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Around the traps with HRNZ

A new weekly harness racing segement on www.hrnz.co.nz, Around the Traps will, each Tuesday, put together happenings from around New Zealand and Australia over the weekend just been. NEK TIME TRIALS IMPRESSIVELY Speedy Canterbury 3-year-old filly, Nek Time, was an impressive winner of a trial at Albion Park on Friday night as she readies herself for the Gold Coast and Queensland Oaks. The Terry and Glenys Chmiel trainer filly, who is based at the stable of Ian Gurney, paced her 1660 metre trial in 1:58.9 which equates to a 1.55 mile rate. The Southland Oaks winner, will kick off her campaign in the Gold Coast Oaks this weekend before tackling the Queensland Oaks a week later. Dexter Dunn has been booked to drive the filly during her Australian campaign. TELFER/GARLICK TEAM DRAW LEVEL North Island trainers, Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick drew level with their best ever season tally of 37 with a winning double at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The Papkura Stable won on Friday with River Emperor and First Home to take them to 37 and continue what has been a great season. Just inside the Top 10 trainers on the national premiership, the partnership have produced 16 individual winners this season with Better B Amazed (5 wins), Prince Of Pops and Ashton K (4 wins) and Superimposed, No Doctor Needed, American Flybye and Ideal Flybye (3 wins) their best performers. MAINLAND BANNER’S PERFECT RECORD The win of Glenferrie Classic on Friday at Blenheim kept former New Zealand Trotting Cup winning mare, Mainland Banner’s strike rate perfect. Of the five foals the daughter of Christian Cullen has produced, all five have now been winners with Glenferrie Classic the latest. Aside from Stunin Banner (13 wins) her other four foals; Peruvian Banner (1 win), Return To Sender (8 wins), Rocker Band (9 wins) and Glenferrie Classic (1 win) have all been embryo transfer foals. Incidentally, Stunin Banner will race this weekend at Alexandra Park in a claimers event carrying a price tag of $9,000. He is currently domiciled with Todd Mitchell. GILL SUSPENDED Marlborough horsewoman, Kendra Gill has her licence suspended until the middle of August on the opening, and only, day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s meeting on Friday. Gill, the daughter of local trainer, Mark, was suspended for careless driving after her charge, Gotta Ticket was shifted into a position in which there is was insufficient room to allow it to happen. Gill’s suspension ends on the 14th of August. OUR WAIKIKI BEACH TRIALS TODAY Embattled 3-year-old pacer, (Our) Waikiki Beach will trial today (Tuesday) at Menangle as he continues his preparations for the rich Australasian Breeders Crown. In the care of leading Australian stable, Belinda McCarthy, the unbeaten pacer, who has won all 20 of his career starts, is earmarked to return to the race next Tuesday in a C3-C5 pace before tackling a heat of the Breeders Crown seven days later. VOTING CLOSED Voting for the annual Harness Racing New Zealand Awards, which are to be held in the Mashina Lounge at Christchurch Casino on Saturday, July 30, closed on Friday. There has been plenty of speculation around the Awards this year - in particular the battle for Horse of the Year between freakish pacer Have Faith In Me and superstar trotter, Monbet. 29 votes are allocated for each of the categories, which this year include the return of the 5-year-old and older categories. The voting panel is made up largely of members of the harness racing media in New Zealand which also includes commentators and Trackside presenters. BREEDERS CROWN HEATS KICK OFF The first round of heats for the rich Australasian Breeders Crown will be held this week. Addington plays host to heats for the 3YO Trotting Colts and Geldings as well as the 3YO Trotting fillies. Three horses will go around in the male event; Blood And Whiskey, Conon Bridge and My Armour while the fillies race will be contested by Oona and Wilma’s Mate. Further heats will be held at Addington on the 8th, the 15th and the 22nd of July and at Cambridge on July 10 and 21. By Matt Markham

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Dunn on the charge

It’s a case of so far, so good for exciting 3-year-old pacer Franco Cristiano. Everything has gone to plan since the Robert Dunn trained son of Bettor’s Delight impressed in his first race day appearance in over seven months when winning at Blenheim Harness Racing Club on Friday. The only fly in the ointment came on Sunday when the meeting was abandoned due to surface flooding on the track taking the opportunity for two quick wins away from his connections. Dunn’s stable vet, Sam Taylor gave the gelding a pass with flying colours after a full examination yesterday upon his return to Woodend Beach and it’s now all systems go as they push toward a race at Addington on Thursday night. “It’s certainly great to have him back,” Robert said from Auckland yesterday. “You always worry about horses who have had injuries like he has but it would appear that the time off might have helped him. “That’s the best I think he’s raced on Friday. He’s never going to be perfect, but it’s a lot better than what he was like. “I still wonder if a lot of his problems were because of the injury, something wasn’t right with him and we can maybe now pinpoint it to the hairline fracture in his pastern.” The plan going forward very much depends on the outcome of Thursday night where Franco Cristiano takes on a stronger field than he raced on Friday. The line up includes Hypervelocity, GI Joe and Innocent Artist so he will need to be on top of his game. “We won’t make any firm plans until after Thursday probably, but it’s pretty likely he will head to the Breeders Crown heat after that. “And that in itself will be a good measuring stick for where we are at because Heaven Rocks will be there as well and from what I have seen of him, he’s a pretty special horse.” That heat for the 3-year-old colts and geldings is set down July 15. The abandonment of Sunday’s meeting won’t have helped Dunn’s chances of pegging back Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen in the trainers’ premiership. They are now 14 wins behind and were expecting a couple more to be added on Sunday. “We needed a real good day on Sunday to bring us right back into it I think. “And we could have had one of those days but that’s racing. “It’s going to take something special now I think, but we aren’t out of it. Mark and Natalie will race horses over the next few weeks with Breeders Crown heats and the like, but we’ve got numbers around the place and the plan is to keep pushing toward them and see what happens.” Dunn has 19 horses engaged at meetings between Addington, Forbury and Auckland early on in this week’s racing with a further nine nominated for the Timaru meeting on Sunday. The All Stars in contrast have two runners; GI Joe and Superfecta at Addington and then The Manipulator at Timaru. Matt Markham

