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The words of a champion horseman are one of the few ghosts haunting trainer Steven Reid as he prepares Star Galleria for tomorrow night's $100,000 Taylor Mile. The speed freak pacer is the $2.60 opening favourite for the group one sprint, one of four group races as Alexandra Park kicks off its last major carnival of the season tomorrow night. Star Galleria has developed from a speedster lacking strength last season into one of the best pacers in the country behind Lazarus with a series of high-class victories over the summer, downing the likes of Heaven Rocks and Jack's Legend with ease. While he hasn't raced since his effortless win in the City of Auckland Free-For-All a month ago, the four-year-old thrilled Reid winning his Pukekohe workout last Saturday in a fast time on a soaked track. "He felt great and I have no doubt he is better than he was a month or two ago," says Reid. "He has got stronger again and I couldn't be happier with him. "The Puke track is fast at the moment but he still paced 3:2 for his 2400m on a wet track, his last 800m in 55 seconds so he is ready." The only concern Reid had after last Saturday's spectacular workout win was the words of champion driver Maurice McKendry, who drove runner-up Let It Ride. "Maurice sat on our back and never pulled out and after the workout he told me his horse was jogging," says Reid. "So maybe he has come over here in really good form, I suppose we will find out on Friday." Let It Ride is a member of Tim Butt's Menangle stable and was a close second to eventual Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu in the Chariots of Fire in February. He looked very impressive during last Saturday's workout and his gate speed and sprint prowess are honed by his Sydney racing diet so with barrier two he has emerged as a real danger in the race. A G's White Socks has the ace draw and More The Better is drawn on Let It Ride's back, suggesting all four favourites should be handy, almost always the key to Taylor Mile success. Trotting young gun Enghien has opened favourite against the older horses in the $100,000 Anzac Cup, with the aid of barrier two and the fact his connections believe he is more comfortable around Alexandra Park. But the favourite for one of tomorrow night's other group races Luby Lou goes into the $60,000 Sires' Stakes Trotters Champs with no experience right-handed, which may be why bookies are giving an appealing $2 for the superstar filly, keeping Renezmae safe at $5.80 after her impressive northern debut last Friday. The race looks one of the deeper three-year-old trot features at Alexandra Park in recent years as the breed continues to develop at the two and three-year-old levels through better breeding and more racing opportunities. That is also being reflected in the high number of two-year-old trotters racing this season compared with five years ago, the resurgence suggesting HRNZ's recent boosts of stakes for the three trotting races at the Jewels to $125,000 was the right decision. Michael Guerin

The field is entering the home stretch. And it’s still hard to pinpoint the winner. The race to be crowned 2017/18 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Master is anyone’s guess with just two legs remaining. The focus swings to Alexandra Park, Auckland with the running of this week’s $100,000 H R Fisken & Sons Anzac Cup followed by the $150,000 Canam Rowe Cup next week. Both events carry Gr.1 status Winners of Trotting Masters features thus far this season include Amaretto Sun (Dominion), Sparkling Success (Great Southern Star) and Tornado Valley (Grand Prix). None of the above mentioned will contest the Auckland classics which leaves the door slightly ajar for a late dive-bombing closer to claim the title. A scenario that unfolded last season with Habibti Ivy snatching the crown following the Auckland features. As it stands, Sparkling Success leads the race with 160 points but is that enough to secure the title? Can local star Temporale (currently with 60 points) produce the goods over the next week to claim a dramatic victory? The dual Gr.1 winner boasts an excellent record at the track with 8 wins and 7 minor placings from 17 starts. Suddenly, Temporale is thrust into the limelight in more ways than one. The Anzac Cup was introduced to the Grand Circuit calendar back in 2012 when champion performer I Can Doosit prevailed for trainer/driver Mark Purdon. Winners since include Stent, Superbowlcheerleader, Sheemon, Monbet and Habibti Ivy. There is a common thread that links the six previous winners; they were all prepared in the South Island. Can Temporale become the first North Island trained winner of the Anzac Cup? Will master horseman Tony Herlihy weave some magic in front of his local fans? Also representing the north are quality performers Speeding Spur (gate 13), Lemond (gate 4), Yagunnakissmeornot (gate 11), Realmein (gate 10) and Charlemagne (gate 6). Speeding Spur, prepared by father/son combination of John and Josh Dickie, is a six times Gr.1 winner including his latest effort at Addington in the Fred Shaw Memorial New Zealand Trotting Championship on April 6. His record at his home track is exemplary with 8 wins and 8 minor placings from 16 starts. Again, the south is well represented with boom four-year-old Enghien (gate 2) looking to maintain his unbeaten record at the clockwise track. Prepared by Greg and Nina Hope, the Woodend Beach couple is chasing their second triumph after scoring with Monbet two years ago. The dual Gr.1 winner will again be handled by Ricky May. Quality performers Bordeaux (gate 7) and Harriet Of Mot (gate 12) will gain strong support while Destiny Jones (gate 9) is looking for some luck from its tricky draw. Phil Williamson and Paul Nairn, both highly skilled horsemen, are represented by Monty Python (gate 1) and Alderbeck (gate 3) while One Over Da Moon (gate 5) must be respected. The first three placed runners are guaranteed a start in the 2018 Rowe Cup next week. The Anzac Cup is a 2200m mobile start event while the Rowe Cup will be staged under standing start conditions and run over 3200m. Chris Barsby

