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Tough staying trotter Speeding Spur went back to back in the Gr1 $90,000 NZ Trotting Championships tonight by leading all the way and proving too strong at the finish for harness racing driver Josh Dickie. In last years edition of the race Speeding Spur led and stuck his nose out at the right time to win narrowly and this year was a repeat of that with the Pegasus Spur horse lasting by a neck from a game Sundees Son who broke late when challlenging him close to the line. An emotional Josh Dickie gave credit to the horses toughness after the race, "This horses courage is unbelievable really," he said. "We have had a bit of an up and down campaign since winning the Free For All here during Cup Week. "I was quite happy to just pull back last week and let him run home, but tonight we wanted to lead up and let him dictate like he likes to do. "Dad and I had confidence in him and he has backed that up tonight," he said  Speeding Spur trotted the 2600m mobile in a slick 3-17.9 in the wet conditions with a last 800m in 58 seconds with a closing 400m in 29.6 seconds. Earlier in the night young harness racing driver Bob Butt caused a major boilover in the Gr1 $100,000 New Zealand Trotting Derby when Lotamuscle downed the hot favourite Enhance Your Calm and Mark Purdon right on the line. On a slushy track made wet by continual afternoon rain Lotamuscle settled three deep on the fence while the hotpot Enhance Your Calm rolled straight to the lead and set a solid pace with no mid race attackers. In the straight and it looked like the favourite was home until Butt wound up the Paul Nairn trained Lotamuscle and he sprouted wings in the last 50m to win by a nose. Lotamuscle trotted the mobile 2600m mobile in 3-20.8 with a closing 800m in 58.9 and final 400m in 28.2 seconds. The win gave Bob Butt his first Group One success on New Zealand soil. Lotamuscle winning the NZ Trotting Derby   Harnesslink Media

Welcome to the Harness Half Hour podcast brought to you by HRNZ marketing. Jess Smith brings the latest harness racing news and interviews with colorful and interesting industry participants from New Zealand and around the world. This week's show features Craig Thompson, Bob Butt, Kyle Marshall, Brad Reid and Bookie Richard Wilson.   Jess Smith

Victoria-based Kiwi trainer Brent Lilley has never won a Group One event at Alexandra Park, but he is hoping that will all change before the end of the year. In fact on the last day of 2016 Lilley will line up his star trotter Kyvalley Blur in the Group One $80,000 National Trot at Alexandra Park and that's the race Lilley wants to nail. After a win and then two thirds during (NZ) Cup Week, Lilley has already termed Kyvalley Blur’s New Zealand campaign a success. “He’s more than paid his way, and apart from being slow away from a handicap at Kaikoura, it’s been well worth him coming over. I’ve been back and forth and will do so again in December. “The horse is being looked after by my partner Tracey at her Dad, Barry Cullen’s stable at Morrinsville. Bob Butt did a wonderful job with him down south,” Lilley said. “I’m grateful to everyone who has helped the horse in New Zealand,” he added. The former Cantabrian horseman said Kyvalley Blur’s first-up win at Alexandra Park on October 7 will put him in good stead for his two races in Auckland. “The opposition might not be as tough as what he will meet this time around but I was really pleased with the way he won and came through that race first-up in New Zealand. “David (Butcher) did a good job that night and we will be asking him again if he wants the drive,” said Lilley. He said Kyvalley Blur will have three races in the North Island before heading back to Australia to tackle the Aussie Grand Prix in late January and then the Great Southern Star on February 4. “He will line up at Auckland on December 16 and 31 and in between those races he will start at Cambridge Raceway on Christmas Eve. Then he will head home,” Lilley said. The black 9-year-old Chocolatier gelding impressed Butt at the Rangiora Trials yesterday (Tuesday) when beating Arya and Master Lavros by two-and-a-half lengths each. “Bob said he felt real nice and came home real good in 58 and 27.5. That’s very encouraging and with Monbet not heading to Auckland I think we have a real chance of going close in the National Trot,” said Lilley. Kyvalley Blur ran third behind Monbet in the two Group One events at Addington Raceway. In the New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All he got within two lengths of the champion and then three days later was just under six lengths behind him in the Dominion Trot. “It would be fantastic to win a Group race over here. He’s won the Group One Bill Collins Trot Mile (2013) and has placed numerous times in other Group races. “If