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Australian enthusiasm still strong

Harness racing bosses say the decimation of the Australian assault on next week’s Harness Jewels hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm to chase trans tasman talent. After five Australian-trained horses officially accepted invitations to the June 4 meeting at Cambridge, only My Kiwi Mate will actually start, and he was already in New Zealand after racing at Alexandra Park last month. Two of the Australian pacers, Heza Bromac and Arms Of An Angel, pulled out after suffering from a virus while trotters Reina Danzante and Illawong Byron’s manners were not good enough in recent starts to risk coming to Cambridge. But HRNZ handicapper Darrin Williams says they still want to turn the Jewels into a truly Australasian event. “It is hard to believe the bad luck we have had with the horses who had said yes to coming this season,” says Williams. “But that is racing, those things are out of our control. “But we have made a lot of contacts and the whole Jewels Day is very much on the radar of a lot of the major owners and trainers in Australia. “We had a great response last season and we will keep going because the exposure in Australia helps grow the day.” That is best illustrated by Australia’s main racing broadcaster, Sky Racing, agreeing to screen the first seven races on Jewels day on their main channel, Sky1. That will provide a major boost to Australian turnover on the Jewels as Sky1 has by far the bigger viewing audience on a Saturday, especially with the Jewels playing in between the metropolitan gallops meetings, including Queensland Oaks day from Eagle Farm. “Any time we can get our harness racing on Sky1 that is a huge result, so we are thrilled about that,” said Williams. “We will work on the Aussies again next year, and to be honest, by asking for expressions of interest from connections over there it doesn’t cost the industry here any money.”
 HRNZ will have their usual post-Jewels debrief where everything from the timing of the day to the two venues which take turns hosting the day will be discussed. “We are looking at a couple of races this year with maybe less than capacity fields but that happens on other race days too. “It is obviously more of a problem at Cambridge because so much of the horse population in based in the South Island. “But we have also had horses get sick, injured and a variety of other issues. “It still shapes as a great day but we will digest it all afterwards.” The draws for the Jewels are made early tomorrow afternoon, with the TAB final field markets expected no later than 4pm. Michael Guerin

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GoHarness team set to fire

Tonight’s harness racing meeting at Addington Raceway sees Noel Kennard’s "GoHarness" syndication brand unveil a new Syndicate. The GoHarness team have been a revelation to the industry and currently have four different syndicates up and running, and pride themselves on the fact that every horse they have taken to the races has been successful on at least one occasion. That record doesn't look like disappearing anytime soon with their latest syndication horse Franco Saxson set to debut in race 2 at Addington tonight. Purchased off Spreydon Lodge several weeks ago, the 3yo Live Or Die gelding was a handy recent trial winner at Ashburton for trainer/driver Jonny Cox. "I have plenty of time for him, he's a lovely relaxed horse and he pleased me with his trial. He arrived in wonderful condition from Steven McRae (Spreydon Lodge) so we've just had to keep him ticking over" said Jonny. "The draw isn't a great help, especially over 1950m but if the luck goes our way I wouldn't be surprised if he won" Franco Saxson is owned by the "Staxofun syndicate" and there are still shares available. Astro Boy also resumes for GoHarness and Cox at Rangiora on Sunday. "He came to the end of it last time, so we spelled him and he has come back really well. He's had a couple of workouts and trials to get ready for this, he actually missed away at the trials the other day but usually he's a good beginner. From the front line he should get a nice enough trip and be thereabouts" said Cox. Astro Boy races for the “Double The Fun” Syndicate who also raced Western Art who unfortunately picked up a career ending injury. At his best Western Art was a handy winner of the Nelson Cup at the club’s early January meeting. Another recently set up was the “Buy, Race and Sell” Syndicate. Involving 50 shares with just the one lump sum payment, which the GoHarness name have become well known for, the Syndicate looks to win a few races with each horse first before hopefully flicking them on for a tidy profit. All horses for the Buy, Race and Sell syndicate are trained by Ken Barron. Barron currently has Order Online and Regal Grin in work for the GoHarness team. Order Online was a handy maiden winner at the start of the month and provided an instant return for Syndicate members after only having purchased the 3yo Washington VC gelding off Clark Barron a few weeks earlier. Regal Grin finished 2nd at the trials last week and the son of Grinfromeartoear is defiantly one to look out for over the next few weeks. Andrew Fitzgerald

