Day At The Track

Despite some quality Cup and Dominion lead-up harness racing being staged in NZ last weekend the big move in both sets of Rankings came in Australia. McLovin's win in the Bill Collins Sprint at Melton (Group 1) has seen him lock in his Dominion place by leaping from the fringe (#15) to fourth in the Rankings. The brave win against fellow Dominion nominee, Tough Monarch, and other leading Australian trotters really threw down a marker as one of the Premier trotting performances of the season to date. The make-up of the Dominion rankings has changed with several defections as well. Leading contenders Massive Metro, Kyvalley Blur and Harriet Of Mot have all had the pin pulled on their Dominion campaigns. There are now 34 left in the running for the 2019 Airpark Canterbury Dominion, with key races at Ashburton and Kaikoura yet to come. Across in the NZ Cup rankings there wasn't a whole lot of change but withdrawals have changed the look of the top 15. The withdrawal of Aussies Buster Brady, Ellmers Image and Sicario has paved the way for local up-and-comers to press their claims for a Cup start in the coming weeks. One such horse that enjoyed a significant bump is Smokin By. His third in the Methven Cup has moved him up to 16th. Gran Chico who was close-up in fourth at Methven sits in the field now, at 14th. Following his second in Holmes DG, Mach Shard now sits comfortably within the top 15, in 12th. The Devils Own who wasn't far behind Mach Shard in third has edged closer to the top 15. He now sits 19th. 24 horses remain in contention for the Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup. View the full rankings click here. Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

TAKE a look at San Carlo’s mighty Victoria Cup run if you’re pondering a punt on the New Zealand Cup. The results shows he ran fourth, but it was the run of the race and showed the late-maturing veteran was in career-best form headed towards the NZ Cup and Auckland Inter Dominion. San Carlo, just second-up from a spell, sat parked, poured the pressure on leader Cash N Flow in record-smashing times and still fought-on for fourth – just 8.3m from winner Bling It On. He was the ONLY horse to finish in the top seven, who raced away from the marker pegs. And that’s after doing more work than anything else in a 1min51.5sec mile rate for 2240m, which took a full second of Lazarus’ record in the 2017 Victoria Cup. Watch the video click here! “It was always going to be hard from the draw and it turned out how we pretty much expected, but he ran so well. He did us proud,” co-trainer Steve O’Donoghue said. “We think he’s better than ever and his two runs this time in point to that as well. “He sort of surprised us doing all that work and still digging in to win first-up in the Kilmore Cup, then he was so brave the other night. The shorter 2240m and drawing wide was always going to be a really big ask.” San Carlo might be a nine-year-old, but he was such a slow-maturer he didn’t have his first start until a late four-year-old. O’Donoghue now firmly has his sights set on the second Tuesday in November at Addington, then heading on to Auckland. “The Inter Dominion was always a target, but when he came back so well, and he stepped away well at home when we tried him from stand-starts, we decided to give the NZ Cup a go as well,” O’Donoghue said. “By the time we decided, the noms had closed, but we were happy to pay a late fee to be part of it. “If he steps well the 3200m will really suit him as will the big track.” San Carlo is booked to fly across November 5. “He’ll then head to Auckland when all the horses go up from Christchurch after Cup Week,” O’Donoghue said. “Being part of one Inter Dominion is amazing, but to take this horse to three consecutive Inter Dominions is special. And we think this is the best we’ve had him.” The buzz goes to another level for O’Donoghue to share the experience close friend and training partner Bec Bartley. “This horse has helped make Bec and they get along so well. He’s given her some great opportunities and she’s made the most of them,” he said.   Adam Hamilton

The resurrection of Lazarus, now as a sire, continues unabated. Club Menangle and Yirribee Stud have confirmed that Lazarus foals born in New Zealand will have an entry entitlement into the prestigious NSW Breeders Challenge. Harness Racing New South Wales (HRNSW) has been of tremendous support in developing a process whereby NZ breeders will be able to nominate their Lazarus foals to HRNSW for the rich NSW Breeders Challenge. This will provide Lazarus foals with an additional entry point into a futurity scheme. The only requirement will be the payment of the entry and sustaining fees, as per Australian breeders. Any dual registered Lazarus foal will have access to any NZ futurity schemes as well as the lucrative NSW Breeders Challenge Series - provided entry and sustaining fees are paid. The NSW Challenge provides an enticing suite of races for qualified horses. Starting with two-year old horses right through to their five-year old season. The NSW Challenge includes: A Group 1 two-year old series (fillies/colts & geldings) - $125,000 each division A Group 1 three-year old series (fillies/colts & geldings) - $150,000 each division A Group 1 four-year-old series (mares/colts & geldings) - $100,000 each division A Group 1 five-year old series (mares/colts & geldings) - $100,000 each division New Zealand breeders will need to give a lot of thought to choosing Lazarus as a potential sire for their mares. Breeders selling Lazarus yearlings will make their foals even more attractive to Australian breeders. Buyers at Yearling Sales will also know that their purchase has a residual value if sold into the Australian market at a later date. Obviously, a similar potential result for horses retained by their breeders and offered later into the Australian market. Yirribee Stud Principal, Rod Woodhouse said “Lazarus is a true gentleman and we are delighted to stand him in the Southern Hemisphere in partnership with Club Menangle”. Alex Smith Club Menangle Here is a video of Lazarus in his first North American start (Qualifing) in 1:48.3 beating Lather Up, the equal fastest horse in the World at 1:46. Here below is a video of Lazarus beating the best in North America in his first official start in the $325,000 Dan Patch Stakes. Lazarus started from the extreme outside post 9 and took 600 meters to get the front making the first quarter in 26.2. The 2018 North American "Horse of the Year" McWicked (Now with over $5 million in earnings from 108 starts) had an easy trip third over and got up for third.  

