Last week threw up four winners with Maurice McKendry, James Stormont, Blair Orange and Matthew Williamson tipping out winners why six others were in the money which is not a bad effort. This week we have three meetings again and hopefully we have again passed on the good oil. Cambridge - Thursday night Maurice McKendry - Thinks Hughie Green in race 4 will be very hard to beat. Sean McCaffrey - Confident that stable runner Strawberry Miss will go close in race 5 Todd Macfarlane - Thinks Hudy Huxwell back left handed is a big chance in race 6 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Looking for David Butcher to strike with Bute Mach in race 7 Peter Scaife - Bad draw and all,rates Mach Cullen a good chance in race 7 Tony Herlihy - Likes Downunder Stride to make a winning debut in race 8 Addington - Friday night Terry Chmiel - Thinks Gyrate is overdue to win a race and is a big chance in race 3 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Likes Indiana Jones in race 4 after last week's great run Ricky May - Sticking with Crackapaca in race 5 after her huge run last week Gerald O'Reilly - Very keen on Zin Zan in race 6 after his big finish last week Blair Orange - Rates Oasis Dream a winning chance in race 10 Oamaru - Sunday Cran Dalgety - Thinks stable runner Uaintseennothinyet is a big chance in race 2 Matthew Williamson - Is very keen on Smokin Bird making it two from two in race 4 Nathan Williamson - Rates Tas Man Bromac a big chance to upset Smokin Bird in the same race Brad Williamson - Thinks The Silver Fox is a big chance in race 6 Sam Ottley - Rates Sterns Arising a chance to go three in a row in race 8 Harnesslink Media
Blair Orange finished at the All Stars stable in July after a decade associated with the best stable in the country- and he has plenty to show for it. He finished on a high breaking into the "100 club" for the first time, the latest in a string of records he has established over the years. "My target was 50 at the start of the season. I thought I was doing well when I got to 75 and then I thought, well I might as well go for the 100. I might not get a chance to get that close again" With help from the Mark Jones stable he achieved his target -well ahead of any previous season. The stimulus All Stars gave his young driving career speak for itself. He had of course helped make his own luck, making marked improvement to rein 37 winners in the 2002 season mostly for smaller trainers like Trevor Craddock, Mike Austin, Craig Buchan, Kevin Townley, Andrew Stuart, Brian Kerr, John Parsons, Michael House and Peter Cowan. It is significant that his 100th winner for this season was for Austin and his last driving night under the All Stars banner features a drive for Buchan. But the chance to work with Mark Purdon was going to another level and Blair has always aspired to go to the next level. "Mark rang me out of the blue. I had never driven for him. We talked, he made me an offer and I accepted. " Ohoka Atom was his first winner for the stable but one of his biggest thrills came a month later when Waihemo Hanger won at the Cup meeting. "I had never driven a winner on Cup Day so that was special ." Ironically one of his earlier regular drives for Mike Austin, Ado's Invasion, was second handled by Mark Jones. Blair's career had started nearly seven years earlier when he was with Tim Butt and drove Whizza Nova to win at Reefton in 1996. He won 18 races in his first season for All Stars but by 2007 topped $1m in stakes won thanks chiefly to Ohoka Arizona, Fiery Falcon and Steve McQueen. In only one season since have his stakes won been less than seven figures. His best season for the stable in terms of wins was 2012 when he won 46 for All Stars from a season driving total of 81. However even in his final season with Mark and Natalie driving many of the A graders he won 39 races for the stable. Altogether he has won $12.6m in stakes for owners over the years. His biggest month for All Stars was in March of 2009 when he drove 11 winners for the stable going close with 10 in the same month this season. So as he heads for his own training career -though with plenty of free lance driving still part of the package-what has he learned. Naturally the answer is "a lot". "Obviously the overall organisation is something you don't work with often. I have worked in other top stables such as Tim and Anthony's but there is always something different they do, something you can pick up on. The handling of the two year olds has been one of the great experiences for me. How they are brought along and managed and each one assessed for what they can handle as youngsters. Then how they are managed during their campaigns. There was a lot in that'' "But the overall routines and stable management was just as important. So much to learn