New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s endeavours to make the best of a difficult situation in the wake of Saturday’s Hastings abandonment have met with the approval of the majority but not all stakeholders.
The cancellation due to a water-logged track of the second day of the Hawke’s Bay Racing spring carnival has resulted in the Gr. 1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m) and Gr. 2 AHD Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) being rescheduled to next Saturday’s Team Wealleans Matamata Cup day.
The original Matamata programme remains unaltered, resulting in the unusual scenario of two black-type 1600m races as well as a feature three-year-old and a set-weight three-year-old, both at 1400m, being run on the same card.
Those in favour of the move are the obvious – northern region trainers and in particular those based in Matamata – whereas Hastings- based John Bary is of a quite opposite mind-set.
“It’s a logical option to ensure both races can go ahead in a sensible time-frame,” said premiership-leading trainer Mark Walker, who has revised plans with stable star Imperatriz and now plans to start her in the Arrowfield Stud Plate.
“With the forecast for Hastings early last week we decided to pull Imperatriz (I Am Invincible) out of the Arrowfield and head straight to Sydney, but the weather over there isn’t much better, so we’ve decided to wait back with the option to run on Saturday.
“We have a flight booking for her on Tuesday, but it’s more likely we’ll run her at Matamata, especially if we get a reasonable lead-in weather-wise and the track dries outs as we know it can at this time of year.”
Fresh nominations will be taken for the two rescheduled races, with the proviso that those entered for the original running will have preference.
Walker plans to also nominate Prise De Fer (NZ) (Savabeel) for the Arrowfield, while he also intends entering his original Guineas pair, Dynastic and Accidental Tourist, as well as recent maiden graduates such as Stella Splendida and Zantabulous.
His home-track team will also include, as originally planned, Matamata Cup entries Belle En Rouge, Markus Aurelius and Perfect Scenario.
Katrina Alexander, co-trainer of Saturday’s final field Arrowfield Stud Plate favourite La Crique (NZ) (Vadamos), is also comfortable at the prospect of lining up on her home track next Saturday.
“We had planned to go ahead and run her on Saturday but in the end the decision was taken out of our hands, which I guess we didn’t have a problem with,” she said.
“What she does next weekend will have some bearing on our next move, but we’re approaching any proposed Australian campaign with an open mind.
“It will be more a matter of taking the opportunity to get her over there and taking a look around, rather than setting her for any particular target.”
Graham Richardson and co-trainer Rogan Norvall will stick with their intention to run Tiptronic and Defibrillate in the Arrowfield as well as Channel Surfer in the Guineas, while Paisley Park and Red Hussar are their intended runners in the Matamata Cup (1600m).
“It is what it is, but I just wish they had split the Matamata and Hawera meetings across Saturday and Sunday to avoid the situation that has arisen where in our case, Lisa Allpress is committed to riding at Hawera,” Richardson said.
Hastings trainer John Bary was more pointed in his criticism of the revised schedule, particularly in relation to the Hawke’s Bay Guineas going to Matamata rather than being slotted into the Livamol Classic programme at Hastings on Saturday week.
“That’s my filly Best Seller getting shafted again,” said a clearly annoyed Bary.
“The same happened last year when we travelled all the way to Trentham for the Wakefield and the day was abandoned, then they canned a two-year-old race at Hastings on New Year’s Day and when we went all the way across to New Plymouth in February that day was canned as well.
“I’m going to sleep on whether she runs at Matamata, but if she does there’s no way she’ll be going back up to Te Rapa for the Soliloquy.
“As for Spring Tide, I’ll leave it to the owner to decide whether he goes up for the Arrowfield, but if he decides instead to send him to Australia, I wouldn’t blame him.”
In a release sent out early Sunday afternoon by NZTR Chief Operating Officer Darin Balcombe, it was conceded that the forced rescheduling would not meet with universal agreement.
“After consulting with the Pattern Committee and considering submissions made by Hawke’s Bay Racing to move the AHD Hawke’s Bay Guineas to Saturday 15 October, the decision was made to transfer the Arrowfield Stud Plate to Matamata this coming Saturday, to avoid the bulk of horses having to travel two weeks in a row,” Balcombe said.
“In our view, this would provide the best chance for horses not only in the Arrowfield Stud Plate but also those looking to back up into the Livamol Classic on October 15 at Hastings. The AHD Hawke’s Bay Guineas will also be run at Matamata on this day to give the three-year-olds the opportunity to head to Te Rapa for the Sarten Memorial on October 22 to continue their path towards the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai 50th NZ 2000 Guineas at Riccarton in early November. The current pressure on the pattern ratings of our three-year-old races was a key consideration in this decision.
“The option of splitting the Matamata and Egmont meetings over next weekend along with running both feature races at Hawera were also considered but were discounted due to logistics and travel. Whilst with any decision there will be differing views as to whether the correct course of action was taken, priority was given to keeping the status of the respective feature races and keeping pathways open for future targets.” NZTR has also announced that four Ratings band races and a set-weight three-year-old race at Matamata and Hawera would all have $10,000 added stakes, while a $30,000 MAAT race originally scheduled for Hastings on Saturday has been added to Thursday’s Waverley card.