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Paul Nairn has stopped being surprised by Habibti Ivy. So the training genius won’t raise an eyebrow if his mare competes one of the great comebacks in trotting history in the $150,000 Canam Rowe Cup tonight. The former Oaks winner has returned from the racing wilderness --- nearly 22 months sidelined by injury --- to won all five of her races this campaign including last Friday’s Anzac Cup. So she heads to Alexandra Park tonight as favourite for Rowe, victory in which would secure her the valuable trotting mate of the year award. Nairn, whose old school and often wide-ranging training techniques have brought him amazing results, admits the Habibti Ivy comeback has shocked him. “When you bring them back after that long away you don’t know what to expect,” he says. “But I definitely didn’t expect this. Not national records and group one wins. “Especially last week. I was sure she was underdone heading into that race because she got tangled in a fence a few weeks ago and lost some skin off her legs. “So to keep going and win when she probably wasn’t at her peak was a big performance. “Really, with that in mind, you would have to think she would improve again and now I wouldn’t be surprised if she won.” Habibti Ivy may only be a five-year-old with 14 starts on her slate but she has an ideal draw tonight and the manners to use it. She should lead or be handy early and with a rival like Bordeaux able to set up a fast 3200m, being on the marker pegs not covering any extra ground could be crucial. Bordeaux was excellent with sixth after being wide in the Anzac Cup and appeals as a top each way chance tonight while one of the more proven group one trotters in the race is Quite A Moment. She was second to her champion stablemate Monbet in the national record Dominion over 3200m at Addington in November and then downed Bordeaux in the 2700m mobile National Trot here in December, so a true staying test will hold no fears for her. Quite A Moment looked down on he best when she returned from her Australian summer campaign but trainer Greg Hope believes a change of training regime will see her prominent tonight. “I have lightened her work load to keep her fresher and I think we saw some benefit of that at Addington last start when she was a big second,” says Hope. “We know she will handle the distance and she is as good as these horses when you take her formline through our other fella (Monbet) but I would have preferred a front line draw.” The absence of the big guns promotes an array of horses up to being serious chances, with the four-year-olds Lemond, Temporale and Wilma’s Mate all having the raw ability to win while even the sometimes disappointing Daryl Boko flashed home last Friday like a horse who could win tonight. The Rowe Cup is the highlight of a stunning night on which Lazarus looks certain to end his super season with a formulaic Messenger victory over stablemate Waikiki Beach. The All Stars look to dominate the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Fillies, with Elle Mac the best of their trio but the worst drawn, bringing the likes of Shanandoah, A Lister and star trialist New York Rain into play. But Hope, who is starting to rival Nairn as one of the supremos of New Zealand trotting, expects another faultless performance from Enghien to win the Trotting Derby, with President Roydon the emerging threat in that age group. Michael Guerin

Breeding doesn't always count for everything but when Louie won the Regent Car Court Pace it didn't surprise breeding buffs. The Christian Cullen four year old is impeccably bred being out of the eleven win Holmes Hanover mare Chloe Hanover. He had shown promise in a limited harness racing career for Wayne Adams before transferring to Tony Stratford's Gore stable earlier this year. “He’s a well mannered horse that’s good to do anything with. We’re just taking over from the good job that Wayne did. I think they had a few problems with him cross firing. I don’t think you ever correct a cross firer but you can help them and we’ve possibly done that,” said Stratford. He was having his second run for the Stratford stable having finished fifth at Winton earlier this month.   “He seems to be pacing good. Dexter was pleased with the way be paced at Winton and Blair said he was very nice today.” Driver Blair Orange took the gelding to the lead before handing up to Ideal Conquest with a lap to run. With 300 metres to run he pulled Louie off the back of a tiring Ideal Conquest and held on under a strong drive to beat one of the outsiders Matai Valour by half a length. Louie is owned by Alan and Liz Sloan of Invercargill and their two daughters. He was bought at the Sale of the Stars for $52,000. Meanwhile promising two year old trotter War Admiral also in the Stratford barn has been turned out for the season. “They just went a bit quick that day we lined up. They ran the first 800 from a stand in 64 seconds and being a two year old he just was not used to that. He threw a shoe as well.” Another promising maiden pacer from the stable The Night Hawk who was a race rival to Louie, was scratched this morning. “He had a puffy leg so I had to scratch him. He’s a really nice horse and he would have been pretty hard to beat if he was in that race today.”   