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By Garrick Knight The transition from boy to man can take some time, in horses as well as humans, but Double Rocket has had to grow up pretty quickly over the past few months. The Cambridge four-year-old continued his swift development with a tenacious victory at Alexandra Park on New Years’ Eve over the hot favourite Dina Bolt. It was the result of being thrown in the deep end from his first start as a four-year-old and having to race open class-level horses such as Self Assured, Mach Shard, Belle Of Montana and Our Uncle Sam. “He was only a four-win horse but was pretty much racing open class horses straight away,” said his trainer, Arna Donnelly. “So it took him a few runs to probably ‘harden up’ and learn to sort of run the times needed in this grade. “He hasn’t been disappointing either – he was never far away, just didn’t get all favours for three or four runs.” He’s got good gate speed and that had been a real asset in his recent racing, though Donnelly says they’ve tried not to abuse it and that applied on Tuesday. “Sometimes it can be his downfall because he loves running the gate but you can’t always do that and be there at the end. “We did pull back the other night but it was a great drive from Scott (Phelan) in the end to go forward without burning too hard.” Once in front, and with Dina Bolt on his back wearing the invincible colours of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Phelan steadied the pace, reflected in what is now a relatively sedate overall time of 2.40.4. But it was a smart drive because he backed Double Rocket’s point-to-point to speed and final splits of 55.0 and 26.5 ensured he couldn’t be reeled in. For Donnelly it was nice to be one of just two stables on the afternoon to beat the All Stars barn, a rare occurrence with the money up on premier night. “It was a real thrill, especially being able to beat the top stable.” One person not on course was Donnelly’s mum, Mary Walker, a part-owner of Double Rocket and huge supporter of her training career, who was undergoing an operation on the day. “I’ve been given a rev up for even mentioning it on our Facebook page so I best not go in to it, but she’ll bounce back and hopefully be there for his next win.” Two owners that were on course to share the success with Donnelly were Peter and Jan Argus, who are big supporters of the stable. “They are very passionate owners that have been fantastic to me back from when I first started out with the likes of Ideal Success. “They’ve really helped put me on the map and I couldn’t be more grateful.” The big question is where to go next with Double Rocket and the answer might be next Friday night’s $50,000 Flying Mile on his home track in Cambridge “There’s not really any other races for him so we might nominate and have a look. “I have no real set plans with him for the rest of the season, though we will probably try and have a crack at the Messenger and Taylor Mile later.” And while pushing through for a tilt at the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in late May would seem the obvious that might not be the case. “We’ll probably try a Cups campaign with him next season or at least look to target some of the nicer races down south in the Spring. “So we won’t want to be chasing our tail just for the Jewels.” Donnelly chose Double Rocket at the 2017 Karaka yearling sale, going to $26,000 for the son of broodmare gem Spirit Of Eros and American Ideal. That made him a half-brother to a bevy of winners including Crown Law, Spirit And Desire, Spirit Of Art, Spirit Of Delight and fellow Cambridge alumni, Bettor Spirits and Spirit Of Anzac. Two of his half-sisters are the dams of God’s Spirit, Dracarys and Spirit Of St Louis as well, so she’s been one of the great modern day producers. The pedigree page also includes none other than our greatest ever pacer, Lazarus, as well a newly-crowned Auckland Cup winner Self Assured, Star Galleria, Stars And Stripes and Spirit Of Zeus. “I did like the look of him, even though he was only little; a nice type,” said Donnelly. “The family just seems to leave winner after winner but there wasn’t a hell of a lot of bidding interest in him so we ended up getting him pretty cheaply, I thought.” Double Rocket is undoubtedly the star of a stable that has swollen in size recently as Donnelly solidifies her as the biggest stable in the Waikato. “We’ve got a big team – it’s sitting around the 30 mark at the moment. “That includes about 10 two-year-olds that we’ve already gone through, some of which I’d like to qualify shortly before tipping out. “We’ve also got really big numbers in the paddock, too, which is a nice position to be in.” Courtesy of HRNZ