By Jonny Turner All Stars pacer Chase Auckland showed off his staying prowess and got his New Zealand Cup preparation back on track with a tough win in the Methven Cup on Sunday. Sitting parked on a rain affected track proved no obstacle for the 5yr-old, who wore down his stablemate Ashley Locaz to win the 3000m feature for driver Tim Williams. Chase Auckland’s winning time showed off just how testing the Methven track was and what a big staying motor he possesses. The Auckland Reactor gelding produced the slowest winning Methven Cup time in the past decade when he stopped the clock at 4:01.8. That time is more than 10sec slower than Cruz Bromac’s 3:51.3 effort, last year. The most impressive part of Chase Auckland’s staying effort for Williams came when the horse reeled off a 28.7sec last 400m and felt strong to the line on the slow rated track. “I think it showed today that he has got a bit of toughness about him when he is in the zone,” he said.  “To run home in good time for the last 400m on that track, after sitting parked, was a pretty big effort.” Chase Auckland looked a seasoned open class pacer with his nearly perfect Methven Cup display, after looking like a freshman floundering in the deep end in his last two starts. The former star 3yr-old’s New Zealand Cup hopes took a dive after he botched the start and then dropped out of the Canterbury Classic, after producing an eye-catching effort marred by another poor start in the Hannon Memorial. Stepping cleanly and pacing fluently during his win meant Chase Auckland not only boosted his stocks with harness racings fans, he bought some relief to the All Stars camp.  “He needed to do that – I think it has been a mental thing for him at the start,” Williams said. “So hopefully, he takes a real good bit of confidence from it so when he has to do it again he can get it right again.” “I think being off the 20m and not having to stand there was a different kettle of fish compared to what he had had the last couple of starts.” “It was good that he could do it today, because if he couldn’t do it off 20m it would be back to the drawing board.” Several of the beaten runners produced excellent efforts after giving away a race fitness edge to Chase Auckland, who went in to the Methven Cup with more spring starts than any of his rivals. Ashley Locaz showed he was a genuine New Zealand Cup hope by producing a fighting second in his second spring start. Smokin By produced a big effort in his first run of the season to nail Gran Chico on the line for third. Thefixer showed his New Zealand Cup defence was on target when he finished less than two lengths from Chase Auckland in fifth place.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

New Macca Lodge trotting stallion En Solitaire will have millionaire trotter One Over Kenny as one of the broodmares on his serving list this spring. One Over Kenny, the winner of thirty two races and $1,098,007.00 is owned by Lex and Heather Williams. “Lex inspected him and liked what he saw,” said Macca Lodge’s Brent McIntyre. One Over Kenny won two Group One Rowe Cups, the National Trot and New Zealand Trotting Championship twice, and she won six races in Australia including the Group One 2007 Australasian Trotters Championship. As a broodmare, all of her six foals of racing age have won races, including One Over Da Moon (22), Ultimate Stride (6), One Over Da Stars (5) and One Over Da Skye (5). En Solitaire is the first of super sire Ready Cash’s male offspring to be available to New Zealand breeders. He’s out of the Love You mare Ushuaia Wood and is bred on the same cross as super star trotters Bold Eagle and Face Time Bourbon. Bold Eagle has won forty five of his sixty six starts and his wins include twenty Group One victories. He’s won 4.6 million euros. Face Time Bourbon is the winner of fifteen of his seventeen starts and has banked 652,150 euros. Bold Eagle will make his North American debut in the 2019 Breeders Crown at Woodbine Mohawk Park later this month. En Solitaire will stand on farm for $1,500 + GST. “He’s a real nice type – a beautiful horse” said McIntyre. McIntyre is also excited about having semen available at Macca Lodge for Dragon Again stallion Fear The Dragon. He won five of his eleven starts as a two year old, pacing 1-50.4. He came into his own as a three year old and raced against an outstanding crop including Downbytheseaside. His biggest win at three was in the $1 million North American Cup in which he defeated Downbytheseaside and Huntsville and pacing his life time record of 1-48.8. He ended his career with seventeen wins from twenty seven starts and banked $1.5 million. “When I was over in America I went to see the guy that owns him and saw the horse’s foals. His stock are outstanding.” The young sire has received tremendous support in Ohio, with 140 mares booked in each of his first two seasons. His first Australian foals are due to be born this spring. “He was a very very good horse and he’s got all the credentials to be a good stallion. He’s the best credentialed stallion we’ve ever had here. We’ve got thirty five mares booked and hopefully we’ll get fifty.” Fear The Dragon will stand for $4,500 + GST on a positive test or $6,000 + GST on a live foal.   Bruce Stewart

