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Last week was a disappointing one for the ring-around with just Blair Orange and Mark Jones producing the goods, however a form reversal is expected this weekend.   Here is what some of New Zealand's leading harness racing participants came up with for us this week.   Addington - Thursday   Josh Dickie: Was pleased with Speeding Spur in his South Island debut and expects him to be hard to roll in the feature two-year-old trot - race two.   Mark Jones:  Has opted for impressive trialist Fleeting Grin, who should take all sorts of stopping in race five on the card   Craig Thornely:  Expects Gotta Grunter, who is now on the beach with Mark Jones, to break maidens at short notice - race five   Stephen Richardson (T.A.B): Was impressed with the way Fifth Edition found the line last start. He looks well placed in race six on the card after dropping back from C2.   Matthew Williamson: Thinks Mokosun can make it three wins on end in race eight on the card.   Nigel McGrath:  Believes that Heza Mighty Monarch will take a power of beating if he is to do things right in race ten.   Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Has opted for Iceobar on the back of an eyecatching fresh-up third - race eleven   Gavin Smith:  Thinks Waihemo Art is a strong chance in what looks an average maiden line-up - race twelve   Alexandra Park - Friday   Blair Orange: Expects a bold preformance from  Paramount Queen in the first race of the card. Stephen McNally: Thinks K D Muscles, who has been racing well in age group company, looks the one in race three.   Scott Phelan: Rates Sweet Art  as a good each-way chance- race seven   Todd Mitchell: Was impresed with how Prime Power worked during the week and expects him to be very hard to beat in the Anzac Cup - race nine   David Butt: Expects One Over Da Moon to prove too good if he can jump to the lead early - race eleven   Simon Lawson: Has opted for classy two-year-old Beaudiene Boaz - race twelve   Gore - Saturday   Tim Williams:  Thinks Bettor Buy It  will prove hard to beat in the Southern Supremacy- race ten   Rangiora - Sunday   Terry Chmiel: Thinks Dynamic Party looks well placed in race two despite his tricky barrier draw.   Ken Barron: Believes Pacquiao can top off a string of good runs with a win in race five.   Jonny Cox:  Is bullish about the chances of Jaccka Justy, who was a game second behind Master Lavros last start - race seven   Ricky May:  Expects Terror To Love to finish his season in style in the Rangiora Classic - race eight

Top New Zealand filly Supersonic Miss has been installed as a $1.70 favourite for the $A322,000 APG 2yo Fillies Final after landing barrier one for the Group One feature at Menangle on Sunday. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained filly, who has been successful in all of her three starts, was victorious in the American Ideal Leonard Memorial (Gr3) in her first start at Addington before travelling back to her homeland, where she has been an emphatic winner of both her APG heat and semi-final. Supersonic Miss is currently being stabled with Luke and Belinda McCarthy, who prepare one of her rivals in Bamako Mali, however her main danger looks to be the Daniel Thackeray trained Rosie OReilly, who streeted her rivals in her APG semi-final. Rosie Oreilly, who is also unbeaten, is currently the $3 second favourite with Tab.com.au and has pleased her trainer since her last win. "She has pulled up really well and hasn't missed a feed since her semi final so I couldn't be happier with her," Thackeray said. Rosie Oreilly is being stabled at the property of Jack Primmer, where she has settled in very well. Menangle on Sunday will remarkably be just one of six meetings that the All Stars team race horses at during the weekend. They will also line up Follow The Stars and Kept Under Wraps in the APG semi-finals at Melton on Friday, while also attending four domestic meetings in New Zealand. Those four domestic meetings are Addington (Thursday), Alexandra Park (Friday), Gore (Saturday), and Rangiora (Sunday). Meanwhile, a further 11 All Stars horses will head to Auckland on Sunday to prepare for the upcoming feature Alexandra Park carnival, including Border Control, Arden Rooney, Linda Lovegrace, Alleluia, and champion mare, Adore Me. By Mitchell Robertson