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Nothing Delightful Memphis does surprises driver Blair Orange and when she smashed the New Zealand Three Year Old Fillies record at Winton yesterday it wasn't a surprise either. Her time of 2-55.5 for the 2400 metre stand was over four seconds better than the previous record of 2-59.9 recorded by Talkerup at Ashburton. The time was also a new track and Southland record for three year old fillies and the fastest 2400 metre stand ever recorded on the Central Southland Raceway. The time also beats Adore Me's open mare record of 2-56.0 recorded at Ashburton in 2014. Sure, Orange had concerns about Delightful Memphis, a three year old filly fronting up against the hardened mid-grade horses for the first time. But that wasn't the only concern.  "The stand was always going to be a concern. She'd never had one (standing start practice) at the trials, workouts or anywhere but she went away really nice today," he said.   Once away Orange settled the Better's Delight filly in the outside running line. With 600 metres to run when he saw Royal Counsel starting to make a three wide run, he decided it was time to go and progressed forward three wide. With 400 metres to run he'd joined pacemaker Torrid Bromac and these two cut away rounding the final bend. Half way down the lane Orange pulled the ear plugs and Delightful Memphis sprinted away to easily beat Bettor Ops by a length and a quarter.   Easy as - Delightful Memphis winning at Winton     - Photo Bruce Stewart. "We settled close to the front so her speed was always going to bring her into it whenever she needed. I just let her slide from the 600 and she kept it up all the way to the line. Her forte is probably her speed. A couple of times I 've asked her to run tough and she's always hung on in there. She's pretty versatile and you just drive her the way you need to in a race."   The win cements Delightful Memphis as the early favourite for the Nevele R/ Macca Lodge Southland Oaks Final on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park on Sunday 30th April. This year's final is one of the most competitive in years. The Bettor's Delight filly now holds two Southland records, having broken the Southland 1609 metre mobile record at the Wairio meeting at the end of last month. The win was her sixth for owners Wayne Higgs, former New Zealand Cricketer Simon Doull, Sir Loins Limited and Debra and Pete Smith   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

On a 12 race programme at Winton on Sunday, seven of the races were mobile 2400 metre contests and all were run in faster than three minutes. Quickest was Bonnie Jean in 2:53.8 then Delight My Soul 2:55.1, Major Hippie 2:55.3, Steiger 2:56.4, Boom Time 2:56.8, Comic Book Hero 2:57.1 and Gabby's Delight 2:58.2. Other highlights of the under-card included: * After breaking for more than 50 metres in the final 200 at Invercargill and being disqualified, Bets Commando never put foot wrong on Sunday. Leading all the way she took the Winton Workouts Committee Trot for non-winners; * When you're hot you're hot and after starting April with just three wins for the season, trainer Alan Paisley has doubled his tally. He got two last week at Invercargill and Gabby's Delight in the Advance Agriculture Ltd up to M46 Mobile Pace at Winton; * More than 57 years after driving his first winner, Winterloch on the big grass track at Invercargill in October 1959, and 10 years since his previous, Village Lord at Invercargill in March 2007, Gary McEwan's win meter ticked again on Sunday when Our Budd took out the Cox Family Trot for up to R52 trotters. Included in his wins is one at Sacramento in California on a New Zealand horse Sholtz End. The 75 year old McEwan also trains Our Budd and had a second runner in the race, Eyre's Rag Doll driven by Hamish Hunter, who finished seventh. This was a reverse of the situation at Invercargill last November when Eyre's Rag Doll with Hunter aboard won - to credit McEwan with his first training success since Summit Invasion in 2005 - while Our Budd and McEwan finished seventh; * Woodlands trainer Steve Baucke dedicated the win of Delight My Soul in the SBS Bank Mobile for R52 to R54 pacers to the memory of his brother Darrin, who passed away in Hamilton on Thursday from prostate cancer, aged 51. With four racehorses, two joggers and one breaker in work, Baucke said he has more on the go than ever. Three wins, courtesy of Delight My Soul (two) and I'm Jimmy James, put him on target to beat his best from the 2011/12 term when Citylight won four. Citylight and I'm Jimmy James are half sister and brother. * Boom Time's win in the PGG Wrightson Mobile for MR47 to MR52 pacers added to the southern success of the Butterworth Racing Syndicate who won last week with Jimmy Mack. A Gotta Go Cullect three year old, he was bred by Robin and Mandy Swain with Robin also the trainer and driver. Boom Time qualified in December and changed hands the same week; * Comic Hero won the Lamb & Cattle Graziers Mobile for up to R44 pacers for his Tauranga-based owner and breeder Graham Cooney and local trainer Hamish Hunter. It was Hunter's eighth win of the season, four have been with horses bred and owned by the RIB board member alone and the other four with horses he has bred and owns in partnership; * From a 20 metre handicap in the Murray Gray Memorial R52 and faster Trot, Spotlight the Valley created a new all-comers track record for 2400 metres of 3:02.1. The record was previously held by Santorini Sunset of 3:02.8 set in March 2015. It was the five