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Gold Ace’s comeback to credibility has received another boost heading into tomorrow night’s stunning premier meeting at Alexandra Park. The scratching of key rival Pembrook Benny from the $30,000 Founders 1700m has removed the major obstacle from Gold Ace making it back to back wins in the small sprint field. Gold Ace opened the $2.30 favourite with the TAB yesterday morning but shortened into $1.60 after Pembrook Benny, drawn directly inside him, was withdrawn. “He banged a knee somewhere and we had to treat it, which meant he couldn’t race,” said trainer Barry Purdon. “It is nothing serious though so he should be fine for Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve and the Flying Mile at Cambridge (Jan 9).” That means Gold Ace faces just four rivals in the group three race and greatly increases his chances of blasting to the lead as he looks to continue on from his all the way last start win. That was his first Alexandra Park success in over three years and his first win since re-joining Steven Reid and Simon McMullen from the McCarthy stable in Sydney. With his blazing gate speed and the Flying Mile just weeks away he could be in for a far more profitable summer than looked likely, especially as big guns like Christen Me and Terror To Love are having Christmas breaks. His early involvement and the Alexandra Park debut of Dalton Bromac in tomorrow night’s opening race sets up one of the stronger December premier meetings seen at Alexandra Park in years. Adore Me is the $1.22 favourite for the group one Queen Of Hearts even drawn the inside of the second line, with trainer-driver Mark Purdon indicating on The Box Seat TV show last night he would be looking to punch through early behind potential leader Helena Jet. “I think Helena Jet is the second best mare in the race and likely to lead so I’d rather do that than go back and try and come around them all,” said Purdon. Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen also have enormous roles to play in the $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial and the $50,000 Alabar Classic. Linda Lovegrace, with the inside draw, was the first horse backed seriously when the feature race markets opened yesterday, and at $3.20 was nudging excitement machine The Orange Agent’s $3 quote last night. Purdon opts for Sires’ Stakes winner Have Faith In Me as narrowly the stable’s next chance of three standouts in the Alabar Classic but the bookies see it the other way, having Hug The Wind the $2.40 top pick over Have Faith In Me at $2.70. The other group race of the night sees Stent return to Alexandra Park and his beloved mobile short course racing in the $40,000 Rosslands Lyell Creek Stakes. That combination and a good draw have seen him open a $2.50 favourite over Prime Power at $3.60 in a line-up that also includes Sheemon and Irish Whisper. Courtesy of Michael Guerin + Harness Racing New Zealand

No decisions on the immediate racing programme of New Zealand Cup winner Adore Me have been made yet as she heads into the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts at Alexandra Park tomorrow night. At this stage once the  Auckland Xmas carnival is safely over, champion mare Adore Me is likely to head to the Waikato Flying Mile on January 9. As former stable star Auckland Reactor has done in the past, Adore Me will take on the best on the 1000 metres Cambridge track but this year it will be a race with a difference. It will probably be the main guide that Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will use when they decide the racing programme for Adore Me for the remainder of the season. Just what races Adore Me will be set for is up in the air and the programme set for her may yet include some Australian features. Mark was non committal when asked where Adore Me may race next. "She is nominated for both the Victoria Cup (January 31 2240m) and the A G Hunter Cup ($400,000-February 7-3280m) but we will reassess her programme after the Flying Mile" Mark said Wednesday. "She is not at this stage any certainty to compete in the Inter Dominions Series (the final is on March 1) although the Ladyship Mile on grand final day is on the radar" Mark said. Mark's has more immediate concerns in light of  Adore Me's tricky draw in the Queen of Hearts on Friday night at Alexandra Park. "It is going to be an interesting race." "It is a bad draw for us although we are behind Helena Jet whom I rate the hardest to beat from the draw." "If I stay behind her Ricky will put us three pegs at some stage but he will be wanting to only give the lead to the right horse so it might not work out too badly." "So that is probably what we will do." "The only other way to drop out and wait for a run into the race is an option but following Helena Jet is probably the way to go." "I can't decide too much in advance," Mark said Harnesslink Media  

