Day At The Track
Heaven Rocks,Harness racing

The big guns come out to play

For many harness racing punters the open class season starts today. Because while only a tiny crowd will be at the Rangiora trials they are more than likely going to see the New Zealand Cup winner. Pacing has already had two open class races at Addington this season, both won by genuine Cup contenders in Have Faith In Me and Titan Banner. After all, the former is an Auckland Cup and Miracle Mile winner and the latter a placegetter in last season’s NZ Cup. And Dream About Me was excellent in her return when third to that pair last Saturday and will head to the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday. Add to that the hugely-improved form of Better B Amazed in the north and her stablemate No Doctor Needed ticking over nicely and the elite level pacers have already had some highlights, with another Cup contender Jack’s Legend returning at the Pukekohe trials yesterday. But everything changes when Lazarus and Heaven Rocks make their first public outings for the season at today’s trials. If the usual Purdon-Rasmussen modus operandi is adopted the glamour boys won’t be asked for anything like their best and, depending on the weather and track conditions, a steady early tempo and a last 800m in 56 second will probably be enough of a kick-off point. But the pair so completely dominate the market for the Cup on November 14 that every aspect of their trials and workouts and then eventual lead-up races will be scrutinized. Case in point --- 11 days ago Heaven Rocks easily beat Lazarus in a private workout at home because he half bolted after striking his sulky with his hind legs. Word soon got out and what could have been a meaningless margin saw Heaven Rocks shorten as much as a full dollar into $2.40 to win the NZ Cup with some Australian bookies. After his incredible season last term and a 10-length Cup victory in race record time Lazarus deserves to be favourite to defend his title until Heaven Rocks can beat him fair and square in a race, maybe two. But punters aren’t known for their patience and as a two-time Jewels winner and Easter Cup hero, Heaven Rocks already has an army of supporters, even though he has burned them on occasions. Trainer Mark Purdon says there is little between the pair’s motors with Lazarus having had the manners advantage in the past but Heaven Rocks has grown up mentally in training this season. Lazarus likes to run near the pace and usually relaxes when he does, whereas Heaven Rocks often last season near bolted in his races, which can make for some spectacular viewing. If that continues today and on the road to the Cup he may look more advanced or, remarkably, even a superior horse to Lazarus, who will probably allow Purdon to be as conservative as he wants on him. But the irony is Heaven Rocks’s best chance of winning the New Zealand Cup is being more sedate, tractable and trialing like a lamb, which would see the market swing the other way. Today is only a trial, the first steps on a long road. But as it often the case with heavyweights, every blow is going to be heard. Michael Guerin

cancelled, harness racing

New penalty hearing for Ray Reekie

The Judicial Control Authority(JCA) have been forced to backtrack on their decision to ban amateur harness racing driver Ray Reekie for two and a half years.  Stewards issued him a charge under Rule 869(3)(g) in that he drove in a manner capable of diminishing Zakspatrol's chance of winning a race at Addington last Saturday and the JCA subsequently suspended Reekie's Amateur Horseman's licence from the conclusion of racing that day up to and including 15th March 2020, a period of 2 1/2 years. Chief harness stipendiary steward Nick Ydgren spoke to Harnesslink today and said, "Ray is no longer suspended and that his previous penalty has been cancelled." Ydgren said "there has been a new penalty hearing set down for the 29th September 2017, just before the first race at Addington that night" “His 30-month suspension was not valid in my opinion which is why I applied to the JCA to get a new penalty hearing to be held" Reekie has won twelve races as an amateur driver from one hundred and nine amateur drives over a ten year period. He is known for going for a forward position in the races he drives in. Harnesslink has had a lot of feedback in support of Ray and most people were both saddened and outraged at the severity of the first penalty handed out.    Harnesslink Media  

