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One of the things you notice these days when looking at harness racing in New Zealand is no matter what area of the country you are viewing, you are liable to be watching a Merv and Meg Butterworth owned horse racing at some stage of the day. From Alexandra Park in Auckland all the way down to Ascot Park in Invercargill, the Butterworth empire will have a representative at most meetings these days. Their investment and involvement in the harness racing  industry in New Zealand is huge and shows no signs of slowing down or tapering off. With the Butterworths buying so many high class fillies and mares, I suppose it was only a matter of time before they came full circle and started to offer progeny from some of those quality mares they have raced at the yearling sales. This year at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka on February 22nd, the Butterworths will offer Lot 74 for sale. Named Quick As Fire, he is a colt by the champion sire Bettor's Delight from the very smart Courage Under Fire mare in Queen Of Fire 1:57.1 ($176,809) She won 17 races in Australia and ran second in an Australasian Breeders Crown Final to the champion mare Make Mine Cullen 1:53 ($874,178) and was only beaten half a head in the Australian Oaks so she was a high class racemare. There are plenty of smart $100,000 winners close up in the pedigree but most would be unknown to New Zealand buyers however one horse who wouldn't be is the champion pacer Safari 1:55.7 ($535,446) who has been given a chance as a sire in Australia and is doing a passable job to date. When you look at the photos and the video of Quick As Fire, you can see there is a bit of Courage Under Fire in this colt which is a big plus in our book. The exciting thing down the line for yearling sales buyers is that potentially some of the outstanding racemares and fillies that the Butterworths own will having progeny in the sales in years to come. Golden Goddess cost Merv and Meg $101,000 at the APG yearling sales due to an outstanding pedigree. Now that she has shown she has the ability to go with the breeding, her residual value when she is retired to stud will be huge. If progeny from racemares like Golden Goddess find their way into the New Zealand Yearling Sales in years to come, it will be just another boost that Merv and Meg Butterworth have given the New Zealand harness racing industry. Harnesslink Media  

For decades Auckland’s Alexandra Park has held its ‘Friday Night Trots’ under lights, hosting over 48 race meetings and 480 races a year. Now the Auckland Trotting Club is on a renewed push to get more Aucklanders along to enjoy harness racing in the central suburb of Epsom - a feature since 1890. “Many of our first-time guests are blown away by the total entertainment offering. I think they expect a carton of chips and a can of beer. However we take them to the likes of our ‘Top of the Park’ function room, glassed in looking right down on our beautifully lit track and they absolutely love it,” says Alexandra Park chief executive Dominique Dowding. “Anyone can get really close to the action and another important thing to us is we cater for everyone. Whether you’re wanting a lovely buffet meal upstairs or just a more causal racing experience down on the rail outside, it all makes for a really unique experience.” Ms Dowding says the trots have been a Friday night institution in Auckland since the 1950s, with the club well aware the heyday has been, but is equally determined to ensure future generations can also enjoy them. Key to the continuation of harness racing in central Auckland is the Auckland Trotting Club’s long-term business plan which is all about getting a greater financial return off its valuable land holdings on the corner of Green Lane West and Manukau Road. Two examples include a whole new mixed-use residential urban village being built in part of the club’s former carpark and the just constructed training base for The Blues Super 15 rugby team at Alexandra Park.  “Our strategy is all about building a sustainable business model. That is the only way we can grow harness racing for our industry and our members. As well as preserving Alexandra Park, we’re actually leading the rebuild of the sport in the northern region by trying to reduce the costs and attract young breeders, trainers and drivers.” In 2014 Alexandra Park merged with the Franklin Trotting Club which has led to a rapid increase in the number of horses now using the Pukekohe training facilities. Last month the club employed a new Sales & Marketing Manager, Joel Reichardt, who was previously a senior brand manager at Frucor Beverages. Ms Dowding says part of his brief is to work on lifting harness racing’s image which she describes as not overly glamorous, attract new commercial partners, and remind potential sponsors of the huge racing television audience the sport attracts. She says another challenge is to get more corporates to attend on Friday nights by promoting horse syndication, where shares can be taken in a horse. Offices could then effectively race each other all in the name of team building.  “We remain completely realistic about our ability to attract a whole new audience, and at the same time we’re acutely aware not to alienate our existing attendees who remain our bread and butter. We need to keep changing but in a membership-based organisation we also need to take everyone with us.” Annual membership of Auckland Trotting Club can start from just $124 and offers members considerable benefits.  “We appreciate all the entertainment choices out there these days, but I suppose we’re really wanting people to once again consider the Friday Night Trots as an option like their parents or grandparents may have.” “Going out can cost families or couples so much but we try to make Friday nights as accessible as possible with free parking, a free race book on arrival and free entertainment. What we do know is when new people come, they return. Experiencing the thrill of racing at an intimate venue like Alexandra Park is a really fun night out,” says Ms Dowding. Forty races alone will be run in February over four race meetings – one every Friday night. Then next month The Winger Group presents an exciting Oaks & Derby Festival from 4 – 11 March showcasing fashion, a calendar of events, premier racing, with an array of hospitality packages available. For further information visit: www.alexandrapark.co.nz  

