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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

John Dunn may not finish New Zealand Cup day the most successful driver of the meeting but goes into it as the most important. Because in all three groups one races at Addington today there is an element of “but what if John’s horse does this” while Dunn has serious winning hopes in a quartet of support races. Which means Dunn holds the key to punting success on harness racing’s biggest day. Dunn has the potential early leader in both the $750,000 New Zealand Cup and the $170,000 Sires’ Stakes Final which gives him options to hand to a favoured rival, securing the passing lane and the almost guaranteed decent big money an economical trip would provide. Or decide to stay in front and make life harder for his challengers, opening the races up to upsets. In the $100,000 NZ Trot Free-For-All he drives the best horse in Sundees Son, his concern being the Trotter of the Year’s mental rather than physical condition. But Cup day is about the Cup and while Dunn’s father Robert trains both Classie Brigade and Henry Hubert, it is the former who has the manners to be the kingmaker. Classie Brigade begun brilliantly before leading throughout in the Kaikoura Cup last Monday but that was against weaker opposition on a leader’s track in a race 800m shorter. With standing start manners concerns over some on the front line, especially the Australians, Classie Brigade could well lead again first time into the Addington straight today. So what would Dunn, who has parked out his arch rivals the All Stars more than any driver in New Zealand in recent years, do? “I don’t think you can make those decisions in advance and of course he would have to step away quickly first,” says Dunn in the expected response.  “And he (Classie Brigade) is a good horse. You would like to think he could win the race.”
 But big deeper and Dunn admits that the two favourites Spankem and Thefixer might be better than his charge. He won’t say it, but you get the feeling if either came seriously looking for the lead Dunn would take the short way home. A decision like that from Dunn, or any rival driver, would seem to hand the Cup to whoever out of Spankem or Thefixer got their first and could set up a lead-trail scenario for the favourites. The horse least likely to bend to the favoured pair’s will is Victorian pacer San Carlo but with zero standing start experience and the dreaded ace draw, the start could be a lottery he doesn’t have a winning ticket in. While all of that makes Classic Brigade a great place bet at $3.50, in the Sires’ Stakes things look trickier from barrier one for Above N Beyond. He is good, maybe really good, but even though it is a sprint the Sires’ Final can be brutal for leaders. So Dunn wants to lead early and see how much pressure is poured on. “It is easy to think I would hand to One Change (barrier two and favourite) and get the trail but I doubt he will be the first horse there and anything on the front line could come out fast. “So it is a really hard to race to predict. But I’d rather be barrier one than nine.” Sundees Son is one on the second line in the trot but that is not as big a concern as the fact he has galloped in his last three public appearances. “I think it is in his head now and that is a worry,” says Dunn. “He is not sore anywhere and feels fine but we have to get his head right and I am not sure he is there yet.” In the support races Dunn reins four favoured runners, starting with debutante Sugar Loaf in race two. “She has really impressed me at the trials and has the speed to stay handy early. “Bonnie Highlander (race three) was really good at the trials last week and I’d rate her the better of our two chances off the front line. “And Heisenberg (race eight) has to be hard to beat. He won really well at Kaikoura last week and has bounced through that well.” Add in another impressive trialist last week in Belmont Major (race nine) and Dunn is in for a big Cup day. But punters would be smartest to put their big money on him when the smaller money is on the line.   Michael Guerin

Astute young Sydney harness racing trainer Rickie Alchin can't wait to showcase his exciting trotter in New Zealand - but he has the utmost respect for his rivals. Eight-year-old Tough Monarch (Monarch USA-Tough Tussle NZ (Wrestle NZ) will step out today (Tuesday) at Addington in the $100,000 Group One NZ Trotting FFA over the 1980m trip. It will be run at 2.47pm NZ (12.47pm Australian) time. "He is right where I wanted him to be-he's settled in well, but these types of races are hard to win," Alchin said. "We ended up with a nice barrier draw in gate five, with a chance we will move in one closer if the emergency doesn't get a start, so we'll be looking for the top," he said. "But I have a lot of respect for a few of our rivals. McLovin, from the Andy and Kate Gath barn hasn't put a foot wrong and Winterfell (Mark Purdon) was eye-catching at the trials recently. "And there's some others as well including Sundees Son from the Dunn stable. From what I've seen of this horse, potentially he could be anything. If he turns up on the day, we could all have our work cut out." Alchin, who drove Tough Monarch to win at Menangle on October 19 in his most recent victory, said he was elated to have the services of master driver Anthony Butt. "I enjoy driving, but it just made sense to put 