New Zealand Trotting Cup,Harness racing

Latest NZ Cup and Dominion Rankings

A stunning win in the Anthony Shearer Ordeal Trotting Cup has cemented Marlborough-owned trotter Destiny Jones a spot in the $300,000 Haras des Trotteurs Dominion Trot on Show Day. Her automatic entry-win last Saturday has seen her jump 21 spots to number two - only behind Monbet. Further down the Rankings kudos was given to Harriet Of Mot for her slashing win two weeks ago and last Saturday's Ordeal place-getters Amaretto Sun and Belle's Son. Nearer the bottom of the Rankings Hey Yo picked up two spots and The Foot Tapper one, based on his second on September 8. No significant changes were made in the Christchurch Casino NZ Cup rankings. Have Faith in Me, who paced like a dream last week in winning the Avon City Ford (New Brighton) Cup is now fourth. Buster Brady was sound when resuming in the Avon City Ford Cup and he leapfrogged race rival Art Union to claim the coveted 15th position. The defections of Captain Dolmio, Cullect A Guinness and Max Phactor now leave 25 in the running for a start in the Cup. The next sustaining payment for both features is due at 3.00pm this Wednesday. The next set of rankings will be released next week following Oamaru HRC's Hannon Memorial meeting. For the full ranking details click here. Courtney Clarke

Steve Telfer, Harness racing

Telfer interested in Victoria Cup

Trainer Steve Telfer is daring to dream of Cups glory with the surprise package of the pacing season -- but not the Cup everybody else is thinking about. Telfer has had a red-hot start to the season but he admits even he is stunned by the form of Better B Amazed, with the enormously improved mare scoring two crushing open class wins at Alexandra Park. The second came last Friday where she sat parked and rated 1:53.9 for 1700m, just 0.4 of a second off his national record on a cold, wet night. Better B Amazed has now beaten New Zealand Cup contenders No Doctor Needed and Hug The Wind twice, coming from outside them both times and would not be out of place in the Cup at Addington on November 14. But while Telfer realises the new season version of his mare has jumped up a few notches, he is thinking of a different Cup. “There is a little chance she could target the Victoria Cup at Melton next month,” says Telfer. “We all realise how much better she is going even than last season when she was going pretty well. “I can’t really put it down to one thing, probably just maturity. “But she is working better and every time this season we have taken her to the workouts or race she has gone up a level. “We had a meeting on Saturday night to discuss what to do next and the 3200m of the New Zealand Cup isn’t her best distance so we aren’t considering a late nom for that. “But the new Victoria Cup interests us a bit.” The Victoria Cup has been transferred from the January date when Lazarus won it last season to October 14, the same day as the Everest in Sydney and the Caulfield Guineas. Because of the move leading trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have declare they aren’t likely to send one of their team to the 2240m mobile and with the Australian elite ranks lacking depth after injuries to Hectorjayjay and Bling It On, the Victoria Cup is dominated by Lennytheshark and My Field Marshal. “They are still great horses but we think she is at her best over sprint trips so we are considering taking her to Victoria for the Smoken Up over 1720m in early October and if she raced well then the Victoria Cup,” says Telfer. “She we will nominate her for the Spring Cup next week and make the final decision after that, but a start next week might also depend on her handicap.” Telfer would eventually like to campaign Better B Amazed at Menangle, outside Sydney,where in her current form something close to a 1:50 mile looks within her capabilities. She wasn’t the only big-name pacing mare to impress over the weekend as Dream About Me was a brave third to stablemate Have Faith In Me in their comeback race at Addington on Saturday. Dream About Me was expected to need the outing and paraded looking burly but after sitting parked her run was every bit as good as Have Faith In Me and Titan Banner, who beat her home. She will now become a rarity, a Purdon-Rasmussen starter in this Sunday’s Hannon Memorial at Oamaru as she needs more concentrated racing while Have Faith In Me will be allowed to miss that next stop on the road to the New Zealand Cup. But much of the Cup focus will be on the Rangiora trials tomorrow where the two dominant favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks have their first public outings for the  season. They are likely to follow identical paths to the great race so punters will get plenty off dress rehearsals to help them make up their minds before November.   Michael Guerin

