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Racing at Addington returns for the first time in 2021 on Friday night with a 10 race card.   There’s plenty of interest in some of the fields presented too with an eye towards the plethora of feature action that’ll come out of the raceway during February. We’ll be running through previews of those meetings and have kicked things off here with a look into things for Friday the 22nd.   Feature fields on Friday include. The 4th of the night the “Lamb & Hayward Mobile Pace” over the 1980m mobile trip sees the progressive Brent White trained Cranbourne lock hooves with the Robert Dunn trained Got You Covered, a horse that is coming off a brace of victories and a recent Ashburton second when run down by Longview Lady who also features from a wide barrier. I’m Tough, a relatively recent addition to the Brad Mowbray stable, could be the surprise packet here having sound form over the mobile trips.   The 6th The “Back on Track Buffet” sees the pacers line up from behind the tapes over a distance of 2600m. Belmont Major and Laver (a tough customer indeed) are both coming off recent wins while Plutonium Lady is in a rich vein of form for the Mark Jones stable, she may find herself setting the early tempo here as she has shown an ability to lead out and faces limited front line numbers to overcome initially. The sleeper in this race? It may well be Dadndave, a horse that hinted at a return to form at Marlborough and could provide the value.   The feature race for the trotting types comes up in race 7, due to be run at 8pm.  The “Spectators 2 4 1 Burgers and Pizzas Mobile Trot” sees a class field compete over the 1980m distance from behind the mobile arm. The Dominator, Pres The Belle, Splash Cola and Dark Horse are all capable horses and look the ones to fight things out although One Apollo, at his best, would worry most of these too. All things considered this looks a race that’ll involve early speed with a late fighting finish to decide the spoils.   The last race we’ll cover here is the 8th the “Garrards Fillies & Mares Mobile Pace” There’s real depth to this field. The Robert Dunn barn looks to hold a strong hand with the mares Spellbound and Need You Now both having very good records. Spellbound comes off a hectic mile run at Nelson while Need You Now last raced in the middle of December last year with a 6th behind Beyond Words at Alexandra Park. Lulu Le Mans, Swell Time and Silk all possess gate-speed and are favorably drawn to show it too. Enchantee, the Roxburgh Cup winner from early January, draws the inside of the second row and will appreciate mid-race speed while A Delightful Act, now from the Paul Kerr stable, should carry respect. An interesting betting market for those wanting to take the bookies on.   Our resident analyst will provide the best chances of the night right here on as of Friday morning.     Ben McMillan     

