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Presented by Winger Motors, the 2017 Oaks & Derby Festival is set deliver two exciting evenings of top harness racing and the latest designer fashion. Hospitality packages for Alexandra Park’s festival on the first two Fridays in March are selling fast, says Joel Reichardt, Alexandra Park Sales & Marketing Manager. Fashion at the Oaks will take place on Friday 3 March with tickets for the glamorous evening in the Tasman Room available for $99 per person. Attendees will not only enjoy a gourmet three-course meal but a glass of bubbles on arrival, a deluxe goodie bag, and a great night of fashion shows featuring the latest collections from leading designers Adrienne Winkelmann, Kay Goss, Yvonne Bennetti, Augustine and Hailwood. Fashion at the Oaks is set to be a fun night out with Alexandra Park now encouraging people to gather their friends and colleagues together. Tables and tickets during the festival can be reserved and purchased by calling (09) 631-1165 or emailing dining@alexandrapark.co.nz For the lovers of harness racing, Top of the Park upstairs on Oaks Night will provide the perfect place to watch New Zealand’s best three-year-old fillies battle it out on the track in the Group One Pascoe The Jewellers Northern Oaks, with different buffet dining packages still available. Derby Night is on Friday 10 March with the big race being the Group One Woodlands Stud Northern Derby. That night an array of beverage and dining packages are again available in both the Tasman Room and Top of the Park. Derby Night will also see the annual Best Dressed At The Races competition for fashion-forward track-goers 18 years or over to enter. There will be three categories - Best Dressed Lady, Best Dressed Man and Best Headwear - with some amazing prizes on offer and one grand prize for the best dressed overall. Best Dressed At the Races will see plenty of catwalk action in the Tasman Room, with further information about the competition on Alexandra Park’s Facebook page and website. General admission into Alexandra Park as well as car-parking and race books remain free on both evenings. For further information on the 2017 Oaks & Derby Festival check out www.alexandrapark.co.nz Joel Reichardt: (021) 786-034

Despite a nice win at the Auckland Trotting Club’s Workouts in Pukekohe last Saturday (February 11) the multiple Group One winning mare, The Orange Agent, is still very much a day-to-day proposition. Those words came from her Ardmore trainer, Brian (Bunty) Hughes, three days after the American Ideal mare won her 2500m - R55 and faster mobile in the hands of Tony Herlihy (MNZM). She nailed the six-horse trial (right-handed) by three quarters of a length, stopping the clock in 3:15.9 (mile rate 2:06) and last 800m and 400m in 59.2 and 27.8. The Orange Agent started started from the outside of the front-line and Herlihy eased her to the rear early. The classy mare then got a drag into the race from Bet Out Of El at the 700m and then in the lane had too much sprint for her opponents. She won untouched. That was her first run since winning at Cambridge Raceway on January 8 last year when she triumphed in the Group Two Waikato Flying Mile in 1:56.3. Hughes said he was delighted with where she was at, but wasn’t getting too carried away. “When you have a horse go through what she’s been through then you can only take her one day at a time. One day she could be fine and the next she could end up lame. “She’s healthy now but you never take anything for granted in this game. It’s all about getting her fit for premier racing at Alexandra Park next month,” Hughes said. The Orange Agent suffered two breaks in her hind leg and was boxed for three months at a time - twice. At the time of her injury she was New Zealand’s best pacing mare and then while she was on the road to recovery vets found another fracture in her pastern in July last year. “You can’t look too far ahead with a horse like this, but if she comes through her Auckland races okay then there are Australia options later in the season. “It would be just great to have her back to her best, because she was a quality mare and one of the best of her sex going around,” Hughes said. The Orange Agent has raced 25 times for 18 wins, four seconds, and banked $562,175 in stakes. Her Group One wins came in the Northern Oaks (3yo), the Nevele R Fillies Final, the Harness Jewels Diamond - all in 2015. She has had two starts in Australia for a Breeders Crown heat win at Ballarat on August 22, 2015 and then eight days later crushed her 11 opponents in the Group One $175,000 Breeders Crown Final at Melton's Tabcorp Park. She was also crowned 4-Year-Old Pacing Mare of the Year at the 2016 Harness Racing Awards in Christchurch. The Orange Agent’s first race-day assignment will be in either the Group Three $25,000 Lincoln Farms Free-For-All 'The Founders Pace' or the Charles Roberts $20,000 North Island Standardbred Breeders Stakes for 4-year-old and pacing mares on March 3. “I can’t stress enough that’s she’s day-to-day proposition, but at this stage she is healthy and we just need to get her fit,” Hughes reiterated. Duane Ranger

