Pretend for a moment that Australia doesn’t exist. Actually that is a bit harsh, seeing now they are our closest neighbours. Dial it down a bit and pretend the Menangle track outside Sydney doesn’t exist. Ok, good. Now that is why Terror To Love is the horse you want to back in tonight’s $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Trotting Cup at Alexandra Park. The beautiful big stallion arrived back from another Menangle mauling this week, having finished ninth in the Inter Dominion Final on Sunday. On that form, even against easier opposition tonight, you could feel uncomfortable taking the $2.80 fixed odds for him to win tonight’s 2700m mobile classic. But while it was only five days ago and three hours in a plane away, Menangle might as well be Mars as far as Terror To Love is concerned. He has run second in a weak Miracle Mile there but on the whole he races like a sulk in a sulky in Sydney. But take Menangle out of Terror To Love’s career record and what you are left with is breathtaking. He has won three New Zealand Cup, which has only been done by two other horses in 110 years. And in New Zealand he hasn’t been unplaced in a race for one year, 10 months and three days. In that time his form, almost exclusively in our best races, reads 1-1-2-1-1-3-1-1-1-2-1-1-2-2-1-1-1-2-1. The third in that formline was sitting parked in a track record mile in the New Zealand Free-For-All won by Gold Ace. One of those seconds came in last year’s Auckland Cup behind the phenomenal Themightyquinn while another two came when closing hard on Christen Me in sizzling sectionals earlier this season. And yet another when he had to concede a race rival tonight, Saveapatrol, a 30m start. So at home, feeling big and bold, Terror To Love’s form is that of a champion. What we need to know is: is Terror To Love feeling back to his NZ best? “He is great,” says trainer Graham Court, who is getting used to picking up Terror To Love’s mental pieces after Menangle meltdowns. “He got here (Auckland) Tuesday morning and I took a blood test, which came back great. “He has lost a little weight but that will bounce back and he still paced his last mile three wide in 1:53 in the Inter final but it is not like his form is bad.” For those who find it hard to back the $2million earner just five days after he finished ninth, consider he had the exact same turnaround before finishing a luckless second to Themightyquinn this time last year. If the speed is on throughout tonight’s race, as expected once Mah Sish fires up, then Terror To Love’s biggest concerns could be traffic and where he settles in relation to second favourite Adore Me. If he has to give her a start and come wide too early he becomes vulnerable as any horse can be at Alexandra Park. But with a three-wide cart into the race behind the right horse or even if he is able to use his tactical speed to get parked at the bell, he is the clear best chance. Adore Me may not have won many open class races but she regularly paces the same times so is the logical danger, but her good draw could become tricky if she settles in the running line and the big boys from the back start moving mid-race. Mah Sish has to be respected because leaders have a great record at Alexandra Park and Pembrook Benny is in the form of his career and could divebomb them all with a miracle Zac Butcher drive. But they are the maybes of the Cup, theory and scenarios. Terror To Love’s record in this country in the last two years is a cold hard fact. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Trainer Mark Jones believes tonight’s Auckland Cup could be too soon for Saveapatrol --- but it definitely won’t be too fast. One of the new kids on the open class block, Saveapatrol has drawn the ace in tonight’s thriller, which would be perfect if Adore Me was the likely leader from barrier two. “But I don’t think anybody expects that,” shrugs Jones. “I can see both Fly Like An Eagle and Mah Sish crossing us at the start and then him having to sit three back on the markers. “That is not a bad place to be in a hard run race, which I think it will be, but a lot will depend on when he gets out and where the favourites are. “But I hope Mah Sish gets out and runs them along because this horse can follow any speed.” Jones admits though that the four-year-old may still be a year away from being a Cup winner. “He is a really good horse and can win a Cup, but I think he will need everything to go right to win this Cup.” Which means the $5.50 offered about him in opening markets is unders. Jones will also bring his stable trotting star Master Lavros to Alexandra Park tonight after he devastated his trainer by galloping at the start of his A$200,000 race at Menangle on Sunday. “I left the track gutted because I think he could have won.” Master Lavros meets young gun Prime Power tonight but while the pair are both off 30m, Master Lavros is likely to have a clearer path ahead of him at the start because all the horses off the 10m mark are unruly, so will have to stand wide on the track. With no rivals off 20m, if Master Lavros makes a good beginning he could be a lot handier than his handicap suggests and then Prime Power will have a race on his hooves. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Champion driver Dexter Dunn says Locharburn’s rivals may be in for a shock at both ends of tonight’s $250,000 Woodlands Derby. The giant Canterbury pacer is a hot favourite after leading throughout in last Friday’s prelude, a race Dunn is adamant will improve him. “He has only had two workouts since he raced two months earlier so he has to improve,” says Dunn. “In fact, I think he will be 10 or 15 per cent better this week.” While that will be crucial at the end of the 2700m classic, Dunn says the first shock might be in the opening 200m. He realises some rival drivers may think because Locharburn is a massive lump of a horse he may not have the brilliance to hold the lead from the ace, especially with fast beginners Tiger Tara and Cyclone Prince drawn alongside. “He will get out fast enough, he is pretty quick early,” says Dunn matter-of-factly. “He was quick last week without even being asked so I think if I wanted to lead I could. “And even if I got beaten off the gate I think most drivers would be happy to trail him. “He will be in front and if they are good enough to beat him from there then fair enough.” The evidence in his 10-start, eight-win career would suggest if Locharburn leads and can wind up by the 800m mark he could pace a 55 second last section and take most of his rivals out of play. Tiger Tara looks the most likely trailer because he can head there from barrier two if Locharburn leads and that would make him the danger even after a disappointing Alexandra Park debut last Friday. Trainer Geoff Dunn blamed himself for having Tiger Tara underdone and the markers are usually the best place to be in pacing Derbys. That was proven with Sky Major and Maxim led and trailed to quinella the Victoria Derby last month but both face wider draws in the tricky small field tonight so will need an upset in the expected pattern to get home over the top. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Last week was a memorable one for the New Zealand bets of the week ring-around. Aside from my three tips which all won, Anthony Butt, Blair Orange, Gavin Smith, Jim Curtin, Ricky May, and Todd Mitchell also tipped out winners. The best result was Gavin Smith’s bet of the week in The Mighty Falcon, who got home at odds of $10, while my value bet of the week Scotlynn Jiggs ($7) wasn’t too far behind. Let’s see what good oil we can dig up this week. Andrew Armour: Thinks two-year-old First Flight In is a good each-way prospect in the fourth race at Gore on Sunday. Anthony Butt: Thinks talented two-year-old The Jazzman will be tough to beat from his inside alley in the eighth race at Forbury Park tonight. Blair Orange: Rates the chances of Strike On Command in the last race at Forbury Park tonight. Craig Thornley: Will take the reins behind Franco Harrington at Reefton where he expects him to be very hard to beat. David Butt: Thinks Georgie Mach can go back-to-back in the eighth race at Westport on Friday. Gavin Smith: Who was last week’s top tipster, has opted for True Legend in the fourth race at Westport on Friday. Jim Curtin: Thinks the talented but enigmatic Sunchita can win the tenth race at Westport on Friday. Jonny Cox: Rates the chances of Sharpenuff in the eighth race at Gore on Sunday. Ken Barron: Thinks Sapling Stakes runner-up Mighty Flying Major will be tough to beat in race eight at Forbury tonight. Mark Jones: Thinks The Ultimate Storm will take a power of beating in the third race at Forbury Park tonight. Matthew Williamson: Expects Quick As A Trick to regain top form in the 12th race at Forbury tonight. Nathan Williamson: Thinks Aidan’s Rocket will be tough to toss in the last race at Gore on Sunday. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has thrown out some value in the form of Goodboy Tiger – Forbury, race seven. Tim Williams: Thinks Waitoto Express has a good each-way chance in the seventh race at Gore on Sunday. Todd Mitchell: Expects Cyclone Kate to be thereabouts in the Delightful Lady Classic at Alexandra Park on Friday. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink) Best Bet: The Ultimate Storm – Forbury Park, race three Each-way: Linda Lovegrace – Alexandra Park, race four. Value: Whynotagrey – Gore, race two.
Kiwi trotter Flying Isa is the new Australasian mile record holder after a stunning performance at Menangle on Tuesday. Usually trained in South Auckland by John and Josh Dickie, the former star juvenile is being campaigned in Sydney by Luke McCarthy. He showed how unlucky he was to be first emergency for the Glenferrie Farm Challenge last Sunday when he trotted a 1:53.2 mile to win a $7000 race there on Tuesday by five lengths. That smashed the record set by Keystone Del when winning the Challenge two days earlier of 1:53.9. Flying Isa is likely to head to the Great Southern Star in Victoria on March 22 before returning for the Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park in May. A former Harness Jewels and Australasian Breeders Crown champion at two, Flying Isa raced below his best at three but returned to something like his peak when second in the Anzac Cup at Alexandra Park last season. He wasn’t the only Kiwi to set a record at Menangle yesterday as Canterbury filly Red Hot Toddy broke 1:52 for a mile when finishing second in her race. While she paced a faster time than the NZ record it obviously won’t count in the record but it will for her future stud career because place times are counted as official. So the Ken Barron-trained filly boosted her broodmare value enormously, even though she didn’t actually win. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Butt warns punters that southerner may finally be on song for Auckland Trotting Cup. Driver Anthony Butt has vowed to turn Friday night's Auckland Trotting Cup into a war. He says Mah Sish, the most disappointing pacer of the New Zealand season, can finally pay back punters who have stuck with him. This time last season Mah Sish was one of the most feared pacers in Australasia, having won the Ballarat and Hunter Cups as well as finishing second to I'm Themightyquinn in the Inter Dominion final. However, those efforts seemed to drain the son of Mach Three and by autumn he was a spent force, a lack of mojo that carried over into this season. After opening one of the favourites for the New Zealand Cup he couldn't run a place in the lead-up races and has shown only flashes of his old fight for much of his Australian summer campaign. Recently, Butt has noticed two changes in Mah Sish - he has developed much higher gate speed and he is racing more like a one-paced stayer. "And that is why I now have to drive him a bit like a Flashing Red type," says Butt, referring to his dual New Zealand Cup and Auckland Cup winning hero. Mah Sish was a brave third in a supersonic A$100,000 ($107,000) race at Menangle on Sunday after leading and blazing dazzling sectionals. Butt says that is exactly what he intends doing on Friday night. "He can't outsprint Adore Me and Terror To Love; we all know that," says Butt. "But he has developed into a really good stayer and having gate speed now means I can launch him at the start. "And I will just keep going until I get the lead, I have to. Then I will run every quarter [400m] as quick as I can for that distance. "I want them all out on their feet at the 600m and if Adore Me or Terror To Love run past me so be it. "I am not saying he will win but I am quietly confident he will go close. Alexandra Park is a hard track to run good horses down on." Butt's declaration and the gate speed of New Zealand Cup runner-up Fly Like An Eagle, who has drawn directly inside him at barrier four, suggests there will be genuine speed early in Friday's Cup and while Adore Me has drawn well at barrier two it looks unlikely she will now simply run to the front and dominate. TAB bookies think so as the champion mare has surprisingly only opened second favourite at $3.60, with Terror To Love the $2.80 top pick. The horse they are keeping safe is Saveapatrol, who is a $5.50 chance even though he looks like being three deep on the markers at best. Pembrook Benny rounds out the favourites at $6.50 while those willing to back Butt's judgement can get $21 about Mah Sish turning his New Zealand run of outs around. Locharburn has opened up prohibitively short in the $250,000 Woodlands Derby at just $1.55 over Tiger Tara at $3 and Sky Major at $6. Locharburn has drawn the ace but the connections