Top trotter Stent has been ruled out of the upcoming ‘Triple Crown’ at Alexandra Park by his co-trainer Colin DeFilippi and will now head for a well deserved spell. “I haven’t been happy with him since he got back from Australia,” advised DeFilippi. “He just seems jaded and has had a few problems with corns, so he will head to the spelling paddock before preparing for the Cup carnival. Stent’s brilliant Australian campaign included wins in both the Trotters Grand Prix and a heat of the Great Southern Star, while he also placed second in the Glenferrie Challenge and the Great Southern Star Final. “He won well over $A150, 000 in Australia, so I think he deserves a let-up,” he added. Meanwhile, the first leg of the ‘Triple Crown’, the Anzac Cup, will be run at on Friday night with a field that will include Superbowlcheerleader, Clover Don, Prime Power, Sovereignty, and Boizel, Flying Isa, and Zedalite, who will all return from Australia for a shot at Group One glory. One trotter that won’t be there is Master Lavros, with his trainer Mark Jones opting to steer clear of the mobile event with the giant gelding. “I want to stick to the standing starts with him so he will miss this week and race in the Greenlane Cup before eyeing up the Rowe Cup,” said Jones. By Mitchell Robertson  

 Andrew Neal fondly remembers Easter School holidays being spent travelling with his father Peter to the Hawera trots from their Marlborough home. The Neals holidayed in the rural Taranaki town while racing on the Saturday and Monday. Although Neal Senior never won a Hawera Cup he had success and memorable times while competing in North Island grass track events. Fast forward to 2014 and his son and daughter-in-law have won the last two Hawera Cups. After Delight Brigade won last year, stablemate Three Jewels added the 2014 Hawera Cup on Saturday to the Taranaki Cup he won last year. The Mach Three mare was driven a treat by (Lyn) Neal. She settled her four back on the inner from her 20m handicap and was then four back on the outside with cover. Then on the home turn Neal had Three Jewels the widest turning in, and in the straight they were simply too strong clearing out to win by 2-1/2 lengths and one length from favourite River Polka (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and second favourite Styx It To Em (Maurice McKendry). Andrew Neal was delighted with the performance. “It’s a prestigious Cup. We are thrilled with her. She’s not far behind some of the best mares running around. She was a really nice fourth behind Adore Me in the Queen Of Hearts at Alexandra Park in December. “She also won the Taranaki in the mud last year. She’s a good tough mare who I think will be a nice broodmare one day,” Neal said. “It was also a very nice drive from Lyn,” he added. It was the 5-year-old’s 11th win in 25 starts. She’s also placed nine times and now won $90,548. Three of those wins have come this season. She also won two $8,000 races in consecutive starts at Cambridge Raceway on November 17 and December 5. Stablemate Delight Brigade was scratched from the Cup due to a blood disorder, and as a precaution will be out for another couple of weeks. Neal said Three Jewels, who finished fifth in the Country Cups Final two days after her Hawera Cup win, will now continue to race at Alexandra Park and Cambridge, most likely from handicaps. “She’s won 11 races and it’s not always easy to place her but she’s a quality mare and is a lot better than what her recent form-line has displayed. “She has a win or two left in her yet, and should perform well at stud one day,” he said. Three Jewels is the third of three foals out of the one-win Falcon Seelster mare, Falcon Jewel. Younger brother Courageous Falcon (by Courage Under Fire) won four of his 17 starts in New Zealand for the Neals, before being exported to Australia on July 18, 2011 where he won seven more races. Three Jewels is owned by the Neals and Mrs K. M. Yardley. She was bred by her trainers and Mrs J. Yardley. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of HRNZ)

