Day At The Track
Habibi Inta,Harness racing

An old-fashioned workload produces the goods

An old-fashioned workload produced a new best version of Habibi Inta in the $300,000 Dominion at Addington yesterday. And after his graphic demolition job in our richest trot the big stallion has thrown down the gauntlet to his rivals in the Inter Dominion Trotting series which starts at Alexandra Park in 13 days.  Habibi Inta made the most of a perfect Blair Orange drive and the early gallop of favourite Oscar Bonavena to bolt away with the group one, giving Orange the dream double of Cup week after his New Zealand Cup on Tuesday.  Already a group one winner at the Harness Jewels two seasons ago, Habibi Inta went to a whole new level yesterday and that was after some tough love from trainer extraordinaire Paul Nairn.  “After he won at Kaikoura last week I kept the work right up to him,” explains Nairn.  “I knew he would have to be fit, really fit for the 3200m and he handled the work beautifully.  “I thought he could win because he was so fit but I’ll be honest, I didn’t think he could do that.”
 It was a career statement win from Habibi Inta as he sat off the hot speed set by Marcola and jogged past him at the top of the straight.  It was a dramatic reversal of their previous clash at Ashburton when Marcoola thrashed him by 13 lengths, showing how the right horse on the day wins the group ones this season. Nairn will now bring the big, muscular six-year-old to Auckland for an Inter Dominion where some of his key rivals have question marks hanging over their heads.  Aussie raider Tough Monarch was a brave second yesterday capping a great week while veteran Monty Python surged into third while Marcoola was out of gas at the top of the straight. Another Australian visitor in McLovin suffered a case of the thumps but should be good to go for the Inters, a series Oscar Bonavena will miss.  The latter was slightly checked into a gallop after 400m when horses galloped both inside and outside, leaving trainer-driver Mark Purdon enormously disappointed as he tailed off. Punters didn’t enjoy it much either.  But Purdon bounced back two races later when Chase Auckland made the most of the trail-passing lane run to win the $200,000 NZ Free-For-All. A brave and luckless fourth in the NZ Cup three days earlier, Chase Auckland got all the luck this time as he was destined to be three back on the inside but Cruz Bromac galloped when heading to the lead, which left Classie Brigade in front and Chase Auckland in the luxury spot.  All the main players from the F-F-A will head to the Inter Dominions where they will be met by a fresh wave of Australians.   Michael Guerin

Chase Auckland clinches deserved win

By Jonny Turner  Patience was rewarded and the winner’s podium overflowed with happy owners when Chase Auckland sprinted to victory in the New Zealand Free-For-All at Addington yesterday. Driver Tim Williams helped the All Stars pacer get group 1 rewards for his consistent spring when securing a perfect run in the trial that set up the 5yr-old’s win. The win meant the Addington Birdcage was again flooded with jubilant owners as the large Alabar Racing Syndicate celebrated their pacer’s first win in an open class group 1 feature.  Syndicate manager, Ivan Behrnes, poured praise on Williams after the race and not just for his cool and calm drive. The reinsman has been instrumental in helping Chase Auckland developing in to a genuine open class force, Behrnes said.  “He can be a bit of a handful, as you could see after the race, but he has been really in the zone in his races this season.” “It is a credit to Tim, you can often see them just going around in the prelim on his own, keeping him relaxed.” “They have really got a great combination since he has become his regular driver.” A patient approach from his trainers has also been key to Chase Auckland developing from one-time age group star to top line Grand Circuit performer. All Stars trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen did not rush the horse after he suffered a muscle problem that set his 4yr-old season back.  “Mark and Natalie kept saying be patient, he wasn’t ready for these kind of races last year, it was too soon for him,” Behrnes said.  “But this season everything has gone perfectly and he has looked a picture.” “He has had a fantastic build up, he has looked a picture and we were hopeful he could develop in to a stayer.” “He has always had the speed, which you could see again today.” Many expected Chase Auckland to blast off the arm and easily slot in to the trail behind the likely leader, Classie Brigade. That was not the case when the newly relaxed Chase Auckland was too chilled out behind the mobile and did not display the blazing gate speed he has in the past. “I was back off the gate - It’s the first time he has raced from behind the mobile this season,” Williams said.  “But it just shows how quick out the others were.” Despite the early moves not playing out as expected, Chase Auckland and Williams still landed in the trail behind Classie Brigade. In a complete turnaround in race fortunes from the New Zealand Cup, the breaks went Chase Auckland’s way when they went against his stablemates in the New Zealand Free-For-All. Spankem was unable to take the lead from Classie Brigade and Cruz Bromac went roughly, losing a handy spot. An overflowing winners podium after Chase Auckland's FFA win                           --HRNZ photo On Tuesday, Chase Auckland copped the bad luck in Cruz Bromac’s New Zealand Cup. The pacer was forced to make his run wide on the track after two of his rivals started stopping quickly in front of him. The Auckland Reactor gelding charged home pacing the fastest closing 400m and 200m sectional times of the great 3200m race.  The Alabar Racing Syndicate were left wondering what might have been after having to settle for fourth placing.  “We were so disappointed on cup day, he was in a excellent spot and Tim drove him tremendously,” Behrnes said.  “He was ready to go today after running the fastest sectionals in the cup.” “It was a huge thrill.” Classie Brigade, who also came out of the New Zealand Cup with a hard luck story held second in the New Zealand Free-For-All, a length from Chase Auckland. Cruz Bromac recovered from his early gallop to produce a huge performance to run third.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Habibi Inta winning connections,Harness racing

Dominion win caps a dream week

