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By Garrick Knight    It’s Christmas time and all Mitch Kerr wants in his stocking is an Ashburton Cup. The North Canterbury horseman, arguably the country’s most in-form trainer apart from Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, has the two favourites for today’s $20,000 feature. Smokin By has established himself as an open class pacer and was a dominant Addington winner last time out. In contrast, Matt Damon has come a long way in a short time, winning six of seven starts this season following a debut second back in July. “I’m really happy with both of them,” Kerr told HRNZ. “Smokin By has just got to step and, if he does, he’ll be right in it up to his eyeballs.” “Matt Damon is a really good horse going forward and, while it’s a big step up for him, he just keeps lifting. “The two miles will be right up his alley because he’s a lovely wee stayer in the making.” Driver Matt Anderson has been riding the wave of success with Kerr this year and finds himself third on the drivers’ premiership as a result. He’s been driving both horses all season but has opted to steer narrow race favourite, Matt Damon. “Matt chose to stick with him, which is why we gave Tim Williams a spin on Smokin By last week. “He’s always liked Matt Damon and the other thing is he wasn’t getting on with the other horse that well.” Bookies opened Matt Damon at $3.50 yesterday and he remained firm at that price this morning while Smokin By had drifted slightly from $3.50 out to $3.90. The early money came for Heisenberg, who is earning a reputation as a horse that runs close-up placings, though that didn’t punters off because they shifted him in from $8 to $6. Nandolo ($3.90) and Jazzy Star ($5.50) are the other two firmly in the market. One race earlier, Kerr’s fine mare Change Is Good will be looking to repeat her performance from Labour Weekend when she tackles a $12,000 mares’ mile. She caused an upset on the same track that day, running 1.56.1 with a tough effort against a similar field. Her form since has been first-class and Kerr is confident she can put her hoof in the till again. “Hopefully she can get in to the race from her wide draw because she loves toughing it out.” Rounding out the team is first starter Her Majesty, a Bettor’s Delight filly who hasn’t set the world on fire at the trials, but gets the tick from her trainer. “She’s a half sister to (Group 1 winner) Dizzy Miss Lizzy that is pretty talented, I think.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Shartin’s baby brother showed he has his share of his family’s ability when speeding to an impressive qualifying win at the Ashburton trials on Tuesday. The Tintin In America pacer from Live Or Die mare Bagdarin, named Knockawarwon,  has big shoes to fill considering his sister already has her name etched in harness racing history as the world’s fastest ever mare.  The 3yr-old, bred and trained by Shartin’s breeder Grant Crabbe, has not only revealed he has the ability to make some kind of name for himself in the sport with his trial win.  He has shown he is doing even better than his star sister at the same stage of their careers. “He is a bigger horse, he is taller and he is faster,” Crabbe said.  “He has always been able to run a half [800m] around my track in a second to half a second faster than Shartin.” Shartin qualified in 3.05.1 for 2400m from behind the mobile, four years and four days prior to Knockawarwon qualifying in 3.03.7. Baby brother showed off his speed by dashing his last 400m in 26.2sec on Tuesday. The impressive display came in the horse’s first public appearance.  “First time in a race cart, first time in a race saddle and first time on a race track,” Crabbe said. “He is a very sensible horse, he relaxes, he is one of those ones you’re lucky to have around.” “He has got great manners and he is a stunningly gaited horse.” Knockawarwon will not be seen at the races in the coming weeks, with his breeder-trainer opting to take a patient approach with the promising pacer. “I am going to turn him out for six weeks, because he has only really just turned three -  being a late November foal.” “I thought he is such a nice horse and he has everything right, so if I give him a nice spell now for six weeks, or so, he will be right for racing around February or March.” Knockawarwon’s name was developed from what could be considered a phonetic or mangled spelling of Ngakawau – a region on the West Coast of the South Island. The 3yr-old is partly raced by Crabbe’s daughter, Kylie, and her partner, Michael Mumm. Kylie came in to the ownership of the horse after Crabbe injured his neck and could have been left unable to work Knockawarwon. Mumm’s friends and family, who are from the Ngakawau region, subsequently joined the horse’s ownership. The group had only had one serious offer, which totalled over six figures, before Tuesday’s trials. Crabbe said they declined that proposal and were likely to decline subsequent offers unless they were sizeable. “The guys on the coast said they want to race him - unless the money was reasonable - it is hard to get a nice horse.” “Despite all of the publicity he has had through Shartin, we have only had one phone call from people offering to buy him.” Crabbe has not yet broken in the next foal from Bagdarin, a yearling by A Rocknroll Dance named Done Rockn. The horse is to be gelded this week after displaying coltish tendencies. “He is a roaring, very mature type of horse.” “He is a stunning horse, he is probably the pick of the family on looks.” “He looks like he could go as a 2yr-old.” Bagdarin was served by Gold Ace last season and is due to give birth to a foal by the sire in the coming weeks. Crabbe also plans to put the mare back in foal to Gold Ace. Part of the inspiration for that decision is because he has a 2yr-old by the sire from another of his broodmare’s in Cassie’s Medley, which he rates very highly.