A fortnight after her nailingher 400th training success at Cambridge Raceway, Nicky Chilcott drove her 600th career winner at Alexandra Park tonight (Friday). The Cambridge driver, who is New Zealand’s most successful horsewoman, notched up the milestone with $1.50 favourite, Juice Brogden in the first race – the $12,000 Kuan Yap Maiden Pace. Ecstatic with the victory, Chilcott said it was very appropriate that she nailed the 600th behind the 3-year-old Bettor’s Delight – Hayley Brogden filly. “She’s gone 2:40 tonight and it felt like she was walking. I would go as far as saying that she is now the best filly I have trained, and I have trained some nice ones like Attsa Nice, who won six races.  “I’m also rapt for the co-owners – Graeme and Judy Bowen, who also bred the horse. They have been such loyal supporters and this win is even more special because of them,” Chilcott said. Chilcott said it was also appropriate that she won behind Juice Brogden in the red, yellow, and black Waikato colours. “Graeme was the CEO of the Waikato Rugby Union (from 2007-2015) and there’s no-one more ‘Waikato’ than both him and myself. “I’m so pleased for all the owners because they have a very nice filly. She did it so easy tonight. She really did cruise it. I think we are going to have some fun with her,” the 45-year-old said. Juice Brogden was having her fourth start after three previous placings since making her debut at ‘The Park’ on December 2. Chilcott shot her to the lead from barrier three and from that point the race was for second. The filly paced the 2200m mobile in a slashing 2:40.8 (mile rate 1:57.6) and home in 57.5 and 29.1. American Princess (Brent Mangos) and Luis Alberto (Simon Lawson) were some one-and-a-half lengths and one-and-a-quarter lengths back in second and third. Chilcott’s 600th win came a night after her pacer Everything achieved 599 victories for her. The 5-year-old Sands A Flyin gelding gave Chilcott her 400thdriving success at the Kapiti Coast Harness Racing Club’s meeting on the Otaki grass on January 27. “I’m just a simple country girl who has achieved everything on my own, soI’m quite proud of what’s happened. It’s pleasing to have landed 1,000 wins nowboth as a trainer and a driver,” Chilcott said. Chilcott first sat in the sulky on race-day in the 1992-1993 season and has had 6,971 drives for 600 wins, 646 seconds, 41 thirds and has amassed almost $4.1 million in stakes in the bike. The Cambridge conditionerstarted training in the 1997-1998 season and has had 3602 starts for 404 wins, 405 seconds and 375 placings. She has won $2.8 million in stakes. Meanwhile, three $25,000Young Guns 2-year-old were staged at Alexandra Park tonight – all from the 1700m mobile. The first – the Breckon Farms Heat for colts and geldings was won by the Barry Purdon trained and Zac Butcher driven $1.20 favourite, South Beach Arden. The Somebeachsomewhere colt stopped the clock in 2:07.9 (mile rate 2:01 even) and home in 58.7 and 27.9. He had a head to spare over stablemate Mach Shard, who was driven by his trainer. Purdon and Butcher repeated the dose in the fifth event – the Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock 2yo fillies heat which was won by Spandau Ballet from the widest front-row draw of eight. The Bettor’s Delight – Giveitawhirlgirl filly won in 2;05.6 (mile rate 1:58.9) and sprinted her last 800m and 400m in 58.7 and 29. She had three quarters of a length to spare over Eye Candy (Todd Mitchell) and Harmony Blue (Tony Herlihy MNZM). She was the $9.50 fifth favourite. The final 2yo race – anotherCrombie Lockwood Bloodstock fillies heat was taken out by the John and Josh Dickie trained New York Rain, who won from gate seven. The American Ideal – Ohoka Moon filly won by three quarters of a length from Gold Orchid in 2:07.26 (mile rate 2:00.4) and home in 58 and 27.4. She was driven by Simon Lawson and was the $6.40 fourth favourite. Purdon and Butcher were the most successful trainer/driver combo tonight winning three races. Their other victory came in the non-tote event with the trained 2-year-old Love You – Paramount Star trotter, Paramount King. But Butcher was undoubtedly the horseman of the night driving five winners. His fourth driving success came behind the Ray Green trained Alta Intrigue in the eighth event and then number five came two races later when he reined Kate Black to victory for the Dickie father and son training partnership. Duane Ranger

Stakes for Alexandra Park are set to explode, with an extra $40,000 to be poured into each meeting. And while the announcement comes with a delay, the timing is also perfect. After an enormous response to their property developments at Alexandra Park, having sold all 246 apartments in the first two stages, the Auckland Trotting Club is assured of some big dollars rolling in in the years ahead. And ATC president Bruce Carter is moving early to ensure that money goes into stakes across all levels. "We are going to increase stakes for all our meetings by $40,000 per meeting," said Carter. "It won't kick in until the start of August next year but it will definitely happen and we want to tell people now so they know something really big is in the offing." Carter says the ATC is moving now on future stakes because it wants to support the upcoming yearling sales, which start at Karaka on February 20. "We want people to be able to go to the sales knowing that by the time that horse turns three, the stakes at Alexandra Park will be way beyond anything we have seen for harness racing in this country before." A general increase of $40,000 per meeting spread across a standard 10-race card could potentially see maidens racing for $16,000, an unheard of amount for that grade anywhere in Australasia. That will raise some concerns about horses who win breaching the handicapping thresholds in Australia, where any win worth more than $15,000 attracts a metropolitan penalty, potentially affecting the export market. Carter says while the exact distribution of the stakes across grades is far from being finalised how the record levels affect the export market will be discussed. "We are all aware of that but the bottom line is the ATC wants to help local trainers, owners, breeders and vendors and we also want to keep horses in New Zealand. "We want to make racing at Alexandra Park so attractive people don't want to sell their horses." Alexandra Park already pay all starters the equivalent of $400 spread across the owners and trainers and have seen a significant increase in field sizes down in the grades but northern harness racing still struggles to retain enough better class horses. Carter says the ATC board was adamant the increases should be across the board rather than the ego-boost of increasing its glamour races like the Auckland Cup, even though it is worth far less than the New Zealand Cup. "We may look at those in the future, especially when more money from development comes online, but our commitment is to stakes that are spread across the industry and not just the better horses." The decision is a sensible one because while the Auckland Cup on December 31 was $250,000, you could have doubled it and the only realistic change is that Lazarus may have started, which would have had its benefits but also its downside. The future stakes increases are not the only change to Alexandra Park racing in recent days, with 26-year-old Regan Cotter taking over as the club's youngest ever racing manager. Cotter has worked in the racing department for 18 month and replaces Kevin Smith, who has joined HRNZ as a handicapper. Sky high stakes • An extra $40,000 will be poured into each ATC meeting. • The money will be spread across all grades, potentially raising maiden stakes to $16,000. • The stake increases will kick in on August 1, 2018. They are being announced now to help boost confidence before the yearling sales. Courtesy of Michael Guerin 