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Barry Purdon's strong hand

Weight of numbers would suggest the winner of tonight’s feature pace at Alexandra Park will be going home in Barry Purdon’s horse float but the training legend warns it may not be one of his. Purdon trains four of the nine starters in the $15,000 main sprint but also has the sole Australian contender for the Jewels in My Kiwi Mate stabled at his property with trainer Craig Demmler. And having gotten to know the four-year-old pretty well over the last six weeks, Purdon says My Kiwi Mate could show up his local mates in race five tonight. “I am happy with all four of mine but My Kiwi Mate was pretty impressive winning at the workouts last weekend,” admits Purdon. “He is a really nice horse coming out of the Taylor Mile and Messenger and even though he has a tough draw he is the one to beat.”
 Purdon has Hug The Wind, Democrat Party, The Faithful and Aliante in the race and says while Hug The Wind is a genuine Jewels chance he might just need the run tonight. “He is there to win but being a stallion he probably needs the racing, as we saw at when My Kiwi Mate beat him at the workouts last weekend. “So of the ones we train I thought Democrat Party might be the best hope. She has worked well since coming up from the South Island and has a better draw than Hug The Wind.” Draws will also play on Purdon’s mind in race six, where he has one of the Jewels four-year-old mares’ favourites in On The Town but he says punters should be careful. “She is going great and I am really hoping for a good draw with her for the Jewels. “But she has the outside of the front line this week and there looks to be plenty of speed inside her, which could make it tricky on her if she goes out hard. “I will leave the decision on that to Zac (Butcher, driver) to see what happens early but even if she isn’t in the early rush she has to be a good chance.” On The Town may be a four-year-old but she has two Derby class three-year-olds in Motown and Walkinshaw drawn inside her and both could break 2:40 for the 2200m so will be hard to get past should they get to the markers pegs first. Jewels contenders will dominate a few other races tonight, with Blazing Under Fire likely to enjoy his return to mobile racing in race three, where he meets a race rival next week in Donegal Bettorgretch, facing the often-tricky Alexandra Park debut. And the open class trotters get a rare mobile sprint in race seven, where the likes of Jag’s Invasion, Queen Kenny and Realmein will appreciate being off levels marks but they all have only moderate records from behind the mobile. Michael Guerin

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Murray Swain New South Island HRNZ Board Member

Murray Swain has always been passionate about harness racing and now he’s got the chance at the highest level to put some of his ideas on the table. He’s not new to administration having held positions as President of the Winton HRC and as a board of Southern Harness. Although administration at this level has been a passing thought, Swain didn’t expect an opportunity to take a position on the board of HRNZ would come so soon. “Being on the board of Southern Harness was a thought, but not Harness Racing New Zealand. That just came about with Alisa (Smaill) retiring. I’ve been asked over the last few years if I’d give it a go but the timing just hasn’t been right,” he said. The Swain name is well known in harness racing in Southland and Murray mixes farming and commercial eeling with horse training on his Roslyn Bush property.  He farms on 300 acres with mainly dry stock, fattening lambs and cattle. “I’ll probably concentrate on cattle now as they’re less labour intensive if I’m going to do this job so it’s a bit easier instead of dagging sheep.” Being on the HRNZ board means there will have to be other changes at home. “There are about twelve meetings in Christchurch. I haven’t told him yet but Aaron (son) will have to look after the horses when I’m away.” As well as being a breeder, trainer, driver and administrator Swain also likes to have the odd bet and has a very good understanding of racing from a punters viewpoint. He says the key thing in his new role is to listen to all industry players.  “A lot of people out there complain about a lot of things. You just have to sift through it and work out which is worthy or not. I have a lot of ideas I can add to the industry and I think I can pull the clubs together. My intention is to be an asset (on the board).” On the breeding front he currently has nine foals on the ground and six mares in foal with about thirty horses all up. And he’s keen to ensure that other owners continue to breed. “If you do breed to a lesser stallion I want you to get a fair return. My main aim is to look after the grass roots, encouraging people to breed horses and race them more.” Over the years he’s realised that selling is often the only way to remain sustainable in the industry. “If you sell you go again. If you win a good stake it encourages you to go again. I think we’ve got behind (in stakes) and we’ve got some ground to make up.”     Over the years he has also trained and raced a number of handy horses, his best being Scoots a Holmes Hanover mare out of Outspoken which won seven races before she was sold to America in 2000.   “She won another thirty (races) in America against the best Free For All mares over there. At one point she was the fastest mare to leave Australasia. She won a half a million dollars in America.” Other good winners from his stable were Radar Installed, the winner of 10 races. Hayton Brain a Sir Vancelot gelding won nine races and a further thirteen in Australia including the Group Two Celebrity Sprint, the Group Three FHRC Members Sprint, Group Three Village Kid Sprint at Northam and the Group Two Mount Eden Sprint. He also ran third in the Group One Australian Pacing Championship.He ended his career having won $369,672.   Mister Kentucky and Oomph were other good winners Swain has trained.   Although he acknowledges there’s plenty to learn about board protocol he says he’s keen to offer his services on a number of subcommittees.   “I think I’ve got a very good knowledge of handicapping. I’m also interested in setting conditions and rules for age group racing including concessions. I’ll see what’s available but I know where I want to be. I don’t mind sitting out on the edge as long as it’s sustainable. I also don’t mind being wrong.   There’ll be some pretty knowable guys up there. You can’t be scared to try and can’t be scared to fail.Programming is very important too. We need to get every horse on the track every second week with just ten races. Harness Racing is at a very crucial point at the moment and failure isn’t an option.”     Murray Swain will assume his new position following the Annual Conference on 30th July, replacing Ailsa Smaill who is retiring after being on the Board of HRNZ for the past 12 years.   Bruce Stewart

