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Memories of one of the greatest harness racing performers produced in the Southern Hemisphere came to the fore at Pinjarra yesterday. Successful in the Medic Aid Handicap, Donegal Chokin – as the name suggests – is closely-related to former superstar Chokin. By Art Major from Chokin Hanover, Donegal Chokin is in stylish form this campaign, with his five starts yielding two wins and a second for trainer Sonia Zucchiatti. Driven by Kim Prentice during his latest triumph, Donegal Chokin led throughout from four to account for Blacknsweet Adda and Lively Shard. Thrilled with the gelding’s progress, Zucchiatti is hoping Donegal Chokin can continue his winning form in an M0 at Gloucester Park. Donegal Chokin’s second was registered at Western Australia’s home of racing last month. “I’ve had a few issues with him since he got here last October, but he’s over those now,” Zucchiatti said. “It was never anything serious, just things like getting his blood right, which set you back. “He has come along really well this time up and hopefully can put a few more wins on the board. “He’s getting away from the stand really well, so I will stick with those for the time being and try to win a race in town.” As for his family tree, Donegal Chokin is also closely-related to Changeover, which is from Chokin’s sister, Chaangerr. The siblings are by Vance Hanover from Nell’s Pride, with Chokin leading the way. A brilliant freshman, Chokin won seven of his eight starts for trainer Barry Purdon to quickly be touted as the industry’s next superstar. Just as dominant the following season, Chokin created history by becoming the first - and still only - three-year-old to contest the Miracle Mile. After over racing during the middle stages of the sprint, Chokin collapsed with exhaustion at the top of Harold Park’s home straight as his stablemate, Christopher Vance, went on to victory. Sadly the gelding broke down midway through his campaign before returning in brilliant style as a four-year-old. Australasia’s premier pacer at five and six, Chokin was found dead in his paddock while spelling after finishing fourth behind Golden Reign in the 1995 Christchurch Inter Dominion. Chokin was later promoted to second when Young Mister Charles and Victor Supreme were disqualified for swab irregularities. Chokin’s victories included 13 Group Ones, consisting of two Miracle Miles, two Auckland Cups, New Zealand Cup, New Zealand Free-For-All, Victoria Cup, two New Zealand Sires’ Stake Finals, Messenger Championship, Easter Cup, South Australia Derby and New Zealand Two-Year-Old Championship. PAUL COURTS

Courage Under Fire has created a lot of special moments for a lot of people. Bruce Negus and Greg Brodie will certainly never forget the ride Courage Under Fire took them on with one of the all-time great race careers – 24 wins in a row, 6 Derbies and over $1.5 million in stakes. Courage Under Fire is still the benchmark other great three-year-olds are measured against. Neil Pilcher has established a special affection for the progeny of Courage – little wonder when you consider his two latest “Courage” stars are the brilliant NZ Jewels winner, Smolda and last season’s leading stake earning New Zealand two-year-old, Alta Orlando. What a great achievement (for Neil and Courage) – if they are both at Addington on the 11th of November – Smolda in the NZ Cup and Alta Orlando in the NZSS 3yo Final. Another outstanding son of Courage is the timeless Pembrook Benny. Winner of the NZ free-for-all last season as a nine-year-old and still very much in contention for the NZ Cup this season as a ten-year-old. A truly wonderful horse for Barry and Katrina Purdon and their partners. Beyond The Silence is a son of Courage racing wonderfully well for Andrew and Lyn Neal – winning the Spring Cup and then heading home Pembrook Benny for a Courage Under Fire quinella in the Open Class feature at Auckland last week. To make racing a horse that is now 8 from 16 even more special, Beyond The Silence was purchased by Lyn’s late father Frank Bebbington and is now raced in partnership with his estate. With several of the other big gun sires fully booked, Courage is a great option for breeders looking to sell and compete at the highest level. Courage is ready and willing to provide even more people with their special moments – and despite the mistake in the NZ Sires Book – he is definitely available in New Zealand via fresh semen. COURAGE UNDER FIRE HIGHLIGHTS *A wonderful champion, he won his first 24 starts, 6 Derbies and almost $1.5 million. *NZ 2, 3 and 4yo Pacer of the Year. *The sire of over 70 individual $100,000 earners to date. *Consistently ranks amongst the leading sires in both Australia and NZ. *In 2013/14 the sire of Alta Orlando – NZ’s leading stake earning 2yo.   Courtesy Of Alabar New Zealand

