It has been a long time between celebration drinks for Waipukurau thoroughbred owner-trainer Steve Ellis so it was little wonder he was jumping for joy when King Of Rock was successful at Sunday's Hawke's Bay meeting.
Ellis had positioned himself against the outside fence, in line with the winning post, to watch his charge contest a $7000 Rating 65 2500m event and started yelling for him well before the field turned into the home straight.
When King Of Rock strode to the front in the final 300m Ellis became even more vocal and he was ecstatic and leaping about as the 4-year-old crossed the finish line a long neck in front of the opposition.
Ellis not only trains King Of Rock but also bred the Istidaad gelding and races him on his own. The horse was a maiden before Sunday and was thus racing out of its class. But he had finished second in a Rating 65 2100m at Hastings on New Year's Day.
Ellis, who is the technician for large animals at Vet Services in Waipukurau, has dabbled at horse training for years but had prepared only one previous winner and that was Pennies 'n Promises, who took out a 1600m maiden at Waipukurau inn March 2006. He was jumping for joy that day too.
King Of Rock is out of the Rhythm mare Zazu and a half-brother to the winners Mink and Bally Duff. Ellis has also bred a 2-year-old colt by Sir Percy out of Zazu but has since leased the mare for two years to Melbourne-based Brent Reeks.
Reeks, formerly from Hastings, is holidaying in New Zealand and was there to see King Of Rock win on Sunday. He said Zazu is now in foal to Redwood, a son of High Chaparral, who stands at Auckland's Westbury Stud.
Ellis has always had a high opinion of King Of Rock and is confident he will develop into a good stayer.
His next start is likely to be in a Rating 65 2300m at Trentham on Wellington Cup day, January 26.
Aiming for $1m
Star 2-year-old filly Ruud Awakening, part-owned by Hastings orchardist Reg White, is now the No1 qualifier for the $1 million Karaka Million (1200m) at Ellerslie on January 27 after another impressive winning performance last Saturday.
The Bernardini filly came home by a long neck in a 1200m race at the Auckland Racing Club's meeting but the margin flattered her rivals as jockey Jason Waddell had eased her up in the home straight.
Trained at Cambridge by Stephen Marsh, Ruud Awakening now heads the Karaka Million order of entry - based on prize money earned - with $50,050 in stakes and is the likely race favourite for the feature.
With three wins from just four career starts the 2-year-old had not been seen on the track since the Listed Murdoch Newell Stakes at Counties in late November, where she ran a good second to Bounding.
She had to lump topweight of 59kg on Saturday and was taken straight to the front from a wide gate.
She was cruising all the way and Waddell had several looks behind to check on his rivals before easing her down.
The filly seemed to switch off and he had to shake her up again in the last few strides to get her mind back on the job.
"It really was a great effort," Marsh said.
"She showed good early speed and in the straight Jason had three good looks over his shoulder.
"He probably eased her up a bit early but she was always in control.
"She has come through the race well and will drop 4.5kg for the Karaka Million.
"She is a very clean-winded filly who doesn't need a lot of work so we will give her a couple of gallops in the next two weeks before the big race.
"It would be great to win the $1 million race."
Ruud Awakening is the first horse White has raced and he is one of 10 people involved in the Go Racing Almighty Dawn Syndicate, which is managed by Albert Bosma.
Marsh and Bosma bought Ruud Awakening for $90,000 at last year's premier session at the Karaka yearling sales.
The filly is out of the Danehill mare Dawn Almighty, who was a winner over 1100 metres in Adelaide and is closely related to the dual Group 2 winner Ruud Van Slaats.
Hastings trainer Kelly Burne has experienced mixed results with her horses in the past week.
Burne is campaigning a team on the West Coast of the South Island and saddled up Quality Street for a record-breaking win at last Wednesday's Reefton meeting.
Closer to home she was also represented by Saint Kitt in the opening event at last Saturday's Marton meeting but the horse finished last and is now on the easy list after suffering an injury in the race.
Jockey Noel Harris said Saint Kitt whacked his side as he jumped out of the barrier in the 2100m special conditions race and failed to stretch out properly at any stage.
A post-race veterinary examination revealed a large hematoma on Saint Kitt's right hip.
Quality Street cleared maiden ranks in no uncertain terms in a 1020m dash around the Reefton track last week.
The Coats Choice mare was taken straight to the front by rider Lee Callaway and quickly opened up a sizeable break on the field, being out by 8 lengths at one stage.
She rounded the home turn still well clear and kept up a strong gallop to the line to score by three and a half lengths, clocking a track record time of 57.70s.
It was Quality Street's eighth start and she had previously recorded a second and two thirds.
The 4-year-old mare is raced by Burne in partnership with her Hawke's Bay breeder Don Gordon and Hastings businessman Bryan Hutchinson.
Lime Country Thoroughbreds, which has a draft of 16 horses entered for this month's Karaka yearling sales, will have most of them on display at its annual yearling parade.
Lime Country Thoroughbreds is run by Greg and Jo Griffin and operates from part of Okawa Stud, situated on the Hastings-Taihape road. Everyone is welcome to attend tomorrow's parade, which will begin at 11am.
Some of the yearlings on show include fillies by Zabeel and O'Reilly that are entered for the premier sale.
A colt and a filly by new sire Mastercraftsman are entered for the select sale, as are a colt and a filly by Time Thief, two colts by Red Giant and colts by Iffraaj and Road To Rock.