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Everybody involved in harness racing in New Zealand knows that there are major challenges facing the industry. Whatever branch of the industry you look at has issues that are threatening the very existence of the sport we love. From the decline in the number of mares being sent to stud to the difficulty in retaining owners in the game through to a management structure that is more attuned to the 19th century than the 21st century we live in and you have an industry in real difficulty. The two major clubs in New Zealand are the Auckland Trotting Club based at Alexandra Park and the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club based at  Addington Raceway and both deserve credit in the last few years for lifting stake levels and increasing returns to stake holders. Both have achieved this by developing large income streams outside of harness racing and have used those funds to help lift stake levels. The Auckland Trotting Club have now released visionary development plans that if implemented in full will see a huge lift in stakes at Alexandra Park and will definitely give the whole harness racing industry in New Zealand a huge boost when it needs it most. The proposals are for the establishment of a village type concept at the eastern end of Alexandra Park which has an estimated cost of development of $205,400,000. It will involve a nine story apartment complex of 231 apartments with 8 of these being luxury penthouse units and a major retail complex underneath the apartments. It is envisaged that the construction phase will last for 20 months and the Auckland club already has agreements with their neighbours regarding the development. The CEO Dominique Dowding has driven this project and is due a lot of the credit for the progress made to date. Just yesterday the club received consent for the project from the Auckland City Council.  Last night the Auckland president Kerry Hoggard outlined the proposal to over 120 members. The Auckland Trotting Club board this year includes such well respected industry participants as Barry Purdon, John Green, Derek Balle, Bruce Cater and Ross Johnson and they were very supportive of the plan as were the vast majority of the members. If completed to budget, the project will leave the club with $30,000,000 in cash and new assets with a capital value of $27,000,000 On top of that the Club will have a new income stream from the rental of the retail outlets which is projected to bring in $1,670,000 per annum. The last big hurdle for the project is keeping within the budget set for the construction phase and the Club reserves the right to stop the project if costs blow out in the tender for the construction of the village.. If it all goes to plan, the Auckland Trotting Club could eventually expect to be racing for a minimum stake of $20,000 which is a 66% increase on the present minimum. Not only that but it will secure the future of harness racing in the North Island and give the whole industry in New Zealand a real lift. The Auckland club should be congatulated for being so proactive in securing the future of harness racing in the North Island with such an innovative project. Harnesslink Media 

The elite level of trotters has been bereft of a standout so far this harness racing season with most of the established players having issues with either form or injuries. What looked like an abundance of riches a few months ago has turned into a bit of a drought as horses such as Master Lavros, Irish Whisper, Royal Aspirations and Habibti have either raced below expectations or had health issues. One of the elite group who has been missing from most of the action to date is the Todd Mitchell trained Prime Power who has only had one start so far this season for a close second at Alexandra Park. While all the elite trotters were doing battle at Addington over Cup week, Prime Power was at home getting ready for what is shaping as a career defining season  In Prime Power's case it is all part of a plan to have him peaking over the Xmas carnival at Auckland. Safely through that it is hoped to cross the Tasman and show the Australians that they have another elite level Kiwi trotter to worry about. Tonight at Alexandra Park, Prime Power meets a small field of just six trotters but all the best northerners are there with Cool Cobber, Irish Whisper, Boizel and Realmein lining up. Trainer/driver Todd Mitchell is more than happy with his charge heading into tonights clash. " His work this week has been first class and I couldn't be happier with him." " I think he will be very hard to beat on his work," he said. Todd was also quite keen on the chances of his lightly raced pacer Doubleodeano who has drawn barrier 8 in a field that has plenty of depth. " I couldn't be happier with him on his work this week." "I know he has drawn wide but he is a big winning chance," Todd said. Tonights meeting at Alexandra Park has drawn the best fields of the season to date and if this is a pointer leading to the New Years Eve meeting then bring it on. Harnesslink Media 

