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When reflecting about New Zealand Cup week of 2019, it is best summed in two simple words – Blair Orange. Fresh from his success on Tuesday when he landed his maiden New Zealand Cup success aboard the All Stars prepared Cruz Bromac, the country’s leading reinsman has now collected his maiden Dominion trophy after guiding Habibi Inta to a runaway victory in the 3200m stand start feature. Habibi Inta scored decisively when defeating Australian Tough Monarch and Monty Python while the heavily fancied Oscar Bonavena and defending champion Marcoola were unplaced. Orange becomes the first driver since Anthony Butt to complete the Cup/Dominion double in the same week after Butt triumphed with Flashing Red and Mountbatten back in 2007. Partnering with masterful trainer Paul Nairn, a dual winner of the great race and a trainer who is not frightened to adopt unorthodox training techniques to gain the best from his team of trotters, the duo landed the Gr.1 $300,000 Airpark Canterbury Dominion at Addington today (Friday). After securing the Gr.3 South Bay Trotters Cup at Kaikoura at his most recent start, connections deliberately bypassed Tuesday’s Gr.1 $100,000 Free-For-All in preference for today’s feature and the decision was rewarded in spades. Habibi Inta stepped slowly but safely and landed a handy position with Destiny Jones finding the marker pegs first before handing over to Australian trotter McLovin who in turn released Marcoola to the lead. Ultimately, Habibi Inta landed the one out/one back trail when finding the back of Didjabringthebeers. Oscar Bonavena made a crucial break soon after the start and was never a winning factor thereafter. The lead time was covered in 2:01.5. The pressure was intense with Marcoola rolling strongly in front; he trotted the first half of the final mile in splits of 30.3 and 29.9 seconds. Heading down the back straight for the final time, Marcoola continued at a solid speed while McLovin sat in the trail with Habibi Inta behind him after Didjabringthebeers dropped off. Passing the 400m marker, the third split was covered in 29.6 seconds. Entering the home straight, Marcoola tried to kick away while both Habibi Inta and Tough Monarch both came with their runs. Habibi Inta quickly surged past Marcoola and opened up a margin on Tough Monarch while veteran performer Monty Python made late ground to grab third placing, both Marcoola and McLovin weakened over the latter stages. At the line, Habibi Inta scored by a widening 7.5 lengths over Tough Monarch while Monty Python was a further 4.5 lengths away in third. The winning time was 4:02.1 – a mile rate of 2:01.7 with a final split of 30.3 seconds. For Orange, it simply caps a dream week. “I honestly can’t believe it, I thought Tuesday was unbelievable but this is a very special feeling and for some great people too. I’ve probably never felt more confident so far from home than today, he was trotting great.” Orange said. Habibi Inta takes his record to 11 wins from 36 starts while his earnings sit below $400,000. The victory provides Nairn with his third winner of the Dominion after previous victories with Call Me Now (1995) and Stig (2008). Habibi Inta is raced by Julie Maghzal who bred the horse in partnership with Gaby; the six-year-old is a son of Love You and from the grand producing Sundon mare Ten To One. The next leg of the 2019/20 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters is the $150,000 Inter Dominion in Auckland at Alexandra Park on December 14.   Chris Barsby