and adapt when I go out on my own training. Mark is a master at planning a programme so the horses peak for the big days. Not many can do it like he and Natalie can'' " From a driving viewpoint the horses at All Stars give you confidence in what you are going. That is a hell of an advantage and it carries over to your other drives " If it was so good why leave ? "I would have been quite happy to stay to be honest if an offer like Ken's (Barron) had not come along. But I was going to have to strike out a bit more on my own sooner or later and this was a deal I thought too good to let pass. It could open the way for me to have my own training operation which is the long term aim. In the meantime I will still be doing a lot of free lance driving and some of that for Mark Jones who has been such a boost to me this season." Blair is aware there are plenty with doubts he is doing the right thing but that is of no concern to him. "While I was mulling over the offer I had a few doubts myself but once I made the decision I was confident it was the right one and what anybody else thinks is not important to me. It would be fair to say Blair Orange came to All Stars still an apprentice and left as graduate with honours on the driving track. So what were his five most memorable experiences at the stable ? In no particular order: LENNON "I won a lot of races with Lennon in my first season with Mark and races like the Kindergarten, Welcome, Sapling and the Sires Stakes. He was a class horse and he gave me a lot of confidence that I could measure up in the big stuff" WAIHEMO HANGER "He have me my first winner at the Cup meeting and that was a huge thrill for me at the time. You don't forget things like that" AUCKLAND REACTOR- "I won the Taylor Mile behind him. He was just a terrific horse. He had that something extra you never forget " ADORE ME -"Winning the Easter Cup gave a thrill like Auckland Reactor had. A special horse to drive" HIGHVIEW TOMMY " He might have only run second in the Cup but second in the Cup was a big thing for me. It is the race everyone wants to win and we went close. He gave me a lot of other big moments too and Tommy could be full of surprises so you never knew quite what was going to happen" (Blair set some sort of record with Highview Tommy too driving him to win in five successive seasons. Maybe not even Mark has done that with one of the team in Blair's era). Courtesy Of All Stars Racing
Late last season Blair Orange announced that he was leaving the all conquering All Stars stable and going to work for another leading harness racing trainer in Ken Barron. It raised a few eyebrows at the time as Blair had just had his most successful season in the bike with 106 wins, finishing second on the premiership behind Dexter Dunn. Many thought it may take the new partnership a few months to find their feet but they have started the season in great fashion and look to have a very progressive team of young horses. One of that team in Southern GNP made his debut last night at Addington Raceway (September 5th) and lived up to the hype which saw him sent out a warm favourite. Wide early from barrier six, Southern GNP found the death after 400 meters and got cover when a couple made moves with a lap to go. Sitting sixth for most of the last lap, Blair peeled him out passing the 300 meters and he quickly grabbed the lead and went to the line with Blair sitting quietly in the bike for a very impressive debut win. Southern GNP paced the 1950 meters in a smart 2:23, a mile rate of 1:57.9 with closing sectionals of 58.3 and 28.5 Only qualifying at the end of July when he won his heat by 11 lengths, Southern GNP looked like a horse short on ringcraft but long on ability. A 3 year old by leading sire Live Or Die, Southern GNP is the first foal from the very smart Mach Three mare in Gross Misconduct 1:59.4 ($92,570) It has been a hugely successful southern family with another Live Or Die gelding Mr Williams 1:55.7 ($133,242) close up in Southern GNP"s pedigree. The trainers scene in Canterbury has been a All Stars/Dalgety battle in the last few years but the new Barron/Orange partnership has brought some welcome competition to the top duo. Harnesslink Media