There have been times in the last twelve months when leading harness racing trainer Robert Dunn has began to wonder if the smart three three year old Alta Las Vegas is cursed with bad luck. The son of Bettor's Delight has always looked an elite level racehorse from the time he ran a close second in last seasons Sapling Stakes to Chase The Dream but a series of setbacks have stopped the talented three year old from building the race record that he is so obviously capable of. Robert is hoping the bad luck is now firmly behind him. " We just about lost him as a two year old." " John had to rush him to the vets in the middle of the night when he became really ill."  " We never really got to the bottom of what the problem was but it completely curtailed his two year old season." " This season he was building nicely heading into the Auckland Christmas carnival when he slipped coming off the float and struck himself." "It needed quite a few stitches and meant he missed the $200,000 yearling sale pace so his luck has been all bad todate,"  Robert told Harnesslink this morning. Given time to get over his latest setback, Alta Las Vegas impressed trackwatchers at the Franklin workouts last Saturday, cutting out the 2050 metres event in a 2:01 mile rate with closing sectionals of 56 and 27 and still looked to have more to offer. " He went super at the workouts last weekend and has improved off that so I think he will be very hard to beat tonight at Alexandra Park." " The only query I have is there is a bit of virus going around Pukekohe and I have had to scratch a couple but he has had the okay from the vet so we should be fine," Robert said. Safely through tonight, Robert has some big plans for Alta Las Vegas. "We have always thought that he was good enough to beat the best ones around so  we have an ambitious program mapped out for him." " There is a $30,000 race for him at the end of the month at Alexandra Park and then we are targeting the Northern Derby, New Zealand Derby, and the Harness Jewels so we are hoping his bad luck is behind him and we get to see the real Alta Las Vegas, " Robert said. Robert in our experience is never one to build up a horse unless he deserves it so Alta Las Vegas is a horse to keep safe in all the big three year old classics coming up Harnesslink Media

Alexandra Park’s on-site showroom and display apartment has had a busy few weeks since reopening after the Christmas and New Year break with chief executive of Alexandra Park, Dominique Dowding, now confirming $140m in unconditional sales of its high-end apartments with the first of the tower cranes now in place. The 246 apartments will sit above a new 32,000sqm urban village which is now under construction and is set to open from mid next year in the Auckland Trotting Club’s former Green Lane West car-park. About 750 residents will live in the one, two and three bedroom apartments which range in size from 67sqm to 216sqm and are priced between $585,000 and $2million. The development’s terraced houses with rooftop gardens range in size from 166sqm to 205sqm. While the penthouses, between 288sqm and 489sqm, come with expansive Auckland views and just three remain for sale. With the urban village set to open mid-2017, progress on leasing 5,000sqm split into 19 ground-floor commercial spaces beneath three apartment buildings is progressing well with a unique FreshChoice grocer concept already confirmed. Negotiations are being firmed up with some of the country’s best known and most respected hospitality operators. Ms Dowding says over 75 percent of the apartments in stage one had sold and about 30 percent in stage two which includes 44 luxury apartments just released in ‘Sightline Green’ “Our showroom’s been open less than a year and interest has been really strong from day one, with literally thousands of people through it. A lot of the early success we put down to the quality product we’re offering and the supreme location.” Ms Dowding says the apartments ‘freehold title’ status is adding to their appeal, as are low interest rates. “The fact that they’re elegant, spacious, beautifully designed, well-constructed, as well as in the double grammar school zone makes them a very good investment. What’s more almost all of our buyers so far will be owner-occupiers with most of them already living within five kilometres of Alexandra Park. “People can see we’re building a quality urban village which adds to the ambiance of a local, strong close-knit community. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on ensuring the project showcases leading Auckland architecture and world-class urban design. We’re getting a lot of empty-nesters buying – people who want to stay in the wider Epsom area but want to downsize and be able to lock-up and leave with little worry,” says Ms Dowding. Long-time Auckland owned and operated firm Canam Construction is charged with building the urban village, with significant earthworks carried out in recent months. In fact Canam has removed approximately 30,000m3 of dirt and about 2,500m3 of basalt rock. However Canam’s Managing Director, Loukas Petrou, says their environmental practices will ensure this project has a lighter carbon footprint. “With the removal of the rock, we’ve been crushing it on site so it can be used as backfill behind retaining walls and under the basement slabs. This only adds to the focus Alexandra Park has placed on environmental sustainability for the whole project,” he says. Mr Petrou says the construction is progressing well with Canam’s latest work focused on establishing the foundations and underground basements. He acknowledges with volcanic rock beneath it is always challenging. “Given the complexity and unpredictability of the basalt flows there has been a lot of complex work associated with the foundations and the lower basement levels.   “We’ve had to construct two large underground basement car parks but once we are out of the ground the public will soon see the structures rising up on Green Lane West. The buildings will then be constructed reasonably quickly led by two big tower cranes,” says Mr Petrou. Ms Dowding says Alexandra Park expects to break $155m sales in the coming weeks, helped by the fact that people can now literally see a whole new village being constructed before their very eyes. The on-site apartment display suite is open from 12pm to 4pm daily or by appointment by calling 0800-275-484 or visiting www.apliving.co.nz For further information contact Dominique Dowding: (021) 377-303 or (09) 630-9700.