By Garrick Knight New Zealand’s leading driver capped an unforgettable week with victory in the country’s biggest trotting race at Addington on Friday. Blair Orange, three days removed from winning the New Zealand Cup, pulled off another double-figure-priced upset when Habibi Inta blew his opponents off the track in the $300,000 Dominion Trot. Orange combined with trainer Paul Nairn in victory and paid tribute to the master trainer of trotters post-race. “He’s an outstanding trainer; it’s just like when you drive for Mark (Purdon) and Natalie (Rasmussen). “His horses are fit and healthy and they just trot beautifully and I’m just a lucky guy to be sitting here.” Habibi Inta was a last-start winner at Kaikoura but punters preferred Purdon and Rasmussen’s boom four-year-old, Oscar Bonavena. But he struck trouble on the first bend and took no further part. Second favourite Marcoola, hunting back-to-back wins in the race, led up but couldn’t muster any more down the straight as Habibi Inta cleared out. “Going in to the race, I never thought we could beat Oscar Bonavena or Marcoola,” said Orange. “I thought we could run second or third. But once again it comes down to Paul’s ability to have them ready on the day. “We got a bit of luck and the horse did the rest.” Nairn was typically under-stated after adding yet another Group 1 to his record, and a third Dominion after Call Me Now in 1995 and Stig in 2008. “I’m thrilled. “He’s been working sensational but I thought there were four or five good winning chances in the race. “I kept the work up to him after Kaikoura because I knew he’d have to go very well, and it worked.” Julie Maghzal owns the Love You stallion and was in shock shortly after receiving the trophy. “I can’t believe we’ve won it, I just can’t believe we’ve won it,” she said gazing with amazement at the grandiose trophy. “I’m absolutely thrilled and elated to see him do what I always knew he was capable of. “He’s been nurtured all the way by the nicest, most lovely man you could ever have dealings with. “Paul and I have been together in racing for a long, long time.” Maghzal is in love with Habibi Inta and says he will stand as a stallion one day, privately if not commercially. “He’s a beautiful, beautiful animal and a very solid trotter and I’ll definitely be breeding from him later on. “His sister, Habibti Ivy, just had a wee filly by Father Patrick a few days ago so it’s been a great week. “I’m just so happy to have everyone here to share the day with me; my brother, daughter, all my family and friends. “To win this race means so much – and I was just happy to have a horse in it.” The final word went to Orange, who acknowledged former mentor Mike Austin in his speech. “My first thought when I crossed the line was my late mate Mike Austin. “I drove a lot of trotters for him and I know he’d be so proud. Thanks MG.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The most unlikely New Zealand Cup of champion trainer Mark Purdon’s career meant so much more because he didn’t drive the winner. Purdon provided the training quinella in the $750,000 New Zealand Cup at Addington yesterday but had to settle for second as a driver, as Cruz Bromac surged past his drive Spankem in the last 50m. But for Purdon the win means as much if not more than if he had clung on to win the race himself because of the man in the sulky behind Cruz Bromac. Blair Orange has won the last two national driver’s premierships but to any Canterbury harness racing driver, the New Zealand Cup is the holy grail and Purdon was thrilled to provide his former protege with the chance to get his hands on it. Orange was a long-time employee of Purdon’s famous All Stars barn and a close personal friend of Purdon, who has stuck by him in the toughest of times. He originally wasn’t in the frame to drive Cruz Bromac, who divides his time between Victoria and New Zealand. But through a series of events, including other horses being injured and other drivers being unavailable, Orange got his Cup with an inch-perfect display. “I am thrilled for Blair,” said Purdon. “He did a great job when he worked for us and has been very successful since he left. “So to be able to give him the drive on a Cup winner is immensley satisfying for us. He is a good guy and he deserves it.” Orange sure did after the drive he pulled off, firstly managing to negotiate the standing start safely with Cruz Bromac, who only rejoined the All Stars three weeks ago after spending the whole year in Victoria. They don’t have standing starts in Victoria any more so that first mini win was crucial.                                                                                                             -HRNZ photo Once safely away he has to wrest the lead off Classie Brigade and that could have left him vulnerable as Cruz Bromac is probably best known as a sprinter but the sedate Cup speed of 3:56.9 and the inches Orange saved around the marker pegs proved the difference. He grabbed Spankem, who had worked to the lead at the 1400m mark late and only by a neck, with Classie Brigade slightly luckless when forced to change ground in the home straight in third just ahead of Chase Auckland. Defending champion Thefixer was a battling fifth. There was great irony in Orange partnering Cruz Bromac to win as he had only driven him in public once before. That was when he failed to even qualify him in an early trial when Cruz Bromac was trained by Mark Jones before being sold to Australian interests and then coming back across this side of the Tasman to join the All Stars last year. He won the NZ Free-For-All then and could return to that race this Friday and now looms as a major contender for the Inter Dominions which begin at Alexandra Park in 16 days. Cruz Bromac’s win yesterday ticked him just over $1million in stakes and suggests the Australians could have a far greater role to play in the Inter Dominions than would have been expected even a few weeks ago. The horse who beat him in the Victoria Cup three starts ago in Bling It On is being set for the Auckland series while local stars like Self Assured have fallen by the wayside and while Cruz Bromac is officially trained here he will be very much claimed by the Australians as one of their's come the Inters. For Purdon it was his seventh New Zealand Cup training success as he continues to pen new pages in the record books with no end in sight. But that wasn’t why he was smiling last night. He was beaming because of what he had done for a friend.   Michael Guerin

