Day At The Track

It might be grist for the mill over a few frothies – but comparing the greats of different eras, particularly harness racing, is a notoriously difficult business. Tiger Tara’s incredible improvement this season is nothing short of extraordinary, and a credit to the attention and professionalism of Kevin Pizzutto and his team.  That the sport’s paid promoters are making much of Tiger Tara’s utter dominance, particularly with a Miracle Mile still ahead, is both understandable and serviceable.  Tiger Tara is, without question, the supreme pacer of the current time – by a very long margin. His shredding of Saturday night’s Hunter Cup field spoke for itself.  But to extrapolate the performance and compare it favourably to the deeds of Tiger Tara’s greatest rival Lazarus, as some did, is perhaps best left in the heady moments of post-race. Whenever the two met on the big stage, history shows the ledger fell clearly in favor of the now-retired Lazarus.  Whether Tiger Tara’s improvement has been to the extent that the tables would now be turned is a tantalising racing conundrum that can never be answered. Federer v Sampras; Woods v Nicklaus; Michael Jordan v LeBron James. The debates are endless. In the equine world, the academics have extended the analysis of the Winx v Black Caviar rivalry to heart-beat, lung capacity and length of stride! But there are some salient points to consider around the relative quality of Saturday night’s Hunter Cup field that provide some context for comparing these two greats of harness racing.  Lazarus winning the New Zealand Cup Lazarus was among 9 Group 1 winning performers prior to the 2018 Hunter Cup – who’d won a combined $13,264,003.  They had won 40 Group 1 races between them. Saturday night’s field had 6 Group One winners for a combined total of $5,512,551 in earnings. They had won 14 Group 1 races between them.  Both Lazarus and Tiger Tara have met on 10 occasions, with Lazarus beating home Tiger Tara in 7 of those races. Let us look at both the 2018 and 2019 Hunter Cup fields that Lazarus and Tiger Tara started in and you be the judge. Please note - These statistics are taken prior to the time each race was run. Lazarus winning the Hunter Cup Hunter Cup field 2018 - Lazarus 1st - Lazarus - $3,663,438 - 45 starts, 35 wins, 5 seconds and 1 third. (Group 1 wins - 14 ) 2nd - Soho Tribeca - $957,674 - 51 starts, 19 wins, 16 seconds and 5 thirds. (Group 1 wins - 3) 3rd - Heaven Rocks - $419,818 - 25 starts, 12 wins, 3 seconds and 2 thirds. (Group 1 wins - 4) 4th - Lennytheshark - $2,937,585 - 77 starts, 39 wins, 18 seconds and 12 thirds. (Group 1 wins - 7) 5th - Ameretto - $465,919 - 69 starts - 25 wins, 15 seconds and 3 thirds.  6th - Tiger Tara - $1,265,410 - 81 starts, 26 wins, 18 seconds and 12 thirds. (Group 1 wins - 3) All in New Zealand 7th - San Carlo - $214,048 - 29 starts, 21 wins and 4 thirds  8th - Moonrock - $181,222 - 36 starts, 12 wins, 5 seconds and 5 thirds. 9th - Bling It On - $1,647,956 - 83 starts, 45 wins, 12 seconds and 8 thirds. (Group 1 wins - 5) 10th - Yayas Hot Spot - $443,492 - 81 starts, 23 wins, 18 seconds and 10 thirds.  11th - Messini - $682,961 - 88 starts, 25 wins, 14 seconds and 12 thirds. (Group 1 wins - 2) 12th - Shadow Sax - $382,480 - 26 starts, 17 wins, 4 seconds and 3 thirds. (Group 1 wins - 2) Total earnings on the day before the 2018 Hunter Cup was $13,264,003 Here is the 2018 Hunter Cup Tiger Tara after winning the Interdominion Final Hunter Cup field 2019 - Tiger Tara 1st - Tiger Tara - $1,985,315 - 101 starts, 34 wins, 24 seconds and 13 thirds. (Group 1 wins - 6) 2nd - Our Uncle Sam - $250,126 - 56 starts, 15 wins, 9 seconds and 5 thirds.  3rd - San Carlo - $355,998 - 43 starts, 25 wins, 3 seconds and 5 thirds. 4th - Flaming Flutter - $746,635 - 102 starts, 23 wins, 19 seconds and 19 thirds. (Group 1 wins - 2) 5th - Buster Brady - $235,635 - 44 starts, 12 wins, 4 seconds and 3 thirds. 6th - Wrappers Delight - $375,234 - 48 starts, 17 wins, 6 seconds and 8 thirds. (Group 1 win - 1) 7th - Thefixer - $608,165 - 18 starts, 11 wins, 1 second and 1 third. (Group 1 wins - 2)  8th - Cruz Bromac - $392,043 - 39 starts, 20 wins, 4 seconds and 3 thirds. (Group 1 wins - 2) 9th - Star Galleria - $345,465 - 32 starts, 13 wins, 7 seconds and 2 thirds.  10th - Raukapuka Ruler - $217,935 - 25 starts, 8 wins and 3 seconds. (Group 1 win - 1) Total earnings on the day before the 2019 Hunter Cup totals $5,512,551 Tiger Tara winning the Hunter Cup Here is the 2019 Hunter Cup Tiger Tara - Gross Time: 3.14.2                    Lazarus - Gross Time 3:15.7                     Mile Rate: 1:53.2                                        Mile Rate: 1:54.1                     First Quarter (last mile) 28.9                      First Quarter (last mile) 29.4                                     Second Quarter 28.9                                  Second Quarter 28.6                     Third Quarter 27.2                                      Third Quarter 27                     Fourth Quarter 28                                       Fourth Quarter 28 History may tell the tale – but more likely it’s an argument that will still be doing the rounds in a decade. For harness racing’s sake, let’s hope so! Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura  