Ricky May says suggestions Terror To Love is vulnerable heading into tonight's Easter Cup are off the mark. Questions have been swirling this week after the champion reinsman gave the three-time New Zealand Trotting Cup winner a quiet time of it in a two-horse trial at Ashburton on Tuesday. But while some may ponder whether or not the run will have been enough to get Terror To Love in shape to defeat champion mare Adore Me in tonight's $100,000 Group I event, May is keeping his cool, calm attitude. "I've been driving at the trials at Ashburton for 30 years," May said yesterday. "I know what a hard run can do to a horse there when they are four or five days out from a race. There have been plenty who have set that track alight during the week only to fail at the weekend." Terror To Love was timed to run his 2400m heat in 3min 8sec - a sedate effort considering he went 2min and 54.9sec for the Ashburton Flying Stakes on the course, over the same distance, last October. To May the time is irrelevant. The most successful horseman in New Zealand Trotting Cup history with seven wins was impressed with how Terror To Love looked and felt. "I thought he looked fantastic, certainly not like a horse who hasn't raced for a while. I gave him a really strong preliminary before the heat too and he felt awesome. "You can never get a [true] line on him at the trials anyway, he knows when it's raceday and grows another leg. "I was really pleased with the trial, I definitely don't think we have too much to worry about other than Adore Me." Back at his favourite track and racing over his pet distance, Terror To Love will still be favoured by many to down Adore Me tonight. The pair clashed for the first time last month in the Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park and Terror To Love emerged on top after giving the brilliant mare six to seven lengths at the top of the straight and running her down. "I think we can beat her for speed. "I'd be a little more worried if we had to sit outside her and try and beat her though." Adore Me, too, has some question marks hanging over her head. She is backing up from a gruelling 2600m event last week in which she started off a 40m handicap and set the stop watches alight by smashing the New Zealand all-comers record while also going within a whisker of beating the national mobile record as well. Tonight will be the first time Adore Me races over the ultimate distance of 3200m. In her favour though is that it is likely the lead will be waiting for her whenever she decides to come forward, with stablemate Arden Rooney looking the most likely early pacemaker. Ad Feedback "I don't think we would get the lead if we went around and he [Arden Rooney] was in front. So it's going to be pretty tactical and moves in the race will be crucial." Terror To Love was last night rated a $1.70 favourite to win the Group I with Adore Me at $2.10. Both horses are likely to offer more on the tote tonight, although the value for Adore Me is sure to entice some punters. The TAB have already taken a $5000 bet on Terror To Love. May holds a strong hand in tonight's secondary feature - the Group III $25,000 New Zealand Trotting Stakes for two-year-olds. He will drive smart trotter Monbet for Greg and Nina Hope, who suffered defeat for the first time in his career at Rangiora when beaten by BD Love. ❏ Samantha Ottley became the first female to reach 100 career driving wins while a junior driver when she was victorious with Gogirl Bromac at Forbury Park on Thursday night. After a couple of weeks stuck on 99, the talented young driver, who hails from Orari in South Canterbury, finally broke the duck and notched up the ton to continue her remarkable fledgling career.. In her first raceday drive, Ottley was successful when Nigel Paul won at the Kurow meeting on her 18th birthday. Attached to the stable of Colin and Julie de Filippi, Ottley currently sits second on the national junior drivers' championship behind North Island horseman Sailesh Abernethy. By Matt Markham (Courtesy of The Press)            

Purdon-Rasmussen juveniles Follow The Stars and Kept Under Wraps look set to dominate the male section of the rich Sydney Australian Pacing Gold series after winning their respective heats with authority at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday. The first of Mark Purdon’s two heat winners was Kept Under Wraps who, despite racing greenly and being headed around the home bend, fought back to win by a ½ head over gun Australian two-year-old Artistic Flite. The two-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight has now won two from two, while Art Major stablemate Follow The Stars extend his win streak to four when unleashing a last quarter of 26.0 and dashing away for a comprehensive 5.9 metre win over Its Only Rocknroll. Follow The Stars was Purdon and Rasmussen’s seventh training success of the weekend after producing four winners at Addington, and one at Alexandra Park, on Friday night. Meanwhile, Interdominion champion Beautide looks set for the upcoming Len Smith Mile after overhauling his rivals late to win $24,000 FFA. By Mitchell Robertson

