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Ideally, a few more would be the perfect result, but even if Paul Court only trains one more winner this season he’ll be a happy man. In just his second season of solo training, the West Melton horseman has drawn level with his debut season tally of wins with 35 victories on the board and four weeks of racing still remaining. That should spell a new personal best by the time August rolls around and Court considers that mission accomplished. “You set out at the start of the season with the goal of going better than the season before,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have had a good season again, with some nice horses wearing the colours and doing the job out on the track.” After training in partnership with his father, Graham for seven seasons with close to 100 wins, the pressure was always going to be on the young trainer when he broke out on his own accord. But with 70 winners in his first two seasons and a strong team of horses around him, things are looking pretty bright. “It’s been good to be able to pick up where Dad and I left off in a way, we’d set things in motion and I’ve been able to carry it on which is great.” Incidentally, one of the finds of the season for Court was the horse who registered his 35th victory on Friday night at Addington. And he’s hoping that Malik isn’t finished either. The Somebeachsomewhere colt has now won four of his last five starts and is a horse on the rise. He beat a tidy field of intermediate grade pacers on Friday night showing some impressive qualities in the process. “He’s just getting better and better, I was a wee bit hesitant on Friday because we had taken him off the unruly, but he handled it really well and showed a bit of class against what I thought was a pretty good field. “He’s starting to stand up and show what he’s got now which is great, and the best part is that I think he will just keep getting better. “We’ll press on through the winter with him too, so hopefully he’s not finished.” The other leg of Court’s winning double on Friday night came from Beach Skipper, who took longer to win his first race than anticipated. He’d technically already won a race, but that was a dead-heat at Methven, so Friday’s victory was well overdue. And adding double the delight to the win, was the fact Court did the driving himself. Despite not driving often these days and preferring to leave that job to the likes of Blair Orange and Ricky May, Court has still managed to grab himself a win each season for the past 12 years from very limited opportunities. Matt Markham  

It is a lot easier to give up a shot at New Zealand’s racing toughest record when you already own it. So champion driver Dexter Dunn will miss the end of the season even if it costs him setting a new national record for win in the term. After a typically successful weekend Dunn sits on 199 wins for the term, 30 more than closest rival Blair Orange so assured of his 10th straight driver’s premiership. With 19 meetings left in the South Island for the remainder of the season, 27-year-old Dunn would only need to average one per meeting with a couple of extras to break the record of 220 wins. He set that figure back in 2011 and got close with 214 last season and 216 the one before. While the profitable Southland circuit finished over the weekend, there are five Forbury Park meetings to go this season, which are often the scene of multiple wins for Dunn. But complicating Dunn’s equation is the fact he will miss the last weekend of the season as he heads to North America for a brief holiday before his defence of the World Driver’s title in Canada in August. Dunn won the series in Australia two years ago and says it takes priority over breaking the national wins record. “I can’t wait to get over there because it is a great series and you learn so much,” he says. “Not only is it special to represent your country but you make a lot of friends and learn things from all the other drivers. “It will be my third championships and it is the highlight of the season.” Dunn wants to travel to the championships via New York to take in Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands so will miss the final two meetings of his season at Addigton and Oamaru. “That could potentially end up costing me getting past 220 but it doesn’t bother you are much when it is your own record,” he admits. “But if I get to 218 or something with a week to go then I might not see it that way. “It would be cool to reset the record and I think it is possibly on because the Forbury meetings tend to be be pretty good to me and I don’t have any Australian commitments coming up.” With another 200-win season just one away Dunn will continue a scarcely believable average of just over 200 wins per season for the ninth straight year, even more remarkable because nobody else has ever achieved the feat even once. “I’m on 199 now and not being stuck on that is one of the most important things, because I’ve finished two seasons on 199 and that sucked. “But I should get well past that and considering how long a season it has been I am feeling pretty fresh. “I haven’t had as much travel to Australia this season, which has helped.” Dunn says while his strike rate is better now than ever, driving a winner every 4.7 drives, he says he drives more “ugly races” now then he used to. “The racing has changed so much in the last five years,” he offers. “You used to be able to sit back and drive them pretty and come with one run when I first started driving but now you have to be on the speed a lot more. “The odd one can still come from back in the field but on the whole you need to be on the speed because they just keep running.” If Dunn does get surpass his 220 seasonal record he could also join another very elite club as he sits on 1978 career wins in New Zealand, meaning he could top 2000 before the end of the term if he has a stellar next six weeks. The biggest difference: Dunn is 25 years younger than any other member of the 2000-win club. And if he keeps winning at his current rate he would become New Zealand’s first 4000-win horseperson of any code before his 38th birthday.   DEXTER DUNN ** Heading for 10th straight national premiership. ** Averaging 203 wins per season over last eight years. ** Already holds NZ record for wins in a season at 220. ** Current World Driving Champ ** 22 wins away from joining elite 2000 wins in New Zealand club.  ** Strike rate of win every 4.7 drives.   Michael Guerin

