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A quiet trial at Ashburton today should top pacing sensation Terror To Love off nicely as he heads into Saturday’s $100,000 Easter Cup at Addington. Given an easy time by Ricky May in the sedate two-horse trial, the bulky stallion was only pulled out very late in proceedings, dashing home for a narrow second behind 8-win pacer Smiling Star. “That is all he needed heading into Saturday,” said May, who was pleased with how the entire found the line. “I gave him a pretty stern warm-up and he is very forward so I’d say that the run was just perfect for him,” he added. “I know it was a very slowly run affair but he wouldn’t have blown a candle out afterwards. I was pretty happy with that to be honest,” concluded the champion reinsman. When asked what his confidence levels were like heading into Saturday, May admitted that he was very impressed with Adore Me last Friday. “She was just tremendous last week but I think ‘Terror’ only has to replicate his run in the Auckland Cup to beat her again. He has proven himself time and time again,” he enthused. “It’s obviously not going to be easy to give Adore Me 10 metres and beat her, especially if she goes like she did last week, but we all know how much he loves the two miles at Addington,” he concluded. The trial was run in a pedestrian 3-11.6, with quick sectionals of 55.5 and 26.7. As reported by Harnesslink last week, Adore Me will be driven by Blair Orange in Saturday’s Group One feature, with Purdon heading across the Tasman to drive Supersonic Miss in the APG semi-final. Orange will also steer the champion mare in the Taylor Mile 13 days later, with Purdon committing to star two-year-old Follow The Stars in the rich $A300,000 Australian Pacing Gold Colts & Gelding Final. “It is an absolute privilege to drive a horse like her,” said Orange, who is two from two on the champion mare. “It’s going to be a tactical affair with just the six horses in the field, so I will just see how the race unfolds, but I am confident she can win,” he added. The other four horses in the Easter Cup are: Arden Rooney, Jivin Cullen, Donegal’s Guest, and Pemberton Shard. By Mitchell Robertson

SA BOTRA are pleased to announce that they have obtained not one but two special guests for their annual fundraiser Christmas in July in the form of Kiwi legends Anthony and Tim Butt.   The brothers have swept all before them in their native country across the ditch and now based in Melbourne they will provide great entertainment when they come under the scrutiny of compare Jim Jacques.   Last year's special guest Gary Hall senior had the crowd on the edge of their seats.   The brothers have won over the past few seasons Interdominion Pacers Final, three Interdominion Trotters Finals, two NZ Cups, two Auckland Cups, five Hunter Cups, eight Dominion Handicaps, four Rowe Cups and many more Group and Listed Races.   Tickets are about to go on sale so contact Lois Randall on 0402978424 to book your ticket for this July 13th event.   Annual Gear Sale   BOTRA is also conducting its annual gear sale at Globe Derby on Sunday April 13th. Lots can be registered between the hours of 8am and 10am with the auction to commence at noon. The famous BOTRA BBQ will be available throughout the day.   Australian Standardbred Breeders AGM   South Australia this year will host the annual Australian Standardbred Breeders Conference and AGM and high on the agenda this year will be the breeding season dates in attempt to bring Australia back in line with New Zealand. The conference and AGM will be held on April 5th. BOTRA will host the delegates from each state that evening at Betezy Park Globe Derby.   Gary Newton  

Terror To Love’s New Zealand CV is complete. The outstanding Canterbury pacer won his first Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park tonight (Friday March 7) when coming from well back in the field to win the 124th edition of the great race. The Graham and Paul Court trained 6-year-old, who has been runner-up in the Group One $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup the last two years, equalled the New Zealand record in the 2700m mobile. ‘The Terror’ stopped the clock in 3:15.8 – the same time Tintin In America set in the New Zealand Messenger Championship in 2010. He paced his final 800m and 400m in 56.7 and 28.2, and won with a 1:56.7 mile rate. He also beat Themightyquinn’s race record of 3:16.7 set in 2011. Terror To Love was the $2.80 favourite. Adore Me (Mark Purdon), who was the second