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By Jonny Turner    Canterbury reinsman Robbie Close will be out to keep his winning form going at Motukarara on Sunday after notching a winning treble at Addington on Friday night. Close has seven drives at the Akaroa Trotting Club meeting that could add to his tally of 17 in the sulky, so far this season. The driver has racked up those victories at a strong strike rate and if he continues his form he will be on track for one of his best seasons of driving. “I’m pretty happy with the way things are going, I have got a good boss to work for in Regan Todd,” Close said.  “He puts a lot of trust in the way I drive, so I can’t complain.” Close notched wins 15, 16 and 17 for the season when scoring with Unico Veloce, Sam’s Town and Cheezel at Addington. Todd has had Cheezel in fine form since the mare joined his barn this season. The 5yr-old has not missed a top three placing for her new trainer and Close ensured she would get a cheque again when giving her a perfect run in the trail. “She had copped a little bit of luck in her last two starts, running on in quick last halfs [800m].” “But, sitting in the trail she did herself pretty well.” Close won out when a battle of tactics played out in Friday night’s Show Day Futurity Consolation. The race saw plenty of lead changes and mid race moves, which the driver largely kept Sam’s Town out of. Close elected to save ground on the home turn, which may have caused the horse’s backers a few nervous moments, before the Gavin Burgess trained pacer cleared out to win. “He is not a bad horse – as long as he gets the run to suit – then he is quite a nice horse.” “It was a bit of a cat and mouse affair, but with the way things worked out it suited him really well.” Close also found himself in a tight spot in the home turn behind Unico Veloce. Once the reinsman worked the Mark Fuller trained 3yr-old in to the clear in the straight he let down with a sharp finish to reel in the leader, Prospect Park. “Mark said he got lost a bit lost in front last time at Geraldine, so he said to drive him with one run if you can,” Close said. “He got a bit lost again on the last bend when a few of them got a bit tired, but he showed a really good turn of foot to win.” Close’s best drives appear to be saved until last at Motukarara on Sunday. He combines with impressive first up winner Elo Louise in the last of 11 races. The 3yr-old produced a powerful finish to win on the track earlier this month and will attempt to do it again against a tougher field when starting from barrier 14 on Sunday. “She has just got a bad draw, she is not a bad wee filly, but that is going to make it harder.” “It’s a step up in grade, but with one run she can finish over top of them.” Close also drives consistent trotter Cabella Noir in race 10. The 6yr-old will be out to go one better than her last start second to BK Dawn at Methven, earlier this month. “She is a horse that if she hits the front too early she knocks off, she has only got a short wee sprint.” “If she gets the right run with a sit, she won’t be far away.” Close will also drive Goodthingstaketime in race 3 following his good last start third at Oamaru. “He has drawn handy and been racing well without much luck.” Close also drives Black Jacket in race 2, Smooth Debate in race 5, Nui Ba Den in race 8 and Doitson in race 9. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

David Butt has resigned himself to not driving his favourite trotting lady again. And that could signal a general winding down on his career in the sulky, even though he is not retiring. Butt would love to be behind former stable star Wilma’s Mate, now trained by Paul Nairn, when the speedster mare returns in the Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup at Motukarara on Sunday. But after driving her at the trials last Saturday he says he is not up to the job. One of the best judges of pace among his modern day rivals, Butt only drove 15 times last season after a mystery illness struck him down in May last year. After initial fears he had had a stroke, Butt recovered quickly to partner Wilma’s Mate to win the 2017 four-year-old trot at the Jewels but has struggled with his balance when driving since.  “I am still not right,” admits Butt. “I drove her (Wilma’s Mate) at the trials last Saturday and wasn’t 100 per cent with my balance.  “And you can’t be driving in the best races when you aren’t right.  “Obvously we are nowhere as involved with the horses as we used to be and I will still be able to drive, probably the odd maiden here and there.  “But I wouldn’t want to go into a race like the Dominion in a couple of months and make a mistake.  “So I won’t be driving her this weekend or any time soon.”  The laconic Butt has earned a reputation for being one of the most-laid back reinsman in New Zealand but his talent is enormously respected among his peers.  He has over 1100 wins in New Zealand, with a career-best 85 wins in 2009 and has also won a Hunter Cup in Victoria with Bondy as well as an Inter Dominon Trotting Final with Call Me Now at home.  But for all his skill in the sulky Butt’s greatest claim to harness fame is the fact he and wife Catherine won the national trainer’s premiership twice (2006 and 2007), their 90 winners in 2007 putting them 17 clear of their nearest rivals. Remarkably, that season they trained twice as many winners in New Zealand as the now perennial premiership winner Mark Purdon.  The Butts have enormously downscaled their training operations since though.   Michael Guerin