any horse deserved a Group race in New Zealand then it’s this fella,” said Lilley. Kyvalley Blur has raced 87 times for 20 wins, 36 placings and netted $383,108 in stakes. He made his with a second at Kilmore on May 8, 2011. “He’s lovely horse to have around and we are looking for home to come – hopefully after he has done the business in the North Island. “Whatever happens the decision to come over has been well worth it. he’s already proven he can go the Alexandra Park way around. I’m looking forward to the second phase of his New Zealand campaign,” he said. Lilley has won nice stake money at Alexandra Park previously. In 2014 he trained Zedalite (Rod Petroff) to run a nose-second behind Superbowlcheerleader in the Group One $100,000 Anzac Cup at Alexandra Park. The American-bred Kyvalley Blur is owned by J W Connelly and was bred by C T Cone. Duane Ranger

Harness Racing trainer/driver Bob Butt may have won the feature at Phar Lap on Sunday but his second win of the day was the most satisfying. Butt topped off a big weekend by winning the Timaru Winter Cup when driving Easy Rider to victory for his parents David and Catherine Butt who train the winner of four races at their Woodend Beach base. However, Hall Of Fame's win in the last race, a c1 pace, gave Butt a race-to-race driving double but more importantly a training win of his own. An eight length winner on debut at Addington in October, Half Of Fame went to Alexandra Park for the Christmas carnival but was never able to show his best.  "I took him up north and he got really crook so I had to give him a long spell," Butt said. The Rocknroll Hanover three-year-old was a one and three quarter length winner in a c1 pace on Sunday - his first start since December 18. Sunday's win was a major relief for Butt as the talented pacer returned to form. Butt said Hall Of Fame is likely to have one or two more starts before being sent for a spell in preparation for a cup week campaign. Easy Rider was quick away from the front tape in the Timaru Winter Cup and Butt drove him hard to beat Well Armed to the lead but with just over a lap to run he give it away when Blair Orange sent Highview Freddy, who started off 20m, forward. "Highview Freddy's always better in front so I knew if I could hold the lead he would be coming around at some point." Easy Rider was then able to sit in the trail until he was let loose up the passing lane. "He's just that sort of horse, if he gets that perfect run he's always dangerous," Butt said.  Easy Rider, raced by Tony McGrath, beat home Highview Freddy by a head with a further length back to Well Armed. The Art Official four-year-old made it back-to-back victories after winning a c1-c2 junior drivers race at Rangiora in the hands of Matt Anderson on June 19. Hall Of Fame's win was Butt's second training win over the weekend with Matatoki winning a c1-c2 trot at Addington on Thursday night to give him a 100 per cent success rate with just the two runners being lined up. Matatoki was Butt's third driving win at Addington with earlier wins coming in Breeders Crown heats behind the Paul Nairn-trained pair of Conon Bridge and Wilma's Mate. Matatoki is likely to have another start before also being spelled for cup week. Matt Kermeen

He expected a good performance, but even harness racing trainer Bob Butt couldn’t help being impressed by the win of Matatoki on Friday night at Addington. And the scary thing is that the imposing son of Revenue should only improve with a run under his belt. Fresh up since the end of January the showy chestnut surged to the lead from just off the speed inside the final 500 metres and went on to win impressively by one and three quarters lengths from a fast-finishing Jean Sebastien. The half-brother to the ill-fated Kahdon has always been held in high regard by Butt but the journey has been far from plain sailing. “He’s had a few issues along the way and then when I took him to Auckland he got quite crook,” Butt said. “It ended up being a lung infection and I decided the best move was to give him a good break. Being a three-year-old there was no rush to get him back to the races. “I just brought him up slowly and let him tell me when he was ready to go the races. “He was pretty forward for tonight so I expected him to go well, but he impressed me with the way he did it.” The win gave Butt his sixth training success for the season and with a horse like Matatoki and also the exciting Hall Of Fame working their way through the grades, things should only get better. Butt is currently working around eight horses from his Woodend Beach stable and has a number of young horses to come back into work in the near future. “I’ve been pretty lucky, I’ve picked up some great owners who have backed me and I’m enjoying doing my own team of horses. “I’ll get up to around 