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The harness racing career of quality Southland owned mare Democrat Party is unfortunately over. “She had a training accident in the winter and got complications from that,” said Katrina Price who part owns the American Ideal mare with husband John. She won six races in three seasons, banking $254,688. for the Prices. “It’s nothing that will affect her long term. And to be fair racing her she may have picked up a couple of wins but her progeny are probably worth more,” said John. The daughter of American Ideal and Champagne Party qualified as a two year old at Ascot Park beating Pulp Fiction by four lengths in December 2013, and was then sent north for Barry Purdon to train. As a two year old she won the Young Guns Delightful Lady Classic, running the 1700 metre mobile in 2-02.7. It was as a three year old that she recorded her biggest win - in the Group One Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies Championship Finals. She broke the New Zealand Three Year Old Fillies record by running the 2200 metre mobile in 2-37.7. That record was broken three times in less than three weeks during that season with The Orange Agent (2-38.7), Delightful Lana (2-38.6) and Democrat Party (2-37.7) claiming it. Finishing her racing career by running fourth in the 4 year old Diamond at The Harness Jewels at Cambridge when favourite, she ran the 1609 metres in 1-53.5 and was only a length away from the winner Rocker Band. She raced in very good company for most of her career running two thirds in Group One races, a third and a second in Group Two races and a third in a Group Three race. It was a disappointing end to a very good career but it was compensated by another horse the Price’s bred, Chicago Bull, which won the McInerney Ford Four Year Old Classic at Gloucester Park in Perth that same day. “It was good that Bull won because it was a bit of a dark day. We are getting her served doing ET so hopefully she’s in foal to Bettor’s Delight.” The mare is currently at Macca Lodge as is her dam Champagne Party who was recently bought by Brent McIntyre. The Prices have three fillies out of Champagne Party; a three year old named After Party (American Ideal), a two year old – Flash Party (American Ideal) and Party Major (Art Major) yearling. “We’ve probably been lucky. She (Democrat Party) broke that leg as a two year old so we got a bonus two seasons out of her,” said Katrina   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

After maintaining a stranglehold on the training and driving premierships for more than a decade at Alexandra Park, Tony Herlihy’s (MNZM) success could be stymied by his brother-in-law Barry Purdon, who lives just 10 minutes away. Clevedon-based Hall-Of-Famer, Purdon, leads all three premierships at Alexandra Park. When he was informed of his success he was a tad baffled. “Are you sure that’s right? I’d still love to be a junior driver and I’d love to be on top. Wow what a thought to have might lifetime ahead of me again,” Purdon joked. But it was advice handed down to the North Island’s leading junior driver by Purdon that has ensured Sean Grayling’s success. Grayling had committed to a job at Paul Fitzpatrick’s stable in New South Wales last month but after talking to his mentor and boss, he made a last-minute decision to stay at home. “It’s the best advice I’ve ever had. Barry is a ‘master trainer’ and you never get sick of listening to him. He said my time would come for overseas. Barry has put a lot of faith in me and I’m just rapt I can repay him back with some wins. “Amanda Kiddie has also been kind to me. I just want to thank Barry, Amanda and all the owners who have put me on. Staying home is starting to pay dividends for me,” 20-year-old Grayling said. He’s now won nine races in 2016-2017 – the same as his personal best he achieved last season from 63 drives. He’s had 41 drives in almost five months this season. Eight of them have come at Alexandra Park. Then there’s Purdon’s number one stable driver, Zac Butcher who is ‘The Park’s’ leading open driver with 14 wins – two more than the current Alexandra Park champion, Herlihy. Grayling and Butcher’s wins would never have happened had Purdon’s team not been the strongest it has in decades. Purdon leads the training premiership at Alexandra Park with 15 wins – four more than Herlihy. “I’ve got to win something. Tony’s been winning everything up here. it’s about time he shared it around,” said Purdon, who’s younger sister Suzanne is married to Herlihy. On a serious note Purdon said he owed the success to his hard-working staff and loyal band of owners. “The owners have been more supportive than ever, especially in recent seasons. They have bought about 17 horses from the Sales in the last four years, and some of those youngsters are really starting to show some potential. “You are also nothing without staff and our team have been exceptional. Congratulations go to Zac and Sean because they are very keen and enthusiastic about everything they do,” Purdon said. Purdon has trained 21 winners from 41 starters in 2016-2017 and has an amazing 0.4580 strike rate. He currently sits fourth on the New Zealand training premiership – six behind Greg and Nina Hope. All up he’s trained 2,388 career winners since 1977 – 1,463 with his father Roy (MBE), 122 with Scott Phelan, and 803 in his own name. Grayling sits second on the national junior driving premiership with nine wins – eight behind Otago’s Rory McIlwrick. He’s now saluted the judge times 24 since he started driving in 2013. As for Butcher, he has now driven 21 winners nationally and is 28 behind pace-setter, Dexter Dunn. Career-wise Butcher has driven 532 winners since 2008. Meanwhile, the Auckland Trotting Club’s Racing manager Kevin Smith reminded people that initial nominations for the Auckland Cup and the National Trot close this Friday at 11am. “There is no nomination fee or sustaining payment if nominated by this date. Noms can come through to our racing office line via (09) 631 1163,” Smith said. His Racing Assistant, Regan Cotter, also commented on the Purdon dominance at ‘Northern Headquarters’ in 2016-2017. “Barry is on fire in trainers and Zac is leading Tony in open drivers premiership, while Sean Grayling is ticking along quite nicely for a junior with eight wins already this season. “Well done to all,” Cotter said.   ALEXANDRA PARK’S TOP 10 DRIVERS (as at today, November 21): 1) Zac Butcher 14 wins. 2) Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 12. 3) David Butcher 11. 4) Maurice McKendry 10. 5) Josh Dickie 9. 6) Sean Grayling (j) 8. 7) Phil Butcher and Brent Mangos 5. 9) Todd Mitchell 4. 10) Jay Abernethy, Sailesh Abernathy, Rob Argue, Richard Brosnan, Arna Donnelly, Dylan Ferguson (j), Todd MacFarlane, Jack MacKinnon, Kyle Marshall, Andrew Neal and Scott Phelan - all 2 wins each.   TOP 10 TRAINERS: 1) Barry Purdon 15. 2) Tony Herlihy 11. 3) John & Josh Dickie 10. 4) Steven Reid & Simon McMullan 8. 5) Ray Green 7. 6) Brian Hughes and Michelle Wallis/Bernie Hackett 5. 8) Richard Brosnan, Frank Cooney, Arna Donnelly, Logan Hollis/Shane Robertson and Brent Mangos - all 3 wins each.   JUNIOR DRIVERS: 1) Sean Grayling 8. 2) Rob Argue, Jack MacKinnon and Dylan Ferguson - two wins each. 5) Rest = 0 wins.   Duane Ranger

