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This Friday night at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park, we have the sixth running of the Island of Origin driving series. Each team has six drivers involved but field sizes being what they are at the moment, most drivers are on the sidelines at least once and in some cases twice during the series. The exceptions are the Northern captain Tony Herlihy and the Southern captain Dexter Dunn who each have a full book of six drives. The contest will be decided over six races and there is a three- three split with trot and pacing races which is a good way to have it. We thought we would look at each heat with our thoughts on the likely winner. Race 2  Majestic John is in great nick at the moment, has drawn well and has regular pilot Josh Dickie in the bike. Bettabe Perfect has drawn to be in the action from one with Tony Herlihy driving and after that it is a bit of a lottery. The North holds the upper hand here. Race 3 Princess MacKendon with Dexter Dunn driving looks the one to beat here. Smart trotter in the making and with that first run under her belt should hold too many guns for this field Thanks Shane with John Dunn on board  went close several times last campaign but after that several have exposed form which makes them a runners chance without standing out The South has a slight edge here. Race 4 The two best horses have drawn awkwardly here which makes this race a bit harder to judge. Hart Of Dixie with Matthew Williamson driving has always looked a talented mare and her record backs that up but from seven at the barrier she is going to need a bit of luck. Same applies for Jo's Dream and Jay Abernethy from two on the second line but she has the alround game to overcome the draw. Love Is A Drug (John Dunn) and Culinary Delight (Josh Dickie) are other leading chances in a field that the draw has evened out. Hard to favour one team over the other in this race. Race 6 Now this race really is a lottery and trying to narrow it down is not easy San Diego Love is going through a flat patch for a mare of her ability but if she was anything close to her best, she would win this. Blair Orange drives. Tereskova (Ricky May) is in form and Le Lua Invasion (Dexter Dunn) looks well suited in a field of this type. On paper the South looks to have a distinct advantage but it is anyone's guess how the race will pan out Race 7 Joey Maguire (Scott Phelan) has drawn to lead here and if he does lead he will be very hard to beat. The smart Vice Consul (Tony Herlihy) follows him through from the second line and with any kind of run becomes a big player here. No Way Else (Dexter Dunn) and First Home (Ricky May) are chances to get amongst it as is Zakspatrol (Nathan Williamson) whose last run was super. The North holds a small advantage here but it isn't a lot Race 8 Another evenly split race to finish the series. Allingham (Tony Herlihy) is knocking on the door of its next win and gets a start here over its biggest challengers. Twelve Monkeys (Blair Orange) is going for three in a row and Isa Smiling (Josh Dickie) continues to impress as she wins her way through the grades. All Royal Gal (Ricky May) is another with a great form line so again the favoured horses are evenly split between the two teams. Selection Hard to be confident here about either team winning this by a margin but overall maybe the South by a short half head. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing can be a frustrating business at times when a horse for a variety of reasons struggles to show their true worth. Commander Paris fits the bill perfectly with a terrible formline for a horse with above average ability but last night at Alexandra Park he gave a glimpse of why he is held in such high regard. Away well from the unruly mark, driver John Dunn quickly worked the son of CR Commando to the front and John kept up a steady tempo which meant no mid-race attackers. Given a bit more reign at the 800 metres, Commander Paris had them in trouble passing the 400 metres and comfortably had them covered in the home straight, holding a length advantage at the finishing line. Commander Paris trotted the 2200 metres from a stand in 2:54 even with closing sectionals of 59.4 and 29.4 Even though Commander Paris had a shocking formline, he was sent out 1/5 in the betting so someone got a bag full. John Dunn was full of praise for Commander Paris post race. " Bernie and Michelle changed a bit of gear on him after his first start up here and it made all the difference." " He has always had plenty of ability and showed that down south but he couldn't get around the bends left handed so Kevin Fairbairn convinced the owners to send him up north for the right handed way of racing." " He has still got a fair bit to learn as he is not very experienced but I think he will go a fair way before he is finished, " John said. Commander Paris showed last night that given his own rules in front, he is a very hard horse to run down. Harnesslink Media  

The Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) has charged Mr Alan Lynch, Licensed Trainer Pukekohe with three drug administration offences relating to the horse This Sky Rox. The races concerned were at Alexandra Park on 12 June (3rd placing), 19 June (first placing) and 10 July 2015 (6th placing). Mr Andrew Grant, Licensed Trainer Pukekohe has also been charged with one drug administration offence relating to the horse Majestic One when it won at Alexandra Park on 3 July 2015. In the case of both trainers the positive drug test was for Aminorex, which is a prohibited substance due to the effect it has on the nervous system and its action as a stimulant. As the matter is now before the Judicial Control Authority the RIU will make no further comment. Mike Godber