Prominent reinsman Blair Orange attended the funeral of long time associate Mike Austin in Christchurch on Thursday, thus bypassing the Forbury Park meeting. Austin, who trained at West Melton, died last Saturday at the age of 69. “He was like a second father to me,’’ said Orange, who drove 100 winners for Austin, the first on Black Mist at Addington  in March, 2000 when he was a junior driver and the most recent on Idle Monkey there in March this year. Austin and Orange had good wins with the trotters Toomuch To Do and Ado’s Invasion. Toomuch To Do won the 2005 Canterbury Park Cup and a heat of the Interdominion in Auckland earlier that year. Ado’s Invasion won the 2004 City Of Sails Free-For-All in Auckland and the two feature races for trotters at Cambridge the same year. Meniscus (eight wins), Kiwi Battler (eight), Idle Wishes (seven) and Tart N Tights (six) were among other trotters trained by Austin who also won eight races with the free legged pacer Nutwood in the 1990s before that horse was exported to North America. Austin won 271 races as a trainer, the first with Katea Lad at Methven in 1978. His best season was in 2003 –04 when he won 20 races. He began training at Nelson, shifted to Southbridge in 1981 and West Melton three years later. Austin’s son, Kyle is making his name as a trainer with Buster Brady, last start winner of the Winter Cup at Addington and candidate for the Harness Jewels on Saturday. Tayler Strong

One of the hottest favourites of Jewels day could be in for far more of a war than punters expect. Because rival trainer Mark Jones has declared his filly Delightful Memphis will park out $1.25 chance Spanish Armada rather than concede the $150,000 three-year-old fillies final. Delightful Memphis must be sick of the sight of Spanish Armada, having run second to her nine times in the last 14 months in one of the great two-horse dominations of recent New Zealand racing. But she has beaten her home a couple of times, including once at Auckland in December, albeit with Spanish Armada was unlucky. The pair worked in private with fellow Jewels rival Partyon at Addington on Monday morning and Jones is adamant Delightful Memphis had Spanish Armamda covered after coming off her back. But that isn’t the only reason he will be instructing driver Blair Orange to stay in front from the ace draw on Saturday. “Her work on Monday was great even though we all know Spanish Armada is better on raceday,” said Jones. “But I couldn’t be happier with my filly. She has had a long season and the only time she has really felt 100 per cent on top of her game was in Auckland before Christmas and I honestly think she is back to that now. “Her recent work has been super and the fact she missed the Oaks last start because she was a bit crook probably helped her. “So we know she is well enough for a hard run and the shorter distance helps us because Spanish Armada is such a good stayer. “I think everybody knows Spanish Armada is the better filly but we have the draw to park her and that is our best chance of winning. “It also means the others back in the field will probably be reluctant to move because they won’t be able to get parked, whereas if we let Spanish Armada run to the front then there will be more moves. “That would mean we give up our advantage to not only one horse but a couple. So it makes sense to stay in front.” Delightful Memphis got as long as $8.80 with TAB bookies this week, a very generous price and over double the quote she has been with other bookmakers betting on the Jewels. The pair look set to dominate the front end of Saturday’s race after their best performed rivals, Bonnie Joan and Jewels defending champion Partyon, drew the second line. Trainer Mark Purdon was happier with Partyon’s work on Monday after two moderate recent performances and she downed both Delightful Memphis and Spanish Armada at last year’s Jewels, but that was when leading. Saturday could be Delightful Memphis’s last start in New Zealand as she is booked to fly to Australia next Tuesday for a three-race Queensland campaign before racing in Sydney next season. “I’d love to win a Jewels with her before she goes,” says Jones. “I’ve only won the one, with Rocker Band last season, so they are hard to get." Michael Guerin  