year old Skyvalley mare's third win since Christmas, all with Blair Orange in the sulky. She is trained at Balfour by Robert Wilson who is enjoying his best season, having won also with Another Delight (2), Eagle Galleon, Major Vibes and Machie Mach; * A second line draw didn't stop Steiger and driver Kirk Larsen early and they soon had the one-one in the Gallagher Animal Management R46 to R51 Mobile Pace. Three-back from the 900 meant they had work to do turning in though but wove a path through to get up by three quarters of a length. It was Larsen's second win from 10 drives on the son of Bettor's Delight who was bred and is raced by Jim and Alistair Veint and Warren Tuckey and trained by Lindsay Veint at West Plains; * All Stars first-starter Major Hippie dominated the New World Winton Mobile Pace in the day's fastest time for non-winners over 2400 metres from behind the mobile. The three year old is raced by Trevor Casey, Neil Pilcher, Jim Gibbs and Cheryl Rasmussen; * Bonnie Jean made it five from eight, and two from two for her dam Wave Runner when winning the Drainage & Excavation Services for R55 to R70 pacers and three year olds up R75. Bred by Julie Davie and Peter and Dan Cummings of Tuapeka Lodge, Bonnie Jean is a younger half sister to Southern Belle Speed Series winner Break Dance.   Mac Henry

Mark Jones only had to look from left to right last night to see just how unforgiving the racing game can be at times. On his right stood Eyre I Come, his latest Group One winner having just surprised more than a few when he unwound with some purpose to win the Fred Shaw Memorial New Zealand Trotting Championship at Addington. Then, to his right, stood his champion trotter, Master Lavros. With one hind leg slightly raised in the air and his balking frame being supported by his other three legs, the big gelding stood quietly while veterinarians fussed around him. Jones stood quietly too. Watching intently, all while knowing full well what the verdict was going to be. “I felt him break down the 600 metre mark,” he said. A suspected suspensory injury was diagnosed although Jones still wasn’t ruling out more serious damage. And just like that, the career of a grand trotter was over. “Probably my biggest regret will be that he’s not going out sound,” Jones added. Despite the injury, Master Lavros still showed all his incredible braveness to pick himself up off the canvas to run a gallant third beaten by narrow margins by Eyre I Come and Wilma’s Mate. “But true credit to him, his leg went a long way from home, but his heart carried him all the way to the winning post and he fought so incredibly bravely. “He was travelling so good at that point too, I really believed I was going to win it going down the back straight.” While gutted by the prognosis of Master Lavros, Jones was trying to put on a brave face for everything else, including the win of Eyre I Come. “It’s bloody hard. I want to be over the moon that this horse as won, because he’s been through so much as well and his owner has been so patient, but there’s a lot of mixed emotion.” The result of Eyre I Come was a fitting result for part owner Grant Hatton who shares in the ownership of the horse with Merv and Meg Butterworth. Hatton’s star pacer Saveapatrol, who has also had a lot of injury troubles, was set to make his resumption at the meeting but another setback has left his career in limbo too, extending the rough week for Jones. “It’s been 48 hours from hell, but this is going to go a long way to fixing it,” and ecstatic Hatton said. A day to day prospect, Eyre I Come looked set to be a major player in the open class ranks when he burst onto the seen. Many remember his win in the two mile trot on Cup Day fondly, but since then it’s been battle after battle. Beautifully handled by Blair Orange last night, the gelding stalked the pace and unleashed through a gap at the top of the straight and wore down Wilma’s Mate and Master Lavros in the shadows of the post. “It’s a shame he’s had such a bad run of injuries, because he’s such a good horse,” Orange said. The win gave Orange his second Group One open class trot success after Superbowlcheerleader won the ANZAC Cup in 2014. Both Jones and Orange paid huge credit to Woodend Beach stable foreman, Regan Todd who has done a huge amount of work with both trotters. Eyre I Come will now head north for a further depleted Rowe Cup Carnival where, if the opportunity presents itself again, a further big race win isn’t out of the question.   Matt Markham    

Away from New Zealand for close to 10 years, Graham Bond got back on the board at Addington on Thursday night. Better known around the traps as Bondy, the colourful character, who used to be domiciled in Rakaia, but is now training out of West Melton gained his first winner since returning home when he produced Superfecta to win the highest assessed pace of the night on Thursday, lowering the colours of some tidy individuals in the process. Bond spent the majority of his time away from New Zealand in Western Australia training the odd horse but has returned to his native land and is back training here while also helping out at the Kentuckiana Lodge stables of Cran Dalgety. Bond has 74 New Zealand winners next to his name with many handy types along the way. Microscopic who he trained to win 10 would be the best of them – his list of victories included success in the Group One Easter Cup when driven by John Hay. Other notable