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight A trip to Southland is looming on the horizon for Thursday’s ultra-impressive debut winner Ashburton, Bundoran. The three-year-old Sir Lincoln gelding showed rare speed to surge up the passing lane and beat another handy type in Unico Veloce, justifying the faith his connections have in him. “On ability we were confident,” said co-trainer Amber Lethaby, who also did the driving. “He took a couple of cracks at qualifying because he just got a little bit over eager to do things. “But he’s got a lot better with every run he’s had and his ability has never been in question.” After stepping well from the mile-and-a-half standing start point, Lethaby opted to take a trail on Bundoran behind Unico Veloce. The latter got a fairly soft lead in front, but was touched up by Calypso Rock in the 500 metres approaching the home straight. It took the sting out of the leader and allowed Bundoran to accelerate past him with ease over the last furlong. “Even if that didn’t happen, I’m pretty sure I probably would have got the leader anyway because we think quite a bit of our fella.” Australian interest is there in the horse, and regular high-end buyer from Perth, Greg Bond, inspected the horse on Wednesday before flying home, but no deal has been reached as yet. “I couldn’t say for sure whether he’s staying here or being sold; we’ll have to wait and see. “We’ve had some interest but maybe the Sir Lincoln factor is putting a few of them off. “To us, we know he’s a nice horse and we’re not going to let him go for nothing.” So, Southland might be next, with Lethaby’s husband and training partner, Jason, mapping out a course for the horse. “It’s back to the drawing board now, pretty much, and seeing what we’re serious about. “I’m not too sure but I know Jason was keen on getting him down south and looking at some of the Southern Supremacy heats. “Time will tell whether that’s going to work out or not. “At the moment, we’re sticking him to stands so we’re going to have to put him in mobiles if that’s a real option.” Lethaby says they’ve never had a Sir Lincoln in the stable before, but purchased him on type for just $5,000 at last year’s Christchurch yearling sale. “He’s the only one we’ve got in the stable. “He’s isn’t tall, but is strong and really solid. There’s still plenty of improvement in him too. “My husband owns half of him with three other guys, just loyal owners that we’ve had with us for a long time. “And we’re all just absolutely stoked to have a good horse.” One race later, Canterbury media darling Cassie Fahey, home from Australia to cover Cup Week for Sky Racing, had cause to celebrate. Her family’s horse, Cheezel, won the junior drivers’ race at her first start for Woodend Beach horseman, Regan Todd. Fahey, along with sister Tess and dad, Brian, were there to celebrate what was the daughter of Betterthancheddar’s fourth win, the previous three coming under Brian’s tutelage. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Trainer-driver Jim Curtin will seek more New Zealand Cup week success with his small team at Ashburton on Thursday. The Templeton horseman closed out New Zealand Cup day when producing his lightly raced pacer Tango Tara to win its last race. Curtin looks a big chance of scoring a race to race double by winning the next event of the New Zealand Cup Carnival - the first event at Ashburton. He starts Zigzagzoo in a 2400m maiden trot, following the horse’s good first up run behind impressive Kaikoura winner, Madam Sass. “He did go really good up there, I was really pleased with him,” Curtin said. “I was a bit worried about how he would trot the bends, but he was pretty good.” Zigzagzoo’s Kaikoura effort came in his first start since he raced New Zealand’s best 2yr-old trotters, last season. The Majestic Son squaregaiter went sound races finishing in behind the placegetters in races won by Ultimate Stride and Muscle Mountain. His first up effort showed Zigzagzoo had returned stronger from his winter break. “I think he has come back a bit stronger - he is quite a big horse and I think he could be even better when he gets a bit older,” Curtin said. Zigzagzoo could head towards this season’s 3yr-old trotting features if his form warrants it. The trotter can help his cause in today’s race if he can hold out fellow 3yr-old, Vacation Hill. The Kevin Townley trained squaregaiter also comes in to Thursday’s race after a last start second placing. Bookmakers think Zigzagzoo can, rating him the early $3 favourite, ahead of Vacation Hill at $4.60. Curtin also starts Kayla Maguire in race 9 at the Ashburton meeting. She finished down the track in her first start for the second at Methven, recently. The 4yr-old may need another start to show her best after doing too well during her winter spell. “She is going to need a couple of runs because she has been carrying a bit of extra weight.” “She is in a bit of an awkward place in the handicaps at the moment, racing horses that have won a few races.” Race 9 features an exciting clash between emerging 3&4yr-olds. 3yr-olds Cloud Nine, A Delightful Act and Pink Flamingo Run each go in to the 2400m mobile event as last start winners. 4yr-olds Nirvana Beach and Portalerge come in to race 9 after running good second placing in their last starts. Nirvana Beach and A Delightful Act opened equal $3 favourites with bookmakers. Tango Tara’s neck win over the favourite Taxman has earned him some quiet time. Curtin will bypass Friday’s Show Day meeting at Addington and target the quieter surrounds of Geraldine, later this month. “I never intended to back him up on Show Day because he has had quite a few runs in a short time with going to the trials.” “We might look at the Geraldine meeting with him.” Tango Tara helped keep his family’s name in the spotlight after his close relation, Tiger Tara, missed his first New Zealand Cup carnival in six years. Tango Tara is by A Rocknroll Dance from a half sister to the dam of Tiger Tara, who is by his sire, Bettor’s Delight. Tango Tara shows some traits of Bettor’s Delight stock as a fair track worker, who steps his game up significantly on race day. Niggling injuries, which Curtin described as wear and tear problems, meant the 4yr-old was spelled in January after making a brilliant start to his career. Tango Tara is over those problems and Curtin is hopeful the horse can continue to fulfil his potential. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner  Rebel Kibbybones scored an emotional win for the Hay family when grinding out a tough win in the Cyril Hay Memorial Trot at Ashburton on Monday. Tears flowed when family members greeted John Hay in the birdcage after he owned, trained and drove the winner of the race named after his late father. “Its real special, the whole family are here -  the grandkids are here,” he said. “They are all roaring and there are tears and everything.” “It is a good one to win.” Rebel Kibbybones’ victory could not have been more fitting, as Hay wore his late father’s colours while producing a heady drive on the 9yr-old. The trainer-driver made sure he was not going to be unlucky in the race that meant so much to his family when angling out of the one-one at the 800m, before serving it up to the leader, Never Mind, on the turn. “The one I was following wasn’t going anywhere, so I had to get handy,” Hay said. “At that stage I thought I was a place chance, he kept grinding up the straight and got the win.” “He is an honest enough trotter, when he trots he usually gets a cheque and that is him.” Cyril Hay left an undeniable mark on the Mid Canterbury harness racing scene during his lifelong involvement in the industry before his passing in 2017. The Ashburton win was the scene of one of his best training wins – when Doctor Bailey won the Cheviot Cup. John was in the sulky that day and he looks back on the win fondly and credits his father for kick starting his career. “He started my career off with Doctor Bailey and gave me a good start.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Defending Dominion champion Marcoola sent jaws dropping among the crowd that witnessed his stunning New Zealand record breaking win in the Ashburton Trotters Flying Mile on Monday. The 7yr-old was in a mood to run and driver Sheree Tomlinson let him do exactly that, which put the trotting star in a race of his own that his rivals could only watch while chasing his dust. Tomlinson’s front running tactics on the Ken Ford trained squaregaiter made for the unusual, by spectacular sight of an open class field being led by at least four lengths throughout. The Sundon entire went on to enter even more rarefied territory as the winner of an open class feature by a massive 12 and a half lengths. Marcoola stopped the clock in a sizzling 1-53.8, taking a massive 0.7sec off the national all-comers mile (1609m) record he previously held jointly with Cyclone U Bolt and Stent.   The performance not only stunned the Ashburton crowd. Sheree Tomlinson admitted she had never been involved with anything quite like Marcoola’s demolition job.   “I just let him bowl along and whatever speed he wanted and he did it on his ear.” “I had a hold on him out of the gate, I didn’t want to push him, but he just had too much gate speed for them,” she said. “I didn’t have to move on him up the straight, he did it easy, he jogged it.” Marcoola’s emphatic win issued trotting fans with a massive reminder that the Dominion is not just a one horse race for Oscar Bonavena. But as his star rose, Sundees Son’s Dominion campaign took a major nose dive when he galloped in the straight when clearly holding down second. The Robert Dunn trained 5yr-old finished fourth behind placegetters Destiny Jones and Habibi Inta before being disqualified. Sundees Son has now made home straight mistakes in his past two starts after beginning his spring campaign with two faultless wins.   Though there was a huge margin between Marcoola and Oscar Bonavena on Monday, the pair remained equal $4 second favourites for the Dominion after the Ashburton Trotters Flying Mile. Oscar Bonavena solidified his $1.80 price for the Show Day feature when bolting in against middle grade opposition later on the Ashburton card. The 4yr-old trounced his rivals in good time, but that was arguably the least important aspect of his win. The All Stars trotter put his keenness to run and recent standing start mistakes behind him with by stepping cleanly and relaxing nicely in the running. Oscar Bonavena and Marcoola are unlikely to meet ahead of the Dominion. Owner Clint Ford is keen to run his defending champion at next week’s Kaikoura meeting. Oscar Bonavena will head straight to the Dominion. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Spankem continued his perfect preparation for the New Zealand Cup when speeding past his star stablemates to win the Ashburton Flying Stakes yesterday. A perfect run in the trail helped the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 5yr-old show off his sizzling speed by zooming home to beat Thefixer and Self Assured. His nearly perfect performances left little room for the improvement of his spring campaign leading in to the 2400m feature. Yet the pacer managed to show off more of his big arsenal of open class weapons on Monday, when making a flying start and step straight to the lead. His professional performance was Spankem’s last in a race before the New Zealand Cup. The pacer will have his final public hit out ahead of the second Tuesday in November at next week’s New Zealand Cup trials. Spankem’s New Zealand Cup quest got easier after the Ashburton Flying Stakes when owner Jean Feiss ruled out any chance of Self Assured heading to the great race. The All Stars stable had effectively shut the door on a New Zealand Cup tilt, but had left the decision with Feiss. Self Assured ran a huge race when fighting on for third after losing ground with a mistake at the start and sitting three wide in the open from the 600m The 4yr-old will continue his spring campaign by having his next start in next week’s Kaikoura Cup. Fifth placegetter Another Masterpiece and stablemate Ashley Locaz will also target the race. Self Assured was just a head away from runner-up Thefixer at the line. Thefixer fought gallantly after taking the lead from Spankem with a lap to go in what was a vital hit in just his second spring start. Chase Auckland also went a big race, finishing just a nose away from Thefixer in fourth. The 5yr-old worked in to the race three-wide after starting getting back in the field from his unruly draw. Chase Auckland rallied well in the straight, while denied clear racing room for much of the run home. Thefixer and Chase Auckland will join Spankem at the New Zealand Cup trials. Clouds hang over two of the seven strong All Stars team that contested the Ashburton Flying Stakes. Purdon and Rasmussen will ponder their next move with Ultimate Sniper after he faded to run last after starting a wide bid before the home turn. Cruz Bromac threw a head scratching performance at the trainers in his first start back in All Stars colours when galloping free of interference in the straight. There was no doubt over the reason for A G’s White Socks’ gallop at the start of the race after both of his hopple shorteners broke when he paced off the mark. The Greg and Nina Hope trained pacer was around six lengths off the back of the field on settling, before he staged a big recovery to run sixth. A G’s White Socks beat home Smokin By and Australian raider Our Uncle Sam, who disappointed in his first start on New Zealand soil.   Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Spankem remains pacing’s top seed and the horse to beat in all the feature races — until at least 4.40pm today. Because even his trainer and driver Mark Purdon admits the chasing pack, many of them also trained by him, are closing in on the Horse of the Year as they clash in today’s $50,000 Flying Stakes at Ashburton. As the Miracle Mile, Taylor Mile and Messenger winner Spankem was always going to start the season as the New Zealand Cup favourite and some key withdrawals, Tiger Tara and Turn It Up, have seen him get as short as $2 even though he has been beaten twice in his four starts this spring. One of those was when he looked in need of his fresh-up run, the other 10 days ago at Addington when he had to come off a 30m handicap and was still the run of the race. But those defeats prove he is still very beatable and while Purdon rates him his number one seed, rivals like Self Assured, Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland along with Aussie newcomers Cruz Bromac and Our Uncle Sam mean anything but the best version of Spankem might get beaten today. “He is still our top pacer and the one to beat in races like this, especially back to equal marks,” says Purdon. Being back on the front line the standing start will be crucial for Spankem because if he can step cleanly and get handy he probably has the respect to surge to the lead, from where he has been near unbeatable. But if he gets back in the field on a track where open class pacers routinely peel off 54 second last 800m sectionals, favourite punters will be feeling sick. While most of Spankem’s rivals today have proven open class form, Self Assured is only having his second start in the big time and if he was to win it would cause a re-shaping of the markets for the Inter Dominions and possibly even a change of heart about a New Zealand Cup start. “At this stage, even if he wins on Monday, we won’t be paying the late entry for the Cup,” says Purdon. “But if he won well and Jean (Feiss, owner) wanted to consider it then we might rethink that. “I think be will need to begin quickly though. If he is even a touch slow in this field he could settle closer to last than first.”
 While the open class pacers face their most telling test of the season so far today, the Flying Mile Trot could be a far simpler equation. If Sundees Son is back to his best he is the one to beat, if he is not then Marcoola probably wins. Sundees Son had been stunning in his last six starts before a galloping last time out and driver John Dunn has not been entirely happy with how the little fella has been trotting. If he is below par today then from the ace draw Marcoola has plenty of options to defend the title he won last season.   by Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner Rakaia reinsman Gerard O'Reilly has been gifted a pleasant surprise for Monady's Ashburton Flying Stakes in the form of New Zealand Cup contender Cruz Bromac. The driver has watched much of the build-up to the New Zealand Cup from the sidelines, but that will change dramatically when the tapes fly for today's 2400m feature. O'Reilly will find himself driving a genuine New Zealand Cup hope in the race regarded as the most important leadup to the 3200m classic. "It was a bit of a surprise. I certainly wasn't expecting it," O'Reilly said of the call from Rolleston trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen to handle last year's New Zealand Free-For-All winner. "But it is great to be able to drive such a good horse." Cruz Bromac had arguably the biggest hard-luck story from last year's New Zealand Cup, won by Thefixer, in which he paced roughly and lost ground at a vital stage of the run home. The 8yr-old returns for a shot at this year's cup after spelling in Australia after his Interdominion campaign for the All Stars stable. The Falcon Seelster pacer has had two spring starts, winning a minor race at Kilmore before his fast-finishing third behind Bling It On in the Victoria Cup earlier this month. "I watched his run in the Victoria Cup and it was very good. He made up a lot of ground," O'Reilly said. "He was right up there with them over here last year and he is versatile. He can do work - he is no one-trick pony." Cruz Bromac is part of a powerful seven-strong team the All Stars stable has in Monday's feature race. New Zealand Cup favourite Spankem heads its attack. The 5yr-old will start off level marks with his rivals after running third behind Ultimate Sniper and Self Assured when giving them a head start in his last run at Addington. The exciting Self Assured should strip fitter for that run, as it was his first of the season. The All Stars stable has indicated that the seven-start sensation is unlikely to be put forward as a late nomination for the New Zealand Cup regardless of his effort at Ashburton.  Though Purdon and Rasmussen have not categorically ruled the idea out. Rasmussen will drive Thefixer in Monday's race, with Tony Herlihy taking the reins behind Ultimate Sniper. Thefixer gets the opportunity for more conditioning from today’s event, with hoof issues limiting him to just one start in his campaign to defend his New Zealand Cup title. Matthew Williamson takes the drive behind Another Masterpiece, who was fourth behind Ultimate Sniper in his only run for the season. The seven strong All Stars team clash with pacers from just three rival stables. They include A G's White Socks from the Greg and Nina Hope barn, the Mitchell Kerr trained Smokin By, and Australian raider Our Uncle Sam. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Sorting out the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Monday is a challenge. Even for the All Stars stable drivers. An unprecedented seven runners in the race, not an ideal for the stable, means a lot of questions and not so many answers. Spankem being restored to the front line; Chase Auckland going on to the unruly; Ultimate Sniper’s standing start record and the exciting potential of Self Assured are just a few of the talking points around the race. So what do the team think ? Nobody knows for sure. Mark says he still favours Spankem. “Being back on the front and with his starting manners it does help his chances” Natalie is aware of Ultimate Sniper’s recent hesitation of standing starts but feels she has the answer. She was very pleased with his final workout on Saturday though Tony Herlihy takes the reins on Monday. “He is a horse who likes to pace in a race with a low head carriage but it doesn’t help him at the start. I’ve made a little adjustment there and I think it will do the trick. “It is not as if he is making big errors. He comes down after a few strides. But he could be better and I think he will be” “I can’t really say how it will turn out. Much will depend on the start of course. It wasn’t the race we were thinking about before the fields were decided” Tim is wary of Chase Auckland having to start from the unruly but fully supports the decision made for the longer term. “Natalie and Mark discussed it with me and their logic is right. It will not help him in this race but looking ahead to the New Zealand Cup it is the right move” “There is a bit more excitement on Cup Day and if he draws two or three for example and starts to get on the toe the chance of him making a clean start are not great. At Methven he showed that standing on his own helps his chances. He can do it from anywhere when all is right but you don’t want to lose your Cup chance right at the start and this will help him Self Assured of course is the horse everyone is talking about. He has only had the one run back but it was a cracking effort and Blair, unexpectedly, gets a second crack. “He is good enough to win and he is a laid back guy who doesn’t worry about too much” Mark says. However he says speculation about a possible NZ Cup tilt if he won was just that. “There are no plans to make a late entry for the Cup”he said. As always Thefixer is the apple cart upsetter. He worked strongly on Saturday and while he goes on from this race given his spring setbacks, he is so competitive and such a complete racehorse he is always a threat. Natalie remains loyal and that in itself is a pointer to a big race. Another Masterpiece, Matthew Williamson’s drive, could cause some concern to rivals too. He caught the eye with his first up run and while he will obviously improve again he could easily fill a hole in a talented field like this. Of the other runners on the day Mark feels the draw gives Pur Dan the edge over Roll The Dice whose latest run was a much improved effort. “Pur Dan went a good race last time and I feel he has the advantage here” Mark is confident about Oscar Bonavena as might be expected but not sure about how Winterfell will go in the Flying Mile. “He can be an unpredictable horse at any time. Some days he will work around here like a star and then then next time he goes out he doesn’t feel the same horse. I have worked him on the straight track today for that reason. He is certainly competitive if he turns up with his best game but he can be a little hard to read at times"   Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

An abandoned race has promoted next week’s Flying Stakes from a major New Zealand Cup lead-up to a virtual dress rehearsal. And it does raise the potential for a tricky question after the $50,000 group two at Ashbuton on Monday. The Flying Stakes is usually the most important trial for the NZ Cup, which is now less than three weeks away, but Monday’s 2400m standing start event got a lot more juicy when the final field was declared last night. The Ashburton club got only four entries for their intermediate grade pace so were forced to abandon it and move those four horses across to the Flying Stakes. And among the moved quartet were last-start open class winner Ultimate Sniper and maybe the most exciting pacer in the country in Self Assured. So now the Flying Stakes contains almost every horse given any chance of winning the Cup including Spankem and Thefixer as well as Aussie raiders Cruz Bromac and Our Uncle Sam. The only market big gun not there is Victorian pacer San Carlo, who doesn’t arrive in Christchurch to November 5. The Flying Stakes will now have a crucial effect on the Cup market but also raises a possibility which has until now been ruled out. If, and it is only an if, Self Assured comes out from barrier two and beats all the New Zealand Cup favourites on Monday, there must surely be a temptation to pay the $20,000 late entry fee for the Cup, that pathway available to his connections until November 6. While trainer Mark Purdon has always indicated that is unlikely and did let a four-year-old Spankem miss the Cup last season after winning the Kaikoura Cup, an emphatic victory on Monday would be hard to ignore and the Purdon-Rasmussen stable have sprung radical changes of plan before. With that in mind punters should steer clear of the NZ Cup market until after Monday’s race. Another key factor in the Flying Stakes is Chase Auckland moving to the unruly, which is likely to seriously dent his chances in the New Zealand Cup, with that almost as bad as a handicap. Two of the likely Cup starters missing from the Flying Stakes are Henry Hubert and Classie Brigade, with the Dunn-trained pair both suffering from minor lung infections and bypassing the race to head to Kaikoura a week later. The Dunn stable’s wonderful trotter Sundees Son is in Mondya’s Trotting Mile as he looks to redeem himself after a last start gallop but missing from that race are Enghien and Monbet. Enghien has already been ruled out of the Cup carnival after trotting poorly recently  but after some vastly-improved recent trials Monbet’s absence from Monday hardly looks ideal with Cup week so close. The field for the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Monday is.— $50,000, 2400m, 4.33pm.— A G’s White Socks (1), Self Assured (2), Ultimate Sniper (3), Cruz Bromac (4), Gran Chico (5), Another Masterpiece (6), Thefixer (7), Smokin By (8), Spankem (9), Our Uncle Sam (10), Chase Auckland (ur).   By Michael Guerin

