Classical Art - Taking each step up with a touch of real class

Purdon duo show their class

Harness racing has been dominated in the south this season by the outstanding efforts of the All Stars team and tonight at Addington was no different. Heat three of this years Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies series for 3 year fillies looked like a three horse affair with the All Star Team duo of Supersonic Miss and Classical Art joined by the talented Delightful Lana from the Cran Dalgety barn. In slushy track conditions, Delightful Lana and Classical Art came out together and dueled for 300 metres before Natalie Rasmussen slotted Classical Art into the trail behind Delightful Lana who as usual had Dexter Dunn in the bike. Mark Purdon had settled Supersonic Miss back on the inner but hooked her out and sent her forward with 1200 metres to go and she worked to Delightful Lana's wheel with 700 metres to run.  As they swung for home Delightful Lana held a narrow advantage but was quickly claimed by Classical Art up the passing lane and by Supersonic Miss on her outer and these two settled down to battle it out. Even allowing for the run she had most pundits would have still expected Supersonic Miss to assert her superiority but it wasn't to be as Classical Art ran away from her better credentialed stablemate for an emphatic victory by 2 1/2 lengths with Delightful Lana a further 1 3/4 lengths in third. It was the fourth win in a row for the strongly built daughter of Mach Three and maintained her unbeaten record since her debut just over a month ago. Classical Art paced the 1950 metres in slushy conditions in 2:24.6, a mile rate of 1:59.3 with smart sectionals of 56 and 27.5 considering the state of the track. It should be little wonder that Classical Art is as talented as she is as the daughter of Mach Three is from the 1:57.6 Artsplace mare Art Lover who is a daughter of none other than the brilliant racemare Under Cover Lover 1:51.8 ($864,923). Purchased for $31,000 from the Australasian Classic Yearling sale in 2013, Classical Art's progress has been far from plain sailing for her trainers. Mark Purdon was quite reflective after the race tonight  on his unbeaten filly. " She was close to being sacked not to long ago to be honest." " She is quite a hard filly to work with and is not that good a track worker at home." "When it comes to raceday however she is a completely different filly." "To win that race tonight in the manner she did at just her fourth lifetime start was some effort," Mark said Mark wasn't disappointed with the run of the brilliant Supersonic Miss to run second. " The track didn't suit her 100% and she had a tough run but it was still a smart effort under the circumstances but she ran into a better one on the night," he said. Both fillies will now head to Auckland with the $75,000 Ladyship Stakes and $150,000 Alabar Sires Stakes final firmly on the radar. While Supersonic Miss would have started the season as the top ranked filly in the All Stars stable, one gets the feeling from listening to Mark Purdon tonight that she is being  quickly overtaken by Classical Art. Harnesslink Media    

Mach Three - Continues to leave quality fillies and mares

Smart win for Mach Three mare

Harness racing tonight at Addington Raceway was run in cold and showery conditions and a lot of horses just struggled to cope with the slushy track conditions. One who did cope was the talented 4 year old mare in Sans Le Sou who showed real courage to win her maiden in a style that suggested that it won't be her last success. Punters sent her out favourite in the 2600 metres event after a couple of smart seconds at her previous two starts. The daughter of Mach Three settled six back in the running line for trainer/driver Ricky Alfield as Ancient Moonlight set up a solid pace in front. Ricky didn't move until 1300 metres from home where he sent Sans Le Sou forward three wide without cover. Unable to get in to the one out line, Sans Le Sou sat out three wide for the rest of the trip and as they turned for home  and just when you half expected Sans Le Sou to stop, she kicked clear for an impressive victory. Sans Le Sou paced the 2600 metres in 3:19.8, a mile rate of 2:03.6 with closing sectionals of 59 and 29.3 which taking into account the ground she covered and the track conditions was a great way to clear maidens. Sans Le Sou which is French for "Penniless" is a daughter of the race winning Live Or Die mare Arma Xcellent and traces closely to the outstanding maternal family established by Armiss. It is a family that is noted for leaving high quality fillies and mares and in Sans Le Sou it appears to have another one to add to the list. Harnesslink Media    

