Day At The Track
Motukarara,Harness racing

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By Jonny Turner    Canterbury reinsman Robbie Close will be out to keep his winning form going at Motukarara on Sunday after notching a winning treble at Addington on Friday night. Close has seven drives at the Akaroa Trotting Club meeting that could add to his tally of 17 in the sulky, so far this season. The driver has racked up those victories at a strong strike rate and if he continues his form he will be on track for one of his best seasons of driving. “I’m pretty happy with the way things are going, I have got a good boss to work for in Regan Todd,” Close said.  “He puts a lot of trust in the way I drive, so I can’t complain.” Close notched wins 15, 16 and 17 for the season when scoring with Unico Veloce, Sam’s Town and Cheezel at Addington. Todd has had Cheezel in fine form since the mare joined his barn this season. The 5yr-old has not missed a top three placing for her new trainer and Close ensured she would get a cheque again when giving her a perfect run in the trail. “She had copped a little bit of luck in her last two starts, running on in quick last halfs [800m].” “But, sitting in the trail she did herself pretty well.” Close won out when a battle of tactics played out in Friday night’s Show Day Futurity Consolation. The race saw plenty of lead changes and mid race moves, which the driver largely kept Sam’s Town out of. Close elected to save ground on the home turn, which may have caused the horse’s backers a few nervous moments, before the Gavin Burgess trained pacer cleared out to win. “He is not a bad horse – as long as he gets the run to suit – then he is quite a nice horse.” “It was a bit of a cat and mouse affair, but with the way things worked out it suited him really well.” Close also found himself in a tight spot in the home turn behind Unico Veloce. Once the reinsman worked the Mark Fuller trained 3yr-old in to the clear in the straight he let down with a sharp finish to reel in the leader, Prospect Park. “Mark said he got lost a bit lost in front last time at Geraldine, so he said to drive him with one run if you can,” Close said. “He got a bit lost again on the last bend when a few of them got a bit tired, but he showed a really good turn of foot to win.” Close’s best drives appear to be saved until last at Motukarara on Sunday. He combines with impressive first up winner Elo Louise in the last of 11 races. The 3yr-old produced a powerful finish to win on the track earlier this month and will attempt to do it again against a tougher field when starting from barrier 14 on Sunday. “She has just got a bad draw, she is not a bad wee filly, but that is going to make it harder.” “It’s a step up in grade, but with one run she can finish over top of them.” Close also drives consistent trotter Cabella Noir in race 10. The 6yr-old will be out to go one better than her last start second to BK Dawn at Methven, earlier this month. “She is a horse that if she hits the front too early she knocks off, she has only got a short wee sprint.” “If she gets the right run with a sit, she won’t be far away.” Close will also drive Goodthingstaketime in race 3 following his good last start third at Oamaru. “He has drawn handy and been racing well without much luck.” Close also drives Black Jacket in race 2, Smooth Debate in race 5, Nui Ba Den in race 8 and Doitson in race 9. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Kirstin Barclay,Harness racing

Barclay and Ellis start strong team

By Jonny Turner    If the team from Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis’ stable go as well on the track at Winton on Sunday as U May Cullect has been going off the track, they will be in for a big day. The training partners will line up five strong chances on the Winton Harness Racing Club’s innovative programme, including former All Stars pacer Freddiesam. The former All Stars 3yr-old has been sent south in the hope he will find suitable races and break his maiden after being competitive in good fields in Canterbury, recently. “The owners just wanted find an easier spot for him,” Barclay said. “With his Canterbury form, you think he would be a good show.” Freddiesam headed south after producing a sound fourth behind the talented Navagio at Kaikoura last month. The pacer showed good gate speed to lead, which he gets to show off again from barrier 1 in Sunday’s 1609m event. The ace draw gives Freddiesam an edge over his stablemate, Cab Calloway, who is drawn out in barrier 5. “From the draw Freddiesam is just a little bit sharper at the moment, I would say,” Barclay said. Cab Calloway goes in to Sunday’s race after going sound races behind smart pacers, Cassius Bromac and Silent Major, in strong maiden fields. “He is actually a really nice horse, he is a good chance as well,” Barclay said. “He just lacks a little bit of top end speed, but he tries hard.” The Barclay-Ellis team start another talented maiden in race 8 in Watch Me Now. The 3yr-old finished off strongly, but a little roughly, behind Renegade Rose at Wyndham last month. “She is definitely a nice filly in the making – she is still a bit green and learning it all,” Barclay said. “But, she is not far away from putting her hand up.” Betterthenbrie represents Barclay and Ellis in race 6 — Sunday’s feature — the Equine Stakes for mares. The 5yr-old, who starts from barrier 2 on the second row, went a reasonable race when fighting on for a last-start fifth, after running in to smart types, Rockabilly Blues and Lawrence, in her previous two runs. “Its not a bad draw for her – she should lob a nice possie and she is always there abouts,” Barclay said. “She has been going some great races this season and popping up and running some nice placings.” Lite Percussion also ran in to Lawrence recently – in his last start at Ascot Park The 6yr-old drops significantly in class when he starts in race 3 on Sunday. “I thought he definitely had a good chance,” Barclay said. U May Cullect has continued to please his trainers during his rehabilitation from the tendon injury that ruled him out of the New Zealand Cup Carnival. Barclay and Ellis have been walking the southern sensation along Oreti Beach to help build up strength in his affected leg. “He is doing amazing – we are absolutley rapt with him,” Barclay said. “He is up to walking 20 minutes and his leg looks really good.” “He is going up to Dunedin for another scan after Christmas, but it is unbeleivable how good it looks.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Copy That,Harness racing

