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Trainer Adrienne Matthews is in for a record night at Alexandra Park this evening. And why that doesn’t mean she will train a winner the fact she has seven starters at the second Auckland meeting of harness racing’s comeback is a huge feat in its self. “I have had seven starters at a Manawatu meeting once but never at Alexandra Park,” says the Glenbrook horsewoman. “That is a lot of starters at a meeting up here for us so I am looking forward to it. But to be honest I am just enjoying being back at the races after the lockdown.” It is still some effort from a smaller stable to have seven starters at an Alexandra Park meeting, including winning chances like The Blue Beat (race eight). “We were kind of lucky that we have our own track at home so could be up and running quickly after lockdown and some of them are racing really well.” Matthews is a popular member of the northern harness racing community, having cut her teeth in harness racing with the likes of Ray Norton and Geoff Small. “I actually got into racing a bit later than a lot of people do because I played rep netball and that was my main focus out of school. “I played for the North Shore and West Auckland at the level just below what was then the Coca Cola Cup but started to get more involved with the horses around 21,” said the now 38-year-old. She starts tonight with two chances in race two, the in-form Letherhairdown and Fortune Smile, who is fresh up. “Letherhairdown is racing well but this is a nice enough field so she might be a better place chance while Fortune Smile was all but retired. “She had soreness issues in her hind legs and we were going to break her in for a saddle horse but then an abscess burst out and she was sound enough to put back into work. “She lacks a bit of speed but tries hard.” Maiden trotter Cepheus (race three) has the ability to win races but Matthews says a second-start scare has dented his confidence. “He ran fourth on debut but in his second start the horse next to him came across at the start and pushed him into another horse and and since then he has been worried every start that the other horses are coming to get him at the start. “He is getting slowly better but it might take a few more starts yet to get his confidence back.” Johnson Step (race four) was attacked in front at Cambridge last week but still faded more than he should have late and steps into a stronger maiden field tonight. “I think he might be back on the inside and this looks like a tough race for him to win.” Matthews is hoping the stable’s trotting star The Hulk can make a better beginning in race seven tonight to help him navigate the final bend smoothly. “Getting in and trotting roughly on that last bend has been his weakness and to overcome that it is better if he is on the markers near the lead so hopefully he can be there. “But he is still better left-handed.” The other problem for The Hulk is the depth of the field, with plenty of potential future open class trotters in what will be the highlight of the night, headlined by brilliant last start winner Kay Cee. The Blue Beat meets some handy opposition in race eight but Matthews says the lockdown was a blessing for the four-year-old mare. “She is a very big mare and has been a bit awkward growing into herself but that break during lockdown really aided her and she paces a lot smoother now she has strengthened up,” says Matthews. “So I think she will be a better mare this campaign but she isn’t a sit sprint horse so I am hoping Jay (Abernethy, driver) can get her off the inside and sit in the running line this week.” The last on the card tonight for the amateur drivers gives Matthews the chance to repay loyal stable supporter Bruce Hadley with another drive on Edamfast. “Bruce has been great to us, always willing to help out when we short staffed on the weekends,” she explains. “I think he can win a race on this horse but he is a funny horse to drive in that you have to make him do it and last week he got a bit lazy. “Because of that I don’t think one on the second line suits him on Thursday, especially following out a horse who might not have enough gate speed to lead.”   Michael Guerin

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Zachary Butcher was pleased to record his first win back in the sulky since racing’s COVID-19 enforced hiatus when reining home Whiskey Neat to win over 2200m at Alexandra Park on Thursday night. To top it off, Butcher also trains the three-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight, making the win even more special for the South Auckland horseman. Whiskey Neat finished third on debut at Cambridge Raceway on Sunday and Butcher said she took a lot of benefit from the run and that proved to be the case on Thursday. She was sent forward by Butcher to take an early lead, with the pair able to dictate terms throughout and run away to a 1-1/4 length victory over Romanee. “The run probably suited her more tonight, she was out and rolling, which she likes,” Butcher said. “She got a bit caught up the other day and got stuck in behind them, but hit the line well. It was a good learning experience for her and it has all worked out for tonight.” Butcher was impressed with the way she won on Thursday and he is looking forward to the future with her. “She’s a typical Bettor’s Delight. They put a length on them and they shut up shop and just do what they have to,” he said. “She had a bit left in the tank, which is a positive heading up into the next grade. “Hopefully we can get a few more wins with her.” Whiskey Neat will now likely head to Cambridge Raceway later this month and Butcher said it will be interesting to see how she handles the step-up in grade. “It’s pretty hard with our grading system now,” he said. “When they win a few you are up against five and six win horses. “From only having two starts it can be hard work. She is