14 I think which is quite a lot, but I’m excited by it.” Hall Of Fame, an impressive winner on debut, will return to the race this weekend as well, in the last race at Timaru on Sunday. And Butt is expecting a big performance from him too. He beat Superfecta, who won impressively last night, in a Rangiora trial last week and although drawn the second line on Sunday, he should be hard to beat. “I’m really happy with him, it won’t be easy from the draw. He got really crook up North as well. “It was pretty serious there for a while and it really knocked him but he seems good now.” Matatoki’s win was just one part of a great night at the office for Butt. He drove the winner of both of the Australian Breeders Crown heats held as non-totes before the meeting. The first came on three-year-old trotter, Conon Bridge who looked a lot more like his old self when beating My Amour and Blood And Whiskey comfortably. “He relaxed beautifully tonight, usually it doesn’t take much to get him keen and up on the bit. “Ricky came around me with a lap to run and he came back to me nicely and then when I asked him to sprint he really let down and found the line. “It certainly felt like the old Conon Bridge.” Wilma’s Mate provided the other winner for Butt, who also went close to winning the last with Junior. Both trotters are trained by Paul Nairn who said at this stage a trip to Australia for the Breeders Crown was likely. Early on in the night’s proceedings Dexter Dunn notched up his 200th win for the season when he won the maiden trot with Dusky Eyre. After a week of being stuck on 199 the current World Champion was relieved to hit the double ton. “It’s really only been the one meeting, so it wasn’t worrying me too much, but it is nice to get there.” Dunn added another win later in the night when he saluted with Donegal Rundlescreek. His father Robert, and brother John, also had a good night out winning three to cut the margin between them and Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen down to 12. They won with Freedom Fighter, Franco Cristiano and Letspendanitetogetha to take their tally to 111. The All Stars did pick up a winner too when Superfecta turned in a massive effort to win an action packed junior drivers’ event. Matt Markham

Freak Harness Racing Trainer Paul Nairn will take two runners to Addington Raceway tomorrow. But don't bother jumping in the car and heading to the local Tab to back them, because his runners Conon Bridge and Wilma's Mate are only there to contest heats of the non tote Australasian Breeders Crown. 3yo Raffaello Ambrosio colt Conon Bridge is up against Blood n Whiskey (Robert Dunn) and My Amour (Greg & Nina Hope) in the first of the non tote events. If the Tab opened up a market you would expect to see Conon Bridge a short priced favourite on the back of his jewels placing. His stable man, Wilma's Mate, a 3yo Pegasus Spur filly owned by Richard Cornelius only has to compete against the Gavin Smith trained Oona. Again she should be winning after her jewels placing. Both runners are to be driven by Bob Butt who looks to have a massive show of picking up a treble when he lines up his own runner Matatoki in race four. A talented 3yo by Swedish stallion Revenue, Matatoki is on the look out for a penalty free win before the end of the season. While his last start was in January a handy recent trial at Ashburton has him well in commission for a winning resumption. With those three races out of the way, Butt will drive Gee Up Neddy in race eight for Yaldhurst trainer Leonne Jones. His recent form has been in top class races and before that the 5yo gelding was a super winner at Rangiora. Butt will also drive Race 1 - Aunty Jan - Phil Burrows Race 10 - Junior - David & Catherine Butt Andrew Fitzgerald

Canterbury Harness Racing participants are starting to talk. *Can we have faith in the Racing Integrity Unit? *Will a racecourse investigator turn up on my home doorstep? Those are just some of the questions being asked by drivers, stable hands and trainers. Those with little faith in the RIU will now have almost none, after it was revealed that Racing Investigator Ms Kylie Williams turned up on Woodend based driver/trainer Bob Butt's door step and demanded that Butt travel to the Rangiora Racetrack to take a urine and saliva test for prohibitive substances. That was after Butt had called in sick after being struck down with illness, meaning he was unable to take up his drive on Easy Rider at Rangiora. Easy Rider is trained by his parents, David and Catherine Butt at their Woodend training establishment. With the Racing Investigator testing a large range of drivers and stable hands at the Rangiora meeting, and Butt calling in sick, it appears as though they thought Butt had been tipped off and had called in sick to dodge being tested. After arriving