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The first of the group races on tonights big night of harness racing at Alexandra Park was the $55,000 Lone Star Riccarton Sires Stakes Championship and it  looked to be a two horse battle once the draw came out with Speeding Spur drawing beautifully at three with arch rival Prince Fearless at four. However all that changed 100 metres after the start when Prince Fearless went into a wild gallop losing all chance. Josh Dickie worked the Pegasus Spur colt  to the front after 300 metres from Habibti Ivy and Blair Orange who settled into the trail on the favourites back The rest of the field were in Indian file apart from Monbet and Ricky May who slowly worked their way forward to sit on the wheel of Speeding Spur with 800 metres to go.  Josh upped the tempo with Speeding Spur down the back the last time but Monbet stuck with him and was still on his wheel as they turned for home. All the way up the straight Monbet slowly took ground off Speeding Spur but come the finishing line was still a nose back with Habibti Ivy making ground up the passing lane to be only a 1/2 neck away in third. Josh was happy to have won the $55,000 feature but thought Speeding Spur wasn't 100% on his game tonight. " He didn't really switch on tonight like he can and was gawking about down the back straight." " With so many big races coming up we haven't done that much with him and didn't take him to the trials last Saturday so he will improve on tonight's run next week." " They were getting really close late but his way of racing with his neck stuck out helped in the end," Josh said. Monbet went huge in second and is a live chance next week to reverse the result if he can just for once draw inside Speeding Spur and Prince Fearless. Harnesslink Media  

Brent White took two trotters to tonights harness racing meeting at Addington and he held high hopes for one and was just hopeful with the other. Trouble Rieu was his best chance Brent thought while Glendaloch was probably out of it from the unruly mark on ten metres.but a rough place chance if things went his way. Trouble Rieu was away well from the stand for driver Stephen McNally and quickly assumed the lead which he held until it was taken off him by his stablemate Glendaloch with Blair Orange in the bike who looped the field to lead with 1800 metres to go.   Keeping up a steady tempo in front,Glendaloch looked a sitting duck for his stablemate Trouble Rieu in the trail but it wasn't to be as Glendaloch fought off his better credentialled stablemate and then withstood a late challenge from the ultra consistent Xmas Joyella with Trouble Rieu battling on well for third.   It wasn't the result Brent was expecting.   " I thought with the run he got that Trouble Rieu would run straight past him but the old fella is pretty genuine and fought on well,"Brent said.   Glendaloch was purchased by Ross McCutcheon at Timaru one day from David McCormick after the horse had had one gallop too many.   Brent says he hasn't changed too much with the son of Sundon.   " I made a couple of minor changes to his shoes but apart from that we have just worked on leaving him alone really."   " He seems really happy these days and may not have finished yet going by tonights win." Brent said.   Fred Morris, the trainer/owner of Xmas Joyella was smiling post race.   " I brought both of Brent's trotters in tonight on my truck so we have nabbed the trifecta between us, Fred said.   Brent White has built up a great strike rate with a small team and is obviously a trainer on the rise.   PS: Brent made it a night to remember for the Yaldhurst trainer when he produced the smart racemare Sell A Bit to win the C2-C6 mares race in 1:55.3   Harnesslink Media

Last week was a mixed bag but two very wet tracks at both Ascot Park and Methven didn't help with the conditions hampering a lot of runners. We managed five winners with the best dividend going to Bob Butt at Methven with Ancient Moonlight while others to select winners were John Dunn, Tim Williams, Nathan Williamson and Scott Phelan and we also had five placings as well. This week there are only the four meetings and we cover them all. Manawatu - Thursday night Kyle Marshall - Gives Soul Hanover a great each way chance in race 2 Todd Mitchell - Thinks on his runs to date they can't beat Alta Leroy in race 8    Auckland - Friday night Tony Herlihy - Thought Uandmebabe would be hard to beat from her good draw in race 7 Scott Phelan - Very bullish about the chances of Bettor B Amazed, also in race 7 Maurice McKendry - Gives the two year old Shandale a big chance of winning race 8 Steven Reid - Rates Aquickone on her work this week as the one to beat in race 9   Addington - Friday night Terry Chmiel - Thought Danny Del Vito from barrier one could upset them in race 1 John Dunn - Gives Culinary Delight a big push to return to the winners list, also in race 1 Bob Butt - Looking for the trifecta in race one where Bob thinks Gracious Me will be hard to beat Robbie Holmes - Thought Aile Rouge could get a piece of it at good odds in race 2 Brad Williamson - Very bullish about the chances of the very smart Father Christmas, also in race 2 John Curtin (Harnesslink) Reckons Waikiki Beach will beat Chase The Dream and win race 4 Blair Orange - Thinks Habibti Ivy will match it with the boys in the Derby and win race 5 Gerard O'Reilly - Thought Tiger Tara would be improved this week and a each way chance in race 6 Matthew Williamson - Knows Alley Way is up against it this week but a great place chance in race 7 Tim Williams - Keeps giving out Have Faith In Me and he keeps winning, this week in race 8 Ricky May - Rapt with the run of Dalton Bromac last week and won't have him beaten in race 9   Invercargill - Sunday afternoon Brendon McLellan - Reckons Leigh Major must be due a change of luck and can win race1 Steve Richardson(TAB) - Really likes the chances of Denn Nee Nose Best in race 3 Clark Barron - Gave Real Raider a big chance to clear maidens in race 4 Nathan Williamson - Thought Franco Tyson would be a great each way chance at good odds in race 8   Harnesslink Media

