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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

Today looks like multi-bet heaven at Alexandra Park but when it comes to punting, heaven can quickly turn into hell. The problem isn't the horses or even the odds on offer. The problem with multi betting is you, and me. Because we punters can be greedy. The array of short priced, should-be-too-good hot favourites racing at today's twilight Auckland Cup meeting is like your Christmas dinner. It's all spread out in front of you, too tempting to ignore, but when you grab too much you end up regretting it afterwards. Because when it comes to multi betting - which has become a staple of the harness racing punters' diet - it only takes one horse too many to ruin the entire day. So let's start with the simple stuff today, the bankers who should pose little risk but add percentage. Ultimate Machete (R7, No 6) should be the no-brainer. He has been too strong, too fast and way too good for all he meets today so far this season and with this race worth $200,000 the money for getting out of his way and settling for second or third is still juicy. So he should work his way to the lead and beat Jack's Legend (2), On The Rantan (1), More The Better (11) or the improved Motu Meteor (3). So that adds 19 per cent to your multi, and you should easily add another 37 per cent ($1.37 fixed price) via Spanish Armada (R5, No 8). Her draw doesn't look great but she sat parked outside her main, and you could say only real rival in Delightful Memphis and beat her last start. If both fillies perform to the same level again then Spanish Armada should win again. Simple as that. That multi alone equals $1.6 but not many punters are going to stop there and the three other hotpots for the day all have some concerns. Marcoola (R8, No 8) was amazing at Cambridge last week but key rivals Bordeaux (No 9), Sunny Ruby (No 7) and Quite A Moment (No 6) all had excuses. Marcoola should win but is going to have to cover extra ground and is far from guaranteed the lead when he does make his move so his $1.20 price is not good shopping compared with the similar quote for Ultimate Machete. So, don't be greedy and leave the National Trot out of your multi. The same could be said for the Cup because while Titan Banner (R9, No 4) and Dream About Me (No 9) are both unbeaten at The Park and stand out, if you add one you are betting against the other in a race that may be decided by standing start manners, luck and tempo. Titan Banner looks the safer bet but $2.40 is hardly encouraging when taking on Dream About Me, Christen Me, Chase The Dream and other proven open classers like Hughie Green and Tiger Tara (both 3200m Cup runner-ups). Because of the All Stars factor it would be easy to throw in Vincent (R2, No 7), especially as he is on his way to the Victoria Derby and won from a standing start last time. What his formline doesn't show is that he started from the outside with plenty of room to move and still got fractious pre-start before that win and today he finds himself a 3-year-old colt sandwiched between two mares on the 10m line. So at $2 he might still be value, any less and let him go. One of the better multi options might be Gupta's Cullen (R4, No 6). She was a big winner here last start and while she is officially trained by Jonny Cox she has been in the Purdon-Rasmussen machine for a few weeks as they look after her for Cox, a stable employee. Drawn the best of the favourites she makes the most appeal to add to your Ultimate Machete-Spanish Armada multi. And if you can't wait to start your punting day at 3.03pm then the opening two-year-old race looks a classic race in two. Alta Maestro (R1, No 6) was faultless, all manners and power, winning a similar race two weeks ago and can repeat but Spankem (No 7) was cutting into his lead late and is likely to improve after her had an interrupted preparation leading into that debut. There won't be much between them in the markets but Spankem might turn the tables. - NZ Herald Read more by Michael Guerin 

Cran Dalgety couldn’t he happier with Christen Me heading into Saturday’s $250,000 Auckland Trotting Cup -- it is just the opposition he isn’t thrilled with.  The Canterbury trainer says the $2.4million earner is working as well as he ever has leading into the 3200m group one and he wouldn’t change a thing. But that may still not be good enough to win.  “I have been thrilled with a couple of his recent runs, but we just keep meeting one better,” says Dalgety.  “Three starts ago you would have thought he was enormous running second in the (NZ) free-for-all but Lazarus was just unbelievable.  “And then last start here in the Franklin Cup I was thrilled with him again but Titan Banner just outstayed him.  “He feels great, is working well and is actually running times like he always has but the reality is the best horses of Mark and Natalie’s are simply going better.  “They are having a freakish run and while we haven’t given up beating them this week, on paper it is hard to make a case we will.”  Christen Me is the $12 fourth favourite for the Cup, with his half-sister Dream About Me heading a trio of favourites from the All Stars barn alongside Titan Banner and Chase The Dream.  