With the All Stars team in such fantastic form we thought it a good idea to bring you their inhouse preview of this weeks runners at Alexandra Park Alexandra Park - Friday night 6.55: Lazarus (6) - Mark Form: Has done what has been wanted at the trials and plenty left in the tank there. Comment: "He went nice that way around at the trials last week. He needed to qualify and he did everything right. With a lot of first starters you never really know but he is a nice little horse with a good attitude and should be hard to beat" 7.25: Linda Lovegrace (1)  Mark Form: Terrific effort first up and has the right draw again. Tough field but up to it. Comment: "She has the draw to get the run. Natalie has opted for Classical Art and she will probably be the hardest to beat. There is not much between these fillies and the run of the race is pretty crucial. On paper Linda is probably second to Classical Art yet my drive might get the best run" Fight For Glory (2) Tim Form: Different prep. from the others coming off grass track form. Smart tho this will be toughest test to date. Comment: "She is good enough to threaten them. As I say not a lot between them but she would probably be third of our lot" Classical Art (5) Natalie Form: Has just taken one big step after another. This will be the biggest tho with a local breaking 2.39 last week and Willow's national record. But she has been underrated before. Comment: "A lovely pacing filly and every time she goes off the place she steps up. I think she is the one to beat but The Orange Agent went a huge race the other night and I would be worried about her and I know Nat will be too" 7.56: Rare Opportunity (11) - Mark Form: Mixing them and up against the big boys here. Longer odds this time. Comment:  "Hard to see him featuring in a field like this. If he got a place it would be a good result but it is hard to see against some of these" 8.25: Its Bettor To Win (1) - Natalie Form: Made no race of it in easier class last week. May have to lift his times to beat some here. Comment: "Well, he might surprise a few with the way he goes. He has stepped up. He won very easily the other night and against older horses so the time was not so relevant. He should get the run. He really likes that way around too" Hug The Wind (3) Mark Form: Terrific last time and one of the two hardest to beat in this. Comment: "Won very well the other night and he has the results on the board.  He's got a marble and the boys report he is working well so he is an obvious win chance in my book. A bit will depend on what happens early and whether Chachingching for example really wants the front " Have Faith In Me (4)-Tim Form: Sires Stakes Final winner not tried right handed but shouldn't be a problem. Can produce brilliant sectionals. Comment: "Even though he is first time right-handed I must say I favour him slightly above Hug The Wind in this race. Right-handed racing the first time is funny. It doesn't bother some horses at all and then one you think will be fine just runs a bit green the first time.  Have Faith In Me works well that way at home and I don't think he will have a problem. He can do unusual things which is why I lean his way a little here.  Not a lot in it though." 8.54: Hot Pants (1) - Natalie Form: Terrific run first right handed last week and only improve. Ace draw might be a little concern in a race like this. Comment: "I don't think the draw will bother her too much. She is going real well at the moment and was only just beaten last week so you have to rate her a top chance" Paramount Queen (3) - Mark Form: Won first up in style and has such a great record at AP you can't risk her. Comment: "Again not much between these two and the run of the race is the main thing. She can win again. I'd prefer to stay out of this one !" 9.25:  Willow (7) - Natalie Form: Still on the up and might be the night of a surprise if everything went her way. Once set a NZ record here. Comment: "A good strong run last start. The draw is a bit tricky and she may have to go back early which you don't really want over 2200m so Nat will see how it unfolds. I couldn't see her beating Adore Me " Adore Me (9) - Mark Form: The draw from hell over this trip inside the second line. But it won't be enough to stop Ruby. Comment: "It is going to be an interesting race. A bad draw for us though we are behind Helena Jet whom I rate the hardest to beat from the draw. If I stay behind her Ricky will put us three pegs at some stage but he will be wanting to give the lead to the right horse so it might not work out too badly. So that is probably what we will do. The only other way to drop out and wait for a run into the race is an option but following Helena Jet is probably the way to go. I can't decide too much in advance. 