By Garrick Knight New Zealand’s leading driver capped an unforgettable week with victory in the country’s biggest trotting race at Addington on Friday. Blair Orange, three days removed from winning the New Zealand Cup, pulled off another double-figure-priced upset when Habibi Inta blew his opponents off the track in the $300,000 Dominion Trot. Orange combined with trainer Paul Nairn in victory and paid tribute to the master trainer of trotters post-race. “He’s an outstanding trainer; it’s just like when you drive for Mark (Purdon) and Natalie (Rasmussen). “His horses are fit and healthy and they just trot beautifully and I’m just a lucky guy to be sitting here.” Habibi Inta was a last-start winner at Kaikoura but punters preferred Purdon and Rasmussen’s boom four-year-old, Oscar Bonavena. But he struck trouble on the first bend and took no further part. Second favourite Marcoola, hunting back-to-back wins in the race, led up but couldn’t muster any more down the straight as Habibi Inta cleared out. “Going in to the race, I never thought we could beat Oscar Bonavena or Marcoola,” said Orange. “I thought we could run second or third. But once again it comes down to Paul’s ability to have them ready on the day. “We got a bit of luck and the horse did the rest.” Nairn was typically under-stated after adding yet another Group 1 to his record, and a third Dominion after Call Me Now in 1995 and Stig in 2008. “I’m thrilled. “He’s been working sensational but I thought there were four or five good winning chances in the race. “I kept the work up to him after Kaikoura because I knew he’d have to go very well, and it worked.” Julie Maghzal owns the Love You stallion and was in shock shortly after receiving the trophy. “I can’t believe we’ve won it, I just can’t believe we’ve won it,” she said gazing with amazement at the grandiose trophy. “I’m absolutely thrilled and elated to see him do what I always knew he was capable of. “He’s been nurtured all the way by the nicest, most lovely man you could ever have dealings with. “Paul and I have been together in racing for a long, long time.” Maghzal is in love with Habibi Inta and says he will stand as a stallion one day, privately if not commercially. “He’s a beautiful, beautiful animal and a very solid trotter and I’ll definitely be breeding from him later on. “His sister, Habibti Ivy, just had a wee filly by Father Patrick a few days ago so it’s been a great week. “I’m just so happy to have everyone here to share the day with me; my brother, daughter, all my family and friends. “To win this race means so much – and I was just happy to have a horse in it.” The final word went to Orange, who acknowledged former mentor Mike Austin in his speech. “My first thought when I crossed the line was my late mate Mike Austin. “I drove a lot of trotters for him and I know he’d be so proud. Thanks MG.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Amber Lethaby and Bundoran,Harness racing

Southland trip on the horizon for Bundoran

By Garrick Knight A trip to Southland is looming on the horizon for Thursday’s ultra-impressive debut winner Ashburton, Bundoran. The three-year-old Sir Lincoln gelding showed rare speed to surge up the passing lane and beat another handy type in Unico Veloce, justifying the faith his connections have in him. “On ability we were confident,” said co-trainer Amber Lethaby, who also did the driving. “He took a couple of cracks at qualifying because he just got a little bit over eager to do things. “But he’s got a lot better with every run he’s had and his ability has never been in question.” After stepping well from the mile-and-a-half standing start point, Lethaby opted to take a trail on Bundoran behind Unico Veloce. The latter got a fairly soft lead in front, but was touched up by Calypso Rock in the 500 metres approaching the home straight. It took the sting out of the leader and allowed Bundoran to accelerate past him with ease over the last furlong. “Even if that didn’t happen, I’m pretty sure I probably would have got the leader anyway because we think quite a bit of our fella.” Australian interest is there in the horse, and regular high-end buyer from Perth, Greg Bond, inspected the horse on Wednesday before flying home, but no deal has been reached as yet. “I couldn’t say for sure whether he’s staying here or being sold; we’ll have to wait and see. “We’ve had some interest but maybe the Sir Lincoln factor is putting a few of them off. “To us, we know he’s a nice horse and we’re not going to let him go for nothing.” So, Southland might be next, with Lethaby’s husband and training partner, Jason, mapping out a course for the horse. “It’s back to the drawing board now, pretty much, and seeing what we’re serious about. “I’m not too sure but I know Jason was keen on getting him down south and looking at some of the Southern Supremacy heats. “Time will tell whether that’s going to work out or not. “At the moment, we’re sticking him to stands so we’re going to have to put him in mobiles if that’s a real option.” Lethaby says they’ve never had a Sir Lincoln in the stable before, but purchased him on type for just $5,000 at last year’s Christchurch yearling sale. “He’s the only one we’ve got in the stable. “He’s isn’t tall, but is strong and really solid. There’s still plenty of improvement in him too. “My husband owns half of him with three other guys, just loyal owners that we’ve had with us for a long time. “And we’re all just absolutely stoked to have a good horse.” One race later, Canterbury media darling Cassie Fahey, home from Australia to cover Cup Week for Sky Racing, had cause to celebrate. Her family’s horse, Cheezel, won the junior drivers’ race at her first start for Woodend Beach horseman, Regan Todd. Fahey, along with sister Tess and dad, Brian, were there to celebrate what was the daughter of Betterthancheddar’s fourth win, the previous three coming under Brian’s tutelage. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight  A season that started out without any great expectations has turned in to a very memorable one for the connections of Scorcha. The Art Major mare burned away from her opponents in the $30,000 Show Day Futurity at Addington on Friday for their second big win in less than a month. Last month, she won a $10,000 race at Addington and, in doing so, locked up the $10,000 first prize in the Met Mega Series, run over spring. Naturally, having banked $47,500 in seven starts this season, her connections are over the moon. Especially since she is lucky to even be back on the race track. “It’s fantastic, really, and totally unexpected,” said Dave Rankin, who co-owns and co-bred the mare and is also a director of Addington Raceway. “She had an issue this time last year after three starts and we had to put her out. “When she came back, we were just hopeful that we might have a horse that was going to do something. “We are just so thrilled to be here, and to get the opportunity.” Nigel McGrath trains Scorcha and he has been a regular collaborator with Rankin for many years. “Nigel has done us extremely proud. He’s done so well as a trainer.” Rankin says he, wife Kathy and co-breeder Ian Rule tried to sell Scorcha’s dam, Sparks Under Fire, but were left with her. “The mare, we couldn’t give away at the sales this year when we decided that we were just about the end of our breeding career “There was no interest, so now we’ve got another foal on the ground. “She foaled last week and now we’re putting her back in foal to Rock N Roll Heaven.” As for Scorcha, after a stack of interest in the past couple of months, they might yet agree to sell her if the price is right. “There has obviously been a lot of interest in her, but we decided we weren’t interested in selling until after Cup Week. “She could well be sold now, but we’ll wait and see for another day. “There are further opportunities coming up and the question is, are we good enough? “We didn’t think so today against some stiff competition so hopefully she keeps proving us wrong.” Matt Damon, first-up for two months, was extremely brave in second while The General, who trailed throughout, sprint-laned for third. The even-money favourite Taxman, for the second time in three days, let punters down once again, fading to fourth after free-wheeling in front. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Monarchy trifecta in FFA The Group 1 $100,000 NZ Trotting Free-For-All was a triumph for Monarchy as the harness racing sire of the winner Tough Monarch, McLovin second and Didjabringthebeers third – rather a notable siring feat. On the same day Monarchy sired both trotting winners at Menangle in Princess Kenny and Gold Sovereign, both out of Sundon mares. Monarchy has elevated himself to second on this year’s NZ trotting sire list.   