Cup week has come and gone for another year and for the Robert Dunn team, a new set of targets has been put in place. Most notable though is a northern assault to be headed by Franco Nelson. According to co-trainer John Dunn, "with the stakes that they have got on offer up there, you have to have a go really." Franco Nelson will be joined by trotter I've Got This, 3yr olds, Say My Name, Little Rascal,  Robbie Burns and Miss Daisy and good 4yr old No Doctor Needed.       The team will be stabled at John Street's new Lincoln Farms property which is simply "a brilliant facility," says John. "We are very lucky to have some boxes that we can lease there and hopefully it will be the start of big things up there." The team will be joined on their northern sojourn by regular travelling foreman Matt Bowden, a highly respected man within the stable. Four of the team - No Doctor Needed, I've Got This, Miss Daisy and Little Rascal are likely to be seen at Alexandra Park next Friday.  With minimum stakes of $12,000 on offer, it appears sound economics. Franco Nelson will have his first hitout the following week in the Manakau Summer Cup at Group Three level.      Three year olds Say My Name and Robbie Burns have both had their share of setbacks this season, with Say My Name having just the one race and Robbie Burns yet to race. "We've had our issues with both of them," reflected John, "but they do seem to be on the up which is good." Say My Name has been gelded since last racing and it will probably be after Xmas before he races. John is likely to be at Alexandra Park driving the team next Friday. Courtesy Of Robert Dunn Racing Stables - Check site here 

Young Waikato driver Kyle Marshall has started the harness racing season in fine style and has shown a real ability in the bike for such a young driver. Everyone knows how hard it is to break into the winners circle when you are starting out but Kyle is making a real habit out of it and has a lot of astute judges sitting up and taking notice. Kyle has been around horses most of his life but got keen on harness racing at a young age. " I got involved with Kidz Kartz pretty early and I have had the bug ever since." "After that I use to help out at John Dickie's after school and on weekends and that confirmed to me that this is what I wanted to do," Kyle told Harnesslink this week. Getting his junior driving licence in the 2010/2011 season, Kyle went winless in his first season before driving five winners in his second season. In the 2012/2013 season  Kyle continued to improve and racked up 10 wins but before the end of that season he made the decision to go to Australia to learn from one of the best. " I spent 18 months with Brent Lilley and I can't thank him enough for all the help and advice he gave me while I was there." "I think I came back a better driver thanks to Brent's advice and help," Kyle said. Returning to New Zealand this season Kyle has already racked up six winners and is the leading North Island based junior driver at this stage of the year. One win stands out for Kyle since his return from Australia.  "I drove Unmissuble to win for my father at Manawatu which was a big thrill." "We brought her as a weanling for $400 and have taken her right through to winning a race so it was a special day" "She was unlucky at Cambridge last Sunday and is not without a chance at Alexandra Park on Friday night," he said. Kyle knows he wouldn't be where he is today without the support of his family. "Dad took out a licence to help me early on and the whole family have become involved in the ownership side to help me get more drives. I wouldn't be having the success I"m having if it wasn't for them," he said.  Kyle, who helps his father David out with his small team at Cambridge, hopes one day to go into partnership with his father. " That would be special to train in partnership with dad," he said. With his great start to the season Kyle has his sights set on the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championships "To qualify is the first aim but like everyone else I really would love to win it," he said. To succeed in harness racing today, you usually need a deep long term family connection to the industry or be attached to one of the leading stables. Kyle has managed to succeed without either and looks to have a big future in the sport he loves. Harnesslink Media