Copy That sets hearts fluttering

By Jonny Turner    Co-owner Meg Butterworth perfectly summed up the feelings of those watching Copy That’s win in the Alabar 3yr-old Classic at Alexandra Park on Saturday night when she said she “nearly died three times” during the heart-stopping event. The Ray Green trained pacer set the hearts fluttering among punters who backed him in to $2.10 win odds in the group 2 feature when galloping at the 1800m before again setting pulses racing in a nail-biting finish with runner-up One Change. His trainer, owner and backers admitted Copy That gave them a fright, but one man who remained unmoved by the 3yr-old’s antics was his driver. David Butcher was at his cool and calculating best when getting Copy That back down and pacing before after his gallop an then nursing him to the finish. Copy That looked more like a $50 shot when he flew out of his gear when Butcher handed the lead away the horse’s stablemate, Line Up, and driver Anthony Butt. Butcher said it was then that his horse, raced by Butterworth and her husband, Merv,  reverted to some old tricks.  “He used to do it as a young horse - what I am thinking is when Ants has come around he has relaxed and then he has just popped out a bit.” “It is a little habit that we thought that we got him out of, but he brought it back tonight.” Though he may not have shown it during the 2200m feature, Butcher said Copy That has been pacing better since running second behind One Change in the Sires Stakes Series Final. “He is a pretty nice horse, it has taken a little bit to get him there.” “Ray has done a few little things with his gait that have really helped, because he was really rough down in Christchurch.” “When he ran second he ran in on a couple of the corners, and he is actually a little bit better left handed.” Butcher did not look to panic when One Change surged at Copy That late in the home straight. The reinsman said Copy That was already doing his absolute best at in the final 100m. “When you’re running a 55sec half (800m) and a 27sec quarter (400m) and they have run 2.37 you can’t go much better.” “I am a great believer that most horses do try – some of them have had enough – but most of them will try.” Copy That officially stopped the clock in 2-37.3 for 2200m, running home in 55.9 (800m) and 27.5 (400m). The pacer will not clash with many of the rivals he beat on Saturday night in the next 3yr-old male pacing feature of the season - he is ineligible for the upcoming Yearling Sales Series Final. Green said he and the Butterworths would need to plan where Copy That will go next. The Victoria Derby at Melton is a possible target for the pacer.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Ultimate Sniper,Harness racing

Sniper overcomes odds for historic win

By Garrick Knight    Natalie Rasmussen cemented her place in the annals of harness racing history with a record-equaling Inter Dominion triumph at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. The expat Queenslander equaled the record for most driving wins when reining Ultimate Sniper to a typically courageous win in the $500,000 showpiece event. It’s unlikely any horse will ever supersede her former champion pacer, and four-time Inter Dominion winner, Blacks A Fake, but Ultimate Sniper, who she co-trains in Christchurch with Mark Purdon, will hold a special place in her heart. “It’s pretty up there,” she said post-race. “I’ve been lucky enough to drive so many great horses but this is really quite special tonight because I matched Brian (Hancock)’s record. “And for a four-year-old to do it the way he’s done it – he never had an easy run or anything but he made his own luck – I’m just absolutely rapt for the horse.” The win cemented Ultimate Sniper’s position as the country’s premier pacer, even allowing for the absence of his illustrious stablemates Turn It Up, Spankem and Self Assured. He was dominant throughout the series, going through the three heats last week without any luck whatsoever but still proving too good, and decisively so. His Grand Final run was comparatively easy – sitting parked outside the leader A G’s White Socks for the past mile – and he had too much in reserve down the straight. “I didn’t sort of bustle him too much early and I did all the work. “He just relaxed so well and he’s so kind and lovely. “Then, when I asked him, he just had that kick left. He was tired on the line but he never gave up.” For Ultimate Sniper’s co-owner, Phil Kennard, the win was a continuation of a brilliant recent run across Australasia’s Grand Circuit. Between all-conquering champion Lazarus, last season’s Horse of the Year, Spankem, and now Ultimate Sniper, he, wife Glenys and many of their close friends have been on the ride of a life time. But this last win very nearly didn’t happen. For two reasons. “The Thursday after the Trotting Cup last month, we were talking to Mark and Natalie about what we were going to do with him. “It was really a toss of the coin about whether he contested this series. “But Nat said I think we should give him his chance, and try and go easy on him in the heats. “Obviously her idea of easy and a Kiwi’s idea aren’t the same thing!” His New Zealand Cup campaign was aborted after a below-par effort in the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Labour Weekend, one Kennard calls an “aberration”. But he came out “after a four-day freshener” and blew his opponent of the track on the undercard. It was enough to convince Rasmussen. And for Kennard, there was a lot of hesitation about going to $85,000 to buy the colt at the 2017 Christchurch yearling sale, having bought and raced his illustrious but injury-plagued older brother, Ultimate Machete. “There was lots of doubt. I’ve never really gone for the full brother of one we’ve raced before. “But we kept going back to him. We liked him and knew he was a different type of horse to Machete. “We were looking for a reason not to buy him, but Mark and Nat went over him and the decision was made when we got outbid on another horse earlier in the sale. “Phil Creighton, who is in the horse, tried to talk us out of it, but eventually came back and said he was on board.” Two flip of the coin decisions, both went their way. The pay off? A champion confirmed and history made. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Harness racing super star Ultimate Sniper has completed a clean sweep of the 2019 Inter Dominion by winning tonights Gr1 $5000,000 IRT Pacing Grand Final at Alexandra Park. As he did in when winning all three of his heats the tough Bettor's Delight 4yo never saw the fence at any stage in the final but still had too much petrol for his opposition, racing clear in the straight and holding on grimly over the final stages to record a remarkable win. Driver Natalie Rasmussen never entertained the thought the final would be easy. "I sort of thought it might pan out like that. I didn't do too much early and then he did all the work but he relaxed so well," Natalie said after the race. "When I asked him, he just had that kick left. He was getting tired at the line but he never gave up," she said. Outsider Mach Shard rushed at Ultimate Sniper late and got within a neck of him at the post running second, and Thefixer ran home well from back in the field to grab a fast closing third. Ultimate Sniper paced the 2700m mobile in 3-14.7 a mile rate of 1-56.0. The last 800m was run in 55.2 seconds. Super sire Bettor's Delight had a night to remember winning three of the Group One races on offer, and All Stars Stables also had a terrific night winning seven of the eight races they contested.   Harnesslink Media

Harness racing master trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have grabbed another Gr1 title after Winterfell won the $150,000 HR Fisken & Sons 2019 Inter Dominion Trotting Final in a thrilling finish tonight at Alexandra Park. Driver Mark Purdon seized the initiative early in the race re-taking the lead from Majestic Man after that horse had crossed him out of the mobile at the beginning of the race. Despite being nursed around the final turn and being headed early in the run home Winterfell fought back like a top horse and stuck his head in front just before the line to get a deserved win. "I had to nurse him a bit around the final turn," Purdon said after the race. "Once he got around the final turn he trotted faultlessly. But he did have ground to make up again, because he had been headed at that stage by the horse on the outside of him"  "I was a bit concerned but he was very tenacious to the line," he said. Massive Metro was brave in defeat fighting on well for third after heading the favourite on the turn and Majestic Man got going late in the run home and dashed into second. Winterfell (5g Majestic Son - Una Bromac by Live Or Die) trotted the 2700m mobile in 3-21.6 a mile rate of 2-00.1. The last 800m was run in 58.2 and the final 400m was trotted in 28.9 seconds. Harnesslink Media

