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Last week saw a big improvement from the week before but the team of tipsters are still not really at peak yet. Maurice McKendry, Sean McCaffrey, Todd Mitchell, Todd Macfarlane, Matthew Williamson and Steve Richardson from the TAB all nabbed winners while another five managed placings. As we countdown to Cup week, there are once again five meetings nationwide and we have selections for all of them. Forbury Park - Thursday night Craig Thornley - Likes Smart Caesar from a mobile to be hard to beat in race 4 Brad Williamson - Thought Pegasus Kommander from barrier 2 would be hard to beat in race 6 Nathan Williamson - Reckons Dwindle Mist is on the improve and can take out race 7   Auckland - Friday night John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Thought the central districts visitor Our Wicklow would be hard in race 1 Maurice Mckendry - Rates the chances of The Orange Agent in race 2 Scott Phelan - Thinks Chosen Path even from barrier 15 can win race 6 Zac Butcher - Likes Chachingchaching to upset Hughie Green in race 7 Todd Mitchell - Reckons Eyrewell Pegasus can overcome the 20 metre handicap and win race 8 Tony Herlihy - Likes stable runner Danger Mouse in the hands of Tony Cameron to win race 9 Todd Macfarlane - Thinks A Chance To Dream from barrier 1 could win race 10   Addington - Friday night Jim Curtin - Thought Juliette Bromac was a real chance of winning race 2 Tim Williams - Rates Have Faith In Me back to a maiden very hard to beat, also in race 2  Robbie Holmes - Rates Tehoro Ruby a chance to upset from the mobile in race 3 John Dunn - Likes Monumental to turn his form around in race 4 Terry Chmiel - Confident that Stradowan has improved from first up run and can win race 8   Riverton - Sunday afternoon Shane Walkinshaw - Rates Majestic Stride a real show of winning race 3 Matthew Williamson - Thought Alley Way even from 50 metres should be too good for them in race 5 Clark Barron - Thinks with natural improvement Sheeza Shark won't be far away in race 7 Dexter Dunn - Likes Courage To Fly to end his run of seconds and win race 8   Kaikoura - Monday afternoon Steve Richardson (TAB) - Thought star trialist Princess Galleon could win race 1 Blair Orange - Couldn't see Mighty Flying Major beaten in race 3 Gerard O'Reilly - Thought Carrickmannon could trouble Webb Ellis and Highview Freddy in race 4 Ricky May - Confident that Mel Gibson can go one better than his last start and win race 5 Sam Ottley - Thinks Price Of Fame will go very close also in race 5 Sean McCaffrey - Rates Norvic Nightowl a real chance in the Kaikoura Cup, race 8    Harnesslink Media

Course specialist Strike On Command stretched his unbeaten run to four wins in as many Forbury starts when delivering at the Tuapeka meeting on Sunday, October 26. The Mark Jones-trained McArdle gelding completed a winning double for the stable and in-form driver Blair Orange at Forbury, with Hellavahanover bouncing back to winning form in the day’s opener. Blair notched a quartet of Tuapeka wins, also scoring with Bit Of A Legend’s younger brother Lookofalegend and Change Time, both for West Melton trainer Ken Barron. Strike on Command was well-rated by Blair, settling three back on the outer, then making a move to be parked briefly with a lap to run. He had cover coming with Aidan’s Rocket working to parked at the 750m, then wore down the Nathan Williamson-trained Aidan’s Rocket in the run home, scoring by a neck. He paced the 2200m (stand) on the sticky track in 2:50.6, the leaders running their last 800m in 58.3s. Strike On Command is raced by New South Wales owner Kevin Stanley, who also raced his Bettor’s Delight half-sister Cotton Row (three wins, TT, 1:57.8), and is now breeding from the latter. Both Strike On Command and Cotton Row are from a good- winning OK Bye mare 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. Noble Strike scored another 15 wins in North America, earning the equivalent of $149,602. She (Noble Strike) 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). Hellavahanover, who returned to the Mark Jones stable after a stint with Gareth Dixon in the north last term, winning first-up at Auckland in March, was also good fresh on Sunday. First-up since being pulled up at the Kurow meeting in early August, Hellavahanover didn’t put a foot wrong off the unruly mark over 2200m at Tuapeka. Blair improved with her to a one back-one out trailing spot with 1400m to run, had her out and running at the 400m and she did enough to hold favourite Springfield Eyre (who tracked her from the 1400m) by a neck. The 4YO Brylin Boyz-Malabar Hanover mare trotted 2:59.8 for the trip when the track was slushy. Hellavahanover is the first foal from her Malabar Maple dam, a half-sister to former top NZ trotter Romper Stomper (2:00.1 mile rate 2600m, 12 wins & $180,579), and the two-race trot winner Amanda’s Flash. Romper Stomper trotted a NZ mobile 2600m record, at the time, of 3:14.2 (2:00.1 mile rate) when he won the Group One 2007 $75,000 NZ Trotting Free-For-All at Addington onShow day, when beach-trained by Robbie Holmes. Now 15 and living out retirement as a hack, Romper Stomper was co-raced by Cambridge trainer John Dickie with Hamilton’s Phil Sherley, also a co-owner of Hellavahanover. Meanwhile, Classiebee, who previously won five for the Mark Jones stable, won first-up since transferring to Roxburgh trainers Geoff and Jude Knight at the Tuapeka meeting. Classiebee, largely due to a well-rated front-running drive from Rory McIlwrick, lasted to just hold fast-finishing favourite Titan Banner in a C1-2 pace. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing Stables - Check site here        