Robert Dunn sees a silver lining to Franco Nelson’s controversial Miracle Mile snub. Because now the New Zealand Cup runner-up can be the flagbearer for his North Island satellite stable which opens this week. Franco Nelson was passed over for a Miracle Mile invite at the expense of Terror To Love, who got the second Kiwi invite to next week’s A$750,000 race, even though Franco Nelson beat him twice last week. Dunn says while he would love to be going to Australian pacing’s richest sprint he isn’t losing much sleep over the snub. “Sure, we would love to have him there but we could also go over, draw outside horses like Beautide and have no chance,” admits Dunn. “That decision is made and we have Auckland to concentrate on with him now as well as the Hunter and Victoria Cups later in the summer.” Franco Nelson will have plenty of stable company when he comes north this weekend, with Dunn and son John, who train in what is basically an unofficial partnership, sending six horses north. They will be stabled at the new Lincoln Farms property in South Auckland after owner John Street moved his harness racing operation from West Auckland. “We are privelaged to get some room at John’s place because he does things well,” says Dunn. “And the time has come for us to have a more permanent base in Auckland. “I have a lot of Auckland-based owners who want to see their horses race up there as often as we can. “And it is getting harder to ignore the stakes at Alexandra Park and the fact they have smaller fields. “So Franco will lead our team up there with horses like No Doctor Needed and Say My Name among the six we are sending up.” The Dunns won’t be the first Canterbury trainers to set up a northern base and most fall over eventually as they struggle for horse numbers or staff who can replicate the main trainer’s success in their absence. The latest venture would seem to have a greater shot at success than most though as the horses will be in the care of Matt Bowden, who has had a wonderful strike rate looking after the stable’s horses on previous extended northern raids. “Matt will be the man up there but of course John and I will be making trips up, especially John who will drive them racenight a lot of the time. “The driving can be shared with Dexter if needs be too because he drives up there a lot of the summer. “We are really excited about it because it gives up more options with our horses. “We haven’t gone into it lightly and we want to make this a permanent thing.” Franco Nelson has come though his two Cup week placings well and is being set for a $30,000 race at Alexandra Park on December 5 before having races available to him almost every week until mid-January, especially as the Harness Jewels winner is eligible for Four and Five-Year-Old mixed racing. He is then likely to head to Victoria and on to the Inter Dominion in Sydney on March 1. The Dunns setting up shop in the north will be welcomed by Alexandra Park officials as they continue to struggle for numbers in their better pacing races. Trotting races have been of huge benefit to Alexandra Park field sizes, a huge factor in turnover figures, but pacing races stronger than mid-grade still struggle. The Dunns sit second equal on the trainer’s premiership with 20 wins for the season worth nearly $300,000 in stakes. The runaway leaders at the Purdon-Rasmussen stable, which has won 36 races from 106 starters and have already banked $994,239 for the season, with nearly 60 per cent of their starters finishing in the first three.   Courtesy of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

Harness racing is very competitive at the best of times but add a bit of Trans Tasman rivalry to the mix and it becomes ultra competitive. That is the best way to describe the Australasian Young Guns Challenge which has been played out at Ashburton Raceway on Thursday and Alexandra Park last night. With funding help from long time Queensland harness racing supporter Kevin Seymour, seven drivers from the sunshine state have spent Cup Week in New Zealand. While here they have competed against the leading South Island drivers in a race on Thursday at Ashburton and against the leading North Island drivers in a race at Alexandra Park last night. One of the Queenslanders to impress a few of the local judges is young Hayden Barnes who incidentally celebrated his 19th birthday on New Zealand Cup day. That must have been a good omen as Hayden was a close second on Ranfurly Rulz at Ashburton and drove Millie Sampson to a convincing win at Alexandra Park last night. Hayden’s passion for the sport of harness racing came from his father, Al Barnes. As time went by and with his love and interest of the horses continuing to grow, school became more of a distraction. Deciding to leave school in grade 10, Hayden managed to secure a position with the Darrel Graham stable. After three and a half years of working for Darrel, Hayden had gained a great start in his career and his education continued.  Last season Hayden was offered a job working with the newly established Turpin McMullen racing team, led by Chantal Turpin and Pete McMullen, which he accepted. On the last night of the 2013 racing season, Hayden’s biggest win thus far came when partnering My Jellignite who scored in a brisk 1.53.3 rate in an Open class event at Albion Park. Hayden has already chalked up eight winners so far this season in Queensland from just fifty drives and looks to be a young driver with a big future in the sport. Harnesslink Media    

Tony Milina is a name well known in the harness racing industry in New Zealand due to a string of top horses he trained through the 80s and 90s such as Elmer Gantry (18 wins) and Mister Square (16 wins) Last night at Alexandra Park his daughter Lisa turned the clock back as she produced her first runner in a race and in her fathers famous colours. It was approiate that the runner was a trotter as her father Tony was always a dab hand at producing talented square gaiters. Lisa has owned the trotter in question, Moment Of Truth for over a year but up till now she has had to have him trained by other people. " I only got my licence a week ago so up till then I have been helping out his trainers whenever I could. "Dad taught me everything I know so I had a good teacher," Lisa said. Moment Of Truth was having his 138th start last night and Lisa is the twelfth trainer to have started the son of Sundon. " He behaves like a five year old around the place. "You would never guess that he was a twelve year old," she said. Away well for driver Todd Mitchell from his 10 metre handicap, Moment Of Truth settled in the last couple and was still there with 800 metres to run. Easing out three wide with cover from the 600 metres, Moment Of Truth came four wide as they straightened for home and used the whole straight to swamp the leaders in the last 50 metres for win number 23. For a large part of the race Moment Of Truth hung quite badly but Lisa wasn't worried. " It is just the way he goes "There is nothing wrong with him to make him hang like that. "We have tried a pole on him but he just fights it big time so you are better to let him have his own way," she said  Lisa was still pinching herself this morning that she was able to win a race with her very first starter. "It might be a good time to retire with a UDR of 1000," she joked this morning Lisa is not sure how much longer Moment Of Truth can keep racing but as long as he is competitive and enjoying it she will press on. "There are a couple more races at Alexandra Park coming up and then the grass track circuit over Xmas and New Year.  "As long as everything is good with Moment Of Truth we will be there," she said The Milina name has a proud tradition in New Zealand harness racing and Lisa looks more than capable of adding to that legacy. Harnesslink Media  