With her win today Spotlight The Valley looks to have wrapped up the Caduceus Club of Southland Trotter of the Year title. The Robert Wilson trained five year old mare has won four races this season and has been placed numerous times. She did her early education for Wilson before he decided that he liked her enough to buy her. "We worked Spotlight The Valley and De Vito on the Balfour track as young horses. We bought De Vito for the Balfour Syndicate and Spotlight The Valley for the Sunbeam Syndicate," Wilson said. From the twenty metre mark driver Blair Orange settled the Skyvalley mare four back on the inside while Mass Invasion made the pace. With 1600 metres to run Orange moved Spotlight The Valley off the inside running line to sit parked. At the top of the straight she took charge and won easily by a length and three quarters from a late charging Jen Jaccka. "She just keeps trying. We've been coming back over the last few weeks because we've had our eye on the Southland Trotter of the Year (award). With that win today we're just about clear I would say."  Wilson, who has been a long time harness racing administrator for the Northern Southland Trotting Club has now trained eleven winners this season - his best in the six years he's had a licence.   "It's been my passion for many many years and it's good to be doing things on the other side (training) of things now." Photo - Bruce Stewart With the season nearly over he says Spotlight The Valley may find it hard to compete in the future in handicap races in this country.  "I think she's the sort of horse that would do a fantastic job in Australia. She'd probably be in the money most weeks."  Seven of Wilson's eleven winners have been driven by Blair Orange.  "This year I've given him first option on every horse I've had at the races. Often he's got drives for Paul Court or Mark Jones and I understand that but we've gone good together."  Meanwhile Wilson's focus shifts to Ashburton in seven days when he has his first runner at the Harness Jewels. Eagle Galleon which is owned by him and good friend Gary Allen will start in the Group One $100,00. McMillan Feeds Four Year Old Ruby. He'll be driven by Dexter Dunn.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Tonight’s Group One Nevele R Fillies Final at Addington is more about opportunities than it is chances for Delightful Memphis. The outstanding daughter of Bettor’s Delight will get her chance to finally crack a big race in the $140,000 feature tonight, but even her trainer Mark Jones knows there’s going to need to be quite a few things falling her way if she is to get past the might of Spanish Armada and Partyon in the first of two three-year-old filly features over the next two weeks. “You could say we have had our opportunity to beat them in the past, particularly Spanish Armada,” Jones said. “And we haven’t been able to do it which makes it quite tough to say that we might be able to do it this week. “But it looks like we are going to have the right draw to give ourselves a chance and I think if I’m being realistic a top two finish would see us over the moon.” Unsighted since finishing second to Bonnie Joan in the Southland Oaks a fortnight ago, Delightful Memphis has been ticking over at home and her trainer can’t fault her preparation, despite being disappointed in the Southland Oaks performance. “I thought she probably should have won it from the trail, but it wasn’t to be. “She’s trained on really well since and we are going into this week pretty much exactly where we want to be so the rest is up to the horse on the night really.” From one on the second row, following out Spanish Armada, the path looks clear for Blair Orange to throw out the tow-rope and hope for the best. At worst he should settle three-back the fence with it being hard to imagine that Natalie Rasmussen, who is driving Spanish Armada, handing up to anyone other than her stablemate, and hot favourite Partyon. “That’s the way it looks like it should pan out, we just probably have to hope that Natalie decides to stay in front. “That will give us our best chance.” Rasmussen may be keen to make a statement with Spanish Armada ahead of next week’s Oaks and then the Harness Jewels, and over the 1950 metres she gets the perfect opportunity to do that. In her 16 start career, Spanish Armada has never been beaten when she’s turned for the judge in front with four of her five defeats coming from when she’s raced off, or outside the speed. With mobile flyer, Bonnie Joan drawn up on the outside of the second row, it makes it hard to see anything else throwing a cat among the pigeons and trying to cross the All Stars pair early so the first leg of a three-year-old filly triple crown should run pretty much to script. Jones has a chance in tonight’s other feature, the $200,000 NZ Yearling Sales Series Final with recent stable acquisition, Major Lucky. Purchased out of the All Stars stable by Greg Brodie and set to head to Australia the half-brother to More The Better isn’t that far behind the top four-year-olds but will need plenty of luck from his second row barrier draw tonight.   Matt Markham’s Addington Selections Race 1: Heaven Rocks, Classie Brigade, Piccadilly Princess, Buster Brady Race 2: Springbank Lachie, Paramount King, One Muscle Hill, Stress Factor Race 3: Mighty Santana, Dancing In The Dark, Rocknroll Magic, Vera’s Delight Race 4: Hilarious Magic, Bushido, Warloch, Sails Race 5: Wilma’s Mate, Gee Up Neddy, Habibi Inta, Tornado Valley Race 6: Lemond, Destiny Jones, Gershwin, Springbank Eden Race 7: Jack’s Legend, Donegal Carrickfinn, Sparkling Delight, Mongolian Hero Race 8: Spanish Armada, Partyon, Delightful Memphis, Bonnie Joan Race 9: War Spirit, Redwood Invasion, Muscles Galore, All Settled Down Race 10: Alta Maestro, Spankem, Aloka, Star Commander Race 11: Don Domingo, Whittaker, Rocknroll Princess, Late Mail Best Bet: Heaven Rocks (Race 1) Value: Don Domingo (Race 11