'Ants' on. He's an ex-Kiwi and over here he knows a bit more than me about the tracks, the other horses and their drivers," Alchin said. Butt and Tough Monarch combined last week to post an impressive two length trial win, seemingly in cruise mode. The mile rate was a tick over two minutes for 1980m and they ran to the line in 28.8 secs. Alchin, who flew out with Tough Monarch on October 29, is stabled with renowned NZ trainer Cran Dalgety, of Kentuckiana Lodge, West Melton, Canterbury. The 32-year-old admits that he sometimes has to stop and pinch himself in what has so far been a marvellous ride. After learning the basics of harness racing growing up in the strong harness racing town of Temora, in the NSW Riverina, he left for the city to better himself aged just 18. "My pop Russell Harpley was a hobby trainer and was a big influence, along with Nanna Pam. They are so proud and are now my number one fans," he said. "I also worked full-time for Ray Walker, who is an amazing horseman. So I certainly did get a good head start." Alchin said Tough Monarch, who is chasing his first Group One success, had benefitted greatly by competing in his first Inter Dominion in Melbourne late last year. "I guess I could say the same thing about myself - it certainly was a big learning curve," he said. "So hopefully with two Inters under our belts come Sydney next year, we both should be pretty seasoned," Alchin laughed. Shepparton co-trainers Steve O'Donoghue and Bec Bartley will also compete with their nine-year-old 'war horse' San Carlo at the same meeting in the $750,000 G1 Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup at 5.12pm NZ (3.12 pm Australian) time. San Carlo, known around the stables as Murray, has drawn the pole. He comes up against some hot opposition in the Purdon-Rasmussen quartet of Spankem, Thefixer, Chase Auckland and Cruz Bromac. Bathurst pacer Our Uncle Sam (trained by Chris Frisby) will join San Carlo in trying to fly the Australian flag for honors.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

By Jonny Turner A perfect preparation has reigning national horse of the year Spankem ready to tackle a distance far from perfect for him in the New Zealand Trotting Cup at Addington on Tuesday. Trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have overseen an incredibly faultless lead up to New Zealand’s greatest harness race, with Spankem displaying the speed, stamina and poise of a deserving favourite. The Miracle Mile winner has cruised over every hurdle the champion trainers have put in front of him, speeding to victory in traditional lead up races the Hannon Memorial, Canterbury Classic and Ashburton Flying Stakes. The only question the 5yr-old has not been able to answer in the lead up to the New Zealand Cup is whether he will handle its 3200m distance. Purdon is confident his horse will stay the distance under the pressure environment of a New Zealand Cup. But the master trainer-driver admits it is not the ideal trip for his speed machine. “I wouldn’t think it is his go – he is better over shorter distances,” he said. “But at the same time, he is in a great place and his form suggests he is probably still going to be the one to beat, even though it is not his pet distance.” Spankem’s staying qualities have drawn attention as he has been unplaced in two starts past 2700m. The first of those came when the pacer ran a creditable, but well beaten fourth in last year’s 2760m Interdominion final, won by Tiger Tara. The second came in this year’s 3200m Easter Cup, won by Turn It Up, when the he was first up from a short spell. Whether Spankem or any of the field see out Tuesday’s distance relies heavily on what kind of run and how they are driven. Purdon looks to have limitless options from barrier 6 with his excellent beginner.   The five time New Zealand Cup winning driver would not be drawn in to talking too many tactics, but hinted that taking a trail could help Spankem show his best.  “One thing is that he will follow any speed, it won’t matter how quick they go, he will follow that speed and come out and show his own high speed.” “The way he has been going he is the horse to beat, so I can afford to drive him with some confidence.” The favourite’s stablemate, Thefixer, comes in to the race in a majorly contrasting situation to Spankem.   There are absolutely no queries over his staying prowess, following his tenacious win in the New Zealand Cup last year. That victory came after hoof problems dogged his preparation, which havr also caused his camp grief again this year. Thefixer appears to be ahead of where he was going in to last year’s race – by being able to race in the Ashburton Flying Stakes and Methven Cup. But, Purdon would not go as far as confirming that. However, the trainer was willing to go one step further and suggest Thefixer was a better horse than when he won last year’s edition. “I think he is a stronger horse than he was last year.” “He is a horse that can make his own luck – and he is probably one of the few in the field that could.” “I am really happy with him and I think over the last fortnight he has really tightened up and he is hitting peak fitness.” Purdon has two more horses that can help he can land him an incredible seventh New Zealand Cup training win and a fourth in partnership with Rasmussen. Chase Auckland has stepped up to the big leagues with excellent performances in open company this season. The 5yr-old