not the biggest horse, so we will just take our time with her. “We will give her three or four days off now and maybe head to Cambridge and see what we can do there. “She will tell us where she is at and we will just go along quietly.” Butcher had a good night at the office, placing in his three other drives on the six-race card. He was particularly impressed with Sertorius’ runner-up effort and he believes the son of Muscles Yankee could have an exciting winter instore. “I was really happy with Sertorius,” he said. “Over 2200m, and off 20m, he begun really quick. “He is a horse that you have had to watch early, but he began like a rocket tonight. He did a little bit of work midrace and hit the line strong. “He probably got done by a bit of speed, but looking at him you think a few more runs under his belt he could have a nice winter campaign.” Butcher was able to toast Whiskey Neat’s victory earlier than he would have liked to as a result of the small card, but he is hopeful normality will return in the coming months. “I would rather be going home later and have more races and more horses and owners here, but it is what it is,” he said. “We are coming out of a tough time and hopefully if everyone keeps putting in and doing a bit extra, we will be back there soon enough. “For a start I’ll be back home to have a few beers and celebrate the win.” – Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

Kay Cee’s win at Alexandra Park on Thursday night summed up his life. Because it didn’t start well but turned out perfectly. The five-year-old produced the performance of the night at Alexandra Park’s return to racing meeting, having to overcome a rare early gallop to loop the field late and win like a horse with a future. It wasn’t the first time Kay Cee has shown open class ability, trotting a super fast 2200m stand time when winning two starts ago just before Covid-19 closed racing down. But as good as he was winning back then his performance on Thursday night was at a different level because he beat some talented rivals, including stablemates Sertorius and Tricky Ric to give John and Josh Dickie the trifecta. “He actually got a check early which is why he broke cause that is very unlike him,” said John Dickie. “But it was a big win under those circumstances.” His fourth win from 14 starts mirrored the start to his career, which was anything but ideal. “He spent about 18 months on a farm down at Raglan as a young horse and he didn’t even start breaking into until he was three. “And he could be a real bugger. He had a real streak in him which some of that family can do. “But he can trot and he will follow any speed so I think he will end up in open class.” Later in the programme the Dickie’s completed a double in the night’s feature trot races when Daisy Hill bolted away with the R48-61 trot, continuing their great start to harness racing’s comeback. Kay Cee wasn’t the only winner on Thursday night who had to overcome a setback with Warloch coming from a wide draw and without an ideal preparation to win the feature pace. Like so many of the Pukekohe-trained horses Warloch has had less miles in his legs that trainer Michael House would want because their training track was close. “But I wanted to support the racing up there so I told the guys to line the horses up,” said House. “I realised they couldn’t be at their peak but they could also race into form.” Warloch was still good enough to record the eighth win of his career in the hands of Peter Ferguson as he edged his way toward $100,000 in stakes, making him one of the best performed stock of sire Well Said in this country.   Michael Guerin

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Northern horseman Zachary Butcher is looking forward to backing up Whiskey Neat in the Go On “Lather Up” With Woodlands Stud Mobile Pace (2200m) at Alexandra Park on Thursday night. The three-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight made her debut over 2200m at Cambridge on Sunday and impressed her trainer-driver when running home well to finish third behind Doc Holiday. “She went pretty well, but got held up a wee bit,” Butcher said. “They only waddled around, which didn’t suit her and she got hunted up the passing lane after being held up. “It was her first-up run so hopefully she will get better with it. We have a better draw (3) on Friday, so hopefully she will go well.” Butcher has been pleased with the way she has pulled up after Sunday and he believes she has taken a lot of improvement out of the run. “I thought I had her looking spot on heading into Sunday, but I think she looks better coming out of it,” he said. TAB bookmakers share Butcher’s confidence, installing her as a $2.30 favourite for Thursday’s contest ahead of Kuyomi ($3.60) and Doubtless Bay ($4.80). Butcher is into his second season of training and he said he is enjoying working his small team of three horses. “It’s good fun, at least you can put all your attention into the couple that you are doing, so they get a little bit of extra TLC,” he said. “I am more leaning towards enjoying that side of things at the moment. Obviously I will always stick with driving, it is my main income earner, but the training side is definitely a different buzz. It’s great, I really enjoy it.” Butcher will also hop in the cart on Thursday night to drive Manchester On Fire and Parker, but he is particularly looking forward to seeing how the John and Joshua Dickie-trained Sertorius performs in the Speeding Spur At Woodlands Stud Handicap Trot (2200m) after he drove the 8-win trotter at two recent workouts. “He has been good and will be better for those two runs,” Butcher said. “Tricky Ric and a few others have drawn in front of him and they are trialling up pretty well too. “The mark (20m) is not going to help him a lot, but he has definitely got the ability and if he steps well and puts himself in a position, he will be thereabouts.”