One of the best things about spring in New Zealand from a harness racings fan's point of view is the emergence of the next wave of  harness racing stars on to the race tracks. Some of the maiden fields during winter had little depth or class but now that spring has arrived the smart early season 3 year olds are coming out of the woodwork. On Thursday night at Alexandra Park (September 4th) race two on the program is a C0 pace for 3 year olds over 2200 meters and if blood counts for anything it should be one hell of a race. Happy To Go is a first starter for the Telfer/Garlick barn who has drawn well at barrier four and has performed well at trials and workouts. She is by Bettors Delight and is the first foal from the former outstanding racemare Time To Fly 1:54.2 ($154,680) Hartofdixie from the Barry Purdon barn is another first starter who has drawn nicely at barrier five and she has also impressed track watchers with her runs at trials and workouts. A daughter of American Ideal, Hart Of Dixie is the third foal from Splendid Deal whose first two foals were Splendour 1:56.2 ($148,990) and Maxim 1:55.9 ($397,413) Courtney John from the Todd Mitchell barn is yet another first starter who has recently moved north from the Phil Burrows barn in Canterbury and will start from barrier two on the second line. She qualified in 2:00 neat back in February at Ashburton and has always looked above average. The McArdle filly is a half sister to the smart Seven Point One 1:56.1 from a daughter of the super broodmare Port Medley. The last of the first starters is Local Yokel for trainer/driver Tony Herlihy and he has also been performing well at trials and workouts and will start from three on the second line. A son of Elsu, Local Yokel is a half brother to the very smart duo of Presido 1:56 ($153,575) and Sound Of Thunder 1:57.4 ($134,841) The field is full of horses with good form with Christy Maguire from barrier two yet to finish out of the money in four starts while Percy Jones from barrier seven has also been placed in his three lifetime starts to date. Sirius Star from barrier eight has been placed in three of his last four starts while Culler Coded, Bettor Ace and Machulbeatchu have all looked above average in brief careers to date. It is a punters nightmare to predict but if we had to go for one it, we would probably lean towards Hart Of Dixie but without a lot of confidence. Who ever does come out on top will know they have really earned their first lifetime win. Harnesslink Media 

The powerful Clevedon combination of Barry Purdon and Zac Butcher won the major training and driving honours - while Purdon trained 3-year-olds also won two age-group titles at the 2014 A Rocknroll Dance North Island Harness Racing awards ceremony at Alexandra Park last night. More than 300 people flocked to the Tasman Room to watch the 21 awards handed out. Fifty nine-year-old Purdon won the Veterinary Associates Equine and Farm North Island Trainer of the Year, while 23-year-old Butcher won the IRT North Island Driver of the Year. Their age group stars Sky Major and Ideal Belle won the Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3yo Colt/Gelding and Filly of the Year awards respectively. Purdon trained Pembrook Benny, Sky Major, Maxim and Ideal Belle to Group One victories in 2013-2014. Butcher also drove the Ray Green trained Beaudiene Boaz in the Harness Jewels 2yo Emerald Final at Cambridge Raceway. Pembrook Benny won the NZ Free-For-All at Addington on November 15. Sky Major cleaned up the 3yo Emerald Jewels Final at Cambridge on May 31. Ideal Belle also won the New Zealand Oaks at Addington on May 16. Maxim nailed the Victoria Derby at Melton on February 8. Sky Major was second. The same two horses also produced the quinella in Group One Sires Stakes 2yo Final the season before. “You are only as good as the team around you. This is an honour. We had a very good season and I’m grateful to all my staff for that,” Purdon said. Purdon trained 39 winners from 199 starters last season and amassed $953,433 in stakes. Butcher saluted the judge 72 times from his 551 drives. He banked $1.23m in purses. “I drive to win and night’s like this are a real bonus. I’m very proud to have won this award because there are so many good drivers out there. “I am lucky to be part of a very strong stable. Barry is a legendary trainer,” Butcher said. In other highlights Maurice McKendry won the Sir Lincoln at Lincoln Farms NI Achievement Award, while Richard and Julija Brosnan won the night’s most prestigious (and final) award of the evening – the A Rocknroll Dance Alabar Nevele Stud NI Award for Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing. Adore Me’s victories in the Group One $100,000 Queen Of Hearts Pace and the Group Three $30,000 Northern Breeders Stakes assured her the Auckland Trotting Club’s Aged Pace Of the Year title. The Charlie Roberts co-owned and bred champ also won the Caduceus Club’s NI Filly/Mare of the Year. In fact Roberts himself collected two awards winning the Garrards Horse and Hound NI Owner of the Year, and the Hygain NI Breeder of the Year 2014 A ROCKNROLL DANCE NORTH ISLAND HARNESS RACING AWARDS - WINNERS Glen Elgin Farm North Island Groom of the Year - Amanda Kiddie Dunstan North Island Amateur Driver of the Year -John Kriechbaumer Magness Video Ltd / Vid-Com LtdNorth Island Licence to Train /Owner – Trainer of the Year - Andrew Grant Mitavite North Island Junior Driver of the Year - Sailesh Abernethy PGG Wrightson North Island 2 year old Colt or Gelding of the Year - Beaudiene Boaz                       PGG Wrightson North Island 2 year old Filly of the Year - Linda Lovegrace Breckon Farms North Island 2 year old Trotter of the Year - Yagunnakissmeornot Breckon Farms North Island 3 year old Trotter of the Year - Mum’s Pride Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3 year old Colt or Gelding of the Year - Sky Major Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3 year old Filly of the Year - Ideal Belle               Garrards Horse and Hound North Island Owner of the Year - Charles Roberts Caduceus Club North Island Filly / Mare of the year - Adore Me                                Hygain North Island Breeder of the Year - Charles Roberts IRT North Island Driver of the Year -  Zac Butcher Veterinary Associates Equine and Farm North Island Trainer of the Year - Barry Purdon Equine Veterinary Services  North Island Broodmare of the Year - Scuse Me                North Island Stallion of the Year - Bettor’s Delight                                       Harness Racing New Zealand North Island Trotter of the Year - Irish Whisper                          Auckland Trotting Club North Island Aged Pacer of the Year - Adore Me                                Sir Lincoln at Lincoln Farms North Island Racing Achievement Award - Maurice McKendry A Rocknroll Dance/Alabar/Nevele R Stud North Island Award for Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing - Richard and Julija Brosnan Courtesy Duane Ranger - Harness Racing New Zealand