That trio have age on their side, with Dream About Me and Chase The Dream only four-year-olds while Titan Banner is a lightly-raced five-year-old, the veteran of only 32 starts.  The younger, fresher legs have been the most potent in New Zealand harness racing in the last 12 months, with Have Faith In Me winning this Cup last season, Lazarus the New Zealand Cup last month and Monbet dominant as a four-year-old trotter last season and then Marcoola doing the same in the champ’s absence this summer.  “It feels a bit like that. My horse feels as good as when he was winning Miracle Miles and when he won this race two seasons ago but the younger horses have gone to another level,” says Dalgety.  “It is a bit like our horse is Dan Carter and some of the others are Beauden Barrett. “So I am not saying we can’t beat them. But we might need some luck.”   Christen Me’s improved standing start manners this season should ensure he gets that luck as he should settle handy, possibly even on the markers pegs, which would give wonder driver Dexter Dunn plenty of options.  But the reality is while he looks a picture and his performances would be excellent coming from most other horses, Christen Me hasn’t been as razor sharp as when he went on his Miracle Mile-Victoria Cup-Auckland Cup winning rampage two seasons ago.  One rival who seems to have slipped even further, again without any identifiable reason, is last season’s Auckland Cup runner-up Hughie Green.  This time last year he led the Cup till the last few strides and it took a rampant Have Faith In Me to deny him, with Inter Dominion hero Smolda in third.  Hughie Green has only shown glimpses of that form since and trainer Brian Hughes says he is happy with the big horse but his racetrack performances have lacked bite.  “When you look at his last two runs he has probably paced his personal best times,” offers Hughes.  “So I can’t be disappointed with him. Maybe the opposition has just gotten better?  “But I think he will step away and put himself in the race so he will get his chance.  “Can he win? I hope so, but he would need things to go his way.”  While Dream About Me ($2.20) and Titan Banner ($2.60) battle over Cup favouritism, there is no such dispute in a couple of Saturday’s other big money races.  Marcoola has come up an jaw-droppingly short $1.20 to win the National Trot even from the outside of the front line, while Ultimate Machete is $1.19 to win the $200,000 Sales Series Pace.  Which almost makes the $1.38 for Spanish Armada in the Sires’ Stakes Championship Final seem like a decent price.   Michael Guerin

Auckland Cup favourite Dream About Me could end up the first victim of a little-known rule change in the great race at Alexandra Park on Saturday. The wonderful mare is likely to lose her stranglehold on favouritism for the $250,000 group one after drawing barrier one on the second line at the 3200m start point.  And that has only come about because of a recent rule change most punters wouldn’t even be aware of. The front line limit for standing starts at Alexandra Park has been nine for years but was changed to eight across the front from November 28. The reason was concerns over the wider sulkies commonly used these days and how they cramped horses for room at the start. Ironically that isn’t the case at the front straight standing start points of 2200m and 3200m but for consistency all standing starts at Alexandra Park and Cambridge are now run with a front line of eight. Which means Dream About Me will be on the second line and giving away a start to her stablemate Titan Banner, who could well replace her as the favourite. “I didn’t know that,” said her surprised trainer-driver Mark Purdon when informed of the change. He wouldn’t be the only one, with full front lines in standing starts at Alexandra Park so rare, especially at the highest level, the rule would rarely enter punters or trainer’s  minds. Purdon wasn’t overly concerned by the mini handicap because the four horses drawn the inside of the front line --- Hug The Wind, Hughie Green, Christen Me and Titan Banner -- have all been good standing start beginner this season so should be ideal to follow through. But it still means Dream About Me will have to give her older male rivals a start and a beating in a race that hasn’t been kind to mares. Purdon admits he now rates Titan Banner the best winning chance for he and training partner Natalie Rasmussen, who will drive him. “There really wouldn’t be much between our three but Titan Banner has a lot in his favour,” said Purdon. “He is proven in the New Zealand Cup, good from a stand and has worked very well this week. “So I’d rate him just our best chance but not by much over Dream About Me and Chase The Dream.” The latter will also start off the second line with Purdon requesting he be placed on the unruly after he galloped wildly at the start of the Franklin Cup two starts ago. He redeemed himself from behind the mobile at Cambridge last Saturday but will still be giving some tough older stayers a start, with last season’s Cup winning driver Tim Williams in the sulky. Dream About Me wasn’t the only favourite to luck out in the draws for a group one on  Saturday, with both Marcoola and Spanish Armada suffering the same fate. Marcoola will start from the outside of the front line in the $80,000 National Trot but after thrashing most of this opposition by 11.75 lengths at Cambridge last Saturday he will still start a very warm favourite. Spanish Armada’s grip on the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Championship has been loosened slightly though by her also drawing the outside of the front line, with arch rival Delightful Memphis better off at barrier five. The twilight meeting starts at 3.03pm, with the Cup at 7.31pm. Michael Guerin