Cup week is over and now grass track harness racing gets cranked up in earnest. Both Canterbury grass track meetings this weekend have drawn big even fields and the weather forecast looks perfect for Saturday and Sunday.  It was another good week for the ringaround last week with several winners selected. Brad Williamson had the highest dividend when Two Ply won at Wyndham and paid $15.80 and $3.60 on the tote. This week there are five meetings with two in the north and three in the south.   Manawatu on Thursday night Blair Orange - Blair thinks his best drive would be Santana Mach this week at Manawatu in Race 1 Jay Abernethy - Jay thinks that R Gee Bee would be his best drive this week in Race 5 Jim Curtin - Jimmy is going for Captain Kirk as his best drive this week at Manawatu in Race 7   Invercargill on Friday afternoon Shane Walkinshaw - Shane says his best chance this week is Bella Sara at Ascot Park in Race 1 Andrew Suddaby - Andrew is going for Kansas City Jim as his best drive this week at Ascot Park in Race 2 Nathan Williamson - Nathan says his best chance today could be Wayward Rock in Race 3 Rory Mcllwrick - Rory thinks his best chance this week is Foo Fighter at Ascot Park in Race 6 Sheree Tomlinson - Sheree thinks her best drive this week is Deliska at Invercargill in Race 7 Brent Barclay - Brent is going for Rakarover as his best chance this week also in Race 7 Brad Williamson - Brad thinks his best drive this week is​ Bettor Option at Invercargill in Race 8   For more tips for Invercargill click here!   Alexandra Park on Friday night Stephen Richardson - Steve thinks Lovely Bundy can win at Alexandra Park in Race 1 Todd Macfarlane - Todd says his best chance would be Sweet N Fast at Auckland in Race 2 Andre Poutama - Andre is going for Will Take Charge as his best chance this week also in Race 2 John Curtin - John thinks Culpeka will go close to winning at Alexandra Park in Race 4 Maurice McKendry - Maurice is going for Shandance as his best chance this week in Race 5   Geraldine on Saturday Harnesslink Reporter - thinks The Dominator can go close to winning at Geraldine in Race 5 Ricky May - Ricky is going for Saving Grace as his best drive this week at Orari in Race 6 Terry Chmiel - Terry says his best drive this week is Betterthanspraying in Race 7 Matthew Williamson - Matthew is opting for Monty Python as his best drive this week in Race 10   Banks Peninsular on Sunday Gerard O'Reilly - Gerard is going for Cole Porter as his best drive this week at Motukarara in Race 9 Mark Jones - Mark thinks that Belle Of Brooklyn would be his best chance at Motukarara in Race 11 Racechat - Lance agrees and thinks that Belle Of Brooklyn is a good winning chance in Race 11 Gavin Smith - Gavin is opting for Friend as his best chance this week at Motukarara also in Race 11   Harnesslink Media

The tale of how Tutoko Kid came to win his maiden race at Motukarara on Sunday is not your traditional harness racing success story. In fact it couldn’t be much further from being unusual. But when the ghostly grey, trained by Ashburton horsewoman, Kelley Duncan, found clear air and powered home over the top of his rivals to win at odds of $63-to-one on Sunday, he proved that there is no true proven formula for the path to success. It was Duncan’s first success as a trainer, but not her first harness racing victory as her and her husband Brent had enjoyed success in the past as owners with Grant Lea who won five out of the Maxine Green stable. They bred Tutoko Kid after being on the lookout for a grey standardbred mare to breed to one of Duncan’s arab stallions with a view to producing an endurance horse - another passion of hers. Bred from a mare who was initially sourced to breed to Arab stallions to produce endurance horses the big son of Klondike Kid has taken plenty of time to fill out his big frame. “There have been times where I’ve wondered if he would make it,” Duncan admitted. “He’s a bit of a laid back sort of horse and probably not that competitive so it’s been a case of trying different things with him along the way.” After qualifying and racing a few times without success, Duncan decided to put a bit of variety into the life of the big grey and took him and trained him last summer to become an endurance horse, riding him over long distances in some of the most serene trekking spots available in the South Island. “We had a bit of success with Grant Lea when we took him and started riding him and the same with another horse, Smokin Hot Salma too, so it was a proven thing for us. “It’s just a case of trying to keep things different I think, they seem to enjoy that.” After his stint as a saddle horse, Tutoko Kid returned to training and although results weren’t instant there was enough promise there. As the first horse Duncan has trained, she relied on the advice and teachings of others to help along the way and said that if it hadn’t have been for that help they wouldn’t have achieved Sunday’s victory. “We’ve been incredibly lucky,” she said. “Carl and Lyn Markham did a great job getting him up and going and qualified, then Nigel Perkins gave me plenty of help too. “And then, recently, we have been really lucky to have had some ideas and tips from Colin DeFilippi and he produced a great drive to get him up on Sunday. “It was a great thrill, half way down the straight I was thinking we were going to get a fourth or fifth and it was going to be great, but he just kept coming.” The Duncan’s will continue their march forward this weekend when Tutoko Kid lines up at the Ashburton Trotting Club meeting on Saturday - a foray on the home track. Then there are the brothers and sisters to Tutoko Kid at home to get excited about too. “There’s a full brother, he’s going to take a bit more time I think because he’s a big lump of a horse too. “And the latest is a filly by Ohoka Arizona, we had to go to a smaller stallion because the mare kept producing such big foals.” Duncan’s not sure if she will end up training the siblings or not though. “I don’t know if the nerves can take it or not,” she laughed. Matt Marham