has shown impressive staying prowess, especially in his strong Methven Cup win. It looks like Chase Auckland will need to call on that strength to win from the unruly starting position on Tuesday. Purdon is confident that is something he can handle “He is very fit and well and he will go a big race.” Cruz Bromac will return to Addington after producing the hard luck story of last year’s New Zealand Cup. The veteran paced roughly at a vital stage, losing momentum that could have put him in the finishing photo beside Thefixer. Cruz Bromac showed he can still put in rough steps when galloping out of commission in the Ashburton Flying Stakes, before producing a better showing for second behind Classie Brigade in the Kaikoura Cup. With manners and some manoeuvring from driver Blair Orange to keep him off the outside of the track – where he tends to pace roughly – he could go a strong race. “He is probably good enough to move up and at some stage and put himself in the race,” Purdon said. “He just can’t be too wide on the last corner.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Come Tuesday, the big stables will attract the most attention on New Zealand Cup day at Addington, and rightly so. Rolleston’s Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will likely train half the card, and will probably win the day’s $750,000 feature with either of the pre-post favourites, Thefixer and Spankem. Woodend’s Robert and John Dunn have an arsenal of contenders that could see them win a couple of features or least a few on the under card, too. But one local man with a much smaller team is also in the mix and in fact will line up a horse in both the Cup and the day’s feature trot, the Group 1 Trotting Free For All. John Howe, universally known as ‘Coaster’, is a man of the people and if either Didjabringthebeers or Nandolo can find their way in to the money on Tuesday, it will take him half an hour to get back to the stable, such will be the number of hands he has to shake. Loyal as they come, well-liked by his peers and a real social butterfly, that’s Coaster. He wasn’t even really meant to be a full-time professional trainer. But he made it so fun for those involved with him that eventually he couldn’t hold out on it any longer. “I suppose I’ve been in the game for 25 years or so. “I used to break in 80 or 90 a year but was really only training one or two at a time. “It was really only doing the odd one for the Smiths, who own Nandolo. “But I kept getting more and more horses from them and eventually decided to have a real crack.” He’s now trained 175 winners and last season’s 19 was a career-best. His association with fellow ‘West Meltoners’, Phil and Christine Smith started over a beer at their local watering hole, The Swamp. “They were locals at the pub and one day they approach me over a beer and asked if I would train a few for them as their current trainer, Kevin Fairbairn, was semi-retiring. “And it’s just grown from there, really. “They’ve been bloody great for me and it’s all come from socializing.” Nandolo is one of the outsiders in the Cup, but clock-watchers have been quietly impressed with his last two runs in open company and there is a real belief that he can snag some prize money with the right trip. “Ideally, the plan will be to lob three-fence behind two favourites. “I would have thought that was his perfect trip, but do plans ever really fall in to place?” Nandolo, a five-year-old by Betterthancheddar, has found himself in the top grade a year quicker than expected, but he has flourished. “I always thought he would be a cup horse, but probably next year. “Then when the time came for his first race for the season, they capped the field at rating 80 and he was an 81, so he went in with the big boys.” Nandolo is a horse that has been prone to switching off at times, especially in front, but the hot speed of the top grade, and being driven in behind, has unleashed him, according to Howe. “He can reef or pull, or he can be lazy, so we’ve made some gear changes as well for this season and they seem to have worked.” That Howe still has Nandolo to train is thanks to the patience and loyalty of the Smiths, who have, understandably, been overwhelmed with big offers previously for the horse. “The offers have been pretty regular. They turned down good money when he was three. I know because I was there when it came through. “Then I think the same buyers came back later and offered more. “But they’re in it for the fun and thrill of racing; they’re real passionate people and enjoy going to the races.” Loyalty is a fine thing in the racing game. Often talked about, not always enacted. But in the case of trotter Didjabringthebeers, Howe has stuck with a young driver just out of the junior ranks when he could easily have handed the reins to a more experienced driver. Kim Butt has driven him in all 15 of his runs this year and it’s never been a consideration to take her off, according to Howe. “She drove him in a junior drivers’ race this time last year and drove him really well to win. “Terry Chmiel had been driving him to that point and he got back on, but then he broke his ankle in the Show Day smash last year. “So, I said to the owners, how about we give Kim another go? And we haven’t looked back since.” Butt, naturally, couldn’t be more appreciative as she gets ready for her first Group 1 drive on Tuesday. “I can’t thank them enough for letting me stay on the horse; they could have easily have gone back to Terry when he returned to driving. “But that’s the stable for you. They’re pretty relaxed owners, just like Coaster. “It actually takes the pressure off heading in to Cup week with the Free For All and the Dominion. “You don’t worry about messing up for them, because there is no pressure. “Coaster is one best people I’ve ever driven for, actually. He’s very chill and never gives you any instructions.