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Last nights $100,000 Anzac Trotters Cup at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park looked to be another easy scalp for Stent after he drew barrier five which gave his trainer/driver Colin De Filippi a lot of options. The distance was right up Stent's alley and the way the draws had played out it was hard to see who would beat him. Master Lavros led easily from barrier four with King Denny and Mark Purdon sliding across from barrier seven to face the breeze and in doing so giving Stent the prized one by one sit. Then Mark Purdon did something that no one expected and attacked Master Lavros for the lead. The two star trotters drew clear by several lengths before Mark Jones on Master Lavros conceded the lead to King Denny. That move changed the whole complexion of the race with Stent now having to sit parked with his arch rival Sheemon hard on his back in the one by one. King Denny applied the pressure a long way from home and was still travelling well as they turned for home. Stent leveled up to King Denny just after straightening for home but Dexter Dunn on Sheemon had stalked him the whole way and flew late to grab Stent right on the post with the winning margin a mere head. Master Lavros finished on well up the passing lane to grab third just in front of the pace making King Denny. Sheemon trotted the 2200 metres in 2:42.4, a mile rate of 1:58.8, with closing sectionals of 56.9 and 28.5. The winning time was a new New Zealand record, taking sixth tenths of a second off the old record held by Royal Aspirations. Dexter Dunn was quick post race to heap praise on the son of Monarchy. " We did get a great trip but he still really dug in up the straight" " I think it was his will to win that got us over the line because it is never easy to run past Stent." " He has gone great all season and won a heat of the Great Southern Star and then had no luck in the final so he deserves a win like this." "The two miles of the Rowe Cup next week won't worry him because he is pretty adaptable so he has to be a big chance," Dexter said. From a Rowe Cup point of view the race last night did throw some light on what should be one of the races of the season. Stent was huge last night in defeat but so were Master Lavros and King Denny. Master Lavros lost a bit of ground around the last bend but found the line really well and the 3200 metres is right up his alley while the run of King Denny to finish so close after doing so much work early was a real sign that he can be a player at this level Harnesslink Media  

The big four year old feature the $100,000 Taylor Mile at tonights harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park was wide open after the barrier draw and trying to pick a winner was really hard. When the gate left, Maurice McKendry shot the son of Bettor's Delight Mossdale Conner to an early lead and applied the blowtorch right from the start. Dalton Bromac worked to the death from barrier eight before handing up to Border Control who found the death seat with 1000 metres to go. Sky Major improved three wide but Mark Purdon was not handing up the death seat and Sky Major was left out there for the rest of the race. Meanwhile Maurice continued to roll along in front with Mossdale Conner and was still traveling well as they turned for home. Pinching a couple of lengths as they turned for home, Mossdale Conner had enough in reserve to hold out a game Border Control by a length with Ohoka Punter flying home late for third in front of another big finisher in Tiger Tara. Mossdale Conner paced the 1700 metres in 1:58.1, a mile rate of 1:51.7 with closing sectionals of 55.4 and 28. The time was a new New Zealand record, taking 1.6 seconds off the previous record held by Gold Ace and every runner in tonights race went under the previous record. The first four home were all by siring sensation Bettor's Delight, Mossdale Connor, Border Control, Ohoka Punter and Tiger Tara. Trained at Woodend by Greg and Nina Hope, Mossdale Conner is usually driven by Ricky May but with Ricky committed to Dalton Bromac, Maurice McKendry picked up the drive in the Group 1. Maurice was all smiles post race. " I was lucky to pick up the drive because Ricky was committed to another horse." "Greg asked me to drive him at the trials last week and I was really impressed as he went 2:42 for 2200 metres and had plenty left at the finish." "Greg offered me the drive after the trial so that worked out good." " I just let him roll along in front and as I thought he would, he found plenty in the straight," Maurice said. The way he won tonight, Mossdale Conner comes right into calculations for the New Zealand Messenger next week. Note: Followers of the weekly ringaround on Harnesslink would have been laughing all the way to the bank tonight after Maurice McKendry gave out $20 shot Mossdale Conner as his bet of the week. Harnesslink Media      

The $113,406 Woodlands Stud/ Caduceus Club two year old Fillies Classic at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park tonight was meant to be a walk in the park for the daughter of Mach Three in Northern Velocity after her high class stablemate Dream About Me was scratched due to a hoof infection. No one told one of the other stablemates of Northern Velocity in Arden's Choice who even though she had beaten Northern Velocity at her last start was only the second elect on the tote. Luisanabelle Midfrew and Matthew Williamson led early from barrier five as Northern Velocity and Natalie Rasmussen settled into a lovely trail on her back. Arden's Choice with Mark Purdon in the bike settled well back early before ending up in the one by one with 1200 metres to go. With no mid race moves Luisanabelle Midfrew was not pressured in front and upped the pressure from the 800 metres with a quarter down the back in 29. As they turned for home Mark Purdon looped them with Arden's Choice and shot clear and put the race to bed quickly, racing away for a 4 1/4 length victory with Mark Purdon sitting quietly in the bike. Northern Velocity was held up by a tiring Luisanabelle Midfrew and by the time she got clear the bird had flown but she ran on well for second with Bettor Love Me a further 2 1/2 lengths away in third. Arden's Choice paced the 2200 metres in 2:44.4, a mile rate of 2:00.2 with closing sectionals of 56.6 and 27.6 Mark Purdon was happy with the continued improvement shown by the daughter of Panspacificflight. " She is getting better with every start and she never looked like doing anything wrong tonight." " She feels like a filly with a lot of bottom to her and I think the further she goes the better she will perform." " The Stiven family bred this one and I am sure Noreen was looking down from above, cheering us on, Mark said. The win by Arden's Choice continued a really good run for the stock of Panspacificflight lately who have been winning races on both sides of the Tasman with great regularity. Harnesslink Media       

