at 55 Mutiny Road.

   Among the weanlings on display will be those by the successful stallions Shamexpress, Pour Moi, Darci Brahma, Pins, Swiss Ace, Super Easy, Rock ‘N’ Pop, Makfi, Reliable Man, Pentire, Per Incanto, Iffraaj and Niagara as well as new season sire Mongolian Khan.

   At the completion of the weanling walk there will be a luncheon at 12.30pm at Off The Track Restaurant at 114 Havelock Road. The cost of the luncheon is $40/head but Haunui Farm Stud will be generously subsidised this by 50 per cent.

   For catering purposes reservations are required for the luncheon and can be made by contacting Sharyn Craig at 027-4999084 or Isabell Roddick  at (06) 8798662. Or email: mike.sharyn@xtra.co.nz

 

Magnum to target HB races

   Autumn stakes winner Magnum is being put through his early paces following a let-up.

   The New Zealand-bred son of Per Incanto, part-owned by Havelock North’s Jason Fleming, returned to his homeland after four wins in Singapore and didn’t take long to make an impact, winning the Listed Flying Handicap (1400m) at Awapuni in March.

   “He’s back in work and building up slowly,” trainer Lauren Brennan said. “We’d like to get him to Hawke’s Bay for the first couple of races in the spring series.”

   She was referring to the Group 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes (1400m) and the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m).

 

Significant hurdle success for the Nelsons 14 Jun 2018

Hawke’s Bay couple Paul and Carol Nelson brought up one of the most satisfying wins of their illustrious career as racehorse owners when The Shackler led all the way for a gallant victory in last Saturday’s  K S Browne Hurdle at Trentham.

   The 3200-metre event was named in honour of the late Ken Browne, one of the icons of New Zealand jumps racing and whose wife Ann is a cousin of Carol Nelson. The Brownes were also instrumental in giving the Nelsons their first big racing success almost 41 years ago.

   Back in 1987 the Nelsons won the Wellington Steeplechase at Trentham with Storm, a horse that was twice owned by the Brownes before they finally sold him to Waikato owner-trainer Jack Tims.

   “He (Tims) didn’t want to carry on with the horse. I think they thought he was too slow,” Paul Nelson recalled this week.

   “Kenny jacked it up for us to lease the horse off Jack Tims and then we ended up buying him off him.”

   Storm, ridden by Hastings amateur jockey Sue Thompson, took out the 4000-metre steeplechase on the first day of the 1987 Wellington winter meeting and backed up a week later to score a 4 length victory over Sir Hugh in the Wellington Steeples.

   In the 40 years since then Paul Nelson has added more than 190 wins to his tally and has taken out most of New Zealand’s feature jumping races. But last Saturday was his first success in the K S Browne Hurdle.

   “It’s a real pleasure to win it,” Paul Nelson said. “Carol and Ann are first cousins and Ken and Ann got us started, they found Storm for us.”

   The Shackler produced a dominant front running performance to win last Saturday’s feature, just as he had done when taking out the Waikato Hurdles at Te Rapa the start before.

   Hastings-born jockey Aaron Kuru had the horse travelling easily in front, on a long rein, and the horse picked up the tempo when he asked him to quicken inside the last 800 metres.

   They were challenged, first by Wee Biskit and then by Thatz David, over the last 600 metres but The Shackler shook them both off and had enough in reserve to race away for a 7-3/4 length win.

   “I was a bit worried when they started coming at him,” commented Nelson, “but in the end he was too tough.”

   It was The Shackler’s 13th win from 70 starts. Nelson prepares the 11-year-old Istidaad gelding for Te Awamutu-based Shaun Dromgool, whose brother Michael trained him to win eight flat races before he bowed a tendon. The horse has now won five of his nine starts over hurdles, including last year’s Wellington Hurdles.

   Nelson said The Shackler is likely to contest this year’s Wellington Hurdles again, on July 14, although he fears the horse could get weighted out of hurdle races from now on.

   “It’s ridiculous really,” Nelson said. “He went up four points and 2.5 kilograms after his last start in the Waikato Hurdles and the handicapper has now given him another four points from last Saturday’s win so I don’t know what weight he’ll give him next time.”