of both Tiger Tara and Cyclone Prince, drawn barriers two and three, have at least expressed interest in their drivers having an early look at the lead. That could again see more pressure in the classic than the barrier draws first indicated. Meanwhile, star West Australian I'm Victorious is slowly improving after a horror check in Sunday's Inter Dominion Final ended his career. The former Kiwi pacer was struck by Mach Beauty at the 200m mark in the final and badly cut through the tendons in a front leg. He needed surgery to save his life but has responded well to that and last night was showing no signs of infection. "We are not out of the woods yet but hopefully we can save him, although the vets say he won't race again," said trainer Michael Brennan. NSW glamour driver Lauren Panella was suspended for eight weeks for the incident. Auckland Trotting Cup What: $250,000 Auckland Trotting Cup. Where: Alexandra Park. When: Friday night, first race at 5.55pm, Cup at 8.25pm. Who: Terror To Love, Adore Me, Pembrook Benny, Mah Sish and Easy On The Eye. Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald Read more by Michael Guerin
Former Auckland Cup winning trainer, Doug Gale, will leave his long-term Helensville base a New Zealand Trotting ‘Hall-Of-Famer’. Gale, who trained Kate’s First to win the 1997 edition of the Cup, will be inducted into the New Zealand Trotting Hall-Of-Fame on Friday night for his 608 training victories since 1988. Any trainer who conditions more than 500 winners in his or her career automatically becomes an inductee. Gale will looking to leave his Rimmer Road property in Helensville in April and intends to train his new team from Scott’s Ferry Beach, near Bulls in May. His new base will be just 30 minutes from the Manawatu harness racing track in Palmerston North. “I think I will do a better job for my owners down there. I’ve spent nine months looking for the right property. It also means I will no longer have to truck my horses to the beach, I’ll be able to take them there in the cart,” Gale said. The 59-year-old said his “type of horse” would be suited to Central Districts racing and didn’t believe he would lose much in travelling time. “When I travelled to Cambridge it would sometimes take me two hours just to get on the other side of Auckland. Cambridge will actually be only an hour further than where I am now, and I’m not ruling out racing at Alexandra Park. “If I have a horse good enough I’ll certainly be lining him or her up there. It also opens possibilities in Nelson and Marlborough and will also make Addington just a day trip away,” Gale said. He said the advent of the larger Auckland Council had also swayed his decision to move south. “Our area is gradually becoming more and more urbanised. And the forest which I drive through to the Beach is now governed by the Forest Authority rather than the Regional Council. “When there’s a high fire risk I can no longer take my horses through the forest like I used to. I have to take the long way around and that’s frustrating. “The state of the industry also played a part in the shift. My owners have been agreeable to the move, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Gale. Gale currently works a team of about 15 from his north-west Auckland stable. He intends working a similar number down south. “I have always been a beach trainer. In fact my career started off in the 1980s when trainers like Peter Wolfenden, Frank Cooney and Mike Nicholas would send their horses to me to have them swum and beach trained. “It saved them from turning them out. I also had a pool which helped me get a few,” the Grey Lynn-born and Mt Albert Grammar educated horseman said. An Auckland University graduate, former school teacher, and racing sub editor with the New Zealand Herald, Gale said he always loved the trots and yearned to work in an outside job. He has trained 524 winners ($4.8m in purses) since 1988. He’s also trained a further 49 more with Wendy Williams from 2007-2009, and 25 with Maurice Calder from 2000-2001. His best season was in 1998 when he trained 59 winners and netted $616,343 in stakes. That was a year after his greatest triumph – Kate’s First and Peter Ferguson winning the Auckland Cup by a head from Brabham. He also trained Five Star Anvil to run second behind Russley Rascal in the 2010 Woodlands Northern Derby, and Motoring Anvil third behind Holmes D G and Annie’s Boy in the 1998 New Zealand Derby. “I have no intention of retiring. I may slow down in a few years, but it is still my ambition to win a Derby. I’d really like to win a Derby before I bow out,” Gale said. Gale spent 27 years working from his Helensville stable. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Just a day after a rare defeat, Adore Me's harness racing season is looking up again after last night's barrier draw for the Auckland Trotting Cup. The champion mare was surprisingly beaten as a redhot favourite in the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle on Sunday, run down late into second by Vansumic, after being three wide for much of the race. However, that could soon be forgotten because after drawing perfectly at barrier two she will now start favourite in Friday night's $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup. The decision to make the trip back from Sydney and line-up in the Cup looks inspired as she was one of the few favourites for the great race to draw well, with Terror To Love off the second line at barrier 11, along with Pembrook Benny (13) and Easy On The Eye (10). Another big winner in the draw was southern up-and-comer Saveapatrol (1), who caught the eye with his bold fourth on his Alexandra Park debut last Friday. Adore Me now looks certain to open favourite with the TAB for the Cup, for which she is one of six horses returning from racing in Sydney on Sunday. While that sounds taxing, the first three home in last season's Cup - Themightyquinn, Terror To Love and Bettor Cover Lover - all did the same. Giant 3-year-old Locharburn is guaranteed favouritism for the $250,000 Woodlands Derby on Friday night after drawing the ace for the classic. He is expected to improve even after winning the prelude last Friday and could be as short as $2 in the fixed odds markets. Sires' Stakes winner Tiger Tara has drawn alongside him in two but Victoria Derby winner Maxim will be forced to start from the outside of the front line in the seven-horse field. The Cup is on earlier than usual at 8.25pm and the Derby at 9.55pm on the 12-race programme, which also hosts the Cardigan Bay Stakes and Delightful Lady Stakes. The fields for the two features are: Trillian Trust Auckland Trotting Cup, $250,000, 2700m - Saveapatrol (1), Adore Me (2), Jivin Cullen (3), Jason Rulz (4), Fly Like An Eagle (5), Mah Sish (6), Pass Them By (7), Besotted (8), Elusive Chick (9), Easy On The Eye (10), Terror To Love (11), Lets Elope (12), Pembrook Benny (13), Averil's Quest (14). Emergency: Jivin Cullen. Woodlands Northern Derby, $250,000, 2700m - Locharburn (1), Tiger Tara (2), Cyclone Prince (3), Sky Major (4), Threestones (5), Aldo Rossi (6), Maxim (7). Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald
She may not have the sheer speed of a mare like Adore Me, but Venus Serena has the staying ability to go down as one of the best fillies in New Zealand racing history. That was the opinion I was left under after the Mach Three megastar made mince meat of her rivals in the $125,000 Great Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park tonight. After being caught wide early, driver John Dunn worked Venus Serena forward to wrestle the lead of Rocknroll Arden with just under two laps to go. She then paced even clips in front, before dashing away for a supersonic 7 & ½ length win in a New Zealand fillies record time of 3-18.9, which shaved more than two seconds off the previous 2700m record held by Twist N Twirl. Rockroll Arden, who enjoyed a nice run in the trail, finished in second position, while Rockn Ruby, who edged out Pricillas Girl, was a further 4 and ½ lenghts away in third. Driver John Dunn was understandably astonished by the ease of Venus Serena’s win. “It’s pretty unbelievable how easily she is winning when you consider the times,” said Dunn. “After her two-year-old season I didn’t think she could get any better but she has proved me wrong and continues to step things up a notch,” Dunn enthused. Dunn was also full of praise for his uncle, and Venus Serena’s trainer, Geoff Dunn. “He does a terrific job with a small team and deserves every bit of success that he gets.” Meanwhile, driver Simon Lawson looks poised to get his first taste on big race success during the Auckland Cup carnival after winning both two-year-old events on tonight’s 10-race card. Lawson combined with Ray Green to win the PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Graduate for colts and geldings with classy two-year-old Chachingchaching, before claiming the sixth heat of the Gotta Go Cullen Young Guns Series with talented filly Unforgiving. Both two-year-olds will compete in Group features on next week’s Auckland Cup night. By Mitchell Robertson
Pembrook absolutely loves racing at Alexandra Park. The 9-year-old son of Courage Under Fire won his 16th race on the tack when easily winning tonight’s Group Two $50,000 Auckland Co-op Taxis City Of Auckland Free-For-All. All up ‘Benny’ has now won 22 of his 90 starts and $867,982. Driven by Zac Butcher the bay gelding was always going to be a tough nit to crack after trailing last year’s race winner, Easy On The Eye. The Barry Purdon trained gelding paced the 2200m mobile in 2:40.60 with final 800m and 400m sectionals in 57.6 and 29.4. Mile rate: 1:57.4. Easy On The Eye (Peter Ferguson) and Besotted (Simon Lawson) finished second and third some two lengths and 1-1/4 lengths back. Butcher said he would be even stronger come next week’s Group One Auckland Cup. “He hasn’t done much since coming back from Australia and he did it real easy tonight. He can only be improved by the run. I’d love to win that race so much,” said Butcher. Pembrook Benny is owned by his trainer, Terry Henderson, J. C. Higgins, K. G. Parry, Dave Sixton, and former All Black coach John Hart. He was bred by W. D. Power and Mrs G. L. Power. The past winners (with drivers and times have been): 2013: Easy On The Eye (Peter Ferguson) 2:42.8. 2012: Sir Lincoln (Maurice McKendry) 2:40.3. 2011: Power Of Tara (Brent Mangos) 2:41.3. 2010: Big Dog (Scott Phelan) 2:45.7. 2009: Monkey King (Ricky May) 2:41.8. 2008: Classic Cullen (Mark Purdon) 2:43.1. 2007: Classic Cullen (Mark Purdon) 2:39.0. 2006: Mainland Banner (Ricky May) 2:44.7. 2005: Elsu (David Butcher) 2:40.4. 2004: Sly Flyin (Tony Herlihy) 2:43.0. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)
One of New Zealand’s most promising young trotters again proved just how good he was when winning the feature trot at Alexandra Park tonight – but you can forget about him lining up in the prestigious Rowe Cup in May. “It would be silly to start him as a 4-year-old in an arduous 3200m race like that. He will however start against the open class trotters in the Anzac Cup,” said trainer-driver Todd Mitchell. Prime Power gave his 10 opponents a trotting lesson in the $20,000 Swiss Deli Handicap for the C3 to Open Class trotters. The 4-year-old Monarchy gelding stopped the clock in 3:30.6 with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 58.1 and 28.4. Mile rate: 2:05.5. He had 3-3/4 lengths and three quarters of a length to spare over place-getters Duchess Diedre (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and Sovereignty (Maurice McKendry. Prime Power, who started from the 30m is owned and was bred by Bryan Macey of Homin Hosed New Zealand Cup (1999) fame. He has now had 21 starts for 11 wins and five placings. “After the Anzac Cup We’ll target the Jewels and then next season we will travel a bit with him as a 5-year-old,” Mitchell said. Prime Power is unbeaten in four starts this campaign and his stake earnings now sit at $148,509. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Last week the ring-around produced six winners, including Eyre I Come, who opened up at $31 fixed odds. Let’s see if we can dig up some more value this week. Anthony Butt: Thinks talented trotter Thebestove will be hard to beat in tonight’s Sales Series Trot at Addington. Blair Orange: Thinks Twentyten, who showed plenty of ability as a two-year-old, can make a winning return at three – Cheviot, race two. David Butt: Expects Lothario to make amends for his last start gallop in the third race at Cheviot (Addington) on Sunday. Gavin Smith: Rates The Mighty Falcon as a good each-way chance from his ace alley in the first race at the Cheviot meeting at Addington on Sunday. Jim Curtin: Believes the consistent Vitali is overdue a winning turn – Cheviot, race five. Ken Barron: Thinks Mighty Mara can make a winning debut in the first race at Addington on Sunday. Nathan Williamson: Believes in form trotter Springbank Sam can carry on his winning way – Cheviot, race seven. Ricky May: Expects Pal Amino, who has trialled up nicely for her fresh-up assignment, to be tough to toss from her ace barrier in the ninth race at Addington tonight. Terry Chmiel: Thinks Little Tess, who caught the eye flashing home late last start, is a good each-way prospect in the last race at Addington tonight. Todd Mitchell: Expects Prime Power to add to his picket-line fence in fifth race at Alexandra Park on Friday. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Best Bet : Free Falling – Cheviot, race four. Each-way: Unforgiving – Alexandra Park, race four. Value: Scotlynn Jiggs – Addington, race ten.
