Christen Me - In great shape for Saturday night

Christen Me a huge threat to Beautide

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

Maurice McKendry - Won the individual title and part of todays winning team

McKendry shows them how

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 

Follow The Stars - Headed back to Australia for Victorian Derby

Follow The Stars heading to Victoria Derby

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 

John Dunn - Looking forward to racing at Auckland

Dunn's northern assault begins

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 

One of the hardest things to get right in the harness racing industry is the management of large syndicates and the issues that go with that. Most attempts at large scale syndication have faltered but one operator who seems to have got the structure right and is having success is the Go Harness group established by Noel Kennard. Run by Noel with the help of former HRNZ journalist John Robinson, the Go Harness syndicates were set up to try to make the cost of racing standardbreds more affordable to a wider cross - section of the public and they have succeeded in bringing a lot of new people into the industry. One of their first syndicates was the "Trotting For Fun" group which was established in late 2012. Initially the syndicate brought Saratoga off Wayne Feiss from Australia. Racing from the All Stars barn prior to being purchased, the son of Muscles Yankee was left with the All Stars team and has done a super job for the syndicate. Since his purchase Saratoga has had 15 starts for 5 wins and 4 placings for $38,378 in stakes. Saratoga was moved recently to the barn of Ken Barron to take advantage of the swimming pool there on the advice of Mark Purdon. When the syndicate was formed three other yearling fillies were leased from well known breeder Ivan McNicholl to round out the syndicate. One was injured as a 2 year old and retired to stud but the other two are on track to make their mark on the racetrack this season. Both remaining fillies are beautifully bred and have both qualified already. Harriet Of Mot is by Monarchy from the very talented Sundon mare Harriet Hughes who won five races from just 13 starts. Harriet Hughes ran second in the Group 2 Trotters Championship to One Over Kenny and third in the Group 1 Trotting derby as a 3 year old. The other filly Eilish Aimee is by Love You and is a half sister to Harriet Hughes as well as Earl Of Mot ($535,756)  Ella Powell ($118,495) and  is a three quarter sister to Amore Stride ($99,156). Eilish Aimee lines up for her first start tomorrow at Timaru and while it is a big ask for a 3 year old filly to do everything right first time, John Robinson knows the ability is there. "The trainers Craig and Aimee Edmonds have always had a high opinion of the filly and think long term she could go a fair way." "They have had most of this family through their hands and think Eilish Aimee has a big future," John said. A trial winner at Rangiora last Monday, Eilish Aimee impressed track watchers and driver John Dunn with a very professional display and that has given John Robinson some confidence heading into her debut run. "John was quite impressed with her on Monday and has taken the drive tomorrow." "Whatever she does tomorrow she can have a brief letup and come back in the new year after a short break," he said Harriet Of Mot is also qualified but won't be seen out just yet according to John. "She can still be a bit headstrong so we are in no hurry with her as she has the family ability," he said. John Robinson swears one of the keys to running large syndicates is the communication between the trainers and the syndicates management and he can't  praise Craig and Aimee Edmonds enough. " They are just great to deal with and keep us up to date on everything." " We don't have to ring them, they ring us which makes our job so much easier," John said  Large scale syndications are never easy to manage but the Go Harness team have obviously got the formulae just right judging by their results to date. Harnesslink Media     