As one Donald Trump leaves office another strolls onto the track in search of leaving his own legacy.   Here we look at the Kiwi bred and raced horses that turned to some political power to give them the deciding edge on the track.. with mixed results. It’s a list of power grabs, imprisonments, and Group racing wins all rolled into one!      Donald Trump In Power 45th President of The USA, rose to prominence through his business career / dealings and reality TV. Elected the Republican Party candidate for the presidency in 2016 achieving victory over Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton to claim office in 2017. Impeached while in office. Succeeded by Joe Biden. On the track Foaled in 2017. By Bacardi Lindy out of Rugged Cross. Family of Jo Anne, Dependable and the terrific trotting star in Ima Gold Digger. Currently under the guidance of Nathan Williamson. Strong trial form leading into race day debut at Invercargill recently. Has had 1 start, unplaced currently. $200 in career earnings.        Lenin In power Born 1870. Exiled 1897 for sedition. Bolshevik / Russian Communist Party leader. Introduced New Economic Policy “state capitalism”. Died early 1924. His body remains on display on Red Square in Lenin’s Mausoleum.      On the track. Foaled 1985. By Noodlum out of Laser Lass. Brother to the Northern Derby winning Laser Lad who would later race in North America. Experienced great success in a racing career that spanned seven seasons. Maiden victory came at Ashburton when trained and driven by Robert Dunn. Australian victories included the VL Dallard Cup, E.B Cochran Cup and Freestone Trotters Cup . Placed third in the Inter-Dominion Trotting final of 1993 behind Night Allowance and David Moss when driven by Lance Justice. Last raced 1996. $280’000 in career earnings.      Caligula In power Born 12AD. Declared Roman Emperor after the reign of Tiberius 37AD. Fell out with the Senate due to erratic behaviour and extravagant spending . Claimed to have appointed his own horse, Incitatus, to the priesthood. Assassinated at 28 years of age and replaced by his uncle Claudius. On The Track There are a number to choose from! The most notable being a son of Majestic Son and Una Bromac (making him a full brother to Winterfell) Foaled 2015. Exported to Australia without a NZ based start. Group 3 Trotters Foundation Series winner. Most recent win coming at Menangle in May beating fellow Kiwi Gold Sovereign by a head margin. $87’000 in career earnings currently.        Roosevelt In power Both Theodore (Teddy) and Franklin D Roosevelt held the office of President of the United States Of America. Franklin, (a sufferer of what was, at the time, thought to be polio which limited the use of his legs) held office as the 32nd President of the United States for some 12 years and played a major role as war time leader during World War 2. Attended the famous Yalta Conference alongside Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin in Crimea. Died from a brain hemorrhage April 1945.     On the track Foaled in 1989. Trained by Barry Smith and the second foal out of a Vance Hanover mare in Kennedy Road. Roosevelt won 6 and placed on 12 other occasions from 72 race day appearances including consecutive wins in June of 1995 before being exported to Australia.Success in that country proved harder to come by with a first-up win at Gloucester Park over ex-Kiwi Pauanui Estate a highlight. Last raced in 1999. $50’000 in career earnings.   Muldoon In power Sir Robert Muldoon. Born 1921. Accountant by trade. National Party leader and 31st Prime Minister of New Zealand upon election in 1975. Refused to stop the Springbok Rugby tour 1981 that divided the nation and led to large scale civil unrest. Lost power to David Lange 1984.    On the track Again three to choose from. The most successful being foaled in 1995 by Miles McCool out of Nellie Doon (Bred by Colin Baynes) who also left Hereshoping (23k earnings) the 4 win horse Nellie’s Boy and Rockem, who went on to race in America and ran a 1.52.2 best . Managed a solitary NZ win beating out Sabatini Star by a whisker in March of 2000 when driven by Robin Swain before a North American career resulted in a 1.53.6 best time. $8’000 in career earnings while in New Zealand.     Eisenhower In power Born 1890. Dwight D Eisenhower rose to become the 34th President of the United States after a distinguished military career. Supreme commander of Allied Expeditionary Force World War 2. Played a critical role in the liberation of Europe and D-Day. Died of heart failure 1969.   On the track Foaled 2005. One of the more successful equine “leaders”. Sired by Presidential Ball out of Paula Michele. Family of Aristocratic (9 NZ wins) The Patriot (9 NZ wins) and Class Act (dam of Classical)  Steven Reid trained initially. Won 7 from 18 on NZ shores including a third to Highview Tommy in the Waikato Guineas and a close 2nd to Antares in the Morrinsville Juvenile Stakes of 2008. Exported to Australia, renamed General Eisenhower and ran 5th in the Marathon Handicap (Listed Classic) behind Galactic Star. Last raced 2011. 100k in career earnings.   Xerxes In power Born 518 BC. Son of Darius the Great. King of Persia. Led failed invasion of Greece in 480BC - think Thermopylae and the “300”. Defeated at Plataea and the decisive naval battle of Salamis. Assassinated 465BC. On the track Foaled 2004. By Christian Cullen out of Amazing Laugh. 1/2 sister to the 27 win Australian based Western Pacific. Raced for Sean McCaffrey. HER racing career never threatened empire building proportions. A single placing from her 5 race day starts coming on debut at Cambridge behind the Todd Mitchell trained Fresco Denario. $1’650 in career earnings.     Marie Antoinette In power. Born 1755. Queen of France and wife to Louis 16th. Fell out of favour for lavish spending and rumored affairs. Put on trial and convicted of high treason during French Revolution. Executed by guillotine 1793. On the track Foaled 1980. By Beau Monantais out of Live Twice. (close relation to the capable trotter Mark Andrew) While no racing record exists Marie did prove a capable broodmare leaving the 5 race winner in Louis Auguste who was trained by Graham Shearman and Full Time who won 3 while on New Zealand soil before a fairly successful racing career in Australia including 7 additional victories. Wider bloodlines also include the successful Stephen Doody trained Call Now (7 wins) and, if we go all the way back to 1970, the dam of the great Call Me Now in Now.   Jimmy Carter In power Born 1925. Headed the family peanut business for a time after leaving the United States Navy.Championed civil rights. Defeated Republican Gerald Ford for the presidency and assumed office as the 39th President of the United States in 1977. Nobel Peace Prize recipient. On the track Foaled 2014. Relation to Donald Trump as mentioned above. A current member of the Phil Williamson barn Jimmy Carter has proven successful on the track with 5 wins and 11 additional placings to his name from 35 career starts. Out of the strong performer and producer Jo Anne who has left the likes of Doctor Mickey (3 Australian wins + 5 NZ wins including a runner-up finish in the 3yr Ruby at the Harness Jewels) and the Steven McRae trained Indiana Jones (6 NZ wins) Jimmy Carter has $45’000 in career earnings so far.   Mandela In power Born 1918. Lawyer by profession. Arrested 1962 for conspiring to overthrow the state and sentenced to life imprisonment. Released after serving a sentence of 27 years in prison. 1st President of South Africa. Held office between 1994 and 1999. Nobel Peace Prize recipient. On the track Foaled 1984 by Ela Patron out of Shine Away (who left the 8 time winner Just A Glow among others) . Initially trained by Brian Court. 4 NZ based starts for no placings. Exported and enjoyed some modest success in Australia racing as The Mandela. Last raced 1993. Career earnings $8’000   Catherine The Great In power Born 1729. Empress of all Russia and longest ruling female leader in Russian history. Her era becoming known as a “Golden Age” . Had a love of horses while being known for having numerous male suitors. Oversaw cultural liberation and expansion. Died from a stroke 1796.    On the track  Foaled 1987. By Royal Prestige out of Kathy Ann Hanover. Proved a success both on the track and as a broodmare. Raced by Geoff Small with 5 win and 10 placings from just 22 lifetime starts. Placed second in the PGG Rosso Antico Stakes at Group 2 level behind Chiola’s Lass when driven by James Stormont. $40’000 career earnings. As a broodmare left known performers Last Sunset ($220k winner including Group 1 Trotting Free-For-All) Real Deal Yankee ( 11 wins, $175’000 in NZ) and Great Getaway (10 wins from 47 starts) while another daughter , Galleons Dream, is the dam of the Inter-Dominion Trotting Champion of 2008 and Bill Collins Mile winner Galleons Sunset.   How about the rest. What’s the best power player you can think of in New Zealand harness racing? Who needs to be mentioned?       Ben McMillan              