Training legend Barry Purdon may not win either Inter Dominion final at Alexandra Park tonight but his horses might hold the keys to who does. Purdon rivals his brother Mark for trainer of the carnival as he has three in tonight’s $500,000 pacing final and Marcoola in the $150,000 trotting group one. That is a fair leap from just a month ago when he didn’t even train Marcoola or dual series heat winner A G’s White Socks, while Mach Shard was jarred up after a New Zealand Cup shocker and his other pacing finalist On The Cards had just started his campaign with a third in a moderate race. So Purdon has taken two stable newcomers and two $150 chances and squeezed the absolute best out of them to give them a shot at the title. That, after all, is what horse training at its most basic level is all about. To turn that training genius into something a little more spendable Purdon’s trio in tonight’s $500,000 pacing final are going to need to be in the right place at the right time and for that A G’s White Socks, Mach Shard and On The Cards all have a very valuable weapon: gate speed. They are all on the front line surrounding hot favourite Ultimate Sniper and while anything could happen inside them it looks better than even money one of Barry’s horses will lead early. On The Cards, from barrier four, is the most likely to cross to the pegs but he could easily be joined by Mach Shard and/or A G’s White Socks if they can beat Ultimate Sniper off the gate. That is very possible as Natalie Rasmussen is often neutral for the first 400m of major races. The other side of that coin flip is Ultimate Sniper attaching itself to On The Cards, following it straight across and pretty much waltzing to the lead, which would give it the luxury of a $100 chance on his back and maybe seal the fate of Ultimate Sniper’s rivals. Purdon says his three are all well, have handled the rigours of the series and are ready to run up to the best form. “We know it is going to be hard to beat Ultimate Sniper, when horses start racing like he has during an Inter Dominion they tend to hold that form and I think he will too,” says Barry. “So maybe he will be too good but our horses should be up there and handy and that will give their drivers options.” If an A G’s White Socks or Mach Shard is given free rein to charge forward and can cross Ultimate Sniper then they get their chance to lead and almost certainly trail after so any one of Purdon’s three could sneak into a quinella or trifecta spot. But while it is hard for the master trainer to be too confident of beating Ultimate Sniper, he is more upbeat about an upset in the trotting final. Marcoola was always likely to be a better horse for tonight than in the heats, with the week off a chance for him to put on weight and Purdon to train him, rather than just look after him. He has worked well this week and after driver Sheree Tomlinson impressed Purdon with her patient handling of Marcoola in his heats, the boss is happy for her to power up the big boy tonight. “I will tell Sheree I am happy for her to drive him forward if he feels like that,” says Purdon. “He is fit and ready and we realise if we let Winterfell get his way in front then he might get it too easy so we will probably be rolling forward. “I couldn’t be happier with him and with a horse like Majestic Man fast off the gate too there could be some pressure early.” Purdon has trained 31 winners in just 101 starts this season, giving him a higher strike rate than even the All Stars, and should snare another group one before the Interdom Finals are even run tonight. He has speed freak mare Belle Of Montana headlining a four-pronged attack on the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts and even though she has drawn the second line it shouldn’t matter. Belle Of Montana is so fast she almost certainly would have made the pacing final had she contested the Interdom series and she is racing horses tonight who wouldn’t have. She sat parked to beat most of them last Friday and Purdon says she will be fitter tonight. “She will definitely come on from last week and while she has the second line she is the only horse starting there so Zac (Butcher) has options. And she is probably good enough she could parked and win if she had to.”   Where: Alexandra Park When: Saturday night, first race 5.45pm What: $500,000 Interdom Pacing Final, $150,000 Interdom Trotting Final, $100,000 Queen Of Hearts, $100,000 Peter Breckon Memorial, $50,000 Alabar Classic, $40,000 Lincoln Farms Classic. Support card: Oscar Bonavena, Enhance Your Calm and Tickle Me Pink in the free-for-all trot, Miracle Mile favourite Self Assured in race nine. The Punt: Tote and Fixed all races, $10,000 included in First4 pools for Interdom Finals, head to head markets and special bet options, all at tab.co.nz Watch: Live on Trackside 2 (Sky 63) from 5.14pm including live interviews with drivers in pre-race warm ups. On track: Free admission, dining packages sold out but Macs Bar (Party Zone) open on the infield as well as seating still available in stand, Lyell Creek and Alex Park. After party after racing programme finishes.   by Michael Guerin