For the 100th time, someone at Addington Raceway tonight is going to go home $7,500 better off win, lose or draw. The Met Multiplier, a bonus based incentive that rewards horses who have raced at harness headquarters 15 times in a 12 month period and secured at least one victory, tonight will reward it’s 100th recipient. The bonus carries a purse of $7,500 with $5,000 going to the owner and $2,500 to the trainer. Introduced in August of 2012, the Met Multiplier has proved a popular foil in attracting horses to Addington week in, and week out and has undoubtedly helped with their numbers during leaner times. Tonight, Arran Chief is likely to get the honour of becoming the 100th winner of the Multiplier – meaning $750,000 has been handed to owners and trainers in the past four years for just racing at Addington Raceway. He’s had 14 starts at Addington in the last 12 months and picked up a victory. That victory incidentally came in the Darren DeFilippi Memorial Handicap Trot last year when he was handled to perfection by Jessica Young to win by the narrowest of margins. The Andrew Faulks trained square-gaiter goes around in the fifth race at tonight’s meeting – but there is a chance by the time he steps out onto the track that the 100th Met Multiplier may have already been paid out. A number of horses have completed the required number of starts but are missing the required victory. The Bruce Hutton trained, Gunpowder can snare the prize by winning the opening race of the night – a task made difficult by the inclusion of the exciting Mr Mojito from the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stable. Aveross Brachole can do the same a but later on for David Pearce too. In the same race as Arran Chief, Clover Mac is also in line for the Multiplier if he is able to win. The Colin DeFilippi trained runner is a model of consistency and isn’t without a big chance of winning the fifth event. Here We Go Again and Donegal Jimmy Dave are others who can pick up the prize if they are successful tonight. Brian Rabbitt, head of the racing department at Addington, said the Met Multiplier had been a wonderful incentive for him when it has come to doing his fields. “It’s really been quite incredible,” he said. “And while there might not have been a lot of notable horses who have picked it up over the years there have been a lot of horses who have shown up week in and week out and it’s a nice way to reward them for doing that. “Tonight is an interesting one just because of the all the different things that could happen. We have never had a meeting where there could be potentially five winners of the Multiplier on the same evening. “It could be an expensive night,” he quipped. Matt Markham

Before harness racing at Alexandra Park and Addington tonight (Friday 27 May), Phil Williamson was just two wins short of a record 50 trotting wins for the season.  Should neither Blazing Under Fire (Auckland) nor Madam Spur (Christchurch) greet the judge, then attention will turn to Winton tomorrow (Saturday 28 May) where the winning trainer of 470 races for squaregaiters has three top hopes in two races. Three year old maiden Pyramid Mustang runs in the Happy Birthday Ray Hazlett Trot and following his second at Oamaru last Saturday, looks a ready-made favourite. While Redwood Invasion set all the pace at Oamaru, Pyramid Mustang went from the one-one to challenge in the lane and came up only a neck short. He rates highly in this small field. His half brother by Armbro Invasion, Pyramid Magic, is the winner of four and goes from 30 metres in the Alley Way Handicap trot. Two starts back, at Forbury Park, he went from 20 and settled back of midfield before closing well for third. His latest outing was back at Forbury last night (Thursday 26 May). After a similar run, Pyramid Magic finished solidly for second to The Jinja Ninja. That he was three lengths in arrears could be accounted for by the fact the race took four seconds longer than the week before and was a sprint home. Pyramid Magic is a definite winning chance on Saturday. Williamson has the two-win mare Bobbins as a valuable second string in the race. Two starts back, she finished second on the track on Wairio mile day in October and didn't race again until Timaru earlier this month. There, Bobbins was left parked for the final lap and faded in the straight to sixth in the race won by stablemate Alderbeck. Other good prospects at Winton include To Ri Alby in the Energizer Mobile. The Amber Hoffman-trained gelding broke at the stand start at Oamaru, got a cart forward and was then carted back on the last lap, but still managed a respectable fifth. Trendy's Bad Girl goes from the inside of the second line in the Zealandia Horticulture Fillies and Mares Mobile Mile. The draw could be a problem but the distance will suit, the mare having finished between one and one and a half lengths of the winner in her three most recent outings over 1700 metres, when third, second and third. The Happy 40th Birthday Ali Mountney Mobile sees Hoiho line up for the second time. After settling last on debut, he was carted up to sit parked from the 800 but didn't wilt at the business end winding up fourth. He has since won at the Winton trials and after sitting three back on the poles, challenged three wide on the turn and sprinted well. Mac Henry

With no shortage of racing in Dunedin in the next month, the decision has been made by Robert and John Dunn to base a team in the south headed by Craig Smith. Smith will look after a team of 5-6 horses out of the Mosgiel property that Martin Denton trains from. "As much as anything it is trying to look after the owners really," said John. "The types of horses that we will send down will be the ones that have been competitive at Manawatu and Forbury as of late." "They have either met their mark in Canterbury, or are just needing that slight drop-back in class to be really competitive." John sees Craig as the ideal man to look after these horses. "He's a great worker Craig and he can look after our ones and give Marty a hand with his ones. They get on well so it should be a good fit." John has been very mindful of travel costs and the fact that the owners do take a decent hit in the pocket whenever their horses travel. "It is hard on the owners definitely. This way it will keep the costs down in terms of travelling and they will have a race each week that they will be competitive in." This weekend there is a big stable representation, with 23 horses down to run from Auckland in the north to Addington in the South.  Michael Drury Robert Dunn Trotting Stables