One of the first woman to hold a licence to train in New Zealand died yesterday and with her passing, harness racing lost one of its most successful and enduring participants. Dianne Wood was very well known within the harness racing community in New Zealand with all the horses she bred carrying her trademark "Kamwood " prefix. Granted a licence to train in 1985, Dianne never had a big team but usually had a handy horse in the stable. As of her passing she had trained 42 winners for stakes closing in on nearly half a million dollars. Her latest winner was the Mach Three 3 year old filly Stellar Kamwood who won at Alexandra Park in early October and then ran a fine second in the $25,000 Sires Stakes heat recently. Stellar Kamwood was withdrawn from racing last night at Alexandra Park after Dianne's death and as a mark of respect from her fellow competitors, all drivers in race four wore a black armband. Dianne was a longtime supporter of the yearling sales and sold a host of smart horses over the years. Kamwood Belle ( 8 wins) who won the Ladyship Stakes at Alexandra Park, was one of the mares that helped establish the "Kamwood " name and she was followed by horses such as Kamwood Kango 1:58.6 ($268,394)  Kamwood Warrior 1:51 ($209,946)  Kamwood Cully 1:57.5 ($159,838) Bold Kamwood 1:58.1 ($133,431) and Kamwood Girl 1:56.8 ($115,964) to name just a few. Harnesslink would like to pass on our condolences to the family at this time. Harnesslink Media

One of the bravest veterans in New Zealand pacing faces a huge battle to replicate his shock run in last year’s New Zealand Cup. Because his champion trainer Barry Purdon says quite simply next Tuesday’s field is stronger. Pembrook Benny was 100-1 to win the great race last season but outside of the winner produced the run of the race to finish fourth, before going even better to win the Free-For-All three days later. Both runs left Purdon beaming with pride and while he is happy the now 10-year-old is at least as good as last season he says the job is tougher. “This time last year he was going into the race with only one start under his belt but now he has had three,” says Purdon. The last of those was an unplaced effort at Ashburton, but a performance which has grown on Purdon. “Initially when I saw they had paced the last quarter in 26 I thought he should have stuck with them better,” admits Purdon. “But when I watched it again he was coming at them again on the line and he had a lot harder run than many of the horses around him. “So it wasn’t a bad run and I’d say he is going at least as good as last year, although obviously he is a year older. “So we just have to hope for a good draw and that maybe he can tuck away and get a nice drag along.” While Pembrook Benny didn’t need those sort of favours last season, Purdon realises he will next Tuesday as this Cup has more depth. “It is definitely stronger,” he says. “You have the first four home from last season but they are joined by Adore Me and Hands Christian who are racing really well. “And then you have the two Australian horses, with good trainers. “We all know how good Terror To Love is and he is still the horse to beat but Adore Me and Christen Me are both going great. “And I have been really impressed by Hands Christian. Mark and Natalie have done a great job to get him going the way they have after how long he had off and you would think he will keep improving too. “So it is shaping as a great race.” While there are not many challenges in harness racing Purdon hasn’t conquered, he is undertaking a new one after his election two weeks ago to the board of directors at the Auckland Trotting Club. That gives the board a very experienced representative for horsepeople and Purdon says he is looking forward to being involved. “It is something different for me and I am hoping to do the best I can for my fellow trainers and drivers but also the club as a whole. “So it is great to be involved.” Courtesy Of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