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Super club for Southland

Southern Harness Inc will inherit the role of 'super club' in the south and is in line for a funding package approaching $3.7million for the new harness racing season. The Invercargill based entity, which provides racing services for all 14 clubs south of the Waitaki, will receive the funds on behalf of its seven Southland and two Central Otago member clubs. Between them those nine clubs will stage 38 meetings. Details of the package were outlined to harness racing players from throughout the region at a meeting in Invercargill during the week. Murray Swain and Kevin McNaught spoke for the working committee; Edward Rennell and Darrin Williams for Harness Racing New Zealand. The 38 meetings is down two from last season while the five clubs in Eastern Otago will stage 30 meetings, down three. Rennell pointed out this was a case of removing two weaker meetings, usually because of a clash, to create one stronger one and therefore build field size and turnover. He said nine meetings were trimmed from the Auckland and Waikato region for the same reason. Although there will be less meetings in the Southern Harness region, there will be a $350,000 increase in stakes. Swain and McNaught said allocation of those stakes would be one focus of the Southern Harness management team and the other would be setting programmes to maximise the opportunities for the available horses to race more regularly Apart from that, there would be no tampering with the sovereignty of individual clubs. Their assets, identity and local arrangements would remain intact, they said. The bulk of the funding, which includes group and listed race subsidies, will be applied towards stakes. However, $380,000, $10,000 per raceday, will go towards expences. The top four fixtures, Diamond Day plus Northern Southland, Invercargill and Central Otago Cup days will attract the greatest stakes funding. The 21 days at the bottom of the heap will get enough to provide an average race stake of $7,700 with the minimum for any race $6,000. How this will be split is not yet set in concrete. Which side of 60 percent the winner gets will depend on the outcome of a recommendation to pay two percent of the stake to each unpaid runner. For the lowest stake race, this would be $120, enough to pay the driver and get a bit back. There is also the possibility of HRNZ introducing a starter incentive which would add another $50. Some trainers saw this as robbing winners to reward losers and wondered whether they would get their usual percentage. It was also suggested the bonus for 16 starts was a better option but the level of support for any of the proposals was unclear. The $10,000 per day for operational expenses will increase a club's budgeted income for a day to $24,000 at the bottom end, and $95,000 for the biggest day, which is at Omakau in January. On Course turnover, sponsorship and admission are all major revenue contributors on Central Otago's day in the sun in early January but are needed to cover significant New Zealand Racing Board charges for services and staffing of both the tote and Trackside television. Mac Henry

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Peaking Perfectly

One of the greats of New Zealand harness racing doesn’t get to see his newest Alexandra Park winner very often. But you can rest assured, John Butcher is watching when Sunset Peak is winning. The former Canterbury trotting mare made it two wins from four starts in the north at Alexandra Park on Friday night, leading throughout as she did two starts ago. She is trained by John and his son David, although truth be known John doesn’t get down to the stables much anymore. The 80-year-old patriarch of one of New Zealand’s great racing families is suffering from lung problems which restrict how much physical activity he can undertake. But it doesn’t stop him watching races on television or keeping up with the industry going-ons via the computer. “He knows everything that goes on in the game, he is the one who tells me,” says David. “But with the lung problem he has got he doesn’t leave the house much. He is a lot better if he doesn’t over exert himself.”
 The father and son have been training in partnership for years but rarely have they had a trotter able to win twice so quickly at Alexandra Park. It helped that Sunset Peak came north well educated by owner Paul McDonald, a Canterbury builder who was training her himself. “I think Paul thought with winter coming and all the work he had on she was better off up here,” explains David. “So Craig Thornley, who had been driving her, put him on to us and she is a lovely horse to get hold of. “To win two so quickly at The Park doesn’t happen very often and you would think she will get down to being a 3:30 trotter (for 2700m stand). “And that is probably good enough to get her at least five wins because when they trot 3:30 off the front they are hard to catch. “The other night she trotted her last three quarters (1200ms) in about even time so the ability is there.”
 The Butchers have never been huge trainers of trotters but have two recent winners in that gait, the other being Larch, among the 9-10 horses they are training. “Soon half the horses at Alexandra Park will be trotters,” jokes Butcher about the new-found depth of the gait in the north. “And they are ideal for up here, races every week and for good money. “So to have a nice one right now is a real bonus.”
 Sunset Peak’s win capped a good night for the family as earlier David’s son Zac drove Atomic Betty to break her maiden and he can probably claim an unofficial training success with Hug The Wind in the $20,000 Smith And Partners Winter Cup. Zac has been in charge of the Barry Purdon stable while the boss has taken a small holiday and had Hug The Wind well enough for driver Brent Mangos to launch him as only Mangos does in the main pace. Aided by a brilliant beginning which gave him field position, Hug The Wind worked forward to get the lead and was way too good in a race where new stablemate New Years Jay also caught the eye when third, promoted from fourth. The favourite Shandale was given a good trip by trainer-driver Maurice McKendry but disappointed, suggesting his season may soon be over. Earlier in the night McKendry partnered the McCaffrey-Paynter trained Ideal Flipflop to a good win in a tough c1 race, the three-year-old pacing 2:40.3 for the 2200m on a chilly night, indicating there is plenty more in store for him. Michael Guerin

The second day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club's meeting has been abandoned due to track flooding. Sunday's first race was set to go at 11.45am but the meeting was canned shortly before 11am due to adverse weather and track conditions including surface flooding. There is currently no replacement date for the second leg of the meeting. Mat Kermeen