Racing is an iconic part of New Zealand’s culture. It will play an important part in our clean, green image of a world beating primary sector. With the location near the large Australian racing industry and the huge potential of the Asian racing market we are uniquely placed to succeed and grow. We have talented people who are passionate and dedicated to the industry. We have the history, quality, and genetic base of horses to suceed. With that exciting product, the Racefields legislation will enable us to capture a return on New Zealanders betting overseas and bets on New Zealand races. This should pass through Parliament in the early New Year. The industry requires a stable economic environment with a Government prudently managing its finances. That will enable racing businesses to grow, and more disposable revenue for horse owners and punters alike. This strong economic environment also needs a balanced immigration policy to enable the industry to attract the international staff it requires. Only National offers good economic management and a balanced migration process. The industry does face some challenges around ageing infrastructure, low stakes and the need to retain our best and brightest. We welcome the conversations around how to create the modern infrastructure required to promote new products and consistent racing to the punters. These considerations are necessary as we look at progressing the changes already made and in this area but also in creating the new racing statutes for the future. We would be interested in how an intermediate level of stakes could be accommodated to ensure there is a sustainable racing industry with a core base. Racing has exciting times ahead and we are enthusiastic about what can happen. Racing spokesperson for the National Party, David Bennett To view the National Party Racing Policy click on this link. To view the Labour Party Racing Policy click on this link. To view NZ First Racing Policy click on this link. Other Parties do not seem to rate Racing at all as there is no mention of the Racing Industry on there sites.

Top NZ harness racing trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen won the New Brighton Cup on Saturday with their speedy pacer Have Faith In Me. Have Faith In Me got home quickly from a nice spot on the outer to down an ex-stablemate Titan Banner and last year's Auckland Cup winner Dream About Me. The winner ran his last 800m in 55.2 with a closing 400m in 26.89 seconds, proving he is back to somewhere near his best. ____________________________ Blair Orange won four races over the weekend to move to twenty two wins for the season, nine wins clear of second place David Butcher. Orange won three races at Addington on Saturday and added another win at Methven yesterday behind the Nigel McGrath trained Goodlookin Chick. Last years drivers premiership winner Dexter Dunn is languishing back in the pack on three wins, after missing some early season racing while he was overseas at the World Drivers Championships.. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Destiny Jones has won this years Ordeal Trotting Cup for trainer Kevin Townley and driver Ricky May. Destiny Jones finished quickly from midfield on the outer to down last years winner Ameretto Sun by a length. The two favourites Habibti Ivy and Harriet Of Mot both blew their chances with early breaks shortly after the start. Destiny Jones (The Pres - Galleons Destiny) has now won eight races and $85,379 in stakes. She trotted the 2600m mobile in 3-16.1 with a closing 800m in 59.4 and 400m in 29.9 seconds. ______________________________________________________________________________________ Jonny Cox will train in partnership with Tim Butt from the beginning of December. Tim Butt is shifting most of his stable horses to Australia shortly and will be training from a 20-horse barn at Menangle, outside Sydney. Cox will be running the satelite stable here in New Zealand. The Tim Butt trained My Field Marshall won the Garrards Horse And Hound pace (Group 3) over 1609m at  Menangle on Saturday night in 1-51.9 _______________________________________________________________________________________ Canterbury amateur harness racing driver Ray Reekie was suspended for 2 1/2 years for driving in a manner which diminished his chances of winning a race at Addington on Saturday.  Of particular concern to the Stewards was his decision to maintain his challenge for the lead for such an extended period, after his initial challenge had been unsuccessful. After hearing the explanation tendered by Mr Reekie, Stewards issued him a charge under Rule 869(3)(g) in that he drove in a manner capable of diminishing Zakspatrol's chance of winning the race.  The JCA subsequently suspended Reekie's Amateur Horseman's licence from the conclusion of racing today up to and including 15th March 2020, a period of 2 1/2 years.   Harnesslink Media  

The progeny of harness racing champion Auckland Reactor are starting to emerge throughout Australasia, including a potential topliner who won his first race-day start in good fashion at Addington today (Saturday). Chase Auckland was having his first start out of the Purdon/Rasmussen All Stars Stable and ended up demolished a strong field without being fully extended by his driver Natalie Rasmussen. The race was run at a solid clip, with Rasmaussen taking Chase Auckland to the front after 600m. Despite a strong mid race attack by second favourite Ready To Rumble and Blair Orange, Chase Auckland had the field covered at the turn, and he went on to win by more than five lengths with no urging needed from the driver. The speedy Auckland Reactor gelding paced the 1950m mobile in a 1.58.8 mile rate with a closing 800m in 58.4 and 400m in 28.7 seconds. Ironically it was exactly 10 years to the day that Auckland Reactor won his first start. It was on the 16th of September 2007 at Timaru rating a 2.01.9 mile rate over 2000 metres.. Chase Auckland will now head to a heat of the Sires Stakes Series in a few weeks time. Chase Auckland winning easily in quick time. Harnesslink Media

