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The plan to take The Paua Diver to the front by trainer driver Allan Beck worked perfectly at Ascot Park today when the four year old cleared maiden ranks at his fifth harness racing start. The Live Or Die gelding showed promise early when he ran third behind the talented Zinny Mac at Winton in mid December, pacing the 2400 metres in 2-56.2. “After that first run he got himself a bit worked up. Before that he was a perfect natured horse. He’s been a bit disappointing in a couple of his runs,” said Beck who part owns the gelding with breeders Ben and Karen Calder. From Gate Six Beck used the horse’s natural early speed and took The Paua Diver to the lead. From that point he ran good solid even quarters before Flaming Jim made a lightening quick move to challenge inside the last 800 metres. Duty Bound, driven by Robin Swain, which had trailed The Paua Diver for most of the way pulled out and forced Flaming Jim three wide before taking the lead. “They showed a bit too much speed for me so I just let them go in the finish. Robin’s one was going alright.” Once Duty Bound had taken The Paua Diver to the passing lane Beck pushed the go button again and the gelding showed he was too good for his rivals, beating Duke Of Dundee by two lengths with Flaming Jim another length back in third. “He’s like his sister (Bettor Enforce). You just have to let them go. The harder you go the more they seem to enjoy it.” Coming back to the birdcage                                  - Photo Bruce Stewart Beck trained The Paua Divers dam Their Excuse which won her first race but was unplaced in three further starts. The win with The Paua Diver was one of two for Beck today. He also drove the Brian Nicol trained Cast A Shadow to win the Sheet Metalcraft Mobile Pace.   Bruce Stewart

Free-legged pacer Take A Bet capped off a successful stay in Southland when she won the $12,000 Ryal Bush Transport Limited Nuggets Final at Ascot Park today. The Mach Three filly has won $21,200 in the space of five weeks for Canterbury harness racing trainer Geoff Dunn whilst down here, and she’s become the first horse to win both a Ladyship and Nugget final. Punters had some anxious moments though after Take A Bet which was the favourite, galloped in the score up. Starter Ben Ward declared a false start but Take A Bet galloped round to the start point before Williams was able to pull her up. “It’s uncharacteristic for her. I think Brett (caretaker trainer Brett Gray) must have let the hopples out on her during the week (laugh). She just needs to learn how to be a racehorse,” said Williams who decided to stand in Gate Two for the re-start. When the field left for the second time the mare paced away perfectly and was taken straight to the lead where she stayed, withstanding a late charge up the passing lane by American Mac. She won by three quarters of a length. “She’s getting better each time. The trips down here have been the making of her. She’s starting to develop a bit of speed now. Brett and the team have done a good job in looking after her and making sure she’s been ready to go.”  Take a Bet is raced by William’s parents Brent and Suzanne along with Gary and Keri Woodham who were all on-course today. Brent Williams, Gary Woodham, Suzanne Williams and Keri Woodham - Photo Bruce Stewart She’s out of the six win Bettor’s Delight mare Kabet which started favourite in the 2013 Southland Oaks Finals - then driven by Tim. As a broodmare Kabet has also left Above N Beyond which ran fifth in the Two Year Emerald in the recently held Harness Jewels at Addington. Kabet’s third dam is the 1994-1995 Broodmare of the Year Sakuntala which left Brad Adios the 1977-1978 Three Year Old Pacer of the Year in Australia and Tuapeka Star who was the winner of twenty two races and the dam of New Zealand Cup winner Iraklis. Meanwhile Robbie Royale capped off a consistent season by winning The Williamson Racing Stables Handicap Trot. The five year gelding trained by Brett Gray has won four races this season from twenty three starts and has banked $27,745. for his connections.    Bruce Stewart

