Mick Prendergast

Trottings grand old man still going strong

Anyone knows harness racing trainer driver Mick Prendergast wouldn't doubt the old timer when he says he's training himself up to see if can ride in a novelty saddle trot in the new year. It's not as if Prendergast, 81, has never done it before - he started riding trotters when they raced around pegs in a paddock in Naseby in 1950. He might be a bit hard of hearing these days but New Zealand's oldest successful harness horseman showed he was still up for a challenge when he trained and drove Holdon Toyaspurs to his first win in nearly nine years at Forbury Park in Dunedin on Wednesday night. Prendergast's colours of black with red braces and green sleeves have been seen all over the South Island for six decades since his mum made his first set of silks in 1956 when he was first licensed to compete in Central Otago and south of the Clutha river. But it's fair to say they haven't been seen in the winner's circle too often. Prendergast potters round with no more than a couple of horses at a time and is known for persevering longer than most with his trotters. He gave 89-start maiden Manchester Tom five years before sacking him and Maple Twist 58 winless starts in four years before the novelty of her smart black coat and stylish trot wore thin. "I've had more seconds than wins," says Prendergast who claims just 18 wins since 1977 alongside his 30 seconds and 56 thirds. But when Prendergast eclipsed the feat of his long time drinking buddie John "Budgie" Burgess, who drove a winner at the age of 80 in 2008, he lived up to his promise that he'd keep doing it until "he was put into a box he couldn't get out of"'. Prendergast has managed to avoid the box so far but admits he's got into a few scrapes in recent years, even after he made the decision "not to drive anyone else's mongrels any more" because it was too little reward for too much risk. In a 2011 race crash, when Manchester Tom was badly checked, his dentures were forced into the roof of his mouth and he broke his nose. A couple of years ago a Continentalman trotter he was training broke Prendergast's leg and put him out for five months. When he gave her a second chance she broke his ribs before "being exported to Greece in small pieces". Twelve months ago he was struck by a mystery muscular complaint which prevented him from getting into the cart and forced him to train his horses behind a truck for a while. "I got all seized up and couldn't walk, couldn't even comb my hair until I saw an old doc in Ranfurly and threw all my medication away. Within half an hour I was up and away." It was about that time that Prendergast, who has lived alone for the last 20 years, agreed to text his daughter Stacey in Otautau every morning after working the horses to confirm he was OK. "If she didn't hear from me by lunch time she was to ring the local transport company and they'd dispatch someone to come and check on me. But I'm not so worried now that I've got two quiet horses." It's not as if there are many people who could come to Prendergast's aid either. He's back in the 150-year-old homestead he was brought up in at Hyde, between Ranfurly and Middlemarch, literally a two-horse "blink-and-you'll- miss-it" town. With only a dozen residents at the pub and transport company - there's no diary or garage - you just take the first right into Prendergast Rd, yes it's named after the family, and head down towards the Clutha River, avoiding the Cemetery Rd turnoff, to find Ranger Stables. Prendergast named the place after his best horse, Road Ranger, who won three races between 1992 and 1997, including one at Addington when he paid a whopping $69.60. "No, I didn't back him. I've never been a bettor. When I trained my first winner, Blue Signal in a saddle trot at Cromwell, he paid seventy one pounds, nineteen and sixpence and I didn't back him either." Prendergast had his first bet for 20 years on one of his horses when Holdon Toyaspurs ran third at Forbury in his previous start, his first for the stable. "He'd been working so good I put $5 for a place on him and he ran third and paid $10.40. But I didn't back him when he won, I thought the 2700 metres might find him out. Phil Williamson said he didn't back him either because he reckoned I couldn't drive two good races in a row." But Prendergast has an enviable record in the cart and, probably for that reason, says he doesn't get any lip from the young bucks on the track. He'd been chuffed to be congratulated by champion reinsman Dexter Dunn on Wednesday night. "I've been suspended only twice in more than 50 years and both times I think I was hard done by. I'm a very careful driver. I can get them away better than most and, when I start to get into trouble with the stewards, I'll give it away straight away." Prendergast says the standard of driving is far better than in the 50s and 60s when "you'd get guys half pissed out there who didn't care what they did". In those dim dark days, with very little stewards' control, it wasn't uncommon for horses to be pulled up to avoid harsh rehandicapping. But there's none of that dodgy stuff now, Prendergast says, - especially at the Lake Hawea picnic meeting at which he has been competing and handicapping since 1956. He's targeted the popular December 28 holiday attraction for Holdon Toyaspurs this year - "but I'll have to put him 20 metres further back now than I'd banked on".' Then there's also that saddle trot at Omakau on January 2. "I'm not sure if it's going to get off the ground but the club president asked me if I'd have a horse for the race. "I'm not sure if my body would handle it but if I'm happy with myself and the horse, who's a bit rough to ride, I'll give it a go." Prendergast rode for the first time in five years earlier this week, before Holdon Toyaspurs won, taking him for the 12km trek he usually takes in the cart along the popular "rail trail" a 150km cycle track along the old railway route from Middlemarch to Clyde. "It's not boring for the horses, like going round and round on a track and it's not boring for me." Prendergast is actually something of a tourist attraction himself, often stopped by cyclists who want to pose for pictures with this horse. But, so far, he hasn't been game enough to venture any further than 6km in either direction, the prospect of going into a tunnel one way and over a bridge the other way, a little daunting on his own. "But I'm off to Cromwell for a fortnight on Monday and will see how he goes," said Prendergast, who still drives his own float to the races, second nature he says for someone who worked for 13 years as a truck driver. As Prendergast says, he has the same motto as his late mate Budgie, "have horse, will travel".' In 2002, his three-race winner Sockett's Rocket earned the title of the season's iron horse - with 41 starts. Perhaps, they should have given the iron award to Prendergast himself. He'll be driving down Prendergast Rd, not Cemetery Rd, for a while yet. Courtesy Of Barry Lichter - Sunday Star Times - Check site here  