9.55: Petite One  (unruly) Mark Form: Won with authority last start. Only lacks experience. Comment: "A lovely trotter and I think she is our best of the night" 10.25: Change Stride (2) - Natalie Form: Against Hug The Wind and co last start with 55.9 last half.  This is a hell of a lot easier Comment: "Well placed from the draw and is racing well. A big run last week on the work he did. Might be a bit of value with a couple of others favoured over him" Sluggem (9) Mark Form: Arguably the bet of the night last week. Problem here is that horror draw inside second row. Comment: "The draw doesn't help much but the horse he follows has gate speed and it might work out. He can go on with it now and I rate him probably an equal chance with Change Stride. There are some smart ones in it though" 10.55: Wanna Play (2) - Mark Form: Just never out of the money. First time this way around a small query but strong contender. Comment - "Hasn't raced for a while but fairly forward and on ability should beat most of these. First time right-handed yes, but seems to handle that ok" Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables

The summer campaign for one of pacing’s most exciting horses is over while another has suffered an untimely setback. Three-year-old speed machine Hughie Green will miss this Friday’s Alabar Classic at Alexandra Park after a dramatic month that saw him perform well below his best last start. That was at Alexandra Park 11 days ago, a few weeks after his expensive and almost disastrous loss run in the Sires’ Stakes Final at Addington, where he shied and ducked to the inside of the track in the home straight. Trainer Brian Hughes says he can’t work out Hughie Green, who has the fastest official last 800m ever at Alexandra Park, failed so badly at his next start. “There is something not right with him so he is having two weeks off and his next big aim will be the Derby here in March,” said Hughes. That still leaves his stable with a knockout three-year-old, the filly The Orange Agent, who faces her biggest test against some outstanding opposition in the $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial on Friday. Another star pacer who won’t be at Alexandra Park this Friday is New Zealand Cup runner-up Franco Nelson. He was a shock failure as a $1.10 favourite last start and is been affected by shin problems. “He won’t be ready for this week and the focus is now getting him back to his best for the Four and Five-Year-Old race at Cambridge on Christmas Eve,” said Dunn. But Friday’s meeting does see Adore Me back to defend her title in the $100,000 Rosslands Queen Of Hearts while Stent and Sheemon travel north for the $40,000 Lyell Creek Trot. There will nothing quite so fancy at Alexandra Park’s daytime meeting today but Friday night form will be the key pointer to follow. Makarewa Jake and Moment Of Truth bring that to race two, with the former running on well in a good race last Friday to finish just head of the latter. Liberty Styx (race four) was a good Friday winner two starts ago and raced in a far stronger field last start so being on a Alexandra Park bonus today she makes logical appeal. The Barry Purdon-trained pair of The Faithful (race six) and Aliante (race eight) have both been racing in a far stronger maiden series and fall back into races they can win today. Courtesy of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

One of harness racing's most select clubs in New Zealand has a new member after the "Wizard" Todd Mitchell chalked up win number 1000 as a driver when he piloted Prime Power to the winners circle at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Todd became just the 22nd driver to reach the milestone and he did it on one on his all time favourite horses in Prime Power. "I thought I might reach the mark the day before at Hawera but it just never fell into place on the day." " I am glad I drove the 1000th at Alexandra Park and being on Prime Power made it that bit more special," Todd told Harnesslink today.  Todd was always destined to follow a career in harness racing with his father being the former top trainer Robert Mitchell. "I have been around horses all my life."  "I worked for dad for 12 months when I left school and then went and worked for South Taranaki Bloodstock for near on 18 months." "From there I had a spell lasting about 18 months at National Bloodstock which is when they had a lot of top horses like Tower Of Strength," Todd said. Todd then went back to work for his father and continued to hone his driving skills. Not to long after that decided the time was right to give training a go himself. The first season in 2001 was a touch quiet but he has steadily built up the team to the point where Todd presently has 205 wins as a trainer on the board.  Todd started driving in 1989 and built through the 1990s to the point where by the late 1990s Todd was in the upper echelons of New Zealand drivers. The first highlight was winning the 1999 New Zealand Cup with Homin Hosed which he backed up with Gracious Knight when he won the New Zealand Cup in 2002. Then Just An Excuse won the 2003 and 2004 New Zealand Cups to give Todd four wins in New Zealands premier race in just six years. His most successful season was in 2003 when he drove 85 winners. Todd was straight to the point when asked who was the best pacer that he had driven. " Just An Excuse was special for me and the best pacer I haver driven." "Prime Power is just as clearly the best trotter I have anything to do with," Todd said. Todd has been aware he was closing in on the 1000 mark but says it took a bit longer due to his nine month holiday in 2012. "That nine month break was the best thing that could have happened to me." "It gave a much better outlook on the game being on the outside for a while." "I worked at Pencarrow Stud for nine months and really enjoyed the time there." Having now reached his goal of 1000 driving wins, Todd's sights are now firmly fixed on Australia with his star trotter Prime Power.  Safely through the next two starts at Auckland, Todd will turn his attention to the Glenferrie Challenge at Menangle with the 5 year son of Monarchy. "The mile on that big track is taylor made for him and I am excited about the trip" " I am not sure about heading on to the Southern Star a week later as I am not convinced he is mentally tough enough yet for three runs in a week," Todd said. Todd is one of the most approachable and helpful people in the industry when we ring for a comment or information and we here at Harnesslink would like to join with the rest of his peers in congratulating Todd on achieving the 1000 wins as a driver. Harnesslink Media  

Geoff Dunn has been left shaking his head about the draw for tonight’s Alexandra Park return for Venus Serena. Because he is stunned how his champion three-year-old filly of last season could draw worse than Adore Me under the preferential conditions. Venus Serena will start from the outside of the front line in the $30,000 mares race, with Adore Me at three on the second line. That is based on the track grid, which means the outside of the second line is rated the worst draw. “I doesn’t make sense to me, I reckon I have had about 20 calls about it,” says Dunn. “Any chance we had of beating her is gone now.” But Dunn is confident Venus Serena has recovered from a shocking season debut when she raced well below her best, even allowing for the incredible time posted in her comeback race on Cup Day. She convinced Dunn she was back on track with a strong second at the Rangiora workouts last week. The only problem is, that second was to Adore Me. “I am not saying we would have beaten Adore Me this week anyway, not the way she is racing,” he says. “But drawing worse than her has all but ended that hope. I will be happy with second.” So too will most if not all of Adore Me’s rival’s trainers tonight as they all count down to next week’s $100,000 Rosslands Queen Of Hearts, where all would also be happy to draw one, Adore Me two and gets dragged into a lucrative group one second. Barring bad luck it is impossible to see the great mare beaten tonight or any time in the next two months racing only her own sex, even allowing for the fact Venus Serena, Helena Jet and a few others are very serious mares. Adore Me’s stablemates will dominate the totes on plenty of other races tonight as the intensity of the Christmas meeting raises a few notches. Petite One (race 10) staged a huge recovery after an early gallop last week and meets an easier field so if she trots, she wins. Paramount Queen and Hot Pants will have plenty of supporters in race eight, even though they meet smarts locals in Lucky Fortune and San Diego Love. But it is the Sires’ Stakes fillies heat which could provide the brightest fireworks of the night as the leading stable have Supersonic Miss and Linda Lovegrace against some very sharp locals. As good as the Purdon-Rasmussen pair are, Katy Perry is back from winning the Breeders Crown and Democrat Party from injury, both having the stamp of top class fillies . With the likes of The Orange Agent in the race before that, the three-year-old fillies could even provide the most competitive racing of the premier meetings ahead. By Michael Guerin Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand

As the count down begins to the two big trotting races on the Australian harness racing calendar in March next year, most Australian pundits have already labeled Keystone Del nigh on unbeatable in the two big features. First up on the 1st of March we have the $200,000 Glenferrie Farm Challenge at Tabcorp Park Menangle followed six days later on March 7th by the $300,000 heat and final of the Great Southern Star at Tabcorp Park Melton. A few months ago the list of Kiwi trotters that seemed on track to travel to Australia to challenge Keystone Del seemed a long one but injury and indifferent form has cut a swathe through potential runners. Stent is still on track to return to Australia and again looks a serious threat while Sheemon has also earned a crack with a series of great runs this season. However the mile distance of both races plays into the hands of one of New Zealands most promising  trotters in Prime Power and he has been set for the two races this time in. Placed 4th in the Harness Jewels as a 2 year old, Prime Power came back as a 3 year old to completely dominate the Harness Jewels in 1:56.5 for the mile over Sheemon, Royal Aspirations and Blitzemcalder. Prime Power started his 4 year old season in real style winning his first five races with ease but then he suffered a few little niggles during which he raced well but not to the level he is capable of. Trainer/driver Todd Mitchell was never 100% happy with his stable star for most of the season. " He was never happy in himself and just wasn't right for a big part of the season" "Even when he ran 3rd in the Harness Jewels to Sheemon, he was not right," Todd told Harnesslink this week. The decision was made after the Harness Jewels to bypass the Dominion Handicap during Cup Week and that decision let Prime Power have a really decent break and get over whatever was ailing him last season. Todd is sure they made the right decision. "He is a different horse this time in and I couldn't be happier with him." "He is a lot happier in himself and it is showing in his work and how he is racing," Todd said. First up for the season Prime Power was beaten a nose after giving the talented Miss Pegasus a 20 metre start and then last week he accounted for the best trotters in the North Island with a convincing win in a time that was just 1/10th of a second outside of I Can Doosit's New Zealand record. It was the 12th win for the son of Monarchy along with 9 placings from just 27 starts for $175,112 in stakes. Todd is happy that last weeks win put one worry to bed. " Some people have expressed doubts about his ability to see out a really quick 2700 metres but last weeks win well and truly put that to bed. " "I  have always had confidence in the horse," Todd said. Safely through the Xmas carnival, Prime Power will be freshened before heading to Australia for his biggest test to date. With his blinding speed and great record at a mile, Prime Power has all the credentials to be a major player in the Trotting Masters this season. Harnesslink Media

If you are considering take the odds-on available for Franco Nelson at Alexandra Park tonight, driver John Dunn has some comforting words for you. Because the Canterbury horseman says the New Zealand Cup runner-up is as fit as he was during Cup week, which means he should simply win tonight’s $30,000 Summer Cup. Franco Nelson starts his northern campaign in tonight’s group three 2200m mobile just three weeks after two huge Cup week efforts. It took something freakish from Adore Me to deny him the Cup, but he did beat home Christen Me and Terror To Love, while he was a fighting third behind Christen Me and Adore Me in the NZ Free-For-All, over a similar trip as tonight. Those performances suggested his open class season last summer has toughened him up and he is now ready to stamp his mark on races. Which Dunn intends doing tonight. “He is good enough now to go forward and control races,” said Dunn. “Not that he has too because he is just as good coming from behind but he has the draw to use this week. “He trialled against Pembrook Benny last Saturday and we were really happy with him so he has lost nothing in fitness, he is ready to race up to the Cup week form.” That should see him win as the only two other genuine Cup class pacers in tonight’s small field, Gold Ace and Pembrook Benny, are drawn outside him. They may have the raw speed to cross to