Pukekohe harness racing trainer Ray Green grabbed a training double last night when both Linc's Tiger and Rocknroll Lincoln won their respective races easily in  wet conditions at Cambridge Raceway.  Linc's Tiger gave his sire Sir Lincoln another boost, trailing for most of the race before bolting away in the straight to win by 4 lengths and running a quick 57.7 for his last half in the slushy conditions. Rocknroll Lincoln was even more impressive winning in a very quick mile rate of 1:57.5 for the 2200m mobile. His winning time of 2:40.7 was superb considering he led and was attacked twice in the running before winning untouched for driver David Butcher. Cambridge trainer Nicky Chilcott, also trained a double for the night when Shay Scott and Harry H won the two trotting races on the card. Shay Scott showed his liking for the track when winning his second in three weeks at Cambridge Raceway. Although his winning margin of 4 lengths was not as impressive as when he won by 27 lengths three weeks ago, he still won with plenty in hand suggesting there are more wins in store for the eight year old Sundon gelding. Harry H (Muscles Yankee - Sound Of Chiola), a recent addition to Chilcott’s barn won the the higher rated R51-84 handicap stand later in the night. The half-brother to former eighteen win trotter Martina H trailed for most of the race and got the upper hand close to the line to win by a length from the fast-finishing favorite Lovely Bundy. Trainer Arna Donnelly trained her second winner of the season when 5-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding Bet Out Of Ell won the feature event last night. His time of 2:43.7 was only just outside of Awesome Armbro’s national stand start record for 2200m.  Bet Out Of Ell (Bettor's Delight - Elle Mary Rose) started from a handicap of 20m and the race was held in wet conditions making the run of the winner even better. Donnelly was confident of a good showing, thinking the drop in class last night would suit the horse and he duly obliged.       Harnesslink Media

Andre Poutama is just three victories away from achieving his goal of 30 wins in his first season as an open horseman. The 25-year-old Ray Green employee has seven nice drives at Alexandra Park on Friday night, and even though there are no stand-outs he believes he has a couple of nice winning prospects. The Franklin reinsman believed the Arna Donnelly trained Bet Out Of El, in the seventh race, was his best winning chance of the night. “I think Arna is trying to qualify him for the Jewels Final. He’s got no Lazarus to contend with tonight,” Poutama said. Here’s what Poutama had to say about his book of drives: Race 2: The Eddy Clarke trained Whitecliff Chapel (7) – "She has been a bit disappointing after her spell and is slowly coming back to form. This field isn’t so strong and she did run home well two starts back. She can run in four.” Race 3: The Ray Darby trained Bro Fawkes S (9, 10m) – "He just needs the right run dropping back in this class. I think he found the 2700m a bit long last start and I think the 2200 will suit him. He’s a hope because he does everything right.” Race 4: The Ray Green trained Rocknroll Lincoln (6) - “He’s a 3-year-old colt who has suffered from poor draws lately. He was brave in front last time when he got attacked down the back. That took a wee bit out of him. If he can stay out of it early and then attack late I think he can be right in this. Each-way.” Race 5: The Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick trained Rhythm N Blues (9) - "Another 3-year-old who was game last start after leading them and setting up a good time. He didn’t really get a breather that night. It depends what they do up front this time, but he loves racing and is not out of this.” Race 6: The Ray Green trained She's Ideal (4) - “Lightly raced mare who still has a lot to learn. She doesn't possess any real speed yet and she's not up there with the top 4-year-old mares going around but she does have a bit of talent and is drawn okay. She's the sort of pacer who is going to get better and better with racing. Race 7: The Arna Donnelly trained Bet Out Of El (4) - “He sat parked and did all the work in the New Zealand Messenger last start and this is a big drop in class. there’s no Lazarus to contend with this time. He’s on the verge of a Jewels (17th & $2,690 short) start and I think Arna wants to take him to Ashburton. I think he is one of the better chances in the race and probably my best drive of the night.” Race 9: The Jason and Megan Teaz trained Mortician (1) - “Three-year-old trotting gelding that went real well at Manawatu last week when favourite. He ran second behind The Hulk that night and is a capable trotter on the verge of claiming his second career win. This field doesn’t seem as strong as what he’s been racing. He can win but it depends on what Mortician shows up.”   Duane Ranger

Monday’s Hawera Cup winner, Imajollywally, will progress on to the North Island Country Cups Final at Cambridge Raceway on ANZAC Day. The 7-year-old Armbro Operative gelding has come through his two-length victory over the Series top qualifier, Fleeting Grin, well - and the $25,000 Final is now his immediate goal. “That’s my first Country Cups win since Ideal Success won five Cups in a season a couple of years ago. At the moment Imajollywally is probably the stable star. “He's the loveliest pacer to drive and has quite high speed for an older horse. He jogged it yesterday, which was a surprise as the track was pretty testing,” Donnelly said. The Cambridge trainer and driver settled Imajollywally fifth along the markers from their 20m handicap in Monday’s $12,000 South Taranaki Club Hawera Cup for the R60 and faster pacers. They then tracked Everything and Nicky Chilcott down the back straight before pouncing out of the one-one at the top of the straight to run away and win in 4:37. The Parawai Cup (Thames) runner-up