It was one of those stellar days that don’t come along very often. Harness racing trainers Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis geared up four winners today at Ascot Park for Southland’s Diamonds Day - the premier race day of the season. The ‘quaddie’ of wins was spearheaded by the stable’s glamour pacer, the unbeaten U May Cullect which stole the show. The partnership which is only in its first season, has recorded two wins in a day twice before, but this was a milestone on another level. Today Barclay wasn’t sure if she’d let U May Cullect press forward from the outside of the front line, stating that the horse would make up its own mind and she would just be the passenger. The horse was keen and Barclay let him roll forward from the outside of the gate. From that point Barclay was in for the ride, and the five year old cruised down to the line for another emphatic win, beating My Georgie Boy by six and a half-lengths running the 2200 metre mobile in an impressive 2-41.9. It’s likely this will be the gelding’s last start for the season as the connections have some bigger plans for him next season. “Kirstin and Tank are making a plan and they’re talking about not racing him again because we’re hoping to get to the Cup. If we turn him out now he can come back for the likes of the Hannon and he’ll be off the front,” said owner Tom Kilkelly. U May Cullect is eligible for a Super Nuggets Final in a weeks’ time but he’s unlikely to front. “I’ve got a nice paddock for him locked up. Kirstin will look after him. I find you don’t want to treat them with kid gloves because that’s when things can go wrong. I don’t want him wrapped up in cotton wool.” Kilkelly has raced some nice horses over the years including Guns N Roses and Shard Ark but he says U May Cullect is another level. He says he’s starting to feel the pressure that goes with owning a good horse which is unbeaten. “Today I did get nervous. I don’t normally, but today in the last few minutes before the race I did because everyone was talking him up and he’s got a lot to live up to now.” He said the horse continues to get better. “They worked him on Wednesday and Kirstin said he worked better than before he went to Christchurch. Tank said his resting heart rate after the run was down to 40. The best I had a horse down to when I was training was 60 to 65 –they don’t come back to 40. So that just shows you the size of the heart. He’s special.” On his return to the birdcage U May Cullect received applause from the Southern Harness fans who generally reserve it for the very best. Kilkelly says although his name is in the race book as the owner he would like to think the province will also share in the success U May Cullect is having. “We could have taken him further north but he’s a Southland horse. He’s not mine he’s ours. I said to Mick Guerin (Northern Journalist and Trackside Presenter) three things. He’s not for sale, he’s staying on the beach with Kirstin and Tank and Kirstin drives him. I said to him there’s a tar sealed road between Invercargill and Christchurch now.” U May Cullect - Bruce Stewart Photo The prefect day was capped for Kilkelly when Chuckles won the last race. It was a very good aggressive drive by Barclay. From barrier five she speared the Grinfromeartoear gelding to the top. She handed the lead to Flaming Jim with 1600 metres to run. Flaming Jim was then attacked by hotshot Justasec which eventually made the lead with a lap to run. Chuckles That battle certainly played into Chuckles hands as the trailing horse. With 800 metres to run Barclay pulled Chuckles out from three back on the inside but her progress was halted as he locked wheels with Flaming Jim. However she got going again and at the 400 metres Barclay was dishing it up to Justasec. On straightening Chuckles proved too tough for Justasec, winning by three and a half lengths. Another easy winner for Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis - Chuckles The Sun shining bright on Chuckles completing a great day for owner Tom Kilkelly Earlier in the day the Barclay/Ellis stable scored an upset win in the Williamson Racing Stables Handicap Trot when Wee Man Trouble beat higher assessed horses. With 400 metres to run driver Blair Orange could see that some of the back markers had a bit of ground to make up on the leader De Vito so he popped out of the trailing position and pinched a five length break on the bulk of the field. Wee Man Trouble It proved to be the winning of the race. Wee Man Trouble held on to beat a late charging War Admiral by a length. The win elevates Wee Man Trouble to seventh on the leader board for the $125,000 Harness Jewels Four Year Old Ruby. Wee Man Trouble The stable’s other winner was Paddyproudfoot. Driver Kirstin Barclay once again used her horse’s gate speed and from barrier six the Washington VC gelding was taken straight to the top. With a lap to run she handed up to the second favourite Pitch Perfect. Paddyproudfoot On straightening for the run home Pitch Perfect got away by two lengths but Paddyproudfoot came resolutely down the middle of the track to win by a length and a quarter. Paddyproudfoot Meanwhile other winners on the day included Full Noise which wore down a brave Neverneverland in the Invercargill Workouts Committee Handicap Trot. The win puts the Majestic Son gelding in the top twelve in the Harness Jewels Three Year Old Ruby. Full Noise Rangiora trainer Mitchell Kerr brought the majority of his team south but walked away with only one win. It came in race two with Change Is Good which was driven by Nathan Williamson. Change Is Good Nathan Williamson got the perfect sit behind pacemaker Bridesdale Robyn in the Foveaux Communication Fillies and Mares Mobile Pace. At the top of the straight he got the passing lane run to win by a length and a quarter. Vintage Cheddar scored a well-deserved win in the Regent Car Court Southern Country Cups Handicap Pace. Driver Brad Williamson tucked the four year old in behind leader Santanna’s Rocket which took him to the passing lane. Vintage Cheddar which is owned by Lindsay and Ian Thomson and trained by Alister Black made full use of the lane to beat Smokin By by a length and three quarters. Vintage Cheddar By Bruce Stewart

Virgil's win in the Group Two Diamond Creek Farm Two-Year-Old Classic at Ascot Park on Saturday made it a lucrative weekend for his Melbourne co-owner Jean Feiss, who races the All-Stars trained harness racing gelding with her husband Bill. The previous night, Feiss was at Alexandra Park watching her juvenile filly Amazing Dream triumph in the group one Woodlands Stud Caduceus Classic “I was already booked for Auckland so when word came Virgil would be nominated for today, I was able to add Invercargill,” said Feiss who flew to Auckland on Friday, then Invercargill via Christchurch on Saturday morning. She was booked to follow the reverse route on Saturday when returning to Auckland after the Diamond Day fixture, before heading home on Sunday. Driven by Tim Williams, favourite Virgil bided his time early and wasn't asked for much until second favourite William Wallace moved forward across the top. The two set down to a decent battle in the straight but the All-Stars rep prevailed by half a neck in 2:41.0, less than half a second outside the race record.   The Sweet Lou two year old Virgil after his second win.  Jean Feiss (left) with Ged Mooar from Nevele R, John Stiven (SBSR), Mark Smith (SBSR) and Tracey White (Woodlands Stud) It was the fifth running of the feature and the third win for Williams, following Lazarus in 2015 and A Bettor Act last year. Virgil is by Sweet Lou from the Bettor Delight mare Pacing Delight, a half brother to Amazing Art, Pacing Major, All U Need Is Faith and other winners. He was catalogued for last year's Australasian Classic Sale but withdrawn. Not before Feiss had inspected him at Woodlands Stud though, so when he was later offered at the Auckland Autumn Weanling and All Age Sale before last year's Jewels, Feiss was ready. “I liked him when I saw him at the stud before the first sale,” said Feiss who admits she is often asked what she is looking for. “Really, everyone looks for the same things but all interpret them a bit differently. He looked lovely again on sale day.” Feiss paid $150,000 for the gelding and hasn't been disappointed. Virgil has only once missed a top-three finish in seven starts and Saturday's win took his stake earnings past $60,000. “He was broken in straight after the sale and has been kept going. Mark (Purdon) said he's always 'wanted to be there' and does what he's asked. He might not be among the very best but has always been pretty good even against the really good ones.” Addington hosts a $175,000 Sale Series race for two-year-olds next Friday and in normal circumstances, Virgil might have been there. Feiss pointed out though that he wasn't eligible and that was one of the reasons the Invercargill race had been included in his programme. “He'll be kept in for the Jewels, then we'll hope for more improvement as a three-year-old.” Virgil is second on the list of qualifiers for the Two-year-old Emerald and Amazing Dream, second on the list for the Diamond. 'Southern Bred Southern Reared' Amazing Dream was offered at last year's Premier Sale by Vin and Daphne Devery and knocked down to Feiss for $77,500. Her weekend winnings were $57.000. By Mac Henry  

