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By Garrick Knight What a difference a week can make. Eight days ago, John and Joshua Dickie late-scratched their entire team as a precaution against a potential contamination issue. Last night at Alexandra Park, the father-and-son training partnership prepared four winners at Alexandra Park and only a brilliant performance stood between them and five. “It’s been a good turn around and it was nice to get that winning feeling back,” Joshua Dickie told HRNZ. “We had a nice team in and you sort of hope they’ll race well but it never usually works out like that.” The wins of Kay Cee, Bettorstartdreaming, Brydon Earl and Callie’s Delight matched the four winners the pair produced at a meeting in September of 2016. Bettorstartdreaming won the night’s $25,000 main pace, a 2200m standing start, redeeming himself from the tapes after a misstep in the Te Awamutu Cup when last produced. “Cambridge was a disaster and wasn’t really his fault. “He’s a versatile sort of horse and from the front line we had to take advantage if he stepped away.” After settling second, Bettorstartdreaming was pushed back to third so Dickie made a concerted effort for the lead, but eventually settled for the trail behind Kotare Cullen. “I wanted to keep him handy and I knew what he was capable of.” Despite a strong late dig from race favourite The Devils Own, Dickie always had things in control with the New Zealand Cup-nominated pacer. Star pacer Star Galleria made an early error from his 30-metre handicap and was one hundred metres behind the field thereafter, along with Dance Time. Next week’s Spring Cup is firmly on the agenda for Bettorstartdreaming, before the Dickies start to look south. “We really want to get him to the Sales race at Kaikoura and we’ve also nom’d for the Cup. “You’ve got to have goals. “He’s a lovely stayer in the making and will definitely make an open class horse one day. “He’s got the speed and stamina to be a factor in most races.” Dickie says a taxing run back in March spelt a premature end to what was a promising three-year-old campaign. “He worked too hard in the Derby trying to cross Ultimate Sniper and it undid him. “So, we backed off him, turned him out and he has come back a lot stronger. “I definitely think he’ll win a nice race somewhere down the track.” Kay Cee had run four seconds in his last five starts so no-one was begrudging the five-year-old son of Majestic Son a win in the R47-55 trot. But Dickie thinks it might be time to ease up and reset for next year. “He’s had a few issues so has really come a long way from where he was. “We’ll probably just back off him now because there are a couple of things we need to sort out. “He’s fast and does have a bit of stamina. Next year will be his time – I think he’ll make a decent trotter eventually.” All the talk was for West Auckland pacer Cloud Break in the night’s male maiden pace after a super performance over the mile last week. Bookies opened him at $1.50 and never flinched but a lack of ringcraft saw him get bested by the Dickie-trained Brydon Earl in the hands of Zachary Butcher. The five-year-old son of Art Official was the second-last horse bred by the late Bryan Newberry, whose family race him in his memory. He looked handy in five races last season but really showed a nice turn of foot to win his resuming run last night. “He’s been a bit unlucky; he got crook and a few little things haven’t gone his way,” said Dickie. “But his trials have been really good over the last month and I think he’s turned the corner. “Zac said he won well tonight and felt good.” Rounding out a memorable night was Callie’s Delight, who showed too much speed for main rival M T Pockets in the first South of the Bombay series races. “I was pretty confident because her trials had been great and her first up run a Cambridge was good without much luck. “She’s another that has turned the corner and just gotten that little bit stronger. “She has that real high speed and in a field like that, it’s always going to be really potent.” The Paua Diver nearly made it five for the night, but he got monstered late by Copy That, who had to run a sub-55 second half to reel him. “He’s just run in to a good horse on the night, but I was really happy with his run, too.” The Dickies are hoping to capitalise on this kick-starting of their season by rolling out some quality horseflesh in the next few weeks. “We’ve got a couple of nice maidens there, including one that had a couple of starts for ‘Coaster’ Howe up here last season. “There’s also a good bunch of two-year-olds and, while it’s hard to know with any certainty, we are pretty excited about what they’ll do going forward.”