UPDATED 27th An odd week for the ring around, while officially our tipsters only selected 3 winners, it should have been 4. Craig Ferguson, who has been in outstanding tipping form lately, selected Bullys Princess at Forbury as his best. With another runner falling in the home straight with a lap to run, stewards were forced to abandon the race due to safety concerns. The drivers kept going and Bullys Princess was an easy winner. She is in tonight and looks a great chance even from the wide draw, Race 3. So ill put that down as a win for Craig, while Brad Williamson’s tip “Ossessione” won race 3 at Forbury paying $3.70 and $1.30. Others to tip winners were, Andrew Fitzgerald and Gavin Smith. This week we cover 6 meetings Forbury Park – Thursday Night Brad Williamson – Danielle Amore is his best chance, a repeat of her debut performance should see her breaking maidens, Race 1. Andrew Fitzgerald – Goes with Eja Patron as his best bet of the week, Race 4. Blair Orange – Thinks My Cash is a winner after a good fresh up effort, Race 9. Addington – Friday Night Gavin Smith - Thought Melanie Ohara was a good place chance in a strong maiden field. Race 2. Bob Butt – A possible quinella bet here, Bob goes with Junior also in Race 2. Matt Cross – Matt’s going to stick with Handsome Hero, he deserves a maiden victory! Is this week the week? Race 9. Robbie Close - Reckons Tupelo Mississippi was a decent place chance, also in Race 9. Auckland – Friday Night Maurice McKendry – Thought Aymar even from a wide draw would be hard to roll, Race 1. Andre Poutama – Reckons Awesome Dude is a decent each way chance in Race 2 John Dunn – Could be a quinella bet here as Johnny goes for Living Legend, also in Race 2. Mark Jones – Worked one of his runners with Donegal Bettorgretch and thought on the way the Cran Dalgety trained filly worked that she was a “Moral” in Race 3. Dylan Ferguson – Reckons he can win with Sheeza Springfield, also in Race 10. Todd Mitchell – Thought Glitzy Gal was a nice chance in the junior driver’s race, Race 10. Winton – Saturday Afternoon Shane Walkinshaw – Thought To Ri Alby was a good each way chance, Race 2. Nathan Williamson – Goes with handy 3yo filly Erin Jackka to win Race 8. Craig Ferguson – Looking to continue his great start to his training career, Craig thought Havinaravup could win again, Race 9. Rangiora – Sunday Afternoon Terry Chmiel – Reckons That Guy Finn off the front row draw was a big show, also in Race 7. Jonny Cox – Fresh up from a decent spell and a few nice trials, Astro Boy is the best bet for Jonny, Race 7. Cambridge – Tuesday Afternoon Jay Abernethy – Sticks with Our Southern Man as the best chance for his stable, Race 1. Todd Macfarlane – He’s tipped this 2yo before and he ran a nice 2nd, so Todd goes with Dreamy Nights, drawn one to run a top race, Race 3.  Andrew Fitzgerald

Two big harness racing stables venture to Forbury Park tonight, each with a debut runner. The Barron/Orange team combine with 3yo Grinfromeartoear filly Sweet Alice, while she hasn’t been spectacular at the trials and workouts; her owners the Prospero No 1 Syndicate have been on fire lately. She draws a handy barrier in 4 and you would expect Orange to have her racing handy. Opened $3.50 FF Her main danger looks to be Baileys Rock for West Melton trainer Cran Dalgety. The 2yo Bettor’s Delight gelding won a trial at Addington on Monday and with the aid of Dexter Dunn he was opened at $1.95 FF by the NZ TAB. Suggested bet: Quinella 4 & 8 Race 3 becomes just a field of 7 with a few scratchings. Jerry Fitz (Opened $2.00 FF) has the form on the board and has drawn well in barrier 2. He has high gate speed and you would expect him to be out front, rolling over the 2200m trip for Matthew Williamson. It feels like the sort of race that the old boy Motu Speedy Star (Opened $9.50 FF) could pop up in. He’s on the verge of turning 12, but has put in some handy efforts lately. While Eja Patron ($5.50 FF) trials well but hasn’t been able to bring that form to the race track. If the real Eja Patron turned up it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in the winners circle (It would certainly make this reporter a happy man!) Suggest bet: Trifecta – 2/3,6/3,4,6 Race6 throws up an even junior driver’s field but I think there is one worth having a decent crack at. Shards Halo ($6.50FF) was massive in defeat last start; she had no luck being 3 wide for most of the race but she never gave up the fight. Williamson sticks with her which is a good sign and even from a tricky back row draw she looks a great bet. Suggest bet: Shards Halo – Win Spirit Of Chronos shouldn’t be paying $21 FF, he galloped late last week when he had the race all but won. He’s tough to run down in front and that is where I expect Kim Butt to have the 9yo Western Terror gelding. Butt would have had the choice between him and the stablemate. Her staying on his guy has to be a push for punters. Beyond Belief ($2.10) looks the horse for quinella punters; the 4yo mare has been in great form and gets another nice draw to work with. Suggest bet: Quinella 2 & 5   Andrew Fitzgerald