Mark and Dennis Dunford have had more success as owners than most at the All Stars Racing Stables. Alleluia, Hands Christian and Have Faith in Me are just the most recent winners that the brothers have raced out of the All Stars barn. But Dennis, an Auckland real estate executive recalled after the latter's great Sires Stakes victory that it wasn't always that way when they first got into harness racing. "I think I started racing horses about 1991 or somewhere around there." "We had a bit of success early on but no headliners and it seemed to get worse as time went on instead of better." "I decided I wanted to stay in the game and that if I was going to do so I had to change my approach" Out of the blue he rang Mark Purdon. "I didn't  know him and he didn't know me." "I said I wanted to to buy a horse and race it from his stable and Mark agreed." "He would select one for us at the sales for us to race."  That first one was Steve McQueen and it has gone from there" Steve McQueen was raced by the Dunfords in partnership with some friends and he was an immediate success. It was a great start for the Dunfords in their association with the All Stars barn. Steve McQueen only won three races before his sale to Australia but they were the key races. He won two Sales races including the $195,000 the Sales Open when driven by Blair Orange and also won the Cardigan Bay Stakes which was then then a Group Three race. One of his better runs at three was when he was beaten a nose in a Sires Stakes heat by none other than Auckland Reactor. Hands Christian has been a big winner for the Dunfords on their own account even if they have need the patience of Job to keep the racing faith with him after he had twice gone amiss with a tendon problem. One aspect of Have Faith In Me's triumph on Cup Day in the Sires Stakes which must have caused much celebration for the owners was how close they had come with Hands Christian beaten half a head by Gold Ace in the same race in 2011. Hands Christian wen on to win the Easter Cup but suffered a number of close defeats. Alleluia was at one stage the most brilliant three year old in the All Stars stable though he never quite lived up to that early promise. He is now racing in Australia. Mark Dennis was one of the most promising horses of his crop winning a Sires Stakes heat in 2.20.9 in one of only four starts here, winning two  of them. In the second he beat Smolda and All Star Man, Dennis makes no secret of  how his religious beliefs play a big role in his life and reveals that Have Faith in Me was intended to be called Have Faith In God. "Then I considered that the horses from that family generally have Me at the end of their name (Adore Me;Christen Me etc) so I changed it to Have Faith In Me. And you may have noticed I got to mention Deo Gratias (Thanks Be to God) in my speech! I believe all these things are part of life" Whatever the strategy or the beliefs it works. and that Deo Gratias might well be about the day Dennis Dunford decided to ring Mark. Courtesy All Stars Racing Stables - Check site here

At the 2014 Annual Conference, Rules were approved to provide for the introduction of Monté racing pursuant to Regulations as approved by HRNZ. Monté racing is essentially trotting saddle races that are popular in Europe and were recently introduced in Australia. Following are Regulations that the HRNZ Board approved at its meeting on 10 November 2014. These are based on the rules adopted by Harness Racing Australia which mirror those applied in Europe. Linked to the Regulations, there will be a requirement that any horse wishing to compete in a Monté race must complete a Monté Gear Notification (MGN) form. A copy of the MGN is detailed below and is also available on HRNZ’s website. Trainers wishing to have a horse compete in a Monté race are requested to submit these forms to HRNZ. This will allow HRNZ to assess the number of horses interested and available on a regional basis and work with clubs to programme trials and eventually totalisator races. In the meantime, there is nothing stopping clubs running Monté races as exhibitions or non-tote  races prior to then. At this stage, HRNZ will not be amending its computer system to provide for this as a separate classification of racing. In the short term, Monté racing will be handled from an administration perspective outside of HRNZ’s Infohorse system. The only official link will be that Monté races will be deemed official races and will be considered penalty free trotting races within the existing database. This can be amended in time if there is ongoing demand for this form of racing. Any queries in relation to this should be directed at HRNZ to either Darrin Williams (Racing Manager) or Natalie Gameson (Education & Training Manager) Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand

The road to the 2015 Prix d’Amerique began in earnest on the weekend where 18 of the world’s best horses lined up for the running of the first of the official qualifiying “B” races, the €120,000 Prix de Bretagne, at Paris- Vincennes. The 2700m race is a Group II UET Masters Series International and it was won in convincing fashion by rising star Tiego d’Etang (7h Chaillot) superbly rated by Charles-Julien Bigeon for his father and trainer Christian Bigeon. The stellar field included last year’s PDA runner up Up And Quick and French group one winners Timoko and Texas Charm who vied for the early lead plus fellow classique winners Roxane Griff, Village Mystic and Un Mec d’Heripre plus Italian group one winner Olmo Holz. Tiego d’Etang, the winner of €1.39 million and who was placed in last year’s French triple crown Prix de France took control at the top of the straight surginj past a fading Un Mec d’Heripre (Orlando Vici) and shot clear to win by four lengths. Franck Anne’s four year-old Akim du Cap Vert (4h First de Retz) finished strongly for second ahead of Roxane Grif (9m Tenor de Baune), Timoko (7h Imoko) and Village Mystic (5h Love You) driven by Pierre Vercruysse for Louis Baudron who was driving in Sydney on Saturday night. The same card saw the group €120,000 monte Prix Edmond Henry (UET Masters Series Group II, 2700m) being won by Mathieu Mottier’s mount Ultissimo (6h Gobernador) who defeated Valse Castelets (5m Memphis du Rib) and Udayama (6m Echo). Yesterday Ready Cash colt Bold Eagle continued his domination of the French 3YO colts with a resounding win in the Group II Prix Jacques Vauloge at Vincennes, the final warm up for the Criterium des 3 Ans early next month. Franck Nivard had Sebastien Guarato’s latest star quickly to the lead in the small field of six runners, and it turned into a procession. Trailing runner Bolide de Gueron was unable to quicken as Bold Eagle made his move at the “crossroads” and he was well clear in the straight. Boccador de Simm (Reuissec), Black Avril (Oceano Nox) and an unlucky Brillantissime (Ready Cash) who was caught behind the struggling Bolide de Gueron and got out late, crossed in a line but they were no chance against the winner who recorded a leisurely 1’15”9 for the 2700m on a sloppy track. In the female equivalent Prix Annick Dreux, Biche de Clos (Rolling d’Heripre) reversed the tables on last start vanqueur Billie de Montfort (Jasmin de Flore), with a beautifully timed run in the hands of Matthue Mottier. Raffin was held up for a run on Bille de Montfort and she was closing fast and the two fillies look like continuing their fascinating rivalry for some time to come. They also recorded a time that was a second quicker than the boys. Meanwhile in Sweden Robert Bergh’s former Elitloppet winner Nahar went a sensational world record time of 1’10”5 (1.51.4MR) for 2140m when winning the Group II International UET Masters Series Gold Final (King Carl XVI Gustav's Silverhast) at Solvalla. The win was number six in 2014 for the veteran gelding and he has now won 30 in his 90 career starts and earned 11,023,098SEK. Stefan Melander's Digital Ink (5g Super Photo Kosmos) was second ahead of Chelsea Boko (5h Chocolatier). Courtesy Of Harnes Racing New Zealand    

Hellavahanover has been withdrawn from the Timaru meeting on Saturday and is leaving the Mark Jones stable to do her future racing in New South Wales. The 4YO Brylin Boyz mare is being sent to Sydney trainer Joe Rando after being pulled up for the second consecutive time with suspect stand start manners at Addington on Show day when driven by Tony Herlihy. The Rando stable has had success with a close relative in Romper’s Monarchy (5m Monarchy-Amandas Gem), who has won four from 20 starts and scored back-to-back Tabcorp Park, Menangle, wins last month. Hellavahanover did step off the unruly off 20m and proved too good in a C0-1 trot at the Tuapeka meeting at Forbury on October 26 for driver Blair Orange. She was also a maiden winner at Auckland over 2200m from a stand in March, first-up in her northern stint for Gareth Dixon. Hellavahanover, from a half-sister to Romper Stomper (2:00.1 mile rate 2600m, 12 wins & $180,579) and two-race winner Amanda’s Flash, won two of 15 NZ starts. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing    

Bit of the post Cup blues from last weeks tipsters with just Blair Orange, John Curtin, Tony Herlihy, Todd Macfarlane and Nathan Williamson nailing winners while the tipsters racked up seven placings as well. Jimmy Curtin went close with Juliette Bromac at Addington running second when paying $31 to win. This week there is plenty of racing in the south with four meetings and just one in the north and our tipsters have covered all the meetings. Due to the invited drivers series at Invercargill taking over the last six races there, we have no selections from our southern tipsters this week bar Nathan Williamson who is driving at Forbury Park.  Forbury Park - Thursday Night Matt Williamson - Thought Tachma was right in the zone and could win race 1 Nathan Williamson - Gives Strathmores Charm a real chance to go back to back in race 5 Tim Williams - Reckons with the big drop back in class Here We Go Again should win race 6   Alexandra Park - Friday Night John Curtin  (Harnesslink) - Reckons Hot Mach will be too good in race 1 Steven Reid - Likes Blinding Light  with a better barrier draw this week to win race 3 Todd Macfarlane - Rates Bourbon Street a big chance of clearing maidens in race 6 Scott Phelan - With Spanish Lustre scratched, his best drive is now Le Lua Invasion in race 9   Timaru - Saturday Afternoon  John Dunn - Likes Eilish Aimee to start her career on a winning note in race 1 Bob Butt - Rates Easy Rider a good chance to atone for Ashburton last week and win race 2 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Gives Major Patron a big show of turning his form around in race 3 Brad Williamson - Thought the standing start would make Goshawk an each way chance in race 7  Ricky May - Reckons Pay Me Art from the front line will be hard to beat in race 9 Terry Chmiel - Gives Stradowan a winning chance even off 10 metres , also in race 9 Gerard O'Reilly - Likes Jayceekay from the mobile to be too good and win race 10  Craig Thornley - Rates Real Life Hero a big chance to take out race 11   Banks Peninsula - Sunday Afternoon Robbie Holmes - Thinks Willie Shine is slowly turning the corner and can win race 1 Jim Curtin - Thought Franco Tyrone was a good chance to win race 12   Invercargill - Sunday Afternoon Maurice McKendry - Thought from barrier 3 Sheeza Shark would be tough to roll in race 8  Blair Orange - Rates Pepe Bromac,even from barrier 12 a chance to beat Sheeza Shark in race 8    Harnesslink Media

