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Twelve months ago leading harness racing trainer/driver Gavin Smith was seriously thinking about giving the training side of the industry away. His team was constantly having problems and not performing on raceday and Gavin was at his wits end trying to get on top of the issues. Fast forward twelve months and Gavin's team is flying and he is on track to have his best season in the bike since he started as a junior driver. " The move to Ohoka has been great and from day one there the team has been on the improve." " I have plenty of young ones coming through as well so things are looking really good for the future," Gavin told Harnesslink last night. In the course of that conversation, the chances of Gavin's trainee Tangos Delight in the $40,000 Premier Mares Championship at Addington Raceway came up and Gavin was surprisingly bullish about her chances. " There is no The Orange Agent or Fight For Glory involved and I think with the right run she can get a bit of it," was Gavin's view pre race. Away well from barrier four, Gavin quickly slotted Tangos Delight into the trail behind Lightning Mach and Dexter Dunn and put the mare to sleep. Mid race attacks by Democrat Party and Rocker Band split the field up from the 800 metres and passing the 500 metres mark Gavin was able to move off the inner and onto the back of Democrat Party. Democrat Party mastered Rocker Band 150 metres out but at that point Gavin angled Tangos Delight into the clear and she quickly swooped on by for a decisive win. It was an inch perfect drive by Gavin which got the reward it deserved. The daughter of Bettor's Delight paced the 1950 metres in a very quick 2:20, a mile rate of 1:55.5 with closing sectionals of 56.3 and 28.9 and last nights win took her lifetime earnings over the $73,000 mark. " Since Cup day this mare has been going super every start." " In her last five starts she should have won a couple of them but she has had no luck at all and the driver stuffed it up a couple of times as well." " She can follow speed all day and she is lethal with one run at them like that," Gavin said. Gavin is just thankful that he still has the mare in his barn. " The plan with Ronnie (owner) earlier in the season was to try to win a race with her before having her served but she has been racing that well we had a change of plans." " The way she is going I don't think she is finished yet," That was the biggest stakes race ($40,000) that I have trained the winner of so that was a big thrill as well," Gavin said. The Gavin Smith barn has been firing on all cylinders all season as the UDR of 3237 shows and it there are no signs of it slowing down at this stage. Harnesslink Media    

Anyone assessing this years crop of three year old colts and geldings would place Lazarus at the top of the pile with Chase The Dream his greatest challenger but as the season has gone on Classie Brigade has slowly but surely started to close the gap on the All Stars pair. His run tonight in the $23,500 Alabar Super Series Final at Addington Raceway was just further confirmation of the improvement he has made since his third placing in the New Zealand Sires Stakes Final on Cup Day. Driver Ricky May settled him three back in the running line early before shooting around to sit parked with a round to go as Blair Orange and Buster Brady looped the field to lead. Classie Brigade sat on Buster Brady's wheel until 200 metres from home where he easily worked clear and went on for a comfortable 1 1/4 length victory from a game Buster Brady and Bite The Bullet who closed late up the passing lane. Classie Brigade cut the 1950 metres out in a sizzling 2:20.4, a mile rate of 1:55.8 with closing sectionals of 57.2 and 29.1 in the warm windy conditions. Ricky May was full of praise for the son of Bettor's Delight. " He just keeps on getting better this horse ever time I drive him." " I didn't mind sitting in the death with him tonight as he concentrates better there than he does when he is in front". " He still can knock off a bit when left in front early but he is getting better all the time in that respect." " I think he is the next best three year old after the All Stars pair and I think he has closed the gap since Cup time." " He does go good the Auckland way round so I think he is a chance of getting some of it at Derby time the way he is going," Ricky said. Ricky May is never one to get too bullish about a horse's chances so his comments would suggest that Classie Brigade will be a major player in the Woodlands Stud Northern Derby on March 11th. Harnesslink Media  