 Don’t expect the best version of Thefixer to be on show for his comeback race in the Methven Cup on Sunday. Because while the conditions of the race look perfect for the defending New Zealand Cup champion, the horse himself is still very much on the way up.  Thefixer hasn’t raced since the middle of April and his Cup defence has started later than his key rivals because of annoying hoof issues.  They have improved after spending much of the last two weeks with beach trainer Regan Todd but while he is on the up winning a grass track 3000m race off a 30m handicap in your first start in six months is anything but easy.  “I am not saying he can’t win but he will definitely improve with the run,” says trainer Mark Purdon.  “His hooves seem better now than they have been for a while. After he works at the beach he then cools down in the salt water, which also helped his hooves.  “But these races are still hard to win fresh up so I’d narrowly rate Ashley Locaz as our best chance with Thefixer and Chase Auckland equal next.” Chase Auckland was a dramatic failure at Addington last start but worked well yesterday morning and could be the best bet in the race even though a hard 3000m might be outside his sweet spot. Meanwhile, Purdon is hoping moves by fellow trainers to get an open class race added to Addington next Friday comes off so he can get an extra race into New Zealand Cup favourite Spankem.  The stable’s trotting sensation Oscar Bonavena is also likely to race next Friday but Purdon is non-committal as to whether the four-year-old will contest both the NZ Free-For-All and Dominion during NZ Cup week and rates the Auckland Inter Dominions as 50-50 at this stage, important as Oscar Bonavena is favourite for all three races.   Michael Guerin

By Matt Markham You won't find too many trainers using a $30,000 Group Three feature as a yardstick to get a line on exactly where their horse is at but that's the situation Nigel McGrath has found himself in heading into tomorrow's Methven Cup. McGrath, who is never shy of a having a good horse or two in his barn, thinks he might potentially have a very good in one in up and coming pacer, Gran Chico - but the only way to know if you're actually going to be capable beating in the best is to find out against the best. So that's what he's doing. Having just his 13th race day appearance, Gran Chico will tomorrow take a step into the abyss tomorrow when he tackles the Methven feature up against Group One winners including defending New Zealand Trotting Cup champion, Thefixer. "We're going to find out pretty quickly," McGrath said yesterday. "I think I know how good he is, but until you get into those types of races up against those really good horses you just don't know. "I've gone into races before thinking I'm unbeatable and gone home with my tail between my legs. A winner fresh up in stunning fashion last week at Addington, Gran Chico - to be fair, has always looked above average and his run for second behind Jesse Duke on Harness Jewels day earlier this year was one of the performances of the season. But Methven is a whole new ball game. It's a grass track, it's a stand start and it's a new challenge. "I'm not worried about to be honest, we took him out to Motukarara today (Friday) and gave him a bowl around behind a galloping pacemaker and he was perfect. "He's a pretty sensible sort of horse, just a big lump of a dude, but the stand shouldn't worry him too much." The cause is helped significantly by the fact that Blair Orange will be doing the steering. New Zealand's leading reinsman, Orange is driving as good as ever currently and gives all his drives an extra edge when they step onto the track. Safely through tomorrow's assignment, McGrath is plotting a path to the second Tuesday in November and the New Zealand Trotting Cup. But there's a bit of water to go under the bridge still if he is to take his part. "I'm going to leave him in the mix, we'll go this weekend and then he can most likely head to Ashburton for the Flying Stakes. "As long as he doesn't get left behind there (Ashburton) then we'll press forward to the Cup I think. If things don't go well then we might look at turning the attention to next year, but I'm reasonably confident he'll be competitive." While Gran Chico offers up the unknown quantity of the Methven Cup field for tomorrow, there's some pretty well-knowns set to take their place too. Thefixer is joined by stable mates, Chase Auckland and Ashley Locaz giving the All Stars stable a really strong chance of winning their seventh edition of the race in the past 10 years. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Oamaru reinsman Matty Williamson drove his 800th winner at Gore today. “I had a look a fortnight ago and then Charlotte (partner Charlotte Purvis) said I was on 799. The goal is to beat Nathan (brother) to 1000 so I’ve got him in a bit of bother now, as long as I don’t get injured – touch wood,” Williamson said after driving favourite Stingray Tara for Ryal Bush trainer Hamish Hunter to win. Williamson said his career highlights so far are winning three Group One races on Leighton Hest, Pembrooks Delight and Luisanabelle Midfrew. “Leighton Hest was my first which was massive, Pembrooks Delight my first pacing win for the Knights who were big supporters of me when I started, and Luisanabelle Midfrew for Nigel McGrath. Hopefully there’s another Group One horse coming along.” Williamson said representing New Zealand in the World Drivers Championship in Sweden was another highlight. “Yeah the trip of a lifetime. I was really lucky. I loved all the people I