favourite, ran several lengths clear at the top of the straight after sitting parked from the bell to the 600m. Terror To Love’s driver, Ricky May thought he left his run too late after sitting last for most of the journey. “I thought I sat back for too long, but we got a nice drag into the race by Pembrook Benny and when I hooked him out at the top of the straight he was travelling extra. “He was very lively tonight. He felt like a young colt before the start . He felt completely different to last week. I seriously think it’s now a mental thing with him over there (Australia),” said seven times New Zealand Cup winning driver Ricky May. Last week Terror To Love finished a disappointing ninth in the 2014 Inter Dominion grand final at Tabcorp Park Menangle. He’s now had seven unsuccessful starts across the Tasman. “He’s a legend in New Zealand harness racing and thankfully he won’t be immigrating to Australia in a hurry,” said Prime Minister, John Key. “It was a real pleasure to be here tonight. Terror To Love is certainly one of the best pacers this country has ever seen. He will be remembered for many, many years to come,” he added. Co-trainer Court (Graham) said he had battled to get his stable star back to peak fitness following his flight back to New Zealand earlier this week. “I thought if he was saved for one run at them he could win and even though I said nothing to Ricky that’s exactly what he did. “After the New Zealand Cup this is the race I wanted to win most. It is such a great thrill. I cannot speak highly enough of both the horse and driver,” Court said. For May it was his second win in the Auckland Cup after previously winning with Monkey King (3:21) in 2010. “Apart from Monkey King I haven’t had a lot of luck in the race. I’ve ran second and third quite a few times. It’s a real honour to come up here and win it. It’s one of our most prestigious races,” May told HRNZ. It was Terror To Love’s 27th win in 60 starts. He’s also placed 19 times and now banked $2,155,353. Adore Me was a length back in second, with six lengths back to third placed Saveapatrol and Blair Orange. The first North Islander home was Pembrook Benny (Zac Butcher), who was 1-1/4 lengths back in fourth. Terror To Love is owned by Terry McDonald and was bred by McDonald Bloodstock Limited. by Duane Ranger

Pretend for a moment that Australia doesn’t exist. Actually that is a bit harsh, seeing now they are our closest neighbours. Dial it down a bit and pretend the Menangle track outside Sydney doesn’t exist. Ok, good. Now that is why Terror To Love is the horse you want to back in tonight’s $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Trotting Cup at Alexandra Park. The beautiful big stallion arrived back from another Menangle mauling this week, having finished ninth in the Inter Dominion Final on Sunday. On that form, even against easier opposition tonight, you could feel uncomfortable taking the $2.80 fixed odds for him to win tonight’s 2700m mobile classic. But while it was only five days ago and three hours in a plane away, Menangle might as well be Mars as far as Terror To Love is concerned. He has run second in a weak Miracle Mile there but on the whole he races like a sulk in a sulky in Sydney. But take Menangle out of Terror To Love’s career record and what you are left with is breathtaking. He has won three New Zealand Cup, which has only been done by two other horses in 110 years. And in New Zealand he hasn’t been unplaced in a race for one year, 10 months and three days. In that time his form, almost exclusively in our best races, reads 1-1-2-1-1-3-1-1-1-2-1-1-2-2-1-1-1-2-1. The third in that formline was sitting parked in a track record mile in the New Zealand Free-For-All won by Gold Ace. One of those seconds came in last year’s Auckland Cup behind the phenomenal Themightyquinn while another two came when closing hard on Christen Me in sizzling sectionals earlier this season. And yet another when he had to concede a race rival tonight, Saveapatrol, a 30m start. So at home, feeling big and bold, Terror To Love’s form is that of a champion. What we need to know is: is Terror To Love feeling back to his NZ best? “He is great,” says trainer Graham Court, who is getting used to picking up Terror To Love’s mental pieces after Menangle meltdowns. “He got here (Auckland) Tuesday morning and I took a blood test, which came back great. “He has lost a little weight but that will bounce back and he still paced his last mile three wide in 1:53 in the Inter final but it is not like his form is bad.”
