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Auckland’s popular function centre at Alexandra Park is enjoying considerable success with its Chinese functions thanks to its attention to detail and good marketing,” says Joel Reichardt, Sales & Marketing Manager at Alexandra Park. “Chinese Aucklanders are a big part of Alexandra Park’s story and it has been a long association. In turn we know how to host wonderful Chinese occasions and our reputation is only growing in that space,” he says. It’s an association helped by the fact that Auckland’s leading Yum Char restaurant, Grand Park, has been operating from Alexandra Park for many years. Recently, Alexandra Park’s commitment to the Chinese culture was highlighted during Chinese New Year, with its dedicated race night celebrating the Year of the Rooster. “We got great reviews about the comprehensive Chinese buffet our own chefs put together for Chinese New Year. Going forward, we are only too happy to do something similar for Chinese groups who may want to hire our function facilities,” he says. He says as well as plentiful Chinese-themed hospitality, Alexandra Park is only too happy to organise the likes of traditional entertainment if required. In fact, Alexandra Park caters for all menu tastes and has tailor-made packages designed to suit any event. The staff are event professionals totally dedicated to ensuring all conferences, business meetings, private dinners or parties are successful. “What appeals to a lot of people is our flexibility. We can do big or small, catering from 20 to 700 guests and we’ve got eight function rooms. In fact, we’ve got nine if you include our spacious stables complex which is great for businesses or organisations wanting something completely different for their next function venue.” Centrally located in Epsom, Alexandra Park has ample free parking on site and is just 15 minutes to central Auckland and 20 minutes from Auckland’s airport Mr Reichardt says ongoing improvements to the function facilities and menus have been key to Alexandra Park’s success in the highly competitive sector. Each year Alexandra Park hosts nearly 1,000 functions and that excludes its Fridayrace nights. “Alexandra Park will undoubtedly get a further boost with the opening of our new ‘urban village’ development now under construction. It will see the arrival of more cafes, restaurants and bars, and will create a great buzz. What’s more having the Blues rugby team’s training centre here and watching them literally train out front is another point of difference.” He says the Alexandra Park functions team really prides itself on providing solutions, tailoring menu and beverage packages, ensuring all audio-visual requirements are easily taken care of, as well as offering expert advice and great value for money. For bookings or information phone (09) 630-5660, email events@alexandrapark.co.nz or visit www.alexandrapark.co.nz  

Harness racing fixed odds early movers for Auckland today as at 12:50pm   Race 1 - The best backed runner in both win & multi betting is Majestic One $10.50 - $8.50.    Race 2 - Franco Hamilton $5.80 leads win betting with the $2.40 favourite Double Twist $2.40 easily leading multi betting.   Race 3 - Mr Good And Evil $5.50 easily leads win betting with C K Spur dominant in multi betting.    Race 4 - Alta Intrigue $1.65 leads win and multi betting with the largest win bet $1,400 at $1.65.   Race 5 - Northview Hustler $1.95 hasn't taken a dollar on the win book but in the multi book he is the only runner punter's want to be on.    Race 6 - It's one one way traffic here on the $1.50 favourite Bettor Joy with the largest bet $10,000 at $1.50.   Race 7 - Lemond $3.10 easily leads win & multi betting.   Race 8 - Whitecliffe Chapel $15 is best backed over Kate Black $18.00 but Juice Brogden $1.65 is racing away in multi betting.   Race 9 - Oklahoma Thunder $8.00 leads win betting over Eye Lash $4.50.   Race 10 - Art Work $3.20 leads win and multi betting over Luis Alberto $3.30.   Best backed runners in multi betting (in order): R6 - Bettor Joy $1.50  R8 - Juice Brogden $1.65  R4 - Alta Intrigue $1.65  R3 - C K Spur     $2.30      Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