Champion trainer Barry Purdon is happy to be heading back to the races but he admits he would like to be taking twice as many horses. Purdon returns to his home track at Alexandra Park on Thursday night for the first horse racing meeting in Auckland since lockdown began way back in late March. The meeting has attracted only the six races, possibly as the trainers of many of those who resumed at Cambridge last Sunday would be reluctant to back up just four days later after such a long break from racing. But that doesn’t affect Purdon as he was only aiming two horses at the meeting in Major Jellis and On The Cards, with the latter not getting a run in the night’s major pace. He as eliminated for being too highly assessed and while disappointed Purdon can see both sides of the argument. “I feel for his owner Dennis Thompson because he kept the horse going through the winter,” says Purdon. “So I would have liked to see him get a start and I have always believed if there is a race for your horse and he is good enough to start he should get a start. “But I also understand the other side of the argument because he would have been by far the tightest assessed horse in the race. “So even if he had to have a concession driver on I would have liked to see him start but in this case, I can see why he didn’t get in.” On The Cards would have added some comeback class to the meeting but he may have endangered the rating 58 to 77 mobile pace from getting off the ground as even with a preferential draw he would have been on the front line and probably crossed his rivals, led and won. It also would have meant an Inter Dominion finalist starting off the same mark as a horse like Dress Sense, who while unbeaten has only won two minor races at Cambridge and couldn’t be asked to race a horse like On The Cards off levels marks. As Purdon said, two sides to an argument and not as easy one to solve at this time of the year during Covid-19 comeback mode with a small already elite level horse pool. Even without On The Cards, Purdon can still win the $12,000 pacing race of the night as he has Major Jellis drawn the ace and he beat On The Cards at the Pukekohe workouts last Saturday. “He is going well and he has shown some gate speed in the past so he will be a good chance,” said Purdon. The stable’s stars Mach Shard and Belle Of Montana have pleased Purdon early in their campaigns, with Belle Of Montana having her first hoppled run this time in on Tuesday morning. “They could both be back racing in late August and I think I could have quite good numbers to be back racing then.” While Thursday’s meeting will be a short and sharp return for the home of northern harness racing the feature trot has secured a nice field and will provide the highlight of the night. One horse who won’t be there is Kratos, last season’s Breeders Crown champion who had been scheduled for a return this week but now needs a bone chip operation and a spell.   Michael Guerin

Return to harness racing at Alexandra Park, commences on Thursday 4 June, without spectators.  ‚Äč The only people permitted to attend meetings will be those drivers competing at the meeting, trainers with runners engaged at the meeting, stable staff of those trainers as advised to the club, and essential race day personnel. Whilst we will still not have spectators on-course, we encourage you to watch from home on Trackside 62 or 63. Or for interviews with drivers and behind the scenes footage keep an eye on our social channels. via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! The Alex/TAB & Gaming Room will be open with a limit of 100 guests but there will be no access trackside.  Given this limited number, we expect there may be queues to get in.  However, if getting out of the house appeals, in addition to The Alex, both Grand Park - Chinese Restaurant and the new Lonestar Alexandra Park will be open for dining with the same limitations. At this stage the protocols are expected to remain in place until at least 22 June 2020.  

Sometimes the seemingly smallest change can make a very large difference. And plenty of northern trainers are hoping one of the changes brought in to cater for the new racing programme as we prepare to return to racing might pre-empt a more permanent change for good. Workouts and trials return around the country next week and in the Auckland region that will see a shift to Friday’s for the regular Pukekohe workouts and trials, starting next week. The change is possible because neither Alexandra Park nor Cambridge will be racing on Friday for the remainder of the season as they have been given other dates as HRNZ and RITA test the waters for what could possibly work heading forward. Racing will definitely return to Alexandra Park on Fridays next season. Yet for now all the trainers spoken to love the idea of Friday workouts, or any weekday instead of Saturday, to give their staff at a chance at a normal Saturday. At the moment trainers tend to race Friday night at Alexandra Park, many not getting to bed until well into the new day and then have to rise early the next morning to work horses before transporting others to the workouts. Not only does that make for a brutal and potentially unsafe workload on a lack of sleep but after leaves many staff with no chance of a Saturday off. “I have never been a fan of Saturday workouts,” says champion horseman Tony Herlihy. “For me they come too close after the races on Friday night and sometimes after we have raced both Thursday and Friday. “And it is hard for not only us but the staff. They want to be able to have some sort of weekend like other people and enjoy themselves a bit. “I was actually one of the people who really resisted Saturday workouts and I wouldn’t go to them for a while until they became the norm and I had no choice. “I think Friday is a good fit for now while we aren’t racing on Fridays and then I’d prefer to see them go back to a weekday.” Herlihy has two horses ready to qualify in coming weeks and says he will support the return to racing date in the north of May 31 at Cambridge with small numbers and more so as his race team