The harness racing writers couldn’t have scripted the barrier draw for the Roll With Joe Breeders Crown (3YO colts and geldings) Series final any better today at Tabcorp Park Melton. Despite a random draw, the final two horses left in the barrel were Kiwi champ Our Sky Major and his main adversary Bling It On. Fresh in the minds of racegoers was that less than 24 hours before the draw Our Sky Major had edged out Bling It On in a thrilling Breeders Crown semi-final battle at Ballarat. The two remaining ping pong balls in the barrel were gates three and 13 – meaning one favourite would have a plum draw, while the other had to come from outside the second line. Bling It On’s owner, Harvey Kaplan, and his family were thrilled when their charge drew three, leaving the Our Sky Major camp lamenting an unlucky 13 draw. When Our Sky Major narrowly pipped Bling It On in the semi-final last night, the Barry Purdon trained Kiwi star had drawn the front line, while Bling It On – from the Belinda McCarthy yard – had to come from the second row. Bling It On whipped around to find the lead with a blistering mid-race move at Ballarat before Zac Butcher worked Our Sky Major into clear air late and grabbed the win right on the wire. Reversing the semi-final draw has made this headline clash, one of many not-to-be-missed events on Breeders Crown finals day at Tabcorp Park Melton on Sunday, even more tantalising than it already promised to be. Adding further intrigue is that the front line is choc full of speed in the three-year-old boys’ final, with Will Mach My Word (gate two), Bling It On (three), Major Crocker (four), Saloon Passage (five) and Hectorjayjay (six) all realistic shots at finding the early lead. TAB fixed odds reacted by slotting Bling It On in as race favourite at $2.10, with Our Sky Major a $2.50 second pick. Bling It On’s stable-mate Lettucerockthem is on the third line of betting at $5.50 despite a gate nine draw, while Vince Vallelonga trained Major Crocker, who won his semi-final, is $13. by Cody Winnell Harness Racing Victoria MARKET NOW OPEN AT THE TAB Related Links Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Sunday 24 August 2014 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Sunday 24 August 2014