The first of the group races on tonights big night of harness racing at Alexandra Park was the $55,000 Lone Star Riccarton Sires Stakes Championship and it  looked to be a two horse battle once the draw came out with Speeding Spur drawing beautifully at three with arch rival Prince Fearless at four. However all that changed 100 metres after the start when Prince Fearless went into a wild gallop losing all chance. Josh Dickie worked the Pegasus Spur colt  to the front after 300 metres from Habibti Ivy and Blair Orange who settled into the trail on the favourites back The rest of the field were in Indian file apart from Monbet and Ricky May who slowly worked their way forward to sit on the wheel of Speeding Spur with 800 metres to go.  Josh upped the tempo with Speeding Spur down the back the last time but Monbet stuck with him and was still on his wheel as they turned for home. All the way up the straight Monbet slowly took ground off Speeding Spur but come the finishing line was still a nose back with Habibti Ivy making ground up the passing lane to be only a 1/2 neck away in third. Josh was happy to have won the $55,000 feature but thought Speeding Spur wasn't 100% on his game tonight. " He didn't really switch on tonight like he can and was gawking about down the back straight." " With so many big races coming up we haven't done that much with him and didn't take him to the trials last Saturday so he will improve on tonight's run next week." " They were getting really close late but his way of racing with his neck stuck out helped in the end," Josh said. Monbet went huge in second and is a live chance next week to reverse the result if he can just for once draw inside Speeding Spur and Prince Fearless. Harnesslink Media  

As he does most weeks, David McCarthy over at All Stars Racing Stables has previewed all of their runners at tonights harness racing meeting at Auckland.   With their kind permission we reproduce that preview here    Race 5   Prince Fearless (3) Natalie   Form: Outsprinted in Trotting Derby last start. Smart in the Hambletonian before that but this is his first start right-handed   Comment: "The pick of our two. The question is whether he will handle the other way of going because he has not tried it before. I think he will be ok. He does quite a bit of work the Auckland way around at home and seems to enjoy it. But you can never tell until the actual raceday experience comes along. I think he is still improving but it is a strong field and a place will still be a good result.   Arya (7) Mark   Form  Ran on fairly once headed in Trotting Oaks. This is a harder field.   Comment: "Seems to be doing well up there and proven on the course. This is quite a step up for her and as I say there are some smart ones in here"   Race 6   Arden's Choice (7) Mark   Form: Outstanding in near record time in Sires Stakes heat last start.   Comment: "I would rate her equal with Northern Velocity at this stage as the second best of ours. Both of them can do little things wrong and it can let them down at times. Arden's Choice went a fast time and won well in the Sires Stakes so she is in the mix. Northern Velocity (3) Natalie Form: By her previous run a touch disappointing last start but still close up.   Comment: "Just a minor blood problem after last race. She has ability as she has shown and when she does it right she can match most around. But she can still do little things wrong and that could count against her"   Sophisticated Lady (4) Tony Herlihy   Form: Been battling in these sort of fields lately   Comment:  "She hasn't been racing up to her best. If she ran like she did first up she would be a first four chance but she has to step up on what she has done lately"   Race 7    Willow (7) Natalie   Form: Grand placing in Breeders Stakes at Addington and then won well at her next start. Career best run here.   Comment:  "Well it is Willow and you know what you will get. She goes well up there but she never wants to do more than she has to and she can win by some pretty narrow margins. But she is an honest racehorse and she is a strong chance"     Race 8   Border Control (4) Mark   Form: Outstanding run in Easter Cup. Owns the New Zealand record at this trip.   Comment: "On the Easter Cup run he has to be given the edge of our two. This is going to be a terrific race and it is hard to predict the outcome. There will be early speed from those inner draws for sure and wider horses going back might find the race is over for them fairly early. The harder they go the better Border Control should like it and that is his advantage"   Isaiah (5) Natalie   Form:  Not really suited at Forbury Park and has fine record here. Comment: "I have been pleased with his work at home and he has done well in the north according to the team. He is tough which is a big asset in a race like this and he will be put into the race. There is no future in doing anything else from a mid draw. I wouldn't count him out  especially for a place and he might be a bit of value"   Race 9   King Denny (7) Mark   Form: Just started racing against the top all aged fields and good effort at Addington behind the best.   Comment: "I think I would regard him more of a place chance but he is measuring up to those top ones even though he has only just started racing against them. He is a gem really, a really focussed racehorse and fairly laid back with it. Maybe he will need more practice against the old stagers to start beating them regularly  but he has the ability to upset them any time"   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables    

