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

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

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

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

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

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

Last week was one of the better weeks overall for a while with our tipsters not far off all weekend. Six selected winners with Kyle Marshall leading the way with the $6 shot, JC Jock while Scott Phelan, Blair Orange, Tim Williams, Nathan Williamson and Ricky May also got the job done. What was so frustrating was the tipsters had eleven placegetters including ten second placings over the weekend. This week however we only have three meetings around the country and quite a few of our regulars are not in action this weekend but as usual it would pay to follow the tipsters selections on the first day at Blenheim on Friday to the second day on Sunday. Forbury Park - Thursday night Shane Walkinshaw - Thought Jetsdream just needed an ounce of luck to win race 2 Brendon McLellan - Thinks Mr Handleman is a chance at huge odds, also in race 2 Craig Ferguson - Rates Lamborne Road a big chance to bounce back and win race 5 Nathan Williamson - Thinks Betta Go Fernco can turn it around and win, also in race 5 Brad Williamson - Hopes to celebrate his 21st birthday with a win on Elusive Flight in race 7 Gavin Smith - Gives the two year old Late Mail a big chance of winning race 9 Matthew Williamson - Rates Springbank Eden a chance of upsetting them in race 11   Blenhiem - Friday afternoon Bob Butt - Quite keen on the chances of the first starter Dusky Eyre in race 1 Ricky May - Rates Delightful Jack as well overdue and thinks he will win race 2 John Dunn - Very bullish about the chances of stable runner Mr Meddle in race 6 Blair Orange - Gives Expresso Martini a big push to win race 7 Terry Chmiel - Thinks Art Exhibit is ready to strike and will win race 8     Franklin - Friday night Scott Phelan - Thinks Ideal Roman is a big chance from barrier two in race 1 Todd MacFarlane - Rates I Am The One a good each way prospect in race 4 John Curtin - Thought Bettormack second up from a break would win, also in race 4 Todd Mitchell - Reckons The Tracker can carry on his winning streak in race 5 Steven Reid - Gives Franco Nikau a chance of rolling them at big odds, also in race 5 Steven Richardson (TAB) - Rates Chosen Path fresh up a big chance of winning race 6 Kyle Marshall - Thought Kilkeel Lady from barrier two could upset them in race 10   Harnesslink Media

Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones advanced to 52 wins for the season with a winning double on the first day of the Nelson winter harness racing meeting, and another at Auckland, on Friday, June 5.   Adding to the day’s success, Woodend Beach stable foreman picked up a deserved win with Sandvik Star at Nelson, and was the caretaker trainer of upset mares mile winner Whyamibettor from Overport starter All Delight.   Mark scored back-to-back Nelson training wins reining front-running hot favourite Pomme Roy to a comfortable win in the C1 Reefton Trotting Club Mobile Pace.   He has decided not to back up the 3YO Christian Cullen-TK Swift gelding on the second day at Nelson on Sunday.   Pomme Roy held second favourite Mach Denario by a length and a half in a 2:03.9 rate for the mobile 2400m in the slushy conditions, quickening over his last 800m in 58.5s.   After winning his 2YO debut at Addington and showing early promise as a colt, Pomme Roy was gelded after losing form after racing in Auckland as a spring 3YO.   He returned to win first-up at Addington on April 23 and has been in good overall form for this preparation.   Friday’s win was a bonus C1 win for the 3YO, who remains a C1 for his next start. He has now won three of 15 career starts.   in a good sense of occasion, Blair Orange then reined stablemate Zakspatrol to a gritty neck win over the Regan Todd-trained Fleeting Grin in the C1 Mark Jones Racing Stables and Club Waimea-sponsored Pace.   Zakspatrol, who had been knocking on the door of a win in his latest racing, rallied strongly from the third line on the outer to score in 3:10.9 (2400m stand) in the conditions.   The big 4YO Art Major-Shimmering Star gelding gets his chance to step up in the C2 and faster Nelson Pine Industries Nelson Winter Cup on Sunday.   Zakspatrol was returning to the winner’s circle on Friday at his third start since being downgraded last month.   He is now the winner of five from 43 starts for $38,232.   Owner Grant Hatton shares in the ownership of both Nelson winners.   He races Zakspatrol with wife Katherine, while he co-races Pomme Roy with Chatsworth Lodge Ltd, Bob Higgins, Bill and Claude Walsh.   Katherine Hatton also races Real Torque, a 2YO Real Desire filly, with daughters, Emma, Gina and Kate.   The girls also enjoyed good success a few years earlier as co-owners of former country cups star My Man Dan.   Real Torque, a half-sister to fast North American winner Statesman (1:50.4, US, nine NZ wins) and other useful types in Monaro (seven NZ wins, 1:58.5) and WA winner Calais (two wins, 1:56, Aust), was a $10,000 Australasian Classic Yearling Sales buy.   She wasn’t hurried out of the gate first-up by Kimberly Butt in the Mitavite Mobile Pace.   Real Torque showed some toughness after being left parked and rallied well to hold Bronze Over by a neck in 2:45.5 (2:01 mile rate) for the mobile 2200m.   The leaders quickened over their last 800m in 58.3s and final 400m in 27.9s.   Jeff Scott - Mark Jones Racing Stables  -  Check site here  