He was meant to be enjoying some time on the hills in the north, but in a cruel twist of fate, Wesley Silcox has lost his life in a freak accident caused by a lightning strike. Always rated highly by the stable, Wesley Silcox, the winner of eight of his 12 race starts was in recovery mode after being troubled by a suspensory injury. The winner of his last three starts in Auckland 14 months ago, Wesley Silcox was being given every chance to return to the track after injuries had curtailed his promising career. "We thought this time that rather than bugger around we'd give him every chance to recover and that time would be his best friend," said Robert. However, some severe weather including some spectacular electrical storms hit the north late last week. "When we were coming back from the races last Friday you couldn't see a thing," said John. "It was shocking weather." Further north and it was one of these electrical storms that would seal the fate of Wesley Silcox. "He was in a paddock with a couple of other horses," said John "and it sounds like a tree in the paddock got hit by lightning." "Wesley Silcox was obviously sheltering under the tree when a massive branch fell hitting him and taking his life. They reckon he would have been dead instantly." "Its really sad," said Robert. "He had a lot of untapped potential and I was confident we would get him back and into the highest classes." "They are a great bunch of owners, but I feel really bad especially for Stu Leadley who owned a half share in the horse. Stu owns Alta Las Vegas outright and is also a part-owner in Franco Cristiano, both horses that went amiss this season suffering the same injury, a fracture of the pastern. I am just pleased for him that Franco Cristiano is getting close to being on the track again." Robert Dunn Trotting Stables www.robertdunntrotting.co.nz

Harness Racing New Zealand Board Election Nominations for North and South Island positions on the Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) Board closed on Friday 20 May. Following the announcement of current Chairman Gary Allen’s retirement, there were three nominees for the two North Island seats on the Board. Allan Brown, President of the Manawatu Harness Racing Club, is seeking re-election to the seat he has held for the last two year term. John Coulam, immediate past President of Harness Racing Waikato, will also seek election following five years as President of that club. HRNZ’s representative on the New Zealand Racing Board, Rod Croon, has been nominated and will look to secure one of the two seats. Rod is a previous President of the Auckland Trotting Club and is the club’s current Vice President. In the South Island, Murray Swain was the sole nomination received and as such no election is required for this position. Murray is a well-known trainer in Southland, former President of Winton Harness Racing Club and is currently the Chair of Southern Harness Racing, a co-operative working group of all Southland clubs. Murray will assume his position on the Board following the Annual Conference on 30 July, replacing retiring Board member, Ailsa Smaill. Ailsa has sat on the Board of HRNZ for the past 12 years, initially taking the South Island seat in the 2004/05 season. Over this period, Ailsa has been a strong voice for those participants in the south and has held Board responsibility for a wide range of HRNZ portfolios. Ailsa and husband Charlie are the previous owners of Southland harness racing institution, Jaccka Lodge, and retain a strong interest in harness racing, particularly in Southland. Voting for the North Island positions closes on Monday 20 June 2016. For further details, contact: Edward Rennell Chief Executive HRNZ MEDIA

We are down to one. The Australian team for the Harness Jewels, set to take place at Cambridge Raceway on the 4th of June, is down to one. New South Wales trainer Kevin Pizzuto has withdrawn his star 3yo Heza Bromac. "Kevin is not happy with the horse and intends to scratch him from Menangle this Saturday" said HRNZ's Darrin Williams. The withdrawal of Heza Bromac leaves My Kiwi Mate as the sole Australian runner set to compete. Andrew Fitzgerald

Any glimmer of hope Monbet’s rivals harbored heading into next week’s Harness Jewels might have just been sledgehammered by harness racing trainer Greg Hope. Because the Canterbury horseman says his trotting freak is working in career-best form heading into the final race of his magical season. On a day that could boast seven odds-on favourites Monbet is set to be the hottest, with the TAB still only offering betting on the four-year-old trot division with him removed from the market. After a huge season dating back to September 25, Monbet has won six group ones, a group two and a group three race, meaning victory on Saturday week would at least put him in the conversation with Have Faith In Me for Horse of the Year. But after such a long season there could understandably be concerns about Monbet holding his form, especially as so many of his follow open classers, both pacers and trotters, who could have headed to the Jewels have fallen by the wayside. Yet Hope says the four-year-old flyer will travel north this week in peak form. “He worked as good as he ever has on Saturday morning,” said Hope. “He obviously hasn’t raced for a while (April 29) but he felt great and I couldn’t be happier with him.”
 With arch rival Speeding Spur sidelined with injury, Monbet could be expected to sit parked and win on Jewels day if he had to and gives Hope and wife Nina a huge shot at becoming only the third stable to win two trotting Jewels in the same day --- the All Stars stable (under two different partnerships) and John Dickie being the other two. The Hopes also train Enghien, who is now $1.45 to win the two-year-old trot division after smashing his rivals in the Sires’s Stakes Trot at Addington on Saturday. Not only did he come from 12 lengths off long-time favourite Habibti Inta to thrash him but he did so untouched, suggesting he is right in the zone. “He has improved a lot mentally and we will give him a look at Cambridge at the workouts this Saturday, not that he needs it for fitness,” says Hope. “He and Monbet could both trial there but they won’t be out to do anything special. “Most importantly we want a front line draw with Enghien for Jewels day.” Also heading to the special Jewels workouts will be Field Marshal, who trainer Tim Butt says is over a bout of colic suffered last Tuesday. “It was a bit of a shock at the time but we got him to the vet straight away and got him treated and he came right pretty quickly,” says Butt. “We were able to work him properly on Saturday morning so he is still on target for next week.”
 While his Taylor Mile and Messenger wins suggest Field Marshal deserves to be favourite for the four-year-old male pace, that will be tested should he draw outside Titan Banner, who has been one of the biggest market movers in Jewels history. Punters could get as much as $26 about him before he joined the All Stars stable a few weeks ago but he is now the $2.40 second favourite. He was enormous beating Christen Me at Addington on Saturday with trainer Mark Purdon much happier with how he paced after the addition of an overcheck. “He was a lot smoother than the week before and we still have two more weeks to work on him,” said Purdon. “But I am not that worried about him around Cambridge now because he didn’t hit his knees anywhere as badly on Saturday." 
Meanwhile, the last Australian entry for the Jewels still not in New Zealand will complete his preparation at Menangle on Saturday night. Heza Bromac, rated a $26 chance in the three-year-old male pace, was to have trialled at Menangle yesterday but was scratched. But he is still on target for the Jewels and will start from the outside of the front line in a solid three-year-old mile. The other Australian contender for the Jewels, My Kiwi Mate, races at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Michael Guerin

Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) Chairman, Gary Allen, today announced that he will not be seeking re-election to the HRNZ Board for the new season and as a result is stepping down from his role as Chairman of the Board. Gary’s decision not to put forward his nomination for the North Island seat he has held for the past 18 years is something he has given considerable thought to over the past season. “The Board at HRNZ has made significant progress on a number of industry issues including addressing grass roots funding, optimising the racing calendar and commencing a review of the handicapping system. As these initiatives are now well underway, I believe it is time for a change and the Board is well positioned to move forward in the future.” Originally the Chairman of the Wellington Trotting Club, Gary was nominated to the HRNZ Board in 1993. He sat as a North Island representative for two terms until taking a break in 1997. Gary returned to his position in 1998 and has remained a crucial part of the Board since, being appointed Chairman in 2012. Gary remains deeply involved in the harness racing industry as both a breeder and an owner. “I look forward to seeing the progress the Board and industry can make around the super club/regionalisation proposal and the long term benefits this can bring to harness racing.” “We continue to face many challenges within the industry, especially around increasing returns to owners, maximising wagering on our product and the new health and safety environment. I am confident however that I leave the Board in very capable hands and they will continue to represent our industry and make positive progress. I sincerely thank my fellow Board members and staff of HRNZ for their splendid support over the years.” Gary will step down from his position following the Annual Conference of Clubs and Kindred Bodies on 29, 30 July. Edward Rennell Chief Executive

A terrible tragedy in the 1939 New Zealand Trotting Cup might not have much to do with the 2016 New Zealand Amateur Driving Championships, but for double heat winner, John McDermott, the race has always meant everything to him. “It means even more now,” Canterbury’s McDermott said after winning both of the opening heats at Cambridge Raceway on Friday. The 66-year-old Canterbury horseman said his grandfather Eugene (McDermott) was the man that inspired him to be a driver. He said everything he now did in the sulky was a personal dedication to him. McDermott (Eugene) was driving Colonel Grattan in the 39 Cup and they were several lengths ahead of the field and looked to have the race parcelled up when McDermott had a heart attack and died. “It might have been 77 years ago but it’s a race that is stuck in time and one our family will never forget. He was just 54 and his passing and his horsemanship was the catalyst that led to my love of harness racing,” McDermott said. McDermott Senior was a better than average reinsman who won numerous big races including the 1934 New Zealand Cup from 12 yards behind the three-time New Zealand Cup winner, Indianapolis. His grandson hasn’t reached those dizzy heights but achieved his own personal career highlight in the sulky when winning the first two of the four New Zealand Amateur heats.  “It was a wonderful feeling. I don’t think I’ve had a bigger smile since my wedding day, and that was a very long time ago. “Things just went my way tonight. Sometimes nothing can go your way and other nights everything just pans out like you want it to. I couldn’t have asked for a better result tonight. A truly wonderful feeling,” McDermott said. McDermott, who is a long-time New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club board member, drove the Paul Springall trained Sheza Springfield to win $6,000 The Dexion heat for the C1 to C3 pacers (and claimers) by a neck from Shards Phoenix and Sue Blake. Sheryl Wigg and Our Southern Man were a neck back in third. McDermott settled the Attorney General mare in the one-one and then powered down the outside in the straight to notch up the 4-year-old’s second win in 25 starts. She was the $7.40 fourth favourite. That was McDermott’s fifth career win since obtaining his advanced amateur licence in 2009. Career win number six came less than an hour later when he drove the Andrew Stuart trained Shantahlia Knight to win the second heat by a length from Vibe and Richard Sissons. Chequeme Rosie and Wigg were three quarters of a length back in third. This time McDermott took the $15.30 sixth favourite to the lead after 500m. They then hung on to hold out the fast finishing favourite Vibe. “I didn’t know much about either horse but Robbie Close did tell me at the Rangiora Workouts on Wednesday that Shantahlia Knight was the sort of horse that liked to bowl along once in front. “I thought at the time, gee that’s not going to be easy from four on the second line, but I managed to get a run through early and then found myself in front turning for home the first time. Young Robbie was spot on with what he said,” McDermott said. McDermott’s last driving success prior to tonight’s double came via the Greg and Nina Hope trained Earthbound at Rangiora on April 17. He’s also trained 35 winners as a trainer. “It’s been a very special week really. I trained She’sa Tricky Bridge to win at a premier meeting at Addington last Saturday. That was a huge thrill, and now this has just capped it off. “I think I will retire from driving at Cambridge now. Two starts for two wins will do me just fine,” McDermott joked. Going into the final two heats at Rangiora on Sunday week, McDermott leads the Championship from Sheryl Wigg. It is the second time McDermott has competed in the New Zealand Amateur Driving Championship after finishing third in a heat, when unplaced overall last year. Points: John McDermott 26 Sheryl Wigg 20 Richard Sissons 18 Sue Blake 16 Jeff Darby 16 Gavin Cook 15 John Kriechbaumer 15 Tremain Thorby 11 Tim Vince 10 Gerry Cronin 9 Miranda Hallett 7 Alan Edge 7   Duane Ranger 