Sisters win at Redcliffe It was no mean feat for the half-sisters Miss Mia and Ima Beach Babe to win on the same day at Redcliffe earlier this week. Miss Mia, a four-year-old, is a daughter of Modern Art, while, Ima Beach Babe is a three-year-old from the first crop of Sunshine Beach. Lets Rocknroll, the dam of Miss Mia and Ima Beach Babe, was out of a top racemare in Impish Princess, who took a record of 1:56.6 in America and earned $276,518. Besides Lets Rocknroll, she was also the dam of the Qbred Triad winner How Will I Know 1:55.9 ($195,159), Mister Natural (1:54.9) and Rocknroll Annie (1:59.9). Another of Lets Rocknroll’s offspring, Corey William, scored in 1:56.7 at Albion Park in December.   Alta Christiano stock firing The Christian Cullen horse Alta Christiano, who stood originally at Alabar and is now at the new Killarney Stud in NSW, is leaving smart three-year-olds from his second crop. Alta Christiano Alta Engen, who is unbeaten in three starts in Western Australia, is a gelding by Alta Christiano from the Million To One mare, Its Karma. Shesskylah, a winner at Bendigo in 1:55, the Vicbred Homegrown Cladssic heat winner Techys Angel (1:58), Woodlands Wonder (1:59.3), Christiano Rose (1:59.4) and Little Bitof Fun (1:59.9) have been other winners from Alta Christiano’s second crop. Alta Christiano, a Group winner in NZ and Australia, established himself as an early speed sire last season when one of his two-yaer-olds, Will The Wizard, hoisted a mark of 1:54.6 at Albion Park.   Blue blooded filly Soho Nolita, who won the 2018 Australian Pacing Gold Final and has won four of her five outings this season, is a four-year-old mare who can claim some worthwhile blood. By Mach Three (son of Matt’s Scooter), she is out of the Art Major mare Pixel Perfect, whose dam, Amarillen, ranked as a sister to the Oaks winner Tenirama and a half-sister to the top Tasmanian juvenile Cody Maverick, their dam, Nellirama, being out of the dual Oaks winner Nellie Robins. Pixel Perfect, the dam of Soho Nolita, has left six winners from six foals of racing age, three of whom – Soho Tribeca, Carlas Pixel and Soho Nolita – have won at Group 1 level.   Ninth winner from broodmare When the Majestic Son four-year-old Regal Appointment won at the Ashburton Trotting Club’s Cup Week meeting, he credited his dam Niamey with her ninth individual winner. The gelding was having only his second start. Others from Niamey to win have been the Group and cup winners Springbank Sam Tr 1:55.2 ($545,702), Sun Of Anarchy Tr 1:58.2 ($277,733), Pocaro Tr 1:57.5 ($232,773) and Daenerys Targaryen Tr 1:58.2 ($143,723) and others in Ugly Betty, Sam Galleon, Arnold, Lord Nelson and now Regal Appointment. Niamey, who is now in her 21st year, has since produced a three-year-old filly by Love You, a two-year-old filly by the same sire and a yearling colt by Sebastian K. A sister to the outstanding racemare Africa, Niamey was a Chiola Hanover mare from Game Flyer, by Game Pride from Flying Bay.   Lazarus in demand Former pacing sensation Lazarus has met with widespread interest from broodmare owners on both sides of the Tasman in his first ‘down under’ season. The $4 million winning son of Bettor’s Delight has more than 220 bookings to date. Lazarus is standing at Yirribee Pacing Stud in Wagga (NSW)     by Peter Wharton Article sponsored by New Zealand Bloodstock

Sheree Tomlinson has an unusual concern leading into today’s $300,000 Dominion with defending champion Marcoola at Addington. She is worried about her favourite horse and her mother. Tomlinson is the new driver of Marcoola, who was jaw-dropping winning this race coming from near last last season and just as spectacular in the Flying Mile at Ashburton last start. Marcoola faces excitement machine Oscar Bonavena as well as the rock-hard fit Australian pair of Tough Monarch and McLovin in New Zealand’s greatest trotting race. But while Tomlinson is excited about steering the brilliant stallion today, she is worried about his stablemate Amaretto Sun, who gave her her greatest moment in harness racing when he won this race at massive odds two years ago. Marcoola starts from barrier one and Amaretto Sun right next to him and Tomlinson says while she loves her old mate she doesn’t want Amaretto Sun, to be driven her mother Amanda, to get in front of her and in her way. “To be honest I’d rather the draws were reversed and Mum was starting from barrier one and me from barrier two,” laughs Tomlinson. “Because he (Amaretto Sun) can get away really fast and I don’t want him crossing us and me getting stuck behind him. “I am not a big fan of barrier one in 3200m standing starts anyway because the horses out wide can get a jump on you but he (Marcoola) is actually very good from behind the tapes early. “So I am hoping if we do great crossed we can get away from the inside early.” Two years ago when Amaretto Sun won Tomlinson had the luxury of driving him for luck but with Marcoola the second favourite and at his most dynamic when he gets a head of steam up, she will launch him at some stage. Exactly when that will be could depend on when Oscar Bonavena makes his move from the back. The latter has been dazzling all season and the last start wins of the pair at Ashburton, both in national records, were comparable. “It is a different situation from two years ago, more pressure this time, but I think the Australians being in the field will help because they should force the pace, which will help us.” Oscar Bonavena might be world class and jogs national record times and sizzling splits and he might simply be too good for his rivals today, even after giving away a start from the unruly. “I am happy to have him back there because I think it should ensure he goes away and then we settle for maybe even the first half of the race,” says his trainer-driver Mark Purdon. As good as Oscar Bonavena is, and he might be the real deal, is Marcoola races up to last year’s form it could be the race of the carnival, especially with the Aussies added to the mix following their group one quinella on Tuesday. While Purdon looks likely to sit and swoop in today’s big trot punters can expect his speedsters to light up early in the $200,000 New Zealand Free-For-All. Cruz Bromac returns to defend the title he won last season when he blasted to the lead and set his own terms and he looks to have the gate speed to cross to the front again but the key to the race will be whether he would hand the pacemaking role to Spankem. Both are dynamic front runners over sprint trips and if Spankem wrests the lead off Cruz Bromac he becomes the one to beat, although that would still give the latter the passing lane late. If Cruz Bromac leads and Spankem sits parked outside him or further back then Tuesday’s Cup winner could claim the dream double.   