By Garrick Knight The old adage that a change is as good as a holiday rung true at Ashburton on Sunday. It was there that former two-year-old Group 1 winner Renezmae made a return to the winner’s circle for the first time in 17 months. The pint-sized daughter of The Pres was having her first start for beach trainer Regan Todd, who admitted post-race to being a little surprised by the ease of her six-length win. “She went bloody good today, I thought. “I thought she’d race well but that definitely surprised us a bit. She really showed a bit of ‘lick’.” In the hands of Todd’s stable driver, Robbie Close, Renezmae sat last of the nine horses throughout before angling widest at the top of the straight and letting down with a superb sprint. Former trainer Jack Harrington sent Renezmae out to Todd at Woodend Beach after another disappointing effort, at Rangiora on August 11. “I’ve probably had her a month and we’ve just played around with her,” said Todd. “We started from scratch and gave her completely different training to what she was used to. “That sort of thing, with a change of scenery, can often pick them up. “Jack said she wasn’t half-pie going any good and he basically got to the end of the line with her. “He felt she was too good a horse not to try something with so that’s why he rung me.” It didn’t take Todd long to realise he had the basis of a nice horse to work with. “She’s gotten better and better since she arrived and the last few weeks has worked like a nice horse. “I took her down to the Geraldine trials last week thinking we were going to Methven today and she trialed well.” Renezmae is now a rating 69 and a return to Addington is most likely. “She’s up in the ratings a bit and I thought she was probably a bit hard done by being a 64 before today despite not winning for so long. “So, we can’t get too excited because now we’ll have to give her a go against the better ones.” Todd has made a typical impressive start to the season with five winners on the board already, including a double to Friday night winner Lets Hustle. “Things are going bloody good at the moment. “We’ve got 25 in work and some good clientele behind them so it’s exciting times.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Ashburton Trotting Club - Thursday 15 November A 12 race card, kicking off at 12.09pm.    Alexandra Park - Friday 16 November Christmas At The Races popular as ever Alexandra Park’s eight Christmas At The Races hospitality evenings set down for November and December are selling fast but there’s still time. “Our three November evenings are probably where we’ve got the best availability. However individuals, businesses and organisations need to book now to avoid disappointment,” says Roxanne Visser, Sales & Events Coordinator at Alexandra Park. The 2018 Christmas At The Races evenings will take place on Fridays 16, 23 and 30 November and 7, 14, and 21 December as well as Saturday 8 and 15 December. The incredibly popular nights are promoted as the perfect work Christmas party with a gourmet buffet, stunning décor, and great entertainment including a visit from Santa himself!. Holly packages remain available from $70 per person, as do the delightful Mistletoe packages at $115 with the option of track-view dining outside on the Epsom Balconies. Also, still available are the premium Pohutukawa packages in the Tasman Room from $140 which include a premium drinks package. However, Pohutukawa packages in Alexandra Park’s level five Top of the Park venue, priced from $165, are now limited but with some availability still on 16 November and 21 December. Ms Visser says regardless of the hospitality package, everyone gets to enjoy a sumptuous all-you-can-eat Christmas-style buffet. She says Alexandra Park’s exclusive President’s Suite can also be hired for private parties, with availability remaining on both 16 and 30 November as well as 21 December. Alexandra Park is renowned for delivering delicious dining packages and exciting harness racing under lights. Then after the last race, everyone gets together at The Alex Bar & Eatery to enjoy live entertainment. For further information on Christmas At The Races or to reserve your table please call (09) 631-1165, email dining@alexandrapark.co.nz or visit www.alexandrapark.co.nz. ATC 2019 Syndicate: Over the last two decades, the Auckland Trotting Club has formed 17 syndicates, each comprising either 40 or 50 shares and racing between 2 and 4 horses. To date, all 17 syndicates have proved, or are proving, very successful: At this year’s Australasian Classic Yearling Sale or the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale, the Auckland Trotting Club 2019 Syndicate’s yearlings were selected by the top trainers Robert Dunn, Brent Mangos and Logan Hollis / Shane Robertson: Name: Alta Redeemer Trainer: Robert Dunn Name: Christianshavtime Trainer: Logan Hollis / Shane Robertson Name: Bet West Trainer: Brent Mangos When you join an ATC Syndicate, not only do you get to enjoy the thrill of owning and racing harness racehorses, but you can also be very involved in Harness Racing generally, initially at Alexandra Park and the wider Auckland/Waikato area and then quite possibly venturing further afield in New Zealand and Australia, as some previous ATC Syndicates have. There are many advantages involved with being part of one of the Auckland Trotting Club Syndicates. These include; the comparatively low costs, the opportunity to share in the ownership of well bred horses trained by some of the best trainers in New Zealand, making new friendships with like-minded people, having total involvement in the Harness Racing industry and having the opportunity to participate in social events and possibly travel throughout the year. Every month, syndicate members receive a detailed newsletter documenting each horse’s progress, member news, and other information. Regular updates are placed on a phone-in