IN Racing
Hawkes Bay Racing Column - June 18
Big stakemoney increases for Hawke’s Bay spring features
John Jenkins | June 18, 2022
Darin Balcombe will be leaving Hawke’s Bay Racing.

Last week’s announcement by New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing that there will be a $7million injection into stakemoney next season means that all races at the premier three-day Colliers Spring Carnival in Hastings will have a significant stake increase.

NZTR has targeted 20 elite thoroughbred race days as a source of growth for turnover in the hopes that it will attract more horses and people to the sport.

Three of those elite days will be run on the Hastings track, on September 10, October 1 and October 15, with sizeable stake increases on all three.

A new minimum stake for a Group 1 race will now be $300,000 while Group 2 races run at a premier meeting will rise from $110,000 to $140,000: Group 3 races from $80,000 to $100,000 and Listed races from $60,000 to $80,000.

The minimum stake at iconic meetings next season will be $70,000, up from $50,000 and the minimum will rise from $40,000 to $50,000 at premier meetings.

There will be three Group 1 weight-for-age races run at this year’s Colliers Spring Carnival.

The first day will feature the Group 1 $300,000 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) which has had a stake increase of $80,000 on last year.

Two other black type races will be run on the first day, the Group 3 $100,000 HB/PB Thoroughbred Breeders Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) and the Listed $80,000 El Roca-Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m), both up by $20,000. The stakemoney for all other races on this day will be $50,000.

The Group 1 $300,000 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) will be the feature race on the second day and will also have a stake increase of $80,000 while on this day the Group 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) will be run for $140,000, up $30,000 from last year. All other races will carry a stake of $50,000.

The final day of the carnival will be an iconic race meeting with the feature race being the Group 1 $330,000 Livamol Classic (2040m). The stake for this race has also increased by $80,000.

The other black type race on the third day will be the Group 3 $100,000 Red Badge Spring Sprint (1400m), which is up $20,000 on last year. All other races will carry a stake of $70,000.

Besides the sizeable stakemoney increases at premier and iconic race meetings NZTR also announced that the minimum stake for any thoroughbred race next season will be increased from $12,000 to $14,000.

NZTR will also fund all licence renewal fees for industry participants for next season.


Balcombe leaving HB Racing

Hawke’s Bay Racing’s Chief Executive Officer Darin Balcombe will be resigning from that position in the new racing season to take up the role of Chief Operating Officer at New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing.

Balcombe has been CEO of Hawke’s Bay Racing for the past two and a half years, taking over from Andrew Castles.

He has filled several leadership positions within the racing industry, including as Chairman of the newly formed Central Districts Club Hub.

Prior to moving to Hawke’s Bay in 2019 he spent four years as a Stipendiary Steward with the RIU, the predecessor of the Racing Integrity Board. Before that he spent 15 years employed by the RACE group of clubs most recently as General Manager of Wellington & Otaki-Māori Racing Clubs.

NZTR chief executive officer Bruce Sharrock said Balcombe’s new role will be racing and infrastructure.

“Having been immersed in all aspects of the New Zealand racing industry for the past 20 years, Darin has developed a unique understanding of our industry,” Sharrock said.

“This coupled with his skills and experience I believe will enable Darin to transition successfully into this role.

“Darin is looking forward to being able to apply his wealth of industry knowledge and leadership experience and I am looking forward to the contribution he will make to our operation,” he added.

Balcombe’s remit will be strongly focused on Racing and Infrastructure where he will work closely with the National Racing Bureau, Education, and Welfare teams.

“I am looking forward to the opportunity to make positive change in the industry on a national level and driving improvements in the racing and infrastructure portfolio to maximise returns for all our participants,” Balcombe said.

He will move into the new role over the next few months as he supports Hawke’s Bay Racing Incorporated while they seek his replacement.


Aussie success for HB couple

Hastings couple Guy and Brigid Lowry celebrated an Australian success last Saturday when Waihaha Falls took out a $141,000 race over 1200m at Randwick, in Sydney.

The Lowrys bred the Sacred Falls gelding in partnership with Waikato Stud’s Mark Chittick and the trio race him from the Sydney stable of John O’Shea.

Waihaha Falls showed he is in for a lucrative campaign by producing a sizzling performance in his first start back after a five-month break.

The four-year-old jumped well from the barrier for apprentice Reece Jones to sit one off the fence in fourth spot.

Jones peeled his mount out three wide at the top of the straight and, after hitting the front 200 metres from home, Waihaha Falls cleared out to score by 3-1/4 lengths.

“We left him really fresh and we had been so happy with his two trials,” stable representative Tom Charlton said.