Waimate (South Canterbury) owner- breeders Lex and Heather Williams have prospects in feature trotting races on both sides of the Tasman this week. They have Petite One in the  $40,000 Sires Stakes Aged Trotters Championship at Addington tonight (Friday) and One Over Da Moon in the  $A20,000 Cranbourne Trotters Cup at Cranbourne tomorrow night. Both trotters are having their first starts from new stables with new drivers. Petite One, who has not raced  for 17 months, is now trained at Woodend Beach by Greg and Nina Hope. A workout win at Rangiora on May 3 indicated the 5-year-old Angus Hall – Petite Sunset mare was forward. Blair Orange has the drive. “Petite One’s knee caved in and we treated her and took an embryo Love You filly from her when she was out,’’ said Lex Williams. Petite One won six races when trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. She won over 3200m in 4.04.9 (a record for a mare) at the 2015 New Zealand Cup meeting and won a Super Series race at Addington. Over Da Moon, the winner of 21 races. including five in Australia, is now trained by Lance Justice in Victoria. One Over Da Moon has to be rated under free-for-all conditions tomorrow night. The  Majestic Son – One Over Kenny entire had his most recent win at Alexandra Park in September when prepared by Tony Herlihy.  One Over Da Moon won eight for Herlihy and eight (including Harness Jewels and NZ Trotting Stakes at two) for Paul Nairn. He won four, including The Holmfield at Melton and a heat of the Breeders Crown at Maryborough for  Chris Lang and a heat of the 2016 Australia Trotters Championship at Ballarat for Chris Alford. One Over Da Moon has sired two foals, colts out of Anna Castleton and Landora’s Pearl for the Williams. Both are rising 2-year-olds. Tayler Strong

They say that a change is as good as a holiday and in the case of Buster Brady it’s worked the oracle. After a frustrating period of a lack of form, the talented pacer got things back on track with an impressive performance to beat a high quality field at Addington on Friday night in his first start since spending some time out at the Woodend Beach stable of Regan Todd. Still officially trained by his initial trainer, Kyle Austin, the four-year-old pacer picked himself up off the canvas to run past some talented competition in the final stages of Friday night’s assignment, shocking both Austin and Todd in the process. “We were heading a bit into the unknown with him really,” Todd said. “From working him on the beach you could tell that he was a pretty nice horse, but you never really know until you get into the race environment exactly what they are going to be like. “But it seems the change of scenery has helped him a lot because he showed a lot of fight.” It was a big call for Austin to make to send the best horse he has ever trained to someone else to try and reinvigorate his star, but he said that at the end of the day it was the best decision to make by the horse. “I’ve had a few concerns that he’s got a couple of niggly little issues for a while now and that was why I don’t think he was showing his best form. “So, we decided that it was best to see if the beach would help him and it would appear it has. “I thought his effort on Friday night was great, he looked dead and buried on the home turn but really dug deep to find the line. “It was a lot more like him.” With some good stake money in the bank this season, Buster Brady currently now sits 12th on the order of entry for the Four-Year-Old Emerald at next month’s Harness Jewels meeting in Ashburton. While accepting it would be nice to start there, Austin said it wasn’t something they would chase. “If he does enough to get in the field then that will be great we will head there and have a crack against some really top horses. “But there are other options for him, there’s also the Sires’ Stakes race a couple weeks after that so if he doesn’t make the Jewels we can just have a look at the race instead.” Todd and Austin plan to return to Addington this Friday night to try and make it back-to-back victories. The challenge will be slightly more difficult for the camp with some strong nominations for the $20,000 event including Heaven Rock’s, Classie Brigade, Piccadilly Princess and Moonrock. Matt Markham  

When caught in the shadows of greatness, it can be quite easy to slip under the radar. So while we once again marvel in the driving supremo that is Dexter Dunn, there’s another who is sitting just back behind him, doing incredible things without much of the same recognition. And it probably won’t be until August 1, when we take a bit more time to sit back and look at the current season that we release just what Blair Orange has achieved this season as being exceptional. With 155 winners on the board, Orange is low-flying. He’s just 20 wins behind Dunn on the national premiership and is showing no signs of slowing down from what has been a remarkable season in the sulky. To put his efforts into context, his current tally would see him win every driver’s premiership bar one if Dexter wasn’t around and come the end of this month that statistic will have improved again to being every premiership in the history of harness racing. Only Maurice McKendry’s once record breaking effort of 161 winners back in 1989 is better that Orange’s current figure - just six wins shy of McKendry’s mark. For the past 10 years, where Dunn has dominated, he’s never really been pushed. His first premiership was won by a mere eight wins over Peter Ferguson, but the rest have been pretty much plain sailing. But this year Orange has pushed Dunn to new levels and despite the 20 win gap heading into racing today, he looks set to continue to nip at the heels of the current world driving champion until deep into the season. After a good day at Gore yesterday and a tidy night at Addington on Friday, Orange will be looking to add to the tally when he steps out at Rangiora today for a small book of drives which feature some really strong winning chances. A brace of drives for good mate Paul Court appear to be his leading chances, including the consistent RR Sand Dollar who drops into a very