recorded a 2:21.4 mile rate for the 3150m stand. Imajollywally also came home in 61.6 and 29.7 on the trying surface. He has now won 11 of his 83 starts and placed in 14 others ($75,786) for his owner/breeder Craig Good. “Wally pulled up great and I’m looking forward to the Country Cups Final on our home track. I’m also hoping Eldolar will make the field,” said Donnelly. Eldolar finished with five points in the Series, but notched up his fifth career win (all this season) at the Hawera meeting on Saturday. Junior reinsman Mark Johnson drove Eldolar to a head victory over Everything (Nicky Chilcott) for trainer Donnelly in the $9,000 Egmont Tyre Service R59 to R80 pace. Meanwhile, Saturday night’s Easter Cup place-getter ($4.50) and 2014 Victory Derby winner – Maxim – should be tough to beat in the 2017 North Island Country Cups Final. The Brent Mangos trained and driven 6-year-old only had two starts in the 13-race Country Cups Final Series and won them both. They were the Wanganui Grass Cup on February 12 and the Franklin Country Cup at Alexandra Park 10 days later. Maxim was the only pacer to win two North Island Country Cups this season. The classy Bettor’s Delight gelding got 10 points for each of those wins, and finished fourth highest qualifier in the ‘summer series’ behind Fleeting Grin 39, Everything 36, and Imajollywally 22. North Island Country Cup winners this season were: December 28: Te Awamutu Grass Cup - The John & Josh Dickie trained Joanednobettor (Josh Dickie). January 15: Rotorua Grass Cup - The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett trained Full Speed Ahead (Todd Macfarlane). January 21: Parawai Grass Cup - The Steve Telfer & Chris Garlick trained Sir Richie (Maurice McKendry). January 27: Wellington Grass Cup - The Andrew Stuart trained Pay Me Visa (Kyle Marshall). January 29: Otaki Grass Cup - The Nicky Chilcott trained and driven Everything. February 5: Tauranga Grass Cup - The Chris Webber trained Fleeting Grin (Peter Ferguson). February 9: The Manawatu Cup - The Mike Berger trained Lusty Mac (Philip Butcher). February 12: Wanganui Grass Cup - The Brent Mangos trained and driven Maxim. February 24: The Franklin Country Cup (Alexandra Park) - The Brent Mangos trained and driven Maxim. March 2: Taranaki Grass Cup - The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained Walkinshaw (Scott Phelan). March 5: Stratford Grass Cup - The Nicky Chilcott trained and driven Everything. March 31: Palmerston North Gold Cup - The Mike Berger trained Bettor Spirits (Philip Butcher). April 17: Hawera Grass Cup - The Arna Donnelly trained and driven Imajollywally. Tuesday April 25 (ANZAC Day): The 2017 North Island Country Cups Final worth $25,000 at Cambridge Raceway. The top qualifiers for the North Island Country Cups Final (with points) are: Fleeting Grin 39, Everything 36, Imajollywally 22, Maxim 20, Full Speed Ahead 18, Bettor Spirits 15, Sir Richie 15, Pay Me Visa 14, Beyond the Silence 10, Joanednobettor 10, Lusty Mac 10, Mo Casino 10, Walkinshaw 10, Extra Guinness 8, Kenrick, Eldolar 5, Major Classic 4, Dikerry 3, Hudy Haxwell 3, The Tracker 3.   Duane Ranger

Josh Kennett heard Valmagne’s first win in 14 months at Hawera yesterday (Monday) on a scratchy old radio while he was gearing up nine-length winner, Veneto - some 750km away in Motukarara. “One of my owners had the radio and it was great to hear Valmagne win. I still haven’t seen it yet, but this mare down here won pretty easy as well, thanks to a nice Ricky May drive. “We’ve had a great Easter Monday. I’m rapt for Dad. It’s a good lead-up going into the big Group One races at Alexandra Park in the next few weeks. The horse is very fit,” Waimate-based Kennett said. Although Valmagne has placed seven times this season, yesterday's win was his first since scoring at Alexandra Park in February last year. “He’s coming into winning form at exactly the right time,” Kennett said. Valmagne, who is based at Craig and Josh Kennett’s Cambridge satellite stable, proved too good for his eight opponents in the feature trot - the Clegg's Handicap for the R50 and faster trotters. Valmagne, the sole 35m back-marker, was a pronounced $1.80 favourite because the public knew his class would take him a long way in the $7,000 event. At the end of the 2500m stand the 9-year-old and driver Scott Phelan had one-and-a-quarter lengths to spare over runner-up, Harry H (Jay Abernethy). The chestnut son of Sundon stopped the clock in 2:59.4 (mile rate 2:17.4) and he came home in 68.3 and 33.2. Valmagne has now won 13 of his 137 starts and placed in 39 others for $223,027. "He's the sort of horse who thrives on racing. If he could race every week he would. You look at his record fresh - it isn't much. He gets better with racing. He just keeps toiling away. "I thought he would be close to a win because he hasn't had too much luck go his way in recent starts. I'm just stoked for Dad (Craig) who has put all the hard yards into him," Kennett said. I really hope he enjoys those big races in Auckland and can go close again," he added. The big 'Group One' races Kennett was referring to were the $80,000 Anzac Cup and the $150,000 Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park on April 21 and 28 respectively. With the big guns like Monbet, Speeding Spur and Master Lavros missing Kennett