With just a week to go before the time honoured Sapling Stakes is run at Ashburton Raceway a two year old race has at last got off the ground in Canterbury. Seven runners will go round in the 1950 metres mobile event at Addington Raceway tonight but on exposed form at trials and workouts there are really only four live chances. As per normal, the All Star barn has the two leading chances involved in More The Better and Pacing Major. More The Better put in a huge performance on debut at Alexandra Park to only just go under by half a head to the dual race winner Alta Intrigue but that was back in mid December so his race fitness is a slight query. Pacing Major was just as impressive on debut at Alexandra Park, also going under by only half a head after they dashed home off the front in a blistering 26.2. With a run at the races under their belt, these two have a distinct advantage experience wise over most here. Tim Williams found it hard to separate the two colts leading into tonights race. "More The Better has had longer away from the races than Pacing Major and I guess there will be interest in which is the better prospect." "I guess More the Better was my choice in some ways but there is not much between them and it was just I had worked with him a bit more while Natalie has handled Pacing Major." "I would have to say More The Better would probably be better judged next week (Sapling Stakes)." "That is the race that will tell us exactly where he is at." "But I don't think there is anything in it just that Pacing Major has had a race more recently," Tim said. Cran Dalgety has a debutante in the son of Somebeachsomewhere in Shineonyoucrazydiamond who has looked very promising at trials recently. An $80,000 purchase at the Australian Pacing Gold Sale, he has looked a quick improver and with a handy draw and Dexter in the bike he appeals as the logical horse to make up the trifecta. The other interesting runner is the Paul Court trained son of Mach Three in Mongolian Hero who raced very greenly on debut at Alexandra Park but really impressed at workouts at Motukarara on his return south, brushing home in a sharp 27.7 when winning last Saturday. So an All Star quinella again looks on the cards with the Dalgety and Court runners the obvious dangers to the favoured duo. Harnesslink Media

Pukekohe harness racing trainer Ray Green is having a year to remember with his juveniles with three of his barn having designs on the Young Gun Series Final in early March. Vasari 1:56.4, a son of Art Major has impressed all season while his Mach Three stablemate Alta Intrigue 1:56.6 with two wins from three starts has looked the equal of any two year old racing in the country. The third of Ray's team eying up a Young Guns final appearance is Spring Campaign and the son of Courage Under Fire has done enough to date to suggest he will be a major player on March 11th. Spring Campaign was a gutsy second on debut, running second to stablemate Alta Intrigue off a 55.9 last 800 metres but a couple of minor issues have kept him from the track since. However tomorrow night Spring Campaign steps out for his second start at the races in the last at Alexandra Park but it is not against his fellow two year olds. " The two old race never got off the ground but he needs a run so we are taking on the older horses." " It is not ideal but you need to keep ticking them over with a view to having them ready for the final so your hands are tied a bit, "Ray told Harnesslink this afternoon. Spring Campaign is also going through a bit of a growth spurt at the same time which has Ray not rushing things at this point. " We will know a lot more after the race tomorrow night but he is going through a growth spurt at the moment which he seems to be coping really well with." " His work has been super leading into tomorrow night and he really should be winning the race," Ray said. Ray is facing the same problem with Vasari and Alta Intrigue as he has with Spring Campaign in that finding suitable races to keep them ticking over is not easy. " Alta Intrigue is classed as a C2 horse by the handicapping system which means I have to race older horses to get a run which is crazy." " Vasari is classed as a C1 so he is not much better off and both of them are disadvantaged in where they can start." "I am not going to line them up against the C1 and C2 pacers as it would be too hard on a two year old with all the big races still to come," Ray said. Ray has put together a great record over the years with his juveniles but in this years trio, he really looks to have horse power to take out the Young Guns Final. Harnesslink Media