the front but Beyond The Silence, drawn the ace, is also very fast away so an early burn could leave any of them a sitting duck. Under any scenario bar Franco Nelson sitting parked he should win. He is the flagship of the team Dunn and his father Robert now have based in Auckland and John thinks Little Rascal (race six) could be the best value tonight. “He is a good maiden who went really well last week and should improve quite a bit,” says Dunn. “And I’ve Got This (race five) is a really nice trotter but that is a very good field.” While Franco Nelson might be the best horse on show tonight, the Northern Stakes for three-year-olds might be the best race. It brings together Hughie Green fresh from a most dramatic Sires’ Stakes Final failure at Addington against the Purdon-Rasmussen pair of Hug The Wind and Change Stride. Hug The Wind is a professional, high class young horse and will have plenty of fans tonight but Hughie Green has real x-factor and could become a multiple Derby winner. They are both draw wide in the small field so there could be a bit of cat and mouse tonight but Hughie might emerge as the big dog. Meanwhile, Christen Me is monopolizing betting on the A$100,000 Cranbourne Cup in Victoria tomorrow off the back of last Saturday’s Miracle Mile win. He has drawn the ace and his greatest danger would appear getting crossed at the start and locked away on the markers but with champion driver Dexter Dunn having rarely driven better than looks unlikely. If he did eventuate however, Terror To Love’s chances would improve greatly as he would have the option of making a play for the lead in a field lacking depth and attackers. Courtesy of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

Allan and Dave Clark, the men behind the Highview standardbred brand has been in the harness racing industry for long enough to know how hard it is to establish a colonial sire these days with all the North American shuttle stallions and frozen semen available to the New Zealand breeder. Nevertheless they decided a few years ago that funneling all the stud income back to North America was not something that was beneficial to the harness racing industry in New Zealand and starting looking for a potential sire locally . After a considerable time researching and evaluating what what local sire prospects were available, they settled on the very smart Christian Cullen entire Justa Tiger.  Justa Tiger is a true "blue blood" in every sense of the word. Not only is he a son of the champion New Zealand sire Christian Cullen but his dam is none other than the brilliant racemare Tigerish. Tigerish 1:57.1 won 15 races and $491, 957 on the track including a swag of group and classic races and was the leading filly of her year. Tigerish has carried than performance through into the breeding barn having left seven winners to date with her first daughter to go to stud Tiger Turner has already left All Tiger 1:49.1 ($409,985) and Tiger Tina 1:53.8 ($119,631) Justa Tiger was purchased by John Street at the Australasian Classic yearling sale and raced under the Lincoln Farm banner. He won his first start as a 2 year old and won two races at that age for stakes of $23,359 and ran in the Harness Jewels at two. As a 3 year old Justa Tiger came into his own, winning seven races and being placed seven times from 20 starts for stakes totaling $138,863. He took his lifetime mark when winning at Auckland over 2200 metres in 2:40.2, a mile rate of 1:57.1. His best performances were when he was beaten a neck by Georgetown in the $215,000 sales series race at Auckland - when running third in the $200,000 Great Northern Derby to Fiery Falcon and second in the $45,000 Flying Stakes to Auckland Reactor, beating home amongst others on that occasion Themightyquinn. Injured as a late 3 year old, Justa Tiger has all the credentials to be given his chance at stud From 37 starts, Justa Tiger won nine races, ran second four times and third seven times for stakes totaling $162,222. Purchased by David Clark after his retirement due to injury, Justa Tiger stood his first season at Highview at Riverton in 2010 which resulted in 23 foals which are now 3 year olds. As with all colonial stallions he struggled for patronage but Allan and David sent a handful of their commercial mares to help him get started. " Its really difficult for New Zealand bred sires to get the mares they deserve to get a chance to prove themselves." "We sent a few of our commercial mares to try to help him get established, " Allan told Harnesslink this week. The first crop of the Justa Tiger's are now 3 year olds and the first to hit the track is Machjagger, a lovely big filly from the Mach