sees no reason why Valmagne can’t at least emulate his feat of last year. “He finished second behind Monbet in last year’s Rowe Cup and that was pretty special because it was our first Rowe Cup starter. There’s no Monbet there this year, so who knows?” Kennett said. Meanwhile the Arna Donnelly trained and driven Imajollywally won the feature event at the Hawera two-day meeting - the $12,000 South Taranaki Club Hawera Cup. It was Imajollywally's 11th career win, fourth this season - and second at Hawera. He and Donnelly also won on the track on January 8. The Hawera Cup was the last of the 13-race North Island Country Cups Series. The $25,000 final will be at Cambridge Raceway on April 25 (Anzac Day). The Nicky Chilcott trained Razor Brogden and The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained Queen Lostris were the only horses to win on both days of the meeting. For the record the Dave Iremonger trained Speedy Earl raced three times in three days at Hawera. The son of trained Speedy Earl finished fifth on the first day, and then won and placed on day two. On Monday Speedy Earl was the $13.50 sixth favourite and won the first race by one-a-quarter lengths and then lined up seven races later and paid $7.50 for a third. Trent Lethaby drove the brown gelding in all three of his Hawera starts.   Duane Ranger

Bettor Spirits is the Palmerston North City Gold Cup champion for 2017, but make the most of him now before he crosses the ditch in the winter. The son of Bettor's Delight justified his $2.80 favouritism in the $14,000 feature event for the up to R90 rated pacers at Manawatu Raceway last Friday, but his Cambridge trainer Mike Berger, said he was now running out of options for the underrated 5-year-old. “The handicapping system has meant he’s virtually reached his mark now, and to be fair the races for him here are now few and far between. “The main target for him now is the (North island) Country Cups Final at Cambridge on Anzac Day and then we will take it from there. We have a share in him. He might bowl around in the winter here, but I will talk to the other owners and take it from there,” Berger said. “I think he would make a lot more money off even marks in Australia,” he added. Bettor Spirits started from seven on the front-line and driver Philip Butcher rushed him out of the gate early to lead after 200 metres. The talented brown entire was then headed in the home straight by Imajollywally and Arna Donnelly, but fought back gamely to win the 2500m mobile by a head in 3:08.1 (mile rate 2:01 even) - and last 800m and 400m in 60.2 and 29 flat. It was the 5-year-old's 14th win in 67 starts. He's also placed 15 times and now won just over $212,500 in stakes. “I really enjoyed the way he lifted himself off the canvas to fight back and win on Friday. He’s never been up there with the best of his age, but he hasn’t been far away. “I think he’s very much underrated and it was nice to see him get a start off the front the other night. Not many horses win $200,000. We only paid $28,000 for him,” Berger said. Bettor Spirits might not have won a Group race but bettor Spirits has placed in two Gorp Ones - the Cardigan Bay/Young Guns Final and the Harness Jewels Emerald Final - both in 2014. The entire also placed in last year's Group Three Kumeu Founders Cup. "He's been a good horse to me. He's a lovely gaited pacer and has been well looked after by Phil in his races. That's what I like about Phil. He doesn't always get the best horses to drive but they always come through their races unscathed when he's aboard. "He really looks after them and he's a valuable part of our team on race-day," Berger said. Berger said he was encouraged by Bettor Spirits’ latest triumph. “He needed that win after racing in better quality fields at Alexandra Park and Cambridge recently. I think that race will give him the confidence he needs going into the Country Cups Final. “He’s a solid horse now and needs the work into him, so I think I will give him one more race before Anzac Day,” Berger said. Bettor Spirits is the fifth of 10 foals out of the maiden In The Pocket - Spirit Of Bethlehem (Soky's Atom) mare, Spirit Of Eros. He was bred by Woodlands Stud and is owned by Berger’s wife Brenda, Mary Corboy (Howick), Glen Rowe (Featherston), and Queenslander, Tracey Cort. Meanwhile, the Geoff Small trained Father Frank and the Doug Gale trained Black Chevron (Bettor's Delight - Waldheim Rainship) were the only horses to win on both days of the Manawatu meeting. They have now won three and two races respectively. Duane Ranger