Kiwi harness racing mare Utmost Delight showed her toughness by bravely fighting back to win when looking beaten at Tabcorp Park Melton in Australia on Saturday night. Racing against a small but strong field in the Gr3 Pure Steel, Utmost Delight sat parked for the majority of the race before rallying late in the run home to claim a narrow short head win in a gruelling 3 way battle up the home straight. Utmost Delight (Bettor's Delight-Victor Supreme) ran the 2240m mobile in 2-39.3, a mile rate of 1-54.4  Trainer Steven Reid was looking to get the classy mare to the bigger track in Sydney he told harness correspondent Adam Hamilton earlier in the week.   .Watch the video replay here                 4 8:03pm EDGELL SIDEWINDERS THE PURE STEEL (GROUP 3) 2240M $30,000 M0 Or Better. PBD/$L4. Mobile Final Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 UTMOST DELIGHT NZ  $ 17,100   Fr5 5 Steven Reid Greg Sugars   $ 1.90 fav  3WE OLM 2 SWAB   BAY MARE 5 by BETTORS DELIGHT USA out of VICTOR SUPREME (NZ) (PLACID VICTOR NZ)  Owner(s): C J (Charles) Roberts  Breeder(s): C J (Charles) Roberts 2 SHADOW REIGN  $ 4,500   Fr1 1 Wayne Potter Gavin Lang SHFHD $ 15.20   GS WC L 1 3 AMPLE POWER  $ 3,000   Fr4 4 Emma Stewart Chris Alford HFNK $ 5.50   PRS 6 D/F 4 MAKES EVERY SCENTS  $ 1,500   Fr6 6 David Aiken Kima Frenning 3.50 $ 17.00   RAS 8 5 EGODAN  $ 900   Fr2 2 Kevin Pizzuto Todd McCarthy 5.30 $ 3.10   PRS GS UCL 4 HUE 6 LOVE INA CHEVY NZ  $ 600   Fr3 3 Lance Justice Lance Justice 8.00 $ 22.50   3 Scratchings All started Track Rating: GOOD Gross Time: 2:39:3 Mile Rate: 1:54:4 Lead Time: 44.3 First Quarter: 29.5 Second Quarter: 30 Third Quarter: 28.3 Fourth Quarter: 27.2 Margins: SHFHD x HFNK  

Star harness racing four-year-old Chase Auckland was back in winning form at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night. Driven by Luke McCarthy, Chase Auckland went back early then whipped around to the front after half a lap before quickening over the last 800m in a slick 54.3 seconds to win easily defeating a brave Franco Landry by 2.7metres. Chase Auckland has now had 11 starts for 9 wins, a second and a fourth with $405,329 in the bank. Chase was back to his old habits on Saturday night of jumping around and not standing still after his win which is a good sign he is feeling well. "He only did what he had to and it was an easy win. I didn't have to ask him for a serious effort," said driver Luke McCarthy. Poi from All Stars who has been looking after Chase from Luke McCarthy's property, was also thrilled with how Chase went. "He has come on a lot during the week leading up to the race and he will only get better after this run," said Poi. Chase Auckland will now race in the $50,000 Paleface Adios race next Saturday in an attempt to qualify for the $200,000 Chariots of Fire the following week. The Auckland Reactor gelding has copped the best draw of the All Stars trio for the Gr2 Paleface Adios Stakes over 1609m at Menangle coming up with barrier (2). Stablemates Spankem (11) and All You Need Is Faith (9) were not so lucky with both drawing wide on the track with Tasmanian speedster Ignatius splitting them in barrier (10).  The top four home in the Paleface Adios will qualify for the $200,000 Group 1 Cordina Chicken Farms Chariots Of Fire on February 16. Chase Auckland and some happy syndicate members  Harnesslink Media          