performers from his stable over the years have included; Scottish Sailor (six wins), Amiable Poplar (six wins), Beaudiene Byrd, Sun Lover and Royal Wren (all three wins). Thursday night’s winner, Superfecta was acquired by Bond when he returned to New Zealand from the stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. A winner of four races prior to joining his care, Superfecta finished second first up for his new trainer before being late scratched at the barrier at Amberley after refusing to face the starter. He finished second at the Cheviot meeting behind the talented Gotta Go Ya Hu and once Blair Orange managed to secure the trail on Thursday night the five-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight was always going to be a chance. He burst through the passing lane and held off a brave A G’s Whitesocks to claim the victory in a slick 1:55.2 mile rate.   Earlier in the night Spanish Armada booked herself a spot in the Group One $140,000 Nevele R Fillies Final on May 12. The All Stars filly was handled by Tim Williams in the absence of regular pilot Natalie Rasmussen and made things look all too pedestrian as she strode to the front, dictated terms, and then jogged her way down to the line. Delightful Memphis emerged from the pack to finish second – all but assuring herself a spot in the final while Mossdale Rose and Seaswift Joy both produced tidy efforts. Three heats remain in the series with one at Cambridge, another at Forbury and then the final chance to qualify at Addington late in April. Partyon will be expected to contest one of those heats as she looks to continue her incredible career. Spanish Armada was one of two winners for the All Stars with The Devil’s Own producing an impressive effort to win the two-year-old event in the hands of Williams. The half-brother to well-credentialed pacer, Devil Dodger was far too good for his rivals in a very slick time.   Matt Markham

The locally bred, Canterbury owned and trained trotter Over The Love looks to have a bit of a future. The Love You three year old easily won the Centrepoint and South City Liquorland Trot at Ascot Park today beating a field of twelve other maidens. Prior to today's win Over The Love had won three of his four workouts, both his trials and run second on debut at Addington in a sub two minute mile rate.   "He's done a good job and he's always given us the impression that time's going to be his friend. He's a big horse so you'll see the best of him probably next year," said driver Blair Orange. In today's 2700 metre event Over The Love settled fifth behind tearaway leader Pegasus Hanover. When Orange saw second favourite Jaccka Josh improve with 1200 metres to run he moved off the running line. That forced Jaccka Josh three wide for three hundred metres before Orange slotted the three year old into the one one behind Jaccka Josh with a lap to run. At the top of the straight Orange peeled off Jaccka Josh's back and trotted down the middle of the track cruising to the finish line, beating a game Jaccka Josh by two and a half lengths. The chestnut gelding is by Love You out of the four win Chiola Hanover mare Cochy Bondu. He was bred by Invercargill Jeweller Kevin Schuck Cochy Bondu has produced three foals of racing age and all have qualified. Her first foal Overcast has now won five races while Coppertone Lad a full-brother to Over The Love qualified at Ascot Park early this month. According to his trainer Alan Paisley he's expected to debut in a few weeks. Over The Love with Overcast          Photo by Bruce Stewart The mare's next foal a Dream Vacation colt foal has already been bought by his co-trainer Ken Barron.  Today was Over The Love's first big trip away.  "He taking it all in his stride. He's a lovely big relaxed horse who trotted good today. He was a little pacey early but once he got into his rhythm and balanced after a couple of hundred metres he was good from there on in. He's probably got a few trips away in the future."  Today's win was one of three for Orange and takes his season tally to a personal best of 124. Dexter Dunn also drove three winners today and leads the premiership with 139 winners.  Over The Love winning   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Lamborne Road went a long way to establishing himself as more than just a promising type with his second to Titan Banner in the Wyndham Cup. He gets his chance to confirm that new status when he lines up in the ILT Foundation Autumn Cup at Ascot Park on Saturday. On paper, getting beaten by Titan Banner at Wyndham was no big deal. Lamborne Road had a front row start and Titan Banner went from 50 metres behind.  The reality was that Lamborne Road took the first 200 metres of the race to settle into his gait and by then was stone-cold last. With 500 metres to run, he was still among the tailenders and entitled to call it quits. Instead, he launched a run three and four wide and in the straight was the only horse closing as Titan Banner stopped the clock at 3:58.9 for the 3200 metre trip. All season, Lamborne Road has looked a more than useful provincial pacer. The Wyndham Cup suggested he is more than that and in many ways his rocky start in the race was just a refection of his career. The five year old started off well enough, two wins in his first five starts, and then followed a year in which his Invercargill trainer Wayne Adams said he was training well and racing poorly. The son of Washington VC had a lung infection and was sent for a spell to the Myross Bush property of Niki and Stephen Keast, who race Lamborne Road with Joe and Raeleen Thompson. Niki Keast, a qualified nurse, said the horse began frothing at the nose and got very sick, and it was hard to get a diagnosis. She did though and found it was caused by e-coli and pseudomonas. Lamborne Road had six weeks of antibiotics and nursing and then was turned out to grow.  