With $25,000 on offer today’s Pick6 at Banks Peninsula will be regarded as some as a must get involved event. Known as a punters graveyard, the Banks Peninsula track can be a tricky beast to tame. So, to help, we’ve done a bit of homework on the last six races and found three horses in each you might want to consider in your selections. Leg One: Race 6 The Best Bet: #1 Crackabella – A super consistent pacer with some grass track form next to her name. Won’t win races in a row but is in good form and this isn’t an overly strong field. She should settled close to the speed and then look to get over the top of them. The Each Way: #16 Jonty James – Another who doesn’t seem to know how to run a bad race. Slightly disadvantaged from the wide second line draw, but good enough to overcome it and that Dexter Dunn kid is sitting in the bike. The Long Shot: #11 Outta Sight – Might have got a big slice of the pie at Ashburton with some clear room at the top of the straight. Racing a lot better than what the form would suggest. Can get home over the top of them. ----------------------------------------------- Leg Two: Race 7 The Best Bet: 7 Royal Shine – A trotter in form is always worth backing, and this guy is in great form. Raced well during Cup Week and this is easier. Should be right in the fight. The Each Way: 5 Stylish Duke – Looking to make it three wins in a row and can do so with some luck. Without doubt the toughest test to date, but he’s good enough to handle it on what he’s shown thus far. The Long Shot: #10 Belles Son – Two duck eggs this time in but they could easily look a whole lot better than that. Just needs to keep the feet going in the right places early and he can give them a big fright. ------------------------------------------------ Leg Three: Race 8 The Best Bet: #15 She’s A Flyin – Comes out of the American Tart demolition job on Cup Day and will relish the change in tempo here. Has a very high turn of foot and will be looking to get home over the top of them. The Each Way: #7 Illegal Immigrant – Probably not going quite as good as he should be but will get few better opportunities than this from the front line draw. The Longshot: #5 Mysistersastar – Another who comes out of the American Tart race and she will relish getting back on the green top where the speed won’t be so hot. ------------------------------------------------ Leg Four: Race 9 The Best Bet: #15 Imola – Two big runs in fields a lot hotter than this in the last two starts. A huge run in behind some very good ones last time out at Addington will see him right in the action here. The Each Way: #6 Marshal Star – Might be a little forgotten in this field and that could be dangerous. Has wonderful grass track credentials and will be up to his eyeballs in this. The Long Shot: #12 Nicky’s Logic – Two last start failures have come in good fields and this is not s tar studded line up. Strung wins together prior to that and can bounce back here. -------------------------------------------- Leg Five: Race 10 The Best Bet: #10 Young Stranger – Two massive runs during Cup Week and he returns to his much loved grass track surface today which should see him even harder to beat. In good form and with manners will be tough to roll. The Each Way: #16 Debaneyre – Two cracking runs since resuming and another who enjoys the grass tracks. Will be getting home over the top of them late. The Long Shot: #9 Cocktail Waiter – Another returning to the grass track where he has raced well in the past. Good manners will put him in the race for a long way. ------------------------------------------------- Leg Six: Race 11 The Best Bet: #1 The Kaik – Totally outclassed on Cup Day but this is considerably easier and with a good draw and an in-form trainer and driver combo, it’s all looking roses in the last of the day. The Each Way: #11 Regal Major – Big win fresh up at Ashburton and looks of a horse of some potential. Gets a nice draw for him and will work into the race at some point. The Longshot: #10 Bobby T – Might be the real sneaky of the day if things pan out with The Kaik leading. Will get a dream run on the markers and then look to sneak home up the markers.   Super Selector – By Matt Markham Race 1: Spots Gold N Girl, Prince George, Idle Boys, Rollin Thunder Race 2: Westar Sam, Rozzano, Nevorbettor, Got A Beauty Race 3: Ed Wood, Shona Mary, Native’s Brite Gem, Holly Trouble Race 4: Stop Means Stop, The Nans Man, Blazing VC, Flyingmasterwilliams Race 5: Franco Tmick, Go Davey, Judy’s McArdle, Troposphere Race 6: Crackabella, Jonty James, Outta Sight, Benjia Mara Race 7: Royal Shine, Stylish Duke, Belles Son, Gee Up Neddy Race 8: She’s A Flyin, Illegal Immigrant, Mysistersastar, Living Legend Race 9: Imola, Marshal Star, Nicky’s Logic, Don Pierre Race 10: Young Stranger, Debaneyre, Cocktail Waiter, Don’t Look Back Race 11: The Kaik, Regal Major, Bobby T, Highview Illusion Best Bet: The Kaik (Race 11) Value: Young Stranger (Race 10)

