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A pre-start mess almost cost punters dearly before Ohoka Punter surged to his first Alexandra Park win in a year on Friday night. The dual Derby winner led throughout to down trailer No Doctor Needed in a race where Sky Major and Gold Ace never got into winning positions because of a lack of mid-race challenges. But while a 26.6 second last 400m made the win look easy, it could have been far different after Ohoka Punter galloped in the score up. “He actually shied at some horse droppings (not the actual word he used) in the score up and galloped,” said trainer-driver Tony Herlihy. “He got a real fright and almost fell over. He evened up but we had to chase the gate so it could have been a lot worse.” That was why Herlihy had to keep Ohoka Punter up to his work in the early stages of the race, with the incident denting his confidence and seeing him gawk about in the home straight the first time. “But in the end he won really well and like many of those horses he will improve,” he said. Herlihy now has to try and find suitable races for Ohoka Punter to try and get him fit enough to take on the really big guns in the Auckland Cup on March 6. “There will be the free-for-all the week before hopefully but really I’d like to have another race between now and then,” he says. “Taking on those horses won’t be easy so being really fit will be important. “But the Auckland Cup is the logical aim.” And while that means taking on Terror To Love, Christen Me and Adore Me, Ohoka Punter has of course beaten the latter over 2700m mobile at group one level at Alexandra Park, in that remarkable Northern Derby of two years ago. Since then his career has been severely interrupted by tendon problems and Herlihy admits he doesn’t even bother getting Ohoka Punter’s leg scanned any more unless there is a sign of trouble, preferring to look after it as best as possible but treat him like any other good horse. “He seems fine for now but every win is a bonus when you have had leg problems,” he offers. “But I haven’t given up on him being a New Zealand Cup horse because we know the motor is there.” Before then Ohoka Punter has the comparative luxury of dropping back to age group racing for the Taylor Mile and Messenger, although they are almost as strong as the strongest open class races these days. One of his rivals in those could be Sky Major, who stormed home into fourth last Friday in his first start back for the season. Trainer Barry Purdon had gone on record pre-race suggesting the dual Jewels winner may have to be driven with a sit from his wide draw, especially with so much gate speed inside him, and when the midfield horses failed to move down the back straight both he and Gold Ace couldn’t win. But they made ground well, with Sky Major now maybe going to race once more at The Park before heading to Menangle for a February 21 lead-up to the Chariots of Fire on March 1. With him, Ohoka Punter and Gold Ace set to be in Auckland over the next few weeks, it raises the possibility of another rematch to highlight the mid February racing. Michael Guerin - Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand  

Margaret Purdon, wife of the Hall Of Fame trainer Roy Purdon and mother of modern day legends Mark and Barry, passed away on Tuesday night just a day shy of her 86th birthday after a short illness. The sporting talent in the Purdon family wasn't  limited to Roy and their children as Margaret was a talented sportswoman in her younger days repersenting New Zealand at golf  touraments overseas and golf remained a passion right up to her recent short illness. Roy has been quoted numerous times over the years that his wife Margaret was the foundation on which all the success the family had achieved over the years was built on. Roy and Margaret had been married for 60 years. Here at Harnesslink  we would like to express our sincere condolences to Roy, Barry and Katrina, Mark and Natalie, Owen and Gaylene and Suzanne and Tony and the wider Purdon family at Margaret's passing.