Auckland Trotting Club's Visionary plans

Auckland Club's stunning plans to secure future

Everybody involved in harness racing in New Zealand knows that there are major challenges facing the industry. Whatever branch of the industry you look at has issues that are threatening the very existence of the sport we love. From the decline in the number of mares being sent to stud to the difficulty in retaining owners in the game through to a management structure that is more attuned to the 19th century than the 21st century we live in and you have an industry in real difficulty. The two major clubs in New Zealand are the Auckland Trotting Club based at Alexandra Park and the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club based at  Addington Raceway and both deserve credit in the last few years for lifting stake levels and increasing returns to stake holders. Both have achieved this by developing large income streams outside of harness racing and have used those funds to help lift stake levels. The Auckland Trotting Club have now released visionary development plans that if implemented in full will see a huge lift in stakes at Alexandra Park and will definitely give the whole harness racing industry in New Zealand a huge boost when it needs it most. The proposals are for the establishment of a village type concept at the eastern end of Alexandra Park which has an estimated cost of development of $205,400,000. It will involve a nine story apartment complex of 231 apartments with 8 of these being luxury penthouse units and a major retail complex underneath the apartments. It is envisaged that the construction phase will last for 20 months and the Auckland club already has agreements with their neighbours regarding the development. The CEO Dominique Dowding has driven this project and is due a lot of the credit for the progress made to date. Just yesterday the club received consent for the project from the Auckland City Council.  Last night the Auckland president Kerry Hoggard outlined the proposal to over 120 members. The Auckland Trotting Club board this year includes such well respected industry participants as Barry Purdon, John Green, Derek Balle, Bruce Cater and Ross Johnson and they were very supportive of the plan as were the vast majority of the members. If completed to budget, the project will leave the club with $30,000,000 in cash and new assets with a capital value of $27,000,000 On top of that the Club will have a new income stream from the rental of the retail outlets which is projected to bring in $1,670,000 per annum. The last big hurdle for the project is keeping within the budget set for the construction phase and the Club reserves the right to stop the project if costs blow out in the tender for the construction of the village.. If it all goes to plan, the Auckland Trotting Club could eventually expect to be racing for a minimum stake of $20,000 which is a 66% increase on the present minimum. Not only that but it will secure the future of harness racing in the North Island and give the whole industry in New Zealand a real lift. The Auckland club should be congatulated for being so proactive in securing the future of harness racing in the North Island with such an innovative project. Harnesslink Media 

Todd Mitchell - Has two big winning chances at Alexandra Park tonight

Todd's duo ready to strike

The elite level of trotters has been bereft of a standout so far this harness racing season with most of the established players having issues with either form or injuries. What looked like an abundance of riches a few months ago has turned into a bit of a drought as horses such as Master Lavros, Irish Whisper, Royal Aspirations and Habibti have either raced below expectations or had health issues. One of the elite group who has been missing from most of the action to date is the Todd Mitchell trained Prime Power who has only had one start so far this season for a close second at Alexandra Park. While all the elite trotters were doing battle at Addington over Cup week, Prime Power was at home getting ready for what is shaping as a career defining season  In Prime Power's case it is all part of a plan to have him peaking over the Xmas carnival at Auckland. Safely through that it is hoped to cross the Tasman and show the Australians that they have another elite level Kiwi trotter to worry about. Tonight at Alexandra Park, Prime Power meets a small field of just six trotters but all the best northerners are there with Cool Cobber, Irish Whisper, Boizel and Realmein lining up. Trainer/driver Todd Mitchell is more than happy with his charge heading into tonights clash. " His work this week has been first class and I couldn't be happier with him." " I think he will be very hard to beat on his work," he said. Todd was also quite keen on the chances of his lightly raced pacer Doubleodeano who has drawn barrier 8 in a field that has plenty of depth. " I couldn't be happier with him on his work this week." "I know he has drawn wide but he is a big winning chance," Todd said. Tonights meeting at Alexandra Park has drawn the best fields of the season to date and if this is a pointer leading to the New Years Eve meeting then bring it on. Harnesslink Media 

Not the best week we have ever had but a couple of scratchings didn't help and either did the track conditions at Timaru which a lot of horses didn't cop. Matt Williamson, Scott Phelan, Robbie Holmes and Ricky May tipped out winners while six others run second and third so it wasn't a disaster. This week we have five meetings once again and our tipsters have covered them all. Manawatu - Thursday night Scott Phelan - Rates Santana Jewel a big chance to leave maidens in race 3 Peter Scaife - Likes V C Dell to top off some consistent form by winning race 7   Auckland - Friday night John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Thought Chachingchaching was unlucky at Addington and can win race 3 Maurice McKendry - Rates The Orange Agent a big chance to make it three in a row in race 5 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Likes Cyclone Lucky Seven to upset Trouble Rieu in race 6 Todd Macfarlane - Agrees with Steve that Cyclone Lucky Seven is a big chance in race 6  Todd Mitchell - Reckons Doubleodeano has improved from first up run and will win race 8 Tony Herlihy - On his work, thought Downunder Stride would hard to beat in race 10   Addington - Friday night Bob Butt - Thought with a good draw Ancient Moonlight would be hard to beat in race 2 Ricky May - Rates Bute Courage on his season debut a good chance to win race 5 Craig Thornley - Likes Indiana Jones to go back to back and win race 6   Geraldine - Saturday afternoon Jim Curtin - Thought Cherry Lindenny could get the money in race 4 even against Eyre I Come Blair Orange - Rates Eyre I Come extremely hard to beat, also in race 4 Brad Williamson - Thinks with an ounce of luck, Betty Golightly can win race 6 Terry Chmiel - Reckons That Guy Finn could overcome his 10 metre handicap and win race 7 John Dunn - Thought with Tintinara finally drawing a good marble she would win race 8 Gerard O'Reilly - Rates Mossdale Connor a good each way chance in a very strong race 9    Invercargill - Sunday afternoon Clark Barron - Rates Shezacheapy a good chance to go one better than last time and win race 4 Brendon McLellan - Likes Bad Kate to continue her good form, also in race 4 Matt Williamson - Its trifectas and first fours here as Matt thinks Al Raza can win race 4 as well Shane Walkinshaw - Reckons that Canardly Lover off the front can win race 6 Nathan Williamson - Thought even from barrier 13 that Costa Del Magnifico could win race 7