 For those who find it hard to back the $2million earner just five days after he finished ninth, consider he had the exact same turnaround before finishing a luckless second to Themightyquinn this time last year. If the speed is on throughout tonight’s race, as expected once Mah Sish fires up, then Terror To Love’s biggest concerns could be traffic and where he settles in relation to second favourite Adore Me. If he has to give her a start and come wide too early he becomes vulnerable as any horse can be at Alexandra Park. But with a three-wide cart into the race behind the right horse or even if he is able to use his tactical speed to get parked at the bell, he is the clear best chance. Adore Me may not have won many open class races but she regularly paces the same times so is the logical danger, but her good draw could become tricky if she settles in the running line and the big boys from the back start moving mid-race. Mah Sish has to be respected because leaders have a great record at Alexandra Park and Pembrook Benny is in the form of his career and could divebomb them all with a miracle Zac Butcher drive. But they are the maybes of the Cup, theory and scenarios. Terror To Love’s record in this country in the last two years is a cold hard fact. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)  

Trainer Mark Jones believes tonight’s Auckland Cup could be too soon for Saveapatrol --- but it definitely won’t be too fast. One of the new kids on the open class block, Saveapatrol has drawn the ace in tonight’s thriller, which would be perfect if Adore Me was the likely leader from barrier two. “But I don’t think anybody expects that,” shrugs Jones. “I can see both Fly Like An Eagle and Mah Sish crossing us at the start and then him having to sit three back on the markers. “That is not a bad place to be in a hard run race, which I think it will be, but a lot will depend on when he gets out and where the favourites are. “But I hope Mah Sish gets out and runs them along because this horse can follow any speed.” Jones admits though that the four-year-old may still be a year away from being a Cup winner. “He is a really good horse and can win a Cup, but I think he will need everything to go right to win this Cup.” Which means the $5.50 offered about him in opening markets is unders. Jones will also bring his stable trotting star Master Lavros to Alexandra Park tonight after he devastated his trainer by galloping at the start of his A$200,000 race at Menangle on Sunday. “I left the track gutted because I think he could have won.” Master Lavros meets young gun Prime Power tonight but while the pair are both off 30m, Master Lavros is likely to have a clearer path ahead of him at the start because all the horses off the 10m mark are unruly, so will have to stand wide on the track. With no rivals off 20m, if Master Lavros makes a good beginning he could be a lot handier than his handicap suggests and then Prime Power will have a race on his hooves. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Despite being beaten at Menangle trainer is confident top mare is ready for big effort. Don't bother trying to tell trainer Mark Purdon that Adore Me is too young to win tomorrow night's Auckland Trotting Cup. Because he knows 4-year-old mares can win the great race, the last time it happened he had a pretty close view. Purdon ran a head second in the 1997 Cup with Brabham, beaten on the line by 4-year-old mare Kate's First, the older sister of the following year's winner, the great Christian Cullen. And it isn't just a 17-year old memory that convinced Purdon to start Adore Me in tomorrow night's race just five days after she suffered only the third defeat of her career in Sydney on Sunday. "I think she has shown she can run open-class times," says Purdon. "So while it won't be easy I think she can win. She is a very special mare." While Adore Me finished the bravest of seconds in a star-studded Northern Derby this time last year, she has rarely raced the boys, although she did beat Franco Nelson in the junior free-for-all on New Zealand Cup Day.   