Harness racing trainer Gareth Dixon has been fined $6500 for producing a horse to race when not free of a prohibited substance. The horse in question was Gimmegold who won a race at Alexandra Park on the 16th December 2017. During the night he won, Gimmegold underwent a random Post Race urine swab and on the 9th January 2018 the Official Racing Analyst reported in writing that the samples from “Gimmegold” had tested positive to Cobalt. The horse returned a Cobalt level of 293 ug/L (micrograms per litre). Cobalt at a concentration above 100 micrograms per litre in urine is a Prohibited Substance within the meaning of the Rules and its presence in a race day sample is, prima facie, a breach of the Rules. The horse Gimmegold has since been disqualified from winning the race on 16th December 2017. Full details below:   BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003 IN THE MATTER of the Rules of Harness Racing BETWEEN THE RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU) Informant AND Mr GR Dixon Licenced Public Harness Trainer Respondent Information No: A8465 Date of hearing: 8 April 2018 Venue: Counties Racecourse Appearing: Mr O Westerlund- Investigator, Racing Integrity Unit Mr G Dixon – Licenced Harness Trainer Mr R Lawson – Lay Advocate representing Mr Dixon Judicial Committee: Mr A Dooley, Chairman - Mr A Smith, Committee Member Charge The Informant Mr O Westerlund, Racing Investigator alleged that on Saturday the 16th December 2017, Gareth Ryan DIXON was the licenced Trainer of the Standardbred Harness Racehorse “Gimmegold” which was presented for and raced in Race 8, the New Year’s Eve Auckland Cup Twilight Races Mobile Pace 2200m, at a race meeting conducted by the Auckland Trotting Club at Auckland, when the said Standardbred was found to be presented to race with a Prohibited Substance in its system, namely Cobalt, being an offence under the provisions of Rules 1004(1A) and 1004(3) and punishable pursuant to Rule 1004(7) and (8) of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing. The relevant Rules are as follows: Rule 1004(1A) A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances. Rule 1004(3) When a horse is presented to race in contravention of sub rule (1A) or (2) the trainer of the horse commits a breach of these Rules Rule 1008 In the absence of any express provision to the contrary in any proceeding for a breach of these Rules: (a) it shall not be necessary for the informant to prove that the defendant or any person intended to commit that or any breach of the Rule; and (b) any breach of a Rule shall be considered as an offence of strict liability. Penalty Provisions Rule 1004(7) Every person who commits a breach of sub-rule (2) or (3) shall be liable to: (a) a fine not exceeding $20,000; and/or (b) be disqualified or suspended from holding or obtaining a licence for any specific period not exceeding 5 years. Rule 1004(8) Any horse connected with a breach of sub-rule (1), (2) or (3) shall be disqualified from any race entered and/or liable to a period of disqualification not exceeding five years Mr Dixon acknowledged that he understood the Rules and he confirmed that he admitted the breach. Mr R Lawson, Lay Advocate, represented Mr Dixon at the hearing. Mr Dixon acknowledged that all the relevant documents from the RIU had been disclosed to him. Mr Dixon confirmed that the Summary of Facts were not disputed. Mr Westerlund produced a letter from Mr M Godber, General Manager for the Racing Integrity Unit, authorising the filing of the Information pursuant to Rule 1108(2). Agreed Summary of Facts by the Informant The respondent Gareth Ryan DIXON is a licensed Public Trainer and Trials Driver under the Rules of New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing. On Saturday the 16th December 2017 “Gimmegold” was correctly entered and presented to race by Mr DIXON in Race 8: 9.15pm – New Year’s Eve Auckland Cup Twilight Races Mobile Pace 2200m at the Auckland Trotting Club meeting at Alexandra Park, Auckland. “Gimmegold” is a 6 year-old bay gelding (Changeover – Charbella Gold) owned by Mr AM Roberts and Mrs CD Roberts and is trained by the Respondent, Mr DIXON. “Gimmegold” finished first of the nine horse field and won a stake of $7758. “Gimmegold” underwent a random Post Race urine swab. Mr DIXON does not contest the swabbing process. All swab samples from the meeting were couriered to the New Zealand Racing Laboratory and were analysed for the presence of substances prohibited under the Rules of New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing. On the 9th January 2018 the Official Racing Analyst reported in writing that the samples from “Gimmegold” had tested positive to Cobalt. The horse returned a Cobalt level of 293 ug/L (micrograms per litre). Cobalt at a concentration above 100 micrograms per litre in urine is a Prohibited Substance within the meaning of the Rules and its presence in a race day sample is, prima facie, a breach of the Rules. Cobalt is an essential trace element required for life through the actions of Vitamin B12 of which Cobalt makes up about 5% of its weight. Cobalt is absorbed from the gut either as elemental or incorporated in Vitamin B12. Mr Dixon was spoken to on Monday the 15th January 2018 at his Stable in Pukekohe. He could offer no explanation for the positive test result on the horse. In the Stable Block several items were located which contain Cobalt. Located ‘Blud-Boost-Equine Athlete’ a 1kg packet that was already opened - a supplement containing B12. When the ‘Blud-Boost’ was tested it was found to contain Cobalt at the level of 1.4 mg/kg (milligrams per kilogram). Also located ‘Ironcyclen’ 1 litre container. The label indicates that this product is an iron supplement with copper and cobalt for horses and dogs. Mr Dixon admitted giving the horse 10-15mls the day before it raced. When the ‘Ironcyclen was tested it was found to contain Cobalt at the level of 5.2 mg/kg (milligrams per kilogram). Also located was a 100 ml bottle of ‘Hemoplex’. The label indicates a supplement source of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids for horses, cattle, dogs and cats, for use during periods of stress and convalescence. Mr Dixon admitted giving the horse 10mls two days before the horse raced. When the ‘Hemoplex was tested’ it was found to contain Cobalt at the level of 81 mg/kg (milligrams per kilogram). A Certificate of analysis provided by the Assure Quality laboratory confirmed there were no anomalies in any of the products tested. Mr DIXON has been involved in the Harness Racing Industry for 35 years. He holds a Public Trainer and Trials Driver Licence and trains eight race horses. He has been training for 15 years. He is aged 45 years and has not previously appeared. An order is sought for the horse “Gimmegold” to be disqualified from the race and the stakes money to be repaid. In response to a question from the Committee, Mr Westerlund said that the RIU analysis of TAB betting records revealed that there was nothing out of the ordinary associated with the betting patterns on GIMMEGOLD. Submissions by the Respondent Mr Lawson made the following points: 1) The Positive Test result of the swab was notified to the RIU on the 9th Of January 2018. 2) Gimmegold (the horse concerned) raced again on January 13th (4 days later) 3) Mr Dixon was not notified until January 15th. 4) Gimmegold was swabbed on January 13th after finishing in sixth position. Mr Dixon felt this extremely unusual at the time. (although obviously on the following Monday he found out why) 5) Gimmegold was tested for Cobalt and returned a reading of 11 for the January 13th run. 6) Gimmegold was given the exact same proprietary items as his race winning (and positive swab for December 16th.) 7) Mr Dixon is at a complete and utter loss as to explain why the horse tested high on December 16th. 8) Cobalt is a natural substance and horses will have natural levels and each may also excrete excess Cobalt differently. 9) Many Horse feeds including hay have Cobalt in them and so do water supplies. 10) Trainers are not in a position to test their own horses for Cobalt levels so at any time are totally unaware of the levels in their horses. 11) Despite the proprietary items having low levels of Cobalt in them – on one occasion the horse tests high and then on the next occasion it tests low. 12) Cobalt in racehorses is a very inexact science. 13) There is no definitive scientific evidence that proves it is detrimental to a horse’s welfare and there is also no scientific evidence to prove that it improves equine performance. 14) However it is conceded that – it does not have to have either of the above to be determined that it is at a certain level – a prohibited substance. 15) The point we are making here is that despite a large amount of publicity surrounding Cobalt there is very little if any definitive evidence of how and why a horse can test high for it. 16) Mr Dixon has been and is extremely concerned and upset that he has received this positive result. He prides himself on his integrity and this is an unfortunate chapter in his training career. 17) Mr Dixon has compensated the owner of this horse for loss in winning stakes due to this positive test. 18) In an effort to keep costs to an absolute minimum the “B” sample was not requested to be tested. 19) It is accepted that the horse will be disqualified from the race in question. 20) Mr Dixon now takes extreme care and is fastidious in trying to ensure his horses are not exposed to potential Cobalt that could cause a high reading. Mr Dixon provided the Committee with two written character references and advised that he was also a commercial breeder and seller. He said that his reputation is everything and he wouldn’t knowingly put himself in this position. He added that his Trainers percentage for winning the race was $700. Decision As Mr Dixon admitted the breach the Committee found the charged proved. Submissions on Penalty by Informant 1. INTRODUCTION: 1.1 The respondent Gareth Ryan DIXON is a licensed Public Trainer and Trials Driver under the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing. 1.2 He has been involved in the racing industry for 35 years and a trainer for 15 years. 1.3 Mr DIXON is 45 years of age. 1.4 It is submitted that a fine of $8000 is sought. 2. OFFENDING: 2.1 Mr DIXON has admitted the breach of the Rules in relation to the standard bred race horse “Gimmegold”. 2.2 “Gimmegold” raced at the Auckland Trotting Club meeting held at Alexandra Park on Saturday the 16th December 2017. 2.3 The details of Mr DIXON’s offending are contained in the Summary of Facts which is agreed. 2.4 The prohibited substance concerned is Cobalt. Noted: That the level for Cobalt under New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing was reduced on the 1st August 2017 from 200 ug/L to 100 ug/L (micrograms per litre). 3. PENALTY PROVISIONS: 3.1 The penalties which may be imposed are fully detailed in the Charge Rule Penalty Provisions document. 4. SENTENCING PRINCIPLES: 4.1 The four principles of sentencing can be summarised briefly: - Penalties are designed to punish the offender for his/her wrong doing. They are not meant to be retributive in the sense the punishment is disproportionate to the offence but the offender must be met with a punishment. - In a racing context it is extremely important that a penalty has the effect of deterring others from committing similar offences. - A penalty should also reflect the disapproval of the JCA for the type of offending in question. - The need to rehabilitate the offender should be taken into account. 4.2 The first three principals have relevance in this case. 5. PRECEDENTS: 5.1 In support of this penalty I will refer to four previous decisions by the J.C.A which may be of some assistance. 5.1.1 RIU v BROSNAN (13.02.18) – 3 x Cobalt positives. Total fine imposed of $19,200. 5.1.2 RIU v DALGETY (16.05.2017) – 5x Cobalt positives. Total fine imposed of $32,000. 5.1.3 R.I.U v BAMBRY (4.12.17) - 1 x Cobalt positive. A fine imposed of $11,000. 5.1.4 RIU v O’SULLIVAN & SCOTT (22.03.2016) – 3x Cobalt positives. Total fine imposed of $50,000. 6. MITIGATING FACTORS: 6.1 That he has admitted the breach at the first opportunity. 6.2 That he has been fully co-operative throughout the process. 6.3 That he has had no previous charges before the Committee. 7. AGGRAVATING FEATURES: 7.1 No aggravating features. 8. CONCLUSION: 8.1 The RIU believe that the breach can be dealt with by way of a monetary penalty. To that end the RIU seek a fine of $8000. 8.2 Under Rule 1004(8) 8.2.1 “Gimmegold” is required to be disqualified from the respective race on the 16th December 2017 8.2.2 Any stake money paid out is required to be repaid. 8.3 The RIU are seeking no costs. Submissions of Penalty by Respondent Mr Lawson made the following points: 1. The JCA Penalty Guide shows a Starting Point as an $8000 fine for a Breach of The Prohibited Substance Rules. This is for a first offence and a single positive. 2. We are dealing with a first offence and a single positive in this case. 3. From the Starting Point we must add or detract based on the aggravating or mitigating circumstances of the case. 4. In this case we agree that there are no aggravating features. 5. There are a number of mitigating circumstances – they are as follows:- - The Guilty Plea and admission at first opportunity - Mr Dixon has been fully co-operative throughout the enquiry - Mr Dixon has no previous charges before the committee and in fact has an exemplary record. - The References as to the excellent character of Mr Dixon - His dismay at this charge and the effect on his reputation. 6. Mr Dixon is a family man with a new baby and two other young dependents. 7. He is able to pay a fine although would appreciate a modest one. In Summary given all of the above we submit that a fine based on the starting point of $8000 with a 20-25% discount for the mitigating factors would be appropriate. This would be in line with principles on previous cases (in particular the R Brosnan case) The RIU are generously not seeking any costs – that is appreciated and as the case is being heard on a raceday it would also be appreciated if there were no JCA costs – in line with a number of other similar cases heard on raceday. Reasons for Penalty The Committee have carefully considered all the evidence and submissions presented. The JCA Penalty Guidelines have a starting point of $8,000 fine for a first offence of presenting a horse to race with a prohibited substance in its system. That figure was adopted in this case. The Committee was conversant with the four precedent decisions referred to by the RIU. The Committee notes that the level of Cobalt detected (293 ug/L) in GIMMEGOLD’s system was in the mid-range compared to other cases involving this Prohibited Substance. There has been much publicity and discussion about Cobalt in both the Harness Racing Code and the Thoroughbred Code in New Zealand in recent years. This should have put all Licenced Holders on notice. The purpose of Rule 1004 is to maintain the integrity of Harness Racing and to impose an obligation on all Trainers to ensure horses are presented to race free of Prohibited Substances. It is a long established principle of racing that there is a high obligation on the part of Licence Holders who transport a horse to a race meeting to ensure compliance with the Rules. It is therefore paramount that racing is conducted on a level playing field. There were no aggravating factors that warranted an uplift in penalty. The mitigating factors for which we afforded Mr Dixon a reduction in penalty were: • Mr Dixon’s admission of the breach. • Mr Dixon was fully cooperative with the RIU during their investigations. • Mr Dixon has an unblemished record under this Rule after 15 years of training approximately 2,200 Standardbred horses. We had regard for the two written character references where both referees had known Mr Dixon for many years and both emphasised his honesty and integrity. After having regard for the particular circumstances of this case we consider that a fair and reasonable reduction from the starting point was $1,500. After taking into account all of the above factors the Committee considered that an appropriate penalty was a $6,500 fine. Penalty Accordingly, Mr Dixon was fined the sum of $6,500. Disqualification of the Horse Pursuant to Rule 1004(8) the Committee orders the disqualification of GIMMEGOLD from, the New Year’s Eve Auckland Cup Twilight Races Mobile Pace 2200 metres. Disqualification effective from Monday, 16 April 2018. The amended placings are: 1st No.1 IDEAL LASS 2nd No. 3 WILL TAKE CHARGE 3rd No. 9 LYNTON CREEK 4th No. 2 STAND SURE The Committee was informed that the stake money for this race has not been paid out. Therefore the Committee authorised the payment of stakes in accordance with the amended placings. Costs The RIU has sought no costs. As this charge was heard on a raceday, there was no order for JCA costs. Dated this 10th day of April 2018 Adrian Dooley Chair   Harnesslink media

