Day At The Track
Search Results
49 to 64 of 2392

New Zealander Sarah O'Reilly emerged victorious in the 2019 Hanley Formula Australasian Young Drivers Championship after the final heat was run and won at Alexandra Park on Friday night. It was a combination of relief and excitement for Sarah following the race, ''I was relieved that I crossed the finish line in the last race because I knew I had won the series. I just wanted to drive the best I could in the series and get one winner and have fun.'' O'Reilly led the series by eleven points over NSW representative Cameron Hart leading into the tenth and final heat and only a win or second from Hart would have caused an upset victory. It was not to be for Hart with his drive Johnny Mac finishing 6th, one position behind O'Reilly's drive, M T Pockets. The race was won in great fashion by The Paua Diver for Sheree Tomlinson for trainers Josh and John Dickie over Dina Brown for South Australian, Brodie Webster and Pekeson for the Tasmanian representative, Conor Crook. Sarah's victory in the 2019 AYDC was a result of brilliant and consistent driving for the entire series. Her two wins and four second placings from her ten drives earned her a total of 101 points, 12 points in front of Cameron Hart who won three races, and third was kiwi Sheree Tomlinson who finished with 68 points.   Final 2019 AYDC Points Score:   Sarah O’Reilly (NZ) 101 Cam Hart (NSW) 89 Sheree Tomlinson (NZ) 68 Corey Peterson (WA) 65 Matt Elkins (QLD) 64 John Morrison (SI, NZ) 60 Benjamin Butcher (NI, NZ) 57 Brodie Webster (SA) 49 Zac Phillips (VIC) 46 Conor Crook (TAS) 42     Courtney Clarke Communications and Marketing Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

By Garrick Knight    It’s been a whirlwind six months for New Zealand’s most promising junior driver, Sarah O’Reilly. After a thrilling week of competition against the best of her peers from here and in Australia, she was crowned Australasian Junior Driving Champion at Alexandra Park in Auckland on Friday. It comes just five months after she secured the New Zealand title at Addington during the winter. The attention and fanfare that comes with such accomplishments has proved daunting for the quietly-spoken teenager from Rakaia. And it’s fair to say having a virtually unassailable lead for the past 24 hours weighed heavily on her shoulders. “I woke up a couple of times last night because I was so nervous,” she said. “But I was trying not to overthink it. They told me last night what I said to do in the last race to stay in front so I was just focused on that.” After reining M T Pockets in to fifth place – enough to secure the title – she finally let herself enjoy the moment, joined by her horseman father, Gerard, and mum, Jane. “It’s pretty amazing, I can’t believe it. I didn’t expect any of this. “I was just happy to drive 20 winners last season.” Gerard taught her everything she knows, she reckons, but she made special mention of another lady driver who has become a mentor and role model for her. “Sam Ottley has been really good to me. She’s been there for me since my very first workout drive.” With the two big goals already ticked off her ‘to-do’ list, O’Reilly has a rather modest target moving forward. “I just want to keep going the way I am, keep driving winners and, hopefully, beat last season’s total.” One thing’s for sure – she’s a lifer in the game.  “I just want to keep driving as much as I can for the rest of my life.” Sydney’s Cam Hart finished second after a very hot and cold series where he drove the first three winners only to have his next two drives pulled up without taking any serious part. O’Reilly’s fellow Cantabrian, Sheree Tomlinson, who won the final heat with The Paua Diver, rounded out the podium finishers, unable to defend the title she won 12 months ago. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    The first batch of race-ready juveniles will step out at Alexandra Park tonight in a $25,000 Young Guns heat. For Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon, it’s a chance to step out a colt they have very high hopes for as perhaps their next stable star. His name is Krug and at $155,000, he was the third highest-priced colt out of the Christchurch yearling sales earlier this year. Money well spent according to Purdon. “He’s probably right up there with some of the best two-year-olds that I’ve driven,” he declares. “He’s definitely got a lot of ability and this trip away is doing him the world of good. “A typical Bettor’s Delight; has got a great attitude and is very versatile.” After being unbeaten in two trials in his home province, Krug came north and immediately made an impression winning at Pukekohe on November 30, over most of the horses he meets tonight. But First Class, co-trained by Purdon’s father, Mark, turned the tables on Krug in a workout between races at Alexandra Park last Friday night, and that has him a little weary tonight. Especially with Krug drawn wide and First Class in the two-hole. “First Class looks the one to beat on what he showed last week. “Blair Orange drove our guy last week and was very happy with him; he didn’t ask him for too much and just came out at the top of the straight. “He got in a wee bit on the journey so we’ve put a rein pole on him tonight to help that.” Purdon just wants to see Krug do everything right and hit the line well tonight, to confirm that they are on track for richer upcoming assignments. “The main aim is for him just to do everything right. It would surprise me if he didn’t because he’s got great manners. “He’s grown a lot in the last six weeks and hasn’t copped a lot of hard work. “We’ve given him four or five days off here and there to manage him through it and he seems pretty bright at the moment. “He’s a horse that we think has a big future, but he’ll tell us how far he wants to go this season.” Also tonight, Dalgety and Purdon line up three-year-old trotting filly Chevron Action against the older horses over a mile. “She’s a lovely trotter and one that has really matured since she’s been up here. “I think she’s thriving on the trip but as far as the race tonight goes, she’s against the older ones and I wonder whether the mile might be the undoing of her.” The team has Gemma Mac and Dr Susan in the Group 1 Ladyship Stakes tomorrow night and Purdon says the latter is the stable’s better chance of running in the money. “She’s a lovely filly and is probably thriving fractionally more than Gemma Mac up here. “The other filly has squeezed up a bit, which isn’t uncommon in Art Majors, but just the way they’ve been going I think Dr Susan is our better hope. “Probably can’t beat Amazing Dream but wouldn’t surprise me if she ran in the money.