The Alexandra Park Driving Premiership means a lot more to Zac Butcher than what people think. “I don’t get enough drives to win the New Zealand premiership and Alexandra Park is my home track. Whoever wins that title is usually right up there as one of the best going around in the North island. “That is very important to. I’ve had a really good season so far and I’m desperate for that to carry on going into the last third of 2016-2017,” Butcher said. The 25-year-old Clevedon horseman has reined home 19 winners from 125 drives at Alexandra Park this season. He’s also placed on 37 times and has a healthy 0.2773 strike-rate. Both Butcher’s father David and Tony Herlihy (MNZM) are second with 18 wins apiece. “If I can stay ahead of Tony (Herlihy MNZM) the rest should take care of itself. He’s won the title so many times and to beat him would be some mean feat. I told Dad that and he said that he was the one I should be looking out for. “I joked to him saying that if I was ahead of Tony I’d be ahead of him,” Butcher laughed. “I’ll be dirty if I dropped behind Dad. He’s one driver I really want to beat. We have a big family rivalry when we get out there. Ben and I always want to beat Dad,” he added. Butcher’s above average season can largely be put down to his boss Barry Purdon also being the leading trainer at ‘The Park’ with 22 wins – three clear of his brother-in-law, Herlihy. “I’ve been driving some very good horses this year and I’m grateful to Barry and his owners for having faith in me. I’ve also picked up quite a few quality outside drives which have been helpful. I can’t thank all the owners and trainers enough,” Butcher said. One outside trainer was Mark Jones, who provided Butcher with another Group One victory in 2016-2017. Butcher drove the Jones trained Rocker Band to win the Group One $100,000 Ladyship Cup at Melton's Tabcorp Park on February 17. "That was the highlight of the season so far and I'm so thankful for getting that drive. I still love what I do and I love where I work. I'm always hungry for wins, no matter where I drive," Butcher said. Nationally, Butcher has driven 36 winners from 209 drives and is eighth on the New Zealand Driving Premiership with. He has also placed 36 times and he has earned $423,529 in stakes in 2016-2017. His UDR strike-rate sits at a very good 0.3179 - 0.344 higher than his father, but Butcher Senior has driven 44 winners this season and sits fifth on the New Zealand Driving Premiership. "It's always great to beat Dad at anything, but at the same time I will always respect what he's achieved. Only the very best reinsmen drive 2,200 winners," Butcher said. Butcher (Zac) has topped the 100-win mark once in 10 seasons of driving. That was in 2011-2012 when he saluted the judge 114 times and banked a personal best $882,293. His strike rate of 0.2718 that year was much less than what he's achieved this season. All up Butcher has driven 547 winners from 4,135 starters since 2009. He's also placed on 979 occasions and has career stake earnings of $6,080,246. His lifetime UDR is 0.2393. The 2017 Alexandra Park Drivers Premiership as of today March 22 – (Driver, Starts, Wins, Seconds, Thirds, UDR) 1) Zac Butcher 125, 19,15, 22, 0.2773. 2) David Butcher 140, 18, 21, 21, .0.2619. 3) Tony Herlihy 124, 18, 15,17, 0.2581. 4) Maurice McKendry 138, 18, 10, 20, 0.2190. 5) Brent Mangos 101, 17, 12, 7, 0.2574. Duane Ranger

One of the North Island’s most promising squaregaiters will revert back to his original heavy shoes in order to win Friday’s feature trot at Alexandra Park. The Ross Paynter trained Lemond will be vying for his sixth career win, and fifth at ‘The Park’, in the $14,999 Dawson Harford & Partners Handicap for the R55 to R109 trotters. Lemond is ranked R81 and will start from the unruly mark on the 20m handicap. “He’s the best horse I have trained and he can go a long way if we can just get him to go away with them cleanly. We have tried to lighten up his shoes this week and have gone back to the original heavy ones he used to wear. “He needs weight to trot away and we are hoping this will solve the problem. If he steps cleanly I definitely think he can win on Friday,” Cambridge-based Payne said. Because of his tardy beginnings, Payne said he would target mobile races as the season developed. “Our main goal is the mobile (Group One $80,000) Anzac Cup at Alexandra Park the week before the Rowe Cup. I’ve spoken to his owner (Charlie Hunter) and we both agreed that because he’s just four he will have plenty of time to race in a Rowe Cup. “He needs to improve his standing start manners before we even think about taking on the guns over two miles. It’s not completely written off though. It will depend how he goes in the Anzac Cup,” Payne said. Payne said he had kept the work fairly light on this week following a tough couple of runs at Alexandra Park earlier this month. “He followed up his win and third there with a gallop a couple of hundred metres after the start a fortnight ago. Then he put in a big run for third before he was disqualified. “We took his blood after that race and nothing came back. We are hoping a change in shoes will do the trick this week.” Lemond was favourite last start and ran on well behind Temporale (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and Prime Power (Todd Mitchell). Temporale isn’t in this week’s field but Prime Power will start from the 40-metre back mark. “If he behaves himself I know he has got the speed to go close. He’s got a big motor and lovely gait once he’s up and running. He seems bright and ready to go, so here’s hoping,” said Payne. Lemond has raced 19 times for five wins, six placings and has banked $57,961. The Love You - Cipollini (by Sergio Hanover) gelding has had 14 starts at Alexandra Park for four wins and three placings. He is yet to win over Friday's 2700m stand but has placed twice from seven attempts. He has a won three times and placed on four occasions from 12 standing starts. Maurice McKendry will again do the driving. "He's my best winning chance on Friday, but my 3-year-old filly goes all right, but will probably need a run or two to warm into it,” Payne said. That filly is Rave Nation - a daughter of Muscle Mass and Merckx (by Dream Vacation) who will start from gate 12 in the first event - the $8,113 Annual caduceus Club Golf Day Mobile for the maiden trotters. Rave Nation broke and finished last when third favourite on debut on October 14 last year. She was driven by Herlihy that night and the Ardmore maestro will do the steering again. The filly did win a three-horse Workout at Cambridge on March 11 with a 2:15.7 mile rate. "I think it will take or two or three runs for her to find her feet but when she does she also has the gait to win a few," Payne said. Duane Ranger