Interest is mounting ahead of Alexandra Park’s inaugural hot dog eating competition set to take place on Friday 20 April as part of its American Night. The person to beat will be renowned New Zealand competitive eater Nela Zisser who can devour 36 Crème Eggs in quick succession, 45 cheese burgers in under an hour, and a 10,000 calorie English breakfast in one sitting. “Nela Zisser has confirmed she is attending and partaking in our hot dog eating competition. At 25, she is already internationally known and is certainly the one to beat. It’s going to be quite a spectacle,” says Joel Reichardt, Sales & Marketing Manager at Alexandra Park. The hot dog eating competition is offering some great cash prizes for both the professional and amateur leagues. Mr Reichardt says it is a fitting event for American Night as similar competitions are hugely popular in the US with the current champion putting away 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes! To reserve a spot in Alexandra Park’s 10-minute hotdog races, people need to purchase a fully refundable $20 entry fee via its website which includes all the event information: https://www.alexandrapark.co.nz/whats-on/hot-dog-eating-contest/ American Night will also be attended by leading Donald Trump impersonator, Alex Sparrow who has been ranked as one of the world’s top 10 Donald Trump impersonators. As well as hot dogs and ‘Donald Trump’, the evening promises to be star-spangled night of delicious American-style food, exciting harness racing action, and classic cars. American Night hospitality packages for the all-you-can-eat US-inspired buffet range from $60 to $125 per person. Promoted as a night in the Hamptons at Top of the Park and a stroll through New Orleans in the Tasman Room, the best of the US will be served up in both venues. This year the Tasman Room will also undergo an amazing streetscape transformation into a New Orleans-inspired Bourbon Street, complete with a selection of food stalls and a funky Jazz band. To secure tickets phone (09) 631-1165, email dining@alexandrapark.co.nz, or visit https://www.alexandrapark.co.nz/whats-on/?date=20-04-2018 General admission into Alexandra Park as well as car-parking and race books remain free on the night. Other internationally-themed cuisine race nights at Alexandra Park include Mexican Night on 4 May and French Night on 25 May. Nela Zisser’s YouTube page can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO9-JxPuNA4UhhlGVwY_VdQ www.alexandrapark.co.nz