Local authorities have today made an appeal to the public for help in the search for what they are describing as a well schooled perpetrator who may have be involved in unlawful activity in and around the greater Nelson area recently. The following details have been released… Name of suspect: Ned Kelly Information as to the nature of any offending: Kelly is likely to be spoken to in regards to the stealing of silverware along with an amount of cash on the date of Friday the 8th of January from Richmond Park. While it appears that this is Kelly’s first offense the brazen nature of it convinces authorities that it may well not be his last and the public are encouraged to stay vigilant in the hope that their knowledge can lead to the apprehension of the suspect.     Information as to the suspects physical appearance. Brown complexion, wears his hair long at the back of his head, has the peculiar trait of walking on all fours, fleet-footed, carries an identifying brand / tattoo upon his neck,owns a variety of shoes that are replaced consistently, is known to sweat and prance around a bit.       Information as to the suspect’s family. Mother: Name: Kelly Maguire Occupation: Homemaker Comment: Kelly is known to be a loving mother of seven. While Ned might be the problem child she has reportedly been an outstanding mother to son Positano who now resides in Australia. Father: Name: Art Occupation:Major in the armed forces. Comment: Self made millionaire. Ladies man. Known to be conducting hundreds of affairs every year with female acquaintances. Very good athlete in his day being a star of the track and field scene in America.        Known whereabouts: Ned Kelly has been seen in and around the Epsom region of Auckland in the past and is known to frequent the area of Pukekohe. He has connections within Christchurch and indeed the greater Canterbury region while a residence in the Woodend area north of Christchurch City is also likely to be a property of interest. Ned is known to travel in a large van / trailer.   Known acquaintances   Mr Robert J Dunn and Mr John Dunn (father and son) have been known to travel with Ned and may be offering both aid and shelter to him at this point in time. It isn’t known if these men are armed although there have been sightings of both men in possession of whips in the past. A new man has also recently come to the attention of authorities and may be an accomplice,possibly, surprisingly, with the surname Newman!   Known character traits of acquaintances   R J Dunn (Robert): Easy to approach, both jovial and talkative. He has been known to find work with animals although most will know him through his work as a master musician. Just what instrument he plays is yet to be determined.   John Dunn: Known leader, likely to leave middle-aged woman spellbound with his good looks, astute, hangs out with a small group of friends namely Robbie Burns, Henry Hubert and a girl he lovingly calls Miss Daisy.   What to do if you do see Ned Kelly: Ned Kelly isn’t currently regarded as dangerous. If you do see him you might want to talk to him regarding his next heist in order to get the inside word on where he’ll target next. If you have any information at all that may assist in this enquiry then please do not hesitate to call and give your much needed help, you can ring our hotline on 0800 GLENROWAN that’s 0800 GLENROWAN. Alternatively you can donate money to help with recovering the costs of the investigation by depositing funds into the “Kelly Account” at the bank of Euroa. PS: Video footage of the suspect has been acquired and the public has been asked to review the tape in the view that it may well lead to the arrest of the individual in question. Video Link Provided here  (click to view footage of the crime) Ben McMillan

It’s been one hell of a year. Who would have thought that in 2020 we’d be faced with a global pandemic, a global health crisis? An environment in which government “lockdowns” were both initiated and generally accepted. How about a cessation of all racing activity for months on end? Who could have seen that this time last year? Nostradamus could have taken a stab in the dark maybe.   Unbelievable really but it’s the way things have transpired. New Zealand has, at the moment, come through things alright, we totted around increasing infection numbers for a increasingly nervous time, then totted back out after a period of hibernation, then we got racing back but without anybody there to see it, then we got connections allowed back on track to see their horse along with a few other jokers around, now, fingers crossed, we’re back for good on full noise. The significance of NZ Cup week takes on even greater importance given the current situation. The Canterbury Agricultural Show, which sees throngs of people go out of their way to see prize bulls and consume large quantities of teeth rotting candyfloss, was canned long ago leaving racing, across all three codes, the main attraction and focus of what is generally accepted as Canterbury’s week to shine.   That being the reality on Tuesday crowds will once again swamp into Addington Raceway to take in this years edition of the New Zealand Trotting Cup. It’s no wonder the New Zealand Cup race day has sold-out, with everything going on and limited chances to spread ones social-butterfly wings there was always going to be a big response to a party. Tuesday will see the fillies will don their fascinating fascinators and the colts their best cheap suits. A large number of the crowd will most probably not see the withers of a horse all day but they’ll love it anyway because they get to meet their new best friend or catch up with their best old friend. Those that do see a horse will immediately fancy themselves the best selector in history and promptly lose their money on the thing that breaks up and takes no part. The features of the racing card will be hotly contested among the leading trainers in the country. The Cup field itself, while void of any international presence (although a number of race entries have Australian campaigns in their past racing histories) is full of story-lines and potential talking points. There’s a surprising amount of horses that could conceivably win the biggest pacing race in the country on Tuesday and that’s a change from the initial thoughts of many only a matter of weeks ago. The Sires Stakes final is always a barn burner. The betting markets helped by American Dealer and his defeat of Krug recently at Ashburton. The trotting feature of the day the New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All is a puzzle in itself given a number of leading chances may or may not opt for a Dominion Handicap (to be run on Friday) only stance during the week. Could the Aussie raider Tough Monarch do the back-to-back dance this year? For the out-and-out harness racing fan it doesn’t get much better For a lot of industry participants in New Zealand this is their day of days, for a lot of trainers it can be a career defining accomplishment to turn up on Cup Day and either have a runner or, all going well, a winning turn. I do hope they enjoy it. I also hope that they appreciate their part in providing an escape from all that’s been going on in 2020. A small but important contribution to everything being all good once again… And then, just like that, it’ll all be over for another year… and onto 2021…and another crisis that’s yet to show itself no doubt…   Ben McMillan 

The New Zealand Cup is approaching fast. In a little less than a month the biggest race in the country will go to the tapes and be run and won, so, at the moment, who’s the smart money on? Being a betting man myself I’ve always tried to focus my attention on the horse that’s shown an x-factor performance in the lead up races. When, engaged in a war of attrition over an extreme trip, the horse that would display that undeniable brilliance to master his or her rivals and come out on top. At the moment, you could argue a case for a number of Cup hopefuls. Self Assured is the current favourite to take Cup honors, that’s a reasonable and most probably rightful label given his win in the Maurice Holmes Vase. That win did have an x-factor about it, an early gallop followed by a late surge through the middle of it all to claim victory. He’s also shown a turn of foot that few of the open class pacers seem to possess. He’s got tactical speed. Speed full stop. His standing start manners seem to be under control too, at least off the unruly, which, to his fans, will come as welcome relief. All in all he’s done most things needed of a future NZ Cup champion. The only thing worrying about the Self Assured Cup-winning narrative now is the late race windburn he got given on Sunday at Mount Harding Methven. The horse that gave him that wake up call? A proven Cup contender in Spankem. Boy he was good Sunday.  Patiently driven by Natalie Rasmussen throughout the 3000m distance the horse attached a pair of wings to its frame 300m out and powered home from well off the speed to capture the grass track feature in emphatic style. You couldn’t help but be impressed by the effort. Was it an x-factor performance? It’s hard to tell given the grass track and relative lack of numbers off the back row. It doesn’t really matter. His performance a week before in the Canterbury Classic was very good, his performance at Methven a step up again. A major player yes. And then you have Copy That. The Northern raider who, while mixing his form, looked like he could beat them all up after showing disdain for his rivals in three consecutive wins throughout late July and August. His second in the Spring Cup added a slight haze to the Copy That picture when run down by Mach Shard but was then followed by a sound win in the Kerry Hoggard Memorial over a longer distance when off a decent 30m handicap. Can he travel to Addington, to the biggest day in harness racing in this country and teach them how to dance? As things are he currently sits on the third line of betting. He's being kept very safe in betting markets.  If he doesn’t quite bring the x-factor in the debate than he’s certainly brings the slightly unknown factor. The “just how good is he” factor.    Of course it’s not only a three horse race. Cruz Bromac is yet to hit full stride in Australian features yet and may not even get here. Barry Purdon seldom goes away from the Cup without reminding everybody of his training ability and will have his charges primed to bring about a sharp shock.    Then there’s Classie Brigade. He may not have the flashy x-factor performance in him buts he’s got the f-off factor by the bucket load. J Dunn will ensure that during cup week. He doesn’t give a toss who you are come Cup Day. He’ll back himself to throw the cat among the pigeons under all circumstances. We’re a month out. A lot can happen in a month. There will be conversations and storylines at every corner the open class pacers run around. Betting markets will flutuate and change or every snippet of stables news.  It's all building the tension towards what promises to be another great edition of the New Zealand Cup.    Ben McMillan   