One of the things you notice these days when looking at harness racing in New Zealand is no matter what area of the country you are viewing, you are liable to be watching a Merv and Meg Butterworth owned horse racing at some stage of the day. From Alexandra Park in Auckland all the way down to Ascot Park in Invercargill, the Butterworth empire will have a representative at most meetings these days. Their investment and involvement in the harness racing  industry in New Zealand is huge and shows no signs of slowing down or tapering off. With the Butterworths buying so many high class fillies and mares, I suppose it was only a matter of time before they came full circle and started to offer progeny from some of those quality mares they have raced at the yearling sales. This year at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka on February 22nd, the Butterworths will offer Lot 74 for sale. Named Quick As Fire, he is a colt by the champion sire Bettor's Delight from the very smart Courage Under Fire mare in Queen Of Fire 1:57.1 ($176,809) She won 17 races in Australia and ran second in an Australasian Breeders Crown Final to the champion mare Make Mine Cullen 1:53 ($874,178) and was only beaten half a head in the Australian Oaks so she was a high class racemare. There are plenty of smart $100,000 winners close up in the pedigree but most would be unknown to New Zealand buyers however one horse who wouldn't be is the champion pacer Safari 1:55.7 ($535,446) who has been given a chance as a sire in Australia and is doing a passable job to date. When you look at the photos and the video of Quick As Fire, you can see there is a bit of Courage Under Fire in this colt which is a big plus in our book. The exciting thing down the line for yearling sales buyers is that potentially some of the outstanding racemares and fillies that the Butterworths own will having progeny in the sales in years to come. Golden Goddess cost Merv and Meg $101,000 at the APG yearling sales due to an outstanding pedigree. Now that she has shown she has the ability to go with the breeding, her residual value when she is retired to stud will be huge. If progeny from racemares like Golden Goddess find their way into the New Zealand Yearling Sales in years to come, it will be just another boost that Merv and Meg Butterworth have given the New Zealand harness racing industry. Harnesslink Media  

Todays running of the Amberley Cup at the harness racing meeting at Rangiora Raceway looked to be a Hug The Wind benefit race. The Bettor's Delight gelding from the all conquering All Stars barn has $300,000 on his card and looked a class above his rivals on exposed form. The only question mark surrounding Hug The Wind was how would he handle the grass track which he was racing on for the first time. Tim Williams had Hug The Wind away well from the 20 metre mark but the speed up front from the start was electric and it took Hug The Wind nearly 600 metres to join the running line , four back on the outer. When Jerry Garcia took off around the field, Tim followed him around with Hug The Wind and sat outside the tear away pacemaker Thefriendlyassassin from the 1200 metres. Mastering Thefriendlyassassin on the corner, Hug The Wind looked the winner for a second before Seel The Deal and Ricky May started to make ground quickly from three back in the running line. Half way up the straight Seel The Deal went up to Hug The Wind and went straight on past to record a very impressive victory. Hug The Wind lost no admirers in finishing a close second while a very game Thefriendlyassassin held on for third after doing all the work in front in a fast run race. The 2600 metres from a stand on grass was cut out in a smart 3:20.2 with closing sectionals of 59.6 and 28.2. It was the son of American Ideal's sixth victory at just his tenth start and took his stake earnings over the $44,000 mark. Ricky May was impressed once again by his charge. " I really have a bit of time for this horse." " I had to slot in four back on the inner early on because Gerard (Thefriendlyassassin) was flying in front." "Soon as the pace eased slightly I came out and sat parked and got a good run on Jerry Garcia's back after he looped the field." "I was spotting Hug The Wind a few lengths on the corner but he has picked him up really easily in the end." "It is not very often that you run past the blue colours with the grey stars so that made the victory even better," Ricky said. When it was suggested to Ricky that Seel The Deal had become a grass track specialist in his short career to date and that he may not be as sharp on grit, Ricky was quick to disagree. " I think he will be just as good on the all weather track to be honest." " He is a very green horse at this stage of his career and has plenty to learn still." " He has shown me enough on the all weather to suggest he will be just as effective on it as he is on grass." " I think this horse has got a big future," Ricky said. Ricky May is never one to build up a horse unless he is genuinely impressed by him so don't dismiss the chances of Seel The Deal when he next steps onto an all weather track. Harnesslink Media  

