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One of the last bastions of harness racing action at the moment is New Zealand. Currently the country has a “closed door” meeting policy which aims to limit potential harm to the industry and allows the racing action to continue. The government closed all borders to foreign nationals on Thursday night with "mercy flights" to retrieve Kiwis stranded overseas a possibility in weeks to come.     Despite the major disruptions to normal life a premier card featuring a number of Group races was run successfully on Friday night (the 20th of March) at Addington Raceway in Christchurch. The card saw four feature races run and won. All the action can be viewed by clicking on the links provided below.   The first Group race of the night the The Lamb & Hayward Trotting Championship at Group 3 Level ($30’000) proved to be a competitive affair with the Brent White trained One Apollo ultimately prevailing at odds of 10/1 over the race favourite in Winterfell. A telling,sustained bid 800m out from home by both runners set up a home-straight battle but it was son of One Over Da Moon who proved the stronger late. The trifecta was made by Overzealous, a horse known for it’s noticeable grey coat and passionate ownership group. Watch the race here      The “What The Hill” New Zealand Trotting Oaks (Mobile trot) Group 2 Level ($50’000) saw trotting fillies go to the line. It was won well by the Kevin Townley trained Vacation Hill, a striking looking filly by Muscle Hill. A patient drive by Samantha Ottley early was followed by a 3 wide move 600m out from the post with the filly giving more than enough in the run home to score nicely over Chevron Action who had moved to the front of the race a lap out from home. The All Stars trained Tailored Elegance filled the trifecta after working early to the front then finding the trail. Watch the race here   The Vero Flying Stakes (Mobile Pace) Group 2 ($50’000) saw some of the very best 3yr olds in the country go to war over the 1980m distance. Early speed from behind the mobile gate by Minstrel meant race favourite One Change (who had drawn the inside #1 barrier) had to work around to get the lead back, Copy That, driven by Blair Orange forged around them thereafter to take the lead with a lap to go, Heroes Square, driven confidently by Tim Williams, joined the party with 800m to go after a back-straight move to outside of the speed. The final furlong proved a close run thing but the Ray Green trained Copy That proved his class by kicking strongly and holding out One Change and the fast finishing Minstrel. Bad To The Bone and Heroes Square lost no admirers with their efforts either while Willison, who was off the speed throughout, also found the line with some purpose. All-in-all a good barometer of respective abilities as these horses head towards the Derby. Watch the race here   The First Direct Taxis Superstars Championship (Mobile Pace) Group 2 level ($50’000) rounded out the feature races for the night and was won by the All Stars trained Another Masterpiece who wrestled control of the race after moving to the front with a lap to go. His good kick ensuring a strong win from the fast closing Triple Eight and a game Nandolo who had to sit parked for the early part of the race and bested Franco Santino in the shadow of the post for a minor share of the prize.  Watch the race here    New Zealand based harness fans will be hoping that the quality racing can continue in the coming weeks despite the trying conditions. Hooves and fingers crossed.     Ben McMillan    

The New Zealand yearling sales are over. Horses bought and sold, passed in and farmed out to new homes. It’s an exciting time for the harness racing industry in general. There are how-many-hundred horses going off to be trained for the track, some will get there, some will not.. one to two might even be champions. So how do you convince people post-sale that they’d be better off parting way with a bit of cash to own a racehorse than spending it on the multitude of other things crying out for their pay packet? At least part of that problem can be solved by fractional syndication or ownership models. It’s become commonplace... it’s also become a necessity. Prospective owners don’t grow on trees,and the times of people owning a horse outright have, unfortunately, disappeared. That’s a shame but with escalating costs of training being past on to owners it’s the inevitable reality.   Fractional ownership is becoming more and more popular. Like most things it has its positive and negative aspects. Harnesslink recently highlighted an article (which can be viewed here) regarding the first Australasian winner, ( a two year old pacer called Girl From Oz) for the The promotes fractional ownership and was created and championed by Anthony and Amy Macdonald, The concept now boasts an 800 -strong ownership group, mostly North American based. A major feat indeed. Closer to home both the Breckon Farms syndicates (Tailored Elegance being among their “Savvy Six syndicate runners) and Alabar Racing syndicate have had their fair share of successes when getting syndicated runners to the track. The celebrated victories of Chase Auckland ,who has amassed more than $740’000 in stakes earnings to date, have resulted in a rush to the birdcage by a sea of owners and a rush to find more glasses for racetrack officials so that everyone can have a glass of bubbly. A new addition to the syndication or ownership “marketplace” is “Off N Racing”. Set up by harness racing man-who-wears-many-hats Andrew Fitzgerald (he’s held various positions within the industry having spent time both in and out of a sulky) Off N Racing can be seen as another entrant to the “small costs-big fun” that syndication implies. In fact the motto of “100% of the fun at a fraction of the price” sums up Off N Racing’s mission quite nicely. If there’s one advantage Fitzgerald has it may lie in his relative youth (he’s 24 years of age ) and his ability to engage an ownership group through use of social media. He currently handles social media communications for a number of stables and is keen to implement newly evolved industry-ready software (think Prism) to further and streamline trainer-to-owner interactions. In other words he’s keen to bring a slightly more professional and structured way of actually letting owners know what the bloody hell is going on with their horse!     A look into the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale results reveals Fitzgerald wasn’t shy to stick his figure in the air. He acquired 4 lots all of which are currently being syndicated. The pick of them, at least to his eye, coming in the form of Lot 90 “Nortie Nortie” A well bred son of Andover Hall whose road to a sales series race, and its relative riches, seemingly the easiest given both the attrition rate (not all that many trotters emerge at two years of age to start with ) and respective differences in abilities of trotting lots on offer in any given crop. He’s ticked the “youthful and motivated” box when locking in trainers with both Michael Purdon (whose started his training career successfully enough with One Guy Hall and Copperfield recent winners of note) and Regan Todd engaged for training duties alongside the proven and steady hand of Graeme Rogerson.    As with most syndication experiences the “Off N Racing” concept will most likely live or die by the quality of its service towards syndicate members. That’s always been the way and always will be. Syndicate members need to feel involved, valued and that their financial input isn’t taken for granted no matter what percentage of ownership they have.   The stable visits and duel sulky events Fitzgerald mentioned when talking to him regarding the venture, while not new, would appear promising ideas that, if conducted well, could provide a slightly different, if not eye-opening, backstage-view to what training involves for syndicate members. Wider “big picture” or out-of-the-box ideas to involve owners should only really be welcomed and tried as what starts out an idea can prove successful but only if given the chance to develop and thrive.       As for the perfect syndication outcome? Fitzgerald is quick to point out that providing “a good experience in harness racing ownership” is at the top of his priorities. That’s a simple enough aspiration most probably shared by all in the syndication game. In the ever-crowding battle for ownership dollars it’s the delivery of it that holds the real promise.   Ben McMillan  