When you look back on the history of big priced harness racing yearling sales purchases turning out as good as the price they brought at the sales, there are more than a few that fell well short. However one of last years star yearlings is giving every indication that she was worth every dollar paid. At last years Australasian Classic Yearling sale at Karaka, Lot 133 was one of the most sought after yearlings at any sale in Australasia. A daughter of the champion sire Bettor's Delight, the filly was the first foal from the very smart Christian Cullen mare Temepara Cullen 1:56.1($40,141) who is a full sister to the brilliant Stunin Cullen 1:54.1 ($1,493,716) so as pedigrees go, it just doesn't get any better.   Named Kharizma on sale day, the filly was an outstanding individual and had all the big players from both sides of the Tasman chasing her.   When the dust had settled, big spending Australians Emilio and Mary Rosati had shelled out a huge $165,000 for the very masculine looking filly.   Leaving her in New Zealand with Tony Herlihy, the filly was renamed Strawberry Stride and has shown more than enough at trials in the north to suggest she will make a winning debut in the two year old fillies race at Alexandra Park on Friday night.   Last Saturday at the Franklin trials she turned in an outstanding performance to qualify nearly eight seconds under qualifying time in a 2:01.3 mile rate for the 2050 metres with the last half in a sharp 58 seconds.   From barrier one, Strawberry Stride looks to have a mortgage on the race as she starts to repay her large purchase price.   One couple who will be smiling at the progress of Strawberry Stride will be long time sales vendors Sandy and Jan Yarndley who are offering a half brother to her at this years Australasian Classic Yearling sale at Karaka on February 22nd.   Named Magical Mover and selling as Lot 98, the son of Rocknroll Hanover is sure to evoke a similar reaction from buyers as his half sister did, especially given how promising she looks.   To view the Australasian Classic Yearling sale catalogue click here.   Harnesslink Media  

Alexandra Park (Auckland's home of harness racing) has already exceeded $120 million in unconditional sales of high-end apartments in its ambitious urban village project set to open from mid next year. What’s more since opening on-site last year, the stunning showroom and life-sized display apartment has welcomed thousands of people through. “It has been a crazy nine months and the interest has certainly exceeded our expectations. Most of the apartments in stage one are sold. Stage two of the development, which includes Sightline Green and High Street, is now also selling really well,” says chief executive of Alexandra Park, Dominique Dowding. Topping off a successful 2015, and its 125th anniversary year, saw Auckland Trotting Club win a key Westpac business award late last year. Unusual for a membership-based organisation, the club won the ‘Excellence in Strategy & Planning’ category at the Westpac Auckland Business Awards 2015 – Central. The award reflected the Auckland Trotting Club’s huge success in securing a stronger and more sustainable financial future which includes the urban village redevelopment on part of its former Green Lane West car-park, and the construction of The Blues new rugby base set to open soon. Long-time Auckland owned and operated firm Canam Construction is charged with building both projects, with significant earthworks underway in recent months for the apartment buildings and construction imminent. Below the designer-apartments will include boutique retail, cafes and restaurants with the club progressing well with its prime ground floor leases. A new grocery concept for Auckland described by Ms Dowding as “a fusion of a delicatessen, café, and a fresh foods market” was recently confirmed. Wholesale Distributors Ltd announced that a unique FreshChoice supermarket will be open in Alexandra Park from mid-2017 – set to deliver world-class products as well as exemplary service.  “We’ve put a huge emphasis on quality from day one. This is not just any old apartment development. This is going to be a whole new urban village and community for Auckland. It will give Epsom a much needed heart and in fact its very own High Street no less!” As well as insisting on first-class retailers and hospitality operators, Alexandra Park has appointed Auckland’s award-winning architectural firm RTA Studio which is working in conjunction with Sydney-based architects Daryl Jackson Robin Dyke. It has also engaged Canadian expert Joe Hruda of Civitas Urban Design & Planning to deliver a world-class overall environment for the urban village which will include attractive promenades and public spaces and the promotion of alfresco dining. “By delivering a high-end product our buyer statistics show we’re largely attracting the likes of baby-boomers and cashed-up empty nesters who want to stay in the central suburbs of Auckland in a liveable, attractive, self-sustaining and safe community.” Ms Dowding says the apartments ‘freehold title’ status is adding to their appeal, as are low interest rates. “The fact that they’re elegant, spacious, beautifully designed, well-constructed, as well as in the double grammar school zone makes them a very good investment. Although almost all of our buyers so far will be owner-occupiers.” She says only three penthouses remain for sale. Alexandra Park is looking forward to another successful year which will see its urban village rise out of the ground. 2016 will also see other exciting ground-floor lease announcements with a total of over 5,500sqm of ground-floor space split beneath three apartment building set to be activated from mid-2017 when the first Alexandra Park residents start moving in. “Over the coming months and next couple of years Aucklanders will witness one of the biggest urban redevelopment and brownfields transformations in the city. “How Aucklanders view Alexandra Park will change completely. No longer will it be just the place for Friday Night Trots or a conference. Instead Alexandra Park will truly be a destination for Auckland shoppers and restaurant and café lovers alike. We can’t wait,” says Ms Dowding. Alexandra Park’s on-site display apartment is open from 12pm to 4pm daily or by appointment by calling the Colliers team on 0800-275-484 or visiting www.apliving.co.nz Watch the latest two-minute CGI video of Alexandra Park’s urban village. Cameron Brewer  