Harnesslink is covering the Australian Pacing Gold sale in Melbourne today. We have split the sale into four sections of 50 lots each. This is a report of the harness racing Lots between 151  and 200 The sale still had a bit of life left in it during the last 50 lots but once the two six figure horses had been sold, the sale seemed to drop right away with only nine lots in the last fifty making $30,000. The sale topper came via Lot 172 which would have been a lot of people's pick before the day startred. A full brother to the champion Waikiki Beach 1:50.6 was always going to be keenly sought after and when the dust settled he was heading to Western Australia. The purchaser was Walmersley Developments with Mike Reed who went to $150,000 to secure the good looking colt. The other yearling to top six figures was Lot 164 which is a full brother to Border Control ($515,435) and Chasin Racin 1:51. ($769,795). The Bettor's Delight colt had the looks to go with the breeding and was knocked down to Domenico Martello for $106,000.  After those two lots the next best was Lot 184 which was an Art Major colt from Flying Pocketlands 1:52.6 ($442,423). Andy Gath signed the sale slip for $75,000. There were only six other yearlings in the final group of 50 who made more than $30,000. * Lot 151  -  An American Ideal full sister to Sophies Ideal 1:53.5 ($139,717)  -  $33,000 * Lot 167  -  A Courage Under Fire colt  from Counbterfeit Girl 1:58.1 ($118,769)  -  $32,000 * Lot174  -  A Shadow Play colt who is a half brother to to Electrastar ($25,944)  -  $32,000 * Lot 175  -  A Bettor's Delight colt from a half sister to Sand Shooter 1:49.4 ($471,957)  -  $42,000 * Lot 189  -  A Shadow Play colt from a half sister to Keppel Bay 1:58.3 ($416,151)  -  $32,000 * Lot 190  -  A Art Major full brother to Smooth Showgirl 1:53.2 ($184,799) - $32,000 To view all the results from this APG Sale click on this link. Harnesslink Media

Harnesslink is covering the Melbourne Australian Pacing Gold sale today. We have split the harness racing sale into four sections of 50 lots each. This is the report of the Lots between 100 to 150 After a very good clearance rate between lots 50 to 100, the buyers went back into their shell a bit again with ten passings of lots that sold between Lot 101 to 150. However the lots that appealed to the buying bench were keenly sought after with the result we had two six figure yearlings between lot 101 and 150. The first of the six figure yearlings was Lot 112 who is a colt by the champion sire Bettor's Delight from the the imported Artsplace mare Trulyawork Of Art 1:54.1 This makes him a half brother to the millionaire Big Bad John 1:49. ($1,000,559)  who was the leading first season sire in North America. He was sold to Justin Baker for $140,000 The second of the six figure yearlings was Lot 137 who is a filly by Somebeachsomewhere from the smart Art Major mare in Art Shadow 1:557.5 ($114,488) A prolonged duel ended with the filly being knocked down to Merv Butterworth for $125,000 Two sires dominated this section of the sale. Somebeachsomewhere had six yearlings that made more than $30,000 aside from the $125,000 filly. The second highest Somebeachsomewhere was Lot 134 which is a filly from the 1:51.6 Courage Under Fire mare in Artic Fire ($394,262). She is another Neil Pilcher purchase and will head to the All Star barn in New Zealand. The other five Somebeachwhere progeny to make more than $30,000 were * Lot 113 - A half brother to Flaming Flutter ($634,989)  -  $50,000 *Lot132  -  A half sister to Village Green 1:52.1 ($625,585)  -  $62,000 * Lot 135 - A filly from the Village jasper mare in Arkareena 1:56.5 ($130,305)  -  $30,000 * Lot 138 - A colt from the Art Major mare Arterial Way 1:55.8  -  $50,000 * Lot 150 - A half brother to Don't Hold Back 1:53.7  -  $60,000 Art Major had five yearlings in this section that made $30,000 or more. The pick of them was Lot 115 which is a half sister to the champion Smolda ($1,293,989)  - who made $60,000. The others who made $30,000 plus included * Lot 105 - A colt from  the Live Or Die mare The Good Times 1:54.4 ($200,639)  -  $55,000 * Lot 111  -  A colt from a Bettor's Delight half sister Garnet River 1:50 ($525,547)  -  ($52,500) * Lot 121  -  A colt from Vixen Hanover 1:55.4 ($373,313)   -   $35,000 * Lot 129  -  A filly from a half sister to Lierre Noir ($117,085)  -  $ 31,000 Bettor's Delight had a couple of big sales with Lot 147 being a colt from Bollinger Baby 1:56 ($67,256) who made $91,000 and Lot 143 who is a colt from the 1:59.4 mare Brandall Rose who made $40,000 Mach Three also had a couple of strong sales with Lot 106, who is a full brother to Fly Like An Eagle ($699,475) making $67,500 and Lot 126 who is a half brother to Zoey's Boy 1:54.6 who John McCarthy brought for $30,000 The only other lot to make $30,000 was Lot 145, a Sportswriter colt from a half sister to the champion pacer Palone Ranger 1:49.4 ($1,259,545) Harnesslink Media