message service, which can be accessed at anytime from anywhere in New Zealand free of charge. We have already had syndicate members from a wide geographical location around New Zealand, from Kaeo and Kaitaia in the North, to Dunedin and Invercargill in the South, as well as from the USA, Canada, England, Japan, Australia (Victoria, NSW, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia) and even Iceland. Each year of establishing a new Syndicate, the Auckland Trotting Club has implemented their hugely successful formula of buying three richly bred yearlings at the Yearling Sales, with these horses being selected by and trained by some of New Zealand’s leading trainers. For further information please contact or go to www.alexandrapark.co.nz/racing/syndicates: Andrew Jamieson – ATC Syndication Manager Mob: + 64 21 253 8765 Email:  ajamieson175@gmail.com If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us via email on dining@alexandrapark.co.nz or give us a call on 09 631 1165   Wyndham HRC - Sunday 18 November  SUPERB DAY OF RACING AT WYNDHAM   The southern harness racing is on the picturesque surrounds of Young Quinn Raceway in Wyndham this Sunday (18 November) when a ten race card starting at 12noon will see feature events - the Kubala Seeds Stella Frost Stakes Ladyship Final, the Southern Standardbred Breeders Assn Southern Belle Speed Series Heat and the Hunter Family Handicap Pace fought out. Admission to the course is free.   Kapiti Coast Harness Racing Club Inc Update Fantastic news Harness racing enthusiasts and participants. The Kapiti Coast Harness Racing Club can confirm that our 2019 Racing License has been recently granted by the NZ Racing Board for Friday 1st February and Sunday 3rd February to be held on the MAIN OUTSIDE TRACK of the Otaki Maori Race Course, Otaki. This is North Island GRASS TRACK harness racing at its very best. A successful galloping race meeting was held last Thursday on the Otaki Maori Race course and the track came through with ‘flying colours’ , after extensive drainage work and grass reseeding of the surface. By February 2019 we expect the grass track to offer a near “perfect” racing surface for all HARNESS participants.   The Club anticipates that stakes will be on a par with our 2018 meeting, being $9,000 per race , with the Wellington Trotting Cup run on the Friday with a stake of $12,000 and the Otaki Cup run on the Sunday for $12,000.[ These stakes were the highest of any North Island Grass track harness meeting in 2018]. There will be 10 races programmed each day.   The usual Kapiti hospitality will be on offer for all industry participants and owners. We welcome you all with open arms on the Kapiti Coast at Otaki Racecourse in early February 2019. Chris Craddock Vice President Kapiti Coast Harness Racing Club Inc. 027 410 2420         Southern Harness News  A TON OF FEED TO BE WON Thanks to McMillan Equine Feeds, there is a ton of feed to be won during the 2018/2019 Southern Harness Racing season. At every Sunday race meeting during the season the trainer of every race winner will win a free bag of McMillan Equine Feeds. At the conclusion of the Wyndham Harness Racing Club meeting on Sunday 18 November all trainers who have won a race on a Sunday up until that time will get one entry into a draw for 20 bags of McMillan Equine Feeds. The competition then starts afresh with the trainer of each Sunday race winner for the remainder of the season getting one entry into a new draw for 20 bags of McMillan Equine Feeds to be held after the Invercargill Harness Racing Club meeting on Sunday 3 March. That is one ton of McMillan Equine Feeds up for grabs! Southern Harness Racing thanks McMillan Equine Feeds for their generous support. QUALIFYING DATES: Sunday 21 October Tuapeka HRC – Forbury Park, Dunedin Sunday 28 October Invercargill HRC – Invercargill Sunday 4 November Riverton TC – Invercargill Sunday 11 November Wyndham HRC - Wyndham Sunday 18 November Wyndham HRC - Wyndham Sunday 16 December Winton HRC - Winton Sunday 6 January Wyndham HRC - Cromwell Sunday 3 February Wyndham HRC - Wyndham Sunday 17 February Winton HRC - Winton Sunday 3 March Invercargill HRC - Invercargill    HRNZ Marketing

Steven Reid finds out today where Star Galleria is really at. While that could be the case for many of his rivals in the Flying Stakes at Ashburton, for Pukekohe trainer Reid and his speed freak pacer it feels like there is more at stake. A booming performance today and Star Galleria remains a serious New Zealand Cup player and a horse worth aiming at the Inter Dominions. But if he doesn’t shine, Reid admits he will start to worry. Star Galleria started this season as he ended last, showing brilliant speed to win and soon after huge money offers were pouring in from Australia.  Reid and his owners decided to keep the five-year-old, who has been beaten in next two — one when luckless, the other fair and square after leading at Methven last Sunday.  Reid is willing to give Star Galleria a leave pass for that defeat as he has missed work on his southern trip and probably had to work too hard to get the lead.  “So I think he will improve with the run and I also think over distance he might be better driven with a sit, not that Tony (Herlihy) had that option last week.  “But if he is going to be a big New Zealand Cup chance he needs to step up and we think he can but drawn wide it is not going  to be an easy race.” The problems for Reid and Star Galleria are two-fold: he is seeking improvement in the same pivotal race as the other main Cup dangers and he has drawn wide.  While the mysteries of standing start mean a poor draw can become a good one very quickly, if all the main players begin evenly then Star Galleria could be midfield on the outer at best, a very tough place to win a Flying Stakes from.  Especially so with star stablemates like Dream About Me, Eamon Maguire and Ultimate Machete drawn inside him.  Dream About Me has been so solid this season with the ace draw and usually good standing start manners she is the one to beat but Ultimate Machete, like Star Galleria, is looking to improve after his fourth at Methven and should be suit by the likely hot speed.  Quite simply, the race could come down to which one of the favourites leads or secures the best run close to the speed.  A similar scenario looks the winning formula in the Flying Mile for the elite trotters today, with Great Things Happen and Harriet Of Mot the big winners in the draw.  If they can lead and trail from the inside two barriers it is hard to envisage any of their rivals being good enough to trot past both of them.  While taking short odds about Harriet Of Mot would have sent you broke over the course of her career she has looked far more reliable so far this campaign and deserves favouritism.   Michael Guerin