Most of the Kiwi trainers of this weekends Breeders Crown semi final runners will sleep well tonight after the fields for the harness racing meeting at Ballarat on Saturday night (August 16th) were released this afternoon. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen must have wondered what they had done to get such great draws with their two main chances on Saturday night. Follow The Stars has drawn beautifully at barrier three in his semi in which his main dangers in Birdy Mach and Field Marshall have both drawn awkwardly on the second line. Linda Lovegrace, who created such a big impression on her Australian debut when narrowly going down to Follow The Stars last weekend, has drawn a lovely gate at four in her semi with her main opposition Niki No No drawn outside her at five. Another Kiwi Cyclone Kate has drawn two on the second line in the same heat which is a draw that really suits her as she is much better coming off a horses back.  If the ballot comes out in the second semi final for 2 year old fillies, then Big Lucy from the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen barn will start from three and the Cran Dalgety trained Kate Perry from four which should give both a big show of qualifying for the final. Joannes A Delight is one of the few Kiwis to have drawn badly at four on the second line in the same heat but she showed in New Zealand she is a high class filly who can do a lot of work in her races so it wouldn't pay to discount her chances even from the draw. Barry Purdon's star 3 year old Sky Major has drawn a great gate at three in the second semi final for the 3 year old colts and geldings with the likely favourite for that division Bling It On awkwardly drawn at three on the second line which makes for a very intriguing contest. Kept Under Wraps from the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen barn has drawn at two on the second line in the first semi final for 2 year old colts and geldings with most of the serious competition in this semi drawn wide on the front line so it is hard to know how it will pan out but Kept Under Wraps still looks the horse they all have to beat. Messini has been another in the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rrasmussen barn all season until they sent him to Brent Lilley to race in the Victorian Sires Stakes series and it is still in Brent's colours heading into this weekends semi final for 3 year old colts and geldings where from his barrier draw of two he should be terribly hard to beat. All in all the Kiwis would have to very pleased with how the draws have panned out and a finals berth now looks a possibility for most of them. Harnesslink Media

Things just didn’t work out for Glen Craven, Keayang Steamer and the punters who took the short odds about the Terang trained star at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. (August 8th)  Keayang Steamer was a heavily tried favourite, starting $1.50, in the Swift Signs Pace at Tabcorp Park Melton but could only muster a fifth-place finish from his inside back-row draw. Pre-race Craven declared he would be looking to get off the pegs at all costs. “I’m not interested in getting locked up on the fence,” he said. But that's precisely what eventuated. The pacer who beat Smoken Up home to claim the Horsham Cup last campaign was wedged three back along the pegs at the bell. Early on Exciteusinthecity found the lead for junior driver Tim McLean from gate three, easily crossing Hall Of Famer and La Machane. Composed got going early to work around to the breeze from his second-line draw, but Keayang Steamer was not able to get one-off and had to punch through to trail Hall Of Famer. Exciteusinthecity, trained by Darren Cole, was able to get away with 31.6secs and 30.3secs first and second quarters of the last mile, setting the five-year-old gelding up to sprint home in 56.1secs and record his second win in three starts. Hall Of Famer capitalised on a beaut trip behind the leader by running second, albeit beaten 5.6 metres by the winner, while Composed battled on gamely for third. Keayang Steamer (fifth) came in behind fast-finishing Kotare Rowland (fourth) and will need to improve significantly second-up to topple his highly regarded stablemate, Keayang Cullen, in the Breeders Crown Graduate Cup on August 24 should they both head in that direction. Meanwhile, Alison Chisholm enjoyed a red-letter evening with a winning double. The Melton trainer/driver drove Three Pints to victory in the GBL Property Consultants Vicbred Pace (Race 3) before scoring aboard stable star Asoka in the Del-Re National Food Group Pace (Race 5). New Zealand champion Our Sky Major proved far too strong for his maiden-metropolitan rivals in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Pace. The Barry Purdon trained three-year-old son of Art Major is here for the Breeders Crown but enjoyed an easy hit-out at Melton, scoring by 3.7 metres over Wolfpack, with Philtra Phella third. Driver Craig Demmler took Our Sky Major back at the start and he was the best part of 40 metres off the lead at one point over the 1720-metre sprint trip. Down the back the last time Our Sky Major made his move, reinsman Craid Demmler easing the two-time Harness Jewels champion three-wide. Sprinting up with a 28.1secs third quarter, Our Sky Major quickly put the leaders away and shot clear early in the straight to record a 3.7-metre triumph in a mile rate of 2:02.5. Another Kiwi pacer to put her best foot forward was Mark Purdon trained two-year-old Big Lucy, who won the VHRSC 2YO Pace over 1720 metres. Chris Alford, who took driving honours for the night with a winning treble, was content to sit outside early leader Yankee Showgirl before taking Big Lucy 1.2 metres clear over Wegottarocketmachine at the finish, with Yankee Showgirl boxing on for third in a rate of 1:55.7. Alford’s other two winners were aboard ultra-consistent trotter Blitzthemcalder in the Renown Silverware Trot for trainer Craig Demmler, and long odds-on favourite Upanatom in the Mediatec Pace Final for trainer Amanda Grieve. Blitzthemcalder worked his way to the lead mid-race in the trot before outshining Sunset Invasion in the run to the line to score a two-metre win in a rate of 2:00.2. Blitzthemcalder is arguably racing in career-best form. Upanatom did plenty of work to find the lead early in his race, but the son of Christian Cullen still proved panels ahead of his rivals – getting home by 4.1 metres over runner-up Pas Mate, who hit the line hard, and third placegetter Eyes On The Sky. Other winners at Melton were Rostevarren, for trainer Ross Graham and driver Daryl Douglas, in the Geoff and Lorraine Barnes Trot over 1720 metres, Road To Rock, for trainer Keith Cotchin and driver Greg Sugars, in the University Food Group Pacers Handicap over 2240m, and Michael Stanley trained-and-driven Young Modern in the Alabar 3YO Pace over 2240 metres.   Cody Winnell - Harness Racing Victoria