Sekkie Monkey upset a strong field of maiden trotters at Ascot Park today. The four year old daughter of Monkey Bones was the sixth favourite in a race that was expected to be dominated by well bred Jaccka Jeorge and Liberty Stride. “That was a good maiden field and I wasn’t sure how we would go. But she went well,” said trainer driver Nathan Williamson. Both Liberty Stride and Jaccka Jeorge broke with Jaccka Jeorge losing all chance. Liberty Stride made ground late for fourth. All the honours went to Sekkie Monkey which led early before handing up to Cuchulainn. “She’s just a bit lazy in front so I was quite happy to hand up. She was pretty strong at the finish. I was pretty happy with her. She’s just getting used to the tighter circuits.” At the top of the straight Williamson pushed Sekkie Monkey up the passing lane and she trotted home nicely to beat Cuchulainn by three quarters of a length.   Sekkie Monkey on the inside gets the winning call - Photo Bruce Stewart. The four year old was initially prepared for racing at Waikouaiti Beach by Amber Hoffman. She was sent to Williamson in December. The Branxholme trainer qualified her at Gore in February. “We had to put a lot of miles into her just to get her trotting solid but she’s pretty solid now. I don’t think she’s made a break off the place.” Sekkie Monkey is out of the Sundon mare Sekkie and is owned by Kevin Strong. “I was on the lookout for a Sundon mare after I lost one. She was advertised by Michael House in foal to Monarchy. That horse was no good so I put her in foal to Monkey Bones and that’s turned up trumps,” Strong said. Sekkie is no longer alive but Strong does have a three year old by Superfast Stuart named Super Sekkie out of the mare. Sekkie is a half-sister to Avatar (7 NZ and 5 AUS wins) and What Ever You Like (7 NZ and 16 AUS wins). “I’ve had a few horses over the years but never a good one by myself. The best one I raced with Neville Cleaver was Hopes And Dreams.” Strong and Cleaver are currently breeding from Sunrise Delight but unfortunately her first two foals have died. Currently they have two fillies out of the mare by Repeat Love and Peak. Nathan Williamson, Sekkie Monkey, Kevin Strong, Invercargill President Barry McCulloch and Trevor Little - Photo Bruce Stewart. Strong’s horses are now managed by former Gore trainer Trevor Little. “I’m retired and I thought I was out of it. Kevin had thirty odd horses. We’ve just worked our way through them. We’ve leased a few and kept a few of the trotters. We’re still breeding from Sunrise Delight (Sundon – Little Miss Watch) and Easy Option (Great Success – Sunrise Girl). ” Little trained Fakes Dream to win for Strong and Cleaver at Invercargill in February 2005.   Bruce Stewart  

Sportswriter gelding Hampton had a bit to live up to. Until today, his Christian Cullen dam Baptism Of Fire had left six winners from eight foals of racing age including Highview Tommy (17 wins and $1,021,904) Highview Chartom, Highview Teejay and Highview Freddy; all five win horses. “Everything out of that mare has won races with the worst winning four. So he (Hampton) should be able to get another couple of wins at least. This horse will be better in twelve months,” said Kirstin Barclay who co-trains the gelding with Paul ‘Tank’ Ellis. Driver Blair Orange settled the Hampton at the back of the main bunch before getting on the back of Mark O’Ronga to move forward with a lap to run. At the 800 metres Orange had Hampton parked outside leader The Interceptor. At the top of the straight Hampton had hit the front and he went down to the finish two and a half lengths clear of the second horse Bettor Rock Again. Hampton was bought by Wayne McEwan principal of McEwan Bloodstock, at the 2017 Christchurch Sale for $20,000. “It’s taken a while for him to get his confidence. He’s got a lot of high speed. We knew he would do a good job once he got going.” Today was only the gelding’s fifth start. Barclay says his confidence was knocked after his first start. “It was driver error first start. He got knocked over at the start and I then let him loose around the field and it just blew him over. It was too much for him and it’s knocked his confidence. It’s taken him a wee while to come back.” Orange was wearing a black arm band in today’s race to acknowledge the passing of Rewa Burns yesterday. Rewa was the wife of long time Secretary of Southland Trotting Clubs Peter Burns. Kirsten Barclay said “She and Peter were such an integral part of Southland Harness racing. They were like the power couple back in the day. They lived in the cottage across from the stable. Sometimes I’d get home from the races really late at night but she’d always come out to say well done.” Rewa raced cup class pacer Haughty Romeo back in the late seventies and early eighties. He won nine races, eight for Maurice Skinner and one for her son Tim. Meanwhile the Barclay/Ellis stable’s star pacer U May Cullect looks set to reappear at Ascot Park on Saturday. The Gotta Go Cullect five year old is unbeaten in only three starts and will line up on Diamonds Day in what will be his last start of the season. “It’s just amazing how he handled the trip (to Addington). He hadn’t been further than Winton and he went up to Canterbury, ate up, raced under the lights for the first time, won, and came back to his paddock and ate up.” Barclay says it doesn’t take too much to keep the quality gelding ticking over and race fit. “Tank spends a lot of time walking him and we space his races. We do a lot of slow long work, endurance work with him, so he’s always fit without sprinting.”   Bruce Stewart  