Sportswriter gelding Hampton had a bit to live up to. Until today, his Christian Cullen dam Baptism Of Fire had left six winners from eight foals of racing age including Highview Tommy (17 wins and $1,021,904) Highview Chartom, Highview Teejay and Highview Freddy; all five win horses. “Everything out of that mare has won races with the worst winning four. So he (Hampton) should be able to get another couple of wins at least. This horse will be better in twelve months,” said Kirstin Barclay who co-trains the gelding with Paul ‘Tank’ Ellis. Driver Blair Orange settled the Hampton at the back of the main bunch before getting on the back of Mark O’Ronga to move forward with a lap to run. At the 800 metres Orange had Hampton parked outside leader The Interceptor. At the top of the straight Hampton had hit the front and he went down to the finish two and a half lengths clear of the second horse Bettor Rock Again. Hampton was bought by Wayne McEwan principal of McEwan Bloodstock, at the 2017 Christchurch Sale for $20,000. “It’s taken a while for him to get his confidence. He’s got a lot of high speed. We knew he would do a good job once he got going.” Today was only the gelding’s fifth start. Barclay says his confidence was knocked after his first start. “It was driver error first start. He got knocked over at the start and I then let him loose around the field and it just blew him over. It was too much for him and it’s knocked his confidence. It’s taken him a wee while to come back.” Orange was wearing a black arm band in today’s race to acknowledge the passing of Rewa Burns yesterday. Rewa was the wife of long time Secretary of Southland Trotting Clubs Peter Burns. Kirsten Barclay said “She and Peter were such an integral part of Southland Harness racing. They were like the power couple back in the day. They lived in the cottage across from the stable. Sometimes I’d get home from the races really late at night but she’d always come out to say well done.” Rewa raced cup class pacer Haughty Romeo back in the late seventies and early eighties. He won nine races, eight for Maurice Skinner and one for her son Tim. Meanwhile the Barclay/Ellis stable’s star pacer U May Cullect looks set to reappear at Ascot Park on Saturday. The Gotta Go Cullect five year old is unbeaten in only three starts and will line up on Diamonds Day in what will be his last start of the season. “It’s just amazing how he handled the trip (to Addington). He hadn’t been further than Winton and he went up to Canterbury, ate up, raced under the lights for the first time, won, and came back to his paddock and ate up.” Barclay says it doesn’t take too much to keep the quality gelding ticking over and race fit. “Tank spends a lot of time walking him and we space his races. We do a lot of slow long work, endurance work with him, so he’s always fit without sprinting.”   Bruce Stewart  

Chitura is out of 2006 Southland Oaks victor Zitura, second in her only Winton start. Zitura also left Kitura who scored her one and only New Zealand win at Winton in December 2016. Still owned by Law, Kitura is now with Nathan Turvey in Perth and has won five of her 12 starts there. Law said he chose Chitura's sire Changeover because he loved the horse when he was racing. Zitura went back to Changeover but missed. She has since left a colt by Gold Ace and Law is waiting for confirmation she is in foal to Vincent. Although it is the first time Law has been on the Winton course, he is not a total stranger to the area having studied for his degree at Otago University. The richest of the day's three trotting events also went to a Canterbury-trained visitor when One Apollo picked up the $20,000 Aldebaran Park Super Gold Chip Final. Bred by Lex and Heather Williams, One Apollo is by the 2012-13 New Zealand Two Year Old Trotter of the year One Over Da Moon, also bred by the Williams. His dam is Anna Castleton. One Apollo and Blair Orange beating Get Lucky - Photo Bruce Stewart. We bred two of our best mares to him, Anna Castleton and Landora's Pearl,” Lex Williams said of One Over Da Moon's first venture as a sire. “We bought Ana Castleton for a broodmare, she has bred well. One Over Da Moon, is only available by frozen semen, he only had two mares the first year, missed the next and has got 13 yearlings. At the moment he is in Australia with Brent Lilley and will race next Sunday. He'll be retired in July and become a full-time stallion.” In the hands of Blair Orange, One Apollo found the lead early in the Super final and was never headed. He stopped the clock in 3:04.2, equalling Sky Commander's 2015 three-year-old track record. At the time it was also the National record, lowered at Ashburton in 2017 by Honeys Son. Heading back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart. In his start prior to Winton, One Apollo had run fifth in the New Zealand Derby. “We were happy with the Derby, he had to do a lot of work,” said Williams, “the Yearling Sale final and Jewels are the next big aims.” Sponsors and winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart. Third in the Gold Chip final was Full Noise, making the trotting events lucrative for the Baynes family. War Admiral had earlier won the Aldebaran Park Handicap and Big Iron the Murray Gray Memorial. Both are trained by Tony Stratford who was also in the sulky of Big Iron to record his first win as a driver since Flying Diamonds in March 2010. War Admiral, raced by Kenny Baynes and his wife Jo, was driven by Samantha Ottley who didn't rush the four-year-old early. Last till about the 1200, the pair then joined the three-line train to reach a midfield position across the top. With work to do turning in, Ottley still didn't panic, but when she pulled the big square-gaiter off the back of runner-up Smokey Mac close to home, the acceleration was electric. “The Jewels is the aim for him, he'll probably go to Diamond Day next,” Stratford said, “Sam will be his driver right through now.” Kenny Baynes looked in for a quinella in the opening event when his two runners, Richard The Third and Big Iron turned for home in front. Richard the Third, half-brother to Springbank Richard had led for much of the trip but broke under pressure and fifth was his lot. However, Big Iron held together to score by a length. The three year old is raced by Baynes Racing Limited comprising Baynes and his sister in law Penny. The company was formed to take over the mares belonging to the estate of Colin Baynes, Kenny's father and Penny's father in law. The same day the company was registered in 2014, Knapdale Girl won at Alexandra Park and was the company's first winner. It was the first outing with Colin's colours registered to Baynes Racing. Later the same night, Knapdale Girl's full brother Cool Son also won. They are out of Cool Yankee, the grand-dam of Big iron.   Mac Henry for Southland Harness Racing