The home of harness racing in Auckland, Alexandra Park, has now sold all of its 246 high-end apartments in stage one and two of its significant residential development, with the value of total gross sales amounting to nearly $300 million. Construction is well underway at 223 Green Lane West on part of Alexandra Park’s large carpark to transform it into an urban village. The first of the 750 residents are set to move in alongside the live trotting track next year. Since launching in 2015 it has been one of the city’s largest brownfield developments and has been dubbed Auckland’s fastest selling project of its size. The apartments, townhouses, and penthouses have all achieved good prices, with the development’s largest penthouse selling last year for $4.75m by Colliers International. Alexandra Park chief executive, Dominique Dowding, says prices and popularity of the apartments have exceeded the Auckland Trotting Club’s expectations “It is truly exciting that, here in Epsom, the market has responded so positively to our medium density, mixed-use development. It completely reinforces our decision to put total emphasis on delivering absolute quality and its location has also helped considerably,” she says. Ms Dowding says other factors that buyers have cited include the comprehensively master-planned environment with great public spaces, the apartments’ ‘freehold title’ status, the double grammar school zone, and the prospect of strong capital gain. Beneath the apartments will be a unique FreshChoice grocery concept, boutique retail and some favourite New Zealand hospitality names and brands soon to be announced. The success of Alexandra Park’s urban village development was confirmed in a recent Colliers International residential project survey which assessed 27 ‘off the plan’ projects across Auckland for the first six months of last year. The Colliers International survey revealed that during that period Alexandra Park was number one across several categories including ‘total sales volume’ and ‘total sales value’ beating all other individual CBD, city and fringe projects. At the same time, Alexandra Park took out the top spot for ‘market share’ and ‘total sales by location’ when compared to all other fringe projects. Will Coates, Projects Manager in Residential Projects Marketing at Colliers International says Alexandra Park has well and truly broken a historic mould. “Auckland has historically seen large apartment developments in the CBD. After all, 64% of Auckland’s total apartment stock is located in the CBD. So to see a city fringe project of Alexandra Park’s size do so well is extremely rare,” he says. “Alexandra Park is not only selling high quality apartments, but it’s offering an entire master-planned community, including a retail High Street, as well as all the existing amenities the Auckland Trotting Club brings to the location. No other development in Auckland has ever offered this kind of mix before, and this I believe is where a large part of their success lies,” says Mr Coates.  Auckland’s award-winning RTA Studio is the lead architect and international urban design experts Civitas are overseeing the outside transformation which will include plenty of world-class public spaces and promenades. N-Compass and RDT Pacific are the project managers. Long-time New Zealand-owned construction company, Canam, is building stage one and respected Australasian company Ganellen is building stage two. At the Auckland Trotting Club’s AGM in October members approved in principle entering stage three of the urban village development and for the board to proceed with the necessary investigative work. Ms Dowding says an announcement on stage three will be made this year, following considerable and ongoing public interest. She says registrations of interest can be made via the project’s website www.apliving.co.nz and parties will be kept updated on the release date. For further information contact: Dominique Dowding, Alexandra Park CEO (021) 377-303 Will Coates, Colliers International (021) 730-409