Harness racing fixed odds movers at Motukarara today.   Race 1 - Some strong early support for Errol Finn $6.60 - $5.80 , no large bets but a good number around the $200 to $100 mark see's him as easily our worst result early.   The largest early bet $300 at $2.00 on Easy Rider & All That Glitters has taken $200 at $9.60.   The favourite Easy Rider does lead multi betting going 2 - 1 over Errol Finn.   Race 2 - Best backed both in win and multi betting is Ella Abbe $2.40 over the first starter Gambling On $4.00 with Dexter Dunn driving.   Race 3 - Fire One $5.20 - $4.80 is the best backed but all they want in multi betting is Pay Me Interest $2.05.    Race 4 - Some good solid support for the debut runner Buildinganempire has seen his opening odds halved from $14 - $7.00 and there has also been some money for Troposphere $25 - $31.   In multi betting Righteous Brother dominates easily.   Race 5 - Pegasus Merrily $15 - $13 is best backed early but in multi betting Cullenmore $2.20 leads over Jonty James $4.60.   Race 6 - Soney Beatt has taken $1,500 at $3.50 - $3.20 and best backed of the rest is Xmas Joyella $9.00 - $8.00.   Little Mo $4.20 leads multi bets.   Race 7 - Best backed on the win 'book' is Boomer Bailey $4.40 with some money also on Maybe Flyin $14.   Marshall Star the $2.90 favourite leads multi betting over Hopeful Harriet $6.40.   Race 8 - Zachary Binz came out at 5:48pm yesterday and any Fixed Odds bet placed prior to this time will have an 11% win & 12% place deductions applied.   Best backed in both win and place multi bets is Bordeaux $3.50.   The longshot Valmagne $17 who placed in this race last season is the next best backed.   Race 9 - Shards Halo $5.80 - $4.80 has taken the most early win money over Donegal Rundlescreek $4.00. Dalness Mac the $3.30 favourite leads multi betting over Donegal Rundlescreek    Race 10 - Easily the best backed early in win & multi betting is Clasina Maria $4.00 - $3.50 over  Bobby T $12 - $10.50.    Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

It is not very often that harness racing trials in winter unearth a really nice horse but thats what happened today at the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club trials at Motukaraara. There were only three horses entered in the qualifying trot but that didn't stop the three year old Sundon gelding, Sunny Pride from showing great manners and a big motor. Running along from the outset he stopped the clock for the 2600 meters stand at 3:25.8, a mile rate of 2:07.3, finishing 39 lengths in front of the runner up and a whopping 15.7 seconds inside the required time. It is the fastest time recorded in a qualifying race for trotters since the all weather track was first opened.. When you have a look at his maternal pedigree you soon understand why he can run like he did today. He is the second foal from a daughter of the smart trotting mare Doncella (4 wins) who left such talented types as New Year Whiz (7 wins), Fizz Pop Bang (6 wins) and Whatariskybizniz (5 wins) Doncella was a half sister to the very speedy Flame Up 1:55.8 (8 wins) It is a family that Murray Edmonds has had a lot of success with over the years and if today's run is any guide then it won't be long before the family has its next smart trotter. Harnesslink Media

