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David Walsh back on a track where he holds a record 7 Mar 2019

   Former top jockey David Walsh returned to the venue where he holds the record for the most wins when he turned up on Lowland Stakes day at Hastings on Wednesday of last week.

  Walsh, in his capacity as a licensing, training and welfare advisor for New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, made a fleeting visit to the Bay before being guest speaker at the Hawke’s Bay-Manawatu apprentice jockey school in Palmerston North the following day. He then attended the Manawatu race meeting at Awapuni on the Friday and the next morning he caught flights that saw him end up at the Otago Racing Club’s meeting at Wingatui.

   “I knew I was coming up for the apprentice school at Palmerston North and I found out there were some cheap flights to Napier so I thought I’d take in the Hastings races as well,” a happy Walsh said when he turned up unexpected in the judge’s box at the Hastings racecourse.

   “I haven’t been here for years and it’s great to be back.”

   Without wanting to brag, Walsh let it slip that he was given the nickname as “King Of The Bay” when he was race-riding, alluding to the fact that he holds the record for the most wins on the Hastings track.

   “Someone told me I held the record at Hastings but I wasn’t sure until recently,” Walsh added.

   He said he competed on the Hastings track for well over 30 years, his 1412 race-rides there reaping 217 wins for a winning strike-rate of 6.5.

   It was fitting that Walsh was on course to witness this year’s running of the Lowland Stakes as he won the race at Hastings in 2010 on Posavina and also took out the 2006 running on Molta, when it was staged on the Trentham track.

   In typical Walsh-style, he dominated the race from the front on Posavina, setting and even pace to the turn before kicking his mount clear. Race favourite Keep The Peace, ridden by Jason Waddell, closed late but only got to within 1-1/4 lengths at the finish.

   Walsh’s name is not on the list of Group 1 winners on the Hastings track but he did win the 1994 Kelt Capital Stakes (2040m), when it was rated a Group 2 event, and that led to both horse and rider recording a historic win in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) in Melbourne three weeks later.

   Walsh won the Hawke’s Bay Cup four times, aboard Marlon in 1986, Tawbeau (1994), Bel Air (2001) and Gordon’s 2002. He also won the 1990 Hawke’s Bay Guineas on Tripita.

   The now 59-year-old Walsh retired from race-riding 2-1/2 years ago, going out on a winning note aboard Rapt N Red in a Rating 65 race over 2016m at Ashburton on July 30, 2016.

   He is a member of the elite group of New Zealand jockeys who have ridden over 2000 winners, ending his career with a tally of 2260, including 156 Group & Listed race wins.


Trentham start now for Serena

   A change of plans will see promising Hastings two-year-old Serena line up at Trentham tomorrow week as a lead up to a possible start in the Group 1 $225,000 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes at Awapuni on March 30.

   Hastings trainer John Bary initially planned to spell the Swiss Ace filly following her gutsy debut win in the $20,000 Winiata Saddlery 1200 at Wairoa on February 24, with a mind to bring her back for early three-year-old races next season.

   But he says Serena has come through that win so well that he needed to review that decision.

   “She’ll go to Trentham now for the $30,000 two-year-old race on March 16 and the winner of that race gets automatic entry into the Manawatu Sires’ Produce so it is worth having a crack,” he said.

   Serena only got the decision by a short head when winning at Wairoa but showed a great will to win over the final stages to gain an advantage over Amazing Team after they had gone head to head in the home straight.

   Serena was a $17,000 buy from last November’s Two-year-old Ready To Run sale at Karaka and is owned by Bary in partnership with Hamilton-based Todd Bawden.   

   She is a half-sister to the two-time winner Beach Beauty.


Rock On Wood outstanding

   There was no more impressive winner at last week’s Hawke’s Bay meeting than Rock on Wood in the Rating 72 event over 1300m and he looks destined for much bigger things in the future.

   The Leanne Elliot-trained four-year-old hadn’t been seen on race day in almost a year and showed his class when taking out the last race on the card.