The Auckland Trotting Club has appointed Regan Cotter as it’s Racing Manager. The 26-year-old took over from Kevin Smith last Thursday (January 26). Smith will now work for Harness Racing New Zealand as their handicapper in the north. One of the youngest Racing Managers to ever land the job, Cotter was ecstatic with his appointment. “Even though it’s a big challenge, I am extremely excited about the position and want to thank the ATC Board and Dominique Dowding (CEO) for their support and putting faith in me. “Alexandra Park is one of the most progressive racing clubs in New Zealand, both on and off the track, and to be the club’s racing manager is a dream come true,” Cotter said. “I also want to thank Kevin for the solid grounding he gave me,” he added. Cotter came to Alexandra Park in August 2015. He was born in Levin and educated in Wanganui. “I’m very excited about the job. I’ve learnt so much in the 17 months I have been here. I’ve always wanted a job in either sport or racing. I couldn’t be happier,” North Shore-based Cotter said. Cotter said he brought youthful enthusiasm to the job. “There are a lot of young people involved in harness racing. To me they are the future of the industry,” he said. Cotter was educated at Wanganui Collegiate School and at the end of seventh-form (Year 13) he spent a gap year coaching sport at Millfield Prep School in Glastonbury in Somerset, England. Cotter is a better than average cricket and hockey player and has always been interested in racing and thanks to his father and best friend Paul, he has had a long interest in racing. “Dad used to be a greyhound trainer back in the 1970s, 80s and early 90s and raced a lot at the former Solway Park track. He has always been interested in racing”. “I remember we always went to the Otaki grass trots every year and whenever Dad comes to Auckland we always go to Alexandra Park together”. “It’s a great track, one of the best around,” Cotter said. On returning from England Cotter graduated from AUT (Auckland University of Technology) with a Bachelor of Communications. Then from 2011 to 2013 he worked as a technical producer for Radio Trackside. “I really enjoyed my time with Radio Trackside. I got more familiar with racing and worked alongside people like Nathan Rarere, Ian Smith, Richard Loe, Murray Owles, Alby Gain, Peter Earley, Simon Doull, and Mark Rosonowski. “But this is the job I wanted. I really want to make racing my career choice in life,” said Cotter. Trainers have already applauded Cotter’s ability to relate and get on well with them. Cotter believed that was one of his strongest attributes. “I want to do my job with a smile and treat people the way I want to be treated. Life is too short to be angry. There are a whole lot challenges but that’s what I thrive on,” said Cotter. He said there were also exciting times outside racing at ‘The Park’. “The building developments and the business that operate at Alexandra Park make the job really exciting. We have even got our first Blues game coming up. They will play in the middle of the racetrack against the Hurricanes,” he said. “This is an awesome opportunity for me and I’m going to tackle it with positivity and enthusiasm. I want to Club to keep progressing forward and as Racing Manager I see that as one of my vital roles. “I think my time at University and the skills I learnt there, especially communication, will help me achieve that,” Cotter said. “I think my humble roots will also put me in good stead. At the end of the day I see it as my role to keep everyone happy and keep progressing the high standard of racing we have at Alexandra Park,” he added. Meanwhile Dowding said: “Regan was promoted to the ATC’s Racing Manager due to the departure of Kevin Smith to the HRNZ Handicapping Role. “Regan has been an amazing support to Kevin and has picked up the racing and industry dynamic extremely well. He brings a vast experience in digital marketing and promotion coupled with his passion for sports administration and in particular Harness Racing. “We know Regan is going to do an outstanding job for us and we thank Kevin for having been a great mentor.” Duane Ranger

Alexandra Park is celebrating Chinese New Year 2017 with a dedicated harness racing night on Friday, 10 February. “Alexandra Park has been the home of the Auckland Trotting Club since 1890 and Chinese Aucklanders are a bit part of our story. Hence we’ve decided to host a special evening showcasing traditional entertainment and a delicious all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet dinner,” says Joel Reichardt, Sales & Marketing Manager at Alexandra Park. He says tickets are selling fast for the plentiful Chinese-themed hospitality which will take place from 5.30pm at Alexandra Park’s premier 5th floor function venue, Top of the Park. As well as the entertainment and sumptuous buffet, attendees will also enjoy an outstanding view of all the exciting harness racing action under lights below. Top of the Park will be beautifully themed and decorated in celebration of the Year of the Rooster. Dining packages are just $65pp for the buffet only, and $99 for the all-inclusive beverage package. To secure tickets phone (09) 630-5660 or visit www.alexandrapark.co.nz “This is set to be a fantastic evening so we’re really encouraging people to get their colleagues, family and friends together and come along. “Alexandra Park has long been known for having the best Chinese restaurant in Auckland, Grand Park. Now our own first-class chefs have designed a Chinese buffet menu which is not only comprehensive but will be packed with delicious flavours and modern twists. “We get great reviews about our food and we’re expecting exceptional feedback on our Chinese New Year offering. February 10 is not only set to be a fun night, but we’re also offering great value. Given the success of the ticket sales so far, I suspect we’ll be doing it all again next year,” says Mr Reichardt. Alexandra Park is set to roll out other internationally-themed evenings throughout the year, and on every race night general admission, car-parking and race books are free. The 2017 Oaks & Derby Festival is set for 3 and 10 March. www.alexandrapark.co.nz