‘A fantastic afternoon of harness racing, food and family fun’ is how the Auckland Cup is being promoted this year in the lead up to the premier race day at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve. The gates open at 2.00pm, with the racing starting from 2.30pm on Saturday 31 December. The Auckland Trotting Club says the spectacle of some of the country’s best harness racing, as well as plenty of off-track attractions will ensure a big crowd and a fun day. “This is set to be an action-packed afternoon and evening and we just can’t wait. We’ve put a big emphasis on making the day really family friendly this year. We’ve got food trucks, ice cream, face painting and an in fact a whole children’s entertainment area,” says Alexandra Park chief executive Dominique Dowding. As Auckland harness racing’s biggest race of the season, the $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup is known as the race of champions. In the past it has been won by sporting greats like Cardigan Bay, Young Quinn, Christian Cullen, Elsu and Themightyquinn. “The combination of New Zealand’s best horses and drivers, superb racing, plenty of hospitality, and lots for the kids makes for a special occasion. With the evening winding up at after the last race at around 8.00pm, it’s an ideal starter for whatever festivities people have planned for later on,” says Ms Dowding Alexandra Park Sales & Marketing Manager Joel Reichardt says “We’re promoting Alexandra Park as a fantastic place to kick off your New Year’s Eve celebrations. The intimate nature of Alexandra Park always ensures an exciting atmosphere and of course there’s our free general admission and free parking. We’ve also got some great dining options on offer.” The spacious Tasman Room, with stunning floor-to-ceiling windows for a fantastic view of all the racing action, is putting on a sumptuous buffet dinner starting from 5.00pm at $60 per person for the buffet only and $99 per person for the full beverage package. The Alex Bar & Eatery will be open as well offering more casual dining options, as is the Lyell Creek Lounge where you can also just walk up and enjoy a fantastic meal close to the track. Bookings are only essential for the Tasman Room - phone (09) 631-1165, email or visit Racing media personality Michael Guerin says the Auckland Cup is looking incredibly even. "The Cup sees glamour mare Dream About Me taking on her older half-brother and former Cup winner, Christen Me, a real rarity worldwide. While the 2016 National Trot will be a beauty and the three-year-old Sales Series race sees the giant horse who could literally be harness racing's next big thing in Ultimate Machete,” says Mr Guerin.   “Alexandra Park has something for everybody from a lovely dining experience through to a more casual racing one, and of course there’s plenty going on for families of all ages,” says Ms Dowding. “This is only the second year we’ve run the Auckland Cup back on its traditional New Year’s Eve day after a decade-long absence. We’re expecting the public to again respond really positively and turn out in big numbers on Saturday,” she says. For further information contact: Alexandra Park CEO Dominique Dowding: (021) 377-303 or Michael Guerin: (021) 879-035  

Nicky Chilcott said she was stunned to later learn that her 5-year-old gelding – Everything – paid more than $30 when winning Streamline Freight Maiden (up to R48) Pace at Alexandra Park last night (Thursday). “I was staggered to hear that he paid that much. He certainly wouldn’t have returned the price he did if people saw him trial at Cambridge last Saturday,” trainer/driver Chilcott said. Everything won that Up To R50 Maiden workout in 2:48.1. His winning mile rate for the 2200m mobile was 2:02.9 and he came home in 59.6 and 28.1. Last night the son of Sands A Flyin and For The Girls (seven wins) paced the same distance in 2:45.2 (mile rate 2:00.8) and last 800m and 400m in 56.7 and 27.5. He was the $31.90 seventh favourite of 11. “I thought is he went like he did on Saturday he would give them a fright tonight. He worked real well and I thought he was spot on because he won that workout in nice time,” Chilcott said. Everything was having his third career start, and first since he finished 11th and then pulled up on August 14 and 20 respectively. He was the seventh and fifth favourites back then. “He’s taken a wee while to come to it but he’s always gone pretty well at the workouts and trials. He was originally trained