One of the most progressive winners at yesterday's harness racing meeting at Ashburton would have to be the beautifully bred trotter, Eyre I Come. He gained his first win for Melbourne owners Merv and Meg Butterworth, who joined co-owner Grant Hatton in the ownership in April. The grandson of former 1987 Rowe Cup and 1988 Dominion Handicap-winning mare Landora’s Pride (34 wins & $472,842) rounded out a hat-trick of wins on Sunday-Monday of Labour weekend for Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones, and in-form driver Blair Orange. Eyre I Come was first-up since breaking at despatch point and finishing unplaced in the Group One Northern Trotting Derby on May 9. The Majestic Son gelding also mixed his gait in his other two northern campaign races before spelling, but he was foolproof in Monday’s C1-2 Anderson Photography & Design Trot victory. After settling back on the outer, improved wide turning in and lengthened stride to a nicety at the business end, scoring by half a length from late finisher Mel Gibson in a useful 3:05.4 for the stand start 2400m. The winner was timed over his last 800m in 57.6s. The Butterworths’ secured the share of the gelding’s former Woodend trainer David Gaffaney, who qualified him and prepared him for his debut win at Timaru in February. Mark Jones initially selected Eyre I Come at the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sales for Mr Hatton, who races Auckland Cup placegetter Saveapatrol from the stable. However, Mark felt the well-bred youngster would benefit from his early development with Gaffaney, who had more time to spend moulding him. Eyre I Come didn’t come cheap, being a $45,000 yearling, but is bred to win races and Mark thinks he’ll improve further. His year younger half-brother Springbank Eden (by Angus Hall), beat the only maidens in a C0 trot at Waikouaiti in March for Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson. Their dam Landora’s Special (Sundon-Landora’s Pride, by Game Pride-Landora) won four trotting and is a half-sister to Landora’s Gift, who also won four. Landora’s Gift, voted the NZ 2YO & 3YO Trotting Filly of the Year in 1995-96, famously bred on as the Chiola Hanover dam of champion NZ-bred but largely Australia-raced Sundon’s Gift (1:54.3, 41 wins & $1.2 million), who not only won the 2010 Rowe Cup at Auckland for Chris Lang but also the 2010 Interdominion Trotting Grand Final at Mooney Valley, and numerous other Australian features. Another daughter of Landora’s Pride, herself a Victoria Dullard Cup winner across the Tasman, in Invasion’s Pride (six wins, and runnerup in a Australasian Breeders Crown 3YO Trot Final) also left a topliner in the brilliant Let Them Thru (2:00, 2240m, 19 wins from 30 starts for $A453,945), the runnerup to I Can Doosit in the 2011 Interdominion Trotters Final at Auckland. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing Stable    Check site here     

