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Harness racing at Gore on Sunday starts the southern season in the deep south. With big fields and many horses coming in fresh with little trial and workout form, it will be a difficult to job to pinpoint where each horse is at in terms of picking a winner. With fields like that it is often better to stick with the bigger stables. Riversdale trainer Tony Stratford has four runners engaged and all are winning hopes. Mucho Macho Man is possibly the pick of them as far as ability goes. Tony thought enough of the horse to send him to Auckland for a 2-year-old race as a juvenile where the son of Mach Three finished fifth of six starters in a  race at Alexandra Park in December 2015. Ashleighs Flight, Ted Cady and Deceitndesire are also engaged and all have claims in their individual races. Blair Orange is making the long trip south to drive three of the Stratford runners and he also has a drive in every race all with good chances. He will be short on the fixed odds drivers book based on the number and class of the horses he is driving. Blair thinks his best drive at Gore is Really Desirable who has been racing at Forbury Park for her last eight starts. The 4yo mare and  daughter of  Real Desire has good gate speed and could lead of the gate in a field devoid of race day form.   Harnesslink Media Selections Gore Race 1: Duchess Grace, Trouble Del, Matai Jetstar, Loxi Clairborne. Race 2: Harriet Price, Swap Over, Dennis Lillee, Green Fingers Race 3: Really Desirable, Balius, Sweet As, Backseat Chick Race 4: Pyramid Magic, Sun's Invasion, The Jinja Ninja, Madam Spur Race 5: Seduce Me, Ted Cady, Tact Ollie, Thunda Down Unda Race 6: Mucho Macho Man, Honey Cullen, Ideal Art, Real Love Race 7: Jetsdream, Risk Factor, Ossessione, Franco Nixon Race 8: Frank The Tank, Skyfall, Justasip, Raphoe Race 9: Jabali, Whoosh Factor, Bold Ruler, Pulling The Strings Best Bet: Frank The Tank(Race 8) Value Bet: Harriet Price(Race 2)   Harnesslink media  

Breaking out on your own after a successful harness racing partnership that has lasted many years is supposed to be hard yakka, but Paul Court can be forgiven though for thinking it’s all a little too easy. The West Melton horseman, who was alongside his father Graham in training partnership for close to a decade, is making a pretty good fist of the solo training caper and yesterday, on the first day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s Winter meeting, he picked up his first training hatrick. “It’s been a pretty dream start really, better than I could have ever expected anyway,” Court said. Yesterday’s three wins came less than 24 hours after Stunin Dude won at Forbury Park on Thursday night in the hands of Blair Orange and it was the Postman who was in the sulky for two thirds of his Friday success. Orange drove both Hypervelocity and Expressive Victor to victory while Ricky May was on board Courage To Live who won the last race of the day. “I thought that they were all good chances, but for all three to win was great. “You got to the race expecting to have a good day and often it’s the opposite.” Expressive Victor’s win in the Winter Cup Prelude was impressive. The 4-year-old mare, who was second behind Rocker Band in the 4YO Ruby at the Harness Jewels three weeks ago, overcame an early bobble to sit off the speed before unwinding brilliantly down centre track to secure victory. “The gallop was a bit of a worry, she’s usually such a good beginner. “Blair said she got a bit of a fright when the tapes went, I don’t think one on the 10 metre line was a good draw for her.” The imposing mare will start a warm order favourite on Sunday to go back-to-back on what is fast becoming her favourite track. From five starts on the Waterlea Raceway surface she’s won twice and placed on as many occasions with her only failure coming when she choked down and crashed to the deck at the Summer meeting earlier this year. Both Hypervelocity and Courage To Live will both also be in action on Sunday.   The former will have to deal with the impressive Franco Cristiano who made light work of his race track return earlier in yesterday’s programme for Robert and John Dunn. Courage To Live also has a tough ask from a wider draw, but his free going racing style means he will be on the speed at some stage in the race and that’s here he seems to race best. “He probably lacks that really high speed, but he will just keep going. “I was pretty impressed with the way he won, he looked like he could have kept going at that speed too. “He’s just got better and better each time I’ve taken him to the races.” Closely related to Terror To Love, the Jereme’s Jet colt was one of two winners for Terry McDonald who also shares owns Hypervelocity. McDonald went had the perfect day on Friday with Letspendanitetogetha, who he owns with good friend Reg Storer, finishing second to Courage To Live. While Court’s three wins was impressive, Orange’s driving talents were on full display. He won three races to go with the three he picked up on Thursday night, taking him to 117 winners for the season and 16 wins clear in second position on the national premiership which is being led by Dexter Dunn. Dunn endured a winless day at the office and will have to wait until next week to get New Zealand win No. 200 as he’s on a plane to drive Christen Me in Queensland on Saturday night and isn’t returning to Blenheim for Sunday’s meeting. Matt Markham