Alta Maestro saved his best career performance for Cambridge Raceway last night (Thursday) when smashing the New Zealand 1700m mobile record for 2-year-old pacers. The Art Major - Alta Camilla colt lowered More The Better's record set at Alexandra Park by 0.3 of a second. His time of 1:59.7 even beat Better B Amazed’s national mares' record of 1:59.9 that she set at Alexandra Park last April. Trained by Robert Dunn, Alta Maestro went into the race having won two of his three races. His only blemish came last start at Alexandra Park when he finished third behind Mach Shard and Spankem in the Group One $100,000 Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes. He sat parked that throughout that night when he was one-one in the betting. He was again the warm $1.60 favourite last night. Driver Dexter Dunn praised the colt’s performance in last night’s first heat of the $20,000 Garrards New Zealand Sires Stakes heat. . “He’s back on track now. We were attacked early on but he felt awesome throughout the race. It was only in the final 50m I had to keep him up to his work. He couldn’t have been more impressive. “He was travelling so fluently throughout. The New Zealand record was a bonus,” Dunn said. Alta Maestro set a sizzling mile rate of 1:53.3 and sprinted his final sectionals in 56.6 and 28.3. He had four-and-a-half lengths to spare over the second placed second favourite, Culpeka and Brent Mangos. Dunn said he had driven some nice 2-year-olds in his career including Smiling Shard and Bit Of A legend and rated this fella not too inferior to them at the same time early in their careers. “He’s only had four races but what he’s shown us so far, he’s going to be a very handy 2-year-old. He just felt so fluent tonight. He wasn’t quite himself last start,” said Dunn. Alta Maestro is now ranked second behind Mach Shard for the Group One $200,000 Emerald 2yo Jewels Final at Ashburton on June 3. All his major 2-year-old races will now all be in the South Island. There's the Group Two $40,000 Welcome Stakes at Addington Raceway on April 7; the Listed $175,000 PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Final at Addington on May 12; and the Group One $170,000 Garrards Sires Stakes Final, also at Addington Raceway on May 19. “He’s got an exciting schedule ahead and tonight’s race has put him in good stead for those big races down south. Dad has always had a lot of time for this fella and I can see why. “He relaxed really well in front and just felt like a good horse. He seemed to really enjoy tonight’s race. We will find out in the next couple of months as to where he sits in the 2-year-old pecking order, but from my opinion he’s right up there,” Dunn said. Alta Maestro is owned by Tinwald couple Stuart and Elizabeth Leadley and was bred by the Alta Breeding Company Limited at Waiau Pa. They paid $100,000 for him at last year’s Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka. Meanwhile local trainer Arna Donnelly notched up her 100th career training victory when the Andre Poutama driven Bet Out Of El won at $14.60 odds in the 10th race. Donnelly was aboard stablemate, No Way Else, who finished eighth. Bet Out Of El paced the 2200m mobile in 2:40.2 (mile rate 1:57.2) and came home in 57.2 and 28.7. It was the 4-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding's fourth win in nine starts. All up Donnelly has now trained 100 winners from 946 starters since 2003. She's also placed 184 times and banked $681,640 in career stakes. It was her 20th win from 115 starters this season. Donnelly has also driven 158 winners since 1998. Duane Ranger  

Arna Donnelly has three chances of repeating her Stratford Cup success of two years ago when Eldolar (4), No Way Else (7) and Hudy Haxwell (9) will line up in Sunday’s grass track feature. The $10,000 Quinton Oakes Builders Stratford Cup for the R60 and faster pacers has attracted 10 starters. Donnelly rated Eldolar - the horse that cost just a dollar - as the pick of her trio. "The 10 metre handicap won't bother him in what appears to be a weaker field than Thursday's Taranaki Cup. "He acquitted himself very well in that race and got held up at a vital stage in the straight. I was delighted with his fourth. This is easier but he will need a good run to get over the top of them," Donnelly said. The Cambridge trainer said she probably wouldn't be driving in the race, instead offering the drives to Ky​le Marshall (Eldolar), Phil Butcher (No Way Else) and Scott Phelan (Hudy Haxwell). "Kyle drove Eldolar the way I wanted on Thursday and is driving well. I'll save my drive for Imajollywally in the last. "He can win race eight, but so can stablemate Zakspatrol (Phelan)," said Donnelly. Donnelly trained and drove Ideal Success to win the 2015 Stratford Cup in3:28.2. The race record for the 2600m stand is held by the Todd Mitchell trained and driven Sound Of Thunder, who stopped the clock in 3:25 flat eight years ago. No Way Else, who also starts on the same 10m handicap as Eldolar, won three starts ago in a R56-R73 junior drivers event at Cambridge Raceway, but his form has tapered off since then. Like No way Else, Hudy Haxwell is having his first start at Stratford. He has missed a cheque in his last two starts but has placed on the grass previously. Up until two starts ago his form-line read 3343. “I just like the way Eldolar is going at the moment and even though he hasn’t won a Cup this season he has gone huge, going from a maiden at the start of the season to winning four races since December,” Donnelly said. Eldolar, No way Else and Hudy Haxwell are rated R74, R72, and R79 respectively. The toughest for them to beat should be the Derek Balle trained and David Butcher driven Kenrick (R72), who was the third favourite in Thursday’s Taranaki Cup. The Donnelly cause is also assisted by the fact that Taranaki Cup winner Walkinshaw won’t be lining up the Sunday’s discretionary handicap. Past winners of the Stratford Cup have been: 2016: McRoyal (3:34.4) - Driven by Todd Mitchell and trained by Dave & Clare McGowan. 2015: Ideal Success (3:28.2) - Driven and trained by Arna Donnelly. 2014: Randalstown (3:38.3) - Driven by Phil Butcher and trained by Tim Hall. 2013: Tyler Maguire (3:33.0) - Driven by Kyle Marshall (j) and trained by David Marshall. 2012: Murphy Maguire (3:34.4) - Driven by David Butcher and trained by IanSmall 2011: Another Impact (3:33.6) - Driven by Logan Hollis and trained by Dave & Clare McGowan. 2010: Family Spirit (3:30.8) - Driven by Phil Butcher and trained by Todd Mitchell. 2009: Sound Of Thunder (3:25.0) - Driven and trained by Todd Mitchell. 2008: Scherger Rein (3:29.4) - Driven by Maurice McKendry and trained by Sean McCaffrey. 2007: Miss Abigail (3:26.2) - Driven by David Butcher and trained by Colin Butler. 2006: Southern Raider (3:31.0) - Driven by David Butcher and trained by Geoff Small. Duane Ranger