When the gelding returned to the track in December, he was well enough to clock 2:54.6 to win a mobile 2400 at Winton from 11 off the gate. Lamborne Road hasn't finished further back than fourth since then. Today's race is an R60 and faster discretionary pace and sees Lamborne Road and Shane Walkinshaw going from the unruly and 10 metres behind. There are 11 races on the card and Blair Orange, Dexter Dunn and Matthew Williamson, who drove about three quarters of the winners at Ascot Park last weekend, look well placed to repeat the week. Envious and Lilac Flash look the best of Dunn's chances while  Evangaline Franco, American Magic, King Cassidy and Sheezus also rate. Over The Love and Better B Chevron looks top hopes for Orange with  Manuka Valley, Rocking Robyn, Miss Fandango and Sheeza GNP all capable of finishing close-up. As usual, Williamson's best chances are trotters with Bet's Commando and Blazing Under Fire his drives this week. Among the pacers, both RnR Windermere and Rakarover can feature. Mac Henry

Blair Orange combined with one of his biggest supporters to register a notable milestone on the weekend. After a 17-year association as driver and trainer, Orange and Mike Austin reached 100 wins together when Idle Monkey crossed the line first early in the days proceedings. Austin was one of the first to give Orange a big crack in the sulky and the pair have never looked back since winning their first race with Black Mist at Addington in March of 2000. There have been 39 individual winners over the time and plenty who have made significant contributions to the 100 wins along the way too. Austin’s two outstanding trotters, Ado’s Invasion and Toomuch Todo account for 18 of the wins between them for the former winning eight times with Orange in the sulky while Toomuch Todo won 10. Others to have made significant contributions to the tally have been Tart N Tights (6), Idle Wishes (6), Meniscus (6) and also Annsmenan (5). Toomuch To Do’s victory in the Group 2 Canterbury Park Trotting Cup and Ado Invasion’s victories in the Cambridge Trotters’ Flying Mile and City Of Sails Free-For-All, also at Group Two, have been notable highlights. Idle Monkey’s win on Sunday was the first of what was to be a golden few hours for Orange as he claimed four winners on the programme. He also won with RR Sand Dollar for Paul Court, Eyre I Come for Mark Jones and then completed the day by winning the Group Two Sweet Lou Leonard Memorial on the Tim Butt trained, Laddy Chatto. It was Orange’s sixth win in the two-year-old fillies feature having previously registered victories with Delightful Memphis, Dancing Diamonds, Highview Ebony, Lancome and Idanceallnight. An American Ideal filly from Lady Lozza, Lady Chatto is raced by Tom and Loreatta Richardson who were on hand to witness the debut victory on Sunday afternoon. Orange’s quartet of wins at the meeting took him to 116 wins for the season, 10 wins shy of current premiership leader Dexter Dunn. Sunday’s second feature, the Cheviot Cup, was taken out by Motu Premier. The Merv and Meg Butterworth owned pacer made it two cups in as many weeks after winning at Hororata seven days earlier. Treated to a perfect front running drive from Tim Williams, Motu Premier held too many guns for opposition winning strongly in a slick time.  Matt Markham

Kiwi superstar Dexter Dunn has snared the pick-up drive on Motu Meteor in Saturday night’s NSW Derby. It was a case of “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” with Dunn putting his own hand up for drive to owner Merv Butterworth during a chance phone call late yesterday. “I was talking to Blair Orange on the way home from Gore about one of my horses and Dexter was in the car with him,” Butterworth said. “Blair said Dexter wanted me to know he was keen to drive Meteor if we hadn’t already locked in a driver. “I told him I’d discuss it with Mark (Purdon) and get back to him. Mark said Dexter would suit the horse ideally so we booked him.” Motu Meteor has been a big improver during his Aussie campaign with four starts netting three wins and a second in the Victoria Derby. “He’s maturing and becoming a better racehorse with every start,” Butterworth said. “We’ve been so pleased it wasn’t a surprise to us that he was able to sit outside Our Little General and beat him the other night. “That’s despite Our Little General coming out under him about three times in the run.” Motu Meteor’s improvement has prompted change of plans beyond the NSW Derby final. “We’ve now decided to send him back across to Auckland for the Northern Derby,” Butterworth said. “After that he’ll head back to Victoria and join Kerryn (Manning) and Grant’s (Campbell) stable.” Motu Meteor is one of the All Stars’ three Derby runners with Mark Purdon on Vincent and Natalie Rasmussen aboard Ultimate Machete. Adam Hamilton   Vincent’s dominant heat win combined with Ultimate Machete’s shock defeat has seen a reversal in prepost favouritism for the final with Vincent now the standout.