Rocknroll Hanover - Has two very smart 3 year olds in Rakarolla and Rocker Band

Son of Rocknroll Hanover looks very smart

Anyone and everyone in the harness racing industry in Canterbury were in agreement about one horses's chances this weekend and that horse was Rocker Band. The daughter of Rocknroll Hanover from the former champion mare Mainland Banner 1:55.1 ($684,579) has always been held in high regard by trainer Mark Jones. A recent trial win at Ashburton where Rocker Band won by 12 lengths with a closing quarter in a sensational 25.3 meant punters wanted nothing else when she made her debut at Winton yesterday over a mile.  However while most in Canterbury thought Rocker Band was a home run, Southern trainer Clark Barron was firmly of the opinion that his debut runner Rakarolla who is also by Rocknroll Hanover would not be a pushover. Whilst talking to Harnesslink mid week for his pick for the weekly ringaround, he mentioned that Rocker Band wouldn't have it all her own way and he expected a big run from the half brother to last season's outstanding filly Raksdeal 1:54.9 ($121,096) When the heavens opened prior to the races yesterday the track was affected but held up well overall. Clark took Rakarolla straight to the front from barrier 4 and immediately put the foot to floor while driver Mark Jones settled Rocker Band third last from her second row draw. Clark kept Rakarolla rolling in front at a quick tempo while Mark bided his time until the 600 metres mark where he set Rocker Band alight and she quickly looped the field to level up to Rakarolla as they turned for home. Just as everyone thought Rocker Band was going to stroll away for an easy win, Rakarolla dug deep and refused to go away. Come the finishing line Rakarolla still held a neck advantage and was holding Rocker Band with eight lengths away to Beaudiene Beaut Babe in third. Rakarolla cut out the mile in slushy conditions in an impressive 1:57.9 with closing sectionals of 58.7 and 29.2 Clark has had Rakarolla in his stable since he was broken in as a yearling. " He is such a lovely pacer, just like his half sister Raksdeal."  " I have always liked him but he did have a few tricks early on. " He is just a big dumb horse who has taken time to organize," Clark said. Qualifying as a 2 year old, Clark gave Rakarolla a few runs at trials and workouts before spelling him. This time in Clark has again given Rakarolla  a handful of workouts and trials and he was happy heading into Saturday. "He has been running 3.3 - 3.4 for the 2400 metres and doing it easy but the reason I wanted to start him over a mile was to try to wake him up." "I had to keep at him yesterday to keep his mind on the job but as you saw he is a really good stayer," Clark said. Rakarolla is now going to have a week off to freshen up before Clark turns his attention to his racing programme. " The main aim for now is to qualify for the Southern Supremacy finals and that's what I will aim him for in the New Year," Clark said. Bred and raced by longtime stable client Brendon Fahy, Rakarolla is from the race winning Artsplace mare Raksplace and Clark has trained her first two foals. "Raksdeal and Rakarolla are her first two foals but the third, a colt by Mach Three is with Peter Hunter who Brendon has a few with as well." "By all accounts he goes pretty good as well," Clark said. Judging by yesterdays debut run Clark can look forward to a very profitable season with the son of Rocknroll Hanover. Harnesslink Media  

Dixie Commando - Still racing due to the drop back system

Drop back system proving its worth

The ever decreasing numbers of harness racing  mares being bred makes it essential that we get the best use of those horses we do have racing and there can be little doubt that the drop back system is helping in that regard. Available to all horses 4 years + older who have not won in their last ten starts, the drop back provision has meant a new lease of life for a lot of horses and kept a lot of horses racing when otherwise they would have been retired or sold. One of the latest examples to take advantage of the system is Friday nights winner at Addington Raceway in Dixie Commando.  A six win mare, Dixie Commando last raced before Friday night in May against the likes of Kincaslough, Jaccka Justy and Dr Hook and she finished a tidy fourth on that occasion. With the drop back to a nine rating Dixie Commando sneaked into the C2-C4 trot over 1950 metres and co - trainer and driver James Geddes thought she would be hard to beat. " It was a big drop back in class to what she had been racing and even though she drew barrier nine I thought she would be very hard to beat." " She has always gone good fresh in the past so she had a lot in her favour on Friday night," James told Harnesslink yesterday. James has always had a lot of time for the daughter of CR Commando. " She is such a beautifully gaited mare and lovely to do anything with." "High speed is her other biggest attribute so the mobile sprints suit her," James said. Badly injured as a 5 year old, Dixie Commando had a pastern screwed together but the injury has had no long term affects on the mare. " She doesn't do much at home at all to be honest" "She is quite an athletic type and we just keep her ticking over," James said. On Friday night James and Dixie Commando made a flyer from barrier 9 and were able to slip into the trail behind the tearaway early leader The Bog. With The Bog setting a quick tempo in front, James never had to leave the trail until 150 metres from the finish and quickly claimed The Bog for a comfortable victory with the best of the rest being Astrapi who was 2 3/4 lengths away in third. Dixie Commando trotted the 1950 metres in 2:25.7, a mile rate of 2:00.2 It was Dixie Commando's 7th career victory and along with 22 placings she has now earned $76,139. James said serious consideration was given to sending Dixie Commando to the breeding barn earlier in the season. " We did give it serious consideration but with the drop back system in play we thought their might be a win or two in her yet," James said. When Dixie Commando does retire to the breeding barn, she has plenty to recommend her for that role. Dixie Commando is a daughter of the Sundon mare Galleons Tribute who is a half sister to the outstanding broodmare Rob The Nest who has left such standouts as Galleons Assassin 1:55.4 ($327,286) and King Of Strathfield 1:56.8 ($253,950) amongst a plethora of talented trotters. The way Dixie Commando won on Friday night however means that may not happen any time soon. Harnesslink Media  