met. The trainers were great to drive for just like they are here.” Stingray Tara lead from Gate Two and dictated all the terms to hold out an improved Ronnie Pickering by three quarters of a length. “He’s gone super. The horse felt good. He’s quite lazy but when I asked him at the top of the straight he really dropped his bum and went. I’m thinking the grade rise shouldn’t be too hard for him.” In the last few seasons Williamson has driven the majority of Hunter’s horses,  as the veteran driver takes a step back from raceday driving. “Hamish is great to drive for. There is never any pressure. Even when I drive a bad race, I say sorry, and he says good as gold.” Stingray Tara returning after winning                                       --Bruce Stewart photo Matty’s brothers Nathan and Brad are expected to reach their own milestones this season. As a driver Brad is three wins away from 300 while older brother Nathan has fifteen winners to drive before he gets to 800.   Bruce Stewart

Burnham trainer Mark Jones has always been a fan of Southern Harness racing. He loves to head south to set up his three year olds for both the Southern Supremacy Stakes and the Southland Oaks later in the season. In consecutive races at Gore today he produced a couple of three year olds that look capable of featuring in both those finals at Ascot Park in April. Plutonium Lady easily won the $15,000 Ladyship Final beating hot favourite Need You Now by six lengths after leading and clearing out at the top of the straight. The winning time of 2-43.2 was impressive, in the cold easterly conditions. “She’s still got a lot to learn but a typical Bettor’s on race day when she becomes a racehorse,” Jones said. Plutonium Lady had won two races ago at Winton and is now the early season leader on the Southland Oaks leader board. “She might have one more go at the Sires Stakes Heat at Addington. We won’t take her to Auckland. We’ll just target the filly’s races down here and she may go to the New South Wales Oaks in February. Late in the season will be the Nevele R and New Zealand Oaks and the Southland Oaks. She’ll be a better filly later on so if we look after her now it’ll work out good.” Plutonium Lady is owned by Sir Loins Limited and Starmark Limited which consist of Grant Hatton, Michael Jones and Jim Haines. “It looks as though we picked the right one out at the sales.” In the next race Burnham Boy was posted three wide from the start with driver Sam Ottley having to let him drift back to the rear. With just over a lap to run she took the Bettor’s Delight gelding three wide to improve round the field and sat parked from the 800. Just before turning in, Ottley pulled the ear plugs and soon took the lead from pacemaker Fireforefiddle. And typical of the Bettor’s Delight breed, fought bravely to beat Targaryen by a length and a quarter. Burnham Boy also wearing number 4 saddle cloth winning for trainer Mark Jones   – Photo Bruce Stewart In the last race of the day Ottley reined Ideal Draw to win. It was the driver’s 400th winner. Earlier in the week Jones announced that from the beginning of next month, he and Benny Hill are going into training partnership. “It’s a new challenge and a chance to refocus and get back on track. It’s an indication that two pretty above average trainers are battling, so we decided to join forces and get stronger. That’s the way forward. The big trainers are getting bigger so we have to combine our forces and get our owners together. It’s got to be better in the long run.” Earlier in the day Helluva Way cleared maiden ranks at Gore for harness identity Art Bloxham. Helluva Way returning to the birdcage with driver Blair Orange   – Photo Bruce Stewart The five year old having its fifteenth start, muscled out favourite Orlando Magic by a head. It’s was Bloxham’s first winner since Commanding View at Roxburgh in 2008. The drop back system worked perfectly for Skyvalley mare Spotlight The Valley in the McKeown Group Junior Drivers Trot. Spotlight The Valley has won seven races, and today raced against horses who’ve had either one or two wins. After trailing leader Justan’s Sister, she came up the passing lane for driver Johnny Morrison to nab Justan’s Sister by a head. Trained at Balfour by Robert Wilson, the seven year old is raced by the Sunbeam Syndicate.   Bruce Stewart

By Garrick Knight A national record run has forced trainer Steve Telfer’s hand with his stable star, Triple Eight. He took out the $30,000 Kerry Hoggard Memorial – Holmes D G in a thrilling finish with Mach Shard, the two capitalising on a break-neck speed that played perfectly in to their hands. Both started from handicaps but ended up getting sweet trips in the running line which allowed them to fight out the finish, Triple Eight prevailing in 3.17.2. It was a remarkable time that shaved 2.4 seconds off the previous mark, set by Vincent. Telfer purposely avoided nominating for the New Zealand Cup, saying the Inter Dominions at Alexandra Park at the end of the year were the clear focus. And while that still remains, Triple Eight will now head south for two races, contrary to earlier plans. “Looking at the programme at Auckland, and knowing he needs some good hard runs to prepare him for the Inter Dominions, we are going to send him south next week. “So, we’ll go to Kaikoura and then the junior free for all on Cup Day. “But that will be it; he’ll come home and prepare for the Inters after