It’s often hard to line up 2yr old form with any confidence. A smart, well bred performer might look a million bucks one week and perform like it’s worth two bucks-fifty the next. Couple that with the All Stars Stables dominance of juvenile racing in New Zealand over the past few years and you have an argument that might say “she’s a nice one for next season” or “she’ll be better placed once the good fillies are out of the way” I’m not entirely sure that argument would hold up for a certain trial and workout performer lately… Credentials are as follows Trainer: M Anderson Horse: Town Echo The Art Major filly, out of a Bettor’s Delight two-win mare in Cordelia, has impressed in her two trials and does genuinely look like a horse that can have punters sitting up and slinging their hard-earned on at short notice. Her eight length blitzing of a field yesterday at Rangiora trials (in a time of 2.35.7 over the 2000m mobile) comes after a bullish trial performance some three months ago at Addington when accounting for the Cran Dalgety trained Karmic Delight. On that occasion Town Echo found the line like a horse in a hurry completing the last quarter in a little over 27 seconds from the trail to win by a comfortable two length margin. Yes it’s early days but there are fair wins and there are nice wins, the efforts of Town Echo certainly belonging in the latter of those two descriptions. A further investigation in to the prospective quality of the filly is supported by a brief look at its closely-related performers. Aqua Sancta (2 wins from just 7 starts on NZ soil) Zinny Mach (now multiple winner in the USA) and the well travelled Our Bagger Vance (8 wins) all have blood ties to the Anderson runner. When you couple those family-ties effort with the sound UDR of the young trainer / driver then you have a compelling argument towards Town Echo being more than your average run-of-the-mill qualifier.     So while the two year-old riches generally go to the stable racing in blue with a few stars on their chests if would pay to follow the Anderson trained runner in the months ahead. There’s a strong chance you’ll witness a nice horse, in full flight, winning races.    If Town Echo is the horse her recent efforts suggest then Lot 35 at the upcoming 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale is well worth a look. “Cover Girl” is a Bettor’s Delight filly offered by Breckon Farms and is closely related via her dam (Sossusvlei) being a half sister to Cordelia. “Cover Girl” is only the second foal out of Sossuvlei and a full sister to the forementioned Aqua Sancta. Pedigree updates; Aqua Sancta 2016 (Bettor's Delight-Sossusvlei, by Art Major - Corbie) 29/11/2019 2nd NZMTC NZ Sires Stks 3yo Silver 1-58.3 Cash N Flow 2012 (Mach Three-Karen Donna, by In The Pocket - Megaera) 09/11/2019 2nd Nswhrc at Tabcorp Pk Menangle NSW Kevin Robinson ffa Gr.3 16/11/2019 1st Nswhrc at Tabcorp Pk Menangle NSW Sue Kelly ffa 1-49.9 Gr.3 30/11/2019 2nd Nswhrc at Tabcorp Pk Menangle NSW Lazarus At Yirribee ffa Gr.3 06/01/2020 1st Tabcorp Pk Menangle Ainsworth Game Technology Pace 1-52.0 25/01/2020 2nd Tabcorp Park Melton Vic Casey Classic Gr.2 Perfect Stride 2016 (Bettor's Delight-Chicago Blues, by Christian Cullen - Bluejeanbabyqueen) 26/11/2019 1st Nswhrc at Tabcorp Pk Menangle Garrards Horse And Hound Pace 1-53.1 25/01/2020 3rd Tabcorp Park Melton Vic Derby Gr.1 Ben McMillan

Superstar pacer One Change is not for sale. At least that’s what can be derived if the Chinese-whisper-mill of the harness racing industry can be believed. The offer, which would have bought you a 4-bed family home in Invercargill or a front porch in Auckland, obviously not tempting enough to get connections to part with their Group 1 performer. You can’t blame them either. The son of Bettor’s Delight has been a force unabated in group features from the time he first stepped onto a racetrack proper.      His impeccable resume includes no less than three Group 1 victories from just 11 starts (Sires Stakes Final, 2yr Old Emerald, 2yr old Garrards Sires Stakes) alongside his wins in the NZ Yearling Sales Series Final and NZ Yearling Sales 2yr Old Open Final both at listed level. It’s been a remarkable run by the son of Bettor’s Delight, who has never missed filling a place in any of his race-day appearances and seems to have a knack of knowing when to lift in the final moments of feature events (his passing lane victory on Cup Day in the Sires Stakes Final provided true drama as the All Stars charge fought to cling on while the David Butcher driven Copy That descended from the clouds to get within a crowds gasp of taking victory himself) $156,400 3yo Sire Stakes Final $195,000 Sales Series Final One Change was seen at Ashburton trials on the 4th of February when running a leisurely 5th in behind stablemates Dina Bolt and Flying Even Bettor. If history is anything to go by it’ll be the worst position he runs for some time! The racetrack success of One Change continues the famed run of Chaangerr as a broodmare. Her longevity as a producer, in one word, stunning.   The Vance Hanover mare started a life of motherhood in 1996 and swiftly produced the mother of Joey Maguire (7 wins) and Chokin Hanover (whose own progeny includes Donegal Chokin with 14 wins) in Bhutan. Bhutan was quickly followed by Mulan (mother of 6-race winner in Hermattjesty Mulan) the seven race winner Shang (by Troublemaker) and Morad who won eight, a Life Sign mare, Jarntimarra, was foaled two years after Morad and would, in turn, leave Jonah Jones (19 wins, 131’000) Chaangerr then turned up the heat by leaving a number of colts that would all be highly successful race horses. The flying, now siring Changeover (whose $2.3 million dollar-earning career included  Northern Derby, New Zealand Derby, Taylor Mile, New Zealand Cup, multiple Harness Jewels victories and Len Smith Mile titles ) the Group 3 placed Change Gear (who went on to win no less than 22 times) and Change Stride who couldn’t stop saluting the judge when reaching Australian shores winning 12 of his first 18 starts on the continent. He has now raced successfully across Australasia and North America with over $360’000 dollars earned and continues to win bringing up his 28th career victory last week at the Meadowlands. This hot broodmare-hand continues to be played to this day with daughters of Chaangerr continuing on the proud history. One of those daughters being the mother of One Change in Changedown. Changedown brings real interest to the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale this year with a 7/8 sister to One Change. Lot 87 “Star Change” offered by Breckon Farms is a bay filly by Betting Line. Alongside One Change (first colt) Changedown has produced the impressive Renske B (2 wins, $58’000) and the current Australian winner in Ah La Vitesse.   Lot 87 Star Change Ben McMillan

