Former top jockey David Walsh returned to the venue where he holds the record for the most wins when he turned up on Lowland Stakes day at Hastings on Wednesday February 27.
Walsh, in his capacity as a licensing, training and welfare advisor for New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, made a fleeting visit to the Bay before being guest speaker at the Hawke’s Bay-Manawatu apprentice jockey school in Palmerston North the following day. He then attended the Manawatu race meeting at Awapuni on the Friday and the next morning he caught flights that saw him end up at the Otago Racing Club’s meeting at Wingatui.
“I knew I was coming up for the apprentice school at Palmerston North and I found out there were some cheap flights to Napier so I thought I’d take in the Hastings races as well,” a happy Walsh said when he turned up unexpected in the judge’s box at the Hastings racecourse.
“I haven’t been here for years and it’s great to be back.”
Without wanting to brag, Walsh let it slip that he was given the nickname as “King Of The Bay” when he was race-riding, alluding to the fact that he holds the record for the most wins on the Hastings track.
“Someone told me I held the record at Hastings but I wasn’t sure until recently,” Walsh added.
He said he competed on the Hastings track for well over 30 years, his 1412 race-rides there reaping 217 wins for a winning strike-rate of 6.5.
It was fitting that Walsh was on course to witness this year’s running of the Lowland Stakes as he won the race at Hastings in 2010 on Posavina and also took out the 2006 running on Molta, when it was staged on the Trentham track.
In typical Walsh-style, he dominated the race from the front on Posavina, setting and even pace to the turn before kicking his mount clear. Race favourite Keep The Peace, ridden by Jason Waddell, closed late but only got to within 1-1/4 lengths at the finish.
Walsh’s name is not on the list of Group 1 winners on the Hastings track but he did win the 1994 Kelt Capital Stakes (2040m), when it was rated a Group 2 event, and that led to both horse and rider recording a historic win in the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) in Melbourne three weeks later.
Walsh won the Hawke’s Bay Cup four times, aboard Marlon in 1986, Tawbeau (1994), Bel Air (2001) and Gordon’s 2002. He also won the 1990 Hawke’s Bay Guineas on Tripita.
The now 59-year-old Walsh retired from race-riding 2-1/2 years ago, going out on a winning note aboard Rapt N Red in a Rating 65 race over 2016m at Ashburton on July 30, 2016.
He is a member of the elite group of New Zealand jockeys who have ridden over 2000 winners, ending his career with a tally of 2260, including 156 Group & Listed race wins.