Interest is mounting ahead of Alexandra Park’s inaugural hot dog eating competition set to take place on Friday 20 April as part of its American Night. The person to beat will be renowned New Zealand competitive eater Nela Zisser who can devour 36 Crème Eggs in quick succession, 45 cheese burgers in under an hour, and a 10,000 calorie English breakfast in one sitting. “Nela Zisser has confirmed she is attending and partaking in our hot dog eating competition. At 25, she is already internationally known and is certainly the one to beat. It’s going to be quite a spectacle,” says Joel Reichardt, Sales & Marketing Manager at Alexandra Park. The hot dog eating competition is offering some great cash prizes for both the professional and amateur leagues. Mr Reichardt says it is a fitting event for American Night as similar competitions are hugely popular in the US with the current champion putting away 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes! To reserve a spot in Alexandra Park’s 10-minute hotdog races, people need to purchase a fully refundable $20 entry fee via its website which includes all the event information: https://www.alexandrapark.co.nz/whats-on/hot-dog-eating-contest/ American Night will also be attended by leading Donald Trump impersonator, Alex Sparrow who has been ranked as one of the world’s top 10 Donald Trump impersonators. As well as hot dogs and ‘Donald Trump’, the evening promises to be star-spangled night of delicious American-style food, exciting harness racing action, and classic cars. American Night hospitality packages for the all-you-can-eat US-inspired buffet range from $60 to $125 per person. Promoted as a night in the Hamptons at Top of the Park and a stroll through New Orleans in the Tasman Room, the best of the US will be served up in both venues. This year the Tasman Room will also undergo an amazing streetscape transformation into a New Orleans-inspired Bourbon Street, complete with a selection of food stalls and a funky Jazz band. To secure tickets phone (09) 631-1165, email dining@alexandrapark.co.nz, or visit https://www.alexandrapark.co.nz/whats-on/?date=20-04-2018 General admission into Alexandra Park as well as car-parking and race books remain free on the night. Other internationally-themed cuisine race nights at Alexandra Park include Mexican Night on 4 May and French Night on 25 May. Nela Zisser’s YouTube page can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO9-JxPuNA4UhhlGVwY_VdQ   Cameron Brewer www.alexandrapark.co.nz

Two of the most improved horses in Tony Herlihy’s stable can give him a feature-race double at Alexandra Park tonight but they will have to do it in very different ways. Because while The Almighty Johnson could try and lead throughout in the major trot, Italian Delight faces a 30m handicap in the $17,000 Franklin Country Cup for the pacers. Italian Delight has been one of the most consistent improvers in northern harness racing over the summer and is guaranteed a spot in the glamour four-year-old male division of the Jewels, sitting fourth on the ladder. Last season he looked a touch one-paced but this season he has matured as so many of the Bettors Delight stock do and has added extra strings to his bow, one of those being able to come from off the speed. That will certainly be the case at least early from the back mark in tonight’s 2700m standing start but so steep has his improvement curve been, coupled with the small and moderately talented field, that anything like his best performance would probably see him win again. While trainer-driver Herlihy might have to play the patient game early with Italian Delight, The Almighty Johnson has the gate speed to gain tactical advantage in the 1700m open trot. He has finished third in both the Lyell Creek and Flying Mile at group two level over the summer, showing gate speed on both occasions and is drawn best of the three favourites tonight. Aiding him further is the fact Ross Paynter, trainer of his arch rival Lemond, thinks his charge is still on his way back to peak form. “He has had two workouts since he last raced and while I was happy with him trotting 2:48 for 2200m mobile at Cambridge last Saturday, I think he will still improve with the run,” says Paynter.   The rival clearly good enough to beat The Almighty Johnson is Bordeuax, who at his best ranks in the top five trotters in the country.  If he trots squarely and handles Alexandra Park perfectly tonight he has a huge chance and the small field should suit him but while he has yet to suggest he is bulletproof during previous northern campaigns, trainer Philip Iggo is confident.  “He actually trots betters right handed and showed gate speed two starts ago so I think he will be hard to beat,” says Iggo. Another southern trotter with the talent to win but something to prove tonight is Renezmae in race five. Last season’s juvenile filly Breeders Crown winner returned with a stunning win against older horses in February but has raced below her best last start and faces the double trouble of some in-form opposition tonight as well as being first up at Alexandra Park, a track that has tripped so many southern trotters.   Michael Guerin

An exciting weekend of harness racing coming up including the last grass track meeting of the season at Methven on Sunday. The five meetings this week are Manawatu tonight, Addington and Auckland race on Friday night. Weekend harness racing heads to Winton on Saturday and Methven race on Sunday.  Last week the biggest dividend in the ringaround selections went to Jim Curtin for the second week in a row when his best chance for the week Le Lievre's Gift won at Addington on Friday night and paid $6.40 and $2.20 on the tote. Note: We will keep adding to this page if more tips come in after the deadline, so check back often.   Manawatu on Thursday Jay Abernethy - Jay thinks his best drive this week is Four Starzzz Legend at Manawatu in Race 7 Jim Curtin - Jimmy is going for Franco Empire as his best chance this week at Manawatu in Race 9   Addington on Friday night Mark Jones - Mark says his best chance this week is Michelle at Addington in Race 3 Blair Orange - Blair thinks his best drive this week would be Sportscaster at Addington in Race 4 Ricky May - Ricky says his best drive this week would be Kendra at Addington in Race 7 Matthew Williamson - Matthew is going for Tiger Thompson as his best drive this week in Race 8   Auckland on Friday night John Curtin - John thinks Ash can win fresh up in the North Island this week in Race 3 Stephen Richardson (Odds Analyst) - Stephen thinks South Island import Double O Heaven can win Race 4 Tony Herlihy - Tony is opting for Gold Orchid as his best chance this week at Alexandra Park in Race 6   Winton on Saturday Nathan Williamson - Nathan says his best chance this week is Triroyale Brigade at Winton in Race 7 Brad Williamson - Brad says his best chance this week would be The Doorman in Race 9 Shane Walkinshaw - Shane is going for Mighty Conqueror as his best drive this week also in Race 9 Geoff Knight - Geoff says that Fiery Ferret would be his best chance at Winton in Race 10   Methven on Sunday Bob Butt - Bob is going for With Ice as his best chance this week at Methven in Race 1 Terry Chmiel - Terry thinks his best drive could be Sweeney Todd at Methven in Race 3 Harnesslink Reporter - thinks Kensington Kate can go close to winning at Methven in Race 5 John Morrison - John thinks his best drive this week would be Doc Seelster in Race 6 Racechat - Lance thinks that Clasina Maria is a good chance at Methven in Race 8 Gavin Smith - Gavin thinks Red Hot Rocket is a chance if he behaves at Methven in Race 9   Harnesslink Media  