Last week we got a good old fashioned kick up the butt with just three of our tipsters selecting a winner and only six overall were in the money. Blair Orange, Terry Chmiel and Nathan Williamson furthered their good record as selectors whilst there were plenty of hard luck stories from others all over the country. They start with a clean slate this week and have come up with plenty of value for readers with plenty of runners whose form is not the best but who our selectors give a real chance to. Manawatu - Thursday night Scott Phelan - Even though he has drawn the second row thinks Art Magic should win race 3   Auckland - Friday night Todd Mitchell - Thought Elliesjet even from barrier 12 would be hard to beat in race1 Steven Reid - Very bullish about Unforgiving from barrier one in race 4 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Likes The Orange Agent to upset Unforgiving in race 4 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Thinks Boizel even off 40 metres can win race 5 Tony Herlihy - Rates Downunder Stride from barrier one as hard to beat in race 6 Sean McCaffrey - Rates Le Lua Invasion a good chance against the fillies and mares in race 7 Maurice McKendry - Confident that Hughie Green will atone for last week and win race 8 Zac Butcher - Likes Saffron Castleton to turn her form around in race 9   Addington - Friday night Blair Orange - Rates Quaint Glen a big chance even from barrier 12 in race 2 Tim Williams - Confident that Adore Me's little brother Have Faith In Me can win race 6 John Dunn - Feedback from stable suggests Light Up Boss will win race 7 if driver at his best Brad Williamson - Thinks The Silver Fox just needs a change of luck to win race 8 Sam Ottley - Quite keen on Bird Of Paradise to turn her form around in race 10     Manawatu - Sunday afternoon Todd Macfarlane - Rates Hudy Haxwell a royal show on the second day at Manawatu Peter Scaife - Gives Johnny Vegas a big chance on the second day at Manawatu   Tuapeka - Sunday afternoon Dexter Dunn - Reckons Margarita can make it four wins from her last five in race 6 Matthew Williamson - Thinks Alley Way can go one better than last week and win race 7 Nathan Williamson - Likes stablerunner Onedin Mach to make it four in a row in race 8 Craig Thornley - Thought Drover's Eyre would be tough to roll in race 11   Ashburton - Monday afternoon Gerard O'Reilly - Confident that Never Fear can turn her form around in race 1 Jim Curtin - Thinks Star Of Dionysis is overdue and can win race 2 Ricky May - Keen on Brilliant Strike who has a decent draw for once to win race 4 Terry Chmiel -Thought That Guy Finn even in that super hot field can win race 6   Harnesslink Media

Last week we had usual suspects tipping out the winners with Blair Orange, Gerard O"Reilly, Ricky May, Clark Barron and Steve Richardson all being successful while eleven of our other tipsters were in the money headed by Robbie Holmes with Nicalea ($6.30) at Timaru. This week we have five meetings to cover and our tipsters have covered them all. Cambridge - Thursday night Todd Mitchell - Thinks Take Charge from barrier two is a big chance in race 4 Steve Richardson - Keen on Speak Up who has been racing with merit at Auckland in race 5 Peter Scaife - Confident of a big run from V C Dell, also in race 5 Sean McCaffrey - Bullish about Strawberry Courage from the front line in race 6    Auckland - Friday night Todd Macfarlane - Thinks Hudy Haxwell is due a change of luck in race 4 Scott Phelan - Thought Le Lua Invasion would be tough to roll in race 5 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Bullish about My Kiwi Mate in race 6 Maurice McKendry - Confident that Hughie Green can take the step up in race 7 Tony Herlihy - Likes Mighty Regal to go one better than his last start second in race 9 Steven Reid - Rates Sirius Star as well overdue for a win and thinks it will come in race 9 as well   Addington - Friday night Terry Chmiel  - Thinks with last weeks run under her belt that Oh Nova is ready to win race 3 Blair Orange - Confident Mighty Flying Major will be too good in race 4 Ricky May - Very bullish on the chances of Matty Groves in race 5 Craig Thornley - Rates Johny Rock a big chance, even from barrier nine in race 7 Brad Williamson - Quietly confident about the chances of Al Raza in race 8   Methven - Sunday afternoon Gerard O'Reilly - Rates Give Me Strength a huge chance back on the grass in race 1  John Dunn - Confident Return To Sender is primed to win race 5 Jim Curtin - Thinks stable rep Star Of Dionysis is a big chance in the junior drivers event, race 10   Wairio - Sunday afternoon Matthew Williamson - Likes Springbank Ruby to atone for her Timaru effort and win race 3 Brendon McLellan - Thinks oldtimer Suncrusher can teach the young ones a thing or two, also in race 3 Nathan Williamson - Confident of a big showing from the classy Jag's Invasion in race 4 Robbie Holmes - Thinks Smiling Star can make a race of it with Fly Like An Eagle in race 7 Clark Barron - Quite bullish about Shezacheapy who comes in fresh in race 8  Shane Walkinshaw - Draw a killer but still likes Double Rainbow in race 9   Harnesslink Media