Last year’s Rowe Cup place-getter and New Zealand record holder - Boizel – is back in New Zealand and set to tackle the Group races at Alexandra Park within the next month. The Tony Grayling trained 7-year-old gelding arrived back in New Zealand on March 28 after a second, third, seventh and 10th in four races at Tabcorp Park, Melton in Australia from February 15 to March 15. “He went really well in the Cochran Trotters Cup first up and then was an unlucky third in the Free-For-All the following week. Then he went off the boil. “I don’t know whether it was the heat, the bush fires, or he just wasn’t feeling well, but he wasn’t up to competing in the Great Southern Stars Series. Instead we wanted to look after him for the big races back here at Alexandra Park,” Grayling said. The Franklin horseman was referring to the Group One $100,000 Anzac Cup on Anzac Day (April 25), the Group Three $30,000 Greenlane Cup on May 2, and the Group One $150,000 Rowe Cup on May 9. “He was a bit tired when he came home but Chris Alford did a terrific job with him. I went over for the first 10 days and then came back to my team. “I’ll definitely line him up in the Anzac Cup and the Rowe Cup but I’m not sure about the Greenlane Cup. I’d like to get a trial into him before Anzac Day but the Easter break might put a dampener on that. I’m not too perturbed though because he’s bouncing around again and working very well,” said Grayling who works a team of 20 at Pukekohe. Boizel finished third behind Stig and Springbank Sam in last year’s Rowe Cup. Six months later the son of Dream Vacation set a New Zealand 2400m standing start record of 3:01 flat in Free-For-All Trot at Kaikoura. Boizel settle well back in that field that day while Stent and Master Lavros set a solid clip in front. He was three deep and second last down the back the last time and then in the straight Dexter Dunn threaded his way through the field to knock over Stent in the shadows of the post. He won with 2:01.3 mile rate and trotted his last 800m and 400m sectionals in 59.1 and 29.9 seconds. Boizel was the fourth favourite of the nine starters and paid $11.80 to win. “He placed in the Jewels but that was the best race of his career beating good horses like Stent and Master Lavros. The longer the go the better he is because he’s an out-and-out stayer. The Rowe Cup’s 3200m distance is ideal for him. “We will want a hot pace like they went at Kaikoura and then he will be in his element. He can stay all day. He’s a very good one-paced horse who just keeps bowling along,” Grayling said. Boizel has raced 29 times for 11 wins, 10 seconds and 13 thirds. The brown gelding has won $167,469 in stakes. “He’s my stable star and a very good trotter when he’s right. Every trainer would love to win a Rowe Cup. We went close last year. Hopefully we can go two better this time around,” 48-year-old Grayling said. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of HRNZ)

Last week the ring-around produced six winners, including my bet of the week and my two each-way bets of the week. Others to tip out winners were Jonny Cox, Steve Richardson, and Ken Barron. Let’s see if some of the trainers and drivers can hold up their end of the bargain this week! Forbury – Thursday Dexter Dunn: Has surprisingly opted for Phat Freddy’s Drop, who will look to break maidens in the first race on the card. Jonny Cox: Rates Mako Banner as a very good each-way chance in race three. Quinella with Katy Perry perhaps? Craig Thornley: Was pleased with U Can I Can at the recent Motukarara workouts - race four Mark Jones: Expects Ultimate CC to prove very hard to beat in the ninth race on the card Terry Chmiel: Is expecting a bold performance from Angus T Jones in the ninth race. Alexandra Park - Friday Scott Phelan: Expects Cheers Kathy to be very hard to roll in the first race on the card. Simon Lawson: Has opted for impressive last start winner Destination Moon - race six Todd Mitchell: Is a very big fan of Mach's Gladiator, and expects him to be hard to roll in the ninth race on the card. Addington - Friday   Blair Orange: Is bullish about the chances of Paramount Queen, who looks very well placed in race two. Anthony Butt: Thinks Thebestlove is a big chance in the NZ Trotting Derby - race four David Butt: Warns punters not to drop One Over Da Moon, who also competes in the NZ Trotting Derby - race four Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Expects Locharburn to prove to strong in the NZ Derby - race nine Ken Barron:  Rates the chances of capable two-year-old filly Livura, who has drawn well for Friday’s assignment - race twelve Gavin Smith: Thinks Dana Duke could be well over the odds in the same event - race twelve Invercargill - Sunday Matthew Williamson: Has opted for the capable yet enigmatic Bet's Sun, who would only need to trot to win the first race on the card. Tim Williams: Thinks Just A Delight, who has finished second in her last three outings, is overdue a winning turn - race ten Andrew Armour Thinks Blanco, who has raced well since joining the barn of Tom Kilkelly, is a good each-way chance in race eleven. Motukarara – Sunday Ricky May: Believes Franco Salisbury will take all sorts of beating from his ace draw – race seven. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Best Bet: Char Do Neigh – Invercargill, race five Each-way: Dream Gal – Forbury Park, race five Emmanuel – Addington, race three Value: Ranfurly Rulz – Addington, race one  

