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When it comes to popular local wins, it may seem strange that a Matamata-trained horse could receive such a rousing reception from many of the locals when winning at Rotorua's Arawa Park.

But that is exactly what happened on Saturday when Shahbab, trained at Matamata by Mike Moroney and Andrew Clarken, successfully managed the step up from Rating 80 to restricted open class when taking the Rotorua Hyundai Gold Cup in comfortable fashion.

The reason for Shahbab being such a crowd favourite is that she is raced by the Racing Rotorua Syndicate, which has a lease arrangement with the mare's Matamata breeders, Colin and Irene Thompson, who also share in racing the daughter of Bertolini.

The Racing Rotorua Syndicate includes the club's immediate past-president John Lloyd, current president Tony Spain, vice-president Owen Nickel and treasurer John Macmillan. And it was no surprise to see many of the group swamp the winner's enclosure when rider Craig Grylls returned to scale on Shahbab.

Winning a race on its home track is not a first for the Racing Rotorua Syndicate and Shahbab is making a habit of causing Rotorua celebrations. In fact all her four wins (from 14 starts) have come at Arawa Park.

"For some reason she loves this track," said Clarken after the race.

"It's great for the syndicate and it was a big step up for her today."

Shahbab had hinted she was on track for a big run last Saturday when finishing a creditable seventh fresh-up at Te Rapa on April 30 when ridden by the stable apprentice Harry Kasim, who was replaced last Saturday by stable jockey Craig Grylls.

Grylls has formed a very successful association with Shahbab, having been aboard her in each of her last two wins, plus several placings (Kasim rode her in her first two wins). One of those wins was last October and that was special for Grylls as it was his first success for the Clarken-Moroney partnership which was formed last year.Shahbab is a half-sister to Shariat's On Fire, a good winner from the Moroney stable, and though she still has a fair way to go to match her half-brother's deeds she is providing a lot of enjoyment for her owners.

In the Rotorua Hyundai Gold Cup she kicked on strongly to win by two lengths from Abbey Tralae. One Nite Stand was an improver's third, two lengths further afield, and the topweight San Bernardino finished fourth.


[17 May 11]

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