Methven harness racing fixed odds movers as at 11.30am Race 1     Freind is easily best backed in FF win and multi-betting and is the only horse wanted at $1.40 Race 2     Winnie Magoogan is easily best backed in both FF win and multi-betting and is in from an opening quote of $3.70 to $2.50 Some money early for Honey Son Race 3     Best backed in this race is Vintage Beach and he is leading multi betting from Norman Richards. Race 4     Stunin Love is the best backed . He also easily leads multi-betting. Race 5     Make Us Grin leads both FF win and multi-betting with some money for Dundee Lady Race 6     This race is a quiet market early with best backed in FF win and multi-betting being Glennis Marie Race 7     Run Boy Run leads FF win betting, With Augusta leading multi-betting. Race 8     Leader in FF win is Sheez Good with Ok Im Bad also taking money and leading multi-betting. Race 9     Best backed is Soney Beatt in from $16.00 to $8.00. She leads FF win and multi-betting. Race 10     Easily best backed is Goodlookin Chick.  My Wee Man leads multi-betting.   Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

Canterbury amateur harness racing driver Ray Reekie was suspended for 2 1/2 years for driving in a manner which diminished his chances of winning a race at Addington today.  Reekie who is well known for his agressive driving, challenged Alan Edge driving Russian Express for the lead between the 2100 metres and 1100 metres before weakening from the 900 metres to finishing a distant last on his own horse Zakspatrol. Of particular concern to the Stewards was his decision to maintain his challenge for the lead for such an extended period, after his initial challenge had been unsuccessful. After hearing the explanation tendered by Mr Reekie, Stewards issued him a charge under Rule 869(3)(g) in that he drove in a manner capable of diminishing Zakspatrol's chance of winning the race.  The JCA subsequently suspended Reekie's Amateur Horseman's licence from the conclusion of racing today up to and including 15th March 2020, a period of 2 1/2 years. Harnesslink Media

This Sunday will see the return of grass track racing, as the Methven Trotting Club hold their spring harness racing meeting at the Methven track. Last Saturday the Mt Hutt trials were run on the track and Friend,Dundee Lady and Bank Raider were all impressive winners who are all lining up again this Sunday at the races. Friend (Changeover - Rafiki) is trained by Phil Burrows at Rangiora and the 3yo colt was an impressive qualifier at Rangiora two weeks ago. At Saturdays Mt Hutt trials, Friend settled back on the outer early but powered home in the middle of the track to win untouched for driver Gavin Smith. He looks a big chance in a strong maiden field on the weekend and is well drawn at barrier two. Stablemate Dundee Lady was also impressive, leading all the way in her Saturday trial and winning easily. She is having her first start this weekend and is drawn barrier six  Bank Raider beat a good field in the last trial of the day, winning well from the front for trainer/driver Leo O'Reilly. A grass track specialist, Bank Raider would be a good chance at longer odds in Race 7 on Sunday. Rakaia trainer Warren Stapleton had a big team in at the trials last weekend and is looking to back most of them up again at the races on Sunday. Dean Stapleton who drove several of the Stapleton runners at the trials said of the Stapleton team, "they are all in need of a run and will definitely improve with the trial run under their belt". "Most of todays runners will be back on the track for the races on Sunday" "I think our team has been going ok lately", he said. "Classie Cullect was overdue a win at Kurow as he had been unlucky previously and Leading The Way has really improved, since we stepped up his workload at home" Dean thought the new handicapping system was a help to their stable runners, by allowing them to drop back into races they were competitive in. There is free admission and free race books at Methven this Sunday for the Clubs of Canterbury Spring race day. For more details click here. Often called a punters graveyard, the Methven track can produce some big dividends due to the large field sizes and often softer track conditions. Buriton Bailey winning in the snow in October 2010   Harnesslink Media  