Hamish Hunter became the first Southland based Harness Racing trainer to join the elite 500 club when I Try won at Forbury Park last night (Thursday 23rd). I Try is owned by  Hunter and loyal clients of the stable The What Ever Syndicate. Together, they also own the stable's biggest winner, Franco Ledger. I Try is a Mach Three four year old. Tonight he raced three back on the rails and found room in the straight to get up and nab Pembrook Harry.  "It was pretty good for a middle of the road trainer as I describe myself. I was aware I was getting close as my family informed me," said Hunter.  Hamish Hunters best season was in 2014 when star pacer Franco Ledger was a leading stake earner. That season he racked up 33 wins from 339 starters and $347,376 in stakes. "He's back in work (Franco Ledger). He's a 100 percent sound and all going well we'll have one more go at the cup. It's probably be his last chance."  In 1989 he recorded his best UDR ranking when he started horses 174 times for 23 wins, 18 seconds and 14 thirds for a UDR .2165. Horses racing that season included Betonim, Benachie Lad and Admiral Luca. He's won the Southland trainers premiership 6 times; 1985, 1986, 2007 (jointly with Brendon McLellan and Kirk Larsen), 2008 (jointly with Murray Brown), 2011 and 2014. Out of his 500 training successes he's driven 374 himself. His first winner was Karen's Pride at Waikouaiti in October 1976. He won five races on the mare between October and June of that season. In the following two season's he had the services of half brothers Good Too and Model Hardcraft. Model Hardcraft won his first three races as a two year old including the 1979 New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham. Good Too won eight races for Hunter. Hunter has trained three winners in one day three times; Forbury Park October 1984 (Heiden, Sissy Bogart and Tapado Time), Invercargill September 2001 (Catalina Dreaming, Galleons Treasure and Grenadier) and Northern Southland October 2005 (Grenadier, Rockie's Dream and Mainstay).  Of all the Southern Harness feature races it's the Wairio Cup that he's won the most: Josephine Bret (1984), Yandoon (1992), Grenadier (2004), Franco Ledger (2013) and Canardly Lover (2014).  List of major winners: Franco Ledger (25 wins) Malaz (15 wins)  Nursemaid (14 wins) Devil May Care (11 wins) Canardly Lover (10 wins) Good Too  (8 wins) Grenadier (8 wins)  Cornell (8 wins) Betonim (8 wins) Model Hardcraft (7 wins) Holmezy (7 wins) Galleons Treasure (7 wins) Southern Boy (6 wins) Christian Ruler (6 wins) Stand Asquire (6 wins) Galleons Cheer ( 5 wins from just nine starts) Nordette (5 wins) Blueberry Hill (5 wins)  Benachie Lad (5 wins)  Admiral Luca (5 wins)  Congratulations Hamish - great effort. Meanwhile, Dexter Dunn got win number 199 for the season behind Lightning Mach for trainer Cran Dalgety. Four Starzzz Shiraz won heat 4 of the Claimers series for new trainer Brian Norman & driver Blair Orange, and Run To Hide was claimed by Canterbury Junior Driver Andrew Fitzgerald. Bruce Stewart - Southland Harness.