by Tony Shaw but when he gave up training Everything ended up at the Butchers (John and David). “Then Les White, who works for me noticed that the horse wasn’t doing much and I got the horse through him. He did a lot of his early work so the horse is a credit to him,” Chilcott said. The Cambridge horsewoman said Everything galloped on debut and then defibrillated next start. He was then turned out and has come back a new horse. “I think he will win a few more without too much of an effort and after that who knows, but I don’t think he’s any superstar. “But in saying that he felt tremendous tonight. He took a while to wind up but when he did he found another gear and picked them up and won quite easily in the end,” Chilcott said. “He actually won with plenty in hand,” she added. The promising brown gelding and Chilcott had three quarters of a length and a head to spare over Spooky (Andre Poutama) and Brother In Arms (Zac Butcher). Everything was bred by Hambletonian Limited. He is owned by the Summer Fun Number 1 Syndicate. “We formed the Syndicate because a lot of people wanted me to get them involved in racing. We have had a wee bit of success to date but nothing major. “It’s all about fun and affording what you can. Some of the 30 to 40 owners might only only a hair out of the tail but they will have fun. I’m sure they did tonight even though I didn’t see too many on-course. “A big shout out must go to Jess Smith because she made this Syndicate happen. She did a fantastic job helping me get owners for this horse,” Chilcott said. She said she would now look for a junior driver’s race for Everything – probably on the Waipa grass next Wednesday. “It’s a big step up from maidens to C1s and I think the claim approach is the best one for this horse at this stage of his career,” said Chilcott. Meanwhile, spare a thought for Auckland junior driver, Andrew Drake, who lost two loved ones this week and then came out and won the first event last night behind the Logan Hollis & Shane Robertson trained Toot Toot. His former Perth girlfriend took her own life on Monday night (December 19), and then his former workmate at Kade Howson and Rob Tomlinson Western Australia stable also committed suicide on Thursday. "It’s been a very tough four days. Alysha (Johnston) was 27 and Austin (Eddy) was 16. It's been a pretty unbelievable week with such tragic news of someone you use to love turning into an angel, and then a star-of-the-future turning into an angel as well. "Austy and Lysh both drove Toot Toot with me tonight and I will never ever forget them," Drake said. Drake is on target to achieve his best season in two and a bit years of junior driving. Last year he recorded a personal best six wins. Already this year the Ray Green employee has nailed four. Duane Ranger

Harness racing fixed odds at Auckland as at 6:15pm Race 1 - It's all one way traffic in the first race and  it's on the $1.80 - $1.40 favourite Rocknroll Princess. As at 6:15pm she had 481 multis on her compared to just 21 on the next best in Booming Jet $5.20.    Race 2 - On the win 'book' it's an even contest as to where the early money has gone but Rocknroll Legend $2.50 is leading over Classy Chapel $8.20 and  Rory McIlroy $8.00. In multi betting the favourite Rocknroll legend easily leads.    Race 3 - Saint Michel $2.20 - $1.85 is all punter's want here with the largest bet taken $2,000 at $2.00.   Race 4- Northview Hustler $1.90 - $1.80 is best backed on the win 'book' but there is also solid support for Positano $9.00 & Lerato $7.00 - $6.50.   Race 5 - Mongolian Storm $2.60 is best backed in win & multi betting but Kenrick $5.20 has also had some strong support.   Race 6 - The early money is saying there is only one winner here which is Acceptance $2.70 - $2.00. Cullen Who $7.50 is next best backed on the win 'book' but she is a long way back.   Race 7 - Monnay $10.50 is best backed in win betting over Forfeathers $19.   Race 8 -  Brother In Arms $4.00 leads win betting early over Harper Franco $11 but in multi betting the $1.75 favourite Spirit Of Delight clearly leads.   Race 9 - The debut runner Musculus is huge in multi betting with 260 tickets on him verse just 10 on the next best which is Madhubala $8.60. At 8:28am Tuhimata Lass was late scratched and any bets prior to that time will have 27% win & 21% deductions applied.     Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

The race to 150 could be resolved at Alexandra Park tonight (Thursday). Fresh from their victory in their 'Brothers in Arms Driving Series' at Oamaru earlier this month, the South Auckland-based Abernethy brothers will do battle again on their home track tonight – but this time against one another. Both Jay (33) and Sailesh Abernethy (31) sit on 149 victories – Jay for training, and his younger brother for driving. “We’ve always had the usual sibling rivalry growing up but nothing to any great extent. I would like to get to 150 first though. I am the older one and it’s only right,” he joked. “Any other time I don’t mind running second to Sailesh and vice versa. We are a team and try and do what’s best for the stable and the owners and trainers,” he added. Since 2006-2007 