Addington harness racing fixed odds movers as at 10.40am Race 1     Gunpowder is easily best backed in FF win and leads multi-betting over Russian Express. Race 2     Karmic Way is best backed in both FF win and multi-betting and is in from an opening quote of $2.30 to $1.75 Some money early for Just Dance Race 3     Best backed in this race is Michele and she is leading multi betting from Idle Moose. Race 4     Chase Auckland is the best backed horse for the day and is in from $2.00 to $1.55 He also easily leads multi-betting. Race 5     The Foot Tapper easily leads both FF win and multi-betting with some money for Donsmedad Race 6     This race is a quiet market early with best backed in FF win and multi-betting being Mikey Maguire at $2.50 Race 7     Have Faith In Me attracted a $1000 bet early and leads FF win betting . Dream About Me leads multi-betting. Race 8     Leader in FF win is Cullenburn in from $2.60 to $2.20 with Beachbabebeauty also taking money Race 9     A big move here for Habibti Ivy in from $2.00 to $1.70. She is easily best backed in FF win and multi-betting. Race 10    An even market here with Micky Gee best backed $4.20 to $3.70 and leading multi-betting over Amazon Lily.   Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

Today New Zealand's top harness racing trainers start their quest towards winning a number of targeted group races this season, including this years Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup in November.   Winners of the New Zealand trainers premiership for the last four years, the All Stars Stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have five horses entered at Addington today and are quickly expected to rack up the wins and add to their incredible winning strike rate they manage to achieve each season. Purdon and Rasmussen have a two-pronged attack on this years New Brighton Cup, with both top mare Dream About Me and Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me entered in today's race,  Dream About Me and Have Faith In Me have been well schooled at the trials and workouts in the last few weeks, with both horses placing behind one of today's rivals Imola at the Rangiora workouts on the 6th September.  Mark Purdon thought Have Faith In Me would have a slight edge fresh up, saying "Dream About Me has had a longer break and she can be a bit vulnerable fresh up, but we will be happy if she is running on at the finish" Stable star Lazarus ran third in the New Brighton Cup last year, before going on to win the New Zealand Cup by ten lengths in a record time of 3-53.1 for the 3200m stand. Mark and Natalie also have the well regarded "Chase Auckland" having his first start at the races today after some tidy trial performances in the last few weeks. The speedy Auckland Reactor gelding has drawn well at barrier five today, and will be driven by Natalie Rasmussen in what is a very strong non winners race. Mark will drive the stablemate Conway Beach in the same race, but thought Chase Auckland was the better chance of the two. Renkse B rounds out the day for the Purdon/Rasmussen stable in Race 8 and the smart Mach Three mare will be driven today by Nathan Purdon. Renkse B has been flying at the trials but has come up with the outside barrier draw which will make it tough with some quick horses drawn inside her.   Harnesslink Media      

Alexandra Park harness racing fixed odds movers as at 5:10pm Race 1     All the money has come for first starter Agincourt who is in to $1.80 from an opening quote of $4.50.  Agincourt is easily best backed in both FF win and multi-betting. Race 2     Whitehaven Beach is best backed in both FF win and multi-betting and is in from an opening quote of $8.00 to $2.90 Some money early for Positano Race 3     Best backed in this race is Tehoro Hazel $8.80 to $7.00 Mortician is in from $8.80 to $7.50 with Shay Scott leading multi betting. Race 4     Ardent Lustre has been well backed early, but best backed in the FF win is Count Landeck in from an opening of $10.00 to $7.50. Leading multi betting is Bopper Jet. Race 5     There is a big move here for Solid Gold who easily leads both FF win and multi-betting and is in from $2.30 to $1.85. Race 6     This race is a quiet market early with best backed in FF win being Royal Willie at $4.80 Race 7     Acceptance leads both win and multi-betting and is the only runner wanted at $2.50 Race 8     Leader in FF win is Hug The Wind in from $4.50 to $3.20 with No Doctor Needed leading multi-betting over Better B Amazed Race 9     Another quiet market early. Best backed in FF win is The Almighty Johnson with Forfeathers leading multi-betting. Race 10    Spirit Of Love is best backed and leads multi-betting over Madam Secretary.   Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