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Harness racing bosses say the decimation of the Australian assault on next week’s Harness Jewels hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm to chase trans tasman talent. After five Australian-trained horses officially accepted invitations to the June 4 meeting at Cambridge, only My Kiwi Mate will actually start, and he was already in New Zealand after racing at Alexandra Park last month. Two of the Australian pacers, Heza Bromac and Arms Of An Angel, pulled out after suffering from a virus while trotters Reina Danzante and Illawong Byron’s manners were not good enough in recent starts to risk coming to Cambridge. But HRNZ handicapper Darrin Williams says they still want to turn the Jewels into a truly Australasian event. “It is hard to believe the bad luck we have had with the horses who had said yes to coming this season,” says Williams. “But that is racing, those things are out of our control. “But we have made a lot of contacts and the whole Jewels Day is very much on the radar of a lot of the major owners and trainers in Australia. “We had a great response last season and we will keep going because the exposure in Australia helps grow the day.” That is best illustrated by Australia’s main racing broadcaster, Sky Racing, agreeing to screen the first seven races on Jewels day on their main channel, Sky1. That will provide a major boost to Australian turnover on the Jewels as Sky1 has by far the bigger viewing audience on a Saturday, especially with the Jewels playing in between the metropolitan gallops meetings, including Queensland Oaks day from Eagle Farm. “Any time we can get our harness racing on Sky1 that is a huge result, so we are thrilled about that,” said Williams. “We will work on the Aussies again next year, and to be honest, by asking for expressions of interest from connections over there it doesn’t cost the industry here any money.”
 HRNZ will have their usual post-Jewels debrief where everything from the timing of the day to the two venues which take turns hosting the day will be discussed. “We are looking at a couple of races this year with maybe less than capacity fields but that happens on other race days too. “It is obviously more of a problem at Cambridge because so much of the horse population in based in the South Island. “But we have also had horses get sick, injured and a variety of other issues. “It still shapes as a great day but we will digest it all afterwards.” The draws for the Jewels are made early tomorrow afternoon, with the TAB final field markets expected no later than 4pm. Michael Guerin
Tonight’s harness racing meeting at Addington Raceway sees Noel Kennard’s "GoHarness" syndication brand unveil a new Syndicate. The GoHarness team have been a revelation to the industry and currently have four different syndicates up and running, and pride themselves on the fact that every horse they have taken to the races has been successful on at least one occasion. That record doesn't look like disappearing anytime soon with their latest syndication horse Franco Saxson set to debut in race 2 at Addington tonight. Purchased off Spreydon Lodge several weeks ago, the 3yo Live Or Die gelding was a handy recent trial winner at Ashburton for trainer/driver Jonny Cox. "I have plenty of time for him, he's a lovely relaxed horse and he pleased me with his trial. He arrived in wonderful condition from Steven McRae (Spreydon Lodge) so we've just had to keep him ticking over" said Jonny. "The draw isn't a great help, especially over 1950m but if the luck goes our way I wouldn't be surprised if he won" Franco Saxson is owned by the "Staxofun syndicate" and there are still shares available. Astro Boy also resumes for GoHarness and Cox at Rangiora on Sunday. "He came to the end of it last time, so we spelled him and he has come back really well. He's had a couple of workouts and trials to get ready for this, he actually missed away at the trials the other day but usually he's a good beginner. From the front line he should get a nice enough trip and be thereabouts" said Cox. Astro Boy races for the “Double The Fun” Syndicate who also raced Western Art who unfortunately picked up a career ending injury. At his best Western Art was a handy winner of the Nelson Cup at the club’s early January meeting. Another recently set up was the “Buy, Race and Sell” Syndicate. Involving 50 shares with just the one lump sum payment, which the GoHarness name have become well known for, the Syndicate looks to win a few races with each horse first before hopefully flicking them on for a tidy profit. All horses for the Buy, Race and Sell syndicate are trained by Ken Barron. Barron currently has Order Online and Regal Grin in work for the GoHarness team. Order Online was a handy maiden winner at the start of the month and provided an instant return for Syndicate members after only having purchased the 3yo Washington VC gelding off Clark Barron a few weeks earlier. Regal Grin finished 2nd at the trials last week and the son of Grinfromeartoear is defiantly one to look out for over the next few weeks. Andrew Fitzgerald
Weight of numbers would suggest the winner of tonight’s feature pace at Alexandra Park will be going home in Barry Purdon’s horse float but the training legend warns it may not be one of his. Purdon trains four of the nine starters in the $15,000 main sprint but also has the sole Australian contender for the Jewels in My Kiwi Mate stabled at his property with trainer Craig Demmler. And having gotten to know the four-year-old pretty well over the last six weeks, Purdon says My Kiwi Mate could show up his local mates in race five tonight. “I am happy with all four of mine but My Kiwi Mate was pretty impressive winning at the workouts last weekend,” admits Purdon. “He is a really nice horse coming out of the Taylor Mile and Messenger and even though he has a tough draw he is the one to beat.”