that.” Stablemate Check In will also head south to race, joining stablemates, Ivana Flybye and Flying Steps, who are already down there. Earlier in the night, one of the stable’s best three-year-olds, Mimi E Coco, resumed with an all-the-way win in the hands of David Butcher. She has classic potential according to Telfer, but will need to be expertly-managed to realise that. “It’s early in the season but she gives you that feel of a horse that will be up to the better fillies’ races later on. “She has a lot to learn though – at the moment she is a lot better in behind. “David was saying she was switching off and needed a horse up beside her to keep her mind on the job.” The name, according to her breeder and part-owner, Scott Plant, was chosen on a whim while he and his wife were on an overseas holiday. “Initially she was going to be called The Last Mach but my wife didn’t like that. “We were talking about in a café in the south of France and on the wall was a sign that said Mimi E Coco. “I said what about that? And she liked it so we went with it.” It’s actually Italian and language experts spoken to by HRNZ suggested it refers to ‘soulmates’ or a couple displaying extreme levels of love for one another.   Old friends combine with Sole Ambition Sole Ambition is one of those horses everyone would like to own. His front-running win on Friday night capped off a consistent run of form for trainer Barry Purdon, who owns the son of Bettor’s Delight with American-based expat Kiwi trainer, Chris Ryder. “I’ve known Chris for as long as I can remember – we got right back to the eighties when he was training here.” Ryder, who owns star trotter Oscar Bonavena with Purdon’s father, Roy, also has ownership interests in Henry Hu, Bad To The Bone and three other unraced horses in the stable. He looks like being the best performer to date out of former champion race mare One Dream, who has been somewhat disappointing at stud. There’s no real story to tell behind the rise of Sole Ambition – just a good, honest horse that keeps getting better, like all the stock of his sire. “He’s really stepped up recently and kept on improving,” said Purdon. Purdon was non-committal on the immediate future for the horse but says, at this stage, sending him to America to race for Ryder was not on the cards. Purdon had a decent night at the office with Thumbs Up clearing maidens and Sunny Glenis getting another win while he also had placings with Henry Hu, Wainui Creek and Mach Shard. The latter was narrowly beaten by Triple Eight again but lost no admirers in a New Zealand record run. “He’s a pretty damn good horse, I think. “We’ve been patient with him and he’s just continually gotten a bit better. “He’ll race here again on the 25th and then go south for the Cup trial and the Cup.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner  Canterbury filly Yoha will attempt to keep up her sire Terror To Love's good form at Gore on Saturday. The 3yr-old scored a deserved win at Ascot Park last weekend, which saw her register her dad's first victory in New Zealand in the colours of his former trainer Paul Court. Just minutes later, Terror to Love produced his second winner on New Zealand soil when Terror The Christian won the next race. Naturally, Court was thrilled to notch the first two wins in New Zealand for his three-time New Zealand Cup winner. "It was a thrill - we qualified a bunch of his horses last year and the majority of them have come back quite nice," the trainer said. "It was good to get a result for him; I think he should be in for a pretty good season." Yoha will attempt to continue Terror To Love's run of success when she lines up in what is set to be a hotly-contested graduation final at Gore. If her progression in her last three starts is anything to go by, the filly should line up in even better order than she was in for her last start win. Yoha was easily held out by race rival Emmersyn Lee three starts ago, but has made big strides since, with two great runs. "She has got better with a bit of racing and she wouldn't be without a chance at all on Saturday," Court said. "I thought the run at Winton two starts ago was really good. "She made a run from just inside the 800m and she kept fighting and didn't go down by much." Yoha clashes with a classy line-up of progressive fillies and mares, and each of them have legitimate winning claims. She starts from barrier 1 on the second row for driver Blair Orange under the 2200m event's preferential barrier draw. Court is hopeful his filly will measure up with her rivals. "Being one on the second line, Blair can pick and choose who he follows. It is a handy enough field, but with the right trip she can give it a shake." Fellow Canterbury raiders Need You Now and Woman In Gold both bring good Addington form to the race. Need You Now beat race rival Kick Up Ya Heels at Winton last month before beating another rival in Plutonium Lady at Addington. Kick Up Ya Heels went on to produce a huge effort for fifth, after galloping early and losing a chunk of ground in a race won by Emmersyn Lee. Emmersyn Lee goes into Saturday's race without racing since her impressive win at Ascot Park. Woman In Gold heads south after scoring a front-running win at Addington, earlier this month. Yoha has had the measure of both American Eyretime and Renegade Rose recently. However, the pair bring good place form and look each-way chances in Saturday's race.