Next week seven of the Queensland Young Gun drivers will cross the ditch to New Zealand with Kevin Seymour to experience 'Cup Week' in New Zealand. While they are here they will be trialling horses, visiting properties, attending New Zealand Trotting Cup Day at Addington and also driving in three races against some of New Zealand's best Junior Drivers. The seven Queenslanders making the trip are Trent Moffat, Ryan Veivers, Hayden Barnes, Amy Rees, Narissa McMullen, Dannielle McMullen and Brittany Graham. They will head to the Ashburton Races on Thursday, November 13th, for the first of three races. Here they will drive against the South Island juniors, Robbie Close, Stevie Golding, Kimberly Butt, Matt Anderson, Matt Purvis and Michelle Neilson. The next day they will then fly up to Auckland on Friday, November 14th, to compete in two races at Alexandra Park against Ben Butcher, Andre Poutama, Jacob Wallace, Megan Teaz, Michael Blakemore and Andrew Veint. To find out more information on the seven Queensland drivers, click here to view their profiles. Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand    

Harness racing 3 year olds in the North Island always have a hard road to the Sires Stakes Final at Addington on Cup day with few suitable races to get them race hardened for the big day. Hence it is no surprise that on Friday night at Alexandra Park we find the three leading North island hopes lining up in a C2-C6 pace over 2200 metres. First and foremost is Hughie Green who has been in exceptional form this season and is rated the North's best hope of taking home the silverware on Cup day. However South Auckland trainer Ray Green has two 3 year olds that he thinks are more than capable of holding their own in the Sires Stakes Final in the Bettor's Delight colt, Strike The Gold and the Mach Three colt, Chachingchaching. The pair ran the quinella in the Sires Stakes heat at Alexandra Park a fortnight ago and did it in the style of horses who are right at the top of their game. Strike The Gold had a head to spare on that occasion over Chachingchaching as they cut out the 1700 metres in a very fast 2:02.3, a mile rate of 1:55.8 with closing sectionals of 56.3 and 27.4 It was a performance that suggested that the duo will be very competitive come the Final on Cup day. Ray is happy with both of them heading into Friday night. "They are both well enough heading into Friday night but in saying that the run will help to tighten both of them up looking towards the final,"  Ray told Harnesslink today. "We are up against Hughie Green on Friday night  but there is no point in ducking him so I'm looking forward to the race actually," he said. Safely through Friday night, Ray's pair of top 3 year olds will not head south until late in the piece. " They can both have a run at the trials after Friday night just to top them off for Addington. "The plan at this stage is to fly them down a couple of days before the final,"  he said. Ray Green has fashioned a great record in the Sires Stakes final in the last five years, winning it with Sir Lincoln and running fourth with Besotted while Hawkeye Bromac was unplaced last year. Ray knows what it takes to takes to win the Sires Stakes Final and in Chachingchaching and Strike The Gold he has two 3 year olds capable of doing just that. Harnesslink Media  

Well known Reporoa harness racing enthusiast Danny McGill has had a lot of smart horses over the years and in last nights Alexandra Park winner Elliesjet  he seems to have another one to keep the bank manager happy. Danny has had a great run over the years breeding such smart types as Magie Lilly Rose 1:54.1 ($202,718), Golden Trowel 1:52.4 ($117,056) and Maximus Meridius 1:52.3 ($109,515). His latest winner though has been a bit of a surprise to the noted stockman. "She is a big filly, I mean really big and I didn't think she would have any speed," he told Harnesslink today. By Jeremes Jet from the speedy Village Jasper mare Elle Mary Rose 2:00.7, Elliesjet has been given plenty of time to grow into her large frame. "The original plan was to get her up and running and try to sell her but after after the way she has gone the last two weeks we have taken the for sale sign down," Danny said today. The 4 year old mare was having just her third lifetime start last night and on the back of a super third last week was warmly supported even though she drew the outside of the second row. Patiently driven in the early stages by driver Todd Mitchell, Elliesjet settled back in the running line before Todd sent her forward after 600 metres to grab the lead. From there it turned into a procession as Elliesjet gradually increased the tempo and then powered away in the home straight for an emphatic win by four lengths. Elliesjet paced the 2200 metres in 2:45.9, a mile rate of 2:01.3 with closing sectionals of 58.1 and 28.9 Today Danny was musing that you should never judge a book by its cover. " Todd said she absolutely jogged it and had plenty left at the finish so thats very encouraging,"  "Gareth Dixon (trainer) has suggested we should look at some of the support races over the Xmas carnival at Auckland so thats where we are heading,"  he said. Its been a big week for Danny as a half sister to Elliesjet in Annie Morva was successful at Menangle last Saturday night. "She ran second in the Ladyship stakes to Adore Me at three at Alexandra Park and then we sent her to Blake Fitzpatrick in Sydney to race. "Its worked out really well as she has topped the $100,000 mark in earnings and took a mark of 1:52.9 when she won last week," Danny said Danny almost made it a trifecta for the week as a breeder when the trotter he bred Al Bundy was an unlucky third at Alexandra Park last night. With Elliesjet and Annie Morva in such fine form, Danny looks in for a very profitable summer over the next few months. Harnesslink Media  

