Hawke’s Bay jockey Kate Hercock was both delighted and relieved after kicking home her first winner since making a comeback to race-riding late last year.
The 41-year-old showed she still has what it takes with an excellent ride to get Sunlit Lane home a decisive 1-1/4 length victor in a 1400m maiden race at New Plymouth on Friday of last week.
The success followed several minor placings Hercock has chalked up in the past four months, including a third and a second aboard Sunlit Lane at the mare’s two most recent starts.
Hercock said this week she knew Sunlit Lane would be an excellent winning chance and so she was prepared to make the long day trip from her Otane base to New Plymouth and back specially for the ride.
“As jockeys we are used to travelling long distances to the races but I didn’t realise how far it was from here to New Plymouth,” she said.
“I thought I was never going to get there but I wasn’t going to give up the ride.
“She’s a nice mare who tries very hard. In her last two starts, at Hastings, she got to the front too soon and got run down but she was strong this time.”
Sunlit Lane began brilliantly from an outside draw to take an early lead before Hercock was able to get her across to the fence and settle in a trail behind the pacemaking Ironic. She angled her mount away from the fence rounding the home turn and then showed plenty of vigour to drive her clear over the final stages.
Sunlit Lane was one of only two rides Hercock had at the meeting, the other being the unplaced Big Hema in the opening event. She was also booked for Indie’s Joy in race three but that horse was scratched.
Hercock said she was glad to finally salute the judge again and was also pleased that it was aboard a horse prepared by Woodville trainer Shane Brown.
“It was good to finally get the monkey off my back but I was also thrilled for Shane because he has supported me a lot since I’ve come back.”
Hercock holds a trainer’s licence herself and is presently working nine horses, seven of which will have a run at next Wednesday’s Waipukurau jumpouts.
“I enjoy the training side of it but there is no money in it,” Hercock said.
“The only ones making money are the jockeys which is part of the reason I decided to make a comeback. There also appears to be a shortage of senior riders in the Central Districts area.
“I just want to get out there and ride and I probably should have made the decision to come back a few years ago.
“My weight is really good. I can ride 53 kilograms easily and that’s as light as I want to be.”
Hastings-born Hercock was based in the Waikato for most of her initial riding career, amassing 237 New Zealand wins in the eight years between 2002 and 2010. She then had a two year stint in Macau where she racked up a further 20 wins but also broke both arms in a nasty race fall there which led to her giving up race-riding.
She has four black type victories to her credit, the biggest being the 2009 Listed $100,000 Opunake Cup at New Plymouth aboard Pindy. She also won three Listed sprint races on the speedster Richard Beymer.
Hercock is now looking forward to competing at today’s Manawatu premier meeting at Awapuni where she is booked to ride the Hastings-trained Peso in the Group 3 Awapuni Gold Cup and the Waipukurau-trained Yossarian in race four.
Hastings filly shows touch of class
Hastings-trained Wicket Maiden went some way to fulfilling her early promise with a strong winning performance in a Rating 65 race at Tauherenikau last Sunday.
The Power three-year-old filly, trained by John Bary, looked a star in the making when winning two of her first three two-year-old starts at the beginning of last year and was being touted as a good chance for the Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) that autumn.
However that race never happened as Covid-19 forced a closure of New Zealand racing from March last year until late July.
Wicket Maiden didn’t race again until she stepped out in the Group 3 Hawke’s Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings in September, where she finished seventh of 11.
She was then unplaced in a further three starts in the spring and summer and was again turned out for a spell.
Last Sunday’s race was the filly’s first start back and she was sent out favourite for the 1000m event.
Rider Leah Hemi jumped her away well from an inside barrier and quickly secured a trail behind the pacemaking Miss Sweet Pee. She moved up to join the leader coming to the home turn and showed good acceleration to kick clear over the final stages to win by three-quarters of a length.
“She has always been a beautiful looking filly but just lacked a bit of strength as an early three-year-old,” John Bary’s racing manager Mike Sanders said this week.