builds. Josh Dickie, who trains with his father John, says they have good numbers in work and will also be at Cambridge although a couple of their team will need to wait for Auckland as the tentative Cambridge programmes of a R40 and faster 2200m trot will be too tough on better grade trotters. “We don’t wan’t to be starting horses fresh up off a big handicap, that is how you can get to the bottom of them,” explains Josh Dickie. “But we expect to have horses at Cambridge and at the workouts within two weeks. “We love the idea of Friday workouts for now and a weekday heading forward because Saturday is tough on everybody. “It is hard on the staff, telling them they have to work long hours on a Saturday and makes it harder for them to have anything like a normal life.” One of the busier trainers in the north is Steve Telfer who has plenty of horses in work and could have 10 to 12 ready for May 31. “I am not saying we will take that many to Cambridge and some of our might not get a start because it looks like the main pace there could be capped at R65 but we are hoping there is some flexibility around that as we have horses in the 70s and 80s (ratings) who we would like to take there. “But we have a lot of horses back in work now and will have good numbers at the first two meetings.” As for a shift away from Saturday morning workouts Telfer likes the idea of a change. “We often work quite a few of ours fast on a Saturday at home so to have the option to have a busy morning there and be finished rather than going to the workouts the day after the races would suit us better.”   Michael Guerin

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk  South Auckland horseman Tony Herlihy had a good night at the office at Alexandra Park on Friday night, recording a driving treble and training double. The night was headlined for Herlihy by regally-bred filly Platinum who was able to topple $1.30 favourite Sky Delight to take out the Magness Benrow Sires’ Stakes 2YOF (H1) Mobile Pace (1700m). The daughter of multiple Group One winner De Lovely stalked her more fancied opponent the entire trip and was able to utilise the passing lane to win by 1-3/4 lengths. “She went really well, got a lovely trip and finished it off really well,” Herlihy said. “I thought she was a good chance of being right there, but I thought Barry’s (Purdon, trainer) one might have been a little bit smart for us. But she has improved a bit, so that was good.” Platinum finished fifth in the Gr.2 Delightful Lady Stakes (1700m) at Alexandra Park a fortnight prior and Herlihy was pleased to see an improved performance from the promising juvenile. "She was a fraction disappointing there and perhaps didn’t quite back-up from the week before, being a big filly at this stage,” he said. “The two weeks in-between runs seemed to suit her tonight.” Herlihy is now looking forward to a busy couple of months with Platinum, which he hopes will culminate with a tilt at the Jewels at Cambridge Raceway in May. “She has got a bit of racing coming up heading towards the Jewels,” he said. “There’s a sales series race coming up as well, so there is a bit there for her.” While Barry Purdon tasted defeat at the hands of Herlihy in the race, earlier in the card the pair united to take out the Jacobsen Headstones Mobile Pace (2200m) with On The Cards. After being stuck three-wide early in the piece from their wide draw, Herlihy elected to press forward with his charge and take control of the race. The son of Bettor’s Delight didn’t relinquish his lead and was able to hold out a game Double Rocket to win by 1-1/4 lengths, with the Purdon-trained Wainui Creek a further head away in third. “I have driven him a couple of times before and he has always raced well. He is a good, honest horse,” Herlihy said. “He got to the front nicely and it worked out well.”  LL Cool J completed a training double and driving treble for Herlihy when he won the “Ahh Gimme That Schweppes” Mobile Pace (2200m).  “He is a nice, honest big fella, and he got around good,” Herlihy said.  “The draw (8) made it a little bit awkward, but when I got around to the front without doing too much, it certainly made it a lot easier for him. He stuck to his guns really well.”  – Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Last start Group One winner Wainui Creek will take her next step towards another elite-level target when she lines-up in the Jacobsen Headstones Mobile Pace (2200m) at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The four-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight was victorious in the Gr.1 NZ Standardbred Breeders’ Stakes (2600m) at Addington last month and trainer Barry Purdon has been pleased with her work since then. “It was a great win last start by Wainui Creek,” he said. “She got a great run, tried hard, and managed to get there. “She has just had the one trial since she came back. I think she probably should have gone a bit better (third), but her work was good on Wednesday morning, so that’s all you can go on.” All going well after Friday night, Wainui Creek will likely be set for a couple of Group One targets on her home track before the the Jewels in May. “Hopefully we will head towards the Taylor Mile (Gr.1, 1609m) and just make a decision after that whether the Messenger (Gr.1, 2700m) is on the cards,” Purdon said. “We are ticking over for the Jewels really.” Wainui Creek will be joined in her Friday assignment by stablemate On The Cards who also takes some great form into the race, with two Group placings in his last two starts. “On The Cards also worked well on Wednesday morning and I think they both come in pretty well off in that race,” Purdon said. “On The Cards has done well. He always gives his best, he is one of those horses. He should go well on Friday.” Purdon will also line-up Sunny Glenis and Jemma on Friday night, but he is particularly excited about Sky Delight, the half-sister to multiple Group One winner Sky Major, in the Magness Benrow Sires’ Stakes 2YOF (H1) Mobile Pace (1700m). The two-year-old filly has finished runner-up in both of her starts to date, including the Gr.2 Delightful Lady Classic (1700m) at Alexandra Park a fortnight ago. “Sky Delight is a really nice filly and she is going to be competitive in the big races,” Purdon said. “She has worked well and we gave her a bit of a run on Saturday morning and she was really good. I am really looking forward to her lining up, she has got a nice draw (1). “She will probably head to the Sires’ Stakes and then the Sales Series for the fillies and then onto the Jewels. She will have plenty coming up, that’s for sure.”  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