The long awaited return of one of last season's harness racing glamour girls in Ideal Belle took place at Alexandra Park on Friday night and as expected the daughter of American Ideal was a comfortable winner. The New Zealand Oaks winner from last season has always looked a filly that would get better with time and the now four year old looked a mare going places in a hurry. It was Ideal Belle's first standing start but Zac Butcher got her away quickly and she settled into the trail behind the free going First Home. With no mid race challengers Zac was able to wait until the straight to ease Ideal Belle into the passing lane where she dashed past First Home in the last 100 metres for a comfortable first up win. Ideal Belle paced the 2700 metres from a stand in 3:27.9, a mile rate of 2:03.9 with smart closing sectionals of 56.1 and 27. Zac Butcher was confident a long way out that she would win. "She handled the standing start really well" " She feels like a mare who will develop into a really quick beginner before too long." " To be fair she is only about 80% tonight but I knew if I got the right run she would be way too good for them and that's how it turned out." " I just let her get to the line under her steam," Zac said. After her stellar three year old campaign, Ideal Belle suffered bad cuts to her hind legs when she got them caught over a fence which has delayed her four year old debut. The main aim for the season now is for her to qualify for the Harness Jewels at Ashburton on May 30th. Zac always thought that Ideal Belle would come back better at four. " She has always had a lot of potential and was always going to get better with time." " I think she should eventually end up in the big Cup races, Zac said. With the retirement of both Adore Me and Helena Jet in the last few weeks, the time is right for Ideal Belle to stake her claim to the top spot amongst New Zealand mares. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing and the Dickie family have had a long association and that looks set to continue for a long time into the future the way John and his son Josh have been churning out the winners this season. Ever since their move up to Clevedon from their former base in the Waikato, the father and son training partnership have been regularly winning races at Alexandra Park. They started tonight at Alexandra Park in the same vein, winning race one with the three year old trotting filly, Paramount Dream. The daughter of Pegasus Spur was slowly but safely away from barrier two and settled three back on the outer in the running line. Josh didn't make his move until 400 metres from home where he quickly swept up to the leaders three and four wide and ran away for an emphatic four length victory. She trotted the 2200 metres in 2:52.9, a mile rate of 2:06.4 with closing sectionals of 60.2 and 29.6. Josh had double reason to celebrate after tonights success. " Its my birthday today so it is nice to win one for the stable." " She is a lovely filly and has a really good future." "She did it really easily tonight and knocked off a bit in the straight when clear," Josh said. A $50,000 purchase at the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch, Paramont Dream is a full sister to a former Dickie trained star in Paramount Geegee 1:57.3 ($561,342) and a half sister to another talented trotter in Paramount Queen 1:59.7 ($121,691).  Tonights victory was the 22nd for the season for the Dickie partnership and they are closing in quickly on lasts season mark of 25 wins which was there first season in partnership. PS: Josh and John made it two for the night when Speeding Spur took out race six Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing followers on both sides of the Tasman were in shock this afternoon when the news came through that champion mare Adore Me had been retired. Just a week after her brilliant 1:47.7 performance at Menangle, the daughter of Bettors Delight has succumbed to an injury suffered in the Auckland Cup on Friday night. When she faulted and galloped for a few strides at the 450 metres, everyone feared the worst at first, but were relieved when the vet exam suggested just some minor filling in her near foreleg. However, an x-ray yesterday confirmed she had fractured the sesamoid in her near foreleg and the prognosis for her racing future was not good. The decision was made fairly quickly to take no risks with Adore Me and her retirement then became a formality. Part-owner Paul Kenny was very philosophcial when Harnesslink spoke to him this afternoon. " She has given us so much enjoyment and it is sad it has to end like this," Kenny said. " She injuried herself with 450 metres to go the other night and still picked herself up and only went under by a head. " Mark wasn't happy with her yesterday, so he had her x-rayed and we found the fracture. " We got a second opinion this morning and that verified the orgional diagnosis, so the decision was made there and then to retire her. " At least she doesn't have to have an operation this way " She will be just be boxed for two months." The five-year-old goes to the breeding barn as one of the best racemares produced anywhere in the world. Her time last Sunday was the quickest recorded on a 7/8th sized track and she belongs to a very small and select group of mares worldwide who have broken 1:48. The winner of 26 races from just 36 starts, with seven placings and stakes of $1,677,032, gives you an idea of the quality of the mare. But what will be the enduring memory for most harness racing enthusiasts in Australasia is her record 1:47.7 mile. It was a display of power and speed rarely seen south of the equator and will live in the memory of all those lucky enough to have witnessed it. Harnesslink Media Auckland Cup  The 1:47.7 mile at Menangle  

New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Association (NZSBA) chairman John Mooney asked at Alexandra Park Friday evening has there ever been a harness or thoroughbred Premier race meeting anywhere in the world where a mare (Scuse Me) was the dam of a Group 1 winner (Have Faith in Me), and Group 1 second (Adore Me) and the granddam of two Group 1 winners (Christen Me and Dream About Me) and a third runner (Aliante) all on the same programme? Remarkable! NZSBA congratulates Scuse Me and her daughter Spendid Dreams and of course the breeder of all of them the indomitable 91 year old Charles Roberts. NZSBA suspects Charles may have difficulty decided between mother and daughter as to which is the better if the two. After last night, and the world record deeds of Adore Me at Menangle last Sunday,  Scuse Me would have very few peers in New Zealand standardbred breeding history.  Congratulations to all connections, owners, trainers, their staff who travel and look after these wonderful horses and drivers.  Kiely Buttell New Zealand Standardbred Breeders' Association