Big wins are nothing new to Gary Woodham but the success of Flying Even Bettor in the $30,000 group three Alabar NZ Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham on Saturday gave him a great deal of satisfaction. Along with his wife Kerry, the Plimmerton-based General Manager Customer for the New Zealand Racing Board races Flying Even Bettor with Glenys and Phil Kennard, Ken and Karen Breckon as Breckon Racing Syndicate, along with Jim and Ann Gibbs. The syndicate was formed three years ago and in our first year we got Spankem and The Devils Own,” Needham explained, “Another Masterpiece was the next and then Flying Even Bettor.” The Devils Own and Another Masterpiece finished second in the Kindergartens of their year, 2017 and 2018. “Three times we've tried, following the same preparation each time, and now we've won it,” Woodham said. At the end of their appropriate seasons, both Spankem and Another Masterpiece were named two-year-olds of the year with Spankem going on to land the million dollar Miracle Mile at the beginning of this month. “When The Devils Own went to Australia for the Victoria Derby last year he got a virus and was very ill. He's back in work now with Brent Mangos and he'll be the trainer when he races again.” But the win meant more to Woodham than picking up a group three. For some time he has been studying the operation of harness racing in the region and doesn't need a second excuse to visit. “Harness Racing New Zealand used the model of Southern Harness as a text book case and I wanted to know more about it,” he said. “With the help of Kevin McNaught (Chairman) and Jason Broad (General Manager), I've seen it up close and love the way all the clubs are working together. They're doing right for the region, take costs out and that allows them to increase stakes. This is my 12th visit.” Woodham also acknowledged their assistance when the Wyndham Club raced at Cromwell earlier in the year. “We were about to launch our new betting platform and needed their help with race times, we wanted them to finish earlier. They made the changes to work in with us and we are indebted to them. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen–trained Flying Even Bettor was driven by Blair Orange to give him his third win in the race. Three wide for the first 500 metres, the Bettor's Delight was gelding no sooner one-out than stablemate Copperfield arrived to give him cover. Once in the straight Flying Even Bettor was unleashed and soon put the issue beyond doubt, to win in 1:54.4. “He didn't show a lot of gate speed but it worked out well,” said Orange who was sitting behind the winner for the first time. “He felt good on the turn and when he let down he found the line well.” Earlier, Orange had won aboard the Paul Court-trained Major Sass. It was her third win from five starts, all of the wins at Wyndham. The three-year-old daughter of Art Major led out and pulled clear in the straight to win the Southland Harness Awards Ladyship Final by four and three quarters lengths in 1:56.2. Orange scored his third win for the day aboard Ohoka Achilles who clocked 2:55.9 for the mobile 2400 metres of the Astra Stu and Jean Pace. It was a comfortable win for the four-year-old who had chased U May Cullect home at Ascot Park last Saturday. The half-brother to Ohoka Texas is trained at Woodend Beach by former Wyndham horseman Regan Todd. After Tartan Robyn scored his second win in nine starts when taking out the PGG Wrightson Real Estate Cromwell Pace for owner and breeder Graeme Edgar, trainer Hamish Hunter described the four-year-old as a horse that couldn't be rushed. “He's got a patient owner and has taken lots of time,” said Hunter, “18 months ago he couldn't pace but turned the corner in the spring and gets a little better each time.”   by Mac Henry for Southland Harness Racing