Breaking out on your own after a successful harness racing partnership that has lasted many years is supposed to be hard yakka, but Paul Court can be forgiven though for thinking it’s all a little too easy. The West Melton horseman, who was alongside his father Graham in training partnership for close to a decade, is making a pretty good fist of the solo training caper and yesterday, on the first day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s Winter meeting, he picked up his first training hatrick. “It’s been a pretty dream start really, better than I could have ever expected anyway,” Court said. Yesterday’s three wins came less than 24 hours after Stunin Dude won at Forbury Park on Thursday night in the hands of Blair Orange and it was the Postman who was in the sulky for two thirds of his Friday success. Orange drove both Hypervelocity and Expressive Victor to victory while Ricky May was on board Courage To Live who won the last race of the day. “I thought that they were all good chances, but for all three to win was great. “You got to the race expecting to have a good day and often it’s the opposite.” Expressive Victor’s win in the Winter Cup Prelude was impressive. The 4-year-old mare, who was second behind Rocker Band in the 4YO Ruby at the Harness Jewels three weeks ago, overcame an early bobble to sit off the speed before unwinding brilliantly down centre track to secure victory. “The gallop was a bit of a worry, she’s usually such a good beginner. “Blair said she got a bit of a fright when the tapes went, I don’t think one on the 10 metre line was a good draw for her.” The imposing mare will start a warm order favourite on Sunday to go back-to-back on what is fast becoming her favourite track. From five starts on the Waterlea Raceway surface she’s won twice and placed on as many occasions with her only failure coming when she choked down and crashed to the deck at the Summer meeting earlier this year. Both Hypervelocity and Courage To Live will both also be in action on Sunday.   The former will have to deal with the impressive Franco Cristiano who made light work of his race track return earlier in yesterday’s programme for Robert and John Dunn. Courage To Live also has a tough ask from a wider draw, but his free going racing style means he will be on the speed at some stage in the race and that’s here he seems to race best. “He probably lacks that really high speed, but he will just keep going. “I was pretty impressed with the way he won, he looked like he could have kept going at that speed too. “He’s just got better and better each time I’ve taken him to the races.” Closely related to Terror To Love, the Jereme’s Jet colt was one of two winners for Terry McDonald who also shares owns Hypervelocity. McDonald went had the perfect day on Friday with Letspendanitetogetha, who he owns with good friend Reg Storer, finishing second to Courage To Live. While Court’s three wins was impressive, Orange’s driving talents were on full display. He won three races to go with the three he picked up on Thursday night, taking him to 117 winners for the season and 16 wins clear in second position on the national premiership which is being led by Dexter Dunn. Dunn endured a winless day at the office and will have to wait until next week to get New Zealand win No. 200 as he’s on a plane to drive Christen Me in Queensland on Saturday night and isn’t returning to Blenheim for Sunday’s meeting. Matt Markham

There’s 50,000 reasons to get involved in Sunday’s Pick6 on the second of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s Winter meeting. It’s a quality pot to chase on a Sunday afternoon and it has the potential to get even higher than it’s guaranteed price. As well as the big pot, $3,000 will be added to every First Four at the meeting. To help you get a slice of the Pick6 pie, we’ve done the hard work and gone through the six legs with the hope of pointing you in the right direction. We’ve produced two options for you too chase. One featuring a few more selections for a decent outlay and a second which is a bit shorter and gives you a chance at a bigger piece of the prize if we’re successful. Leg One - Race 4: The toughest leg to kick things off, without doubt. Plenty of form running through here from the first day of racing including three winners. We’d suggest taking a wee spread here to ensure you get through the first leg, or even perhaps a ticker with a spread and then a ticket with just a few. 1 Hopeful Harriet and 2 Glenferrie Classic were both impressive on Friday and are drawn up for a lead/trail scenario which should have them both in the race up to their eyeballs. 10 Sauciehall and 11 Dancing In The Dark, Friday’s other winner, following them both through and should be thereabouts again. Expect an improved effort from 4 Thisgirlisonfire as well. She could easily win. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach: 1 Hopeful Harriet, 2 Glenferrie Classic, 4 Thisgirlisonfire, 10 Sauciehall & 11 Dancing In The Dark. The Short & Sweet Ticket: 1 Hopeful Harriet & 2 Glenferrie Classic.   Leg Two - Race 5: Not a lot easier here to be honest because it’s a trot. And so much hinges on the first 100 metres of the race as opposed to the final 100 metres. 11 Kowhai Monarch was so impressive on Friday that he picks himself. Follows speed well and will be given every opportunity. 4 Blood And Whiskey was eye-catching on Friday and should have taken some benefit out of the run. He’s dangerous if close enough. 3 Redwood Invasion, 9 No Bacardi Damit and 11 Clifden Clowers were all good on Friday and with manners can figure again. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach : 3 Redwood Invasion, 4 Blood And Whiskey, 9 No Bacardi Damit & 11 Kowhai Monarch. The Short & Sweet Ticket: 4 Blood And Whiskey & 11 Kowhai Monarch   Leg Three - Race 6: He’s got to come off the second line draw, but the run of 10 Letspendanitetogetha on Friday should see him hard to beat. He’s going to have to get around them at some stage, but is good enough to do it. His biggest danger will be a free-wheeling 6 Courage To Live who was too good for most of these on Friday and should be again. 2 Recipe For Dreaming has a good draw to use so must be included. 9 Martin John the other to consider. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach: 2 Recipe For Dreaming, 6 Courage To Live & 10 Letspendanitetogetha The Short & Sweet Ticket: 6 Courage To Live & 10 Letspendanitetogetha   Leg Four - Race 7 It’s short and sweet here. 1 Franco Cristiano was that impressive on the first day that he shouldn’t really be beaten on the second day. Look no further. 4 Celestial Arden  will get close again, but not close enough. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach: 1 Franco Cristiano The Short & Sweet Ticket: 1 Franco Cristiano   Leg Five - Race 8: 4 Expressive Victor simply smashed them on Friday in the Cup Prelude and barring accidents will do the same again. Usually steps like a toff and is pretty hard to catch in front. Good luck to her opposition. 5 Highview Freddy is his only danger. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach: 4 Expressive Victor & 5 Highview Freddy The Short & Sweet Approach: 4 Expressive Victor   Leg Six - Race 9: It’s back to being a little tougher at the end of the day, just like it was at the start. Plenty of winning chances in here. 1 Mighty American looked a little unlucky on the opening day but should get a good run from a good draw. Looks hard to beat. 5 Mrs Browns Boys and 7 Gabby’s Star were just ok on Friday, but will be better here. Expect a big run from the latter. 12 Il Divo of the back row looks the other strong winning hope while there will be plenty of talk for 4 Twitter Bromac and 6 Arizona Atom after good runs on Friday. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach: 1 Mighty American, 5 Mrs Browns Boys, 7 Gabby’s Star & 12 Il Divo The Short & Sweet Approach: 1 Mighty American, 7 Gabby’s Star   Our Suggested Bets:   The Cautious Approach: L1: 1,2,4,10,11 - L2: 3,4,9,11 - L3: 2,6,10 - L4: 1 - L5: 4,5 - L6: 1,5,7,12. $100 spend give yous $26% of the dividend.   The Short & Sweet Approach: L1: 1,2 - L2: 3,11 - L3: 6,10 - L4: 1 - L5: 4 - L6: 1,7 $32 spend gives you $2 worth of the dividend.   Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: 4 The Foot Tapper, 3 Taimate Raffa, 5 Carribean Fizz, 6 Sunny Bill Race 2: 2 Art I Am, 8 Yukon Gold, 11 A Better Dancer, 4 Trixie Bromac Race 3: 9 Prada’s Ideal Dahling, 11 Donegal Carrickfin, 8 Supermoshi, 1 Ballymore Boy Race 4: 2 Glenferrie Classic, 1 Hopeful Harriet, 10 Sauciehall, 11 Dancing In The Dark Race 5: 4 Blood And Whiskey, 11 Kowhai Monarch, 9 No Bacardi Damit, 3 Redwood Invasion Race 6: 10 Letspendanitetogetha, 6 Courage To Live, 2 Recipe For Dreaming, 9 Martin John Race 7: 1 Franco Cristiano, 4 Celestial Arden, 6 Hypervelocity, 2 Molly Sims Race 8: 4 Expressive Victor, 5 Highview Freddy, 2 Graduate Under Fire, 8 Tijuana Bromac Race 9: 1 Mighty American, 7 Gabby’s Star, 5 Mrs Browns Boys, 12 Il Divo   Best Bet: Art I Am (Race 2) Value: Gabby’s Star (Race 9) Matt Markham