If you were to look down the list of NZ Standardbred Breeders Stakes winners you’d be looking at a list of some of finest harness racing mares to run on New Zealand soil. It’s a race that invariably attracts a strong field with plenty of depth.   Tellingly, the running of the race also generally results in the in-form mare of the time prevailing. The storied history of the race includes the three-time winners in (Blossom Lady (1991,1992,1993) and Bonnie’s Chance (whose last title came at the end of 1983 after winning the same title on the 1st of January of the same year) Kym’s Girl, Shortys Girl and Lento all captured the title twice. The Robbie Holmes trained Kiwi Ingenuity won in 2009 while Bettor Cover Lover (2013) Adore Me (2014)and The Orange Agent (2017) are all recent winners of the Group 1. An impressive roll of honour indeed. This years edition of the New Zealand Breeders Stakes, to be run on the Friday night, is shaping up to be another competitive affair . Conversations regarding the favoured runners are dominated, and rightfully so, by the All Stars trained Princess Tiffany who opened her account this time in on the 31st of January with a front running win in the Group 2 Garrards Premier Mares Championship. You’d have to think that Princes Tiffany would only improve off the back of that first-up effort but so will others… The Bagrie trained Bettor’s Heart continues to run strong races and does pose a genuine threat if able to receive a decent mid-race position, while the Steve Telfer pair of Step up (second in the race last year) and Ivana Flybye ,who has drawn the #1 barrier, both put in sound performances in the Mares Championship and should also be respected. Other prospects come in the form of the Barry Purdon trained Wainui Creek, the much-improved Enchantee, who can find the line better than most from a sit behind genuine speed, and the Steve McRae trained Nemera Franco, a mare whose risen through the ranks in recent times and has shown a genuine ability to find the line. All-in-all a competitive looking field once you get past the All Stars runner.   Apart from its obvious riches the NZ Standardbred Breeders Stakes plays an important part in any broodmare career that race participants may go on to have with the black type and group title garnered from a victory in the race acting as a powerful endorsement of a mares quality on the track and continued worth when heading to the paddock for mothering duties. It’s a common belief that the best of a generation can, and often do, leave the best of the next. With that in mind it comes as no surprise to see a number of past NZ Standardard Breeders Stakes victors and performers represented at this years 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale to be held at both Karaka and the Canterbury Agricultural Park.    These include: Willow, the runner-up to Venus Serena in 2015 when trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, is represented with Lot 69. Offered by Breckon Farms “Willow Bay” is by Art Major, the colt will look to carry on a strong family history that includes early-going types in Go West U Terror (Pearl Classic winner and 2100 Golden Slipper runner-up) and Tricky Styx (2yr old diamond classic winner and WA Derby runner-up) both are the progeny of a sister to second dam Listen To The Rhythm. Luisanabelle Midfrew, the 2016 winner of the Breeders when trained by Nigel Mcgrath, brings her first foal to the sales in the form of Lot 201. A Somebeachsomewhere colt named “Midfrew Laguna Bay” The family has found success lately with Letsgotothehop (8 wins) being a notable Australian performer last year. Nearea Franco, who placed in behind the Robbie Holmes trained Kiwi ingenuity in 2009 has a Bettor’s Delight filly in. Lot 224, Nirvana Franco, will want to repeat the racetrack success of Nike Franco (multiple Group 1 winner and career earnings of almost $1’000’000) The wider family went very close to a maiden victory at Alexandra Park on the 7th of February when Franco Nandor (the first foal out of Nicaea Franco) was narrowly beaten by the Steven Reid trained Mr Fantastic. And Lot 352, Aliberto, a Somebeachsomewhere colt is the fifth foal out of the 2012 winner of the race in Carabella, a champion mare who has already produced Olivia Rachel (2 wins, 7 places). A close relation, a 2yr old Bettor’s Delight filly, Girls Need Pearlz (out of Andress Blue Chip) has been seen at trials and workouts as recently as last week. Ben McMillan

It almost seems fitting for the harness racing mare Affairs Of State to leave a nice horse at the moment, what with Impeachment proceedings, State of the Nation speeches and Iowa vote-counting mess-ups.. Politics aside (and there’s a fair bit of politics in harness racing too at the moment with RITA and the Messara report to wrangle with) the Brian and Gareth Hughes team did achieve a vote-garnering effort at the trials and workouts on Saturday with two fillies from the barn, named Giddy Heights and Oranje, producing the quinella in heat five of the day at Pukekohe. Giddy Heights (out of Affairs Of State) looks a decent prospect and should carry some strong support from constituents in her debut when she hits the track on Sunday at Cambridge. The three year old filly by Somebeachsomewhere has shown solid trial and workout form with her Pukekohe run (she ran home in 27.3 over her last 400m untouched) supported by workout efforts behind both Russley Rush (now a winner from limited starts) and the Tony Herlihy trained runner in Mailman (whose sure to attract interest on Friday night when he steps out for the first run of his career at Alexandra Park due to the fact that he’s out of a good race mare in The Fascinator). The only question mark surrounding the debut of Giddy Heights on Sunday being an inside second-row draw although she is the only horse on the second line. Punters should also follow the stablemate (and second placed runner from the trials) American Ideal filly Oranje. Her workouts have shown that the 3yr old filly also has some ability not to mention some very good blood with the Hughes stables flagship performer in The Orange Agent being a close relation.   The Orange Agent - 23 wins from 33 starts for $746,423 in earnings The Hughes stable has had limited starters this season and currently sits on three wins with I’m A Denny Two accounting for two of these wins and Hughie Junior the other. You do get the feeling that additional wins are pending with the two fillies mentioned here both likely to impress at short notice.    Keen buyers can search out their own nominee for higher honors soon with the family of Giddy Heights represented at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sales by Lot 47. The well named “The Iron Lady” is out of Stateofthenation (the 2nd foal out of Affairs Of State) and is poised to bring her own no-nonsense approach to the racetrack. The filly, by Somebeachsomewhere, is a half sister to Heza Head Honcho, a horse that competed in both the 2yr old Golden Slipper and WA Derby, his consistent record standing at 5 wins and 10 placings from 32 career starts. The wider maternal family is well known in Australasian winners circles with half sisters to Stateofthenation producing the likes of Just Stopandstare (4wins) and the recently successful Bita Banta who brought up his 4th and 5th wins on Australian soil over the last fortnight at Leeton and Riverina Paceway. Under Cover Lover (3rd dam) provides the matriarchal success story. Her race record and success being of a global nature with celebrated victories across Australasia and North America.     Ben McMillan