We understand that the global COVID-19 situation is raising unprecedented concerns for some events and conferences.  Our Management team is awaiting the Government announcement expected for the 17th March before our policy will be finalised around COVID-19 event disruption along with our broader ability to host events. As a sports events venue and function centre with the capability to host events from 10 to 10,000 guests clarity around the size and scope of activities permitted is integral to our business response. The current operating environment is unlike anything experienced before in New Zealand. As such, we are working to implement an operational and commercial framework around these new, interim measures as well as remaining agile to a fast-moving and constantly changing situation. This fluidity is possibly the most significant challenge in formalising policy and procedures. We are optimistic about partnering with our clients to achieve the best outcomes for each of our businesses in these challenging times. In doing so for those concerned about holding their event, we would urge consideration to deferment as opposed to cancellation and will be keen to explore ways in making this a preferred option for our clients. Advice from Ministry of Health for public events and mass gatherings If you are an event organiser, you should focus on: 1. Reminding your staff and guests not to attend if they are feeling unwell 2. Reminding your staff and guests not to attend if they have been to any country except those listed in Category 2 (excluding airport transit) in the past 14 days 3. Briefing your event staff on how to practice good hygiene and making it easy for staff and attendees to practice good hygiene.  Alexandra Park are committed to this for the benefit of both our staff and guests.  For more information, please visit Ministry of Health

By Joshua Smith    Former training partners Simon McMullan and Steven Reid are set to reunite at Alexandra Park on Friday night. McMullan will line-up Group One performer Princess Jessie in the Colleen Edmonds – Happy 88th Birthday Mobile Pace (1609m) and the West Melton trainer has convinced his former boss to get back in the cart. Reid will don the same green and white silks of Woodlands Stud he wore to victory behind Shes No Lady in the Gr.2 Delightful Lady Classic (1700m) last week. With regular driver Jonny Cox back in Canterbury, McMullan was only too happy to hand the reins to Reid. “That other filly went very well last week,” McMullan said. “With the two fillies raced by the same group of owners I didn’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be happy for Steven to fill the seat while Jonny (Cox) is down here.” McMullan was pleased with Princess Jessie’s last-start placing in the Gr.1 Northern Oaks (1700m) at Alexandra Park a fortnight ago and he believes she will be a strong contender on Friday. “We are really happy with her, she didn’t get around the last bend that well in the Northern Oaks, but we have changed around a little bit of gear and worked on her with that and she is definitely steering a bit better now, so she should go a good race,” he said. “I thought it was a tough run, she looked like she was only going to run about fifth at the top of the straight and then she kicked back to run third. She is a gutsy filly and it was a top run.” The three-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight has a strong record at a mile, having won two of her three starts at the distance. However, her wide draw of six does pose a slight concern for McMullan. “Back to a mile this week, she has won twice over the distance, so fingers-crossed she can do it again,” he said. “But those mile races can be a bit tricky when you are a drawn wide. If she doesn’t get the right trip and it is a sprint home, that won’t suit her. She needs to be on the pace.” Princess Jessie could be set to stay north for one more run before returning south to tackle the Gr.1 New Zealand Oaks (2600m). “We will see how she goes on Friday,” McMullan said. “If she goes as well as we are hoping she will there is a fillies and mares race that I have got lined-up before she comes back down south for the Oaks. “If she doesn’t steer that well I will just bring her home.” While already Group One-placed as a three-year-old, McMullan believes she is only just starting to fulfil her potential. “I really do think she is going to be a nice mare next season,” he said. “She is starting to do what I always thought she could. Her two wins prior to the Northern Oaks were very impressive.” McMullan is currently working four horses from his West Melton barn and he said Woodlands Stud have been a big part of kicking off his solo training career. “I had trained a couple of horses for them in partnership with Steven, prior to coming down south,” he said.  “I was trying to kick-off as a young trainer. I had success looking after Victors Delight for Paul and Mary Kenny, so I asked them along with Andrew Grierson if I could train a horse for them and they have given me a go, which was great.” McMullan is enjoying Princess Jessie’s recent success and he is hoping that will help in opening up more opportunities for his growing stable.