Gold Ace’s comeback to credibility has received another boost heading into tomorrow night’s stunning premier meeting at Alexandra Park. The scratching of key rival Pembrook Benny from the $30,000 Founders 1700m has removed the major obstacle from Gold Ace making it back to back wins in the small sprint field. Gold Ace opened the $2.30 favourite with the TAB yesterday morning but shortened into $1.60 after Pembrook Benny, drawn directly inside him, was withdrawn. “He banged a knee somewhere and we had to treat it, which meant he couldn’t race,” said trainer Barry Purdon. “It is nothing serious though so he should be fine for Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve and the Flying Mile at Cambridge (Jan 9).” That means Gold Ace faces just four rivals in the group three race and greatly increases his chances of blasting to the lead as he looks to continue on from his all the way last start win. That was his first Alexandra Park success in over three years and his first win since re-joining Steven Reid and Simon McMullen from the McCarthy stable in Sydney. With his blazing gate speed and the Flying Mile just weeks away he could be in for a far more profitable summer than looked likely, especially as big guns like Christen Me and Terror To Love are having Christmas breaks. His early involvement and the Alexandra Park debut of Dalton Bromac in tomorrow night’s opening race sets up one of the stronger December premier meetings seen at Alexandra Park in years. Adore Me is the $1.22 favourite for the group one Queen Of Hearts even drawn the inside of the second line, with trainer-driver Mark Purdon indicating on The Box Seat TV show last night he would be looking to punch through early behind potential leader Helena Jet. “I think Helena Jet is the second best mare in the race and likely to lead so I’d rather do that than go back and try and come around them all,” said Purdon. Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen also have enormous roles to play in the $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial and the $50,000 Alabar Classic. Linda Lovegrace, with the inside draw, was the first horse backed seriously when the feature race markets opened yesterday, and at $3.20 was nudging excitement machine The Orange Agent’s $3 quote last night. Purdon opts for Sires’ Stakes winner Have Faith In Me as narrowly the stable’s next chance of three standouts in the Alabar Classic but the bookies see it the other way, having Hug The Wind the $2.40 top pick over Have Faith In Me at $2.70. The other group race of the night sees Stent return to Alexandra Park and his beloved mobile short course racing in the $40,000 Rosslands Lyell Creek Stakes. That combination and a good draw have seen him open a $2.50 favourite over Prime Power at $3.60 in a line-up that also includes Sheemon and Irish Whisper. Courtesy of Michael Guerin + Harness Racing New Zealand

Generations of families being successful in harness racing is quite common in this industry and the one name at the top of that pile is the one tracing to Wes Butt. The list is way too long to compile here but one of the latest from this trotting dynasty to branch out on his own is Bob Butt. Son of the 2006 and 2007 premiership winning trainers David and Catherine Butt, Bob has been around horses all his life. Bob first got serious about a future in harness racing while still at school. " I use to help Nigel McGrath out after school and that confirmed to me that I wanted to do this for a career," Bob told Harnesslink recently. After Bob left school, he went and worked for Cran Dalgety for 18 months before heading north and working for legendary trainer Barry Purdon for just on two years. " It was great going and working for trainers like Cran and Barry." "You learn so much from them,especially all those little things that can make all the difference,"Bob said Returning home to his parents establishment at Woodend Beach after his stint at Barry Purdon's, Bob was only home a short time before being offered an opportunity to travel to Australia to work for the former Kiwi trainer Brent Lilley in Melbourne. "I always wanted to have a look at the Australian scene so i didn't twice about taking the offer to work for Brent" "Brent put me on a lot of nice horses while I was with him and I ended up driving over 80 winners in my time there," Bob said. Returning to New Zealand about 18 months ago , Bob began working for his parents with their team while training one or two of his own account. This season Bob thought it was time to take up training on his own account and is working ten from  boxes he is renting from his parents. He hopes to slowly builds up his team numbers and has the capacity to handle quite a few more. "The facilities are as good as you can get so there are no excuses." "They lack for nothing here," he said Bob has taken over the distinctive colours made famous by his grand - father Robin Butt of green with white sleaves which were carried by such stars as Locarno (Miracle Mile) and Camelot (New Zealand Cup)  The smart qualifier Bettor Be Smooth is the most promising horse in the stable at the moment but Bob has high hopes for a couple of 2 year olds that he is training and found it hard to split them. "I really like both of them to be honest." "There is an Art Official colt out of Honey Babe and a Rocknroll Hanover colt out of Special Rose and they both go pretty good," he said. Expectations are always high for young trainers like Bob when your family is a house hold name in the industry and that can sometimes be hard to overcome. However with over 200 winners as a driver in Australasia and seven winners in his brief training career to date along with the thorough grounding he has undertaken, Bob looks well placed to add another layer to the Butt family harness racing dynasty. Harnesslink Media