Race 6, 8.19pm: $150,000 HR Fisken And Son Inter Dominion Trot Final, 2700m mobile: If he races up to last Friday’s national record performance then this looks Winterfell’s  (2) race to lose. After a mainly disappointing year since a superstar three-year-old season he has bounced right back during this series and has looked safer with every start. If, and it is still a very small if, he behaves he should get the lead and can trot a sub 3:20 time for 2700m. That will take an awful lot of beating. Majestic Man (4) is the obvious danger. He has been wonderful all series and could cross to the lead, trail and await the passing lane. The mid-race pressure could determine his chances but is a winning threat.  Most on the second line have been good to very good during this series so the runs they get probably decided who gets closest out of Temporale (9), Paramount King (12), Massive Metro (13) and Tough Monarch (11). Temporale looks the best place chance of those taking the short way home but Paramount King has been the big mover so it wouldn’t surprise to see him fly home. That, of the winning chances, leaves Marcoola (8) who has been driven cold all series and has been good but not his startling best. Don’t be surprised to see him do something incredible tonight. Selections: Winterfell, Majestic Man, Temporale, Marcoola. Suggested bet: The $1.90 for Winterfell looks fairer by the day while Temporale a place is tempting as he should sit four fence and the TAB pay back to fourth fixed odds.   RACE 8, 9.35pm: $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final, 2700m mobile: Sometimes when a horse is $1.45 you go looking for value to beat it, but really, what is the point? Ultimate Sniper (5) should win. He has been three wide for at least a lap of every race during the series and savaged the line. He might be turning into a great horse and hard to imagine any of his rivals parking him should be look for the lead. From there only a drop in his performance level or a lack of concentration can beat him. If a favourite is expected to lead and dominate you want to be on those in his slipstream and that looks a race between stablemates On The Cards (4), Mach Shard (6) and A G’s White Socks (7). The latter is the better performed of the trio and if was able to work across to the markers that would make him a huge quinella chance to cap his comeback series. Cruz Bromac (11) has been brave in a stellar last month and as the NZ Cup winner should beat most of these but faces sitting parked or one-one last lap. His best chance is if they burn early.  Thefixer (13) is in a similar position but probably not racing as well and Chase Auckland (9) will probably jump on the three wide train with his stablemates at some stage so who beats who home out of them could depend on how those cards are shuffled. Of the bolters few can win but My Kiwi Mate (1), On The Cards (4), who might be the best chance of leading early and Mach Shard (6) could all sneak some stake money and make your First4 juicier. Selections: Ultimate Sniper, A G’s White Socks, Cruz Bromac, Thefixer. Suggested bets: Ultimate Sniper should win so if you betting big take the shorts. But the best value might actually On The Cards at $8 a place at with the TAB paying back to fourth on fixed.   INTERDOM NIGHT SUPORT CARD MADE EASY R1, 5.45pm:  Three-year-olds coming out of stronger races should dominate but Down To The Bone (3) is better odds than Dina Bolt (4) so worth an each way play. R2, 6.15pm: Copy That (2) beat all of these last week after he got the lead and if he does so again should double up. The trick is Flying Even Bettor (1) drawn the ace but that still give Copy That the trailing option. So he has two shots at repeating with your biggest concern being Flying Even Bettor holding the lead until Copy That trails and THEN handing up. But David Butcher might be too smart for that. R3, 6.45pm: Oscar Bonavena (9) is the real deal and has won right-handed. Should win although Enhance Your Calm (4) was a close second to him at the workouts two weeks ago and Tickle Me Pink (3) is a class mare. Three very good four-year-olds who should be too fast for the Interdom left overs. R4, 7.15pm: Amazing Dream (5) sat parked and was a huge third last week but tonight gets a far better draw and should get the lead off Need You Now (4), who was very good beating her last Friday. They look a certain quinella with Spellbound drawn the second line. R5, 7.46pm: On a night when not many winners will come from the second line Belle Of Montana (9) should be the exception. Looks the best pacing mare in Australasia and should be able to sit parked if she has to and still win. Multi anchor. R7, 8.56pm: The Interdom Consolation and Another Masterpiece (3) looks beautifully placed from the draw after a luckless series. He is no superstar but finds himself in the right race, albeit at shorter odds than you really want. Solid Gold (4) is a chance to lead and get the trail so looks a great place bet while if there is tempo Colt Thirty One (11) and Classie Brigade (12) come into play while Our Uncle Sam (6) is the blow out. R9, 10.05pm: Self Assured (8) might be as good as the best Interdom horses so even from his draw should win as he heads toward the Auckland Cup. Bettorstartdreaming, Ball Of Art, Mr Kiwi and Double Rocket your best trifecta includes. R10, 10.33pm: The mobile start helps Havehorsewilltravel (3) and on his best behaviour could take some catching. Puma Road (7) is racing at his peak and Ace Commander (6) can be one paced but small field helps. Resonate (9) has the talent to win but if you considering backing him wait until as late as you can before the race because last Friday he got terribly stirred and was no chance by start time.   Michael Guerin