There was one question on everybody's lips after Tiger Tara destroyed his rivals in the A$500,000 Hunter Cup at Melton. And it is the question we will never be able to answer. Is this version, the enormously-improved version of Tiger Tara, as good as his now-retired nemesis Lazarus? Maybe they shouldn't be the questions people ask after Tiger Tara had completed a Melton triple crown on Saturday night, having already won the Victoria Cup and Inter Dominion there this season. Add to that his bravest of nose seconds to Thefixer in the New Zealand Cup at Addington in November and you have one of the great seasons in modern pacing history. Maybe Tiger and his army of fans should be able to bath in that glory and the promise of a Miracle Mile now a month away. But that is not the way the human brain, particularly the racing brain, usually works. Because Tiger Tara has been so dominant over most of Australasia's best pacers this season that you have to wonder is he just clearly better than he was in the last two seasons when Kiwi champ Lazarus would routinely thrash him. Yes, Tiger Tara scored victories over Lazarus in lead-up races to more serious targets, but the stats are stacked unarguably in Lazarus's favour before he was sold to the States last year and subsequently retired one of the fastest milers ever. A brief stat check: Lazarus beat Tiger Tara in one New Zealand Cup by 10 lengths, by five in another. And last season when Tiger Tara led in both the Inter Dominion and the Hunter Cup, Lazarus sat parked, covering up to 20m more and destroyed him. So there can be no argument that Lazarus was a better horse than Tiger Tara. But if Laz had stuck around and Tiger Tara has improved as much as his times suggest, would their rivalry still be as one-sided? Driver Todd McCarthy, still buzzing from his record spin around Melton, stopped short of saying the tables would be turned in the race we will never see. "I have no doubts Tiger has improved, he has just kept getting better," says McCarthy. "And Kevin [Pizzuto] has learned about the horse too and maybe trains him differently for the lead-up races now than he used to. "So he is definitely better. But beating Lazarus regularly, I am not sure about that. "But I wish Laz was still racing down here because it would be special to watch them go at it now." With times all but irrelevant as a class guide in harness racing these days, it is hard to fathom that Tiger Tara has improved enough to be considered in the same class at Lazarus had the latter held his form this season. And there is a reality racing promoters never like to admit even though they whisper about it in secret: that this open class crop isn't that good. Shorn of an injured Chicago Bull and with New Zealand's best pacer Turn It Up, who isn't ready for the Grand Circuit yet, maybe Tiger Tara is beating up good but not great open class rivals. The possible exception to that is Thefixer, who was poor by his standards after a hard trip on Saturday night. But he did still beat Tiger Tara in the New Zealand Cup, albeit with a far easier trip. So it might be unfair to pit 2019 Tiger Tara against 2017 and 2018 Lazarus. But the gut, the eye and their overall strike rates suggest that as special as Tiger Tara is now, his deeds also serve to remind us how truly great Lazarus was.   Michael Guerin Reprinted with permission of New Zealand Herald

They ran and they ran and they ran, and Tiger Tara was simply better than them. Tonight’s A.G. Hunter Cup in a nutshell, as the Kevin Pizzuto-trained wonder horse from New South Wales added Victoria’s most prestigious Grand Circuit trophy to his cabinet at Tabcorp Park Melton. The eight-year-old stallion already boasts the silverware from last year’s Victoria Cup and December’s Inter Dominion Grand Final. And he didn’t just win those races either, he blitzed his opposition. All up, his accumulated winning margin for the three classics is 41.1m. “He’s an amazing animal and he deserves everything this horse,” Pizzuto said. “They said the horse wasn’t at his best tonight … but I told them he was. And he was.” Tiger Tara started $1.90 favourite and won by a whopping 14.5 metres in a new track record mile rate of 1:53.2, smashing his own previous mark by 0.7sec “He’s an absolute pleasure to be a part of,” winning reinsman 25-year-old Todd McCarthy said. “All credit to the horse and Kevin, who does such a great job with this horse.” Photos: Ashlea Brennan Photography Our Uncle Sam finished second, making it the same quinella as the ID18 final, while San Carlo ran on hard for third ahead of warhorse veteran Flaming Flutter and the fast-finishing Buster Brady. Watch the video here.   Cody Winnell for Trots Media   7 9:32pm DEL-RE NATIONAL A G HUNTER CUP (GROUP 1) 2760M $500,000 M0 Or Better. RBD. Mobile Results Pl  Horse Prize- money   Row & Br TAB # Trainer Driver (C = Concession) Mgn (m) Starting odds Stewards' Comments  1 TIGER TARA NZ      Fr3 3 Kevin Pizzuto Todd McCarthy   $ 1.90 fav  PRS GS L 1 NTR SWAB ST HT   BAY HORSE 8 by BETTORS DELIGHT USA out of TARA GOLD (NZ) (DREAM AWAY USA)  Owner(s): M Hawli, C L Pizzuto, K J Pizzuto, T N Pizzuto  Breeder(s): R P (Raymond) Anicich 2 OUR UNCLE SAM      Fr1 1 Chris Frisby Anthony Frisby 14.5m $ 6.80   PRS GS 3 SWAB ST HT 3 SAN CARLO      Fr6 6 Stephen O'Donoghue Rebecca Bartley 27.2m $ 39.40   PRS 3WE 8 3WLT SWAB ST HT 4 FLAMING FLUTTER NZ      Fr2 2 Geoff Webster Greg Sugars 28.0m $ 109.00   PRS 7 HI CTS RR VXAR 5 BUSTER BRADY NZ      Fr4 4 Kima Frenning Kima Frenning 28.1m $ 40.20   PRS GS 3WE D/CSG 6 QUER 6 WRAPPERS DELIGHT      Sr1 8 David Aiken Gavin Lang 30.3m $ 34.60   PRS 5 7 THEFIXER NZ      Sr4 11 M Purdon, N C Rasmussen Natalie Rasmussen 33.3m $ 3.90   PRS 3WET 3WM 2 SCT QUER VXAR SCOPE 8 CRUZ BROMAC NZ      Sr2 9 M Purdon, N C Rasmussen Mark Purdon 62.0m $ 10.50   PRS 3WET INC 4 TIRE VXAR SCOPE QPP 9 STAR GALLERIA NZ      Sr3 10 Steven Reid Tony Herlihy 72.4m $ 16.60   PRS W1 3WLT TIRE QPP VXAR SCOPE 10 RAUKAPUKA RULER NZ      Fr5 5 Tim Butt Anthony Butt 82.2m $ 121.00   PRS 10 Scratchings   CANT REFUSE NZ (LATE) 7 Track Rating: Gross Time: 3:14:2 Mile Rate: 1:53:2 Lead Time: 81.2 First Quarter: 28.9 Second Quarter: 28.9 Third Quarter: 27.2 Fourth Quarter: 28 Margins: 14.5m x 12.7m  