Brent Mangos isn’t getting too carried away with his promising pacer Vampiro, but deep down he knows he has a very nice 3-year-old in his Waiau Pa barn. “He’s done everything we have asked of him. Every time he steps out on the track he seems to be a better race-horse. He’s still three or four months away from his best. “Whether he can match it with the top 3-year-olds is a another quiestion. That’s a huge step for any young horse to take, but as for now, I couldn’t be happier with him,” Mangos said. The lightly tried son of Rocknroll Hanover and Fortune Lover (by Artsplace) notched up his second win in two starts at Alexandra Park last night (Thursday). Vampiro and Mangos led all the way from barrier one in the $13,000 Dunstan Summer Series Maiden Pace. They paced the 2200m mobile in 2:42.4 (mile rate 1:58.8) and sprinted their last 800m and 400m in 56.8 and 27.7 seconds. “He won his last three Workouts quite easily and then on debut (December 22) he drew one on the second line and didn’t get a go at them. “We turned him out when he was a 2-year-old and he’s come back real strong this time in. He’s a very nice 3-year-old, but I want to stress to you he has a big leap to make if he wants to foot it with the guns later in the season,” the Franklin-based trainer/driver said. “In saying that I couldn’t be happier with his progress,” he stressed. Mangos liked the way Vampiro raced. “He has a will to win and hasn’t let me down yet. He is quite impressive,” he said. But perhaps the ‘drive of the night’ came from Mangos behind the Tim Vince trained Monnay in the feature trot - the $15,000 Dunstan Summer Series Handicap for the R60 to R116 trotters. The 9-year-old Majestic gelding and Mangos started from 30m behind and went around to the lead at the 1700m (of 2700m) - and from that put Mangos set a solid clip in front, stretching his 12 opponents down the back straight. It was a daring drive and proved the winning of the race. They held out the fast-finishing favourite, Speeding Spur, by half a neck. The connections of the first two home would have been delighted with the race, especially the latter who has now virtually sealed himself a start in the Great Southern Star in Melbourne - a race he won last year. Asked if Mangos took driving advice from Vince he replied: "If he did it went in one ear and out the other,” he joked. “I knew that this fella couldn’t go much quicker than 3:30 (3:29.9) so that was the tactic. “I tried to bowl him along as fast as he could to keep the good trotter out and it worked. Tim has done a great job with this trotter and I take my hat off to him. He fell in but the tactic worked,” said Mangos. Monnay trotted a 2:05 mile rate and came home in 58.9 and 30.2. It was the Monarchy gelding's 15th win ($120,259) in 75 starts, and second straight victory for Vince. Vince has now remarkably trained eight winners from nine starters in the last fortnight. The Kumeu horseman’s 13 wins this season is a personal best. Meanwhile, Mangos and Hall-of-Famer, Barry Purdon, were the most successful drivers at ‘The Park’ last night, winning two races apiece. Purdon won the non-tote event behind the 2-year-old Majestic - Fear Factor (four wins) gelding he trains named Stress Factor and then three races later he won behind the Mach Three - Sly Shard (four wins) 2-year-old colt he also trains called Mach Shard. Purdon paid $200,000 for the half-brother to Smiling Shard (17 wins and $1.1m) at last year's New Zealand Premier Sale at Christchurch. He was the Sales topper. One of the other highlights of the night came in $9,000 Winger group Fashion At The Oaks Handicap for the Up to R58 trotters. Fourteen-year-old Moment Of Truth (Peter Ferguson) notched up his 29th career win ($266,919) in the 2200m stand. The Sundon gelding, who was claimed, was the $12.20 eighth favourite. The old boy, who is trained by Liza Milina at Kumeu, has now won at least one race every season (except 2013-2014) since 2006-2007. “The only time we put a sulky on him is race-day. I train him on the Murawai Beach behind the 4-wheel drive with my partner Matt (Bray). He does the driving and I’m sitting at the back with the horses. “He always wants to go flat out. He’s happiest when he can do that. We can get up to 50km/h. Pete does a great job of driving him on race-day,” Milina said. Duane Ranger

Harness racing fixed odds movers for Auckland as at 6:00pm Race 1 - Easily the best backed in win and multi betting is Forfeathers $4.50 - $3.80. Of the longshots Lovely Bundy $12 and Loveonthelawn $15 have attracted some win support.   Race 2 - Spring Campaign $7.20 - $5.50 and American Empress $5.80 are best backed on the win book with Spring Campaign just leading multi betting over Accumulator $3.70    Race 3 - Royal Gamble $2.00 is going 2 - 1 in multi betting tickets over the 2nd favourite Major Threat $2.60. Major Threat does lead win betting but that market is still very quiet early on.   Race 4- The three best backed runners on the win book with not much between them are in money held order Valmagne $7.00, Speeding Spur $2.50 and Quvert $5.50. Speeding Spur is easily the best backed in multi betting over Valmagne.    Race 5 - The only runner wanted on the win book early is Alta Intrigue $2.00 - $1.80 and he holds 5 times more multi tickets than the 2nd favourite Alta Las Vegas $4.40 who now trails the favourite with This Excuse Is Fine a late scratching.       Race 6 - As soon as the market on this race opened it was all one way traffic for Vampiro $4.80 - $3.50 and he is only slightly behind the $3.20 favourite Lerato in multi tickets sold.   Race 7 - Step Up $1.65 is best backed on the win book but Kate Black $21 - $9.00 has also taken some early inspired support. Step Up is best backed in multi betting but isn't getting the early support that an odds on favourite would normally attract.    Race 8 - Multi & win betting is saying the $1.60 - $1.55 favourite is as good as home and the book will struggle to sell his rivals based on the early money. The favourite took a $5,000 bet at $1.60 as soon as the book opened which is looking like a good price now as based on the early money he will close at around $1.40.      Race 9 - With the late scratching of the opening $2.30 favourite Franco Christiano this race is now down to just the 4 runners and no Top 3 place market is now available.  Franco Christiano was scratched last night at 7:34pm and 35% and 24% deductions will be applied for any bets placed prior to that scratching time.   In the Drivers Challenge Zac Butcher $2.70 - $2.40 is best backed over David Butcher $11 - $9.00.   Best backed runners in multi betting in number of tickets sold order are: R5 - Alta Intrigue $1.80  R8 - Heavyweight Hero $1.55 R4 - Speeding Spur $2.50  R6 - Lerato $3.20 R7 - Step Up $1.65 R3 - Royal Gamble $2.00    Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