at the Woodend stables and repeatedly knocking on the door, the Racing Investigator was unable to raise Butt from a deep sleep, so continued to walk around the Butt's training centre until they found another license holder in Robbie Close, who works for Mark Jones. Jones lease's a section of the Butt's establishment. With the Racing Investigator demanding that Close enter the household and wake Butt up, they then requested that Butt travel to the Rangiora Course to undergo a drug test. With Butt refusing to leave his home due to his obvious illness, Racing Investigator Ms Kylie Williams then arranged for the testing equipment to be transported to Butt's house in Woodend. "I'm not a big fan of them coming to home to do it because I was just sick and only had one drive so didn't bother going. "But I also know why they test for it. So I'm moving on." said Butt, when spoken to by the NZ Herald. With the Racing Investigator also wanting samples from Junior Driver Matthew Anderson, he was forced to travel from his Rolleston base to Woodend after already having left the racecourse after his driving engagement in Race 5. It took over a hour to get the two tests they were after, which both returned negative readings for drugs and alcohol. What were they looking for? David and Catherine Butt were reportedly upset by the events and wrote a letter to RIU general manager Mike Godber and was talked about at a recent HRNZ board meeting last week. The RIU sent Butt a letter yesterday outlining that legal opinion. When spoken to by Michael Guerin from the NZ Herald - RIU's Chief Investigator Neil Grimstone had the following to say:  "When Mr Butt didn't attend the meeting, and only pulled out after it may have become obvious there was testing going on, that may have raised some suspicions," "But his test showed nothing irregular and he has no case to answer, we want to be very clear about that. "We are not looking to catch people inside the racing industry who want to drink, even if they choose to do so to excess. "We are about providing a safe environment at race and trials meetings and that can extend to all licenced racing people, but most importantly trainers and drivers. "But this is not the start of some random, out of race or trials day testing of everybody in the racing industry for alcohol or drugs. "Obviously drugs are illegal but alcohol isn't and what racing people do, within limits of course, away from race and trials days is their business." Other questions that need to be answered: How can Peter Lamb be a “Racing Investigator, Stipendiary Steward and a Starter? Take a look at our recent article on the conflict of interest... Why aren't the other three Racing Investigator's doing their jobs and testing for alcohol and drugs in their areas? Why can't it become policy that each driver must sign in when they arrive on course and while they are doing that, then process to do a alcohol test? Would this not be the best way to show the public that our drivers are free of any alcohol prior to their driving engagements. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing driver Bob Butt has been stood down from driving today at the Reefton meeting after failing to pass an alcohol breathalyzer test. He was fined $1,000 and stood down until the 10th of April 2016 by the Judicial Control Authority. This means he will be unable to take the drive on Conan Bridge in the New Zealand Trotting Derby at Addington at the Easter meeting on April 8th. Bob was significantly over the threshold of 100mg when tested before todays meeting. Bob told Harnesslink earlier today when we were speaking to him at Reefton that he was stunned by the reading as he hadn't had a late night and had eaten a big tea and breakfast and felt in great shape leading into today's meeting and certainly did not consider that he was affected by the alcohol he had drunk the previous night. Harnesslink interviewed Bob immediately after his positive test and can state emphatically that he certainly did not show any signs of being under the influence of Alcohol when we spoke to him. However the machine said otherwise and hence the suspension and penalty. However the fact that the suspension covers the period where Bob Butt would have driven in a Group 1 which is not something Bob has done very often seems intended to send a message to the wider industry about drinking and would seem in our view a touch excessive because of that. Bob Butt accepts that a fine and suspension are appropriate in this case but feels that the length of the suspension is longer than justified and is in discussions with his representatives within the industry to see if he may appeal the length of that suspension. Harnesslink Media