 Purdon has Hug The Wind, Democrat Party, The Faithful and Aliante in the race and says while Hug The Wind is a genuine Jewels chance he might just need the run tonight. “He is there to win but being a stallion he probably needs the racing, as we saw at when My Kiwi Mate beat him at the workouts last weekend. “So of the ones we train I thought Democrat Party might be the best hope. She has worked well since coming up from the South Island and has a better draw than Hug The Wind.” Draws will also play on Purdon’s mind in race six, where he has one of the Jewels four-year-old mares’ favourites in On The Town but he says punters should be careful. “She is going great and I am really hoping for a good draw with her for the Jewels. “But she has the outside of the front line this week and there looks to be plenty of speed inside her, which could make it tricky on her if she goes out hard. “I will leave the decision on that to Zac (Butcher, driver) to see what happens early but even if she isn’t in the early rush she has to be a good chance.” On The Town may be a four-year-old but she has two Derby class three-year-olds in Motown and Walkinshaw drawn inside her and both could break 2:40 for the 2200m so will be hard to get past should they get to the markers pegs first. Jewels contenders will dominate a few other races tonight, with Blazing Under Fire likely to enjoy his return to mobile racing in race three, where he meets a race rival next week in Donegal Bettorgretch, facing the often-tricky Alexandra Park debut. And the open class trotters get a rare mobile sprint in race seven, where the likes of Jag’s Invasion, Queen Kenny and Realmein will appreciate being off levels marks but they all have only moderate records from behind the mobile. Michael Guerin
Murray Swain has always been passionate about harness racing and now he’s got the chance at the highest level to put some of his ideas on the table. He’s not new to administration having held positions as President of the Winton HRC and as a board of Southern Harness. Although administration at this level has been a passing thought, Swain didn’t expect an opportunity to take a position on the board of HRNZ would come so soon. “Being on the board of Southern Harness was a thought, but not Harness Racing New Zealand. That just came about with Alisa (Smaill) retiring. I’ve been asked over the last few years if I’d give it a go but the timing just hasn’t been right,” he said. The Swain name is well known in harness racing in Southland and Murray mixes farming and commercial eeling with horse training on his Roslyn Bush property.  He farms on 300 acres with mainly dry stock, fattening lambs and cattle. “I’ll probably concentrate on cattle now as they’re less labour intensive if I’m going to do this job so it’s a bit easier instead of dagging sheep.” Being on the HRNZ board means there will have to be other changes at home. “There are about twelve meetings in Christchurch. I haven’t told him yet but Aaron (son) will have to look after the horses when I’m away.” As well as being a breeder, trainer, driver and administrator Swain also likes to have the odd bet and has a very good understanding of racing from a punters viewpoint. He says the key thing in his new role is to listen to all industry players.  “A lot of people out there complain about a lot of things. You just have to sift through it and work out which is worthy or not. I have a lot of ideas I can add to the industry and I think I can pull the clubs together. My intention is to be an asset (on the board).” On the breeding front he currently has nine foals on the ground and six mares in foal with about thirty horses all up. And he’s keen to ensure that other owners continue to breed. “If you do breed to a lesser stallion I want you to get a fair return. My main aim is to look after the grass roots, encouraging people to breed horses and race them more.” Over the years he’s realised that selling is often the only way to remain sustainable in the industry. “If you sell you go again. If you win a good stake it encourages you to go again. I think we’ve got behind (in stakes) and we’ve got some ground to make up.”     Over the years he has also trained and raced a number of handy horses, his best being Scoots a Holmes Hanover mare out of Outspoken which won seven races before she was sold to America in 2000.   “She won another thirty (races) in America against the best Free For All mares over there. At one point she was the fastest mare to leave Australasia. She won a half a million dollars in America.” Other good winners from his stable were Radar Installed, the winner of 10 races. Hayton Brain a Sir Vancelot gelding won nine races and a further thirteen in Australia including the Group Two Celebrity Sprint, the Group Three FHRC Members Sprint, Group Three Village Kid Sprint at Northam and the Group Two Mount Eden Sprint. He also ran third in the Group One Australian Pacing Championship.He ended his career having won $369,672.   Mister Kentucky and Oomph were other good winners Swain has trained.   Although he acknowledges there’s plenty to learn about board protocol he says he’s keen to offer his services on a number of subcommittees.   “I think I’ve got a very good knowledge of handicapping. I’m also interested in setting conditions and rules for age group racing including concessions. I’ll see what’s available but I know where I want to be. I don’t mind sitting out on the edge as long as it’s sustainable. I also don’t mind being wrong.   There’ll be some pretty knowable guys up there. You can’t be scared to try and can’t be scared to fail.Programming is very important too. We need to get every horse on the track every second week with just ten races. Harness Racing is at a very crucial point at the moment and failure isn’t an option.”     Murray Swain will assume his new position following the Annual Conference on 30th July, replacing Ailsa Smaill who is retiring after being on the Board of HRNZ for the past 12 years.   Bruce Stewart
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