Trainer Steven Reid has issued the usual warning for punters wanting to back any top horses returning from a long break off a back mark. But the story of Star Galleria’s comeback race at Alexandra Park tonight has a few more twists and turns than usual. The speed-freak pacer returns in tonight’s main pace off a 30m handicap over 2200m, which in itself can be a recipe for punting disaster. Because while he is clearly the best horse in the race, rival drivers know their best chance of beating him is to go hard all the way. So they could pace 2:43 or quicker off the front and leave him needing to go faster than almost any pacer has at Alexandra Park, coming wide to win. That sounds difficult when race hardened, seemingly impossible when fresh. But here is the catch. Star Galleria did exactly that is this race last year, coming from a 20m backmark to beat stronger opposition in 2:39.7, which wiped a remarkable 3.1 seconds off the national record. So the best version of Star Galleria can clearly still win tonight. But here is where things get murky. Three weeks ago Reid thought that level of return was on the cards again after Star Galleria flew in a lightning quick workout at Pukekohe. But an examination soon after suggested potential problem tissue on his epiglottis, on which he underwent an entrapment operation last season. “Initially we thought we had a problem there again but after a treatment of antibiotics he has scoped 100 per cent clear but it cost us nine days work,” explains Reid. “After that I gave him a decent workout last Saturday and again on Wednesday and he felt flat in the first one but far better in the second one. “So I am thinking he is going into this needing a run, maybe two, because he is a year older and because he missed those nine days work.” Reid will tell catch driver Zachary Butcher to cut as many corners as he can with Star Galleria before looking for a winning run over the last lap if the six-year-old feels like he is travelling well enough. “But with all that in mind it could depend on his rivals and and how he feels, so I’d say to punters if he is $3.8 or something like that take the risk, but we know he won’t get to that,” says Reid. Making life even more difficult for Star Galleria is the fact key rivals like The Devils Own, Check In and even a front marker like Bettorstartdreaming are all the sort of pacers who like to run along so are capable of exploiting any weakness in Star Galleria’s armoury. While Butcher will have his work cut out finding the right balance with Star Galleria, he will also be on another of the more exciting pacers racing tonight in untapped three-year-old Line Up (race five). He looked a Sires’ Stakes horse winning fresh-up last Friday but steps well up in grade and distance tonight. Still, if he is going to be a factor in the Sires’ Stakes series which culminates at Addington in November the younger brother to Partyon will want to be winning tonight.   Michael Guerin

By Garrick Knight After three months on the sidelines, Todd MacFarlane is just happy to be back doing what he loves. The experienced horseman returned to race night driving last week after an extended period of convalescence thanks to a couple of grumpy horses. “I copped a decent kick in the back while out with a jog team,” he told HRNZ. “I had one in the cart and two on the leads and they were fighting with each other. I got caught in the cross-fire.” The result? Some pretty serious injuries. “The main issues were a bruised kidney and a split liver. “It meant two months recovery but for the third month I felt fine and like I could return. “But they wouldn’t give me medical clearance because they felt like it hadn’t given my liver enough time to heal properly. “So, even though I felt alright I had to watch from home.” The worst part, MacFarlane says, was that he was on his own when the incident happened and he had three horses in his control. “I just had to suck it up for a while there and try and get back to the barn.” Any good trainer is only as good the team around them and that more than rung true for MacFarlane, who had to rely heavily on his staff for a fair few weeks. “Luckily I’ve got a good crew and they all did their bit, keeping things going.” MacFarlane has his second night back driving at Alexandra Park this evening and will pilot three horses, including two stable runners. Maiden mare Royal went out very well-supported in her resumption last week off the back of an impressive trial on August 31. But she let her supporters – and MacFarlane – down with a middling effort to finish fourth behind Some Do last week. “She’s no star but I was a little bit disappointed with her last week. “I’m hoping for a bit of improvement this week because if she runs like she did in that trial, she won’t be very far away.” Bookies have let her go this week, opening her at $14, well behind race favourite, Down The Hatch ($1.70), who has drawn the ace for Steve Telfer and Benjamin Butcher. “He went super last time out and will be very hard to beat. “Hopefully we can settle handle and finish in the money.” Recent maiden winner Cyclone S Adams opened at $21 for the R47-55 trot and MacFarlane concedes that he’s still a wee way away from reaching physical maturity. “He’s still very much a work in progress. “I think once mentally and physically he develops, he’ll be a good honest horse. “He’s got a lovely way of going and generally his manners are really good. “But he’s a bit tall and immature and that’s just going to hold him up for now.” MacFarlane expects his race team to ramp up over the next month and is looking forward to the return of stable star Heavyweight Hero, along with a number of promising maidens, including Joshua Richard and Harvey Spector. “Hopefully one or two of them step up; in another month we should have quite a handy team around us.