Players of Super 15 rugby franchise The Blues will be at Alexandra Park this coming Friday evening - 22 January - to meet fans, sign autographs, pose for selfies, and even be around your dinner table! Their appearance is the first celebration to mark the imminent move of their training facilities to Alexandra Park – which will include a high performance training and administration centre near Campbell Crescent and the development of a practice field in the middle of the track. Alexandra Park chief executive Dominique Dowding is delighted that Auckland’s home to harness racing is also set to be the long-term training base for the popular Blues rugby team. “Having The Blues’ training base at Alexandra Park is another really exciting development for the Auckland Trotting Club. Their move will only help to sustain and grow harness racing in this wonderful and unique central Auckland location. What’s more rugby and racing has always been a pretty good mix and this new sporting relationship comes with plenty of win-wins,” says Ms Dowding. At this coming Friday Night Trots, from 5.30pm to 6.15pm Blues players will be trackside available for autographs, selfies, and they’ll even be giving away some Blues merchandise. There is no entry charge into Alexandra Park and car-parking is also free, so it’s being promoted as a great free experience for families this school holidays. For more details go to www.alexandrapark.co.nz Ms Dowding says an alternative to hanging out with The Blues trackside, is the opportunity for people to book and enjoy a delicious all-you-can eat buffet with a couple of Blues players sharing your table. She says at $60 per person, the evening dining experience is very reasonable given the unique close-up opportunity it provides fans to chat about rugby while enjoying some exciting racing action with a plentiful buffet on hand. During the dinner MC Kieron McAnulty will be giving away some amazing spot prizes including tickets to this season’s games, Blues' jerseys, and an Alexandra Park ‘Top of the Park’ voucher for four people, plus lots more. The MC will also host a fun Q & A session with some of the Blues to tell fans what they have in store for the new season. For more information on the evening with The Blues or for dinner bookings contact Taryn Sumner at Alexandra Park on (09) 631-1176 or taryn.sumner@alexandrapark.co.nz “We’re so excited about The Blues making Alexandra Park their training base. Friday will be the perfect way to not only kick off this new sporting relationship and celebrate the start of The Blues’ season, but also to just enjoy a fun night of rugby and racing,” says Ms Dowding. Cameron Brewer