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Joshua Smith    Steven Reid made a rare appearance in the sulky on Friday night and he made it count, steering home Shes No Lady to victory in the Gr.2 Delightful Lady Classic (1700m) at Alexandra Park. The South Auckland horseman hadn’t saluted the judge since 2018 and while he was delighted to break his driving drought he was more excited about getting the win for Woodlands Stud. The stud farm bred the filly and races her under their Woodlands Partnership Syndicate, which consists of a number of high profile athletes, including former All Black captain Kieran Read. “I have trained for Woodlands a little bit in the past, but I have never driven a winner for them,” Reid said. “I know fillies are a big thing for them, so to train and drive a Group Two winner for them was a really good moment. “It cements the relationship hopefully. They have stuck by me and I returned the favour tonight.” While pleased with the win, Reid said his presence out on track was only a matter of circumstance, having become a bit disillusioned with her starting manners. “She ran a really good second first-up,” he said. “Zac Butcher drove her in her next start and she didn’t school up behind the gate, she galloped out. He hopped off and I let Todd Mitchell drive her last week and she pretty much did the same thing again. “Kelly Blakemore said to me after the race last week that I should drive her. I had a bit of a theory to getting her away, so I spoke with Andrew Grierson (Woodlands Stud principal) and we decided I should drive her.” Reid put his theory into practice and it paid off, with the daughter of Sweet Lou beginning well from gate two. “My whole focus before the race was about getting her to pace and be with the field as the gate left,” he said. “I just went up and put her straight onto the gate before we started moving and that really seemed to help her. “I wasn’t thinking she was going to be a realistic chance of winning, but when I got out into the running line over by the 800m she was travelling really well. “She is extremely genuine and she is a good stayer. I knew they had burnt a bit of gas early and when she started to come into it at the 400m I thought she could definitely run a place. “Then they came back to her in the last wee bit and she just kept going.” Although buoyed by his success on Friday night, Reid is not overly keen to make a regular return to the sulky. “I ran into Andrew Grierson as I was leaving and he said to me that I have got to stay driving her now,” Reid said. “We are targeting the Jewels with her and I don’t really know that I want to be driving in the Jewels. “I don’t really want to get into the driving side, I think my days of that are really done. “I don’t mind driving the odd nice one or something like tonight.” Meanwhile, Star Galleria will head to the spelling paddock after his unplaced run in the Gr.2 City Of Auckland Mobile Pace (2200m). “I was very disappointed with his run,” Reid said. “He trialled amazingly two weeks ago but something happened between that trial and last week and he went awful. “We did a blood on him and his blood was not 100 percent, but we treated him. “That performance on Friday night is not even close to how good he is, so he is going to go to the paddock and have six to eight weeks off. “We are going to be coming back at a time where there may not be a lot of opportunities for him up here, so we will just have to assess what we do. “I will talk to the owners about it in the next couple of days and make a call.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Joshua Smith    Promising juvenile Krug continued his impressive run of form on Friday night when taking out the Gr.1 Breckon Farms Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes (1700m) at Alexandra Park on Friday night. It was the first victory at elite-level for the son of Bettor’s Delight and took his tally to three wins and a placing from just the four starts. Nathan Purdon, who trains Krug in partnership with Cran Dalgety, was confident of a good showing from the colt after his last start victory in the Gr.3 Sapling Stakes (1609m) at Ashburton last month. “He’s right up there with some of those top two-year-olds, so I thought he would go a good race,” he said. “The way he trained during the week, he was as good as we could have him on the day.” Punters shared the same confidence, backing Krug into $1.50 favouritism and he did not disappoint. Driver Blair Orange took advantage of Krug’s gate speed, taking an early lead before handing up to the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained It’s All About Faith. Krug was given a perfect trip in the trail and was too classy for his opposition in the straight, running away to a 2-1/4 length victory over It’s All About Faith, with Platinum Stride a further 1-1/4 lengths back in third. “He is very versatile and very fast,” Purdon said. “In saying that, he can do the work too, he is a pretty classy two-year-old. “He came out of the gate strong. He is beautifully gaited, so that always helps. “He just took a sit behind Dad’s one. Blair said he never got too keen, he travelled well all the way, he just didn’t want to go down to the lane. It’s just more an inexperienced thing than anything.” Purdon is in his first year training in partnership with Cran Dalgety and despite already achieving Group One success as a trainer, Purdon said getting the win on Friday night with the $155,000 NZB Standardbred Yearling Sale purchase was an indescribable feeling. “It’s a feeling you can’t explain, it’s something that money can’t buy really,” Purdon said. “To work with a horse all the time, and to prep it up from a young horse to where it is now, is a great thrill.” “The season is ticking away pretty well, it’s the second Group One for the season. I certainly didn’t go into the season thinking that would happen.” Purdon is now looking forward to giving Krug a quick freshen-up before a possible tilt at the Gr.2 Welcome Stakes (1980m) at Addington Raceway next month. “We will get him home and let him tell us if he wants to keep going,” Purdon said. “We thought we may give him a bit of a break but if he seems well when we get home he may go to the Welcome Stakes. “But at this stage he will go to the paddock for a few weeks anyway.