In the sport of harness racing in New Zealand, Paul Nairn has a reputation second to none when it comes to producing age group trotters. Tonight at Addington in the New Zealand Trotting Oaks for three year old fillies, Paul showed once again why he is held in such high regard by his fellow trainers when he produced Habibti Ivy at just her sixth lifetime start to win the Group 2 event. Away well from barrier one for driver Blair Orange, Habibti Ivy handed up to the favourite Arya after 400 metres and got a lovely trip on her back until the corner where she burst up the passing lane and was way too smart winning by 2 + 3/4 lengths without having to be driven out. Sunny Ruby after a lovely run three back on the inner flew home late for second in front of a very game Fiery Mountain Girl who sat parked for the entire trip with Arya fading late for a disappointing fourth. Paul Nairn was confident of a big run from the daughter of Love You. " Her work has been super and I was confident she would go close." " The secret is not to over race them leading into the big races like this." " We may look at the Derby now and safely through that we will have to have a serious look at going to the three year old races at Auckland," Paul said. Driver Gavin Smith was rapt with the run of Sunny Ruby for second. " She is a lovely filly to drive and gives you a great feel." "Fred Fletcher is great with young trotters and she is beautifully mannered"  "I got a great run following Habibti Ivy and she finished it off really well," Gavin said. John Dunn was rapt with the run of Fiery Mountain Girl. " She has gone huge tonight." " To be parked every inch of the race and still fight on for third was a great run for an inexperienced filly like her." " I'm over the moon with the run," John said. Paul Nairn is never short of a smart age group trotter and in Habibti Ivy he has another topliner. Harnesslink Media  

Last week wasn't one of our best but the missing link was our southern tipsters who had a shocker at Winton last Saturday. Everybody else was thereabouts with their selections with Jim Curtin, Todd Mitchell, Maurice McKendry and Ricky May tipping us into winners and we had seven placegetters as well. This week there are only four meetings in the country and we have selections for them all. Taranaki - Thursday afternoon John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Gave Sheza Springfield a big chance of clearing maidens in race 3 Peter Scaife - Likes Prime Legal to improve on his first day run and win race 4 Scott Phelan - Rates Better B Amazed as very hard to beat in race 9 Sean McCaffrey - Thought Styx It To Em was right in the zone and would win race 10   Addington - Friday night John Dunn - Very bullish about the chances of Boom Gate in race 1 Blair Orange - Gives Goodness Gracious Me a big chance in race 2 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Thought Jaccka Justy would be hard to beat in race 3 Tony Herilhy - Thinks Hug The Wind will be very hard to beat from barrier 1 in race 6 Tim Williams - Very keen on the very smart Have Faith In Me, also in race 6 Todd Mitchell - Reckons Prime Power is at his best and will win race 8   Ascot Park - Saturday afternoon Shane Walkinshaw - Likes the chances of Geordie Sivad to make it two in a row in race 4 Brad Williamson - Thought Mokosun from the front line would be hard to beat in race 5 Brendon McLellan - Gives Leigh Major a big chance in race 7 Nathan Williamson - Very bullish about the chances of Statham in race 8 Clark Barron - Not sure if Bonnies Khaleesi can beat Statham but a great place bet, also in race 8   Methven - Sunday afternoon Matthew Williamson - Likes the chances of the first starter Toot Toot in race 1 Bob Butt - Quite bullish about the chances of Ancient Moonlight in race 3 Jim Curtin - Gives Trial Separation a big chance of leaving maidens in race 4 Terry Chmiel - Really keen on the chances of Another Delight, also in race 4 Ricky May - Thought Jack Hammer would be very hard to beat in race 8 Gerard O'Reilly - Thinks Break Dance is a big chance to make it two in a row in race 9   Harnesslink Media