winnable race for her. Last raced in the Southern Belle Final where she finished fifth behind Break Dance, RR Sand Dollar returns to the stand start today for just the second time in 33 start career but has the ability to overcome that slight hurdle and be a serious player. Orange also drives Christian Cullen debutant, Artistic Jewel for Court. The three-year-old filly, who is a half-sister to Classical Art has shown enough at trials to suggest she could be a major player on debut, especially from the one barrier draw. Maiden trotter, Paradise Spur also gives Orange a good chance of making it three maiden trotting wins for the weekend after Celtic Thunder’s victory on Friday night and then Clover Lady’s yesterday at Gore. On each of those two occasions Orange showed extreme skill to nurse both horses around and get the best possible result and he’ll need to the same with Paradise Spur who has shown a liking for doing the odd thing wrong in her career.   Rangiora Selections - By Matt Markham Race 1: 12 -Eja Patron, 14 - Leading The Way, 13- Sweet As, 9- Waihemo Art Race 2: 12- Woodstone, 11- Jerry Garcia, 1- Sea Rover, 10- Gambling On Race 3: 15- Hashtag, 2- Green Fingers, 4- Don’t Tell Ange, 10- Spooky Race 4: 7- I Am Yours, 6- Rocknroll Magic, 1- Handsome Hero, 9- Take After Me Race 5: 7- Sundees Son, 11- Majestic Man, 4- BJ Lindenny, 9- BD Son Race 6: 12- Star Commander, 15- Blue Blazer, 16- Spondulicks, 1- Artistic Jewels Race 7: 5- Just Ben, 7- Magical Mitch, 11- Bella Jones, 9- Midfrew Tarpediem Race 8: 6- Pirate Bay, 7- Bailey’s Knight, 3- Sky City King, 12- Classie Margaret Race 9: 4- Redwood Invasion, 1- Sarah Palin, 9 Xmas Joyella, 11- Cuddly Jess Race 10: 10- Smithy, 5- RR Sand Dollar, 8- Franco Tai, 4- Ceemerock Race 11: 7- Novak, 12- Bontz, 5- Bird Of Paradise, 4- That’s Bettor Best Bet: I Am Yours (Race 4) Value: Hashtag (Race 3)

His best may have succumb to injury, but Sam Smolenski is well on the way to finding her a replacement. The talented young horseman has, for now, lost the services of his smart trotting mare Sunny Ruby after she pulled up sore following her Anzac Cup performance a fortnight. The Group One winning mare has since returned to the Australian stable of Sonya Smith to undergo her rehabilitation leaving Smolenski back here in New Zealand trying to replace her. With 12 wins on the board for the term, he may not quite reach his mark of 21 from last season, but Smolenski does have a handy looking team of horses running around as we head into winter so it’s not completely out of the realms of possibility. There are five runners to get excited about tonight including the ever-consistent trotter, Royal Shine. The son of Monarchy, who has now won seven races, was very good winning at Ashburton last Saturday with Dexter Dunn in the bike and meets a field today no stronger than what he raced last week. Blair Orange will handle the driving duties on the five-year-old. Smolenski will also start maiden trotter Gambling On who has any amount of ability tucked away for use, but the bag of tricks hiding away are also quite impressive. The Monkey Bones filly from Spot On Gamble was a very good second last time out behind Greenandwhite and a similar performance tonight will net a good result. Smolenski will make a rare appearance in the sulky behind the filly. Majestic Moment, who broke maidens two starts back, will also have a bowl around tonight with Smolenski’s brother-in-law, Stevie Golding handling the driving duties for owners The Tuesday Night syndicate and Maree Smolenski. Rounding out the team for the night is impressive winner from last week, Sails who will be joined by stablemate, Don Pierre in the last of the night. The five-year-old daughter of Washington VC was brilliant winning last week after doing work in the race before dashing up the lane for Katie Cox in the junior drivers event. Jimmy Curtin jumps back in the bike tonight and has struck up a good association with the daughter of City Of Sails but the pair will have to come from off the outside of the second line.   Addington Selections Race 1: Reign On Me, Sugar Cane, Daiquiri, All Settled Down Race 2: Rocknroll Princess, Lanikai, Late Mail, Franco Saxon Race 3: Gambling On, Celtic Thunder, Idle Moose, Jedi Josh Race 4: The Devil’s Own, Spankem, All You Need Is Faith, Mach Shard Race 5: Cable Beach, Jack’s Legend, Queen Bee Bardon, Don Domingo Race 6: Lavros Jack, Royal Shine, Valmagne, Doctor Bones Race 7: A G’s White Socks, Raukapuka Ruler, Ears Burning, Buster Brady Race 8: Rum In The Sun, Gin Rummy, Time For Diamonds, Dusky Eyre Race 9: One For Granny, Bubble Gum, Honour The Bet, Dodge Phoenix Race 10: Zimfandel, Sails, Highland Reign, Gunpowder Best Bet: Reign On Me (Race 1) Value: Rum In The Sun (Race 8)   Matt Markham

The run of Southland feature-race wins continued on Sunday for Canterbury trainer Nigel McGrath and North Island owners, Grant and Colin Eynon of Tauranga and Mark McKinnon of Auckland. Their latest winner was Aloka in the $38,000 group three Diamond Creek Farm Two Year Old Classic. A colt by Bettor's Delight, Aloka was driven by Blair Orange who in January won the Invercargill Cup aboard Classie Brigade for the same connections. He said Aloka was doing what he had to and keeps improving, suggesting he will have a bit of a future. McGrath also had the third placed Star Commander in the race, was pleased with both of them and said a place in the Jewels for the pair is the aim. Aloka cut out the trip in a Southland record 2:43.7 for those of his age. It's just the fourth year of the Two Year Old Classic and the third at 2200 metres with the winner going progressively faster each time. Lazarus took 2:47.0 when winning in 2015 and Mongolian