Champion New Zealand jockey James McDonald is not a name usually associated with harness racing but that will all change tonight at Alexandra Park when the Angus Hall debutante Angus Bolt steps onto the track for the first time. Offered at last years Australasian Classic yearling sale by Brent Mangos and long time stable patron Warren Oliver, Angus Bolt was retained by his vendors when he failed to make his reserve price. From the former smart two year old trotting filly Strapless, Angus Bolt was given a few runs at workouts earlier in the season for educational purposes and put aside. This time in he has impressed trackwatchers in the north with a string of impressive runs at trials and workouts and has won his last four in style. Brent has a good opinion of his young trotter. " He is a really nice sensible trotter and I think quite a bit of him." " We will give him a couple of runs now and then give him a brief letup" " I think after Christmas we will line him up against the better age group trotters and I think he will more than hold his own," Brent said. James McDonald entered into the horse's ownership a few months back. " James is good friends with my daughter Angela and mentioned to me a while ago that he would like a share in one. " I have always liked Angus Bolt so I sold him a piece of my half share and thats how he became involved," Brent said. With James McDonald one of the pin up jockeys of the thoroughbred racing scene worldwide , his involvement in Angus Bolt has the potential to generate a lot of positive publicity for the harness racing industry in New Zealand. Another horse Brent has high hopes for tonight is Vibhuti. " I have always had an opinion of this horse but he disappointed me at the end of his last campaign." " We gelded him two months ago and he has really turned the corner lately." "His work recently has been super and with a little bit of luck from the draw he is well up to winning tonight," Brent said.  Harnesslink Media

Not a bad week overall as our selectors added some value with their picks. As I have been reminded all week, the "Boss" topped the tipsters last week, throwing out Squaw ($12:80) at Rangiora. Other tipsters to join him in the winners circle were Maurice McKendry, Geoff Small, Tony Herlihy and Matthew Williamson while we had another four placegetters as well. This week we have four meetings and we have selections for them all. Kumeu - Thursday night Mark Jones - Gives Zakspatrol from barrier one a big chance of winning race 3 Todd MacFarlane - Thought Vulcan was a big chance to go one better this week and win race 6   Auckland - Friday night Steve Richardson - Keen on the chances of Djokovic in race 3 Peter Scaife - Very bullish about the chances of the recently gelded Vibhuti in race 4 Tony Herlihy - Rates Vice Consul as well overdue and a big winning chance, also in race 4 Steven Reid - Thinks Unforgiving can make it four in a row in a very crowded race 4 John Dunn - Reckons Joey Maguire is ready to strike and again it is in race 4 Maurice McKendry - Predictably he thought The Orange Agent could win again in race 6 Todd Mitchell - Gives Risk a big push to win race 7 Scott Phelan - Thinks from the draw Rocknroll Princess could win race 8   Addington - Friday night John Curtin - Thought Astral Ruler looked hard to beat in race 1 Brendon McLellan - Reckons Wick can make it three in a row in race 2 Gerard O'Reilly - Rates Goshawk a chance to upset them at odds in race 3 Tim Williams - Gives Eilish Aimee a real show of taking out race 5 Jim Curtin - Thought Gunpowder was going great at the moment and could win race 6 Blair Orange - Thinks McClinchie will be very hard to beat in race 8 Bob Butt - Gives Easy Rider a huge chance of clearing maidens in race 10   Kurow - Sunday afternoon Gavin Smith - Gives Paris Princess a good chance of leaving maidens in race1 Matthew Williamson - Thinks Snow Raker can cement his good form lately with a wine in race 4 Nathan Williamson - Rates Sun's Invasion a chance to win again in race 6 Brad Williamson - Reckons Princess Arts from the nice draw will be very hard to beat in race 7 Ricky May - Gives course specialist Live The Dream a big chance of winning race 9   Harnesslink Media  