Another five winners last week with Scott Phelan, Todd Mitchell, Maurice McKendry, Matt Williamson and Blair Orange doing the business while another eight selections filled a minor placing. This week there are four meetings countrywide and we have selections for them all. Forbury Park - Thursday night Matthew Williamson - Thinks Davey's Gift can go back to back in race 2 Nathan Williamson -  Thought Bettakatethanneva might upset them in race 8   Alexandra Park - Friday night Todd Macfarlane - Quite keen on Even Flo in race 1 after her smart last start third Todd Mitchell - Thinks a couple of gear changes will see Courtney John win race 1 Scott Phelan - Shooting for three in a row with the lightly raced Jazz It Up in race 2 Tony Herlihy - Keen on the chances of Grumpy Possum in race 4 Steven Reid - Likes Elliot Daniel to continue his renaissance in race 9 Maurice Mckendry - Thinks Wings Of a Prayer can take race 10   Addington - Friday night Blair Orange - Very confident McArdle Star can make it two from two in race 1 John Dunn - Likes Wesley Silcox to make it three wins from four starts in race 2 Terry Chmiel - Very keen on Parramatta in the Junior Drivers event, race 4 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Keen on the first starter Add No Interest in race 8 Jim Curtin - Thought that The Persuader was overdue in race 8 as well Brad Williamson - Thinks Queen Kenny will be very hard to beat in race 9 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Likes Lookofalegend to leave maidens in race 10 Ricky May - Rates Brilliant Strike a huge winning chance in race 10 as well   Rangiora - Sunday afternoon Gerard O"Reilly  Thinks Cracklin Rosie is overdue a winning turn in race 5 Sam Ottley - Likes Sterns Arising to cap off some good form in race 8

This Thursdays harness racing meeting at Forbury Park in Dunedin sees the running of the second heat of this seasons 3 year old Sires Stakes Series and it has drawn a field of eight talented second season pacers. Seven of the eight are last start winners and several have had multiple wins in their last few starts. The way the draw has worked out would suggest that Art Major's son Art Union from barrier one is going to be awfully hard to beat. Trained by Cran Dalgety and to be driven on Thursday by champion reinsman Dexter Dunn, Art Union has won five of just ten starts and his season debut at Addington ten days ago was outstanding. After a big mid-race move, Art Union roared over his last 800 in 55.9 for an easy win and with natural improvement from that run, Art Union looks the horse they have to beat. One thing for certain is he won't have it all his own way with the very smart son of Art Major in Pulp Fiction drawn right beside Art Union in barrier two. Competitive at the top level at two, Pulp Fiction has come back a far better horse at three with his three starts this season yielding three wins and all by big margins. Trained by Alan Stratford at Riversdale, Pulp Fiction will have leading reinsman John Dunn in the bike on Thursday night. Another son of Art Major in Mighty Flying Major is the interesting horse of the field. Brought out of the yearling sales for $67,500 and raced out of the Ken Barron barn by long time stable clients Steve Thompson and Grant Dickey, Mighty Flying Major was a major player as a 2 year old in most of the big races but placings were his lot until late in the season when he strung four wins together at Alexandra Park. In form reinsman Blair Orange takes the drive on Thursday night Given a short break after his Auckland races, he has had two workout wins in recent weeks to fit him for Thursday night but Ken Barron thinks he may be a run short. " He only had three weeks off and he has done a lot of conditioning work and is really well in himself but he maybe a run short. "He has had a couple of workouts but missed one due to the weather so he may need the run to be honest" he said. Ken thinks the draw hasn't helped his chances as well. "Drawn out at seven with Art Union drawn one makes it really difficult but with the run under his belt he should be cherry ripe for the heat at Addington next week" he said  The All Stars team have two in and both have shown enough to be respected especially since they are from the hottest stable in the country Have Faith In Me and Alta Ronaldo are both very talented but have drawn awkwardly and may need a bit of luck while Tas Man Bromac has been going great guns but this is a big step up in class. So for us it is Art Union and Pulp Fiction to fight it out and Have Faith In Me, Alta Ronaldo, Tas Man Bromac and Mighty Flying Major for trifectas and first fours. For the Forbury Park fields click here. Harnesslink Media