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The filly who entered the elitist of harness racing’s clubs last night is going to be for sale. Because that is how Jean Feiss, the owner of last night’s stunning Woodlands Derby winner Amazing Dream, operates. Last week’s Oaks winner added the $200,000 Derby at Alexandra Park last night, cruising past the high profile boys in national record time after she sat off the searing early speed. While the tempo suited her she was still too strong up the straight to Copy That and a very brave One Change, who was forced to sit parked after being beaten for early speed. Amazing Dream is the first filly to win the Northern Derby since Ripper’s Delight in 1975 and very few ever achieve it in harness racing because, unlike in thoroughbred racing, the fillies race off level marks and with no advantage against the boys. The winner of 11 of her 18 career starts Amazing Dream has developed into a potential all-time great filly and still has the Nevele R Final, NZ Oaks and Jewels to go to put the exclamation mark on her three-year-old season. But while she may race on, she will eventually be sold as Victorian-based owner Feiss doesn’t breed from her horses, having already sold outstanding fillies like Spanish Armada and Elle Mac. She prefers to buy at the yearling sales, where she has an outstanding strike rate, and race but leaves the breeding to others so the phone is sure to run hot for the right to own a filly who has already won over $600,000. Amazing Dream was driven by co-trainer Mark Purdon and earlier in the night his son Nathan, who trains in partnership with Cran Dalgety, trained his first Group One winner in NZ when Krug bolted away with the $100,000 Breckon Farms Young Guns Final.   Michael Guerin

By Frank Marrion courtesy of the HarnessXpress There were no surprises when Anton Golino trained a Group 1 double for Yabby Dam Farms at Melton last Saturday night. The Pat Driscoll-driven operation has been dominating the Victorian trotting features for a while now. But in what was a massive weekend all around, and somewhat outside the square, Driscoll also won the G3 Northern Trotting Stakes with Pretty Majestic in near record time the night before at Alexandra Park, and pacing mare Soundslikeart wrapped things up with her third win in recent months late in the day at Addington on Sunday. The latter was quite brilliant in picking up the pace making favourite Woman In Gold after being badly held up three fence on the home turn. It was a return to winning form after a double at Mot and Nelson back in the New Year, and while she had been placed a few times since, she had mostly been beating herself. “If you think she is unpredictable at the moment, you should see her without Regumate,” said Driscoll. A four-year-old daughter of Art Major and the New Zealand mare Sounds Alive, Soundslikeart won a couple of races as a two-year-old at Bathurst in June, 2018, but she became a notorious bad actor when Australia banned the use of Regumate for race horses. She came to New Zealand late last year and has won $21,000 since, with the prospect of much more in store. Pretty Majestic came over at the same time and she has been nothing short of a revelation, except to Driscoll and Golino. “She won the Victoria Trotting Oaks and was one of the top three-year-old trotters going around two years ago, but then a shoeing mishap in an early trial pretty much wrecked her entire four-year-old season. “We wound up sending her to Robert (Dunn) in Auckland because there wasn’t much here for trotting mares unless you are in FFA class and she is even better going right handed.” Driscoll is always looking to off load horses where possible from the extensive Ballarat operation due to having great difficulty keeping good staff. “You could say we’re always trying to reduce the number of horses in training rather than trying to increase the number of people employed here. “As such we’ve leased a lot of horses out which have been doing very well just lately. “Anton is not afraid to race a two-year-old if it’s got the natural ability, but mostly he’s about developing potential over time.” Former Robert Dunn employee Jack MacKinnon has been helping out Golino for about a year along with Sweden’s Marica Erikson. Since a very unlucky first up seventh at Alexandra Park at Christmas, when hopelessly blocked for a run in the straight, Pretty Majestic has raced six times for four wins and two seconds for stakes worth over $60,000. She was beaten a neck by Tickle Me Pink second up on New Year’s Eve and by a head by Kenny’s Dream in late January. She has pretty much been going from strength to strength and was unbeaten in three starts in February. After beating Kenny’s Dream at Alexandra Park when they both came off 50m, Pretty Majestic showed she is not that bad going left handed either when also quite brilliant in coming from last on the home turn to win the Waikato Breeders Stakes from 50m at Cambridge. When she handsomely won again last Friday night, Pretty Majestic was just .2 of a second outside of Pride Of Petite’s national 2700m record for mares set 23 years ago. Driscoll is unsure what the future holds for Pretty Majestic now that she has reached a 93 rating, but clearly she is up to a crack at the Anzac and Rowe Cups in May. “My focus is the breeding side of the game. When it comes to the racing side, I just let the trainers do their own thing and I haven’t even spoken to the Dunns since those mares went over.” Pretty Majestic is a five-year-old daughter of Majestic Son and belongs to the Maori tribe and Driscoll will let her dictate when she is ready to be a broodmare. “I think I’ll wind up leaving a few horses over there and have a boutique breeding set up, although I don’t know where yet.” At one time Driscoll had most of his broodmares and racehorses in New Zealand and was looking at setting up a large showplace farm like the one he has near Ballarat. But the red tape around overseas investment in farms in New Zealand precluded that and he was a big loss to the harness racing industry here, although still heavily involved in sponsorship and setting up new races for trotting fillies, and offering the French stallions along with newcomer Volstead. Driscoll’s influence on