Grand harness racing campaigner and Group 1 winner Texican is likely to join the illustrious 1-million dollar earner club in quick time with the Bettor’s Delight gelding currently only $20,000 away from reaching the milestone. The USA based pacer, who is now the ripe old age of 12, continues to be a factor on the track winning as recently as last week at Freehold Raceway in New Jersey. The win continues what has been a true success story for the Australasian export market and continues to advocate for how the North American racing scene can benefit from tapping into proven down-under performers. Texican started his career racing out of the Cran Dalgety stables in Canterbury, New Zealand and quickly made an impression achieving a maiden victory in just his second start while racing at Addington raceway on the 8th of April 2011. This was quickly followed by a slashing runner-up performance as a 2yr old in the NZ Yearling Sales Series Final at listed level in behind the Mark Purdon and Grant Payne trained Western Cullen. After a spell away from the track Texican returned later that year and spent little time before returning to top form, form that culminated in what was most probably his crowning glory on New Zealand soil with a 1/2 length victory in the Sires Stakes 3yo Final of 2011 at Addington when driven by Dexter Dunn (another New-Zealand export who has found the North American racing scene to his liking). To watch the replay of this win click on this link. Other New Zealand based successes followed in his next two seasons with a Group 3 placing in the Vero Flying Stakes and a Group 2 victory in the Alabar Southern Supremacy Final of 2012. His overall NZ race record standing at 13 wins from 31 starts and more than $280’000 in earnings. Upon export to North America Texican has become a proven big-race performer. His North American highlight-reel includes a number of notable Open Handicap wins. Under the guidance of trainer Peter Tritton Texican raced in the famous Levy Series at Yonkers Raceway for three concecutive years 2014, 2015 and 2015 with his most notable performance running third in the 2016 Final worth $609, 000 to stablemate Bit Of A legend. Here is that race; Behind Texican that day were P H Supercam ($1,731,000), Take It Back Terry ($1,539,828), Lucan Hanover ($1,263,289) and Mach It So ($2,921,549). A bit of “Texican magic” is available at the upcoming 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale to be held at Karaka on the 16th and 17th of February. Lot 51, an American Ideal filly named Debbie Do, is out of  Toast To Cullen. Lot 51 - Debbie Do Toast To Cullen has herself left a noted globe-trotting pacer in the form of Kenrick who had 4 wins while racing in New Zealand, a listed classic win to his name in Australia and a plethora of wins (not to mention a 1.50.1-best time over the mile distance) state-side with his overall earnings topping the $220’000 mark. Toast To Cullen can be connected to Texican through her dam Toast Of New York ,who herself is the grand-dam of the soon to be (fingers crossed ) millionaire. A toast to Texican awaits!!!  Ben McMillan

A decent mare and a fun-loving name seems to be all you need for harness racing racetrack success these days . At least that’s what Luvhavinfun is preaching.     The Courtney Slater trained runner has quickly notched up 4 wins from just 10 starts and is back on a winning streak with back-to-back victories in the past fortnight with a win at Maryborough on the 23rd of January followed up by an almost effortless display at Charlton on the 30th when able to sit in the one-out one-back position and make a late claim wide on the track. This latest run of victories is the second time in her short career that Luvhavinfun has doubled-up with a Geelong-Penrith brace of wins coming in late July-early August. To watch Luvhavinfun win at Maryborough click here. To watch Luvhavinfun win at Charlton click here. It’s often hard to assess the real ability of a horse when racing around some of the more rural or country tracks but if you dig a little deeper into the race-day performances then you’re likely to make the picture a little bit clearer… A sound indicator of ability may have come in the form of a fighting 4th on the 12th of December when racing at Hamilton. On that occasion Luvhavinfun,who was sent out third favourite, faced an awkward second line draw and soon found herself at the rear of the field ,obtaining a three wide-with-cover position late in the running Luvhavinfun was able to mount a decent initial bid in the run home and close down the outer behind none other than the progressive Jim Barker trained Good Faith. Good Faith has since gone on to place in a Victorian Oaks heat and been an unlucky recipient of a check when mounting a run late in the Victorian Oaks Final itself. Such comparisons between horses can seem trivial and are often misplaced but when you marry the consistent form-line and sound times run by Luvhavinfun then you’d suggest that connections have reason to be optimistic about the mares future. A close relation of Luvhavinfun is being sold at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale. Lot 79, “Big Boy Louie” Offered by Breckon Farms is a Bettor’s Delight colt out of a 1/2 sister to Luvhavingfun in the 8-time winner Big Lucy. Big Lucy has already met with broodmare success having left the Brendon Hill trained winner Louis Litt who won his second start before being exported to Australia recently. Australasian harness fans will know the exploits of the wider bloodlines here too with this being the family of the Group 1 placed Franco Hendrix (10 wins, $114’000) Forty Thieves (12 wins) and the sub 1.52 pacer in Regulus who placed 3rd in the 2013 NZ Kindergarten Stakes behind Messini.    Ben McMillan