No trainer likes to see their stable star roll into a gallop at full speed. And definitely not weeks out from the biggest race of their career. But trainer Brian Hughes took at least some solace from Hughie Green’s expensive failure at Alexandra Park last Friday. And he learned a lesson that should see him bounce back on Friday night and put himself right into Sires’ Stakes calculations at Addington on November 11. Hughie Green, the racey looking son of former top mare Alta Serena, burnt punters severely when he galloped early against top class older opponents last Friday night, staging a huge recovery for third before being disqualified. Trainer Brian Hughes says the expensive mistake came when Hughie Green spotted tyre marks on the track left by he and his rivals parading before the score up for the race. “You could see them quite clearly on the video and obviously so did he,” says Hughes. “It was unfortunate for punters but for us the most important thing is he took no harm from the gallop and I thought he went very well afterwards.” Hughie Green’s performances to lose 30m at full speed and be beaten by less than that behind Lets Elope and Norvic Nightowl suggests he is the best three-year-old pacer in the North Island. Hughie Green’s unfortunately good eyesight has seen Hughes add a shadow roll to his gear for Friday and he says the gelding worked comfortably in the new gear this week. So barring another bizarre trip up tonight, he should win before heading to Addington for the Sires’ Stakes. Hughes has a great quinella chance too in My Kiwi Mate, who ran on well in a fast last 400m in the Sires’ Stakes heat last Friday and has an air of Derby potential. And earlier in the night he has another impressive last start performer in The Orange Agent in with the right draw to challenge Unforgiving in the first northern heat of the fillies Sires’ Stakes Championship. Unforgiving looked class last season and set up Supersonic Miss’s lightning quick 1:54.1 mile at the Jewels so should have the gate speed to lead from the ace on Friday. But The Orange Agent scooted a fast last 400m to make up huge ground on Strike The Gold last start, form that has been franked by the latter winning his Sires’ Stakes heat last Friday. So if she is able to sit on the favourite’s back she could be challenging hard over the last 150m. Hughie Green isn’t the only favourite on Friday night looking to get back to winning form before chasing an Addington group one, with Boizel and Cool Cobber doing the same from the back mark in the main trot. Cool Cobber was clearly the better of the pair when they last clashed, making good ground in a fast time in a race where Miss Pegasus ran the backmarkers off their hooves. She was impressive enough winning her northern debut to suggest a repeat is not out of the question but she goes back 10m in the handicaps and loses potentially valuable field position over Cool Cobber. So with any sort of cart into the race Cool Cobber should get closer if not beat Miss Pegasus, while Boizel was a victim of circumstances chasing the runaway leader last start and looks better placed. Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand

Bandana is due to make his return to harness racing tomorrow night at Alexandra Park as he looks to get his once promising career back on track. Bandana, who is a full brother to the former smart racemare Hannah 1:54.3 ($52,,829) is closely related to the former outstanding juvenile Tuapeka Knight 1:58.1 ($198,305)   The son of Badlands Hanover looked a star in the making in his first three starts as a 2 year old, winning his first two starts by daylight and then being narrowly beaten at his third start. The subject of a sizeable offer at that point which ultimately fell through, Bandana also picked up a nasty virus at the same time and was briefly spelled. When he returned to racing, Bandana performed several notches below his best and was tipped out again for a longer spell. Brought back again, Bandana still wasn't right and was tipped out yet again by trainer/ owner Roni Lauren. Having a few little issues that needed sorting out, Roni has entrusted Bandana to local trainer Sean McCaffrey this time in, who had driven the gelding in most of his early runs. Last Saturday at the Cambridge workouts, Bandana in the hands of Sean gave his rivals including the talented Percy Jones a pacing lesson as he cut the 2200 metres out in 2:44.7, a mile rate of 2:00.4 with closing sectionals of 57.6 and 29.2 as he coasted home by 10 lengths. Sean is still not convinced that Bandana is back to his best. " He did that real easy and was waiting for them up the straight but he has to do it on raceday yet and that will the big test of where he is at " he told Harnesslink this week.  "He has a few little kinks to be ironed out yet but there is no doubting the ability is there" he said. As luck would have it, Bandana has landed a smart maiden field to make his debut for the season with Downunderstide, Love Ina Chevy and Percy Jones all looking destined for better things. To compound that, Bandana who is to be driven by champion reinsman Maurice McKendry, has drawn barrier eight and Sean knows it will be tough from out there. "He doesn't have a lot of gate speed so we will be going back at the start and look to have one last shot at them. We just have to hope there is some genuine pace up front otherwise we are up against it a bit, " he said. However tomorrow night pans out, Bandana has shown enough in his short career to date to suggest there are plenty more wins in store yet. Harnesslink Media  