The Haras des Trotteurs North Island Oaks set for May 5 is likely to be a 2200m mobile, according to Alexandra Park's Racing Manager Kevin Smith. He said he hoped the Oaks would grow and eventually take on Group status. "For a while now there has been a call for additional races for the trotting fillies and mares. “The New Zealand Breeders Association thought a race something akin to the North Island Oaks we run for the 3yo pacing fillies would prove popular for the 3yo trotting fillies. “Pat Driscoll the Principal of Haras des Trotteurs and Dave Sanders (their NZ representative) were both very keen to come on board and have agreed to sponsor the race. “Haras des Trotteurs have become a significant sponsor in NZ sponsoring a number of feature races for trotters,” Smith said. Meanwhile, Smith said it was the start of a very busy two months at Alexandra Park last Friday. Speaking on Trackside Radio Smith said there were races every Friday until the highlight Auckland Cup meeting at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve. “We are looking forward to a busy couple of months, with the Auckland Cup Carnival in December being the obvious highlight. “Nominations for the Auckland Cup will close on November 25. That works in well because those horses not going to the Interdominions in Perth (November 25 – December 9) should gravitate here. “There should be good crowds again with a family fun day and the races starting at about 2.30pm or 3pm,” Smith said. Asked to comment on the current ratings system Smith replied: “We have had a mixed response from a lot of people who are still trying to get their head around it all. The numbers of horses starting, the turnovers, and the KPI (key performance indicators) are all heading in the right direction. “I think people are just experiencing teething problems at present but you only have to see the racing numbers to know that something is working. We had 116 nominations last week and Cambridge had 80 the night before,” Smith said. “It will be trialled until the end of November when a sub-committee will make a final decision just prior to the New Zealand Cup in early November,” he added. He said another positive was that horses of similar ability were now competing against each other. Meanwhile Zac Butcher has a three-win lead over Alexandra Park's long-time driving champion Tony Herlihy (MNZM). Following last Friday's meeting Butcher now has 12 wins compared to Herlihy's nine. Third on the Alexandra Park premiership is David Butcher with eight wins. The training premiership sees Barry Purdon at the top of the table with 10 wins, one ahead of Herlihy, and two clear of John/Josh Dickie and Steven Reid/Simon McMullan. The Alexandra Park Junior Driving Premiership sees Sean Grayling out in front with four wins - two more than Robert Argue and Dylan Ferguson. The only other juniors to have saluted the judge at "the Park' this season have been Ben Butcher and Jack MacKinnon, who have won a race apiece. Christmas Racing at “the Park’ starts on November 11.   Duane Ranger

She might be in her mid-80s and seldom gets to the race track these days, but Violanta Villiger, was at Cambridge Raceway with bells on last night (Thursday). And the Morrinsville pensioner got a pleasant surprise following her official duties as the ‘special on-course guest’ after the running of the sixth race – the $7,000 John Villiger Memorial, which was won by the Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained and driven Italian Delight. Then after representing her late husband, Mrs Villiger was back in the winner’s circle again the following race when her son Roger trained Count Landeck to win the $7,000 Castle Bar and Grill Morrinsville Pace. Count Landeck was the $2.30 favourite. “I was real pleased for Mum because she owns and bred the horse. In fact when Dad passed away 28 years ago Mum surprised me and really took the bull by the horns. “She has really absorbed herself in harness racing since then and has made some nice breeding decisions. I am very proud of her. Dad’s race is special but this time so was the one after,” Villiger said. The 51-year-old Waikato horseman the paid a tribute to his driver Zac Butcher. “Count Landeck is no star but he certainly made our night. He got the run to suit and Zac did the rest. He’s a very good driver and showed that tonight. It was quite an emotional night really,” Villiger said. Butcher drove the 5-year-old Bettor’s Delight – Landeck gelding like he was the best horse in the field, and after getting to the front at the 300m they gave nothing else a chance to catch them. They lead for the remainder to win the 2200m mobile in 2:46.5 (mile rate 2:01.8) with final 800m sectionals of 58 even and 27.3. It was Count Landeck’s second career win and both his and Villiger’s first of the season. Villiger has now conditioned 90 winners since 1988. “I’m working nine at the moment and he’s the best of them at present. He’s not a bad pacer but I didn’t think he deserved to be that short on the tote. “He usually goes pretty good at Cambridge and that’s where I’ll keep racing him because he struggles a bit the Auckland way around. Like I said he’s no star but he has made Mum very happy, and that is important to me,” said Villiger. “I liked the way he won his previous start at Cambridge, but I didn’t expect him to repeat the dose. The race panned out beautifully for him. It was the drive that got him home,” stressed Villiger. He said he wasn’t in the same class as the best horse he had trained – the 2000 Holmes Hanover eight-win gelding, Torpedo Holme, who won just under $50,000 in stakes. “Count Landeck can win one or two more but his half-brothers were much better than him, especially Conte De Cristo and Conte Centovalli, who won five and six races here. They are both by Christian Cullen and Mum bred the pair,” Villiger said. “But this fella is just a little fun horse for Mum. He’s not going to get to any great heights but he’s pleasing Mum and that’s what makes me happy,” he added. Meanwhile, the most successful horsemen at Cambridge Raceway last night were Butcher and his Clevedon bossm Barry Purdon. Butcher saluted the judge with Count Landeck in race seven, and the Purdon trained Fellamongstabeauty in race two. Purdon also won race fourth event when Brent Mangos got the $1.10 hot favourite, Accumulator home by seven-and-a-quarter lengths. Ironically Butcher was second in that 2200m mobile behind the Ray Green trained Amaro.   Duane Ranger