Chicago Bull's big little-sister Rockabilly Blues added the Southland Harness Awards Ladyship Super Final at Ascot Park on Saturday afternoon to her already impressive racing record. But her owners and trainers John and Katrina Price don't see that as her long-term career. “I think she's got more residual value as a broodmare,” John Price said of the daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven and Chicago Blues. Unlike Chicago Bull, by Bettor's Delight, who is small in stature, Rockabilly Blues has a much bigger frame and took longer to fill it out. “Because of her size, she was late coming to it, she was very fast in a straight line but needed to strengthen,” said Katrina. “Her two workouts as a three-year-old were quite ordinary and she was booked to go to Sweet Lou. Before she was due to be served, we worked her up, she went pretty good at some workouts and trials so we decided to put the service on hold.” Rockabilly Blues beating Major Sass at Ascot Park                - Photo Bruce Stewart After qualifying in September, the four-year-old debuted against non-winner mares and fillies in November. A week later she was at it again. “Then she won a Ladyship final against the same grade of horses and was rated 60 after just two starts,” said Katrina, pointing out a minor injury caused the mare to miss the appropriate Nuggets she would have been eligible for. Placing Rockabilly Blues became difficult, although she was never far away in some strong fields. “We decided the $20,000 Ladyship final and Southern Belle Series would be her main targets, she'll probably go to stud in the spring.” Regards Chicago Bull, the Prices said they maintain regular contact with his Western Australian trainer Gary Hall and the six - year -old has resumed hoppled work. Prior to his unfortunate injury on the verge of the New Zealand Cup, Katrina and John were looking forward to being there. They had fond memories of him but foremost is how tiny he was with Katrina recalling people at his early workouts asking what the foal they had in was. The Winton-based couple revealed that after some good efforts as a two-year-old there was a lot of interest in him but it came to nothing because of his size. It was after clocking 1:53.7 in the 2015 Jewels, just an eighth of a second slower than the winner Lazarus, that things changed. Katrina told the story that he was sold to Gary Hall within half an hour and when he saw how small he was he said he might post him back in a cardboard parcel. Katrina also remembered how difficult it was in his first preparation to get the wee fella to pace, suggesting she had the hopples up as tight as a dog collar. But he was the future winner of 1.8 million dollars and that will be of great assistance to Rockabilly Blues in her breeding career.   Mac Henry for Southland Harness Racing

The best may be yet to come for Please Shuddup who made it win number nine this season for the Tricode Racing Syndicate when taking out the Collingwood Foodcentre Pace at Ascot Park on Saturday afternoon. After a quick calculation, Syndicate head Peter Kett advised that the tally was made up by one galloping win, five at the dogs and three from Please Shuddup. The four-year-old has won five from 19 for Invercargill trainer Murray Brown who says the gelding is continuing to improve, especially in the weight department. “He should be even better next year,” he said. Before that though, Brown has a couple of good options in mind for the son of Auckland Reactor who holds a high rating on the Southland Country Cup points table. The Winton Cup will be staged over 2400 metres in a fortnight and another two weeks on the final of the series will be a double points race over 2700 metres back at Ascot Park on Diamonds Day. Please Shuddup is a half brother to Soapbox who also raced for the Tricode Syndicate and in August 2017 provided Brown with a milestone 33 years in the making. With her win at Gore, Brown became just the second-ever trainer to prepare the winners of 500 races from a Southland base. The Syndicate had received both Soapbox and Please Shuddup from Brian West and when Soapbox scored that win, Please Shuddup was due to have his first workout. “I like him,” Brown said at the time. In addition to Please Shuddup's contribution of five, Soapbox (three) and Just Wish are the other Brown winners for the syndicate. A couple of races earlier, Brown produced Triple V C to win the Final Touch Dominion Electric Pace. The five-year-old trailled the leader throughout and went clear in the straight. “He was due the win, he's been unlucky but got the perfect run today.” The race was held in glorious sunny and warm conditions, a far cry from the heavy fog which had enveloped Invercargill for much of the morning. A result of the fog was closure of the airport, leaving John Morrison, Sheree Tomlinson and Nathan Williamson unable to make Invercargill to fulfill their driving engagements. Morrison (39 wins) and Tomlinson (37), sit first and second on the junior drivers premiership. One of Tomlinson's drives was to be Please Shuddup which was taken by Brad Williamson. Nathan Williamson was the other to miss out on a win when the Matt Saunders-trained She's Outstanding took the Autosure Mobile Pace in the hands of Shane Walkinshaw. “Nathan rang me here (on course) about 10 to say he was back in Christchurch,” said Saunders whose mode of operation is to seek out modestly priced horses capable of winning a race or races. She's Outstanding was previously with Robbie Rowland of Yaldhurst. “Justin Le Lievre found him, he pretty much made me buy it. I like to get ones that can win a race without overspending,” he said. Saunders operates the Four Square store in Tapanui and trains at the long-time 'retired' race course in the town. “She didn't show much in work but I took her to the Gore trials 10 days ago, Nathan drove her and she won. I got confidence from that. I'll give her a shot at the next level up, she should improve from the win.” Both Tomlinson and Morrison had drives in the Stirling Auto Repairs & Clean-Biz Trot for Junior drivers which opened the card. To ensure the horses concerned didn't have to be scratched, local trial licence holders Tristan Larsen - who works for his father Kirk - and James Forbes - who works for Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis - were considered for an upgrade for the race. The stipes, connections and JCA all agreed with the arrangement. The pair got their first raceday drives and spent much of the event in the two foremost places. Forbes on the Williamson-trained Our Foxy Lady led from the 1800, only to be cut back in the straight to finish a close up third. Larsen drove the Matt Anderson-trained Spurred By Success, sat fifth early, was left parked at the 1800 but beaten in the back straight the last time. “Tyler Dewe rang me about 11 o' clock and told me to get down here,” Forbes said, “we had every chance, I'm looking forward to my next go.” “The stipes rang about 9:30,” Larsen said, “it was a good experience, we just battled at the end.” Victory went to Dewe's drive Horse Of Course, the Williamson-trained favourite who trailed his stablemate for most of race. A fortnight ago, Dewe had driven The Commando to be Williamson's 599th training success. Horse Of Course was number 602. “Brad got 600 on Majestic Man,” said Dewe, “It was good to get the win because I had the pick of the drives. He works like a good horse, doesn't always do it on raceday but I'd happily drive him again.”   Mac Henry for Southland Harness Racing