It might be the heat? Maybe it’s the people? Could it be the food? Whatever it is the harness racing progeny of the New Zealand based Van Seraa can’t seem to get enough of Australia. That fact has been hammered home with multiple wins by her progeny in the last few weeks with the latest being the February 1st victory of Laceys Lad at Newcastle. To watch the video replay of this race click here. The Newcastle win (Lacey Lads 8th around the track) came just a handful of runs after another victory at Newcastle in early December and extended his overall record to 8 wins and 10 minor placings from just 36 starts. He’s not the only current member of the “Van Seraa crew” to be doing good things at the moment with Van Mara proving competitive in the Group 2 Mercury80 Final at Melton in late January when running 4th to Always Fast. His consistent race-day efforts have seen him notch an impressive 15 wins and $150’000 from 77 starts. Prior broodmare offerings by Van Seraa have included both the 4-win Lis Mara mare Georgia’s Jury (who ran Adore Me to under four lengths at big odds in the 2012 Sires Stakes Fillies Championship Final) and the successful Elsu-sired Raesawinner who seemingly kicked off the love affair of Australian shores by winning no less than 16 times around several Australian states and amassing over $150’000 in career earnings.    All-in-all it means that Van Seraa has now left five foals to race for five winners (with her 4th foal Mcleod’s Daughter winning on Kiwi soil before being retired to broodmare duties herself)            More recently “Good Faith” has kept the family ties in the spotlight (Good Faith being the first foal out of Georgia’s Jury) with an almost arrogant start to her racing career with three emphatic wins (the first two being at Ballarat) being followed by a 3rd in a Victorian Oaks heat on the 19th of January. The Oaks Final, a torrid-paced affair over a staying test of 2760m, proved a bridge too far although connections must be buoyed by the early ability shown by the filly by Bettor’s Delight. If Australian buyers are keen on having the next of Van Seraa’s progeny in their barn and on Australian shores then they can make their way to Karaka for the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale and start putting their finger in the air. Lot 55, “Robbity Bob” is an American Ideal filly offered by Breckon Farms and is the sixth foal out of the mare… it’s most probably going to be the sixth winner from the mare too if history is anything to go by. Ben McMillan

A change of harness racing trainer and a scenic trip across the Cook Straight has proven decisive in the recent turnaround in form of the royally bred Rockahula Joe. The son of Roll With Joe, currently placed with the Michael House team, proved too strong from the van at Manuwatu on the 31st of January when accounting for a fair field over the 2500m mobile trip, his final 400m impressive as the now 4yr old scored by a margin of 3 1/2 lengths over the Peter Ferguson trained Final Delight. Rockahula Joe then backed up on Sunday at Otaki but was on the receiving end of a gut-busting parked-out to lead run on the sodden surface and weakened out of things. Despite the latest run punters would be prudent to label Rockahula Joe a “follow with interest” horse in weeks to come as a resurgent form-line may not be too far away.   Initially trained by Mark Jones, Rockahula Joe notched up a win at Wairio and five minor placings before his recent departure to the House stable with his last dividend-bearing effort before his Manuwatu victory coming at Banks Peninusla on the 29th of December when running third in behind the improved Ben Waldron trained Georgie Zukov and the Nigel McGrath trained Cloud Nine who has shown real ability himself greeting the judge as recently as Friday night at Addington.  Rockahula Joe The recent win of Rockahula Joe shouldn’t really come as a surprise as the gelding, while arguably an under-performer on the track so far, has some serious horsepower behind him being directly linked to the famed Rich N Elegant. Rich N Elegant, a mare that seemingly bred champions for breakfast and world champions for afternoon tea, managed to leave a number of households names . A quick look at her progeny reveals multiple millionaires and sires in their own right with Rocknroll Hanover (Breeders Crown, Meadowlands Pace victor with 2.7 million in the bank), Royalflush Hanover (2.7 mllion) Red River Hanover (1.3 million) , Rustler Hanover and Richess Hanover all being out of the mare. It’s a broodmare record you’d be hard pushed to best in any sales catalogue around the world.    A close relation to Rockahula Joe is being offered by Breckon Farms at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale. Lot 127 named “Break Thru” is an Art Major colt out of unraced Bettor’s Delight mare Hulabaloo Baby.  While this is her first foal prospective buyers do have Abercrombie sire-lines to compare notes on with Rockin N Roll Lad (9 wins) being by Artsplace. The multiple time Group 3 winning Blazin N Cullen (27 wins , $572’000) is also a close relative.    Ben McMillan