Maurice McKendry is recognised as one of the best reinsman to grace the harness racing industry in New Zealand. One of only two reinsman to crack the 3000 barrier in the history of the sport in New Zealand, Maurice is showing no signs of slowing down. After a short break recently, Maurice has come back in dynamic form and several of his recent wins are just textbook drives which have been great to watch. The most recent was the win of Sir Ritchie at Alexandra Park tonight. The son of Christian Cullen has been in great form since stepping onto the track but was let go a bit by punters due to the strength of the field. Maurice took hold of Sir Ritchie early from barrier two as several runners went to war with the first 600 metres whizzing by in under 41 seconds as Cyclone Kate worked her way to the front. Just as Cyclone Kate looked to back off the pace with 1100 metres to go, Maurice launched Sir Ritchie three wide and grabbed the front with 800 metres to go. From there try as they might Sir Ritchie and Maurice had their measure and they still had 3/4 of a length to spare at the finish.  The 2200 metres went by in a quick 2:40.8, a mile rate of 1:57.6 with closing sectionals of 58.7 and 28. and Sir Ritchie paid back his supporters with a $10:70 win dividend. Maurice is closing in on 3100 wins in the cart with stakes nearing the $26,500,000 mark and continues to display all the attributes that have made him the great reinsman that he still is. Harnesslink Media 

This is the time in the harness racing season where the two years that are just behind the very best tend to put maiden fields to the sword. Race nine at Alexandra Park tonight has a field full of such two year olds and several of the runners look capable of winning a race at short notice. One who really impressed in his first brief campaign was the Elsu gelding El Jacko. El Jacko was thrown in the deep end in his first campaign running up against the likes of Lazarus and Chase The Dream and got things wrong in his first couple of starts but his fourth in the Young Guns Final behind the All Stars pair and Code Black was a really smart run and confirmed the big private reputation that El Jacko has always had. Tonight El Jacko has the advantage of drawing barrier one but the field is full of some handy sorts and he won't have things all his own way. Co-trainer Logan Hollis was circumspect when assessing his chances earlier this week. “He hasn’t raced since March and has only had three races as a 2-year-old and he galloped twice." "He did get around okay in the (Group One) Young Guns Cardigan Stakes and he has been trialling well and he worked very well today (Wednesday)." "He’s certainly got plenty of ability." "He just needs time but he can win on Friday." "Fergie has driven him twice before and will give him every possible chance from the ace draw," Logan said. El Jacko certainly looks one to follow in the new season and looks to have the potential to go a fair way. Harnesslink Media

When it comes to preparing trotters in the North Island, harness racing trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett are two of the best around. Last night they lined up the talented but erratic Lady J in the first of the night. Slowly but surely Michelle and Bernie have turned the speedy but unruly daughter of Majestic Son into a racemare and lately she has started to look more like the racehorse she is bred to be. Regular pilot Todd Mitchell had Lady J away well from the 2200 metres stand and she settled three back on the inner after 200 metres. With 1200 metres to go Todd eased Lady J out into the running line to sit parked but he put no pressure into the leader, Landora's Amber with Nicky Chilcott in the bike. With no mid race moves, Todd was content to sit on her wheel until 400 metres from home where he pressed the go button and Lady J quickly put the race to bed, sprinting clear for an emphatic 4 1/4 length victory. Lady J trotted the 2200 metres from a stand in 2:56.5 with smart closing sectionals of 59.5 and 28.9. Driver Todd Mitchell was quick to acknowledge the great job Michelle and Bernie had done with the headstrong trotter. "She did that really easily tonight, I never even pulled the plugs." " The last couple of weeks she has been trotting really square and her manners have come good so a lot of the credit must go to Michelle and Bernie for the job they have done with her." " It was a timely win tonight actually as Michelle told me prior to the race that they are looking to retire her and send her to the broodmare paddock in August," Todd said. Lady J certainly has the breeding to make her mark as a broodmare. By leading trotting sire Majestic Son, Lady J is from a Muscles Yankee daughter of the former outstanding age group trotter in Inda Bank 1:58.9 ($138,660) Lady J may only have one win beside her name as she heads to stud but the ease and style of her win last night suggested she is way better than that. Harnesslink Media  