Imagine if the first horse you bred won a Derby? That was the case for the Elsie’s Empire Syndicate who bred the 2017 Northern Derby winner Raukapuka Ruler. While the studbook might not say they did, the tale around how they came to breed and race their current star is nothing short of special. One of the breeders is Giles Patrick, manager of the Colt 45 Syndicate who race Raukapuka Ruler and he remembers the tale well. “About 10 years ago there was seven of us from Geraldine who wanted to get into the racing game and one of the guys in our syndicate was involved with Colin De Fillipi. Colin looked for a horse for us to lease that might be suitable,” said Giles. That horse was a Live Or Die gelding by the name of B Grudge whose mother was Soky’s Rose (1994 Soky’s Atom). Soky’s Rose’s mother had left a half million dollar earner in City Rogue. Winner of the Kindergarten Stakes in New Zealand as a 2YO in 1999. He ran a number of placings at Group level including a third in the NZ Derby, eventually winning the Australian Derby in the same season. Before being sold to America he lined up in a New Zealand Cup and was good enough to pace a 1:49 mile at a time when our mile record was still only 1:53.5! The breeding was there and the syndicate had a racehorse good enough to win an Invercargill Cup (2002-G3), line up in a New Zealand Cup (Changeover’s Cup) and win over $135,000 in stakes. Not a bad nag to sink your teeth into all things being equal. “He went pretty good (understatement) and at the end of his racing career the Brosnans came to us and said we have a mare out here and would you guys be interested in leasing her?” She was from the same dam as B Grudge and was a striking filly by Elsu. Her name? Miss Elsie. “We leased her off the Brosnans son Alistair and Colin recommended that we write into the contract that we would get rights to breed the first foal off her once she stopped racing.” That would prove to be a master-stroke for the syndicate which had changed slightly in it’s original make up, but still retained the ‘core four’ as you could call them in Patrick, Gavin & Dean Oliver & Mark Weaver. “Colin said to us when she turned up on the property she was the best gaited horse he had ever seen and he’s been around for a while, we were still pinching ourselves after having rid the wave of B Grudge.” The crescendo of the wave was however not in sight, so they made like Kelly Slater and the folks from South Canterbury continued to ride the wave of success. Miss Elsie won her first start as a 2YO at Invercargill accounting for some serious opposition in a $30,000 Young Guns Heat. None other than a future three-time NZ Cup Champ in Terror To Love & Hannon Memorial winner Franco Ledger. While she was to have a brilliant career, Miss Elsie was born into a crop in which always found one better. She ran second to Collectable in the Delightful Lady Classic in 2010 before running second behind the champ Bettor Cover Lover at the Harness Jewels Two-Year-Old Diamond at Cambridge. Throw Carabella into Miss Elsie’s three-year-old career and it’s a credit to De Fillipi and the mare’s ability that she could get within a head and a nose of the champion pair (Carabella & Bettor Cover Lover) in the Great Northern Oaks. “She was never the same after that race, she got a virus and didn’t really come back from it.” Miss Elsie pushed on until she was five and was able to outdo her older brother B Grudge in earning $143,633 in stakes. The syndicate had enjoyed all the thrills of Group 1 Racing without nailing that elusive big one, however they still had the breeding rights to consider. “There were seven of us in that syndicate but three of them didn’t want anything to do with it (breeding) so we paid them out and decided to go to Bettor’s Delight.” The resulting colt was named ‘Raukapuka Ruler’ after some tossing about of ideas and the first opportunity to name a horse they raced. Bettor’s Elsie wasn’t doing it for them and in the end, the ‘core four’ found some inspiration closer to home with Raukapuka being a suburb in Geraldine. “We waited and waited and he was going good at the trials when we were offered some good coin for him and we thought bugger it, we’ve waited this long to get this thing on the track, we’re not gunna sell it!” The stars aligned once more last Friday night when the horse they call Harvey drew the ace, led off the gate and simply ran them ragged while the rest of his more favoured opposition struggled to sort themselves out. “The best thing about last Friday night was that it was just totally unexpected, we went up there with no expectations whatsoever. We just went up to have a couple of beers and a good night out. The country boys getting to town you know.” While the syndicate has no designs to breed again in the near future, they do have some decisions to make about whether they will in fact head back to the sales in search of that elusive champion. Who knows, they might just have enough to buy the 2017 foal out of Miss Elsie in a few years. After leaving a Christian Cullen colt which sold for $41,000 in 2016, Miss Elsie left a full brother to the Derby winner who was bought at what now must almost be a bargain price of $90,000. One things for certain, the next one from the mare won’t come cheap. Should Raukapuka Ruler keep on his winning ways, the coin shouldn’t be an issue for the Colt 45 Syndicate! Brad Reid NZ Standardbred Breeders    

Continuing with its international cuisine theme on harness racing nights, Alexandra Park is hosting Indian Night on Friday, 24 March. “We’re slowly getting around the globe with the different evenings proving really popular. Tickets are also selling well for our Indian Night but we’ve still got availability,” says Joel Reichardt, Sales & Marketing Manager at Alexandra Park. He says Alexandra Park has considerable success in delivery first-class Indian experiences, helped by its function centre being a popular venue for Indian weddings and Diwali events. “Indian Aucklanders have a long and strong association with Alexandra Park. We’ve got our own onsite Indian chef and it’s well worth checking out the menu he has designed for Indian Night on our website. It’s comprehensive, authentic and it literally makes your mouth water. “It’s set to be a great Friday night at the trots and rest assured no one will leave hungry.” Alexandra Park’s Tasman Room will be beautifully decorated and its all-you-can-eat buffet package is just $60 per person, with the all-inclusive house drinks package just $99 per person. “We think Indian Night is the perfect opportunity to have a lovely evening out with your family, friends, colleagues and partner. “Rather than just heading to an Indian restaurant or cooking at home, we’re offering a fantastic and endless menu with the spectacle of great harness racing under lights. The atmosphere will be terrific.” General admission into Alexandra Park as well as car-parking and race books remain free on the night. For Indian Night bookings or further information phone (09) 630-5660 or visit www.alexandrapark.co.nz. To check out the Indian Night menu click here. Mr Reichardt says the next internationally-themed cuisine race nights at Alexandra Park will be American Night on 21 April and Mexican Night on 5 May 2017.