A relatively good summer, improved track grooming and the injection of some quality Canterbury horses led to a bumper season for track records in the Southern region. Forty one track records were broken over all southern surfaces during the 2015-2016 season which wrapped up at Invercargill on Queens Birthday Monday - the highest number for many years. And twenty of those were also Southland records. The Club that hosted the most track records for the season was Invercargill where 7 pacers made the list and 6 trotters were added to the record books. The Young Quinn Raceway at Wyndham had 6 pacing and 1 trotting record broken, Central Southland Raceway at Winton had 6 pacers break records. All other southern surfaces got amongst the action, Gore all weather (2 pacers), Omakau (2 pacers and 1 trotter), Roxburgh (1 pacer and 2 trotters), Gore Grass (4 pacers and 1 trotter) and Cromwell Grass (1 pacer and 1 trotter). Heading the class of record breakers was Nek Time who broke the 2400 metre mobile record at Winton in February running 2-53.0 which was also a New Zealand record for a three year old filly. She also broke the 2700 metre mobile record at Invercargill for three year old fillies running 3-19.4.  Meanwhile a number of Southland trainers are heading towards personal best seasons. Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray is currently sitting on 24 winners which is 10 more than his previous best season of 14 in 2015. Gray trains for Australian owners Merv and Meg Butterworth who purchase horses in the province and many stay here initially before heading to Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen in Canterbury, Tony Herlihy in Auckland or to Australian trainers. Clark Barron recorded 22 training wins this season 4 more than his previous best of 18 in 2011 while Ascot Park trainer Brent Shirley who is only in his fourth season of training finished the season with 20 winners - 4 better than his old PB of 16 in 2014. Alister Black was another young trainer to improve his standing with 13 winners. His previous personal best was 8 in 2013. Driver Nathan Williamson was the only driver of note to better his driving PB. He currently has 86 wins on the board, that’s 8 better than the 78 he drove in 2013.   Bruce Stewart - Southland Harness

Hamish Hunter became the first Southland based Harness Racing trainer to join the elite 500 club when I Try won at Forbury Park last night (Thursday 23rd). I Try is owned by  Hunter and loyal clients of the stable The What Ever Syndicate. Together, they also own the stable's biggest winner, Franco Ledger. I Try is a Mach Three four year old. Tonight he raced three back on the rails and found room in the straight to get up and nab Pembrook Harry.  "It was pretty good for a middle of the road trainer as I describe myself. I was aware I was getting close as my family informed me," said Hunter.  Hamish Hunters best season was in 2014 when star pacer Franco Ledger was a leading stake earner. That season he racked up 33 wins from 339 starters and $347,376 in stakes. "He's back in work (Franco Ledger). He's a 100 percent sound and all going well we'll have one more go at the cup. It's probably be his last chance."  In 1989 he recorded his best UDR ranking when he started horses 174 times for 23 wins, 18 seconds and 14 thirds for a UDR .2165. Horses racing that season included Betonim, Benachie Lad and Admiral Luca. He's won the Southland trainers premiership 6 times; 1985, 1986, 2007 (jointly with Brendon McLellan and Kirk Larsen), 2008 (jointly with Murray Brown), 2011 and 2014. Out of his 500 training successes he's driven 374 himself. His first winner was Karen's Pride at Waikouaiti in October 1976. He won five races on the mare between October and June of that season. In the following two season's he had the services of half brothers Good Too and Model Hardcraft. Model Hardcraft won his first three races as a two year old including the 1979 New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham. Good Too won eight races for Hunter. Hunter has trained three winners in one day three times; Forbury Park October 1984 (Heiden, Sissy Bogart and Tapado Time), Invercargill September 2001 (Catalina Dreaming, Galleons Treasure and Grenadier) and Northern Southland October 2005 (Grenadier, Rockie's Dream and Mainstay).  Of all the Southern Harness feature races it's the Wairio Cup that he's won the most: Josephine Bret (1984), Yandoon (1992), Grenadier (2004), Franco Ledger (2013) and Canardly Lover (2014).  List of major winners: Franco Ledger (25 wins) Malaz (15 wins)  Nursemaid (14 wins) Devil May Care (11 wins) Canardly Lover (10 wins) Good Too  (8 wins) Grenadier (8 wins)  Cornell (8 wins) Betonim (8 wins) Model Hardcraft (7 wins) Holmezy (7 wins) Galleons Treasure (7 wins) Southern Boy (6 wins) Christian Ruler (6 wins) Stand Asquire (6 wins) Galleons Cheer ( 5 wins from just nine starts) Nordette (5 wins) Blueberry Hill (5 wins)  Benachie Lad (5 wins)  Admiral Luca (5 wins)  Congratulations Hamish - great effort. Meanwhile, Dexter Dunn got win number 199 for the season behind Lightning Mach for trainer Cran Dalgety. Four Starzzz Shiraz won heat 4 of the Claimers series for new trainer Brian Norman & driver Blair Orange, and Run To Hide was claimed by Canterbury Junior Driver Andrew Fitzgerald. Bruce Stewart - Southland Harness.