An exciting weekend of harness racing coming up with the highlight being the group racing at Addington on Friday night, which includes a very even field for the $200,000 New Zealand Derby. The five meetings this week are Forbury tonight, Addington and Auckland race on Friday night. Weekend harness racing heads to Invercargill on Saturday and Rangiora on Sunday  Last week the biggest dividend in the ringaround selections went to Jim Curtin whose best chance was Caviar Star at Manawatu on Thursday night. The horse duly obliged and paid $3.80 and $1.40 on the tote. Note: We will keep adding to this page if more tips come in after the deadline, so check back often   Forbury on Thursday night. Geoff Knight - Geoff says that Jacks N Jazz would be his best chance tonight in Race 4 John Morrison - John thinks his best drive this week would be Motu Speedy Star also in Race 4 Brad Williamson - Brad says his best chance this week would be The Doorman in Race 8 Rory Mcllwrick - Rory thinks his best drive this week could be Fiery Ferret in Race 10   Auckland on Friday night Todd Macfarlane - Todd says his best drive might be Last Waltz for the Dunn stable in Race 2 Andre Poutama - Andre thinks his best drive would be One Cool Kat also in Race 2 Maurice McKendry - Maurice says his best chance this week is Red Reactor in Race 6 Tony Herlihy - Tony is opting for Bettor Babe as his best chance this week at Alexandra Park in Race 10   NZ Metro on Friday night Ricky May - Ricky says his best drive this week could be Kendra at Addington in Race 1 Jim Curtin - Jimmy is going for Le Lievre's Gift this week at Addington in Race 2 Blair Orange - Blair thinks his best drive this week would be Buster Brady at Addington in Race 4 Matthew Williamson - Matthew is going for Tiger Thompson as his best drive this week in Race 6 John Curtin - John thinks Tennyson Bromac will win again this week at Addington in Race 8   Invercargill on Saturday  Shane Walkinshaw - Shane is going for Somethings Burning as his best drive this week in Race 1 Harnesslink Reporter - thinks Bettor Rock On can go close to winning at Ascot Park in Race 2 Brent Barclay - Brent is opting for Duke Of wellington as his best chance this week at Ascot Park in Race 7   Rangiora on Sunday Racechat - Lance thinks that Bettor Backim is a good chance at Rangiora in Race 1 Mark Jones - Mark says his best chance this week could be Michelle in Race 5 Gerard O'Reilly - Gerard thinks Leo's Gift would be his best chance this week at Rangiora in Race 7 Gavin Smith - Gavin is going for Diana Harbour as his best drive this week in Race 10   Harnesslink Media

The Auckland Trotting Club has a great track-record when it comes to establishing and overseeing horse racing syndications. Now the 128-year old iconic club is again calling on Kiwis to consider joining a syndicate ahead of the 2019 season. Syndication, or shared ownership, is fast becoming the most popular means for people to race horses. As an authorised syndicator, the Auckland Trotting Club has consistently led in this area over the past two decades, with statistics proving its 17 syndicates have been very successful overall. Syndicate Manager Andrew Jamieson is calling on registrations of interest. He is keen to encourage people from all walks of life to investigate syndication and says many will be pleasantly surprised. "It's an affordable and low-risk way into harness racing. It provides people unique access into the ownership of well-bred yearlings selected and trained by some of the country's best. What's more, it's a lot of fun," says Mr Jamieson. Auckland Trotting Club's Racing Manager Regan Cotter believes there's no bigger thrill than watching your own horse compete, and says it's is a great time to do so because the stakes have gone up. For the current 2017/2018 season there's over $8 million in prize-money up for grabs at Alexandra Park alone across 41 race meetings. "The Auckland Trotting Club has shown great vision with its programme to lift stakes significantly. Not only do higher stakes make for more exciting racing, but they make horse ownership and participation more attractive and viable. Joining a syndicate now is a really exciting proposition," says Mr Cotter. Last year the club launched a dedicated racehorse ownership portal on its website, which takes people through syndication membership, as well as individual ownership, part ownership, company ownership, and leasing options. "The Auckland Trotting Club is all about sustaining harness racing into the future. Key to that is promoting ownership and involvement in this great sport of ours regardless of anyone's level of expertise, budget, or prior interest," says Mr Cotter. To find out more about syndication, or have an information pack sent to you, visit: https://www.alexandrapark.co.nz/racing/syndicates/ or contact Syndication Manager Andrew Jamieson on (09) 238-9212, (021) 253-8765 or ajamieson175@gmail.com www.alexandrapark.co.nz   Cameron Brewer        