The connections of Cullie's Delight are waiting anxiously to see how she recovers after the mare stood on a 6.5cm builder's nail which drove into her foot during a race at a harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park. Worried trainers are seeking assurances from the Auckland Trotting Club that its construction of a new building for the Blues Super Rugby team and future apartment complex won't put the safety of their horses at risk again.  Cullie's Delight was sent out favourite for the third race last Friday night, carrying at least $33,000 of punters' money in a myriad of betting pools. However, the mare started pacing roughly 1400 metres from home and driver Todd Mitchell suspected she had broken down. "I felt her falter between the 1500m and 1400m but she seemed to come right 400 metres later," Mitchell said. "But she started limping on pulling up and I thought she must have cracked a bone. Sometimes they can keep running on adrenalin." When Mitchell returned to the stables, however, the reason for her distress became obvious with blood coming out of the bottom of one foot. "When I picked her foot up, I couldn't believe it, a builder's nail was buried about an inch deep and bent over. And when I pulled it out, blood started pouring everywhere." Mitchell said the course vet told him the five-win mare was very lucky that the nail had not penetrated the foot as deeply as she first feared. A protective pad the mare was wearing might have saved her from catastrophic injury. "It could have gone into the pedal bone and then it would have been curtains," Mitchell said. Mitchell reported the incident to the stipendiary stewards because he said the nail was far too big to be anything else but a builder's nail - it definitely did not come from any part of a horse's gear or sulky. "I know there's a lot of construction going on at the track but, really, the welfare of the horses has to be paramount. "You wouldn't know if a builder has thrown a nail over the fence or if it's become caught up in the harrows. "It's bad enough that it happened to a horse like Cullie's Delight, who is close to retirement, but imagine if that had happened to a horse like (champion filly) The Orange Agent who ran at the workouts the following day." Mitchell said Cullie's Delight had been treated for tetanus and with antibiotics in the hope that the wound would not become infected. "The nail hole has closed over but there is a bit of a pulse into her leg and she's still a bit tender on it," said Mitchell who has been  bathing her foot in epsom salts. On Wednesday, five days after the injury, an infection blew out the back of her heel. "I just hope she's all right - infections can be dangerous things." Mitchell said the ATC had pledged to pay for the veterinary treatment Cullie's Delight needed on racenight, and the vet checks she's had since. But it in no way compensated Mitchell or owner Darren Bell for the likely loss of earnings on the night and over the next few weeks while she recovers. "I was pretty gutted. We wanted to win another race before she went to stud and she was in a race that really suited her." With five wins, 30 seconds and thirds and nearly $60,000 in earnings, the daughter of Bettor's Delight had considerable value as a broodmare already. The stewards' report confirmed Cullie's Delight "paced roughly rounding the bend passing the 1400 metres." It's commentary on the reason gave no more detail than "a post-race veterinary examination revealed a puncture wound to its hoof after standing on a nail."  Racing Integrity Unit racing investigator Bryan Oliver confirmed he'd taken a picture of the nail, which he estimated to be "two and a half inches long", but he refused to release it to Fairfax Media. "I don't think it's of interest to anybody," he said. Oliver might try telling that to punters who, according to the TAB, wagered at least $33,000 on the horse. As well as carrying $16,200 in win and place bets, the TAB estimates another $16,500 in exotic bets ran through Cullie's Delight, as she was favourite for a double, treble and quaddie leg, and a key horse for trifectas and quinellas. ATC racing manager Kevin Smith said the incident was a random event which while regrettable and had no obvious explanation. "We've inspected the track and obviously we'll be taking as many steps as we can to prevent it happening again. "The track guys are acutely aware now of what happened and will be doing more pre-race checks." Smith said it would be pure conjecture to say how the nail came to be on the racing surface. "With all the construction going on it might have got into the tyre of a truck, come out of a driver's pocket or out of the backside of a seagull in the air. It's pure speculation." Smith said while everything would be done to ensure it did not happen again, no 100 per cent assurance could ever be given and the club had received no other reports of building materials contaminating the track. Mitchell, however, told Fairfax Media the racenight vet said she'd  found a piece of iron on the track when walking to her ute.  Trainers have also expressed concern that their horses could be at risk walking along the path from the relocated float park to the stables, directly adjacent to the construction site of the Blues' building.  Barry Lichter