Young Waikato driver Kyle Marshall has started the harness racing season in fine style and has shown a real ability in the bike for such a young driver. Everyone knows how hard it is to break into the winners circle when you are starting out but Kyle is making a real habit out of it and has a lot of astute judges sitting up and taking notice. Kyle has been around horses most of his life but got keen on harness racing at a young age. " I got involved with Kidz Kartz pretty early and I have had the bug ever since." "After that I use to help out at John Dickie's after school and on weekends and that confirmed to me that this is what I wanted to do," Kyle told Harnesslink this week. Getting his junior driving licence in the 2010/2011 season, Kyle went winless in his first season before driving five winners in his second season. In the 2012/2013 season  Kyle continued to improve and racked up 10 wins but before the end of that season he made the decision to go to Australia to learn from one of the best. " I spent 18 months with Brent Lilley and I can't thank him enough for all the help and advice he gave me while I was there." "I think I came back a better driver thanks to Brent's advice and help," Kyle said. Returning to New Zealand this season Kyle has already racked up six winners and is the leading North Island based junior driver at this stage of the year. One win stands out for Kyle since his return from Australia.  "I drove Unmissuble to win for my father at Manawatu which was a big thrill." "We brought her as a weanling for $400 and have taken her right through to winning a race so it was a special day" "She was unlucky at Cambridge last Sunday and is not without a chance at Alexandra Park on Friday night," he said. Kyle knows he wouldn't be where he is today without the support of his family. "Dad took out a licence to help me early on and the whole family have become involved in the ownership side to help me get more drives. I wouldn't be having the success I"m having if it wasn't for them," he said.  Kyle, who helps his father David out with his small team at Cambridge, hopes one day to go into partnership with his father. " That would be special to train in partnership with dad," he said. With his great start to the season Kyle has his sights set on the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championships "To qualify is the first aim but like everyone else I really would love to win it," he said. To succeed in harness racing today, you usually need a deep long term family connection to the industry or be attached to one of the leading stables. Kyle has managed to succeed without either and looks to have a big future in the sport he loves. Harnesslink Media

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 atwww.stallionsphere.com This week’s Insider Access newsletter contains the following feature stories: NZ: Trackside Coverage - One of the real bugbears in watching harness racing in New Zealand is the coverage provided by Trackside. Most of the coverage is world class from pre-race interviews through to having knowledgeable commentators fronting each race meeting. NZ: The "Met Multiplier" - A lot of industry participants are only too keen to criticize the major clubs and their management over how they program and run their meetings but praise is a lot harder to find. AU: Incident at Melton - Harness Racing Victoria stewards have concluded their case into a post-race incident at Melton recently.  Heinz Wewering & Dave Palone; two class acts - When harness driver Dave Palone scored his 16,754th career victory on Friday and surpassed Germany’s Heinz Wewering as the winningest driver in the history of the sport, it also brought to light two great people in our sport. It all comes down to the Breeders Crown! - Whomever coined the phrase, “It all comes down to the Breeders Crown” never said it any better. The year-end major stakes weekend takes place this Friday and Saturday at the Meadowlands and once again many “yearend awards” in North America will be decided by the outcome of these races. Stallion Review – ART OFFICIAL - Continuing on with our stallion review series today we have produced an in depth review for the excellent racehorse and stallion Art Official 1:47 ($2,085,185) 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).