When you have been training for as long as Barry Purdon there aren’t many firsts left to achieve. But the Hall of Famer thinks he might have produced one when he trained the first four home in the Holmes D G, a race named after one of Purdon’s all-time greats, at Alexandra Park on Friday. Aliante headed home an all-mares trifecta by trailing and using the passing lane to run down Ideal Belle, with Arden’s Choice close up in third. Purdon also trains fourth-placed The Faithful and the result is even more remarkable as he has been the caretaker trainer of Rocker Band, who finished fifth, for the last few weeks. So he took five horses to the race and they finished first to fifth, which would be a wonderful achievement in any race, let alone a serious open class feature. Purdon was “pretty sure” it was his first career first four, definitely since training on his own account, although the stable may have pulled it off when he trained in partnership with father Roy decades ago. “I don’t think I have had four in a race that many times and they well went great,” he said. “So while I can’t be sure I think that would be my first first four.” Then came one of the most prophetic statements of the harness racing season so far. “I am sure Mark has done it before though. He has probably trained the first four home in a Sires’ Stakes Final or something,” laughed Purdon, talking about his brother. Boom. Just 10 minutes after those words came out of Purdon’s mouth, his little brother and partner Natalie Rasmussen trained the first four in the last race at Addington. So two brothers, 1000kms apart, training first fours at metropolitan tracks an hour apart? I am not sure if anybody, anywhere keeps records on that sort of thing but you can bet if it has happened before it wouldn’t be very often. With the first three home being mares Purdon has some serious ammunition to aim at the Queen of Hearts at Alexandra Park in December, what is shaping as one of the best races of that carnival. But while all was good at Alexandra Park on Friday, the stable’s best mare Start Dreaming is recovering from a health scare. She suffered a bout of pneumonia a few days after her last start two weeks ago, so bad her lungs needed to be drained. “She is coming back to it now but it is a real rarity and she was pretty sick there for a while. “But she will be back jogging soon and should still be on target for the Queen of Hearts, which is the logical aim for all these mares.” While the Purdon team were on fire in the Holmes D G, favourite punters had little reason for joy with Hughie Green. He hit traffic early, got back behind the wrong horses and then when driver Maurice McKendry went to the markers to try and make ground with a lap to go he never got clear again. The other punter stinger was No Doctor Needed, who had no luck either and dropped out late, understandably considering the 3:22.6 for the 2700m stand. His trainer Steve Telfer wasn’t too disappointed, citing the lack of racing luck as the main reason, and he still heads to the Kaikoura Cup with the New Zealand Cup the aim after that. Michael Guerin

Sean Grayling even had an ‘Australia going away party’ at his boss Barry Purdon’s home, but talks with his employer has resulted in last-minute change of mind. Grayling who has been working for Barry Purdon at Clevedon for the last five years, was scheduled to start work with New South Wales trainer Paul Fitzpatrick at his Camden Stables on Monday October 10. But the 20-year-old is going nowhere. After hosting his farewell party on October 1, Purdon sat down with Grayling and asked him about his timing. “Sean had another good think about it. He’s the leading junior driver at the moment and he’s getting a few drives. “I personally think that going right now wouldn’t be the smartest move, so Sean is going to leave it until next July and go then,” Purdon said. The Hall-of-Fame horsemen said it will do Grayling ‘the world of good’ to go somewhere else and see how other people did things, but believed going now was not the right time. “It’s best to wait another eight or nine months and get more established first. His junior claim would could run out here and I think it would start up again in Australia going into next season,” Purdon said. Grayling agreed with his boss saying he wanted to give the Junior Premiership and New Zealand and Australasia driving titles a real nudge in what is likely to be his last or second last season as a junior reinsman. Grayling has driven 20 winners from 194 starts since 2013. He’s also placed 44 times for $187,629. His UDR strike rate currently sits at 0.1982. Grayling’s has saluted the judge five times this season and is three wins clear of the second-placed North Island juniors, Robert Argue and Andrew Drake. Mosgiel horseman Rory McIlwrick is currently the leading junior driver in New Zealand with nine wins. Duane Ranger

Harness racing star Diamond Field is set to mark the milestone of his 30th birthday on October 13th The winner of the 1994 Interdominion Trotters Grand Final and Rowe Cup had an illustrious racing career winning 33 races from 150 starts with 29 seconds and 20 thirds. Though, all standardbred and thoroughbred horses officially celebrate their birthdays on August 1st, owner Michelle Blackie wanted to mark Diamond Fields foal date, as a day of celebration. The 30 year old is booked to parade at the Riverton clubs meet on October 29th before the feature trot, in which he was beaten by a nose in 1990 by Maggie Blue. Diamond Field was produced by North Makarewa breeder Grant Sim from Yankee Jolter and Robyn Evander. Sim recently visited the horse after an 18 year interval. Sim was impressed with the horses appearance and relayed stories of the horse as a youngster and the nature of his dam Robyn Evander. Diamond Fields racing career began at the stable of Allan Beck where he won his first eight races. He was then transferred to the stable of Roy and Barry Purdon in Auckland to open up more opportunities. The Purdon stable prepared him for his Interdominion win at Harold Park and the Rowe Cup win at Alexandra Park. Tony Herlihy the successful driver in both starts. Diamond was then transferred to the stable of Mark Purdon. As a nine year old he won two heats of the Interdominions at Moonee Valley and the City of Sails free-for-all in Auckland. As a ten year old, Diamond Field was placed in the South Australia stable of Neil Cavallaro where he begun his Australian campaign winning at Globe Derby Park. Four minor wins followed in Australia before returning to New Zealand. On return to New Zealand, the then 11 year old had his final win at Addington Park from a 40m handicap. His last race he finished 2nd ,beaten by a neck by Sundowner Bay from a 45m handicap. Diamond Field was retired to the property of the Blackie family and has been there ever since. The family was part of the syndicate that raced Diamond Field. Owner Michelle, was a child at the time and enjoyed the spirited nature of the race horse. Diamond Field was introduced to saddle and even ventured over some low fences. As an elderly horse, not a lot seems to have changed from reports of his earlier antics. Breeder, Grant Sim, as reported in the 1994 Harness Racing Annual, described the horse as a hyperactive type and recalled a scene at the 1988 yearling sales. While the horse was being prepared, the attendents struggled to settle the horse, a vet was asked to administer a tranquilizer to quieten him down. The horse was tranquilized twice, and became more difficult to handle with each shot. Diamond Field smashed the rail he was tethered to, taking the attendents out in the process. Trainer Allan Beck recalled Diamond Field as hyperactive,difficult to settle, spooks at anything and can see a rabbit 200 yards away. Diamond Field has been retired and in the care of the Blackie family in Southland since the late nineties. He spends his days lazily grazing the paddocks of his Southland home. Every now and then owner Michelle, will perch upon him bareback with only a halter and lead for security. Perhaps a far cry from earlier antics, Michelle reports he can still be a handful. He is hard fed three times a day and is all to happy to let anyone in the vicinity know if his meals are slightly late. Diamond Field as a 29 year old. While sufficiently getting on in years, after his daily walk around the bottom paddock, the gelding can be seen galloping when released and enjoying a good roll in the dust. The 30 year old is immensely loved by owner Michelle, who even has two tattoos dedicated to the champion trotter. Happy Birthday Diamond Field.   Harnesslink Media