DOVER, Del. --- Shellysblockbuster, a 7-1 shot, and Four Staces won the two-halves of the Thursday, Feb. 4 harness racing feature over a 'good' track at Dover Downs. Corey Callahan drives three winners. Both winners left from post 2 and won in similar style in a driving finish. Vince Copeland steered Shellysblockbuster in a 2-hole trip to catch Summer Camp (Corey Callahan) at the wire in 1:52 with Star Messenger (Vic Kirby) taking third. Don Reed and trainer George Wagner own Shellyblockbuster, a nine-year-old Bettor's Delight-Love's Talk gelding who racked up his 20th win of his career. Two races later, Callahan picked up his third win of the day piloting Four Staces home in 1:53.3 with most of the field in the win photo. The Rocknroll Hanover-Miss Stacee gelding won his first of 2016. Mike Casalino owns the winner with trainer Dylan Davis. Pinerosa (Tony Morgan) was runner-up with Allstar Preview (George Dennis) third after being parked-out the entire mile. Corey Callahan and Montrell Teague, who won the first three of four races, had driving triples. Vince Copeland and owner-trainer Dylan Davis had a double. Dover Downs is dark on Friday, Saturday and this week only, on Super Bowl Sunday. Monday through Thursday racing begins at p.m. 4:30 p.m. When at the track, watch the live races and enjoy dining in the Winners Circle Restaurant's acclaimed Harness Racing Buffet. Call 302-674-4600 for reservations. Simulcasting of harness and thoroughbred racing is available daily from 12 Noon until 12 Midnight at Dover Downs where there is no charge for parking and admission. Reservations are suggested for the Winner's Circle Restaurant and for those planning to stay at the 4-star Dover Downs Hotel. Call 302-674-4600. Marv Bachrad    

There have been times in the last twelve months when leading harness racing trainer Robert Dunn has began to wonder if the smart three three year old Alta Las Vegas is cursed with bad luck. The son of Bettor's Delight has always looked an elite level racehorse from the time he ran a close second in last seasons Sapling Stakes to Chase The Dream but a series of setbacks have stopped the talented three year old from building the race record that he is so obviously capable of. Robert is hoping the bad luck is now firmly behind him. " We just about lost him as a two year old." " John had to rush him to the vets in the middle of the night when he became really ill."  " We never really got to the bottom of what the problem was but it completely curtailed his two year old season." " This season he was building nicely heading into the Auckland Christmas carnival when he slipped coming off the float and struck himself." "It needed quite a few stitches and meant he missed the $200,000 yearling sale pace so his luck has been all bad todate,"  Robert told Harnesslink this morning. Given time to get over his latest setback, Alta Las Vegas impressed trackwatchers at the Franklin workouts last Saturday, cutting out the 2050 metres event in a 2:01 mile rate with closing sectionals of 56 and 27 and still looked to have more to offer. " He went super at the workouts last weekend and has improved off that so I think he will be very hard to beat tonight at Alexandra Park." " The only query I have is there is a bit of virus going around Pukekohe and I have had to scratch a couple but he has had the okay from the vet so we should be fine," Robert said. Safely through tonight, Robert has some big plans for Alta Las Vegas. "We have always thought that he was good enough to beat the best ones around so  we have an ambitious program mapped out for him." " There is a $30,000 race for him at the end of the month at Alexandra Park and then we are targeting the Northern Derby, New Zealand Derby, and the Harness Jewels so we are hoping his bad luck is behind him and we get to see the real Alta Las Vegas, " Robert said. Robert in our experience is never one to build up a horse unless he deserves it so Alta Las Vegas is a horse to keep safe in all the big three year old classics coming up Harnesslink Media