“She has strengthened up a fair bit now and it was a good win.”
Wicket Maiden is bred to be good as she is out of the Fast ‘N’ Famous mare Scarlet O’Hara, who was the winner of six races.
She was bred by Havelock North property developer Jonathan Wallace who races the filly in partnership with Palmerston North’s Gerard Gillespie.
Sanders said Wicket Maiden will now be aimed at the Group 3 $70,000 Cambridge Breeders Stakes (1200m) at Te Rapa on May 1 and she will probably have another race before then.
Hastings-trained Wicket Maiden and jockey Leah Hemi cross the line convincing winners in a Rating 65 race over 1000m at Tauherenikau last Sunday.
Lowry wins as an owner in Aussie
Hastings thoroughbred trainer Guy Lowry celebrated success as an owner last week when Waihaha Falls made an impressive winning debut on the Randwick Kensington track in Sydney.
Lowry races the three-year-old gelding in partnership with Gary and Mark Chittick of Waikato Stud and he is trained in Sydney by John O’Shea.
Lowry and his training partner Grant Cullen initially prepared Waihaha Falls from their Hastings base and the horse showed tremendous potential when easily winning a 1000m trial by a length at Foxton in October last year.
It was then decided to send the horse across the Tasman, where the lucrative prizemoney was an obvious attraction.
After initial travel delays Waihaha Falls entered O’Shea’s stable in February and finished third in a 1000m Hawkesbury trial on February 26.
There was an air of confidence he would perform well on debut in the $A50,000 maiden race but that was dampened a little when the Kensington track was rated a heavy-8 and Waihaha Falls drew an inside barrier.
“They said that when the Kensington track gets heavy they don’t usually win from inside draws so we weren’t that confident,” Lowry said this week.
English jockey Tom Marquand was aboard Waihaha Falls, settling the horse third in the running and holding him up until well into the straight before asking him to quicken. The horse showed a good turn of foot in the final stages to get up and win by half a length.
Waihaha Falls is by the ill-fated stallion Sacred Falls, who stood at Waikato Stud until his untimely death in 2019. He is out of the Scaredee Cat mare Mink, who won a maiden race at Gisborne in 2012 when trained by Lowry and Cullen and then went on to win two more races in Australia.
Melody Belle steps up in distance
Champion racemare Melody Belle steps up to 2400m for the first time when she takes on several of Australasia’s star weight-for-age performers in today’s Group 1 $A1.5million Tancred Stakes at Rosehill in Sydney.
The Jamie Richards-trained six-year-old was flown to Australia last Monday following a pleasing exhibition gallop between races at last Saturday’s Tauranga meeting.
With Opie Bosson aboard, Melody Belle worked over 1400m in what was a good solid hit-out.
“She was nice and relaxed,” said Bosson on dismounting.
“She’s been a wonderful mare. She knows how good she is and her work was excellent.”
Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters own a 10 per cent share in Melody Belle and are the biggest shareholders in the Fortuna Melody Belle Syndicate that races the mare. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions, they were unable to travel across the Tasman to watch their pride and joy compete again.
Ex-pat New Zealand jockey James McDonald has been booked to ride Melody Belle in today’s race with Covid-19 restrictions also preventing Bosson from making the trip.
Providing she comes through today’s race well Melody Belle will then contest the $A4million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on April 17, where she is expected to come up against Verry Elleegant and Addeybb who were the first two home in last Saturday’s Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.
Melody Belle is then likely to make her racing swansong over the Queensland winter carnival, where races like the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at the Gold Coast on May 8 and the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) on May 22 have been pencilled in for her.
This will be her last year of racing with plans to sell her as a broodmare after the Queensland campaign.
Melody Belle has drawn one from the outside at barrier 13 for today’s Tancred Stakes and is one of two New Zealand-trained horses in the race. The other is the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman trained The Chosen One, who will jump from the extreme outside barrier.
Safely through today’s race, The Chosen One will tackle the Group 1 $A2million Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick on April 17, a race he was a narrowly beaten second in last year.