I was given my first sales catalogue by an astute harness racing industry participant (who generally knows pedigrees like the back of his hand) a while back on the premise that he thought it would make interesting reading. A few brief looks at its pages later, and with the penny dropping as to how to read the information within, and I found myself increasingly absorbed by the books apparent promise. Like anyone who has gone in search of the next harness racing star the fun of it all started with the sales catalogue… One of the first things I noticed was the presence of a mare called Black Watch and just how much of an impact her progeny had made both as racehorses, and in the case of her fillies, as successful broodmares. A history of the family in full would run into volumes and put simply I couldn’t do it justice, a more succinct effort I’ll attempt…   Black Watch (foaled in 1966 out of Black Globe mare Rosehaven) established herself as a leading miler when driven by Peter Wolfenden in the late 1960’s, the mare by Scottish Command powered through a career of racing in the North Island to amass 14 wins from 75 starts with 16 minor placings, most of her victories coming in her younger years with an impressive run of consecutive wins to start her racing career. It’s also worth noting that, while Black Watch has gone on to do great things for the breeding game, both Nancy Iola (think Burgundy Lass and Star Of Venus) and Tata Matapo are daughters of Rosehaven also.     Lordship The broodmare career of Black Watch started with a trip to two-time NZ Cup winner Lordship, the coupling produced the 9 time winner Tay Bridge and was soon followed by the flying Remarkable (by Mark Lobell) who captured a Group 2 title in the form of The Golden Mile when driven by Owen Purdon, A subsequent jaunt to North America saw the animal break 1.54. The real guts of this story starts in the late 1970’s and beyond when Black Watch produced a number of daughters that would all prove magnificent broodmares. Of these daughters three that stand out to me in the form of Aberfeldy (1978) Significant (1979) and Corbie (1990) although 3 race winner Espirit Noir, a Vance Hanover mare foaled in 1986, also deserves mention as her progeny includes, among others, Star Fleet (mother of Star Of The Ball) Aberfeldy proved a tremendous success leaving five time winner (and the mother of Sovereign Hill, Tarena Jay and sub 1.52 pacer Black Reef) Jayvee as her first foal. The 17 time winner, multiple Group 1-placed (including a 2nd in the Easter Cup) Reba Lord followed two years later. Ken Breckon with 31-year-old - Aberfeldy Daughters out of Aberfeldy include the Breckon Farms matriarch mare Megeara ($250’000), the mother of The Reckoning in Tosti and Marysia, whose most notable success as a broodmare came in the form of 11 race winner Mr Bojangles. Mhairi and Medea, both daughters of Marysia have continued their mothers’ story of success with Our Pacquiao (17 wins,$165’0000) being out of Medea. The success of Aberfeldy as a broodmare has been equalled if not surpassed by “Significant”, a mare by Out To Win. Significant showed a real ability to leave genuine speed in her offspring with her first two colts being National Image (13 wins, $115’000) and the Group 1 placed The Unicorn who scored 29 times and won a pinch less than half a million dollars in career earnings. To best these performers Significant then went on to leave sub-1.52 mare Pacific Flight (47 lifetime wins) with Pacific Flights progeny including the mother of Timeless Perfection, Red Moon Rising and current Dunn trained prospect Down To The Bone. Pacific Flight N - 47 first place finishers and purse earnings of $508,454 in North America Chicago Bull, who has written plenty of harness racing history himself winning the WA Derby, Fremantle Pacing Cup and Western Australian Pacing Cup can also call upon the “Significant speed factor”. Not wanting to conclude her winning broodmare ways there Significant then left a full sister to Pacific Flight by the name of Gliding Flight. Foaled in 1992 Gliding Flight quickly notched up 8 wins from just 18 starts for Mark Purdon. A subsequent broodmare career of her own saw Raptorial (1.50.2 pacer) Seaward (K Barron trained winner of 9) and the mother of NSW Derby runner-up Malcolms Rhythm in Shes Got It All. Rounding off “the big three” from Black Watch is Corbie. Her broodmare career most probably the richest and most successful within the Black Watch narrative. Colts left by Corbie include the Group 2 placed Agios Nikolaos and the 17 time winner Vingt Coeur while Our Bagger Vance,a later colt by Falcon Seelster, won 8 times. For all the success achieved by her colts it’s in her fillies and their subsequent broodmare careers that Corbie has succeeded beyond measure.      Most of her daughters have become either stars of the track or stars within the confines of their  broodmare paddocks. Almost all have left well performing racehorses. Her first filly “Black Maire” left champion race-mare Lauraella ($650’000), Group 1 runner-up The Muskeg Express and sub 1.55 pacers in Estilo and The Pacman while Kruizr, trained by Michael House, has already won 5 times from just 18 starts around the Canterbury region. Black Maire was closely followed by Macy Gray, an In The Pocket filly whose first 5 fillies all won and have left the likes of Macy Blue Chip (1.54.1) Macy Supreme (12 wins, $87’000) and the exciting Major Express who in currently active winning as recently as the 20th of January when racing at Bunbury. Lauraella A full sister to Macy Gray “Soleil D’or had limited races and has now left the Steve Baucke trained Delight My Soul (7 wins, k85’000) and I’mallaboutthebase (5 wins, $79’000). A slightly more recent Christian Cullen filly out of Corbie “L’Oiseau De Nuit” has become a proven producer leaving Billy Jack and Someardensomwhere (7 wins, $65’000) while Zingara (a full sister to L O’iseau De Nuit) just might be one of the most successful daughters of Corbie yet winning 5 races herself and leaving Laredo Torpedo (12 wins, $108’000) and the now USA based Zinny Mach who has been racking up wins at regular intervals since being exported. Racehorses out of the Corbie dam-line continue to flood racetracks across Australasia with Aqua Sancta (2 wins, $22’000 from limited starts) and My Agera (6 placings from 7 starts) being current flag-bearers.      The story of Black Watch will continue at this years 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale. It’s good to see Breckon Farms strongly representing a breed they’ve been closely associated with for some time now . The maternal lineage of Black Watch can be sighted in many lots during the sale. Lots 124, 197, 264 and 278 all can be easily traced back while a link to a harnesslink article regarding Lots 101 and 106 can be found HERE  Another lot to be offered by Breckon Farms out of the family is: Lot 93. “Cos I Can” is a colt by Always B Miki and is out of a daughter of Corbie in Cordelia (2 wins when trained by Geoff Small) Cos I Can has a trial-winning two year old 1/2 sister “Town Echo” who is in work with Matt Anderson. Lot 93 - Cos I Can Ben McMillan