This Saturday's Sapling Stakes at Ashburton Raceway may have only drawn a field of six runners but there is plenty of harness racing talent on show and labelling a winner is not that straight forward. The All Star barn have three runners engaged including the horse many consider the one to beat in More The Better. More The Better was super impressive last week in working during the running and still having too much in the tank in the straight. Driver Tim Williams was thrilled with the effort as he thought the son of Bettor's Delight was a run short going into last weeks race and would be a better horse this week. " He needed that run last week and should strip a much fitter horse this week." " His work this week has been excellent and I think he will be very hard to beat," Tim told Harnesslink today. The stablemate Pacing Major who has only been beaten by a head in both his first two starts has drawn out at six which makes things difficult but Dexter Dunn takes the drive so he has to be a major player here. The third of the All Stars runners is the $200,000 yearling sales purchase in You Gotta Have Faith who has drawn barrier one and will have the services of stable reinsman, Matt Anderson. On his trial efforts to date he has shown enough to be a serious place chance but both the other stablemates look more forward at this stage. So the All Stars barn looks very capable of winning another Sapling Stakes but we think that the Paul Court trained Mongolian Storm can upset the All Stars trio on debut. A $16,000 purchase at last years New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch, Mongolian Storm has had a thorough grounding leading into the Sapling Stakes, winning his last four trials and workouts in some style. The son of Courage Under Fire was super impressive in his latest trial win at Addington last Monday, swooping past the competition in a few strides when driver Blair Orange asked him for an effort at the top of the straight. Mongolian Storm has drawn beautifully at barrier two and with that speed he displayed on Monday, he becomes the horse to beat in our opinion. Trainer Paul Court is really looking forward to Saturday and seeing how his charge measures up. " He is a lovely horse and I think he will go a big race on Saturday." " I am just not sure he is ready to run 1:55 at this stage which they may go on Saturday but he is capable of winning the Sapling Stakes with a run to suit." " I haven't really asked him to run time as yet but I think this race will really bring him on in that respect with a view to the future," Paul said. Paul has been having a dream debut season training on his own account with his barn having two high class two year olds to represent him. Mongolian Hero put in a huge effort for a close third behind More The Better and Pacing Major at Addington last Friday and looms as a major player in all the major two year old races later in the season. He will head back to Auckland for the Young Gun Series early next week while after Saturday, Mongolian Storm will remain in the South Island to target the Kindergarten Stakes and Sires Stakes heats. " I want to keep them apart at this stage for their own benefit," " I am really excited by having two juveniles as good as these two in the barn in my first year training on my own account." " I know how hard it is to get one two year old of this quality so to have  two in the barn is a big thrill," Paul told Harnesslink this afternoon. Whatever the outcome of the Sapling Stakes this weekend, one thing you can be sure of going forward is that Mongolian Storm and Mongolian Hero are are going to be serious players when the juvenile classics are decided over the next four months. Harnesslink Media

If there is one thing you can be sure of heading into this years round of yearling sales in New Zealand, it is that the usual handful of stallions will dominate proceedings. Bettor's Delight just continues to raise the bar every year with his progeny dominating Australasian harness racing like no stallion in living memory and will deservedly be the most sought after sire. Hot in pursuit will be his biggest challengers in Art Major, Mach Three and Somebeachsomewhere but after that, the pacing stallion picture becomes a lot less clear. Rocknroll Hanover and Rock N Roll Heaven have had their moments at past sales and do have particularly strong offerings this year which may lift their results up to the top level above The averages for all of the other stallions at last years round of sales suggested buyers were a lot less forgiving of issues or faults with progeny of what we called the "second tier stallions". Some made reasonable money but a lot would have struggled to break even which in the context of what a lot of these sires have produced would seem an unfair result. In our view there is a lot of value for money to be had in the progeny of the second tier stallions at New Zealand sales and this year is no exception. Most of these stallions have shown they can leave that classic winning youngster but just not at the same frequency as the Bettor's Delights of this world. A good example for us is Lot 117 at the Australasian Classic Yearling sale. Named Lacey's Lad, he is a son of Lis Mara from the race winning Christian Cullen mare in Van Seraa. Van Seraa has three foals that are three years or older on the ground and to date she is batting at 100% winners to foals * Raesawinner - 1: 56.7 ($ 92,821) - By Elsu * Georgia's Jury 1:57.3 ($59,871) - By Lis Mara * Van Mara - 1:58.2 ($15,150) - By Lis Mara Georgia's Jury was a classic filly at three, running second to Adore Me in the three year old filly Sires Stakes final while Van Mara is a three year old who won recently at Alexandra Park. So this years offering is a full brother to two smart winners and the individual himself is a strong athletic looking colt so he ticks a lot of boxes for prospective buyers. To us he is typical of the value for money yearlings available at the sales by second tier stallions and deserves more than a passing glance from prospective buyers. Harnesslink Media  