North Island based harness racing driver Philip Butcher has been fined $600 for directing abusive and threatening language to junior driver, Jack MacKinnon during a race at Alexandra Park on the 23rd February this year. Butcher was interviewed on 2 March in relation to both his driving tactics and the alleged comments. Mr MacKinnon repeated what he recalled being said to him and this contained ‘profane’ language with repeated use of the ‘F’ word. Mr MacKinnon also made reference to Mr Butcher threatening to ‘drop him and put him in a chaff sack’. Mr Butcher clarified this by saying what he had actually said was ‘I should drop you and they would be picking you up in a chaff sack, but I have too much respect for the other drivers’. The race in question   Full details of the inquiry below: NON RACEDAY INQUIRY IN THE MATTER OF The New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT Mr Steve Mulcay, Senior Stipendiary Steward Informant And Mr PHILLIP BUTCHER, Licensed Open Horseman HRNZ Respondent Rule 303(2) Information No. A10554 Judicial Committee: Mr AJ Godsalve, Chair – Mr AJ Dooley- Committee Member Appearing: Mr PA Butcher, Respondent Venue: Cambridge Raceway Date of Hearing: 18 March 2018 Date of Decision: 21 March 2018 DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE BACKGROUND This matter has its background in race 9 at the Auckland Harness meeting on 23rd February 2018. As a result of concerns held by the raceday Stipendiary Stewards over the way two horses (MAX PHACTOR and WRANGLER) had been driven, an investigation was undertaken. This culminated in the Information, the subject of this hearing, being submitted. Information A10554 alleges that: “On the 23rd day of February, at Auckland, Mr PA Butcher. Driving MAX PHACTOR (in race 9) committed a breach of Rule 303(2), in that he misconducted himself by directing abusive and threatening language to Junior Driver, J MacKinnon (driving WRANGLER) during and following the running of this event”. RULE 303(2) provides: - No person or body who holds a permit or licence under these Rules and no owner, trainer, breeder, stablehand, unlicensed apprentice or racing manager shall misconduct himself or fail to comply with any request, direction or instruction of any Stipendiary Steward, Racecourse Inspector, or Starter. Penalty Rule 1003 (1) provides: - A person who commits a breach of any Rule shall be liable to the following penalties (a) A fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or (b) Suspension from holding or obtaining a licence for a period not exceeding 12 months and/or (c) Disqualification for a period not exceeding 12 months. Plea At the commencement of this hearing the relevant Rule was read to Mr Butcher by the Chairman. Mr Butcher acknowledged that he understood the Rule and confirmed that he admitted the breach. Summary of Facts Mr Mulcay submitted a written Summary of Facts, as follows: 1. Stewards had concerns with the respective driving tactics adopted by J MacKinnon (WRANGLER) and P Butcher (MAX PHACTOR) during the running of this race. (Race 9, Auckland Trotting Club 23rd February 2018). 2. Driver J MacKinnon was interviewed following the event with the assistance of trainer R Dunn, and during the course of the interview made reference to abusive and threatening comments made to him by Mr Butcher. 3. Driver P Butcher was interviewed on 2 March in relation to both his driving tactics and the alleged comments. Mr MacKinnon repeated what he recalled being said to him and this contained ‘profane’ language with repeated use of the ‘F’ word. Mr MacKinnon also made reference to Mr Butcher threatening to ‘drop him and put him in a chaff sack’. Mr Butcher clarified this by saying what he had actually said was ‘I should drop you and they would be picking you up in a chaff sack, but I have too much respect for the other drivers’. 4. Mr Butcher agreed with everything else that was stated by Mr MacKinnon. 5. Mr Butcher then apologised to Mr MacKinnon and Mr Dunn with the respective apologies being accepted (in the presence of the Stewards). 6. The matter was then adjourned to be given consideration. 7. Following consultation with the Chief Stipendiary Steward and General Manager of Stewards, and after receiving written permission from the Operations Manager, it was decided to issue Mr Butcher with a charge under Rule 303(2) and this information was given to him today by phone. Film - the films of the race in question were available and were narrated by Mr Mulcay. He identified the two horses concerned. WRANGLER was leading the race after drawing barrier 1. MAX PHACTOR had drawn 4. From about the 1500m mark to about the 1300m mark MAX PHACTOR challenged for the lead on the outside of WRANGLER. It was apparent that Mr MacKinnon had no intention of relinquishing the lead, in spite of Mr Butcher using some vigour to try to get MAX PHACTOR past WRANGLER. Mr Mulcay pointed out that from about the 1200m mark it was clear that Mr Butcher was directing ‘a lot’ of comment to Mr MacKinnon while still attempting to get past him. MAX PHACTOR eventually reached the lead when WRANGLER began to tire. Mr Mulcay noted that WRANGLER had finished last, some 20 lengths behind the field. MAX PHACTOR was beaten 4½ lengths. Mr Mulcay then confirmed that Stewards had interviewed Mr MacKinnon, and later Mr Butcher over their driving tactics and had been advised of the matters referred to earlier which resulted in this charge being laid against Mr Butcher. It transpired that the verbal attack by Mr Butcher on Mr MacKinnon had continued after the race when the horses were returning to the stabling area. The Committee asked Mr Mulcay to clarify Mr MacKinnon’s position when he was challenged by Mr Butcher, particularly any obligation he may have had to relinquish the lead. Mr Mulcay stated that Mr MacKinnon was not required to hand-up the lead to Mr Butcher. However, he referred to Rule 868(2), which relates to the obligation on drivers to take all reasonable and permissible measures to ensure their drive wins the race or obtains the best possible position. ‘Reasonable’ in this context could relate to drivers not engaging in ‘speed duels’ which may negate their chances at the finish. A discussion ensued where the Committee and Mr Mulcay confirmed that in their experience, drivers usually handed-up the lead when challenged in situations like this as it was often counter-productive to horses’ chances not to do so. Documents Mr Mulcay submitted in evidence a copy of a letter signed by the General Manager of the RIU dated 18 March 2018, in which authority is given for an Information to be lodged against Mr Butcher for breaching Rule 303(2). Mr Butcher Mr Butcher told the Committee that he apologised for the manner in which he had spoken to Mr MacKinnon. He said that he knew he shouldn’t have ‘done it’…that he was not in a ‘good space’ and that he was very disappointed with himself in that he was not a horrible person. Decision As Mr Butcher has admitted the breach we find that this charge is proved. Penalty Submissions Mr Mulcay submitted that Mr Butcher had never breached this Rule; that he had shown contrition; and that he had admitted this breach. He added that he considered that Mr Butcher’s behaviour bought the Industry into disrepute and added that the Stewards have a duty of care to ensure as much as possible that industry participants are provided a work place free from ‘bullying’. He added that he believed that an aggravating factor was that the behaviour complained of was prolonged and continued after the horses had pulled up at the end of the race. Mr Mulcay referred to an earlier prosecution (RIU v White) and stated that he considered a similar penalty was appropriate in this case. He said that if the Committee determined that a suspension was an appropriate penalty he believed it should be a 4 day suspension. He added that he believed Mr Butcher was likely to have 5 drives a day, and a 4 day suspension would result in him losing approximately 20 driving opportunities. Mr Mulcay said that in the case of a monetary penalty being imposed, Stewards submitted a fine of around $600 to be appropriate. Mr Butcher said again that he was ‘not in a good head space’ and would prefer a suspension as opposed to a fine. Penalty Discussion The JCA guidelines on penalty (2015) for Harness Racing do not list a starting point for the general charge of Misconduct. The starting point for general Misconduct under the Thoroughbred Racing guidelines is ‘fact dependant’. It can be therefore inferred that the starting point for general Misconduct for Harness Racing is also ‘fact dependant’. Previous matters which have been dealt with by various JCA Committees where language and/or threatening behaviour has been involved have in the main not been where a race was underway…mostly they have been where language has been directed at Officials, and/or other industry participants at times other than during competition. A serious charge in the Thoroughbred code (Jockey ‘W’) in 2015 involved threats and offensive language, including during a trial race, and ultimately led to a 12 month disqualification. We mention this to illustrate the seriousness of how this type of offending is viewed by racing Authorities, given the safety issues surrounding racing generally. Horseracing, either code, is at times dangerous and challenging, and participants should not be put at risk by threats from other drivers or riders. In 2009 another rider (Jockey ‘W’, not the person referred to above) was fined $2000 for using insulting and threatening language to another jockey in the weighing area after an inquiry. In 2017 driver ‘D’ was fined $850 after being charged with using offensive and insulting language to Officials while being interviewed about a raceday incident. Reasons for Penalty As stated above we approached this Penalty decision on the basis that there is no starting point, and penalties are ‘fact dependant’. We accept the fact that Mr Butcher has admitted the breach and has no prior history of any breaches under the general ‘Misconduct’ Rule. He has shown remorse. He made reference twice to the fact that he was ‘not in a good head space’ at present. That does not excuse his behaviour. Mr Butcher is a mature man and has been engaged in the Harness industry many years. We understand he also has employment outside the industry. Mr Mulcay has submitted that the Stewards’ preferred penalty involves a suspension of 4 days, which in his estimation could result in Mr Butcher not driving in around 20 races. The Committee finds difficulty in accepting that Mr Butcher would drive 5 times each raceday. Mr Butcher himself stated that he was not driving as often now as he has in the past. While he is a primary driver for one stable we are aware of, it is a fact that on some days he only drives once or twice. Judicial Committees are empowered to assess penalties on the basis that they are ‘meaningful’, i.e. that they will have a significant and appropriate impact on the offending party; and that they are seen to be meaningful to other industry participants, and the public at large. We therefore believe that to achieve a meaningful penalty we have to consider a fine. In assessing a penalty, we look at the mitigating and aggravating factors. Clearly the fact that Mr Butcher threatened physical harm to Mr MacKinnon is of real concern. It would be naive to think that drivers and jockeys don’t take issue with others during races when things ‘don’t go their way’. That is in the nature of competition. However, in this case Mr Butcher has gone past that and his threatening language to Mr MacKinnon cannot be condoned. It has to be said that Mr MacKinnon’s driving may have been a contributing factor, indeed the Stipendiary Stewards investigated the way in which both he and Mr Butcher drove their horses in that race. However, Mr Butcher is an experienced Open Horseman, while Mr MacKinnon is a Junior Driver and it is not unreasonable to expect a better standard of behaviour from Mr Butcher. The Committee therefore determined that this matter would be dealt with by way of a fine. We adopted a starting point of $800, and after taking into account Mr Butcher’s admission, his clear record, and his apparent contrition, arrived at a figure of a fine of $600. Penalty The Committee therefore imposed a fine of $600 on Mr Butcher. As this matter was heard on a raceday there was no order made in respect to costs either to the JCA or the RIU. Alan Godsalve   Harnesslink Media