Alicia Harrison will never forget Sunday February 5, 2017. In fact the 20-year-old described it as “the best day” in her life. The Cambridge-based junior driver made those comments just hours after she reined her first race-day winner at the Tauranga grass track meeting at Gate Pa. “I’ve had some wonderful things happen to me in my life, like winning the Inter Dominion Kidz Kartz Championship at Alexandra Park in 2010, but this beats the lot. There is no better feeling than this,” Harrison said. Harrison won her first race at her sixth attempt behind the Arna Donnelly trained No Way Else in the $7,000 Alison Wallis Memorial Junior Drivers Mobile for the R56 to R73 pacers. It was the first time she had driven the black Elsu gelding. The 6-year-old was the seventh favourite of the seven starters and paid $16.40 to win. "I wasn't convinced I got up. I thought I did but the angle was quite deceiving. I was a bit worried, but when I got the decision I was ecstatic. This is something I have wanted to achieve for a long time. “He’s such a great little horse. He kept giving all the way up the straight. I’ll never forget him or what Arna has done for me. It’s the best day of my life,” said Harrison. Harrison was out celebrating with Donnelly when contacted by HRNZ. She said she was extremely grateful to her boss for her first win. “Arna has been wonderful. I have been working for her since University finished in November. She had a great day with two wins, a second, and a third from four starters. I’m so pleased for her. She is a very good friend,” she said. Harrison also had huge praise for her grandfather – Morrinsville trainer, Warren Taylor. “’Pop’ has been my biggest supporter and was the man who got me excited about harness racing. I’ve been around horses all my life because of him. He bought me my first pony when I was just seven. He fuelled my fire for the sport and has given me five drives now. I love him so much. “In fact all my other drives have been behind his 9-year-old mare, Sapphire Castleton. It was a great thrill finishing second behind her at Thames a couple of weeks ago – but nothing beats what happened today (Sunday),” Harrison said. Harrison has brains as well as driving skill. Born in Te Kauwhata and educated at Morrinsville College she has attended Massey University for the last three years and only has a couple of papers remaining to graduate in a science degree - majoring in agriculture with a minor in equine studies. “I would like to stay working with the horses and do the last couple of papers this year, and then hopefully get capped next March (2018). “This is my passion and where I want to be, but who knows? I might get poor and have to get a real job, but at this stage of my life I just want to keep working and driving horses,” She said. Meanwhile, the feature pacing event of the day – the $10,000 Gartshore Group Tauranga Grass Cup was won by the Chris Webber trained and Peter Ferguson driven Fleeting Grin. The Grinfromeartoear gelding started from the 10m handicap and beat Mo Casino (10m) and Better Spirits (40m) by three quarters of a length and half a length. It was his seventh win in 45 starts and he's now amassed $45,055 in stakes. The 6-year-old was the seventh favourite of eight and paid $19.20 to win. Duane Ranger

Mark Johnson could drive his first Country Cups winner behind a horse that cost just a dollar. Johnson is the only junior driver in this evening’s (Friday) El Cheapo Cars Wellington Trotting Cup for the R60 and faster pacers. It will be just his second Country Cups drive after steering outsider No Way Else into ninth in last Saturday's Parawai Cup at Thames. “I realise the Wellington Cup is steeped in history and even though the race isn’t in Wellington any more I know what the race means to a lot of people. “It would be so great to drive the winner of the race. I think I have got a good chance,” Johnson said. The 20-year-old Cambridge reinsman will drive one of the favourites in the $10,000 event over the 2200m mobile. The Arna Donnelly trained Eldolar will start one of the favourites, and ironically cost just $1. His 61-old Kerikeri breeder, Colin Turner, has no regrets whatsoever about the sale. "I sat down with my mate (and now owner) Craig Good and we had a coffee in Waiuku. I said to him I don’t want the horse, but I will sell him to you for a dollar. "I thought he was a bit small and to be honest I didn’t think he would make it, but he’s a lot bigger now. I have no regrets. I am rapt for Craig and the late Dianne Wood. He is doing