Another great week for the harness racing ringaround last week with six winners and a number of placings again. This week sees the return of grass track racing in the South with Methven holding their "Clubs of Canterbury" spring race day on Sunday. Auckland hold a meeting on Friday night at Alexandra Park and New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club are running Addington on Saturday this week, with the highlight being the New Brighton Cup. Note: We will keep adding to this page if more tips come in, so check back often   Alexandra Park on Friday night Steve Richardson(TAB) - Steve thinks Agincourt can go close to winning fresh up in Race 1 John Morrison - John thinks his best drive this week is Mortician at Alexandra Park in Race 3 Jay Abernethy - Jay says Jude's Gem is his best drive this week at Auckland in Race 5 Todd Macfarlane - Todd thinks R Gee Bee would be a rough chance in also in Race 5 Andre Poutama - Andre is going for Northview Hustler as his best drive in Race 8 Tony Herlihy - Tony thinks his best chance is The Almighty Johnson at Auckland in Race 9   Addington on Saturday Mark Jones - Mark says that Michelle was his best chance Addington in Race 3 John Curtin - John thinks Chase Auckland will win fresh up at Addington in Race 4 Matthew Williamson - Matthew is opting for Pat Cambell as his best drive this week in Race 6 Cran Dalgety - Cran says that Dream About Me is going to be the hardest to beat in Race 7 Ricky May - Ricky thinks Cullenburn would be his best drive this week in Race 8 Harnesslink Reporter - thinks Mickey Gee can go close to winning in Race 10   Methven on Sunday Gavin Smith - Gavin says Friend would be his best drive this week in Race 2 Racechat - Lance agrees and thinks Friend is a good winning chance in Race 2 Terry Chmiel - Terry is opting for Magical Matty as his best chance at Methven in Race 3 Blair Orange - Blair says Stunin Love would be his best chance this week in Race 4 Jim Curtin - Jim thinks his best drive this week is Red Terror at Methven in Race 5 Gerard O'Reilly - Gerard thinks Stellar Success would be his best drive this week in Race 6   Harnesslink Media    

There is quiet confidence about Have Faith In Me’s return at Addington tomorrow. Quiet because after winning once in his last 10 starts and burning punters many times along the way, any confidence in the former pacing superstar comes in measured doses. “We are happy with him and think he can go very close this week,” says champion trainer Mark Purdon. Purdon doesn’t get carried away at the best of times but his reluctance to declare Have Faith In Me a great bet in the Avon City Ford Cup at tomorrow’s rare Saturday afternoon Addington meeting is understandable. This time last year Have Faith In Me was the reigning Miracle Mile and Auckland Cup champion and favourite for the New Zealand Cup as well as being openly rated by Purdon one of the best pacers in the world. While the wheels didn’t completely fall off, they went pretty flat and mystery problems, best diagnosed as a kidney complaint, mean we haven’t seen the best of Have Faith In Me in 18 months. Tomorrow looks close to a perfect chance to put his career back on track --- Purdon is adamant he is fitter and therefore a better chance than stablemate Dream About Me so the only real threat to him should be Titan Banner. “Titan Banner has a race start under his belt so he is the danger but Dream About Me I think will take a run or two to get back to her best. “But Nat (Rasmussen) has been doing a lot of the work with Have Faith In Me and she says he is in a really good space “And he seems nice and relaxed so his manners shouldn’t be a big issue hopefully.” With Purdon’s assessment of Dream About Me, who is a bigger, rounder horse than Have Faith In Me, the latter would be a near certainty at his best form but his standing start manners are far from faultless and even the all-conquering All Stars are vulnerable fresh up. Best example: in this very race last year both Lazarus and Have Faith In Me were beaten by Franco Nelson and a battling Christen Me. So it comes down to price. At $3 Have Faith In Me is worth the manners and fitness risk but anything at $2.50 or below becomes too short in a race where Titan Banner has a few advantages. The open class stars aside, Purdon tips debutant Chase Auckland as very hard to beat in race four tomorrow. “We took 21 horses to Addington for private workouts on Wednesday and he was one we were very happy with,” he told the Herald. Three other open class contenders return at Alexandra Park tonight, with Better B Amazed the possible favourite for race eight even though she isn’t off to the NZ Cup like race rivals No Doctor Needed and Hug The Wind. While Bettor Be Amazed was comprehensive beating the other two last time they clashed with tonight’s race being 1700m mobile field position could be crucial and it wouldn’t surprise to see significant improvement from Hug The Wind. Michael Guerin