The two premier pacers on tonight’s Tabcorp Park Melton program have both landed the despised gate eight draw, but the philosophies of their drivers could not be more different. In race four, highly touted Kiwi three-year-old Our Sky Major will continue his Breeders Crown campaign in what is a fairly moderate metropolitan maiden. Craig Demmler, who will take the reins behind the dual Harness Jewels winner for master trainer Barry Purdon, said his hand might be forced by the inside back-line draw. “At the end of the day you can’t do too much about the draw. You don’t want to be three back on the markers, but that may happen,” Demmler said. “Barry’s pretty happy with how he’s going. He’s a class above this field. No other horse in the race can run home in 54(sec). “The draw does make it very interesting though.” In stark contrast, Glen Craven, who will steer Keayang Steamer at his first run back from a break in the Swift Signs Pace, race seven, said gate eight would provide few obstacles for his rising star. “I’m not interested in getting locked up on the fence,” the gun young reinsman said. “A lot will depend on the tempo of the race, but I won’t be scared to sit back and come with a run if that’s how it pans out.” If everything goes to plan, Keayang Steamer will have a date with his superstar stablemate, Keayang Cullen, in the Breeders Crown Graduate Free-For-All at Melton on August 22. Related Links Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Friday 08 August 2014 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Friday 08 August 2014 Harness Racing Victoria Media  

Smart three-year-old Sky Major looks right on song for the upcoming Breeders Crown Series in Australia after downing a smart field of older rivals at Alexandra Park last night. The Art Major colt, who was having his first race start since his emphatic victory in the 3YO Emerald division of the Harness Jewels, was driven cold by Zac Butcher, sitting last before moving into the race three wide down the back straight. He then let down strongly in the home stretch to run down Cyamach, who looked home after kicking away at the top of lane. Beyond The Silence finish a further half length away in third after enjoying a nice run in the trail. The Barry Purdon trained star paced the 2200 metre journey in a slick 2:43.3. The official last half was 56.5. However, Sky Major would have gone his last 800 metres a lot quicker as he came from a long way off the pace. The dual Jewels winner, who won a walkover heat of the Breeders’ Crown at Cambridge last week, will now head to Australia to compete in an MO at Melton on the 8th of August before tackling the 3YO Breeders Crown semi finals on August 22. All going well he well then progress through to the rich Group One final on the 30th of August. Cyamach, who was good in second behind the speedy colt, is also likely to head to Australia for the four-year-old male division of the series, while Cambridge winners Field Marshall and Cyclone Kate will also be part of the ever-growing Kiwi contingent heading across the Tasman for the series. Meanwhile, star Australian three-year-old Bling It On, who was thought to be the main danger to Sky Major in the ABC 3yo colts and geldings division, suffered a shock loss to Kiwi export Alleluia in a two horse heat of the Breeders Crown at Albion Park last night and will now head to repechage on the 13th of August. After sitting second while Alleluia set a leisurely pace in front, driver Bart Cockburn set Bling It On a light at the 700 metres. The pair then eyeballed each other until the bend, but it was Alleluia who showed more dash in the straight, sprinting away for a 6 metre win. Alleluia paced his last 800 metres in a sizzling 54.8 with a final quarter of 26.3. Driver Bart Cockburn was questioned regarding his driving tactics on Bling It On when allowing Grant Dixon to go through the first half of the last mile in 68 seconds. Under rule 149 (1) he was suspended for a period of eight weeks. By Mitchell Robertson