Keith Moore was painting a roof when Miss V C, a mare he both races on lease and trains, won the $12,000 Southland Harness Awards Ladyship Final at Ascot Park on Saturday. The excitement of winning could have been enough to create a hazard but the Winton painter and decorator had taken the risk of a fall out the equation. “The people whose place it was called me just before the race and I got down and watched it,” Moore said, “it was very good, I thought she might have won one sooner than this.” He had trusted care of the race favourite to son Terry, a former junior driver, who helps his father prepare the daughter of Washington V C. “We both drive her in work,” said Terry, “we've got four on the go, it was overdue.” Miss V C's win was the first for Moore since Chief Thundercloud at Ascot Park in April 2014 and his 17th in total. Chief Thunderbird, Gillie's Gate and Bret's Bunny each contributed three. The race was the sixth Ladyship final for the season, catering for fillies and mares that had contested an event for non-winners since the previous final a fortnight earlier. The first two home in each heat are eligible for a $20,000 super final back at Ascot Park next Saturday and Moore will do his best to have Miss V C there. “You don't get too many opportunities to race for that sort of money,” he said Bred by Peter and Rolly Drummond of Winton, Miss V C has been leased from them for three years. Fellow Winton trainer Des Baynes backed up with a second win in consecutive weeks when Raffy Roo took the Southland Car & Commercial Painters Pace, following Slate's win on his home track. It was the six-year-old's third win and second in his past three starts. “He's come right,” said Baynes, pointing out that a number of niggles in the past, which required veterinary attention, appear to be behind him now. A gelding by Elsu, Raffy Roo is out of Holmezy who contested the opening race of the inaugural Jewels held in Ashburton in 2007. Trained by Hamish Hunter she ran sixth to GTH Aveross. Homezy's third foal is Alfie Romeo who won two from eight for Baynes. Sold to Australia and known now as Our Alfie Romeo, the Washington V C gelding has won 10 from 14 including the Group Three Lewis Fillies and Mares Final at Gloucester Park last month. His latest start was in a group three at Pinjarra last Monday and yielded a second placing. Eastern Southland owners Terry and Dawn McPherson enjoyed their first taste of winning when four-year-old Love The Blues took out the Magnum Automotive Group Pace in the hands of trainer Robin Swain. “I'd always been interested in racing but couldn't afford a horse until I sold my farm, to Kenny Baynes,” Terry McPherson said, “I'm semi-retired now, only got 15 acres but still help out on a dairy farm.” Their first venture was Pretty Pins, a half-sister to the big winner Carabella. The filly failed to make it to the races but has left a yearling colt by Captaintreacherous. At a later sale, the McPhersons acquired Bronte Lindenny but the mare has failed to place in 11 outings. At the same sale, they also bought Love The Blues by Auckland Reactor. “Love The Blues had a couple of starts as a three-year-old had trouble holding his condition,” McPherson revealed. Visiting Cantabrian but former local Jonny Cox had to wait until the second half of the day's programme before his first drive. Success wasn't immediate and it took until the last of the day before it finally arrived. The Doorman, trained and driven by Cox, led all the way and dominated the All Purpose Engineering & Southland Batteries Pace.   Mac Henry

The drive by Brad Williamson set up the win for talented trotter Majestic Man in the Group Three Southern Lights at Ascot Park today (Saturday). When fthe avourite Kings Landing made the lead, his driver Tim Williams put the brakes on and Williamson was having none of that. With 2000 metres to run, in the lightning move, he shot Majestic Man forward and challenged the leader. “To be honest he’s a bit more of a speed horse but when Tim got to the front he backed off the tempo. I couldn’t allow that to happen. We had to get in a positive position,” he said. With 1400 metres to run Williamson was on top with the Majestic Son four year old and at the finish had half a neck to spare on Kings Landing which ran home up the passing lane. Williamson says there was confidence around the stable that the four year old would perform well despite  having been away from racing for 65 days. He trialled at Oamaru last Saturday winning his heat by six lengths. “He trialled exceptional. If you’d seen it you would have thought he was in with a very good show. He got home in 27 seconds and change, and was hard held. We had a lot of confidence that he was fit and ready.” It was a super effort by his trainer Phil Williamson to get Majestic Man ready. And it was a bit of a case of revenge as Kings Landing had beaten Majestic Man on Show Day at Addington. “A similar thing happened on Show Day. The speed wasn’t overly hot. Mark (Purdon) was up parked and he sprinted home and beat me. Today was the opposite.” The win was Majestic Man’s eighth in only nineteen starts. Back to the birdcage after win number eight - Photo Bruce Stewart. “We thought a bit of him as a young horse and he won the Two Year Old Sires Stakes Final but weakened right off quite badly after the run. He’s strengthening up and with hard racing he's got better as he’s got older. He’s still got to step up to the open graders yet.” The Jewels is well and truly on Majestic Man’s radar and another target is also possible.       “The Rowe Cup's been mentioned if he’s going good enough.” Majestic Man is raced by the Griffin Syndicate. Winning connections and sponsor - Photo Bruce Stewart  It was the fourth time Phil Williamson has won the Southern Lights. His previous winners were; Mystic Son (2009), Springbank Sam (2013) and Monty Python (2017). He brought his team south early this week, starting two well-bred two year old trotters Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride at the Winton Workouts on Friday. Cracker Hill is a Muscle Hill – Juneamy Castleton gelding which is trained by Brad. It  beat Ultimate Stride, a Love You colt out of the millionaire trotter One Over Kenny. The winning margin was a nose but both horses we’re extended. Cracker Hill (8) just gets there from Ultimate Stride at the Winton Workouts - Photo Bruce Stewart Ultimate Stride was sold by Lex and Heather Williams of One Over Lodge in Waimate for $160,000 at the 2018 National Sales in Christchurch. He was bought by Australian’s Emilio and Mary Rosati and left with Williamson. Cracker Hill, which was also bred by the Williams, was passed in for $40,000 at the same sale.  Another impressive trotter that had a win on Friday was the Brent McIntyre trained Cuchulainn: a full-brother to the quality trotter Pickett’s Ridge the winner of four of his ten starts. Both are by Skyvalley out the Sundon mare Come Follow Me. Meanwhile Nathan Williamson’s classy trotter Chinese Whisper is staying put for the time being. He was under offer during the week but the deal fell through and he’s expected to have his next start in the province at Wyndham on Saturday.   Bruce Stewart