   The Shackler’s win at Trentham last Saturday completed a winning double on the day for the Nelsons and jockey Aaron Kuru as they also combined to take out the maiden steeplechase with Perry Mason.

   The eight-year-old Zed gelding made up for a last jump blunder at Te Rapa at his previous start to score a gritty 2 length victory over Adequacy and Zamora.

   Perry Mason looked the likely winner of a maiden steeplechase at Te Rapa on May 19 when leading approaching the last fence but crashed through it and both he and Kuru were left sprawling on the ground.

   The horse never put a foot wrong last Saturday and, aided by a great ride from Kuru, he proved too good for his rivals.

   Perry Mason settled back in fifth place in the early stages of the 4000m event and Kuru just bided his time until the last quarter of the race. He then quickly improved his position to challenge the leaders before going clear as the field entered the home straight.

   Perry Mason was only marginally in front of Adequacy as they jumped the last fence but kept up a strong run to the line to comfortably hold that horse at bay.

   It was Perry Mason’s fifth win and his second over fences, following a maiden hurdle victory at Te Rapa last month. He is raced by the I See Red Syndicate, a group of jumping enthusiasts who have raced horses from the Nelson stable since 2004.

   The syndicate has now had 29 wins in those 14 years, with their best performer being Just A Swagger. His wins included the Grand National Hurdles (twice), the Wanganui Steeples, the Hawke’s Bay Steeples and a Grand National Steeplechase.

 

Form reversal by Onawing

   Onawing, part-owned by Hastings couple John and Greta Flynn, turned her form around with a game win in the amateur riders’ race at Trentham last Saturday.

   The four-year-old Mastercraftsman mare, trained at Awapuni by Jeff Lynds, was a maiden winner over 2100m at Trentham back in March but had finished well back in two subsequent starts.

   However Tracey Collis, acting foreman for the Lynds stable, said the horse’s last start failure at Trentham was best overlooked as she thought the mare may have swallowed a clod of mud during that race.

   “She was coughing for about half an hour after the race so there was obviously something there,” Collis said.

   Experienced amateur jockey Linda Wheeler produced a perfect ride to get Onawing home first in a slog to the line in last Saturday’s 2200m race. The 50-year-old settled the mare in the back half of the field and saved as much ground as she could before improving her position, up against the inside rail, coming to the home turn.

   Burlone and Fort Knox looked to be fighting out the finish inside the last 300m but then Wheeler drove Onawing between the pair and the mare surged clear in the final few strides to win by half a length.

   Wheeler, who is a wife of top trainer John Wheeler, was recording her 21st win as an amateur jockey.

   The Flynns are part of a large group that race Onawing and they also share in the ownership of the Lynds-trained Thien Ly, who has won four races.

 

Two in a row for Rippin

   Not many horses win their next start after a maiden victory but Rippin did so with another game performance at Te Rapa last Saturday.

   The three-year-old Rip Van Winkle filly looked beaten when clearly headed half-way up the home straight in a $22,500 Rating 65 race over 1600m but showed real tenacity, under a strong ride from Matthew Cameron, to wrest back the lead in the final few strides to get a head decision.

   The win followed a similar performance by the filly in a 1400m maiden race at Hawera on May 27 and she has now had five starts for two wins and a fourth.

  Rippin was bred by Havelock North couple Dave and Jenny Morison who have retained a 40% shareholding in the horse. They race the filly with Dennis and Pip Glenn from Napier and Cheryl Leonard and Kathleen Wright from Havelock North and she is trained at Cambridge by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman.

  

A winning habit

   It was fitting that Hawke’s Bay-bred Impulsive Habit won at Te Rapa last Saturday, on Australia’s Stradbroke Handicap day.

   The four-year-old is a close relation of former champion galloper Rough Habit, who is arguably the greatest winner of Queensland’s feature sprint race. The Roughcast gelding, winner of 29 races and more than $5million in stakemoney, scored back-to-back victories in the Group 1 Stradbroke in 1991 and 1992.

   He produced one of the most amazing performances ever seen in the second of those wins, coming from a seemingly hopeless position on the home turn to weave a passage through the field and get up by a neck.

   Impulsive Habit is by Echoes Of Heaven out of the Mellifont mare Special Habit, whose dam Bella’s Habit was a half-sister to Rough Habit.