The late Sir Roy McKenzie had a long term influence like no one else on the harness racing industry in New Zealand with the possible exception of his father who started it all ninety plus years ago. With the importation of stallions and mares from North America, Sir Roy completely changed the New Zealand industry and gave it a lift that can still be felt today. From stallions such as Sundon to mares whose daughters have left us stars such as Monbet, Sir Roy McKenzie was instrumental in dragging the New Zealand breeding industry up to international standard. One mare that Sir Roy imported who initially was very disappointing was the Adios mare Tina Rainbow.  Tina Rainbow had plenty to recommend her from a breeding prospective, being a half sister to Vicar Hanover 1:59.1 ($266,323)  who was a star on the grand circuit in the 1960s in North America and a half sister to the dam of Vance Hanover who dominated the New Zealand stallion scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s However two of her daughters turned that initial disappointment around in the next generation with Tina Scott producing the brilliant racehorse and successful sire in Knight Rainbow 1:57.7 (22 wins) ($243,693) while another daughter in Rainship produced the brilliant racemare Waihemo Rainship 1:58.2 (8wins) ($99,270) Waihemo Rainship was just as good in the breeding barn leaving eight winners including such smart colts as Anvils Revival 1:57.7 ($162,810), Tempest Anvil 1:52 ($91,600), West Coast Anvil 1:58.9 ($69,047) and Anvil's A Christian 1:58.3 ($56,346). The fillies she produced weren't much inferior if at all, including the very talented Anvil On Fire 1:55 ($81,862) whose first foal Karmic Fire was a six length winner on debut recently. Another daughter in Waihemo Anvil 1:59.2 has already produced two classy individuals in Anvil's Big Punt 1:57 ($131,980) and the high speed mare Anvil's Delight 1:54.4 ($60,941) to carry on a trend of a family that seems to produce just as many smart fillies as it does colts. There are a few from this family in this years yearling sales but the one that took our eye was Lot 141 at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka on February 22nd. Named Bebe, she is a daughter of champion sire Bettor's Delight from the racewinning Christian Cullen daughter of Waihemo Rainship in Bella Anvil.. Being bred on the same cross as Lazarus and Chase The Dream is never a bad start for any horse at the moment when trying to impress yearling buyers and the individual herself has a touch of class as you can see from the photos. The Sir Roy McKenzie influence on harness racing in New Zealand shows no sign of tapering off and the performance of Waihemo Rainship at stud is just another successful chapter to add to the record. Harnesslink Media  

The harness racing trials at Addington Raceway today unearthed a few more promising types but the one that really took our eye amongst the qualifiers was the three year old, Bet On A Rascal. A son of champion sire Bettor's Delight, Bet On A Rascal flew the tapes in the 2000 metres standing start qualifier and preceded to set a very solid tempo which had him clear of the field most of the way. Passing the 800 metres mark, trainer/driver Kevin Chapman upped the ante and he quickly put daylight between himself and the rest and Kevin's main concern from there was keeping the very green youngster's mind on the job. In the very blustery conditions, Bet Of A Rascal paced the 2000 metres in 2:35.2 which is four seconds inside the required time with closing sectionals of 59.1 and 30.7 as he coasted home 10 lengths clear. A half brother to such smart types as Skippy Rascal 1:54.8 ($87,719), Twilight Rascal 1:55.4 ($66,444) and Fiery Rascal 1:59 ($61,044), Bet On A Rascal seems to have inherited all the family ability. Kevin Chapman was impressed by today's effort. " He has only had a couple of soft workouts and a trial in the slush at Rangiora last week before today and hasn't woken up to the racing game yet." " He is quite a nervy horse at home around the stables but once he gets out there on trial day so far he has been really settled and sensible." " He is a beautifully gaited horse, typical of the Bettor's Delight's and with a bit more time and experience, he will do a good job," Kevin said.  It was a well timed performance today by Bet On A Rascal as Kevin and Barbara Chapman have a Rocknroll Hanover filly named Rock Me Gently from Bet On A Rascal's half sister Twilight Rascal 1:55.4 ($66,444) for sale at Christchurch on the second day of this years New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale. Kevin's stable star, the brilliant Lochaburn went around later in the day for an effortless win but  is having trouble finding a suitable race at present. " Some people think I should have him over in Australia on the Grand Circuit but after 14 months out with injury he hasn't got the racing miles under his belt  to be there at this point." "He is too good a horse to take any chances with," Kevin said. Harnesslink Media