New Zealander Sarah O'Reilly emerged victorious in the 2019 Hanley Formula Australasian Young Drivers Championship after the final heat was run and won at Alexandra Park on Friday night. It was a combination of relief and excitement for Sarah following the race, ''I was relieved that I crossed the finish line in the last race because I knew I had won the series. I just wanted to drive the best I could in the series and get one winner and have fun.'' O'Reilly led the series by eleven points over NSW representative Cameron Hart leading into the tenth and final heat and only a win or second from Hart would have caused an upset victory. It was not to be for Hart with his drive Johnny Mac finishing 6th, one position behind O'Reilly's drive, M T Pockets. The race was won in great fashion by The Paua Diver for Sheree Tomlinson for trainers Josh and John Dickie over Dina Brown for South Australian, Brodie Webster and Pekeson for the Tasmanian representative, Conor Crook. Sarah's victory in the 2019 AYDC was a result of brilliant and consistent driving for the entire series. Her two wins and four second placings from her ten drives earned her a total of 101 points, 12 points in front of Cameron Hart who won three races, and third was kiwi Sheree Tomlinson who finished with 68 points.   Final 2019 AYDC Points Score:   Sarah O’Reilly (NZ) 101 Cam Hart (NSW) 89 Sheree Tomlinson (NZ) 68 Corey Peterson (WA) 65 Matt Elkins (QLD) 64 John Morrison (SI, NZ) 60 Benjamin Butcher (NI, NZ) 57 Brodie Webster (SA) 49 Zac Phillips (VIC) 46 Conor Crook (TAS) 42     Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

By Garrick Knight    It’s been a whirlwind six months for New Zealand’s most promising junior driver, Sarah O’Reilly. After a thrilling week of competition against the best of her peers from here and in Australia, she was crowned Australasian Junior Driving Champion at Alexandra Park in Auckland on Friday. It comes just five months after she secured the New Zealand title at Addington during the winter. The attention and fanfare that comes with such accomplishments has proved daunting for the quietly-spoken teenager from Rakaia. And it’s fair to say having a virtually unassailable lead for the past 24 hours weighed heavily on her shoulders. “I woke up a couple of times last night because I was so nervous,” she said. “But I was trying not to overthink it. They told me last night what I said to do in the last race to stay in front so I was just focused on that.” After reining M T Pockets in to fifth place – enough to secure the title – she finally let herself enjoy the moment, joined by her horseman father, Gerard, and mum, Jane. “It’s pretty amazing, I can’t believe it. I didn’t expect any of this. “I was just happy to drive 20 winners last season.” Gerard taught her everything she knows, she reckons, but she made special mention of another lady driver who has become a mentor and role model for her. “Sam Ottley has been really good to me. She’s been there for me since my very first workout drive.” With the two big goals already ticked off her ‘to-do’ list, O’Reilly has a rather modest target moving forward. “I just want to keep going the way I am, keep driving winners and, hopefully, beat last season’s total.” One thing’s for sure – she’s a lifer in the game.  “I just want to keep driving as much as I can for the rest of my life.” Sydney’s Cam Hart finished second after a very hot and cold series where he drove the first three winners only to have his next two drives pulled up without taking any serious part. O’Reilly’s fellow Cantabrian, Sheree Tomlinson, who won the final heat with The Paua Diver, rounded out the podium finishers, unable to defend the title she won 12 months ago. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Inter Dominion runners Solid Gold and The Devils Own have been sold and will do their future harness racing in North America according to John Curtin of JC International Bloodstock. Solid Gold and The Devils Own were both to race in the $40,000 Lincoln Farms IDOM Classic on Saturday after failing to qualify for the ID19 Grand Final to be run on the same night, but have been scratched from that race. "The Devils Own has already left the Country and is on his way to Kelvin Harrison's barn in New Jersey," Curtin said. Solid Gold could not make the flight but will be on his way to Jim King's barn (Trainer of 2019 possible "Horse Of The Year" Shartin N and winner of over $2 million) in Delaware next month. In the mean time Solid Gold will have a short break from racing to recover from his four runs over the last two weeks. “Solid Gold with his gate speed and ability to run good sectionals in front will do a great job over there as will The Devils Own. “The mile racing will suit them both," he said. Also on the plane just gone and also going to Kelvin Harrison's barn is smart young pacer Claytons Bettor who has struck form in the past month winning a double at Manawatu before upsetting a good field at Cambridge last week. The four-year-old son of Betterthancheddar raced in New Zealand out of the Phil Fleming barn and is out of Live Or Die mare River Liffey, a daughter of another of the Fleming family's horses, three race winner Isle Of Inishfree Harnesslink Media