Saratoga's stunning win at Alexandra Park on Friday night has seen him leapfrog 61 horses on the Harness Jewels Leaderboard for the 4YO Ruby. Sitting 90th prior to his latest outing, the ‘Trotting For Fun’ owned trotter is now crouched in 29th and ready to pounce again this coming Friday night. All things considered too, he should even be better for last week's outing after a build-up that was probably less than ideal. "The first few days were worrying times when he was tied up for a bit," says caretaker-trainer Jeremy Young. "But he got better and better in the days leading up to his race, and it was a pretty big run on Friday night. "As soon as Tony (Herlihy) came in off the track I asked what happened when Saratoga galloped, but he couldn't explain it." Jeremy says Saratoga may have "gotten down on one of his back bumpers" going into the bend prior to breaking, which in layman's terms is akin to him grazing the back of his off-side hind hoof. "We've since put a couple of two-degree shoes on both his back feet, so that should lift them up a bit and stop it happening again," Jeremy said, adding that little gear adjustments here and there are quite the norm when a horse has to adapt to a different track and racing direction than what he's been used to. "And I reckon he should go another good race this Friday - because he's happy, he's eating up everything and he seems well; you can't ask for much more than that. "I gave him a quiet bowl around over two miles this morning, and he felt great. He's a little bit head-strong, because as soon as you hop in the cart he's off! "But that's just him though." The swimming pool where Saratoga's staying is slowly being introduced into his training programme as well, and Jeremy says our trotter's literally taken to it like a duck to water. "He's a great swimmer - he'd be as quick as any horse I've had, doing the laps." By John Robinson (Courtesy of GO-Harness Syndication)  

When it comes to siring your first winner, it rarely comes more impressively than Primz Luck. The talented two-year-old trotter easily accounted for a field of maiden trotters at Alexandra Park last night and looks set for the upcoming age group features. Driven by trainer James Stormont, Primz Luck, who is currently the only New Zealand qualifier by The Pres, settled in the one-one before pouncing quickly on his rivals in the home straight and racing away for a comprehensive 2 & ½ length win. The speedy youngster, who looks a natural two-year-old type, is now third on the Harness Jewels Leader Board, and looks set to carry on the family tradition and qualify for a Jewels Final. Primz Luck, who is out of Sundon mare Howz Lucky, is remarkably the younger half-brother of four trotters who have qualified for Jewels Finals including Madisonz Luck, who finished second to Kylie Ree in the 2YO Ruby in 2010. The Pres, who won four races in America from just nine starts, is a son of champion sire Andover Hall out of Hambletonian Oaks winner Southwind Allaire (Valley Victory). The Pres recorded a best time of 1-55.1 when winning at Pocono Downs in June of 2008 and currently has multiple two-year-old winners in the USA. He currently stands at Wai Eyre Farm for a fee of $3,250 plus GST. Stormont also enjoyed success at Alexandra Park last night with promising three-year-old Mum’s Pride, while Letz Elope claimed the feature Kumeu Stakes at Group Three level. By Mitchell Robertson