a good job for her Kamwood breed,” said Turner, who bred Eldolar with partner, Pam Morrison. Eldolar (one dollar) will start from a 10m handicap in the nine-strong Wellington Cup. He comes into the race having won three of his last five starts. “I drove him to win at Thames last week in an R55 to R64 pace and he won real well. I’m grateful to Arna for keeping me on him, especially when she hasn’t got a drive in the race. Arna has put a lot of faith in me and she is just such a great boss to work for. “I’ll be doing my best to win. It would be so good to win my first Country Cups race,” Johnson said. Eldolar will be having his first look at the Otaki grass track and will also be lining up in his first standing start event. “He’s a safe beginner and has won on the grass before so I don’t think that will pose too many problems. In saying that he will have to step away relatively quickly though because it’s only a 2200m mobile,” Johnson said. Johnson has driven two winners so far this season, equalling his personal best he has secured last season and the season before. “I’m really enjoying it because I’m starting to get more drives, both with Arna and outside trainers. I’m grateful to everyone who puts me on. All I want to do is win,” the former Australia said. Johnson won the ‘Premier Cadet’ prize at last year’s annual North Island Harness Racing Awards. Johnson had no desire to drive standardbreds when he was a little fella growing up in Wollongong (NSW) in Australia. But that all changed in 2007 when his father, Mike, his Mum, Leanne and his five brothers and sisters relocated from New South Wales to Hamilton. Johnson senior took up a position as a computer programmer. Then in stepped Peter and Wendy Ferguson from Waikato Kidz Kartz and an excitable 11-year-old Australian kid became hooked on our great sport. “I’m a lot more cool-headed in the sulky now compared to when I first started out. I used to stress a bit, but the more drives I get the more confident I have become,” said Johnson. Eldolar has only had six starts for Donnelly. Prior to that he raced as a maiden from Logan Hollis & Shane Robertson before transferring to Richard Yoakley’s barn at Glenbrook. Toughest for him to beat will be Doug Gale trained and Jay Abernethy driven Franco Lennox, and the Andrew & Lyn Neal trained and Lyn Neal driven Thomas McBride. They will both start from the 20m back-mark. Meanwhile, last year’s Wellington Cup was won by the Nicky Chilcott trained and driven Jet Black Shadow, who paced the 2200m mobile in 2:48.1. Then two days later he won the Otaki Cup on the same track. He was favourite both days. It is the second time the Wellington Cup will have been run since the Geoff Dunn trained and Todd Mitchell driven Agios Nikolaos won the Wellington Cup in 2002. Not long after that race Hutt Park was closed down. Past winners of the Wellington Cup have been: 2016: Jet Black Shadow. 2002: Agios Nikolaos. 2001: Panky’s Pacer. 2000: All Around. 1999: Shredder. 1998: Motorbel. 1997: No Cup Race held. 1996: Supreme Award. 1995: Quick Trip. 1994: Abdias. 1993: Remote’s Dream. 1992: Strietross. 1991: Lookahead. 1990: Machsimo. 1989: Vulcan Lady. 1988: Bionic Chance. 1987: Rolls Hanover. 1986: Master Mood. 1985: Premiership. 1984: Joy Boy. 1983: Mels Boy. 1982: Sweet Jessica. 1981: Bonnies Chance. 1980: Locarno. 1979: Roydon Scott. 1978: Rocky Tryax. 1977: Balgove. 1976: PALESTINE. 1975: Young Quinn. 1974: Robalan. 1973: Robalan. Duane Ranger

Arna Donnelly created her own piece of harness racing history last season, and after a beneficial two days at Manawatu Raceway this week the Cambridge horsewoman is nearing another personal milestone. Last season Donnelly was New Zealand's leading female solo trainer with a personal best 22 wins. With three winners at the Manawatu Harness Racing Club’s meeting on Tuesday and Thursday of this week, Donnelly is now just 10 short of 100 career training wins. Kyle Marshall drove Eldolar to win on both days, while her winning drive behind Sexy Rexy (Thursday) took her career driving tally to 154. Marshall was on fire at Palmerston North. On day one he drove Eldolar and the Fred Mitchell trained Jack Bates to victory, and then two days later the 22-year-old South Auckland driver won behind Eldolar and then the Dave Iremonger trained Desert Storm, and the Mitchell trained Aces N Eights. “Kyle did a great job behind Eldolar. He’s driving really well at present and I’m chuffed with the way he is driving the gelding. “Both Eldolar and Sexy Rexy are nice horses. I will talk to the owners and could possibly give Eldolar a freshen-up now, and Sexy Rexy could start at Cambridge on Christmas Eve,” Donnelly said. The 36-year-old Waikato horsewoman said Eldolar was owned by Craig Good, who also owns stablemate, Imajollywally. “He won real well on the first day and then I had a few question marks over him as to whether he would back up or not. I was pleasantly surprised with the way he backed up. “He proved to me that he has got a bit of bottom to him because he did a bit of work in the race. That is encouraging,” said Donnelly. Marshall trailed Bobbie's Girl and Scott Dickson, early with Eldolar in the 2000m mobile from his ace draw and then went around to lead down the back straight the first term. Marshall rated the 4-year-old son of Elsu perfectly for