Canterbury junior reinsman Matt Anderson has become a regular visitor to Southland and it's proving to be a rewarding exercise as six of his ten winning drives so far this harness racing season have been in Southland. At last weekends Wyndham meeting he scored a back to back double driving The Best Beg and Don Domingo to win.  Anderson took The Best Beg to the front with just over a lap to run after being in the open for a short time and from there the result was never in doubt. "He warmed up nice so we were always in with a bit of a show. When one of Tim Butt's horses travel to Wyndham you have to have a good level of confidence," he said. The Love You five year old went down to the line winning easily by three and a quarter lengths from Pyramid Mustang who ran home late.  Stretching out at the finish for an easy win          - Photo Bruce Stewart "I never asked for an effort so it was very encouraging." The Best Beg is out of the CR Commando mare Lough Beg. Her second dam Kahu Del left Harnett's Creek (13 wins), Swan Creek (8) and Cullen's Creek (9). Butt trained Swan Creek and Cullen's Creek. It's also the same family as champion trotter Lyal Creek. In the next race Anderson got hot favourite Don Domingo home in the Marshalls Garage 2005 Limited Junior Drivers Mobile Pace. The four year old by American Ideal has now won three of his five starts for West Melton trainer Ken and Tony Barron.  "He's a lovely horse coming through the grades. Ken,Tony and Blair (regular driver Blair Orange) have a good opinion of him. He's a horse going places."  The four year sat parked for most of the trip with Roxy Dale setting a solid pace. He was up challenging the leader at the 300 metres and held out a late charge from Don Sebastian to win by three quarters of a length. Don Domingo (2) holding out Don Sebastion (3)       - Photo Bruce Stewart. "He just shut off in the last little bit but when I asked for an effort I got a response. He's very green but he's good enough to sit parked and win on raw ability at this stage." His winning time for the 2400 metre mobile was 2-57.6 Don Domingo is out of the nine win In The Pocket mare Ohoka Moon and was bred by Cavalla Bloodstock. He stems from an old Southland family developed by the late Colin Baynes. His fifth dam is Donna Charles.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

The 3-53.5 posted by Ascot Park Invercargill Cup winner Classie Brigade today has only been bettered once in this country and it was by champion harness racing pacer Lazarus when he won last years New Zealand Cup. The race lived up to it's billing as being a possible record breaker and when Captain Dolmio was taken to the lead we all knew that his driver John Dunn was going to make it a stayers race, but to this record breaking degree we had no idea.  When judge Bruce Young announced the time we were all aghast. What a race.  Blair Orange after winning his sixth Invercargill Cup, "They get faster and faster every week really. Nigel (trainer Nigel McGrath) had him (Classie Brigade) in super form. He got a lovely run and the horse did the rest," said driver .  Winning driver Blair Orange                                              - Photo Bruce Stewart. In the early rush Orange settled Classie Brigade in sixth place as Motu Premier took the early lead before handing up to Captain Dolmio. When Ears Burning came forward to take up the parked position Classie Brigade got onto his back in the one one. Christen Me then came forward with 1200 metres to run leaving Classie Brigade two back on the outside. Inside the last 800 metres John Dunn started to wind up the speed dial. At the 600, Orange decided it was time to move and he sent Classie Brigade forward. He'd reached Captain Dolmio's wheel inside the last 300 metres and these two great stayers knuckled down in the epic finish with Classie Brigade beating a game Captain Dolmio by half a length. Maverick, a stable mate of the winner was a further three and three quarter lengths back in third. Classie Brigade winning the battle in the Invercargill Cup - Photo Bruce Stewart "He hit the front and just knocked off. He had every reason to be tired. He's run a very strong two miles."  So it's the second fastest 3200m ever run in New Zealand and a new race, track and Southland record. The only one to better it is champion pacer Lazarus, which won the New Zealand Cup last year in 3-53.1. The winning mile rate today, was 1-57.4. The last 800 metres was timed in front at 55.3 and the last 400 was run in 26.5. Classie Brigade ran his last 800 metres in 53.9. Under normal circumstances the time for most of the runners today would have been good enough to win this race.  The previous race and Southland record was held by Franco Ledger. He recorded 3-58.7 when he won the 2013 cup.  Special mention must be given to John Dunn and Captain Dolmio who set up this sensational time only to come up short by a half a length. As people were saying afterwards this was an Addington, New Zealand Cup time and Captain Dolmio is destined to run in the great race some year soon. Classie Brigade is heading in that direction too. He's now a C7 horse and won't be out of place in the higher grade.  "He's taken it all before at two and three and I think he can do it at four. Every dog fight is going to be a battle. He's a very versatile horse and a pleasure to sit behind."  Today's Invercargill Cup will go down as one of the greatest in modern times.  Classie Brigade winning the battle in the Invercargill Cup Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