Josh Dickie is hoping he can notch up his 300th career win behind the best horse he has sat behind at Alexandra Park tonight (Thursday). Speeding Spur will have his first start since April 22, when finishing second behind Monbet in the $100,000 Group Two Anzac Cup. He broke down soon after but Dickie believes he is now back to where he should be. “It would be great to win my 300th race behind him because I’ve never driven a better horse than him. He’s five now and from what we can see he is back to somewhere near his best,” 25-year-old Dickie said. “Speeding Spur is in race four. It could come earlier. I quite like Master George in the second race as well,” the Clevedon trainer/driver added. Dickie has driven 299 winners from 2,633 starters, and has placed 548 times for almost $2.9 million in stakes. His best season came in the 2014-2015 season when he saluted the judge 48 times and netted $589,125 in stakes. He has reined 17 winners from 109 starters this season. Dickie has four drives at the Auckland Trotting Club’s first meeting for 2017, including one in the non-tote event at 6.05pm.  Here’s what he had to say about the quartet: Non-tote: Paramount King (1) - “We have got three 2-year-olds from our stable in the race, and I have opted for this gelding. All three have shown a bit and to be fair it’s pretty hard to split them. They are all just there for experience. This fella has the better draw and trots okay.” Race 2: Master George (11) - “He won well when favourite at Cambridge on January 6. He felt real nice that night. I thought he trialled well at Pukekohe last Wednesday, albeit finishing three lengths in behind them. It’s a handy C1 field, but he has worked well since then.” Race 4: Speeding Spur (11 – 55m) - “It’s not going to be easy from the handicap but he won well from 40m behind at the the same Pukekohe Workouts last week. We think he’s back to where he should be and if he does perform to our expectations he will then head to Australia to defend his Great Southern Star crown he won last year. It is a tough ask first up but we wouldn’t be lining him up if we didn’t think he could win. It’s just so great to have the good horse back. I’ll drive him cold for one run and we just hope he hits the line well, like he used to. If he does that then we will be booking our tickets to Melbourne.” Race 7: Kate Black (10) - “We have ironed out a couple of her problems since she broke down the back straight at Alexandra Park on December 16. She has worked nice since and comes into this race well. I think she’s a nice chance. This is just her second run back since July and I wouldn’t be writing her off here.” Best Winning Chance: Speeding Spur. Each-Way: Master George   Duane Ranger

When Speeding Spur and Maxim make their comebacks at Alexandra Park tonight they will both have group one winning performances in their recent formline. The problem is for Speeding Spur that form was 10 months ago, for Maxim it was over three years ago. The two best horses at the first Alexandra Park meeting of the year come with unusual comeback stories, particularly Maxim. The exciting pacer actually won three starts ago but that was the 2014 Victoria Derby at Melton, beating his stablemate Sky Major. It finished third in Tiger Tara’s Northern Derby a month later and trainer Barry Purdon was adamant he would be an open class force until he broke down soon after. Three years and plenty of patience later he returns in the last race tonight for new trainer-driver Brent Mangos. "Barry sent him here so he could be swum almost every day and apart from the two days a week he hopples that is all he does,” says Mangos. "He is a good horse and he is fit but of course he isn’t race hard after this long away. "I think we have found the right race for him to return in and I wouldn’t be stunned if he won but we all know how hard it will be for him. "But he is sound and it is great to have him back.”While Maxim wins comeback story of the night, Speeding Spur’s return is also a surprise as trainer John Dickie had originally thought the injured star would be out until the autumn. Speeding Spur won the Great Southern Star at Melton last March but damaged a leg when chasing Monbet home in the Anzac Cup last April, being sidelined since. “We were going to miss all the summer races but he is very well and has done a lot of work so we are using this as a trial for the Great Southern Star next week,” says Dickie. “If he performs how we want tonight he will be going back to Melton next week.” Driver Josh Dickie says the 55m handicap facing Speeding Spur is not insurmountable but their chances may be determined by the tempo of the race. “He can win but if they run hard in front he isn’t ready to take off and go hard all the way so I think the punters should be careful because it could be out of our hands,” says Josh. Michael Guerin

Speeding Spur is one race away from a shock defence of his Great Southern Star title. The exceptional trotter only has to please trainers John and Josh Dickie when he races at Alexandra Park next Thursday to book himself another ticket to Melton. Speeding Spur hasn’t raced since finishing second to Monbet in the Anzac Cup last April, a slight leg injury afterwards being handled with great patience by his connections. Originally they indicated they would bypass the summer riches and head to the autumn feature but he has come up so well the Great Southern Star is back on the agenda. He won the final of the race last season when it was run under the heat and final on the same night format over the 1720m but this season it changes to a 2710m mobile one-off race at Melton on February 4. With Monbet sidelined, Master Lavros not going and Stent still fighting his way back, Speeding Spur rates alongside Keystone Del as the best trotter actually racing in Australasia. “He has been in work a long time and done a lot of ground work,” says driver Josh Dickie. “So Dad decided a few weeks ago this race was possible. And it is getting more likely by the day.”Speeding Spur made his first public appearance since his injury last season when he won well, albeit against moderate opposition, at the Pukekohe workouts on Wednesday. His once troublesome leg was scanned as a precaution yesterday with no sign of any problems. “If you didn’t know he had had a small issue you wouldn’t give it a second thought. “But it is all looking good at the moment and he will race at Alexandra Park next Thursday and if we are happy with him there and after the race he will head across. Still only a five-year-old will a stallion career ahead of him, Speeding Spur’s return would be a welcome addition to an open class trotting scene struggling for star power since Monbet was sidelined after Cup week. Michael Guerin