The continuing trend of junior drivers wanting to pursue their careers across the Tasman has hit again – this time with the North Island’s leading junior, Sean Grayling. The 20-year-old, who has been with Barry Purdon for the last five years, will start working with New South Wales trainer Paul Fitzpatrick at his Camden Stables on October 10. Grayling will leave Purdon on October 7 and will have his last New Zealand drives at the Auckland Trotting Club’s meeting later that night. He said he was excited about the prospect of working in a new country. Grayling also liked the idea that there were up to eight meetings a week in New South Wales compared to one, maybe two per week, in the North Island. Fitzpatrick is a top Australian harness racing trainer with experience dating back several decades. He is a member of the exclusive five-strong 'Harold Park Living Legends Club'. He also raced Australian Horse-of-the-Year Lombo Pocket Watch and currently works a team of 35 south-west of Sydney. “I mentioned it to Paul in passing when I was over there with Sky Major and Start Dreaming in February. It’s something I have always wanted to do. “Then Gavin (Fitzpatrick) rang me out of the blue last month saying one of their staff had left and the opportunity had come up. “I’ve thought long and hard about it and I spoke to Dad (Tony) and Barry about the move and they agreed with my decision. I felt the time was right to do it. I came straight from school to Barry and Katrina’s and I have learnt so much working at their stable. I am forever grateful,” Grayling said. Grayling, who has never driven better than what he has this season, looked destined to beat his personal best tally of 15 wins this season. He achieved his first driving double at ‘The Park’ on August 26. But instead Grayling is now one of several New Zealand junior drivers who have made the move across the ditch in recent years, and one of dozens in years gone by who have preceded him. More recently Joe Moka, Jacob Wallace, Dylan Ferguson, Fergus Schumacher, Shane Butcher, Nathan Purdon, Emmett Brosnan, Michael Purdon and Michael Blakemore are just some Kiwi juniors who have either departed these shores for Australia, and have remained there, or have returned. Even Dexter Dunn did a stint in Australia and then returned home. Matty White went to Perth and stayed there so what does Hall-Of-Famer Purdon think of Grayling’s move? “I’ll miss him when he’s gone but it’s something he’s been wanting to do for a while now. It will be good for him to experience something new especially now that he’s going to a very good stable. “Sean thinks there will be a few more opportunities for his driving over there and I hope there is. He is driving well now and getting out on track more which certainly helps improve his driving. But this has been on his mind for a while now and it’s best he gets out of his system and gets over there and give it a real crack. He can always come home again,” Purdon said. “Sean worked hard for us and I wish him all the best and hope he does really well,” he added. Heading into this Friday’s (September 30) meeting at Alexandra Park. Grayling was the leading North Island junior driver this season with four wins and two seconds from 20 drives – two clear of Andrew Drake. It was his best start to a season and even he admits it is going to be hard saying goodbye to ‘Northern Headquarters’ on Friday week. “The junior claiming rule helped a little bit, and even though it was hard to get outside drives at Alexandra Park and Cambridge, it’s still going to be hard leaving Auckland. It’s all I’ve known really, but when I was in Australia I absolutely loved it,” Grayling said. Grayling gets his chance to drive in his first Spring Cup on Friday night when he will steer the Purdon trained The Faithful. He also has a drive behind the Ray Darby trained Bro Fawkes S in the first race. They were the two horses that provided him with his first and only ‘driving double’ last month. “It’s an honour to drive in a big race for Barry. In fact driving in any race in his colours was big for me. The Faithful is so honest and you can never write him off. “I am thankful for all the drives Barry has given me. I’m also thankful to Zac (Butcher) for his driving advice as well. You never stop learning at that place,” Grayling said. The former Pukekohe High School student said he was looking forward to working with the Fitzpatricks' and their 35-strong team. “I’m excited because it is something new and something different. The stable is only 15 minutes away from Menangle and that’s the top track in New South Wales. “I really liked what I saw when I went over there. I’m going to another top stable. They have their own track as well. It will be a real learning curve there as well. I think the experience will do me the world of good,” Grayling said. Grayling paid a tribute to all those who had supported him especially his father, Amanda Kiddie, and his sponsor who would continue to support him in Australia - John Harris from JGH Chartered Accountants. Grayling has achieved 19 winners, 19 seconds, and 20 thirds ($177,411) from 187 starters since getting his licence in 2013-2014. His URD strike-rate is 0.1937.   Duane Ranger