Hero 2:43.8 last year. Orange had been aboard Mongolian Hero last year to give him two Diamond Creeks in a row. He was back on the three year old on Sunday when he won the Transport Engineering Southland Mobile 2200 in a blistering 2:39.6, a new all-comers record for Ascot Park Dark Horse was also in record setting mode, winning the Plumbing World Handicap Trot in 3:26.7, a Southland 2700 metres stand-start record for a trotting mare. Her trainer and driver Nathan Williamson said Dark Horse was trotting better than ever on Sunday and when she's right is “just a good horse”. The Jewels is the next aim for Dark Horse and he will let her tell him if she needs another run before hand. However, he feels she is needing more racing as she gets older and sees a mobile start race at Winton on 13 May as an appropriate option. Trainer driver Kirk Larsen had some worrying moments before Bettor Ops was declared winner of the bMAC Sheetmetal Southern Country Cups Final by a head over Glenferrie Classic. Sent out favourite and trailling the second favourite Glenferrie Classic to the turn, Bettor Ops took the passing lane, went to a clear lead, but just lasted. “He's a bugger for knocking off and he wasn't going to get going again,” Larsen said. The win was Larsen's first in the Country Cups Final since Howard Bromac in 2004 and like the former top-liner, Bettor Ops has Australian connections. “He's owned by Reg Turner and his son David from Sydney, we bought him at the sales, I've had a couple for them,” Larsen said. “He's a big horse and took a bit of organising but is hitting his straps now. We'll keep him going, he's in the Jewels, that might be a bit rich for him, and there's that new $40,000 Sires Stakes race in June.”   Mac Henry

Paul Nairn has stopped being surprised by Habibti Ivy. So the training genius won’t raise an eyebrow if his mare competes one of the great comebacks in trotting history in the $150,000 Canam Rowe Cup tonight. The former Oaks winner has returned from the racing wilderness --- nearly 22 months sidelined by injury --- to won all five of her races this campaign including last Friday’s Anzac Cup. So she heads to Alexandra Park tonight as favourite for Rowe, victory in which would secure her the valuable trotting mate of the year award. Nairn, whose old school and often wide-ranging training techniques have brought him amazing results, admits the Habibti Ivy comeback has shocked him. “When you bring them back after that long away you don’t know what to expect,” he says. “But I definitely didn’t expect this. Not national records and group one wins. “Especially last week. I was sure she was underdone heading into that race because she got tangled in a fence a few weeks ago and lost some skin off her legs. “So to keep going and win when she probably wasn’t at her peak was a big performance. “Really, with that in mind, you would have to think she would improve again and now I wouldn’t be surprised if she won.” Habibti Ivy may only be a five-year-old with 14 starts on her slate but she has an ideal draw tonight and the manners to use it. She should lead or be handy early and with a rival like Bordeaux able to set up a fast 3200m, being on the marker pegs not covering any extra ground could be crucial. Bordeaux was excellent with sixth after being wide in the Anzac Cup and appeals as a top each way chance tonight while one of the more proven group one trotters in the race is Quite A Moment. She was second to her champion stablemate Monbet in the national record Dominion over 3200m at Addington in November and then downed Bordeaux in the 2700m mobile National Trot here in December, so a true staying test will hold no fears for her. Quite A Moment looked down on he best when she returned from her Australian summer campaign but trainer Greg Hope believes a change of training regime will see her prominent tonight. “I have lightened her work load to keep her fresher and I think we saw some benefit of that at Addington last start when she was a big second,” says Hope. “We know she will handle the distance and she is as good as these horses when you take her formline through our other fella (Monbet) but I would have preferred a front line draw.” The absence of the big guns promotes an array of horses up to being serious chances, with the four-year-olds Lemond, Temporale and Wilma’s Mate all having the raw ability to win while even the sometimes disappointing Daryl Boko flashed home last Friday like a horse who could win tonight. The Rowe Cup is the highlight of a stunning night on which Lazarus looks certain to end his super season with a formulaic Messenger victory over stablemate Waikiki Beach. The All Stars look to dominate the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Fillies, with Elle Mac the best of their trio but the worst drawn, bringing the likes of Shanandoah, A Lister and star trialist New York Rain into play. But Hope, who is starting to rival Nairn as one of the supremos of New Zealand trotting, expects another faultless performance from Enghien to win the Trotting Derby, with President Roydon the emerging threat in that age group. Michael Guerin