As we have got closer to tonights $200,000 Group 1 Victoria Derby at Tabcorp Park Melton, more and more of the local harness racing trainers were saying that Lazarus was far from a past the post proprosition and was vunerable from his poor second line draw. Several suggested that he had been shown too much respect in his Derby heat win and that wouldn't be happening this week and he was very beatable. Trainer Mark Purdon as per normal for the reserved horseman refused to buy into the banter and instead was content to say he was thrilled where his colt was fitness wise and thought he would run a big race. And what a fantastic run it turned out to be as he worked hard throughout the Derby but still had enough gas in the tank to brush home in a brilliant 26.3 to add his name to the Victoria Derby honour roll. The very talented Don't Hold Back grabbed the lead early from barrier five for driver Greg Sugars and quickly signalled that he was in no mind to hand up. Mark Purdon was quickly onto the early three wide line but was left three wide for nearly 800 metres before finding the death seat outside Don't Hold Back with 1100 metres to go. Sugars was happy to let Don't Hold Back cut out even quarters in front before upping the tempo down the back straight. At the 400 metres mark Don't Hold Back went for the doctor and put a length on Lazarus and it appeared that an upset was on the cards. But as soon as Mark Purdon went for Lazarus, he quickly dashed up to Don't Hold Back and put the race to bed in a few big strides. Three Ways after sitting in the trail the whole journey snuck up the passing lane late to grab second from a very game Don't Hold Back. The colt by Bettor's Delight paced the 2240 metres in a brilliant 2:40.2, a mile rate of 1:55.1 with closing sectionals of 55 and 26.3. Lazarus has just had the 14 starts now for 12 wins and has taken his earnings past the $600,000 mark. The arrogance of the win by Lazarus tonight in doing a lot more work in the Derby and yet still getting away from his opposition when it counted stamps as a colt with a huge future in front of him. Harnesslink Media

The legendary New Zealand Hall of Fame harness racing trainer Roy Purdon was all smiles last night as his promising two year old More The Better cemented favoritism for next Saturday's Sapling Stakes at Ashburton with a narrow but impressive victory in the  two year old race at Addington Raceway. The beautifully bred son of Bettor's Delight from a full sister to the former champion Christian Cullen was thought to be slightly underdone by his connections going into last nights race and was considered vulnerable to both his stablemate Pacing Major and the the Paul Court trained Mongolian Hero. Wide early for driver Tim Williams in the 1950 metres event, More The Better assumed control from Pacing Major and Ricky May at the 1300 metres and applied plenty of pressure, running the next two quarters under 30 seconds. Blair Orange brought Mongolian Hero out to challenge at the 600 metres and sat on More The Better's wheel and these three smart two year olds drew away to fight out the finish. Most of the way up the straight it appeared that first Mongolian Hero and then Pacing Major would get the better of More The Better but it was not to be with the colt proving too strong in a tight finish. Pacing Major was a head away second with a further head back to a very game Mongolian Hero. More The Better paced the 1950 metres in a very sharp 2:22.5, a mile rate of 1:57.5 with closing sectionals of 56.6 and 27.1. More The Better was purchased out of last years New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch by Mark Purdon for $62,500 and he subsequently gifted his father a half share. Roy has since taken long time friend and racing partner David Levine into his share as well and it appears they are in for a big season with the colt. Last night Roy was struggling to remember the last time he had won a race as an owner at Addington. "Well its too long to be honest." "Probably back when Mark Roy was winning the Derby." " I won the Oaks down here with Pacific Flight about the same time." "David is very excited and I have to say it is great to win a race down there again," Roy said. The gap between drinks is significant with Mark Roy and Pacific Flight which were both co-owned by Roy winning the Derby-Oaks double in 1993 in the hands of Mark Purdon. Driver Tim Williams was suitably impressed with the winning effort. "It looked tight in the end but he was cruising half way down the straight and might have eased up a bit." "I expect he will go to the Sapling Stakes now," Tim said. With the Sapling Stakes only a week away,last nights three placegetters all gave their supporters plenty of encouragement heading forward to next weeks classic. Harnesslink Media    