Stent - Back to his best on Friday night

Ventolin puts Stent back on track

Nearly everyone was left breathless at Alexandra Park on Friday night when New Zealand records fell like ninepins and even lower class horses ran unheard-of times. But there was one horse, who just missed out on a record his owner longs for, who definitely didn't run out of puff. Stent put the memory of his poor Dominion Handicap run well behind him when he crushed his opposition in the Lyell Creek Stakes, becoming an unbackable favourite for Wednesday's $45,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge. And it was all down to the treatment the horse has been getting since Show Day after which he was diagnosed with symptoms of asthma. Trainer-driver Colin de Filippi knew something wasn't quite right with Stent when he was gone at the quarter, a run completely out of character for a horse who always tries his heart out. And when his vet did a lung wash it revealed the problem. "The vets said given what they found they were surprised he could run as well as he was," de Filippi said. "We're not sure what caused it but it could be pollen at this time of the year, or dust." In the ensuing weeks Stent has been treated with a number of powders and has been on a course of inhalers, just like humans with asthma. Each morning before he works Stent has a few puffs of Ventolin and afterwards another inhaler, before going on a nebuliser for 20 minutes. The regime has to be stopped a number of days before he races but its effectiveness was evident on Friday night when Stent burst out of the gate, easily held an early challenge for the lead by Prime Power, then just as easily repelled his passing lane run in the stretch. Owner Trevor Casey was delighted with the return to form but sorry Stent missed Royal Aspirations' national 2200 metres record of 2:43 by just four tenths of a second. "I'd love him to get a record because he so deserves it. He's broken records before but only been placed." But Stent, who clocked a mile rate of 1:59.5 and zipped his last 400 in 27.6, looks well placed in the next few months to gain the recognition Casey says is well overdue. After Cambridge he has the $80,000 National Trot back at Alex Park on New Year's Even then a smorgasbord of races Casey has mapped out in Australia where last year he won the A$100,000 Grand Prix. First stop is the A$30,275 Maori Mile at Bendigo, a race his speedy mare Escapee won two years ago. Then he has unfinished business with former Kiwi Keystone Del in both the Glenferrie Challenge and Great Southern Star. "He was three back on the fence in the Glenferrie and got out too late to catch Keystone Del and in the final of the Great Southern Star he drew one, led, but was attacked all the way by Blitzthemcalder and Keystone Del beat him again." It's not a schedule rival trainer Todd Mitchell has much appetite for with Prime Power unless he can beat Stent on December 31. "If we can't beat Stent here there's no point going over there to run second to him. We'll miss Cambridge and I'll freshen him up with a couple of trips to the beach and make up our minds about Australia after his next run. "If we do go it might be just for the one race at Menangle. The Great Southern Star (heat and final the same day) could be a year too soon for him." Trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will wait until after Queen Of Hearts winner Adore Me runs in the $60,000 Waikato Flying Mile at Cambridge on January 9 before confirming her Australian targets. Purdon was super impressed by the way Adore Me dug deep in the home straight to get the better of Helena Jet and Lancewood Lizzie. "It was a very, very tough effort as we went a pretty solid 300 metres to get round them to the death." Fellow Canterbury trainer Benny Hill knows exactly where and when he wants to land in Australia with Dalton Bromac, who ran a supersonic 2:36.1, smashing Bogan Fella's New Zealand 2200m mark by two seconds. His whole campaign has been aimed at the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle on March 1, the reason he is running in Wednesday's $50,000 Futurity at Cambridge, where a win would gain him automatic entry. Dalton Bromac was by far the most impressive of all the record-breakers on Friday - as good as Gold Ace, Delightful Lana and Itz Bettor To Win were - his run prompting pinch-hitting driver Dexter Dunn to rate him the most impressive horse he had driven since Christen Me was coming through the grades. Courtesy of Barry Lichter - Sunday Star Times - Check site here  

Three hundred Catholics converged on Addington Metropolitan Raceway in Christchurch in November for an evening of harness racing celebrities, dining, and the inaugural John Paul II Centre for Life, “Parish Priest Punter of the Year”. Sponsored races such as the J. Butler & Co & Mairehau Catholic Parish Pace, and John Paul II Centre for Life Handicap Trot, created an evangelistic atmosphere for the meeting. The evening brought parishioners together, and raised awareness of and funds for the John Paul II Centre for Life. Fairy money of $100 a race was allocated for each priest’s betting. As competition intensified, Fr Paulo Filoali-i hurried down the stairs, past the birdcage, and onto the track. He was seen racing down the course in the mobile barrier starter truck, no doubt to gain a closer assessment of racing form, tinged with a taste for speed. This same ploy was used by Fr Anthony Prendergast, from St Theresa’s parish, Riccarton. Race six saw Fr Bill Middleton’s horse, Donaldson, cheered on with great fervour. Faces pushed up to the glass window of the Silks Lounge. All eyes were on Donaldson as the horses raced for the finish line. Well, almost all. It is said Fr Dan Doyle, parish priest of Ferrymead-Lyttelton, had his fairy money on Dr Hook, who won by a nose. Fr Doyle’s smile grew with every race and by race 10 the evidence was clear. He became the first John Paul II Centre for Life “Parish Priest Punter of the Year”, receiving the trophy, a beautiful bronze harness horse in a glass case. The initiator of the evening, diocese programme director Phil Gourdie, has had more than 40 winners in harness racing. MC Jack O’Donnell spent 30 years as race commentator in the Wairarapa, Nelson-Marlborough area and on the West Coast. He was president of the Greymouth Jockey Club and the New Zealand Racing Conference. He raced gallopers and harness horses. Bishop Barry Jones spoke of the centre’s work as being close to his heart, supporting the Gospel of Life so powerfully preached by St John Paul II, who knew the culture of death threatens society in many ways. The centre, which is available to the whole community, he said, puts time, effort and resources into honouring the dignity of persons when they are under threat. Bishop Jones, who is patron of the centre, established a trust in 2011. In one year the centre fielded 1217 phone calls, 75 pregnancy consultations and 59 after hours calls. It distributed 95 packets of nappies, 11 high chairs, 12 bassinets, 25 cots and 14 prams. One hundred and fifty five donations of baby clothes were given out, and 127 layettes. The centre facilitated the Catholic family camp, with a theme of raising kids Catholic, giving them roots and wings. by Jenny McPhee Reprinted with permission of the NZ Catholic

Before last nights running of the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts the question on most harness racing followers minds was what would Adore Me's driver Mark Purdon do at the start from his tricky draw of one on the second line. Drawn right behind his biggest threat in Helena Jet, most thought Mark would kick through and hold her back but that left Adore Me vulnerable to having to rely on luck if Ricky May on Helena Jet took a trail. So Mark Purdon decided to take luck out of the equation and drive Adore Me like the best horse in the race. Dropping back at the start to get into the running line, Adore Me settled second last before Mark sent her forward three wide at the the 1200 mark. Finding the death seat outside Helena Jet at the 900 metres, Adore Me upped the tempo as they went past the 400 metres mark but Helena Jet went with her. As they turned for home these two were joined by noted sit sprinter Lancewood Lizzie up the passing lane and the three of them settled down to battle it out. Just when you could have excused Adore Me for feeling the pinch after such a hard run, she dug deep and saw off her challengers to pull clear for a 3/4 length victory over Helena Jet with Lancewood Lizzie holding third. Mark Purdon was effusive in his praise for "Ruby' after the race. " She had to work really hard for 300 metres to get around them so she was vulnerable" "We got a bit of a breather down the back and then she showed what a great mare she is up the straight." "She is so game, I am really thrilled with the win," Mark said Adore Me paced the 2200 metres in 2:40.3, a mile rate of 1:57.2 with the last 800 metres in 55.9 and the 400 metres in a very quick 26.6. Mark confirmed that her immediate racing programme had yet to be settled. " She will go to the Waikato Flying Mile at Cambridge in early January and then we will decide where she is going after that." "Australia is a possibility," Mark said. After last years effort to finish second in the $200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle from barrier 10, that race must loom large in the discussions to be held shortly. Harnesslink Media   