A 30th birthday celebration is planned for Diamond Field, winner of the 1994 Interdominion Trotters’ Final and Rowe Cup. Diamond Field has been in the care of Michelle Blackie at Makarewa, near Invercargill, since he was retired from racing 18 years ago. He officially turned 30 on August 1, which applies to all standardbred and thoroughbred horses, but he was born in October. “He will be 30 on October 13 and I would  like to mark the occasion,’’ said Michelle. “He is booked to lead out the field for the feature  race for trotters at the Riverton meeting on October 29 but we will just have to play it be ear to see if he is up to the task.” Allan Beck, who trained Diamond Field initially at Winton  (Southland), will try  the gelding in a cart to make an assessment. “Allan had him in a cart and paraded him about a decade ago,’’ said Michelle. Diamond Field, raced by the Southland Standardbreds No 2 syndicate, won eight races when trained by Beck. He won his first race in March, 1990 as a 3-year-old at Winton and won every season until he was 11. He ran second, beaten a nose by  Maggie Blue  at the 1990 Riverton meeting. Diamond Field was bred at North Makarewa by Grant Sim from a mating of Yankee Jolter and Robyn Evander. “Grant came and saw him recently. He had not seen him for 18 years,” said Michelle. Diamond Field was transferred  from the Beck stable to Roy and Barry Purdon at Clevedon (Auckland) to give him more opportunities and they prepared him for his wins in the Interdominion Final at Harold Park and Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park. He was driven each time by Tony Herlihy. Diamond Field shifted to the stable of Mark Purdon as a 9-year-old and won two heats of the Interdominion at Moonee Valley  and a City Of Sails Free-For-All in Auckland in 1996. He was in the South Australian stable of Neil Cavallaro when he won first up as a 10-year-old at Globe Derby Park. He had another four minor wins in Australia before returning  to New Zealand. Diamond Field ended his racing career with Ashburton trainer Patrick O’Reilly, his final win from a 40m handicap at Addington in January, 1998 as an 11-year-old. He won 33 races, gained 29 seconds and 20 thirds on 150 starts for $536,607 in stakes. “He (Diamond Field) was retired due to arthritis and there was a draw among the syndicate members to give him a home. Dad (Robert) was in the syndicate,’’ recalled Michelle. “I was only a kid who had ponies but I wanted to give him (Diamond Field) a life after racing, he had been such a successful horse.” “I have never done a lot with him in the way of riding but I have had him over some wee jumps. He is just my big baby.”   Taylor Strong

John Stiven and his Arden Lodge operation are the biggest Standardbred breeders south of the Waitaki and are currently breeding from sixteen mares including for the first time a newly arrived trotting mare. John is based in Tapanui, a town that’s produced two prominent harness racing names in the last four decades; Stiven and Lischner. John Lischner, the town’s butcher and small time trainer, became New Zealand’s leading trainer in 1997 and 1999 while based in Canterbury. He was also a breeder. John Stiven’s parents Doug and Noreen operated a milk run in Tapanui and started breeding from their first mare Stormy Star in 1969. In 1974 they registered the name ‘Arden’ (a name that John believes came from the television series Doctor Findlay’s casebook) with the New Zealand Trotting Conference. Doug passed away in 2001 and John helped his mother to continue the Arden operation, doing the hands on work and also in an advisory capacity. Noreen passed away in 2012. John started his working life as a carpenter and working at local sawmills. He formed Deloraine Timber in 2005 which takes timber orders and manages the product from the sawmill to the client. “Eleven years ago we started out own little business buying and selling timber. It’s not as big as it used to be because a lot of sawmills have closed but we’ve got some pretty good clients that we’ve had from early days,” said John. John admits breeding started as a hobby but with fifteen mares now on the books it’s certainly become a business. “It’s a full on busines’s what we’re doing now. I guess we’ve grown to where we are now, and it just proves we can cut the mustard.” Of all the horses Arden Lodge has had on its book Stiven rates Winter Rose as the best mare he’s had on the property. She recently received the 2015 Broodmare Excellence Award. Her progeny include Bettor’s Strike, Rocknroll Arden, Southwind Arden, Arden’s Choice, Bella Arden, Winter Strike, and Garden Rose. The Stiven family has also been honoured with Southland Broodmare Awards through mares Arden Regal, Arden’s Dream and Winter Rose. The best horses sold away from the Sales are Arden Meadow which won the WA Derby in 1986, and last year’s New Zealand Cup winner Arden Rooney. The best sales results have been Arden’s Place—an Artsplace colt out of Winter Rose which sold for $110, 000, Arden’s Ruler—a Bettor’s Delight colt out of Achieve A Dream which fetched  $100,000, and Bettor’s Strike, a Bettor’s Delight colt out of Winter Rose which was knocked down for $70,000. As the next round of yearling sales draw near John’s excited about his eight colts and two fillies mix. John Stiven feeding young stock at Arden Lodge “It was pretty exciting getting the calls from Mac (Brent McIntyre from Macca Lodge) when all the colts were coming. It makes a huge difference commercially. When it’s a colt you can do what you want – take it to the sales or race it.” When you run over John’s current mares, many are in foal or being served by Somebeachsomewhere. That’s because he’s a big fan. “Through the trip Brent McIntyre, Mark O’Connor and I had to the states to see Panspacificflight we got to see Somebeachsomewhere. I was always a fan and we got one of his first foals in New Zealand - Someardensomewhere who we syndicated. There’s no doubt the buyers are warming to him as the years have gone by and he sold well at last year’s sales. He quinellaed the Fan Hanover in Canada recently with Pure Country beating Darlinonthebeach.” Three of the colts Arden Lodge are taking to next February’s sales stand out at this stage. An Art Major colt out of Rock N Roll Arden - her first foal, Somebeachsomewhere colt out of Winter Rose and a Somebeachsomewhere colt out of Arden’s Darlin. Stiven says it’s easier to sell colts but the top end fillies also sell well. “The thing is though, they’re the ones (fillies) you want to keep to go forward with. If we hadn’t kept Arden’s Darlin we wouldn’t have been where we are now. She’s been a huge help. We took her to the sales and didn’t sell her so we just got lucky there.” Arden’s Darlin is the dam of four win Rock N Roll Heaven gelding Celestial Arden who looks as though he will improve with age.   “We’ve got a half-sister to Arden Rooney by Well Said which we’ve kept on purpose and she’s going into work shortly, and we’ve also kept a Somebeachsomewhere filly out of Garden Rose. We’ve also put two Somebeachsomewhere colts into the one syndicate. They’ve been broken in and look promising. One’s going to the All Stars Stable and the other is going to Barry Purdon.” John sees this option as a way of spreading the Arden name and introducing new people into the industry. “It takes the risk out of the sale. It’s another way of doing it. It’s got a whole lot more people that know a bit more about Arden Lodge now. They become interested in all of the Arden horses not just their own one. It’s been a new exciting part of Arden Lodge and we’ve really enjoyed it.”   Showing faith in the industry, John recently purchased mares off Tuapeka Lodge in Lawrence. The first was leased mare Ruby Morn. “We were attracted to her because she was by Presidential Ball and they cross well with Panspacificflight so that got us into the Tuapeka Lodge breed.” He later took up the option to buy two more; Real Wing and Raindowne. “I was talking to Dan (Cumming) later on and they’ve decided to cut back. They had a list of eleven mares and we took a couple of those.”  He also purchased Tuapeka Art. Earlier this month they also purchased a trotting broodmare Sufin Sunsation off Terry and Andrea Taylor of Pleasant Point. This young unraced Sundon mare is closely related to Cabaletta (7 wins), Allegro Agitato (22 wins) and Skyvalley the winner of 24 races including the Group One ABC Three and Four Year Old Finals and the 2009 Bill Collins Sprint. At the administration level John is also the current President of the Southland Breeders Association. “It’s been going for a long time and there’s a handful of us that are second generation. It’s good to be a part of. We raise money to put into fillies races and support the breeders with stallion seminars.” He’s also one of the driving forces behind the South’s breeding banner Southern Bred Southern Reared. “It’s a wonderfully positive group to be a part of. Everyone has grown together.” Over the years they’ve been able to access some nice mares to lift our broodmare band quality. John says he enjoys the total process from researching the pedigrees and stallions, to rearing foals, to seeing them succeed at the races.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness

Hall-of-Fame horseman Barry Purdon isn’t afraid to label Start Dreaming as the best mare he has trained. He’s also not afraid to put his hand up to drive the gifted 5-year-old this season. “She’s the best pacer in our (25-strong) stable and would have to be the best mare I’ve had. I’ll probably drive her in the Spring Cup (September 30) and then we will plan it from there. Zac is currently in the United States but I wanted to drive her last week to see where she is at. “You could see me driving a bit more this season. I’ve always loved competing and winning out on the track, but I’ve also believed in giving the young ones a fair go. They are our future,” Purdon said Purdon only had 19 drives last season for three wins and seven placings. That equated to a healthy 0.3275 UDR strike-rate. All-up since his junior driving days in 1974 Purdon has driven 604 winners from 2,156 drives. He’s also placed 839 times for $6.3 million in career stakes. His best year in the sulky came in 1990-1991 when he drove 44 winners for a 0.3050 strike rate. “I will be talking to Brian about the horse’s future, but you could see me out there a bit more this season. I’m still hungry for it,” Purdon hinted. Brian is Brian West of Studholme Bloodstock, who bred and owns Start Dreaming. Purdon said the American Ideal mare would bypass the New Zealand Cup Carnival at Addington in November. “We targeted last Friday’s race to see exactly where she was at and she has proven to us that she is certainly good enough to start in the Spring Cup. She’s up to that grade, in fact any grade. “After the Spring Cup we will build towards the Queen Of Hearts at Alexandra Park in December and then possibly the Ladyship Mile. But she has only had one race back this campaign and we are getting a wee bit ahead of ourselves - but that’s our long-term plan, all going well,” said Purdon. Last Friday Start Dreaming had her first race since February 28. That’s when she finished an unlucky fifth in the Ladyship Mile at Tabcorp Park, Menangle. She went into the Sims Pacific Metals R76-R106 Pace with a win and a second behind Hughie Green at the Workouts. Purdon sat in the one-one and when he stepped off the track his new stable star had reeled off one of the the fastest ever last 800m times recorded in New Zealand. She paced the 2700m mobile 3:28.5 (mile rate 2:04.2) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 53.7 and 27 flat. “That was a pretty amazing last quarter and she felt real nice doing it. I don’t want to get too carried away but she is a very exciting race horse. She’s top of the pile in our barn, ahead of Hug The Wind and Ideal Belle,” said Purdon. Start Dreaming has now won seven of her 18 starts and placed in six others for $173,282. Her biggest win came on February 20 this year when she nailed the Group Two Robin Dundee Classic at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Her best performances in New Zealand came last year in the Northern Oaks and Harness Jewels 3yo Diamond, where she ran second and third respectively. Start Dreaming is the second of five foals out of the 14-year-old In the Pocket mare, Simply Devine. Her bolder brother, My Style (by McArdle) has won four races in Australia. Simply Devine has also left a 4-year-old Art Official mare named I’m A Dreamer, who has won one of his three starts for Leeston trainer, Hayden Galway. She also has a 3-year-old Art Official colt named I’m A Dreamer, and a yearling Sportswriter colt named Power Dreaming. She is currently in foal to Bettor’s Delight. Purdon has never won the Queen Of Hearts but his good mare Lancewood Lizzie won the Harness Jewels 4yo Ruby Final last year. Duane Ranger

One of the greats of New Zealand harness racing doesn’t get to see his newest Alexandra Park winner very often. But you can rest assured, John Butcher is watching when Sunset Peak is winning. The former Canterbury trotting mare made it two wins from four starts in the north at Alexandra Park on Friday night, leading throughout as she did two starts ago. She is trained by John and his son David, although truth be known John doesn’t get down to the stables much anymore. The 80-year-old patriarch of one of New Zealand’s great racing families is suffering from lung problems which restrict how much physical activity he can undertake. But it doesn’t stop him watching races on television or keeping up with the industry going-ons via the computer. “He knows everything that goes on in the game, he is the one who tells me,” says David. “But with the lung problem he has got he doesn’t leave the house much. He is a lot better if he doesn’t over exert himself.”
 The father and son have been training in partnership for years but rarely have they had a trotter able to win twice so quickly at Alexandra Park. It helped that Sunset Peak came north well educated by owner Paul McDonald, a Canterbury builder who was training her himself. “I think Paul thought with winter coming and all the work he had on she was better off up here,” explains David. “So Craig Thornley, who had been driving her, put him on to us and she is a lovely horse to get hold of. “To win two so quickly at The Park doesn’t happen very often and you would think she will get down to being a 3:30 trotter (for 2700m stand). “And that is probably good enough to get her at least five wins because when they trot 3:30 off the front they are hard to catch. “The other night she trotted her last three quarters (1200ms) in about even time so the ability is there.”
 The Butchers have never been huge trainers of trotters but have two recent winners in that gait, the other being Larch, among the 9-10 horses they are training. “Soon half the horses at Alexandra Park will be trotters,” jokes Butcher about the new-found depth of the gait in the north. “And they are ideal for up here, races every week and for good money. “So to have a nice one right now is a real bonus.”
 Sunset Peak’s win capped a good night for the family as earlier David’s son Zac drove Atomic Betty to break her maiden and he can probably claim an unofficial training success with Hug The Wind in the $20,000 Smith And Partners Winter Cup. Zac has been in charge of the Barry Purdon stable while the boss has taken a small holiday and had Hug The Wind well enough for driver Brent Mangos to launch him as only Mangos does in the main pace. Aided by a brilliant beginning which gave him field position, Hug The Wind worked forward to get the lead and was way too good in a race where new stablemate New Years Jay also caught the eye when third, promoted from fourth. The favourite Shandale was given a good trip by trainer-driver Maurice McKendry but disappointed, suggesting his season may soon be over. Earlier in the night McKendry partnered the McCaffrey-Paynter trained Ideal Flipflop to a good win in a tough c1 race, the three-year-old pacing 2:40.3 for the 2200m on a chilly night, indicating there is plenty more in store for him. Michael Guerin