Todd Macfarlane won’t tell you he’s got a good eye for a racehorse. He’s too modest for that. Instead he’ll say it was bad luck that ensured that he ended up with rising trotting star, Heavyweight Hero. The 3-year-old Muscle Mass gelding has set two New Zealand records the last two Fridays at Alexandra Park. Last week Heavyweight Hero broke You Rock’s December 2011 New Zealand record by a whopping 2.8 seconds from 20m behind. He trotted the 2700m in 3:27.2 after getting well back and then sitting parked out. The week before he set a national record for 3-year-old trotters over the 2200m stand from his 10m handicap. His time of 2:49.8 was 1.4 seconds quicker than Rock Tonight's New Zealand record, also set at Alexandra Park in March 2015. “He did them both very easily to be honest,” said trainer/driver MacFarlane. “He is right up there with the best trotters I have driven. He just feels nice.” The best trotter Macfarlane has reins is the former multiple Group One winning Special Force, who won 27 races and $624,823 between February 1997 and March 2005. He was also a former New Zealand record holder for his Pukekohe trainers Dave and Clare McGowan. “I ended up getting Heavyweight Hero through the late Eric Inwood who had Tarn (three wins) and Mr Natural (two wins) with both Murray and then latterly me. “He was from Christchurch and it was just bad luck that I ended up with Heavyweight Hero. When Eric passed away I knew his Estate were looking to move some stock on. “I always followed what Murray and his team were up to. I worked for him when I was a kid. He’s a very good horseman and taught me quite bit. That’s how Heavyweight Hero ended up in my stable – I just liked him from day one. “Then Aaron Lowe, who has had horses with my stable for many years got networking and a Syndicate of us now own him,” Pukekohe-based Macfarlane said. Heavyweight Hero had five starts for Edmonds and Macfarlane was always watching his progress with interest. “I just liked the look of him and the way he was coming home in his races down south. We bought him for a fair price back then, but after what he’s achieved now it is quite a cheap price looking back,” his Pukekohe trainer/driver said. Heavyweight Hero has now had five starts for Macfarlane for three wins (two in NZ record time) and two seconds. But Macfarlane, who is also the Chairman of the North Island Trainers and Drivers Association, was quick to point out he’d only beaten R70 opposition and there were many tough assignments ahead. “I think given the chance there’s probably a few good ones tucked away and ready to make the step up as well – and perhaps if they competed in the races we have raced in they might have set national records too. “But all of his racing from now will be age group racing. That’s when we will see where he stands,” Macfarlane said. Heavyweight Hero will next race the Group One $80,000 New Zealand Trotting Derby at Addington Raceway on April 7 and then a couple of weeks after that will compete in the Group Two Sires Stakes Trotting Championship at Alexandra Park on April 21. April 28 will then see Heavyweight hero take on the best 3-year-old trotters in the Group One Northern Trotting derby. Both are worth $80,000. Macfarlane said he would then take on his Jewels opponents at Ashburton on June 3 and the Breeder’s Crown in Australia in August was also in the back of his mind. “You have to remember he’s only won three races against moderate opposition at this stage, so I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I know in racing that is a foolish thing to do,” Macfarlane said. Heavyweight hero is currently ranked number one for the $100,000 3-year-old Harness Jewels ruby Final with earnings of $30,115. Fellow North Islander C K Spur ($27,327) is ranked second and South Islander Chevron Express third ($27,013.13). “I got him after he ran the Sires Stakes Final and then second in the Jewels so he came to me with some solid form and good ground work done by Murray. He’s also one of those type of horses who eats everything up. I think he’s a happy fella and really enjoys racing. “Now as he develops as a 3-year-old I can already see that he has the traits to make a very nice trotter one day. He has always had a beautiful constitution, good manners and a strong gait. He’s just getting stronger and stronger with each race. “He did it quite easily the other night (March 9), and even though I’m very proud of him I’m not one to get too carried away too soon,” the ever humble Macfarlane said. Heavyweight Hero is the fourth of six foals (and most successful) out of Canterbury breeder Gael Murray’s un-raced Sundon mare, Successor. Duane Ranger Heavyweight Hero winning at Auckland on the 10th March    

Nothing went to plan for Raukapuka Ruler in last night’s $250,000 Woodlands Derby - and that is what won him the race. The Canterbury three-year-old lead throughout to hold off a luckless favourite Ultimate Machete, much to the surprise of trainer Cran Dalgety and driver Dexter Dunn. “I am as surprised as anybody,” said Dalgety. “I would have been thrilled with fourth in a field that strong because this Derby is the New Zealand Cup of three-year-old racing. “So we had to use the draw (ace) and lead but the plan was to hand up to the first one of the big guns to get there and take us on. “But as it turned out the ones who challenged weren’t the best ones so Dex stayed in front and he is still there. “He is a lovely horse and we are thrilled but it also goes to show how special a driver Dexter is.” The win capped a golden night for Dalgety and Dunn who also combined to win the $80,000 Delightful Lady Classic with Bettor Joy. “To come up here and get two big ones is special but especially the Derby, I have never won this one before, its a huge deal to me.” It was a night where leaders and those close to the speed dominated on one of the wettest Alexandra Park tracks in the last 20 years but Raukapuka Ruler’s time was still that of a very good horse and he should end up another open classer for Dalgety. Earlier in the night trainer-driver Barry Purdon was all aggression to steer Mach Shard to an all the way win in the Young Guns Final, taking the first major juvenile race of the season in emphatic fashion. Last season’s Karaka sales topper now looked a cheap buy as a stylish colt who has so much a head of him. But one of the most heart-warming wins of the night was The Orange Agent’s victory over Smolda in the City Of Auckland Free-For-All. Having only her second start back after 14 months away from racing with a potentially career-ending injury, The Orange Agent clawed past Smolda up the passing lane. It sets her up for a glass of pacing’s queens when she heads to Addington in a few weeks to take on Dream About Me and potentially Piccadilly Princess in the Breeders Stakes. Michael Guerin The $250,000 Great Northern Derby The $80,000 Delightful Lady Classic The $96,000 Young Guns Final