Some things in harness racing never change and that was reinforced yet again this evening when the first heat of the "Young Guns" series for juveniles was held at Alexandra Park. The All Stars barn of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen always have 2 year olds ready to go early in the season and tonight was no exception with the leading New Zealand barn represented by the son of Bettor's Delight in Lazarus. Purchased out of the New Zealand Premier sale in February for $75,000, Lazarus is from the Christian Cullen mare Bethany who is closely related to the former topliners Stars And Stripes 1:51.2 ($795,750) and Light And Sound 1:50.4 ($560,904). Drawing six at the barrier, driver Mark Purdon set Lazarus alight out of the gate and he worked to the front after 300 metres from the well supported Kimani who settled in the trail. Mark immediately took the foot off the throttle and was allowed to dictate a moderate tempo during the mid stages. Increasing the tempo from the half, Mark pressed the go button at the 400 metres but had company as they straightened for the run home with Kimani on his inside and Swamp Major on his outer. Just when it looked like he may be beaten, Lazarus pulled away the last 75 metres for a 1/2 length victory on debut with Swamp Major and Kimani filling the minor placings. Lazarus paced the 1700 metres in a moderate 2:08.2, a mile rate of 2:01.3 with closing sectionals of 57.1 and the final 400 metres in a sizzling 26.8. While there are still another five heats before the final in early March, Lazarus showed enough tonight to suggest he will be a leading candidate in ten weeks time. Harnesslink Media    

Anyone tuning in to the first race at Alexandra Park to see the emerging harness racing star Dalton Bromac would have been a touch puzzled to see leading reinsman Dexter Dunn in the bike instead of regular pilot Ricky May. Ricky had transport issues this afternoon and never made it to Auckland in time and trainer Benny Hill had the luxury of replacing one champion reinsman with another on his budding star. Allowed to ease off the gate by Dexter from barrier seven, Dalton Bromac settled last early while Te Kawau and No Doctor Needed went to war early with a lead time of under 40 seconds for the opening 600 metres for only the second time ever at Alexandra Park. As soon as Te Kawau went to ease the hectic pace, Dexter was off with Dalton Bromac looping the field to lead with 1100 metres to run. From there Dexter hardly moved as Dalton Bromac had them all gasping on the corner before strolling home for an effortless win by 2 3/4 lengths over a fast finishing The Bucket List. What grabbed everybody's attention was the time that Dalton Bromac ran for the 2200 metres which demolished the previous record set in 1999 by Bogan Fella of 2:38.2 by 2.1 seconds. The son of Major In Art paced the 2200 metres in 2:36.1, a mile rate of 1:54.2 with closing sectionals of 56.4 and 28. Dexter was quick to express a bit of sympathy for Ricky missing the drive. " I feel a bit sorry for Ricky missing the drive, it was a bit unfortunate,"  " They went really hard early and I got around them when they eased." "He was always travelling well after that and won pretty easily in the end" Dexter said. When asked how he rated Dalton Bromac Dexter was very positive in his comments. " He is still really green and has a bit to learn" "When he puts it all together its scary what he could be able to do" "He has a big future," Dexter said. Dalton Bromac now heads to Cambridge next Wednesday for the $50,000 Waikato Futurity against a small but quality lineup. If he can win that Dalton Bromac gets automatic entry to the Chariots Of Fire at Menangle which should really wet the appetite of all harness racing enthusiasts on both sides of the Tasman about what time this big impressive son of Major In Art could run on the super quick Menangle track. Harnesslink Media  

Nominations closed on Wednesday 17 December with the Met for the running of the 2015 Muscara Standardbreds New Zealand Derby at Addington on Friday 27 March.   At the time of closing, 44 three year old pacers had been nominated for the prestigious event, that this year carries a total stake of $200,000, an increase of $25,000 from 2014.   Nominations included 12 from leading Canterbury trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen.    Addington’s Racing Manager Brian Rabbitt was happy with the number of nominations. “It is very pleasing to receive such a high level of nominations for this time honoured event. Our three year old crop this year is of extremely high quality and we’ll be looking forward to hopefully carding a full field on 27 March.”   Any horse not nominated, may upon making the first late entry fee of $1,000 plus GST per horse become eligible. This fee is due no later than 3pm NZ time on Wednesday 14 January.   A fixed odds book on the nominations will be released by the TAB at noon on Monday 22 December..   Nominations   1 Art Union 2 Better Scoot 3 Bettor Spirits 4 Bracken Ridge 5 Brilliant Strike 6 Chachingchaching 7 Change Stride 8 Classical Art 9 Costa Del Magnifico 10 Cullect The Gold 11 Downunder Stride 12 Duke Of Albany 13 Express Stride 14 Field Marshal 15 Fight For Glory 16 Follow The Stars 17 Have Faith In Me 18 Highview Freddy 19 Hughie Green 20 Hug The Wind 21 Itz Bettor To Win 22 Jay Dub 23 Jonny B Good 24 Kept Under Wraps 25 Kiwi Legend 26 Linda Lovegrace 27 Major Stare 28 Major Stride 29 McArdle Star 30 Mighty Flying Major 31 My Kiwi Mate 32 Nero Star 33 Prince Of Pops 34 Pulp Fiction 35 Rakarolla 36 Robbie Burns 37 Say My Name 38 Sluggem 39 Smithy 40 Strike The Gold 41 Supersonic Miss 42 The Lion's Roar 43 Titan Banner 44 Zin Zan   Ged Mooar

19 December. This is a totally new concept for the harness racing industry. Harness 5000 is a race limited to the progeny of sire’s who stood at an advertised fee of $5,000 or less (see guideline list below of eligible Pacing Sires). Eligibility is for those 3YO pacers who were nominated for the NZ Sires’ Stakes #31 as foals or the NZ Yearling Sales Series #23. Where any horse was not nominated, if their sire was nominated for Sires’ Stakes a late entry fee of $1,000 plus GST may be payable. If the sire wasn’t nominated either the late entry fee is $2,000 plus GST. Artificial insemination and transport of chilled semen allow our leading Sires to serve large books of mares. While this is great for them commercially it makes it harder for others to break into that domain. This race is about an opportunity for the progeny of those other stallions. We are greatly indebted to The Met, HRNZ and the NZ Sires’ Stakes Board for seeing the need and jointly funding this new initiative. Stallions (Sires’ Stakes eligible) Artiscape                           Major In Art Attorney General             Ohoka Arizona Auckland Reactor           Pacific Fella Badlands Hanover          Panpacificflight Changeover                     P Forty Seven Charles Bronson             Pay Me Christian Christian Fire                    Red River Hanover Elsu                                    Righteous Hanover Extreme Three                  Riverboat King Flashing Red                    Royal Mattjesty Four Starzzz Shark          Safari Gotta Go Cullect               Sands A Flyin Gotta Go Cullen               Santanna Blue Chip Holmes Hanover             Shadow Play Julius Caesar                   Stonebridge Regal Justa Tiger Klondike Kid Washington VC Live Or Die Bruce Barlass                              Ged Mooar PGG Wrightson                            Addington