Harness Racing Driver Maurice McKendry is a legend of our sport and is a driver you can back with confidence every time he gets in the cart. On Friday night at Alexandra Park he has 7 drives, of which the standout will be the horse he also trains in top 3-year-old colt Shandale who will once again be taking on the older pacers in the Smith & Partners Lawyers $20,000 Winter Cup. Here's what he had to say about all of his drives: Race 1 - (4) Mysistersastar - "She went an improved race last time out and is getting better with every look at the track. With further improvement she could feature in a race like this." Race 2 - (2) Ideal Flipflop - "He is a nice wee 3-year-old who will be having his first run at The Park. From the nice draw of 2 he would rate an each way chance in this." Race 3 - (3) Laugh And Cry - "This will be my first drive on her so I really don't know too much about her at this stage. She is another having her first look around here so will definitely be better for the experience." Race 4 - (3) Armed Angel - "She ran an improved race last time out in her first look at The Park. She is on the improve but it's hard to see her beating Aymar all the same." Race 7 - (4) Shandale - "It is his first start from a stand so there is a watch there but in saying that he is a sensible type so I am expecting him to step ok. He definitely has the ability to win a race like this and if he steps I am expecting a big performance from him." Race 8 - (7) Eclipse Me - "She went well last start after dropping back early and making up plenty of ground late for fourth. I would be disappointed if she didn't feature in the first 3 here." Race 12 - (7) Steady Reign - "He qualified nicely and is improving every time he steps out on the track. This will be his first race under racenight conditions and again will be another that will improve with the first look at the track but he definitely has the ability to feature if he can put it all together on the night." ...................................................................................................................................................................................... The Papakura training partnership of Steve Telfer & Chris Garlick have four runners in this Friday night at Alexandra Park and all four look to be in with a good chance of grabbing some of the money. The Alexandra Park newsdesk caught up with training parnter Chris Garlick to assess each of their four runners chances, of which he rated First Home their best on the night. Here's what he had to say about each of their team's chances: Race 1 - (7) River Emperor - "He went real good last week working to find the lead and doing all the work out in front. With his good gate speed we will be looking to make use of that again and be in a prominent position throughout. It is a very similar field to the one he placed in last week so we are expecting another competitive effort in this" Race 4 - (2) Dazzle N Daze - "She was a touch disappointing after leading fairly easily last week but we feel that she is probably better with a sit so we'll look to drive her that way in this. She will need to improve but is a type that has shown some promise. She would still be needing some luck to get into three this week though." Race 9 - (2) Rocknroll Princess - "She has a good gate to work with this week and has good early speed off the arm. Her run was better than it looked last time out and if she can get a nice sit in behind them she would rate a good place chance." Race 10 - (7) First Home - "This bloke is our best chance of the night and we are expecting a big run from him. He is well placed in a field like this and if he can live up to the potential we know he has, he would go real close to taking this out." Alexandra Park Newsdesk

Everything you need to know for race meetings at Alexandra Park is just one click away! This Friday night at Alexandra Park kicks off the first of their ‘Mid-Winter Christmas at the races’ and they have a very competitive 12 race card kicking off at 5.27pm that will include the $20,000 Smith & Partners Lawyer Winter Cup featuring the likes of Shandale, Hug The Wind, Bettor Spirits and Beyond The Silence. For all your news, trainer/driver interviews, tips and race previews for this meeting and all of their other meetings head to the Alex Park website for the inside scoop click here

Harness Racing Trainer Paul Court has a Blenheim winter double in mind to wind down Expressive Victor's stellar season on a high.  Court will start the Harness Jewels runner-up in the Winter Cup Prelude on the first day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club's double header and she is likely to go again in Sunday's Winter Cup. Expressive Victor was given a week off following her second in the four-year-old Diamond behind Rocker Band. She has not been sighted publicly since but her West Melton-based trainer is confident she is forward enough to be competitive on both days Waterlea. "If anything she might be better for the run on Friday, but I wouldn't be coming if I didn't think she could (win)," Court said. Expressive Victor starts off 10m in Friday's Prelude but being the reliable and speedy beginner she is from the stand, the winner of seven races should be able to find the front if Blair Orange wants it. Court believes Expressive Victor is versatile and is not concerned if she does not lead. The daughter of Changeover raced by the De Novo Syndicate has chalked up five wins and six minor placings from 16 starts this season to exceed Court's expectations. "We always thought she was a pretty handy horse that could win two or three pretty quick but she just keeps stepping up." But Expressive Victor has not been the only bright point of Court's first season training on his own accord. Before Thursday night's Forbury Park meeting, he had already tallied 25 winners and could not be happier with how the season has panned out. He spent seven seasons training in partnership with his father Graham - highlighted by three consecutive New Zealand Trotting Cup victories with champion pacer-turned-sire Terror To Love. Thirty winners for the season looks possible but Court is not targeting any specific number. "I'm over the moon really. I didn't think about how many we might get beforehand, I just like to let it play out and see what happens. "I've been really happy with how many runners we have had in the Group races and how competitive we have been in them," Court said. Court also has a couple of leading hopes in c1 races over 2300m on the first day at Blenheim. Hypervelocity​ (race 6) and Courage To Live (race 9) both start from barrier two and although Court is not brimming with confidence, he rates both winning chances. The Bruce Hutton-trained Ideal Arden, who won the Nelson Winter Cup Prelude and Nelson Winter Cup will look to repeat the double in Blenheim. Highview Freddy​ ran two placings behind Ideal Arden at Nelson with stablemate Graduate Under Fire finishing just in behind with two top five finishes for the Robert Dunn stable. "Highview Freddy would have to be the pick of them just on that Nelson form," stable representative John Dunn said.      The highlight for the Dunn stable will be the return of exciting pacer Franco Cristiano​ who makes his makes his comeback from a long injury layoff in the c2-c3 pace over 2300m. The three-year-old was one of the main challengers to the All Stars colts before fracturing a pedal bone earlier this season. "He's pretty forward, he's had two nice trials," Dunn said. Mat Kermeen