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    When you talk to Brad Williamson, it quickly becomes apparent that he has an aptitude for race tactics. He’s a student of the game. Does his research. Knows his opponents and what he needs to do to beat them. So, it’s no surprise that he has a clear idea in his head ahead of Saturday night’s $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final at Alexandra Park. Williamson drives second-favourite Majestic Man for his father, Phil and they face a rather daunting task trying to beat the even-money pop Winterfell, and Mark Purdon. “Just at the moment, Winterfell appears to be in the zone and I don’t think any trotter could sit outside him and beat him,” Williamson says. With that statement he’s justifying what was a meritorious effort by Majestic Man to run third after sitting parked outside Winterfell in a New Zealand record in the final heat last Friday night. This week is a different kettle of fish though – both horses are drawn well and Williamson fancies his chances of finding the markers first. But it’s not as much of a formality as many might think. “It’s a tricky one because obviously Majestic Man has super gate speed, but Winterfell is also a lot quicker than people realise. “I had trouble crossing him in the Northern Derby and I wasn’t able to get across him when we were drawn side by side in another race. “That being said, Majestic Man is in the zone and the markers are the place to be so I have to get there.” Williamson confirmed his father had given him a clear directive accordingly. “Dad mentioned to me that he does want me to cross and, realistically, looking at the race, that’s the only way I could see us winning.” But the lead isn’t something Williamson wants, either. In fact, he wants the trail. “I don’t think he’ll be able to lead and win in this race.” So, does he hand to Marcoola and put Winterfell three back, or is he expecting Purdon to immediately come out and challenge for the front? Honestly? he doesn’t especially care. “Both Winterfell and Marcoola are stayers and when they find the front won’t be giving it away. “So, we’ll be handing up to which ever is the first of them to come looking. “And I’m 90 percent sure that will be Winterfell.” Williamson is banking on his horse’s sheer speed coming to pass in one last stretch battle. “Majestic Man is as fast as anything in the race over a quarter but I’m picking Mark is not going to leave it to a sharp sprint home. “It’s not going to be a slowly run race, that’s guaranteed being an Inter Dominion Grand Final. “Winterfell broke the New Zealand record under a hold last week and probably had a couple of seconds up his sleeve, too.” Even then, it will be out of Purdon’s hands anyway as a bevvy of decent trotters try and get in to the race from wide or second line draws, primarily Marcoola. “It’s not really going to affect me, what the other horses do, because the markers are the place to be in this race. “But, being a Grand Final, I don’t think everybody is going to be sitting back and not moving.” Outside of the big three, Williamson reckons Temporale, who maps to sit four pegs for most of the race, could be the blowout option. “Looking for an outsider, Temporale has got the best draw of the others outside of Winterfell, in my opinion. “He’s drawn to sit on the markers on a likely record run and all he’ll need is a wee bit of luck of the last 800 metres. “And you’d back Tony Herlihy, out of anyone, to find a path through them. “He knows the track better than anyone and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take advantage of a cold shot at them.” With all the planning and thinking done ahead of time, Williamson was looking forward to getting up to Auckland and just taking it all in. After all, he’s a live chance of joining the greats of the game – Anthony Butt, Mark Purdon, Gavin Lang, Tony Herlihy, Barry Purdon, Doody Townley, David Butt, Peter Jones – as the winning driver in an Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final. The annals of harness racing history await the lad from Oamaru. “There is just something about it that I’m really looking forward to. “The Inter Doms are all anyone is talking about at the moment and I’m privileged to be a part of it.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

It has been a bleak Inter Dominion for the Aussies, but our Australian correspondent Adam Hamilton gives us his thoughts on Grand Final night. THE BEST AUSSIE HOPE Despite his poor draw, it still has to be TOUGH MONARCH (R6, n11) in the Trotting final. He’s got the class, has hit the line strongly past two runs and could run into a place if everything panned out. Next best would be MY KIWI MATE (R8, n1) because he’s drawn the pole, will get a cosy run and is right back to his very best form. Also a sneaky place hope. BEST BET Well, it’s a more a multi-builder because $1.35 is skinny, but the buzz around OSCAR BONAVENA (R3, n8) and the way he worked Wednesday morning says he’ll win for fun and continue on the pathway to greatness. VALUE BET Speed is a wicked weapon and MAJESTIC MAN (R6, n1) has plenty of it. Expect him to zip to the front then trail favourite Winterfell. If it’s genuinely run, he should give it a serious crack along the sprint lane when it matters. BEST ROUGHIE He’ll be double-figure odds and OUR UNCLE SAM (R7, n6) certainly drops in grade in the virtual consolation. Went for home far too early last week and certainly wasn’t disgraced. Not ma many winning chances here and he’s definitely one of them.   By Adam Hamilton for HRNZ