And she has taken on some of the big boys at the trials and thrashed them. Last October she missed away in a 2400m trial at Ashburton yet still paced a 26.4-second last 400m to beat Auckland Cup rivals Mah Sish and Fly Like An Eagle. She should be a stronger and more well-rounded mare now and Purdon is not concerned by the quick turnaround from racing on Sunday at Menangle, where she worked hard three wide in a 1:52.1 mile and was run down into second late. "She has arrived in Auckland looking great and even after her race in Sydney on Sunday she was bouncing around that night. "And it was only a mile, whereas a horse like Terror To Love had to race over 3000m on Sunday." Purdon still respects the three-time New Zealand Cup winner as the rival to beat tomorrow night and says the key will be staying in front of him. "I expect horses like Fly Like An Eagle and Mah Sish to cross me early, so I don't think I will be burning with them," he admits. "If the speed is on I don't think there will be too many moves but if I have to come at the bell and sit parked she is good enough to do that." And Purdon has another, not so public reason, for feeling confident Adore Me can give him his fourth Auckland Cup training victory. Just 10 days ago he worked her with Smolda at Addington and the pair hit the line together at the end of a searching 2400m in 3:01. Smolda has since finished a brave fourth in the Inter Dominion Final on Sunday before returning home to Canterbury but if he was in tomorrow's Cup and drawn barrier two he would be clear favourite. "There is nothing between them," says Purdon. Adore Me is the second favourite for the Cup, opening at $3.60 behind Terror To Love at $2.80. Just to reaffirm Purdon's confidence she can beat the boys in a major staying test, after tomorrow's race he intends setting her for another clash with Terror To Love in the Easter Cup. Auckland Cup Week • What: Auckland Trotting Cup. • Where: Alexander Park. • When: Tomorrow night 8:25pm. • Who: Adore Me versus Terror To Love and the best pacers in New Zealand Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald Read more by Michael Guerin  

Talented pacer Christen Me is set to take the title of 2013/14 Australasian Pacing Grand Circuit Champion after Friday night’s Group 1 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup, even though he is not competing in it. Christen Me is on 260 points, 40 points above Miracle Mile/Inter-Dominion Champion Beautide. There is no-one competing in Friday night’s event that would overtake him with a win. Terror To Love is 5th on the table, however he is only on 106 points. The circuit consists of eight races, the Queensland Pacing Championship in October, the New Zealand Cup and Miracle Mile both in November, the Victoria Cup in December, the WA Pacing Cup in January, the Hunter Cup in February and the Inter-Dominion Grand Final and Auckland Cup both in March. Christen Me has gained points from his third in the NZ Cup, second in the Miracle Mile, third in the Victoria Cup and his win in the Hunter Cup. A few past New Zealand winners of this prestigious title have been Christian Cullen, Monkey King, Flashing Red, Elsu, Young Rufus and Holmes D G. The points breakdown for each Grand Circuit event is as follows: 1st = 100 points, 2nd = 60 points, 3rd = 40 points, 4th = 20 points, 5th = 10 points, 6th = 5 points, 7th = 4 points, 8th = 3 points, 9th = 2 points, 10th and lower = 1 point. For the full leader board please go to Harness Racing Australia's website: Harness Racing New Zealand                     Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.           DISCLAIMER: If you have received this email in error, please notify us immediately by reply email, facsimile or collect telephone call to +64 3 9641200 and destroy the original. Please refer to full DISCLAIMER at  

Butt warns punters that southerner may finally be on song for Auckland Trotting Cup. Driver Anthony Butt has vowed to turn Friday night's Auckland Trotting Cup into a war. He says Mah Sish, the most disappointing pacer of the New Zealand season, can finally pay back punters who have stuck with him. This time last season Mah Sish was one of the most feared pacers in Australasia, having won the Ballarat and Hunter Cups as well as finishing second to I'm Themightyquinn in the Inter Dominion final. However, those efforts seemed to drain the son of Mach Three and by autumn he was a spent force, a lack of mojo that carried over into this season. After opening one of the favourites for the New Zealand Cup he couldn't run a place in the lead-up races and has shown only flashes of his old fight for much of his Australian summer campaign. Recently, Butt has noticed two changes in Mah Sish - he has developed much higher gate speed and he is racing more like a one-paced stayer.   "And that is why I now have to drive him a bit like a Flashing Red type," says Butt, referring to his dual New Zealand Cup and Auckland Cup winning hero. Mah Sish was a brave third in a supersonic A$100,000 ($107,000) race at Menangle on Sunday after leading and blazing dazzling sectionals. Butt says that is exactly what he intends doing on Friday night. "He can't outsprint Adore Me and Terror To Love; we all know that," says Butt. "But he has developed into a really good stayer and having gate speed now means I can launch him at the start. "And I will just keep going until I get the lead, I have to. Then I will run every quarter [400m] as quick as I can for that distance. "I want them all out on their feet at the 600m and if Adore Me or Terror To Love run past me so be it. "I am not saying he will win but I am quietly confident he will go close. Alexandra Park is a hard track to run good horses down on." Butt's declaration and the gate speed of New Zealand Cup runner-up Fly Like An Eagle, who has drawn directly inside him at barrier four, suggests there will be genuine speed early in Friday's Cup and while Adore Me has drawn well at barrier two it looks unlikely she will now simply run to the front and dominate. TAB bookies think so as the champion mare has surprisingly only opened second favourite at $3.60, with Terror To Love the $2.80 top pick. The horse they are keeping safe is Saveapatrol, who is a $5.50 chance even though he looks like being three deep on the markers at best. Pembrook Benny rounds out the favourites at $6.50 while those willing to back Butt's judgement can get $21 about Mah Sish turning his New Zealand run of outs around. Locharburn has opened up prohibitively short in the $250,000 Woodlands Derby at just $1.55 over Tiger Tara at $3 and Sky Major at $6. Locharburn has drawn the ace but the connections of both Tiger Tara and Cyclone Prince, drawn barriers two and three, have at least expressed interest in their drivers having an early look at the lead. That could again see more pressure in the classic than the barrier draws first indicated. Meanwhile, star West Australian I'm Victorious is slowly improving after a horror check in Sunday's Inter Dominion Final ended his career. The former Kiwi pacer was struck by Mach Beauty at the 200m mark in the final and badly cut through the tendons in a front leg. He needed surgery to save his life but has responded well to that and last night was showing no signs of infection. "We are not out of the woods yet but hopefully we can save him, although the vets say he won't race again," said trainer Michael Brennan. NSW glamour driver Lauren Panella was suspended for eight weeks for the incident. Auckland Trotting Cup What: $250,000 Auckland Trotting Cup. Where: Alexandra Park. When: Friday night, first race at 5.55pm, Cup at 8.25pm. Who: Terror To Love, Adore Me, Pembrook Benny, Mah Sish and Easy On The Eye. Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald Read more by Michael Guerin

Former Auckland Cup winning trainer, Doug Gale, will leave his long-term Helensville base a New Zealand Trotting ‘Hall-Of-Famer’. Gale, who trained Kate’s First to win the 1997 edition of the Cup, will be inducted into the New Zealand Trotting Hall-Of-Fame on Friday night for his 608 training victories since 1988. Any trainer who conditions more than 500 winners in his or her career automatically becomes an inductee. Gale will looking to leave his Rimmer Road property in Helensville in April and intends to train his new team from Scott’s Ferry Beach, near Bulls in May. His new base will be just 30 minutes from the Manawatu harness racing track in Palmerston North. “I think I will do a better job for my owners down there. I’ve spent nine months looking for the right property. It also means I will no longer have to truck my horses to the beach, I’ll be able to take them there in the cart,” Gale said. The 59-year-old said his “type of horse” would be suited to Central Districts racing and didn’t believe he would lose much in travelling time. “When I travelled to Cambridge it would sometimes take me two hours just to get on the other side of Auckland. Cambridge will actually be only an hour further than where I am now, and I’m not ruling out racing at Alexandra Park. “If I have a horse good enough I’ll certainly be lining him or her up there. It also opens possibilities in Nelson and Marlborough and will also make Addington just a day trip away,” Gale said. He said the advent of the larger Auckland Council had also swayed his decision to move south. “Our area is gradually becoming more and more urbanised. And the forest which I drive through to the Beach is now governed by the Forest Authority rather than the Regional Council. “When there’s a high fire risk I can no longer take my horses through the forest like I used to. I have to take the long way around and that’s frustrating. “The state of the industry also played a part in the shift. My owners have been agreeable to the move, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Gale. Gale currently works a team of about 15 from his north-west Auckland stable. He intends working a similar number down south. “I have always been a beach trainer. In fact my career started off in the 1980s when trainers like Peter Wolfenden, Frank Cooney and Mike Nicholas would send their horses to me to have them swum and beach trained. “It saved them from turning them out. I also had a pool which helped me get a few,” the Grey Lynn-born and Mt Albert Grammar