It is hard to remember any time in harness racing's history in New Zealand where one mare has had such an influence on the industry as Scuse Me. Her progeny and that of her daughters seem to have a strangle hold on the Cup and Classic races in New Zealand at present. Last night at Alexandra Park, Christen Me and Adore Me ran the quinella in the Auckland Cup while an hour prior to that her son Have Faith In Me had won the Derby. The success didn't stop there either with Christen Me's half sister Dream About Me bolting away with the $80,000 Delightful Lady Young Guns Final to round off a stellar night for Scuse Me and her descendants. The daughter of Bettor's Delight was the warm favourite for the Delightful Lady Classic off the back of two very impressive wins leading into tonights final and justified that favoritism with an emphatic win over her rivals. Her main danger was seen as her stablemate Arden's Choice but that all changed 200 metres after the start when Arden's Choice went into a wild gallop, losing all chance. Taken back off the gate by driver Tim Williams from barrier seven, Dream About Me was sent forward by Tim after 400 metres and grabbed the front with just over a lap to go. From there it became a bit of a procession as Dream About Me lifted the tempo down the back straight in 29.2 before brushing the last quarter in 27.9 as she ran away and hid from her rivals. At the finish she was five lengths to the good of a game Gamma Lady who was just as clearly second with the remainder three and a half lengths away headed by Poppy Maguire. Dream About Me was travelling that well in the over the concluding stages that Tim didn't even activate the removable deafeners. Speaking to Harnesslink earlier in the week, Tim was confident that Dream About Me would be very hard to beat and he made her his drive of the week in the drivers ringaround. He was full of praise for the filly post race. " She is really starting to work out what it is all about now." 'She was a lot happier and drove a lot straighter with the pole on this week," Tim said Tim had a few anxious moments at the start when Dream About Me seemed to be fighting her young driver. " She is still pretty green" " She wanted to go forward and I wanted to go back as several on the inside had kicked up" " She is still learning," Tim said. Dream About Me paced the 1700 metres in 2:02.9, a mile rate of 1:56.9 with closing sectionals of 57.1 and 27.9. The way Dream About Me won last night stamps her as the filly they all have beat in the two year old division this season. Harnesslink Media  

All week the harness racing pundits looking at tonights Great Northern Derby at Alexandra Park agreed about one thing and that was that Have Faith In Me would be crossed early and would end up back on the inner and need luck from there. None of them however had asked his driver Tim Williams his opinion on weather Have Faith In Me would hold up from barrier one. When we asked Tim earlier in the week for some comments for a preview we were doing on the Derby, Tim was adament that he would hold the lead from barrier one. Tim said the addition of an undercheck had made Have Faith In Me a lot more tractable and he would only hand up to a horse he knew was a real chance to win the Derby. And that is exactly how it panned out tonight. The son of Bettor's Delight held the lead easily through the first 400 metres before handing up to his stablemate and hot favourite Follow The Stars shortly after. From there the race was down to a two horse affair with Follow The Stars keeping up a smart tempo in front as Kept Under Wraps over raced badly in the death seat and in doing so parked Robbie Burns three wide for most of the last mile which stopped any other moves from back in the field. Down the back straight Mark held Follow The Stars back to the field before letting him loose as they turned for home. But Tim tracked him with Have Faith In Me and then came off his back at the 150 metres mark to lodge his challenge. Slowly but surely he got up to Follow The Stars and nabbed him right on the line for a memorable victory. Hughie Green who followed Have Faith In Me through from three back on the inner was third but five lengths behind the first two and Art Union went his usual honest race in fourth. Have Faith In Me paced the 2700 metres in 3:18.7, a mile rate of 1:58.4 with closing sectionals of 56.6 and 27.4 Tim was not surprised that Have Faith In Me held the lead. " He is getting better all the time and I thought I would be able to hold the lead with him." "He is very competitive and wants to race horses early but is settling a lot better now." "I got a lovely run after that following Follow The Stars and I came out on his outer because he is not a horse you want to fight with." "It's better just to go with him," Tim said. Tim was still having to pinch himself with the run he has had this season since joining the All Star barn last August. " Twelve months ago I was living in Invercargill when Mark gave me a call." "I thought a mate was having me on at first." " It's all happened so quick but the last few months have been great, Tim said. Have Faith In Me has now won the Sires Stakes Final, PGG Sales Race and the Great Northern Derby in the last few months and looms as the horse they all have to beat at Addington in the New Zealand Derby. Harnesslink Media  