Just as it looked like it was going to be a war between the favourites Locharburn and Tiger Tara, Isaiah sprouted wings late to nab victory in the $40,000 Group Two feature at Addington. “Mark (Purdon) thought we might be a run short tonight so I’m pleasantly surprised,” said co-owner Phil Kennard. “I’m really looking forward to next week’s Derby now, especially if he improves on that,” he enthused. Driven by Natalie Rasmussen, who combined with the three-year-old to win the Sales Series Final on New Year’s Eve, Isaiah came with a powerful run down centre track to claim victory by a nose over Locharburn. Tiger Tara, who set up the hot tempo, was a further neck back in third. “He has been going good races all season and the hot tempo really suited him tonight,” said co-trainer Mark Purdon. Purdon was also pleased with the run of Messini, who finished fourth, while Alleluia, who was the top rated stable three-year-old going into the race, disappointed finishing at the tail of the field. Isaiah, who paced the 1950 metre journey in a scintillating 2-18.9, was just one of three winning drives for Natalie Rasmussen, who alongside partner Mark trained six winners tonight. Those winners were: All Star Man (Natalie Rasmussen), King Denny (Mark Purdon), Raesawinner (Natalie Rasmussen), Isaiah (Natalie Rasmussen), Hug The Wind (Blair Orange), and Saratoga (Tony Herlihy), who was successful at Alexandra Park. Meanwhile, Royal Aspirations trotted a New Zealand record when winning the 4 & 5YO Trotters Championship, while Majestic Time showed her class by winning NZ Trotting Oaks in emphatic fashion. By Mitchell Robertson  

Congratulations to David Butt, Josh Dickie, Mark Jones, Simon Lawson, and Tim Williams who all tipped out winners last week. Unfortunately Blair Orange came up a  ½ length short of tipping six consecutive winners, with the stablemate that he did highlight as the horse to beat holding on to win narrowly. Let’s find out what the boys have sorted out for us this week: Andrew Armour: Expects Armbro Courage to break maidens at very short notice – Winton, race six. Anthony Butt: Thinks Ideal Power can make it three straight victories – Addington, race seven. Blair Orange: Has opted to go head-to-head with Anthony, tipping Rocknroll Arden in the same event - Addington, race seven. Craig Thornely: Believes Gotta Grunter can break maidens after a string of seconds to open her career. She competes in the sixth race at Rangiora on Sunday. David Butt:  Has a big opinion of One Over Da Moon and expects him to win the second race at Addington on Friday. Gavin Smith: Thinks the unbeaten Karanga Red Fantasy, who trialled well behind Adore Me on Monday, will prove hard to beat in race three at Addington on Friday. Jonny Cox: Expects Goodness Gracious Me, who was a game third in the Southland Oaks, to be very hard to beat in the seventh race at Winton on Sunday. Josh Dickie: Has opted for Sunny Vacation as his bet of the week – Alexandra Park, race ten. Ken Barron: Was keen around the chances of Quality Invasion but in the end opted for Majestic Time who will take all sorts of stopping in the NZ Trotting Oaks – Addington, race four. Mark Jones: Is very happy with Master Lavros and expects him to bounce back to winning for in the race ten at Addington on Friday. Matthew Williamson:  Thinks talented but enigmatic trotter Bet’s Sun can bet its best foot forward in the third race at Rangiora on Sunday. Nathan Williamson: Thinks the consistent Defy is overdue a winning turn – Winton, race six. Ricky May: Expects extremely talented two-year-old trotter Monbet to prove too good in the first race at Rangiora on Sunday. Simon Lawson: Rates the chances of Besotted in the Kumeu Stakes at Alexandra Park on Friday. Steve Richardson (T.A.B):  Likes the chances of speedy filly God Forbid who should be better for her fresh up run – Alexandra Park, race five. Terry Chmiel: Thinks Little Less can get some money in the seventh race at Addington on Friday. Tim Williams: Has opted for Popular, who should be just that with punters after a very good run behind Raksdeal last start – Winton, race two. Todd Mitchell: Expects his stable star Prime Power to prove very hard to beat in the eighth race at Alexandra Park on Friday. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Best Bet: Saratoga – Alexandra Park, race ten. Each-way: Hug The Wind – Addington, race eleven. Smiles For Miles – Winton, race six. Value: Pomme Roy – Addington, race six.