Matty Williamson has a special personal reason to be thrilled about winning the right to represent New Zealand at the World Drivers Championships in Sweden in May. Because while Williamson can’t wait to put on the silver fern, he also sees the trip as a chance to learn lessons for his future training career. Williamson has been confirmed as the New Zealand rep for the series after last season’s premiership winner Blair Orange decided to stay in New Zealand to concentrate on local business. With Dexter Dunn driving in North America, Williamson was HRNZ’s next choice and he was elated to get the call. “Obviously representing your country is a big deal for anybody so that part I’m really proud of,” said Williamson. “And I am looking forward to the challenge of driving against all those top drivers and meeting them and other people. “But I am also hoping we can get to some of the big training establishments over there too. “Obviously we will meet some of the trainers at the races but to see how they train their horses and learn some things would be great. “It is all trotting horses and we have a lot of those at home obviously and I have been lucky enough to drive some very good ones which I hope that helps me in the series. “But also means I can learn while I am there. “I am very excited about the whole trip and the only downside of the timing is Charlotte (Purvis, Williamson’s partner) won’t be able to come because she is pregnant and the trip comes too late for her. “So with that happening in our lives and now the World Champs it is a pretty exciting time.” As if Williamson didn’t have enough reason to be excited the WDC will coincide with the running of Sweden’s legendary trotting race the Elitlopp at Solvalla on the last weekend in May. “I hear that is pretty amazing so that is another real bonus. “I am just thrilled to get the opportunity.”   Michael Guerin

Border rivalry will be to the fore when the What The Hill Drivers Challenge takes place at Ascot Park Raceway in Invercargill on Friday (23 November). The challenge repeats last year’s successful format where a team of six from North of the Waitaki took on a team from South of the Waitaki. The North of the Waitaki team took the team honours on that occasion spearheaded by a former Southlander now domiciled in Canterbury, Gavin Smith, who took the Individual honours. However both teams were tied on points going into the final heat so it was a close run thing. As the defending champion Smith returns as part of the north team this year joined by Ricky May, Blair Orange, Samantha Ottley, Tim Williams and Jim Curtin. Attempting to wrest the silverware back onto this side of the Waitaki is the South of the Waitaki team led by the Williamson brothers – Nathan, Matthew and Brad along with Brent Barclay, Craig Ferguson and Allan Beck. The invited drivers compete in four heats with points allocated to the first five home on each occasion with 10 points for a win, 7 for second, 5 for third, 3 for fourth and 1 for fifth. Each driver receives the points they accumulate towards finding an individual champion while their points also go into their teams score to find the champion team. The event is a twilight meeting with the first race timed to start at 3.38pm. It is a perfect night to come out and enjoy some top class racing. Admission to the course will be free. One punter will take home a meal voucher from Level One Restaurant & Bar in Invercargill when a draw of all losing on course tote tickets is made after Race 6 while also after race 6 all children on course receive a free bag of lollies.   HRNZ Marketing

As reported by Stuff, one of harness racing's brightest young prospects is one of seven people charged after a long-running inquiry into alleged race-fixing and drugs in the industry.  Police confirmed they have charged seven people in relation to Operation Inca, which culminated in raids on 10 harness racing stables in Canterbury, ManawatÅ« and Invercargill on Tuesday. More raids are understood to be happening on Wednesday.    Read the full story here   Martin van Beynen and Mat Kermeen  