Three mare Mach N Elle whose first foal is the very smart Darcee 1:58.9 $40,067) Machjagger qualified in late October beating the smart Another Windermere in the process and Allan and David were hopeful of a good debut when she lined up on Sunday at Invercargill. " Even though you don't own them, you follow his progeny as though you do." "We had heard she was a smart filly and Sunday's run confirmed that,"  Allan said. Restrained off a wide draw by driver Nathan Williamson, Machjagger settled last in the running line before being sent forward with 1400 metres to run. Finding the front at the 850 metres mark, Machjagger was hotly challenged as they turned for home but refused to give in and was still a head to the good at the finishing line. Machjagger paced the 2200 metres in 2:47.2 in the showery conditions and on an easy track. Allan is confident that there are more winners in store in the near future. "We know of several others that are held in high regard with both Geoff Dunn and Peter Bagrie having a Justa Tiger they like." "We had another filly qualify down here in October so Justa Tiger is certainly heading in the right direction." "We have sold most of them privately but still have a handful on the farm for sale," Allan said. It takes a fair bit of courage and commitment to try and establish a colonial bred sire in todays market and Allan and David Clark are to be congratulated for giving Justa Tiger the opportunity that they have. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing has been dominated in the south this season by the outstanding efforts of the All Stars team and tonight at Addington was no different. Heat three of this years Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies series for 3 year fillies looked like a three horse affair with the All Star Team duo of Supersonic Miss and Classical Art joined by the talented Delightful Lana from the Cran Dalgety barn. In slushy track conditions, Delightful Lana and Classical Art came out together and dueled for 300 metres before Natalie Rasmussen slotted Classical Art into the trail behind Delightful Lana who as usual had Dexter Dunn in the bike. Mark Purdon had settled Supersonic Miss back on the inner but hooked her out and sent her forward with 1200 metres to go and she worked to Delightful Lana's wheel with 700 metres to run.  As they swung for home Delightful Lana held a narrow advantage but was quickly claimed by Classical Art up the passing lane and by Supersonic Miss on her outer and these two settled down to battle it out. Even allowing for the run she had most pundits would have still expected Supersonic Miss to assert her superiority but it wasn't to be as Classical Art ran away from her better credentialed stablemate for an emphatic victory by 2 1/2 lengths with Delightful Lana a further 1 3/4 lengths in third. It was the fourth win in a row for the strongly built daughter of Mach Three and maintained her unbeaten record since her debut just over a month ago. Classical Art paced the 1950 metres in slushy conditions in 2:24.6, a mile rate of 1:59.3 with smart sectionals of 56 and 27.5 considering the state of the track. It should be little wonder that Classical Art is as talented as she is as the daughter of Mach Three is from the 1:57.6 Artsplace mare Art Lover who is a daughter of none other than the brilliant racemare Under Cover Lover 1:51.8 ($864,923). Purchased for $31,000 from the Australasian Classic Yearling sale in 2013, Classical Art's progress has been far from plain sailing for her trainers. Mark Purdon was quite reflective after the race tonight  on his unbeaten filly. " She was close to being sacked not to long ago to be honest." " She is quite a hard filly to work with and is not that good a track worker at home." "When it comes to raceday however she is a completely different filly." "To win that race tonight in the manner she did at just her fourth lifetime start was some effort," Mark said Mark wasn't disappointed with the run of the brilliant Supersonic Miss to run second. " The track didn't suit her 100% and she had a tough run but it was still a smart effort under the circumstances but she ran into a better one on the night," he said. Both fillies will now head to Auckland with the $75,000 Ladyship Stakes and $150,000 Alabar Sires Stakes final firmly on the radar. While Supersonic Miss would have started the season as the top ranked filly in the All Stars stable, one gets the feeling from listening to Mark Purdon tonight that she is being  quickly overtaken by Classical Art. Harnesslink Media    

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    

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