A decision by Dexter Dunn to drive at Wyndham today over Blenheim could result in good fortune for those who picked up the champion driver’s drives at Waterlea Raceway in Blenheim. Dunn was to be driving at the meeting in the Marlborough region, but the postponement of yesterday’s Wyndham meeting and its shift to today, left the current premiership leader with a decision to make on where he would drive today. Dunn’s current closest rival, Blair Orange elected to head back to Canterbury and head up to Blenheim, but Dunn decided to fulfil his engagements in Wyndham leaving some nice pick-up drives for those already up for the two-day meeting. Robbie Close was one of the biggest winners, securing the steer on the exciting intermediate grade trotter Arditi for Blenheim local, Dean Hunter. “It’s a nice one to pick up,” Close said. “The runs on the West Coast were really good and it looks to have a bit of a future.” Hunter has a strong hand to play in the feature race of the day with his three trotters all engaged with Arditi joining Lady Beatrix Bourbon and Nelson winner, Destiny Jones. All three were winners on the recent West Coast circuit. Craig Thornley is another to have picked up a nice drive in the form of the Jamie Gameson trained, Franco Hampton who hasn’t been seen since running seventh behind Thefixer on Cup Day at Addington. With an abundance of gate speed the Christian Cullen colt may be able to slot himself into a forward position and get a good chance to secure another victory. The other of Dunn’s notable drives at Blenheim is Miss Daisy who has been picked up by Ross Houghton. A member of the Robert Dunn stable, Miss Daisy ran a big second at Ashburton on Boxing Day when second behind her stablemate American Tart and with a cushy run on the cards today she gets a good chance to grab another victory. Her toughest opposition will be another stablemate, Billy Badger who was a big winner on the first day of the Nelson meeting. As they did last week, the Dunn stable is expected to be right in the thick of the action again today with an ominous looking line up of runners. They’ve got nine runners engaged at Waterlea, one at Wyndham and four at Cambridge tonight.   Super Selector – By Matt Markham Race 1: Reign On Me, IW McNik, Tehoro Dazzle, Zsa Ziva Race 2: Born Again Delight, Goldiloch, Smooth N Easy, Gotta Ticket Race 3: Runaway Three, Hayden’s Meddle, Titanium, Idealagain Race 4: Crackabella, Man Of Steel, Danse McAabre, Nova Time Race 5: Arditi, Destiny Jones, Muscles Galore, Redwood Invasion Race 6: Kitura, Lolita Franco, Dana Dawn, Sauciehall Race 7: Billy Badger, Miss Daisy, Smithy, Eh Ef El Race 8: She’s A Flyin, Gotta Go Ya Hu, Franco Hampton, Scotlyn Jack Best Bet: Billy Badger (Race 7) Value: Crackabella (Race 4)

Full fields, good mid-week stakes, a sprinkling of mobile miles and Canterbury visitors, all makes for an interesting day on the big Wyndham track today (Thursday). It also makes the pick six at Wyndham a battle for survival with an abundance of quality in some races and a dearth of the commodity in others. First leg CLARK BARRON RACING STABLES FILLIES & MARES MOBILE PACE Plenty of chances here. Bonnie Joan dominated a similar field at Invercargill, runner-up Dancing In The Dark was prominent again, and they go from the same draws on Thursday. Seaswift Joy is unbeaten her last two including a mile in 1:54.8 and is racing on her new home track for the first time. Bettor Enforce was sound in the Equine Stakes and punched above her weight in the Roxburgh Cup. If going wide, find a place for Somejoy, Varenna and Motu Time To Shine. Second leg ALABAR (NZ) LTD FILLIES & MARES MOBILE PACE Manuka Valley and Blair Orange have looked lethal from the front and the back their last two and look closer than any others to an anchor. The Michael House trained Art Courage qualified in September, goes into the race with good recent workout form and Dexter Dunn aboard. Last week's qualifier Chinook Winds has drawn the ace and looks promising but is another first starter. Trendy's Bad Girl and Vera Mac are getting up in starts but their recent form looks good in this line-up. Third leg MATAURA LICENSING TRUST MOBILE PACE Lilac Flash is not the finished product yet but has the draw and the driver to capitalise on some previous good results. Better Than Most isn't the finished product yet either but has enough upside to figure in this. Santanna's Blue Chip did work to get