Top New Zealand filly Ideal Belle has been scratched from her two-horse Australasian Breeders’ Crown heat at Alexandra Park tomorrow night and has been ruled out of the rich series by trainer Barry Purdon. The New Zealand Oaks winning filly, who would have been one of the favourites for the Group One 3YO fillies division, has suffered a leg injury after being caught in a fence at Purdon’s Clevedon property. The tall American Ideal filly, who showed she was right on song for the series with a smart workout last week, will now head to the spelling paddock. Her scratching means that the Geoff Small trained Zeta Bromac will get a walkover ABC heat win, as will Ideal Belle’s stablemate Sky Major who is still well on track for the 3YO colts and geldings division of the series. In other Breeders Crown news, the Tim Butt trained Field Marshal is set to arrive in Melbourne on August 6 in preparation for the ABC after qualifying in a one horse heat at Cambridge last week, while Katy Perry, who was defeated in her Cambridge heat by Joanne’s A Delight, is already in Australia and will compete in the Tatlow Stakes (Group Two) at Melton on Saturday before heading to a Breeders' Crown Repechage. Katy Perry is just one a strong contingent of Kiwi trained or owned horses that are seat to do battle in feature races across the Tasman this weekend. Others include Messini, Kept Under Wraps, Iceobar, Bettor Rock On, My Arya, Primz Luck, One Over Da Moon, Our Twentyten, and Daenerys Targaryen. However the two highlights of the weekend may come from champion Australian pacers Im Themightyquinn and Smoken Up. ‘Trigger’ (Smoken Up) is set to have his last start in New South Wales at Menangle on Saturday and his trainer-driver Lance Justice is expecting a big performance, while ‘Quinny’, who will be reunited with Gary Hall Jnr, will battle it out with Mach Beauty, Suave Stuey Lombo, and Avonnova for Group One glory in the Blake’s A Fake at Albion Park on Saturday. After much talk about drivers leading into the race, Lauren Panella has decided to stick with Mach Beauty, while Bart Cockburn, who has been sacked from Avonnova after his interesting drive in the Sunshine Sprint, will take the reins behind Suave Stuey Lombo. Replacing Cockburn in the sulky behind Queensland star Avonnova is Shane Graham, who was victorious in his only drive on the gelding. By Mitchell Robertson  

Smart three-year-old filly Raksdeal is on her way home after suffering a suspensory injury during her lead-up to Saturday night’s Gold Coast Oaks. However, her long-term prognosis is looking good. “She worked super at Albion Park on Wednesday but unfortunately her leg blew up afterwards,” said Clark Barron. We got the vet out straight away and had her leg scanned and luckily it showed there is no hole in the suspensory, just bruising,” he added. “There was a 50/50 chance we could have got her right for the Queensland Oaks but I had a chat with her owner Brendan Fahy and we decided that she was far too good to risk,” said Barron. Barron said that he believes the injury has come as a result of a long season of racing and travel. “It’s obviously a real shame but at least she is probably going to be alright long-term,” highlighted Barron. Raksdeal, who was Group One placed on three occasions during the season, is currently in Auckland and will arrive back at her Southland base on Thursday. “They did a good job of treating her leg in Australia but we will get our vet to reassess her when she is home before sending her to the paddock,” he added. “We have got our fingers crossed that she will make a full recovering and come back good next season and at this stage we have seen nothing that indicates that she won’t,” he enthused. Meanwhile, due to Raksdeal’s unfortunate absence from the upcoming Queensland Oaks, prolific owner Bob McArdle is now contemplating sending Te Amo Bromac over for the Group One feature. A decision is likely to be made after the smart filly, which is now in the care of Barry Purdon, competes at Alexandra Park on Friday night. By Mitchell Robertson