   Hawke’s Bay’s Isabell Roddick bred Rough Habit and her and husband Graham, and other members of Graham’s family, are the breeders of Impulsive Habit.   

   The Echoes Of Heaven gelding is now trained by Cambridge-based Lee Somervell, who purchased him for $14,000 at the 2015 Karaka yearling sales and then up a syndicate to race him.

   The four-year-old brought up his third win when recording a comprehensive performance in a $22,500 Rating 65 race over 1600m at last Saturday’s Waikato meeting. His winning margin of 1-3/4 lengths flattered his rivals as his jockey, promising apprentice Wiremu Pinn, dropped his whip early in the home straight and could only ride him hands and heels over the final stages.

   The Roddicks presently have an unraced two-year-old half-brother to Impulsive Habit on their Hawke’s Bay property. He is by Colombia and they intend to have him broken in soon and educated. They unfortunately lost a full-sister to Impulsive Habit last year, with the mare producing a filly by Echoes Of Heaven that died.

 

London Express looks headed in the right direction 7 Jun 2018

Feature three-year-old classic races in the spring now beckon for talented filly London Express, who made it two wins in a row with an outstanding performance in last Saturday’s Listed $50,000 Turkington Forestry Castletown Stakes.

   The Shamexpress two-year-old, part-owned by Havelock North’s Tess Castles, was having her fourth start after two third placings and a last start victory over 1200m at New Plymouth.

   New Plymouth trainer Allan Sharrock has always had a high opinion of London Express and the filly certainly had to be good to win last Saturday’s 120m event.

   She was outpaced and under a ride at the tail of the field in the early stages of the race and looked a forlorn hope when still several lengths off the leaders rounding the home turn.

   But once rider Johnathan Parkes angled the filly to the outside in the home straight she started to pick up and powered home to win by half a length, going away.

    “There looked a lot of speed on paper and it ran accordingly, they went hard early,” Parkes said.

   “Once I got out to the better part of the track she let down with a mighty run.”

   It was a performance that suggested London Express can only get better with time and she is sure to be a potent force in some of the early three-year-old races next season.

   Tess Castles is the wife of Hawke’s Bay Racing chief executive Andrew Castles and her and three close friends, Emma Davies, Anna McKenzie and Anna Milne, lease a 50 per cent racing share in London Express and they race her in partnership with the Taranaki-based Brophy family, who bred the filly.

   Andrew Castles and the husbands of the other three women have raced horses successfully for 25 years and they thought it was time to give the wives a chance.

   The result of last Saturday’s Castletown Stakes at Wanganui was a triumph for new Windsor Park Stud stallion Shamexpress, who provided the quinella on the race with Qiji Express finishing a game second.

   The New Zealand-bred son of O’Reilly was a top class sprinter in Australia when winning seven of his 19 starts for Melbourne trainer Danny O’Brien. He won the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington as a three-year-old and was also twice Group 1 placed. His dam Volkrose is a Volksraad mare and a half-sister to O’Reilly Rose, who was a Group and Listed stakes winner of nine races.

    Windsor Park’s principal Rodney Schick was overjoyed by last Saturday’s result, which vindicated the faith the stud has had in Shamexpress.

   “For him to have now had five winners and a stakes quinella is fantastic,” Schick said.

 

Kotahi has the family ability

   Napier couple Buddy and Elizabeth Beachen have raced several successful horses in the past and they are now shareholders in another promising one in Kotahi.

   The Alamosa three-year-old colt broke through for an impressive maiden win over 1200m at Awapuni on Thursday of last week and looks capable of going on to much bigger things in the future.

   The Beachens are part of a large group of people that race Kotahi from the Awapuni stable of Lisa Latta. They are good friends of Hori Gardiner, who bred the horse in partnership with his wife.

   The Gardiners raced Kotahi’s dam Sacha from the Latta stable and she was a tremendous performer on the racetrack, recording 14 wins, nine seconds and eight thirds. Four of her victories were in listed black type races, the Tauranga Classic, Rangitikei Gold Cup, Opunake Cup and Wanganui Cup.

   Kotahi is the only foal Sacha produced before her untimely death in 2015.

   He was having his second race start when he lined up at Awapuni last week, the first resulting in an eighth on a heavy track at Woodville in October last year.