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For many harness racing punters the open class season starts today. Because while only a tiny crowd will be at the Rangiora trials they are more than likely going to see the New Zealand Cup winner. Pacing has already had two open class races at Addington this season, both won by genuine Cup contenders in Have Faith In Me and Titan Banner. After all, the former is an Auckland Cup and Miracle Mile winner and the latter a placegetter in last season’s NZ Cup. And Dream About Me was excellent in her return when third to that pair last Saturday and will head to the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday. Add to that the hugely-improved form of Better B Amazed in the north and her stablemate No Doctor Needed ticking over nicely and the elite level pacers have already had some highlights, with another Cup contender Jack’s Legend returning at the Pukekohe trials yesterday. But everything changes when Lazarus and Heaven Rocks make their first public outings for the season at today’s trials. If the usual Purdon-Rasmussen modus operandi is adopted the glamour boys won’t be asked for anything like their best and, depending on the weather and track conditions, a steady early tempo and a last 800m in 56 second will probably be enough of a kick-off point. But the pair so completely dominate the market for the Cup on November 14 that every aspect of their trials and workouts and then eventual lead-up races will be scrutinized. Case in point --- 11 days ago Heaven Rocks easily beat Lazarus in a private workout at home because he half bolted after striking his sulky with his hind legs. Word soon got out and what could have been a meaningless margin saw Heaven Rocks shorten as much as a full dollar into $2.40 to win the NZ Cup with some Australian bookies. After his incredible season last term and a 10-length Cup victory in race record time Lazarus deserves to be favourite to defend his title until Heaven Rocks can beat him fair and square in a race, maybe two. But punters aren’t known for their patience and as a two-time Jewels winner and Easter Cup hero, Heaven Rocks already has an army of supporters, even though he has burned them on occasions. Trainer Mark Purdon says there is little between the pair’s motors with Lazarus having had the manners advantage in the past but Heaven Rocks has grown up mentally in training this season. Lazarus likes to run near the pace and usually relaxes when he does, whereas Heaven Rocks often last season near bolted in his races, which can make for some spectacular viewing. If that continues today and on the road to the Cup he may look more advanced or, remarkably, even a superior horse to Lazarus, who will probably allow Purdon to be as conservative as he wants on him. But the irony is Heaven Rocks’s best chance of winning the New Zealand Cup is being more sedate, tractable and trialing like a lamb, which would see the market swing the other way. Today is only a trial, the first steps on a long road. But as it often the case with heavyweights, every blow is going to be heard. Michael Guerin
The Judicial Control Authority(JCA) have been forced to backtrack on their decision to ban amateur harness racing driver Ray Reekie for two and a half years.  Stewards issued him a charge under Rule 869(3)(g) in that he drove in a manner capable of diminishing Zakspatrol's chance of winning a race at Addington last Saturday and the JCA subsequently suspended Reekie's Amateur Horseman's licence from the conclusion of racing that day up to and including 15th March 2020, a period of 2 1/2 years. Chief harness stipendiary steward Nick Ydgren spoke to Harnesslink today and said, "Ray is no longer suspended and that his previous penalty has been cancelled." Ydgren said "there has been a new penalty hearing set down for the 29th September 2017, just before the first race at Addington that night" “His 30-month suspension was not valid in my opinion which is why I applied to the JCA to get a new penalty hearing to be held" Reekie has won twelve races as an amateur driver from one hundred and nine amateur drives over a ten year period. He is known for going for a forward position in the races he drives in. Harnesslink has had a lot of feedback in support of Ray and most people were both saddened and outraged at the severity of the first penalty handed out.    Harnesslink Media  