Harness racing driver Tim Williams will be still shaking his head in disbelief tomorrow morning. A week ago he was going to be sitting on the sidelines today at Alexandra Park as his favourite horse Have Faith In Me did battle in the Auckland Cup. However Tim was successful in having the penalty reduced to a fine on appeal and he has certainly made the most of the opportunity he was given. A great drive on Piccadilly Princess got her home second in the $150,000 3 Year Old Fillies Sires Stakes Final and he then capped the day with an inch perfect drive to claim the $250,000 Group 1 Trillium Trust Auckland Cup with Have Faith In Me. The big question on everybodys mind pre race was would Have Faith In Me step from the standing start after missing away in his three previous attempts. You wouldn't say he made a quick beginning but he did go away,settling second last. There he stayed until 2000 metres from home when he looped the field to sit parked at the 1400 metres mark. Not long after he received cover from Tiger Tara and nothing much changed until nearing the home turn. Tim half came out for a short distance before going back in. On the bend he eased the four-year-old gelding by Bettor's Delight out three wide again and started to hunt down Hughie Green in front. Slowly but surely he got the upper hand but the margin was only half a neck at the line which was a testament to the fight Hughie Green put up. Just about in line with them was the old campaigner Smolda who was half a head away in third. The race was a tactical affair with the last half off the front taking 55.7 and the 400 metres a smart 26.6 which gave those back in the field little chance. The win was Have Faith In Me's fifth Group One success and his tenth victory at just his eighteenth start and took his earnings over the $710,000 mark. Tim Williams was quite emotional on returning to the winning circle. "Thats just unbelievable." "A week ago I was going to be on the sidelines but with help from Rob Lawson my appeal was successful." "I can't thank Rob enough." "Like everyone else i didn't know if he would step or not and I would have been lying if I said otherwise." "However if you do catch him on the right foot, he will step away as he did tonight." "I wasn't confident of pulling in Hughie Green in the straight as he is a terribly hard horse to get past but he really knuckled down to it the last bit." "This is a dream come true and I can't thank Mark and Natalie for having the faith in me to put me back on after I won the appeal," said Tim. It now appears that Have Faith In Me will be headed to Sydney to show the Australians what all the fuss is about. Harnesslink Media

Lazarus is one of those all round racehorses that has plenty of weapons in his arsenal. He has speed to burn but can rough it as well so it gives his regular harness racing driver Mark Purdon so many options in his races. Today at Alexandra Park in the $200,000 PGG Yearling Sales 3 Year old final, Mark flew the gate early with Lazarus from barrier five to grab the early lead before handing up to his stablemate Chase The Dream with Natalie Rasmussen in the bike. Shandale worked to the death from his wide second line draw but he applied no pressure to Chase The Dream who got away with some quiet mid race sectionals which took a lot of the runners back in the field out of play. Natalie upped the ante from the 600 metres and applied the after burners passing the 400 metres mark. Lazarus was hard on Chase The Dreams back as they turned for home but it took him most of the straight to claim his stablemate close to home. Chase The Dream was gallant in defeat with Art Form grabbing third from Shandale after being three back on the inner the whole race. Lazarus paced the 2200 metres in 2:41.4, a mile rate of 1:58 with closing sectionals of 55.6 and the last 400 in a sensational 25.9 Todays win was the tenth for Lazarus at just his twelfth lifetime start and took his earnings just shy of $490,000. Mark Purdon was full of praise for the son of Bettor's Delight. " He is such a great little horse." " He has great manners and is so tractable which means he gives you a lot of options in his races. " He was just cruising today and felt like he could have gone a lot quicker." " He had to really knuckle down in the straight but he won it easily in the finish." " I think you would have to say that he is better that Chase The Dream this season,"  Mark said. Mark and Natalie have already mapped out a programme for Lazarus with his next main mission the Victorian Derby in which he will give the Australian horses plenty to think about. Harnesslink Media

For the last eighteen months, Stent has ruled the Australasian trotting scene but in the last two months he has lost his crown to a young harness racing four-year- old called Monbet. The son of Love You has thrilled crowds at both Addington and Alexandra Park with displays of raw speed seldom seen in a trotter in this part of the world. Today he added a staying componet to his reportire as he again put the best trotters in New Zealand to the sword in the $80,000 National FFA Trot. Ducking a couple of galloping horses early from his second line draw, Monbet settled in the one by one running line early before driver Ricky May set him alight at the 1400 metres mark to burst forward and grab the lead off Stent.  Attacked a couple of times during the last round, Monbet simply ran away and hid when Ricky asked him for an effort on the corner. Monbet won easing down by 2 3/4 lengths with Ricky hardly moving in the bike. Speeding Spur got home well from three back on the inner to grab second in front of a game One Over Da Moon with Stent a disappointing fourth. A minor highlight of the race was the performance of Prince Fearless who after galloping wildly early and settling a long way from them, was three wide for most of the last lap and stuck on well for a great fifth. It was win number thirteen for Monbet's at just his twenty third start and took his earnings over the $270,000 mark. Monbet  trotted the 2700 metres in 3:22.9, a mile rate of 2:00.9 with closing sectionals of 56.6 and 27.5. Ricky May was all smiles when he came back to the winners circle. " He did that really easy to be honest." " He is really so much more settled this season. " Those couple of breakers around him early didn't affect him at all." " Once he got to the front, I was really confident they wouldn't beat him." " He is clearly the top trotter in New Zealand at the moment," Ricky said. Trained by Greg and Nina Hope, Australians will get to see Monbet later in the season when travels with Mossdale Conner to Victoria Harnesslink Media 