Last week was on the up  for our harness racing pundits with Sam Ottley, Tony Herlihy, John Dickie, John Curtin, Scott Phelan and Blair Orange nailing winners why five other selections ran a place but just missed the winners circle. This week we cover the four meetings once again and hope our selectors can tip you into a winner or three. Cambridge - Thursday Night Sean McCaffrey - Rates Strawberry Courage a royal chance in the first, the amateur drivers race. Scott Phelan - Thinks Chosen Path can break out of maidens in race 2 Todd Macfarlane - Likes Tarn to overcome her 30 meter handicap, also in race 2 Todd Mitchell - Very bullish about the chances of Eyrewell Pegasus in race 5 Maurice McKendry - Thinks Hughie Green can continue his winning streak in race 6 Zac Butcher - Confident that Chachingchaching can win ,even from second line, also in race 6 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Bullish about Bute Mach in race 8 after unlucky run last start Peter Scaife - Is confident Mach Cullen is a big winning chance, also in race 8   Northern Southland - Friday Afternoon  Clark Barron - Confident that Mass Invasion can improve on first up 4th and win race 2  Nathan Williamson - Reckons Nothingforthemedia could cause a real blowout in race 3 Brendon McLellan - Thinks Nightmarch will be hold to hold out, also in race 3 Matthew Williamson -  Very keen on Smokin Bird in race 7 Shane Walkinshaw - Likes Canardly Lover having first run back to win race 8   Addington - Friday Night Sam Ottley - Thinks Ottawa can overcome the unruly mark and win race 3 Brad Williamson - Reckons The Silver Fox is overdue a winning turn, also in race 3 John Dunn - Rates Lumos a huge chance back to a stand in race 4 Steve Richardson - Likes the lightly raced mare Alexandra Leaving in race 8 Blair Orange - Very bullish about the smart Mighty Major in race 9   Banks Peninsula - Sunday Afternoon Gerard O'Reilly - Thinks Just Leave can improve on Methven 5th and win race 2 Ricky May - Urges punters to stick with Speedski in race 6 after his luckless 4th at Methven. Terry Chmiel - Likes Gyrate to go back to back in race 10 if he can get a run through from the second line.   Harnesslink Media

The first race on the program at Methven today was blessed with three really smart 3 year olds and as expected they dominated the finish. McArdle Star, Highview Freedy and Until Further Notice all had their supporters prior to the race and all went well enough to justify that support. Highview Freddy from the Robert Dunn barn led easily from barrier one with Sam Ottley in the bike while the Jimmy Curtin trained and driven Until Further Notice settled three back on the inner from his second row draw. The Ken Barron trained McArdle Star with stable reinsman Blair Orange in the bike settled third last from his second line draw.. Sent forward three wide with cover by Blair with a lap to run, McArdle Star found the death seat with 900 meters to run and sat there until the 400 meters when he went up to eyeball Highview Freddy as they turned for home. Blair did little more than flick the reins at McArdle Star up the straight as he went on for an impressive debut win by 2 and 1/4 lengths from Highview Freddy who was just as clearly second. Until Further Notice cleared the pocket three back on the inner as they turned for home and ran on well for third but was 2 and 1/2 lengths from Highview Freddy at the finish. McArdle Star paced the 2300 meters on the grass in 3:02.3, a mile rate of 2:07.5 on a track rated as dead. Brought out of the 2013 Australasian Classic Sale for $30,000 by long time stable clients of Ken Barron in Steve Thompson and Grant Dickey, McArdle Star is as the name suggests is a 3 year old by McArdle from the talented Presidential Ball mare Star Of The Ball 1:56.1 ($68,647) The first foal from Star Of The Ball by Christian Cullen was named Two Twenty in reference to the fact he cost $220,000 at the sales. Why he didn't amount to much on the racetrack, the next two colts in Merv 1:53 ($67,763) and Macha 1:55.8 ($115,297) were well above average. The grand dam of Star Of The Ball is none other than the champion broodmare in Black Watch. McArdle Star looks to have inherited all the family ability and should be in for a profitable season judging by todays run. Harnesslink Media      