Well knowned and respected harness racing stallion owner and promoter Noel Kennard is feeling a touch better tonight after James Castleton upset the favourites in the Metalcorp Ltd Handicap trot at Addington Raceway. At this point last night Noel was wondering if he was going to be around to see the seven year old gelding by Sundon race after suffering a heart attack and being rushed to the emergency department at Christchurch Hospital. Good luck was shining on Noel last night as he was only three minutes from the hospital when the attack happened and after an over night stay he is now resting at home tonight. James Castleton is only a recent addition to the Kennard racing team having been brought out of the Northern All Aged sale at the end of May for a paltry $600. A full brother to the talented Castletons Sun who won eight, James Castleton had won a race when in the barn of Graham Rogerson and Peter Blanchard but was out of form when sold at Auckland. Now trained at West Melton by Ken Barron, James Castleton had looked unlucky two starts back at Addington but was still overlooked by most pundits leading into the race. Settling back, James Castleton only had three behind him after 400 meters and he was shuffled back to last with a lap to run of the 2600 meters race. Thats when driver Blair Orange got onto the back of of the three wide train and from there he got a lovely drag up until the corner where he eased off Indiana Jones back and sprinted quickly to grab a game Silver Fox in the shadows of the finishing line for a very smart win. James Castleton trotted the 2600 meters in 3:22.1 in cold conditions and I'm sure the performance was a tonic for Noel after yesterday. Harnesslink would like to wish Noel all the best and a speedy recovery and the way James Castleton won tonight, he might have plenty to cheer about in the next few months. Harnesslink Media
The North Island has won the fifth annual ‘Island Of Origin’ series at Alexandra Park. The Peter Ferguson captained team of six beat the South Island by 25 points to 11 tonight (Friday August 29th). Points were awarded on a 3-2-1 basis for first, second, and third. Ferguson was rapt with the victory. “We didn’t come here to run second. It’s a great concept and I’m rapt to have won it. We all did our bit. 3-2 sounds very nice,” Fergie said. South Island captain Ricky May, who replaced the suspended Anthony Butt as skipper, enjoyed the night. “It’s a great concept especially with owners getting penalty free wins. We were going pretty good early on and then we faded a bit," May said. The North Island paid $1.80 for their third victory. “I really enjoyed it and am always proud to represent the South Island,” he added. Zac Butcher won the Individual title and paid $4.60 on the New Zealand TAB. He amassed eight points thanks to two wins and a second. Blair Orange (six points) finished second with two wins, while Tony Herlihy (MNZM) was third with five points from two seconds and a third. ‘The Postman’ aka Orange delivered in the first heat with a win behind the Andrew and Lyn Neal trained Lucky Fortune. Butcher then won the second heat behind the Stephen Doody trained Te Kawau, while Ferguson led the way with a third heat victory behind the Richard Brosnan trained Torbjorn. The fourth heat went to Orange and the Roni Lauren trained I Got Rhythm before Butcher won the fifth heat behind the Stewart Ashworth trained Machinegun Kelly. The last heat was won by Todd Mitchell and the Peter Scaife trained Rip Roaring. The teams were: North Island: Peter Ferguson (c), Tony Herlihy (MNZM), Todd Mitchell, Philip Butcher, Zac Butcher, and Scott Phelan. South Island: Ricky May (c), Gerard O’Reilly, Dexter Dunn, Blair Orange, Jim Curtin, and Mark Jones. The Island Of Origin winners: 2014: North Island. 2013: North Island. 2012: South Island. 2011: South Island. 2010: North Island. Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand
The best harness racing drivers from the North and South Islands square off in six races at Alexandra Park on Friday night (August 29th). Named the Island Of Origin series, it has brought together the best drivers in New Zealand in a contest that decides bragging rights between the islands for the next twelve months. Points are scored on a 3 - 2 - 1 basis and judging by the fields and the spread of form horses to both camps, it should be a close and exciting contest. The South Island team is full of talent with last seasons leading driver Dexter Dunn joined by Ricky May, Mark Jones, Blair Orange, Gerald O'Reilly and Jimmy Curtin.. The North Island team is just as talented with the "Iceman" Tony Herlihy teaming up with Zac Butcher, Philip Butcher, Peter Ferguson, Todd Mitchell and Scott Phelan. Most home teams have an edge to start with and that was added to just a little bit by the fact that the Northern horsemen have 31 drives on Friday night compared to 30 for the Southern horsemen. All the races for the invited drivers are penalty free which is a nice bonus for the trainers and owners who have supported the series with their horses. The most interesting race for the invited drivers is undoubtedly race three, the C2 - C5 mobile pace over 2200 meters. Last seasons smart 3 year old Te Kawau looks hard to beat but a couple of real up and comers could prove troublesome with a run to suit. Royal Taz has won his last two for Tony Herlihy in the manner of a horse going places and from his handy draw looms as a genuine threat to the favourite. Pricillas Girl has run two slashers this time in and appeals as a value runner if the other two go to war at any stage. Six of the other runners in the field have either won or been placed at their last start so the favoured trio won't have it all their own way. The invited drivers creates real interest leading into Friday night and the Auckland Trotting Club should be applauded for bringing the concept to fruition. Harnesslink Media