It was a perfect morning from the All Stars least perfect horse. And it was all you needed to see if you want to back Winterfell to win the $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Final on Saturday night. On a morning when trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen were left beaming after the private workouts of many of their superstars at Pukekohe, it was Winterfell who was the star of the show. And it was some show. Not many stables in the history of harness racing could roll a team that includes the first and second favourites for the $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final, with Cruz Bromac and Ultimate Sniper hitting the line together after the latter trailed until they sprinted up the straight at the end of 2400m. Both look spot on, Cruz Bromac the more natural track worker, Ultimate Sniper wearing far more gear, in a muck of sweat but pacing fluently on the tightish, flat Pukekohe track. The conveyor belt of class didn’t stop there, with Thefixer sharp as he came from last to brush up alongside Another Masterpiece and Self Assured also over 2400m, the latter pair looking where they need to be for their support races at Alexandra Park on Saturday. Other Grand Final contenders Chase Auckland and Ashley Locaz will have their final workouts today, with new driver John Dunn to partner the latter for the first time. And before the Inter pacers strutted their stuff, the stable flexed some serious newcomer to the carnival muscle in Northern Trot Derby winner Enhance Your Calm and New Zealand’s most exciting trotter Oscar Bonavena, with little Oscar sitting behind his far bigger stablemate and picking him up in the last 200m. It was all slick stuff, horses deliberately hitting the line together, not a step out of place, no hanging or heads tossed in the air. Professional, daunting. “It was a really, really good morning,” said Mark Purdon. “We were happy with all of them so things are very much on target for Saturday.” But while there was a phenomenal amount of elite horse power on display the eyecatcher was Winterfell. He started this Interdom series the problem child of the open class trotting ranks, having finished 104-lengths last at his previous start, beaten 33 lengths when sixth of eight the start before. Remarkably for a horse who finished his three-year-old season looking a potential champion he has won only four of his next 14 leading into this series, finishing unplaced in six of them. They are rare numbers for an All Stars Group One player. The sort of numbers that might see a less talented horse ostracised to another stable. Or another country. But something has clicked since Winterfell arrived north. The Winterfell that Purdon has been so happy with at home is finally accompanying him to the races. He was still wayward winning on night one, was taught how to settle in the field when it became apparent he couldn’t win on night two and looked back to his outstanding best winning his final round heat in national record time. That improvement curve continued all the way to yesterday when he worked with leading three-year-old pacers One Change (Sires’ Stakes winner) and Flying Even Bettor. Winterfell was bombproof trailing the galloping pacemaker whereas for several starts in the last 12 months he would have wanted to join in the galloping fun. He looked big, strong, trotting squarely but more importantly he looked a racehorse, no gawking, swerving or looking for excuses. He looked like an Inter Dominion Trotting Final winner in waiting. “He has gone from strength to strength up here,” says Purdon. “He still did a few little things wrong on night one but he has been perfect since. “He went a record last Friday and I am sure he can go faster again this week and I’d like to be in front.” Winterfell can probably afford to get crossed early and still be handed the lead because of the respect he has regained during this series. With yesterday’s faultless trackwork display another stamp in his passport out of Crazy Town, it is going to take something special to beat Winterfell on Saturday night.   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner    Oamaru trotting fanatic Rob McIntosh will realise a lifelong dream if Majestic Man wins the Interdominion Trotting Final at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. McIntosh is one several Otago and Southland based members of the Griffins Syndicate, which race the 5yr-old from Phil Williamson’s barn. Few owners have shown the dedication to the Interdominion series McIntosh has over the past two years. Last year he was on hand to witness Griffins Syndicate trotter Monty Python run in all three heats of Melbourne Interdominion before he ran third in its final to Tornado Valley. McIntosh travelled back and forth from Oamaru to work around his work commitments as a truck driver.  He has not missed a step Majestic Man or Monty Python have made at Alexandra Park during this year’s series. McIntosh’s passion for trotting means it would be almost impossible for him not to be at the track on Saturday night to watch Majestic Man again. That passion is driven by his earliest involvement in the sport at a young age. And it is one that is linked to the 1965 series run in McIntosh’s home province at Forbury Park. “Where it really began was I used to go over to Harry Cox’s stable at Winton and work with the racehorses - he was mum’s uncle,” McIntosh said.  “I loved it.” “He had a big photo over the fireplace of a horse winning the Interdominion trotting final at Forbury Park called Poupette.” “Every time I went there I always looked at that photo and thought hopefully one day I could be involved in a race like that myself.” “Right to this day, forty odd years later, I can still envisage that photo.” McIntosh developed a passion for the trotting gait that could have led him close to Interdominion success in 1994. A friend told the trotting enthusiast of an opportunity to join the syndicate that raced former hardy Southland squaregaiter Diamond Field. But, McIntosh did not pursue it because he felt the Cox trained David Moss, as well as another former Southland trotter Night Allowance, would have the horse’s measure in big races. McIntosh said he shared a joke with Diamond Field’s winning driver Tony Herlihy about the near miss during this year’s series. McIntosh was given the opportunity to take a vacant spot in the Griffin’s Syndicate after being involved in a similar syndicate years on McIntosh has not looked back since then as the group have racked up dozens of trotting wins. “I have had a ball being in the syndicate.” “You get to meet a lot of great people and have a lot of fun.” “Syndicates are a great way for people to be involved without it costing a lot of money.” McIntosh is not the only Oamaru based member of the syndicate. The mother and daughter duo of Glenda and Kirsty Stevenson also race Majestic Man. Several owners are also based in Dunedin and further south. McIntosh said more than 20 of the Griffin’s Syndicate to be on hand to watch Majestic Man on Saturday night. There looks a big chance for the group to be celebrating a win, going on Majestic Man’s three excellent heat runs. Win, lose or otherwise McIntosh said will be proud of his horse and he was already planning his trip to next year’s Interdominion in Sydney. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

After 3259 wins it is still there for Maurice McKendry. Not just the talent. That was never in doubt. Never has been since the little fella left Methven nearly 40 years ago to try his luck in the big smoke. What is still there is the rush, that thrill a good horse can still give even a legend even in “the twilight of my career.” That twilight has shone a little brighter during this Inter Dominion after McKendry got the call up to partner A G’s White Socks. Just three weeks ago A G’s White Socks wasn’t coming to the series and McKendry was resigned to watching it from the driver’s room after his sole Interdom steer, trotter Lemond, was withdrawn. Now McKendry goes into Saturday’s final with two heat wins under his belt and maybe the best chance to upset hot favourite Ultimate Sniper. A G’s White Socks reminded us how good he is with his two heat wins and peeled off a sizzling last 800m in defeat last Friday. McKendry has also had an Interdom to remember, perfectly patient winning his opening night heat, aggressive enough to attack an All Stars runner and wrest control of his second round heat. So how does it feel to be one of the stories of an Inter Dominion which must have felt like it had passed McKendry by? “It has been fun,” he says with his trademark half giggle. “After Lemond got pulled out I thought I wouldn’t be part of it all and then I got the call up for this horse, which I really didn’t see coming. “I didn’t know what to expect from him but I have really enjoyed it. “Even at this stage of my career, when maybe I am getting close to winding down a bit, that feeling is still the same when you drive a good horse. “When they let down and sprint is a great feeling. It is fun, a rush, even now.” That is one reason McKendry still loves going to work at 64 years old, because the sensation is the same as four decades ago on the training tracks of Mid Canterbury. “I love the speed. I always have. And when you sit behind the good horses and they let down, it feels special. “So to be here, driving a horse trained by Barry in the final, it is a real bonus.” It is odd to think that McKendry needs to remind us of his talents. He is, after all, one of only two New Zealanders with over 3000 domestic wins. The other is his good mate Tony Herlihy, who McKendry has sat next to in the Alexandra Park driver’s room for as long as anybody remembers. Like famous Brazilian soccer players they require only one name inside the industry, say Tony or Maurice and everybody knows who you are talking about. But their Inter Dominion records are vastly different, Herlihy with 37 total career victories at the Interdoms including four trotting finals, McKendry has nine heat wins. That is not about ability, but opportunity. And those opportunities are becoming rarer. “It has always been hard to get on good horses, it is a hard game,” says McKendry. “And it is harder now because there are less horses and less trainers, and many of the bigger stables already have their drivers. “But I am still getting a few drives so I am in no hurry to retire. I think I’ll know when I have had enough or I am starting to lose it.” The last fortnight tells us that won’t be any time soon. So what does Saturday hold for McKendry and his rejuvenated Grand Final hope? From barrier seven A G’s White Socks looks best placed of the favourites to try and bustle to the lead and maybe take a sit on hot favourite Ultimate Sniper? “Hard to tell,” says the understated one. “It doesn’t look the strongest front line so he might be able to work around them and get in front of Natalie’s horse. “But if I try and it doesn’t work out that can go bad. I’ll ask Barry (Purdon) what he thinks but he will probably tell me he is fine with whatever I think,” comes the laugh again. “So you can’t have too much of a plan. Sometimes you go on your gut instinct as the gate pulls away, “And to be honest, sometimes that is completely wrong.” The good news for A G’s White Socks punters is, 3259 times the gut instinct has been right. THE MAGIC MAN Who: Maurice McKendry Career record: 3259 New Zealand driving victories. Stakes: $28,846,425 in New Zealand. Highlights: 10 New Zealand driving premierships. Next: Pilots A G’s White Socks in the $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park on Saturday night.   By Michael Guerin