Whether the current harness racing race fixing blow ends up a bleeding nose or a gaping wound will almost certainly depend on the contents of texts and phone calls now in police hands. Some of the industry's biggest names spent at least part of today in police custody, and while unconfirmed, some have already been charged with race fixing or similar offences. Names at the centre of the investigation named Operation Inca include last season's premiership-winning driver Blair Orange, the man he dethroned for that title Dexter Dunn, and Dunn's brother John, himself a leading driver. The Herald understands at least one other successful Canterbury trainer was extensively questioned by police, while they also visited the stables of champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, with Purdon reportedly not part of the investigation. While police today suggested race fixing and potentially drugs are at the centre of their investigations the Herald was told that illegal performance-enhancing substances used on horses are not the focal point of Operation Inca. The investigation was sparked by information passed to police by the Racing Integrity Unit as early as April last year and police have tapped phones and checked text messages as part of the investigation. What they found or are still to find in those texts or calls will be crucial to building a case against any of those under investigation because race fixing is incredibly hard to prove. And often even harder to actually achieve. While there have and always will be those who are suspicious of racing being "fixed", the reality is it has never been cleaner because of technology. Most trainers and drivers/jockeys don't bet because it is too easy to trace, with bookies openly supplying betting records to authorities. So any of the people under investigation placing a bet on a race they were involved with would set off alarm bells regardless of the result. Which is why the spouses of several of those under investigation were also questioned today, to see whether they had placed bets on their partner's behalf. That is almost certain to be a dead end. What is more likely to end up at the centre of the investigation and any future charges will be betting activities of third parties who bet on information supplied by horsepeople and may have rewarded them for that information. That in itself is an offence but a relatively minor one. The real problem for harness racing would be if any of the parties involved colluded to rig a race, supplied that information to a third party and benefited from that information and any money subsequently won. That would have huge ramifications, an iceberg to racing's Titanic. Text messages, phone calls or face-to-face conversations between punters looking for a tip, even just an opinion, from horsepeople have been going on for as long as there have been phones or racetracks. So if the text messages, recordings and apparently emails, the latter a seemingly very strange way to fix a race, confirm that any drivers knew each other's plans and passed that information on, then harness racing has a problem like cricket's famous match fixing scandals. The other option is a punter ringing multiple horsepeople, putting that information together and betting accordingly for their own purposes. Christchurch-based owner Graham Beirne also had property raided today but was overseas and denies any wrongdoing. Whether any punter, in New Zealand or overseas, would have the money and more importantly the power to fix a race and convince the people at the centre of this investigation is questionable. Such scams are incredibly hard to pull off, as the mastermind needs drivers capable of controlling the main variables of the race without outside interference. The money gambled on New Zealand harness races is relatively small compared with overseas thoroughbred action and any unusual transactions are easily spotted and the driving tactics around them noted. The electronic trail is so pronounced, the telecommunications so easy to track, anybody engaging in prolonged race-fixing would be certain to get caught. This investigation could last a long time but regardless of how it pans out, to the punting public, perception is often reality, and harness racing's reputation has taken a huge blow. The irony is this: Orange and Dexter Dunn travelled to almost every race meeting they attended last season together. I spoke to them before, after and sometimes even during those meetings. They are, hand on heart, two of the worst tipsters I have ever met among the leading horsepeople and if your betting strategy was punting on what they thought was going to happen, you would go broke. But now the racing industry will wait to find out what was said, texted and written.   Michael Guerin

As reported by Stuff a wealthy Christchurch punter whose home was raided in a high-level police investigation into corruption in harness racing says police will come up empty-handed.  Harness racing identities have been interviewed by police following morning raids on 10 stables throughout the country, following a long-running inquiry into alleged race-fixing, corruption and drugs in the sport.  Police executed search warrants on stables in Canterbury, Invercargill and ManawatÅ«. Figures interviewed included Natalie Rasmussen, John Dunn, Blair Orange, Nigel McGrath and Andrew Stuart.  Christchurch car industry king pin, racehorse owner and major punter Graham Beirne, speaking to Stuff from Bali where he is on holiday, said he had heard about the raids on Canterbury trainers and knew police wanted to interview him. "I'm a suspect put it that way. The police have been to our place this morning but I'm not there. All I have to say is one word: nonsense. Read the full Stuff story here   Martin van Beynen and Mat Kermeen Stuff Website

Shadow Play colt Stick Man delivered on his $1.60 favourites tag when he won the Hanley Formula Mobile Pace at Gore today. Stick Man was bought as a foal by Reg Storer and trainer Paul Court. Storer shares in the ownership with Georgia Bay Limited. He’s out of the Pacific Rocket mare Aziza who is also the dam of quality racehorse Tiger Thompson. “When we bought him we didn’t know too much about Tiger Thompson so it’s worked out to be a good buy really,” Court said. Stick Man qualified in November as a two year old at Ashburton. “I probably could have raced him but I thought we should look after him. We gave him a bit of time out and he’s come back really good.” In today’s race driver Blair Orange positioned the colt nicely on the outside and moved forward to challenge leader Beaudiene Overtake with a lap to run. He was taken to the lead with 600 metres to run and held on to beat The Croupier by three quarters of a length. “I told Blair not to be unlucky because he was good enough to win and he proved that today. The track was a bit testing. He did it pretty easily and Blair said he knocked off when he got to the front. That’s a sign of a nice horse - they know when to go and when to button off. I think we’re not finished with him yet.” Prior to today’s debut he’d been to the trials twice for a first up second followed by a win at Rangiora on the 25th July. Heading back to the birdcage                          - Photo Bruce Stewart  “When my horses go back to the trials for the first time (new season) it’s a building process. Every trial he’s got better. In the last trial we pepped it up a wee bit and ran home. I expect him to improve quite a bit on that run. He’s still quite big and round so we’ve got a bit to work with.” This was also Stick Man’s first real trip away. “I’m going back tonight so it’s going to be a big long trip for him but he’s handling his first trip away really well.” And Court is upbeat about the progress he thinks the horse can make. “I think he’s a very good stayer but he does have speed. The further and the harder they go it’ll be right up his alley.” And he says he’s got a host of three year olds, all maidens, ready to appear at the races. They include Mongolian Cavalry (Mach Three), Mongolian Spear (A Rocknroll Dance) and Mongolian Machete (Art Major). All three were at the Ashburton trials on Tuesday. Meanwhile junior driver Chelsea Faithful got her season off to the perfect start when in her first drive for the all conquering Phil Williamson stable, she drove Pyramid Magic to easily win the Brendon Franks Farrier Handicap Trot. Pyramid Magic and Chelsea Faithful winning easily       -photo Bruce stewart It was the eight year old's twelfth win from eighty eight starts. He's owned by Southlanders Steve Hardiman and Neville Hazlett and won his first race on this course in August 2014.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness

Here is a racing statistic you will probably find hard to believe. Champion reinsman and New Zealand's most successful horseperson, Tony Herlihy, has averaged less than four drives a week this season. Not four drives per meeting he has attended, which in itself would be hard to comprehend, but fewer than four drives per week on average for his season which will end at Alexandra Park tonight. That Herlihy, who would be on anybody's list of the top five drivers to even sit in a sulky in New Zealand and is still driving as well now as ever, drives so rarely these day can be put down to a few factors. He mainly drives the horses he trains because although he is openly available for outside drives, many of those are taken by other stables having regular drivers and with northern fields so small, catch drives are nowhere as common as they used to be. Herlihy also almost never ventures to the CD circuit and often misses the lesser Cambridge meetings to allow his stable's second driver Tony Cameron valuable experience. So while Herlihy may be more selective about where and when he drives, by far the biggest factor in his mere 201 drives in New Zealand this season is the racenight accident he was involved in on May 11, which left him with broken ribs and he hasn't been back in a racing sulky since. "It was an awkward fall so I decided to give myself time to get over it and the last two weeks in particular it has improved a lot," said Herlihy. "So I am looking forward to getting back out there and then we will be all set for next season." With his reduced number of drives, Herlihy's UDR (strike rate) is as good as it has been for nearly 20 years and he still sits alongside Dexter Dunn, Blair Orange and the Butchers (David and Zac) as the drivers most likely to sway New Zealand punters toward their horses. But The Iceman isn't expecting a stunning comeback tonight, with just three drives and all of them drawn the second line. "Forever Pearl might be the best each way chance of them," he says. With tonight's Alexandra Park comeback under his belt, Herlihy will soon jet off on more serious assignments, with his juvenile trotting filly Tickle Me Pink pleasing in her preparations for an Australian campaign that starts in the Redwood Classic in Victoria on Sunday week. The clash between the greatly improved Scoob Operator and Zadaka in race eight at Alexandra Park tonight looks the highlight while race six is the best form race. Further south, Orange will be in bonus territory at Addington. Having set a record of 231 driving wins for the season anything he adds tonight or at Oamaru on Sunday will just make his record just that much harder to break in the future. Michael Guerin

The equation is getting pretty simple for Blair Orange. With his first national driver’s premiership already secured Orange needs nine wins in eight meetings to break Dexter Dunn’s New Zealand record 229 victories in a season.  A win a meeting and Orange shares the record, one better than that and the record is his. “I suppose it sounds simple but obviously fields are getting smaller and it is just a matter of getting on the right horses,” says Orange.  “It is in the back of my mind of course because I have got this close but what will be will be. “I’ll just take it one meeting at a time and if I can have a meeting where I win two or three that will take some pressure off.” That could even come at Forbury Park tonight, where while Orange only has six drives because two of the races are for junior drivers in the NZ champs, he has several winning hopes. “A lot of these horse are the same ones racing each other every week and I have a few who can definitely win,” says Orange. He rates Jamies Bad Boy in race seven his best hope with a good draw and some consistent recent form. “And the way Dusky Eyre (race three) won last week he has to be a good chance too.” Madaboy (race one) and Armstrong (race five) are also rated winning hopes while Evangeline Franco at least has some winning form going into the last race. A victory or two tonight could take Orange a fair way toward the record this weekend as he races at Addington tomorrow and Ashburton on Sunday. But he has stopped short of calling in any favours in the record chase. His former boss Mark Purdon has Shez All Rock all but guaranteed a win in a non-tote Breeders Crown heat tomorrow night and Orange could have easily picked up the phone and asked to take the champion filly for a spin as payback for years of service to the All Stars. “But I wouldn’t do that. If I am going to get the record I wouldn’t want to do it that way,” he says.  “I’d like to keep going the way I have been going and obviously getting on the best horses I can but not like that.   “And I am pretty sure Mark will be keen to drive her anyway,” he laughs.   Michael Guerin