Time is a great asset in harness racing but it is not something that happens that often any more with horses quickly discarded if they don't come up to the mark straight away. One horse who is showing the wisdom of being given a bit of time is the six year old son of Red River Hanover in Fiery Lustre who chalked up win number six last night at Alexandra Park in the manner of a horse that has a few more wins in store yet. Lightly raced at three by owner and breeder Ivan Court, Fiery Lustre was busy at four and five picking up a couple of wins and a lot of placings but it is as a six year old that Fiery Lustre has really come into his own. Four wins and seven placings have helped his bank balance no end and shown once again that patience can be rewarded. Last night driver Scott Phelan hunted Fiery Lustre forward from barrier seven and he grabbed the lead after 300 metres. Scott kept the tempo in front very solid and it was obvious a long way out that Fiery Lustre had them in trouble. Given a bit more rein at the 400 metres mark, Fiery Lustre quickly put paid to the competition and ran away and hid with the official winning margin being 7 1/4 lengths. Fiery Lustre paced the 2700 metres in a smart 3:22, a mile rate of 2:00.4 with closing sectionals of 57.5 and 28.5. Driver Scott Phelan has a bit of time for Fiery Lustre. " He is a lovely old horse to do anything with." " He gives you 110% on racenight  and has a nice turn of speed so he is pretty versatile." " Last night I thought he was the best horse in the race so I drove him like that and it turned out I was right." " He has actually been on the market but I think the Red River Hanover scares people off him but he doesn't know what he is by." "He is more than a fair horse which his record shows," Scott said. Fiery Lustre is in career best form at the moment and if not sold would appear to have a few more wins in him yet. Harnesslink Media

A decisive return to winning form by Saveapatrol in the $18,500 Bayleys Coromandel 2015 Thames Cup hasn’t changed plans for the horse to cross the Tasman any time soon. “Its great to get him back in the winner’s circle,” said trainer Mark Jones. “A lot of the credit goes to Regan (Todd) for the work he does with him,” he said. Following the Thames Cup on Friday, July 3, Mark, and owner Grant Hatton, confirmed their decision for the horse to remain in Auckland this month. Saveapatrol made a smart beginning from the 20m line and was in front after the opening 500m. The lightly-raced big boy son of Christian Cullen and Rondel Franco revelled in his work on the front-end, second-up after an enforced 14 month layoff. Although inclined to knock off a tad when he clearly had his rivals beaten inside the final 100m, Saveapatrol was super impressive, pacing the 2700m (stand) in a race record 3:22.2 (2:00.4 mile rate). Driver Blair Orange put the hammer down passing the final 800m, letting Saveapatrol quicken from that point in a slick 55.5s. Saveapatrol, even though knocking off at the finish, still steam-rolled the opposition over his closing 400m in 27.6s. Everything now over the next four months will prep the former Auckland Cup placegetter for the New Zealand Cup at Addington in November. “He’ll just continue to race in Auckland and come back south for the Hannon Memorial etc. in the spring as the second Tuesday in November is the aim,” Mark said. Saveapatrol has now raced only 18 times for 11 wins and a couple of minor placings, for $145,618 in stakes. Providing he stays sound, and with regular racing, he could be one of the best prepared for this year’s 3200m cup. Mark also picked up solid place money with stablemates, Zakspatrol (strong-finishing second) and the consistent squaregaiter Sunoflindenny (third) on Friday. Oasis Dream and Kowhai Monarch ran sound fourths, and Landora’s Girl finished fifth, but Rocker Band, Pomme Roy and Twice The Delight were all unplaced. Rocker Band, after sprinting hard early to wrest the lead in the C2-4 pace, over-raced and dropped away in the run home. Pomme Roy tired after working early from the outside gate to race parked in a C1-2 pace, while Twice The Delight, wilted after trailing in the C1-2 mares pace. Jeff Scott - Courtesy of Mark Jones Racing Stables - Check site here    

Harness racing junior driver Joe Moka must have wondered where his first winner was going to come from. Before tonight he had faced the starter 32 times for two seconds and two thirds but that elusive win seemed no closer. All that changed in the space of three minutes and twenty one seconds as Joe reined home the impressive  Fiery Lustre to an emphatic victory in the junior drivers race at Alexandra Park tonight. Sent straight to the front from barrier two by Joe, Fiery Lustre kept up a hot tempo in front which had most of his competition struggling well before the corner. Zakspatrol ran on well from the back but Fiery Lustre still had 3 3/4 lengths to spare at the finish and Joe had finally got the monkey off his back. Fiery Lustre paced the 2700 metres in 3:20.9, a mile rate of 1:59.7 with closing sectionals of 56.2 and 28.7. Joe was all smiles post race as you would expect. " I am really happy to have won a race." I am really buzzed to be honest to have finally cracked it." " I have to thank Scott Phelan and the Phelan family who have really supported me throughout." "Hopefully it is upwards and onwards from here,"Joe said. The junior driving ranks in the North Island are not that large and Joe is a welcome addition to the list of juniors who have driven a winner in the north. Harnesslink Media