Atrociously wet conditions didn’t stop The Orange Agent beating this season’s Interdominion champion, Smolda, by half a neck in the Group Two City Of Auckland Free-For-All Pace at Alexandra Park last night. Smolda and Mark Purdon led for all but the last 50m of the 2200m mobile, but Tony Herlihy (MNZM) got the best out of her in the last few strides to win the $50,000 Auckland Co-Op Taxis sponsored pace. In doing so last season’s best female pacer cast aside her mantle of being ‘The Queen Of The Park’ to now one of the best pacers in Australasia. After breaking her fetlock The Orange Agent is now truly back to her brilliant best. Herlihy agreed. “She needed last week’s run (third) and tonight she had to be good because Mark was setting some even sectionals. She felt extra and I think she will be in for a good season,” Herlihy said. The Orange Agent snuck up the passing lane to pace the 2200m mobile in 2:42.79 mile rate 1:59) and home in 26.6. Have Faith In Me (Tim Williams), who sat parked was three-and-a-quarter lengths back in third. Tonight’s 19th win in 28 starts was the result of extreme patience displayed by The Orange Agent’s South Auckland trainer, Brian Hughes. He could have been tempted to retire her to the broodmare’s paddock but instead overcome two leg injuries with her to get the 5-year-old American Ideal mare where she is now. Hughes said The Orange Agent now head to the Breeder’s Stakes at Addington where she would take on Dream About Me and Piccadilly Princess in what promises to be one of the best mares’ races in Australasia this season.  Exciting 4-year-old trotter Temporale made it five wins from 15 starts when he won the Majestic Horse Floats Greenlane Handicap for the trotters. The Herlihy (MNZM) trained and driven son of Monarchy led for most of the way in the Group 3 $25,000 event. Immediately after the race Herlihy said he was looking forward to the gelding’sfuture. “He’s a lovely trotter and has come to it real nice this time in. He’s got a lot of potential and it’s just a matter of getting more racing experience into him. “I think he will develop into a nice stayer. We will just progress on with him around here,” Herlihy said. Temporale was having just his second start this campaign after a nice first-up second behind the multiple Group One winning 5-year-old entire, Speeding Spur, seven days ago. He trotted the 2700m stand in 3:29.76 (mile rate 2:05 even) and came home in 58.4 and 29.3. He won by an increasing five lengths and two lengths from stablemate The Almighty Johnson (Todd Macfarlane) and Lemond (Maurice McKendry), who broke earlier in the race. Meanwhile, the $2.60 favourite Bettor Joy proved too strong in the Group Two $80,000 Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock Young Guns Delightful Lady Classic for the 2-year-old pacing fillies. The Cran Dalgety trained and Dexter Dunn driven well bred filly got an easy lead and then proved too strong for her 11 rivals pacing the 1700m mobile in 2:06.08 (mile rate 1:59.3). The daughter of Bettor’s Delight had half a length and two-and-a-quarter lengths to spare over Caitlyn Clarke (Scott Phelan) and Sea Of Gold (David Butcher) thanks to a final sectionals of 58.9 and 28.3. “I paid $80,000 for her at the Sales and I thought that might have been a bit much but she has surprised me. She has such wonderful breeding that she’s now developing into one of the better fillies I have trained in recent years,” Dalgety said. Bettor Joy, who drew three on the second line, is out of the late  Alex McDonald’s eight-win Road Machine mare, Joyful Belle. Her older sister, Joyfuljoy (by Mach Three) won 11 races ($339,612) including the Group One3 $200,000 Harness Jewels 3YO Diamond in 2009. “Every time she goes off the property she comes back a better horse. She won four trials before finishing second behind Purest Silk here last week. “She will stay on and contest the Sires Stakes and Sales Series races up here now,” Dalgety said. Duane Ranger

Harness racing fixed odds early movers for Auckland tonight as at 2:30pm    Race 1 - Easily best backed on the win book is Sertorius $6.80 - $5.00 but in multi betting he is third best backed over Mr Good And Evil $2.40 & Il Pirata $7.80.    Race 2 - Raptors Flight $7.50 - $4.80 is best backed over Kaitlyn $8.50 & Max Phactor $14.   Race 3 - Don Domingo $17 - $14 is best backed on the win book but is unwanted in multi betting where Heaven Rocks $2.00 leads over Cash N Flow $2.20.   Race 4 - Lemond $3.80 is best backed over Quevert $16.    Race 5 - The only runner wanted here is Alta Maestro $1.75 - $1.60 with the largest early bet $4,000 at $1.75.   Race 6 -Spandau Ballet $7.80 - $5.50 leads win betting over Sea Of Gold $20 - $14.   Race 7 - Ultimate Machete $2.40 - $2.20 is best backed over More The Better $3.10.   Race 8 - Waikiki Beach $3.20 is best backed over Smolda $2.10.   Race 9 - Kate Black $15 - $13 leads win betting but in multi betting Better B Amazed $1.40 is racing away from the field.   Race 10 - Heavyweight Hero $1.35 is stifling win betting but is huge in multi betting.     Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)  