The Butt brothers Tim and Anthony announced today that their imported superstar trotter Peak had been retired and would now take up full time stud duties. Peak was the flagship for an attempt by the Butt brothers to strengthen the trotting breed down under. The trotting breed in Australasia has always been the poor cousin in the harness racing industry in the Southern Hemisphere. Pacing has always been in the ascendancy and with access to the best sires in the world for the last fifteen plus years has closed the gap with North America. Trotting broodmare owners have not been as well served over the same period but in the last two or three years attempts have been made on several fronts to change that. One of those attempts was the importation of three well bred and performed European trotters by the well respected Butt brothers. Having witnessed first hand on their travels to Europe the ability and gait of European sired trotters, the Butt brothers imported the three entires and syndicated them to stable clients with a view to racing them first and then standing them at stud if they proved themselves in local conditions. As most people realize, it was a very brave decision to try to bring three stallions half way around the world and attempt to get them to adjust to the different racing style in New Zealand and the different training methods. The first of the three stallions to set foot on a New Zealand track was the son of the French super sire Ganymede in Peak. Although not 100% ready,Peak made his New Zealand debut in the Group 3 trotters Flying Mile at Ashburton in October 2013 and what a debut it was. Parked early, Peak worked to the front after 400 metres for Anthony Butt but was attacked from a long way out by The Fiery Ginga which should have made him a sitting duck in the straight. The whole way up the long Ashburton straight Peak lead and come post time he was still in front after cutting out the mile in 1:57.6. It was a wonderful introduction to New Zealand racing and held the promise of better things to come. Second up was the $80,000 Group 1 New Zealand Trotting FFA on Cup Day in 2013. Parked for the first 800 metres, Anthony took Peak to the front with 1200 metres to go and in a replay of Ashburton was immediately attacked again by The Fiery Ginga. Clear as they turned for home, Peak was challenged by a wall of trotters with 100 metres to go and when seemingly beaten got off the canvas to come back and grab the win. Peak's winning time was 2:26.4, a mile rate of 1:57.7 over the 2000 metres which was just outside the New Zealand record held by I Can Doosit It was a stunning performance and one that cemented him as one of the favourites for the $250,000 Group 1 Dominion Handicap three days later. Away well, Peak was shuffled back in the running line before joining the three wide chain at the 800 metres mark. Sent four wide by Anthony at the 500 metres mark, Peak looked poised to challenge as he ranged up to the leaders with 200 to go but then uncharacteristically broke and lost all chance. Sore the next morning, Peak has fought soundness issues ever since. Given a long break, Peak was readied for the 2014 New Zealand Cup meeting but when the pressure went on the soundness problems returned. Already available to New Zealand trotting breeders as Peak combined training with stud work, Peak has already served over twenty mares this season and with the announcement today of his retirement from the track that number should swell by a lot more before the end of the breeding season. The Butt brothers have had several champion trotters through their barn over the years with the likes of Lyell Creek 1:52.4 $2,961,137 and Take A Moment 1:56.7 $1,164,356 to name just two but their is no mistaking how highly they rated Peak. Anthony was effusive in his praise of the son of Ganymede. “The most clean gaited trotter I have ever driven. He is the perfect trotter with speed, gait , heart and manners. When you ask him to go he goes, and keeps going” he said. Tim was no less impressed by the abilities of Peak. “He is such a beautiful horse with a massive heart and superb attitude. He has an unbelievable gait, far superior to any other trotter I have trained. His will to win was his biggest asset,"  he said. Standing for a fee of $2500 +GST, Peak should get his chance to make it as a sire. The two other trotters brought in from Europe with Peak have been a mixed bag to date. Kvintet Avenger had one start in New Zealand before joining the Brent Lilley stable in Victoria where he has looked a trotter on the rise. In seven starts for Lilley, Kvintet Avenger has had five wins and two placings for $41,388 in stakes and looks headed for the best grades.  The other import was Sir Lexington who has won one race from six appearances to date but has had a decent spell and bigger things are expected of him when he resumes shortly. All things considered the Butt brothers should take a lot of heart out of the fact they were able to transport a horse like Peak half way around the world and turn him out a winner at the highest level. Harnesslink Media      