The business and property model that served Alexandra Park for 125 years has been completely turned on its head in recent months, in what have been described as the biggest changes to the home of Auckland harness racing since racing began there in 1890. Chairman of the Auckland Trotting Club, Kerry Hoggard, says after years of Alexandra Park holding its own, his board of directors have opted to take some major transformational steps to secure the park’s long-term future as well as help grow the sport.   “We’ve locked in three strategic pillars we are primarily focused on: Repositioning harness racing in the region, growing Alexandra Park’s business and attracting new audiences, and lifting the value of the club’s existing property portfolio,” says Hoggard. Deriving more from its asset in hugely valuable Epsom has seen Alexandra Park this year become a property developer, transforming part of its “dustbowl car park” into a high-end mixed use urban village dubbed “223 Green Lane West”. The club is now negotiating leases for the development’s prime ground floor retail, hospitality and commercial space. At the same time it’s selling beautifully-appointed apartments above on freehold unit titles, which are going well helped by the double grammar zone location and plenty of registrations via  Another coup for the board in maximising the park’s returns was confirmation earlier this year that a dedicated training centre on the far side of the track near Campbell Crescent will be constructed for the Super 15 rugby franchise The Blues. Construction has now begun with The Blues new base set to open by the end of this year. A practice field will also be developed in the middle of the track. “We’ve actually played the role of landlord for some time. Our tenants include Cirque du Soleil. Grand Park Chinese restaurant, Sport Auckland, Lollipops day-care, an IT company in the old Epsom Stand, Caltex and Burger King on Manukau Road. Then there’s the car-parking income we get which is not insignificant. What’s more the Alex Eatery is owned by the club and the Park’s TAB has the biggest turnover of any in the country. So there’s already a lot happening within the Park, but we still want to do better.” While the club, prior to these developments, boasts a total annual revenue stream of $21m and a $60m asset base, it’s determined to keep lifting those numbers and that includes ongoing improvements to the likes of its conference facilities in addition to any new development projects. Hoggard and his board also want to take a lead in rebuilding and repositioning harness racing in the northern region. Last year Alexandra Park’s merger with the Franklin Trotting Club was completed with the number of horses now using the Pukekohe training facilities up 40%. “We’re taking quite a holistic approach. We want to reduce the costs for people in the sport and attract young trainers. Ideally we’d probably like to establish a training centre out there and that includes doing a master-plan for the Pukekohe site.” The third pillar the board has asked its chief executive Dominque Dowding and her staff to focus on is attracting new audiences and lifting harness racing’s image, which Hoggard describes as traditionally having a three-star reputation in the modern world of professional sport.  “Harness Racing hasn’t had a terribly glamorous image but when we get people into the likes of our Top Of The Park lounge overlooking the track under lights on a Friday night, with great hospitality and all the comforts, they absolutely love it. Our conference facilities are also really well received by many and provide an important income stream for the club. But again we need to keep improving our offering.” Hoggard describes the Special General Meeting late last year as the club’s most important, when it made its biggest financial decision ever. There members signed up to the board’s proposal to borrow nearly $200m to fund the initial stages of developing the new urban village. He says a deliberate move in recent years to recruit a lot of commercial acumen around the board table has been critical to transforming the club’s focus and securing the confidence of many long-time members to make the big decisions. “Our members know that if we want to keep growing harness racing in Auckland, things have to change and so overwhelmingly, they’ve been hugely supportive. This is not about flogging off any of our land, as we’re retaining all of it. This is all about securing the club’s long-term viability and people are very encouraging of that.”  Hoggard says ensuring a quality built environment and world-class urban design and planning is at the heart of any change at Alexandra Park, noting the club will have to live and work among the new developments. “Rest assured ‘223 Green Lane West’ will actually give the suburb of Epsom a heart, something it has lacked for so long despite it being such a popular residential and family suburb here in Auckland. “The shift in mindset we all need to make is that in the near future people will come to Alexandra Park not just for harness racing or a conference, but to experience some great urban residential living, high-end boutique retail stores, top food and beverage and lovely public spaces. Alexandra Park will be a real lifestyle destination. That in itself is a massive change.” Hoggard says the past 12 months have been hugely exciting for the club. He hopes his board will one day be remembered for making the hard commercial decisions at the right time to ensure future generations could also enjoy a key Auckland asset which is Alexandra Park. Cameron Brewer  