The first harness racing meeting for the new season at Methven comes up for decision on Sunday and as per usual for this time of year it sees the emergence of a lot of spring 3 year olds. Race 1 for the CO 3 year olds and older over 2300 meters from behind the mobile has drawn a smart field with several promising 3 year olds lining up. McArdle Star form the Ken Barron barn has drawn poorly at three on the second line but his trial runs suggest a big debut run from the son of McArdle. Brought out of the 2013 Australasian Classic Sale for $30,000 by long time stable clients Steve Thompson and Grant Dickey, McArdle Star will have the services of in form reinsman Blair Orange and looks a big winning chance. Highview Freddy from the Robert Dunn barn is another 3 year old who looks above average and from the one draw can make his own luck. A full brother to the outstanding Highview Tommy 1:55.2 ($1,021,904) Highview Freddy had four starts at two against Say My Name and company so it is a big drop back in class here. He ran a lovely fourth behind Margarita in his first run back from a spell and looks sure to be a major player with Sam Ottley in the bike. Another runner from the Robert Dunn barn is Altissimo who has drawn nicely at barrier three. She is a 3 year old daughter of Mach Three from a Beach Towel half sister to the champion pacer Elsu 1:53.6 ($2,083,352). Altissimo qualified recently on the track in very impressive fashion and has the services of leading reinsman John Dunn in the bike.  Another 3 year old making his debut for the season is the Gotta Go Cullect gelding Until Further Notice from two on the second line from the Jimmy Curtin barn. Until Further Notice is a recent addition to the stable and he is now owned by long time stable client Ralph Nieper who raced his half brother Slash An Burn 1:54.7 ($277,288) from the Curtin barn. Placed twice as a two year old when racing out of the Murray Swain barn in Southland, Until Further Notice won a trial last week at Ashburton with smart closing sectionals of 56 .8 and 27.4 and looks ready to rumble. Just so all the 3 year olds don't have it all their own way, the Nigel McGrath trained and driven Western Art with four seconds in his last five starts looms as a fly in the ointment for the 3 year olds as he is well overdue to take out a maiden race.  We think with his favourable draw Highview Freddy just gets the nod from us but it  really is an open race and it wouldn't surprise us to see one of the other four mentioned in this article salute the judge. Harnesslink Media

Last weeks harness racing selections were a case of so near yet so far. Maurice McKendry, Terry Chmiel, Ricky May, Gerald O'Reilly and Nathan Williamson all nabbed winners while six others were placed, some at good odds. This week we have four meetings around the country and our selections are spread over those meetings and Maurice McKendry is shooting for three in a row at Auckland. Addington - Thursday Night Ricky May - Thinks Idolise is ready to win in race 4 Gerald O'Reilly - Likes King Of Strathfield to upset Stent in race 6 Sam Ottley - Rates Lovemetwotimes a big chance from barrier one in race 7 Terry Chmiel - Gives Betabcool a big tick in race 8    Invercargill - Friday Afternoon Clark Barron - Reckons Run Fatboy Run is overdue a winning turn in race 5 Brendon McLellan - Thinks Vera's Delight is due a change of luck in race 6 Nathan Williamson - Thinks Costa Del Magnifico will make a winning debut in race 8 Shane Walkinshaw - Very keen on first starter Jetsdream to win race 8 as well   Alexandra Park - Friday Night  Tony Herlihy - Likes Red Sky Night even from the second row in race 2 Steven Reid - Really rates Sirius Star to win race 3 Todd Macfarlane - Thinks Concorde can go one better than his debut second, also in race 3 Maurice McKendry - Rates The Royal Charger a big chance with the aid of the mobile in race 4 Josh Dickie - Very very bullish about the chances of Voluntad in race 5 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Rates Irish Whisper a big chance to win fresh up in race 6 Scott Phelan - Thinks Le Lua Invasion is overdue a win in race 9   Methven - Sunday Afternoon John Dunn - Thinks Highview Freddy can use barrier one to win race 1 Blair Orange - Rates McArdle Star from the on fire Ken Barron barn as also hard to beat in race 1 Matt Williamson - Reckons Davey's Gift is well overdue and should win race 2 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Rates the locally owned and trained Golden Desire a big chance in race 4 Brad Williamson - Thinks his fathers trained horse Kylie Castleton can win race 5   Harnesslink Media  

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

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