High-priced New Zealand import Libertybelle Midfrew gave a sample of her class with an effortless victory at her Australian debut in the 1730m Make Smoking History Pace at Gloucester Park on Tuesday evening. Trained at Hazelmere by Mike Reed and driven by Shannon Suvaljko, Libertybelle Midfrew, favourite at 3/1 on, started from the outside of the front line and was restrained to last before sustaining a powerful three-wide burst which took her from sixth at the bell to the front 400m from home. She dashed over the final quarters in 28.4sec. and 29.8sec. and was not extended in beating All About Pink by more than two lengths at a 1.58.5 rate. The filly was bought by Perth businessman Albert Walmsley and is being set for the $150,000 WA Oaks on May 9. “I went to New Zealand two months ago to buy a yearling at the sales in Christchurch, but changed my mind and bought Libertybelle Midfrew instead,” Walmsley said. Libertybelle Midfrew (by Christian Cullen) had 11 starts in New Zealand for one win and four placings for stakes of $131,012. She scored a five-length victory in the $156,000 Sales Classic for two-year-old fillies at Alexandra Park in April of last year. She was placed at three of her final four New Zealand starts behind star Mach Three filly Venus Serena, who has amassed $503,622 from 11 wins from 16 starts. By Ken Casellas

Champion trotter Stig has been retired for approximately the third time but this time his trainer Paul Nairn is all but certain there will be no fairytale comeback story. “He is more likely to be seen at the Ellesmere show in October competing in the hack class than back on a racetrack,” says the eleven year-old gelding’s legendary trainer, Paul Nairn. “He has been offloading which has caused him to go in a hind suspensory,” advised Nairn. “He is still relatively sound but he would definitely need a spell and it is not easy to bring back an eleven-year-old gelding,” he added. “And I think he has earned his retirement, don’t you?” The war horse who stole the hearts of harness racing fans across Australasia will now live out his days as a riding hack for Stacy Whatuira, who works for Nairn at his Leeston base. When asked what Stig’s greatest attributes were, Nairn was quick to highlight his toughness and huge will to win. “When he was right he was just such a tremendous stayer,” said Nairn. “He simply had no bottom to him.” “The race that will always stand out for me is his Dominion Handicap win in 2008. I think Darren Tyquin called the race that day and it was a tremendous call. He was last and looped the field four wide and was simply too good. For those of you who can’t remember that day, Darren Tyquin’s words were: “Super Stig. Have a look at a real champion go. He is the best trotter in New Zealand and his name is Stig!” Sadly, just four months after this, Stig went amiss and after the gelding went sore again while being jogged up by co-owner Tim Butt, the son of Armbro Invasion was officially retired. But, somehow, through the deeds of a champion horse and a champion trainer, Stig made it back to the races in February of 2012 to start a campaign which saw him win the Rowe Cup in December in what was one of the most emotional victories ever seen at Alexandra Park. “He was doing the dual sulkies out at Lindsay Kerslake’s place and he seemed sound so I decided to give him another go,” recalls Nairn. “I’m certainly glad I did now,” he laughed. “His Rowe Cup win was an absolute fairytale and is definitely the race that stands out alongside his Dominion victory.” “If he had have had a sound career he could have been absolutely anything,” Nairn concluded. Nairn said he would like to pay thanks to his vet Lindsay Colwell, who has been an instrumental part of the second half of Stig’s career, as well as David Butt, who did a wonderful job of driving the gelding throughout his career. Nairn also thanked co-owner Jim Boyd, who became famous for his post-race songs, which included the hit single ‘Stigey boy’. “I think I need to thank Jim as he annoyed Tim (Butt) so much that Tim got sick of him and decided to offload him, as well as Stig, on to me,” Nairn quipped. Stig fact file: lifetime starts: 63 wins: 23 seconds: 12 thirds: 6 Stakes: $855,096 Sire: Armbro Invasion Dam: Naraya (Gekoj) Owners:  T G Butt, Mrs Andrea Butt, J S Boyd, Mrs R I Boyd, R G Thomas, Ms J A Gordon Group One wins: New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All, Dominion Handicap, National Trot, Rowe Cup, Great Southern Star heat. By Mitchell Robertson    