Their careers are the classic tale of two halves and now punters have to decide who wins the next chapter of More The Better versus Ultimate Machete.  The pair dominate the market for tonight’s $250,000 Woodlands Derby at Alexandra Park, even poor barrier draws not enough to suggest their less glamorous rivals can down them.  But which one of the All Stars pair grabs the Derby could come down to timing, as it has most of their careers.  They have met eight times for four wins a piece with a very clear demarcation line ---  up till November it was 4-0 to More The Better, the quicker and more natural youngster of the pair.  Then the balance of power transferred to the bigger, stronger Ultimate Machete as he brutalized his stablemate in the Sires‘ Stakes Final at Addington and three times at the Alexandra Park December carnival.  Back then it was hard to make a case More The Better would ever win a fair fight over his stablemate again but three-year-old seasons tend to be full of ups and downs as the protagonists strengthen, weaken, grow and the rigours of racing and  traveling take their toll.  Ultimate Machete was good but not startling by his standards when second in the NSW Derby last start whereas More The Better dazzled with a second against the elite older horses in the Founders last Friday.  Maybe he now holds the upper hand tonight and gets his chance to take a 5-4 lead in their personal battle?  “It is hard to choose between them because they both have tricky draws but it was hard not to impressed by what More The Better did last week,” says stable foreman Tim Williams.  “He is really well but then again Ultimate Machete was also good in the NSW Derby. So it might come down to luck.”  Ultimate Machete has barrier eight but if and when driver Natalie Rasmussen gets serious it is hard to imagine any of her rivals parking her so it might still be in front with a lap to go.  That makes him the horse to beat, unless More The Better gets there first and is the one sitting on his back.  Punters could do worse than simply back both and be happy with a small profit because on all eight occasions they have raced, one or the other has won.  In a deep field, Jacks Legend appeals as the best place value as he has chased the big two home twice in feature races this season.  The City Of Auckland Free-For-All rivals the Derby for race of the night with the well drawn trio of Smolda (2), Waikiki Beach (barrier three) and The Orange Agent (1) set to control the race.  Smolda deserves top billing after a magnificent summer all over Australasia and he did win this race last season. With new found gate speed and respect he could well end up in front.  The Orange Agent was a fine comeback third last Friday and has the speed to threaten while Waikiki Beach worked well this week and his last-start Miracle Mile fourth indicates he can win his Alex Park debut.  Alta Maestro holds most of the aces in the Young Guns Final so what beats him probably wins but the fillies final is very even, with favourites Bettor Joy and New York Rain facing second line draws.  Add in a well-balanced Greenlane Cup and the unpredictable Heaven Rocks in the support programme and the meeting is one of Alexandra Park’s best of the season. Michael Guerin

John Dickie thought all his Delightful Lady Classic dreams had come tumbling down early last week. His impressive debutante winner on February 10 – New York Rain was found cast and upside down in her stall. Dickie’s son and co-trainer, Josh and Canterbury trainer Paul Court assisted the promising 2-year-old and then vets were called in. “We had to scratch her from last week’s race. We got the vet in on Tuesday afternoon because she had tied up and the bloods showed that. Then we treated her throughout the week and she just kept rapidly improving,” Clevedon-based Dickie said. Remarkably the brown American Ideal filly the lined up at the Auckland Trotting Club’s Workouts at Alexandra Park last Saturday and went a quicker time than what she won on debut. New York Rain beat Alta Shangri La and Delilaah by one-and-a-quarter lengths and five lengths, pacing the 1700m mobile in 2:04.8 (mile rate 1:58.1) and came her last 800m and 400m in 57.8 and 28.5. New York Rain drew seven of eight in the fifth Young Guns heat at 'The Park' on February 10. She and Simon Lawson were last early and then three back on the outer before looming up three-wide on the turn and then proving way too strong in the straight. New York Rain was the $6.40 fourth favourite that night and paced the 1700m mobile in 2:07.2 (mile rate 2:00.4) and home in 58 even and 27.4 beating Gold Orchid (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and Purest Silk (Brent Mangos) by three quarters of a length each way. “It’s incredible to think how much she recovered in a week, and she’s trained on brilliantly since. The only thing we don’t like about her chances on Friday is the draw (13), but she’s still good enough to win it,” Dickie said. New York Rain will start from five on the second row in the Group Two $80,000 Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock Young Guns Delightful Lady Classic for the 2-year-old pacing fillies. Her dam Ohoka Moon (In The Pocket), who was trained by Steven Reid, won nine races ($112, 963), including a placing in the 2007 Northern Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. “She’s improving at just the right time. I think she has got a huge career ahead of her. She hasn’t got a lot of speed but she just keeps on truckin. She’s got a big motor and we are excited about her. “There’s plenty of 2-year-old races for her up here this season, so hopefully we can start off with a Group Two win on Friday,” Dickie said. New York Rain will be wearing the blue and white colours of Dickie’s good friend – the late Simon Pavlovich. “I requested Simon’s colours after he passed away last year. I had known Simon all of his life and we used to knock around together. He was a friend and a good horseman and someone who was very special to me. ”I got his colours as a mark of respect to him - so I can always remember him,” Dickie said. New York Rain is owned by Dickie (John) and his partner Linda German, and was bred by Cavalla Bloodstock. Speaking from Melbourne, Dickie said he rated New York Rain and Speeding Spur as his two best winning chances of the weekend. Speeding Spur has drawn the outside of the front-line in Saturday's Group One $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix at Melton's Tabcorp Park. “Just about every time we have taken the horse to Melton we have copped the visitor’s draw. It’s becoming more than coincidence. “But we’ve won from out there previously with him and I’m very confident he can do it again. He is very fit now,” said Dickie. Dickie advised Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) stewards on Thursday that Speeding Spur has suffered swelling in a hind fetlock.   The multiple Group One-winning trotter will be examined on Friday.     Duane Ranger