Every harness racing trainer will tell you that you never know where your next good horse is coming from. Some horses live up to their breeding while others rise way above what their pedigree suggests they should be capable of. One who fits squarely into the latter category is the very smart Monarchy gelding Mum's Pride.  Now the winner of five races from just eight lifetime starts, Mums Pride has impressed his trainer/driver James Stormont from day one. " I have liked him right from the start."  "I was going to race him as two year old but he banged his knee in the box and I had to give him three months off." "It was a blessing in disguise actually as it let him fill out and mature," James told Harnesslink this week. It has not all been plain sailing recently after two stylish wins at Alexandra Park in December. " He got a bout of colic and then right behind that he got a cold so it has been a bit of a rush getting him ready for tonight." I did want to race him last week as a lead in to this week so we are behind the eight ball a wee bit race fitness wise." "Having said that he really impressed me with his trial last week and even though he is up against Prime Power and company for the first time, I am still expecting a big run,"James said. While Mum's Pride was a bit of a rogue early on and still likes his own way a bit, James thinks it is a positive not a negative. " All good horses have a bit of character and attitude and he is no exception." "Its a good sign in my book," James said. Mum's Pride is not exactly a "blue blood" being from a handy Evanders Gold mare in Teachers Pride who won five of her seventy two starts. The dam of Teachers Pride was the Saville Row mare Charm School who won two from eighty three starts while the third dam was the unraced Pocomoonshine mare Poco's Pride. At this stage you would have to wonder where Mum's Pride gets all that ability from and you probably need to go back to his fourth dam Ketstone Wayward for the answer. A daughter of Hickory Pride, she was imported into New Zealand in the late 1970s by Derek Heckler of Final Decision fame. The next two dams are by Rodney and Volomite, two of the greatest trotting sires of their time in North America. There are plenty of winners close up in the pedigree in North America with the odd $100,000 winner thrown in. Mum's Pride is a trotter headed to the best grades in a hurry and reaffirms the old adage that a horse doesn't know who his parents are. Harnesslink Media

The Auckland Trotting Club on Friday night (6th March) has the honour of running the last race in this year's harness racing Grand Circuit in Australasia "The $250,000 Auckland Trotting Cup". After winning the title last year Christen Me is the odds on favorite to retain the title with a 89 point lead over Adore Me going into last race for the Grand Circuit this season and while he may be a hot favourite for that title, he will go into Friday night's race knowing he has a real battle on his hands in this years Cup. Adore Me's unbelievable 1:47.7 run at Menangle on Sunday has made her the hottest favourite in recent years and set up a showdown with Christen Me who has had the wood on her over the summer. Here is our runner by runner preview of the Auckland Trotting Cup. 1) .Cyamach  -  Starts 44  -  Wins 10  -  Seconds 8  -  Thirds 6   -   Stakes $171,287 His overall record would suggest that he would be a chance but a closer examination shows that this is a touch out of his league. A noted sit sprinter who battles if he does a lot of work in a race Very competitive at the level just below the top liners but struggles against the very best that he is facing here. Not for us 2) Smolda  -  Starts 29  -  Wins 15  -  Seconds 5  -  Thirds 4   -   Stakes $565,410 After last Friday night's run no one thought he would be lining up here but the All Star barn are confident they have found the problem ( boring pole issues) and made adjustments and he has worked good this week. One classy individual when he is right and his previous run to last week was outstanding so hard to dismiss on class alone. Hard to see him winning against Adore Me and Christen Me with his lack of recent racing but a must have for trifecta and first four takers. 3) Jason Rulz  -  Starts 53  -  Wins 14  -  Seconds 8  -  Thirds 9   -   Stakes $249,781 Has struggled in the past in making the step up to the top level but is in career best form at the moment. Can follow speed and still finish on as he did last week so a chance here from his handy draw to get amongst it. Hard to see him winning the race with Adore Me and Christen Me involved but a must have for trifecta and first four takers. 4) Lancewood Lizzie  -  Starts 23  -  Wins 11  -  Seconds 1  -  Thirds   -   Stakes $121,188   Going from strength to strength this season but this is a big step up in class for the mare. Has always looked good with a nice sit just off the pace where she can unleash that lethal sprint she has. Most here have a better all round game so hard to see her being a serious challenger at this stage of her career. Outside first four player for us. 5) Sky Major  -  Scratched 6) Ohoka Punter  -  Starts 23  -  Wins 14  -  Seconds 5  -  Thirds 3   -   Stakes $531,449 Injury plagued pacer that has been set for this race since his return to the track. Looks to have built to a nice peak to us and from his draw he will go forward and settle in front of the two hotpots. Everything points to him being a big chance and trainer couldn't be happier with him. Genuine winning chance if the breaks go his way. Include in everything. 7) Elios  -  Starts 27  -  Wins 10  -  Seconds 5  -  Thirds 3   -   Stakes $216,176 He had his first run the other night for nine months so race fitness is a real issue with Elios. Talented pacer who will make the step up to the top level in time but hard to be competitive with just one run under his belt this campaign. That coupled with the poor draw for a horse who likes to race on the speed and we find it hard to see him finishing in four at this stage. Not for us.  8) Pemberton Shard  -  Scratched 9) Terror To Love  -  Scratched 10) Lewy Risk  -  Starts 32  -  Wins 7  -  Seconds 5  -  Thirds 2   -   Stakes $55,695 This is a huge mountain to climb for this intermediate grade pacer. Not only is he facing horses way above his present racing class, but he is going to have to do plenty of work as well as he has drawn behind Cyamach who will take a sit from barrier one which will push Lewy Risk back on the inner. Throw in his habit of throwing the toys out mid race every now and again and we can't find a place for him in our selections. Not for us 11) Christen Me  -  Starts 43  -  Wins 25  -  Seconds 7  -  Thirds 4   -   Stakes $2,076,061 Two time Grand Circuit champion with a Miracle Mile, Hunter Cup and Victoria Cup in the trophy cabinet. Head to head with Adore Me this season is four/ two in Christen Me's favour heading into the Auckland Cup. The feeling we have is who ever gets in front of the other early stands a very good chance of winning the race. With Christen Me drawing on Smolda's back who has never been noted as a quick beginner, we think he is liable to settle behind Adore Me after the initial rush due to her following out the expected early leader Lancewood Lizzie. However this is a horse that can overcome adversity and we think he is a huge chance to take out the Cup. 12) Border Control  -  Starts 39  -  Wins 18  -  Seconds 12  -  Thirds 5   -   Stakes $500,265 Another injury plauged runner on the comeback trail. Only had four runs back from eight months away from the track so still getting up to full race fitness. Outstanding racehorse at best and seems to be slowly getting back to that level. Has run in the first three in 35 out of 39 lifetime starts so a must include for trifecta and first four takers 13) Adore Me  -  Starts 35  -  Wins 26  -  Seconds 4  -  Thirds 2   -   Stakes $1,633,432 Not much you can say after Sunday's run is there. The best performance we have ever seen in the Southern Hemisphere in our time but Friday night is a different kettle of fish completely. 