The NZ Racing Board has appointed experienced Chief Executive Officer John Allen as its new CEO. Allen is currently CEO at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and prior to that held the top job at New Zealand Post. He is also an experienced company director. As chief executive of Mfat, Allen was paid more than $600,000, making him one of the best paid public servants.  However, a move to the NZ Racing Board will see his salary rise further. The board's annual report shows its highest paid employee earned between $960,000 and $970,000 in total remuneration for the year. NZ Racing Board Chair Glenda Hughes says this is an outstanding appointment for the organisation and indeed the wider racing and sports industries. “We are delighted to be able to appoint someone of John’s calibre and experience to this position." "Our industry is facing a number of challenges, however the opportunities are also vast," she said. “Throughout the recruitment process we have been seeking a proven strategic leader and business growth agent with international negotiation skills."  "The last point being a consideration as we enter into negotiations for our international wagering and broadcasting rights agreements,” says Hughes. Allen says he is excited about the opportunity to join the NZ Racing Board. “It’s going to be fun. "The NZ Racing Board is a $2 billion business that plays a vital role in the New Zealand economy by supporting the racing and sports industries." "It is also the owner and operator of the TAB which is an exciting commercial enterprise and iconic New Zealand brand,” says Allen. Allen will join the NZ Racing Board on 2 March 2015 Allen has headed Mfat since June 2009, when he gave up his role as chief executive of New Zealand Post. He is a former commercial lawyer. Allen's time at Mfat has been dogged by controversy, from a difficult restructure conducted throughout 2011, to the botched handling of the Malaysian Diplomat case, where a junior official was allowed to leave the country after being arrested and charged with attempted rape. When the details of the Malaysian case became public it emerged that Allen was completely in the dark about the case at the time until media began asking questions, despite Mfat formally urging Malaysia to waive diplomatic immunity. An inquiry into the handling of the case is being undertaken by John Whitehead, the former Secretary to the Treasury, although it is unclear when the report will be released. One official involved in the handling of the case has already retired. Harnesslink Media

A skeletal scinitgraphy bone scan test has revealed some general joint issues could be affecting last season’s Trotter of the Year, Master Lavros. Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones sent the giant Sundon gelding to Matamata to undergo the scinitraphy test after Master Lavros mixed his gait in his early racing this season. The test, which results in the production of two-dimensional images after the internal administration of a radiopharmaceutical dye imaging agent, found signs of general wear and tear in his front joints and stifles. “The report said to just carry on with him,” Mark said. “So we will treat him with irap, then swim him for a few weeks and carry on as it’s a thing that has to be managed and a long spell won’t fix.” “I would love to get back to the Glenferrie Challenge with him,” he said. The Glenferrie Farm Challenge is a $A200,000 Group One trot staged at Tabcorp Park, Menangle, New South Wales, on March 1. Mark was hugely disappointed Master Lavros broke stride at the start of this year’s Glenferrie Challenge over 1609m, after trialling boldly in the lead-up. Master Lavros returned to New Zealand, regaining his best in the NZ Trotting Championship and Cannam Rowe Cup, before being spelled. Mark is keen to show Australia trot fans what Master Lavros can do when he’s in form. Master Lavros, only six, has raced 36 times for 15 wins, earning $358,646 in stakes for owner Kypros Kotzikas. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing Stables - Check site here