Alexandra Park's popular American Night is back - with Friday, 20 April promising to be a star-spangled night of delicious American-style food, exciting harness racing action, classic cars, and even a hot dog eating competition. What's more American Night will be attended and promoted by leading Donald Trump impersonator, Alex Sparrow. The Kiwi made an appearance in person at Alexandra Park's American Night last year, before competing in Los Angeles in the 'King of Trumps' after being ranked as one of the world's top 10 Donald Trump impersonators. "It's great to have 'Donald Trump' back for American Night as he was a huge hit last year. People will again be lining up to have their photo with 'the President'. He's also helping us to promote the event over the coming weeks," says Joel Reichardt, Sales & Marketing Manager at Alexandra Park. New this year will be the hot dog eating competition with some great cash prizes to be won in both the professional and amateur leagues. Mr Reichardt says hot dog eating competitions are hugely popular in the US with the current champion putting away 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes! For further information visit: https://www.alexandrapark.co.nz/whats-on/hot-dog-eating-contest/ American Night hospitality packages for the all-you-can-eat US-inspired buffet range from $60 to $125 per person. Promoted as a night in the Hamptons at Top of the Park and a stroll through New Orleans with a funky Jazz band in the Tasman Room, the best of the US will be served up in both venues. "Last year American Night was phenomenally popular and so much fun. We're expecting even more interest this year. Subsequently, we're encouraging people to book their tables now as 20 April will definitely sell out," says Sales & Events Coordinator Danielle Upton. To secure tickets phone (09) 631-1165, email dining@alexandrapark.co.nz, or visit https://www.alexandrapark.co.nz/whats-on/?date=20-04-2018 General admission into Alexandra Park as well as car-parking and race books remain free on the night. Other internationally-themed cuisine race nights at Alexandra Park include Mexican Night on 4 May and French Night on 25 May. www.alexandrapark.co.nz For further information contact: Joel Reichardt: (021) 786-034  

Sensational harness racing 3yo Chase Auckland was back in winning form tonight, easily winning the $235,000 Woodlands Stud Northern Derby in race and New Zealand record time.  The imposing son of Auckland Reactor has now won eight races from nine starts this season, with his only defeat coming last week, when he was beaten by stablemate Sicario in the Derby prelude. Sicario ran second tonight giving trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen the Derby quinella. Chase Auckland (Auckland Reactor - Delicata) did not get it easy in tonights race and had to work hard to get to the front. However once getting there he never looked like getting headed and he cruised to victory in 3:16.8 for the 2700m mobile. Driver Natalie Rasmussen was full of praise for the 3yo after the race and said, "He raced well wide for a long way and I had to let him settle before committing him to take the front. All credit to the horse, he tried real hard and always felt great in the run."   "He actually felt like he could not get beat when he got to the front."  "It was great to wear the teal pants and win in a race like this," she said. The All Stars Stable had a very successful night also winning with Princess Tiffany and Jesse Duke. Princess Tiffany won the 2yo fillies $80,000 Delightful Lady Classic after sitting parked for the whole trip, while Jesse Duke put in an amazing run when winning the Group One $100,000 Young Guns. The impressive Jesse Duke (Bettor's Delight - Daisy Dundee) looked like he would be unlucky for the second week in a row when he was squeezed and broke early, but he picked himself up and zoomed home out wide from last at the turn to win narrowly in a 1:55.0 mile rate. His run was one of the best 2yo performances seen on the track in recent years. Chase Auckland winning the Derby   Harnesslink Media    

Alexandra Park harness racing fixed odds movers as at 4:10pm Race 1 - Mass Destruction $27.00 - $18.00 easily leads win betting with the $2.20 favourite leading multi betting over Sex On Fire $3.90.   Race 2 - Zadaka $6.50 leads win betting over Check In $9.00 with Master Moonlite $2.30 just leading multi betting over Rain Man $3.80.   Race 3 - Girls On Film $1.75 is the only runner wanted in multi betting with the best backed runner in win betting Amanda's Spur $15.00.   Race 4 - The big mover here is American Empress $8.20 - $5.50 with the largest bets $500 at $8.20, $500 at $7.00 & $1,000 at $6.50.  Delishka $2.90 leads multi betting over American Empress & Opoutama $4.00.   Race 5 - C K Spur $4.20 leads win & multi betting over Sunset Peak $6.50.   Race 6 - Princess Tiffany $1.75 is the only runner wanted in win & multi betting.   Race 7 - Pat's Delight $9.50 - $8.20 has been well backed early but in multi betting Chase Auckland $1.40 dominates.   Race 8 - Jesse Duke $1.60 has lost no admirers after last week's defeat & is the only runner wanted in multi betting.   Race 9 - Jack's Legend $2.50 - $2.30 has taken all the early win money & isn't that far behind the $1.85 favourite Star Galleria in multi betting.   Race 10 - Delight Me $1.30 is racing away in multi betting with Loud An Proud $20.00 the best backed runner early in win betting.    The 'top 6' best backed runners in early multi betting: R7    Chase Auckkland $1.40  R6    Princess Tiffany $1.75  R8   Jesse Duke $1.60  R10 Delight In Me $1.30 R9   Star Galleria $1.85  R3   Girls On Film $1.65     Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