Saturday’s Geelong Pacing Cup winner, Chilli Palmer, is coming to New Zealand to contest the two Group One 4-year-old events at Alexandra Park, and then if he can earn enough dollars, the Harness Jewels Final at Cambridge Raceway on May 31. Victorian trainer Dean Braun all but confirmed the New Zealand trip after Chilli Palmer’s 3.8 metre victory over the $1.40 Geelong Cup favourite, Smoken Up. “I’m meeting with the owners on Tuesday night but I can virtually say it’s a done deal. He will contest the Taylor Mile (May 2), the Messenger (May 9), and then hopefully the Jewels Final (May 31),” Braun told Harness Racing New Zealand. He said Chilli Palmer was likely to contest a race at Alexandra Park on Anzac Day - a week before the $100,000 Group One events. “We got tripped up last  time we were here. You need to have a good look at the track before you line a horse up at Alexandra Park. “The first bend is vital. I’ll probably fly the horse in the Saturday before Anzac Day or possibly even the Wednesday so we can trial him on the Saturday. “I don’t want to make the same mistake twice,” he stressed. He was referring to his 2012 New Zealand Messenger champion, Mustang Mach, who went a shocker a week before in the Taylor Mile. “He finished last on the first night and then he and Dexter (Dunn) came out and won the Messenger beating good horses like Gold Ace and Terror To Love. He later ran an unlucky fourth in the Jewels Final at Cambridge,” Braun said. The 37-year-old Lara (near Geelong) horseman said he was delighted with Chilli Palmer’s $30,000 Group Three victory on Saturday, but rated his Group One $125,000 McInerney 4yo Ford Classic victory at Gloucester Park as his best. “What he did that night was unbelievable. He sat back, launched and killed them. I’ve only ever seen one other horse do that on that track. “I’m not saying he’s in the same class as ‘Quinny’ (Themightyquinn), but it was a run I’ll never forget. That’s why I think he will go great on the bigger Alexandra Park track. I’ve trained him that way and it doesn’t seem to be a problem,” Braun said. Like Mustang Mach, Chilli Palmer was bred in New Zealand. Terry and Glenys Chmiel did his early preparation with him. They won two trials at Rangiora and a workout at Motukarara before he was exported to Australia on February 11 last year. Chilli Palmer has now won 10 of his 14 starts and $175,594. He recorded his quickest mile rate of 1:51.5 when winning the Group Three $30,000 Garrards 4yo Bonanza at Tabcorp Park on February 8. He is likely to stay at Tony Herlihy’s stable at Ardmore with Herlihy’s former employee Amanda Grieve. She has been employed by Braun for the last seven weeks and will travel with the 4-year-old Elsu gelding. Chilli Palmer is owned by Braun, Mara Scarpino, K. Farah, A Kheir, J. R. Pezzimenti, S. Parkinson, A Mathews, C Badcock, and A. Badcock. He was bred by Graeme Henley and S. R. Henley. Braun regarded his 2012 NZ Messenger win with Mustang Mach as his career highlight. “It’s hard enough beating the Kiwis on any track but to do it in their own backyard was special. I want to repeat the dose. In fact we are coming to win all three of your Group one races. “I wouldn’t be sending him there if I didn’t think we could achieve that,” Braun said. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

Just a day after it was announced that Great Southern Star winner Keystone Del will tackle the upcoming Triple Crown at Alexandra Park, news has come through that gun Victorian four-year-old Chilli Palmer is also likely to be at the meeting. The Group One winning four-year-old, who was educated here in New Zealand by Terry and Glenys Chmiel, is likely to compete in both the New Zealand Messenger and the Taylor Mile according to his trainer Dean Braun, who is no stranger to campaigning horses in the north. Braun, who has risen to stardom in the training ranks in recent years, enjoyed success with another former Kiwi in Mustang Mach in the 2012 NZ Messenger, meaning that the Victorian trainer knows exactly what to expect if and when his star Elsu gelding touches down in Auckland. This information is sure to thrill Auckland Trotting Club officials, who have already confirmed that the Brent Lilley trained Zedalite will be in Auckland during April.   Meanwhile, top driver Dexter Dunn, who has now driven seven consecutive centuries, reined home his 100th winner for the season when victorious aboard Marchesa at Wingatui today. By Mitchell Robertson  

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