 Forgotten New Zealand pacer Easy On The Eye all of a sudden holds the key to the A$750,000 Miracle Mile. And as tends to be the case with Sydney’s most famous pacing race, the war of words has begun early ahead of Saturday’s monster clash. Christen Me and Terror To Love will represent New Zealand in the Mile, with the former having been heavily backed in Australia since markets opened on Sunday. But it is Easy On The Eye who has emerged as a key player in how the Menangle dash for cash will play out. The former Steven Reid-trained pacer, good enough to finish second in the New Zealand Free-For-All last season, was purchased just two months ago by clients of leading NSW trainer Shane Tritton, who has a remarkable record with improving horses. He won a minor race at Newcastle two starts ago and then led before going down to Mile favourite Beautide and Guaranteed last start. That was deemed good enough to earn him a Mile and now he has drawn barrier one, Tritton is declaring he will lead Saturday’s race. “He is super-fast off the gate and if he leads we won’t be handing up,” says Tritton. “I know Avonnova next to us is a fast beginner but we will hold him and I am 95 per cent sure he will be in front.” While it is still hard to see Easy On The Eye beating the likes of Beautide and Christen Me, his mere presence in the race makes life harder for free-legged pacer Avonnova, who would have loved to have led. But more important will be how things pan out for Easy On The Eye’s stablemate Suave Stuey Lombo. He has paced three of the fastest four miles at Menangle in the last year and if he ran to the front on Saturday night he would take a world of catching. So is Tritton bluffing, hoping to hold the lead with Easy On The Eye only to hand it over to Suave Stuey Lombo as soon as he can? Impossible to tell. But any suspicion of that will have rival drivers worried in what could become a very expensive game of cat and mouse. What does look assured is a very fast early section of the race which could easily set up the first sub 1:50 Miracle Mile and that would help the New Zealand pair. Terror To Love is likely to have to come from last so is deservedly $26 in Australia and even $18 in New Zealand, remarkable odds for a horse who was $2.50 to win the New Zealand Cup just 15 days ago. But Christen Me has been backed in from $5 to $4.50 since the draw came out and he is one of the few New Zealand-trained pacers who actually seems to race better at Menangle. With the prospect of speed up front, a good draw and his record on the track, he has emerged as Beautide’s biggest danger and a good chance to give New Zealand our first Miracle Mile since Monkey King in 2009 and only the second in 14 years. Courtesy Of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

One of the most pressing issues for people involved in the harness racing industry in New Zealand is what are we going to do to address the continuing decline in the number of mares bred. Many participants in the industry have a various rationale for the reasons for the decline which has seen the  number of mares bred last breeding season drop back to levels last experienced in the late 1960s. On the racing side of the industry a lot of time and effort has gone into getting better utilization of our racing stock and progress has been made. Our two major clubs have made great strides in recent times with regards to stake levels and returns to the industry. However on the breeding side of the industry the core issue for breeders of affordability continues to languish in the too hard basket. The chances of the average New Zealand breeder returning a profit on their foal/foals has continued to decline over the last 20 years as costs have risen far quicker than returns. The commercial side of the breeding industry has held up reasonably well to a point but the hobby breeder who sends one or two mares to stud each year are starting to resemble 21st century moas. The reason that it is so important to keep numbers up overall is the position of harness racing in the New Zealand gambling market. At present we have a market share around the 29% mark, down from a high of 32% in the not to distant past. Greyhound racing continues to grow its market share and with its low cost structure and overheads and ability to stage wall to wall racing it presents a major challenge to the long term health of harness racing in New Zealand. To see off that challenge, harness racing needs to continue to have a presence in as much of rural and provincial New Zealand as possible.  The way the breeding numbers are heading, harness racing is going to have enormous difficulty maintaining some of the current meetings held outside of Auckland and Christchurch. We haven't even got to the significantly smaller crops that are coming through the system and yet we are struggling to card even eight races on some recent programs. Harness Racing New Zealand is being extremely creative in trying to frame races to fill the shortfall but that job is just going to get more and more difficult as the smaller crops come on stream. Several industry participants have put forward suggestions to try to turn around the breeding decline and while there was merit in all of the ones we have seen, none in our view were going to stop the decline. In our view we need something tangible that the breeder can see is going to help their bottom line if we are to encourage breeders to continue to send their mares to stud. The idea of a breeders payment every time a racehorse wins a race has been around for ages and in our view is an option whose time has come. We envisage a standardbred breeding fund operated and controlled through Harness Racing New Zealand. Every time a race is held in New Zealand, a breeding credit of $500 will be added to the standardbred breeding account held by Harness Racing New Zealand of the breeder of that winner. Every breeding season, breeders will be able to offset stud fees they owe against money held in their standardbred breeding account at Harness Racing New Zealand. Promient breeders we spoke to thought the idea had merit but how do you fund the proposal without hurting the stakes side of the equation. The closer we studied the available data surrounding the breeding industry in New Zealand, the more convinced we became that a funding model sustained by the studs was the way to go. The first thing that strikes you when looking at the stud scene in New Zealand is the domination of our market by overseas interests.  In the last breeding season, 77% of the stallions available to New Zealand breeders were owned by foreign interests and thats where most of the income from those stallions ends up, offshore. By our calculations, close to $10,000,000 was sucked out of our industry last year by overseas owned stallions and going by the list of stallions available this season, that figure will continue to grow. So we think a breeding levy is justified but setting the rate and how it would operate are not clear cut. We looked at several overseas examples, both here in Australasia and in Europe and have settled on the "Kiwi" model we think best serves New Zealand's harness racing industry. The formulae is simple: Every mare with a positive 42 day test attracts a breeding levy of 5% of the advertised stud fee which is payable by the stallion owner to Harness Racing New Zealand by May 1st each year after every breeding season.   There are a lot of questions around whether the breeding fund should be universal or not or should there be a limit on how much a breeder can accrue in one season but they are all solvable. Could this proposal be the answer to the decline in our breeding numbers is a question for industry participants to answer. What no one should lose sight of is the status quo or tinkering around the edges hasn't worked and time is quickly running out to reverse the slide.. Action is long overdue to support  the remaining breeders and the clock is ticking. J.C