For the 3rd time in a row, one of the leading Harness Racing drivers in the country has managed to break the 100 win mark for a season. Canterbury based Blair Orange bought up his century at Forbury Park tonight, aboard the Ken Barron trained Illegal Immigrant. The 3yo American Ideal gelding was a dominant 3 ½ length winner and was crunched into a $2.50 favourite by punters. Barron/Orange and owners Prospero No 1 Syndicate also picked up another victory on the night when 3yo Real Desire gelding Brunello won Race 6. The Prospero No 1 Syndicate will also have Amazon Lily in the New Zealand Oaks on Saturday. The Bettor's Delight 3yo has drawn barrier 1 and is set to receive a beautiful trip with Golden Goddess drawn beside her in barrier 2. While many were stunned with Orange’s decision to shift from the powerful All Star’s stable at the end of the 2014/15 season, to join forces with West Melton trainer Ken Barron. The move paid dividends, with Barron recording a personal season record of 51 wins in the 15/16 season. Those wins came from just the 241 starters and included 42 seconds and 27 thirds. This season the Barron/Orange combination has picked up 34 wins and 44 minor places from just the 179 starts. Burnello Illegal Immigrant Andrew Fitzgerald

Weedon’s based trainer Nigel McGrath has set his sights on the Harness Jewels with smart 3yo Ears Burning. Well supported by punters at Addington today, the 3yo Grinfromeartoear colt didn’t disappoint his followers with a dominate win in the 7th race of the afternoon. “He’s won really nicely; we had to burn around to find the front but he was strong after that. There is a super series race for him next week and then hopefully a jewels start” said McGrath. Currently 12th on the Jewels leader board , Ears Burning will drop back to 13th with the return of the All Stars runner Chase The Dream who is making his way back to New Zealand after competing in the WA Derby. The Super Series race Nigel refers to is the C0 and Faster Mobile pace which Ears Burning sneaks into, while it is a preferential barrier draw meaning he will pick up an average draw, there wouldn’t be many, if any horses to fall into those conditions that are going as good as he is. Meanwhile, McGraths star colt and Jewels leader Classie Brigade has had a wee freshen up and is preparing well for his Jewels challenge. “He will have one trial and go to the Jewels” said McGrath. Ears Burning Great Things Happen put pay to a handy trot field today when he boomed up the passing lane for trainer/driver Gavin Smith. Today’s victory was the Love You geldings 5th in a row and 7th career win, and pushed him up to 18th in the Jewels standings, just under $3,000.00 shy of the 12th placed, Greg/Nina Hope trained Everybody Knows. Owned by E J Edwards and Sara Smith, Great Things Happens was the first foal out of 7 win S J’s Photo mare Calamity Gal, who was trained by Gavin for her last two career starts. Today’s winning time of 3.17.4 was impressive, but so was the run of runner up Harriet Of Mot, who’s amended time from her 30m back mark was 3.16.4 and put the writing on the wall for the 4yo mare to be very competitive at the Harness Jewels. Her performance capped off a great day for Noel Kennard’s GoHarness Syndication’s brand when recent purchase Order Online won for trainer Ken Barron and the GoHarness Buy Race & Sell Syndicate. The 3yo Washington VC gelding was purchased out of the Clark Barron stable earlier last month and delivered a great mothers day victory for some owners. GoHarness always have shares available so don’t hesitate to get in contact with them, their details can be found at www.goharness.co.nz. Great Things Happen Order Online Andrew Fitzgerald