The pinnacle for harness racing three year olds to aspire to in New Zealand are the two derbies held each year. This Friday night sees the running of this years $250,000 Great Northern Derby at Alexandra Park and this is our runner by runner preview of the race Great Northern Derby - 2015 1) Have Faith In Me - Starts - 9  -  Wins 4  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $202,302 Probably the most talked about horse pre race due to the draw.  Most pundits think he is likely to be crossed early from barrier one which when added in with his history of having a few fancy steps early when rushed out of the gate makes him vulnerable. We are not convinced it is as dire as that and driver Tim Williams is confident gear changes lately have helped him immensely in giving him more confidence. If he does hold up, he immediately becomes the horse that Follow The Stars has to beat A must for all quinella, trifecta and first four players. 2) Express Stride  -  Starts 14  -  Wins 4  -  Seconds 5  -  Thirds 3   -   Stakes $126,945 Ultra consistent horse who from this draw becomes a major player. Can leave the gate so able to take advantage of his good draw. Has been beaten by two or three here in the past when it counts and for that reason we just have that slight doubt over his ability to beat this field. Great trainer/driver in Tony Herlihy is a big plus so a must have for quinellas, trifectas and first fours. 3) Kept Under Wraps  -  Starts 11  -  Wins 5  -  Seconds 4  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $149,805 This horse has a great overall record but just a notch down from the top two or three. Great manners and ringcraft means he is always thereabouts Very similar in makeup to Express Stride and has been the runner up to Follow The Stars on several occasions now. Draw means he is a player here but more  a place than a win chance for us. 4) Robbie Burns  -  Starts 6  -  Wins 3  -  Seconds 0  -  Thirds 1   -   $18,503 Has really made his mark in the last couple of months but this race has come a bit too soon for him in our view. Has been thrown in the deep end a bit here but won't disgrace himself. Still at this stage a few here look to have a ringcraft and experience advantage which counts for a lot in races like this. Not for us 5) Art Union  -  Starts 22  -  Wins 12  -  Seconds 5  -  Thirds 1   -   Stakes $141,763 He has been a very busy horse all season but continues to race well at the highest level. Great third in the New South Wales Derby last Sunday after burning the gate and not much doubt that Dexter will go forward this week from barrier five as well. Good enough to get some of it but a question mark over his ability to beat two or three here. Trifecta and first four player for us. 6) Itz Bettor To Win  -  Starts 10  -  Wins 6  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $81,475 He is a real tradesman like horse and one that tends to sneak under the radar most of the time. Is three for three on the track and each win has been better than the last.  Blair Orange climbs aboard so he lacks nothing in the driver department and appeals to us as the most likely upsetter of the favoured trio. Must have for quinella, trifecta and first four takers. 7) Delighful Offer ( 1st Emerg) -  Starts 12  -  Wins 2  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 4   -   Stakes $34,946 Bit of a surprise to us that he is on the ballot here as we rate him higher than a couple of others that did make the field. Got a bit of bottom to him as he showed when running fourth in the $200,000 sales race on New Years eve at Alexandra Park after sitting parked Not a major player even if he did made it back into the field. 8) Follow The Stars  -  Starts 16  -  Wins 13  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $548,415 Champion two year old who put a couple of below par seconds in Victoria behind him when he comprehensively beat most of these last week Drew the outside of the second line last week, looped them early and beat them up without being extended. Had a few things go his way for all that but stable very confident there was plenty of improvement left in him heading forward to this week. On that basis he is the horse to beat but he doesn't need too much bad luck to come back to this field. Include in everything. 9) Hughie Green  -  Starts 12  -  Wins 7  -  Seconds 0  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $55,621 The enigma of the field for sure who when he is good, he is very good and when he is bad he is awful. At his best he could win this but very disappointing run in the prelude last week. Not sure he is at the same level he was before he went south for the Sires Stakes final in November when he was just absolutely low flying. If the real Hughie Green comes to play they will know they have been in a race. However needs to improve a lot off last weeks run to be the threat we know he can be. 10) Change Stride  -  Starts 12  -  Wins 4  -  Seconds 1  -  Thirds 3   -   Stakes $ 47,629 Has been in great form since Cup week at Addington except for last weeks prelude where he got shuffled back on the inner and was no hope from there a long way out so we have put a line through that run. Follow The Stars beat him by a neck in the Waikato Guineas and his third in the Northern three year old stakes in December was also full of merit. Not a winning hope but can certainly bump up those trifectas and first four dividends. 11) Bettor Spirits  -  Starts 24  -  Wins 4  -  Seconds 4  -  Thirds 5   -   Stakes $90,958 Needs everything to go his way to be a player in this race and from this draw that is very unlikely to happen. Very disappointing run in the prelude where after getting a great drag into it, he just battled in the straight.  His run three starts back in the sales race on New Years eve was also very disappointing. Not for us. 12) Chachingchaching  -  Starts 18  -  Wins 4  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 1   -   Stakes $75,547 Has always looked capable of matching it with the big boys but went through a bad patch there for a couple of months. Change of driver a couple of months seems to have worked the trick with him and his last few runs have all been full of merit against quality fields. Not a winning chance for us but another one who is more than capable of running into the money with the right run. An added bonus is his driver David Butcher is back to his very best lately after being sidelined last year through injury. 13) Brilliant Strike  -  Starts 11  -  Wins 6  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 3   -   Stakes $51,460 Yet to finish out of the money in eleven starts and stuck on gamely for third last week after doing plenty of work. Extra distance right up his alley but we are still not completely convinced he is the real deal at this level. Another bad draw and a much stronger field this week means we struggle to see him as a major player here. Outside first four player for us. 14) Hug The Wind  -  Scratched 15) The Faithful  -  Starts 9  -  Wins 3  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 0   -   Stakes $28,055 Is starting to build up a good record but in the main it has been away from the better three year olds. He has beaten a few of these but not any of the main players so from the draw we think he is on mission impossible. Not for us Selections We don't think there is that much if anything at all between Follow The Stars and Have Faith In Me except that Follow The Stars is the complete professional racehorse where as Have Faith In Me still has a few rough edges to smooth out. So Follow The Stars just in front of Have Faith In Me and after that it is a bit of a lottery. Outside of our top two selections, there is not a lot between several runners For quinella and trifecta takers we would take Express Stride, Kept Under Wraps, Art Union, Itz Bettor To Win and Hughie Green A couple to add into first fours would be Change Stride and Chachingchaching Harnesslink Media