Addington is thrilled to report some extraordinary results for their turnovers and attendances during  Cup Week. Combined turnover for 2014 Cup Week totalled a staggering $10,351,691 showing a huge increase  on the 2013 figures of $1,782,932 or 20.8%. Cup Day continues to head domestic racing events by some margin with combined turnover figures  coming in at over $6.88 million an increase of over 20% on last year, whilst Show Day combined  figures for 2014 were $3.47 million an increase of nearly 22% on 2013.  An astounding $1.919 million was waged on the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup. Whist the wagering was hot on and off course; attendances were also up across both premier days  racing with nearly 28,000 attending.  Chairman at The Met Barry Dent commented “that the Club could not have wished for a better Cup Week. "Whilst the weather played its part I think we can also attribute some other key factors to the  success." "Champion pacer Terror To Love gunning for his fourth Cup and a place in history certainly  spiced up the lead in and we also received a significant increase in mainstream media coverage with  the announcement of our VIP Shane Warne." "The amount of media mentions and stories triggered by these was far greater than previous years and certainly put the event and the Cup Day brand into the limelight." "Also, the dedicated Trackside TV coverage on Cup Day was a positive.” “Having a complete and continual cell phone coverage right throughout the day also impacted  positively on Cup Day with no hick-ups this year. "The large crowd seemed to arrive early on course and stayed for most of the day which meant more spend through the tote particularly via smartphone.” “On Show Day we hosted the inaugural Kiwi Punters Championship (KPC) and this event contributed  nearly $300,000 on course; a super result. " "The winner took home $50,000 and this is a concept that we’ll look to undertake again next year.” “It is wonderful that the combined turnover for the week is the second highest recorded in the last 20  years and is a great result for the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club and the NZ harness racing industry.” Ged Mooar Marketing & Commercial Manager Addington

Robert Dunn sees a silver lining to Franco Nelson’s controversial Miracle Mile snub. Because now the New Zealand Cup runner-up can be the flagbearer for his North Island satellite stable which opens this week. Franco Nelson was passed over for a Miracle Mile invite at the expense of Terror To Love, who got the second Kiwi invite to next week’s A$750,000 race, even though Franco Nelson beat him twice last week. Dunn says while he would love to be going to Australian pacing’s richest sprint he isn’t losing much sleep over the snub. “Sure, we would love to have him there but we could also go over, draw outside horses like Beautide and have no chance,” admits Dunn. “That decision is made and we have Auckland to concentrate on with him now as well as the Hunter and Victoria Cups later in the summer.” Franco Nelson will have plenty of stable company when he comes north this weekend, with Dunn and son John, who train in what is basically an unofficial partnership, sending six horses north. They will be stabled at the new Lincoln Farms property in South Auckland after owner John Street moved his harness racing operation from West Auckland. “We are privelaged to get some room at John’s place because he does things well,” says Dunn. “And the time has come for us to have a more permanent base in Auckland. “I have a lot of Auckland-based owners who want to see their horses race up there as often as we can. “And it is getting harder to ignore the stakes at Alexandra Park and the fact they have smaller fields. “So Franco will lead our team up there with horses like No Doctor Needed and Say My Name among the six we are sending up.” The Dunns won’t be the first Canterbury trainers to set up a northern base and most fall over eventually as they struggle for horse numbers or staff who can replicate the main trainer’s success in their absence. The latest venture would seem to have a greater shot at success than most though as the horses will be in the care of Matt Bowden, who has had a wonderful strike rate looking after the stable’s horses on previous extended northern raids. “Matt will be the man up there but of course John and I will be making trips up, especially John who will drive them racenight a lot of the time. “The driving can be shared with Dexter if needs be too because he drives up there a lot of the summer. “We are really excited about it because it gives up more options with our horses. “We haven’t gone into it lightly and we want to make this a permanent thing.” Franco Nelson has come though his two Cup week placings well and is being set for a $30,000 race at Alexandra Park on December 5 before having races available to him almost every week until mid-January, especially as the Harness Jewels winner is eligible for Four and Five-Year-Old mixed racing. He is then likely to head to Victoria and on to the Inter Dominion in Sydney on March 1. The Dunns setting up shop in the north will be welcomed by Alexandra Park officials as they continue to struggle for numbers in their better pacing races. Trotting races have been of huge benefit to Alexandra Park field sizes, a huge factor in turnover figures, but pacing races stronger than mid-grade still struggle. The Dunns sit second equal on the trainer’s premiership with 20 wins for the season worth nearly $300,000 in stakes. The runaway leaders at the Purdon-Rasmussen stable, which has won 36 races from 106 starters and have already banked $994,239 for the season, with nearly 60 per cent of their starters finishing in the first three.   Courtesy of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

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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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