A $65,000 stake attracted a strong line-up for this year’s running of the Harcourts Taupo Cup (2000m) on Thursday and Hawke’s Bay trainer Patrick Campbell was delighted to take home the lion’s share of the purse courtesy of his evergreen galloper Hunta Pence.
The nine-year-old gelding was runner-up over 2100m at Awapuni earlier this month and Campbell was quietly optimistic of a bold showing from his charge on Thursday.
However, he didn’t have the best of starts in the Taupo feature after being slowly away from the gates, forcing jockey Lisa Allpress to have a change of tactics and settle towards the rear of the field.
He was in good company, with only Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) winner Sherwood Forest behind him, but Allpress continued to play the patient approach until race favourite Beauden took charge of the race at the 600m mark.
Allpress tacked onto the back of an improving Sherwood Forest and followed him into the race, reeling in the top weight at the 200m mark before Hunta Pence was able to get the better of Lincoln King to win by three-quarters of a length, with a further 1-3/4 length back to Sherwood Forest in third.
“I am tickled pink,” a jubilant Campbell said.
“I was pretty optimistic. I think what helped him is the firmer track doesn’t hinder him too much because he is a lightly framed horse.
“We were expecting him to be a little bit handier, but through circumstance he got pushed back.
“He was beautifully handled and kept his balance and got into a rhythm when he was back in the field, which made a big difference.
“He followed the right horse into the race in Sherwood Forest.
“Everything went according to plan after missing the start, which he has been doing.
Campbell was also pleased about the level of prizemoney on offer at the summer meeting.
“It’s fabulous, it is the richest country cup in the country,” he said.
“It was a very good field for a lesser race, especially when you compare it to the City of Auckland Cup (Gr.3, 2400m) on Saturday.
“The stake attracted a few nice horses.”
A stakes assignment is now in the offing for the son of No Excuse Needed.
“There is a very suitable race on the first day at Wellington on the 15th (January), the Trentham Stakes (Gr.3, 2100m). He will come into a race like that very well.”
Meanwhile, Campbell is looking forward to his home meeting at Hastings on Saturday where he will line-up Karehana Bay in the Racing Again 27 January 3YO (1200m) and Truly in the Racing This Time On Facebook Maiden (1200m).
“Both of them were very unlucky in their previous starts so I would expect both of them to race better tomorrow,” he said.