‘The video quality is poor but it still captures the excitment of each race. Look for the video quality to improve as the season goes on, as trackside started recording races in HD’
It was a Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival many locals would describe as the best ever – brilliant weather, great fields, thrilling finishes and, last but certainly not least, a Hawke’s Bay hero right in the spotlight.
But Jimmy Choux had to settle for second in the first feature, the Makfi Challenge Stakes, behind a proven sprinting superstar. Mufhasa had already established himself as one of the greats of the last decade, but there were just a few things missing from his CV: a Hastings spring feature win, and an Australian win. He’d rectify both of those in the first few months of the 2011-12 season. Mufhasa ran a high-class Makfi field into the ground, scorching to victory in 1:23.12 on the Dead 5 track. In a sign of what was to come, Jimmy Choux powered home late to take second.
When the distance increased to 1600m for the Windsor Park Plate, Jimmy turned the tables on his Makfi conquerer. An explosive turn of foot inside the final 200m saw him sail past a brave Mufhasa and record his second major victory on his home track after his Group 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas triumph of the previous year.
Earlier in the day, Anabandana, the champion 2-year-old filly of the previous season who was an unstoppable force throughout the previous summer, made a spectacular winning start to her 3-year-old campaign in the Group 3 Gold Trail Stakes. Unfortunately the rest of her season never quite reached the heights we’d expected and hoped for – she was defeated by Antonio Lombardo at Te Rapa, then ran a good second against the boys in the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton before a couple of sub-par efforts in Australia and retirement. But this Gold Trail win was one last, great glimpse of Anabandana on top of her game.
The big one, the Spring Classic, was all about Jimmy Choux. It was hard to see him beaten after his powerful performance in the Windsor Park, and so it proved. In what would turn out to be his last victory – he was retired to stud after an unlucky Cox Plate second and a few disappointments later in the season – Jimmy Choux was a class above a high-quality 2000m field. Classy gallopers Red Ruler and Hold It Harvey looked second-rate as Jimmy ran away to a superb length-and-three-quarter victory. In what proved to be his last start on his home track, it was a very fond farewell.
The Group 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas, on the Spring Classic undercard, was taken out by possibly the most improved horse in New Zealand racing. Antonio Lombardo had been a very good 2-year-old, but he was just slightly below the very best. But in the spring of his 3-year-old season he went to another level. This outstanding Guineas win was the second of three stakes wins in a row for the Pins colt. His performances trailed off a little through the rest of the season, but if Antonio Lombardo comes to Hawke’s Bay this spring in the form he was in on this day, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the Makfi.