Locharburn may be the most talented three-year-old pacer in the country but that won’t stop him being vulnerable at Alexandra Park tomorrow night. The Canterbury pacer with the big motor and even bigger chassis meets only five opponents in the Northern Derby prelude but four of them are group one winners, including last-start Victoria Derby quinellamates Maxim and Sky Major. Add in Sires’ Stakes winner Tiger Tara and their clashes over the next eight days will go a long way to determining three-year-old of the year honours. After beating most of his opponents tomorrow in the Alabar Classic in December, Locharburn looks a rare talent, if somewhat untapped. But having not raced since December 31, trainer Kevin Chapman admits tomorrow night’s race is tricky. “He had a small setback which put me behind the eight ball a touch otherwise he would have had a lead-up race,” said Chapman. “But he has had a workout and a trial and paced his last 800m in the first of those in 54.8 seconds. “So he is close enough but of course the Derby next week is the main aim.” The race looms as the highlight of the opening night of Auckland Cup week but a nightmare for punters and bookies, with the order the field settles in crucial. Meanwhile, record-breaking filly Venus Serena has opened the $1.70 favourite for the first group one of Cup week, the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks tomorrow night. She heads the market over Snooki at $5.500, while Pembrook Benny is the $2.80 favourite for the City Of Auckland Free-For-All, the final lead-up to the Auckland Trotting Cup. The New Zealand TAB bookies have also taken a stand against Beautide, the favourite for the A$750,000 Inter Dominion Final in Sydney on Sunday. They had him as long as $4.60 yesterday, the best price in Australasia and huge overs compared with SuperTab’s $3.60. The New Zealand TAB has Kiwi pacer Smolda as the $4 favourite for the Interdom. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing NZ)
With all the hype coming from across the Tasman as we build towards Sunday’s Inter Dominion Grand Final Day, you could almost be excused for forgetting that there is a supersonic racenight at Alexandra Park on Friday. However, one man who definitely won’t be forgetting is Geoff Dunn, who will line-up both of his star three-year-olds on the ten-race card. But, while Friday’s Prelude will just be a warm-up before next week’s Derby for top colt Tiger Tara, the $125,000 Great Northern Oaks is Venus Serena’s grand final. “They have both travelled up really well and have both been eating up and drinking,” said Dunn, who stables his horses with Andrew Grant when in the North Island. “They both seem well and I have been very happy with their work,” said Dunn. “So I guess my only concern is the draws,” he added. Superstar filly Venus Serena has drawn out in six, with two of her main dangers inside her, while Tiger Tara is only slightly better off in barrier five. “The Derby Prelude field only has six horses in it, so Tiger’s draw probably isn’t as much of a disadvantage as Venus Serena’s is,” admitted Dunn. However, Venus has shown time and time again that she can make her own luck, so I don’t see why Friday will be any different,” said a bullish Dunn. Dunn also sees the step up to 2700 metres as an advantage for Venus Serena. “We all know how tough she is and over the longer distance Johnny (Dunn-driver) will be able to choose when he puts her in race,” enthused Dunn. But while Venus Serena has already won five times in the North, Alexandra Park is uncharted territory for Tiger Tara, however Dunn does not see that as a concern. “He seems equally happy going the Alexandra Park way round, and he has worked well on the Pukekohe track,” said Dunn. “With four nice horses having drawn inside him he will probably have to go back at the start, but he can follow speed all day so if they go hard he will be coming over the top of them at the finish,” predicted Dunn. "And you would think next week's Derby distance will suit him as well," he concluded By Mitchell Robertson
Talented two-year-filly Supriya became Changeover’s first ever winner when she easily disposed of her five opponents in the first race at Winton today. Driven by Dexter Dunn for trainer Cran Dalgety, Supriya spaced her rivals by 5 & ½ lengths to win in a time of 2.00.0 over the one mile journey. Supriya’s maiden win came at just her second start. Her debut resulted in a tidy fifth in a heat of the Sires Stakes. Supriya, who is likely to contest some of the two-year-old fillies features later on in the season, is owned by the Beeintowin syndicate which is managed by Addington Raceway’s Ged Moor. Mooar, who was formerly employeed by Nevele R Stud, has always been of the opinion that Changeover would do a very good job at stud. Although Supriya was his first winner, plenty of Changeover’s other progeny are showing huge promise, including Oneover, who was a super second in the fourth heat of the Young Guns. He will be a great chance of giving Changeover his second winner when he competes in the NZ Yearling Sales Series Graduate at Alexandra Park on Friday. The 2.4 million-dollar earning son of In The Pocket currently has 17 qualifiers all up, including smart qualifiers, Atchoo, Nuala, Bold Ruler, and Prince Of Pops, who has placed twice from just two starts. Other smart winners on the Winton card today were: Perfect Sunrise, Millwood Pink Lady, Jocy Jaccka, I Smart, and Cyclone Kiwi. By Mitchell Robertson