Plenty of people will tell you they feel lucky just to involved in a group one race. Tony Cameron, the super sub driver for Saturday’s $150,000 Interdom Trot Final, doesn’t just feel lucky. He feels blessed. Cameron was looking forward to heading to Alexandra Park to work and watch until trainer Phil Williamson tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he could partner Monty Python. The Oamaru trotter sneaks into the Final after Habibi Inta and Bonnie Highlander were both scratched with injuries on Friday, Bonnie Highlander’s suspensory tear sending her to the broodmare paddock. For 32-year-old Cameron it is the pinnacle his career but the reality is for him every day is a second chance. A decade ago the personable young horseman was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma after a tumour was found in his chest. Nine months of chemotherapy and a month of radiation treatment followed. “It was a pretty tough time but I got my five years clearance a long time ago now and am still in remission,” says Cameron. After his fight with the demon Cameron joined champion driver Tony Herlihy and with the boss’s support he has grown in confidence and now looks at home in the big time of Alexandra Park racing. “But this is still a big deal for me, you never think you will pick up a driver in an Inter Dominion Final, especially the day before the race. “So I am going to enjoy it. Go out there and hope they go hard and give him his chance.” Monty Python probably won’t win. Cameron already has.   Michael Guerin

Breeding authority Peter Wharton presents all the harness racing news on breeding from Australia, New Zealand and North America every Friday brought to you by Garrard’s Horse & Hound.   Half-brothers win at Cambridge   It was no mean feat for the half-brothers The Lone Ranger and Cruzee Mach to win consecutive races at Cambridge Raceway last week.   The Lone Ranger, a six-year-old gelding by Sportswriter, won for the fifth time, while Cruzee Mach, a three-year-old Mach Three gelding, notched his maiden success.   Cruzee Lass, the dam of The Lone Ranger and Cruzee Mach, was a smart racemare in her own right, winning nine races, earning $99,544 and taking a mile record of 1:58.4. At the stud she has left eight individual winners – six inside 2:00 – from nine foals of racing age including Rocknroll Princess 1:54.6 ($94,153), Sweet Art (1:56.6) and Ace Strike, who won at Manawatu last Tuesday in 1:57.8.   By Christian Cullen, Cruzee Lass was out of the Holmes Hanover mare Shivna (1:57.2), the winning dam of the exported Freespin 1:52.2 ($253,744) and the Gloucester Park winner Cruzee Princess (1:57.4).   Shivna, who won the Great Northern Breeders Stakes at Auckland, was a half-sister to five winners including the Hannon Memorial winner Derby (1:58.1), being out of Anna Pavlova, by Armbro Del from the grand producing mare Coo Doo.   Other members of this family have been the NZ Derby winner Captain Peacock, Life Of Luxury (1:51), a Stakes winner in America, Extender (1:49.2), Moscow (Bunbury Cup), Elegant Christian (WA Western Gateway) and Shoobee Doo (NSW Tatlow).   The Lone Ranger winning at Cambridge     Inter Dominion lineups   Bettor’s Delight will be represented by five runners in the 12-horse field for next Saturday’s $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Championship Grand Final.   The quintet are Ultimate Sniper, Thefixer, Ashley Locaz, On The Cards and My Kiwi Mate.   Mach Three is the only other sire with multiple representation – Mach Shard and San Carlo.   Five other stallions have a single runner.   In the trotters’ section, Majestic Son has three runners including the two leading pointscorers, Winterfell and Majestic Man. His third rep is Valloria.   Monarchy, Love You, The Pres and Muscle Mass all have two finalists, while Sundon has a single entrant, Marcoola.       Treble for Woodlands Stud   Woodlands Stud bred the first three winners on the third night of the Auckland Inter Dominion carnival in Some Do (Bettor’s Delight-Dream Offer) and the three-year-olds Need You Know (Bettor’s Delight-Lady Antebellum) and Copy That (American Ideal-Lively Nights).   Some Do winning at Alexandra Park     Country Cups King   A double winner on the Victorian Country Cups circuit this season is the Ballarat pacer Phoenix Prince, who is expected to be Grand Circuit material.   Only a six-year-old, he showed up last season as a five-year-old above average when he won twice in Free-for-all company at Melton.   Phoenix Prince                                                          photo by Stuart McCormick   Phoenix Prince is by a champion American pacer in Somebeachsomewhere from Classic Cathy, by Classic Garry from the broodmare gem Sans Pareil. This is the family that left a grand juvenile in Part Of Glory, a cups class pacer in Swishinon and an Oaks winning filly in Doug’s Courage.   The 10th foal and sixth winner of his dam, Phoenix Prince was bred by Bacchus Marsh enthusiasts Shannon and Meaghan Nixon, who part-own him.     Gabbana the top banana!   Gotta Go Gabbana, a grand looking Gotta Go Cullect mare, is rated Western Australia’s top female pacer this season, particularly after her success in the Group 1 $125,000 Westral Mares Classic, one of the season’s major feature races.                                                                                         -- photo by Jodie Hallows   She has now won 13 races with 19 placings from 49 starts for $228,614 in stakes.   In the Mares Classic, Gotta Go Gabbana was never really extended in running out the 2536 metres in a 1:57.3 rate, the last 800 in 56.1 and the final 400 in 27.5 – figures which she could have sharply improved.   She is a six-year-old by Gotta Go Cullect, a top colt pacer in NZ by Christian Cullen out of Elect To Live, a champion filly who won 19 races – five at Group 1 level – and a record $535,800.   On her dam’s side, Gotta Go Gabanna has a good deal in her favour than most. She is out of Lady Gabbana (2:02), a WA Sires Stake 2YO Final placegetter, by Kinney Hanover from Whitby’s Beachbabe, by Beach Towel from Whitby Bay, by Tarport Adios from Appro Bay.   Gotta Go Gabbana is the best winner from this family in recent years but in an earlier decade it produced a top flight youngster in Henry Te Whitby, who won nine races.     Noted family of trotters   Maorishadow, who has won four races this season including two at Melton, was bred in Victoria and is a member of Australia’s most successful family of trotters.   By Pegasus Spur, Maorishadow could well have distinguished herself as a pacer as her dam, Maoris Lass, was out of the Romeo Hanover mare Lauretta, who won as both a pacer and trotter.   Lauretta’s dam, Maori Mia, a daughter of leading pacing sire Kentucky, left five winners including the Group 1 winning square-gaiters Maori’s Glory ($109,366) and Maori Demon, and was the ancestress of top trotters Broke As Usual, Kyvalley Kyrie, Master Maori, Vincennes, Kinvara Sue and others.   Maori Mia, who was only lightly raced, was out of Maori Miss, a dual-gaited mare who left eight individual winners including the legendary Maori’s Idol and was awarded Broodmare of the Year on three occasions.     Bettor’s Delight trifecta   The Group 3 Northern Breeders Stakes, run at Auckland, was a triumph for Bettor’s Delight as the sire of the first three placegetters, Belle Of Montana 1 st , Wainui Creek 2 nd and Bettor’s Heart 3 rd – rather a notable siring feat.     Bettor’s Delight was also the sire of the dam of the fourth placegetter, Havtime.     Tiffany Rose is classics material   The New Zealand bred filly Tiffany Rose is proving herself a smart three-year-old – she is unbeaten in four starts on Australian soil – and could develop into one of the best her age this season.   A filly by Somebeachsomewhere, Tiffany Rose ranks as a half-sister to a top flight pacer in Code Black 1:50.8 ($338,235), who ran a close third in the Cranbourne Cup last Saturday, the exported Lovin Miss Daisy 1:50.4 ($199,695) and Nakuru (1:55.2), a winner of three races in NZ to date.   Their dam, Christian Watch, who was only lightly raced, was by Falcon Seelster from the Christian Cullen mare Turkana 1:58.3 ($112,148), whose six successes included the 2004 Queensland Oaks and the Nevele R DB Filly Series. At the stud Turkana became the dam of four winners – three in 2:00 – headed up by the recent NSW provincial winner Dark Side 1:57.6 ($93,554).   Turkana was out of Kisumu, a NZ Sires Stakes 2YO champion by Nero’s B B from Kinshasha, by Armbro Del from Hindu Star, a daughter of the NZ Oaks winner Petro Star.   Bred by Graeme Iggo, Tiffany Rose looks a three-year-old with the potential one would expect of her breeding.     First winner for Franco Jamar   Franco Jamar, a well performed Courage Under Fire horse from a strong NZ family, and who is standing in Bridgetown (WA), was represented by his first winner in the three-year-old gelding Keptain Courageous.   The gelding had been placed in five of his previous eight starts. Franco Jamar has only eight foals of racing age.   Franco Jamar         -- James Jubb photo   Keptain Courageous is the fourth foal of his dam, Switch Me On (2:01.9), a Safely Kept half- sister to the prolific Gloucester Park winner Black As Knight (1:58).     Last foal of Our Sir Vancelot   The six-year-old Pensare Princess, who notched her second win at Wagga, is the last foal of the triple Inter Dominion champion Our Sir Vancelot.   The mare was bred and is raced by the Junee-based Allamby family who owned Our Sir Vancelot throughout his stellar racetrack career.   Pensare, the dam of Pensare Princess, is a granddaughter of champion racemare Sabilize, who twice won the NSW Ladyship Mile and was twice placed in the Miracle Mile.   Our Sir Vancelot, who died in 2017, sired 244 individual winners and almost $11 million inprogeny earnings.         By Peter Wharton