The sixth heat of the Nevele R Fillies Series is up for decision at the harness racing meeting at Forbury Park on Thursday night and RR Sand Dollar has all the form on the board to be the one to beat here. A three year old filly from the first crop of the now defunct Rob Roy Mattgregor, RR Sand Dollar has nothing in her favour except class and even from barrier seven over the 1700 metres trip she looks to carry too many guns for the opposition here.  RR Sand Dollar was beaten a nose here at Forbury Park in December over the 1700 metres at her only start on the track and she has improved dramatically since then. Three runs back she was beaten a nose by the brilliant Nek Time in a brilliant 1:54.8 mile rate at Addington Raceway and followed that with two effortless wins down south, with the big late finish at Winton especially impressive. Trainer Paul Court has enlisted the services of Blair Orange, the hottest driver in the south over the last few weeks to take the reins again and only bad luck should really beat her. Take out RR Sand Dollar and the race becomes very even, with four or five big winning chances. The Gavin Smith pair of Scarlett Banner and Allison Stokke have both shown enough at various stages this season to be big chances here from their draws of one and two. Scarlett Banner has been racing Golden Goddess, Piccadilly Princess, and Luisansbelle Midfrew most of the season and will appreciate the huge dropback in class here while Allison Stokke has run two beauties in her last two starts behind two very smart maidens in Heavens Rocks and Fiddlethefool and looms as a big improver here.  Rakarazor continues to go good races every week and her third in 1:54.1 for the mile at Winton on Saturday is good form for this race. Rakarazor has high gate speed and Clark Barron is sure to use that and attempt to lead all the way from barrier four with catch me if you can tactics. And so we come to Emily Blunt. Three months ago she would have been a hot favourite in this race and although she has performed admirably since, she has not been her old self lately. Blinds come off tomorrow night in an effort to sharpen her up and that just be enough to right the ship here.. She has the ability to beat most here and weather she has the aptitude we will see on Thursday night. Selections RR Sand Dollar is the clear first pick for us and should win barring accidents Scarlett Banner and Emily Blunt may not have the best form on the board right now but they are two high class fillies at their best and we found it hard to split them for second or third.  It is the same for 4th and 5th with Allison Stokke and Rakarazor both going consistently well and both are capable of finishing first four. Trifecta and First Four  8 --- 2, 3, 4, 5 Harnessjlink Media

Conditions at the harness racing meeting at Winton Raceway today were perfect for quick times on the big 1400 metres track and right  throughout the day, times were recorded by lower graded horses that are usually associated with what we refer to as cup class horses. Still even with the perfect conditions it came as a bit of a surprise later in day when the well performed three year old filly Nek Time won race nine over 2400 metres in a new New Zealand All Comers record of 2:53. That took 1.3 seconds off the old record held by Hannah Jaye for mares over the distance and is 1.5 seconds quicker than the colts and geldings record currently held by Rider On The Storm. It is the first time that 2:54 has been bettered for 2400 metres in a race in New Zealand. And Nek Time had a far from easy run when setting the record.  From three on the second line, Nek Time settled five back in the running line as Celestial Arden and Blair Orange held the lead from barrier one. Driver Dexter Dunn set Nek Time alight with 1500 metres to go and she quickly looped the field and grabbed the lead at the 1300 metres. Dexter kept Nek Time bowling along in front at a good clip and it was obvious a long way out that the only serious challenger she faced was Celestial Arden who was hard on her back. As they straightened for the run home, Celestial Arden immediately took the passing lane and appeared to have the momentum to pass Nek Time but Dexter got the filly to lift and she came clear the last bit to win by one and a quarter lengths. Nek Times 2:53 for the 2400 metres was a mile rate for the distance of 1:56 and she finished the race off with super closing sectionals of 55.5 and 26.9. Todays win was number five for the daughter of Gotta Go Cullect at start 17 and along with six placings she has now banked just over $62,000 to date. Ever since her very good run for fourth to Dream About Me in last seasons Harness Jewels, Nek Time has been on the up. She has the ability to sub 27 quarters with ease and can stick on as well and looks well capable of being a major player in the upcoming three year old fillies classics with a run to suit her talents   Post Note - The perfect race conditions today helped Erin Jaccka run 1:53.9 for 1609 Metres when winning the maiden pace for fillies and mares. The daughter of Mach Three was having just her third lifetime start and her 1:53.9 effort is a new track record for three year old fillies at Winton.  Harnesslink Media  