When attempting to back a winner at Alexandra Park on Friday, look for horses that competed well, or even adequately, in the Harness Jewels at Cambridge on May 31st. The first race sees a field that is stacked with fillies and mares that competed in the Jewels and they look set to dominant the event. Heading the line-up is Te Amo Bromac, who is now in the barn of Barry Purdon. She was very good when finishing sixth in the 3YO Diamond after starting from a wide second-line barrier and looks the one they all have to beat. Jewels contestants Christy Breanna and Royal Counsel look the next best, while Saharazona could be the one to spice things up. Monseigner, who nearly pulled off the biggest boilover in Jewels history when finishing second behind King Denny in the 3YO Ruby, could very well win the second race if he brings his manners, while Imnotquitesure, who finished ninth in the same event, shouldn’t be far from the action. However, if Lucky Fortune, who actually contested the Harness Jewels at Ashburton last year, gets around safely, that pair could be left to pick up the crumbs. Ballyronan, Astral Traveller, and Princess Sophia, who all drop back from the 4YO Ruby, should all be in the fight in race five, while Cyclone Prince heads a strong Jewels brigade, including Rocknroll Arden and Whisper Jet, in the sixth event. Others worth putting the ring around on Friday are The Fascinator, Lancewood Lizzie, and Norvic Nightowl, who all finished in top-four posisition at last month’s 1.2 million-dollar raceday, while Jewels villain Mighty Flying Major should reign supreme over 2YO Emerald runner-up, Bettor Spirits, in the final race on at the card Alexandra Park on Friday. By Mitchell Robertson

All the talk before the race was how could they beat Isaiah when he drew barrier two. The public thought so making him a $1:30 favourite which seemed very short given how even the three year olds had been all season. And so it proved with Sky Major swooping from the back off a hot pace to down the hotpot and claim his second Jewels crown ($150,000) in a brilliant 1:52.1, a new track record. The pace was hot early with Tiger Tara taking it to Isaiah in an opening quarter of 26.9 before they both sat up over the next 400 in 29.1. Sky Major had slotted into a lovely possie on the outer from the outside of the second row following Cyclone Prince. Isaiah applied the pressure at the 500, dropping off Tiger Tara momentarily with Cyclone Prince looming up wider on the track with Sky Major hard on his back. Turning for home Isaiah looked home but started to go up and down on the one spot and was headed first by a resurgent Tiger Tara and then by a flying Sky Major. It was only the third win for the season for high class son of Art Major but just reward for a super consistent season. Tiger Tara was outstanding in second being involved in the sub 27 first quarter battle, looking beaten at the 500 before coming back for a great second. Isaiah was slightly disappointing in third although sweating up profusely before the start may have taken the edge off his performance. Messini ran on well for fourth while Cyclone Prince again failed at this level after receiving a gun run. Andre Poutama won't have fond memories of his first Jewels drive with Thomas McBride falling after just 75 meters dislodging his young driver but both driver and horse seemed okay post race. Mark Robertson

Ricky May found out the hard way why you can never be too confident heading into the Harness Jewels. Despite picking up a victory with Terror To Love at last year’s Jewels in Ashburton, the Methven horseman had a tough day at the office overall despite being touted  as the driver to follow throughout the day. Seven of May’s drives at the meeting started inside the top three favourites and only three filled a placing. “It definitely taught me that you can’t be too confident that’s for sure.’’ Fast forward 12 months and the most successful driver in New Zealand Trotting Cup history is in a similar position as he heads to Cambridge tomorrow for this year’s $1.2 million Harness Jewels Raceday. Despite being devoid of a stand out drive like Terror To Love this year, May’s dance card for the meeting is high quality and he has more than one chance at adding to the two Jewels victories he already has. “It’s a good book of drives and for once the draws have actually come out alright for me. “I’m just trying not to get too far ahead of myself this year.’’ Heading the list of drives is speedy pacing mare Helena Jet. Had it not been for champion mare, Adore Me, the Greg and Nina Hope trained mare would be going around a commanding favourite – instead she is the runner everyone is tipping to finish second. May can’t afford and doesn’t want to think that way. “You can’t go out there thinking you are just there to run second. “I think she is a great chance in the race, people probably underestimate just how good she is. “Her trial at Addington last week was really impressive – she felt great.’’ Coming into the race fresh, Helena Jet is going to have to be at her best. “She does seem to race some of her best races when she is in a fresh state so we are just going to have to punch out and see where we end up.’’ Helena Jet is one of three runners May will driver for the Woodend Beach based Hope training duo. The other two, Monbet and Mossdale Connor, both turned heads with impressive workout victories at Cambridge last week and from good barrier draws they are expected to play a big role in both of their respective races. “I think Monbet would have to be my best chance of the day,’’ May said. “He’s a really talented trotter and he’s finally got a barrier draw to use, he feels like he could trot out really quickly if I want him too. “Mossdale Connor is in the same sort of position, he can fly the gate if he wants too, but it’s what we do after that is the big question – I think he could lead if he wanted to. “This could be his big chance at getting a big one.’’ May’s book of drives for the day are rounded out by three-year-old filly, Lancewood Lizzie for Auckland trainer Barry Purdon and also Davey’s Gift in the three—year-old Ruby for Michael Ward. By Matt Markham (HRNZ)