Premier harness racing hits Addington once again on Friday night with a number of feature events across both gaits. The richest race of the night appears at 6.38pm with the running of the NZB Standardbred Harness Million for fillies. La Rosa and Town Echo (now with the M Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stable) would appear to hold sway over the final result but there’s also a North Island presence in the form of Platinum who has sound exposed form. The forgotten runner might come from the Robert Dunn barn in Passion And Power. A filly who impressed at Alexandra Park early in her career but has since been hard to follow from a punting point of view recently. The Art Major filly will have options from the #3 draw.       The next “Harness Million” final is the trotting feature with a limited but classy field assembled. Leaf Stride remains unbeaten after his efforts last week but comes up with a wide barrier draw. The Greg and Nina Hope runners Eurokash and Franco Jorik are both capable too although their manners left a little to be desired last time around and would need to be present if they’re to be a factor by the time the last furlong is run. Son Of Patrick, trained by the astute Barry Purdon, scared them all after sitting 3 wide over the last 600m last week and a similar performance could see the son of Father Patrick claim the title. A select but competitive field in a race that will be about behaviour and mid-race tactics. The 7th on the card, the Stevie Golding -Harcourts Canterbury Park Cup is, on paper at least, the most  clear cut of the features, it sees Sundees Son loom as the one they’ll have to beat with Dominion Handicap winner Habibi Inta making his first race day appearance for some time. Woodstone, fresh off a sound performance in behind One Apollo at Banks Peninsula and Majestic Man fill this field out and may offer value alongside the enigma of the race in Matua Tana. His late gallops, which seem to be all too common, proving heartbreaking for punters at times. The features on the card are rounded off by the Lamb & Hayward Canterbury Classic at Group 2 level with the race set to be run at 8.38pm.  All eyes, you’d suggest, will be on Self Assured. The All Stars trained star is proving half brat half everything you want a pacer to be this time in mixing early gallops with spellbinding late bids for victory. His latest run in the New Brighton Cup was marred by an early gallop which effectively saw him take no part in the affair. His prior run being a sublime win in the Maurice Holmes Vase, a win he had no right to claim after once again getting things wrong when you’re meant to get things right, that is, behind the standing start tapes. Open class races are seldom won by mistake makers, at the moment Self Assured is proving he’s good enough to overcome such issues, but only up to a point. With that in mind other stables will fancy an upset with Classie Brigade, known for his love of a standing start, well drawn to once again dictate mid-race tempo from his handy #4 draw. His Hannon Memorial victory a blueprint as to how he can continue to taste group glory going forward. Spankem, who has been seen doing sound work at recent workouts and trials will have his admirers alongside A G’s White Socks, who , with further improvement from his Hannon Memorial run, could provide a price and a relative shock to New Zealand Cup markets if able to pull off a victory. The presence of U May Cullect another positive for the meeting and field as the Southerner brings his supporters to the big smoke once again.   A night of depth, some real class, and a few talking points once it’s all done and dusted.   Ben McMillan  

Good time alert!   Grass track racing with crowds is officially back on Sunday.   Yes, that’s right, it’s grass track racing and we’re all officially invited!   It’s hard not to get too excited about the Bank Peninsula Trotting Club and the return of racing at Motukarara       Big fields,competitive racing,big dividends,hot dogs, hot dog sauce running down your face, sun burnt faces, sun burnt backs, kids going crazy on the bouncy castle, parents going crazy at kids for jumping on other kids on the bouncy castle, …put all of that together and you’ve got everything that’s great about harness racing in New Zealand.     On the racing front the meeting does have quality to it too. The Majestic Son D G Jones Memorial Trotting Cup at Group 3 level is the feature race of the card and is timed to go at 2.35pm.   Reading a list of the winners of the race is like reading the history of trotting in this country itself.   Sundon, the super sire, claimed victory in 1990 when off a 30m mark, Call Me Now edged Game Paul in 1994 (my two dollars a place on Game Paul proving profitable) Lyell Creek “the freak” greeted the judge in 1999 and again in 2000 while the free wheeling Springbank Richard won a brace of D G Jones Memorial titles in 2009 and 2010. More recent winners include the Mark Purdon trained I Can Doosit while Paul Nairn has enjoyed major success in the race with Call Me Now and Call You Later both claiming the title, Habibti Ivy winning the cup in 2017 and Habibi Inta capturing the silverware last year before going on to win the Dominion Handicap.         Elsewhere across the card punters will get a mix of even looking maiden offerings along with some intermediate grade pacing and trotting events that are sure to give some headaches to form analysts and amateur wagerers alike.   Two memorial races named in memory of Motukarara stalwarts will also be contested with the Jean Anderson Memorial set to go at 12.30 and the Ross Stanbury Memorial to be run after the feature trot at 3.00pm.      Stables that could be ones to follow would include the Greg and Nina Hope and R J Dunn Barns, both of which have enjoyed good success around “Mot” in past seasons while the Dean Taylor and Bruce Negus barns shouldn’t be dismissed from calculations either with their runners invariable putting in sound performances around the big grass track.     The club has also stepped into the 21st century recently with the installation of a cell phone tower (with a combined commitment from leading telcos making this a reality). This solves the underlying issue of connectivity that the racecourse wrestled with in years gone by and will come as a most welcome improvement by those that previously had to stand on their heads by the secretaries office to generate 2-bar reception.   In summary, a good day out at Banks P on Sunday looks a pretty good bet if you ask me!   Ben McMillan.   