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight So what if the phone hasn’t been ringing with potential buyers? Steve Telfer and his sister, Mandy Tidswell, couldn’t care less. Because Court On The Edge, a winner at Alexandra Park on Friday night, has turned in to the best earner in their large stable. His win in the $20,000 R57-67 mile took his earnings for the year over the $50,000 mark and secured ‘equine ATM’ status. “Would you believe we’ve never had one call for him?” said Telfer. “I suppose it’s because he has the spreaders on, but he doesn’t even really need them. “We put them on for confidence on race night; most of the time at home he doesn’t even wear them.” Court On The Edge came north to Stonewall Stud last Christmas after winning a maiden for Cran Dalgety. “His owners, Brian and Lesley Court, sent him north. “We often stay with them when we take horses down south and it’s usually Mandy that’s down there with our horses. “So they offered Mandy a share in him and a deal was reached for him to race up here with us.” Court On The Edge’s trademark is his blistering gate speed, something which has proved invaluable given the myriad of mile races being held in Auckland this year. “We’ve been a bit lucky, I suppose,” said Telfer. “When that gate leaves, you’re just a passenger. He drops his bum and wants to really run. “With that much speed, you just go with him, because he will come back to and relax once he’s in front.” That was exactly the case on Friday with driver Benjamin Butcher eventually taking a trail behind the heavily-backed Nanelle Franco. He then surged Court On The Edge up the passing lane for a convincing 1.56.3 win. “It was great to see that,” said Telfer. “I actually think he’s better off a sit but he has been disappointing at times when driven in behind them “At home he will always come off the back of a horse and run past it.” With further mile nights programmed for September 27 and October 25, Court On The Edge has plenty more earning to do. “He’s done a great job for us and I’m hoping that will continue on with all the mile racing they have here now. _____________________________________________________________________ Milestone win for Mangos Brent Mangos recorded New Zealand driving win number 1500 when sneaking up the markers with Vespa to take out the night’s male maiden pace. It was kind of fitting that the milestone came aboard a horse trained by his longtime friend Tim Vince. “Thrilled to give Mango his 1500th winner, but I can’t say I was very confident,” Vince said post-race. “He’s been sick and needed a trial but there were none up here this week so we brought him to the races instead. “I thought he was a run short.” Accordingly, Mangos was more than content to take a trail behind second favourite Double Or Nothing and hope for the best up the passing lane. The horse’s natural speed and a passing lane paved with gold saw him record an overdue maiden win. “We’ve had a lot of issues with him,” said Vince. “A terrible time with minor problems; he’s been sick a couple of times, a stone bruise, it’s been setback after setback. “But he’s a nice little fella that would give you his heart.” _____________________________________________________________________ Solid Gold makes another statement Solid Gold backed up a super resuming win with another dominant display in the night’s $25,000 feature pace. In the hands of James Stormont, he zipped round to parked a lap out and out-muscled the leader, Bettor My Dreamz, down the straight. For a while it looked like Blazen River would reel him in but he dug deep to get the chocolates. “He’s always shown a lot but he’s really grown up this year,” said Stormont post-race. “And I think in another year again he’ll be even stronger, so he’s got a bright future ahead.” Next up is the Spring Cup in a fortnight, a standing start affair which does have co-trainers, Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins, worried. But Stormont saw something last week that gave him some confidence. “I was really happy with how he stepped at the Pukekohe trials last week. “So, he’s heading in the right direction.” _____________________________________________________________________ NZ record for Canterbury mare Sunny Glenis set a new New Zealand record when taking out the R45-76 standing start mile trot. Her time of 2.02.1 bettered the previous mark (2.03.4) set by Mortician on the same track nearly a year ago. “A record’s a record and that will look nice on her page when she becomes a broodmare,” said driver Scott Phelan. It was only Sunny Glenis’ second win in the north since joining Barry Purdon’s stable in May but, such is the earning potential with the good stakes at Alexandra Park, she has earned well over $40,000 in that time. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight The hottest favourite on mile night at Alexandra Park this evening is also Ray Green’s great, white hope for the season. In a climate where he and the Lincoln Farms top brass are sending a numerous horses to Australia, he’s looking forward to taking one to the races full of expectations. That horse is Line Up and despite a wide berth in the R52-55 event tonight, he will start an unbackable $1.15 favourite with bookies. “He’s got a lot of potential, this horse,” Green told HRNZ. “Potentially he could be a very serious racehorse, actually. “But we’ve been down this track before with plenty of horses so I’m not getting carried away just yet. “He’s right up there with anything else I’ve targeted the feature three-year-old races with though.” While he has only won one of four, recent trial efforts have confirmed the suspicions long-held by both Green and driver Zachary Butcher. “He’s inexperienced so we’ve been trying to school him at the trials. Making a racehorse out of him. “He had the full blinds on up until now, but the time has come for them to be removed.” Line Up had one start as a two-year-old for a stylish win back in February before being put aside, though the temptation was great for Green to push on. “I’d liked to have. “But he had a few a growing pains, then got sick and I guess we could have medicated and pressed on, but I thought better of it. “We had Perfect Stride and a few others racing at the time and I always knew he would be better at three.” Line Up was a $130,000 purchase at the Karaka yearling sale last year by Green and John Street, but in an interesting turn of events, he was sold to stable clients Emilio and Mary Rosati at the start of the year. “It’s fair to say it cost them a lot of money to buy him off us. “Emilio had purchased the full brother, Typhoon Stride, the year before.” Both horses are full brothers to former star mare, Partyon. As for tactics tonight, Green says that is purely and solely the responsibility of Butcher. “I don’t try and coerce Zac to do anything; the tactics he adopts are his own. “So, I’m not sure how he’ll play things.” With a lack of quality inside him