Jay has driven 149 winners from 1664 starters to the races. he's also placed 266 times for $986,052. UDR strike-rate: 0.1597. Compare that to Sailesh who has driven 149 winners from 1,364 starters since 2009-2010. he's also placed 268 times and banked $1,016,777 in stakes. UDR: 0.1980. Of course Jay is the senior driver having saluted the judge 427 times from 4.596 drives since 2002. he's also placed 815 times and won just over $3.2m i stakes. UDR: 0.1722. The older sibling gets two bites at the cherry tonight. The leading trainer at Cambridge Raceway last season will line up Kate Jackson (Trent Lethaby) and Collection (Jacob Wallace) in the opening junior driving event. He will then sit behind the Adrienne Matthews trained Jude's Gem (13) in the fourth event, while Sailesh’s only drive is behind the Cheree Wigg trained Minstrel Boy (2) in the fifth event. “I can’t separate the two from our stable in the first race. The only indication I can give you is that Trent (Lethaby), who woks for us, had the choice of drives. I think it will come down to who gets the best trip,” Abernethy said. “Both can win with luck,” he added. He thought he had a better winning show behind 3-year-old Art Official filly, Jude’s Gem, despite drawing five on the second line. “She went real good first up and I’m sure Adrienne will have her screwed right down for this. Sure it’s a stronger field than what she met here last month but she’s on the improve, and she did go pretty good at the Workouts (fifth) on Saturday. “This is just her third career start so whatever she does she will be improved by the run. I think she will be a nice drive,” Abernethy said. Abernethy said if he or his brother were left on 149 after tonight’s meeting it was likely one of them would hit the 150 mark at Waipa on the Te Awamutu grass next Wednesday. “We will have five or six in at that meeting so surely one of us will break through,” he said. Meanwhile drivers at Alexandra Park tonight will wear black arm bands in race four – the $12,000 NZ Trotting Hall Of Fame Len Hart Memorial Maiden Pace as a mark of respect for the passing last week of Riverton jockey Rebecca Black. Duane Ranger

Auckland’s popular entertainment destination Alexandra Park (home of harness racing) has launched a new website – a key component of its increasing online presence, says Alexandra Park Sales & Marketing Manager Joel Reichardt. “Making it easy to do business with Alexandra Park, improving our communications and growing our online offering, are all key aspects in our strategic business plan. Launching our new website is a significant marketing milestone and already we’re getting great feedback and more enquiries,” says Mr Reichardt. The re-designed carries substantial information catering for Alexandra Park’s wide range of stakeholders and customers. Its key sections include race night information, functions and events, the Alex Bar & Eatery, AP Living, and a news-desk. The site’s also providing up-to-the-minute information via a built-in Twitter feed.   “It’s very easy to navigate around. And for those coming to our Friday Night Trots I encourage them to use the site to check out what’s happening ahead of time, both on and off the track. “As for race night dining, people can now readily assess any specials and packages we’re offering which soon they’ll be able to book online, making life even easier.” Mr Reichardt says the website comprehensively sets out the array of small and large events Alexandra Park can host. It also makes clear the many different function facilities and rooms available as well as the many onsite catering and menu options that receive rave reviews. The popular Alex Bar & Eatery is also promoted with its different menu specials throughout the week highlighted as well as upcoming events its hosting. The AP Living section showcases a CGI video of what Alexandra Park’s urban village will look like when completed. Currently under construction, 750 residents will live above a gourmet grocer, boutique shops, and soon to be announced some of the country’s leading hospitality operators and brands. “Our new website has come at a great time for us. Momentum is growing as we quickly head to another Auckland Cup Day on New Year’s Eve, and we’ve opened ticket sales to our inaugural Chinese New Year evening to be celebrated on our 10 February race night.” Mr Reichardt says as well as better design and functionality for users, the new website will help individuals, businesses and organisations plan as the race night calendar shows all the scheduled Friday Night Trots months in advance, as well as a long lead on all the race night events, dining packages and rooms available. “We want to be more interactive with our customers and to reach particularly more young people on platforms they’re well used to. We’re also driving Facebook harder and as an organisation we’re doing a lot more online advertising. “Marketing is changing so quickly and it’s great for our customers that Alexandra Park recognises this and is responding to meet the market and exceed people’s expectations,” says Joel Reichardt.  Visit Alexandra Park Sales & Marketing Manager, Joel Reichardt: (021) 786-034.