John Dickie thought his chance to win at Inter Dominion was gone. Which makes having Paramount King in the $150,000 trotting final at Alexandra Park on Saturday night that much more special for the South Auckland trainer. Dickie is a trotting man. He and son Joshua also train pacers and do that well, but for decades the Dickie name has been conjured up images of talented squargaiters in their maroon, green and gold colours. Of John’s 581 career wins in New Zealand, 288 have been with trotters. That is just under half but almost all of his flagbearers have been unhoppled heroes. But the Dickies haven’t won an Inter Dominion Final and in 2012 a crazy decision left John thinking he never would. The trotting series was canned after that year, with a case made that with it heading to NSW and then West Australia a trotting series wouldn’t fly there. And there was some concerns about brand confusion with people unable to get their heads around by having two Inter Dominion Finals. It was, of course, nonsense and thankfully the trotters returned last season, with the Dickies eventually running second in the final with Speeding Spur, albeit a promoted one. Dickie’s sometimes unrequited love of the Inters dates back further, to when Great Life finished fourth to Tussle at Addington in 1987. “He actually dead heated on the points table with one of Wes Butt’s trotters so the two sets of owners were called into a room and they tossed a coin to see who started in the final. We won the toss and ran fourth in the final.” With the series now back from the dead, this Saturday will be extra special to the father and son team. Alexandra Park is their home track these days and John loves having first-night national record setter Paramount King up against the other kings of the gait. They will all be there: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Barry Purdon, Phil Williamson, Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, Tony Herlihy, Paul Nairn and even Robert Dunn has emerged as a trotting training force. Add in two Aussies and this is a real Inter Dominion Final.  “I thought that chance was gone for us,” says Dickie of the 2012 scrapping of the series.  “So to have it back, to still have a chance of winning it means a lot to me and now Josh.  “We know that might not happen this Saturday, with the second line draw not helping but you can’t win if you aren’t in.” Paramount King has been the greatest surprise of this series, a former age group talent who has risen to new heights and he is rated one of the six or seven winning chances in the final. But Dickie, as you might expect from a man who has spent decades piecing together the puzzle that is a trotter, is realistic about what Saturday may hold. “I am not sure if we can win, especially from the second line draw,” he offers. “He should be better this week because the first night took a little sting out of him for the next two heats but he might still be a year or two away from winning an Inter. “To be honest, Winterfell might be a moral. He and Habibi Inta, who we haven’t seen the best of in this series, are the two in the final I think can work and win so maybe Winterfell will be too good from his draw. “But even if that happens we will be happy. It is great to have the trotting series back and back at Alexandra Park. “They are special things. They bring a lot of different people and horses together. “It is the Inter Dominion. It is just different from a normal race.”   Dunn to drive for All Stars After terrorizing the All Stars for the last couple of seasons John Dunn will join them for the $500,000 Pacing Final this Saturday. Dunn has been the surprise call-up to partner Ashley Locaz for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at Alexandra Park The stable has five in the group one and while three drives were easily settled, Blair Orange will be the new driver for Thefixer and Dunn will partner Ashley Locaz. There is some irony in the decision as no driver in New Zealand could have parked out All Stars-trained horses as much as Dunn, predominantly driving for his father Robert, in the last few seasons. It is a strategy that has worked for him and helped make racing interesting and obviously gained him enough respect to be called in as a pinch hitter. Dunn would still drive regular partner Classie Brigade should that horse, listed as the emergency, make the field.   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner    Series star Ultimate Sniper’s premium barrier 5 draw is set to produce early fireworks in Saturday’s Interdominion Pacing Championship final at Alexandra Park. The already slim chances of the All Stars pacer’s rivals beating him following his three jaw-dropping heat wins took a hit after Ultimate Sniper drew a nearly perfect starting spot for Saturday night’s final. The stocks of My Kiwi Mate (1), Sicario (2), Ashley Locaz (3) and On The Cards rose after they drew inside Ultimate Sniper on Sunday. Though that could depend on how desperate each of their drivers are to find the front with the hope of securing a perfect run by handing the lead to the favourite. My Kiwi Mate and driver Craig Demmler look to have first option on the lead from the inside. The Victorian pacer began quickly in his first two heats of the series, before being restrained at the start of this third. It will be no easy task for My Kiwi Mate to hold out On The Cards, who has shown blistering early speed to lead two heats. The Barry Purdon trained pacer crossed each of rivals in the two times he drew the front row in the heat stages. Sicario has shown enough gate speed in his career to suggest he could add early pressure to the race. However, the horse was easily beaten out of gate by On The Cards in their first round heat. Ashley Locaz looks the least likely of the horses drawn inside Ultimate Sniper to get involved in the early rush. The 5yr-old put in two tardy beginnings with a scratchy score up in his first two heats, before being restrained in heat 3. On his best behaviour, the All Stars pacer could at least keep pace with the fast beginners drawn beside him. Drivers who cast their mind back twelve months could enter the start of the race cautiously after early