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The pinnacle of the Hawke's Bay Triple Crown, the $300,000 Group 1 NewZealand Bloodstock Insurance Spring Classic (2040m), is set to be run at Hastings this Saturday.
As the new sponsor steps up to the plate, The Group 1 Spring Classic, formally known as The Kelt, is the latest race to join New Zealand Bloodstock Insurance's prolific sponsorship portfolio.
Boasting an honours roll that includes the likes of recent winners Wall Street, Vosne Romanee, Princess Coup, Legs, Xcellent and Balmuse, theSpring Classic has built a reputation as one of the best weight-for-age races in New Zealand.
Heading the field for 2011 is the $1.60 favourite, the local hero Jimmy Choux (NZ) (Thorn Park x Cierzo) with only 57.5 kilograms. He and Karaka graduate Mufhasa have been the star performers of the Hawke's Bay Triple Crown this year with the pair providing the quinella in both lead up races, the Group 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes (1400m) and the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m).
Trainer John Bary had originally planned to miss the Spring Classic with Jimmy Choux in favour of getting the Rosehill Guineas winner to Melbourne well in advance of the Cox Plate, where he is the clear $7 favourite. However, with Bary reporting that the four-year-old was jumping out of his skin just days after winning the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate, he is now set to contest the feature on Saturday. The four-year-old has drawn the ideal barrier of two with regular jockey Jonathan Riddell aboard.
Last year's Spring Classic winner, the Karaka graduate Wall Street (NZ) The Jeff Lynds trained Karaka graduate Booming (NZ) (Don Eduardo x Beautiful Sea) put in one of the runs of the race in the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate, coming from the back of the field and finishing well for fifth. A dual Group 1 winner last season, he won the Group 1 Zabeel Classic over 2000 metres before showing the brilliance to come back to the 1600 metres to win the Group 1 Thorndon Mile.
A horse that ran second in the 2010 Group 1 Auckland Cup, Booming will enjoy the longer trip and will be one to watch as he holds nominations for the Group 1 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
The Terri Rae trained Hold it Harvey (NZ) (King Cugat x Daly Charm) will be looking to take the first Group 1 victory of the season for the Ready to Run Sale. A winner of 14 races, he took the Group 2 Awapuni Gold Cup over 2000 metres last season and ran a very good third behind Jimmy Choux and Mufhasa in the Windsor Park Plate. He has drawn the ace barrier and will be ridden by Jamie Bullard.
A horse that is no stranger to Group 1 racing, Karaka graduate Red Ruler (NZ) (Viking Ruler x Ransom Bay) has lined up in no less than 23 Group 1 races both in New Zealand and Australia for John Sargent. A horse that thoroughly deserved a Group 1 race to his name, he won the Group 1 International Stakes last season over 2000 metres. He makes his first appearance in the Triple Crown for the season and will jump from gate eight.
Sargent will also saddle up Dawn Ghost (NZ) (Pyrus x Lucadore) who ran second to Hold it Harvey in the Awapuni Gold Cup and third in her next start to fellow runner Don Domingo in the Group 3 Hawke's Bay Gold Cup last season. The six-year-old ran fifth to Back in Black in her last appearance.
The 2000 metre Open Handicap on the second day of the Triple Crown saw Spring Classic runners trifecta the race with the John Steffert trained Back in Black (NZ) (Storm Creek x Shutricia) put in a good winning performance, beating the Vanessa & Wayne Hillis trained Seaflyte (NZ) (Kilimanjaro x Grosvenor's Girl) and the Auckland Cup winner Titch (NZ) (Lord Ballina x Our Sophie) from Kevin Myers' yard.
With 27 wins between these three horses, they bring a good deal of experience into the race and should have little trouble running out the 2000 metre trip.
The Graham Richardson trained Don Domingo (NZ) (ex Blue Heaven) is another runner for the AJC Derby winning sire Don Eduardo. Already a winner on the Hastings track, he took the Group 3 Hawke's Bay Gold Cup in April last season and ran sixth to Back in Black at his last start.
El Santo (NZ) (My Halo x Huff Puff) put in a winning performance on Makfi Challenge Stakes day winning over 1600 metres in the $40,000 Open Handicap and will be looking to improve on his last start for trainer Sophie Hargreaves from the wide gate of 11.
The Tony Devcich trained New Moon (NZ) (Ishiguru x Light 'N Easy) ran a good second behind Jeu de Cartes at his last track appearance over 1600 metres and the Spring Classic will be his first race over a mile.
The $300,000 Group 1 New Zealand Bloodstock Insurance Spring Classic (2040m) will be held at Hastings with the gates opening at 4.46pm New Zealand time. To view the field online, click here