   “He raced once in the mud back then but was a bit weak and struggled,” Buddy Beachen recalled this week.

   “So he was turned out on the hills and he has now grown into a very nice horse who will hopefully go on with it now. His mother was pretty good.”

   The Beachens shared in the ownership of Nanjara, who was the winner of five races including the 2007 Manawatu Cup while Captain Calico was another promising horse they raced, with his eight starts resulting in three wins, a second and a third. They were also former shareholders in the well performed Saint Kitt.

 

HB racing stalwart dies

   Dick Lee, a former successful thoroughbred owner and one of the real characters in Hawke’s Bay racing circles, died last Saturday aged 92.

   Lee had a life-long interest in racing and was a regular attendee at Hastings race meetings. He raced two top class horses over the years in Pennevari and Hassendean.

   Pennevari was trained in Hastings by the late Alan Pringle and included the Listed Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Ellerslie in December 1978 among her six wins.

   Hassendean was prepared by Bruce Marsh, when he was based in Woodville, and had 66 starts for 16 wins, 12 seconds and six thirds. The Sharivari gelding never won a stakes race but took Dick to most parts of New Zealand and on two trips to the Queensland winter carnival.

   The horse finished a close second, beaten half a head, in the 2015 Prime Ministers Cup over 2015m and also finished third in the Chairman’s Handicap (2020m) at Doomben.

   Hassendean was such a versatile performer that, following that Doomben placing, the horse returned to New Zealand for a spell and then resumed with a second behind Our Buddy in an open 1200m sprint at Wairoa.

   Lee also shared in the ownership of Three Heads, who he raced in partnership with John Trumper. That horse was also trained by Alan Pringle and won a 1600m maiden at Gisborne.

   In more recent years Lee was a devoted partner of Ann Bary and a keen supporter of her son John’s Hastings training operation.

 

Megablast on target for cup

   A gritty run for third in last Saturday’s Group 2 PJ O’Shea Stakes (2200m) behind talented mare Egg Tart has convinced New Zealand trainer Nigel Tiley that stable staying star Megablast is on target to contest tomorrow’s Group 2 Brisbane Cup.

   The free-going grey battled on strongly in the run home after setting a solid pace throughout although Tiley believes he could have finished closer if circumstances had played slightly more in his favour.

   There wasn’t any real speed in the race so we went forward to try and dictate to them,” he said.

   “They came up and had a look at him at the 1000m mark which probably was his undoing a little as I think if he could have got a cheap sectional there then he would have definitely run second.”

    Tiley was also pleased with how the Shinko King six-year-old came through the race as he looks forward to the major assignment of his Brisbane campaign.

   “He ate everything we put in front of him overnight and drank plenty of water so I’m very pleased with how he has come through the run,” he said.

 

Prizemoney boost a positive for NZ

   Victorian racing’s Big Three Group 1 events - the Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m), the Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) and the Stella Artois Caulfield Cup (2400m) – will all carry record prize money this spring after hefty increases were announced by Racing Victoria last week.

   The Melbourne Cup received an A$1 million lift to A$7.3 million while the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate become A$5 million races after 40 per cent increases on the existing levels of A$3 million.

   A total of A$12.4 million will be poured into prizemoney across the state from the beginning of the new season in August. As well as addressing levels at the top end, Racing Victoria has also moved to bolster 67 country cups and other minor races across the state.

   The investment will see a record A$228.5 million in prizemoney and bonuses on offer in Victoria next season, representing a 32 per cent increase since 2015 and leading to a nation high average of A$52,057 in prizemoney and bonuses on offer per race.

   As a major racing destination and trading partner for New Zealand-trained and New Zealand-bred horses, the prizemoney boost will be a significant shot in the arm for those involved in the New Zealand thoroughbred industry.

   “We already export the best part of a third of our foal crop to Australia and across the board prizemoney increases in Victoria are a positive for our industry,” New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing chief executive Andrew Birch said.

   “We are fortunate to have a strong racing jurisdiction like Australia on our doorstep. The Victorian focus on bolstering middle distance and staying races is a positive for the New Zealand-bred horse.

   “If we can work towards a more efficient domestic racing industry, then we have the perfect platform for the breeding and racing industry to flourish.”

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