The running of the Maurice Holmes Vase headlines what looks a strong enough night of harness racing action at Addington tonight with a number of races sure to capture interest. Darling Me, the daughter of Adore Me, looks to make it two wins from just the three starts in the second race of the night the Hydroflow Mobile Pace . The filly will need to overcome both a wide draw and a decent field that includes a stablemate of some quality in the form of Bettor Twist in order to salute. This looks a nice race to track the form out of given the fact that race rivals Stephs Boy and Avana are coming off winning efforts themselves. The Basil Dean Mobile Trot sees open class trotting stock go to the 2600m mobile starting point to battle things out. Winterfell, Majestic Man and Enhance Your Calm will most probably take the fancy of most punters but lack of depth or talent isn’t an issue here with Didjabringthebeers better from the mobiles than most alongside Pres The Belle who wasn’t too far away last time to the races in a similar field. The feature Maurice Holmes Vase takes place at 7.42pm and is a 2600m standing start event. Self Assured (pictured) should be all the rage with punters after his recent brace of impressive wins. Competition for the spoils may come form stablemates Princess Tiffany and Another Masterpiece. Value hunters may look to Spirit Of St Louis or A G’s White Socks to upset. Nearing the tail of the card the 9th, the Airpark Canterbury Mobile Trot, goes at 8.34pm and sees Muscle Mountain attempt to further his ascent into the rarefied air of the open class trotting ranks. He’ll take on the likes of Rydgemont Son, the Paul Nairn trained Gil Favor, and The Player, a horse that might be a hit with the fillies but is finding luck a little harder to find recently. Some high quality fields that should ensure competitive racing.   Ben McMillan.  

Punters would be best to remind themselves that it’s not Groundhog Day on Friday night at Addington with the feature pace of the night, the Mico Plumbing Hornby Handicap Pace, mustering the same exact field as the week before. On that occasion Self Assured proved a little too strong from a parked position to pip the brave Classie Brigade who had dictated the mid-race tempo. As punters may appreciate it tends to be a little difficult to make much of the small fields with tempo generally coming out of the event with a dictator of speed likely to score some easy mid-race sectionals. The improvement of both Princess Tiffany may represent the interest factor here along with the form of Self Assured. The feature trot of the night, the Allied Security Handicap Trot,again lacks numbers but does see the clash of the R Dunn trained stablemates in Sundees Son and Pres The Belle. Both have been seen doing sound work in recent workouts and trials with Pres The Belle offering the value in a field that also includes Enchance Your Calm who was well beaten behind the flying Cracker Hill last week. Other animals of note that fill out the card on Friday include the Dalgety / Purdon trained Krug who goes around in race four and looks to continue his strong form. The son of Bettor’s Delight looks to bring up his 5th race day victory from just the 7 starts. An All Stars quinella looks likely in the last of the night the Thanks For Your Support Blue Stars Taxis Pace with Italian Lad drawn on the back of stablemate Aqua Sancta. Main threats in the race may lie with the Mitchell Kerr trained Koenigsegg with a watch on the effort of Cardinal Sin.   Ben McMillan     

Addington Raceway runs an eleven race card on Friday with a number of races looking likely to hold the attention of harness racing fans.   Arguably the highlight on the card would be the 4th race, the Compass Pools 2yr Mobile Pace. Over the 1980m the field showcases a limited two-stable offering with depth from both the All Stars and R Dunn barns. Punters and breeding boffins will have a field day here with the daughter of Adore Me in Darling Me (Adore Me and the smiling All Stars team pictured) making her racing debut. The 2yr old has been most impressive in all public workouts and trials and should take a fair amount of beating. Other prospects to make their debuts include a son of Bettor’s Delight in Pace N Pride who will be driven by Natalie Rasmussen and a son of Sweet Lou in Aladdin. Aladdin, J Feiss owned, looks a most natural mover and shouldn’t be out of his depth here. The remainder of the field includes a son of Art Major out of the nice mare in Minnie Moose and a Bettor’s Delight colt out of Solandra, a mare who has already left the eight time winner in Samskara.       All of the above appear destined for careers of some worth. A pleasant and interesting watch seems assured.    Other races to catch the eye include the 10th on the card the Curle Contracting Mobile Trot over the 1980m mobile. The race pits the 3yr-old rocket fuel propelled Cracker Hill against the All Stars trained Enhance Your Calm and the Greg and Nina Hope trained Midnight Dash, the latter of these rivals has been in most impressive form of late notching up two wins and two second placed finishes from his last four starts. His last start second coming in behind the flying Majestic Man. The 11th and 12th races of the night are headlined by Spellbound, the 3 race winning daughter of Return to Gold and It’s All About Faith the big, rolling son of Captaintreacherous who has already shown that there’s more to him than just his glorious frame. The 2yr old has conjured up 1 win and 2 placed efforts from his three starts to date. A good night of action at Addington with some genuinely interesting races.   Ben McMillan

All eyes will be on the juvenile squaregaiters tomorrow afternoon at Addington as a number of leading lights go around in the sixth race of the day, the Allied Security Mobile Trot. The race, scheduled for 2.41pm, sees the Greg and Nina Hope barn go hoof-to-hoof with the All Stars harness racing stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. The Hopes have proven dominate in the trotting ranks since coming back from the Covid related lock-down with their charges Eurokash, Summer Lovin and Franco Jorik all showing genuine ability. These Hope runners will meet stiff opposition from the All Stars trained La Reina Del Sur, an animal armed with both royal blood and a winning record. The progeny of Father Patrick La Reina Del Sur impressed at a recent Ashburton trial and looks like an animal that will develop with racing. Other wagering options in the race may come in the form of both Love N The Port, a Phil Williamson trained son of Love You who won his debut at Invercargill with a touch of arrogance and Time Up The Hill, the K Barron trained daughter of Muscle Hill who could provide some value to those looking outside the favoured types. The filly is looking for her second win from just three starts. Another “interest” race on the card is the seventh of the day, the Fahey Fence Hire Regional Racing Mobile Pace. The race sees the Murray Pash trained Jazelle attempting to snare herself a win after a run of consistent efforts of late. Ben McMillan.     