The charmed run of progeny of Muscle Hill continues unabated across Australasian racetracks with the stallion continuing to flex his siring power with victories coming in bunches over the last fortnight and potential riches on the horizon for those he’s sired at upcoming harness racing features.   Recent New Zealand based winners by Muscle Hill have included the royally-bred John and Joshua Dickie trained Daisy Hill who scored by 4 1/2 lengths at Alexandra Park on the 24th of January, Bolt For Brilliance (Harness Jewels winner last season) who extended his record to two wins from just six starts with a win on the 17th of January, and two runners from the Nigel Mcgrath stable who won at different tracks last week with Chloe Rose being too strong at Banks Peninsula on Sunday while One Over Da Son outstayed a nice field to take victory a couple of days prior at Addington Raceway. One Over Da Son will look to continue putting palings on his growing picket-fence form-line (he’s won his last two) at Addington on Friday night.     Recent Australian victories by progeny of Muscle Hill have been spearheaded by arguably the sires Australasian headline-act in Dance Craze. The 6yr old Anton Golino-trained mare accounted for both Tornado Valley and Wobelee in the E B Cochran Trotters Cup at Group 2 level on the 18th of January at Ballarat. To watch Dance Craze win the 2020 E B Cochran Trotters Cup click on this link. To watch Dance Craze win the 2019 "What The Hill" Great Southern Star click on this link. Dance Craze will attempt to defend her Great Southern Star title, a title she won last year by beating out Temporale, on Saturday night at Melton where the mare has drawn the inside of the second row and will follow out Red Hot Tooth. A repeat been-there-done-that performance of last years victory would be some feat indeed with this years field being one of both outstanding depth and quality. All things said and done this latest spate of victories continues to outline just what a magnificent addition Muscle Hill has been to breeding stocks and operations around the world from the time of his racetrack retirement right up until the current day. His progeny winning in excess of $65 million (including ten millionaires) in North America alone so far!  Average earnings per starter is just over $140,000. Muscle Hill will once again be strongly represented at this years 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale with the sire still attracting top-line mares despite only having limited lots in the sale. The three Muscle Hill lots to be offered at Karaka are all offered by Breckon Farms and include- Lot 115, a bay filly ,“My Fear Lady” who is out of former 2yr trotting filly of the year Fear Factor. The yearling looks likely to produce a bit of fear factor herself if her illustrious lineage plays any part in affairs.   Lot 115 - My Fear Lady This well known trotting family has shown a genuine knack for early success on the race track with both Prince Fearless (8 wins including the 2yr old NZ Yearling Sales Series at listed level) and Group 1 Victorian Trotters Derby winner Stress Factor showing that the breed is a genuine threat to all when first hitting the track. That go-early-win-early trend has been marvelously carried on by the Tony Herlihy trained Cheeky Babe (again by Muscle Hill) who went 100% through her first four race day appearances before running a 3rd (first filly home) in the NZ Yearling Sales Open Trot Final behind the Nathan Williamson driven Ultimate Stride. Cheeky Babe is out of a 1/2 sister to My Fear Lady. Lot 64 - Hill Of Grace Another potential star square gaiter by Muscle Hill is found in lot 64 “Hill Of Grace” The filly is out of (Im) Whitney who managed to win 8 times during her career including a win in the Group 3 Northern Trotting Breeders Stakes (when beating out Pretty Sunday) (Im) Whitney also placed in two Group 2 races behind Queen Kenny and All Royal Gal (14 wins, $172’000) Hill Of Grace is the first foal out of Whitney and is sure to carry interest with those interested in an entry into proven trotting bloodlines. Ben McMillan              

Somewhere in Tony Herlihy’s harness racing stable there’s a calendar with a big red circle around the months of December and January and the words “Dina Brown” scribbled all over it. There has to be! The daughter of Bettor’s Delight has made the summer months her own in recent weeks bringing up two wins and three minor placings in her last six starts. This strong run of form started on the 13th of December with a mile-distance second to The Paua Diver at Alexandra Park and was quickly followed by a gallant second to Fabrizio when gearing up to celebrate the end of the year on the 31st of December. Her form obviously wasn’t effected by any 2020 celebratory hangover with a comfortable win accomplished at Cambridge on the 5th of January when driven by junior driver Taitlyn Hanara.    Her latest trip into the birdcage for photos being an emphatic four length romp at Alexandra Park on the 24th of January when setting a sound pace and running away from race rivals at the top of the straight. The overall time of 2.41.4 over the 2200m mobile completed without the use of the persuader. This run of consistent winning form mimics an initial 3yr old campaign which saw Dina Brown win or place in three from her four starts over the same December-January period. While the mare does seem to have penchant for sun-god worship it’s also worth remembering that she’s been able to foot it in all conditions with a third placing in the 3yo Diamond at last seasons Harness Jewels behind none other than Princess Tiffany and race winner Belle Of Montana. The performance, albeit aided by the inside draw, came on an easy Addington track that had been the victim of heavy rains the night before. The recent race record of Dina Brown is starting to deliver on a strong family tradition, that of winning. Her dam Pullover Brown (12 wins, $333,000) left fields in her wake during the early 2000’s with notable victories coming in the form of an NZ Oaks title alongside a truly successful Australian campaign that included wins in the Victorian Oaks, Australian Oaks (5 length winner over the Maurice Mckendry driven Classical) and a Breeders Crown 3yr old Fillies Final title captured at Bendigo. Pullover Brown, herself a full sister to the sub-1.50 pacer Montecito, has also been able to add a well coiled broodmare-string to her bow leaving serial Australian winner In Runaway Bay (39 wins, $279’000) and Dina Bolt, who placed in the Group 2 2yo Classic behind Virgil at Invercargill in April of last year and currently has two wins from just eight race-day starts.   The next “Pullover-production” is due to to be offered at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale at Karaka on the 16th of February. Coming out of the Breckon Farms draft Lot 19, a son of American Ideal, carries the name American Conqueror and will no doubt have his fair share of ability. Lot 19 - American Conqueror His favourite time of year is yet to be determined…           Ben McMillan

Mention the name Mark Dennis to New Zealand based harness racing fans and they might vaguely remember a young Purdon / Payne trained runner with a fair bit of ability. Mention the same name to Australian followers of the game and you’ll be quickly made aware that the horse is still winning! That’s right, the now 11 year old ex-kiwi brought up his 45th win just last week at Menangle clocking an impressive 1:52.9 for the mile in the hands of Lauren Tritton.    Mark Dennis started his career in victorious style in late mid October of 2011 at Addington Raceway with a victory over the likes of All Star Man (8 subsequent wins) and the Cran Dalgety trained speed-machine Texican. His last start on New Zealand soil came just three weeks later in the Sires Stakes 3yr Old Final and saw the gelding by Bettor’s Delight produce a fighting 5th behind Texican after having to work around the field mid-race, his late charge up the passing lane peaking a little too soon to see him victorious.   The horse was almost immediately exported to Australia where he’s excelled ever since.   His racing career on the track in Australia has seen it’s fair share of highlights and close calls. A Group 3 victory in the ‘Temprid Insecticide Pace” eradicated any notion that the horse couldn’t compete for Group honors. That effort was quickly followed by a slew of group racing appearances with a 3rd in the Group 1 Cordina Sprint of 2014 behind Suave Stuey Lombo most probably representing the zenith of his career. A long stint in South Australia from 2014-2018 saw consistent results particularly around the Globe Derby track with both Mark Billinger and Ryan Hryhorec enjoying success when partnered with the bay. Mark Dennis The well travelled horse, whose career now spans a total of 249 starts, has won races at tracks throughout Australia with victories at Mildura, Melton, Albion Park, Kapunda and Cranbourne to go alongside his most winning ways around Menangle and the fore-mentioned Globe Derby. His most recent turning-back-the-clock performance a reminder to all that  writing off  Mark Dennis due to his advancing years is a very risky proposition indeed. The racing success of Mark Dennis can, at least partly, be attributed to his impeccable breeding as the son of Bettor’s Delight is out of the proven broodmare Twice As Good. Along with Mark Dennis the Butler B G mare has foaled Fight Fire With Fire (7 wins, $150,000) the Group 1 Queen Of Hearts winner Waitfornoone and the consistent St Barts who ran Monkey King to a nose at Addington in the Winter Cup of 2009.  He’d go on to notch up 14 wins and over $150,000 in earnings across both New Zealand and Australia. A number of yearlings from this strong family are to be offered at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale. Two of which both come from the Breckon Farms draft. Lot 118, a brown filly by A Rocknroll Dance, is out of Fellamongstabeauty (1 win from 2 starts) who is a 1/2 sister to the mother of the dominate 4yr old Pacing Mare Of The Year Elle Mac. Elle Mac claimed numerous Group 1 titles including, but not limited to, the Northern Oaks, Sires Stakes 3yr Old Fillies Championship, Caduceus Club 2yr old Fillies and Harness Jewels. The A Rocknroll Dance sire choice makes sense when you consider that the now Australian based Miss Streisand, who placed 4th in the Victorian Oaks, is also by the sire and raced with distinction in New Zealand prior to being exported. Lot 118 - Dancing Desire Lot 121 is another yearling with close ties to Mark Dennis. “In The Spotlight” a Bettor’s Delight filly is out of the early-going Goodlookingbabe who was impressive on the track with 3 wins from just 14 starts when racing out of the Geoff Small stable. “In The Spotlight” is only the second foal out of the mare with her first foal being sold for $35’000 at the 2019 sales. Lot 121 - In The Spotlight Ben McMillan  