The two year old pace at the harness racing meeting at Addington Raceway tonight looked a fairly open race with several runners being well supported on the tote. Mongolian Storm was sent out the favourite but Tere The Terminator and Nicol Shard were very close up in the betting market as well. Tere The Terminator led from barrier one for Blair Orange and was out by a couple of lengths passing the mile marker and then for no reason galloped and veered out and almost collected Nicol Shard and Dexter Dunn who were improving on his outer. Mongolian Storm and Ricky May took the opportunity to work to the front and then hand up to Nicol Shard who after getting skittled by Tere The Terminator showed speed to whip around the field and lead. The order stayed the same until Bettor To Be Tricky went up and applied real pressure passing the 500 metres mark. Turning for home Bettor To Be Tricky surged to the front and looked the likely winner but Mongolian Storm slowly but surely started to real him in the last 150 metres and went on by in the last 50 metres for a deserved win. Bettor To Be Tricky stuck on really well for second with the first starter Cobra Banner running on late for third. In the coolish windy conditions, Mongolian Storm paced the 1950 metres in 2:24.1, a mile rate of 1:58.9 with the closing sectionals of 58.4 and 29.1. Trainer Paul Court was happy with the run by the son of Courage Under Fire " He has missed a bit of work lately so he was pretty short tonight." " I thought he might be vunerable because of that but class has got him home." " That run will tighten him up bigtime and he can go to the Sires Stakes heat next week now." " Also I think he is better driven with a sit because he has such high speed."  " Whatever he does at two is a bonus as I think he will make a lovely three year old," Paul said. Driver Ricky May was also happy with the run of Mongolian Storm. " He has actually won that a lot easier than it looked." "I was trying to look after him throughout the race as I knew he was short of race fitness." " It was really windy out there as well so it was a  good effort,"  Ricky said. Brad Mowbray, the trainer of Tere The Terminator was still shaking his head when asked for comment on his smart two year old. " He galloped for no reason really which is frustrating but I suppose you can say he is a work in progress."  "He did make up a lot of ground after his gallop to finish where he did so there is no problem with the ability". " We just needs the manners to come right," Brad said Harnesslink Media  

It is not often that a low key harness racing meeting on a Thursday night  at Addington unearths a horse on his way to much better things but the performance of Chittybangbang last night at Addington Raceway suggested that this is a three year old with a big future. Settling well back in the field in  the 1950 metres mobile from his wide second row draw, Chittybangbang was sent forward by driver Blair Orange on the three wide train and reached the death seat with 1100 metres to go. Taking cover behind Extreme Guest who had followed him forward, Chittybangbang was forced three back in the running line down the back straight. Turning for home, Chittybangbang was still several lengths off the leaders but once Blair had got him balanced, he flew down the outside late to pick them up and beat them with ease. A three year old son of Gotta Go Cullen, Chittybangbang has a real' blue blood' maternal family being closely related to several smart horses including Courage Under Fire 1:54.2 ($1,485,672) while the three quarter brother to Chittybangbang in Chattanoogachoochoo 1:54.5 ($107,163) continues to race well in Australia. Chittybangbang has always been held in the highest regard by the Toliman Lodge barn but immaturity has held up his progress to date. A very good second first up as a two year old behind the talented Cash N Flow suggested a big future at that age but it wasn't to be. Part owner Wendy Kennard thinks they may have got ahead of themselves. " Chittybangbang stands close to 16.3 hands and is a big framed horse with it." " For such a big horse, he has tremendous high speed and showed that at his first start at two but didn't have the strength to go on with it then."  " Ken (Barron) has always had a very big opinion of the horse and is very confident that once he fully matures, we are going to have a lot of fun with him." " He likes Chittybangbang that much that he went and bought his three quarter brother at the yearling sales this week." " Even tonight you can see he is a work in progress but I think he will come into his own in the next 12 months and show people what he is really capable of," Wendy said. Wendy and Noel Kennard have bought a number of good memories to a lot of people with their "Go Harness " racing syndicates and it was nice to see them getting so much pleasure themselves from last nights win at Addington. Harnesslink Media  