Classie Brigade can bounce back from his shock last start defeat at Alexandra Park tonight but he will have to do it without one of his best mates. Because regular reinsman Blair Orange will stay in the South Island to drive at Addington tonight to galvanise his lead in the national driver's premiership which, while still healthy, was cut back by a rampant Dexter Dunn last week. In Orange's absence, Nathan Purdon, who now works for his uncle Barry, will partner Classic Brigade, with Barry having looked after the open class pacer for much of the last month. Nathan was on Classie Brigade when he returned from a 15 month layoff to win two starts ago but Orange was reunited with him in the $40,000 Uncut Gem last start when he dropped out to run fourth behind race rival tonight in Billy Badger. "Initially I was very disappointed but when you analyse it they went 2:38 [for 2200m] on a winter night and he was only second up without any hard racing," says trainer Nigel McGrath. "So I think he just wasn't ready for that sort of time, especially in a race where he had to work. "Barry has been looking after him since and you couldn't ask for a better man for the job so I am sure he will be fitter." McGrath said Orange offered to come north to drive Classie Brigade even though it would have meant passing up several winning chances at Addington. "But I told him to stay down there and keep getting winners for the premiership. I'm sure Nathan will do a great job." The race may not come down to Purdon's skills as much as what unfolds in front of him. If Billy Badger can step well from his 15m handicap and work around to the lead, leaving Classic Brigade to do all his own work, then it becomes a huge challenge. But if natural front runners like Juice Brogden or Seaswift Joy get the lead and their drivers are keen to stay there then Classie Brigade could get the perfect drag on Billy Badger's back and be the horse to beat. Billy Badger's trainer Robert Dunn holds a key hand in tonight's main trot too with Woodstone and Sundees Son both in winning form and with the speed to threaten open class rival One Over Da Moon. The latter has been favourite for similar races recently but not well suited by handicaps. And while the best version of him would win back to the 1700m mobile tonight, Woodstone in particular looks to be racing at least as well if not better. Michael Guerin

The man who for so long dreaded talking about winning the national driver’s premiership has now opened up about going one step further. Because Canterbury horseman Blair Orange says he is now targeted good mate Dexter Dunn’s record number of wins in a season of 229. Orange is guaranteed winning his first premiership this term sitting 25 wins clear of Dunn, who will head to the United States for a long working holiday if and when his visa is finalised. So Orange finds himself on 208 wins for the year, needing 22 more to set a new mark and likely to drive at 20 more meetings before August 1. With Dunn possibly out of the picture soon and Orange getting the pick of the drives at most meetings, his target of just over one win per meeting not only looks realistic but almost likely. “For a long time I didn’t think about the premiership too much and just got on with driving and I definitely didn’t think about the record,” said Orange. “But now it looks like the premiership win might be mine I needed a new goal and the record is the logical one. “I am not going to change anything but if I keep going at the rate I have been I think I am about 50-50 to get to the 230. “But it is more in my mind now and I will be driving at all the meetings I can and obviously not taking a holiday until after the end of the season. “It is so rare you get a shot at something like this I might as well have a go but I won’t be traveling any more than I do because I travel enough now.” Orange says that travel can leave him flat on comedown Mondays but after a few days of normal stable work and a game of squash on Wednesday night he is refreshed and good to go for what is often four straight days driving from Thursday through to Sunday. This Friday he will come to Alexandra Park, mainly to partner hot favourite Classie Brigade in a $40,000 race even though the meeting at Forbury Park the same night would probably be more profitable premiership and record wise. While he rates himself even money to crack the 230 mark, Orange is far more certain to pass Dunn’s personal best earnings record for a season in New Zealand. Orange’s drives have earned $2,218,279 this season whereas Dunn’s best is $2,256,372, under $40,000 away. But Dunn would have a far better overall best season financially has he has consistently tasted group one success in many of Australia’s richest races in the last five years. Even if he eclipses both Dunn’s wins tally and best ever NZ stakes season, Orange still has over $110,000 to earn to break the record for the richest domestic season by a New Zealand driver. That is, somewhat surprisingly, held by David Butcher, whose drives earned $2,328,344 in 2008-09, even more remarkably from only 94 wins. As for Dunn, the 10-time premiership winner, he going to win even in finishing second this season. “Around about Christmas Dex and I made a deal, the one who won the premiership and got to go to the World Driver’s Championships in Sweden next year has to pay half the other one’s airfares there. “So while it looks like I might go there to compete, I’ll have to pay half Dexter’s airfare for him to come along and enjoy himself.” Michael Guerin

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