Harness racing trainer Ray Green always seems to have a smart two year old or two each season and has become known as one of the best two year old conditioners around. So when Ray tells you he has a bit of time for a juvenile, it pays to take notice. The two year old in question is Zach Maguire who lines up for his second lifetime start at Alexander Park on Friday night. A $34,000 purchase at last years Australasian Classic yearling sale, Zach Maguire made a good fist of his debut when a close up third to the smart Sir Ritchie. Ray thinks he still has one or two little kinks to iron out with the Bettor's Delight colt. " He is not the finished product yet but he is getting better all the time." " The one attribute of his that I really like is his high speed" "He is a colt with a big future and being a Bettors Delight he should just get better and better with racing." " He's a keeper," Ray said. Ray was going to have two babies in tomorrow night but it looks like he may have to scratch his other runner, the Mach Three filly Tuapeka Sky. " She came out of the paddock lame so I will just have to get her checked out." " It is a shame because I have a lot of time for her." " She also has a lot of speed and I think will develop into a lovely three year old next season," Ray said. One thing that has changed at the Lincoln Farm setup recently has been a change in the stable driving arrangements. Ray was quick to dismiss any talk of bad blood in the change. " A lot of the new syndicates we have set up are requesting we put up some of the leading drivers and so to accommodate them we have made the change." At this point in the main we are using David and Zac Butcher," Ray said. Ray Green has a great record with young horses and this years crop headed by Killer Queen and company look sure to keep his name to the fore over the next twelve months. Harnesslink Media 

NSW harness racing reinsman Robbie Morris had very little luck during the Australasian Young Drivers Championship (AYDC) in New Zealand over the weekend. The popular reinsman finished ninth overall after driving in six of the seven heats during the Championship with his best result a fourth at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Throughout the Championship the average odds of horses driven by Morris was 20 to 1, however the 23 year old still left New Zealand on a winning note driving $81 chance Sioux Nation to victory in the final race, a non AYDC event, at Timaru on Sunday afternoon. "It may have not been part of the Australasian Young Drivers Championship but it was still a great feeling to drive a winner in New Zealand," Morris said. "I really enjoyed the experience, it was a great opportunity for me to represent New South Wales and I would like to thank HRNSW for the opportunity." Morris had never driven in New Zealand previously and had his first experience driving on a right handed track when he competed at Alexandra Park. "It was fantastic that the drivers were given the opportunity to drive at both of the big tracks in New Zealand, I have watched so many races from Addington and Alexandra Park, it was a thrill to get the chance to drive on both of them." Having driven 72 winners in NSW with more than three months still remaining in the current season, Morris will return to Australia and aim towards his season goal of 100 winners. "I've driven 100 winners each season for the past three years and that is a goal I will be aiming at between now and the end of the season. "I will be back driving at Menangle on Tuesday afternoon but it was good to see the team back home in Australia get a winner on Saturday night with Stormont Czar winning with Rickie Alchin driving." - HRNSW Media