Breeding doesn't always count for everything but when Louie won the Regent Car Court Pace it didn't surprise breeding buffs. The Christian Cullen four year old is impeccably bred being out of the eleven win Holmes Hanover mare Chloe Hanover. He had shown promise in a limited harness racing career for Wayne Adams before transferring to Tony Stratford's Gore stable earlier this year. “He’s a well mannered horse that’s good to do anything with. We’re just taking over from the good job that Wayne did. I think they had a few problems with him cross firing. I don’t think you ever correct a cross firer but you can help them and we’ve possibly done that,” said Stratford. He was having his second run for the Stratford stable having finished fifth at Winton earlier this month.   “He seems to be pacing good. Dexter was pleased with the way be paced at Winton and Blair said he was very nice today.” Driver Blair Orange took the gelding to the lead before handing up to Ideal Conquest with a lap to run. With 300 metres to run he pulled Louie off the back of a tiring Ideal Conquest and held on under a strong drive to beat one of the outsiders Matai Valour by half a length. Louie is owned by Alan and Liz Sloan of Invercargill and their two daughters. He was bought at the Sale of the Stars for $52,000. Meanwhile promising two year old trotter War Admiral also in the Stratford barn has been turned out for the season. “They just went a bit quick that day we lined up. They ran the first 800 from a stand in 64 seconds and being a two year old he just was not used to that. He threw a shoe as well.” Another promising maiden pacer from the stable The Night Hawk who was a race rival to Louie, was scratched this morning. “He had a puffy leg so I had to scratch him. He’s a really nice horse and he would have been pretty hard to beat if he was in that race today.”   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Nothing Delightful Memphis does surprises driver Blair Orange and when she smashed the New Zealand Three Year Old Fillies record at Winton yesterday it wasn't a surprise either. Her time of 2-55.5 for the 2400 metre stand was over four seconds better than the previous record of 2-59.9 recorded by Talkerup at Ashburton. The time was also a new track and Southland record for three year old fillies and the fastest 2400 metre stand ever recorded on the Central Southland Raceway. The time also beats Adore Me's open mare record of 2-56.0 recorded at Ashburton in 2014. Sure, Orange had concerns about Delightful Memphis, a three year old filly fronting up against the hardened mid-grade horses for the first time. But that wasn't the only concern.  "The stand was always going to be a concern. She'd never had one (standing start practice) at the trials, workouts or anywhere but she went away really nice today," he said.   Once away Orange settled the Better's Delight filly in the outside running line. With 600 metres to run when he saw Royal Counsel starting to make a three wide run, he decided it was time to go and progressed forward three wide. With 400 metres to run he'd joined pacemaker Torrid Bromac and these two cut away rounding the final bend. Half way down the lane Orange pulled the ear plugs and Delightful Memphis sprinted away to easily beat Bettor Ops by a length and a quarter.   Easy as - Delightful Memphis winning at Winton     - Photo Bruce Stewart. "We settled close to the front so her speed was always going to bring her into it whenever she needed. I just let her slide from the 600 and she kept it up all the way to the line. Her forte is probably her speed. A couple of times I 've asked her to run tough and she's always hung on in there. She's pretty versatile and you just drive her the way you need to in a race."   The win cements Delightful Memphis as the early favourite for the Nevele R/ Macca Lodge Southland Oaks Final on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park on Sunday 30th April. This year's final is one of the most competitive in years. The Bettor's Delight filly now holds two Southland records, having broken the Southland 1609 metre mobile record at the Wairio meeting at the end of last month. The win was her sixth for owners Wayne Higgs, former New Zealand Cricketer Simon Doull, Sir Loins Limited and Debra and Pete Smith   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

On a 12 race programme at Winton on Sunday, seven of the races were mobile 2400 metre contests and all were run in faster than three minutes. Quickest was Bonnie Jean in 2:53.8 then Delight My Soul 2:55.1, Major Hippie 2:55.3, Steiger 2:56.4, Boom Time 2:56.8, Comic Book Hero 2:57.1 and Gabby's Delight 2:58.2. Other highlights of the under-card included: * After breaking for more than 50 metres in the final 200 at Invercargill and being disqualified, Bets Commando never put foot wrong on Sunday. Leading all the way she took the Winton Workouts Committee Trot for non-winners; * When you're hot you're hot and after starting April with just three wins for the season, trainer Alan Paisley has doubled his tally. He got two last week at Invercargill and Gabby's Delight in the Advance Agriculture Ltd up to M46 Mobile Pace at Winton; * More than 57 years after driving his first winner, Winterloch on the big grass track at Invercargill in October 1959, and 10 years since his previous, Village Lord at Invercargill in March 2007, Gary McEwan's win meter ticked again on Sunday when Our Budd took out the Cox Family Trot for up to R52 trotters. Included in his wins is one at Sacramento in California on a New Zealand horse Sholtz End. The 75 year old McEwan also trains Our Budd and had a second runner in the race, Eyre's Rag Doll driven by Hamish Hunter, who finished seventh. This was a reverse of the situation at Invercargill last November when Eyre's Rag Doll with Hunter aboard won - to credit McEwan with his first training success since Summit Invasion in 2005 - while Our Budd and McEwan finished seventh; * Woodlands trainer Steve Baucke dedicated the win of Delight My Soul in the SBS Bank Mobile for R52 to R54 pacers to the memory of his brother Darrin, who passed away in Hamilton on Thursday from prostate cancer, aged 51. With four racehorses, two joggers and one breaker in work, Baucke said he has more on the go than ever. Three