West Melton harness racing trainer Clint Ford was more nervous than he has been for a long time going into tonights running of the Sires Stakes Trotting Prelude with his talented three year old trotter Marcoola at Addington Raceway. A trial last week where Marcoola hadn't trotted very well had Clint a bit worried pre race but Marcoola never looked like putting a foot wrong from the time the gate went. Out well to challenge hot favoutrite Conon Bridge for the lead early on, Clint slotted Marcoola into the trail after 300 metres and tracked Conon Bridge every where from then on. When the passing lane presented itself, Marcoola was quickly into it and slowly but surely wore Conon Bridge down before drawing clear by a length the last little bit. Conon Bridge fought on for second but was slightly disappointing after a soft run in front while Wilma's Mate provided a minor highlight of the race by rushing home for third after galloping badly after 100 metres. Clint was all smiles post race. " I was confident that Marcoola could match it with the good ones tonight." "He was coming in fresh after ten weeks away from the races but he races well in that condition." " He traveled lovely the whole trip and I was pretty confident a fair way out he would be hard to beat" Clint said. Clint has always had a big opinion of the son of Sundon and has been fighting off the agents lately. " I turned down huge money for him recently but the family has had a lot of smart trotters over the years and I think Marcoola could be the best of them" "His mother had all the ability in the world but was so difficult to manage." "Being a Sundon from her you would think he would be unmanageable but he is the opposite." A kid could drive him he is so laid back and nothing upsets him." " I would love to win the Trotting Derby in a months time so that's were he is headed," Clint said. Bob Butt was philosophical about the defeat. " He has over raced in front and that has cost him in the end. " I should have let him roll a bit more but I was getting a soft trip so I held him back to the field." " At least we have a month to sort that out," Bob said. The Ford family have been having a great run with their trotters lately and tonights win just added further kudos to what has already been a hugely  successful season to date. Harnesslink Media  

Leading trotting trainer Paul Nairn is never one to do things by the book. He likes to do things his way and his outstanding record of success over the last twenty plus years would suggest that his methods work. Today Paul lined up last season's two year old trotter of the year in Conon Bridge in the Group 3 Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton Raceway but the surprising thing for a lot of the pundits was that Conon Bridge had been unsighted at workouts or trials since before Christmas. That lead some people to surmise that maybe Conon Bridge may be vulnerable in a fast run race but Paul was confident that his star youngster was ready to rumble. Bob Butt shot Conon Bridge to the front from barrier three with ease and kept up a steady enough tempo through the first half in even time. Gershwin and Stevie Golding went up and had a look at Conon Bridge passing the half and the two went together to the top of the lane. Conon Bridge looking to be jogging on the corner and when Bob let him go he sprinted away with ease, holding a two length advantage at the finishing line. Gunners Coin fought on well for second after trailing the whole way for Colin de Filippi while Donegal Bettorgretch and Dexter Dunn made ground late out wide for third. Conon Bridge could not have been more impressive in running the mile in 1:57.9 with smart closing sectionals of 56.7 and 27.9 Bob Butt was all smiles post race. " He did that really easily to be honest." " Last season at two he use to half pull up if left in front but today he ran through the line so that is a big plus going forward." " He gave me a great feel today and he should be even better with that run under his belt," Bob said. Paul Nairn was already contemplating his immediate racing program as he ungeared the son of Raffaello Ambrosio. " I am thinking I might take him to Melbourne for the Need For Speed Series." " He is such a great gaited horse and the sprint racing would really suit him," Paul said.   The series has prize money of $12,500 at the semi final stage with the final for $60,000 being staged on the same night as the Great Southern Star Final is run. The way Conon Bridge won over the mile today suggests that the Need For Speed Series would suit the colt down to the ground. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing owner Rob Paterson has had a lot of success over the years from Group 1 level down to maiden wins and the run shows no sign of stopping yet.   Habibti has been his biggest winner and after a trial win in Melbourne last week she is about to start another Australian campaign.   