Todays harness racing pick six at Ashburton raceway is terminating and guaranteed to $50,000. With with a premier day of racing ahead and large open fields, selecting the winning combination will not be easy. A highlight of the day is the Ashburton Flying Stakes, a traditional lead-up race to the New Zealand Cup in November. This years running of the Flying Stakes is one of the more even contests in the last several years. The All Stars Stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have three of the leading chances in the race including the New Zealand cup favourite Ultimate Machete. Natalie Rasmussen commented on the All Stars website that Eamon Maguire is probably the one of most interest. "I am very happy with him he worked good during the week and this race will tell us whether we go to the Kaikoura Cup or what happens next. "He has handled standing starts but especially when he is a bit fresh he can get a bit toey leading up to the start so that is a wee worry in a race like this. "But all going well he is really ready to go a big race if he does things right. "Dream About Me is just in great condition. Last year year she was a lovely big mare and now she is a huge big mare! but she has all the bases covered and she will be hard to beat. "Ultimate Machete has really cleaned up since Methven. Mark felt his work on Friday was as good as he has done this time in and he is right in a race like this. "Makes it difficult to pick out," she said The All Stars stable holds the key to several other legs of pick six as well especially in the second to last leg where they have six of the runners in the twelve horse field. The first leg of Pick Six starts on Race 6 at 3:04pm   Leg 1     Race 6 [3:04pm] An unlucky big finisher at his last start against the top horses in the Methven Cup sees Airpark Flyer as the main chance and possible anchor for the first leg of pick six. Probable leader Nearis Green is going to be hard to catch around his home track and would be a good back up along with the unbeaten Flying Mister Ideal who could fly home late.     Leg 2     Race 7 [3:42pm] Leg two is the Ashburton Flying Stakes with several winning chances in what is an evenly matched race from the standing start 2400m.  NZ Cup favourite Ultimate Machete would be our top selection with Star Galleria, Dream About Me and Eammon Maguire all needed as well in what is a tricky leg.   Leg 3     Race 8 [4:18pm] Another tricky leg of pick six here with the leading chance Sundees Son occasionally prone to doing things wrong at the start or during the race. If his manners are good he looks the winner but backup could be needed. Globe Trekker,Ruthless Kayla, McLovin and We'll Meet Again are all chances but take as many as the budget allows in this leg.   Leg 4     Race 9 [4:53pm] The fourth leg is also tough with five horses we think that have the best winning chance. Harriet Of Mot is trotting so well at the moment and she might be the hardest to beat from the ace draw. Great Things Happen drawn beside her has gate speed and could lead early if Gavin Smith pushes the go button off the mobile gate. Marcoola and Winterfell will both appreciate the big track and will go forward at some stage and Woodstone could be the knockout if he gets a cart into the race at the right time.   Leg 5     Race 10 [5:33pm] The All Stars Stable dominate this leg of pick six training half of the twelve horse field. Turn It Up is the logical favourite and has been good from a stand in his previous starts. It would pay to include Ashley Locaz, Spankem and All You Need Is Faith as all are solid winning chances with the right trip.   Leg 6     Race 11 [6:12pm]  The final leg is an even go and there are a number of chances again. Artstanding is coming in fresh but has the draw and he did win in that condition last season. Ready To Bloom has a tricky draw but is needed along with Johnny White, Mama Knows Best, Wainui Creek and Mongolian Cavalry.   Suggested Pick Six   ($19.20 for 10%) Leg 1     7 Leg 2     1,2,7,8 Leg 3     11 Leg 4     2,3,7,8 Leg 5     4,5,7,8 Leg 6     5,6,7,10,12,15   Harnesslink Media  

It is time for New Zealand’s strongest stable to get serious again. So expect a sea of blue winning colours at Addington tonight and Ashburton on Monday as champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen start their countdown to Cup week. While the stable has already won Cup lead-ups with Thefixer, Dream About Me and Cruz Bromac they haven’t unleashed many of their lower grade and age group stars so far this season. But that changes this weekend. Tonight’s Addington meeting sees the return of high-class three-year-olds Jesse Duke and War Dan Delight in the Sires’ Stakes heat while plenty more serious age group performers return at Ashburton on Monday. Jesse Duke was arguably the most talented juvenile pacer in the country last season but had a few tricks and Purdon warns he could be vulnerable tonight. “We know how good he is but he has only had one trial before this so will improve and does have a wide draw,” says Purdon. “So maybe War Dan Delight is a better chance this week.” With the stable aiming to have five New Zealand Cup contenders in a few weeks they are still sorting out their pecking order and therefore who will eventually drive them all. But Purdon says Dream About Me has emerged as their best winning hope at this stage. “She has been really good winning her last two and is very sound at the moment so I would rate her just ahead of Cruz Bromac and Ultimate Machete. “But I wasn’t disappointed by Ultimate Machete at Methven and I think he will keep improving so Ashburton will tell us a lot.” Michael Guerin

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