On a day of even racing with very few standouts, it may be hard to make a dollar at the twilight meeting at Motukarara on Friday. But, in saying that, I am confident I can at least steer you in the right direction. My bet of the day comes in the third race on the card in the form of Don’t Call Me Su, who has been luckless in her last two outings, finishing in second and third respectively. If she can replicate either one of those performances she should prove too strong for what is just an average maiden line-up. She also has reasonably good gate speed, which should aid her chances from her handy four barrier draw. If taking Trifectas and First4s in the race, be sure to include Red Under Fire, Tilly Bromac, Amelia Pond, Expressive Art, and Justasip, who could start at bolters odds. Consistent trotter Spell, who will compete in the sixth race on the eleven race card, is another who stands out for me. “Although she has been finishing close up in her last few starts Sam (Ottley –driver) hasn’t been able to let her go as she hasn’t been trotting quite right,” said co-trainer Peter Jones. “But we have changed her shoes since then and she seems to be trotting a lot better now,” he added. “I think she will be very hard to beat,” confirmed Jones. The handicapping special for the day at Motukarara is without a doubt four- win mare Magna, who has competed competitively against the likes of Saveapatrol, Mashika, and Helena Jet in her last three starts. This C1-2 fillies and mares race looks far more up her alley, and quite frankly I think she is simply better than the majority of her opposition - A great each- way prospect in the tenth race on the card. My final ‘Peninsula pointer’ is Blytheburn in the last race on the card, otherwise referred to as the ‘Get-out Stakes.’ He was very good when winning his first start for Peter & Leonne Jones in a mile rate of 1-59.4 on the grass at Geraldine and has the ace draw to work with this week. “I think he has gone on since his first win for us so I am expecting further improvement,” said Peter Jones. “If he brings his ‘A’ game he can definitely handle the rise in grade and be very competitive. Others who are worth including in multiples in the last event of the day are Chattanoogachoochoo, Comenche, and, Nota Lada. By Mitchell Robertson

Without stating the obvious Border Control is the marquee horse of the big day out at Motukarara  on Sunday where thousands pack the country race track. Traditionally the day is a scorcher and its bumper to bumper for the cars from Tai Tapu to the track  as Christchurch moves to the country. The only downside is the inclement weather that is predicted. Let’s hope for the committee and punters that the day is fine and also for the horses racing on the grass that it doesn’t become too testing. As mentioned Border Control lines up the Avon City Ford Xmas Cup with a stake of $12,000 for the two to four win pacers. Just so you get a clear picture Border Control has won 15 of his 25 starts and in the process bank rolled $405,000 in stakes. He won his last start he had in New Zealand  winning at the Jewels rating a record breaking 1.50.6 for the mile. He had his last public outing at the Ashburton trials on the 10th of December winning by a margin of 17 ½ lengths running home in 55.5 seconds. Now what about the grass? Well I don’t think Mark Purdon would have nominated him had he thought that to be a an issue. The wet grass is a different thing but he will have to go through it like his opposition will have to as well. Like all races anything can happen but on the balance of probabilities with no bog track Border Control will be winning.   The best of the opposition looks to be Dunn and Dalgety runners Robyns Raider and Mac Bubbles both who are in good form and get 20 metres on Border Control.   The bolter in the feature could be The Brigadier. He has a good strike rate having won three from seven and Nigel McGrath has them ready in a fresh state.   Of the other races on the card look to first starter Blingiton to go close to winning. He is a full brother to Aslan who beat Ultimate Major and Magic Oates when winning his qualifying trial at Addington.   Justin Le Lievre  

For years female jockeys have been on par with their male counterparts, and Australian female reinswoman have been very well represented by the likes of Kerryn Manning, Jodi Quinlan, Kate Gath, Amanda and Emma Turnball, Lola Weidemann, Kerry-Ann Turner, Lisa Miles, Cindy Rixon and our now very own Natalie Rasmussen.

Wai Eyre Farm stallion Ohoka Arizona added to his one Australian winner, when Eyre Crusher crushed his rivals at Motukarara yesterday (Sunday April 14).

Another bumper crowd, which included many of the Canterbury rugby team, turned up at the Banks Peninsula harness racing meeting run at Motukarara raceway today (Sunday January 27) and twelve races were run under beautiful conditions.

Sitting on 996 career driving wins in New Zealand and with a busy weekend ahead, Dexter Dunn looks almost certain to reel in the milestone and create more harness racing history.

Harness racing's 2012 Worlds Amateur Driving Champs came to a dramatic conclusion yesterday (Sunday) going right down to the wire at the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club's meeting when Marian Tux won the final heat of the series to take the overall title for Germany.

On the big harness racing track at Motu Karara the day started off well for our man Kelly Walker who finally had some stock and won the first heat with a horse called Maid in Rome. Kelly sat chilly the whole way and down the 400 meter (half-mile) stretch he tipped out and wore down the leader for an easy win.

The New Zealand TAB's Wellington-based harness racing bookmaker Steve Richardson, has released his odds for the 2012 World Amateur Driving Championships which will be staged in New Zealand from to January 19-22, 2012.

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