Whenever you get a small field in harness racing, the race will usually turn out to be a cat and mouse affair and lacking in excitement. The return to the track tonight of Christen Me was in a race that looked just like that on paper with only five opponents but what transpired was anything but. Jimmy Johnstone made a flyer off the twenty meters mark in the 2600 meters standing start event and grabbed the lead after 300 meters and set up a solid tempo in front . Christen Me, the lone back marker on 30 meters made a safe begining and sat last of the six horse field which was all in single file. Going past the 1600 meters mark Dexter eased Christen Me out into the running line which drew Locharburn with Blair Orange in the bike straight out in front of him. Locharburn put the foot down in search of the lead from Jimmy Johnstone over the next 400 meters which was covered in 27.7 before Locharburn found the front with a lap to go. When the speed went on at the 1600 meters mark, Dexter hooked Christen Me back to the inner but Dexter was on the move again passing the 900 meters mark and was soon up outside Locharburn. As they swung for home Locharburn refused to go away and why Christen Me always looked to be travelling well within himself the margin of a neck speaks volumes for Locharburn's tenacity. The 2600 meters from a stand was run in 3:13.2, a mile rate of 1:59.5 with the last mile in 1:54.9 and closing sectionals of 56.5 and 27. It was a very impressive run from Christen Me first up especially as Dexter never pulled the ear plugs and hardly moved in the straight while the Locharburn camp would be very happy with how he handled the standing start and took the race to Christen Me in his first run in the top grade. The two sons of champion sire Christian Cullen both look in for big seasons. Harnesslink Media
Any which way you looked at the final of the Alabar Super Series for 4 year olds at the harness racing meeting at Addington tonight ( August 8th) it appeared to be a two horse affair between Dalton Bromac and Mighty Major. Due to the preferential draw in play for the final and their assessment, they both drew wide on the front line over the 1950 meters The Ken Barron trained Mighty Major with Blair Orange in the sulky flew the gate from barrier six and grabbed the lead in the first 100 meters. The Brendan Hill trained Dalton Bromac with Ricky May in the sulky worked forward from barrier eight and made the lead with 1400 to go. From there Ricky May just put the foot on the accelerator in the freezing conditions. Going past the 500 meters mark it was obvious there was only going to be two horses in it but as they turned for home that quickly became one as Dalton Bromac just ran away and hid for an emphatic win. At the finish line Dalton Bromac had 2 1/4 lengths to spare from Mighty Major with a further 11 lengths back to Explosive Star in third. It was the fifth win from just eight starts for the son of Major In Art and show cased just how talented he is. Dalton Bromac ran the 1950 meters in 2:21.3, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with a last half in 56.8 and the last quarter in 26.3 - and that was in conditions that were not conducive to fast times. Mighty Major went super but ran into an emerging star but just as easily beat the rest. People should be in no doubt. Dalton Bromac is one serious racehorse. Harnesslink Media
What a great way to start the new harness racing season at Addington on Friday night. (August 8th) Three $23,500 Alabar Super Series finals have been carded and all three have drawn outstanding fields with numerous chances in each final. The club must be thrilled with the fields as they have put a lot of effort into this series. So we thought we would do a preview of each of the finals. Race 5 - 4 year olds + older C1-C4 over 1950 meters. With the preferential draw in operation the three main chances in this final have all drawn poorly but still look to have a class edge on their opposition. Major Bubbles has won eight from nine to date and looks to have the all round game to claim this race even from the outside gate of nine. Having Dexter in the bike is a big plus with both horse and driver being in great form of late. The Purdon + Rasmussen pair of Someardensomewhere and Vice Consul are