over the short trip, it’s a solid bet Butcher will likely fancy his chances of putting Line Up in the race early and dominating from the top end. Green takes three others to ‘The Park tonight, the best of them being consistent mare The Empress ($3.50), who trialed well in the strongest heat of the day at Franklin Park last Saturday. She’s come up with what will be an advantageous draw at one the second line given the horse in front of her, Court On The Edge, has clearly the most gate speed of anything on the front line. “I’ve got a lot of time for her; she’s a very nice mare. “If she gets the trip behind Court On The Edge, she’ll be right there.” Double Or Nothing ($3.10) is quickly becoming the punters’ enemy, being beaten as the first or second favourite six times in his career to date. Still, he’s placed in eight of 11 runs so can’t be knocked for his consistency. “He’s won $20,000 without winning a race. One day the penny will drop and he will win them in a row, but I couldn’t tell you if that will be this week.” Rounding out the team is Bettor My Dreamz ($26) who, despite drawing the coveted ace under the race’s preferential conditions, find himself with the short end of the stick in the night’s feature race. “Don’t get me started on this subject,” says Green. “He shouldn’t be in that race; he’s won three and is against horses that have won nine or ten. “He’s a handy horse but he’s up against it in that field.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

It’s been a quiet winter for Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins, one of the few commercial training setups left in Auckland’s west. In fact, before last night’s mile double at Alexandra Park, they hadn’t had a winner since March and had barely had any starters since then. “It’s been a quiet time since Misty Memory went to America and even now, we are only doing eight,” said Hopkins. But while their team may be small, it’s full of quality. Half-brother and sister, Solid Gold and Diamondsrbettor, proved that with dominant front-running wins fresh-up, both in the hands of James Stormont. For Solid Gold, now five, it was a continuation of a promising career that, to date, has netted seven wins and nearly $90,000. Of note on Friday night was that Cooney and Hopkins had removed the ‘go-straights’ off him and, now liberated in his gait, he set the track alight with a 55.3 last half. “He’s always been a really nice animal and over the last 12 months he’s really matured and strengthened up a lot. “He had been working good heading in to the race and with his gate speed we were pretty confident.” There is nowhere to hide now, last night’s win taking him to a rating 87 and that means races like the Spring Cup and Holmes D G come on to the radar. A lack of genuine open class horses in the north means probably only Star Galleria, On The Cards and Mach Shard would be added to last night’s field in coming weeks. “We’re hopeful that he might be able to measure up in races like that,” said Hopkins. “I’m not 100 percent sure if we will go in that direction but we will have to give him his chance from the standing start sooner or later. Year younger half-sister Diamondsrbettor cleared maidens with a five-length demolition in the night’s opening maiden, at what was just her third career start. “She took a little bit of time to come to it and then got crook as a three-year-old so we pulled the pin and tipped her out. “Being such a big filly, it was always going to be beneficial for her. “She’s always shown us that ability and we do have high hopes for her.” Both horses are out of the Falcon Seelster mare Aquileia, an unraced daughter of imported American mare T A Sportsplex. Cooney had a lot of success with the latter after importing her in 1998, the Artsplace mare leaving nine winners from 12 foals, numerous selling for good money in the sale ring as yearlings. Aquileia is one of two T A Sportsplex daughters Cooney is breeding on with, the other being the race-winning Real Desire mare, Diamonds Forever. Aquileia qualified in 2013 but never raced, owing to injury. “She had a lot of ability but suffered a paddock injury before we got to race her,” said Hopkins. “But she’s left us a couple of nice horses to go on with so I guess it all worked out in the end.”   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Punters shouldn’t be fooled into thinking tonight’s all-mile night at Alexandra Park is a gimme for those with the best draws. Because while mile racing in the north used to be about draws, draws and more draws, the nature of northern sprint racing has changed. So much so Alexandra Park officials now see the uncertainty of modern day mile-racing as a crucial turnover-driving tool. In days gone by, when mid-race pressure and horses who could fly the gate were  rarer, sprint races were often dominated by leaders and trailers, with those back in the field hopeless in 56-second last 800m chases. But Alex Park racing boss Regan Cotter says the new mile racing pattern is vastly different. “We have found the all-mile nights have been great for turnover, some of our best normal meetings of the season,” says Cotter. “Especially when we have miles with the better horses drawn wider or the second line, it adds some uncertainty and the average win dividend has been higher.” That was the case at the last all-mile night on July 26 when the average win dividend was $8.60 in the 10 races and even that was skewered lower by two subsequent Breeders Crown finalists in Perfect Stride ($1.50) and Kratos ($2.10) winning race they wouldn’t usually have been in. As for the draws, an increase in horses leaving the gate hard and increased mid-race tempo means of the 10 races that night only three were won by horses drawing inside barrier five. Six of the 10 races were won by horses drawn six or wider, the outside half of the field. All of which means punters shouldn’t be scared to back horses drawn wide or even the second line tonight, especially if the race looks to have genuine early tempo. One of those races could be the $25,000 feature pace, in which Juice Bromac (6) has gate speed and Check In (7) the staying prowess that the race could turn into a survival of the fittest. The same applies in the main trot where Sunny Glenns and Sertorius are drawn widest but are stayers who will have to work forward some and that might as well be early so their wide draws may not be as damning as punters think. Go Kiwi (race 5),  Henry Hu (R6) and She Reigns (r10) are others good enough to overcome wide draws with a little luck or tempo to soften up the leaders. While barrier draws may no longer be the be-all-and-end-all of mile racing at Alexandra Park they are still crucial the highest level because the good horses don’t stop and that should be the case at the Breeders Crown Finals night at Melton tomorrow. While Kiwi trotters Ultimate Stride and Liberty Stride are good enough to work and win, the good barriers for Princess Tiffany and juvenile boys Perfect Stride and Zeuss Bromac have enormously turned the tables in their favour on what should be a successful night for the small Kiwi contingent.   Michael Guerin