Last week was an improvement from the week before with our tipsters selecting six winners along with eight placegetters so not far away from a great result. Clark Barron, Todd Mitchell, Zac Butcher, John Curtin, Matthew Williamson and Maurice McKendry all got their selections home first to carry on the good strike rate that most of that group have. This week we are covering the four meetings with declared fields but we would suggest that anyone backing a horse at Westport on Friday follows their selection through to Reefton on Sunday. Forbury - Thursday night Terry Chmiel - Gives Moment Of Love a big chance of turning her form around and winning race 4 Brad Williamson - Very bullish about the chances of Mokosun in race 9   Westport - Friday afternoon Jim Curtin - Likes the chances of Insignificant even off 30 metres in race 2 Robbie Holmes - Thought As Kiwi As was due a change of luck and could win race 4 Gerard O'Reilly - Reckons Breakdance can turn her form around and win race 5 Steve Richardson (Tab) - Thought the durable Ideal Arden would be hard to beat in race 7 John Dunn - Rates Geisha Girl a huge chance to make it three in a row, also in race 7 Bob Butt - Gives Georgie Mach a big winning chance even from the unruly mark in race 8   Auckland - Friday night Maurice McKendry - Reckons Yagunnakissmeornot can carry on her winning way in race 2 Blair Orange - Thinks Barry with a drop back this week would be very hard to beat, also in race 2 John Curtin - Gives Chase The Dream a big chance of upsetting Lazarus in race 3  Scott Phelan - Thought First Home, even from barrier eight could upset them in race 4  Tim Williams - Rates Dream About Me a big chance to make it three from three in race 5 Todd Mitchell - Gives Prime Power a great chance of going back to back in race 7 Ricky May - Thinks Jason Rulz is a great place chance from barrier two in race 8 Tony Herlihy - Rates San Diego Love coming in fresh a big chance of winning race 9   Gore - Sunday afternoon Brendon McLellan - Gives Taranto a good chance on grass to win race 2 Matthew Williamson - Thought Falcon Asset would be hard to roll in race 6 Nathan Williamson - Reckons Statham has kept improving lately and will win race 7 Shane Walkinshaw - Thought with a drag into the race Viscountess could get some of it, also in race 7 Clark Barron - Gives Flight Deck a good chance of making a winning debut in race 10

Rocker Band booked a start in the $140,000 Nevele R Fillies Final at Addington on May 9 when defeating last season’s Breeders Crown-winning 2YO filly Katy Perry at Methven on Sunday, February 22. The daughter of Rocknroll Hanover and 2005 New Zealand Cup winner Mainland Banner shared favouritism with Katy Perry in the Hororata Trotting Club’s Nevele R heat on the grass. Both had turns at leading, with Rocker Band having the early gate speed to cross, then driver Ricky May elected to take a trail on Katy Perry nearing the final 800m. Rocker Band had the superior sprint in the run home, coming clear by 2 1/4 lengths in a useful 2:02.3 (1609m) on a drizzle-affected grass track. She was a slightly disappointing fourth at her previous start in the Ashburton Nevele R Heat for trainer Mark Jones, who expected more after securing the perfect trail. She was still racetimed in 1:55.6 there, but couldn’t go with the top Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen-trained fillies of Fight For Glory, who was too good in 1:54.5 from Linda Lovegrace and Supersonic Miss. Both Fight For Glory (New South Wales Oaks Heat) and Supersonic Miss (Pascoes The Jewellers Northern Oaks Prelude) complimented the Ashburton heat run by winning again last weekend. Rocker Band had also been earmarked for the New South Wales Oaks series, but the domestic Nevele R heat was a more suitable target after Ashburton. She was recording her second win at her fifth start for Queensland owner Greg Brodie. The Overport Lodge stable moved to 34 wins and crashed through the $300,000 stakes barrier for the season wtih Rocker Band’s success. The stable also produced Zakspatrol for an upset $40.80 win price in the hands of Kimberly Butt at Addington on Friday night. Kim was able to secure a good trail on the outer with the Grant and Katherine Hatton-owned Zakspatrol in the Blue Star Taxis Pace. They finished too well for Sunnivue Bay Boy, Little Lion Man and Mach’s Terminator in 3:21.5 for the stand start 2600m. The stable also went close at Auckland with trotter Charming Lavra, who ran a close second after moving up in the open for Blair Orange. Courtesy of Mark Jones Racing Stables - Check site here  