Stuart Leadley was over the moon when Alta Maestro won the first Young Guns Heat at Alexandra Park last Friday night, but 2-year-olds winning on debut is something the Ashburton owner is used to. Leadley and his wife Liz have also witnessed Alta Las Vegas, Dream To Reality, and Franco Cristiano win as juveniles on debut. The Leadleys own the former two and have a fifth share in Franco Cristiano. Like Alta Maestro, the trio are trained by Robert Dunn. He also won the first 2-year-old race of the season with The Brooklyn Brawler at Alexandra Park on December 9. “It was well worth the trip last week and we will be back again on New Year’s Eve to watch hopefully him, Alta Las Vegas and Franco Cristiano run. “We knew he was pretty good and anticipated the win but nothing is certain in racing. This is the best possible way to ignite a career,” Leadley said. Leadley made the trip north to watch Alta Maestro win the $25,000 Breckon Farms Young Guns heat. He was driven by Dexter Dunn and won by one-and-three-quarter lengths from favourite Spankem (Mark Purdon). The 2-year-old Art Major colt paced the 1700m mobile in 2:02.7 (mile rate 1:56.1) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 57.2 and 27.5. She was the $3.30 second favourite. The Brooklyn Brawler finished ninth He had gone into his debut run with a first and a second at the Pukekohe and Auckland workouts and trials on November 19 and December 10. He recorded 2:06.4 and 2:06.6 mile rates on those days. “We paid $100,000 for him at this year’s (Australasian Classic) Yearling Sales at Karaka. I initially said to Robert when he saw him at the pre-sale that I wasn’t going to buy him, but he convinced me. “Robert said he was the nicest colt he had ever seen and predicted he would fetch $130,000. He made me change my mind and we paid $100,000 for him. He’s a half brother to Alta Las Vegas (by Bettor’s Delight) and that was good enough for me,” Leadley said. The Leadleys paid $77,500 for Alta Las Vegas at the 2014 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale. He was their first solo purchase and has since gone on to win three races as well as a placing in last year’s Group Three Sapling Stakes. In 2014 the Leadleys also went in on a $92,500 purchase for Franco Cristiano at the New Zealand Premier Sale at Addington. “The only reason I changed my mind and bought Alta Maestro was because his older sister, Alta Teresa (by American Ideal) won some money for me when I had a place bet on her,” Leadley said. Alta Maestro is the fifth of seven foals out of the five win ($45,320) In the Pocket mare, Alta Camilla. She was trained by Paul Kerr at Ohoka. “Hopefully Alta Maestro will give a good account of himself and do well in the Young Guns Final next year. For now we hope he goes real well on Saturday week in his second juvenile race. “We will be making the trip back to Alexandra Park,” the 70-year-old retired dairy farmer said. Leadley’s first race-day winner (October 2, 2012 - Addington) was the Elsu gelding Crackaheiny, who won seven of his 22 starts in New Zealand before being exported to Australia in July 2014. Duane Ranger

It hasn’t taken long for a negative to be followed by a positive for exciting trotter Marcoola. The four-year-old cost punters plenty through no fault of his own at Alexandra Park on Friday night, finishing unplaced in the Lyell Creek Trot after his sulky tyre was flattened straight after the start. Trainer-driver Clint Ford valiantly tried to shift his weight to the other side of the sulky but to no avail and after leading into the straight Marcoola was run down by Sunny Ruby in a near record time for the 2200m mobile. There was still plenty to like about Marcoola’s effort and Ford isn’t worried heading into his main summer aim, the National Trot at Alexandra Park on December 31. And rightly so, especially when he hears the news the TAB’s second favourite for the group one trot Master Lavros isn’t coming north. Master Lavros, a two-time Dominion winner, returned with a nerve-wrecking win at Addington on Friday night, seeing some bookies even promote to the head of their markets for the National Trot. But trainer Mark Jones has confirmed Master Lavros won’t be coming north, with his early gallop on the way to victory on Friday suggesting he still has some minor issues