As far as form for a maiden trot goes, She Reigns has the best you could hope for. The problem? It’s from 16 months ago. The daughter of Monarchy resumes as a four-year-old at Auckland on Friday night having missed her entire three-year-old campaign. She was last seen at the Cambridge Harness Jewels in June of last year, where she finished mid-pack behind Enhance Your Calm. But it’s her two prior starts that make for very nice reading – a pair of second placings behind last season’s likely 3YO Trotting Filly of the Year, Tickle Me Pink. Dylan Ferguson is the stable foreman for trainer Graeme Rogerson and will drive She Reigns this week, and he’s expecting big things. “I certainly think she’s the best horse in the race,” he told HRNZ. “And while she’s not there for a gut-buster, she’s there to win and I’d like to think she’ll be very competitive.” The maiden trot is being run over a mile and while She Reigns is drawn wide, that is far less important in this type of race. “Knowing maiden trotters, we should be able to press forward and get an advantage over the ones that make mistakes,” said Ferguson. From there, it should be a formality. “She’s got a ton of speed and I think that will put her in good stead, not just this week but going forward.”  Her and Splitting Image actually set up a New Zealand record for Tickle Me Pink as a two-year-old. “She might not have gone to the level of Tickle Me Pink, but I’ve got no doubt she’s improved a lot since then.” Ferguson only got his hands on She Reigns in March after she returned to Rogerson from Australia. She had been sent there by Rogerson and co-owners, Merv and Meg Butterworth, to race as a three-year-old from the stable of Kerryn Manning. “I couldn’t tell you the extent of what she did over there, but she never raced and returned home with a very minor tendon issue. “I think she had banged it and they thought it was best for her to be here where she could take advantage of the treadmill, the water walker and the pool. “She’s been back in work five months and I’ve been very happy with her every step of the way.” She Reigns has contested two workouts this time in and won them both, the most recent at Pukekohe last Saturday where she reeled in advanced trotter The Hulk with ease. “I’m pretty happy with her. “Soundness-wise, she’s faultless. Her blood was out after her first workout after what she showed on Saturday, I have no doubts she’s back to full health.” Stablemate Splitting Image gives Rogerson and Ferguson a good second-stringer in the race. She also missed her three-year-old season and has had two runs back this time for two placings, at Cambridge. “The vets reckon she is lucky to be alive, let alone racing, after she had an issue with a knee. “A bit of a miracle horse apparently, but she’s not quite up to the other filly.” Ferguson also drives Rogerson’s two other chances on the night – Hey Good Looking in a maiden and High Point and a handy mares’ race. “High Point is a bit outclassed in that race but the mile is her go and is a great starting point fresh-up. “The other horse as had her chances to win one before and has been disappointing. “I’d like to say she’s a good chance, but I’ve thought she was a winner before and been let down.” Ferguson is eagerly awaiting 2020 when he and Rogerson will roll out some of their juveniles bought at the Karaka sales earlier this year, including the sale-topper, Challenger. “I’d like to think we have a couple of early runners there. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the expensive one and he’s certainly at the top of the pecking order at this stage.” Ferguson and partner Jo Stevens are two months into life as parents to daughter Grace, and he says it’s been pretty cruisy to date. “She’s pretty well-behaved – we’ve been very lucky. “I’m usually the one waking her up in the morning. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around. “I guess it can only go one way from here.”   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Whether a season is a success or failure often depends on expectation. Which means most punters and even trainer Steven Reid would struggle to give Star Galleria a positive report card for last season. On raw data that hardly seems fair. Star Galleria finished second to Turn It Up in and Auckland Cup and Cambridge Flying Mile and was a consistent player at the highest level. But when you have been given that most potent of equine gifts, blazing speed, close enough isn’t good enough. So Reid is hoping this season, which starts at the workouts next week for Star Galleria, is better. A lot better. “I suppose it was a good season but it could have been much better,’” admits Reid. “But what a lot of people forget is that he had an operation for an entrapped epiglottis and that effected him at both ends of the season. “He had an operation on that after the NZ Cup (seventh) and then it bothered him when he flipped his palate in the Hunter Cup (February) so he did a good job to run second in an Auckland Cup in between.” The problem is that Star Galleria, while he has won 13 races and $362,171, has a million-dollar reputation and after a ballistic early season victory this time last year huge money offers were being thrown around. They were turned down and Star Galleria won one more race for the season. Reid hasn’t given up on the now six-year-old making good on his gifts. “He has come back stronger, a lot stronger,” he offers. “And we now know one of the keys to him is keeping him settled in his races because after the operation he has an increased risk of flipping his palate. “But with his speed and him being stronger I think he can have a better season than last season.” And Star Galleria has plenty of local targets, with Reid hoping some small fields hold together in the north over the next two months to allow him a home-based preparation for the New Zealand Cup, with Tony Herlihy to retain the drive. Then he has the Inter Dominion returning to his back door at Alexandra Park on November 29, with doubts over a range of top-end contenders. “I think he actually thrives on the back up so I am confident he will handle the series, especially being at home.”That is well over $1.5million worth of races for Star Galleria between now and the New Year. And plenty of chances to live up to the hype.B   Michael Guerin