2700 metres around Alexandra Park is nothing like 1600 metres around Menangle Christen Me and Ohoka Punter are not going to die wondering so she has a real battle on her hands. She has gone to another level since her New Zealand Cup win and deserves to be favourite here but she is no home run. Selections Adore Me deserves to be favourite after her outstanding run in the Victoria Cup followed by her brilliant display on Sunday. However she won't have it her own way thats for sure Not many horses have beaten her fair and square but two that have are in this race in Christen Me and Ohoka Punter. The winner should come from those three horses and on class alone this trio should dominate. For trifecta and first four players we would add in Smolda, Jason Rulz and Border Control Harnesslink Media 

The pinnacle for harness racing three year olds to aspire to in New Zealand are the two derbies held each year. This Friday night sees the running of this years $250,000 Great Northern Derby at Alexandra Park and this is our runner by runner preview of the race Great Northern Derby - 2015 1) Have Faith In Me - Starts - 9  -  Wins 4  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $202,302 Probably the most talked about horse pre race due to the draw.  Most pundits think he is likely to be crossed early from barrier one which when added in with his history of having a few fancy steps early when rushed out of the gate makes him vulnerable. We are not convinced it is as dire as that and driver Tim Williams is confident gear changes lately have helped him immensely in giving him more confidence. If he does hold up, he immediately becomes the horse that Follow The Stars has to beat A must for all quinella, trifecta and first four players. 2) Express Stride  -  Starts 14  -  Wins 4  -  Seconds 5  -  Thirds 3   -   Stakes $126,945 Ultra consistent horse who from this draw becomes a major player. Can leave the gate so able to take advantage of his good draw. Has been beaten by two or three here in the past when it counts and for that reason we just have that slight doubt over his ability to beat this field. Great trainer/driver in Tony Herlihy is a big plus so a must have for quinellas, trifectas and first fours. 3) Kept Under Wraps  -  Starts 11  -  Wins 5  -  Seconds 4  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $149,805 This horse has a great overall record but just a notch down from the top two or three. Great manners and ringcraft means he is always thereabouts Very similar in makeup to Express Stride and has been the runner up to Follow The Stars on several occasions now. Draw means he is a player here but more  a place than a win chance for us. 4) Robbie Burns  -  Starts 6  -  Wins 3  -  Seconds 0  -  Thirds 1   -   $18,503 Has really made his mark in the last couple of months but this race has come a bit too soon for him in our view. Has been thrown in the deep end a bit here but won't disgrace himself. Still at this stage a few here look to have a ringcraft and experience advantage which counts for a lot in races like this. Not for us 5) Art Union  -  Starts 22  -  Wins 12  -  Seconds 5  -  Thirds 1   -   Stakes $141,763 He has been a very busy horse all season but continues to race well at the highest level. Great third in the New South Wales Derby last Sunday after burning the gate and not much doubt that Dexter will go forward this week from barrier five as well. Good enough to get some of it but a question mark over his ability to beat two or three here. Trifecta and first four player for us. 6) Itz Bettor To Win  -  Starts 10  -  Wins 6  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $81,475 He is a real tradesman like horse and one that tends to sneak under the radar most of the time. Is three for three on the track and each win has been better than the last.  Blair Orange climbs aboard so he lacks nothing in the driver department and appeals to us as the most likely upsetter of the favoured trio. Must have for quinella, trifecta and first four takers. 7) Delighful Offer ( 1st Emerg) -  Starts 12  -  Wins 2  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 4   -   Stakes $34,946 Bit of a surprise to us that he is on the ballot here as we rate him higher than a couple of others that did make the field. Got a bit of bottom to him as he showed when running fourth in the $200,000 sales race on New Years eve at Alexandra Park after sitting parked Not a major player even if he did made it back into the field. 8) Follow The Stars  -  Starts 16  -  Wins 13  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $548,415 Champion two year old who put a couple of below par seconds in Victoria behind him when he comprehensively beat most of these last week Drew the outside of the second line last week, looped them early and beat them up without being extended. Had a few things go his way for all that but stable very confident there was plenty of improvement left in him heading forward to this week. On that basis he is the horse to beat but he doesn't need too much bad luck to come back to this field. Include in everything. 