The Rowe Cup carnival in Auckland is the next major aim for returning open class trotter, Master Lavros. Despite being surprisingly beaten by Monty Python at Omakau early in the New Year, the big gelding’s trainer, Mark Jones, wasn’t phased and is pressing on with his plans as he looks towards Auckland. After his stunning fresh up win at Addington in December, Master Lavros just never quite looked as dominant when at Central Otago and Jones couldn’t quite pinpoint why. After leading throughout the majority of the event, Master Lavros was collared in the shadows of the post by Monty Python who had enjoyed the run in the trail behind him. “It was disappointing to be beaten, I thought with the run he probably should have won,” Jones said. “But it’s going to happen from time to time, the most important thing is he’s sound and healthy.” There were some thoughts to head to Australia with the two-time Dominion Handicap winner but the Omakau result put to bed any chances of that. Jones will instead focus on keeping the free-wheeling trotter ticking over through the rest of this month with some options available at Addington in the coming weeks. There are Free-For-All trots on January 27 and also February 17 as well as a host of handicap races in which Jones can target. “The main aim is to keep him happy and sound and hopefully we can get him to Auckland. “We will make that the main aim now and really push towards that.” Whether or not he can recapture his best open class form remains to be seen, but even the thought of his big hulking frame back in the feature trotting races will be a welcomed prospect considering the current state of affairs in our open class ranks. Meanwhile, Saveapatrol, another Jones trained runner on the comeback trail continues to progress nicely as he comes back from yet another injury in his disrupted career.   Matt Markham

The man behind the magic mares won't compare them out of respect. Because having been lucky enough to train both Adore Me and Dream About Me, Mark Purdon knows he have been blessed. Dream About Me obliterated the Auckland Cup race record and her opponents in the $250,000 group one at Alexandra Park tonight, crowing herself the new queen of Australasian pacing. Settling well back off a startling speed set by Christen Me and Titan Banner, the daughter of Bettor's Delight swept into the race at the bell, sat parked and left her rivals gasping at the top of the straight. She clipped four seconds off Chokin's race and track record taking her record to 19 wins from 22 starts, with two of her defeats coming when she was luckless and the other when she was fresh-up and not at her peak. At only the halfway point of her four-year-old season she already has a record that sits alongside some of the great female pacers in New Zealand history, with the promise of so much more to come. Already in that mare's Hall Of Fame is her close relation Adore Me, who Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen trained to win a New Zealand Cup in record time and then pace the then fastest ever mile in Australasian history when she clocked 1:47.7 at Menangle. Adore Me couldn't win an Auckland Cup though, the race sadly ending her career when she injured herself in it two years ago. Purdon drove both and shakes his head at one following the other so quickly. "You couldn't believe you could get Dream About Me so soon after Adore Me," said Purdon. "But it is hard to compare them because I don't want to disrespect either. "Adore Me was an amazing mare but she (Dream About Me) has done just as much and more at this stage of her career. "So while we never got to see what Adore Me could have been later in her career because of her injury, maybe we will with this mare." While mares winning the Auckland Cup are rare -- Dream About Me became just the third in 33 years tonight -- she won't be asked to tackle the open class male pacers too often again this season. She is off next to Sydney for the Ladyship Mile, which means she will dodge the Miracle Mile and then her connections have a big decision to make: race into the autumn or pull stumps and have a big winter break to set her for the New Zealand Cup, a recipe that worked with Lazarus this season. Dream About Me She wasn't the only mare to smash her male rivals tonight as Quite A Moment broke the the 2700m mobile trot record in the National Trot, continuing the domination of the open class trot features for trainers Greg and Nina Hope. They have won almost everything that matters with Monbet in the last 12 months but even with the champ sidelined Quite A Moment simply outstayed her rivals, including hot favourite Marcoola. The latter pulled too hard in front and was beaten on the home bend. Quite A Moment Earlier in the meeting Ultimate Machete left no doubt as to who is the best three-year-old pacer in Australasia when he was too good for More The Better in the $200,000 PGG Wrightson Sales Series Pace. Ultimate Machete He will join Dream About Me and Lazarus, who worked well before the first race today, in Sydney with his aim being the NSW Derby. - NZ Herald Read more by Michael Guerin