The win by Dipendra on Thursday at Wyndham was very much a family affair for veteran Winton trainer Tony Stevens. As son Richard drove the squaregaiter to an all the way win, plenty of the Stevens family were on hand to enjoy the victory. “He’s had leg problems and he also ties up. Dad’s really done a great job because he’s a family pet. He’s just been pottering round with him day in day out,” said Richard after the win. The nine year old Monarchy gelding has only started twenty nine times. His career commenced as a five year old and he won at his second start. Of the win on Thursday Richard said “He felt really good but I got away with quite a bit. Through those middle stages we were walking.” Richard and his wife Fiona operated a home kill business for twelve years before buying the Winton Subway franchise two years ago. Last season he returned to raceday driving, taking out a Graduation Driver’s license after a thirteen year break. His first ever winner was Kilbank Craig for trainer Hamish Hunter at Gore in 1991 while his last prior to Thursday’s win was on Oreti Beach in December 2004.   Winning salute - Photo Bruce Stewart “Dad wanted me to drive the horse. It’s just good to win a race in the old man’s colour.” One of Tony’s daughters Bridget was celebrating her birthday on Thursday and another daughter Rebecca is getting married next weekend so the win adds to the celebrations. Dipendra certainly has a rich trotting pedigree. He’s the last foal of Speedy Crown mare Becalm Lobell which won six races. As a broodmare Becalm Lobell also left Sheezadoosie which won seven and was the dam of Sno’s Big Boy - the winner of fifteen races and I Can Doosit which won thirty six races. I Can Doosit won a Dominion Handicap, two Rowe Cups and back to back Interdominion Trotting Finals in 2011 and 2012. “Dad’s always been a gun with trotters. Horses like Three Gees and Sailor Beware.” Sailor Beware, a Scrappy Wave gelding won five races while Three Gees won three. Other good horses with whom Stevens was associated were Wintonian (4 wins) and Beaudiene Fella which won four from just thirteen starts. As a driver Tony Stevens drove his first winner Night Chief for father Roy at Invercargill in 1973. At the head of the horse, and family.                       - Photo Bruce Stewart Meanwhile Mach’s Back returned to winning form in the Marshalls Excavating Limited Summer Classic. Mach's Back beating Santanna's Rocket - Photo Bruce Stewart  His winning time of 1-52.5 is a new track record for colts and geldings, bettering War Dan Delight's 1-53.3. The time is also a new Southland record. The previous record of 1-53.9 was recorded by Fly Like An Eagle at Winton in October 2014. Mach's Back has been responsible for setting up a number of records without winning himself, so it was nice to see his name beside one this week.   Bruce Stewart