By Garrick Knight The addition of a key piece of gear helped James Stormont train his 200th winner, with Sunny Petite at Alexandra Park on Friday night. “She was really good early on and I’ve always had a bit of time for her,” he told HRNZ. “But she would panic and gallop here at Auckland so I’ve really had to try and educate her as I go. “I put the half-hopples on her and they have helped big time.” Sunny Petite had been unplaced in all five runs at Alexandra Park to this point, but had been racing well at Cambridge. Stormont says there is an element of frustration in the fact that trainers have been unable to give their horses workouts at Alexandra Park for the past couple of years, owing to the building development. “It would be nice if we could trial here and I’m hopeful that once the buildings are finished that will be the case again, because it’s so important, especially for the trotters.” Sunny Petite, by Majestic Son, is a granddaughter of one of New Zealand’s greatest ever trotting mares, Pride Of Petite. It’s a family made famous by semi-retired Takanini horseman Snow Weaver, who still breeds from two descendants of the great mare and horses with Stormont, as well as Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis. Stormont will now carefully place Sunny Petite so as not to overexpose her to established and more experienced horses. “It can be cruel to trotters just out of maidens, this handicapping system.” Stormont has driven 1236 winners since kicking off his career in 1982, but he only took up training in 1995. Mr Kiwi floors punters Punters may have been shocked by the upset win of Mr Kiwi in the R60-68 pace, but his co-trainer John Dickie wasn’t. “I couldn’t believe he paid $43. “His trial last Saturday was super; he hit the line hard for third behind Wainui Creek.” It was probably the draw that put punters off – the inside of the second row with hot favourite Wainui Creek and her stablemate, Henry Hu on the front line. But some canny early driving from Dickie’s son, and training partner, Josh, negated that. A power of early speed from noted gate-runners Nanelle Franco and Court On The Edge spread the field out early and that allowed him to extract Mr Kiwi from an early four-markers sit to then challenge for the lead. From there he set a solid clip before whipping home in 55.9 to defy a fast-finishing Henry Hu with Wainui Creek in third. “They’ve gone 2.40 but no one really looked at him, which was quite surprising,” said John. It was the first northern win for Mr Kiwi, who arrived in Auckland from Brett Gray’s Ryal Bush stable at the start of the year with four wins in the bank. Dickie and stable client Steve Waters, a local property developer, joined the former’s longtime supporter, Southland’s Ben Calder, in the ownership. Mr Kiwi’s first Auckland campaign didn’t yield a win from six starts, but the Dickies weren’t panicking. “We didn’t have any issues with him; he was just very tired by the end of it because he’d had a long season.” He’ll go up in grade now and likely have to contend with the better class of horse on display, but for now there isn’t any major concern in the camp. “He’s a good stand start horse so that won’t be a problem.”