By Jonny Turner    The waiting is over at Addington on Friday night for punters who jotted down Sweet Mary’s name in their black-books following her impressive effort at the New Zealand Cup Carnival. Trainer Brad Mowbray has had the 5yr-old one ice since she scorched down the Addington track to run an eye-catching third to Wainui Creek in the Sires Stakes Southern Mares Classic. Sweet Mary was buried deep on the inner with no racing room, then was relegated to a clear last after the field turned for home, before she produced a booming finish to just be nosed out of second by Change Is Good. Mowbray was naturally delighted with the effort, but was also left wondering what might have been if his mare had been able to get in the clear sooner. “If she was a spot or two closer, she would have given Wainui Creek a shake,” the trainer said.  “And if she had come out a bit cleaner, that would have helped, because she just wanted to run down the track a bit.” “We would have loved to get first or second, but we were really happy with the way she went.” It will be one day short of a month since Sweet Mary produced her fast finishing effort when she again clashes with Change Is Good in a 1980m mares feature on Friday night. The gap between races has not been a case of Mowbray needing to freshen his pacer following her cup carnival tilt. The trainer has been waiting patiently for a suitable race for Sweet Mary and he thinks he has found the perfect fit. “We just look for the right races for her and this race suits her right down to the ground.” Mowbray has kept Sweet Mary’s fitness levels up by giving her a trial at Rangiora last week. Driver Matthew Williamson did not ask the mare for a serious effort, just letting her sprint home from last in the straight. “I gave her a quiet trial last week, just to keep her ticking over, so she should be where she needs to be for this race,” Mowbray said. Change Is Good followed up her second to Wainui Creek by winning the Timaru Cup when leading all of the way for trainer Mitchell Kerr and driver Matt Anderson. The 5yr-old has had Sweet Mary’s measure in their last two meetings after the pair finished first and second at Ashburton Flying Stakes day. Sweet Mary (7) has a slight draw advantage, starting one spot inside Change Is Good (8) on Friday night. Cheezel (2) looks the best of the runners drawn handily under the preferential barrier draw. The Regan Todd trained pacer reeled of a stunning 25.8sec last 400m when running second to Franco Niven at Addington last weekend. Kendra (6) looks the main threat to Sweet Mary and Change Is Good. The Greg and Nina Hope trained 4yr-old looked set to let down with a good finished when she was wiped out by the galloping Jazzy Star of the Pacers’ Green Mile at Methven last weekend. Jazzy Star will attempt to get back to the kind of brilliant form he was in before his mishap in Friday night’s feature 1980m pace for entires and geldings. The Brent White trained 5yr-old clashes with Green Mile fourth placegetter, Smokin By, and Mongolian Cavalry, who won the trial Sweet Mary competed in at Rangiora. Memphis Tennessee also starts in the race after producing a brilliant 25.9sec last 400m to run third behind Franco Niven and Cheezel at Addington last weekend. Trainer-driver Terry Chmiel said he expected further improvement from the 4yr-old after his good fresh up effort. “He is still on the way up and he should improve a bit more with this race.” “If things go to plan we will look at the Ashburton Cup and then maybe going down to Omakau for the cup down there.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    The first batch of race-ready juveniles will step out at Alexandra Park tonight in a $25,000 Young Guns heat. For Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon, it’s a chance to step out a colt they have very high hopes for as perhaps their next stable star. His name is Krug and at $155,000, he was the third highest-priced colt out of the Christchurch yearling sales earlier this year. Money well spent according to Purdon. “He’s probably right up there with some of the best two-year-olds that I’ve driven,” he declares. “He’s definitely got a lot of ability and this trip away is doing him the world of good. “A typical Bettor’s Delight; has got a great attitude and is very versatile.” After being unbeaten in two trials in his home province, Krug came north and immediately made an impression winning at Pukekohe on November 30, over most of the horses he meets tonight. But First Class, co-trained by Purdon’s father, Mark, turned the tables on Krug in a workout between races at Alexandra Park last Friday night, and that has him a little weary tonight. Especially with Krug drawn wide and First Class in the two-hole. “First Class looks the one to beat on what he showed last week. “Blair Orange drove our guy last week and was very happy with him; he didn’t ask him for too much and just came out at the top of the straight. “He got in a wee bit on the journey so we’ve put a rein pole on him tonight to help that.” Purdon just wants to see Krug do everything right and hit the line well tonight, to confirm that they are on track for richer upcoming assignments. “The main aim is for him just to do everything right. It would surprise me if he didn’t because he’s got great manners. “He’s grown a lot in the last six weeks and hasn’t copped a lot of hard work. “We’ve given him four or five days off here and there to manage him through it and he seems pretty bright at the moment. “He’s a horse that we think has a big future, but he’ll tell us how far he wants to go this season.” Also tonight, Dalgety and Purdon line up three-year-old trotting filly Chevron Action against the older horses over a mile. “She’s a lovely trotter and one that has really matured since she’s been up here. “I think she’s thriving on the trip but as far as the race tonight goes, she’s against the older ones and I wonder whether the mile might be the undoing of her.” The team has Gemma Mac and Dr Susan in the Group 1 Ladyship Stakes tomorrow night and Purdon says the latter is the stable’s better chance of running in the money. “She’s a lovely filly and is probably thriving fractionally more than Gemma Mac up here. “The other filly has squeezed up a bit, which isn’t uncommon in Art Majors, but just the way they’ve been going I think Dr Susan is our better hope. “Probably can’t beat Amazing Dream but wouldn’t surprise me if she ran in the money.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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by Jonny Turner    Canterbury reinsman Robbie Close will be out to keep his winning form going at Motukarara on Sunday after notching a winning treble at Addington on Friday night. Close has seven drives at the Akaroa Trotting Club meeting that could add to his tally of 17 in the sulky, so far this season. The driver has racked up those victories at a strong strike rate and if he continues his form he will be on track for one of his best seasons of driving. “I’m pretty happy with the way things are going, I have got a good boss to work for in Regan Todd,” Close said.  “He puts a lot of trust in the way I drive, so I can’t complain.” Close notched wins 15, 16 and 17 for the season when scoring with Unico Veloce, Sam’s Town and Cheezel at Addington. Todd has had Cheezel in fine form since the mare joined his barn this season. The 5yr-old has not missed a top three placing for her new trainer and Close ensured she would get a cheque again when giving her a perfect run in the trail. “She had copped a little bit of luck in her last two starts, running on in quick last halfs [800m].” “But, sitting in the trail she did herself pretty well.” Close won out when a battle of tactics played out in Friday night’s Show Day Futurity Consolation. The race saw plenty of lead changes and mid race moves, which the driver largely kept Sam’s Town out of. Close elected to save ground on the home turn, which may have caused the horse’s backers a few nervous moments, before the Gavin Burgess trained pacer cleared out to win. “He is not a bad horse – as long as he gets the run to suit – then he is quite a nice horse.” “It was a bit of a cat and mouse affair, but with the way things worked out it suited him really well.” Close also found himself in a tight spot in the home turn behind Unico Veloce. Once the reinsman worked the Mark Fuller trained 3yr-old in to the clear in the straight he let down with a sharp finish to reel in the leader, Prospect Park. “Mark said he got lost a bit lost in front last time at Geraldine, so he said to drive him with one run if you can,” Close said. “He got a bit lost again on the last bend when a few of them got a bit tired, but he showed a really good turn of foot to win.” Close’s best drives appear to be saved until last at Motukarara on Sunday. He combines with impressive first up winner Elo Louise in the last of 11 races. The 3yr-old produced a powerful finish to win on the track earlier this month and will attempt to do it again against a tougher field when starting from barrier 14 on Sunday. “She has just got a bad draw, she is not a bad wee filly, but that is going to make it harder.” “It’s a step up in grade, but with one run she can finish over top of them.” Close also drives consistent trotter Cabella Noir in race 10. The 6yr-old will be out to go one better than her last start second to BK Dawn at Methven, earlier this month. “She is a horse that if she hits the front too early she knocks off, she has only got a short wee sprint.” “If she gets the right run with a sit, she won’t be far away.” Close will also drive Goodthingstaketime in race 3 following his good last start third at Oamaru. “He has drawn handy and been racing well without much luck.” Close also drives Black Jacket in race 2, Smooth Debate in race 5, Nui Ba Den in race 8 and Doitson in race 9. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ
by Jonny Turner    If the team from Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis’ stable go as well on the track at Winton on Sunday as U May Cullect has been going off the track, they will be in for a big day. The training partners will line up five strong chances on the Winton Harness Racing Club’s innovative programme, including former All Stars pacer Freddiesam. The former All Stars 3yr-old has been sent south in the hope he will find suitable races and break his maiden after being competitive in good fields in Canterbury, recently. “The owners just wanted find an easier spot for him,” Barclay said. “With his Canterbury form, you think he would be a good show.” Freddiesam headed south after producing a sound fourth behind the talented Navagio at Kaikoura last month. The pacer showed good gate speed to lead, which he gets to show off again from barrier 1 in Sunday’s 1609m event. The ace draw gives Freddiesam an edge over his stablemate, Cab Calloway, who is drawn out in barrier 5. “From the draw Freddiesam is just a little bit sharper at the moment, I would say,” Barclay said. Cab Calloway goes in to Sunday’s race after going sound races behind smart pacers, Cassius Bromac and Silent Major, in strong maiden fields. “He is actually a really nice horse, he is a good chance as well,” Barclay said. “He just lacks a little bit of top end speed, but he tries hard.” The Barclay-Ellis team start another talented maiden in race 8 in Watch Me Now. The 3yr-old finished off strongly, but a little roughly, behind Renegade Rose at Wyndham last month. “She is definitely a nice filly in the making – she is still a bit green and learning it all,” Barclay said. “But, she is not far away from putting her hand up.” Betterthenbrie represents Barclay and Ellis in race 6 — Sunday’s feature — the Equine Stakes for mares. The 5yr-old, who starts from barrier 2 on the second row, went a reasonable race when fighting on for a last-start fifth, after running in to smart types, Rockabilly Blues and Lawrence, in her previous two runs. “Its not a bad draw for her – she should lob a nice possie and she is always there abouts,” Barclay said. “She has been going some great races this season and popping up and running some nice placings.” Lite Percussion also ran in to Lawrence recently – in his last start at Ascot Park The 6yr-old drops significantly in class when he starts in race 3 on Sunday. “I thought he definitely had a good chance,” Barclay said. U May Cullect has continued to please his trainers during his rehabilitation from the tendon injury that ruled him out of the New Zealand Cup Carnival. Barclay and Ellis have been walking the southern sensation along Oreti Beach to help build up strength in his affected leg. “He is doing amazing – we are absolutley rapt with him,” Barclay said. “He is up to walking 20 minutes and his leg looks really good.” “He is going up to Dunedin for another scan after Christmas, but it is unbeleivable how good it looks.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ
by Jonny Turner    Co-owner Meg Butterworth perfectly summed up the feelings of those watching Copy That’s win in the Alabar 3yr-old Classic at Alexandra Park on Saturday night when she said she “nearly died three times” during the heart-stopping event. The Ray Green trained pacer set the hearts fluttering among punters who backed him in to $2.10 win odds in the group 2 feature when galloping at the 1800m before again setting pulses racing in a nail-biting finish with runner-up One Change. His trainer, owner and backers admitted Copy That gave them a fright, but one man who remained unmoved by the 3yr-old’s antics was his driver. David Butcher was at his cool and calculating best when getting Copy That back down and pacing before after his gallop an then nursing him to the finish. Copy That looked more like a $50 shot when he flew out of his gear when Butcher handed the lead away the horse’s stablemate, Line Up, and driver Anthony Butt. Butcher said it was then that his horse, raced by Butterworth and her husband, Merv,  reverted to some old tricks.  “He used to do it as a young horse - what I am thinking is when Ants has come around he has relaxed and then he has just popped out a bit.” “It is a little habit that we thought that we got him out of, but he brought it back tonight.” Though he may not have shown it during the 2200m feature, Butcher said Copy That has been pacing better since running second behind One Change in the Sires Stakes Series Final. “He is a pretty nice horse, it has taken a little bit to get him there.” “Ray has done a few little things with his gait that have really helped, because he was really rough down in Christchurch.” “When he ran second he ran in on a couple of the corners, and he is actually a little bit better left handed.” Butcher did not look to panic when One Change surged at Copy That late in the home straight. The reinsman said Copy That was already doing his absolute best at in the final 100m. “When you’re running a 55sec half (800m) and a 27sec quarter (400m) and they have run 2.37 you can’t go much better.” “I am a great believer that most horses do try – some of them have had enough – but most of them will try.” Copy That officially stopped the clock in 2-37.3 for 2200m, running home in 55.9 (800m) and 27.5 (400m). The pacer will not clash with many of the rivals he beat on Saturday night in the next 3yr-old male pacing feature of the season - he is ineligible for the upcoming Yearling Sales Series Final. Green said he and the Butterworths would need to plan where Copy That will go next. The Victoria Derby at Melton is a possible target for the pacer.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ
by Garrick Knight    Natalie Rasmussen cemented her place in the annals of harness racing history with a record-equaling Inter Dominion triumph at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. The expat Queenslander equaled the record for most driving wins when reining Ultimate Sniper to a typically courageous win in the $500,000 showpiece event. It’s unlikely any horse will ever supersede her former champion pacer, and four-time Inter Dominion winner, Blacks A Fake, but Ultimate Sniper, who she co-trains in Christchurch with Mark Purdon, will hold a special place in her heart. “It’s pretty up there,” she said post-race. “I’ve been lucky enough to drive so many great horses but this is really quite special tonight because I matched Brian (Hancock)’s record. “And for a four-year-old to do it the way he’s done it – he never had an easy run or anything but he made his own luck – I’m just absolutely rapt for the horse.” The win cemented Ultimate Sniper’s position as the country’s premier pacer, even allowing for the absence of his illustrious stablemates Turn It Up, Spankem and Self Assured. He was dominant throughout the series, going through the three heats last week without any luck whatsoever but still proving too good, and decisively so. His Grand Final run was comparatively easy – sitting parked outside the leader A G’s White Socks for the past mile – and he had too much in reserve down the straight. “I didn’t sort of bustle him too much early and I did all the work. “He just relaxed so well and he’s so kind and lovely. “Then, when I asked him, he just had that kick left. He was tired on the line but he never gave up.” For Ultimate Sniper’s co-owner, Phil Kennard, the win was a continuation of a brilliant recent run across Australasia’s Grand Circuit. Between all-conquering champion Lazarus, last season’s Horse of the Year, Spankem, and now Ultimate Sniper, he, wife Glenys and many of their close friends have been on the ride of a life time. But this last win very nearly didn’t happen. For two reasons. “The Thursday after the Trotting Cup last month, we were talking to Mark and Natalie about what we were going to do with him. “It was really a toss of the coin about whether he contested this series. “But Nat said I think we should give him his chance, and try and go easy on him in the heats. “Obviously her idea of easy and a Kiwi’s idea aren’t the same thing!” His New Zealand Cup campaign was aborted after a below-par effort in the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Labour Weekend, one Kennard calls an “aberration”. But he came out “after a four-day freshener” and blew his opponent of the track on the undercard. It was enough to convince Rasmussen. And for Kennard, there was a lot of hesitation about going to $85,000 to buy the colt at the 2017 Christchurch yearling sale, having bought and raced his illustrious but injury-plagued older brother, Ultimate Machete. “There was lots of doubt. I’ve never really gone for the full brother of one we’ve raced before. “But we kept going back to him. We liked him and knew he was a different type of horse to Machete. “We were looking for a reason not to buy him, but Mark and Nat went over him and the decision was made when we got outbid on another horse earlier in the sale. “Phil Creighton, who is in the horse, tried to talk us out of it, but eventually came back and said he was on board.” Two flip of the coin decisions, both went their way. The pay off? A champion confirmed and history made. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ
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