both huge chances with both being in sublime form. Someardensomewhere has won five and been placed eight times in just seventeen starts in the best company and Natalie Rasmussen has been in great touch for the last twelve months. One second line is not a great draw but Natalie in the bike negates that and he looms as a live chance. Vice Consul went through a rough patch a while back but has won three of his last four and the horses he beat in his last two in Madiba Magic and Mighty Major have both gone on to win their next start. He lacks nothing in the driver stakes either with Mark Purdon in the bike and from two on the second line he has more options than his stablemate. Selections Just because she has been driving in such unbelievable form for so long, we have gone for Someardensomewhere and Natalie to come out on top. Major Bubbles and Vice Consul for the minors with Provocative Prince the next in line. Race 7 - 5 year old + older C1-C5 Discretionary 2600 Meters stand. Another outstanding form race with the four most tightly assessed trotters off the back mark of 20 meters. Although there are numerous trotters in good form off the front and 10 meters marks, the four trotters off 20 meters hold a distinct class edge over their rivals. Idle Bones has won five of her last six and looks headed for open class in a hurry. Brent Mangos , who has driven her in her recent starts in the North Island has treked south for the drive which is a big plus. Free Dreams has been in great touch and is better off this week being off level marks with his main rivals which he hasn't been the case in his last few starts. Johnny Cox has him humming and he is a major player. Spell has always looked a open class trotter in the making and with three wins in her last six starts she is finally starting to fulfill her potential. She can't make her own luck and does need a sit but can be lethal if she gets the run to suit and Sam Ottley and Spell seem to get on well together. Jayceekay was one of the finds in the trotting ranks in the latter part of last season. Johnny Boylan has done a great job of getting the Monkey Bones mare to relax and learn a bit of ringcraft and she looks capable of winning a few more yet. Selections Tough call but Idle Bones is in such great form it is hard to go past her. Of the other three we fancy, we rate Free Dreams a fraction ahead of Spell and Jayceekay. Aile Rouge from the Robbie Holmes stable looks the pick of the rest. Race 8 - 4 year+older C0-C3 1950 meters The third of three great races on the night and yet again with the preferential barrier draw in operation the better assessed horses have drawn poorly. Dalton Bromac has impressed everyone since Benny Hill brought him out of the Butcher barn a few months back. A winner of four from seven, he reeled off a half of 54.7 last week at the end of a quick 2600 meters which makes him awfully hard to roll here. Ricky May has stuck with the ship which only raises the confidence levels even more. The danger for us is Mighty Major which has come on in leaps and bounds in his last two starts. Two starts back he was stuck three wide from the 600 meters in a quickly run race over 1950 and only went under by a nose to Vice Consul with Dalton Bromac third. At his last start, he looped the field early from a second row draw and held on in a quick time for 2600 meters. Blair Orange takes the drive and the Barron/Orange combination is already proving to be a winning one. Explosive Art has been in great touch and but for drawing the outside of the front line may have proved a handful for the other two we like. Selections We really can't separate Dalton Bromac and Mighty Major in this one although there will be a big difference tote wise. Blair Orange is driving like a man possessed since joining the Ken Barron barn and that might be enough to even the contest up. Explosive Art has to come into calculations along with Lord Baltimore and Ideal Act for the minors. All in all, three great fields to help kick off the 2014/2015 season at Addington. Harnesslink Media
The recently established harness racing team of Ken Barron and Blair Orange served notice today (Sunday 3rd August) at the Kurow Trotting Clubs meeting at Oamaru of what a powerful force they will be this season when they combined to win two races today from two starters. First up was the Ken Barron trained son of Falcon Seelster, No Excuse Maravu who with Blair Orange in the sulky was very impressive taking out the Rural Transport Pace over 2000 meters from a stand. Three back on the outer early on, No Excuse Maravu was pushed back to second last at the 800 meters mark before Blair Orange sent him around the field three wide from the 600 meters. Pushed four wide at the top of the straight, No Excuse Maravu quickly went to the front and