Oscar Bonavena. A harness racing heavyweight contender. Oscar Bonavena was one hell of a boxer. In a professional career spanning 12 years the rugged Argentine journeyman fought the likes of Floyd Patterson,Ron Lyle and the hard hitting Joe Frazier (who he knocked down twice in one round only to lose by decision). He was only stopped once by a certain Muhammed Ali in a bout that was, in itself, controversial for the manner in which Ali hit Bonvena from close range immediately after Oscar had lifted himself from the canvas. He died aged 33 when shot outside of a brothel in Reno, Nevada and was mourned a national hero in his country of birth. It's hard to see Oscar Bonavena (the horse) being shot outside of a brothel anytime soon. A little more plausible is the notion that this equine pugilist can contend with the heavyweights of the trotting game and give them all something to think about come the championship rounds. The 4yr old horse (by Majestic Son out of great producing mare Now's The Moment) was acquired by Roy Purdon MBE and Chris Ryder soon after coming a close second to now stablemate Enhance Your Calm in the 2yr old trotting championship in May of 2018. He was transferred to the All Stars barn of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen and hasn't looked back since - although plainly a large motor was present prior to the change of stable when in the care of Phil Williamson. The only slight on his record since coming in the form of a 6th placing in the 2yr old Ruby at Cambridge in the Jewels. All other race day appearances have brought top three finishes with his last five races all ending in emphatic victories. The style of his wins has pundits scrambling for superlatives and bookies scrambling to lower his price in futures markets... Producing last 800m sectionals of 55-56 seconds is rare in the trotting game in this country but it's something that he's been able to do on the back of soft speeds and leads in his first two races back this campaign. His Oamaru win on the 20th of September when beating out a game Winterfell had a touch of class about it and seemed to be effortless in its delivery. In contrast his last win in the Canterbury Trotting Cup called on him to show a versatility when recovering from an early gallop. He did so impressively beating out current Dominion Handicap champion Marcoola which he sat outside over the last 800m. The open class trotting ranks offer compelling story-lines and narratives at the moment and Oscar Bonavena deserves to be one of them. There are others of note. Marcoola, Sundees Son and Majestic Man are all classy animals with enviably records. Habibi Inta seems,finally, to be maturing into his splendid looking frame. Woodstone, Monty Python, Enghien, Destiny Jones, Great Things Happen and Bordeaux have all enjoyed great success over various racing conditions in seasons gone and could do so again. Then there's Monbet, the brilliant Monbet, who could rise phoenix-like from injury to beat them all...and wouldn't that be something. Depth is something that is wonderfully present in the open class trotting ranks at the moment. It's a little unfair for a horse like Oscar Bonavena, having just arrived in the open class scene, to be touted as the next big thing in New Zealand trotting but he's a young, hugely talented horse from a stable that turns out young, hugely talented horses. For that reason alone it would be foolish to think he couldn't be something quite special and it's sure to be exciting seeing him, and the other talented square-gaiters, on the track racing in the feature races to come over the next few months. The opening bell has just sounded, the boxers are making their way to centre-ring.   By Ben Mcmillan

Following the successful trial in which most elements of discretion were removed from the ratings handicapping system, the HRNZ Board has resolved to continue the format for the foreseeable future. The ‘No Discretion’ system will take over from the extended ‘No Discretion Trial’ from Monday 14 October 2019. The following are the key recommendations of the Handicapping Sub-Committee that have been subsequently approved by the Board. Race Winners’ Matrix A simplified, four-step Race Winners’ Matrix was approved for use from 14 October. It is available to view here Rating Floor for Multiple race winners Horses that have won two or more races shall not be permitted to drop to a rating below R45. Note: this will not be applied retrospectively. Treatment of Unplaced Horses Handicappers have the ability to drop unplaced horses (6th to last) up to a maximum of three points, if the horse in question is rated from R61 to R80 and has had at least three unplaced starts since its last win or re-rating. Handicappers have the ability to drop unplaced horses (6th to last) up to a maximum of three points, if the horse in question is rated from R81 to R99 and has had at least two unplaced starts since its last win or re-rating. Horses rated R100 and above may be re-rated by Handicappers following an unplaced run (6th to last) up to a maximum of three points. 2YO Concessions 2YOs winning their first race with a stake of $20,000 or less capped at R50. 2YOs males winning their first race with a stake in excess of $20,000 receive four points. 2YOs fillies winning their first race with a stake in excess of $20,000 receive three points. All 2YO wins following the first 2YO win shall be applied as follows: four points for 2YO males, three points for 2YO fillies, regardless of stake.  The complete updated Guiding Principles of the Ratings Handicapping System are available to view here  Andrew Morris Handicapper Harness Racing New Zealand