The first of the tote races for the 2015-2106 season for the two year old trotters was held at Addington Raceway this evening and provided a great spectacle as the first four home all showed enough on the night to suggest that we are in for some great contests as the harness racing season progresses. Custodian from barrier eight left the gate with the mobile for driver David Butt and was in front after 200 metres and proceeded to set a hectic pace in front. The well supported Habibi Inta with Blair Orange in the cart was slow off the gate and settled sixth in the running early while Regal Love and Tim Williams ended up in the open in the running line when things settled down after the start. David Butt kept Custodian rolling in front, putting half a dozen lengths between himself and the field as they went past the 800 metres mark. Tim Williams and Regal Love were the first to make a move to close the gap on the tearaway leader and Habibi Inta quickly got onto Regal Love's back as they passed the 400 metres. These three were joined on the point of the turn by Miracle Rising with trainer / driver Gavin Smith in the bike who had been four back on the inner and these four drew away from the rest. Custodian was still in front 100 metres out but his earlier exertions started to catch up with him and he was claimed by both Habibi Inta and Miracle Rising with 50 metres to go with Habibi Inta holding a neck advantage over Miracle Rising at  the finishing line with a game Custodian a close up third just in front of an equally game Regal Love who had dragged the field up to the leader. The winners time for the 1950 metres from the mobile was a smart 2:26.6, a mile rate of 2:00.9 with closing sectionals of 60.2 and 30.7 Trainer Paul Nairn was happy that his charge did everything right at his first race start. " I told Blair he had never been behind the mobile before and to not rush him early which is why he was so far behind them early on." " I knew he was good enough to win the race but I was more concerned that he did everything right at his first start to help build up his confidence." " I think I will give him his next start in the two year old trot at Methven on the grass as a lead into the 2 year old Trotting Stakes at the end of March at Addington as he handles the grass really well," Paul told Harnesslink this evening. Gavin Smith had a huge smile on his face after the run of Miracle Rising to grab second on debut. " I couldn't have been happier with my horse's run." " He is not switched on as yet to what racings all about but he has got an awful lot of natural ability. " I thought he was too big to make a two year old but he is proving me wrong." " He is beautifully gaited and has great manners and going forward there is so much improvement in him that it is scary," Gavin said. Throw in Custodian and Regal Love who lost no admirers with their game runs tonight and the two year old trotting ranks look to be especially strong this year. Harnesslink Media  

As expected by most pundits, the $25,000 Kindergarten Stakes for juvenile pacers at the harness racing meeting at Wyndham today turned into an All Stars stable benefit with the all conquering barn providing the first three runners home. Not only that but their finishing order was more or less determined by where they drew. Duane Marfisi, the foreman at All Stars Racing Stables thought the draws meant the result from the Sapling Stakes would be the same in the Kindergarten Stakes. "I think the result of the Kindergarten might be the same as the Sapling with Pacing Major our best." "I think he will win again from that draw." "If the draws were different my thoughts would be different but that is the way I see it." "More the Better is going to be hard to beat and You Gotta Have Faith will go a good race but he is not yet up with the other two more seasoned horses," Duane said. Mongolian Storm flew the gate for Blair Orange to lead early from Pacing Major who settled in the death seat and More The Bettor in the one out,three back position. Soon after Tim Williams looped the field to sit parked with More The Better,giving Dexter Dunn and Pacing Major a beautiful run in the one by one. Dexter peeled out of the one by one on the point of the corner and went up quickly to More The Better but it took him the length of the straight to get the better of his stablemate by a head at the finish. You Gotta Have Faith showed real improvement from the Sapling Stakes, running on well for third just two lengths behind the first two while Jimmie ran into fourth, a further 2 1/2 lengths away. Pacing Major cut out the mile in a swift 1:54.7 with the closing sectionals in 56.7 and 26.9 Dexter Dunn was happy with the run of the Art Major colt "He seemed a lot  more focused today than he was in the Sapling Stakes. "It took a while to get the upper hand in the straight but I always felt he would get up in the end," Dexter said. Tim Williams was very impressed with the effort of More The Better. " He has had to do the most work in the race but has stuck on really well in the straight. " Reverse the draw and I think you would reverse the result," Tim said. Matt Anderson was also pleased with the effort of You Gotta Have Faith. " He has stepped forward since the Sapling and is closing the gap on the first two," Matt said. Both Pacing Major and More The Better are now making the long trek back to Alexandra Park in Auckland for the last heat and final of the Young Guns Series in early March. We think the gap between the two star youngsters is virtually nil and it would seem the draw may determine which of the two is the bigger winning chance in upcoming races at Alexandra Park. Harnesslink Media  