In racing, your enemy can very quickly become your friend. Which is just as well for Steven Reid and Star Galleria heading into tonight’s $500,000 Del-Re National A G Hunter Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton, because if they have any chance of winning they might need some help from those enemies. Star Galleria is the speed freak New Zealand pacer who looked like he could be anything back in spring until a moderate campaign saw him diagnosed with an entrapped epiglottis. Since that was operated on Star Galleria has rediscovered his turbo booster, even giving Wrappers Delight a fair start and a beating at Melton last Saturday. That suggested he could win tonight’s great race until the barrier draw suggested he couldn’t. Star Galleria has drawn three on the second line, not a killer blow in itself but the real problem is Inter Dominion champion Tiger Tara drew barrier three, from where he should lead and play catch me if you can. They usually can’t. Sitting on Tiger Tara’s back Star Galleria might have the speed to slingshot a vulnerable version. From the second line he will need help. Enter, the enemy. Actually, two of them. They are Thefixer and Cruz Bromac from the Purdon-Rasmussen stable and, quite incredibly, the last eight times Star Galleria has been beaten the race has been won by a Purdon-Rasmussen horse. But, tonight, they might be his only hope, because all three are likely to settle back and move in the middle stages. “I think that is our best chance, rather than trying to punch through at the start on the back of Tiger Tara,” Reid said. “In those big staying races being out of the early rush can often be a good thing, but if Tiger Tara runs straight to the front we could all be in trouble. “So I hope there is some pressure early and then the Kiwis all move together. Maybe then, if we get the right sit, we have a chance, because I couldn’t be happier with my horse.” Thefixer beat Tiger Tara in the New Zealand Cup, but that was when he hugged the marker pegs and the Tiger had to come wide. Tonight the horseshoe is very much on the other hoof. Unless Group 1 fever strikes a couple of the drivers or Tiger Tara performs below his best, the result might be different too.   Michael Guerin

The Team Teal Campaign for 2019 begins today and runs until the 10th March.   All female drivers in New Zealand will wear teal coloured driving pants in every race day drive to raise funds and awareness for Ovarian Cancer.   Two out of three women diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer will not survive.   The campaign raises funds that go directly to the Australian New Zealand Gynaecological Oncology Group to assist with research in New Zealand. Last year we raised $20,000 and this year we are aiming to raise $30,000.   We have a number of generous donors already and money raising initiatives to get the fundraising off the ground:    - $200 from Harness Racing New Zealand per winning driver wearing teal pants - $100 from Woodlands Stud per winning driver wearing teal pants - $100 from the Club per winning driver wearing teal pants - *Kapiti is capped at $200, Stratford is capped at $100. - $2000 from the Otago Awards Committee - $500 from Stuart and Marg Valentine - 10% of every ticket sold for Addington Raceway’s International Night will go to the cause - $100 from Northern Southland TC - If Forbury Park have no winners over the period in teal pants they will make a donation. - Aldebaran Park will donate $100 for every Southland meeting that has a winner in teal pants. -$5 from every ticket sold at Alexandra Park’s Teal Night will go to the cause   We have also been very lucky to secure an item to be auctioned off on Trademe courtesy of Addington Raceway.   A race sponsorship package for the 1st March and a hospitality package for 6 people has been put up by Addington with all proceeds going to the cause.   The auction will run until 4pm on Sunday 10th February via this link: aspx?id=1933883401&ed=true   Please feel free to pass the link on to anyone who you think might be interested in this fantastic auction! For any further information about the  Teal Pants Campaign you can contact Courtney at Harness Racing New Zealand or 0276364355     Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

There is life in the old girl yet.  That is co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen’s view as Dream About Me returns to mares company at Addigton tonight even though she faces a far worse draw than younger, and maybe faster, stablemate Elle Mac.  The pair were two of the stars of the recent Auckland Cup meeting but ended on vastly different notes, Dream About Me below her best in the Auckland Cup the same night Elle Mac set a new national record for 1700m after sitting wide the entire race.  Before that Dream About Me had beaten Elle Mac twice fair and square in mares races at The Park and back to their own sex at Addington tonight, Rasmussen slightly favours Dream About Me again. “I think she has been working well and back at home I think she might have a slight advantage over Elle,” says Rasmussen.  “I know Elle has the better draw but Dream About Me can work in her races. But they are both ready to go well.”  Rasmussen is in Victoria where she will partner Thefixer on what could be a mission impossible in the A$500,000 Hunter Cup at Melton tomorrow night.  While he was brilliant in the Ballarat Cup two weeks ago both he and stablemate Cruz Bromac, along with fellow Kiwi pacer Star Galleria, start from the second line while Tiger Tara is drawn to lead from barrier three in the 2760m mobile.“If Tiger Tara leads and races up to his best form this season we might be running for second and third,” suggests Rasmussen.  “We are really happy with our pair but at his best, when he is in front, Tiger is very very hard to beat, as we saw in the Inter Dominion final.”  But all hope is not lost.  “There are a couple of times this season when he (Tiger Tara) hasn’t raced up to that form and that is what we have to hope for on Saturday night — he doesn’t go as good as he can and we get some luck.”  The All Stars also have a strong four-year-old at Menangle in Sydney, where they expect big improvement from last season’s best three-year-old Chase Auckland in an M0 race.  He blew out when fresh up for a long time last Saturday but has worked better since show looks a far better chance tomorrow night while Ashley Locaz looks set to guarantee himself a place in the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire on February 16 by winning A$50,000 Hondo Grattan.  “He might even be our best chance in the Chariots of Fire because he is flying at the moment.” Michael Guerin