Another one of those weeks where we were there abouts without getting the rub of the green, with a lot of the horses selected by our tipsters having little luck. Five managed to get home first but another five ran second which about sums up the luck at the moment. Blair Orange, Robbie Holmes, Tony Herlihy, Nathan Williamson and the boss John Curtin all picked winners and special mention for the boss who is going for three in a row this week. Our tipsters have gone near and far this week from Winton in the south to Tabcorp Park Melton in Melbourne. Winton - Thursday afternoon Brad Williamson - Rates Mokosun a big winning chance even off 20 metres in race 4 Clark Barron - Thinks Mass Invasion is overdue a change of luck and can win, also in race 4   Shane Walkinshaw - Thought Princess Arts from the draw could roll the hotpot On The Town in race 8 Brendon McLellan - Gives Repeat After Me a great chance of running in three in race 9     Manawatu - Thursday night Kyle Marshall - Reckons Unmissable is ready to win her second race at Manawatu in race 5 Peter Scaife - Rates Mach Cullen from barrier one a big chance to turn his form around and win race 7   Amberley - Friday afternoon Bob Butt - Rates last weeks impressive debutant Supershakes hard to beat in race 3 Robbie Holmes - Gives Bridget Blue Chip from her handy draw a chance to upset them in race 5 Gerard O"Reilly - Thought Always Yours would take all kinds of stopping in race 6 Jim Curtin - Rates Star Of Dionysis back to the grass a big chance to win race 8   Auckland - Friday night Steven Reid - Thought  Clarius could continue his good form and win race 1 Tony Herlihy - Likes Walkinshaw to improve on his debut run and win race 4 Maurice McKendry -  Thought his two year old Shandale would have a big show, also in race 4 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Rates Our Dainty Lady very hard to beat in race 6 Scott Phelan - Thinks Better B Amazed will be awlfully hard to beat in race 9   Ashburton - Saturday afternoon Tim Williams - Rates Chase The Dream a big chance to win the Sapling Stakes on debut (Race 5) Blair Orange - Thought Goodness Gracious Me could top off a string of placings with a win in race 9   Tabcorp Park Melton - Saturday night Ricky May - Was rapt with "Terrors" run last week and thinks he can win the Hunter Cup   Wairarapa - Sunday Afternoon Todd Mitchell - Rates Te Kawau very difficult to beat in the Wairarapa Cup.   Waikouaiti - Sunday Afternoon Nathan Williamson - Rates Grey Power a big chance on the grass to win race 5 Matthew Williamson  - Thinks if Bet's Sun trots all the way he can beat his brother in race 5 Craig Thornley - Likes the chances of Dream Big to bounce back and win race 8.   Harnesslink Media

There was a great sigh of relief tonight amongst harness racing followers when one of  the real good guys in our industry Blair Orange reined Change Time home in race two at Addington and in doing so became the twenty third New Zealand driver to crack the 1000 win mark. Blair had a run of bad luck at Blenheim last weekend but all that was forgotten tonight as Blair sent Change Time to the lead after 800 metres before trailing The Brigadier for the last lap and using the passing lane to sprint clear for a comfortable victory. A throng of family and well wishers applauded Blair as he brought the mare back to the winners circle tonight. Blair was his usual modest self as Harness Racing New Zealand.chairman Gary Allen made a presentation to mark Blair's achievement. Blair was full of praise and thanks for all the people who had helped him along the way. " For someone who doesn't come from a harness racing family, I can only thank the people who encouraged me and gave me a chance." "Tim Butt who I started with was never afraid to put me on when I was starting out and that helped get me established." "Mike Austin, Mark Purdon, Mark Jones and Andrew Stuart have all helped me throughout my career and I can't really thank them enough." "I am lucky enough to have a great wife in Lisa who stays at home looking after the kids while I am travelling all over the country." "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for her support," Blair said. Harness racing is indeed fortunate that Blair chose this industry over his other great love Rugby League at which he was good enough to attract the interest of the Melbourne Storm . Harnesslink would like to join the rest of the industry in congratulating Blair on driving 1000 winners and for the manner in which he has done it. Harnesslink Media  

Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones pulled off a satisfying training coup by transforming Johnny Fox into a G3 $40,000 Invercargill Cup winner on Saturday, January 24. Johnny Fox’s career was at the crossroads after choking down badly on NZ Cup day in November, but a brief spell and the addition of an anti-choking device has turned him around. The 6YO Western Terror gelding is relaxing in his races and growing in confidence. So much so, he added a new string to his bow by moving up in the open over the last 2000m of the G3 $40,000 Ascot Park Hotel Invercargill Cup and proving just as effective cutting the breeze. “He is racing great and was great for him to sit parked and win,” Mark said. The win showed Mark he had toughened up as previously he was at his best as a very fast sit-sprint horse. Johnny Fox sprinted up on the corner as if he’d had trailing cover, with driver Blair Orange cleverly putting the foot down as favourite Meticulous was held up three back on the markers. Johnny Fox had Belkmyster (wide) for company turning in but held a comfortable advantage down the stretch, holding by three-quarters of a length in 4:04 (3200m). The leaders picked up the pace over their last 800m in 57.8s and final 400m in a quick 26.9s. Belkmyster held second with a length and a quarter to Meticulous winding up late to grab third ahead of early breaker The Wrath Of Robyn, who staged a big recovery for fourth. The win, Mark’s third Invercargill Cup training win in the race in the last five years (earlier winning with Ohoka Texas and Saveapatrol), and the fifth for driver Blair Orange, came on top of prelude and Nelson Cup wins by Johnny Fox two weeks ago. “I’m unsure where Johnny goes next as two weeks ago he was an out of form 4-win horse. Now he is a 7-win horse racing great.” “I guess we have to look at the Addington Summer Cup ($25,000 free-for-all, 2600m) on Friday as he is racing great.” Johnny Fox, purchased by the Butterworth Racing Syndciate after winning his first five for southern interests, has now won nine of 33 starts for $88,189. The outstanding form by Johnny Fox this month is timely for Highview Standardbreds of Riverton who are offering a half-brother to the provincial cups winner at the NZ Premier Yearling Sale in Christchurch on February 17. The colt is by by the Western Hanover stallion Well Said (p3, 1:47.6 & the winner of $2.5 million), while Johnny Fox’s dam, the unraced Ivy Rose, is by Island Fantasy from the good racemare Highview Rose (eight wins $51,409, including a Winton Cup). Highview Rose (OK Bye-Rosewood Mistress), a half-sister to Highview Atom (17 wins incl. 13 in WA, 1:57.1 mile rate, 1742m) and Highview Jude (nine wins & $68,400), has left the good winners, Oreti Beach (1:52, US, five NZ wins, 22 USA wins), Highview Badlands nine wins incl. the 2007 Invercargill Cup for trainer Jimmy Curtin, and Highview Macushla (1:58.2 mile rate, 1700m, three wins). Another daughter of Highview Rose in Highview Miss is the raced placed dam of Jenna’s Highview (p3, 1:57, 1 NZ win & 4 Aust. wins, runnerup in both the Australian & Queensland Oaks) and Highview Annwell (four wins). * Blair Orange, a regular driver for the Mark Jones stable and the Butterworth Racing Syndicate, brought up his 999th NZ career win behind Johnny Fox on Saturday. He looks certain to join the 1000-win driving club at Waterlea on Sunday. Jeff Scott - Courtesy Mark Jones Racing Stables - Visit site here  

Harness racing can be cruel at times as a lot of our tipsters found out last week when a lot of the selections had little luck on raceday. Both Playaway and Sweet Art had no luck on the first day at Otaki but both won on the second day so it does pay to not drop them in a hurry, Our best performer last week was Steven Reid who nailed Clarius at Otaki at $13:40 and he was unlucky not to make it a double for the weekend on the second day, again at good odds. Other selectors to pick winners were Ricky May, Peter Scaife,Scott Phelan, Blair Orange and Brad Williamson and we picked up three placings as well and a string of fourths. This week we have selections at Motukarara, Blenhiem, Auckland, and Invercargill and Gate Pa. Don't let the selections for Blenheim slip under your guard on Sunday if they miss on Friday. Motukarara - Thursday afternoon Robbie Holmes - Gave us two he couldn't separate. At the Mott it is Willie Shine in race 8 Ricky May - Thought Cullen Keefe could get back on track in race 10 Craig Thornley - Rates Franco Hammond highly and thought he could win again, also in race 10   Blenheim - Friday afternoon Jimmy Curtin - Likes the chances of the Brian O'Meara trained Mach Winger in race 2 Gerard O'Reilly - Thinks Royal Caroline is due a change of luck and can win race 3  Robbie Holmes - The second of his selections this week is the talented Cyclone Kiwi in race 9 Blair Orange - Rates Take After Me a big chance of making it two wins in a row in race 11   Auckland - Friday night Tony Herlihy - Gives Uandmebabe a big show even from the second line in race 2 Maurice McKendry - Rates Hanoverdakash a great each way bet in race 3 Scott Phelan - Thought that Prince Of Pops could bounce back after a brief break and win race 4 John Curtin (Harnesslink)- Thought Gamma Lady on her workout win last weekend would win race 5   Steve Richardson (TAB) - Rates Charleston Belle a big chance to take out race 9 Todd Macfarlane - Knows the draw is dead against him but still likes Simply Stunning, also in race 9    Invercargill - Saturday afternoon Nathan Williamson - Thought if Splash Cola could get around the first bend then she would win race 1 John Dunn - Gives Alta Las Vegas a big rap even from barrier eight in race 3 Clark Barron - Gives I'm Full Of Excuses a big chance of taking out race 4 Matthew Williamson - Thinks Alley Way on last weeks run should win race 5 Brad Williamson - Thought he might be able to upset big brother with Father Christmas, also in race 5 Shane Walkinshaw - Rates Acolyte off the mobile a big chance to turn his form around in race 8 Tim Williams - Thought Meticulous had trained on great this week and would win race 9   Gate Pa - Sunday afternoon Peter Scaife - Confident that a shoeing change will have recent import Winsome Luck winning race 2 Todd Mitchell - Thought Shardon's Pearl would carry on the good work and win, also in race 2 Sean McCaffrey - With no Gold Ace or Adore Me about, he thought Norvic Nightowl could win race 9     