rush for the lead did not end well for those involved in last year’s final. Mach Doro ran second last after rushing to find the back of the leader, Tiger Tara. Ultimate Sniper enjoyed a major win over his key rivals with his barrier 5 draw. The 4yr-old is set to do less work to take up a handy position, with the crucial head start he will get over his stablemates Cruz Bromac and Thefixer. The All Stars pairing look to have been handed a huge task to have to work around the field to get in to the race and then beat their stunning stablemate. Cruz Bromac and Thefixer are likely to start beside each other, in barriers 2 and 3 on the second row, if emergency Classie Brigade is scratched. The fallout from the Interdominion Trotting Championship final was similar to that of the pacing final. All Stars favourite drew perfectly Winterfell drew perfectly in barrier 2 to cement his favouritism. The most likely scenario that could slam the door that appears to be left open for the 5yr-old to lead sits with driver Brad Williamson. Williamson will face the choice of whether to let Majestic Man show off his fast gate speed and attempt to cross from barrier 4. With another fast beginner drawn inside him, in Victorian Big Jack Hammer (1), it is an option the reinsman may chose not to take up. Winterfell and Majestic Man were the clear winners among the leading contenders in Saturday night’s $150,000 final. Marcoola landed a horror draw on the outside of the front row in barrier 8. Parmount King and Massive Metro will have to start from barriers 4 and 5 on the second row, respectively. Temporale is slightly better off than them, drawing behind Big Jack Hammer in barrier 9 – number 1 on the second row of the mobile. Interdominion Pacing Championship field: 1. My Kiwi Mate, 2. Sicario, 3. Ashley Locaz, 4. On The Cards, 5. Ultimate Sniper, 6. Mach Shard, 7. A G's White Socks, 8. Triple Eight, 9. Chase Auckland, 10. San Carlo 11. Cruz Bromac, 12. Classie Brigade E1, 13. Thefixer. Interdominion Trotting Championship field: 1. Big Jack Hammer, 2. Winterfell, 3. Destiny Jones, 4. Majestic Man, 5. Monty Python E1, 6. Valloria, 7. Bonnie Highlander, 8. Marcoola, 9. Temporale, 10. Habibi Inta, 11. Tough Monarch, 12. Paramount King, 13. Massive Metro. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Three Aussie mates are responsible for a popular Australian priest realising a 69 year dream when Triple Eight starts in the Interdominion Pacing Championship final on Saturday. An undeniable passion for harness racing has seen highly popular Roman Catholic minister Brian Glasheen, of Victoria, spend an incredible seven decades following Australasian harness racing’s greatest test of stamina. Sixty nine years after attending his first Interdominion in Melbourne, Glasheen’s loyalty to the sport, his friends and his faith will be rewarded when his first Interdominion runner – Triple Eight - takes to Alexandra Park on Saturday night. Unlike at his first series in 1950, Glasheen will not be torn away from watching the series final. The Melbourne Showgrounds were no place for him back when Captain Sandy won and his father ruled he could not go back to watch the final, after attending each night of heats, for he fear the young Glasheen would be crushed by the masses that flocked to watch race Glasheen getting to see Triple Eight this year was as likely as him some how being on hand to see Captain Sandy’s pacing win 69 years ago until three of his Bacchus Marsh parishioners intervened. Just last winter, Glasheen had no connection to the pacer and had not even heard of him until fellow Victorians Shannon Nixon, Joel Watson and Shane Cook coaxed the octogenarian in to coming out for dinner. There, the trio presented Glasheen with ownership papers for the horse that will see his love of the Interdominions come full circle on Saturday night. The motivation for Nixon, Watson and Cook’s generosity was simple. Nixon said they wanted to do something for the man who had done so much for them. “Father Glasheen has had a big part in all of our lives.” “He has baptised all our nine children between us.” Triple Eight ran third behind the All Stars duo of Cruz Bromac and Thefixer to qualify for Saturday night’s $500,000 feature. It set off joyous scenes across the Tasman as Nixon, Watson and Cook watched on TV. As thrilled as they are to have an Interdominion finalist with their first runner, Nixon said the real joy came from having Father Glasheen on the journey with them. “The biggest source of joy for us is seeing how much it means to Father Glasheen.” “He is absolutely over the moon – he is messaging us five times a day – and he is just having a great time being over in New Zealand watching the horse.” “We are just getting a huge kick out of how much it means to him.” Father Glasheen will be able to walk in to Alexandra Park with relative anonymity compared to tracks in Australia. Glasheen is popular and widely known figure in both harness racing and thoroughbred circles across the Tasman. “Everyone in harness racing in Victoria knows him, he is very widely known in racing circles in Australia,” Nixon said. “He has followed every Interdominion around from the heady days of the sport and the Interdominion is the biggest show in harness racing, so he has met a lot of people.” Nixon secured Watson, Cook and Glasheen shares in Triple Eight after negotiating the purchase of a slice of the horse’s ownership from his North Island owners Stonewall Stud and Scott Plant. Triple Eight’s $101 odds suggest he needs divine intervention to win Saturday night’s race. Though just having a runner is a huge thrill for Glasheen, he admits barrier 8 gives his horse a huge task. “It is fantastic – absolutely special – but the barrier draw is not so special,” he told media at Monday’s barrier draw. What horses drawn in better spots do not have on their side is Father Glasheen’s proven winning touch. Glasheen blessed Northerly, at the request of trainer Fred Kersley, ahead of the horse’s 2001 Australian Cup win and during the galloper’s 13-win streak. The Triple Eight camp will hope Glasheen’s touch will work again when he blesses their horse ahead of the Interdominion Final. The priest did not keep all of his prayers just for his own runner and extended them to rival camps at Monday’s barrier draw. Glasheen blessed the colours to be worn by drivers in both the Interdominon pacing and trotting finals at yesterday’s barrier draw.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