In case you have not already signed up for Harnesslink’s great newsletter called Insider Access, then here is your chance.  Just click here and within seconds you will be on track for the latest news in harness racing that you will not see or read about anywhere else, even on our own website. Each issue includes an in-depth Stallion review not available anywhere else. All previous reviews can now be viewed at www.stallionsphere.com This week’s Insider Access newsletter contains the following feature stories: Stallion Review – YANKEE CRUISER – Continuing on with our stallion review series today we have produced an in depth review for the excellent racehorse and stallion Yankee Cruiser 1:49.3s ($1,457,346). AU: You're only as good as your last win - We have all heard the adage "you are only as good as your last win." Well, it would appear at least one well-known trainer has come to realise this to be true. NZ: 1000 wins and hardly a murmur - One thing that we struggle with in the harness racing game in New Zealand is how we treat our superstars of the sport. In any other sport they shower there stars with awards and public recognition when they achieve something special. Drop your foot and pay the fine - Last week Harnesslink featured its most controversial article ever. Thousands of views and hundreds of comments, both pro and con, on the David Miller interview about dropping his foot in the Progress Pace at Dover Downs. Insider Access archive available - Following requests from our readers in relation to previous editions of Insider Access, we are providing a link for those looking to catch up on some news they missed. Simply click here and delve through the archives as Insider Access and Harnesslink continue to lead the way in providing the latest news from around the world. Don’t miss out on the next edition of Insider Access. The newsletter currently comes out every other Tuesday morning (North America), Tuesday afternoon (Europe) and Wednesday morning (Australasia).

Gold Ace’s comeback to credibility has received another boost heading into tomorrow night’s stunning premier meeting at Alexandra Park. The scratching of key rival Pembrook Benny from the $30,000 Founders 1700m has removed the major obstacle from Gold Ace making it back to back wins in the small sprint field. Gold Ace opened the $2.30 favourite with the TAB yesterday morning but shortened into $1.60 after Pembrook Benny, drawn directly inside him, was withdrawn. “He banged a knee somewhere and we had to treat it, which meant he couldn’t race,” said trainer Barry Purdon. “It is nothing serious though so he should be fine for Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve and the Flying Mile at Cambridge (Jan 9).” That means Gold Ace faces just four rivals in the group three race and greatly increases his chances of blasting to the lead as he looks to continue on from his all the way last start win. That was his first Alexandra Park success in over three years and his first win since re-joining Steven Reid and Simon McMullen from the McCarthy stable in Sydney. With his blazing gate speed and the Flying Mile just weeks away he could be in for a far more profitable summer than looked likely, especially as big guns like Christen Me and Terror To Love are having Christmas breaks. His early involvement and the Alexandra Park debut of Dalton Bromac in tomorrow night’s opening race sets up one of the stronger December premier meetings seen at Alexandra Park in years. Adore Me is the $1.22 favourite for the group one Queen Of Hearts even drawn the inside of the second line, with trainer-driver Mark Purdon indicating on The Box Seat TV show last night he would be looking to punch through early behind potential leader Helena Jet. “I think Helena Jet is the second best mare in the race and likely to lead so I’d rather do that than go back and try and come around them all,” said Purdon. Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen also have enormous roles to play in the $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial and the $50,000 Alabar Classic. Linda Lovegrace, with the inside draw, was the first horse backed seriously when the feature race markets opened yesterday, and at $3.20 was nudging excitement machine The Orange Agent’s $3 quote last night. Purdon opts for Sires’ Stakes winner Have Faith In Me as narrowly the stable’s next chance of three standouts in the Alabar Classic but the bookies see it the other way, having Hug The Wind the $2.40 top pick over Have Faith In Me at $2.70. The other group race of the night sees Stent return to Alexandra Park and his beloved mobile short course racing in the $40,000 Rosslands Lyell Creek Stakes. That combination and a good draw have seen him open a $2.50 favourite over Prime Power at $3.60 in a line-up that also includes Sheemon and Irish Whisper. Courtesy of Michael Guerin + Harness Racing New Zealand

Vabellino picked up another big race for trainer of the moment Sebastien Guarato as the 45 million euro Winter Meeting hits full swing with racing every day this month at Vincennes, Paris until Christmas Eve. Driven by Eric Raffin, Vabellino defeated a high class European field in the 115,000 euro Prix de Chateaudun recording a fast 1’13”1 (1.57.3MR) for the 2850m journey. Ugo de Nieul from Romain Derieux’s barn was second ahead of Elles W Phedo who was driven by Johanna Lindqvist for French-based Swede Thomas Claesson. But the focus of French racing is on a stellar weekend coming up, where the 4YOs and 2YO seasons reach their climax, as well as one of the premier montes, the group one Prix de Vincennes. On Friday there is the running of the top 2YO race for colts, the Prix Emmanuel Magouty in which Celebrissime will attempt to emulate his half brother Brillantissime, who won the race last year. The Philippe Allaire trained colt will face stiff opposition from another colt by boom sire Password in Caid Griff who won the other Group III race for 2YO in the lead ups. Consul Madrik, Cristal Money, Canari Match are the other coltss to have caught the eye thus far. On Saturday it is the turn of the fillies in the Prix Une de Mai will see Campo Rossa favoured to beat Classica du Ruel, Cuise la Motte, Capucine de Nacre and unbeaten filly Cirantana who makes her first start at group level. Meanwhile in Italy Tast of Bourbon warmed up for Sunday’s group one Critierium Continental with a win in the Group II Gran Premio Royal Mares in Naples Italy this week. She blasted from the gate to take control of the race and was simply too strong for the rest of the field, pouring on the power to have a big lead by the turn, and though last year’s winner Orsia (Angus Hall) made up some ground in the straight, the winner won easing up. Rodeo Drive Ok (Conway Hall) was third ahead of another former winner of the race Linda di Casei (Uronometro). “The race came off well” said the driver Davide Di Stefano. “ The credit goes to a great trainer, Jean Baudron, who has prepared bringing it here in Naples in top form “. Tast du Bourbon is a French-owned daughter of Donato Hanover owned and bred by Jean Pierre Dubois and registered in Denmark since she is ineligible for the rich French domestic programme. Her next assignment if the Criterium Continental, a race which she is seemingly bred for with her dam Qualita Bourbon a former winner of the Criterium Continental, as was her sire Love You. Her grand dam Etta Extra also left Mara Bourbon who was second in the race, and the Criterium des Jeunes winner Sam Bourbon, who is the sire of exciting Australian 3YO Twice As Much, last season’s NSW Breeders Challenge Trotters Final winner. Courtesy Harness Racing New Zealand  