Melbourne Cup-winning horse trainer Darren Weir and two other men have been arrested in police raids at Weir's Victorian properties. Victoria Police said the raids were part of a Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit investigation into alleged corruption in racing. In a statement, police said the men were arrested for questioning as part of an investigation into suspected offences including obtaining financial advantage by deception, engaging in conduct that corrupts or would corrupt a betting outcome, use of corrupt conduct information for betting purposes, attempting to obtain financial advantage by deception. A 26-year-old man and a 38-year-old man were also arrested. Weir, 48, is widely regarded as Australia's leading horse trainer and trained the 2015 Melbourne Cup-winning horse Prince of Penzance, which jockey Michelle Payne rode to victory. At the end of last year, harness racing in New Zealand was rocked by allegations of race-fixing. It's believed that a number of high profile figures in harness racing were the target of raids around the country. Most of those accused have been granted name suppression and are due to appear in court this year. In a statement, Racing Victoria's general manager of integrity, Jamie Stier, said the police raids were linked to an investigation by the racing body. "Racing Victoria's Integrity Services team has been conducting an investigation into the activities of licensed persons in the Warrnambool and Ballarat areas," he said. "During the course of our investigation we sought the support of Victoria Police's Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit." Mr Stier said members of Racing Victoria's integrity team joined police on the raids at the properties. "Racing Victoria is committed to maintaining the highest integrity standards in our sport and, where appropriate, we will continue to work with Victoria Police on those investigations." Police said a firearm and "what is believed to be a conducted energy device" were also seized. Weir has a high-tech training facility at Miners Rest and a beach stable in Warrnambool. Police searched a truck at the trainer's Miners Rest property this morning, going through its cab and the vehicle's exterior. Victoria's Racing Minister, Martin Pakula, said he was aware of the police investigation and did not want to say anything to prejudice its outcome. "I would simply say as a racing fan and as the Racing Minister, integrity in our sport is incredibly important and any allegation of a breach of the rules of racing is extremely disappointing," he said. "It is important to note that this is another demonstration that our racing integrity unit within Racing Victoria will pursue any matter without fear or favour, and that is clearly what they have done." Reprinted with permission of Radio New Zealand

A horse racing club has been left reeling and bewildered after its national authority revealed plans to stop racing at the Blenheim racecourse. New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) has described Waterlea Racecourse as "no longer required" from this year, and said the Marlborough Racing Club should race at Riccarton Park instead. The NZTR Venue Plan, released this week, revealed plans to stop racing at nearly half the country's courses by 2030, following Racing Minister Winston Peters' Messara report last August, which recommended selling off tracks across the country to save the "deeply distressed industry". Club president Eric Bowers said the news came as a shock, as the Messara report said the Waterlea Racecourse deserved a refurbishment. "It is a bit disappointing. We were one of the ones that was supposed to be staying open," Bowers said. "But it's all open to negotiation, and we will be making a submission against it. They're happy to visit us and have a look at things, so I'm sure we can put something together that might change their mind." The plan said Marlborough had a lack of horses and relied on North Island horses at its meetings. It did not mention the venue's condition or facilities, but said many venues suffered from a lack of investment in recent years, and struggled to comply with health and safety regulations. "We can sit and do nothing, but in 10 years' time, when racing has withered on the vine, we will all be culpable for its demise," the report said. "Competition and technology have combined to marginalise racing to the extent that it no longer holds the same position in the Kiwi psyche as it once did." Bowers said Waterlea Racecourse was "a great grass track" with "pretty good" stables and was due to celebrate its centenary next January. Members were currently fixing a leak in the grandstand roof but generally, repair jobs were "nothing major". The club owned 50 per cent of the land and buildings, shared with the Marlborough Harness Racing Club. The harness racing club was not affected by the report as it had its own national racing authority, but it was unclear what would happen to the venue if the other club sold its share. Marlborough Mayor John Leggett would not say if he believed the club should continue racing at the site, saying it was something for the club to decide. If the racecourse closed altogether, Leggett said he expected most of the land to become residential. "We've got plans to develop the residential area out toward the northwest, so it would be good to keep as many parks and green spaces as we can. But that is well down the track, and ultimately the land owners would have the final say." The Ministry of Education had unsuccessfully approached the clubs about buying half the racecourse for the co-location of Marlborough Girls' and Boys' Colleges in 2016. Ministry head of education infrastructure service Kim Shannon said the plan would not change the decision to build on McLauchlan St, announced in December. NZTR's final decision about Waterlea Racecourse was likely to take "some months", and the ministry would not delay the co-location project to see what happened, she said. "Planning has commenced on how to best deliver modern, and fit-for-purpose, facilities to support students in Marlborough." Submissions about the NZTR plan close on March 19. Waterlea Racecourse is half owned by the Marlborough Racing Club, and half by the Marlborough Harness Racing Club.     SCOTT HAMMOND / STUFF PHOTO Marlborough Harness Racing Club vice president Mike Rangi, left, and Marlborough Racing Club president Eric Bowers at Waterlea Racecourse.     SCOTT HAMMOND / STUFF PHOTO The clubs are currently fixing a leak in a grandstand roof. By Jennifer Eder Reprinted with permission of The Marlborough Express

NON-WIN (MR) RACES Following a meeting of the Southern Harness Programming Committee yesterday we would like to announce that effective today for the duration of the current season, all non-win (MR) races will carry a minimum stake of $10,000 (an increase from $8,000). This includes todays Wyndham Harness Racing Club Meeting which has three non-win (MR) races carded. The $1500 bonus paid by Harness Racing NZ will be added onto the $10,000 stake. This is something Southern Harness have been striving to achieve and we hope that this will give breeders, owners and trainers renewed confidence in the industry in the south.  Jason Broad General Manager Southern Harness Racing

Kiwi trainer Steven Reid isn’t letting the cold hard facts of the barrier draw for Saturday’s Hunter Cup dent his confidence.  Because as Reid sees it, last Saturday showed him a good draw can quickly become a bad one and vice versa.  Reid has Star Galleria in the A$500,000 Hunter Cup and Utmost Delight in the A$30,000 Pure Steel at Melton this Saturday.  Both have tricky draws, with Star Galleria drawn the second line and Utmost Delight wide on the front in a small field.  But while Utmost Delight has a class edge on many of her rivals, Star Galleria not only faces the might of the All Stars but the even more unenviable task of giving Tiger Tara a start as he has drawn seemingly perfectly at barrier three over the 2760m mobile.  “That doesn’t look good, especially if Tiger Tara is at his best,” says Reid.  “But often in big races what can seem a good draw can be a bad one and vice versa.  “Last Saturday I thought we had a good draw with Utmost Delight in the Ladyship Cup and she ended up sitting parked in a 1:51 mile rate for the 1720m and the horse who won (Carla’s Pixel) came from the second line. “So I am not going to let the draw bother us too much because the horse is very, very well and we have Tony (Herlihy).  “Sure, Tiger Tara might be too good on his best form but first he has to turn up in that form and even then I just hope there is some early pressure and we can come into the race later.”That looks likely as the All Stars pair of Thefixer and Cruz Bromac are also drawn the second line either side of Star Galleria and if the trio settle back they could all move together.  Whether that is good enough to sit parked or one-one and come from behind Tiger Tara is what we will all find out. “The good news is I couldn’t be happier with my horses,” says Reid.  “The heat hasn’t affected them at all and they seem right at the top of their game.  “Maybe Star can’t win from that draw against Tiger Tara but funny things can happen in big races.”Reid is far more confident with Utmost Delight as she takes on a mixed bunch of free-for-allers in the Pure Steel.  “She was good last week after sitting parked but I am sure she will be even better this week.  “She has really bounced out of the run well and I think she will race very close to her peak.” All going well after Saturday night the Reid pair will head to Menangle for the Miracle Mile meeting, where Utmost Delight will target the Ladyship Mile.   Michael Guerin

The top priced lot of the Autumn Mixed sale in Auckland in June, Virgil is a likely starter in one of the earliest two year old races of the southern season after being nominated for Addington on Friday. He finished third in his heat at Rangiora last week behind stablemates Flying Even Bettor and Copperfield and is making strong progress for his fearless owner, Jean Feiss. Jean has topped the National sales in the past two years alone with Jesse Duke and Smooth Deal who both won their debut races at two so Virgil has something to live up to. He is also from the first crop of Sweet Lou whose youngsters will be watched with special interest in his first season. Another son, Shelley Beach, fetched $120,000 at the same sale as Virgil and was exported to Australia but has yet to appear. Virgil is from a family Jean Feiss and All Stars know very well. He is from Pacing Delight an unraced daughter of the well performed Pacing Grace. But those mares have left plenty of action on the tracks with their progeny. Pacing Grace’s first foal, Graceful Way has left Three Ways, Forgotten Highway, Shanway Make Way and Man of Action. She has just landed her first filly foal this season, The next filly to be bred from, Pacing Delight, is the dam of Virgil. A colt foal, Pacing Major was a big winner for All Stars especially as a two year old and was later sold to the United States. The family’s ability to leave early speed has given it a huge boost as emphasis on age group racing has grown. After Pacing Major came a sales topper in All U Need is Faith who has been an impressive performer for Dennis Dunford and a more recent filly foal, Sweet Affinity,is another member of the All Stars team, Meanwhile Pacing Grace had left Linda Grace the dam of Smooth Deal the $230,000 sale topper for Jean who has already won a Young Guns heat. Linda Grace had earlier left Linda Lovegrace a 1.54.8 mr winner in Australia and placed in 1.51.4 in a Harness Jewels at Ashburton for All Stars who won nearly $270,000 including the Group One Caduceus Club Filly Classic.   Courtesy of All Stars Website   Race 4 [6:54pm] SBSR DIAMOND CREEK CLASSIC GROUP 2 - 27 APRIL MOBILE PACE  $10,000, 2YO, 1980m    Racebook    TabForm    Gear    Preferential Grid   For 2-year-old pacers. Preferential Barrier Draw Based on: Sex (fillies drawn inside colts and geldings) then Winning Stakes using the track grid. Book Form Age Sex     Name   Rating Draw Hdcp Driver Trainer 1   2 g     The Warrior   MR50 1 Front Ken Barron K M Barron 2   2 c     Laver   MR50 2 Front Gerard O'Reilly G R Dunn 3   2 g     Copperfield   MR50 3 Front Tim Williams M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 4   2 c     Mongolian Marshal   MR50 4 Front Ricky May P T Court 5   2 c     Noosa Beach   MR50 5 Front Blair Orange K M Barron 6   2 g     Flying Even Bettor   MR50 6 Front Matthew Williamson M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen 7   2 g     Virgil   MR50 7 Front Olivia Thornley(J) M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen

Wyndham Harness Racing Club - Thursday 31 January Horsepower is the name of the game at the Wyndham Harness Racing Club meeting at Young Quinn Raceway in Wyndham this Sunday, 3 February. Since 2017 the Wyndham Harness Racing Club has held a display of classic cars in conjunction with their February meeting and it has proved to be a huge success. In the first two years the display has attracted some real gems from American muscle cars to classic British vehicles.  Any owners of classic cars are still able to enter and more information is available from Lindsay Beer (021 351 499) or Bathan Muir (03 206 6334). Cars will be required on site by Race 3(approx. 1.00pm) on the day when judging will begin to decide the Best Presented car. Marshalls Garage in Wyndham and Salthouse Accommodation, Curio Bay sponsor the event. There will also be free mini jeeps and prizes for the kids throughout the day.          On track the highlight will be the latest heat of the Regent Car Court Southern Country Cup Series. The first race is timed to start at 12.00noon and admission to the course is free. Prior to Sunday's meeting at Young Quinn Raceway, the club will host a twilight meeting at the course on Thursday afternoon.  Lindsay Beer Promotions Officer  Southern Harness Racing 021 351 499   Addington Raceway - Friday 1 February    Hello Everyone, Our Back on Track Special to our members was a huge hit last Friday!  It was great to see everyone that was on course.   Team Teal Campaign kicks off this Friday and we are proud to be involved! The lovely HRNZ Team are out in force with their collection buckets this Friday for Team Teal.  Thanks in advance for getting behind such an amazing cause. This campaign runs from 1 February until 10 March. We are supporting this charity further on Friday 1 March, with 10% of every ticket sold will be given to them.  Further information about this is below   HRNZ Marketing

Some prominent New Zealand harness racing identities caught up in the police race-fixing probe are trying to avoid a criminal conviction on non-race related charges, while other charges have been dropped, it's been revealed today. Widespread suppression orders mean that for now their names still remain a secret while their cases go through the judicial system. Some who have been denied name suppression by a district court judge have appealed the decision to the High Court which will hear their cases next month. Today at Christchurch District Court, two people had their cases put off for the diversion scheme for first offenders to be considered – a chance to avoid a formal court prosecution. One of them also had two charges - unrelated to race-fixing – dropped. Another person arrested over the 18-month Operation Inca investigation by the National Organised Crime Group denied four charges – again not race-fixing related – and elected through defence counsel James Rapley QC to stand trial by jury. A fourth person denied five non-racing charges and also elected to face a jury trial. They will all be back in court on March 25, when another nine harness racing figures arrested after Operation Inca will appear for a Crown case review hearing. The charges came after raids on multiple stables and properties in Canterbury, Invercargill, Manawatu and Auckland late last year. In December, a male driver in his 50s was charged with conspiring with another person to manipulate a race result last year by "administering a substance" to a horse before the race "in order to gain a pecuniary advantage, namely the winning stakes". He denied the charge and elected trial by jury. North Canterbury trainer Andrew Douglas Stuart, 42, faces four race-fixing allegations, while Graham Henry Beirne, a 71-year-old Christchurch man, has previously denied two race fixing charges and is yet to enter a plea on a third charge. A 40-year old Canterbury man denies three race-fixing charges and is yet to enter pleas on three unrelated drugs charges. Three other men – aged 50, 35 and 26 – deny race-fixing allegations, as does Palmerston North man Brent Stephen Wall, 47, and 44-year-old Rolleston-based horse trainer Nigel Raymond McGrath. Others face drugs charges that their lawyers say is unconnected to the horse racing investigation, including Elie Sawma, a 42-year-old Christchurch hairdresser charged with supplying the Class B controlled drug MDMA, possession of MDMA, and offering to supply the Class A drug cocaine.   By Kurt Bayer Reprinted with permission of