“ The fact Howe has two horses in Group 1s from a comparatively small team is testament to his training ability, Butt reckons. “He sort of goes under the radar a bit, and he only does a smallish team, so it’s no mean feat to have two horses in the biggest races of the year. “And you’ll never find someone to say a bad word about Coaster. “Everybody knows him and everybody loves him. Anywhere he goes, he’ll find a group of people and fit right in. “You just couldn’t find a nicer bloke.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Northern trainer Ray Green thinks the timing is right for his smart three-year olds Line Up and Copy That to step up to harness racing’s elite level in the Sires Stakes Final on New Zealand Cup day.  Line Up and Copy That will face their ultimate tests in the $170,000 group 1 feature after heading the North Island’s ranks with top two finishes in two heats of the series. The pair, together with the Barry Purdon trained Bad To The Bone, come south to clash with their South Island counterparts, who are headed by a massive six-strong team from the all- conquering All Stars stable. Green thinks his pair can test the southerners, especially considering the polish they have put on their all-around games in the past month. ‘‘I think they can be very competitive,’’ the trainer said.  ‘‘I am pretty happy with them, they have done nothing wrong up north running first and second in the two heats they have been in.” ‘‘Everything has gone according to plan, so we will be ready to rock.’’  Green has gone as far as saying Line Up and Copy That could be as competitive as any of that age group he had taken south for the Sires Stakes Final on New Zealand Cup day. The Pukekohe trainer won the race 10 years ago with Sir Lincoln and produced King Of Swing to set up the race’s record time when running second to Chase Auckland two years ago. Line Up and Copy That both head south after refining their manners with their early season starts. Line Up progressed after three solid starts with a career best 1-54.4 mile (1609m) win to frank the booming reputation that he has with northern harness racing followers. Copy That produced a good second in that heat, after a regulation win after leading in a prior heat at Cambridge. The horse’s prior win at Alexandra Park, when he galloped twice in the running including at a vital stage of the run home, that suggests he has the x-factor to challenge the All Stars contingent. Green believes Copy That has the necessary game for group 1 level and Line Up has it, too. ‘‘I wouldn’t like to split them, they are two very nice horses,’’ he said. ‘‘It is going to come down to the runs they get.” ‘‘One thing is for certain, they are definitely sorted for speed, they are both very fast.’’ Line Up and Copy That could get the chance to show off that speed if they drift off the early pace from barriers 5 and 14, respectively. The Robert Dunn trained Above N Beyond and All Stars favourite One Change look the likely early leaders after drawing barriers one and two, respectively. Line Up and Copy That both had quiet hit-outs behind One Change at Wednesday’s New Zealand Cup trials at Addington. Copy That produced an eye-catching effort, going to the line under a hold, just ahead of Line Up, who was not asked for a serious effort. ‘‘They were just there for a look at the track and they both pulled up very well,’’ Green said. ‘‘They came down last Friday and they have both settled in really well.’’  Line Up has been rated a $21 fixed odds win hope, head of Copy That, who was at $31 in early betting for Tuesday’s feature. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The New Zealand Trotting Cup favourites look right on track for our biggest harness race but one of their key dangers has been set an unusual challenge.  Favourite Spankem and defending champion Thefixer are both exactly where they need to be fitness wise after dominating the Cup trial at Addington last night, Spankem grabbing Thefixer on the line in the 2600m standing start.  Spankem was the more impressive, coming from well back in 27.2 for his last 400m but Thefixer was asked to do more work, working to the lead in the middle stages and has clearly improved in the last few weeks after a delayed start to the spring.  Their Cup trial wasn’t the only good news backers of the pair had yesterday as they drew ideally at barriers six (Spankem) and seven for next Tuesday’s $750,000 great race at Addington.  Both have good standing start manners and if they show them again they look perfectly placed to settle handy, with the almost certainly desired scenario for their camp being them lead and trailing. If they do it is hard to see one of them not winning.  The two horses most likely to park either of the All Stars favourites out would be Kaikoura Cup winner Classie Brigade (barrier eight) and Aussie visitor San Carlo, who has drawn the ace.  