This years Lone Star Riccarton Australasian Young Drivers Championship got under way at last nights harness racing meeting at Cambridge and the defending champion Andre Poutama immediately showed that he wasn't going to give up the title without a real fight. This years series is being run over seven races at four race meetings across New Zealand and last night saw the first two of those seven races run. First blood went to the defending champion Andre Poutama from New Zealand who settled Sapphire Castleton in the trail behind the pacemaking Tereskova driven by Tom Buchanan from Western Australia and then used the passing lane to good effect to nail Tereskova right on the line. Silver Stream off 50 metres with Dylan Ford from Tasmania in the bike ran on well to grab third in front of Madam Simone and Jake Webster from South Australia. The second heat saw New Zealand's South Island representative Robbie Close grab the early lead with Balius with the hot favourite Forever An Angel and Josh Aiken sitting in the death seat after Robbie wouldn't hand up the front with Balius. Passing the 800 metres Forever An Angel went into a wild gallop and caused a bit of carnage back in the field which left Balius clear in the lead. The only danger was Elusive Edgar with Dylan Ford in the bike in the trail and try as they might, they couldn't run down Balius.  Mach Cullen and Andre Poutama flew home late for third after copping a interrupted run with Stars Star and Jake Webster running on into fourth. Robbie Close can count himself a little bit fortunate to win the race as he copped a $250 fine  from stewards for squeezing Elusive Edgar up when crossing to the lead early. After the first two heats the points table sits like this. Andre Poutama     26  Robbie Close        21 Dylan Ford           21 Tom Buchanan     18 Jake Webster       14 Robbie Morris        9 Michele Neilson     7 Josh Aiken            6 Trent Moffat           6 Ben Butcher           4 The series continues tonight at Alexandra Park before shifting to Addington tomorrow and Timaru on Sunday Harnesslink Media  

This seasons Australasian Young Drivers Championship gets under way at tonights harness racing meeting at Cambridge Raceway in New Zealand with six drivers from Australia and four from New Zealand involved in the series. Ten of the best rising talents of the driving ranks across two countries will square off in a seven race series across four race meetings after which a winner will be crowned.   Things kick off at Cambridge tonight with two heats before the group head to Alexandra Park tomorrow night for two more heats.   They then shift down New Zealand to the South Island and Addington Raceway where they will have one heat on one of the bigger days of racing on the New Zealand calendar before the competition winds up with two heats at Timaru on Sunday.   Representing New South Wales this season is Robbie Morris and he is thrilled to have been given the opportunity.   "Ever since I have been involved in harness racing I've always dreamed of representing my state"   "It's a real privilege to do so"    " My dad drove in the series a long time ago so I'm rapt to be following in his footsteps."   " These series come down to the luck of the draw a bit with what horse you draw in the ballot but I will be giving it my best shot."   "I haven't been to New Zealand before so I am looking forward to it,"   " Kerry Ann (Turner) and I have watched a lot of racing from New Zealand on Sky so it will good to have a look around," Robbie said.   Robbie Morris has already racked up 72 winners this season in New South Wales and looms as one of the favourites to take out the overall title in New Zealand.   Harnesslink Media

On paper tonights $145,000 Rowe Cup for elite class trotters at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park looked a one horse race with Stent in outstanding form and a clear favourite. Plenty of pundits were concerned about it being his first standing start for nearly five months and the 3200 metres was another query that was also regularly mentioned in the lead up to the race. As it turned out Stent trotted away brilliantly for Colin De Filippi from the stand to grab an early lead over Alley Way and Matthew Williamson. Mark Jones was away well with the defending champ Master Lavros and worked forward and took over the lead from Stent after 700 metres. There was no loitering in front as Mark Jones looked to take a bit of the speed out those in pursuit of Master Lavros and he kept the tempo up the whole way. Applying even more pressure as they went past the 400 metres mark, it was clear as they turned for home that Master Lavros only had one serious challenger and that was Stent who waited for the passing lane to lodge his challenge. These two knuckled down to fight it out and Stent got in the deciding stride to claim his first of the big 3200 metres cups To Master Lavros's credit it took Stent every inch of the straight at Alexander Park to get his head in front right on the line. Alley Way was 2 3/4 lengths back in third which was a great effort first up in the big time and there was a further four lengths back to One Over Da Moon in fourth. Stent trotted the 3200 metres from a stand in a very quick 4:03.6, a mile rate of 2:02.4 with closing setionals of 57.9 and 28. The time was a new race record, taking one point six seconds off the old record held by I Can Doosit. Colin De Filippi was very emotional on returning to scale, fighting back the tears. " My father won this race forty years ago and it really means so much to me to win this race." " It is a race I have wanted to win for a long time so its very special." " I can't say enough about what a great owner Trevor Casey has been to train for." " Even when things weren't going that well early in Stent's career, Trevor never even once questioned what I was doing" " He deserves all the success he is having," Colin said.  It has been a stellar season for the son of Dream Vacation with tonights win his 13th from just 18 starts this season with earnings of $637,216. Harnesslink Media