handy last week only to get shuffled back and had nothing left for a second crack. With one run he can be in this but the draw makes it harder, is it does also with Rakarover and Silver Dale. Fourth leg KINDERGARTEN STAKES DAY - SATURDAY 4TH MARCH HANDICAP PACE On class and the value of his Cromwell run Statham should be winning this. Rakarolla and Flashing On are both threats from the 10 metre mark and so is Cromwell winner Gotta Del. He has recently joined Clark Barron from his brothers Tony and Ken and will be having his first stand start. Luciano has the class to be prominent from 20 metres while a possible wet track plays to the strengths of Acolyte. Fifth leg SINCLAIR BROTHERS MOBILE PACE RR Sand Collar stuck well last week after drawing a bad marble and sitting parked for the last lap. From no wider than four off the front this week she looks the top chance. All Jokes Aside drops from C4 to C3 and that might be all it takes. Lamborne Road got back early last week and after getting handy was left in the open three wide round the final bend. He is not far away from striking. Mr Handleman impressed at Ascot Park and Art Exhibit is seldom far away. Sixth leg PANSPACIFICFLIGHT MOBILE PACE In a competitive field. Sagwitch and Young Conqueror have the draws to dominate and the potential to fight out the finish. Thorn in their side might be Baileys Knight who is still a C1 after wins in two of his past three. They look the trifecta but Seduce Me, Western Dream and Milehigh Magic are all capable chances. Mac Henry

Nigel McGrath couldn’t have scripted a better result in yesterday’s Ashburton Cup. The Weedons horseman started three horses in the race and they picked up first, second and third placings with his rising stable star, Classie Brigade claiming the major prize in the hands of leading horseman Blair Orange. McGrath had never picked up a stable trifecta in his impressive career before, but was all smiles as he came off the track yesterday at winning the Boxing Day feature. Maverick was second in the race with Colin DeFilippi in the sulky while McGrath drove the third placed, Ears Burning himself. It was a victory of justification for Orange who made the decision to turn down a drive in the Westport Cup on exciting pacer, Buster Brady, to drive at the Ashburton meeting. Buster Brady finished a narrowly beaten second on the other side of the Southern Alps. Classie Brigade, who spent most of last season as a three-year-old chasing New Zealand Trotting Cup winner Lazarus, has now won his last two starts and looks set for a big summer on the country circuit with plenty of options available for McGrath to choose from. McGrath confirmed after the race that the trio were likely to target a lot of races in the Southland region. “We might make them a bit of a travelling roadshow and see what happens,” he said. “They are all going really at the moment, so it makes sense to keep them ticking over.” His 27 career starts have now yielded eight wins and nine placings with more than $150,000 in the bank. Meanwhile, Bob Butt picked up a major win in his early training career when Bronze Over caused a minor upset in the Westport Cup. The Woodend Beach trainer inherited the pacer from North Island trainers John and Josh Dickie after he traveled South earlier in the season and the decision was made to leave him in the care of Butt to target the country racing. He managed to get home over the top of Buster Brady who looked set to be the winner but appeared to gawk and run about up the straight before lunging right before the line, only to come up short. Matt Markham

Well bred Canterbury pacer Pick My Pocket won yesterday (Saturday) for Weedons harness racing trainer Nigel McGrath. Owned by Allwood Stud Farm the Bettor's Delight three year old filly was bred by Charlie Robert and is out of In The Pocket mare La Filou which is a half sister to a host of winners including Have Faith In Me (14 wins), Imagine Me (9) and Megabucks (5). Another half-sister Splendid Dream is the dam of Hands Christian (13), Christen Me (32) and Dream About Me (18).  Driver Blair Orange says Pick My Pocket probably won't reach the height of some of her immediate family but she won well enough yesterday.  "She just needs to sharpen up a bit. I said to Nigel if we had that rule like to do in Australia (no whip rule about to be introduced) we couldn't race her because she'd just drop out. Hopefully she'll switch on but she's just very very lazy," said Orange. Pick My Pockets winning at Wairio                              Photo by Bruce Stewart           Her win in 2-56.3 will add value to her potential career as a broodmare.  Other highlights of the Wairio meeting included Rocking Robyn running 2-54.1, equalling the track and Southland record held by stablemate Robyn's Bad Boy. In addition Rocking Robin provided junior reinsman Jamie Campbell with another winning drive.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

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