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Popular first success for Hastings apprentice 3 Jan 2019

   There was no more popular winning combination at Tuesday’s Hawke’s Bay New Year race meeting than Royal Ruby and Hastings apprentice jockey Hunter Durrant.

   They were the toast of the huge crowd in attendance after leading all the way in the Kahungunu Kapa Handicap, one of the feature races on  the eight race programme.

   Royal Ruby is owned and trained by Waipukurau couple Tony and Penny Ebbett, two of the most likeable people in racing. They only ever have one or two horses in work at any one time and put a lot of hard work into getting their horses to peak on race day. It was their 25th training success and their second for the season.

   But more importantly Royal Ruby’s win on Tuesday brought up the first riding success for apprentice Hunter Durrant.

   The 18-year-old had a smile from ear to ear and received a huge ovation as he brought Royal Ruby back at the head of the field. It was so well deserved for a young man who has endeared himself to so many in the racing industry for his great demeanour and work ethic.

   Waiting to greet him was his proud mother Michelle Tindall who was quick to embrace her son before he was mobbed by several other well wishers. Hawke’s Bay Racing CEO Butch Castles, after doing a quick check to verify Durrant’s age, arranged a special presentation of a bottle of champagne to help celebrate the success.

   The win came at Durrant’s 32nd race-ride and followed several second and third placings in the six months he has been race-riding.

   He is not from a racing family but was always keen on horses and started riding when he was five. He had grounding in show jumping before signing up as a probationary apprentice two years ago with the Hastings training partnership of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen.

   “This is such a great thrill,” an elated Durrant said.

   “To get my first win on the home track is special and to get it on a horse trained by the Ebbetts is also fantastic. They have been so supportive of me since I started race-riding.

   “It’s certainly a great way to start the New Year.”

   Durrant rated Royal Ruby the best of his three rides on Tuesday and had no hesitation in taking the Per Incanto six-year-old straight to the front in the 1600m event. He rated the mare perfectly and still had her under a firm hold approaching the home turn where he slipped her a bit more rein and quickly put a break on the field.

   He then kept her going with a hands and heels ride and they never looked like being headed, crossing the line 2-1/4 lengths clear of second placed Roll The Gold, with Lady Guinness a short neck back in third.

   It was Royal Ruby’s fourth win and she has also picked up 12 minor placings and earned more than $63,000 in stakemoney for her owners.


Special win for race day sponsor

   Maria Dior’s win in the Best Travel 1100 at Tuesday’s Hawke’s Bay meeting was a special moment for her Hastings owner Chris Russell.

   Russell and his family have been great supporters of Hawke’s Bay Racing and one of the main sponsors of the New Year’s Day race meeting for more than 30 years. But it was the first time one of his horses had been successful at a New Year’s Day meeting.

   The main race on Tuesday was called the Russell Roads City Of Hastings Cup while the final event was the Roger Russell/Charlie Keenen Memorial, held in memory of Chris Russell’s late brother Roger and close family friend Charlie Keenen, the two people who started the sponsorship all those years ago.

   “Roger loved this day and he was the one that started getting the family involved,” Chris Russell recalled.

   “Back then most of us would head off to the beach at this time but then gradually more and more of us became involved in the race day and it just took off from there.”

   Chris Russell said there were 75 family members and friends housed in a special marquee on course on Tuesday.

   The fact that Maria Dior won the race sponsored by Best Travel also had special significance for Chris Russell as he regularly uses that company for his travel arrangements.

   Maria Dior started a hot favourite in Tuesday’s 1100m event, after a win and two seconds from her three most recent starts. Apprentice jockey Danielle Hirini retrained the mare back to fourth and one off the fence in the early stages and then  managed to get a split between horses at the top of the home straight.

   Once in the clear Maria Dior bounded to the front and raced right away from the opposition in the final stages to win by 4 lengths.

   It was the mare’s second win from seven starts, with her maiden success coming over 1200m at Waipukurau in October. She also posted second placings at Hastings and Awapuni in November.

   The mare is trained on the Hastings track by Patrick Campbell and was bred by Chris Russell in partnership with his brother Ken.

   She is out of the Redoute’s Choice mare Dorotea Dior, who was also the winner of two races from the Campbell stable.

   Campbell said Maria Dior is now likely to contest a $40,000 three-year-old race over 1200m at Trentham on January 19, where she is likely to be opposed by her exciting stablemate Satu Lagi, who has had four starts for two wins and a second.


Big collect from punters’ club

   Patrons who bought a $10 ticket in the “Punters’ Club” promotion at Tuesday’s Hawke’s Bay race meeting were rewarded with a $75 payout after several astute bets by on-course compere Andre Neill.

   Wellington-based Neill, who travels the country at this time of the year promoting the Christmas at the Races meetings and the Inter-islander series, had the unenviable job of being in control of the punters’ club bets during the day.

   There were 529 tickets sold and Neill was able to turn the $5290 starting pool into almost $40,000 by the completion of betting after race seven.

   Neill had an all-up win bet on Maria Dior, Akela Belle and Lucyinrio in races three, four and five for a return of $28,000 and also picked up more than $7000 from an each-way bet on Akela Belle. One of his last bets was $2400 to win on Just Fabulous in race seven, who won at a dividend of $2.40.

   The Hastings punters’ club payout was topped the following day however with an $85 payout for every $10 ticket sold at the Wairarapa meeting at Tauherenikau.


Miss Labasa back on track

   Unbeaten Hastings three-year-old filly Miss Labasa resumes racing in a $25,000 three-year-old race over 1400m at Awapuni tomorrow as part of  her build up towards the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham in March.

   Trainer John Bary gave the filly an exhibition gallop between races at Tuesday’s Hawke’s Bay meeting and timed her to come home from the 1000m peg in 60.7s, the last 600 in 34.7. She had a sizeable weight to carry, with regular trackwork rider Zane Thomson aboard.

   Miss Labasa has had two starts for two emphatic wins, the first over 1400m at Tauherenikau in October and the second over 1600m at Hastings in November.

   Bary said how the filly performs tomorrow will determine whether she goes to Ellerslie next for the $1million Karaka Million (1600m) on January 26 or contests the Group 3 $70,000 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) at Trentham on January 19.

   She is presently at a quote of $26 on the Futures win market for the New Zealand Oaks.


Two HB-bred cup wins

   Hawke’s Bay thoroughbred breeders were responsible for two cup winners over the Christmas period.

   Lubaya, bred by Doug Phillips in partnership with Windsor Park Stud, won the $35,000 Manawatu Standard Summer Cup at Awapuni on Boxing day. Then Bizzwinkle, bred by John and Lucy Scoular and their son Andy and daughter Sally Tothill, led all the way to win last Saturday’s $25,000 Stratford Cup for the second year in a row.

   Lubaya was recording her third win from 14 starts and is trained on the Awapuni track by Roydon Bergerson. She is by Rip Van Winkle out of the Generous mare Lioness and a half-sister to the Group 1 VRC Derby winner Lion Tamer.

   Phillips is no longer breeding from Lioness after selling her but he does have a filly foal by Jakkalberry out the mare coming on.

   The Scoulars bred Bizzwinkle out of the Volksraad mare Bizz and sold him as a yearling for $36,000. The mare has also left the winners Murdoch and Runny Honey and the Scoulars sold a Charm Spirit filly out of her at last year’s Karaka yearling sales for $40,000 and she has since produced a yearling colt by Charm Spirit and a filly foal by Rageese. She has now been served by Time Test.

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