comfortably held out the challenge of the warm favourite Idolise. It was the 3 year olds first win at just his third start and the manner of the win suggested a big future. No Excuse Maravu paced the 2000 meters from a stand in 2:31.9, a mile rate of 2:02.2 with closing sectionals of 58.4 and 28.3. The combination were at it again in the very next race with the talented Live Or Die 3 year old Livura captialising on a lovely drive from Blair Orange to win the Twizel Combined Services Club mobile pace over 2000 meters. Back early from a second row draw, Blair Orange sent Livura forward three wide with 1400 to go before ending up in the one by one with a lap to go. From there he got a lovely run until the corner where Blair angled Livura for an inside run. He burst between runners half way up the straight to grab the hotpot Western Art for an impressive win. The first foal from the talented Union Guy mare Zitura 1:57.7 ($114,990), Livura paced the 2000 meters from the mobile in 2:30.6, a mile rate of 2:01.1 with closing sectionals of 57.5 and 28. Ken Barron and Blair Orange have sent a clear message with their wins today that their newly established combination is one to be feared this season. No Excuse Maravu Livura Harnesslink media
Last week was possibly the worst ever for the ring-around with just the one winner. However, that one winner, Equulei, tipped by Jay Abernethy, did pay odds of $10.70 and $2.50. Let’s see what the boys have come up with for us this week: Addington – Thursday Jonny Cox: Thinks 2-win mare Pay Me Quick, who has been in sublime form of late, will be hard to beat against non-win rivals in the first race on the card. Ricky May: Has opted for the very smart Dalton Bromac, who looks half of the quinella with Wesley Silcox – race four. Matthew Williamson: Expects Very Persuasive to prove very hard to beat in the Golden Girls Final – race eight. Ken Barron: Has a massive opinion of Bracken Ridge and expects him to be simply too classy for his rivals in the last race on the card. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Bracken Ridge – race nine. Alexandra Park - Thursday Josh Dickie: Thinks Sunny Vacation, with manners, is the one they all have to beat in race six. Scott Phelan: Thinks the inform Cyamach, who is likely to head to Australia for the Breeders Crown, can continue on his winning ways – race seven. Todd Mitchell: Is bullish about the chances of Tangos Delight, who looks a strong chance in the eighth race on the card. Simon Lawson: Thinks Shedontloveme is a very good each-way chance in the last race on the card. Kurow – Sunday Blair Orange: Thinks Quaint Glen, who had trialled up stylishly prior to her debut third, can win the first race on the card. Tim Williams: Has opted for Lovetodream, who also looks a good chance in the first race on card. Gavin Smith: Thinks Billies A Star, who has been ultra impressive at the trials, should prove too strong for what looks an average maiden line-up – race five. Mark Jones: Thinks Sunoflindenny, who has been backed and beaten in his first two runs back, can make amends in the sixth race on the card.
Last week was a bit quieter for the ring-around with just Matthew Williamson, Ricky May, Ken Barron, David Butt, and Tony Herlihy tipping out winners. Hopefully we can top that performance this week Cambridge - Thursday Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Present Arms - race three. Josh Dickie: Rates juvenile Monterey Jack as good each-way prospect in the sixth race on the card. Alexandra Park - Friday Scott Phelan: Thinks Cyamach, who was an impressive last start winner, can repeat the dose in the fifth race on the card. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Ace Moment in the fourth event. Addington - Friday Craig Thornley: Thinks capabale type Al's Courage will measure up well in what is a very strong line-up - race seven. Samantha Ottley: Would love to win the Darren DeFilippi Memorial and thinks she can with Jayceekay - race seven. Ricky May: Has opted for Dalton Bromac who was super impressive when winning his South Island debut. - race eight. Anthony Butt: Rates Gotta Go Artelect as a good each-way chance in the same event. Blair Orange: Has opted for Franco Tevez, who finished third last start, in the ninth event at Addington. Oamaru - Sunday Matthew Williamson: Has opted for Monnay, who has been herculean when overcoming back handicaps to win his last two starts. He will attempt to do that again in race five. Mark Jones and Jonny Cox: Both think smart filly Goodness Gracious Me, who was super at the recent Motukarara workouts, will prove very hard to beat in the seventh race. Nathan Williamson: Has selected capable three-year-old Onedin Mach, who races well when in a fresh state. He will take all sorts of beating in the ninth race.