Melton’s big night of Group racing, unbelievably held in competition with Menangle, was even more than it appeared on the face of it. Orlando Storm was only just beaten in the G3 Breed for Speed Silver Series Final for trotting mares and the favourite Imsettogo was going to win that until clipping a wheel when angling into the passing lane. Norquay, beaten a lip in the G1 Breed For Speed Gold Series Final for trotting mares after a tough early run, was bred by Driscoll and is raced on a lease by Chris Svanosio. So too is Saturday’s Melton winner Just Believe, part of an extraordinary first crop of four-year-olds by Orlando Vici in Australia (10 winners from 11 foals including NSW Trotting Derby winner Xebec), and Travel Bug, the winner of Sunday’s Robert Coutts Memorial at Boort. The latter is a four-year-old Dream Vacation gelding and the first foal from Tricia Powell (Sundon-Ella Powell). These are examples of Driscoll’s desire to reduce the numbers in training under Golino and his small team. And just to round things up, the last two races at Melton were won by Love You’s son Il Pirata, taking his stakes past $152,000 with his 12th win and fifth in Victoria, and Queen Of Love, a mare by Repeat Love. Driscoll’s big Group I wins however came from the three-year-old Quaker Jet filly Im Ready Jet in the Need For Speed Princess Final and Dance Craze in the Grand Prix, where the Muscle Hill-La Coocaracha mare downed Tornado Valley and Temporale. Im Ready Jet won the G1 Breeders Crown 2yo filly trot final at Melton in August and on this occasion, she outclassed them by 24m in a track record 1.55.6 mile rate for the 1720m. This was faster than Elite Stride in the equivalent colts final and bettered the three-year-old trotting track record of 1.56.6 set by Blitzthemcalder in the same series seven years ago. Recent New Zealand export Simone De Beauvoir (Love You) won the race for second over the winner’s stablemate Imamaorijet (Quaker Jet-Sumthingaboutmaori). Imsettogo (by Used To Me) and Im Ready Jet are the first foals from the New Zealand mare Im Ready Set (8 NZ wins), a fast but head strong Monarchy mare from the Diedre family who won races at Menangle (1.56.6) and Melton before going haywire. Glen Craven, Golino’s stable driver along with Jason Lee, had an armchair drive with Im Ready Jet but drove a superb tactical race to get Dance Craze home over Tornado Valley. This was her third Group 1 success having won a Breeders Crown at three and last year’s Great Southern Star. Dance Craze has now won 21 of her 37 races and $478,000, having also been third at the Jewels in one race here. Rowe Cup winner La Coocaracha was bred to a variety of stallions including Christian Cullen and didn’t produce much before Driscoll acquired her. But her first three foals for him have been Reina Danzante (G1 Vicbred, G1 Breeders Crown 3yo), Dance Craze and La Grange (G2 NSWSS 2yo & 3yo trot finals). Clearly Driscoll does know a bit about his breeding. – by Frank Marrion Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Driver David Butcher likes all the numbers about Copy That heading into tonight’s $200,000 Woodlands Northern Derby at Alexandra Park. Except the one next to his name in the race book. Butcher likes the fact Copy That has beaten his main rival One Change the last three times they have met. He loves that Copy That has twice paced a super fast 2:37.4 for 2200m in doing so, breaking 2:40 on the other occasion. And Butcher is really enjoying that with each win Copy That gets better. “The good horses do. When they win they get used to winning and they get more confident,” says Butcher. But what Butcher is not sure about, what makes one of the country’s most astute drivers describe tonight’s classic as “too hard to predict” is Copy That’s barrier draw of four, which is made a lot worse by One Change drawing one. The pair dominate the market, with no disrespect to last week’s Oaks winner Amazing Dream. She can pace similar times to the boys but from barrier seven being as good as them won’t be good enough. She will need to be better and there is no proof she is. Copy That and One Change have a funny rivalry. On paper Copy That beats him in the races that matter less but One Change has been all but unbeatable in everything else, winning two Sires’ Stakes, two Sales Series and the Jewels. Copy That wasn’t in most of those and when he did finish second to One Change in the Sires’ Stakes at Addington in November his was the better run. So while you may go broke betting against All Stars-trained runners, or even One Change for that matter, in Group One races, you can make a very good case Copy That is more talented. “I don’t think there is a lot in it and not many horses go 2:37 for 2200m like he does,” says Butcher of Copy That. “I know he can win but I am worried about One Change getting the better run. In Derbys, and at most premier meetings, you need to be on the markers because the horses are so good you can’t come wide. “So much is going to depend on the start. Who gets pressure, who doesn’t and where they all end up. “There probably isn’t a lot between 5 or 6 of them who can all pace 3:16 (for tonight’s 2700m) so the run will be crucial. “I know this horse can win but he can’t overcome a hard run and win.” It wouldn’t surprise to see punters gravitate toward One Change because of the Purdon-Rasmussen factor, they have seen him win so many times on the biggest stage and barrier one is a very powerful comfort blanket. Even when beaten by Copy That he has usually hit the line well and if he leads early and Natalie Rasmussen can control who she hands up to, or even stays in front, he becomes the horse to beat. In a tactical battle too close to call, the Derby could be won at the start. Butcher has more reason for confidence with Triple Eight in the $50,000 City Of Auckland F-F-A because he knows he doesn’t need luck to win. The Auckland Cup placegetter came from last last Friday to beat most of his rivals tonight and unless he has bad luck he looks one of the bets of the night.   by Michael Guerin

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