Since its inception, the Miracle Mile has become the event that captures the imagination – and opinion – of the harness racing population. Developed in 1967, the Group One was designed with one mission in mind…creating a ‘miracle’. To be more precise the dream was to see the two-minute barrier broken for the first time under race conditions in Australia. To everyone’s delight, New Zealand wonder mare Robin Dundee achieved the feat during inaugural running, stopping the clock in 1:59. Almost five decades later, the Grand Circuit gem has been captured by the “who’s who” of the sport, with records tumbling on a regular basis. As we count down to Saturday night’s edition at Menangle, here are some statistics on the race that has become ultimate speed test on this side of the equator.   SEX OF WINNERS: 3 Mares - (Robin Dundee, 1967 - Norms Daughter, June 1996 – Baby Bling, April 2013) 21 Stallions - (Last winner - Christian Cullen, 1998) 23 Geldings - (Last winner – Beautide, November 2013)   AGES OF WINNERS: 4-Y-O - 5 5-Y-O - 18 6-Y-O - 10 7-Y-O - 7 8-Y-O - 5 9-Y-O - 1 12-Y-O – 1   SUCCESSFUL BARRIERS: 1 - 10 (Last winner, Smoken Up - 2011) 2 - 10 (Last winner, Be Good Johnny - 2005) 3 - 6 (Last winner, Baby Bling – April 2013) 4 - 10 (Last winner, Smoken Up - 2010) 5 – 7 (Last winner, Beautide – November 2013) 6 - 4 (Last winner, Double Identity - 2002) 7 - 0 8 - 0   FIVE FASTEST WINNERS: Beautide (November 2013) - 1:50.2 Smoken Up (2010) – 1:50.3 Baby Bling (2013 April) – 1:50.5 Monkey King (2009) – 1:50.8 Iraklis (December 1996) - 1:54.2   FIVE SLOWEST WINNERS: The Scotsman (1979) - 2:00.7 Bay Foyle (1972) - 2:00.6 Pure Steel (1978) and Locarno (1980) - 2:00.4 Chokin (1993) - 2:00   CONSECUTIVE WINNERS: Westburn Grant (1989 and ‘90) Chokin (1993 and ‘94) Holmes D G (1999 and 2000) Sokyola (2003 and ‘04) Be Good Johnny (2005 and ‘06) Smoken Up (2010 and ‘11)   MOST APPEARANCES: Paleface Adios - 7 1974 - 2nd (Hondo Grattan 1) 1975 - 5th (Young Quinn 1) 1976 - 1st (Don’t Retreat 2, Hondo Grattan 3) 1977 - 2nd (Royal Force 2) 1978 - 2nd (Pure Steel 1) 1979 - 2nd (The Scotsman 1) 1980 - 3rd (Locarno 1, Pure Steel 2)   WHERE WINNERS TRAINED: New South Wales - 14 (Last winner, Baby Bling – April 2013) New Zealand - 12 (Last winner, Monkey King - 2009) Western Australia - 7 (Last winner, Norms Daughter - June 1996) Victoria - 9 (Last winner, Smoken Up - 2011) Queensland - 3 (Last winner, Be Good Johnny - 2006) Tasmania - 2 (Last winner, Halwes - 1968)…debate over Beautide (November 2013) which was based in New South Wales!   FAVOURITES: 19 Successful - 28 Unsuccessful   BEATEN WHEN ODDS-ON: Preux Chevalier - 8/11 - Last in 1984 Village Kid - 4/9 - 3rd in December 1986 Il Vicolo - 4/5 - 2nd in June 1996 Iraklis - 9/10 - 3rd in 1997 Blacks A Fake - 4/7 - 5th in 2008 Excel Stride – 5/4 – 4th in April 2013   MOST SUCCESSFUL TRAINERS: • Barry Purdon - Christopher Vance (1991), Chokin (1993 and ‘94) and Holmes DG (1999 and 2000) • Lance Justice - Sokyola (2003 and ‘04) and Smoken Up (2010 and ‘11)   MOST SUCCESSFUL DRIVERS: • Vic Frost - Lucky Creed (1970), Westburn Grant (1989 and ‘90) • Tony Herlihy - Christopher Vance (1991), Chokin (1993 and ‘94) • Lance Justice – Sokyola (2003), Smoken Up (2010 and ‘11) PAUL COURTS