The Gore trained Robyns Playboy looked to be on target for the New Zealand Derby when he impressively beat a quality field of mainly three year olds in the Super Nuggets Final at the Northern Southland meeting at Ascot Park yesterday. In the $20,000 feature, Zinny Mach took an early lead but Robyns Playboy’s driver Craig Ferguson pressed forward and hit the lead with 1600 metres to run. “I thought he had a bit more gate speed and that he would hold the front but when Zinny Mach crossed him it was looking a bit dangerous particularly if Nathan didn’t hand up,” said trainer Ross Wilson. Ferguson then dictated the speed of the race and with his ears pinned back Robyns Playboy went down to the finish line beating two latecomers Memphis Tennessee (second by one length) and Barrett a nose back in third. Wilson says Robyns Playboy has a strong character and can be a bit of a handful at home as well as on raceday sometimes, but today he was fine. “Sometimes he'll pull in the pre-lim and you can’t pull him up but he was more settled today.” So his next start will be on the 5th April is the $200,000 Diamond Creek Farm New Zealand Derby. “I’m not going to go for any lead up race. That’ll be his next start. He’s a very fit horse and he doesn’t take a lot of work. He hasn’t come to the end of his run yet. At home he does quite a bit of cantering on the frame and leading up to a race he only needs about three hopples.” This will be the first time Wilson has had a runner in the Derby. “Hopefully we’ll carry on to the Jewels. We’re aiming Bridesdale Robyn at the Jewels too. To have a horse at those events is a real thrill.” Today’s win elevates Robyns Playboy to fourth in the Harness Jewels Three Year Old Emerald. The winning Wilsons - Photo Bruce Stewart  The win was Ferguson’s seventeenth of the season and equals his best season as an open driver and Robyns Playboy is clearly the best horse he’s driven. “He’s got a very high cruising speed and Craig says he just waits on them.” Meanwhile the biggest upset of the day came in the Haras des Trotteurs Southland Trotting Oaks when the Gavin Smith trained Swiss Miss beat more fancied runners in the $20,000 feature for three year old trotting fillies. Just when it looked like Cheerful and Majestic Chevron were going to fight out the finish Nathan Williamson got Swiss Miss wound up and she stormed down the outside to beat Majestic Chevron by half a neck with a nose back to Cheerful. The winning time of 2-47.9 equals the race and track record held by last year’s winner Luby Lou. The New Zealand Trotting Oaks at Addington on the 22nd March looks to be shaping up to be a fairly even contest. Bruce Stewart

There was a bit of talk around first starter U May Cullect at Ascot Park yesterday and a few punters were obviously listening. The five year old, which started as second favourite, doesn’t have a flash pedigree but as we know in racing that doesn’t always count. The Gotta Go Cullect gelding has also been a lesson in perseverance for owner Tom Kilkelly and his trainers Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis. “We took him to the workouts when he was three and he went pretty good. One of the guys that worked for asked me if I'd sell him. I said no. He said I’ll give you $50,000 for him. I said SOLD. The next day he popped a tendon. We turned him out and we had another go and he popped it again. So we gave him a big break on the block out at Riverton on the hill,” said Kilkelly. Since returning to training he’s been worked on Oreti Beach by Ellis. In today’s 2200 metre mobile driver Kirstin Barclay took U May Cullect straight to the front from Barrier Six. And at the end of the 2200 metres he had plenty to spare, beating favourite Ohoka Achilles by an impressive four lengths running the journey in 2-41.2. Winning salute - Photo Bruce Stewart U May Cullect is out of the Albert Albert mare Ides Of May which has also left Victoria May, a 1-51 horse in America, and he was bought at the 2014 Auckland Autumn Weanling and All Age Sale for $5,200. “...We were pretty confident. His tendon has stayed perfect so far and if he stays sound he’ll win some more races. When he broke down we thought that was the end of it. A lot of people told me I was wasting my time. He’s still a day to to day proposition.” Ask Me Major was another horse Kilkelly owned that showed promise, winning once from just three starts, but unfortunately his career was shortened by injury. Kilkelly says U May Cullect is the nicest horse he’s raced since Shard Ark and Guns N Roses. Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart  Meanwhile Wee Man Trouble also trained by Barclay and Ellis , did the right thing for major sponsor of the Northern Southland Cup Meeting, Dave McHugh. He began well from the back mark and driver Blair Orange positioned him back on the outside. He joined pacemaker Crusher Collins with 600 metres to run and 100 metres off the winning post Wee Man Trouble got to the lead to beat a brave Crusher Collins  by a length and a quarter. The Superfast Stuart four year old has been a consistent performer throughout his short career, winning four of his seventeen starts and being placed in three others.   Bruce Stewart