A total reboot of the Steve Telfer stable could make it one for harness punters to follow in the next month, starting at Alexandra Park tonight. Telfer has three hopes in the major handicap pace tonight and one of the bets of the night earlier in Flying Steps (race six) as he attempts to embellish his strong winter record in recent seasons. Telfer has long seen the logic of attacking winter racing at Alexandra Park, especially now the stakes are almost as lucrative as in the summer. But that attitude had to be shelved this year when his team was struck down with the same virus which has affected some of the north’s bigger stables in recent months. “We had a bug go through the team that probably 80 per cent of them got,” said Telfer. “So we just left them all alone, let them have a total rest for 10-14 days and that worked the trick. “It was frustrating but it worked and there seem to be no lingering effects with any of them.” None were obvious when Flying Steps, a mare involved in a horrific fall last December, was an impressive winner at Cambridge last Thursday. “She won well and should be even better this week,” says Telfer. “Her work was good on Wednesday and I am sure she has improved.” Telfer takes three to the $25,000 handicap tonight, including Dance Time who is back from a useful campaign with Menangle trainer John McCarthy. It is not the first time Telfer has sent horses to different trainers depending on what suits them at certain stages of his career, something he did with recently-retired stable star No Doctor Needed. But while Dance Time has returned looking well Telfer opts for backmarker Check In as the best of his three hopes in the 2700m standing start. “It is never easy to win off 30m but he is a good standing start horse and working well,” says Telfer. “I think both Dance Time and Ivana Flybye will improve with the race this week so Check In would be our best hope.” Tonight’s meeting has a $40,000 Pick6 and plenty of maiden depth and a good intermediate trot.   Michael Guerin

One of the most unlikely charges toward this season’s Horse of the Year honours has been put on hold for a week. But if Kenny’s Dream can pull off a title that will cement her broodmare career champion trainer of trotters Phil Williamson will have good mate Tony Herlihy to thank.  Just three months ago Kenny’s Dream was a battling southern trotter going nowhere fast, except at home where she worked well before failing to live up to that on racenight.  Williamson brought her north hoping the right-handed racing her work had suggested would suit her would re-ignite her stumbling career.  Not even he could have dreamed what would unfold.  Kenny’s Dream has won four of her five starts at Alexandra Park, the last two when trained by Herlihy and captured a $25,000 race last Friday night.  Herlihy will allow her to bypass the 2200m main trot at Alexandra Park this Friday because her handicap would have made it awfully hard to win but she is likely to take on 2700m again next week.  And if she continues on her winning way then the Four-Year-Old Mare of the Year title looks as good as hers.  She already has more wins than any other mare of her age, with four this season and five would almost certainly wrap up the title.  Her biggest rival might actually be a horse who hasn’t raced in New Zealand this season in Show Gait, who won the Breeders Crown for three-year-old trotters in Victoria last August.  Because that falls outside our season Show Gait’s group one performance will be eligible for votes for the four-year-old mare category but the fact that race was nearly a year ago and she hasn’t raced since means many voters will overlook her.  So the title looks the surprise package Kenny’s Dream’s to lose and while four-year-old trotting mare of the year is hardly the most glamorous title in racing, it stays in the yearling sales catalogues for as long as that family exists.  That and the fact Kenny’s Dream is beautifully bred means Williamson, who still owns the mare, now has a serious broodmare prospect on is hands.  “I think Phil is pretty happy about how it has all gone,” laughs Herlihy.  “He hoped the trip up here would turn her around and it has totally changed her.  “Now she races like a really good mare yet is laid-back at home.  “So we will probably give her one more start and then a spell and might even nominate her for the Inter Dominions since they are close to home.”A horse of the year title for Kenny’s Dream could make for a big awards night for Herlihy as he has two Jewels winners in Tickle Me Pink (three-year-old filly) and Bolt Of Brilliance (juvenile male trotter) who could also win HOTY titles.  Add to that his open class star Temporale, who is due back into stable work in a few weeks, new top level graduate in Forget The Price Tag and one of the country’s best juvenile trotting fillies in Cheeky Babe and the South Auckland trainer has one of the strongest trotting teams in Australasia. “I probably have 8 or 10 trotters here from about 30 horses in work and with the improvement in the breed they are easier to train than they used to be.”   Michael Guerin