A lot of harness racing pundits (us included) had doubts about the ability of Sky Major to bounce back from an horrendous overland trip in the Taylor Mile last week and come from the outside of the second line to beat the great field assembled for the $100,000 New Zealand Messenger. But as horses with that touch of real class can do, Sky Major produced probably his best run at Alexandra Park to run  over the top of them late and snatch the win right on the line. As expected hot favourite Ohoka Punter with Tony Herlihy in the bike easily led from barrier one from Tiger Tara and Mossdale Conner  challenging for the lead with Beyond The Silence in the trail. Mossdale Conner settled in the parked out position while Tiger Tara and Gerard O'Reilly snuck into three back on the inner. Sky Major with Zac Butcher in the bike had settled back in the running line but when horses made their moves three wide, he progressed to be three back in the running line. The field pretty much stayed in that order until 1100 metres from home when Australian visitor Messini went round three wide but couldn't get into the parked position and was left out there for the rest of the race. As they turned for home Ohoka Punter looked all over the winner, but first Tiger Tara burst along the passing lane to claim him and he was quickly joined out wide by a flying Sky Major who had got a lovely drag into the race on the corner. At the finishing line there was only a nose in it but Sky Major had got there by half a head and in the process confirmed himself as a starter in this years Harness Jewels. Tiger Tara was very game in second having been involved in the early burn while Ohoka Punter was slightly disappointing in running third after getting his own rules in front. Sky Major paced the 2700 metres in 3:15.6, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with closing sectionals of 56.9 and 27.8. The time was a new race record, taking two tenths of a second off the old race record held by Tintin In America Zac Butcher was thrilled to have won another race for his boss Barry Purdon.   " Barry is just a master at setting horses for these Group 1 races." " This horse was all out last week but he has got him here tonight in great order." " The horse has gone super but it wasn't until the last 50 metres that I thought we may get up." " I am absolutely thrilled," Zac said.   With that win under his belt, Sky Major will now head to the Harness Jewels where he is a major chance to become the first horse to win three Harness Jewels crowns. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing royalty is the only way to describe the Scuse Me family these days as it continues to dominate a lot of the Group races in New Zealand. The latest star to hit the headlines is the unbeaten two year old filly by Bettor's Delight, Dream About Me who was a warm favourite for the $138,000 two year old Sires Stakes Final for fillies at Alexandra Park tonight. Dream About Me missed a race last week with a hoof abscess but punters hadn't forgotten her dominant win in the Young Guns Final. As expected Luisanabelle Midfrew flew the gate to lead early before handing up to Dream About Me with 1100 metres to go. The speed had been pretty torrid early but there was no let up in the tempo as second elect Arden's Choice was posted three wide in the open. With 600 metres to go Mark Purdon took Arden's Choice to the death seat but Dream About Me still seemed to be cruising as they went past the 400 metres mark. As they turned for home Dream About Me kicked clear and seemed to pretty much stroll to the line with Tim Williams hardly moving in the bike. At the line she was 1 3/4 lengths in front of  Luisanabelle Midfrew who used the passing lane to good effect to run second with a gap back to a game Arden's Choice in third. A minor highlight of the race was the run of Sophisticated Lady who came from last at the 400 metres mark to run fourth. Dream About Me paced the 1700 metres in 2:01.4, a mile rate of 1:54.9 with closing sectionals of 56.2 and 27.6. The time was a new New Zealand record, taking a tenth of a second off the time set by the champion filly Bettor Cover Lover. Tim Williams was very confident heading into the race. " She is a high class filly and she is just getting better every time she goes to the races." " I missed the early speed duel and got the lead quite easily and she was always travelling after that." " She knocked off half way up the straight and I never pulled the ear plugs so she had plenty left,"Tim said. Tonight's victory was the latest big win in a huge season for the young reinsman but he was quick to deflect any praise from himself to the stable. "Driving horses of this quality makes my job really easy and most of the credit has to go to the team at All Stars," Tim said. Charlie Roberts bred the half sister to Christen Me and races her with his family and he must pinch himself daily at how the ride justs keeps on going with the Scuse Me breed at the moment. Harnesslink Media  

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