We must apologize for last weeks absense due to the staff member responsible being off ill and the "boss" not picking up the slack. It might have been an opportune time for a break anyway as our tipsters were digging themselves a bit of a hole in the last week or two. There are five meetings this week and we have selections for them all. Cambridge - Thursday night Zac Butcher - Thought Georgies Smile from the ace would be hard to roll in race 2 Todd Mitchell - Very keen on the chances of Thanks Shane also in race 2 Scott Phelan - Reckons Santana Jewel is way overdue to win one in race 4 Todd Macfarlane - Thinks if the breaks go her way that Simply Stunning can upset them in race 6 Maurice McKendry - Likes the chances of The Moonraker clearing maidens in race 8   Auckland - Friday night Ricky May - Thinks Dalton Bromac should continue the picket fence formline in race 1 Tony Herlihy - Rates The Fascinator a big chance even from barrier 12 in race 2 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Reckons Classical Art can keep the winning streak intact in race 5 Blair Orange - Likes the chances of Mighty Flying Major to be a "major" player in race 7 Tim Williams - Not surprisingly Tim thinks that Have Faith In Me will win, also in race 7 Steven Richardson - Has gone a touch rougher with Express Stride to upstage the other two in race 7 Sean McCaffrey - Thought Yagunnakissmeornot can make it six from six at Alexandra Park in race 10 Gerard O'Reilly - Is confident that Zin Zan will strip a lot fitter this week and can win race 11   Addington - Friday night Robbie Holmes - Likes Tehoro Ruby from barrier 1 to break out of maidens in race 1 Bob Butt - Thought if Justalittlebettor could reproduce her Methven run she could win race 6 Matthew Williamson - Rates Monty Python a big chance to go back to back in race 7 Jim Curtin - Thinks Breeders Crown finalist Field Marshall will be to good in race 11   Wairio - Saturday afternoon Nathan Williamson - Thought if Grey Power put his best foot forward they wouldn't beat him in race 1 Dexter Dunn - Likes the chances of Leolas Delight making a winning debut in race 2 John Dunn - Very confident that Jay Dub can make it two from two this time in and take out race 6 Brendon McLellan - Thinks that Vera's Delight can get that long overdue win in race 7 Shane Walkinshaw - Rates Canardy Lover a big show to go back to back in race 8 Clark Barron - Reckons that Shezacheapy back on the roomy Winton track can win race 9   Rangiora - Sunday afternoon Craig Thornley - Thinks Inchbonnie Lad can go one better this week and win race 4   Harnesslink Media  

Rockin Cullen ended up her race career on a high by taking out the $9915 Stunin Cullen Sprint Series Final over 1200m at Forbury on Thursday, December 17. The 5YO daughter of Christian Cullen and Idancedallnight, racing in foal to top sire Bettor’s Delight, justified her favouritism from the two gate in the hands of Kimberly Butt. he had enough gate speed to cross Sunnivue Bay Boy and after being pressured by Canderel from the 800m, Rockin Cullen kept finding enough to hold strong late finisher Alexy by a head, with Sicilian Secret third. Kimberly also won the Ricoh Junior Drivers Mobile Pace at Forbury, getting short-priced favourite Cullen Keefe home after giving him the run of the race to beat Music, taking her number of driving wins to 20. Rockin Cullen achieved the goal of her father and son Southland owners, Paul and Brendan Duffy, after being sent to Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones as a C1 mare this term. She raced just four times, winning a heat and final of the Stunin Cullen Sprint Series, and also earned a 1:57.4 time trial credit before being retired to the matron’s paddock. Rockin Cullen raced just 16 times for three wins and three placings, earning $19,722. She has plenty going for her on breeding and has a useful record to match. Her dam Idancedallnight (p2, 1:59.3, six wins & $103,655) was a former Group Two Nevele R Stud 2YO Stakes winner during her race career for owner Ian Dobson. Idancedallnight, who died last year, is the dam of four to race for four winners. She left useful brothers to Rockin Cullen in Waltzing With Cullen (1:51.7, Aust, 15 wins & $139,488) and Southland winner Nureyev (2:00), and also this season’s second-up Invercargill winner Degas (by Art Major). Rockin Cullen is a distant relative of the famed Regina-Rosehaven-Black Watch maternal line, which earlier relatives of the Duffy family established. Idancedallnight, by Presidential Ball, was from another good filly in Ciccio Star (p3, 1:58.4), who won five at two and three, including a PGG NZ Yearling Sales 3YO Fillies Pace, earning $102,499. Ciccio Star also left smart half-brothers to Idancedallnight in Conquistare (1:55.9, Aust, 13 wins & $A73,755), Zenthura (1:56.5 Aust, 16 wins & $A117,705), Major Star (1:56.9, seven NZ wins & $101,577) and this season’s promising Canterbury pacer Dana Duke (three wins). Rockin Cullen’s fourth dam Spirit Of Venus (Lordship-Nancy Iola, by Black Fury-Rosehaven) was unraced but besides Ciccio Star left the speedy Nketia (1:52.4, US, 17 Australasian wins), and Whata Spirit, the four-win dam of a NSW Oaks winner in Fake Spirit (p2, 1:59.8, 1700m) and fast North American winner Family Spirit (1:52.4h, US). Another daughter of Spirit Of Venus in Spirit Of Spring left Umoja (1:51.2, US), who won five in NZ and has won 24 in North America, earning nearly $200,000. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing Stables    