The racing programme is finally getting back to something like normal this week although there is no meeting in the Auckland/ Waikato region so the number of selections this week reflects that. Our "holiday" selectors were in good form with Scott Phelan, Ricky May, Blair Orange, Jim Curtin, Steve Richardson, Bob Butt, Nathan Williamson, Matthew Williamson and Brad Williamson all tipping out winners with Brad getting bragging rights on the back of Nureyev paying $10:90 at Winton. This week we have four meetings in the country covered with some interesting selections from our tipsters. Northern Southland - Thursday afternoon Shane Walkinshaw - Bullish about the chances of Acolyte in race 4 Bob Butt - Thinks that with an ounce of luck Justalittlebettor can win race 5 even from barrier 8 Terry Chmiel - Reckons Millwood Pink Lady from barrier two will be very hard to beat, also in race 5 Ricky May - Rates Rocker Band very hard to hold out if she gets clear air in race 6 Brendon McLellan - Reckons with his dropback to C1 Sammy The Bull can win race 8 Nathan Williamson - Gives Dwindle Mist a real chance of upsetting the favourites in race 9 Clark Barron - Thought even in a red hot field, Twilight Franco could upset them in race 10    Otaki - Friday afternoon John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Rates the chances of recent northern import Balius in race 6 Scott Phelan - Likes the chances of Sweet Art off the front mark to win race 7 Steven Reid - Thought Clarius was a chance to upset them in race 8 Peter Scaife - Thought Playaway was due a change of luck and could win race 10   Addington - Friday night Gerard O'Reilly - Rates Royal Caroline a big chance of leaving maidens in race 1 Craig Thornley - Thought Supreme Gem even from barrier 6 at the mile could win race 3 Robbie Holmes - Gives Petite Royal a chance of turning her form around and winning race 4 Blair Orange - Quite bullish about the chances of Bracken Ridge in race 6  Steve Richardson (TAB) - Likes the chances of Big Lucy winning first up for the season in race 8 Brad Williamson- Thought Monty Python could make it three in a row in race 9   Oamaru - Sunday Afternoon Matthew Williamson - Rates Brads Kenny a huge chance on his home track to win race 5

Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones could head south for the Group Three $40,000 Ascot Park Hotel Invercargill Cup (3200m) on January 24 with harness racings latest Nelson Cup winner Johnny Fox. “He’s going great. We may look at the Invercargill Cup or something like that.” “Its just a bit harder to place him as a six-win horse now,” he said. Mark Jones will attempt to extend a winning habit as a trainer in the Invercargill Cup, should Johnny Fox return south. Mark has won two of the last three Invercargill Cups, with Ohoka Texas (2012) and Saveapatrol. The latter upstaged triple NZ Cup winner Terror To Love, last year, after 13 days earlier taking out the Marlborough Cup. Johnny Fox caused concerns after a breathing problem came to a head on New Zealand Cup in November, but an overcheck and an anti-choking device (under his chin) have him racing better than ever. The Western Terror gelding ran an improver’s second to Mossdale Conner first-up at Rangiora on December 31, then went from strength-to-strength at Nelson. He sprinted a fast final 800m in 54.9s to run down Stradowan in the Cup Prelude on Friday, but was even more impressive pacing the same sectional over the longer 3000m trip to win on Sunday. Johnny Fox, second last at the 800m, swept up sharply four wide on the home turn for Blair Orange, and had a good kick when he asked him to go at the 200m. The Butterworth Racing Syndicate-owned pacer ran clear by three-quarters of a length from Stradowan, who had to settle for the bridesmaid tag again, after leading early, trailing King Cyril, and having every chance. He paced the full 3000m in 3:49.8 (2:03.2 mile rate), and outside the the Nelson track and race mark of 3:47.4, set by Jason Rulz when beating Jackaroo Bromac in the 2013 Nelson Cup. Johnny Fox, bred by the Wilson family of Winton, won his first five when racing for trainer Ian Wilson and briefly in Canterbury for Steve McRae, before being purchased by the Butterworth Syndicate. He won second-up for the Mark Jones team and Michelle Neilson in a junior drivers pace at Addington in March last year, and despite having breathing issues, had shown high speed in his races. Although the competition for him will get harder up the grades, he’s looking more relaxed and has a chance of realising his full potential. Melbourne owners, Merv and Meg Butterworth, had another good day on both sides of the Tasman with Arden Rooney, formerly in the Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen barn, running third first-up for Kerryn Manning in the $A60,505 Horsham Cup. Arden Rooney enjoyed a good run through from the inside of the back row to trail on the outer. He fought solidly behind winner Philadelphia Man, who was too good after racing in the open outside a pulling favourite For a Reason. Philadelphia Man was too strong, coming clear in a track record 1:58.1 rate (2700m) from stablemate Restrepo, who maintained a good three wide run from the rear over the final 900m. Courtesy Of Jeff Scott - Mark Jones Harness Racing Stables,   