THE Inter Dominion Queen is about to join the Inter Dominion King. Victory for Natalie Rasmussen on raging hot favourite Ultimate Sniper will bring her level with Brian Hancock as the most successful driver in the history of the Inter Dominion pacing final. Hancock won five finals and Rasmussen already boasts four, all on the great Blacks A Fake. Ultimate Sniper is an odds-on favourite to give her a fifth win next Saturday. And Hancock will be cheering loudly for Rasmussen. “You bet I’m in her corner,” Hancock said from his home near Wollongong. “Records are made to be broken, or in this case, equalled. “Nat’s a really good friend of mine. She and Vi (Hancock’s partner) are great mates, they talk all the time. I’d love to see her win another final this week.” Hancock said he spoke with Rasmussen during the week. “I did have to remind her the other day, even if she does win this, I’m still ahead of her … I won my five finals on three different horses, Nat will only have done it on two,” he laughed. Hancock, long retired from driving, still educates horses for a few trainers, including his nephew Darren Hancock. And he said he’s been watching the Auckland series with interest. “They’ve really dominated it, haven’t they, Nat and Mark. But it’s been great to see Barry (Purdon’s) horses all going so well, too,” Hancock said. “I’ve got so many great Inter Dominion memories and the Purdon family have been such a big part of them.” Mark Purdon held the combined record for Inter Dominion final driving wins, three pacing and three trotting. He’s odds-on to add to that with Winterfell in Saturday’s trotting final and drives second favourite Cruz Bromac in the pacing final. Purdon already stands alone with seven Inter Dominion titles (two pacing and five trotting) as a trainer. With Winterfell in the trotting final and five runners, headed by Ultimate Sniper in the pacing final, he looks certain to add to that on Saturday. Two of Purdon’s training wins came in partnership with Grant Payne with I Can Doosit in 2011 and ’12. Now he’s got a chance to add to that in partnership with Rasmussen across both finals on Saturday.   Adam Hamilton

Driver Natalie Rasmussen says she can’t see hot favourite Ultimate Sniper getting to his favourite position in Saturday’s $500,000 Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park. So she will take the next best option: being in front. The four-year-old has been unbeaten in the three rounds of heats and is $1.45 to win the final after drawing barrier five. His draw is made even better by his key rivals, many of them stablemates, drawing worse, with A G’s White Socks at barrier seven and Chase Auckland (9), Cruz Bromac (11) and Thefixer (13) all on the second line. After being trapped three wide in every heat of the series and still being too strong, Ultimate Sniper will be expected to stroll to the front after the early shuffling of positions and win. But Rasmussen, who also co-trains Ultimate Sniper, says he would probably be better sitting parked. “I know that sounds strange but sometimes he doesn’t concentrate quite so well in front,” says Rasmussen. “He is still good there but he really loves staring horse down from parked, as we have seen when he has been wide during this series.”So why not just sit parked with the hot favourite, as crazy as that sounds with Rasmussen and everybody else expecting the lead to be there? “I don’t know any of the other drivers in the front line are going to want him outside them staring them down,” she says matter-of-factly. A reluctant outside leading when they would rather have Ultimate Sniper’s back could mean a slower mid-race tempo which would bring the outsiders into the race and allow the likes of Cruz Bromac and Thefixer to creep closer three wide. So with one stablemate in Ashley Locaz and three outsiders rated $51 or longer drawn inside her, Rasmussen should only have to hold A G’s White Socks to her outside at the start and she probably ends up in front, with On The Cards and My Kiwi Mate the most likely followers. Rasmussen says all five of the All Stars pacing finalists have come through their busy week of heats in great order as well as trotting final favourite Winterfell. “We couldn’t be happier with how they have handled it and if anything they look like the series has brought them on,” she said. “They are likely to have their final fast work on Wednesday.”With Rasmussen on Ultimate Sniper and Mark Purdon sticking with Cruz Bromac, Blair Orange has picked up the drive on Thefixer, Tim Williams stays on Chase Auckland but no driver has been confirmed yet for Ashley Locaz. The stable has two odds-on final favourites with Winterfell $1.90 to win the trotting final after drawing perfectly at barrier two. He looked far more settled and happier winning his heat in national record time on Friday and while he is still not foolproof, Rasmussen says the big trotter has thrilled Purdon with his improvement in this series. It may not be a case of Winterfell simply strolling to the lead and on to the winner’s circle though, with Majestic Man drawn barrier four and with superior gate speed and therefore the likely early leader is driver Brad Williamson desires. But with Paramount King, Tough Monarch, Massive Metro and Marcoola all drawn to settle back the trotting final looks certain to contain plenty of movement. PACING FINAL, $500,000, 2700m mobile 1: My Kiwi Mate 2: Sicario 3: Ashley Locaz 4: On The Cards 5: Ultimate Sniper 6: Mach Shard 7: A G’s White Socks 8: Triple Eight 9: Chase Auckland (2nd line) 10: San Carlo 11: Cruz Bromac 12: Classie Brigade (em) 13: Thefixer   TROTTING FINAL $150,000, 2700m mobile 1: Big Jack Hammer 2: Winterfell 3: Destiny Jones 4: Majestic Man 5: Monty Python (em) 6: Valloria 7: Bonnie Highlander 8: Marcoola 9: Temporale (2nd line) 10: Habibi Inta 11: Tough Monarch 12: Paramount King 13: Massive Metro   Michael Guerin