So Addington Raceway looks to have been deemed the big winner out of the RITA track purge of 2020. Like a Stalin-esk show trial of the 1930’s it’s proving a fairly harrowing experience for those in the firing line - even the well named Leon Trotsky would have been hard pressed to see the extent of this ice-axe-driven assault!    If all of the track / race venue changes proposed by RITA do come into fruition then Addington is set to adopt a massive increase in racing dates and the obligations that come with them, and while the consultation period is ongoing it’s, at the moment, hard to envision any drastic change or recoil on the propositions announced, particularly in the Canterbury Region. Maybe Geraldine might fight the good fight and win the day? Maybe not. So what will this mean for the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club and Addington track? And can it rise to this most challenging of challenges? Apart from a short stint of smaller-stake Tuesday-run meetings that took place a few years ago Addington has (and rightfully so) been the track of the higher class racehorse. Its Christchurch City location providing an administrative hub and racing focus when presenting a higher class of race-horse to the general public and harness racing fan. Its premier race days and nights scattered across the racing calendar for all to enjoy. The overall caliber of racing generally does wane through winter but that’s to be expected with the amount of horses going around decreasing when Jack Frost is in town. Now Addington needs to become, at least in part, the track for both the superstar head-line open-class act and the common standardbred journey-horse, an advocate for both Lazarus, the bull who slayed them all to the roars of the crowd, and Kelly Evander, the maiden battler who slayed very few but kept trying despite the obvious “ability deficit” In other words Addington needs to become, to an extent, a representative of the tracks and racing cards that it’s inheriting by allocation.   Addington has to become an Addington a Forbury, and a Timaru all rolled into one. An Addburu! So can Addburu Raceway be a sound custodian of racing opportunities? A beacon and facilitator of democratic industry activity? Will its increased responsibilities provide a much needed injection of vigour and ideas into a beleaguered sport or will the increase in responsibility drive a dictator-like desire for further power and fortune?   Despite those slightly hyperbolic mutterings one thing is for sure, that if the new racing calendar does go ahead this new look Addburu will need to get its head around race programming. Lower-grade and / or non-winner stands will be an area of interest in particular. The number of these present in Addington race cards has always been limited due to the nature of historic racing and positioning within respective track hierarchies, that will need to go through something of a change with the lower grade or non-win horse playing an increased role in race cards. Standing starts,despite the mixed reaction to their existence , play a large role in a number of top stables annual race track returns and in supporting a good part of the racing landscape, fail to encourage or provide such race conditions and you’ll swiftly put a rather tight financial noose around the neck of a number of trainers.   Along with that it’ll be interesting to see if feature events from tracks closed maintain their significance when racing at Addington. Is a Timaru Cup likely to be the showcase of a Sunday card at Addington in 5 years time? I hope so (although back at Timaru the obvious best scenario) and what about the members of disenfranchised race tracks and clubs, how do you cater for those people and make them feel welcome, appreciated and valued? All questions that Addington will provide answers to soon enough I’m sure.     So what’s the sign of a successful transition to the Addington way of harness life? How about this for an idea.   Go through all of the meetings that were held at Addington, Forbury and Timaru over the last season and count up how many individual stables notched a win at any of the venues.Now subtract wins at Forbury from Southern based trainers that normally race further south anyway, you’ll be left with a number…Then go back after the season to come and count the number of individual stables that were able to win at Addington over the course of their 77 or so meetings. If Addington is representing the industry well and getting their race cards to encompass all grades and racing scenarios I do believe that the numbers shouldn’t be too far away from each-other (maybe a few less given that a proportion of the Forbury based trainers will simply not cover the miles to Christchurch like their Cantab counterparts have done) If that’s the case then well done Addington, the NZ Mett and all those involved. And if not? If there’s a large drop off in individual stables represented in the winners circles then I think we all know what that means. That the rich are getting richer and everybody else is off the mobile arm and struggling to keep up with the bills. That would be the concern but it’s also one that shouldn’t be judged right now. All signs are that Addington has been given a chance, an opportunity, for now it’s also a chance for the displaced masses if they want it and have the ability to get there.   So Addburu Raceway, It appears to be over to you!   Ben McMillan 