But the hard-charging Victorian veteran is in the almost unheard of situation of the NZ Cup being his first ever standing start race and he has only ever had one standing start trial, and that was against just two opponents a month ago.  That is hardly ideal in any race, let alone the New Zealand Cup which has seen some dreadful standing starts in recent years but driver Bec Bartley doesn’t seem concerned. “He is a really relaxed horse, I think he will be fine,” says 28-year-old Bartley. “It is hard to get standing start trials here (Victoria) since we don’t have races for the pacers any more but I am not too worried about it.” Also facing a tricky draw is Sundees Son (one on the second line) in Tuesday’s $100,000 NZ Trot Free-For-All and he didn’t instil punters with confidence by galloping at yesterday’s trials. The field for the New Zealand Trotting Cup on Tuesday.— $750,000, 3200m, 5.12pm: San Carlo (1), Hail Christian (2), Henry Hurbert (3), Our Uncle Sam (4), Nandolo (5), Spankem (6), Thefixer (7), Classie Brigade (8), Cruz Bromac (9), Smokin By (10), A G’s White Socks (11), Mach Shard (12), Chase Auckland (ur).   by Michael Guerin

When and if Self Assured lines up in the NZ Free for All on Show day at Addington it will be either his 10th or 11th start, probably the 10th. If he wins, history will be made. No horse has ever won the NZ Free for All with so few starts going back to the first edition in 1914. He will not be the first four year old to win the race of course. By a long shot. All Stars have already posted wins at 4 by Ultimate Machete, Lazarus, Auckland Reactor, Young Rufus and Il Vicolo on their own. It was Ultimate Machete’s first try in open company a singular achievement at such a young age. A decade before Lordship, underlining what a great horse he was, added the Free for All to his NZ Cup win at 4 in an era of pacing giants beating the mighty Cardigan Bay in the process. His was one of the most popular wins in the history of Addington for the little black who was one of the most stylish and courageous horses ever seen on the track given his bouts of injury and the long marks he had to run from. Walk into some liquor locations on a Saturday even now and someone will tell you Lordship was the greatest of all. Self Assured may yet show he is in that class. Think of it for a moment. He had not raced until May. He has never been further back than third in a race even though thrown in the deep end having to compete against the best open horses around after his three year old Queensland campaign when unbeaten. All of the other four year olds to have won this race had a lot more experience. But there is one exception even though it was outside of the NZ Free for All. Self Assured’s grandad, Christian Cullen, put up one of the most astonishing performances of modern times winning a $100,000 Free for All at the Addington Cup meeting-as a three year old! It wasn’t the official free for all but a brave promotion at the time by the Met (who said clubs can’t be innovative given the chance ?) to lift the final night of the meeting, a G1 event over 1950m-the first time the distance had been tried- with bonus payments for pacesetters. The race was full of talent. Anvil’s Star was second, Brabham third andrise Master Musician further back. While Lordship won a free for all as a three year old it was in the autumn. No horse of that age ever looked like winning an all aged free for all in November. To be truthful none had ever tried Christian Cullen did. A week after he won the Sires Stakes final So perhaps no surprise his grandson who will have had fewer starts by FFA day could add another record. It was Christian Cullen’s 12th start the night he made history. Self Assured can top that in one respect if he can win on Show Day More of the same only better could be coming up!   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

The word is out and plans are well underway with QHR Ltd assisting Addington Raceway & Events Centre in promoting the world’s first Fast10 Horse Racing event being held at Addington Raceway on 20 December. There has been a lot of work behind the scenes to ensure everyone in the industry will benefit from this exciting new horse racing extravaganza. Get your groups together for your end of year function. A couple of hours with 10 exciting sprint harness races, a sumptuous luncheon and after match entertainment on course. Book now on the Addington Event page link. https://www.addington.co.nz/events-centre/events/fast10-horse-racing/ Pure racing, pure excitement, pure fun, Fast10 Horse Racing will be something that NZ horse racing has never seen before. It will cater for everyone, from true racing enthusiasts, to a completely new fan base and also reignite the passion for those who may have fallen away. There will still be lots for the experienced punter, but there will be some easy betting packages for those unfamiliar to betting. New fans can follow lucky colours, with the brightly coloured saddlecloths and caps making your horse easily identified. The horses and drivers will be profiled as the heroes of the day. An Information Stand will be set up at Addington after Cup Week to provide details to the trainers and drivers on how the event will run and what is expected to make this work. This will also give them the opportunity to offer their thoughts and feedback. If you have any questions about the event please contact Glenn Hames E: ghames.qhr@gmail.com M: 027 203 2746

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