   The son of Redwood started a hot favourite but his big band of supporters would have had heart palpitations when he was shuffled back to last on the home turn and with a wall of horses in front.

   Apprentice jockey Ryan Elliot, a son of the trainer, had to weave a passage between horses in the straight and, once in the clear, Rock On Wood showed an amazing turn of foot to surge past his opposition and win by 1-1/2 lengths.

   “It was a pretty good win, he was a bit further back than I thought, but the way he did it (ran home) was good,” Leanne Elliot said. “It was also great to have Ryan on board for the win.”

   Elliot said it was a relief to get her charge back to the track after nearly a year away from the track, his previous start being an unplaced run in the Group 3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) at Awapuni last March.

   “I had him in early and he worked well, but just didn’t hold his condition, he was just growing,” Elliot said.

   “I put him out for about six weeks and then got him up again and he cut his leg, so he had a couple of stitches. I have just had to bide my time a bit with him.”

   Rock on Wood showed a lot of promise as a three-year-old, finishing fourth in both the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) and Group 2 Waikato Guineas (2000m).

   Elliot said connections have had to knock back some sizeable offers for their gelding, who is raced by her in partnership with her mother and another close friend.

   “We have had quite a bit of interest in him but Mum likes to race her horses and isn’t keen to sell,” she said.

   Elliot hasn’t planned too far ahead with Rock on Wood is now eyeing a potential start at the Wellington premier meeting tomorrow week.

   “I just wanted to get through this one and keep him in one piece,” she said.

   “I’ll just take every race as it comes. I’ll probably look at going to Wellington and we’ll just see how the tracks hold up.”

   Rock On Wood has had seven starts for three wins and a third and has never competed on a track worse than dead.


Ladies First sidelined

   Last year’s Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m) winner Ladies First has suffered a set-back that will see her autumn campaign shelved.

   The Allan Sharrock-trained mare had been on a path to the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) but pulled up sore after finishing 10th in the Group 1 Haunui Farm WFA Group One Classic (1600m).

   “It’s a minor strain in a tendon, so she will probably have three months to get over it,” Sharrock said.

   “With three months off, she will be fine.

   “She had come up really, really well and I was quite excited.

   “Her run at Otaki was probably a little bit bemusing. It was a pass, but it wasn’t what I wanted. Then on Sunday she was sore and I thought it might have been a stone bruise but it turns out it was a slight tear in the tendon.”

   Ladies First has won nine of her 24 starts to date including three at stakes level.


Five To Midnight primed for Cup bid

   Awapuni trainer Lisa Latta is looking forward to lining up Five to Midnight in tomorrow’s Group 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) at Ellerslie, hoping the six-year-old can go one better following his close second in last year’s race.

   Latta said the gelding pulled up well after his last start third behind Glory Days and Blue Breeze in the Group 2 Avondale Cup (2400m) on February 16 and believes he will benefit from the set weights and penalties conditions of tomorrow’s race.

   “He’s very well,” she said. “He had a couple of days in the paddock after the Avondale Cup and worked well on Friday morning.

   “It will be the lightest weight (56kg) he has carried in a very long time.”

   Five To Midnight carried 56.5kg when beaten a nose behind Ladies First in last year’s Auckland Cup.


Marsh pair headed to Sydney

   Last Saturday’s upset New Zealand Derby winner Crown Prosecutor and stablemate Vernanme have both pulled up well after the 2400m feature and will now head to Sydney for the Group 1 ATC Derby on April 6.

   The Stephen Marsh-trained pair will be set on differing paths towards the $A2million 2400m event at Randwick.

   “They both pulled up brilliantly (after the New Zealand Derby), you cannot fault them at all,” Marsh said.

   “They don’t seem to have taken any harm from the run whatsoever.

   “At this stage it looks like we will run Vernanme in the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and we will run Crown Prosecutor in the Tulloch Stakes (2000m) and then both horses could take their place in the Derby.”

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