“We’ve taken our time with him and that was a pretty deep race and he was very impressive. It was really pleasing and a beautiful ride by Reece.”

Waihaha Falls has now won three of his eight starts and looks sure to improve on that record once he gets out over more ground.

He is a son of Think Mink, who was a winner in New Zealand from the Hastings stable of Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen before she was also transferred to John O’Shea’s stable and subsequently won twice more.

By Scaredee Cat, she is from the immediate family of the Listed WATC St Leger winner Crumpet O’Reilly, whose sister Zumanity finished runner-up in the Group 1 Queensland Oaks.

waihaha falls

Waihaha Falls and apprentice jockey Reece Jones are clear of their rivals  at the finish of a $141,000 race at Randwick last Saturday. The four-year-old is part-owned by Hastings trainer Guy Lowry and his wife Brigid.


Kiwis rejoice after Nature Strip’s win

The Group 1 $966,258 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) on the opening day of Royal Ascot on Tuesday was billed as a match-race between star Australian sprinter Nature Strip and American speedster Golden Pal.

But it turned into a one-act affair the minute the US raider fluffed the start, with Nature Strip cruising to a 4-1/2 length win, leaving little doubt as to who is the current world’s best sprinter.

Twilight Calls and Acklam Express filled the minor placings but were left in the wake of Nature Strip while Golden Pal trailed the field home.

Beaming with pride was trainer Chris Waller, who like Nature Strip’s jockey James McDonald, hails from humble beginnings in New Zealand.

A Trans-Tasman syndicate of owners in the eight-year-old gelding were also on track to savour the moment and a triumph for the Southern Hemisphere.

Amongst the owners in the champion sprinter are former All Black coach Sir Steve Hansen and fellow Kiwi owners and long-time friends Peter Kean and Paddy Harrison, who were on-course to cheer home their nine-time Group 1 winner who they race with a group of Aussie mates.

It was a second Royal Ascot winner or McDonald, who partnered Expert Eye to victory in the 2018 Group 3 Jersey Stakes (1400m). It was the first for Waller, whose only previous Royal Ascot runner was Brazen Beau, who finished a close second in the 2015 Group 1 Diamond Jubilee (1200m).

“It means a lot,” Waller said after the win. “We don’t get the opportunity very often to come here and take on the English, Irish, French, Americans and even Dubai and Hong Kong runners.

“To therefore bring a horse here and not only run, but win, is very special.”

McDonald was over the moon with his first elite-level victory at the Royal meeting.

“That was incredible. The team have done a marvellous job. I’m so lucky to be on Nature Strip. He is just a freak of a horse and has silenced a few critics with that performance, because it was scintillating,” McDonald said.


Calder’s lucky escape from fall

Hastings-born jockey Andrew Calder has been left battered and bruised after a nasty race fall at Ruakaka last Saturday but says he is lucky his injuries are not a lot worse.

The now Pukekohe-based 40-year-old was airlifted to Whangarei Hospital after he fell from first starter Lady Deb in the two-year-old race.

“I’ve got some stable fractures in my vertebrae, three of them and quite high up, and then I’ve got four broken ribs,” Calder said.

“It definitely could have been an awful lot worse. When I was knocked out, the horse was still on me and it could have been pretty bad all right.”

Fortunately Calder is unlikely to require any surgery for his injuries and has been able to walk freely again whilst in hospital.

“This spinal cord is intact, one of the fractures moved right around it but left it intact so in that sense I’ve been pretty lucky.”

The Group 1 winning jockey has yet to be given a definite timeline regarding his rehabilitation and allowing his future move to Australia.

“They want me to wear the halo neck brace for at least six weeks so at this stage I’ll just take it as it comes,” he said.

“We will be moving to Sydney at some point. My wife and I have sold our house and we will be going over for a lifestyle change.

“We haven’t really decided where in Sydney we’ll go, but I am hoping to ride around the provincials over there.”

Calder is married to former jockey Natasha, daughter of Pukekohe trainer Richard Collett and wife Judy.

Calder has ridden 23 winners this season, including the Group 2 Japan Trophy (1600m) aboard Gino Severini at Tauranga.

He has chalked up 862 winners in New Zealand and has also ridden with success in Macau and Singapore.  


Annual weanling walk

The Hawke’s Bay/Poverty Bay branch of New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders will stage its annual weanling walk on Sunday, July 3.

There will be 29 weanlings on show, represented by 16 individual stallions.

Two Hawke’s Bay-based stallions, Mongolian Falcon and Sneaking To Win, will also be on show.

The weanling walk will commence at 9am and there will be a luncheon at Off The Track Restaurant at the conclusion.

Times and venues for the day will be finalised next week.