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

Noel Kennards Prodigal Seelster Summer Of Speed Final for older mares today at Ashburton Raceway only drew a field of eight runners but there were plenty of chances in an open field. The southern visitor Sheeza Shark was sent out a warm favourite on the strength of a win at Ashburton in a heat of the series but drew barrier eight due to the preferential system in place for the final. Tintinara led early for Dexter Dunn before handing up to Valor Lustre and Blair Orange who continued to roll once he found the front with New Years Jay and John Dunn sitting on his wheel.. Blair kept the tempo going from the half which made it really hard for those back in the field to make any ground. Turning for home New Years Jay went up to Valor Lustre but the big strong McArdle mare kept finding and was comfortably holding her at bay over the last 200 metres. New Years Jay fought on gamely for second after being parked the whole trip while Tintinara nabbed third up the passing lane after a lovely run in the trail the whole way. Sheeza Shark made little headway from the back,finishing a disappointing seventh. Valor Lustre cut the mile out in a sharp 1:54.3 with closing sectionals of 55.3 and 27.2 Trainer/owner Ivan Court was all smiles post race. " Once she got to the front I thought she was a big chance." " She is very tough and I thought they would have their work cut out getting past her." Ivan is now seriously thinking about lining Valor Lustre up in the New Zealand Premier Mares Championship at Addington next Friday night. " We will see how she comes through today's run first but I am leaning towards lining her up." " She is a bit under rated in some quarters but I think she will measure up," Ivan said. Ivan bred Valor Lustre from his former smart racemare Regal Lustre who won five but he thinks Valor Lustre is a lot better mare. " I think Valor Lustre is a very smart mare and think she has a few more wins in front of her yet," Ivan said. Harnesslink Media

This time twelve months ago, Swamp Major looked a two year old that was capable of competing for harness racing divisional honours amongst the juveniles.   Two outstanding seconds behind Lazarus in the Young Gun Series had signalled that the son of Art Major was good enough to challenge in most of the major races to follow.   However on returning to Christchurch, Swamp Major was bedeviled by minor issues to the point that trainer Ken Barron tipped him out in the end for a long spell.    Fast forward twelve months and after a long and slow build up, Swamp Major made his long awaited racetrack resumption at Ascot Park today at their Invercargill Cup day meeting.   Even though Swamp Major had drawn barrier eight at the 2200 metres, punters made him a $1:40 shot on the strength of his two great runs at two.   Sent straight to the front by driver Blair Orange, Swamp Major always looked in total control throughout the race and when Blair gave him his head on the corner, he scooted clear and held them at bay without being seriously threatened.   Swamp Major paced the 2200metres in 2:42.1, a mile rate of 1:58.5 with closing sectionals of 56.7 and 28.   Blair Orange was happy to have got the show back on the road.   “That was just the kind of race he needed first up.”   “It has been a long slow build up after all those little niggles at two and he is going to need a few runs to get back to full race fitness.”   “He is entered in the Futurity in which you have to start twice down here so the plans are for him to stay down and race again next week.”   “As to future plans, we will have to see how he progresses over the next few weeks.”   “He does hold a nomination for the New Zealand Derby but we will just see how things progress before making any firm plans,” Blair said.   The big upstanding son of Art Major has already shown he can mix it with the very best at two and he would certainly add plenty of interest to the upcoming three year old classics if he can get back to that form.   Swamp Major     Harnesslink Media