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner The burning desire to make up for what could have been in the New Zealand Cup should set up a sensational early battle in today’s Junior Free-For-All at Addington. Few came off the track after Cruz Bromac’s win in Tuesday’s feature with a more agonising hard luck story than the camp that races third placegetter Classie Brigade. Driver John Dunn was seen desperately trying to find clear racing room for the 7yr-old trained by his father Robert. Unfortunately, a gap only came after the horse’s winning hope evaporated before the driver’s eyes. “There was a gap there nicely for him, but with Spankem not quite kicking like he usually does it closed on him,” Robert Dunn said. “Johnny said he though the run was going to be nicely there for him and it closed as quick as it opened.” John Dunn has already told the media this week that he has no plans to be behind any horse when the gate leaves for today’s 1980m sprint. Trying to hold the lead from his ace barrier 1 draw is a plan wholeheartedly endorsed by his father. “You can’t waste a good draw like barrier one and he has got great gate speed,” the trainer said. “So he will be going forward and we will have to see what happens after that.” Not being able to fully let down with his run on Tuesday suggests Classie Brigade should go in to today’s $200,000 feature without any hangover effect from the New Zealand Cup. Dunn confirmed his stable have been thrilled with the way he has come through the race. “He has pulled up super, we are really thrilled with him this week.” Chase Auckland, who starts beside Classie Brigade in barrier 2, could lay claim to the New Zealand Cup’s second biggest hard luck story. The pacer had clear air for all of the run home, but had make his finish wider than any horse in the race. Both San Carlo and Mach Shard lost ground around the home turn, hindering Chase Auckland’s momentum and forcing him around them. “Just the way the race ended up being run, we just didn’t get the brakes that we needed,” driver Tim Williams said. “And when San Carlo got around to being parked that took away the option of going around there.” The All Stars 5yr-old faces a massive turn around from the circumstances that put him back in the field in the New Zealand Cup, when moving from the unruly to barrier 2 today. Chase Auckland will not only avoid having to give his rivals a head start, Williams will be able to make use of his blazing gate speed. “It is an ideal draw for him with his gate speed and it is going to be a big help coming off the unruly to be on level terms,” the driver said. “He seems to have pulled up well and he is probably fortunate the way the race was run on Tuesday that he didn’t have a real gut-buster.” It will not just be the horse drawn beside him that could test Classie Brigade’s early speed and possibly cross him to lead. New Zealand Cup runner-up Spankem gets the chance to show off the early zip that saw him lead and go on to win the Miracle Mile from barrier 7. The cup winner Cruz Bromac, who led and won last year’s New Zealand Free-For-All, adds to the speed of the front line after drawing inside his stablemate in barrier 6. Our Uncle Sam and AG’s White Socks could provide some early pressure if they were asked from barrier 3 and 5, respectively. Nandolo (8) and Thefixer (9) look set to drift off the pace early from their wide draws. The Robert Dunn trained Henry Hubert is also likely to bail out of the early burn despite drawing barrier 4. “He has probably raced better over longer trips and I am just a bit weary that he doesn’t have that really high gate speed some of the others have,” Dunn said. The 4yr-old thrilled his trainer with his effort for sixth on Tuesday when finishing just under two lengths from Cruz Bromac after the horse’s interrupted preparation for the race. “If he hadn’t galloped around the first turn he would have been on Classie Brigade’s back and he might have been a chance.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Australasian harness racing fans can thank Oamaru reinswoman Charlotte Purvis, her love of horses and determined attitude, if an open class trotting star is born when Oscar Bonavena contests today’s Dominion at Addington.  On paper it may look as if the All Stars trotter is set to complete just another perfectly plotted path to big race glory for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. However, a look further back shows the exciting trotter has had to overcome odds exponentially higher than what he will pay to win the 3200m feature just to be in the race. Oscar Bonavena needed a miracle just to be a racehorse and Purvis was the driving force behind making it happen. The Majestic Son trotter was born weak and unable to stand on what vets deemed were legs too crooked for a potential racehorse. Purvis the horse, who was delivered early unexpectedly and started feeding him by bottle, barely showing any signs of life before she quickly began nursing him back to health.  Vets advice to Purvis’s father, John, who bred the horse, was that the foal’s chances of being a successful racehorse were slim because of his crooked legs and his missing out on vital colostrum enriched milk from his dam immediately after being born. Purvis told her father she was not having any of that talk and continued to hand feed the foal. "The vet said because his legs were not that straight and because he had not been fed colostrum straight away he didn’t have much chance of making a racehorse,” she said.  "But I told Dad he wouldn't be worrying about any of that and I kept looking after him.” After helping keep the foal alive, Purvis handed over duties to Nevele R Stud staff, who continued to help Oscar Bonavena get on his feet. “After a couple of days we were able to get the mare and foal to Nevele R and they kept feeding him.” “Eventually he was strong enough to stand on his own and then drink off his mother.” “As he got older his legs got stronger and he was perfectly healthy.” Purvis’ early work with the trotter meant he was almost certain to end up in her care. Her father sent her the trotter and Oscar Bonavena was to be a “project horse” for the horsewoman and her partner, reinsman Matthew Williamson. Oscar Bonavena soon showed the only project he was concerned about was running fast. He went on to win his first start as a 2yr-old before pushing All Stars trotter Enhance Your Calm, who was seen as an unbeatable force at the time, in his Sires Stakes win. That performance led to Oscar Bonavena being sold by John Purvis in a big money deal that saw him transfer from Phil Williamson’s barn to the All Stars stable.  Mark Purdon trialed the horse for his new owners – his father, the former champion trainer, Roy Purdon, and former New Zealand trainer Chris Ryder, who runs a successful stable in New Jersey. The master trainer-driver said Oscar Bonavena gave him the feel of a good horse as soon as he sat behind him. “He just gave me a great feel,” Purdon said.  “Phil is great with the trotters and he had a very high opinion of him, so that gave me a bit more confidence that he was going to be a good buy.” Months later Purdon’s new owners faced similar vets advice about Oscar Bonavena to what  the Purvis family had received earlier – that his legs were not up for racing. More specifically, the horse was diagnosed with a cyst on his knee, a rare condition that ruled out racing.  Purdon admitted there was a time when he Oscar Bonavena’s racing prospects were very bleak. “It was a lot of money to pay for a horse and there was a time when it looked like we could have done our money.” “But everything is back on track now, he is good and sound and we look like we have a very exciting horse on our hands.” Some high level veterinary research coupled with Purdon’s genius horsemanship combined to help Oscar Bonavena’ recover from the potentially career ending injury.   The troubled knee has held up so well since, it has allowed him to catapult to the top of the New Zealand trotting ranks in his seven starts since May.  And apart from one standing start mishap, that did not stop him winning, everything has gone perfectly.   “He had a great preparation and I think when we nominated him he was about 45th in the ranking for the Dominion and now he is right up the ladder and come in to favorite,” Purdon said.  “So, he has had a great prep and I couldn’t be happier with him.” Ryder will fly to be at Addington on Friday, while Roy Purdon is expected to watch on from Auckland. Purvis and her father will also be on hand to watch Oscar Bonavena’s first attempt at open class group 1 racing. The thrill they will get if he is able to win will be just as big as if the trotter was still officially theirs.  “We will be there and it will be very exciting - I still get a huge thrill from seeing him race,” Purvis said.  “Every time I am at the races and he is in I go down and see him, I can’t wait.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Glamour mare Belle Of Montana makes a welcome resumption at Alexandra Park on Friday. Last season’s Filly of the Year has had two workouts in preparation for the race and trainer Barry Purdon says both he and driver Zachary Butcher have been satisfied with proceedings. “Really happy,” he told HRNZ. “I think she may be a little bit vulnerable this week from a wide draw against some good ones, but she is there to win.” After enjoying a good, and well-earned, winter spell, it took some extra work to get the daughter of Bettor’s Delight back in to race trim. “She’s been pretty big in condition and isn’t quite there yet but is looking a picture.” Belle Of Montana strikes a strong field over the mobile mile which includes the likes of Star Galleria, The Devils Own and her own stablemates, Havtime and On The Cards, who are both also resuming from spells. Purdon believes On The Cards is the fittest of his trio and despite drawing the outside alley, probably presents as the best of his hopes in the race. “He’s won both his trials and has gone good in doing so. “He’s pretty forward for this week and it’s just the draw that will hurt his chances.” Belle Of Montana is being set for next month’s Group 1 Queen of Hearts, where she will likely go head to head with her nemesis from last season, Princess Tiffany. “After that, we’ll probably look across to Australia for the Ladyship Mile if she’s going good enough at the time.” Purdon has gotten off to a rampant start this season, training 19 winners and 18 place-getters from just 60 starters and he is six clear of the next best northerner on the trainers’ premiership. Accordingly, he has a very strong team in tonight and could easily go home with another three or four winners. Asked for an indication on perhaps his strongest chance on the night, he looked towards maiden pacer Bettor Listen, who is having just his second start after an encouraging second on debut. “He’s a nice horse and shouldn’t be a maiden for much longer; I expect him to go a good race.” “Little Miss Perfect is fresh-up and might just need the run in what is quite a good field. “We have Some Do in the same race and she’s a really nice filly, just not ideally drawn.” Purdon is in Christchurch this week, firstly for Mach Shard’s New Zealand Cup tilt on Tuesday and now Wainui Creek’s $40,000 Mares Classic tilt today. Mach Shard isn’t backing up after a disappointing run, where we dropped away from a perfect striking position on the point of the turn. “We haven’t had the bloods back yet but he’s feeling a little bit down on himself. “I think he’s just jarred up. “It’s just one of those things you can’t do much about.” The Racing Integrity Unit’s head harness steward, Nick Ydgren, said he was yet to be advised of any other horses having felt the effects of the track from Tuesday’s racing. “We haven’t heard anything, good or bad, about the state of the track.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

High-priced New Zealand import Gran Chico has settled down well since arriving in Perth a fortnight ago and he looks set for a successful Australian harness racing debut when he contests the Catalano Truck and Equipment Sales Service Finance Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Now in the care of astute Henley Brook trainer Mike Reed, Gran Chico will be driven by Shannon Suvaljko, who is happy that the Bettors Delight gelding will be the sole runner off the back line. “From barrier ten there’s no horse on his outside and he’ll have time to relax before being put into the race,” Suvaljko said. “He’s a nice horse who should prove hard to beat. “I’ve watched the replays of all his races in New Zealand. He is a big horse who loves to just come into the race and he should get a good run from barrier ten. “Mike told me that the plan was, with the horse having been here for only a couple of weeks, was not to throw him in the deep end straight away (by racing in the group 2 feature for four-year-olds on Friday night). And after this week’s race, the plan is to go into the $125,000 Four-Year-Old Classic in two weeks and then the Golden Nugget two weeks after that.” Gran Chico, who has been purchased by Jim and Wilma Giumelli, last appeared when he gave a splendid performance to finish a close fourth behind top-flight pacers Chase Auckland, Ashley Locaz and Smokin By in the Group 3 Methven Cup on October 13.  This was a 3000m stand on a rain-affected grass track and Gran Chico galloped briefly at the start before settling down in fourth place. A 5/1 chance, he dashed to the front after about 500m before surrendering the lead after a lap to the 6/4 favourite Ashley Locaz. He finished gamely along the inside. At his previous outing, nine nights earlier, Gran Chico settled in sixth position and raced in the breeze before taking the lead 1000m from home for an easy first-up victory at a 1.57.1 rate in a 1980m mobile event at Addington. That was his first appearance since June 1 when he gave a superb performance on a wet track to finish third behind Mark Purdon’s Jesse Duke in the $150,000 Group 1 Emerald at Addington. He started from the outside barrier (No. 8) on the front line and settled down in 12th and last position before starting a three-wide run from last about 1100m from home. He raced three wide for much of the final circuit and finished with great determination. Gran Chico’s chief rival on Friday night is likely to be the polemarker Dominate The Dojo, who has finished creditable thirds to Bettor Reward and Mighty Santana at his first two starts since resuming from a spell. The Kevin Keys-trained Dominate The Dojo will again be handled by Chris Lewis, who said: “He’s a consistent little horse who is always going to be about the play. He’s got gate speed and we will push forward and see what happens.” Dylan Egerton-Green will drive the Karen Thompson-trained Our Perkins, who is handily drawn at barrier three on the front line. “He is racing really well and will run a bit of a race if I can find the top,” Egerton-Green said. With Suvaljko committed to drive Gran Chico, Byford trainer Courtney Burch had to find a new driver for Sergeant Oats, an impressive winner from Ocean Ridge last Friday night. Burch has engaged Gary Hall Jnr to handle Sergeant Oats, who is sure to be prominent from the No. 4 barrier.   Ken Casellas