wins, courtesy of Delight My Soul (two) and I'm Jimmy James, put him on target to beat his best from the 2011/12 term when Citylight won four. Citylight and I'm Jimmy James are half sister and brother. * Boom Time's win in the PGG Wrightson Mobile for MR47 to MR52 pacers added to the southern success of the Butterworth Racing Syndicate who won last week with Jimmy Mack. A Gotta Go Cullect three year old, he was bred by Robin and Mandy Swain with Robin also the trainer and driver. Boom Time qualified in December and changed hands the same week; * Comic Hero won the Lamb & Cattle Graziers Mobile for up to R44 pacers for his Tauranga-based owner and breeder Graham Cooney and local trainer Hamish Hunter. It was Hunter's eighth win of the season, four have been with horses bred and owned by the RIB board member alone and the other four with horses he has bred and owns in partnership; * From a 20 metre handicap in the Murray Gray Memorial R52 and faster Trot, Spotlight the Valley created a new all-comers track record for 2400 metres of 3:02.1. The record was previously held by Santorini Sunset of 3:02.8 set in March 2015. It was the five year old Skyvalley mare's third win since Christmas, all with Blair Orange in the sulky. She is trained at Balfour by Robert Wilson who is enjoying his best season, having won also with Another Delight (2), Eagle Galleon, Major Vibes and Machie Mach; * A second line draw didn't stop Steiger and driver Kirk Larsen early and they soon had the one-one in the Gallagher Animal Management R46 to R51 Mobile Pace. Three-back from the 900 meant they had work to do turning in though but wove a path through to get up by three quarters of a length. It was Larsen's second win from 10 drives on the son of Bettor's Delight who was bred and is raced by Jim and Alistair Veint and Warren Tuckey and trained by Lindsay Veint at West Plains; * All Stars first-starter Major Hippie dominated the New World Winton Mobile Pace in the day's fastest time for non-winners over 2400 metres from behind the mobile. The three year old is raced by Trevor Casey, Neil Pilcher, Jim Gibbs and Cheryl Rasmussen; * Bonnie Jean made it five from eight, and two from two for her dam Wave Runner when winning the Drainage & Excavation Services for R55 to R70 pacers and three year olds up R75. Bred by Julie Davie and Peter and Dan Cummings of Tuapeka Lodge, Bonnie Jean is a younger half sister to Southern Belle Speed Series winner Break Dance.   Mac Henry

Mark Jones only had to look from left to right last night to see just how unforgiving the racing game can be at times. On his right stood Eyre I Come, his latest Group One winner having just surprised more than a few when he unwound with some purpose to win the Fred Shaw Memorial New Zealand Trotting Championship at Addington. Then, to his right, stood his champion trotter, Master Lavros. With one hind leg slightly raised in the air and his balking frame being supported by his other three legs, the big gelding stood quietly while veterinarians fussed around him. Jones stood quietly too. Watching intently, all while knowing full well what the verdict was going to be. “I felt him break down the 600 metre mark,” he said. A suspected suspensory injury was diagnosed although Jones still wasn’t ruling out more serious damage. And just like that, the career of a grand trotter was over. “Probably my biggest regret will be that he’s not going out sound,” Jones added. Despite the injury, Master Lavros still showed all his incredible braveness to pick himself up off the canvas to run a gallant third beaten by narrow margins by Eyre I Come and Wilma’s Mate. “But true credit to him, his leg went a long way from home, but his heart carried him all the way to the winning post and he fought so incredibly bravely. “He was travelling so good at that point too, I really believed I was going to win it going down the back straight.” While gutted by the prognosis of Master Lavros, Jones was trying to put on a brave face for everything else, including the win of Eyre I Come. “It’s bloody hard. I want to be over the moon that this horse as won, because he’s been through so much as well and his owner has been so patient, but there’s a lot of mixed emotion.” The result of Eyre I Come was a fitting result for part owner Grant Hatton who shares in the ownership of the horse with Merv and Meg Butterworth. Hatton’s star pacer Saveapatrol, who has also had a lot of injury troubles, was set to make his resumption at the meeting but another setback has left his career in limbo too, extending the rough week for Jones. “It’s been 48 hours from hell, but this is going to go a long way to fixing it,” and ecstatic Hatton said. A day to day prospect, Eyre I Come looked set to be a major player in the open class ranks when he burst onto the seen. Many remember his win in the two mile trot on Cup Day fondly, but since then it’s been battle after battle. Beautifully handled by Blair Orange last night, the gelding stalked the pace and unleashed through a gap at the top of the straight and wore down Wilma’s Mate and Master Lavros in the shadows of the post. “It’s a shame he’s had such a bad run of injuries, because he’s such a good horse,” Orange said. The win gave Orange his second Group One open class trot success after Superbowlcheerleader won the ANZAC Cup in 2014. Both Jones and Orange paid huge credit to Woodend Beach stable foreman, Regan Todd who has done a huge amount of work with both trotters. Eyre I Come will now head north for a further depleted Rowe Cup Carnival where, if the opportunity presents itself again, a further big race win isn’t out of the question.   Matt Markham    

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