Plenty of harness racing pundits thought that the smart 2 year old Lazarus would be hard pushed to repeat his debut win when he lined up in heat two of the Young Guns series at Alexandra Park today. After all his main competition in Swamp Major and Motown had both drawn nicely in close while Lazarus had drawn badly at barrier eight. With the margin from their first meeting being so narrow, many thought that the result would be reversed this time. Swamp Major with Blair Orange in the bike left the gate quickly and grabbed the early lead while Motown slotted into a lovely trail from barrier two. Mark Purdon went forward from barrier eight with Lazarus and when Sabrage galloped he was able to slot onto the back of Kimani in the one by one. That is the way the order stayed until 150 metres from home where Mark angled Lazarus off Kimani's back and dashed home the last bit for a narrow but impressive victory. Swamp Major was game in second place with Motown battling into third place along the passing lane. Lazarus paced the 1700 metres in a quick 2:03.1, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with closing sectionals of 55.7 and 27. Part of last years Studholme Bloodstock's consignment to the yearling sales, Lazarus was purchased by long time All Stars clients Kennard Bloodstock for $75,000 and they were joined in the ownership by Trevor Casey and Kevin Riseley.  While loath to compare him to previous top 2 year olds he has trained, Mark Purdon gave the son of Bettor's Delight a good rap. " He is just a natural 2 year old and has great manners and that counts for a lot in these races." " The time didn't surprise me as they have been running time in most of the races here," Mark said. When quizzed about whether Lazarus looked the early favourite for the Young Guns final Mark was a touch more circumspect. " Bit early to say but he is certainly heading in the right direction,"Mark said  Harnesslink Media  

If Mighty Flying Major gets beaten in today’s $200,000 Sales Series Pace at Alexandra Park his harness racing opponents are going to have to do it the hard way. Because drive Blair Orange has declared he will be using the ace draw to try for an all the way win rather than getting too tactical in the richest race on a huge daytime programme. Mighty Flying Major holds the key to the race, having the inside draw and the natural early speed to us it but Orange says that is only half the battle. “I know he is good enough to lead and win which is why I won’t be handing up,” he says. “I have raced these horses already this carnival and gone as good as horses like Have Faith In Me and Hug The Wind. “So why would I hand up to them and give them the advantage. It is not like they are Auckland Reactor-type three-year-olds and you are happy to run second to them. “If we stay in front and are good enough then we get our chance. If you hand up you start to need luck.” Those words might cool the heels of punters looking to dive into the favoured Purdon-Rasmussen pair of Have Faith In Me and Hug The Wind, who would often be favoured to intimidate rivals into taking a trail. That sounds unlikely today though, meaning luck could come into play for them, even though they were good enough to come from near last to quinella the Sires’ Stakes at Addington last month. Betting against the Purdon-Rasmussen juggernaut in any major race is uncomfortable viewing but Mighty Flying Major has looked not far behind them on raw ability and with Alexandra Park racing red hot, the leaders make life very difficult for those covering extra ground. “The way this track is my fella can go 2:38 (for 2200m) and if he goes well here he might be off to the Victoria Derby so we aren’t gonna go home wondering what if?” Orange, who has rarely been in better driving form, realises that by trying for an all the way win he could potentially give another key rival Express Stride the trail and the last shot at him up the passing lane but he says he can’t worry about that. “You can’t try and drive every horse in the race, just your one. “And if we are in front then he still has to try and run past us too.” While the pressure of big money racing can see tactics change, if Mighty Flying Major leads and Express Stride trails the latter becomes the horse to beat. He brilliantly won his first two races back this season and then sat parked before finishing a huge second, beating home Mighty Flying Major, Hug The Wind and Have Faith In Me last start. Express Stride has matured into a serious, strong pacer and if the speed is on today he will hit the line hard. Courtesy of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

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