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Anyone knows harness racing trainer driver Mick Prendergast wouldn't doubt the old timer when he says he's training himself up to see if can ride in a novelty saddle trot in the new year. It's not as if Prendergast, 81, has never done it before - he started riding trotters when they raced around pegs in a paddock in Naseby in 1950. He might be a bit hard of hearing these days but New Zealand's oldest successful harness horseman showed he was still up for a challenge when he trained and drove Holdon Toyaspurs to his first win in nearly nine years at Forbury Park in Dunedin on Wednesday night. Prendergast's colours of black with red braces and green sleeves have been seen all over the South Island for six decades since his mum made his first set of silks in 1956 when he was first licensed to compete in Central Otago and south of the Clutha river. But it's fair to say they haven't been seen in the winner's circle too often. Prendergast potters round with no more than a couple of horses at a time and is known for persevering longer than most with his trotters. He gave 89-start maiden Manchester Tom five years before sacking him and Maple Twist 58 winless starts in four years before the novelty of her smart black coat and stylish trot wore thin. "I've had more seconds than wins," says Prendergast who claims just 18 wins since 1977 alongside his 30 seconds and 56 thirds. But when Prendergast eclipsed the feat of his long time drinking buddie John "Budgie" Burgess, who drove a winner at the age of 80 in 2008, he lived up to his promise that he'd keep doing it until "he was put into a box he couldn't get out of"'. Prendergast has managed to avoid the box so far but admits he's got into a few scrapes in recent years, even after he made the decision "not to drive anyone else's mongrels any more" because it was too little reward for too much risk. In a 2011 race crash, when Manchester Tom was badly checked, his dentures were forced into the roof of his mouth and he broke his nose. A couple of years ago a Continentalman trotter he was training broke Prendergast's leg and put him out for five months. When he gave her a second chance she broke his ribs before "being exported to Greece in small pieces". Twelve months ago he was struck by a mystery muscular complaint which prevented him from getting into the cart and forced him to train his horses behind a truck for a while. "I got all seized up and couldn't walk, couldn't even comb my hair until I saw an old doc in Ranfurly and threw all my medication away. Within half an hour I was up and away." It was about that time that Prendergast, who has lived alone for the last 20 years, agreed to text his daughter Stacey in Otautau every morning after working the horses to confirm he was OK. "If she didn't hear from me by lunch time she was to ring the local transport company and they'd dispatch someone to come and check on me. But I'm not so worried now that I've got two quiet horses." It's not as if there are many people who could come to Prendergast's aid either. He's back in the 150-year-old homestead he was brought up in at Hyde, between Ranfurly and Middlemarch, literally a two-horse "blink-and-you'll- miss-it" town. With only a dozen residents at the pub and transport company - there's no diary or garage - you just take the first right into Prendergast Rd, yes it's named after the family, and head down towards the Clutha River, avoiding the Cemetery Rd turnoff, to find Ranger Stables. Prendergast named the place after his best horse, Road Ranger, who won three races between 1992 and 1997, including one at Addington when he paid a whopping $69.60. "No, I didn't back him. I've never been a bettor. When I trained my first winner, Blue Signal in a saddle trot at Cromwell, he paid seventy one pounds, nineteen and sixpence and I didn't back him either." Prendergast had his first bet for 20 years on one of his horses when Holdon Toyaspurs ran third at Forbury in his previous start, his first for the stable. "He'd been working so good I put $5 for a place on him and he ran third and paid $10.40. But I didn't back him when he won, I thought the 2700 metres might find him out. Phil Williamson said he didn't back him either because he reckoned I couldn't drive two good races in a row." But Prendergast has an enviable record in the cart and, probably for that reason, says he doesn't get any lip from the young bucks on the track. He'd been chuffed to be congratulated by champion reinsman Dexter Dunn on Wednesday night. "I've been suspended only twice in more than 50 years and both times I think I was hard done by. I'm a very careful driver. I can get them away better than most and, when I start to get into trouble with the stewards, I'll give it away straight away." Prendergast says the standard of driving is far better than in the 50s and 60s when "you'd get guys half pissed out there who didn't care what they did". In those dim dark days, with very little stewards' control, it wasn't uncommon for horses to be pulled up to avoid harsh rehandicapping. But there's none of that dodgy stuff now, Prendergast says, - especially at the Lake Hawea picnic meeting at which he has been competing and handicapping since 1956. He's targeted the popular December 28 holiday attraction for Holdon Toyaspurs this year - "but I'll have to put him 20 metres further back now than I'd banked on".' Then there's also that saddle trot at Omakau on January 2. "I'm not sure if it's going to get off the ground but the club president asked me if I'd have a horse for the race. "I'm not sure if my body would handle it but if I'm happy with myself and the horse, who's a bit rough to ride, I'll give it a go." Prendergast rode for the first time in five years earlier this week, before Holdon Toyaspurs won, taking him for the 12km trek he usually takes in the cart along the popular "rail trail" a 150km cycle track along the old railway route from Middlemarch to Clyde. "It's not boring for the horses, like going round and round on a track and it's not boring for me." Prendergast is actually something of a tourist attraction himself, often stopped by cyclists who want to pose for pictures with this horse. But, so far, he hasn't been game enough to venture any further than 6km in either direction, the prospect of going into a tunnel one way and over a bridge the other way, a little daunting on his own. "But I'm off to Cromwell for a fortnight on Monday and will see how he goes," said Prendergast, who still drives his own float to the races, second nature he says for someone who worked for 13 years as a truck driver. As Prendergast says, he has the same motto as his late mate Budgie, "have horse, will travel".' In 2002, his three-race winner Sockett's Rocket earned the title of the season's iron horse - with 41 starts. Perhaps, they should have given the iron award to Prendergast himself. He'll be driving down Prendergast Rd, not Cemetery Rd, for a while yet. Courtesy Of Barry Lichter - Sunday Star Times - Check site here  
Anyone and everyone in the harness racing industry in Canterbury were in agreement about one horses's chances this weekend and that horse was Rocker Band. The daughter of Rocknroll Hanover from the former champion mare Mainland Banner 1:55.1 ($684,579) has always been held in high regard by trainer Mark Jones. A recent trial win at Ashburton where Rocker Band won by 12 lengths with a closing quarter in a sensational 25.3 meant punters wanted nothing else when she made her debut at Winton yesterday over a mile.  However while most in Canterbury thought Rocker Band was a home run, Southern trainer Clark Barron was firmly of the opinion that his debut runner Rakarolla who is also by Rocknroll Hanover would not be a pushover. Whilst talking to Harnesslink mid week for his pick for the weekly ringaround, he mentioned that Rocker Band wouldn't have it all her own way and he expected a big run from the half brother to last season's outstanding filly Raksdeal 1:54.9 ($121,096) When the heavens opened prior to the races yesterday the track was affected but held up well overall. Clark took Rakarolla straight to the front from barrier 4 and immediately put the foot to floor while driver Mark Jones settled Rocker Band third last from her second row draw. Clark kept Rakarolla rolling in front at a quick tempo while Mark bided his time until the 600 metres mark where he set Rocker Band alight and she quickly looped the field to level up to Rakarolla as they turned for home. Just as everyone thought Rocker Band was going to stroll away for an easy win, Rakarolla dug deep and refused to go away. Come the finishing line Rakarolla still held a neck advantage and was holding Rocker Band with eight lengths away to Beaudiene Beaut Babe in third. Rakarolla cut out the mile in slushy conditions in an impressive 1:57.9 with closing sectionals of 58.7 and 29.2 Clark has had Rakarolla in his stable since he was broken in as a yearling. " He is such a lovely pacer, just like his half sister Raksdeal."  " I have always liked him but he did have a few tricks early on. " He is just a big dumb horse who has taken time to organize," Clark said. Qualifying as a 2 year old, Clark gave Rakarolla a few runs at trials and workouts before spelling him. This time in Clark has again given Rakarolla  a handful of workouts and trials and he was happy heading into Saturday. "He has been running 3.3 - 3.4 for the 2400 metres and doing it easy but the reason I wanted to start him over a mile was to try to wake him up." "I had to keep at him yesterday to keep his mind on the job but as you saw he is a really good stayer," Clark said. Rakarolla is now going to have a week off to freshen up before Clark turns his attention to his racing programme. " The main aim for now is to qualify for the Southern Supremacy finals and that's what I will aim him for in the New Year," Clark said. Bred and raced by longtime stable client Brendon Fahy, Rakarolla is from the race winning Artsplace mare Raksplace and Clark has trained her first two foals. "Raksdeal and Rakarolla are her first two foals but the third, a colt by Mach Three is with Peter Hunter who Brendon has a few with as well." "By all accounts he goes pretty good as well," Clark said. Judging by yesterdays debut run Clark can look forward to a very profitable season with the son of Rocknroll Hanover. Harnesslink Media  
The ever decreasing numbers of harness racing  mares being bred makes it essential that we get the best use of those horses we do have racing and there can be little doubt that the drop back system is helping in that regard. Available to all horses 4 years + older who have not won in their last ten starts, the drop back provision has meant a new lease of life for a lot of horses and kept a lot of horses racing when otherwise they would have been retired or sold. One of the latest examples to take advantage of the system is Friday nights winner at Addington Raceway in Dixie Commando.  A six win mare, Dixie Commando last raced before Friday night in May against the likes of Kincaslough, Jaccka Justy and Dr Hook and she finished a tidy fourth on that occasion. With the drop back to a nine rating Dixie Commando sneaked into the C2-C4 trot over 1950 metres and co - trainer and driver James Geddes thought she would be hard to beat. " It was a big drop back in class to what she had been racing and even though she drew barrier nine I thought she would be very hard to beat." " She has always gone good fresh in the past so she had a lot in her favour on Friday night," James told Harnesslink yesterday. James has always had a lot of time for the daughter of CR Commando. " She is such a beautifully gaited mare and lovely to do anything with." "High speed is her other biggest attribute so the mobile sprints suit her," James said. Badly injured as a 5 year old, Dixie Commando had a pastern screwed together but the injury has had no long term affects on the mare. " She doesn't do much at home at all to be honest" "She is quite an athletic type and we just keep her ticking over," James said. On Friday night James and Dixie Commando made a flyer from barrier 9 and were able to slip into the trail behind the tearaway early leader The Bog. With The Bog setting a quick tempo in front, James never had to leave the trail until 150 metres from the finish and quickly claimed The Bog for a comfortable victory with the best of the rest being Astrapi who was 2 3/4 lengths away in third. Dixie Commando trotted the 1950 metres in 2:25.7, a mile rate of 2:00.2 It was Dixie Commando's 7th career victory and along with 22 placings she has now earned $76,139. James said serious consideration was given to sending Dixie Commando to the breeding barn earlier in the season. " We did give it serious consideration but with the drop back system in play we thought their might be a win or two in her yet," James said. When Dixie Commando does retire to the breeding barn, she has plenty to recommend her for that role. Dixie Commando is a daughter of the Sundon mare Galleons Tribute who is a half sister to the outstanding broodmare Rob The Nest who has left such standouts as Galleons Assassin 1:55.4 ($327,286) and King Of Strathfield 1:56.8 ($253,950) amongst a plethora of talented trotters. The way Dixie Commando won on Friday night however means that may not happen any time soon. Harnesslink Media  
Nearly everyone was left breathless at Alexandra Park on Friday night when New Zealand records fell like ninepins and even lower class horses ran unheard-of times. But there was one horse, who just missed out on a record his owner longs for, who definitely didn't run out of puff. Stent put the memory of his poor Dominion Handicap run well behind him when he crushed his opposition in the Lyell Creek Stakes, becoming an unbackable favourite for Wednesday's $45,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge. And it was all down to the treatment the horse has been getting since Show Day after which he was diagnosed with symptoms of asthma. Trainer-driver Colin de Filippi knew something wasn't quite right with Stent when he was gone at the quarter, a run completely out of character for a horse who always tries his heart out. And when his vet did a lung wash it revealed the problem. "The vets said given what they found they were surprised he could run as well as he was," de Filippi said. "We're not sure what caused it but it could be pollen at this time of the year, or dust." In the ensuing weeks Stent has been treated with a number of powders and has been on a course of inhalers, just like humans with asthma. Each morning before he works Stent has a few puffs of Ventolin and afterwards another inhaler, before going on a nebuliser for 20 minutes. The regime has to be stopped a number of days before he races but its effectiveness was evident on Friday night when Stent burst out of the gate, easily held an early challenge for the lead by Prime Power, then just as easily repelled his passing lane run in the stretch. Owner Trevor Casey was delighted with the return to form but sorry Stent missed Royal Aspirations' national 2200 metres record of 2:43 by just four tenths of a second. "I'd love him to get a record because he so deserves it. He's broken records before but only been placed." But Stent, who clocked a mile rate of 1:59.5 and zipped his last 400 in 27.6, looks well placed in the next few months to gain the recognition Casey says is well overdue. After Cambridge he has the $80,000 National Trot back at Alex Park on New Year's Even then a smorgasbord of races Casey has mapped out in Australia where last year he won the A$100,000 Grand Prix. First stop is the A$30,275 Maori Mile at Bendigo, a race his speedy mare Escapee won two years ago. Then he has unfinished business with former Kiwi Keystone Del in both the Glenferrie Challenge and Great Southern Star. "He was three back on the fence in the Glenferrie and got out too late to catch Keystone Del and in the final of the Great Southern Star he drew one, led, but was attacked all the way by Blitzthemcalder and Keystone Del beat him again." It's not a schedule rival trainer Todd Mitchell has much appetite for with Prime Power unless he can beat Stent on December 31. "If we can't beat Stent here there's no point going over there to run second to him. We'll miss Cambridge and I'll freshen him up with a couple of trips to the beach and make up our minds about Australia after his next run. "If we do go it might be just for the one race at Menangle. The Great Southern Star (heat and final the same day) could be a year too soon for him." Trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will wait until after Queen Of Hearts winner Adore Me runs in the $60,000 Waikato Flying Mile at Cambridge on January 9 before confirming her Australian targets. Purdon was super impressed by the way Adore Me dug deep in the home straight to get the better of Helena Jet and Lancewood Lizzie. "It was a very, very tough effort as we went a pretty solid 300 metres to get round them to the death." Fellow Canterbury trainer Benny Hill knows exactly where and when he wants to land in Australia with Dalton Bromac, who ran a supersonic 2:36.1, smashing Bogan Fella's New Zealand 2200m mark by two seconds. His whole campaign has been aimed at the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle on March 1, the reason he is running in Wednesday's $50,000 Futurity at Cambridge, where a win would gain him automatic entry. Dalton Bromac was by far the most impressive of all the record-breakers on Friday - as good as Gold Ace, Delightful Lana and Itz Bettor To Win were - his run prompting pinch-hitting driver Dexter Dunn to rate him the most impressive horse he had driven since Christen Me was coming through the grades. Courtesy of Barry Lichter - Sunday Star Times - Check site here  
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