Top young harness racing reinsman Zac Butcher nailed his second New Zealand Oaks victory in the space of three years when guiding Ideal Belle to an emphatic victory in the Group One feature at Addington tonight. The Barry Purdon trained filly, who was a luckless second behind Venus Serena in the Nevele R Fillies Final, made up for last week’s mishap by downing Raksdeal and Te Amo Bromac in the $125,000 time honoured event. Driven perfectly by Butcher, the American Ideal filly led early, before taking a trail behind runner-up Raksdeal. Ideal Belle and Butcher then pushed out into the clear on the home bend and raced away for an effortless 2 & ½ length victory. “The draw and race panned out perfectly and she won easily in the end,” enthused Butcher. “It definitely made up for last week where she was a luckless second after being checked at the 350 metre mark,” he added. Butcher said that there were a couple of times when he was slightly disappointed with Ideal Belle early in the season, but added that she was really starting to hit her straps now. "She has really strenghten up of late and has finally grown into her huge frame," he explained. "She was just as tall at two as she is now but she has filled out a lot lately," he added. Butcher is now hopeful that Ideal Belle will recieve a good barrier draw in the 3YO Diamond section of the Harness Jewels at Cambridge on May 31st. "If she draws one to five I think she has a cracking chance," he enthused. Ideal Belle is also eligable for the rich Australasian Breeders Crown Series and is likely to head across the Tasman provided she is still in good form after the Harness Jewels. Meanwhile, superstar filly Venus Serena was slightly dissapointing by her extremely high standards, finishing in fifth after working hard mid-race. By Mitchell Robertson  

If she wasn’t there already, Venus Serena rocketed herself into the status of superstar today at Addington. The brilliant three-year-old filly notched up the fifth Group One of her career this afternoon (Saturday) at Addington when winning the $140,000 Nevele R Fillies final in New Zealand record time – the fourth of its kind in her career. And the fun hasn’t stopped yet. Such is the domination of the Geoff Dunn-trained filly that she will go out a red-hot favourite in the remaining two Group One battles for her age group and sex this season. The first of those will come as soon as next week when Venus Serena returns to Addington to tackle the New Zealand Oaks. Then it is on to Cambridge for a tilt at becoming a dual Jewels winner on May 31. And Dunn had a warning for those who will take their place in the Oaks next week. “She has only had a workout in between her last run and today, so you would like to think she will get better,’’ he said. Venus Serena lowered the NZ record held by champion three-year-old filly Carabella when stopping the clock at a blistering 2.19.1 – 0.6 seconds inside Carabella’s time. After burning out of the gate from her handy draw, Venus Serena was given little respite throughout the 1950 metre event but still had the audacity to run away from her opponents at the top of the straight. Things might have got a little interesting had North Island filly, Ideal Belle not galloped rounding the final bend when in the trail though. The Barry Purdon-trained runner managed to pick herself up off the canvas and put the issue to Venus Serena, but John Dunn who was sitting in the bike of the winner quickly eliminated any concerns she might have been beaten had the incident occurred. “She fights like a tiger when another horse comes up to her,'' he said. “When she got clear she pretty much knocked off but when Zac came up on my inside she grabbed the bit again. “It was a pretty impressive performance considering she pulled the whole way. “She was very keen today.’’ The win gave John Dunn his second Group One victory in less than 24 hours following the victory of Elios in the New Zealand Messenger at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Owned by Bob and Jenny Sandford along with Geoff Dunn – Venus Serena has now won 13 of her 18 career starts and is closing in on $600,000 in stakes and with $225,000 left to race for this season that figure should improve noticeably over the next month. Ideal Belle lost no admirers with her second placing while Rocknroll Arden emerged out of the pack to finish in third position. By Matt Markham (Harness Racing New Zealand)

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