If the first-up win by Henry Hu at Menangle last week is anything to go by then you’d think the harness racing gelding would be pitching his tent and staying as close to the New South Wales speed-dome as possible. The son of American Ideal, who was fresh off an impressive second behind none other than Auckland Cup winner Self Assured at Alexandra Park on the 14th of December, proved too strong in his Australian debut beating a respectable field of proven pacers. The overall time of 1.52 flat over the mile distance an indication of the early speed and strong mid-race tempo that defined the race. Henry Hu had it all to do from a wide barrier and was off the speed early but benefited from a nice sit in the running line while the Lauren Tritton driven Colossal Stride made sure that the pace was a true staying test. Peeling at the top of the straight Robert Morris managed to find Henry Hu the space he so desires and the 4yr old did enough in the run home to ensure his introduction to Australian racing was a winning one. Henry Hu Henry Hu has always shown ability with his New Zealand racing record a very good one. After going two-for-two to start his career his gait proved his greatest adversary when going for a trifecta of wins galloping late at Alexandra Park on the 20th of September when looking likely behind the likes of the Group 1 placed Line Up. His more recent runs include a tough 4th when parked out on a 2.39 / 2200m mobile behind the Barry Purdon trained Sole Ambition. His forementioned 2nd behind Self Assured coming after an arrogant win from the front of the pack a fortnight prior. There’s every reason to believe that Henry Hu will, in time, mature into his impressive self and become a genuine open class pacer too. His potential is matched by good bloodlines with his dam Dana Maguire having already left the 4 win pacer The C E O. Dana Maguire is herself a 1/2 sister to the mother of both Group 1 Nursery Flying Stakes winner Burnaholeinmypocket (22 wins) and Positano (9 Australian wins). Lot 5 - Itsamoneymaker The next prospect from this family appears in the form of “Itsamoneymaker” Lot 5 at the upcoming 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale. Offered by Breckon Farms the colt, also out of Kelly Maguire, is by Somebeachsomewhere. A 2yr old 1/2 brother to Itsamoneymaker, the gun-slinging bank-robbing “Ned Kelly” is currently in the Robert Dunn barn.    Ben Mcmillan  

You’d be hard pressed to find a harness racing filly with more going for her than Darling Me. The full sister to multiple Group 1 winning filly Sweet On Me and daughter of New Zealand Cup winner Adore Me appears to have inherited all of the family ability as her latest trial win at Ashburton on Tuesday would attest. The trial win, while sedate in time clocking a 2.06.6 overall time for the mile journey, did have a touch of class about it with Natalie Rasmussen guiding Darling Me into a forward position initially before taking a sit three back on the markers behind stablemate Bettor Twist, peeling for a wider bid 400m out Darling Me was never fully extended but accounted for her race rivals in an easy enough fashion. This most recent trial win comes off the back of two impressive outings on both the 8th of January and 23rd of December when in the company of stablemates Yea Baby, Bettor Twist and Dream On Me. Yea Baby (out of Harness Jewels winner O Baby) would seem the most logical threat to a Darling Me at this point in time. The filly by Somebeachsomewhere strips a nice type and looks to have the speed to compile a decent last bid if called upon. Her second to Darling Me on the 8th of January saw her lead up and be caught late while Tuesdays effort may point towards her preferred mode of operation with the filly showing a smart turn-of-hoof from late cover to close within a head.     To watch a video of O'Baby winning a $150,000 three-year-old Jewels Final click on this link. Interest in the stablemates and their prospective abilities will be heightened with the two both likely to reach the track for their race day debuts next week. While claiming a beachhead into the famed Scuse Me bloodlines would seem slim at the moment the chance of picking up some “Braeside Star” speed factor looks far more promising with a Bettor’s Delight colt out of O Baby being offered by Breckon Farms at the 2020 National Standardbred Yearling Sale. Lot 13, “Manchild” is a full sister to Beachbabebeauty who impressed out of the Ken Barron barn winning 3 out of his first 5 starts beating the likes of the Chariots Of Fire placed Hail Christian and Ex Brendon Hill pacer Cullenburn who is now a Group 2 winner in Australia having placed in the Sires Stakes Final as a three year old. Lot 13, Manchild The wider maternal family encompasses the achievements of horses like the Sires Stakes 2yr Old Fillies champion Kayla Marie, the All Stars trained Paddy Brown (5 wins and 4 placings from just 20 starts) and the rugged Australian-based pacer Neighlor (16 wins) To go with those performers you can add a little more spice to the victory dish by adding in the fact that this is the family of Iraklis. Ermis and the horse they called Monkey King.      Ben McMillan 

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