Class pacer Saveapatrol is to remain in Auckland for winter racing after finishing seventh to former stablemate Johnny Fox at the harness racing meetint at Auckland on Friday night, June 26. Saveapatrol, first-up for 15 months, had things go against him as the beaten favourite in the C3-7 Smith & Partners 2015 Winter Cup. “We have pulled pin on the Oz (Queensland) trip as he had to win other night to warrant going,” said trainer Mark Jones. “It was frustrating when he couldn’t get the front as it would have been good to give him every chance,” he said. Saveapatrol made a dab for the lead mid-race but when the lead wasn’t there, had to restrain to trail, then was shuffled three back. “The situation was made worst when a stablemate of the leader got handed a easy lead,” Mark said. “Saveapatrol over-raced bad after that but that is racing I guess. “I was a bit disappointed my horse didn’t finish it off better but after pulling hard and being fresh-up for so long he will only improve,” he said. Saveapatrol’s owner Grant Hatton, along with wife Katherine, had better fortunes in the previous event. Consistent stablemate Zakspatrol, raced by the Hattons’, made an impressive Auckland debut in the hands of Kim Butt, racing away for a penalty-free success in the C1-2 Pukekohe Builders Ltd Mobile Pace for junior drivers. Zakspatrol, a big Art Major gelding from Shimmering Star, was a tentative travelling companion for a Queensland winter campaign, but will also now remain in Auckland for upcoming racing. The 4YO eased to a three back trailing spot in the early stages, was forced four wide on the home turn, but ran out the 2700m strongly to win by a length and three-quarters from late finisher Flying Loose, and favourite First Home. Zakspatrol ran the mobile 2700m in 3:22.4 (2:00.6 mile rate), the leaders running their last 800m in 57.6s for his sixth win from 46 starts, for $44,604 in earnings. Kimberly Butt, in just her second season of racedriving, was recording her 17th win of the season and her 31st from 303 career drives. Kim had also won the junior drivers race at the Franklin meeting at Alexandra Park on June 19 with former Canterbury trotter Barry. A week earlier she scored with the Ken Barron-trained Bracken Ridge at northern headquarters, and began the month in the north winning with Overport Lodge filly Real Torque at Auckland on June 6. Mark’s decision to go north with a contingent of winter horses was fruitful last weekend. He also prepared and drove Pomme Roy to power home for a three lengths win in the C1-2 Thai Night At Alex Park 28th August Mobile Pace in a 1:57.9 rate (2200m). Mark also gained another training and driving win with smart filly Rocker Band at Cambridge on Thursday, June 25, and a third with stablemate Oasis Dream. “It was a good weekend for stable up here with three wins. They earned 20k for the weekend so it was a good decision to come up here and get money in owners pockets,” he said. Rocker Band’s win over Joanednobettor at Cambridge in a 1:58.7 rate (2200m), quickening over her last 800m in 56.7s was penalty-free and she will continue to try for 3YO concession wins in the north next month. Oasis Dream, a gritty third behind Rockn Ruby and Westburn Courage in the C2 and faster pace over 2200m (stand), is likely to have one more start before transferring to Kerryn Manning’s Victorian stable. Mark’s brace of northern wins has taken him to 59 wins for the season. He is currently fifth on the trainers premiership, with stable runners just over $6000 short of $600,000 in winning stakes this term. Jeff Scott - Mark Jones Racing Stables  -  Check site here