educated horseman said. An Auckland University graduate, former school teacher, and racing sub editor with the New Zealand Herald, Gale said he always loved the trots and yearned to work in an outside job. He has trained 524 winners ($4.8m in purses) since 1988. He’s also trained a further 49 more with Wendy Williams from 2007-2009, and 25 with Maurice Calder from 2000-2001. His best season was in 1998 when he trained 59 winners and netted $616,343 in stakes. That was a year after his greatest triumph – Kate’s First and Peter Ferguson winning the Auckland Cup by a head from Brabham. He also trained Five Star Anvil to run second behind Russley Rascal in the 2010 Woodlands Northern Derby, and Motoring Anvil third behind Holmes D G and Annie’s Boy in the 1998 New Zealand Derby. “I have no intention of retiring. I may slow down in a few years, but it is still my ambition to win a Derby. I’d really like to win a Derby before I bow out,” Gale said. Gale spent 27 years working from his Helensville stable. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Just a day after a rare defeat, Adore Me's harness racing season is looking up again after last night's barrier draw for the Auckland Trotting Cup. The champion mare was surprisingly beaten as a redhot favourite in the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle on Sunday, run down late into second by Vansumic, after being three wide for much of the race. However, that could soon be forgotten because after drawing perfectly at barrier two she will now start favourite in Friday night's $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup. The decision to make the trip back from Sydney and line-up in the Cup looks inspired as she was one of the few favourites for the great race to draw well, with Terror To Love off the second line at barrier 11, along with Pembrook Benny (13) and Easy On The Eye (10). Another big winner in the draw was southern up-and-comer Saveapatrol (1), who caught the eye with his bold fourth on his Alexandra Park debut last Friday.   Adore Me now looks certain to open favourite with the TAB for the Cup, for which she is one of six horses returning from racing in Sydney on Sunday. While that sounds taxing, the first three home in last season's Cup - Themightyquinn, Terror To Love and Bettor Cover Lover - all did the same. Giant 3-year-old Locharburn is guaranteed favouritism for the $250,000 Woodlands Derby on Friday night after drawing the ace for the classic. He is expected to improve even after winning the prelude last Friday and could be as short as $2 in the fixed odds markets. Sires' Stakes winner Tiger Tara has drawn alongside him in two but Victoria Derby winner Maxim will be forced to start from the outside of the front line in the seven-horse field. The Cup is on earlier than usual at 8.25pm and the Derby at 9.55pm on the 12-race programme, which also hosts the Cardigan Bay Stakes and Delightful Lady Stakes. The fields for the two features are: Trillian Trust Auckland Trotting Cup, $250,000, 2700m - Saveapatrol (1), Adore Me (2), Jivin Cullen (3), Jason Rulz (4), Fly Like An Eagle (5), Mah Sish (6), Pass Them By (7), Besotted (8), Elusive Chick (9), Easy On The Eye (10), Terror To Love (11), Lets Elope (12), Pembrook Benny (13), Averil's Quest (14). Emergency: Jivin Cullen. Woodlands Northern Derby, $250,000, 2700m - Locharburn (1), Tiger Tara (2), Cyclone Prince (3), Sky Major (4), Threestones (5), Aldo Rossi (6), Maxim (7). Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald

Champion reinsman Mark Purdon has been suspended for ten days after shifting out in the run home on Smolda in yesterday’s Inter Dominion Final, which was deemed to have contributed to the squeezing of surrounding horses. But luckily for Purdon, he has been allowed to drive on Friday’s Auckland Cup night, meaning he will take the drive on superstar mare Adore Me, who will return home for Friday’s $250,000 feature after a slightly disappointing second in yesterday’s Ladyship Mile. "She went a couple of rough strides down the back but she recovered quickly. We probably lost the race when a move made us three wide earlier than I wanted and she had to do extra. I am sure that she would have won otherwise,” said Purdon on his Allstars Website. Purdon was also happy enough with the run of Smolda, who finished fourth in the Inter Dominion Final, however he has opted to freshen the giant gelding rather than back him up in Friday’s Auckland Cup. "I feel in my own mind that it was the fact that he had only had two races which beat him at least for second,” revealed Purdon.  “He sprinted hard while Beautide was up there handy and that lack of hard racing made the difference'' Purdon said that he was satisfied with how all his team had competed yesterday with the exception of Willow, who was beaten into third in the NSW Oaks. "She is probably the only one we would say was a little disappointing only because we know what she can do. It is hard to say it was the track. It was a bit sloppy early in the day but even so I expected her to sprint away in the run home''  Meanwhile, Lauren Panella, who was deemed the main offender of the incident in the Inter Dominion Final which could potentially have ended the racing career of West Australian superstar Im Victorious, has been suspended for a period of eight weeks. By Mitchell Robertson