If the harness racing stocks in the open class ranks in New Zealand were already looking a bit thin lately, then they just got a bit thinner again today with the sale of high class pacer Te Kawau to the Bob Bresnahan stables in New Jersey, USA. The 5 year old son of Bettor's Delight has always looked a star in the making since making his debut as a late two year old and his record of 12 wins and 14 placings from just 39 starts is testament to that. A very unlucky fifth in last months Auckland Cup behind Have Faith In Me, Te Kawau looks to be just reaching his prime as a racehorse and should do a huge job in North America. Trainer Stephen Doody was philosophical about the sale of his stable star. "The owners looked at overall picture here and like everyone else thought that beating the Purdon runners was never going to be easy and that those big barns have plenty more coming through so I can understand their decision to sell." "With his gate speed and toughness,I think he is ideally suited to racing in North America and will do a huge job up there for his new owners," Stephen said. Te Kawau wont lack for company on his trip from Palmerston North to New Jersey with his very promising stablemate Alta Leroy also on the plane with him. The five year old son of Life Sign only started racing twelve months ago and in 15 starts since has won four and been placed six times and has looked a very promising pacer in the process. A great second at Auckland recently to Stroke Of Luck in a 1:57mr for the 2200 metres impressed his new owners in New Jersey and sealed the sale. "It is never easy to have two horses of their quality leave the barn at one time but Alta Leroy will do a great job up there as well. "He is only just learning the racing game and has it all in front of him." "With those two racing up there now, I have a good excuse to take a holiday in North America to watch them race," Stephen said. With the interest from North America for quality racehorses from New Zealand on the rise in the last few months, Te Kawau and Alta Leroy can expect to have plenty more Kiwi horses join them in the Northern Hemisphere before this season is over. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing buffs who have been in the industry for a decade or three will have no trouble recognizing the name of Grice when it comes to the breeding of high class standardbreds in New Zealand. Ben Grice was a dominant figure in the harness racing and breeding industry in New Zealand over many decades, stretching from the 1920s through to the early 1980s. His colours were the equivalent of the Purdon-Rasmussen colours of today in always having serious contenders for the age group classics of their time. The maternal families that he built up over the generations were full of classic winners and were highly sought after in the rare times they became available on the market. Since his death, the maternal families established and developed by Ben have been spread far and wide throughout Australasia and while their influence is not the same as it once was, the families continue to produce that exceptional youngster. The latest star from the Grice breed to make his mark is the exciting Bettor's Delight gelding Burnaholeinmypocket 1:52.1 ($ 135,847) “The winner of eleven from twenty two to date in Australia, Burnaholeinmypocket made a huge impression on New Zealand harness racing fans at last season’s Harness Jewels meeting at Ashburton where he drew the outside gate, settled well back and then flew late for an unlucky fourth to the brilliant Have Faith In Me.” . “Back now at four, Burnaholeinmypocket has won his first two starts in Victoria in the manner of a horse that is headed to the top.” Those performances will be bringing a smile to the faces of the Breckon Farms team in New Zealand as they prepare to sell his half brother Pumpt at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka on February 22nd. The son of Mach Three is typical of stock by his sire in being very athletic and correct and would attract buyers attention regardless of how well his half brother is performing. Throw in the fact that Fleshing, a full sister to Pumpt was a race winner at two last season in Victoria and that only adds to the colts attraction to buyers. The Ben Grice influence in 2016 may not be what it once was on breeding in Australasia but his long established maternal families still have the ability to leave that high class individual. To view the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale catalogue click here. Harnesslink Media

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