A bizarre judder bar may not halt Waikiki Beach’s path to the rarest number in New Zealand Harness Racing. Because the three-year-old pacing star could still hunt down Courage Under Fire’s record of 24 consecutive wins by season’s end. Waikiki Beach, who races with the Our prefix in Australia, missed last Saturday’s Breeders Challenge semi final in Sydney after his connections didn’t nominate him until too late because of a miscommunication. He would have been red hot to win both his semi and probably this Sunday’s A$150,000 Breeders Challenge Final, which could have taken him to 21 straight victories to start his career. He was then scheduled to embark on the defence of his Australasian Breeders Crown title, which will comprise three more races, so a clean sweep could have drawn him level with Courage Under Fire with the most consecutive victories by any New Zealand-trained horse to start his career. The connections of Waikiki Beach met last week and toyed with the idea of a Queensland Derby campaign or even bringing him home to New Zealand to prepare for the Breeders Crown. But he will now stay in Sydney instead and that puts the record back on the table for the superstar, who is unbeaten in 19 starts. Waikiki Beach will trial next week and possibly race in a minor race the following week before his Breeders Crown heat at Menangle on July 12. “That is the plan at this stage so he is definitely staying here,” says top Sydney horseman Luke McCarthy, with whom Waikiki Beach is stabled in Australia. That means he could have two seemingly effortless races to take him to 21 wins but with five weeks until the Breeders Crown semis in Victoria and three-year-olds so well treated in the Australian handicapping system, he could easily have another tune-up race in early August. That brings the 24-win record back into play, although the Breeders Crown is looking the toughest test of Waikiki Beach’s career. While leading Victoria rival Shadow Sax has been sidelined, Waikiki Beach’s stablemate and Jewels winner Heaven Rocks is being set for the series, as is the exciting Franco Christiano. “He is a hell of a horse and what happened last week was unfortunate but he is well and has plenty of opportunities to get ready over here,” says McCarthy. The Waikiki Beach stuff up leaves his stablemate My MacKenzie, who was surprisingly beaten in her Breeders Challenge semi last weekend, as the only New Zealand-trained starter at Sunday’s huge Menangle meeting. Lennytheshark warmed up Sunday’s A$100,000 Len Smith Mile with a sparkling 1:51.5 trial win at Menangle on Monday and sometime Auckland pacer Ohoka Punter looks his biggest danger after he bolted in at Menangle last Saturday. But Lennytheshark is red hot after drawing barrier two in the group one, with Ohoka Punter at barrier five. Meanwhile, Alexandra Park fans are in for rare mid-winter dash of pacing class tomorrow night with a stronger than expected line-up for the $20,000 Smith And Partners Lawyers Winter Cup. Not only do Derby and Jewels placegetters Shandale and Motown (respectively) return for the standing start 2700m but they are joined by Messenger placegetter Hug The Wind, Bettor Spirits, Spring Cup and Holmes D G winner Beyond The Silence and a newcomer to the northern scene in New Years Jay. The former Otago mare fashioned a huge reputation with her killer sprints in the south and has now joined the Barry Purdon stable. The Winter Cup is the highlight of a 12-race programme, featuring 120 horses, which shows the benefits of Alexandra Park, or Cambridge, racing as the sole northern club at the end of the week, especially in winter. Tomorrow’s big programme also comes during harness racing’s golden month for turnovers, with pools always larger on the Friday nights before the All Black’s June tests because there is no live rugby to draw punters away from Trackside. Michael Guerin

It is fitting that former Kiwi star Our Sky Major is about to launch the next chapter of his career around Harness Jewels time.  It was this time last year when the then Barry Purdon-trained entire complete an historic Harness Jewels “three-peat” at Ashburton. He won the Jewels finals as a two, three and four-year-old.  Much has changed since and the rising six-year-old is now with young gun trainer Justin Prentice in Western Australia.  Prentice opted to give Our Sky Major a little break when he first arrived in WA, but the son of Art Major is now primed to make his debut in his new home state.  Prentice sharpened-up Our Sky Major for his return with a Bunbury trial last Wednesday night where he sat parked early, worked to the front and won as he liked by 10m. He went a slick 1min56.7sec mile rate for 2100m and closed in splits of 55.9 and 28.3sec.  “He went super, did it really easily and has pulled-up well,” Prentice said. “He’s set to go to the races now.  “I’m keen to build his confidence again, so I’ll look for a race in the country somewhere over the next week or so to start him off and hopefully get an easy kill. It’s important will all horses, especially stallions.”  Our Sky Major was sent to Prentice after finishing sixth to Locharburn in the Easter Cup at Addington on March 26.  “I gave him a week off in the paddock when he got here, just to settle in, get used to the surrounds and relax a bit. He thrived and put on plenty of weight,” Prentice said.  “They told me he was a bit sour and hard to handle when they took him to Sydney, so I was mindful of trying to keep him relaxed.  “Perhaps the most pleasing part of the trial the other day was how relaxed he was. He was beautiful to handle. I’m hoping a happy horse means we’ll see his best form again.  “Ideally I’ll find a couple of easy races for him to start off in, then he can run in a couple of Gloucester Park free-for-alls before I give him another little let-up then set him for the Inter Dominion and Summer Carnival here.”  Prentice is still pinching himself at being given the opportunity to train Our Sky Major.  “It’s such an honour. It is a bit nerve-wracking, but getting a horse like him why we are all in the game,” he said.  “The early signs are good and I can’t wait to get him through those first couple of races.”  In other stable news, Prentice has put his star mare Major Reality out for a spell.  “She was just starting to get a bit sour after her latest run and I’ve got bigger fish to fry with her,” he said.  “She’ll have all of June and the early part of July spelling, then I’ll bring her back for the big mares’ races later in the year and look at taking her to Sydney for the Ladyship Mile.”  Adam Hamilton