Kristie Hill has always wanted to campaign a horse at Alexandra Park and now thanks to her father Brian and enigmatic trotter Sunchita, she fulfilling that dream. Hill snr, who trains in Nelson, took Sunchita to Auckland and Kristie took over the reins a couple of days before the 6-year-old mare had her first race at Alexandra Park last Friday. Sent out a $3.40 second favourite and under the guidance and driving exploits of Tony Herlihy, the daughter of Sundon never looked like losing. Away well from her 10 metre handicap, Sunchita settled handy to the pace before Herlihy sent her forward to find the lead at the 500 metre mark from where she simply out-trotted her opponents – winning by 1 ½ lengths. It was Sunchita’s third consecutive win, fifth this season, and seventh in a career spanning 51 starts. She’s now banked $52,101. “She had to earn her trip up north and prove to us she was worthy of going up there and she did that at Nelson.’’ Hill senior said. “I have campaigned Single Lord and McShane up there before but this is the first time Kristie has been in Auckland with one of our team. “She has lots of friends up there and she always believed Sunchita would go well that way around because that’s the only way we train her back home.’’ He said Sunchita would have two more starts at Alexandra Park over the next two Fridays before returning home. The father and daughter combination both believe the often frustrating trotter has finally turned the corner and put it all together on the track. “If she keeps improving the way she is, well who knows she could start in the Dominion Handicap in November, I don’t want to get ahead of myself but that is the goal. “It’s every trainer’s dream to have a horse line up in either the Dominion or Rowe Cup.’’ Kristie is staying with Steve and Ann Phillips in Waiau Pa, while Sunchita is being stabled half an hour away at Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis’s Waiuku barn. “She loves being beach trained and the wet track on Friday would have suited her, she has really turned the corner now,’’ Kristie said. “We haven’t made too many changes to her gear. “Once upon a time she either finished first or last because of her tendency to gallop. “I think we can put her recent improvement down to maturity.’’ Hill, who is the former Education Manager for Harness Racing New Zealand, said the stakes at Alexandra Park also swayed their decision to bring Sunchita north. “The money on offer was too good to resist and I always wanted to bring her up here because I felt she would go better this way around. “It was a great performance first-up and a brilliant drive by a brilliant reinsman.’’ Hill is a graduation driver who has won 12 races since 1998. She has also placed 38 times from 293 starts for $93,897 in stakes. Two of those wins have come aboard Sunchita while Blair Orange and Jimmy Curtin have also won on her twice prior to Herlihy’s victory on Friday night. Hill said she wasn’t tempted to jump in the sulky and have a drive around Alexandra Park on this trip and was happy to leave the driving duties to Herlihy. “No I won’t be getting in the sulky when I’m up there, why would you put me in the sulky when one of the best drivers in the world can do the business?” Brian and Kristie own Sunchita and also bred her. She is the third of six foals (and most successful) out of Hills’ three-win Dancing Master mare, Carmenchita, who was also trained by Hill. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Promising young horseman, Tim Williams, will join All Stars stable in the new season as a replacement for Blair Orange. "I put a proposition to Tim last week and he rang me on Thursday to accept the position'' Mark said. "We both feel he will be an ideal fit for our stable. He has already driven for us with success and he impresses as a young man with a very professional approach to his job. "We expect that he will start with us in early August'' Unlike Blair who had not driven for All Stars before his appointment Tim, 23, has proven success with All Stars. He won the Kindergarten Stakes with Messini and a Cheviot Cup with Southwind Arden. Mark and Natalie's decision to entrust him with such drives indicated he was a man on the All Stars short list. He is a former winner of the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship and has long impressed with the potential he had to reach the top. Tim was working for Robert Dunn at the same time as his childhood friend Dexter Dunn (the Dunn and Williams families have business connections going back 50 years) and while he made the most of his opportunities with horses like Kabet and Jamie Gameson-trained Here We Go Again, he moved to Southland in 2012 to further his scope.He already has 189 wins and over $1.5m in stakes in the bin and with a lot more to come. By David McCarthy (Courtesy of ALL STARS RACING STABLE)