Thirteen-win pacer Lets Elope has ended his New Zealand career on a triumphant note. The winner of $324,978 is scheduled to leave for Australia either Wednesday (October 22) or next week. Co-owner/trainer Frank Cooney said he was left with no option but to send the 6-year-old Real desire gelding abroad. He said he made the decision well before Friday’s win in the $14,000 Smart Choice Mobile for the C3-C9 pacers at Alexandra Park. “There’s just nothing for him up here now until possibly Christmas and the New Year. He’s not quite good enough to compete against the (NZ) Cup horses and he would be handicapped out of it if he stayed up here. “Australia was the obvious option because he will be a M1 pacer there,” Cooney said. Let’s Elope was quoted at $151 to win the New Zealand Cup. He will now head to Victoria and race at Melton’s Tabcorp Park in the Brent Lilley colours. “He may come back one day because he’s owned here in New Zealand but to be honest I think he will win more over there and that’s where he will stay,” said Cooney, whose wife Anne co-owns Lets Elope with Peter Haslam and Warren Outrim. Haslam pointed out that lets Elope had never been beaten once he got to the front in his races. That trend continued in Friday’s 2200m mobile. Brilliant anticipation from driver Tony Herlihy (MNZM) saw Lets Elope sprint hard to the lead when hot favourite Hughie Green broke wildly at the 600m. The 3-year-old galloped for 200m yet still managed to finish a huge third – half a length and 7-3/4 lengths behind Lets Elope and Norvic Nightowl. Imajollywally was later promoted to third. Lets Elope stopped the clock in 2:41.8 (mile rate: 1:58.3) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 56.1 and 26.6. Co-trainer Tate Hopkins said it was very difficult for any horse to make up ground from the back when the good horses were coming home in 56 and 26. “That’s why he’s not going to the (NZ) Cup Carnival. It’s just too hard for a horse like him to make up ground on the top horses when they are going that fast. “And they are likely to go faster in the Junior and Senior Free-For-All down south. Those were the two races he probably would have started in,” Hopkins said. “It’s sad to see him go but Frank has made the best decision for both the horse and owners,” he added. Cooney said Lets Elope was the equal best horse he had trained – alongside eight-win ($101,050) mid-1980s pacer, Kurahaupo Eden. Courtesy Duane Ranger - Harness Racing New Zealand  

The outstanding son of Monarchy, Prime Power is due back at the workouts this weekend as he prepares for a season debut at Alexandra Park later in October or early November. The winner of eleven of twenty five starts to date, Prime Power has looked a real star in the making at times but after a brilliant start to his four year old season last year, his form fell away. Even though he ran a close third in the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in late May, Prime Power appeared to be short of his best. Trainer/driver Todd Mitchell is contented with his stable star as he prepares to take Prime Power to the workouts this weekend. " I am much happier with him than I was towards the end of his last campaign. He wasn't happy in himself and it showed on the track. A decent break and he has come back a much happier horse and much more like his old self" he said After the disappointing end to the last campaign, a decent break was what was needed but that meant that Prime Power was never going to be ready in time for Cup week at Addington. Todd thought he would have been cutting it really fine to have Prime Power ready for the Dominion Handicap.  " I could have tried to rush his preparation to get him ready but with such a big season in front of him  it made more sense to skip Cup week and set him for the Xmas carnival at Alexandra Park. He looks and feels a lot stronger this time in and his work leading into this week's workout has been super and I think he could be in for a big year" he said. A winner of the 3 year Harness Jewels in 1:56.5, Prime Power has the gate speed and manners to be a major player where ever he lines up this season on both sides of the Tasman. Harnesslink Media

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