Its been a seven month absence from the track, but talented three year old Franco Cristiano looks set to make a winning return on day one at Blenheim tomorrow for Harness Racing Trainer Robert Dunn. Good enough to win a Sires Stakes heat in the spring, Franco Cristiano was well supported in the final on Cup Day. However, after blowing to bits soon after the start, he would take no part in the Group One feature, won outstandingly by Lazarus. Shortly after this, Franco Cristiano headed north to Pukekohe under Robert's tutelage. However, very soon things began to unravel for the talented Bettor's Delight 3yr old. He had been a bit off in his work and Robert's worst fears were realised when after a scan, a hairline fracture of the pastern was revealed. After a successful surgery, he returned to the beach nearly three months ago and has been given plenty of time as he makes his progress back to the track. It was a winning turn at last week's Ashburton trials that told John that all was well and that it was time to get back to the track. "He was pretty impressive alright and just jogged it in some pretty quick sectionals." The news gets even better for his very patient connections. "He does seem a very different racehorse this time in and is definitely a lot more settled. Of course you never know until you get to the races though," said John. While the TAB have him installed the shortest of favourites in the early markets at $1.10, John said that first up, he must be some sort of risk. "Celestial Arden is in good form and is race fit, so we will need to be near enough to get the win." Win or lose, plans are a bit up in the air past tomorrow. "We are no certainty to go around again on Sunday. We will see how he is after the race, how he eats up and that sort of thing, but we won't be taking any risks with him." When assessing the rest of the team's chances tomorrow, John was a little frustrated by some of the draws and felt that perhaps their chances will be better on day two. "I really liked Mr Preston, but we have had to pull him out after he pulled up sore yesterday. Blood And Whisky is probably one of the best chances after Franco Cristiano. While he broke at the trials last week, I have made a couple of gear adjustments since then. He seems a nice type and should get one pretty quickly. Then later in the day, Highview Freddy and Graduate Under Fire should both go good races. They have both been near enough."Ex And when asked where things sit in terms of the much talked about premiership race, John was quite philosophical about things. "Realistically we will need to get a few wins this weekend if we are any chance. We will just keep on doing what we are doing and either way it has been a great season." Robert Dunn Trotting Stables

Calls to toughen school enrolment zone rules by targeting the likes of families living in newly built apartments would be grossly unfair, says chief executive of Alexandra Park Dominique Dowding. Ms Dowding is overseeing the construction of a significant mixed-use urban village at the Auckland Trotting Club and inside the sought-after Double Grammar Zone. It has been touted as one of the biggest brownfield developments currently underway in the city and one of the best-selling. “I accept the nearby grammar schools are under huge enrolment pressure, but the suggestion to target families living in newly-built apartments is grossly unfair at best and discriminatory at worst. Families living in apartments are equally part of the community and hence should have equal access to everything everybody else has. “To single out families opting for apartment living and penalise them accordingly would send the wrong message just when the Government and Auckland Council are promoting the absolute need for greater residential intensification in Auckland.” Ms Dowding says while families make up about 20% Alexandra Park apartment buyers, most people buying cite the central location, quality nature of the master-planned development, the apartments’ freehold titles, and the easy access to key amenities as the main reasons for purchasing an apartment in the urban village development. “Empty nesters and professional couples are a big part of our market, but stage two is attracting more local families and younger people. However, the families we are attracting are motivated by a number of things well beyond school zoning.” She says the fact that the development sits in the Double Grammar Zone is sure an added bonus for most, but it has only been seen as a deciding factor by a few of Alexandra Park’s buyers – and that’s according to Colliers International buyer statistics. “The impression given is that families are rushing out to buy apartments in the likes of Epsom just to get their kids into a grammar school. But our experience is most families are turning to apartment living for lifestyle reasons, to get the space without the prohibitive extra land cost, plus good capital gain,” says Ms Dowding. In just over 12 months’ unconditional sales of Alexandra Park’s high-end apartments have totalled over $220m. Over 80% of apartments for both stages have been sold while just three large penthouses remain for sale. Beneath the apartments will be a gourmet grocer, cafes, restaurants and boutique retail. The first of the 750 residents are set to move into Alexandra Park from next year. www.apliving.co.nz

Updated 8am Friday Morning Todd Macfarlane produced the top tip for last week with his winning tip, Mr Natural winning at Alexandra Park, paying a nice $5.10 & $2.00. John Dunn deserves a honorably mention with his tip Katgotstyle who raced twice last week and was successful on Sunday at Rangiora paying $9.10. Others to tip winners were Andrew Fitzgerald, Kyle Marshall and Matt Cross. This week we have a few additions to the ring around - "Short priced special" will hopefully be one you can anchor in all bets. While a new mystery tipster will try to bump up our winning %. This week we cover 3 meetings, including Blenheim which is a dual meeting so make sure to follow the tips through to the second day. Forbury Park Thursday Night Brad Williamson – Madison Jane, Race 1. (2nd, $3.40 tote) Nathan Williamson – Gangnam Style, Race 2. (1st, $1.70, 1.40 tote) Rory Mcllwrick – Golden Gate, Race 6 (1st, $4.70 $2.30 tote) Craig Ferguson – Van Eva, Race 7. (2nd, $2.80 tote) Mystery Tipster - Hudson Sally, Race 8.  (7th) Matt Cross - Highview Illusion, Race 8. (2nd, $1.60 tote) John Dunn - Donegal Jimmy Dave, Race 11. (2nd, $1.50 tote) Blenheim - Friday Afternoon/Sunday Afternoon Blair Orange - Wot Up, Race 1. John Curtin - Glenferrie Classic, Race 2. Andrew Fitzgerald - Dancing In The Dark, Race 3. Ricky May - Pradas Ideal Dahling, Race 3. Jonny Cox - Thisgirlisonfire, Race 5. Peter Scaife - Also likes - Thisgirlisonfire, Race 5. Robbie Holmes - Gabby's Star, Race 7. Short priced special - Franco Cristiano, Race 7. Alexandra Park - Friday Night Todd Macfarlance - Stunning Shadow, Race 2. Mark Jones - Aymar, Race 4. Kyle Marshall - No Way Else, Race 6. Jay Abernethy - Elliot Daniel, Race 6. Dylan Ferguson - On The Razzle, Race 6. Scott Phelan - Rocknroll Princess, Race 9. Andre Poutama - Norvic Ruby, Race 10. Gavin Smith - Di'z Luck, Race 11. Andrew Fitzgerald