Last week was a great one for the Harnesslink ring-around with Matthew Williamson, Ken Barron, Scott Phelan, Josh Dickie, Jonny Cox, Craig Thornley, Ricky May, Anthony Butt, and Blair Orange all tipping out winners. Here are this week’s selections: Cambridge - Thursday Simon Lawson: Expects Ton Tine to win again – race five. Alexandra Park – Friday Steve Richardson (Harnesslink): Thinks Russley Haste will prove very hard to beat in the fourth race on the card. Scott Phelan: Has opted for the in form Cyamach in the Winter Cup - race seven. Forbury – Friday Mark Jones: Has declared Lady Mackendon as the biggest cert he has ever taken to the races. “It’s like Master Lavros in a maiden trot. Only a bad drive will get it beat.” Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Rip Roaring - race two. John Dunn: Expects smart juvenile Robbie Burns to make it two wins from as many starts – race four. Josh Dickie: Has just an average book of drives this week, but rates Russet Norkotah, who will be at any old odds, as the best of them - race five. Matthew Williamson: Thinks Al Razza will prove very hard to beat again – race ten. Nathan Williamson: Will go head-to-head with brother Matthew, with the talented Sheeza Shark in the same event. Rangiora – Sunday Blair Orange: Rates Zakspatrol as his best chance of the week – race seven. Terry Chmiel: Has opted for That Guy Finn, who will shoot for three wins in a row in the same event – race seven. Ricky May: Has opted for smart three-year-old Explosive Art, who has been coming along in leaps and bounds in recent starts – race eight. Ken Barron: Thinks Livura will prove hard to beat in the ninth race on the card. Jonny Cox: Has a decent book of drives, but rates Galleon’s Triumph as the best of them – race eleven. Anthony Butt: Is bullish about the chances of smart 2yo Field Marshal in the last event on the card.
Overport Lodge harness trainer Mark Jones brought up his 300th training win when Strike On Command responded to a clever drive from good mate Blair Orange at Marlborough on Sunday, June 22. Strike On Command and driver Blair Orange. They delivered the 300th training win for trainer Mark Jones at Blenheim on Sunday. The milestone caps Mark’s sixth and most successful season as a professional trainer. This was his 68th win for the season, taking the stable earnings to $738,993, with mutliple Group One winning trotter Master Lavros the big breadwinner. “Its been a good season. We’ll be a bit down next season as a lot have been sold and we’re a bit light on numbers,” Mark said. Strike On Command, nutted out of first by Motu Prince Of Peru in the dying stages on the first day, was able to be saved a shade longer for his final sprint on the second day in the C2-3 A1 Drycleaning and Laundry Mobile Pace. Pacemaking favourite Al’s Courage had dashed clear inside the final 200m and looked to have the result in safe keeping but Blair had other ideas after giving his charge a good run on the outer. He lifted Strike On Command over the final 100m to win going away by half a length in a useful 2:00.1 mile rate for the mobile 2300m, the leaders last 800m in 57.5s. Strike On Command, a consistent 3YO McArdle colt, has now raced 22 times for five wins and eight placings (including six seconds) for $31,382 in stakes. Raced by Australian owner Kevin Stanley, Strike On Command is the first foal from Noble Strike (1:56.8h, US), who numbered a PGG NZ Yearling Sales 2YO Fillies South Island Graduette win and a Nevele R Fillies Heat among her two NZ wins for Ian and Malcolm Shinn. The OK Bye-TK Swift mare proved a consistent winner in North America, notching another 15 wins, earning the equivalent of $149,602. She is a half-sister to other big USA winners in Time Flies (1:52, US; 36 wins incl. 32 in the US for $624,230 career winnings) and Ultimate Pursuit (1:51.6, US, 44 wins incl. 38 in the US). Time Flies is the dam of former Overport Lodge 2YO winner Glenferrie Magic (1:59.1, 1700m), who showed much potential winning once from three starts before having her race career cut short. Strike On Command is bred to be above average. He belongs to the same family as other big winners _ Slybye (1:52.4, US, 31 wins in NZ, Aust & US), El Cabalero (1:54.4, US, 17 wins incl. 12 in the US), Algranco Alive (1:56.2 mile rate, 1650m, 10 Aust. wins) and Flak Jacket (1:54, US, a former NZ Kindergarten Stakes winner at two, 12 wins in NZ, Aust. and the US). By Jeff Scott (Courtesy of MARK JONES RACING)