Some times in harness racing it is hard to do justice in words with what you have just witnessed on the racetrack. So it was today with regards to the run of Golden Goddess in the Alabar three-year-old filly $150,000 Group 1 Sires Stakes Final at Alexandra Park. The daughter of Art Major produced a run that will long live in this writers memory as she did nothing right during the running, was wide for a good part of the journey and yet still won in New Zealand Record time. It was a freakish performance that should send a scare through all the owners of three year old fillies in Australasia. From two the second line, she put in a rough step early when trying to hold Killer Queens back and then over raced a touch when shuffled back beyond midfield by the three wide train. Once on to the three wide train, she followed her stablemate Piccadilly Princess around and found the death outside Killer Queen with just over a lap to go. These two went to war down the back before Golden Goddess went to the lead as they straightened for home. Lurking on her back was Piccadilly Princess who looked to be travelling but Golden Goddess was not to be denied and held on for a brilliant victory. Golden Goddess paced the 2200 metres in 2:36.9, a mile rate of 1:54.8 with closing sectionals of 56.2 and 27.1 Driver Natalie Rasmussen was suitably impressed post race. " She is a lovely filly and I am thrilled to bits with her." " As you could see she is still very green." " She put in some rough steps and over raced early on but she still won." " I was a bit worried about Piccadilly Princess on my back on the corner but she is such a genuine filly I knew they would have trouble getting past her," Natalie said. Now the winner of seven of her eight starts, the All-Stars trained Golden Goddess is quickly becoming the pin up girl of New Zealand harness racing.  Harnesslink Media

The first race for the Auckland Trotting Club's premier race meeting kicks off today, with the day promising to deliver the country's best harness racing, good weather, and a big crowd to top off a successful 125th anniversary year for Alexandra Park. “This is set to be an action-packed afternoon and evening. There’s a lot of excitement building that the prestigious Auckland Cup will be up for grabs for the second time in 2015 – which is unique in itself,” says Alexandra Park chief executive Dominique Dowding. A few months ago the New Zealand Racing Board together with the Auckland Trotting Club announced that Alexandra Park will host the Trillian Trust Auckland Cup on New Year’s Eve - returning after 10 years to its traditional date of 31 December from the first week of March. “The combination of New Zealand’s best horses and drivers, superb racing, plenty of hospitality, family fun, and fashion will make for a very special occasion. What’s more, entry to the park, live music and entertainment are free for the public to enjoy with the after party continuing late to celebrate New Year’s Eve,” says Ms Dowding. As Auckland harness racing’s biggest race of the season, the $250,000 Auckland Trotting Cup, at 7.08pm, is known as the race of champions. In the past it has been won by true sporting greats like Cardigan Bay, Young Quinn, Christian Cullen, Elsu and Themightyquinn. Racing media personality Michael Guerin says the move back to a December 31 Auckland Cup has already been a huge success as the field looks sensational. "It has the two real young guns of pacing in Have Faith In Me and Hughie Green up against the more established stars and with some of the huge names in the support races. It is set to be one of the best race days you could go to anywhere in New Zealand all year,” says Mr Guerin. Ms Dowding says Alexandra Park will have something for everyone from the glitz of fine dining through to the more casual racing experience. “With the promise of great racing and all the excitement around the Auckland Cup being back on New Year’s Eve, it is set to be a huge meeting,” she says. View the fields here: http://www.alexandrapark.co.nz/racing/ For further information contact: Alexandra Park CEO Dominique Dowding (021) 377-303