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A new weekly harness racing segement on www.hrnz.co.nz, Around the Traps will, each Tuesday, put together happenings from around New Zealand and Australia over the weekend just been. NEK TIME TRIALS IMPRESSIVELY Speedy Canterbury 3-year-old filly, Nek Time, was an impressive winner of a trial at Albion Park on Friday night as she readies herself for the Gold Coast and Queensland Oaks. The Terry and Glenys Chmiel trainer filly, who is based at the stable of Ian Gurney, paced her 1660 metre trial in 1:58.9 which equates to a 1.55 mile rate. The Southland Oaks winner, will kick off her campaign in the Gold Coast Oaks this weekend before tackling the Queensland Oaks a week later. Dexter Dunn has been booked to drive the filly during her Australian campaign. TELFER/GARLICK TEAM DRAW LEVEL North Island trainers, Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick drew level with their best ever season tally of 37 with a winning double at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The Papkura Stable won on Friday with River Emperor and First Home to take them to 37 and continue what has been a great season. Just inside the Top 10 trainers on the national premiership, the partnership have produced 16 individual winners this season with Better B Amazed (5 wins), Prince Of Pops and Ashton K (4 wins) and Superimposed, No Doctor Needed, American Flybye and Ideal Flybye (3 wins) their best performers. MAINLAND BANNER’S PERFECT RECORD The win of Glenferrie Classic on Friday at Blenheim kept former New Zealand Trotting Cup winning mare, Mainland Banner’s strike rate perfect. Of the five foals the daughter of Christian Cullen has produced, all five have now been winners with Glenferrie Classic the latest. Aside from Stunin Banner (13 wins) her other four foals; Peruvian Banner (1 win), Return To Sender (8 wins), Rocker Band (9 wins) and Glenferrie Classic (1 win) have all been embryo transfer foals. Incidentally, Stunin Banner will race this weekend at Alexandra Park in a claimers event carrying a price tag of $9,000. He is currently domiciled with Todd Mitchell. GILL SUSPENDED Marlborough horsewoman, Kendra Gill has her licence suspended until the middle of August on the opening, and only, day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s meeting on Friday. Gill, the daughter of local trainer, Mark, was suspended for careless driving after her charge, Gotta Ticket was shifted into a position in which there is was insufficient room to allow it to happen. Gill’s suspension ends on the 14th of August. OUR WAIKIKI BEACH TRIALS TODAY Embattled 3-year-old pacer, (Our) Waikiki Beach will trial today (Tuesday) at Menangle as he continues his preparations for the rich Australasian Breeders Crown. In the care of leading Australian stable, Belinda McCarthy, the unbeaten pacer, who has won all 20 of his career starts, is earmarked to return to the race next Tuesday in a C3-C5 pace before tackling a heat of the Breeders Crown seven days later. VOTING CLOSED Voting for the annual Harness Racing New Zealand Awards, which are to be held in the Mashina Lounge at Christchurch Casino on Saturday, July 30, closed on Friday. There has been plenty of speculation around the Awards this year - in particular the battle for Horse of the Year between freakish pacer Have Faith In Me and superstar trotter, Monbet. 29 votes are allocated for each of the categories, which this year include the return of the 5-year-old and older categories. The voting panel is made up largely of members of the harness racing media in New Zealand which also includes commentators and Trackside presenters. BREEDERS CROWN HEATS KICK OFF The first round of heats for the rich Australasian Breeders Crown will be held this week. Addington plays host to heats for the 3YO Trotting Colts and Geldings as well as the 3YO Trotting fillies. Three horses will go around in the male event; Blood And Whiskey, Conon Bridge and My Armour while the fillies race will be contested by Oona and Wilma’s Mate. Further heats will be held at Addington on the 8th, the 15th and the 22nd of July and at Cambridge on July 10 and 21. By Matt Markham
It’s a case of so far, so good for exciting 3-year-old pacer Franco Cristiano. Everything has gone to plan since the Robert Dunn trained son of Bettor’s Delight impressed in his first race day appearance in over seven months when winning at Blenheim Harness Racing Club on Friday. The only fly in the ointment came on Sunday when the meeting was abandoned due to surface flooding on the track taking the opportunity for two quick wins away from his connections. Dunn’s stable vet, Sam Taylor gave the gelding a pass with flying colours after a full examination yesterday upon his return to Woodend Beach and it’s now all systems go as they push toward a race at Addington on Thursday night. “It’s certainly great to have him back,” Robert said from Auckland yesterday. “You always worry about horses who have had injuries like he has but it would appear that the time off might have helped him. “That’s the best I think he’s raced on Friday. He’s never going to be perfect, but it’s a lot better than what he was like. “I still wonder if a lot of his problems were because of the injury, something wasn’t right with him and we can maybe now pinpoint it to the hairline fracture in his pastern.” The plan going forward very much depends on the outcome of Thursday night where Franco Cristiano takes on a stronger field than he raced on Friday. The line up includes Hypervelocity, GI Joe and Innocent Artist so he will need to be on top of his game. “We won’t make any firm plans until after Thursday probably, but it’s pretty likely he will head to the Breeders Crown heat after that. “And that in itself will be a good measuring stick for where we are at because Heaven Rocks will be there as well and from what I have seen of him, he’s a pretty special horse.” That heat for the 3-year-old colts and geldings is set down July 15. The abandonment of Sunday’s meeting won’t have helped Dunn’s chances of pegging back Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen in the trainers’ premiership. They are now 14 wins behind and were expecting a couple more to be added on Sunday. “We needed a real good day on Sunday to bring us right back into it I think. “And we could have had one of those days but that’s racing. “It’s going to take something special now I think, but we aren’t out of it. Mark and Natalie will race horses over the next few weeks with Breeders Crown heats and the like, but we’ve got numbers around the place and the plan is to keep pushing toward them and see what happens.” Dunn has 19 horses engaged at meetings between Addington, Forbury and Auckland early on in this week’s racing with a further nine nominated for the Timaru meeting on Sunday. The All Stars in contrast have two runners; GI Joe and Superfecta at Addington and then The Manipulator at Timaru. Matt Markham