Astrapi isn’t the type you’d want to play cards with but he behaved himself for boss Mark Jones at the Timaru harness racing meeting on Saturday, November 22. Mark stepped him safely from the inside of the back row to be soon trailing three back, but his chances didn’t look good after being held up by the tiring Final Secret at the 400 metres. The former world champion driver manoeuvred him off the markers and gradually let the enigmatic squaregaiter gather top speed in the run home . Mark didn’t risk releasing Astrapi’s removable deafeners. Astrapi, the younger brother to 2006 Moonee Valley Interdominion Trot champion Delft (1:53, US), charged through gaps to win going away by three-quarters of a length from Heza Mighty Monarch, resuming for Nigel McGrath. The winner had loomed as a distinct danger at Ashburton during NZ Cup week before mixing his gait in side the final 200 metres. Mark was confident Astrapi wasn’t far away from a win, providing he held his gait throughout. Astrapi was notching his first win since scoring at Forbury Park in December last year for driver Ricky May. The 5YO Sundon-Miriam gelding was recording his third win from only 23 starts for Lavros Lodge owner Kypros Kotzikas. Mr Kotzikas has also bred other good winners in Lavra Miriam (four NZ wins, 1:57.4), Top Notch Lavros (five NZ wins) and minor winner Lavros The Great from Miriam, a Chiola Hanover mare from Carol Seth, who won three. Meanwhile, results from tests to Mr Kotzikas’ top trotter Master Lavros should be known by the end of next week. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing Stables - Check site here    

New Zealand Racing Board Chair Glenda Hughes has welcomed the off-shore betting announcement made by Minister for Racing Nathan Guy at the organisation's Annual General Meeting in Petone today. Speaking from the AGM Nathan Guy has announced the creation of a working group to develop recommendations to combat the impact of off-shore betting on racing and sport. "Betting through overseas providers deprives our local industry and sports of the funding they deserve," says Mr Guy. It is estimated that New Zealanders bet up to $300 million per year with overseas agencies. Hughes says this is concerning because overseas bookmakers are benefiting from New Zealand's great racing and sports products without contributing to the industries. "Profits generated from the TAB are returned to the racing and sports industries which is the whole point of the model, but offshore betting is eroding this. "Overseas bookmakers do not pay gambling levies, totalisator duty or GST, or have measures in place to manage problem gambling or corruption that meet New Zealand standards," says Hughes. Ministerial officials are currently preparing membership options and the group's terms of reference. The Minister says he currently expects to see recommendations for change from the working group in late 2015. Hughes says the issue of offshore betting has been a longstanding one for the industry that has created an uneven playing field in an increasingly competitive market. "We welcome the Minister's announcement today and look forward to seeing the recommendations from the working group," says Hughes. The NZ Racing Board posted a Net Profit of $137.0 million for the financial year ending 31 July - a marginal increase on the 2012/13 financial year. The three racing codes - NZ Thoroughbred Racing, Harness Racing NZ and Greyhound Racing NZ received $134.1 million in distributions. National Sporting Organisations received $5.0 million and a record $2.3 million was paid or provided to other sporting bodies from gaming activities. New Zealand Racing Board