A decision to operate on an unknown injury has given harness racing star Saveapatrol a second chance. In early 2014, Saveapatrol, was one of the most promising pacers in the country but that ground to a halt when he pulled up sore after running third in the 2014 Auckland Cup behind Terror To Love and Adore Me. Initial scans on the Mark Jones trained gelding could not pin-point the problem but Jones and owner Grant Hatton elected to open up his leg in an attempt to find what was troubling the son of Christian Cullen. Surgery found a slight tear in his tendon that was too small to show up on the scans. "We're lucky we did operate otherwise we could have ended up doing much more damage," Jones said. Getting his star pacer back to the track is a huge relief for Jones. "When they go a miss like that you're never sure if you will get them back." The Canterbury trainer is especially pleased for Hatton who has been patient throughout the injury layoff. "We're lucky to have an owner like Grant who has given him the time to get him back to where he needs to be," Jones said. Fifteen months of patience will come to fruition at Alexandra Park on Friday night when the now five-year-old contests the Auckland Trotting Club's $20,000 Winter Cup. Saveapatrol has had two workouts at Rangiora and a trial at Addington in the lead up to Friday's assignment. "He seems 100 per cent sound now so we are very happy with with where he is at," Jones said. In the hands of Blair Orange, Saveapatrol will start off the 20m mark and despite the long lay off, Jones is confident of a bold showing. "I'd like to think he should be winning really, he comes in pretty good on the handicaps so he should be pretty hard to beat," Jones said. Saveapatrol is booked to board a plane for Brisbane on Monday for the the Queensland Winter Trotting Carnival. Jones said Saveapatrol would have to fail badly on Friday night to change those plans. Saveapatrol is ear-marked for four feature races worth a combined total of around $300,000 during the carnival. "When he is right with a bit of racing under his belt I think he can be a grand circuit horse," Jones said. The Queensland campaign will provide an ideal opportunity to get some quality racing under his belt before he comes back and prepares for a tilt at the New Zealand Trotting Cup. Saveapatrol's last win came in January 2014 when he beat home Terror To Love, Arden Rooney and Franco Ledger to win the Group III Invercargill Cup. Lightly raced, Saveapatrol won his first three starts and currently holds a record of ten wins and two placings from 16 starts for more than $130,000 in stakes. Saveapatrol is out of the tough mare Rondel Franco who won 37 races from 153 starts for more than $650,000 in stakes across New Zealand, Australian and America. There were plans to defend the Invercargill Cup this year but Jones pulled the pin when Saveapatrol was not quite ready. By Mat Kermeen Reprinted with permission of the Christchurch Press

The North Americans have been on a bit of a buying spree of New Zealand harness racing stock in the last few months and that has continued this week with the smart McArdle gelding Kippenberger under offer to New York interests. Due to be vetted on Monday, Kippenberger has been a model of consistency lately and was rewarded tonight for that consistency with a smart front running win in the Thames Cup prelude. Away well from his ten metre handicap for co-trainer Josh Dickie, Kippenberger worked his way to the front and from there he controlled the race. Josh upped the tempo from the 800 metres mark and it was evident a long way from home that Kippenberger was the horse to beat. Passing the 400 metres Josh pushed the go button a bit harder and the six year old responded in style to scoot home in the chilly conditions in 27 seconds for an easy victory. Smart intermediate grade pacer Johnny Fox got home well for second in front of Rockn Ruby who went her usual honest race for third. Co-trainer John Dickie was all smiles post race. " Kippenberger  is such an under rated horse." " His record of finishing in the first three in nearly half his races says it all about him." " He always gives his best and is such an honest horse." " He has been on the market and is under offer so he won't be back for the Thames Cup in a fortnight which is a shame because I think he would have been a real chance," John said. Kippenberger is one of those Kiwi horses that looks ideally suited to North American racing and should give a good account of himself in the northern hemisphere. Harnesslink Media    

Every week Harnesslink does a ringaround of 20-25 harness racing drivers throughout the country to get their best drives for the weekend for our readers. Someone who has been on board from the start of the ringaround is South Auckland reinsman Scott Phelan. We have noted before that Scott's weekly tips are never far away and he did the job again tonight on the American Ideal two year old colt, Ideal Roman. Scott has been telling us for a while that he has a bit of time for Ideal Roman and tonight you could see why. Scott sent Ideal Roman out of the gate in a hurry from barrier two but he couldn't head Bettor Love Me and Brent Mangos from barrier one and Scott eased Ideal Roman into the trail. " Mango" kept the tempo solid with Bettor Love Me and had them struggling across the top apart from Ideal Roman in the trail. As soon as the passing lane became available,Scott angled Ideal Roman into it and he shot away for a comfortable victory over a game Bettor Love Me with Apassionato and David Butcher finishing on into third. The 1700 metres was cut out in a very sharp 2:04.1, a mile rate of 1:57.5 with smart closing sectionals of 56.2 and 28.1. Scott was all smiles on returning to the birdcage. " He is a really nice wee horse and should do a good job over the next few months.": " Racing has really improved him and I don't think he has stopped winning yet." " it wouldn't surprise me if he strung a couple together now that he has won one," Scott said. We don't want to put the jinx on Scott but his ringaround selection each week is well worth following in our view. Harnesslink Media   

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