9) Hughie Green  -  Starts 12  -  Wins 7  -  Seconds 0  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $55,621 The enigma of the field for sure who when he is good, he is very good and when he is bad he is awful. At his best he could win this but very disappointing run in the prelude last week. Not sure he is at the same level he was before he went south for the Sires Stakes final in November when he was just absolutely low flying. If the real Hughie Green comes to play they will know they have been in a race. However needs to improve a lot off last weeks run to be the threat we know he can be. 10) Change Stride  -  Starts 12  -  Wins 4  -  Seconds 1  -  Thirds 3   -   Stakes $ 47,629 Has been in great form since Cup week at Addington except for last weeks prelude where he got shuffled back on the inner and was no hope from there a long way out so we have put a line through that run. Follow The Stars beat him by a neck in the Waikato Guineas and his third in the Northern three year old stakes in December was also full of merit. Not a winning hope but can certainly bump up those trifectas and first four dividends. 11) Bettor Spirits  -  Starts 24  -  Wins 4  -  Seconds 4  -  Thirds 5   -   Stakes $90,958 Needs everything to go his way to be a player in this race and from this draw that is very unlikely to happen. Very disappointing run in the prelude where after getting a great drag into it, he just battled in the straight.  His run three starts back in the sales race on New Years eve was also very disappointing. Not for us. 12) Chachingchaching  -  Starts 18  -  Wins 4  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 1   -   Stakes $75,547 Has always looked capable of matching it with the big boys but went through a bad patch there for a couple of months. Change of driver a couple of months seems to have worked the trick with him and his last few runs have all been full of merit against quality fields. Not a winning chance for us but another one who is more than capable of running into the money with the right run. An added bonus is his driver David Butcher is back to his very best lately after being sidelined last year through injury. 13) Brilliant Strike  -  Starts 11  -  Wins 6  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 3   -   Stakes $51,460 Yet to finish out of the money in eleven starts and stuck on gamely for third last week after doing plenty of work. Extra distance right up his alley but we are still not completely convinced he is the real deal at this level. Another bad draw and a much stronger field this week means we struggle to see him as a major player here. Outside first four player for us. 14) Hug The Wind  -  Scratched 15) The Faithful  -  Starts 9  -  Wins 3  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $28,055 Is starting to build up a good record but in the main it has been away from the better three year olds. He has beaten a few of these but not any of the main players so from the draw we think he is on mission impossible. Not for us Selections We don't think there is that much if anything at all between Follow The Stars and Have Faith In Me except that Follow The Stars is the complete professional racehorse where as Have Faith In Me still has a few rough edges to smooth out. So Follow The Stars just in front of Have Faith In Me and after that it is a bit of a lottery. Outside of our top two selections, there is not a lot between several runners For quinella and trifecta takers we would take Express Stride, Kept Under Wraps, Art Union, Itz Bettor To Win and Hughie Green A couple to add into first fours would be Change Stride and Chachingchaching Harnesslink Media

One of the highlights of the harness racing season each year is the emergence of the juveniles in the Young Guns series at Alexandra Park Auckland. With each edition of this series we are introduced to some of the future stars of the sport and this year has been no exception. This is our runner by runner preview of this years $80,000 Young Guns Fillies Final at Alexandra Park on Friday night. 1) Goodlookingbabe - By Mach Three    -    Trainer - Geoff Small Showed speed to lead from a similar draw last week but then galloped on the first bend. Trial and workout form had been promising before her debut so can't completely discount. Great trainer/driver combination helps her as well Throw in your first fours for some value. 2) Poppy Maguire - By American Ideal   -   Trainer - Tony Herlihy   Didn't help herself on debut with an early gallop and managed to end up four deep on the inner from barrier seven. Racing greenly at times during the running as well so overall went okay. Trial and workout form prior to debut had been passable without looking anything special. Not for us. 3) Nek Time - By Gotta Go Collect   -   Trainers - Terry + Glenys Chmiel Very good second first up but galloped last week after appearing to get her head round on the first bend. Just beaten on debut by Gamma Lady so no doubting the ability is there. From the draw and with a week to correct the running out problem from last week, Nek Time looms as a genuine trifecta and first four player. 4) Ideal Eagle - By American Ideal   -   Trainer - Barry Purdon Her three runs to date have been a bit of a mixture with two passable runs and one complete disaster. Has a great trainer/driver combination in her corner and they have been red hot this season in the big races but even they will struggle to get her home in this. Shows enough to keep you interested but not enough to get excited about. Rough first four player at best 5) Lickle Lickle - By Lis Mara   -   Trainer - David Kaa First up effort at Auckland had merit as she worked forward from barrier eight to death seat for most of the race but as you would expect after that trip she only battled in the straight. Went down to Manawatu for an easy maiden win but not sure how helpful that run is when assessing her chances here. Has had plenty of practice at workouts for this and going near enough Rough first four chance with run to suit. 6) Machineguns N Gems - Scratched 7) Arden's Choice - By Panspacificflight   -   Trainers - Mark Purdon * Natalie Rasmussen Two great runs to kick off her racing career and both times from bad draws to boot. She looks to have an all round game displaying both speed and grit in both starts. Didn't look entirely comfortable last week so that experience should help her here. Looks to be one of only two winning chances for us. 8) Dream About Me - Bettor's Delight   -   Trainers - Mark Purdon * Natalie Rasmussen Two starts for two wins says it all really for this beautifully bred filly. Stunning debut win at Timaru in a time just outside the New Zealand record for 2000 metres and followed that up with a gutsy win at