Southern Harness Inc will inherit the role of 'super club' in the south and is in line for a funding package approaching $3.7million for the new harness racing season. The Invercargill based entity, which provides racing services for all 14 clubs south of the Waitaki, will receive the funds on behalf of its seven Southland and two Central Otago member clubs. Between them those nine clubs will stage 38 meetings. Details of the package were outlined to harness racing players from throughout the region at a meeting in Invercargill during the week. Murray Swain and Kevin McNaught spoke for the working committee; Edward Rennell and Darrin Williams for Harness Racing New Zealand. The 38 meetings is down two from last season while the five clubs in Eastern Otago will stage 30 meetings, down three. Rennell pointed out this was a case of removing two weaker meetings, usually because of a clash, to create one stronger one and therefore build field size and turnover. He said nine meetings were trimmed from the Auckland and Waikato region for the same reason. Although there will be less meetings in the Southern Harness region, there will be a $350,000 increase in stakes. Swain and McNaught said allocation of those stakes would be one focus of the Southern Harness management team and the other would be setting programmes to maximise the opportunities for the available horses to race more regularly Apart from that, there would be no tampering with the sovereignty of individual clubs. Their assets, identity and local arrangements would remain intact, they said. The bulk of the funding, which includes group and listed race subsidies, will be applied towards stakes. However, $380,000, $10,000 per raceday, will go towards expences. The top four fixtures, Diamond Day plus Northern Southland, Invercargill and Central Otago Cup days will attract the greatest stakes funding. The 21 days at the bottom of the heap will get enough to provide an average race stake of $7,700 with the minimum for any race $6,000. How this will be split is not yet set in concrete. Which side of 60 percent the winner gets will depend on the outcome of a recommendation to pay two percent of the stake to each unpaid runner. For the lowest stake race, this would be $120, enough to pay the driver and get a bit back. There is also the possibility of HRNZ introducing a starter incentive which would add another $50. Some trainers saw this as robbing winners to reward losers and wondered whether they would get their usual percentage. It was also suggested the bonus for 16 starts was a better option but the level of support for any of the proposals was unclear. The $10,000 per day for operational expenses will increase a club's budgeted income for a day to $24,000 at the bottom end, and $95,000 for the biggest day, which is at Omakau in January. On Course turnover, sponsorship and admission are all major revenue contributors on Central Otago's day in the sun in early January but are needed to cover significant New Zealand Racing Board charges for services and staffing of both the tote and Trackside television. Mac Henry
One of the greats of New Zealand harness racing doesn’t get to see his newest Alexandra Park winner very often. But you can rest assured, John Butcher is watching when Sunset Peak is winning. The former Canterbury trotting mare made it two wins from four starts in the north at Alexandra Park on Friday night, leading throughout as she did two starts ago. She is trained by John and his son David, although truth be known John doesn’t get down to the stables much anymore. The 80-year-old patriarch of one of New Zealand’s great racing families is suffering from lung problems which restrict how much physical activity he can undertake. But it doesn’t stop him watching races on television or keeping up with the industry going-ons via the computer. “He knows everything that goes on in the game, he is the one who tells me,” says David. “But with the lung problem he has got he doesn’t leave the house much. He is a lot better if he doesn’t over exert himself.”
 The father and son have been training in partnership for years but rarely have they had a trotter able to win twice so quickly at Alexandra Park. It helped that Sunset Peak came north well educated by owner Paul McDonald, a Canterbury builder who was training her himself. “I think Paul thought with winter coming and all the work he had on she was better off up here,” explains David. “So Craig Thornley, who had been driving her, put him on to us and she is a lovely horse to get hold of. “To win two so quickly at The Park doesn’t happen very often and you would think she will get down to being a 3:30 trotter (for 2700m stand). “And that is probably good enough to get her at least five wins because when they trot 3:30 off the front they are hard to catch. “The other night she trotted her last three quarters (1200ms) in about even time so the ability is there.”
 The Butchers have never been huge trainers of trotters but have two recent winners in that gait, the other being Larch, among the 9-10 horses they are training. “Soon half the horses at Alexandra Park will be trotters,” jokes Butcher about the new-found depth of the gait in the north. “And they are ideal for up here, races every week and for good money. “So to have a nice one right now is a real bonus.”
 Sunset Peak’s win capped a good night for the family as earlier David’s son Zac drove Atomic Betty to break her maiden and he can probably claim an unofficial training success with Hug The Wind in the $20,000 Smith And Partners Winter Cup. Zac has been in charge of the Barry Purdon stable while the boss has taken a small holiday and had Hug The Wind well enough for driver Brent Mangos to launch him as only Mangos does in the main pace. Aided by a brilliant beginning which gave him field position, Hug The Wind worked forward to get the lead and was way too good in a race where new stablemate New Years Jay also caught the eye when third, promoted from fourth. The favourite Shandale was given a good trip by trainer-driver Maurice McKendry but disappointed, suggesting his season may soon be over. Earlier in the night McKendry partnered the McCaffrey-Paynter trained Ideal Flipflop to a good win in a tough c1 race, the three-year-old pacing 2:40.3 for the 2200m on a chilly night, indicating there is plenty more in store for him. Michael Guerin
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