Don’t feel too miffed if you can’t really remember the best horse racing at Alexandra Park tonight.  Because good horses don’t come much more forgotten than The Devils Own, who resumes in the $30,000 Smith And Partners Winter Cup. It wasn’t always that way though.  Two years ago he was being touted as the next big thing in pacing, a very good juvenile who looked certain to be better at three. He paced a stunning 1:52.4 mile rate for 1950m winning the Sales Series Pace at Addington, beating Spankem and Alta Maestro but that May 2017 win was his last visit to the winner’s circle.  That three-year-old season that promised so much saw the emergence of a better horse in Chase Auckland who dominated at home. Then The Devils Own finished third in a Victoria Derby but returned home soon after with hock and other soundness issues.  His owners have given him plenty of time, well over a year away from the track, and transferred him from the All Stars to new trainer Brent Mangos to take advantage of Auckland stakes like the $30,000 tonight.  And Mangos likes what the big horse has shown him.  “He feels a like a good horse should,” he offers. “You can tell he has been a good horse in the past and the owners looked after him giving him all the time off so his legs have been great, no issues.”  The Devils Own was given two quiet workouts by Mangos to start this campaign but it is his latest public outing that gave the Pukekohe trainer the most confidence The Devil Own can win fresh-up tonight. “I took him to Cambridge two weeks ago and it wasn’t so much a proper workout as him working with a galloping pacemaker,” explains Mangos.  “But he did it very well. He paced his last 800m in 56.2 seconds, his final 400m in 27 around Cambridge and I think it has really brought him on.  “We actually gave him a start from behind the tapes that day and while it spooked him a bit I think the small field will help him handle the stand this week.  “He is a lovely big relaxed horse so the stand doesn’t worry me too much.”  With the scratching of the in-form Check In and the fact key front line rival Blazen River is also fresh-up tonight, The Devils Own may well be able to get away his lack of race fitness tonight.  Like the Winter Cup the main trot tonight is a small but interesting field but if Kenny’s Dream brings the same form she did last start she could make it four wins from five Alexandra Park starts.  She arrived north in the care of Phil Williamson hardly rated a star but has been a huge improver and bolted in last start but she does meet a rival of similar talent in Credit Master tonight, although she has a head start and more consistent manners over him.   Michael Guerin

For many of the horses racing at Alexandra Park tonight this is as good as it gets.  The best stakes in the country, equivalent to the peak of summer, but not having to take on the superstar younger horses because most are in winter hibernation.  Winter at The Park is the ideal season for horses who wouldn’t shine at the premier meetings to try to earn a year’s training fees without a Cup horse in sight.  That is the story for most racing there tonight and it makes you wonder why more trainers don’t set their lesser horses for the off-season. Maybe some day they will.  But among the brave battlers and untapped youngsters tonight there will be a horse with a totally different aim. His name is Perfect Stride and he is trying to win his way to the Breeders Crown.  That A$300,000 finale comes up in Victoria in late August and with the news the big name babies from the Jewels aren’t going, Perfect Stride now looms as a serious contender.  His trainer Ray Green knows what it takes to win the Breeders Crown juvenile, he did it with King Of Swing a couple of seasons ago, being smart enough to go where New Zealand’s elite weren’t.  With big-spending owner Emilio Rosati always keen to chase the glamour races, Green is aiming Perfect Stride at the same Aussie pot of gold.  “The owners are keen and I think he is good enough to be very competitive,” says Green. “The series is a bit more challenging this year because the heats and semis are also in Victoria but that also means some other horses from here aren’t going.  “So if he races as well in the next few weeks as we expect then he will go.”Perfect Stride is the younger brother of WA superstar Chicago Bull and has the family ability.  He had the natural speed to go with the better early season two-year-olds and missing the autumn features wouldn’t have done him any harm.  Punters who took the long odds-on about him at Cambridge last week would have felt sick when first a hydraulic malfunction on the mobile meant his race was a moving star (admittedly a good one) and then Perfect Stride had a torrid time being attacked in front.  He only just went down and Green says he is trained on well so he should be winning race five, even against southerner Divinia Bellezza, who stunned when second to Elle Mac in the Jewels two weeks ago. Green loves the winter racing stakes are thinks Lindi Lincoln (race two), The Empress (race four) and Man Of Action (race 10) all have good each way chances.  But for many harness punters the focus of the night will be Addington’s Uncut Gems meeting, featuring the unbeaten pride of Southland racing U May Cullect.  He meets two good horses in Triple Eight and Classic Brigade but he should simply be too fast.   Michael Guerin

Welcome to one of the strangest days of the harness racing season.   Most race days have a familiar pattern to them for those close to the horses. They work first, then go to the race and work more, hoping the Racing gods smile on them. Raceday is when, hopefully, when all the work pays off.  Tonight at Alexandra Park and Addington that will still be the case, the desire for winning omnipresent. But unlike any other race day of the year what happens on the track tonight might not impact some quite as much as what is revealed on their computers and phone screens just after noon.  Because that is when the draws come out for Jewels days at Addington tomorrow week.  They are the draws that matter more than for any other meeting. These are, after all, group one sprint races with not only big stakes but enormous breeding repercussions.  So just after noon today some dreams will feel a step closer to becoming reality, other will feel like they have ended.  Then trainers, drivers, owners, punters and bookies can start an eight-day game guessing game before the first ever Addington jewels.  Barry Purdon is one trainer who knows his best Jewels chance Belle Of Montana could be odds-on or $4 next Saturday depending what number the computer spits out today.  He wasn’t at all disappointed with her third to Princess Tiffany in the NZ Oaks last week but if one draws handy and the other the second line this Jewels might be as good as decided.  “They are both very good fillies but if one of them gets a long way in front of the other the one, it is going to be tough to peg back,” muses Purdon. Purdon also has two four-year-old boys heading to the Jewels and they clash in the last at Alexandra Park tonight.  