Harness racing trainer Kyle Austin knows what it is like to own a top horse having raced the very talented Nutwood 1:50.6 (8wins) over twenty odd years ago and he now has one in his care that looks to be blessed with the same abundance of ability. Buster Bailey is the horses name and the three year old son of Real Desire gave Addington racegoers a glimpse tonight of why he is held in such high regard by both Kyle and driver Blair Orange. Staying out of the early fireworks from barrier three, Buster Bailey was sent forward to grab the lead with just over a lap to go by Blair, though not without a fight with Dream Damien. These two went clear on the home turn but Buster Bailey was always travelling the better and although racing greenly in the straight still had half a length to spare at the finish. The time of 2:22.5 was super impressive in the cold conditions, a mile rate of 1:57.5 with closing sectionals of 58.8 and 27.6. Kyle is enjoying the ride just as much this time as he did with Nutwood. " It is so hard to get a really smart horse so I am rapt to have Buster in the stable." "After I sold Nutwood, I struggled to find a winner for quite a while so it is nice to have another smart one." Kyle said. With only a handful of starts off the place in his short career, there would appear to be plenty of upside to Buster Bailey. "I gave him a few runs off the place at two but he was pretty immature and I put him aside in the end." " He only qualified in early November at Addington so you would like to think he has plenty of upside." " That win tonight was penalty free but our big aim is the $23,500 Super Series Final on February 12th which is a maiden front for him," Kyle said. As to be expected with a three year old who looks well above average, the bloodstock agents have been hovering but no business is close to be done at present. " No one has made me a firm offer to date but I am not sure I want to sell anyway." " It has been a long time between drinks and I am really enjoying it," Kyle said. However that pans out, Kyle has one very talented three year old in his care. Harnesslink Media  

It is really frustrating at times to be involved in harness racing. You spend the whole year trying to build up the image of harness racing with the wider community and then a couple of misguided articles go viral and the industry has to put up with the media circus that has been the Blair Orange saga over the last few days. Blair made a misjudgement on New Years Day and has paid dearly for it. The upside is he has been dealt with by both the RIU and the JCA involved in this case in a professional and competent manner. All the others tested that day had been out the night before in the same group as Blair which they see as a bit strange as the testing is meant to be random. They all tested negative except Blair due in no small part in to the fact he is barely 60 kg in the view of those drinking with him. Blair has done what he did on New Years day countless times before and has always come up negative when tested the next day. He was as shocked as anyone else by the reading he returned at Omakau. The coverage given the matter by the main stream media is not something they should be proud of. It turned a mistake by one of our leading reinsman into a media storm which became the second leading item on both the TV1 and TV3 news that night. The tone of the items was very negative and did a lot of damage to the image of harness racing. Yesterday they had a second bite of the cherry, again raking over the coals of the case after a couple of follow up articles in the main stream media about the case. All of those articles were written by Taylor Strong, a vastly experienced journalist but in this instance he seems to have completely lost his bearings. Apart from a few comments recorded second hand at the penalty hearing, there is no where in the articles that Taylor Strong had written, any comment from either Blair Orange or anyone else associated with him. Two of the articles gave the distinct impression this was a serious judicial matter when in reality it is not classified as a serious racing offence by the RIU or JCA. Impartiality is the cornerstone of being a journalist and Taylor Strong's effort here falls well short of what is expected.  Sensational headlines like "Failed breath test lands Orange in hot water" just added petrol to the fire and are unworthy of such an experienced journalist. As in all cases such as this there is no free lunch. Taylor Strong needs drivers, trainers and owners to trust him when they speak to him and his performance over the last few days has put a huge question mark beside his name according to the people we have spoken to in the last 48 hours. He has a lot of bridges to mend in the next few weeks or he may find himself interviewing his typewriter a lot more in the near future. JC  

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