Vincent is going home but he shouldn't be expecting a warm welcome. The big mover in the New Zealand three-year-old pacing ranks is set to return to his native Australia in a few weeks for the heats, and hopefully final, of the Victoria Derby on February 4. He paid for the trip with a magnificent display of power pacing to beat the older horses at Alexandra Park today, a win that looked dramatic enough but the real quality of which wasn't evident until the time was announced. In just his sixth start Vincent sat parked for the last lap and bolted in but in doing so broke the national all-comers record over 2700m from a standing start --- so paced the popular distance faster than any horse in New Zealand history. So while he didn't start the season rated one of the glamour three-year-olds in the All Stars arsenal, he is set to be their Victoria Derby rep. That will be a return to where the son of Art Major was purchased two years ago for A$130,000 as co-trainer Mark Purdon continued to mix his major yearling purchases between Australia and New Zealand. "He just keeps getting better and would be working his way up the ladder," said co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen. "He is big and strong and that was a huge win when you consider the time." Vincent He isn't the only early winner from Alexandra Park today who could be heading to Australia, with trainer Robert Dunn considering the trip with Alta Maestro. The beautiful juvenile remained unbeaten when winning another heat of the Young Guns, his gate speed a crucial weapon in out-pointing Spankem. Dunn has one eye on the famous Bathurst Gold Crown with Alta Maestro, a series he won over 25 years ago with his all-time great Master Musician. But before any NSW plans are confirmed, Alta Maestro will stay in the north for the group one Young Guns Final in early March. Alta Maestro - NZ Herald Read more by Michael Guerin

Scott Plant is an Auckland Cup winner no matter where No Doctor Needed finishes in tomorrow’s Group One $250,000 feature Pace. Plant, who is a harness racing traditionalist, was one of three Auckland Trotting Club Board members that ensured the great race reverted back to a 3200m standing start on December 31 last year. “It was a 2700m mobile from 2007 until the March Auckland Cup in 2015. The race has enormous history and I was saddened to see it revert to a 2700m mobile in 2007. “I personally think it should have always be a standing start staying test. I’m not one who likes to break from tradition. The New Zealand Cup is a two-mile stand, and they haven’t tampered with that distance,” Epsom-based Plant said. “The Auckland Cup should have always been the same without change. I’m excited. It would be a dream come true to win my home-town Cup,” he added. Plant said he, Jamie MacKinnon, and Phil Cook were on the ATC’s Racing Committee, which ensured the change two years ago. Plant knew the 1968 Auckland Cup was run from a two mile (3200m) stand, and perhaps that’s where his passion for tradition stemmed from. “I was just 12. My parents made me stay at home with family while they went to the Auckland Cup. They had friends with Tommy Knowles and he won the Auckland Cup that year with Cardinal Garrison. I remember it very clearly,” Plant said. They strolled home in 4:09.2 that day – just 3.2 seconds slower than Have Faith In Me’s sedate time last December. “That was the first 3200m race since March 2006 and I hope they go a bit quicker this time. If not the Purdon (Mark) horses could get away with murder and kill us. “I’m not saying No Doctor Needed (7) can win over two miles but he can stay and if he can get away on terms, and then gets the trip to suit, he can run over the top of them. We just need a solid pace. “I don’t think he’s the worst chance at all. I certainly think he’s capable of surprising a few,” Plant said. No Doctor Needed is the $26 fifth-favourite to win Saturday’s 11-horse Trillian Trust Auckland Cup. He’s had one start in the race previously – finishing a six- length ninth behind Have Faith In Me last March.He was driven by Scott Phelan that night. Ricky May will drive him for the third consecutive time after finishing third and 10th in the Group Three Summer Cup (December 9) and the Group Two Franklin Cup (December 16) respectively. Auckland Cup second favourite Titan Banner got the better of him both times in those races. “I’m really excited. He has matured a lot this year but a gallop at the start cost him in the Franklin Cup. He will cop the two miles okay. We just want him to step away,” Plant stressed. No Doctor Needed is owned by Plant (60%), former 'Voice of the Park' –commentator, Alby Gain (10%); past Auckland Trotting Club president Steve Stockman (10%); and Plant's son and daughter - Greg and Nicki who have a 10% share each. The 6-year-old Mach Three gelding has now won 12 of his 47 starts, placed in 19 others, and netted $208,700 in stakes, Five of his wins have come at Alexandra Park, but he is yet to nail a cheque in three starts over the 3200m stand. No Doctor Needed’s biggest wins to date have come via the Group Two Southern Supremacy Stakes as a 3-year-old in April 2014 and the Group Three Kumeu Founders Cup in March this year. He finished an 18-length second when 10th favourite (of 15) in this year’s New Zealand Cup at Addington Raceway. “Prior to breaking last start No Doctor Needed had placed twice at Alexandra Park. I was delighted with the way he came home two starts ago. He’s been racing off handicaps when they have gone New Zealand records. “He is off the front this time and hopefully he can get a nice sit and then one run at them. I think he can at least place,” said Plant. No Doctor Needed is paying $5 on the TAB’s Futures place market. After The Auckland Cup No Doctor Needed will transfer to Paul Fitzpatrick’s Sydney stable where he will race for three months. “He deserves a chance in mobile races over there. I think he will be well placed in some of their races, and if he has to take on the guns later on he should start off the front. “It will be a good chance for him to develop even further,” said Plant. No Doctor Needed was bred by Plant Racing Limited. He is out of the now 15-year-old Christian Cullen – Wisha (Vance Hanover) mare, Molly Darling. Plant owned Molly Darling with Warren Oliver, and breeder Brian Hewes and Brent Mangos before she was sold to America. They paid $16,000 for her in 2003. Molly Darling was a multiple Group One winning mare who raced 72 times for 24 wins, 18 placings and won $575,150 in stakes. She raced in New Zealand 21 times for eight wins, five placings and netted $178,229 in stakes. Duane Ranger

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