While Benson Boys is enormously improved and not finished winning yet, stablemate On The Cards looks one of the bets of the night. “I don’t give the guys driving instructions but On The Cards seems to like rolling along so I can see him going forward and maybe leading,” says Purdon.  Fifth to Spankem in both the Taylor Mile and Messenger, if he leads tonight he should go to the Jewels a last-start winner.  At Addington some even more high-profile four-year-olds take centre stage as the main race becomes a $13,000 Jewels trial.  The two favourites for the four-year-old emerald in Turn It Up and Ashley Locaz have drawn wide in the 1980m event and the latter will be fitter. So tactics will be crucial but with next week’s race worth almost 12 times as much, don’t expect too many drivers trying to be heroes.  That race also features Elle Mac, one of the hottest favourites of Jewels day for the four-year-old Diamond   Michael Guerin

A lifetime of experience rather than any medical evidence suggests Lotamuscle can bounce back at Alexandra Park tonight.  But whether he bounces back far enough to beat Tickle Me Pink in the $25,000 Northern Trotting Guineas is the question for punters.  The little trotter with the big sprint let his backers down in the Northern Derby last Friday, not running past a rival in the straight after sitting in the one-one, finishing an underwhelming fourth. That was a far cry from his booming win in the NZ Trot Derby last month and even his second, coming from well back, in the Sires’ Stakes Trot two weeks ago.  Many trainers would have called the nearest equine vet to have blood test performed on Lotamuscle after such a lack lustre performance, searching for a reason. Not Nairn.  “I think it was just a bad night at the office for him,” he offers.  “I don’t get a lot of blood tests done, maybe I should because I know a lot of trainers would.  “But I find that when there is something wrong enough for a bad blood report you can tell. And this week he has been energetic and normal in his work.  “So I think he will go a lot better this week.”  Nairn has Lotamuscle and Gil Favor in the Guineas, a new race on the calendar, and as talented as they both are they will need to be good to beat Tickle Me Pink.  Tony Herlihy produced one of the training performances of the season to win the Sires’ Stakes Final with Tickle Me Pink in her first start in nine months and then allowed her to miss last Friday’s Derby.  She has natural high speed and just as importantly is drawn inside the Nairn pair tonight so gets the chance to dictate to them. She could even lead and would be extremely hard to beat.  “That first up run didn’t seem to harm her at all and she has worked well since,” says Herlihy, who also has Fortunato in the Guineas.  Herlihy though will be at Addington where he has two chances in the Sales Series Trot and says he can’t split Cheeky Babe and Bolt For Brilliance as they both take on the raw talent of Ultimate Stride and One Majic Kenny.  The highlight of the harness weekend though is the Addington clash of three Oaks winners, Princess Tiffany (NSW), Best Western (Northern) and Belle Of Montana (Victoria) in the Nevele R Fillies Final.  All three have drawn the second line so luck will come into play and it will be of huge interest to see whether the All Stars stick to their usual rule for horses drawn one on the second line with Princess Tiffany.  They have been long-term believers in pushing through with horses drawn one on the second and trying their luck rather than pulling back and going around their rivals, the latter tactic costs you too much ground.  Princess Tiffany follows out a potential leader in Wainui Creek and if she stayed in front and gave Princess Tiffany the trail this race might be over. So what does Wainui Creek’s driver Ricky May think? “I can’t really worry about Princess Tiffany but she (Wainui Creek) hasn’t quite been good enough in front lately so I will be dictated by what Richard (Aubrey, trainer) says,” says May.   Michael Guerin

Well bred harness racing filly Sweet On Me capitalized on a better draw this week to comfortably win the $138,000 Magness Benrow NZ Sires Stakes 2yo Fillies Champs at Alexandra Park. Driven confidently tonight by driver Mark Purdon Sweet On Me (Sweet Lou - Adore Me) settled back early before launching to the lead with a lap to go. In the straight Purdon was always in control and Sweet On Me held out the stable mate Amazing Dream by three quarters of a length at the line. The Robert Dunn trained Tiffany Rose ran home well for third. The win by Sweet On Me gave the training partnership of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen it's fifth win straight in the race, with the winner pacing the 1700m mobile in a 1-57.3 mile rate. The last 800m was run in 57.3 seconds and the final 400m in 26.8. Mark Purdon thought the speedy filly was better tonight. "She was good tonight. She came off the gate nice without being to quick and settled handy but I thought I would make a move at the 1400m and take her to the front," he said. "I thought she might have got home last week,but she could have been in season a little bit and that may have had a bearing on it." Sweet On Me winning the Gr1 NZ Sires Stakes for 2yo Fillies   Earlier in the night the All Stars Stables trained Enhance Your Calm put in a huge performance to win the Gr1 $90,000 2019 Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby. Despite breaking behind the mobile and losing 50m the Majestic Son 3yo caught the field after 800m before driver Mark Purdon looped the field to lead with a mile to run. From there he was never in danger of defeat running a slick last 800m in 56.4 seconds to win easily by 2 1/4 lengths from the Robert Dunn trained Resonate.  Purdon was not sure what caused Enhance Your Calm to gallop. "Look I can not put my finger on why he is galloping. "Afterwards he was faultless and he made a really swift move down the back with a mile to run, but I really am at a loss to explain why he has done that out of the gate," he said after the race. "We will get him to the Jewels and then he can have a good rest," he said. Enhance Your Calm winning the Northern Trotting Derby   Harnesslink Media

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