Alexandra Park last week when she got her head round badly the whole race but still had enough in the tank to get up and nail the win. Boring pole goes on this week and she is definitely the one all the others have to beat. Top pick for us 9) Killer Queen - By Rock N Roll Heaven   -   Trainer - Ray Green This is a filly that has promised a lot but has yet to deliver. Held in very high regard by the stable and has shown glimpses why at times at trials and workouts but not yet on race day. There is no doubting the ability but the ring craft is still not perfect. Still a genuine trifecta and first four player for us. 10) Artful - By Art Major   -   Trainer Robert Dunn Very inexperienced filly who was passable at best in her debut run last week. We think she is a work in progress and this series may be just be a bit soon for her. Draw and strength of field means we can't see her being a player here. Not for us 11) Gamma Lady - By Mach Three   -   Trainer - Brian Hughes Stylish debut win at Alexandra Park and backed that up with a top effort for third last week after doing plenty of work early to find the top. Draw not as bad as it seems as she follows out Nek Time who does leave the gate so should get a lovely run through. Just looks a touch below the All Star pair but clearly the best of the rest. Quinella, Trifecta and first four player for us. 12) Girls Are Bettor By Bettors Delight   -   Trainer - Brian Hughes Promising debut run for fourth but had a gallop from the second line here last week. Her trial and workout runs over the last three months have been excellent and but for the draw she would have been a first four player for us. Does have Maurice McKendry in the bike but still hard to see her in four from her draw. Selections Even from the outside of the front row, we think Dream About Me is the one to beat. She didn't nothing right at her attempt right handed last week yet still had the cheek to get up and win. Addition of a pole will help her this week and she looks very hard to roll. Arden's Choice is the obvious danger here with two seconds to date to Dream About Me. Plenty to like about last weeks run and she appears the main threat to the favourite. Gamma Lady is clearly third best in our books and capable of splitting the favoured pair with a run to suit. Throw in Nek Time, Killer Queen and Goodlookingbabe for trifecta and first four players. Harnesslink Media

This seasons harness racing two year olds have been competing in heats of the Young Guns series since before Xmas and the best of both the colts and fillies run in their respective finals on Friday night.. We plan to preview them both and first up is the colts and geldings final. $100,000 Young Guns Colts and Geldings Final 1) Lazarus - Colt by Bettors Delight   -   Trainers - Mark Purdon * Natalie Rasmussen Two starts for two wins late last year stamped this colt as a very smart juvenile. In both of his races Lazarus drew badly but on both occasions he overcame the draw to win in style. After a short break he can be expected to come back even better and looms as one of the two leading chances, especially from the draw. 2) El Jacko - Gelding by Elsu   -   Trainers - Logan Hollis * Shane Robertson Two starts in his debut season for two sixths. Hasn't disgraced himself in either race but hasn't threatened the placegetters either Hard to make a case for him as a first four player. 3) Code Black - Colt by Bettors Delight   -   Trainer - Robert Dunn One of the more experienced horses in the final with his four starts yielding one win and two fourths. Has beaten most of the field at various times this season outside of the two favourites. Definite trifecta and first four player but hard to see him beating the All Stars pair. 4) Max Phactor - Colt by Art Major   -   Trainer - Mike Berger Beat the older horses on debut at Cambridge in the first of his four starts this season. Has been competitive but not compelling in his three races since. Does have good gate speed but hard to see him finding the front with Lazarus drawn inside of him. Has yet to beat Walkinshaw in three attempts so hard to see him beating the favoured pair here. First four player only for us. 5) Chase The Dream - Colt by Bettors Delight   -   Trainers - Mark Purdon * Natalie Rasmussen Stunning debut win at Ashburton in the Sapling Stakes in 1:54.8 was followed by an equally impressive win last week at Alexandra Park where after being last early, he looped the field midrace and then ran away and hid in the straight in a 1:57.3 mile rate. Has shown real gate speed at trials in Canterbury so can go forward from better draw this week. One of the two leading chances for us. 6) Walkinshaw - Colt by Mach Three   -   Trainer - Tony Herlihy Started the season with a tidy run for fifth first up and has got better with every run since. Nice win two starts back and smart second to Chase The Dream last week after leading from barrier seven. Just appears a touch behind the All Stars pair but looks the best of the rest to us. Tony Herlihy in the bike is a big plus for us. 7) Mach Time - Gelding by Mach Three   -   Trainers - Steve Telfer * Chris Garlick Very inexperienced horse who was having his debut run last week when he ran fourth to Chase The Dream. Held in very high regard by his trainers but draw and lack of raceday experience are big negatives for us. Can run first four with a run to suit.  8) Dark Energy - Colt by Bettors Delight   -   Trainer - Tony Herlihy His two runs to date have resulted in a fourth and a fifth and both times from favourable inside draws. His draw of eight and the strength of the field makes it very hard to see him as a player here. Not for us Selections The All Stars duo look to have a class edge over this field and the big decision is which one of the two do we favour. Most pundits are leaning towards Lazarus from the draw, but we have gone with the stablemate Chase The Dream. His two runs to date have been outstanding and last weeks look at Alexandra Park will have helped him bigtime. Lazarus has all the ringcraft of a natural two year old and could just as easily beat Chase The Dream but either way there will not be much in it. Walkinshaw is a clear third for us on the back of his last couple of runs andTony Herlihy in the bike. For first fours we like Code Black, Max Phactor and Mach Time. Harnesslink Media 

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