This weekends $750,000 Miracle Mile is one of the most sought after races on the Australasian harness racing calendar and as you would expect with a race of that statue it has drawn an outstanding field. Most Australians would tell you that the race is all but over before it starts with Beautide nigh on unbeatable from barrier three. Australian and New Zealand bookmakers have responded to the draw of three for Beautide by making him a $1:80 favourite with Christen Me varying from $4:50 - $4:80. We don't think that is an accurate reflection of where the two horses are because we don't think that there is anything between the two superstars.  Last year from barrier five Christen Me worked to the death and was a sitting duck for Beautide who raced three back on the inner. His run was every bit as good as the winner and Christen Me went on to be crowned Grand Circuit champion via his Hunter Cup win after again sitting parked. Christen Me only met Beautide once outside the Miracle Mile and that was in the Victorian Cup where he beat him home after settling behind him in the running and still being behind him at the quarter pole. Last year Christen Me was coming into the Miracle Mile off a disappointing run in the New Zealand Cup where he ran third after a soft run and a wild gallop in the NZFFA. This year Christen Me put in an outstanding run in the New Zealand Cup after missing away from a stand and then dealt to the opposition in the NZFFA. In cold and windy conditions, Christen Me ran the 1950 metres in 2:18.4, a mile rate of 1:54.1 with closing sectionals of 54.9 and 27.4 which was just outside the New Zealand record set by Auckland Reactor in perfect conditions.  So Christen Me goes into the Miracle Mile right in the zone on a track where he has had three runs over a mile for two wins and a second. For Dalgety the draw could not have been too much better with Christen Me drawing directly outside Beautide. "We would just love to get to the two out line and let them do their stuff." "Sure we'd love to lead but even though it is only a mile it is going to be a stamina test so you end up  being a sitting duck when you are top ending in that calibre of field," Cran said. Christen Me flew into Sydney last Friday without any problems but Cran thought the current heatwave may be a slight concern. " Murray Howard took him across and we are stabled with Blake Fitzpatrick" "Christen Me is in super shape although the 42 degrees is a bit hot," Cran said Cran has been adament all season that Christen Me is a lot better horse with that initial season on the Grand Circuit under his belt and that he has come back bigger and better. Everything points to Christen Me giving Beautide one hell of a race on Saturday night. We think he is a real chance to upstage Beautide and those odds are just way to tempting. Harnesslink Media

Twelve of the best harness racing reinsmen in Australasia lined up this afternoon in Invercargill for the inaugural Trans Tasman driving challenge and no quarter was asked or given as bragging rights for the next twelve months were on the line. Chris Alford, Lance Justice, Greg Sugars and Kerryn Manning formed a strong team for the Australians and Justice was his usual confident self prior to the event. " I have a team of superstars who have probably won more races individually than all the Kiwis put together" he said. The North Island had a formidable lineup with Maurice McKendry, David Butcher, Peter Ferguson and Zac Butcher being a good combination of experience and youth. The South Island team also had talent to burn with Dexter Dunn joined by Ricky May, Blair Orange and Nathan Williamson who all having big seasons to this point. The points system was run on a 10 - 7 - 5 - 3 - 1 basis over the six races and that meant consistency was just as important as winning a heat. Lance Justice struck first for the Aussies in heat one while Manning and Alford also chimed in with wins  and Sugars a second but they didn't  trouble the scorer much in some heats. Their combined total after the six heats was 45 points with Chris Alford their highest points scorer with 16 from a win and two placings. The South Island team were in the points all afternoon but Ricky May was the only driver to record a win in the six races. Their combined total after six heats was 49 points with Dexter Dunn their highest points scorer with three thirds and 15 points. The two elder statesmen of the North Island team in Maurice McKendry and David Butcher showed their class throughout the day. David Butcher collected points in every race while Maurice had a win, two seconds and a third to lay the foundation for a winning total. Overall the North island team racked up 62 points for a comfortable win while Maurice Mckendry won the individual title on 29 points from his team mate David Butcher on 24 points. The whole day seemed to enjoyed by all the drivers involved and the Invercargill Harness Racing Club should be congratulated for bringing  todays event to fruition. Harnesslink Media - Check results here 

One thing Australian harness racing trainers got tired of seeing last year was the sight of Follow The Stars disappearing up the track on his way to winning their 2 year old classics. Those trainers would have hoped that the brilliant son of Art Major would concentrate on age group features in New Zealand before heading back across the Tasman but the New Zealand handicapping system has meant that Australians will get to see plenty of Follow The Stars starting with the Victorian Derby. The New Zealand handicapping system rates every win in a race with a stake of $15,000 or more as a win that attracts a penalty, even as a 2 year old. Hence going into his 3 year old year in New Zealand, Follow The Stars is classed as a C8 for handicapping purposes which means he is graded just behind our best Grand Circuit horses. So not surprisingly the All Star team have decided that  it is too tough for a early 3 year old to race those older race hardened horses and are heading back over the Tasman with their star where under the Australian handicapping system, Follow The Stars is still an M0. Being an "Aussie" by birth, Follow The Stars was always going to spend a lot of time on that side of the Tasman as he is eligible for everything but the New Zealand handicapping system has fast tracked his appearance. The All Stars team have mapped out a programme for last years champion 2 year old and everything is on track at this stage. Follow The Stars is due to head to the North Island on December 13th and trial in the north before having his season debut run in the $20,000 Waikato Guineas at Cambridge on January 9th. From there it is on the plane to Melbourne to contest the Victorian Derby heats on January 31st. Following the Derby, Follow The Stars is expected to spend most if not all of his season in Australia which while not what a lot of Australian trainers would have been hoping for, will be greeted with a sigh of relief by a lot of trainers in New Zealand. With his great 2 year old record and being from the great American maternal family that he is from, Follow The Stars has stallion potential written all over him if he can reproduce at three what he achieved as a two year old. Harnesslink Media 