A touch of teal will be just the ticket at the Northern Southland Trotting Club meeting at Ascot Park Raceway in Invercargill this Saturday. The meeting will be the last in the southern region as part of the Teal Pants Campaign, a nationwide harness racing initiative to raise funds for the fight against Ovarian Cancer. There will be several initiatives on course but one of the simplest for both men and ladies is wearing teal or even just a touch of teal in your outfit to win one of many great spot prizes on the day. Prizes include an Emberz Restaurant voucher from the Ascot Park Hotel, an MLT meal voucher, pottles of Bluff Wild Oysters, gift baskets, wine, hats and betting vouchers. If you don’t possess any teal coloured clothing you can purchase teal merchandise on course, such as ribbons and wristbands, to supplement your outfit and go into the running for some of these wonderful spot prizes. The Teal Pants campaign sees $600 donated every time a female driver wins a race between 1 February and 10 March 2019. Each time a female driver is the first to greet the judge in the region Harness Racing NZ donates $200, the club at whose meeting the victory takes place gives $100, Woodlands Stud $100, Aldebaran Park $100 and Southern Harness Racing $100. The Teal Pants branding refers to the colour of driving pants worn by lady drivers during the promotion.    The Caduceus Club Of Southland and Southern Bred Southern Reared have also each contributed $500 to the cause. It is also a major race day for the club with three Group 3 races - the Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Trotting Cup, the Prydes Easifeed Southern Lights Handicap Trot and the Caduceus Club Of Southland /Alabar Fillies Classic plus the Haras des Trotteurs Southland Trotting Oaks. Teal will definitely be the order of the day with teal driver caps set to be used in other promotions while each dress rug presented on the day will be emblazoned with the Ovarian Cancer Teal ribbon logo. Meanwhile the club will also continue their season long promotions at the meeting with a losing ticket draw after Race 6 which will net a lucky punter a $1000 betting voucher while an Owners Prize draw will culminate with the announcement of the three prizewinners who will take one of three prizes – first a trip for two people to the Rowe Cup in Auckland in April with accommodation, rental car and a tour of Alabar Stud courtesy of House Of Travel Lakers and Alabar, second an afternoon hosted at Macca Lodge followed by an evening meal and accommodation in the motel at the Waikaia Hotel and third one night accommodation at the Ascot Park Hotel courtesy of the ILT. Two members, Peter Kubala and Paul Pearce, have also already been drawn prior to the meeting to receive a $100 betting voucher each while Hamil Saddlery will also donate a $50 voucher to a random club member who owns a horse starting on the day. Admission to the course on the day will be free!   Southland Harness Racing

Today’s win by Yankee Party was Winton trainer Katrina Price’s 100th.   She’s the first female trainer in the province to reach the milestone. Her training career began with her father in-law Roger Price in the 1999-2000 season. Their first winner was Gypsy Road at Ascot Park in November 1999 and the Road Machine gelding was driven by Brent Barclay. The partnership with Roger eventually produced seventy six winning races. In the 2013/14 season Katrina started training in partnership with her husband John and together they’ve trained 77 winners, the first being Surprise Party at Gore in October 2013. Yankee Party has come a long way in a short time, qualifying at Gore in the middle of last month. She’s by American Ideal, a stallion the Prices have had a good amount of success with.               “We’ve mainly had American Ideals out of the Party family. The combination certainly seemed to have clicked. The American Ideals are nicely gaited and seem pretty easy to work with, and they want to do it (win).” “She’s quite a big filly who has just really come to it at home. She was just a bit dumb and didn’t really know how to finish it off, then all of a sudden the penny dropped,” said Katrina. Returning to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart The winning time was a smart 2-45 for the 2200 metre mobile - 10 seconds under the required time. “We don’t normally qualify them like that but we knew the Sales were coming up so we said to Nathan it would be nice if she qualified well.” Her half brother Stag Party sold for $100,000 while the other Price prepared yearling by Captaintreacherous sold for $110,000. “(We’re) absolutely rapt. They’ve gone to great homes so they’ve got every opportunity, if the horses are good enough.” On the back of her smart qualifying time Yankee Party was sent out hot favourite. She was noticeably a bit fractious prior to the start today. “She’s been a big sleeping giant who’s woken up a bit.” Rather than give the filly a break Katrina says they may continue to race her. “The way she’s been coming through the runs I think we’ll truck on. There’s the Ladyship and after that we’ll make a decision on what we do next.” Price, who was born in Dunedin and moved to Balcultha as a seven year old has always been around horses. She grandfather had show ponies while her father Trevor Bell had show, rodeo and gallopers, including Eye Chance which won seventeen races. Eye Chance was by Random Chance and won the Oamaru, Cromwell, Gore, Tapanui, Winton and Wairio Cups. He also won the 2003 Sydenham Hurdles. “I was at the shows as a little kid and later that’s how John and I met.” She trained at Dunedin Teachers College and taught at Tweedmuir Intermediate. “I taught for four years fulltime and then part time for another couple, working horses in the morning. I always wanted to train full time. I started off being quite scientific but the more you do you realise with every theory there’s a lot of exceptions.” Her best season as a trainer was 2008 when she trained ten winners with Roger for a UDR of .3686. Some of the stable winners were; Presidential Reign, Scotty Mach, Cullen’s Consort and Bella’s Fella. Win number 100 for Katrina Price with husband John - Photo Bruce Stewart  Meanwhile the Prices quality two year old filly Pearl Harbour has been side-lined with an injury. “She got an infection in her knee so that’s why she’s missed the last couple of Young Guns Heats so she’s probably looking doubtful for the Young Guns Final at the moment.” Another Price horse Rockabilly Blues has also been away from the racetrack. “She’s had a virus. She’s all clear now and back in work. She’ll go to the workouts either this Friday or the one after and she’ll head to a Southern Belle heat.” Meanwhile today, Leithfield Beach trainer Robbie Holmes produced two winners out of class mare Kiwi Ingenuity. 12 - Kiwis Are Flying winning for Robbie Holmes - Photo Bruce Stewart Kiwis Are Flying, a four year old by Bettor’s Delight got the ball rolling, and three races later his younger sister Team Kiwi hung to win the Speights Ale House Mobile Pace.   Bruce Stewart