She may not have the sheer speed of a mare like Adore Me, but Venus Serena has the staying ability to go down as one of the best fillies in New Zealand racing history. That was the opinion I was left under after the Mach Three megastar made mince meat of her rivals in the $125,000 Great Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park tonight. After being caught wide early, driver John Dunn worked Venus Serena forward to wrestle the lead of Rocknroll Arden with just under two laps to go. She then paced even clips in front, before dashing away for a supersonic 7 & ½ length win in a New Zealand fillies record time of 3-18.9, which shaved more than two seconds off the previous 2700m record held by Twist N Twirl. Rockroll Arden, who enjoyed a nice run in the trail, finished in second position, while Rockn Ruby, who edged out Pricillas Girl, was a further 4 and ½ lenghts away in third. Driver John Dunn was understandably astonished by the ease of Venus Serena’s win. “It’s pretty unbelievable how easily she is winning when you consider the times,” said Dunn. “After her two-year-old season I didn’t think she could get any better but she has proved me wrong and continues to step things up a notch,” Dunn enthused. Dunn was also full of praise for his uncle, and Venus Serena’s trainer, Geoff Dunn. “He does a terrific job with a small team and deserves every bit of success that he gets.” Meanwhile, driver Simon Lawson looks poised to get his first taste on big race success during the Auckland Cup carnival after winning both two-year-old events on tonight’s 10-race card. Lawson combined with Ray Green to win the PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Graduate for colts and geldings with classy two-year-old Chachingchaching, before claiming the sixth heat of the Gotta Go Cullen Young Guns Series with talented filly Unforgiving. Both two-year-olds will compete in Group features on next week’s Auckland Cup night. By Mitchell Robertson

Pembrook absolutely loves racing at Alexandra Park. The 9-year-old son of Courage Under Fire won his 16th race on the tack when easily winning tonight’s Group Two $50,000 Auckland Co-op Taxis City Of Auckland Free-For-All. All up ‘Benny’ has now won 22 of his 90 starts and $867,982. Driven by Zac Butcher the bay gelding was always going to be a tough nit to crack after trailing last year’s race winner, Easy On The Eye. The Barry Purdon trained gelding paced the 2200m mobile in 2:40.60 with final 800m and 400m sectionals in 57.6 and 29.4. Mile rate: 1:57.4. Easy On The Eye (Peter Ferguson) and Besotted (Simon Lawson) finished second and third some two lengths and 1-1/4 lengths back. Butcher said he would be even stronger come next week’s Group One Auckland Cup. “He hasn’t done much since coming back from Australia and he did it real easy tonight. He can only be improved by the run. I’d love to win that race so much,” said Butcher. Pembrook Benny is owned by his trainer, Terry Henderson, J. C. Higgins, K. G. Parry, Dave Sixton, and former All Black coach John Hart. He was bred by W. D. Power and Mrs G. L. Power. The past winners (with drivers and times have been): 2013: Easy On The Eye (Peter Ferguson) 2:42.8. 2012: Sir Lincoln (Maurice McKendry) 2:40.3. 2011: Power Of Tara (Brent Mangos) 2:41.3. 2010: Big Dog (Scott Phelan) 2:45.7. 2009: Monkey King (Ricky May) 2:41.8. 2008: Classic Cullen (Mark Purdon) 2:43.1. 2007: Classic Cullen (Mark Purdon) 2:39.0. 2006: Mainland Banner (Ricky May) 2:44.7. 2005: Elsu (David Butcher) 2:40.4. 2004: Sly Flyin (Tony Herlihy) 2:43.0. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Locharburn may be the most talented three-year-old pacer in the country but that won’t stop him being vulnerable at Alexandra Park tomorrow night. The Canterbury pacer with the big motor and even bigger chassis meets only five opponents in the Northern Derby prelude but four of them are group one winners, including last-start Victoria Derby quinellamates Maxim and Sky Major. Add in Sires’ Stakes winner Tiger Tara and their clashes over the next eight days will go a long way to determining three-year-old of the year honours. After beating most of his opponents tomorrow in the Alabar Classic in December, Locharburn looks a rare talent, if somewhat untapped. But having not raced since December 31, trainer Kevin Chapman admits tomorrow night’s race is tricky. “He had a small setback which put me behind the eight ball a touch otherwise he would have had a lead-up race,” said Chapman. “But he has had a workout and a trial and paced his last 800m in the first of those in 54.8 seconds. “So he is close enough but of course the Derby next week is the main aim.” The race looms as the highlight of the opening night of Auckland Cup week but a nightmare for punters and bookies, with the order the field settles in crucial. Meanwhile, record-breaking filly Venus Serena has opened the $1.70 favourite for the first group one of Cup week, the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks tomorrow night. She heads the market over Snooki at $5.500, while Pembrook Benny is the $2.80 favourite for the City Of Auckland Free-For-All, the final lead-up to the Auckland Trotting Cup. The New Zealand TAB bookies have also taken a stand against Beautide, the favourite for the A$750,000 Inter Dominion Final in Sydney on Sunday. They had him as long as $4.60 yesterday, the best price in Australasia and huge overs compared with SuperTab’s $3.60. The New Zealand TAB has Kiwi pacer Smolda as the $4 favourite for the Interdom. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing NZ)

The Inter Dominion Grand Final will be a moment of change. During the past decade, two names have become synonymous with harness racing’s premier event, Queensland champion Blacks A Fake recorded victories in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010 thus becoming the only horse to win the series four times while West Australian wonder horse Im Themightyquinn has claimed the past three editions. Sadly, the 2014 TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion Pacing Championship on Sunday at Menangle won’t feature either of these immortal pacers. On the flipside, a brand new name will be etched onto this famous honour roll. It also means another Grand Circuit champion will be crowned. Following the heats that were conducted at five different venues within the space of eighty minutes a fortnight ago, the stage is now set for an epic final. Star Kiwi pacers Terror To Love and Smolda will both carry strong support while Victorian quartet Keayang Cullen, Restrepo, Wartime Sweetheart and Caribbean Blaster all boast legitimate claims. Queensland mare Forever Gold is the sole female runner in the rich final while Im Victorious and Livingontheinterest represent the sand gropers. Flying the flag for the host state will be Seel N Print, Mach Beauty, The Gold Ace, For A Reason and Beautide (although he carries the weight of a state in Tasmania). The barrier draw has certainly raised several questions with many of the key chances drawing the second-line in the 3009m event leaving bookmakers and form experts scratching their heads as they attempt to map the race. Last year, Im Themightyquinn produced a stunning burst of speed as he sailed down the crown of the track leaving many of the belief that a leader can’t take the field all the way. So many theories and so many scenarios. And the race to be crowned the 2013/14 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit champion continues. Christen Me (260 points) leads the way following his gritty performance in the Hunter Cup last month in Melbourne before connections decided against starting in the Trans-Tasman feature paving the way for a challenger to emerge. With only two legs remaining, the chance to be crowned still has two legitimate players who both start this weekend. For A Reason (160 points) and Terror To Love (104 points) can clinch the title from Christen Me if successful in the Inter Dominion Grand Final followed by the Auckland Cup which will be staged five days later. It’s a tall order but both pacers possess the brilliance to snatch the title from Christen Me who already has one hand on the trophy. The race to be crowned Grand Circuit champion is just another sidelight to what shapes as an intriguing race. By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)

Nominations for the $250,000 Auckland Cup on March the 7th are:   Adore Me Averils Quest Besotted Easy On The Eye Elios Elusive Chick Fly Like An Eagle For A Reason Four Starzzz Flash Franco Nelson Glencoe V C Gold Ace Jason Rulz Jivin Cullen Lets Elope Livingontheinterest Mah Sish Mista Mara Pass Them By Pembrook Benny Saveapatrol Smolda Terror To Love Tiago Bromac Victorious   Total 25   Nominations for the $250,000 Woodlands Northern Derby on March the 7th are;   Aldo Rossi Cyclone Prince Locharburn Maxim Ranfurly Rulz Sky Major Three Stones Tiger Tara   Total 8   For further information contact the Auckland Trotting Club, Kevin Smith: 09 631 1163  

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