Cup week has come and gone for another year and for the Robert Dunn team, a new set of targets has been put in place. Most notable though is a northern assault to be headed by Franco Nelson. According to co-trainer John Dunn, "with the stakes that they have got on offer up there, you have to have a go really." Franco Nelson will be joined by trotter I've Got This, 3yr olds, Say My Name, Little Rascal,  Robbie Burns and Miss Daisy and good 4yr old No Doctor Needed.       The team will be stabled at John Street's new Lincoln Farms property which is simply "a brilliant facility," says John. "We are very lucky to have some boxes that we can lease there and hopefully it will be the start of big things up there." The team will be joined on their northern sojourn by regular travelling foreman Matt Bowden, a highly respected man within the stable. Four of the team - No Doctor Needed, I've Got This, Miss Daisy and Little Rascal are likely to be seen at Alexandra Park next Friday.  With minimum stakes of $12,000 on offer, it appears sound economics. Franco Nelson will have his first hitout the following week in the Manakau Summer Cup at Group Three level.      Three year olds Say My Name and Robbie Burns have both had their share of setbacks this season, with Say My Name having just the one race and Robbie Burns yet to race. "We've had our issues with both of them," reflected John, "but they do seem to be on the up which is good." Say My Name has been gelded since last racing and it will probably be after Xmas before he races. John is likely to be at Alexandra Park driving the team next Friday. Courtesy Of Robert Dunn Racing Stables - Check site here 