Trainer-reinsman Aldo Cortopassi justified the faith placed in him by Queensland owner Jeroen Nieuwenburg when he brought Hokonui Ben home with a sparkling late burst to snatch victory from Northview Punter in the $50,000 MMJ Real Estate RWWA Cup at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Nieuwenburg shocked West Australian harness racing fans early this month when he switched Hokonui Ben from the stables of leading trainer Gary Hall sen. and gave him to Cortopassi to train. In his final two starts for Hall Hokonui Ben Hall had scored a splendid all-the-way victory in the $400,000 WA Pacing Cup and then finished a half-head second to stablemate Livingontheinterest in the $35,000 Lord Mayor's Cup. Clint Hall was in the sulky for Hokonui Ben's WA Pacing Cup triumph, and in an ironic twist, Hall drove Northview Punter in Friday night's race. Northview Punter, a 7/1 chance, began with tremendous dash from the No. 3 barrier and burst straight to the front. Northview Punter looked the winner when he rounded the home bend full of running and holding David Hercules at bay. But he was unable to hold out 13/2 chance Hokonui Ben, who started from the back line and was tenth when he started a three-wide run 950m from home. Hokonui Ben was in eighth place, out wide, with 450m to travel before he thundered home to gain the upper hand in the final couple of strides. He beat Northview Punter by a neck, with David Hercules, equal favourite at 7/4 with polemarker This Time Dylan, a fighting third after starting from the outside of the front line. Morgan Woodley sent David Hercules forward in the first circuit, but the gelding was kept three wide by 26/1 chance Mysta Magical Mach until David Hercules finally got to the breeze after a lap. This Time Dylan enjoyed an ideal passage behind Northview Punter before finishing fourth. In an up-tempo race the New Zealand-bred Hokonui Ben rated a smart 1.55.8 over the 2536m and took his record to 18 wins and 15 placings from 53 starts for stakes of $581,639. His 29 starts in Western Australia have produced 12 wins and ten placings. "We were on a hiding to nothing when we took him and I had a big set of shoes to fill," taking a horse off Senior (Hall sen.)," Cortopassi said. "He has done a huge job with the horse and won the Pacing Cup. I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to race on with the horse. He's a lovely horse and is the real deal. He's probably the best horse I've had the opportunity to train. "Special thanks to Jeroen to have the faith in me to have a crack with the horse. We didn't have to do a lot with him. All I had to do was to try to keep him at that level after all the work that had been done with the horse previously. "This was probably the weakest race Hokonui Ben has contested for a while. There was no Im Victorious or Livingontheinterest. So he was probably the class runner and has done a great job. He really sprinted brilliantly. The race was put on as well after the early burn which made it for horses like him. Luck was on our side." LEDA McNALLY IS SPOT ON FOR THE LADYSHIP MILE AT MENANGLE Leda McNally completed her preparation for the $200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle next Sunday in dashing style with a stylish all-the-way win in the first prelude of the MMJ Land Sales Empress Stakes at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The 5/2 on favourite was untroubled to bounce to the front from the No. 1 barrier and set a solid pace before sprinting over the final 400m in 27.9sec. to defeat Sensational Gabby by just under a length at a 1.57.2 rate over 2130m. Famous Alchemist (13/4) trailed the pacemaker and battled on doggedly into third place. It was a performance that pleased reinsman Chris Voak, who said that Pinjarra trainer Chris King had the five-year-old spot on for her battle against her nine rivals, including champion New Zealand four-year-old Adore Me and Baby Bling, winner of last year's Miracle Mile. "She has broken 1.54 on this track (Gloucester Park) and I've driven at Menangle and run at a 1.52 speed and I think that she can easily handle breaking 1.52 speed there," he said. "We'll rely on the barrier draw and hopefully there is genuine tempo in the race. She certainly does her best work when sat up." Voak said he was hopeful that Leda McNally (who will leave Perth for Sydney by air on Tuesday) would handle the travel and change of environment. He pointed out that Leda McNally had won the group 3 Norms Daughter Classic and the group 1 Mares Mile at Gloucester Park in November, with star New Zealand mare Bettor Cover Lover finishing third and fourth in those feature events. "So now we are hoping that Leda McNally is not affected by the travel," he said. The versatile Leda McNally has raced 50 times for 19 wins and nine placings for earnings of $278,308. BROWN PREDICTS BIG THINGS FROM MACH BANNER Recent New Zealand import Mach Banner gave a sample of his class and showed that he is capable of developing into a top-line performer in Perth when he set the pace and held on to beat the fast-finishing Marooned in the third heat of the MMJ Valuations and Consultancy Lewis Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Reinsman Colin Brown said that he had been informed by trainer Greg Bond and stable worker Ryan Warwick that Mach Banner's work during the week, and following his second West Australian appearance when fifth behind Im Victorious in the interdominion championship heat the previous Saturday, had been sensational. "This is the first time that he has put his hoof up, if you like, and declared how good he is," Brown said. "On the track he ran home in 26 (sec.) something and so the horse is on the way up. I think he has got a little bit of class." Mach Banner, a New Zealand-bred five-year-old, arrived in Western Australia with a splendid record in top company in New Zealand where he had 55 starts for 12 wins and 17 placings for stakes of $225,565. Even though he performed soundly in the interdominion heat the previous Saturday and was favourably drawn at No. 2 on the front line on Friday night, Mach Banner was sent out second fancy at 9/4, behind the less-credentialled Northern Assassin, who started from barrier three as a heavily-supported 5/4 favourite. Brown stole a march on Northern Assassin when he urged the seven-year-old forward in the early stages to take up the running after 100m. Polemarker The Oyster Bar broke badly after 200m and Ryan Bell was left in the breeze with Northern Assassin. After a lead time of 37sec. Mach Banner reeled off quarters in 30sec., 29.1sec. 29.1sec. and 28.8sec. and he just held on to beat 15/1 chance Marooned, who trailed the leader before flashing home. Franco Torres, a 66/1 outsider, raced in the one-out, one-back position and finished third, with Northern Assassin wilting to sixth. LITTLE BOY BLUE PROVING A GOOD BUY FOR VAL MELLSOP Val Mellsop, wife of Waroona trainer-reinsman Bob Mellsop, made a wise decision when she outlaid $10,000 to purchase Little Boy Blue from Gary Elson last July. The New Zealand-bred five-year-old notched his fourth win for his new connections when Mellsop drove him to an effortless all-the-way victory from the No. 1 barrier in the 1730m MMJ Facilities