Chase Auckland may be running out of ways to get beaten in tonight's $250,000 Woodlands Northern Derby at Alexandra Park. The son of Auckland Reactor has looked every inch his father's son in his debut season, winning both the Sires' Stakes and Sales Series Pace before tasting defeat for the first time in the Derby prelude last Friday. That was when he was forced to sit parked outside stablemate Sicario and only just failed to grab him in his first start for two months, suggesting he will clearly strip fitter tonight. Even after that defeat the TAB opened Chase Auckland a $1.35 favourite and those taking the short will do so without too many obvious stumbling blocks. Already this crop has been shorn on several key rivals through injury, illness or sales overseas. In the last two weeks first Pat's Delight and then Sicario, with huge Alexandra Park wins, have emerged as genuine Derby threats to Chase Auckland, at least until Monday's barrier draw. Sicario, who may well be as talented as his stablemate on last Friday's run, drew the second line and while he is the only horse there he still looks set to settle closer to last than first. And Pat's Delight fared even worse, drawing the outside of the front line while Chase Auckland drew barrier six. Pat's Delight's trainer Cran Dalgety was pragmatic about the draw. "If we were going into the race as the big dog maybe we could roll the dice and go forward from barrier eight," said Dalgety. "But if we go blasting out and try and lead from there, even if we make the front, we will set the race up for something else." So with his two best credentialed rivals likely settling behind him, Chase Auckland's only major worries should be those in front of him. There are some handy, future open class rivals between him and the lead but only Sheriff would seem any hope of holding him out and even then any desire to do so would be sorely tested if Chase Auckland got serious inside the first lap. More and more, it looks like a Derby he should eventually lead and win. The classic is just one of a stretch of six major races in a row, starting with a small but very even Northern Mares Classic, which could be decided by how hard Delishka has to work. The open trot looks a lottery but CK Spur's manners are so good his improvement curve might continue, especially with the backmarkers not suited by the big field. The southern fillies dominate the Delightful Lady, with Bubbled Up probably the best value since there doesn't seem to be much between her, Princess Tiffany and Kendra. Jesse Duke looks the best of the freshman boys in the Young Guns Final but is still very much learning so maybe not a true multi bet anchor. And the return clash of Jack's Legend and Star Galleria in the City Of Auckland Free-For-All should be a beauty, with the former holding a crucial draw advantage tonight. Star Galleria may be flat out faster than Jack's Legend but if he has to move mid-race to sit parked while Jack's Legend leads then it is advantage Jack's Legend, and at $2.50 fixed he is a good bet. MIchael Guerin

Punters should be willing to forgive talented trotter Lemond for burning them at Alexandra Park last Friday. Because trainer Ross Paynter says it was his failed experiment which might have brought the exciting five-year-old undone and hopes reverting back to the tried and true will help in this week's Greenlane Cup. Lemond is a genuine group one horse, finishing second in the Anzac Cup as just a four-year-old last season but with an injury-ravaged open class crop this season that comes at a price. For much of the season Lemond faces racing off handicaps against intermediate grade opposition because there are few open class trots in the north outside the biggest two carnivals. And Paynter knows that can make for some near mission impossible races. "Take this week, I've got his full brother Il Parata in the same race as Lemond and while he isn't anywhere near as good he can trot 3:28 off the front for 2700m," says Paynter. "Which means Lemond might have to come three and four wide and trot 3:24 to win. "I think he can do that and win at his best but but it's very hard to do. And clearly last week he wasn't at his best." Paynter says that was because he tried Lemond in flip flop shoes, to reduce the concussion effect on his legs, particularly his off side fetlock. "He had a few problems in that area last campaign and we thought the flip flops would help. He trialled well in them but he just couldn't get going last Friday so we have taken those off. "He actually wears quite heavy metal shoes, his whole family can be like that and I put those back on him on Monday and he trotted a lot better today [yesterday]." Lemond still faces a 30m handicap against handy but hardly frightening opposition so the best version of him could win. "But I still think he might be just below his best fitness wise so it will be a big test. "But he will definitely go better than last week." The trot looks one of the trickier features on a night where the pacing group races will have a lot shorter favourites. The market for the Woodlands Northern Derby will be released today, with Chase Auckland certain to be favourite.   Michael Guerin

Nigel McGrath isn't giving up. And the 16 new horses he has in his stable are proof of that as much as the two he has in Friday night's $250,000 Woodlands Derby at Alexandra Park. McGrath has Sheriff and Aloka in the classic, again up against the might of the All Stars stables, who have the favourites in Chase Auckland and Sicario. The All Stars pair relegated Sheriff to third in last Friday's Derby prelude, a position McGrath was not unused to. But he and fellow Derby trainer Cran Dalgety are two southern horsemen who in recent years have been able to, at least on occasion, halt the All Stars domination of our classics and Jewels. Dalgety has Pat's Delight in this Friday trying to emulate Raukapuka Ruler's shock Derby win of 12 months ago, while last season McGrath trained Dizzy Miss Lizzy to win a Jewels and Sales Series Pace over the best of the Purdon-Rasmussen fillies. He says training in such a rare, elite era is a challenge rather than discouraging. "It has been said by a few people before but it is like finding a way to beat the All Blacks, it's not easy but it's not impossible," says McGrath. "We did it a couple of times in major races last season and we have done it before in Sales Series races up here (Auckland). "I think you can only keep analysing what you do as a trainer and keep trying to get better. "But of course it also comes down to what stock you have and that is why the yearling sales are so important. "I took 16 yearlings home this year from the sales and I bought them to win Derby and Sires' Stakes races, not run second or third. "Those yearlings are my future and my owners' future so we are in for the fight," McGrath says. McGrath is bringing that attitude to Friday night's Derby, saying he will instruct driver Blair Orange to use Sheriff's barrier draw to try and stay in front of the All Stars pair. "I think often if you hand up you are running for second or third at best. "And sometimes that is fine because each horse has to be rated to its strengths. "But I think Sheriff is good enough to try his luck and make them work." McGrath's second-stringer, Aloka, cost punters plenty when galloping in front in a lower-grade race last Friday but the trainer is not expecting a repeat of that problem: "He is a place chance at least ..." While Chase Auckland lost his unbeaten record to Sicario last Friday, he will open as Derby favourite, having been forced to sit parked, and should improve with the run, his first in two months. This Derby has real depth, incredible because it is an unusual year for our elite pacing three-year-olds, with sales, sickness and exports having halved the number of stars available. Of the 13 top juveniles who made it to the Jewels last June, only two return for Friday's Derby while Australasian Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing has been sold to Perth. So the fact Alexandra Park has been able to attract nine genuine top-class three-year-olds is surprising. The classic is the highlight of a huge meeting, with two rich juvenile finals, the City of Auckland Free-For-All, Greenlane Trotters Cup and Northern Mares Classic making it the strongest Alexandra Park meeting for the rest of the season. Woodlands Derby Alex Park, 8.48pm Friday $250,000, 2700m mobile The field 1: Culpeka (1) 2: American Brave (2) 3: Triple Eight (3) 4: Sheriff (4) 5: Aloka (5) 6: Chase Auckland (6) 7: On The Cards (7) 8: Pat's Delight (8) 9: Sicario (1 second line) Michael Guerin

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