Lothario has been going great guns up north and BD Love is due to fire up again.   Today Rob was at Westport with half a dozen friends with whom he races the four year old Bettor's Delight gelding Bettor Be Smooth.   Bob bred Bettor Be Smooth from the race winning Presidential Ball mare Smooth Moon and intrusted its early education to young North Canterbury trainer Bob Butt.   “ Bob rang me up one day and told me he really liked Bettor Be Smooth.”   “So I thought I would bring half a dozen of my friends into the ownership so I sold them 40% of  the horse.   “ He was going good 12 months ago but was just a bit immature so we put him aside for a good break,” Rob told Harnesslink today.   Bettor Be Smooth had a long build up this season with the plan being to line up on the first day of the Westport Xmas meeting and today the plan came to fruition.   After being settled three back in the running line by driver John Dunn, Bettor Be Smooth swept to the front with just over a lap to run.   Attacked for most of the last lap by Patrick Bee, Bettor Be Smooth was a sitting duck as he turned for home in front.   Briefly headed by Paddy McCole late in the piece, Bettor Be Smooth fought back courageously for a half head win.   Bettor Be Smooth paced the 2600 metres on the grass in 3:22.1 with closing sectionals of 62.2 and 30.1   Rob was thrilled with run.   “He really showed he has got plenty of bottom to him.”   “To be attacked like that for the last lap and then to fight back when headed was a huge effort.”   “I have got a half brother by Art Major at home that I have a lot of time for and the mare is back in foal to Art Major, so things are looking good,” Rob said.   Rob has had a great run over the last few years and it doesn't look like it is coming to an end anytime soon.   Bettor Be Smooth     Harnesslink Media

It has now become an annual event on the New Zealand harness racing scene that as soon as December rolls around so does the influx of South Island horses to Alexandra Park. The number of big money races for both age group and older horses attracts the very best available and is usually supplemented by plenty of other horses from the south looking to take advantage of the higher stakes available in the north. One trainer looking to do that this year is young North Canterbury trainer Bob Butt who has brought two quality three year olds north this year mainly for the experience but also to take advantage of the bigger stakes on offer. The two horses that Bob brought north both have plenty to recommend them to northern punters over the next month. The three year old trotter Matatoki has one win to date from one start when he beat the older horses at Addington in July when still a two year old. The son of Revenue S showed he was forward for the trip when he won at the Ashburton trials last week. The second of the two horses Bob has brought north is the exciting three year old pacer in Hall Of Fame. Like his stablemate, Hall Of Fame has had one start for one win when he bolted in by eight lengths at his debut run at Addington in a 2:00 mile rate for the 2000 metres stand. The son of Rocknroll Hanover also won a trial at Ashburton last week, finishing off with a very sharp 25.6 last 400 metres Bob is lining up both his horses tomorrow night and is happy with their condition leading up to their northern debut. " They both travelled up north really well and I have had no problems with either of them." " They have settled in well at John+ Josh Dickie's place and everything is on track at this point." " Their work this week has been good but I would expect both to improve a touch with a run under their belt," Bob said. Bob has brought both his three year olds north to race in grade racing only with no thought being given to attacking some of the age group classics coming up over the next month. " Both are pretty short on race experience and ring craft and that was the main reason for giving them a trip away from home, to help them grow up a bit." "I think they are really smart horses and this trip away will make them." " If they keep improving like I think they will, then we can maybe look at some bigger targets later in the season," Bob said. As for tomorrow night Bob is leaning towards Matatoki as the better chance of his two runners. " Hall Of Fame has drawn one on the second line and could end up three or four deep on the inner so I think Matatoki might be the better chance tomorrow night," Bob said. Whatever transpires tomorrow night, it would pay to follow these two horses over the next month as they are both capable of winning more than once on this trip. Harnesslink Media