A stunning win in the Anthony Shearer Ordeal Trotting Cup has cemented Marlborough-owned trotter Destiny Jones a spot in the $300,000 Haras des Trotteurs Dominion Trot on Show Day. Her automatic entry-win last Saturday has seen her jump 21 spots to number two - only behind Monbet. Further down the Rankings kudos was given to Harriet Of Mot for her slashing win two weeks ago and last Saturday's Ordeal place-getters Amaretto Sun and Belle's Son. Nearer the bottom of the Rankings Hey Yo picked up two spots and The Foot Tapper one, based on his second on September 8. No significant changes were made in the Christchurch Casino NZ Cup rankings. Have Faith in Me, who paced like a dream last week in winning the Avon City Ford (New Brighton) Cup is now fourth. Buster Brady was sound when resuming in the Avon City Ford Cup and he leapfrogged race rival Art Union to claim the coveted 15th position. The defections of Captain Dolmio, Cullect A Guinness and Max Phactor now leave 25 in the running for a start in the Cup. The next sustaining payment for both features is due at 3.00pm this Wednesday. The next set of rankings will be released next week following Oamaru HRC's Hannon Memorial meeting. For the full ranking details click here. Courtney Clarke
Trainer Steve Telfer is daring to dream of Cups glory with the surprise package of the pacing season -- but not the Cup everybody else is thinking about. Telfer has had a red-hot start to the season but he admits even he is stunned by the form of Better B Amazed, with the enormously improved mare scoring two crushing open class wins at Alexandra Park. The second came last Friday where she sat parked and rated 1:53.9 for 1700m, just 0.4 of a second off his national record on a cold, wet night. Better B Amazed has now beaten New Zealand Cup contenders No Doctor Needed and Hug The Wind twice, coming from outside them both times and would not be out of place in the Cup at Addington on November 14. But while Telfer realises the new season version of his mare has jumped up a few notches, he is thinking of a different Cup. “There is a little chance she could target the Victoria Cup at Melton next month,” says Telfer. “We all realise how much better she is going even than last season when she was going pretty well. “I can’t really put it down to one thing, probably just maturity. “But she is working better and every time this season we have taken her to the workouts or race she has gone up a level. “We had a meeting on Saturday night to discuss what to do next and the 3200m of the New Zealand Cup isn’t her best distance so we aren’t considering a late nom for that. “But the new Victoria Cup interests us a bit.” The Victoria Cup has been transferred from the January date when Lazarus won it last season to October 14, the same day as the Everest in Sydney and the Caulfield Guineas. Because of the move leading trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have declare they aren’t likely to send one of their team to the 2240m mobile and with the Australian elite ranks lacking depth after injuries to Hectorjayjay and Bling It On, the Victoria Cup is dominated by Lennytheshark and My Field Marshal. “They are still great horses but we think she is at her best over sprint trips so we are considering taking her to Victoria for the Smoken Up over 1720m in early October and if she raced well then the Victoria Cup,” says Telfer. “She we will nominate her for the Spring Cup next week and make the final decision after that, but a start next week might also depend on her handicap.” Telfer would eventually like to campaign Better B Amazed at Menangle, outside Sydney,where in her current form something close to a 1:50 mile looks within her capabilities. She wasn’t the only big-name pacing mare to impress over the weekend as Dream About Me was a brave third to stablemate Have Faith In Me in their comeback race at Addington on Saturday. Dream About Me was expected to need the outing and paraded looking burly but after sitting parked her run was every bit as good as Have Faith In Me and Titan Banner, who beat her home. She will now become a rarity, a Purdon-Rasmussen starter in this Sunday’s Hannon Memorial at Oamaru as she needs more concentrated racing while Have Faith In Me will be allowed to miss that next stop on the road to the New Zealand Cup. But much of the Cup focus will be on the Rangiora trials tomorrow where the two dominant favourites Lazarus and Heaven Rocks have their first public outings for the  season. They are likely to follow identical paths to the great race so punters will get plenty off dress rehearsals to help them make up their minds before November.   Michael Guerin
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