Mark Purdon​ and Natalie Rasmussen's all-conquering All Stars stable has  been smacked with a significant blow eight days out from the Harness Jewels. The All Stars stable has been unstoppable in premier meetings at Addington Raceway over the last couple of weeks, but with three of their best chances striking shocking draws for the Jewels at Cambridge on June 4, that could change. Dream About Me, Spanish Armada and Titan Banner are three of the biggest losers from Friday's barrier draws. Dream About Me, who was a $1.35 favourite pre-barrier draw for the three-year-old Diamond following her brilliant win in the Group I New Zealand Oaks on Saturday, has come up with the worst possible draw. The star filly will start from the inside of the second line but will follow out Killer Queen, who has gate speed. Dream About Me, now $1.95, has held on to favouritism but only just over stablemate Golden Goddess ($2.30). Nek Time has a reasonable draw of barrier four but will need to cross All Stars runners Piccadilly Princess (two) and Golden Goddess (three) to find the lead. Spanish Armada is short at $1.45 for the two-year-old Diamond from her second line draw but with main rival and second favourite Delightful Memphis ($4.50) drawing wide on the front line, she still holds the upper hand. All Stars runner More The Better is a $1.60 favourite from his second line draw in the two-year-old Emerald but he could get a nice drag through behind stablemate Ultimate Machete.   Pacing Major is second favourite at $2.30 but his chances seem much more remote than his price suggests from the inside of the second line. Purdon and Rasmussen's runner in the four-year-old Emerald, Titan Banner ($2.70), has drawn the outside of the front line and to make matters worse, main rival Field Marshal ($1.70) will start from the ace. The All Stars stable looks a big chance in the three-year-old Emerald with favourite Heaven Rocks ($1.95) drawing barrier five and the forgotten runner in the race, Chase The Dream ($2.80), leaving the mobile arm from barrier seven. Marcoola looks to have the three-year-old Ruby at his mercy with a handy draw.  The Ken Ford-trained runner has barrier five but will likely move into barrier four when emergency Sea Eyre comes out. Unbeaten his his last seven starts and already a dual Group I winner this season, the $1.16 favourite should cross to the front easy enough and will be tough to beat in the hands of Clint Ford. Rocker Band's chances in the four-year-old Diamond has taken a massive hit with drawing the inside of the second line. The big winner from the draw is Democrat Party, who will move into barrier four presuming emergency A Damn Good Excuse comes out. Now back in the care of Barry Purdon​, Democrat Party has been made a $2.30 favourite with main dangers Expressive Victor ($11), Better B Amazed ($6) and On The Town ($7) starting outside Rocker Band ($10) on the second line. Monbet​ ($1.10), who was so dominant he was left out of the pre-barrier market for the four-year-old Ruby, has drawn the outside of the front line but driver Ricky May told Trackside Radio he did not think it would stop the Greg and Nina Hope-trained trotter from winning. Harriet Of Mot's ($26) chances appear all but gone after she drew the inside of the second line but second favourite Sunny Ruby ($4) and driver Gavin Smith with have plenty of options from barrier two. The Hope's other big show, Enghien, has been shortened to $1.18 on the back of coming up with barrier three in the two-year-old Ruby. Mat Kermeen

Weight of numbers would suggest the winner of tonight’s feature pace at Alexandra Park will be going home in Barry Purdon’s horse float but the training legend warns it may not be one of his. Purdon trains four of the nine starters in the $15,000 main sprint but also has the sole Australian contender for the Jewels in My Kiwi Mate stabled at his property with trainer Craig Demmler. And having gotten to know the four-year-old pretty well over the last six weeks, Purdon says My Kiwi Mate could show up his local mates in race five tonight. “I am happy with all four of mine but My Kiwi Mate was pretty impressive winning at the workouts last weekend,” admits Purdon. “He is a really nice horse coming out of the Taylor Mile and Messenger and even though he has a tough draw he is the one to beat.”
 Purdon has Hug The Wind, Democrat Party, The Faithful and Aliante in the race and says while Hug The Wind is a genuine Jewels chance he might just need the run tonight. “He is there to win but being a stallion he probably needs the racing, as we saw at when My Kiwi Mate beat him at the workouts last weekend. “So of the ones we train I thought Democrat Party might be the best hope. She has worked well since coming up from the South Island and has a better draw than Hug The Wind.” Draws will also play on Purdon’s mind in race six, where he has one of the Jewels four-year-old mares’ favourites in On The Town but he says punters should be careful. “She is going great and I am really hoping for a good draw with her for the Jewels. “But she has the outside of the front line this week and there looks to be plenty of speed inside her, which could make it tricky on her if she goes out hard. “I will leave the decision on that to Zac (Butcher, driver) to see what happens early but even if she isn’t in the early rush she has to be a good chance.” On The Town may be a four-year-old but she has two Derby class three-year-olds in Motown and Walkinshaw drawn inside her and both could break 2:40 for the 2200m so will be hard to get past should they get to the markers pegs first. Jewels contenders will dominate a few other races tonight, with Blazing Under Fire likely to enjoy his return to mobile racing in race three, where he meets a race rival next week in Donegal Bettorgretch, facing the often-tricky Alexandra Park debut. And the open class trotters get a rare mobile sprint in race seven, where the likes of Jag’s Invasion, Queen Kenny and Realmein will appreciate being off levels marks but they all have only moderate records from behind the mobile. Michael Guerin

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