After their six winners on New Zealand Cup Day, a lot of pundits were predicting that the all conquering All Star barn could have an even bigger day on Show Day yesterday. Prince Fearless was the most impressive of the Cup Day winners from the All Star barn, bolting in by over 13 lengths in very quick time and he was a very short priced favourite in the first race yesterday. However as all racegoers know there are no certainties in racing and that's how it played out. Waterloo Sunset and Bob Butt made a flyer from the 10 metre mark and were in front after 200 metres. Bob kept the huge son of Sundon up to the mark in front until Prince Fearless and Mark Purdon looped the field with 800 metres to go and assumed control. Just when everybody thought Prince Fearless would cruise clear for an easy win in the straight, Waterloo Sunset and Bob flew up the passing lane and went straight on past Prince Fearless for an emphatic victory.  Bob thought he was a chance to roll the favourite. " Waterloo Sunset had been going super prior to Tuesday's run having run second to Stent the start before." " He wasn't a happy horse Tuesday, missing away and not trotting any good at all." " Paul (Nairn) thought a splint was troubling him and treated it after Tuesday" " Today he trotted the best he has ever trotted and I was confident a fair way out I would be tough to beat," Bob said. Trainer Paul Nairn was just happy to have his huge trotting star back on track. " He is such a big horse that he has a few niggles off and on so I am happy to have him back on track after Tuesday's effort." "We will look at the big trot at Geraldine at the end of the month with him next but Auckland in December is on the radar as well," Paul said. Waterloo Sunset has always looked a top trotter in the making and it is a credit to Paul Nairn that his patience is now starting to pay off. Harnesslink Media

From the time he stepped onto a racetrack as a four year old, Waterloo Sunset has always looked a horse headed to the best grades. An entire by Sundon from the Rowe Cup winning mare Inspire, Waterloo Sunset is a blue blood in anyones language and he has the ability to go with the bloodlines. Last night at Addington Raceway he comfortably won his fifth race from just twenty starts and in doing so edged closer to being a genuine open class contender. Paul Nairn is a master trainer of squaregaiters and he has always thought that with time Waterloo Sunset would make it to the elite level in New Zealand. " I have always thought a lot of him from day one and I still think he will get better yet" " We have come a long way with him but I think the best is yet to come." "One thing I do know is that he is the biggest horse I have ever trained," Paul said. When you see Waterloo Sunset in the flesh you can understand Paul's sentiments as he is one huge piece of horseflesh. That in itself has meant waiting for Waterloo Sunset to fill out into his massive frame but as a six year old he now looks ready to kick on. Never afraid to back his horses up, Paul intends to keep Waterloo Sunset active over the next few weeks. " He can go to the big trot at Kaikoura on Monday and then race during Cup week," Paul said. Regular driver Bob Butt is confident that Waterloo Sunset has what it takes to be competitive in the top grade. " He is such a different horse this time in to what he use to be." " He use to get really fired up before the start and even during his races but the trips to Auckland have help turn him into a different horse" "He is much more relaxed these days and his manners are really good now"  " He gives you such a great feel when you are driving him and he is the best horse I have driven," Bob said. Paul Nairn has such a big opinion of Waterloo Sunset that he covered some of his own mares with the stallion last season. " I served three mares with him last season and the first of them is due shortly so he about to become a dad for the first time." " He has all the attributes of a top horse and I can't see why he won't leave them," Paul said. Waterloo Sunset has been very patiently handled to date and that patience looks like it is about to pay off. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing driver Natalie Rasmussen has got up off the canvas like a prizefighter to win the Methven Cup. All looked rosy when Messini and Rasmussen won the Group III event, in the Art Major entire's first start back in New Zealand after campaigning in Australia with former Canterbury trainer Brent Lilley. But earlier in the day Rasmussen was smashed onto the track in race six after her drive Emmanuel appeared to slip just after the field he rounded the home bend. In a nasty crash, Gabby's Star, Maximus Prime, Stoney Eyre were all brought down. Drivers Robbie Holmes, Bob Butt and Rasmussen all escaped serious injury but Sam Ottley was airlifted to hospital after suffering moderate spinal injuries. She was to have x-rays on Sunday night. All horses involved are understood to have escaped serious injury. