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By Jonny Turner    Organisers are hailing Friday’s inaugural Fast10 meeting at Addington a success. The concept saw fields of ten horses run in mobile races in quickfire success under the Fast10 model designed by Canterbury owners Glenn Hames and Tony Russell. The pair spent two years refining the concept which they branded as harness racing’s version of Twenty20 cricket. Hames declared the first running of the event as a raging success. Addington Raceway general manager Brian Thompson also gave the meeting a tick of approval. Thompson said turnover figures from the inaugural Fast10 race day were positive. “Turnover was positive and it was what we were hoping for.” A healthy crowd enjoying an array of on-track entertainment and promotion developed as part of the Fast 10 concept. Attendance numbers were another plus Addington took out of Friday’s meeting. “I think the people that were there enjoyed it and I think it brought a few people that hadn’t been here before to Addington because of the reduced time,” Thompson said. “I would put it down as a success, for sure.” “We will definitely support Fast10 and we will support other clubs looking at it as well.” Seeing trainers, drivers and officials work together to ensure the meeting ran smoothly under its shorter than usual 18 minute gaps between races was especially pleasing, Thompson said. “It was especially pleasing seeing all the trainers and drivers – and even the track guys too – there was a sense of urgency with everyone working together to get the best result.” Hames was in the stable throughout the meeting and got to see first-hand how trainers and drivers pitched in to make the quickfire meeting work. “I was in the stables and the feedback I got from the trainers and drivers was great.” “We were tested, there were two false starts and an enquiry and we still ran to time.” Hames said he received strong feedback from across the harness racing industry yesterday. “I couldn’t have been happier,” Hames said. “It was a real vibrant feel and I was really happy with how it went.” “Everyone across the industry was so positive and I had people ringing me up and saying well done.” The quickfire meeting’s early running, between 11.52am and 2.34pm, meant it was able to be shown on Australia’s prime racing channel, Sky1. The expanded audience was another reason for the meeting’s success, Hames said. Hames and Russell are eager to try the Fast10 concept again soon. “We can’t wait,” Hames said. “We have had some clubs approach us about the idea.” “We don’t want to take over traditional racing, we just was to make it a bit more exciting on the odd occasion.” The pair have taken elements of the Fast10 idea to work on and refine. Working on marketing a meeting with New Zealand’s top drivers was one idea that came out of yesterday’s event. “We wouldn’t mind having ten horses, ten races and ten top drivers just for a day.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

So the first "Fast Ten harness racing" meeting has been run. Despite a stiff wind blowing across Addington Raceway it was quick and engaging and importantly it was also achievable logistically And that, in a nutshell, is why it should be supported. In a time where nearly every sporting body is attempting to revolutionize their sport for wider appeal harness racing, at least in New Zealand, has been sadly lacking in the ideas department. "Fast ten racing" or a concept like it would seem a realistic and commonsense first step towards a better on-course product and that's something that's been long overdue. It's vitally important that the NZTAB continue to support the concept. A compact race-card doesn't have to mean a decline in betting turnover but it will take a step-change in how the NZTAB currently works when on course. The amount of on course education from the NZTAB for the new punter and average racegoer is absurdly lacking and needs to be addressed in full. I've NEVER seen a dedicated NZTAB representative on course going around the racecourse educating new punters on bet types, betting terminology or responsible gambling. I've NEVER seen the NZTAB employ interactive betting displays that could become a fixture of all New Zealand racetracks and drive customer engagement . I've NEVER heard of the NZTAB providing free spot bets or extended / better odds promotions for on-course patrons. It's not hard to do but sadly it's not being done. A "fast ten" concept doesn't have to be the end of the traditional meeting either but it could provide an amount of clubs with a powerful tool to get more people through their gates and interested in their race-days. Winter race cards would arguably be most appropriate for a condensed race card but the real opportunity for the concept I believe is supplementing the fast on-track action with "event" like options off it. As an example,If a "fast ten racing" card is running at Addington, marry up a decent "fast 10" race card with activities off the track. -Have the local "sip and paint" club run an event one night overlooking the track. -If the circus is in town on a race night spend a little money and get a showcase of acrobats to put on a display between a couple of races. -Set up a mini-sized netball court and have the TACTIX netball team play a quarter of netball against some youngsters from clubs around Christchurch -Have the big screen play the "catch driver" concept with real time races shown on the infield. -Have a charity that benefits from a gold coin donation collection each night too to increase goodwill and grow relationships with a wider community. Embracing change in harness racing need not be all that difficult but it's going to take a welcoming attitude towards it and people that aren't afraid to go all out for a period of time to see if it can be done. Well done to those that have supported and brought the concept forward this so far. I do hope it gets the support it deserves.   Ben Mcmillan Harnesslink Media.

By Jonny Turner    Champion reinsman Ricky May is a driver to follow when the new Fast10 harness racing concept is unveiled at Addington today. Two Canterbury trots enthusiasts are behind the drive to add excitement and interest in the sport by offering quickfire racing in what is being branded as harness racing’s take on Twenty20 cricket. Glen Hames and Tony Russell have worked on the Fast10 concept for two years and believe it will “reignite passion and interest in the industry while creating a fun and exciting event to appeal to new customers”. 10 horse fields, all mobile starts, 18 minute gaps between races and a stream of on-course entertainment and innovations await Addington racegoers at the inaugural running of the Fast10 meeting. May is a reinsman that has witnessed all manner of changes to harness racing during his career of more than four decades. The winner of 2,941 races in New Zealand looks well placed to enjoy success at Friday’s meeting with his strong book of nine drives. May rates impressive recent winner Ranger Bomb, who lines up in race 9, the best of his chances. The Mark Jones and Brendon Hill trained 3yr-old bolted in by more than five lengths after leading in his last start at Addington. May hopes Ranger Bomb can do the same again from barrier 1. “He was pretty good last time, he got attacked early and still won pretty impressively,” the driver said. “And he ran good time.” “From [barrier] 1 we will probably have to try to hold up and lead again.” May combines with another smart 3yr-old in Luella in race 6. The filly gave the reinsman the feel of a horse that would win more races when making a successful start to her career at Nelson, last season. “She did pretty well up at Nelson and she felt like a pretty smart filly that would go on with it.” May was not in the sulky when Luella trialled solidly behind her main rival, Delma Craze, at Rangiora recently. May has driven Oaxacan Dream in her recent trials and he has been impressed by the filly. Under normal circumstances she would be a big winning hope on debut, but today she runs in to a very strong maiden line up. “She is a really nice filly and I have been happy with her trials, but it is a very strong race.” “So, she might be more of a place chance.” Oaxacan Dream clashes with William Wallace, who has his first start since running fifth behind One Change at last season’s Harness Jewels in the event. May’s skill will be put to the test when he drives three talented, but inconsistent trotters at today’s Fast10 meeting. The reinsman will drive the Jones and Hill trained Simone De Beauvoir and Michelle for the first time in races 1 and 3, respectively. Both have the talent to win, but must markedly improve their manners after galloping out of their last starts. Missie Castleton, who starts in race 5, looks biggest chance of trotting throughout among May’s tricky trio. “She got it badly wrong last time, but if she trots all the way she can definitely be in it.” Missie Castleton clashes with highly impressive debut winner The Last Love. May also drives Mrs Washington (race 2), Mrs Washington (race 7) and Three Ideas (race 10) at Friday’s meeting. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

When the hustle and bustle of Christmas ends, friends and families across the country gather at the iconic Interislander Summer Festival racedays at some of the most scenic racecourses in NZ. Fold out your beach chairs to watch the races in your favourite pair of jandals, while the kids are treated to hot chips and ice cream - this is summer NZ! Now in its 14th season, families from all over the country have been marking Interislander Summer Festival raceday in their calendar as the perfect opportunity to relax with their loved ones. Last season, racing clubs and The Races Limited Partnership (TRLP) welcomed the millionth Interislander Summer Festival customer through the gates. This year more than 70,000 customers are expected on-course at 30 events nationwide from Boxing Day til Mid Feb. The TRLP Event Delivery Teams will entertain thousands of children on-course with free kids entertainment including on-track sack races, tug of war, and games in the MoreFM Kids Go Racing area. Thousands of colouring-in competitions will be coloured, 7,000 Kids Go Racing aluminium drink bottles will be gifted to kids, and 120kg of lollies will be thrown in lolly scrambles! Interislander Summer Festival events are often the first introduction that children have to horses and racing with an average of 17% of attendees each season having never been to a race meeting before. The Interislander Summer Festival brings everyone together, from the young to the young at heart, and engages a new generation in racing. Events Nationwide from Boxing Day. Find out more at summerfestival.nz

By Jonny Turner    The waiting is over at Addington on Friday night for punters who jotted down Sweet Mary’s name in their black-books following her impressive effort at the New Zealand Cup Carnival. Trainer Brad Mowbray has had the 5yr-old one ice since she scorched down the Addington track to run an eye-catching third to Wainui Creek in the Sires Stakes Southern Mares Classic. Sweet Mary was buried deep on the inner with no racing room, then was relegated to a clear last after the field turned for home, before she produced a booming finish to just be nosed out of second by Change Is Good. Mowbray was naturally delighted with the effort, but was also left wondering what might have been if his mare had been able to get in the clear sooner. “If she was a spot or two closer, she would have given Wainui Creek a shake,” the trainer said.  “And if she had come out a bit cleaner, that would have helped, because she just wanted to run down the track a bit.” “We would have loved to get first or second, but we were really happy with the way she went.” It will be one day short of a month since Sweet Mary produced her fast finishing effort when she again clashes with Change Is Good in a 1980m mares feature on Friday night. The gap between races has not been a case of Mowbray needing to freshen his pacer following her cup carnival tilt. The trainer has been waiting patiently for a suitable race for Sweet Mary and he thinks he has found the perfect fit. “We just look for the right races for her and this race suits her right down to the ground.” Mowbray has kept Sweet Mary’s fitness levels up by giving her a trial at Rangiora last week. Driver Matthew Williamson did not ask the mare for a serious effort, just letting her sprint home from last in the straight. “I gave her a quiet trial last week, just to keep her ticking over, so she should be where she needs to be for this race,” Mowbray said. Change Is Good followed up her second to Wainui Creek by winning the Timaru Cup when leading all of the way for trainer Mitchell Kerr and driver Matt Anderson. The 5yr-old has had Sweet Mary’s measure in their last two meetings after the pair finished first and second at Ashburton Flying Stakes day. Sweet Mary (7) has a slight draw advantage, starting one spot inside Change Is Good (8) on Friday night. Cheezel (2) looks the best of the runners drawn handily under the preferential barrier draw. The Regan Todd trained pacer reeled of a stunning 25.8sec last 400m when running second to Franco Niven at Addington last weekend. Kendra (6) looks the main threat to Sweet Mary and Change Is Good. The Greg and Nina Hope trained 4yr-old looked set to let down with a good finished when she was wiped out by the galloping Jazzy Star of the Pacers’ Green Mile at Methven last weekend. Jazzy Star will attempt to get back to the kind of brilliant form he was in before his mishap in Friday night’s feature 1980m pace for entires and geldings. The Brent White trained 5yr-old clashes with Green Mile fourth placegetter, Smokin By, and Mongolian Cavalry, who won the trial Sweet Mary competed in at Rangiora. Memphis Tennessee also starts in the race after producing a brilliant 25.9sec last 400m to run third behind Franco Niven and Cheezel at Addington last weekend. Trainer-driver Terry Chmiel said he expected further improvement from the 4yr-old after his good fresh up effort. “He is still on the way up and he should improve a bit more with this race.” “If things go to plan we will look at the Ashburton Cup and then maybe going down to Omakau for the cup down there.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Spankem is not likely to return to the tracks any time soon but there was better news over the fetlock injury that sidelined him from the Inter Dominion series. Originally he was programmed to have an operation on the injury. However after x rays there was doubt raised whether an operation was in fact necessary. All Stars veterinary experts and shared the x rays with other experts who came to the same conclusion. So in the meantime Spankem will have another month’s rest, Mark said, and will then be reassessed probably with further tests at the Matamata Veterinary Services where internationally sophisticated procedures will establish the immediate future with more precision. However the likelihood that an operation on the injury may not be necessary now will shorten the recovery period for the Miracle Mile winner of $1.3m though it will be some time before he is seen out again. Stablemate Turn It Up is at All Stars doing light exercise but his racing future is still in doubt. That All Stars would have five starters in the Inter Dominion Grand Final including the first two favourites after two such stars suffered setbacks is a testimonial to the depth of the current team with Self Assured also being allowed to miss the series in favour of the Auckland Cup.   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

By Garrick Knight    The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The men in the case are Mark Jones and Benny Hill, co-trainers of exciting filly Stylish Memphis. And the plan was to keep her at home for a $22,000 Sires Stakes Series heat at Addington tonight against inferior opposition to what she would meet in the next heat, in Auckland next Friday. But that’s come unstuck somewhat with the daughter of Bettor’s Delight drawing the outside barrier draw over the sprint trip this week. “We’ve done it on purpose to try and qualify her down here because the field up north will be pretty hot,” said Jones. “If she’s good enough, she’s good enough; the wide draw is a concern but she’s got good gate speed and high tactical speed.” The $150,000 Final is at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve and Stylish Memphis will go north for it if she can run in the first three tonight. She resumed with a fortuitous win at Wyndham nearly three weeks ago, though Jones felt she could have been better. “She probably should have won by more, but seemed to knock off when she hit the front.” Since then, a workout run at Rangiora, where she flashed home late in quick time, impressed Jones and told him she was on track. Despite the wide draw, bookies opened her a $2.70 equal favourite alongside Sugar Loaf, who was mightily impressive winning her debut on New Zealand Cup day for Robert Dunn. “Sugar Loaf has got the raps, and Nigel McGrath’s one (Miss Graceful) looks an exciting filly in the making, too. “But all things being equal, I’d go my one to beat them if she races up to her ability.” The expectations are high with Stylish Memphis, a full sister to multiple Group 1-placed filly-turned-mare, Delightful Memphis, who is now racing in America. “I actually think she’s got more sheer speed and a touch more brilliance than her sister, but Delightful Memphis probably wasn’t appreciated as much as she should have been. “She was in a crop with Spanish Armada and Partyon.” The stable also has last-start winner Fancy in the race and she’s drawn mid-front line. “She got her own terms but won well last time. A nice progressive filly that I can see winning four or five races. “We’ll probably look to take her down for the Southland Oaks after this.” Later in the night, Skippys Delight will go around in the $24,000 Sires Stakes Silver, a five-horse affair, and Jones expects better luck than he had in the main final on New Zealand Cup day. “I thought his run in the final was good; he got held up and lost ground but still found the line well. “I know Benny is pretty happy with him.” Stablemate Silent Major has been scratched from the same race after being dealt to Australian interests earlier in the week, as has another from the barn in Philadelphia Freedom. In the last on the card the stable lines up Nirvana Beach and Willison, Jones thinking the latter can win it before heading out for a spell. “He’s come to the end of it but is a Derby type of horse. “Looking for the paddock but I expect he should be able to handle that field. “Nirvana Beach hates Ashburton so best to forget that last run. “He’s got the right draw here and that will help.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Now that Cup Week is done and dusted for another year, we can focus on the next big thing at Addington Raceway. It is just a month now until Fast10 Horse Racing kicks off on Friday 20 December 2019. It has been an exciting two years developing this concept and there has been great support from across the industry. One such supporter is well known business man, harness racing enthusiast, owner and sponsor, Philip Kennard. “The Fast10 concept is an exciting innovation for harness racing. “Focussed correctly with use of modern technology this concept of having a race meeting from start to finish in less than two and a half hours could be a game changer. “This is also a great opportunity to attract new participants to harness racing, and fast and exciting harness racing programmes could help harness racing like 20/20 cricket did for that sport. “Personally I’m very excited to see this innovation tried by our industry,” said Philip Kennard. There will be an information stand at Addington Raceway during their meetings on 29 November and 7 December to answer everyone’s questions. The first race is scheduled for 11.52am and the last of ten at 2.34pm. Perfect timing for your end of year function, or just one of those two hour lunch breaks. Please visit https://www.addington.co.nz/events-centre/events/fast10-horse-racing/ to book your table and enjoy a sumptuous lunch, in-room entertainment and exciting harness racing action. For further information on Fast10 Horse Racing, please contact: Glenn Hames - ghames.qhr@gmail.com or 0272032746 Tony Russell - trussell.qhr@gmail.com or 0274326522   Jess Smith Communication and Ownership Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

By Jonny Turner    Westwood Beach pacer Spirit Of St Louis showed his class on the nation’s biggest harness racing stage when winning at the New Zealand Cup Carnival’s Show Day meeting at Addington yesterday.  The 3yr-old scored the biggest victory of his fleeting career when dashing along the inner to win race 3, the South Of The Waitaki event, for trainer Graeme Anderson and driver Matthew Williamson. The win gave Cantabrian Trevor Casey a race to race double as a breeder and owner after Lone Star Lad took out the previous event. Casey races Spirit Of St Louis with of a crew of Anderson’s owners who are spread between Canterbury and Southland. The 3yr-old’s win continued a brilliant winning strike rate Anderson has built with Casey’s breed. It’s an association that started when the pair were having morning tea at Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s All Stars stable after watching their horses work. “It all started when Trevor sent me a horse called All Star Magician,” Anderson said. “I had Titan Banner at Mark and Natalie’s place and we were there one day having morning tea.” “Trevor offered the horse to me because Mark was finished with him, so I took him home.” “We ended up winning three in a row with him before we sold him.” Anderson and Casey combined to win three races with Bettor Sensation before Spirit Of St Louis arrived in Dunedin. Anderson admitted the pacer did not look like a potential standout when he got him. “He was just a wee thing and he had a horrible big split on one leg.” “But he has developed in to a nice horse, he has got high speed and a cruisy nature.” Spirit Of St Louis’ victory took his career record to three wins and a second placing from four starts. Anderson said he will need to carefully place the horse as his rating continues to rise. “He has got up in the ratings pretty quickly, but we are going to have to keep going.” “He has got the Sires Stakes Silver next and then there is a 3yr-old race for him at Gore.” “At least in those races he is racing his own class.” “I would love to give him a month off after Gore and then get him ready for races like the [New Zealand] derby and the Southern Supremacy.” Williamson was denied another driving win when Lone Star Lad out-sprinted Fanny Hill to win race 2. The victory was a deserved one after the trotter, bred and solely raced by Casey, had campaigned consistently throughout the spring. Friday’s race could be the last time Lone Star Lad starts from trainer Regan Todd’s stable. The 5yr-old is under off to Australian buyers. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

An old-fashioned workload produced a new best version of Habibi Inta in the $300,000 Dominion at Addington yesterday. And after his graphic demolition job in our richest trot the big stallion has thrown down the gauntlet to his rivals in the Inter Dominion Trotting series which starts at Alexandra Park in 13 days.  Habibi Inta made the most of a perfect Blair Orange drive and the early gallop of favourite Oscar Bonavena to bolt away with the group one, giving Orange the dream double of Cup week after his New Zealand Cup on Tuesday.  Already a group one winner at the Harness Jewels two seasons ago, Habibi Inta went to a whole new level yesterday and that was after some tough love from trainer extraordinaire Paul Nairn.  “After he won at Kaikoura last week I kept the work right up to him,” explains Nairn.  “I knew he would have to be fit, really fit for the 3200m and he handled the work beautifully.  “I thought he could win because he was so fit but I’ll be honest, I didn’t think he could do that.”
 It was a career statement win from Habibi Inta as he sat off the hot speed set by Marcola and jogged past him at the top of the straight.  It was a dramatic reversal of their previous clash at Ashburton when Marcoola thrashed him by 13 lengths, showing how the right horse on the day wins the group ones this season. Nairn will now bring the big, muscular six-year-old to Auckland for an Inter Dominion where some of his key rivals have question marks hanging over their heads.  Aussie raider Tough Monarch was a brave second yesterday capping a great week while veteran Monty Python surged into third while Marcoola was out of gas at the top of the straight. Another Australian visitor in McLovin suffered a case of the thumps but should be good to go for the Inters, a series Oscar Bonavena will miss.  The latter was slightly checked into a gallop after 400m when horses galloped both inside and outside, leaving trainer-driver Mark Purdon enormously disappointed as he tailed off. Punters didn’t enjoy it much either.  But Purdon bounced back two races later when Chase Auckland made the most of the trail-passing lane run to win the $200,000 NZ Free-For-All. A brave and luckless fourth in the NZ Cup three days earlier, Chase Auckland got all the luck this time as he was destined to be three back on the inside but Cruz Bromac galloped when heading to the lead, which left Classie Brigade in front and Chase Auckland in the luxury spot.  All the main players from the F-F-A will head to the Inter Dominions where they will be met by a fresh wave of Australians.   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner The burning desire to make up for what could have been in the New Zealand Cup should set up a sensational early battle in today’s Junior Free-For-All at Addington. Few came off the track after Cruz Bromac’s win in Tuesday’s feature with a more agonising hard luck story than the camp that races third placegetter Classie Brigade. Driver John Dunn was seen desperately trying to find clear racing room for the 7yr-old trained by his father Robert. Unfortunately, a gap only came after the horse’s winning hope evaporated before the driver’s eyes. “There was a gap there nicely for him, but with Spankem not quite kicking like he usually does it closed on him,” Robert Dunn said. “Johnny said he though the run was going to be nicely there for him and it closed as quick as it opened.” John Dunn has already told the media this week that he has no plans to be behind any horse when the gate leaves for today’s 1980m sprint. Trying to hold the lead from his ace barrier 1 draw is a plan wholeheartedly endorsed by his father. “You can’t waste a good draw like barrier one and he has got great gate speed,” the trainer said. “So he will be going forward and we will have to see what happens after that.” Not being able to fully let down with his run on Tuesday suggests Classie Brigade should go in to today’s $200,000 feature without any hangover effect from the New Zealand Cup. Dunn confirmed his stable have been thrilled with the way he has come through the race. “He has pulled up super, we are really thrilled with him this week.” Chase Auckland, who starts beside Classie Brigade in barrier 2, could lay claim to the New Zealand Cup’s second biggest hard luck story. The pacer had clear air for all of the run home, but had make his finish wider than any horse in the race. Both San Carlo and Mach Shard lost ground around the home turn, hindering Chase Auckland’s momentum and forcing him around them. “Just the way the race ended up being run, we just didn’t get the brakes that we needed,” driver Tim Williams said. “And when San Carlo got around to being parked that took away the option of going around there.” The All Stars 5yr-old faces a massive turn around from the circumstances that put him back in the field in the New Zealand Cup, when moving from the unruly to barrier 2 today. Chase Auckland will not only avoid having to give his rivals a head start, Williams will be able to make use of his blazing gate speed. “It is an ideal draw for him with his gate speed and it is going to be a big help coming off the unruly to be on level terms,” the driver said. “He seems to have pulled up well and he is probably fortunate the way the race was run on Tuesday that he didn’t have a real gut-buster.” It will not just be the horse drawn beside him that could test Classie Brigade’s early speed and possibly cross him to lead. New Zealand Cup runner-up Spankem gets the chance to show off the early zip that saw him lead and go on to win the Miracle Mile from barrier 7. The cup winner Cruz Bromac, who led and won last year’s New Zealand Free-For-All, adds to the speed of the front line after drawing inside his stablemate in barrier 6. Our Uncle Sam and AG’s White Socks could provide some early pressure if they were asked from barrier 3 and 5, respectively. Nandolo (8) and Thefixer (9) look set to drift off the pace early from their wide draws. The Robert Dunn trained Henry Hubert is also likely to bail out of the early burn despite drawing barrier 4. “He has probably raced better over longer trips and I am just a bit weary that he doesn’t have that really high gate speed some of the others have,” Dunn said. The 4yr-old thrilled his trainer with his effort for sixth on Tuesday when finishing just under two lengths from Cruz Bromac after the horse’s interrupted preparation for the race. “If he hadn’t galloped around the first turn he would have been on Classie Brigade’s back and he might have been a chance.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Australasian harness racing fans can thank Oamaru reinswoman Charlotte Purvis, her love of horses and determined attitude, if an open class trotting star is born when Oscar Bonavena contests today’s Dominion at Addington.  On paper it may look as if the All Stars trotter is set to complete just another perfectly plotted path to big race glory for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. However, a look further back shows the exciting trotter has had to overcome odds exponentially higher than what he will pay to win the 3200m feature just to be in the race. Oscar Bonavena needed a miracle just to be a racehorse and Purvis was the driving force behind making it happen. The Majestic Son trotter was born weak and unable to stand on what vets deemed were legs too crooked for a potential racehorse. Purvis the horse, who was delivered early unexpectedly and started feeding him by bottle, barely showing any signs of life before she quickly began nursing him back to health.  Vets advice to Purvis’s father, John, who bred the horse, was that the foal’s chances of being a successful racehorse were slim because of his crooked legs and his missing out on vital colostrum enriched milk from his dam immediately after being born. Purvis told her father she was not having any of that talk and continued to hand feed the foal. "The vet said because his legs were not that straight and because he had not been fed colostrum straight away he didn’t have much chance of making a racehorse,” she said.  "But I told Dad he wouldn't be worrying about any of that and I kept looking after him.” After helping keep the foal alive, Purvis handed over duties to Nevele R Stud staff, who continued to help Oscar Bonavena get on his feet. “After a couple of days we were able to get the mare and foal to Nevele R and they kept feeding him.” “Eventually he was strong enough to stand on his own and then drink off his mother.” “As he got older his legs got stronger and he was perfectly healthy.” Purvis’ early work with the trotter meant he was almost certain to end up in her care. Her father sent her the trotter and Oscar Bonavena was to be a “project horse” for the horsewoman and her partner, reinsman Matthew Williamson. Oscar Bonavena soon showed the only project he was concerned about was running fast. He went on to win his first start as a 2yr-old before pushing All Stars trotter Enhance Your Calm, who was seen as an unbeatable force at the time, in his Sires Stakes win. That performance led to Oscar Bonavena being sold by John Purvis in a big money deal that saw him transfer from Phil Williamson’s barn to the All Stars stable.  Mark Purdon trialed the horse for his new owners – his father, the former champion trainer, Roy Purdon, and former New Zealand trainer Chris Ryder, who runs a successful stable in New Jersey. The master trainer-driver said Oscar Bonavena gave him the feel of a good horse as soon as he sat behind him. “He just gave me a great feel,” Purdon said.  “Phil is great with the trotters and he had a very high opinion of him, so that gave me a bit more confidence that he was going to be a good buy.” Months later Purdon’s new owners faced similar vets advice about Oscar Bonavena to what  the Purvis family had received earlier – that his legs were not up for racing. More specifically, the horse was diagnosed with a cyst on his knee, a rare condition that ruled out racing.  Purdon admitted there was a time when he Oscar Bonavena’s racing prospects were very bleak. “It was a lot of money to pay for a horse and there was a time when it looked like we could have done our money.” “But everything is back on track now, he is good and sound and we look like we have a very exciting horse on our hands.” Some high level veterinary research coupled with Purdon’s genius horsemanship combined to help Oscar Bonavena’ recover from the potentially career ending injury.   The troubled knee has held up so well since, it has allowed him to catapult to the top of the New Zealand trotting ranks in his seven starts since May.  And apart from one standing start mishap, that did not stop him winning, everything has gone perfectly.   “He had a great preparation and I think when we nominated him he was about 45th in the ranking for the Dominion and now he is right up the ladder and come in to favorite,” Purdon said.  “So, he has had a great prep and I couldn’t be happier with him.” Ryder will fly to be at Addington on Friday, while Roy Purdon is expected to watch on from Auckland. Purvis and her father will also be on hand to watch Oscar Bonavena’s first attempt at open class group 1 racing. The thrill they will get if he is able to win will be just as big as if the trotter was still officially theirs.  “We will be there and it will be very exciting - I still get a huge thrill from seeing him race,” Purvis said.  “Every time I am at the races and he is in I go down and see him, I can’t wait.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Ex-pat Kiwi horseman Anthony Butt put aside a hellish 18 hours to win the day’s feature trot at Addington on Tuesday. Driving Sydney visitor Tough Monarch, Butt executed an aggressive front-running drive to win the $100,000 Group 1 New Zealand Trotting Free For All. In frantic scenes, the now Sydney-based Cantabrian Butt only arrived on course mere minutes before the horses were due to go on track. Smoke from the wild fires raging in New South Wales saw his flight cancelled last evening and he only landed in the country 1 hour before the start of the race. “It was a nightmare,” he said post-race. “I went there yesterday afternoon and when I’d nearly got to the airport, I got a text that said the flight was postponed for three hours until 10 o’clock last night. “I went to them and said, tell me now if it’s not going to go and I’ll get on something else. “They said no, no it’s definitely going to go and then at about 9 o’clock they cancelled on me. “By then it was too late to get on anything else.” So, Butt went back home to Menangle and tried everything he could to try and get to Addington the next day. “I was up half the night trying to find flights. “I tried everything – through Auckland, through Melbourne, through Brisbane. “But there was only one option and it got in at 2 o’clock.” The race was set down to start at 2.47 on the other side of town. It didn’t seem likely. “But luckily we landed 10 minutes early. Plus, I only had carry-on and the attendants put me right by the door so I was first off.” His mum, Jenny Butt, picked him up and rushed across town while Butt got changed in to his driving gear in the back seat. He ran in to the Addington stables just five minutes before the horses were called on to the track. Tough Monarch, off the back of an excellent trial on the track last Wednesday, was a $3 favourite with punters and never them any cause for concern. “He felt good the whole way,” said Butt. “We sort of had to a bit early but he was comfortable and Rickie (Alchin, trainer) said to not let them get up to him. “Round the bend they started to drop off and we put a gap on them.” About then, fellow Australian trotter, McLovin, was extracted to the outside by Kate Gath and launched a grinding finish. He got close, but not close enough, and the pair recorded a famous Australian quinella on New Zealand’s biggest race day. Tough Monarch has been there or thereabouts in all the features across the ditch in recent seasons, but Tuesday’s was his first Group 1 win after three placings. “He’s just a wee professional. “It was his first Group 1, but he’s been around about it a lot of the time so he really deserves this.” Gath was thrilled with McLovin’s effort, saying he overcome a less-than-preferable draw and trip to finish close up in second. “I was really happy with him. “I was a little bit disheartened when the draws came out and we knew Tough Monarch would be tough to beat off the front. “So, to get as close as we did was pleasing and it’s a good sign for the Dominion on Friday.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Young Christchurch trainer Darren Keast had a day he will never forget when training two upset winners on New Zealand Cup Day, Tuesday. The 22-year-old could barely believe what had just unfolded before his eyes when Ascalabus won paying $49.10 with his dad, Jamie in the cart. A couple of hours earlier, the father-and-son combo had opened the day with a victory by trotter Lovey Dovey Moment. “I absolutely flippin’ can’t believe that that’s happened,” said the younger Keast after the second win. “At the start of the day I was thinking Lovey Dovey Moment was a live chance. “And Ascalabus, it’s hard to get confident at $50 but I thought his last start at Addington was as good as it could be. “He was three-wide and just got beat on the post by a horse we dragged in to the race.” In another layer to the story, Ascalabus is owned by one of the biggest names of yesteryear, local fisheries businessman, Kypros Kotzikas, who won the New Zealand Cup in 1997 with Iraklis. “I’m just unbelievably grateful to have Kypros behind me. “How many young fellas would have a big owner like him behind them? “We’ve had our issues with the horse. “This time last year he raced in the Cup Day maiden and finished fourth and we got offered really big money for him. “But when he was checked over by the vets, he had a niggle in a leg and had to be boxed for six weeks. “Kypros was probably entitled to take him off me then but he stuck by me and gave me a go.” Training two winners on the country’s biggest race day is one thing, but having his dad drive them was the cherry on top for Keast. “It’s just unbelievable. “He served it up with that trotter; he came out and attacked Majestic Hurricane, which is a known puller, and that was really ballsy. “But it was the winning of the race. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Dad and his support and I’m forever grateful for everything he’s done for me.” Keast left school at 15 to go and work in Sydney and then Brisbane before returning to Canterbury. “I got a bit home sick so came back and started working for Cran Dalgety.” He will now turn his attention to Auckland a crack at the Inter Dominions, which start at the end of the month. “Lovey Dovey Moment is about 95 percent sure to go because he trots so much better that way around. “I’m not sure about Ascalabus though; I’ll see what Kypros is happy doing and go from there.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Owners and racegoers looked on in disbelief as Ultimate Sniper produced a jaw-dropping performance to win the Junior Free-For-All on New Zealand Cup day. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 4yr-old set a big Addington crowd buzzing with a tough effort that reminded harness fans why he is New Zealand’s reigning champion 3yr-old. Rasmussen was denied the chance to take the Bettor’s Delight pacer to the front early in the race, when driver Matt Anderson insisted on holding the front with A Bettor Act. That set Ultimate Sniper a massive task to win – one that co-owner Phil Kennard admitted he thought was impossible during the running 2600m Group 3 feature. “I wasn’t confident at all, when he was doing all that work.” “To run 3.06 with a run like that was phenomenal.” Ultimate Sniper stopped the clock in a sizzling 3-06.4, setting a new race record in the Junior Free-For-All on New Zealand Cup day. The performance was undoubtedly the best of Ultimate Sniper’s 4yr-old campaign, that has included a derailed New Zealand Cup bid. Kennard puts the horse bouncing back to his best on the country’s biggest stage down to his conditioning. The pacer was sent to the paddock for several months after his 3yr-old season was ended early by injury. Ultimate Sniper made the most of it, returning to work for his 5yr-old campaign far from the sleek athlete that won on Tuesday. “Today is the first day we have seen his ribs – he just hasn’t been ready,” Kennard said. “But, when I saw him at the stables yesterday I though this horse is ready.” Purdon said the All Stars stable would monitor Ultimate Sniper’s recovery before making a decision on whether the horse would start in Friday’s New Zealand Free-For-All. The master trainer said his first inclination was not to line the 4yr-old up on Friday. Rasmussen made sure her charge was not going to be unlucky by taking Ultimate Sniper to the parked position. The leading reinswoman said it was a case of taking advantage of the horse’s drop in class after he had competed in New Zealand Cup lead up races. “The way he did it - I knew I had to drive him with a fair amount of confidence,” Rasmussen said. “That [race] was a bit of a class drop from what he has been racing – he has been going good races behind Spankem and Chase Auckland.” Ultimate Sniper’s withdrawal from the New Zealand Cup and his win on Tuesday has now seen his season evolve in to a transitioning term. “It was just a year too soon for him for the cup,” Rasmussen said. “He is a good horse.” “I really think next year will be his year.” Rasmussen used contrasting tactics when driving One Change to win the New Zealand Sires Stakes Final. The All Stars 3yr-old held out stablemates Copy That and One Change in a thrilling finish to the Group 1 feature. Rasmussen elected to slot One Change in to the trail behind Line Up and driver Anthony Butt early in the race. The energy she saved there may have given One Change the winning edge to hold out the fast finish of Copy That and driver David Butcher. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The Aussies have sent shockwaves through the Australasian trotting ranks with a dominant one-two in today's Commodore Airport Hotel Free For All. Tough Monarch led all-the-way to salute in the $100,000 Group 1 in track record time, with Rickie Alchin's New South Wales trotter narrowly holding off fast-finishing Victorian McLovin, who was a clear second for Andy and Kate Gath. Winning reinsman Anthony Butt, who arrived on track only minutes before the big race owing to a delayed flight, said he "could feel (McLovin) coming up the straight" but held on to win narrowly. “It’s a big thing for an Aussie horse to win a Group 1 over here, it doesn’t happen very often," Butt said. "Good on them for giving it a go and getting the result. “(Tough Monarch) has come on in leaps and bounds the last 12 months. Big credit to Rickie, he’s handled it beautifully and I’m very lucky to be on it." The result will only further fuel speculation, revealed pre-race by Adam Hamilton, that McLovin's on-again off-again tilt at the forthcoming Inter Dominion may be back on again. More is expected to be known at weeks end, Hamilton said on the Sky Racing Active coverage. For the victor, the win is enormous reward for Alchin, who invested great patience into Tough Monarch. Starting his life in Queensland, the young colt looked set to be a case of a talented horse who went off the rails, having been considered unsuitable for racing due to his headstrong nature. That was until talented young trainer Alchin broke the horse in. Tough Monarch then went to Dennis Wilson, who had trained the trotter’s mother in the latter part of her career, but two or three preps later and he had done all he could to little avail. “I had always had in the back of my mind that I’d like to have a go with him if the opportunity ever came up,” Alchin said. “Make no mistake, when I broke him in he was very difficult to handle, but you just couldn’t get to the bottom of him on the track, he was so strong. “I said to Dennis (Wilson) that if he ever had enough that I wouldn’t mind trying him out and that’s how it all sort of unfolded.” Almost four years later, the horse that was once destined for the scrap heap in an international Group 1 winner.   HRV Trots Media

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