the remainder of the $8,100 Focus Planning R49-R56 Mobile winning by half a length in 2:33 even. That time was 1.2 seconds quicker than what he recorded when winning by three lengths on day one. Eldolar paced a 2:03.1 mile rate and came home in 60 even and 29.8. he was the $2.10 favourite compared to his $2.40 favourite odds two days earlier. "He's a nice horse with a promising future. He gave me a good feel on the first day and I thought he would go close again on Thursday. I think he can win a few more," Marshall said. Eldolar has now won two of his 16 starts and placed in three others for $12,328. He was bred by Mrs P M Morrison and C F Turner. Sexy Rexy was equally impressive. after winning the $8,500 Paul Claridge Electrical Handicap for the R50 and faster trotters. The 4-year-old Pegasus Spur gelding started from his unruly two draw in the 2000m stand, and Donnelly had the 4-year-old safely away settling him fourth last in the 11-horse field. Donnelly then went and sat parked at the bell before holding his 10 opponents out by one-and-a-half lengths. Sexy Rexy stopped the clock in 3:21.4 (mile rate 2:09.6) and trotted her final 800m and 400m in 62.1 and 31 even. He was the $5.60 third favourite and came into the race with a nice win at Cambridge Raceway on December 1. “He’s got a lovely gait and I’ve got quite a bit of time for him. It was a massive effort really because he’s just a baby. He gives me the impression he won’t have too many problems taking the next step up,” Donnelly said. Donnelly is working a team of 17 at Cambridge. She said her two Manawatu winners were nice horses but still had some way to match the feats of No way Else, who had recorded seven wins and more than $56,000. She also liked Whale Rider who has won two of his 11 starts and placed in four others. “I’ve got quite a nice little team but none of them would be winning is it wasn’t for my good staff and loyal owners. You are nothing without them. I’m so grateful to my team back home. They do a huge job and every time we win it’s a team effort,” Donnelly stressed. Duane Ranger

Kyle Marshall has carried on straight from where he left off in the Australasia Young Driving Championships in Perth. Less than a week after driving two winners across the Tasman and finishing fourth – four points behind winner, Todd McCarthy (NSW), Marshall was back in the winner’s circle at the Manawatu Harness Racing Club’s meeting at Palmerston North last night (Tuesday). The 22-year-old Franklin reinsman was the most successful driver at the nine-race meeting, steering the Arna Donnelly trained $2.40 favourite to win race three, and then two races later he drove the Fred Mitchell trained $13.20 seventh favourite Jack Bates to victory. Eldolar was having his second start back for Donnelly in the $7,000 Life Members Maiden Pace after an eight month spell. The Elsu gelding resumed at Cambridge Raceway on December 1 with a close-up second behind Taihape Sunset. It was his first look at Manawatu Raceway and his first start over the 2000m. “He’s still a bit green but he won very well. He’s got a lot to learn but should win at least a couple more. He felt real strong,” Marshall said. Eldolar started from the widest second row draw (12) and Marshall worked the 4-year-old to sit in the lane the second last time. In the home straight Eldolar left his nine opponents to it winning by an increasing three lengths and pacing the 2000m mobile in 2:34.2 (mile rate 2:04 even). His final 800m and 400m sectionals were 60.8 and 28.9. It was his first career win in 16 starts and the way he cruised home it won't be his last. "I think he will be my best drive on Thursday. He’s got the feeling he will go on with it,” said Marshall. Jack Bates (2) was also impressive winning the $7,000 Happy 80th Birthday George Mouldey Mobile for the up to R56 rated pacers. Marshall settled the 8-year-old P Forty Seven gelding in the one-one before looming up three-wide on the turn and then pacing away to win by one-and-quarter lengths. Jack Bates paced the 2500m mobile in 3:15.9 (mile rate 2:06.1) and home in 62.3 and 30.7. It was Jack Bates' third win in 49 starts on the track and his third from 32 attempts over the distance. All up he's now won six of his 131 starts and just under $50,000 in stakes. “He’s an honest little horse who is racing well. He got all the favours in the running and obliged. Fred had him spot on,” said Marshall. Marshall has now driven eight winners from 79 starters this season. This is his first season in the open driving ranks and he’s now driven 81 winners from 952 starters. he’s also placed 165 times and won $571,619 in career stakes. His best season was last year when he reined home 39 winners from 383 starters ($264,717). Meanwhile Marshall said that competing in the recent Australasian Young Drivers Championship was the highlight of his career. “When I first started out as a junior this was my main goal. It was always something I wanted to achieve and I was running out of time. “I’m just grateful to all the owners and trainers who made it all possible for me on their horses in my last year as a junior (2015-2016),” Marshall said. "I'm also grateful for all the drives I'm getting in New Zealand as well, and that includes Manawatu," he added Duane Ranger

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