Presented by Winger Motors, the 2017 Oaks & Derby Festival continues with its final harness racing night, Derby Night, this Friday at Auckland’s Alexandra Park.  The big race is the Group One Woodlands Stud Northern Derby, but it’s an annual fashion competition which is also creating a lot of public interest, says Joel Reichardt, Alexandra Park Sales & Marketing Manager. The Best Dressed At The Races competition on Derby Night is open to any fashion-forward track-goers 18 years or over. There are three categories - Best Dressed Lady, Best Dressed Man and Best Headwear - with some amazing prizes on offer and one grand prize for the overall Best Dressed Supreme winner. This year the total prize pool is worth over $5,000, with the supreme winner also taking away the keys to a stylish Jeep for a week of adventure; a weekend for two at the grand Duke of Marlborough Hotel in historic Russell; and a Magnum of Mumm champagne. Friday night’s competition promises plenty of catwalk action in the Tasman Room, with the latest information on Alexandra Park’s Facebook page and website. Four of New Zealand’s most respected sartorial minds in fashion will judge the Best Dressed At The Races competition on 10 March.  The country’s most famous fashionable man, Colin Mathura-Jeffree, will be bringing his flair trackside. He will be flanked by racing darlings, Best Dressed Lady from the country’s racing tracks, Carena West and in-demand milliner and stylish woman, Claire Hahn. The group will be finished off nicely with the Herald on Sunday Fashion Editor, Michiko Hylands. Tickets are selling fast for both the Tasman Room and Top of the Park but Mr Reichardt says there remains some availability for those keen to secure the popular beverage and dining packages. Tables and tickets can be reserved and purchased by calling (09) 631-1165 or emailing dining@alexandrapark.co.nz. General admission into Alexandra Park, car-parking and race books remain free.  For further information on the 2017 Oaks & Derby Festival visit www.alexandrapark.co.nz

The favourites have been handed no favours for the $250,000 Woodlands Derby, the new signature race of Cup week at Alexandra Park. While it is still Cup week in Auckland, the Trotting Cup has moved to December 31, where it seems to sit better in the overall harness racing calendar. That promotes the Derby to the highlight of the harness racing week, a fair trade off considering the depth and class of the classic in the last decade. But while there is plenty of both in Friday night’s version it is shaping as a trick for punters with favourites Ultimate Machete and More The Better drawn poorly. Had this Derby been held in December when Ultimate Machete swept the three-year-old features at Alex Park he would have been odds on even from the outside of the front line. But he has been defeated twice at Menangle in recent weeks and his rivals will at least now sniff some vulnerability so it will be interesting to see how the bookies price him, hopefully sooner rather than later as the Australian TAB now regularly beats its New Zealand counterparts in putting out feature-race New Zealand harness markets. His stablemate, More The Better, one of five in the race for the All Stars, looked back to something like his best with a booming second against the good older pacers last Friday but also faces a disadvantageous  barrier at three on the second line, while the greatly-improved Motu Meteor will start from six. The Derby competes with the City Of Auckland Free-For-All and the Young Guns Final for race of the night though. The free-for-all brings together Inter Dominion champ Smolda, former Auckland Cup and Miracle Mile winner Have Faith In Me and Waikiki Beach for his long-awaited Alexandra Park debut all against The Orange Agent and Christen Me. And the Young Guns looks one of the more open Alexandra Park juvenile group ones in years, with Alta Maestro (Robert Dunn) and Mach Shard (Barry Purdon) having thrown down the challenge to the usual All Stars domination of the race. One winner from last Friday night who won’t be returning for this Friday’s Greenlane Cup is Speeding Spur, with the outstanding trotter in Melbourne for the A$100,000 Grand Prix at Melton on Saturday night. Michael Guerin