Everything old is new again. That’s one way of looking at the Gr.1 harness racing $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park because what worked for over 100 years is suddenly back in vogue. The North Island feature was first run back in 1890 when Commodore proved successful in the three mile feature, in fact, 6 of the first 7 editions were staged over the 4800m distance before it was settled on the 3200m distance for the Cup. But since 2007, the Auckland Cup, one of the oldest feature events on the harness racing calendar, made a dramatic switch and veered away from its traditional 3200m stand start format on New Year’s eve and went on a completely different path. The timeslot was March and suddenly we had a 2700m mobile start event. Ultimately, the winners of the ‘new’ Auckland Cup were great ones like Flashing Red, Monkey King, Auckland Reactor, Terror To Love, Im Themightyquinn, Sir Lincoln and Gotta Go Cullen. Those mighty pacers join an honour roll that boasts the likes of Man O’War, Nelson Derby, Indianapolis, Captain Sandy, Caduceus, Cardigan Bay, Robin Dundee, Stella Frost, Young Quinn, Delightful Lady, Gammalite, Armalight, Luxury Liner, Christopher Vance, Master Musician, Chokin, Christian Cullen, Holmes DG and Elsu among many other great names. And who can forget the most recent edition of the Cup (March) when modern day superstar pacers Christen Me and Adore Me staged an epic battle in front of an adoring crowd. Christen Me prevailed but the race itself was the biggest winner. Unfortunately, neither pacer will contest the Cup again this year with Christen Me battling health issues while Adore Me is retired and safely in foal after suffering a fractured sesamoid bone when a beaten nose by her close relation. Now, we turn back to the future. The 2015/16 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit season enters its 4th leg with the Auckland Cup set to be staged this Thursday in the twilight timeslot, a two mile stand start contest that has drawn together an outstanding field. It’s the second running of the Auckland Cup in a calendar year. And the momentum shift in the make-up of the field is quite extraordinary with only two runners from the March edition lining up again. Classy performers Smolda and Ohoka Punter are back for another shot at the Cup but both have demons to conquer with Smolda needing to produce his best at the clockwise direction while Ohoka Punter needs to produce his best at the two mile distance. Both have brilliant horsemen behind them in Mark Purdon and Tony Herlihy respectively. Representing the new generation of stars in the Cup are 4yo performers Have Faith In Me, Hughie Green and Itz Bettor To Win. The gifted trio all boast outstanding credentials but all need to take it up a gear and prove they can mix it with big boppers, again, all have brilliant horsemen sitting behind them. The depth in the 5yo ranks is obvious with the likes of Tiger Tara, Te Kawau, No Doctor Needed and Ideal Success all taking their spots and looking legitimate threats while the ‘older’ brigade consists of Mossdale Conner, Franco Nelson, Besotted and Bettor Dream. While there is no Australian trained representative’s in the Cup, many of the Kiwi stars contesting the feature are expected to cross the Tasman this season to chase further glory. It’s a fascinating field that should have fans and officials thrilled because so many questions will be answered and with the return to the old format there is no place to hide. The Trillian Trust Auckland Cup will be run at 7.08pm local time. Another highlight at this meeting includes the clash of the young fresh faced but richly talented trotters Speeding Spur and Monbet taking on established performer Stent in the Gr.1 $80,000 National Trot which will be staged at 2700m under mobile conditions. by Chris Barsby

After 10 years the Auckland Cup is once again up for grabs at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve, with 31 December promising to deliver the country’s best harness racing and a big crowd. The premier race meeting will kick off from around 3pm on Thursday and will top off a successful 125th anniversary year for the Auckland Trotting Club. Together with the New Zealand Racing Board, the club announced a few months ago that Alexandra Park will host the Trillian Trust Auckland Cup on New Year’s Eve - returning after 10 years to its traditional date of 31 December from the first week of March. “This is set to be an action-packed afternoon and evening. There’s a lot of excitement building that the prestigious Auckland Cup will be up for grabs for the second time in 2015 – which is unique in itself,” says Alexandra Park chief executive Dominique Dowding. As Auckland harness racing’s biggest race of the season, the $200,000 Auckland Trotting Cup is known as the race of champions. In the past it has been won by true sporting greats like Cardigan Bay, Young Quinn, Christian Cullen, Elsu and Themightyquinn. “The combination of New Zealand’s best horses and drivers, superb racing, plenty of hospitality, family fun, and fashion will make for a very special occasion. What’s more, entry to the park, live music and entertainment are free for the public to enjoy with the after party continuing late in the Alex Bar and Eatery,” says Ms Dowding. Racing media personality Michael Guerin says it’s great the prestigious Auckland Cup has returned to New Year’s Eve with Thursday promising to showcase the best in New Zealand harness racing and be a great event for Auckland all round. "The move back to a December 31 Auckland Cup has already been a huge success because the field looks sensational. "It has the two real young guns of pacing in Have Faith In Me and Hughie Green up against the more established stars and with some of the huge names in the support races. “It is shaping up to be one of the best race days you could go to anywhere in New Zealand all year. And of course, the party will continue after the last race and into the New Year,” says Mr Guerin. “Alexandra Park will have something for everyone from the glitz of fine dining through to the more casual racing experience. The intimate nature of the venue always adds to the atmosphere, and with the promise of great racing and all the excitement around the Auckland Cup being back on New Year’s Eve, it’s set to be a huge meeting,” says Ms Dowding. To see the full fields click on this link.  

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