As the debate surrounding Terror To Love’s invite into harness racing’s premier sprint – Miracle Mile – continues, the topic has revived memories of another invitation which caused its share of conjecture. Despite being unplaced at his last three starts, and his poor form on the opposite side of the Tasman, New Zealand idol, Terror To Love, was one of the first pacers offered a berth in the Miracle Mile. Since the stallion’s invite to the Grand Circuit event was made public, social media has been alive with comments relating to the decision, with the vast majority questioning Terror To Love’s legitimate claim to a position in the elite field. Many believe Franco Nelson is a more worthy recipient given his recent form, which includes beating Terror To Love home during their past three clashes. Franco Nelson finished second behind Adore Me in the New Zealand Cup, with the winner promptly invited to the Miracle Mile. Terror To Love was fourth. Franco Nelson backed up three days later to be third behind Christen Me and Adore Me in the New Zealand Free-For-All, with the winner again invited to the November 29 showdown at Menangle. Terror To Love also finished fourth on that occasion! Should Terror To Love emerge triumphant in the Group One, Miracle Mile selectors will ultimately be proven right, just as they were with Chokin in 1994. While giving the reigning champion the opportunity to defend his title is hardly questionable, Chokin’s form leading into the Miracle Mile was well below expectations. A first-up third for the season, Chokin then won his next two starts before a pair of lack lustre performances had trainer Barry Purdon bewildered. Sixth at Ashburton, the son of Vance Hanover was then pulled up distressed during the New Zealand Cup when favoured to complete consecutive wins in the time-honoured handicap. Purdon was left scratching his head as his other two runners, Christopher Vance and Montana Vance, also finished tailed off. This also put his Miracle Mile defence at risk, however, another unique chapter in the Chokin/Miracle Mile story unfolded when Purdon was given an ultimatum by New South Wales Harness Racing Club Directors. In order to gain a Miracle Mile invitation, Chokin had to trial to the satisfaction of club President Keith Adams, and that meant breaking 2:00 for a mile, with a smart last 800 metres. It was the first time such a demand had been issued….a few years earlier Chokin was involved in another Miracle Mile first when he was invited to contest the feature as a three-year-old. Chokin broke two minutes, with a last half in 57 seconds to seal his invite and join Bee Bee Cee, Master Musician, Golden Reign, Young Mister Charles and Weona Warrior in the 1609-metre dash. History shows Chokin raced his way into the record books by accounting for Bee Bee Cee and Golden Reign when driven by Tony Herlihy. The millionaire covered the mile in 1:56.2 – just six-tenths of a second outside Westburn Grant’s race record set in 1990. Chokin’s win saw him become the third dual Miracle Mile winner and the second to successfully defend his title since the events inauguration in 1967. Westburn Grant was victorious in 1989 and ’90, while Village Kid won in 1986 and ’87. Village Kid had his sequence broken by Master Mood during the second of the 1986 Miracle Miles. PAUL COURTS