By Garrick Knight The most interesting runner at Alexandra Park tonight is without a doubt Millwood Maizie. Anyone watching Trackside last Saturday night might have done a double take when they scanned the fields earlier this week because she raced – and won – at Menangle. “She only flew in to Auckland on Tuesday morning,” said Jamie Gameson, her part owner and new trainer. Gameson is also her old trainer and, while she lines up in his name tonight, he won’t have actually laid a finger on her before the race. “Todd MacFarlane is looking after her; he got up at 4.30 to meet the truck and worked her yesterday for me. “He was pretty happy and said she worked well.” There is a method to Gameson’s madness in starting her over 2700 metres from a stand less than four days after landing from Sydney - bearing in mind she has never had a standing start in 107 career outings. “I want to bring her back up to Auckland at Christmas time for the Queen of Hearts so I thought I would chuck her in and let her have a look at the track. “It’s a big ask but she has been racing horses just as good as any of those ones recently.” He’s right – two starts ago she ran fourth behind millionaire pacer Bling It On in 1.50.2. “And Luke (McCarthy, driver) said she would have run second if she didn’t get held up in the straight.” McCarthy and Craig Cross, who train in Sydney, were the last leg of Millwood Maizie’s three-and-a-half year, three-state tour of duty across the ditch. She had won one race – at Reefton – for Gameson when the decision was made to send her to Victoria as a three-year-old. “It started with a chance meeting of her other owner, John Gould, and Nathan Jack at the Ashburton Harness Jewels the year before (2015). “John was sitting at a table with Nathan at a function the night before and they just got chatting, as John does. “He said he might be interested in sending Nathan a horse one day and six months later we decided to do it with her. “Initially she went to Nathan and Amanda Turnball but then Nathan got in a bit of strife so we sent her up to Brisbane and a good mate of ours in Daren Garrard. “He did an amazing job with her and, even though she had a lot of starts, she ran a truck load of placings.” Once the decision was made to bring her home and serve the full sister to Ohoka Punter, a stopover in Sydney become appealing. “We had to go to Sydney to fly home so we thought we’d go to Luke’s for a few starts. “The first start she drew one and got up in 1.51.4, which was a new lifetime winning mark for her.” After this week’s run, the plan is to target the restricted mares’ race at Addington on Show Day before a return to Auckland for the Queen of Hearts and then the two Addington mares’ features in the late summer, which will be her swansong. A nomination is held for the Inter Dominions, but that clashes with the Queen of Hearts and is most unlikely. “We are going to serve her in November so we can take in those two races at Addington early next year. “Initially we held a booking to Captaintreacherous but at the last minute they said they don’t take them if they’re still racing – they want them to have a 40-day stand down before being served. “So, we’ve gone with Downbytheseaside instead. “I got talking to David Miller when he was driven down here a few years ago and asked him what horse he drives that he would recommend as a future stallion and, without hesitation, he said Downbytheseaside. “At the time he was driving Always B Miki too, so I thought that was a big endorsement.” Bookies have Millwood Maizie at $19 tonight, well adrift of race favourite Mach Shard ($3) and Triple Eight ($3.80).

One of the brightest additions to the northern harness ranks should make a winning debut from her new home at Alexandra Park tonight. And if Wainui Creek does just that it sets up a potentially dominant night for trainer Barry Purdon, who has winning hopes in half the 10-race card. Purdon has taken over the training of Wainui Creek, who ironically his filly Belle Of Montana denied group one glory by the barest of margins in the Sires’ Stakes Championship last New Years Eve. Wainui Creek looked to have that trophy in her cabinet at the 100m mark until Belle Of Montana flew to grab her right on the line, form subsequently franked by the latter winning Filly of the Year. Waunui Creek’s season spluttered on after that for trainer Richard Aubrey but has retained her natural speed into this campaign judging by two recent workouts wins and her disappointed second half of last season does provide the bonus of meaning she returns in an easier grade tonight. So much so anything but a comeback win would be a surprise as she aims at races like the Queen Of Hearts in the summer. Purdon also has a strong hand in tonight’s feature the Holmes D G, named after his great pacer of last decade, with Mach Shard looking the big improver from the Spring Cup last start. He was just grabbed in that race by Triple Eight but meets him much better in the handicaps tonight and if he begins as well as he did last start he could gain valuable field position over his fellow 20m markers. With only two rivals on the front line he can go one better tonight in a race robbed of Star Galleria, who has suffered an injury that may keep him out of the New Zealand Cup and threatens his Inter Dominion campaign. Purdon has one of last season’s best juveniles Bad To The Bone returning in race four where he faces the outside of the second line draw over 2200m. He looks the class act of the race but with his major rivals Mighty Looee (three) and his own stablemate Sole Ambition (ace) drawn well Bad To The Bone is going to need to race right up to his best and have no bad luck to make a winning return. The stable rounds out their night with Sunny Glennis an each way hope in race eight and Be My Rock and Thumbs Up both looking better than maiden grade in race nine. Away from Alexandra Park the weekend harness results could have implications for both the New Zealand Cup and Inter Dominions, which return to Alexandra Park on November 29. Last season’s New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer makes his slightly delayed return to the track in the Methven Cup on Sunday where the small field and grass surface should suit him as he fights to overcome ongoing hoof issues. But before then the Victoria Cup at Melton tomorrow night could go a long way to deciding what Australian horses target the New Zealand carnivals. Trainers like Grant Dixon from Queensland have indicated a win from Colt Thirty One, who has drawn the ace in the Victoria Cup, that a win would enormously increase the likelihood of an Inter Dominion campaign. Others out of the Melton group one who could turn up in New Zealand include San Carlo (likely for both Addington and Alexandra Park), Bling It On (Interdoms) and Buster Brady (New Zealand Cup).   by Michael Guerin