which Jones feels more comfortable working on closer at home. So while he has been beaten, Marcoola has now also lost his main National Trot rival so is back to $2.80 at the head of the TAB market. There is slightly better news for Australian visitor Kyvalley Blur, who was expected to miss the National with a leg issue but he has recovered better than expected and could still make the race. Sunny Ruby’s win in the Lyell Creek has seen her shorten into $9 for the National and new trainer David Butcher admitted Friday night was an emotional occasion, the win his first feature race victory since his father and long-time training partner John passed away three months ago. Friday night winners Dream About Me and Titan Banner still dominate the Auckland Cup market 12 days out from Alexandra Park’s biggest race but their stablemate Chase The Dream, who is on the third line of betting, is no certainty to contest the great race. He will head to Cambridge for the $50,000 Four and Five-Year-Old Futurity, which not only looks a far easier target but is a mobile start after Chase The Dream completely blew his first standing start in the Franklin Cup on Friday night. “He could still go to the Cup but we will make our mind up on that after Cambridge,” said co-trainer Mark Purdon. The Cambridge programme on Saturday also features a group two $50,000 trotting mile which could see Sunny Ruby and Friday’s eyecatcher Bordeaux in action. Michael Guerin

Bookies may not be able to split them but co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen says two factors may give Titan Banner an edge over champion stablemate Dream About Me in the Auckland Cup in a fortnight. The pair dominated the open class features at Alexandra Park on Friday night, Dream About Me jogging home in the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts while Titan Banner overcame a hard run and a 20m handicap to win the Franklin Cup. That sees them head the market for the Decemeber 31 Auckland Trotting Cup at $2.60 for Dream About Me, just shading Titan Banner at $2.70. Dream About Me is a proven Group One mare whose every step seems to take her closer to the record of former champion stablemate Adore Me. But Rasmussen, who trains the pair in partnership with Mark Purdon, says while Dream About Me may be flat out better than Titan Banner, come the Cup she will need to be. “She is very, very good Dream About Me and maybe the better horse,” said Rasmussen. “But Titan Banner has a lot more standing start experience which could help him get in front of the mare. “And of course he has raced over 3200m before, in the New Zealand Cup. “So that might even things up a bit.” Dream About Me’s group one $100,000 event  night was as good as over when she strolled to the front after 400m and she barely broke workout speed to win from Rocker Band. But Titan Banner was made to work way harder when he looked to cross Christen Me with a lap to go in the Franklin Cup but he started to goof, leaving him sitting parked and making him worker far harder than has he wrested the lead. To still forge past Christen Me and leave most of the other Cup contenders in his wake was a huge performance. They were two members of the expected All Stars domination on Friday night as Spanish Armada and Ultimate Machete were too good in their elite three-year-old races. Ultimate Machete led and was barely asked to raise a sweat to win the Alabar Classic but Spanish Armada had to out-tough arch rival Delightful Memphis in the Peter Breckon Memorial in what was a definitive performance. The big trot of the night provided the greatest upset when Sunny Ruby was good enough to capitalise on a beautiful drive by new trainer David Butcher to win the $40,000 Lyell Creek. She flew off the gate to lead then took a trail and Butcher found the perfect gap in the home straight to run down leader Marcoola. The favourite initially looked disappointing but was found to have a flat tyre suffered soon after the start so maintains his place at the head of the markets for the National Trot, also on Decmeber 31. Another to catch the eye was Bordeaux, who made up huge ground after an early gallop, suggesting the group one trot is shaping as a more even contest the earlier thought. Michael Guerin

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