By Garrick Knight    Jeremy Young was a pretty emotional man when Circus Boy won at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The horse he spent three years waiting on and slowly nursing back to health, rewarded him as both the owner and trainer with victory in a $20,000 race. “This would be one of the most satisfying wins of my career,” he told HRNZ post-race. “To have a horse with a broken bone like he did  make it back to the races and win on a night like this, it’s awesome. “I looked after him, now he’s looked after me.” Young took over training Circus Boy three-and-a-half years ago when sent the horse by Canterbury trainer Tony Barron. He had seven starts for a win before injury took hold. “He had a quarter crack that blew out so I gave him nine months out. “He was back in and coming up good a year later then he came off the track at Pukekohe lame one day. “I thought it must have been a stone under his shoe but we took an x-ray and he’d broken a hind pastern.” Young wasn’t in a position to pay for the conventional surgery option, but also couldn’t bear to see the horse put down. “He’s such a lovely, quiet horse and I like his character, so I rung my vet, Ivan Bridge, and asked him what the options were. “Since I couldn’t afford to screw him, Ivan said let’s bandage him up and put him in a box for four-and-a-half months. “So, that’s what we did. “When the time was up, I brought him back out of the box and he was walking sound, but it’s in the back of your mind about whether the leg was going to last” Just happy to have the horse safe and sound, and too scared to try him as a race horse, Young eventually just started working the horse as a guide to the rest of his team. “I used him in front of my young horses. He’s just such a quiet, placid trotter. “After eight months of slowly bringing him up I decided to try him again even though it was always in the back of my mind that it could fracture again.” Everything went smoothly and, this week, after a couple of runs to blow out the cobwebs, he shot up the passing lane to win at bolters’ odds. Young was noticeably emotional post-race and just so proud of the courage the horse has displayed. “It’s just such a pleasure to train this horse. “He’s part of the furniture; he can stay with me and maybe someone will want to ride him later on. “It would be my most satisfying win outside of the Northern Oaks with Best Western. “Because I saved his life and we’ve been through so much together. “It’s just so pleasing.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    New Zealand Cup winner Cruz Bromac set up an Australia versus New Zealand battle in next week’s Interdominion Pacing Championship with a faultless display to win the last heat of the series on Friday night. The All Stars pacer was rewarded both for his consistent form in the series and for his massively improved manners when holding out his stablemate Thefixer by three-quarters of a length. Cruz Bromac showed no signs of the wayward tendencies he displayed during and before the Interdominion series with his third faultless display of the series to win. The 8yr-old’s love of right-handed racing, where he can stride out more fluently than on a left handed track, has him ready to give his stablemate and series rock star Ultimate Sniper a stern test about in next week’s final. Part-owner Peter O’Shea said there was no doubt who Cruz Bromac will be resenting when the pacer takes to Alexandra Park for that battle. He and his fellow Australian owners could pull off a masterstroke that would win them an incredible New Zealand Cup and Interdominon double while flying the Australian flag with their move to place the horse with New Zealand champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen for the spring and summer. The final heat of the Interdominion pacing series bought mixed emotions for O’Shea, who races the horse with wife, Zilla, and Danny and Joanna Zavitsanos. The O’Sheas also race Bling It On, who dropped out to run a shock second last in the second of Friday night’s pacing heats. “I am excited about Cruz, but it has been disappointing with Bling It On.” “I thought he was really going to run a big race tonight and we were going to have a two pronged attack.” “He has had a shocking series, he choked down the first heat and he couldn’t get out in the first heat.” Driver Luke McCarthy put Bling It On’s chequered Interdominion campaign down to the horse being out of his comfort zone. “He just hasn’t been himself here, he is out of the routine he has been in at home.” “He has been collected three times a week at home and obviously his routine has been totally different over here.” McCarthy said Bling It On would not contest next week’s Interdominion Pacing Consolation. The All Stars quinella makers gapped the field, with Triple Eight holding the rest of the field home to take third and qualify for next week’s final. Triple Eight has already made one Australian owner’s dream come true by making the series final. Popular Octogenarian owner, Father Brian Glasheen, a final starter with his first runner an incredible 69 years afters after attending his first Interdominion series in 1950. Sicario was next home behind Triple Eight, ahead of dual heat winner, A G’s White Socks, who was sound in fifth.   The final field for the Interdominion Pacing Final in qualifying order. Ultimate Sniper, Cruz Bromac, A G's White Socks, Chase Auckland, Thefixer, Mach Shard, Ashley Locaz, Sicario, San Carlo, Triple Eight, On The Cards, My Kiwi Mate. Emergencies: Classie Brigade, Solid Gold. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The IRT Inter Dominion final points are available here   Harness Racing New Zealand

49 to 64 of 2392