Management Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. That boosted his earnings for the Mellsops to $29,930 and took his career record to 54 starts for 12 wins, 17 placings and $95,887 in prizemoney. Little Boy Blue, a strong-finishing winner at Harvey ten nights earlier, was favourite at 3/1 on and he gave his supporters no cause for concern. Little Boy Blue rattled home over the final 400m in 27.3sec. and won at a 1.56.1 rate by just over two lengths from 14/1 chance Hoylakes Firstlady, who started immediately behind the favourite and trailed him throughout. "He's going super and just like me, he loves being spoilt," Mellsop said. "I'm not in a hurry to come back to town. I'll run around in the country and milk it a little bit. He's only five, and he's sound." The win gave Mellsop a belated birthday present. He turned 57 the previous Sunday and had further reason to celebrate when he prepared The Big Bite for his all-the-way win in the Hahn Pace at Bunbury on Saturday night. The Big Bite was driven by Colin Brown and paid $12.40 on the tote. Little Boy Blue did not race in New Zealand. By Armbro Operative, he is out of Robyn Blue, a mare who earned $99,634 from eight wins and 17 placings from 48 starts. As a two-year-old in December 2004 Robyn Blue was placed three times behind Foreal in group 1 and 2 events for two-year-old fillies at Alexandra Park. TRUCKERS RUFFNUT PROVIDES A BOOST FOR EGERTON-GREEN Eight-year-old Truckers Ruffnut caused his second upset in the space of three starts in his long-awaited comeback when 21-year-old Dylan Egerton-Green celebrated his first drive behind the horse by bringing him home with a storming run to win the 2130m MMJ Investment Sales Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Not only was the win a triumph for Bunbury trainer Murray Hansen, but it gave Egerton-Green a timely boost before he represents Western Australia in the $50,000 Australasian Young Drivers championship at Menangle next Sunday. The State's other representative at Menangle next Sunday is Aiden De Campo, who drove even-money favourite Danieljohn in Friday night's race in which Truckers Ruffnut was an easing 33/1 outsider. Danieljohn started from barrier one and bowled along in front before he was overhauled by Truckers Ruffnut about 60m from the post. The final 800m was covered in 56.9sec. and Truckers Ruffnut rated a smart 1.56. Mighty Flying Thomas (4/1) trailed the pacemaker and finished full of running to be a close-up third. This was Truckers Ruffnut's fifth start after an absence of 39 months. He was successful two starts before Friday night's race when he started at 21/1 on the tote. He had been driven at his three previous runs before Friday by Shane Butcher, who returned home to New Zealand about a week ago. This gave Egerton-Green the opportunity to take the drive. Truckers Ruffnut started from barrier two on the back line and Egerton-Green had him three back on the pegs in fifth place at the bell when Rocky Marciano was in the breeze and Whos Mistake was enjoying the one-out, one-back trail. Egerton-Green got Truckers Ruffnut off the pegs 250m from home and took him three wide on the home turn. Truckers Ruffnut accelerated strongly and Danieljohn was powerless to defy his late challenge. Egerton-Green was the 13th reinsman to have driven Truckers Ruffnut during his 52-start career which has produced 20 wins, 14 placings and stakes of $249,770. "He did it pretty easily and was just too good," Egerton-Green said. "But I had to get stuck into him a bit. He was just being a bit cunning." Truckers Ruffnut, a top-flight juvenile who as a three-year-old won the group 3 WA Sales Classic, the group 1 $100,000 State Sires Series and the consolation of the Breeders Crown at Melton, damaged a suspensory ligament in 2010 and then injured his other leg. This is his fourth attempt at a comeback after he had gone amiss at his three previous attempts to resume racing. He is related to New Zealand-bred chestnut Motoring Magic, who earned $366,395 from ten wins and ten placings from 34 starts. FOOTNOTE: Aiden De Campo had three drives on Friday night for seconds with Conniving Major Dave and Danieljohn and a third with Trojan Bromac, all trained by his father Andrew. It was a different story at Donaldson Park in Bunbury the following night when they dominated the eight-event program. Aiden De Campo drove four winners --- Gotta Go Chocolate, Typhoon Tan, Vertical Four and Tricky Styx. The first three are trained by his father and Tricky Styx is trained by Jesse Moore. Andrew De Campo also trained Lovers Delight, who was driven by Chris Lewis for his smart victory in the Bunbury Patrons Cup. GALACTIC GALLEON PROVES TOO TOUGH FOR THE PACEMAKER Galactic Galleon maintained his recent splendid form and notched his fourth win from his past five starts when he revealed wonderful fighting qualities to get up a beat 2/1 on favourite Conniving Major Dave in the 2130m MMJ Real Estate Pathway Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. After starting from barrier two on the back line Galactic Galleon(second fancy at 6/1) was rushed forward by Colin Brown to race in the breeze, but well back from the pacemaking Conniving Major Dave. After a third quarter in 28.6sec. Conniving Major Dave looked the likely winner turning for home. But Galactic Galleon refused to give in and surged home to get to the front 40m from the post and win by a head from the favourite. The final section was also covered in 28.6sec. and the winner rated 1.58.6. "Galactic Galleon had the advantage of race fitness over the leader and that told in the end," said Brown. Galactic Galleon, by Art Major and the ninth and last foal out of the unraced Soky's Atom mare Moonshaker, was placed at three of his five starts in New Zealand and now has raced 23 times in WA for eight wins and ten placings. STAMPALIA REPEATS THE DOSE AND STEALS A MARCH WITH KRISTEN LOUISE Almost seven years ago Vance Stampalia drove horse No. 5 in the tenth and final event at Gloucester Park. He stole a march on his rivals when he set the pace with Black Line, an 11/2 chance trained by Debbie Padberg. Black Line went on to win from Ideal Lavros. Stampalia repeated the dose at Gloucester Park on Friday night when he was in the sulky behind the No. 5 runner, Kristen Louise, in the tenth and final event, the 2130m second prelude of the