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Harness racing has been dominated in the south this season by the outstanding efforts of the All Stars team and tonight at Addington was no different. Heat three of this years Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies series for 3 year fillies looked like a three horse affair with the All Star Team duo of Supersonic Miss and Classical Art joined by the talented Delightful Lana from the Cran Dalgety barn. In slushy track conditions, Delightful Lana and Classical Art came out together and dueled for 300 metres before Natalie Rasmussen slotted Classical Art into the trail behind Delightful Lana who as usual had Dexter Dunn in the bike. Mark Purdon had settled Supersonic Miss back on the inner but hooked her out and sent her forward with 1200 metres to go and she worked to Delightful Lana's wheel with 700 metres to run.  As they swung for home Delightful Lana held a narrow advantage but was quickly claimed by Classical Art up the passing lane and by Supersonic Miss on her outer and these two settled down to battle it out. Even allowing for the run she had most pundits would have still expected Supersonic Miss to assert her superiority but it wasn't to be as Classical Art ran away from her better credentialed stablemate for an emphatic victory by 2 1/2 lengths with Delightful Lana a further 1 3/4 lengths in third. It was the fourth win in a row for the strongly built daughter of Mach Three and maintained her unbeaten record since her debut just over a month ago. Classical Art paced the 1950 metres in slushy conditions in 2:24.6, a mile rate of 1:59.3 with smart sectionals of 56 and 27.5 considering the state of the track. It should be little wonder that Classical Art is as talented as she is as the daughter of Mach Three is from the 1:57.6 Artsplace mare Art Lover who is a daughter of none other than the brilliant racemare Under Cover Lover 1:51.8 ($864,923). Purchased for $31,000 from the Australasian Classic Yearling sale in 2013, Classical Art's progress has been far from plain sailing for her trainers. Mark Purdon was quite reflective after the race tonight  on his unbeaten filly. " She was close to being sacked not to long ago to be honest." " She is quite a hard filly to work with and is not that good a track worker at home." "When it comes to raceday however she is a completely different filly." "To win that race tonight in the manner she did at just her fourth lifetime start was some effort," Mark said Mark wasn't disappointed with the run of the brilliant Supersonic Miss to run second. " The track didn't suit her 100% and she had a tough run but it was still a smart effort under the circumstances but she ran into a better one on the night," he said. Both fillies will now head to Auckland with the $75,000 Ladyship Stakes and $150,000 Alabar Sires Stakes final firmly on the radar. While Supersonic Miss would have started the season as the top ranked filly in the All Stars stable, one gets the feeling from listening to Mark Purdon tonight that she is being  quickly overtaken by Classical Art. Harnesslink Media    
Harness racing tonight at Addington Raceway was run in cold and showery conditions and a lot of horses just struggled to cope with the slushy track conditions. One who did cope was the talented 4 year old mare in Sans Le Sou who showed real courage to win her maiden in a style that suggested that it won't be her last success. Punters sent her out favourite in the 2600 metres event after a couple of smart seconds at her previous two starts. The daughter of Mach Three settled six back in the running line for trainer/driver Ricky Alfield as Ancient Moonlight set up a solid pace in front. Ricky didn't move until 1300 metres from home where he sent Sans Le Sou forward three wide without cover. Unable to get in to the one out line, Sans Le Sou sat out three wide for the rest of the trip and as they turned for home  and just when you half expected Sans Le Sou to stop, she kicked clear for an impressive victory. Sans Le Sou paced the 2600 metres in 3:19.8, a mile rate of 2:03.6 with closing sectionals of 59 and 29.3 which taking into account the ground she covered and the track conditions was a great way to clear maidens. Sans Le Sou which is French for "Penniless" is a daughter of the race winning Live Or Die mare Arma Xcellent and traces closely to the outstanding maternal family established by Armiss. It is a family that is noted for leaving high quality fillies and mares and in Sans Le Sou it appears to have another one to add to the list. Harnesslink Media    
Everybody involved in harness racing in New Zealand knows that there are major challenges facing the industry. Whatever branch of the industry you look at has issues that are threatening the very existence of the sport we love. From the decline in the number of mares being sent to stud to the difficulty in retaining owners in the game through to a management structure that is more attuned to the 19th century than the 21st century we live in and you have an industry in real difficulty. The two major clubs in New Zealand are the Auckland Trotting Club based at Alexandra Park and the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club based at  Addington Raceway and both deserve credit in the last few years for lifting stake levels and increasing returns to stake holders. Both have achieved this by developing large income streams outside of harness racing and have used those funds to help lift stake levels. The Auckland Trotting Club have now released visionary development plans that if implemented in full will see a huge lift in stakes at Alexandra Park and will definitely give the whole harness racing industry in New Zealand a huge boost when it needs it most. The proposals are for the establishment of a village type concept at the eastern end of Alexandra Park which has an estimated cost of development of $205,400,000. It will involve a nine story apartment complex of 231 apartments with 8 of these being luxury penthouse units and a major retail complex underneath the apartments. It is envisaged that the construction phase will last for 20 months and the Auckland club already has agreements with their neighbours regarding the development. The CEO Dominique Dowding has driven this project and is due a lot of the credit for the progress made to date. Just yesterday the club received consent for the project from the Auckland City Council.  Last night the Auckland president Kerry Hoggard outlined the proposal to over 120 members. The Auckland Trotting Club board this year includes such well respected industry participants as Barry Purdon, John Green, Derek Balle, Bruce Cater and Ross Johnson and they were very supportive of the plan as were the vast majority of the members. If completed to budget, the project will leave the club with $30,000,000 in cash and new assets with a capital value of $27,000,000 On top of that the Club will have a new income stream from the rental of the retail outlets which is projected to bring in $1,670,000 per annum. The last big hurdle for the project is keeping within the budget set for the construction phase and the Club reserves the right to stop the project if costs blow out in the tender for the construction of the village.. If it all goes to plan, the Auckland Trotting Club could eventually expect to be racing for a minimum stake of $20,000 which is a 66% increase on the present minimum. Not only that but it will secure the future of harness racing in the North Island and give the whole industry in New Zealand a real lift. The Auckland club should be congatulated for being so proactive in securing the future of harness racing in the North Island with such an innovative project. Harnesslink Media 
The elite level of trotters has been bereft of a standout so far this harness racing season with most of the established players having issues with either form or injuries. What looked like an abundance of riches a few months ago has turned into a bit of a drought as horses such as Master Lavros, Irish Whisper, Royal Aspirations and Habibti have either raced below expectations or had health issues. One of the elite group who has been missing from most of the action to date is the Todd Mitchell trained Prime Power who has only had one start so far this season for a close second at Alexandra Park. While all the elite trotters were doing battle at Addington over Cup week, Prime Power was at home getting ready for what is shaping as a career defining season  In Prime Power's case it is all part of a plan to have him peaking over the Xmas carnival at Auckland. Safely through that it is hoped to cross the Tasman and show the Australians that they have another elite level Kiwi trotter to worry about. Tonight at Alexandra Park, Prime Power meets a small field of just six trotters but all the best northerners are there with Cool Cobber, Irish Whisper, Boizel and Realmein lining up. Trainer/driver Todd Mitchell is more than happy with his charge heading into tonights clash. " His work this week has been first class and I couldn't be happier with him." " I think he will be very hard to beat on his work," he said. Todd was also quite keen on the chances of his lightly raced pacer Doubleodeano who has drawn barrier 8 in a field that has plenty of depth. " I couldn't be happier with him on his work this week." "I know he has drawn wide but he is a big winning chance," Todd said. Tonights meeting at Alexandra Park has drawn the best fields of the season to date and if this is a pointer leading to the New Years Eve meeting then bring it on. Harnesslink Media 
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