Michelle Wallis nailed her first Group Three victory at ‘The Park’ last night but don’t expect to see more of the Franklin reinswoman in the sulky. Waiuku-based Wallis won the Group Three $25,000 Sims Metals Northern Breeders Stakes for mares behind the horse that she and her husband Bernie Hackett train on Karioitahi Beach – Princess Mackendon. “I only drive her because she’s such an honest little mare. I think this is her limit thought. I couldn’t see her winning a Group One against some of the big guns, but she is very consistent and this is her career highlight,” Wallis said. The 5-year-old Skyvalley mare had finished second three times and won once in her last four starts before tonight’s three quarter length and four length victory over Sunset Peak (David Butcher) and Majestic Ali (Maurice McKendry). Princess Mackendon trotted the 2700m stand in 3:30.4 (mile rate 2:05.4) and home in 60.8 and 30.6. Wallis was quick to point that her driving career would be limited. “There’s too much pressure from owners and I’d rather let the guns do it,” a modest Wallis said. The 40m handicap was a bridge too far for the $1.70 favourite, Idle Bones (Brent Mangos). After a quick 1:26.5 lead time he finished seventh of 10. It was the 21st running of the Northern Breeders Stakes. The Group Three $25,000 Lincoln Farms 'The Founders' Free-For-All was won by the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained Heaven Rocks, who led for 1100m of the 1700m mobile event. Bowling along fiercely in front thereafter the 4-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven gelding ran his nine opponents off their feet. Driver Rasmussen dubbed him a ‘nutter’ after his one-and-a-quarter length and half neck victory over stablemate More The Better (Mark Purdon) and The Orange Agent (Tony Herlihy MNZM). “He’s a bit of a wild animal. A loose cannon. He’s a very nice pacer but doesn’t know a lot. he’s got a heap to learn yet,” Rasmussen said. Heaven Rocks, who has been pulled up in both of his starts this campaign, went very wide around the home-straight bend the first time and then with momentum took the lead off eventual fourth place-getter, Christen Me. He then bowled along in front pacing the 1700m in 1:59.3 (mile rate 1.53) and came home in 56.1 and 27.7. It was Heaven Rock’s sixth win in 11 starts and he was the $4 second favourite. Meanwhile, Speeding Spur returned to the winner’s circle for the 18th time following his last start second in the Group One $300,000 Great Southern Star in Victoria on February 4. It was a well-time run by driver Josh Dickie who sat three-back on the outside and followed Lemond (Maurice McKendry) throughout. It was his eight win at Alexandra Park. “I didn’t mind following Lemond because he’s a nice trotter and if I thought that if we had one go at them my horse would have the sprint to get over the top of them. He felt like the old Speeding Spur tonight,” Co-trainer and driver Dickie said. The 5-year-old Pegasus Spur entire trotted the 2700m stand from his 45m handicap in a very respectable 3:26.9 (mile rate 2:03.3) and came home in 59 and 28.6. He had half a neck and a nose to spare over Temporale (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and Lemond. Speeding Spur is also trained by Dickie’s father John at Clevedon and is owned by All Black captain Kieran Read; former All Blacks Andy Hewitt and Dave Hewett; Commonwealth Games gold medalist Dick Tayler; and the Woodlands Partnership Syndicate. He was bred by Woodlands Stud. Speeding Spur’s stake earnings now rest at $694,291. The Barry Purdon trained and driven Mach Shard made it two wins from three starts (second in the other) in the seventh heat of the $25,000 Breckon Farms Pace for 2-year-old colts and geldings. The Mach Three and Sly Shard colt dug deep to hold out the Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen trained duo of Ashley Locaz (Rasmussen) and Spankem (Purdon) by a nose and a length. Mach Shard paced the 1700m mobile in 2:04.67 (mile rate 1.58 even) and came home in 57.9 and 27.9. But the performance of the night came in the last event when the Todd Macfarlane trained and driven Heavyweight Hero set a national record for 3-year-old trotters. His time of 2:49.8 was 1.4 seconds quicker than Rock Tonight's New Zealand record, also set at Alexandra Park in March 2015. Heavyweight Hero dealt to his up to R66 opposition by four-and-a-quarter lengths.The Muscles Yankee gelding’s mile rate was 2:04.1 and he came home in 57.8 and 28.8. It was Heavyweight Hero's second win in nine starts and he's also placed four times. The victory took his stake earnings past $50,000 for Macfarlane, Aaron Lowe and their band of owners. Duane Ranger

If you want to join one of racing’s more exclusive clubs talent will only get you so far - you also need heart. And Partyon showed plenty of that to justify her hot favouritism in the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park last night. The filly joined the likes of Adore Me and Carabella as Northern Oaks winners when still unbeaten, her victory maintaining an unblemished record after 10 starts. Four of those have been at group one level, two of them Oaks in the last week after she won the NSW Oaks at Menangle last Saturday. Maybe the rigours of the week were getting to Partyon as she turned for home in front last night, with first Spanish Armada and then Juice Brogden running at her hard. But while Partyon looked vulnerable she didn’t buckle, maintain a slight advantage to the line and breaking the 3.20 barrier for the 2700m mobile. It was a brave performance from a filly who probably wasn’t as her best and suggests she is very special. “That took some courage, not many horses win two Oaks in a week,” said trainer-driver Mark Purdon. Partyon could face Spanish Armada and possibly even her Aussie arch rival Petacular in the NZ Oaks and Harness Jewels in May and June, clashes which could be some of the highlights of the age group racing season. Her effort to remain unbeaten was the highlight of a night on which her stablemate and fellow Jewels winner Heaven Rocks finally got his act together again with a stunning come from last win in the Founders. The recalcitrant big fella has cost punters plenty this campaign but behaved well for driver Natalia Rasmussen and once launched with a lap to go never looked in danger of defeat. Sales topper Mach Shard and improved trotter Princess Makendon were other big winners on the night. Michael Guerin

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