What sort of womble makes a statement of “make racing great again” when he knows full well the extent by which the game can not possibly achieve anything like that status? The last few days have seen dire announcement after dire announcement for the New Zealand Harness racing industry, all of which giving aid to the decline of harness racing as a sport and socially accepted pastime in this country. The extent of that future decline was communicated today by the Racing Industry Transition Agency (a most awful woman otherwise known as RITA) The details of some of the tracks closures and measures taken by authorities can be outlined here Why I say future decline is because that’s what these “proposed” measures will painfully ensure. Such a conclusion is weighted in sound logic too given that all measures offered promise negative consequences that seemingly far outweigh the perceived gains or positive effects they intend to have. All measures inherently limit any potential wide-spread recovery /growth of the industry to historic or new levels of both income and/or profitability.    Lets have a look into some of the proposed “fixes” RITA has come up with. 1) A reduction in race tracks used and more visits to the concrete jungles. This will deliver initial cost reductions and could almost seem understandable to a stone-faced bean-counter but it’ll also result in less localized advertising and sponsorship support to the industry and a potentially smaller racehorse ownership profile in years to come. It’ll hamstring next-generation entry-level participants due to a lack of exposure to the sport (take the local rugby club away and see how many Dan Carters you get coming out of the area ) and it’ll also have the added sting of ostracizing the most hardened industry supporters in some of racing’s historical strongholds, most of which, if they stay involved, will have to cope with increased costs of participation in the sport as a result (think increased transportation costs etc)      2) A reduction in actual race dates. This one’s hard to get your head around… a newly broken limb is swiftly amputated before it’s given a chance to heal and provide for whom it belongs…. By cutting race dates they are directly taking away any chance of using their own product to generate profits!      3) The axing of on-course presenters and Radio Trackside. Again this will cut costs but these moves come with a myriad of issues. Firstly expect race sponsorship levels to come under pressure. The lack of air-wave exposure and limited lead-in times to races will not sit well with sponsors forking out money to have their brand seen (or not seen as the case will be) The decline in on-course activity / patronage a small but important part of sponsors being able to build relationships within the industry also. There’s also less time to push turnover through explaining betting opportunities in any given betting market, less industry-centric goodwill (because those viewing the product will not get the chance to connect with it’s participants) and a local pre-race product of lower quality and value. Add to this an increase in lower-value wall-to-wall content from overseas tracks that very few punters actually want to see, namely San “No Bet” Diego, Golden “No-Interest”Gate, and “save my soul from this rubbish” Seoul!   4) The lose of print media or publication of race day fields. This may cut costs or seem border-line logical in this tech-driven world but will ensure less exposure for the sport to the wider public and also help fire a general ignorance of the industry ( the most powerful tool of animal welfare lobbies) As a side-note it’ll also be interesting to see if the humble racebook survives this time of change. An absence of one would see on-course punters (if any are really left) having to navigate through multiple screens on their phones to obtain the same amount of information they would have otherwise taken in within the time it takes for a glance to take place.   And last but not least 5) A total move towards electronic wagering operations. While attempting to future-proof the industry and keep up with the times this move almost certainly comes with increased technological costs-of-upgrade expenses in a sector that generally renders “advancements” obsolete before any positive effects of change can be generated anyway. It’ll only be 3-5 years before a wide-spread crypto-currency or “crypto-wallet” based wagering “future” is mooted with the price tag of implementation being a trillion and two dollars. It’s folly to go begging at the altar of technology when existing methods did the job well for so long.    So in essence, they got the artillery out, they tore the beating heart from harness racing and in the end the industry limps to its deathbed from a wound inflicted by friendly fire… All sounds like a jolly good time! I also want to point out this truth - that if the decisions, actions and incompetence that have led to the current situation existed among racing codes and their respective suits up until this point of crisis then there is every chance that the same conditions, the same poor conduct, decisions, actions and incompetence can exist after these measures take place. If the fat-cat wombles are allowed to continue to drive this industry for much longer then expect this period of industry unrest to continue long-term I’m disappointed for everybody impacted. I think you deserve better. Everybody deserves better than this, every trainer, driver, owner, punter,fan and perm-brigade-two-dollar-each-way-old-dot. Everybody deserves better than this farce.   Ben McMillan           

An announcement is out. Stake levels for the remainder of the New Zealand-based harness racing season have been advised. A minimum stake of $7’000 at all meetings, $8’500 maidens and faster at harness city limits… $12’000 on offer a couple of times a card. All in all it’s probably better than the funding apocalypse some were fearing and it’s probably lighter than what everybody hoped… But it is what it is. For the press release regarding these stake levels click here.    What will become apparent in the weeks and months ahead is just how hard the overall economic conditions post-covid are going to hit the industry. The next 3-4 months will most probably make it blindingly clear just how many employers (owners) will have to have the hard talk to their employees (trainers) and state their intentions to either sell up to local interests or export their stock, thus ending their involvement in the game. Racehorse ownership isn’t cheap. In fact most would sheepishly say that under the best of conditions it demands a far closer relationship with financial suicide than one would normally recommend. I took in a well known owner recently reporting that if he came out of a years worth of racing 40% down he’d consider it a sound year! (the owner has some of the best horses in the country) While economic recession or indeed depressions can act as a catalyst for people to gamble a little more ( a sad fact of desperate times / desperate measures) they are certainly not the ideal scenarios to see discretionary income expenditures maintained, neither do they act as motivators for people to go out and suggest to the other-half that a horse called Franco Earnsalot is their way out of hardship and into financial freedom. (A swift slap across the mug most probably the standard reply to such nonsensical foolery) This being said the question will become: when times are tough will the horse go or will the horse stay? How can the taxi driver with a 5th share in a horse justify shelling out $60-80 bucks a week (probably a touch conservative) to pay for a horse to be in work that 1) he can’t go to watch racing (at least for a while) and 2) is racing for reduced stake levels? And this goes on top of the fact that the taxi he’s driving at the moment has suffered a 75% reduction in turnover and a projected future about as bright as Davy Jones’ Locker. How can the cashed up business-man justify keeping a horse in work (that he owns in full) when most of the feature racing for the season has been cancelled leaving the main feature events some 5-6 months away? add to this the fact that next season’s base-stake levels are yet to be determined and look to be under an ever-darkening cloud themselves. Possibly the only thing that owners may look to as solace is the fact that a horse has a sentimentality attached to it, a promise even, if there’s a way of keeping the flame burning they might well make some sacrifices to see their horse hit the track again, even against their better judgement or realities they face away from the winning post. If a coffee or two can be forgone and the mortgage terms on the 4-bed be drawn out a little then the nag from Winton might just be the tonic needed in between the unemployment and business confidence reports. That taxi driver might be living for the day he wins that maiden, or gets to go to the track again and watch the horse run a meritorious 8th in front of him and his mates.      As for now I’m sure all trainers and drivers are going to be ready to get back on the track and racing. Let’s just be hopeful (and / or thankful if that’s the case) that there are owners left that can cough up when the training bill arrives.    Ben McMillan   