The much anticipated debut of Chinese Whisper ended the right way when he impressively won the first race at Ascot Park today. The three year old had been given a methodical preparation and he’s been unbeaten. He’s won six workouts and two trials. He qualified at Wyndham on November 21st running 3-14.5 - seven seconds inside the qualifying time. “It’s all about his education. He was pretty fractious and he’s been a work in progress all the time. He’s done a ton of miles and he still has a long way to go. He’s always had the ability but it was all about the manners,” said Williamson. After beginning well trainer driver Nathan Williamson settled the horse in the one one. With 400 metres to run he launched the gelding three wide and he trotted down the middle of the track to win by a length and a quarter with The Commando in second. There were a further ten lengths back to the third horse Gazza Galleon.  “He trotted pretty well. There were a couple of long ones there today. The style of impressive first starter Chinese Whisper - Photo Bruce Stewart Although HRNZ Website says Nathan’s mother Bev bred the horse he was actually bred by this trainer. “I had a mare I was trying to get in foal to Sundon and couldn’t. Mum said she would lend me a mare and I ended up getting Little Contessa so I was pretty lucky there. I was a bit slow in getting the paper work in so that’s why it’s got Mum down as the breeder. This breeding game is a long time in the making. ” And the name?  “I made it up just because the rest of them are named Whisper. I was trying to think about something with whisper and Chinese Whisper came up.” Williamson originally owned Chinese Whisper with his wife Katie but his share is now owned by local farrier Brendon Franks who shoes Williamson’s horses. “Franksie wanted to race a horse with us and it just happened to be this one and he goes okay.” Hawaiian Hula is also in the Williamson stable and was educated with Chinese Whisper. She showed promise last season but has had to be put aside. “She got chips taken out of her knee in the spring otherwise she would have been racing before him, as she was a bit more advanced. It was nothing major so she’ll be a nice four year old next year.” Ella Franks, Julie McEwan-Franks, Laura Franks, Millie and Katie Williamson, Nathan Williamson, Brendon Franks, Ollie Kite and Shane Phillips - Photo Bruce Stewart. Williamson reports that star trotter Dark Horse is back in the stable after having had two leg injuries. “She’s back in work and it’s the long road back again I suppose. It’ll be next season for her but we’ll put a good foundation into her and hopefully the leg will stand up.” Chinese Whisper is a well related gelding, being a full brother to Irish Whisper which won eleven races. He’s (Chinese Whisper) one of a talented and well-bred bunch of three year old trotters in the province which include Full Noise, Get Lucky, Tolkien, Big Iron and Jaccka Jeorge. Meanwhile one of the most talked about maiden pacers in commission, Slate, looks set to head to the races after an impressive win at the Winton Workouts on Friday. Slate winning his Winton Workout on Friday - Photo Bruce Stewart Browns trainer Des Baynes has turned has back on offers for the Changeover gelding preferring to race him at this stage. The four year old qualified impressively in 3-04.6 over 2400 metres, winning by six and a half lengths.   Bruce Stewart

Two starts for two wins. An impressive start for the career of filly Dixie Star. The Stephen Boyd trained Bettor’s Delight three year old lead and held on to win the $12,000 ILT Nugget Final at Ascot Park today. “It’s great having races like this, a good incentive to come down,” Boyd said. Dixie Star was bought at the 2017 Sale of the Stars for $8,000 and is out of the five win McArdle mare Dixie Belle. This is the Black Watch family that has produced many good fillies, like Star Of The Ball and Pembrook’s Delight. Since her last win at Winton on February 17th Boyd has kept Dixie Star ticking over. “We don’t do much with her at home so it was a natural improvement really. She only has the hopple runs. It seems to be working. She’s fit enough and wasn’t blowing when she came back.” In today’s feature Northern reinsman David Butcher took her straight to the front and she showed gameness to beat off all challengers, beating the favourite Burlington by three quarters of a length. Dixie Star winning the Nuggets - Photo Bruce Stewart “Richard Bull, one of my owners, is a good friend of David’s and he arranged for him to come down.” Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart   Boyd is now eying up the Ladyship Final for Dixie Star on March 16th at Wyndham. “We’ll definitely come down for the Southland Oaks as well.” Boyd says he has thirty horses in work. “I break in a lot of horses for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen so we don’t have many racehorses.” Stephen has held a license for eighteen seasons and has trained in total, twenty two winners. Eleven of those wins have happened this season, four of them in Southland. “I got out of it for a while and drove a courier truck but Dad (John) got sick so I came back to help the business.” His father does all the freeze branding for all the horses in the South Island and he also held a trainers license. Two of the better horses he trained were Dainty Smooth, the winner of seven and Dainty Judy which won six. Stephen Boyd’s first training win was at Westport in March 2000 when Smokey Range which he drove, won.   Bruce Stewart

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