MMJ Real Estate Empress Stakes. He again stole a march on his rivals when he got Kristen Louise, the 16/1 rank outsider in a field of six, away to a flying start. Kristen Louise simply had too much pace for her rivals and burst to the front after 100m before setting a solid pace and winning by a half-length from 7/1 chance Selkie, who trailed her all the way. Ace of Cards came from the one-out, one-back position to finish third. Stampalia was able to get Kristen Louise to relax after her fast start and the four-year-old mare, the youngest and least experienced runner in the race, was able to dawdle through the lead time in 39.1sec. and the first 400m section of the final mile in a slow 32.3sec. She had plenty in reserve and was able to keep the opposition at bay with final quarters of 28.9sec. and 28.5sec. The wonderful connection behind the No. 5 runner in race ten is that Kristen Louise is closely related to Black Line. Kristen Louise, bred and owned by Marshall Taylor and Tony Glass, is the 11th foal out of Windshield Wiper mare Demarcation (a winner of nine races in Victoria). Demarcation's dam Picket Line produced ten winners of 109 races, including Black Line, who earned $255,232 from 18 wins and 13 placings from 78 starts. Picket Line is a half-sister to Shadow Line, who won 14 times in WA for Ken White. Stampalia drove Shadow Line twice for an 11th placing and a nose second to Guys Laughing over 1700m at Gloucester Park in September 2001. Kristen Louise has earned $38,590 from five wins and eight placings from 34 starts. LEWIS MAKES THE MOST OF A LUCKY BREAK WITH LORD COBURN Invariably when a horse gallops fiercely at the start of a stand the runner behind him meets with severe interference and frequently is virtually out of contention. The polemarker Czargem galloped badly when the tapes released the field for the MMJ Commercial property Management Handicap at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The well-supported 13/4 second favourite and last-start winner Lord Coburn was immediately behind Czargem on the inside of the 10m line. But most fortuitously Czargem veered outwards to provide a dream saloon inside passage for Lord Coburn, who burst straight to the front while the well-fancied Erris Lad was inconvenienced by the galloping Czargem and was foiled in an anticipated bid for the early lead. Chris Lewis then dictated terms in front with the Ross Olivieri-trained Lord Coburn, who was not extended in running the first two sections of the final mile in 31.5sec. and 30.2sec. before sprinting over the next two quarters in 28.6sec. and 28.5sec. to coast an easy 7m victory over Erris Lad, who had trailed the pacemaker all the way. Trojan Bromac, favourite at 3/1, fought on to be third after racing in the one-out, one-back position. "A bit of luck goes a long way," said Lewis. "You take it when you can. Obviously it made this horse's job a lot easier. Lord Coburn is in form and once he was in front he was going to be pretty hard to beat. I think he has stepped up a notch and he's definitely got more wins in him." The Victorian-bred Lord Coburn has had 53 starts for 14 wins, 14 placings and $103,665. He has had 15 starts in WA for four wins and four placings. PREORDAINED BREAKS THROUGH AND ENDS A LOSING SEQUENCE OF 16 Preordained, a New South Wales-bred five-year-old, had been unplaced at all his 16 appearances at Gloucester Park before he was sent out a warm 5/4 favourite from the prized No. 1 barrier in the 1730m MMJ Commercial Strata Pace on Friday night. But he gave his supporters a giant scare before prevailing by a nose as he held on grimly to defeat the fast-finishing 11/4 second fancy Barkers Hall to end a losing sequence of 16. Preordained, driven by Morgan Woodley for Northam trainer Glenn Elliott, was beaten out by 25/1 chance Nuclear Bunny from barrier three. However, Nuclear Bunny was unable to cross to the pegs and Preordained, after a slick first quarter in 29.7sec., coasted through the next 400m in a leisurely 31.5sec. before final quarters of 28.8sec. and 28.9sec. Woodley dashed Preordained away after rounding the home turn, but the Parsons Den gelding had to fight grimly to keep Barkers Hall at bay. "He put the writing on the wall at Northam last week when he whizzed forward from an outside gate, got to the lead and hung in really good (when second to Fully Zapped)," Woodley said. "And on paper this looked like his race from barrier one over a mile on a predominately leader-biased track. Everything looked in his favour. "But it was a lot closer than I would have liked on the line. He got away with easy sectionals and I thought he would have had a fairly good kick left in the straight. But when I went for him there wasn't quite as much there as I thought I might have had. "I was definitely worried when Barkers Hall came at him. Preordained was a short-priced favourite and I probably could have made the decision just to keep sitting against the horse and keep Barkers Hall in a pocket a lot longer than I did. When I made the decision to kick I thought I had plenty in reserve. But then there were certainly nervous moments for me." Preordained has raced 59 times for eight wins, 14 placings and $50,703. IT'S JUST A STROLL IN THE PARK FOR MISTER JADORE It certainly looked a one-sided affair when Mister Jadore lined up against four moderate rivals in the $21,000 MMJ Commercial Leasing Sales Classic for three-year-old colts and geldings at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Mister Jadore was the State's star two-year-old in the 2012-13 season and went into the race as the winner of seven races and $168,129, with the combined earnings of his rivals being a mere $28,514 from a total of four wins. Starting at 10/1 on, Mister Jadore made it a one-act affair as Chris Lewis drove him to an effortless all-the-way victory, rating 1.58.4 after sprinting over the final quarter in 28.7sec. He crossed the line 19m ahead of the 9/1 second fancy Apache Cruiser, who trailed him throughout. Mister Jadore, trained by Annie Belton and raced by her and her husband Colin, boosted his prizemoney to $181,989 from eight wins and nine placings from 20 starts. "He has run a nice time, which he needs to at this time of the year," said Lewis. "It has taken him a little bit of time to get back to his best and he's now bringing his times down." by Ken Casellas