Don’t let the likely demise of the NZTAB kid you. It’s of their own making. A 50 year old, slightly overweight “Darren” living in Paraparaumu knocks off from work at 5pm, jumps in the car, goes 4 blocks down the road to the local piss-parlour, parks the car, gets out, stumbles slightly under his own weight, regains his composure, and then, almost elegantly, strides straight into… wait for it… A William Hill betting shop… and if you believe that then Elvis is singing his greatest hits tonight at the Waipu Memorial Hall. Monopolies are powerful things in the right hands. Free of regulation they can actively pursue ever increasing margins. Ask Warren Buffet what he likes about them, he’s got 75 billion reasons why he likes companies with monopolistic qualities about them. And yet, for all it’s competitive advantages, the NZTAB couldn’t make a decent go of business. It fell into a gold mine and came out with a wheelbarrow full of burnt turds.     If the NZTAB preaches that they don’t have aspects of monopoly about their business then they lie. If they roll out the “we’ve lost our competitive advantage to overseas bookmakers” argument then you have the right to swiftly kick them in the gonads and walk away without fear of consequence. It’s been akin to watching Terror To Love get a 30m head start on a bunch of maidens at Timaru and then witnessing the driver deliberately throw himself from the sulky when the tapes fly back!   "In terms of their harness racing performance the on-course TAB offering has been awful for decades" There’s been no education of the new punter, there’s been no desire to drive new entrants into the punting side of game by actively engaging in the social aspect of turning up to a race course and having a wager. There’s been no on-course "odds booster" concept to help drive attendance and support the periphery income streams associated with racing clubs… Novelty betting concepts have been non-existent. I’ve never seen a “beat the bookie” concept on course with a TAB bookie representative, no attempt to provide the racegoer with a good old “show us your mathematical dukes” and “let’s have a piece of your market” mentality. There’s never been a “best NZ bookie” competition that pits NZTAB bookies against each other over a nights action (and I don’t care if your the only bookie allowed, get three of your “risk aversion agents” to Addington, set up their markets on the lawn and let them go at it for a card against the common punter ) Free bets on course entry or on-course betting specials on feature races would have come under a “totally foreign ideas” heading.   Their much vaunted new fixed odds betting system (which cost about the national annual GDP figure of the Republic of Burundi) was met with about as much enthusiasm as a scheduled brain haemorrhage. Its implied value on the balance sheet laughable. It failed to deliver any ground breaking advancements in the way punters wager and ignored the growing trend of involving syndication / crowd funding or punters club aspects into its betting offering (a much needed advancement that could have opened up potentially hundreds of bespoke betting options for both facilitator and audience) They took years to accept some of the negative social outcomes of addictive gambling and address it by actively promoting healthy behavior when wagering (something I urged them to do when rung out of the blue by a Wellington based research group a years back) Social goodwill does exist and can be acquired by actively tackling the little less glamorous or accepted aspects of ones operation, sadly this was something the TAB failed to appreciate for far too long.       Their relationship with racing clubs seemed distant rather than complementary and growth focused. If their efforts in relation to harness racing were mirrored elsewhere in their wagering landscape then it's little wonder they’ve failed so badly…   "The divestment or outsourcing of the TAB business to overseas interests will have its own consequences" The NZTAB got stale and lost because it become just that. An immovable, grossly overweight, top-heavy, inflexible establishment that failed to appreciate what its customer base both wanted and would want once introduced to it. They didn’t get off their arse quick enough and do something about winning. Ironically the only ticket it didn’t have was one on itself! Don’t get me wrong, most of the front-line people working the for TAB seem lovely. They’re generally pleased to see you and competent enough to make sure you’re on before the mobile arm pulls away. But this isn’t about the soldier in the trench, it’s about military intelligence and the 4-star general that’s suppose to be running the show and calling the shots. All in all it’s been a mess. The fact that it’s near enough to being done shouldn’t exactly be met with any fanfare either. A divestment or outsourcing of the TAB business to overseas interests will have its own consequences. The NZTAB had something corporate bookmakers would kill for. A captive audience and a market in which to operate free of competition. But they stuffed it up. They were home and hosed at the top of the straight, then the shit hit the all-weather surface… Where to next I’m not sure. Maybe $1 each-way on horse number five, name: Lessonslearntthehardway. Ben McMillan 

So the initial-draft NZ harness racing calendar post COVID-19 level 4 and 3 lock-downs has been released. You can view the racing dates here  And, in a move that seems almost out of character, authorities have made, on the surface, logical decisions regarding just where and when race meetings will take place and on what days. There’s nothing ground-breaking or cutting edge about their response. The very conditions of the virus, and the circumstances which it’s imposed upon participants and racing, means that limiting the amount of tracks raced at and attempting to maximize their usage could be the only way forward in this early stage of returning to pre-covid conditions. Addington, arguably the easiest course to make a case for when delegating workloads, has been “rewarded” with an additional meeting on Sunday (with the Sunday meeting logically replacing traditional regional racing through the Winter period that existed pre covid) to go alongside a consistent offering of meetings to be run on Friday. Both Alexandra Park and Cambridge mix up their gait a bit by alternating Thursday dates with Wednesday being used at points also, while Invercargill proves the Southern siren-on-the-rocks, luring in an afternoon slot. The Invercargill days of activity include both Thursday and Saturday with the club running race cards once a week. The total number of meetings initially communicated within the time period described by the draft signals one additional meeting to be run when compared to pre-corona dates. A small victory one would tentatively surmise.    While a slightly more fleshed-out look to the calendar would have been nice (increase the visibility of the harness racing product by running six meetings per week, two within each region with limited races per card) the simple reality is that horse numbers (and the limitations of the current handicapping system) may simply not be supportive enough of such aspirations. Any dynamic post-dickhead-virus return to racing would seem a bridge too far given the Winter months this racing resurrection is set to take place in. A large amount of stables will simply have their eyes on preparing their horses for Spring racing calendars with the top echelon most probably thinking ahead to feature racing in September-November. That being said I’m sure they’ll be a large appetite from license holders to get their teams up and running and racing as quickly as they can possibly do so. The Key here is to get a product on the track producing turnover for those that rely on it. The draft dates at least achieve this. Get people, horses, trainers and support staff ( along with punters obviously) back in the game and pulling hard to mount their runs for both relevance and survival.     And until racing does return in a few weeks time… let’s hope one of us doesn’t get a bloody runny nose or dry cough…     Ben McMillan   

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