This wasn’t how November was supposed to go for Sundees Son. The reigning Trotter of the Year was the one-time favourite for both Group 1 trots of Cup week in Christchurch and the Inter Dominion, which starts at Alexandra Park a fortnight from tomorrow. Now he is heading to the spelling paddock with his tail between his legs. The freakishly-talented five-year-old galloped and lost all chance for the third race in a row in the NZ Trot Free-For-All at Addington on Tuesday and was always unlikely to start in tomorrow’s $300,000 Dominion after that. But trainers Robert and John Dunn have surrendered to Sundees Son's niggling issues and also pulled him out of the Inter Dominion and sent him for a two-month spell. “We just can’t get him right,” said John Dunn. “We keep patching him up and while his issue (fetlock joint) isn’t serious at all he has lost his confidence. “He is only a young horse and we have to do the right thing by him so hopefully he can come back for the big races in the autumn.” While Sundees Son is out of the Dominion, hot favourite Oscar Bonavena still faces a huge task starting from the unruly in a capacity field, with his three main rivals in Marcoola (barrier one), Tough Monarch (six) and McLovin (10) all drawn the front line. The Dunns will have two reps in the $200,000 NZ Pacing Free-For-All and luckless NZ Cup placegetter Classie Brigade drawn the ace. “I am not sure he would have won the Cup had we got clearer earlier but he would have got a lot closer,” Dunn says of Tuesday’s third. Dunn says he has the gate speed to try and lead tomorrow’s 1980m Goup 1 and if he was able to hold the front early he would want to stay there, as he did in the Kaikoura Cup 10 days ago. “But it may not be that easy. Cruz Bromac gets off the gate really fast, but I will be trying to hold him.” Cruz Bromac (six) has drawn inside Spankem (seven) and the tactics of that pair, who led and won the NZ Free-For-All and Miracle Mile respectively last season, will play a huge role in tomorrow’s outcome. Aussie raider Our Uncle Sam backs up after missing away in the NZ Cup on Tuesday but Victorian San Carlo will miss the free-for-all and head to Auckland for the Inter Dominion. The fields for the NZ Free-For-All at Addington tomorrow: Race 11, 5.48pm, $200,000, mobile 1980m — Classie Brigade (1), Chase Auckland (2), Our Uncle Sam (3), Henry Hubert (4), A G’s White Socks (5), Cruz Bromac (6), Spankem (7), Nandolo (8), Thefixer (9).   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner Longtime owners and an emerging trainer combined to score their biggest wins when Oamaru trotter Rydgemont Son rocked New Zealand Cup day punters on Tuesday. Cup day bettors were left wondering why they unusually let a Williamson trained trotter go out at massive odds of 50 to one odds after the 5yr-old powered home from off the speed to win. Rydgemont Son’s effort in middle grade company notched a career best win as a trainer Brad Williamson. Williamson was not among those who under rated the well related trotter going in to Tuesday’s race. “I wouldn’t say I was surprised, I was quite confident he would go a good race, but I wasn’t expecting anything because we all know how hard it is on cup day,”the trainer-driver said. “But, I was confident the horse was good enough if everything went to plan.” “It was a big thrill.” Rydgemont Son showed how much progression he has made in his past three starts with his faultless display in front of a large Addington crowd. The 5yr-old began his campaign with a big win at Forbury Park before making mistakes in subsequent outings. The horse then got his act together in his two starts prior to putting together a perfect performance on Tuesday. “We are still not out of the woods from him yet,” Williamson said. “He still gets himself a bit excited sometimes and that is why he gallops.” “He will win more races, but he has just had a few issues that have kept him from being in good form a bit longer.” Rydgemont Son is by Majestic Son from former 10-win race mare Domination. That makes him a half brother to multiple race winners The Dominator and Rydgemont Milly. The Dominator also raced on NZ Cup day, galloping out of another event early. Rydgemont Son is raced by Ray and Joan Scott, of St. Andrews. Ray Scott told Williamson Rydgemont Son’s win was his biggest thrill in harness racing. “They have been in the game a long time, they raced the mother Domination,” Williamson said. “Ray said that was the biggest thrill he’d had - getting a winner on cup day.” Williamson scored another career highlight at Addington, earlier this year, when Cracker Hill notched a Group 1 second placing at the Harness Jewels. The 3yr-old is back in work and progressing towards a return on the Otago-Southland summer racing circuit. Williamson hopes to bank some Harness Jewels qualifying money before targeting early 3yr-old trotting events with Cracker Hill. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Trainer-driver Jim Curtin will seek more New Zealand Cup week success with his small team at Ashburton on Thursday. The Templeton horseman closed out New Zealand Cup day when producing his lightly raced pacer Tango Tara to win its last race. Curtin looks a big chance of scoring a race to race double by winning the next event of the New Zealand Cup Carnival - the first event at Ashburton. He starts Zigzagzoo in a 2400m maiden trot, following the horse’s good first up run behind impressive Kaikoura winner, Madam Sass. “He did go really good up there, I was really pleased with him,” Curtin said. “I was a bit worried about how he would trot the bends, but he was pretty good.” Zigzagzoo’s Kaikoura effort came in his first start since he raced New Zealand’s best 2yr-old trotters, last season. The Majestic Son squaregaiter went sound races finishing in behind the placegetters in races won by Ultimate Stride and Muscle Mountain. His first up effort showed Zigzagzoo had returned stronger from his winter break. “I think he has come back a bit stronger - he is quite a big horse and I think he could be even better when he gets a bit older,” Curtin said. Zigzagzoo could head towards this season’s 3yr-old trotting features if his form warrants it. The trotter can help his cause in today’s race if he can hold out fellow 3yr-old, Vacation Hill. The Kevin Townley trained squaregaiter also comes in to Thursday’s race after a last start second placing. Bookmakers think Zigzagzoo can, rating him the early $3 favourite, ahead of Vacation Hill at $4.60. Curtin also starts Kayla Maguire in race 9 at the Ashburton meeting. She finished down the track in her first start for the second at Methven, recently. The 4yr-old may need another start to show her best after doing too well during her winter spell. “She is going to need a couple of runs because she has been carrying a bit of extra weight.” “She is in a bit of an awkward place in the handicaps at the moment, racing horses that have won a few races.” Race 9 features an exciting clash between emerging 3&4yr-olds. 3yr-olds Cloud Nine, A Delightful Act and Pink Flamingo Run each go in to the 2400m mobile event as last start winners. 4yr-olds Nirvana Beach and Portalerge come in to race 9 after running good second placing in their last starts. Nirvana Beach and A Delightful Act opened equal $3 favourites with bookmakers. Tango Tara’s neck win over the favourite Taxman has earned him some quiet time. Curtin will bypass Friday’s Show Day meeting at Addington and target the quieter surrounds of Geraldine, later this month. “I never intended to back him up on Show Day because he has had quite a few runs in a short time with going to the trials.” “We might look at the Geraldine meeting with him.” Tango Tara helped keep his family’s name in the spotlight after his close relation, Tiger Tara, missed his first New Zealand Cup carnival in six years. Tango Tara is by A Rocknroll Dance from a half sister to the dam of Tiger Tara, who is by his sire, Bettor’s Delight. Tango Tara shows some traits of Bettor’s Delight stock as a fair track worker, who steps his game up significantly on race day. Niggling injuries, which Curtin described as wear and tear problems, meant the 4yr-old was spelled in January after making a brilliant start to his career. Tango Tara is over those problems and Curtin is hopeful the horse can continue to fulfil his potential. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight The race career of last season’s top juvenile pacing filly, Sweet On Me, has come to a premature end. Her connections made the decision to retire her last week after being told by vets she would not race as a three-year-old this season. “We had the option to put her out for six months and bring her back for next season,” said Paul Kenny, who raced her with wife Mary and father-in-law, Charles Roberts. “But by that time, she’s a four-year-old and when we really looked at it, we felt like she’d done enough. “She had a glittering career as a two-year-old so we thought we’d just leave it at that and have her as a broodmare.” It’s a fair assessment – the blueblood first born daughter of champion mare Adore Me won nearly a quarter of a million dollars in a career spanning just seven starts. She won two Group 1 races, including the 2YO Diamond at Addington’s Harness Jewels back in June, from the stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, and also won the 2YO Pacing Filly of the Year title. The diagnosis came while she was back in work with Purdon and Rasmussen after undergoing winter surgery. “When she was heading back south last season, Mark suggested we stop in and get scintigraphy done in Matamata,” said Kenny. “There was a chip in one knee and some minor cartilage issues in both knees. “They said we could keep racing her so we did that. “Then, on the way home after the Jewels she stopped off and had an operation and subsequently went through a faultless post-operative recovery.” It was all systems go for her three-year-old season and, after a period of swimming work, she returned to Canterbury for a new preparation. “But she just wasn’t comfortable at speed so we had some x-rays taken and it showed further problems. “We are too fond of the horse, all our horses, to risk her as we have plenty of others to go on with. “We’re not greedy and are very grateful for the success we have. “She gave us some great thrills last season.” Sweet On Me will not be bred now, but rather early next season. “You’re not going to get an early foal and we are breeding from 30 others, so we’ll start her nice and early next season.” Adore Me’s next foal, a full sister named Darling Me, is showing great promise for Purdon and Rasmussen. “On type and temperament, she’s a lovely filly but you never really know how good they are until they get to the track.” In a further blow for Roberts and the Kennys, they’ve also had to retire an unraced, but qualified, three-year-old full sister to recently-retired champion mare Dream About Me. “She had a problem with a suspensory as a two-year-old last season and now, unfortunately, she’s gone in the other suspensory. “She hadn’t raced, but she’d done enough at the trials stage to know she had some ability.” Dream About Me has returned a positive scan to Captaintreacherous, which would be her first foal. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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An old-fashioned workload produced a new best version of Habibi Inta in the $300,000 Dominion at Addington yesterday. And after his graphic demolition job in our richest trot the big stallion has thrown down the gauntlet to his rivals in the Inter Dominion Trotting series which starts at Alexandra Park in 13 days.  Habibi Inta made the most of a perfect Blair Orange drive and the early gallop of favourite Oscar Bonavena to bolt away with the group one, giving Orange the dream double of Cup week after his New Zealand Cup on Tuesday.  Already a group one winner at the Harness Jewels two seasons ago, Habibi Inta went to a whole new level yesterday and that was after some tough love from trainer extraordinaire Paul Nairn.  “After he won at Kaikoura last week I kept the work right up to him,” explains Nairn.  “I knew he would have to be fit, really fit for the 3200m and he handled the work beautifully.  “I thought he could win because he was so fit but I’ll be honest, I didn’t think he could do that.”
 It was a career statement win from Habibi Inta as he sat off the hot speed set by Marcola and jogged past him at the top of the straight.  It was a dramatic reversal of their previous clash at Ashburton when Marcoola thrashed him by 13 lengths, showing how the right horse on the day wins the group ones this season. Nairn will now bring the big, muscular six-year-old to Auckland for an Inter Dominion where some of his key rivals have question marks hanging over their heads.  Aussie raider Tough Monarch was a brave second yesterday capping a great week while veteran Monty Python surged into third while Marcoola was out of gas at the top of the straight. Another Australian visitor in McLovin suffered a case of the thumps but should be good to go for the Inters, a series Oscar Bonavena will miss.  The latter was slightly checked into a gallop after 400m when horses galloped both inside and outside, leaving trainer-driver Mark Purdon enormously disappointed as he tailed off. Punters didn’t enjoy it much either.  But Purdon bounced back two races later when Chase Auckland made the most of the trail-passing lane run to win the $200,000 NZ Free-For-All. A brave and luckless fourth in the NZ Cup three days earlier, Chase Auckland got all the luck this time as he was destined to be three back on the inside but Cruz Bromac galloped when heading to the lead, which left Classie Brigade in front and Chase Auckland in the luxury spot.  All the main players from the F-F-A will head to the Inter Dominions where they will be met by a fresh wave of Australians.   Michael Guerin
by Jonny Turner  Patience was rewarded and the winner’s podium overflowed with happy owners when Chase Auckland sprinted to victory in the New Zealand Free-For-All at Addington yesterday. Driver Tim Williams helped the All Stars pacer get group 1 rewards for his consistent spring when securing a perfect run in the trial that set up the 5yr-old’s win. The win meant the Addington Birdcage was again flooded with jubilant owners as the large Alabar Racing Syndicate celebrated their pacer’s first win in an open class group 1 feature.  Syndicate manager, Ivan Behrnes, poured praise on Williams after the race and not just for his cool and calm drive. The reinsman has been instrumental in helping Chase Auckland developing in to a genuine open class force, Behrnes said.  “He can be a bit of a handful, as you could see after the race, but he has been really in the zone in his races this season.” “It is a credit to Tim, you can often see them just going around in the prelim on his own, keeping him relaxed.” “They have really got a great combination since he has become his regular driver.” A patient approach from his trainers has also been key to Chase Auckland developing from one-time age group star to top line Grand Circuit performer. All Stars trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen did not rush the horse after he suffered a muscle problem that set his 4yr-old season back.  “Mark and Natalie kept saying be patient, he wasn’t ready for these kind of races last year, it was too soon for him,” Behrnes said.  “But this season everything has gone perfectly and he has looked a picture.” “He has had a fantastic build up, he has looked a picture and we were hopeful he could develop in to a stayer.” “He has always had the speed, which you could see again today.” Many expected Chase Auckland to blast off the arm and easily slot in to the trail behind the likely leader, Classie Brigade. That was not the case when the newly relaxed Chase Auckland was too chilled out behind the mobile and did not display the blazing gate speed he has in the past. “I was back off the gate - It’s the first time he has raced from behind the mobile this season,” Williams said.  “But it just shows how quick out the others were.” Despite the early moves not playing out as expected, Chase Auckland and Williams still landed in the trail behind Classie Brigade. In a complete turnaround in race fortunes from the New Zealand Cup, the breaks went Chase Auckland’s way when they went against his stablemates in the New Zealand Free-For-All. Spankem was unable to take the lead from Classie Brigade and Cruz Bromac went roughly, losing a handy spot. An overflowing winners podium after Chase Auckland's FFA win                           --HRNZ photo On Tuesday, Chase Auckland copped the bad luck in Cruz Bromac’s New Zealand Cup. The pacer was forced to make his run wide on the track after two of his rivals started stopping quickly in front of him. The Auckland Reactor gelding charged home pacing the fastest closing 400m and 200m sectional times of the great 3200m race.  The Alabar Racing Syndicate were left wondering what might have been after having to settle for fourth placing.  “We were so disappointed on cup day, he was in a excellent spot and Tim drove him tremendously,” Behrnes said.  “He was ready to go today after running the fastest sectionals in the cup.” “It was a huge thrill.” Classie Brigade, who also came out of the New Zealand Cup with a hard luck story held second in the New Zealand Free-For-All, a length from Chase Auckland. Cruz Bromac recovered from his early gallop to produce a huge performance to run third.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ
by Garrick Knight New Zealand’s leading driver capped an unforgettable week with victory in the country’s biggest trotting race at Addington on Friday. Blair Orange, three days removed from winning the New Zealand Cup, pulled off another double-figure-priced upset when Habibi Inta blew his opponents off the track in the $300,000 Dominion Trot. Orange combined with trainer Paul Nairn in victory and paid tribute to the master trainer of trotters post-race. “He’s an outstanding trainer; it’s just like when you drive for Mark (Purdon) and Natalie (Rasmussen). “His horses are fit and healthy and they just trot beautifully and I’m just a lucky guy to be sitting here.” Habibi Inta was a last-start winner at Kaikoura but punters preferred Purdon and Rasmussen’s boom four-year-old, Oscar Bonavena. But he struck trouble on the first bend and took no further part. Second favourite Marcoola, hunting back-to-back wins in the race, led up but couldn’t muster any more down the straight as Habibi Inta cleared out. “Going in to the race, I never thought we could beat Oscar Bonavena or Marcoola,” said Orange. “I thought we could run second or third. But once again it comes down to Paul’s ability to have them ready on the day. “We got a bit of luck and the horse did the rest.” Nairn was typically under-stated after adding yet another Group 1 to his record, and a third Dominion after Call Me Now in 1995 and Stig in 2008. “I’m thrilled. “He’s been working sensational but I thought there were four or five good winning chances in the race. “I kept the work up to him after Kaikoura because I knew he’d have to go very well, and it worked.” Julie Maghzal owns the Love You stallion and was in shock shortly after receiving the trophy. “I can’t believe we’ve won it, I just can’t believe we’ve won it,” she said gazing with amazement at the grandiose trophy. “I’m absolutely thrilled and elated to see him do what I always knew he was capable of. “He’s been nurtured all the way by the nicest, most lovely man you could ever have dealings with. “Paul and I have been together in racing for a long, long time.” Maghzal is in love with Habibi Inta and says he will stand as a stallion one day, privately if not commercially. “He’s a beautiful, beautiful animal and a very solid trotter and I’ll definitely be breeding from him later on. “His sister, Habibti Ivy, just had a wee filly by Father Patrick a few days ago so it’s been a great week. “I’m just so happy to have everyone here to share the day with me; my brother, daughter, all my family and friends. “To win this race means so much – and I was just happy to have a horse in it.” The final word went to Orange, who acknowledged former mentor Mike Austin in his speech. “My first thought when I crossed the line was my late mate Mike Austin. “I drove a lot of trotters for him and I know he’d be so proud. Thanks MG.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ
by Garrick Knight A trip to Southland is looming on the horizon for Thursday’s ultra-impressive debut winner Ashburton, Bundoran. The three-year-old Sir Lincoln gelding showed rare speed to surge up the passing lane and beat another handy type in Unico Veloce, justifying the faith his connections have in him. “On ability we were confident,” said co-trainer Amber Lethaby, who also did the driving. “He took a couple of cracks at qualifying because he just got a little bit over eager to do things. “But he’s got a lot better with every run he’s had and his ability has never been in question.” After stepping well from the mile-and-a-half standing start point, Lethaby opted to take a trail on Bundoran behind Unico Veloce. The latter got a fairly soft lead in front, but was touched up by Calypso Rock in the 500 metres approaching the home straight. It took the sting out of the leader and allowed Bundoran to accelerate past him with ease over the last furlong. “Even if that didn’t happen, I’m pretty sure I probably would have got the leader anyway because we think quite a bit of our fella.” Australian interest is there in the horse, and regular high-end buyer from Perth, Greg Bond, inspected the horse on Wednesday before flying home, but no deal has been reached as yet. “I couldn’t say for sure whether he’s staying here or being sold; we’ll have to wait and see. “We’ve had some interest but maybe the Sir Lincoln factor is putting a few of them off. “To us, we know he’s a nice horse and we’re not going to let him go for nothing.” So, Southland might be next, with Lethaby’s husband and training partner, Jason, mapping out a course for the horse. “It’s back to the drawing board now, pretty much, and seeing what we’re serious about. “I’m not too sure but I know Jason was keen on getting him down south and looking at some of the Southern Supremacy heats. “Time will tell whether that’s going to work out or not. “At the moment, we’re sticking him to stands so we’re going to have to put him in mobiles if that’s a real option.” Lethaby says they’ve never had a Sir Lincoln in the stable before, but purchased him on type for just $5,000 at last year’s Christchurch yearling sale. “He’s the only one we’ve got in the stable. “He’s isn’t tall, but is strong and really solid. There’s still plenty of improvement in him too. “My husband owns half of him with three other guys, just loyal owners that we’ve had with us for a long time. “And we’re all just absolutely stoked to have a good horse.” One race later, Canterbury media darling Cassie Fahey, home from Australia to cover Cup Week for Sky Racing, had cause to celebrate. Her family’s horse, Cheezel, won the junior drivers’ race at her first start for Woodend Beach horseman, Regan Todd. Fahey, along with sister Tess and dad, Brian, were there to celebrate what was the daughter of Betterthancheddar’s fourth win, the previous three coming under Brian’s tutelage. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ
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