It was a gem of a moment. Away from the crowd, out of sight of most on course. But it was the most memorable scene of a day where just about every superlative had been used.  Natalie Rasmussen gave Mark Purdon a big hug and whispered in his ear: "Well done darling, I'm so proud of you, so happy for you.'' And then, hand in hand, the couple stood there reflecting on what they'd just achieved. For it wasn't just the New Zealand Trotting Cup they'd won. The partners had just completed what would have to rate as the most dominant display ever seen on a racecourse anywhere in the world. Adore Me's win was their sixth of the day - they'd won all but one of the races they'd contested, and run second in the other. Backup, Rare Opportunity and Messini were entrees to the prestigeous Sires Stakes Final when Have Faith In Me led home a stable trifecta, then Vice Consul, Adore Me and one race later Prince Fearless made it seven wins. And four of those winners were in New Zealand record time.  The blue colours with the silver stars seemed to be everywhere, and in every finish. It was a feat which wasn't going unnoticed by the man in the hat, helping gear up their next runner. It was brother Barry Purdon, lending a hand in what was a massive operation for the stable with 20 runners on the day. He'd been through this in the early 90s, when he had a large stable, he said, and knew how much hard work it was. "Mark's a champion trainer and his success is due in part because he's so hands-on," he said. "But you're still only as good as the people behind you and he has that with his staff and owners. And he's instilled that much confidence in them that they keep coming back. "I'd like to have 10 great horses in my team too but you have to go through the numbers to do that and I doubt I could get the right people to help these days. "We used to have horses racing at Addington, Sydney and Melbourne at any one time and if you haven't got the right people helping you just can't send them away. "It's a very stressful lifestyle. You have to plan every day and that's what this stable is good at, they know exactly where they're heading.'' It's in the planning that Rasmussen has really helped the All Stars team since she and Purdon joined together two years ago. But she could praise only her own team last night when the gear bags were being packed up. "I'm so proud of the horses. And we have an amazing team of owners and staff. We'd have the best group of track drivers we've ever had. "But achieveing this sort of thing takes a lot of work. It's all day. every day on Sundays, but it all comes down to days like today and they give you a kick along and keep you going a bit longer.'' Purdon admits, however, that only this last week he and Natalie had been questioning their lifestyle. "Natalie has done a big team all her life in Brisbane, like me, and she knows how demanding it is,'' Purdon said. "We were asking ourselves the other day just how much longer we wanted to be doing this. "I'm up at 4am every day doing the work lists, feed up is at 5.30am and we start work at 6.30am. "We've got 12 staff but it's still a big job with 55 horses in the stable.'' The crowd of more than 20,000 who cheered their runners home race after race will be hoping it doesn't end any time soon. Courtesy Of Barry Lichter

One of the bravest veterans in New Zealand pacing faces a huge battle to replicate his shock run in last year’s New Zealand Cup. Because his champion trainer Barry Purdon says quite simply next Tuesday’s field is stronger. Pembrook Benny was 100-1 to win the great race last season but outside of the winner produced the run of the race to finish fourth, before going even better to win the Free-For-All three days later. Both runs left Purdon beaming with pride and while he is happy the now 10-year-old is at least as good as last season he says the job is tougher. “This time last year he was going into the race with only one start under his belt but now he has had three,” says Purdon. The last of those was an unplaced effort at Ashburton, but a performance which has grown on Purdon. “Initially when I saw they had paced the last quarter in 26 I thought he should have stuck with them better,” admits Purdon. “But when I watched it again he was coming at them again on the line and he had a lot harder run than many of the horses around him. “So it wasn’t a bad run and I’d say he is going at least as good as last year, although obviously he is a year older. “So we just have to hope for a good draw and that maybe he can tuck away and get a nice drag along.” While Pembrook Benny didn’t need those sort of favours last season, Purdon realises he will next Tuesday as this Cup has more depth. “It is definitely stronger,” he says. “You have the first four home from last season but they are joined by Adore Me and Hands Christian who are racing really well. “And then you have the two Australian horses, with good trainers. “We all know how good Terror To Love is and he is still the horse to beat but Adore Me and Christen Me are both going great. “And I have been really impressed by Hands Christian. Mark and Natalie have done a great job to get him going the way they have after how long he had off and you would think he will keep improving too. “So it is shaping as a great race.” While there are not many challenges in harness racing Purdon hasn’t conquered, he is undertaking a new one after his election two weeks ago to the board of directors at the Auckland Trotting Club. That gives the board a very experienced representative for horsepeople and Purdon says he is looking forward to being involved. “It is something different for me and I am hoping to do the best I can for my fellow trainers and drivers but also the club as a whole. “So it is great to be involved.” Courtesy Of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

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  

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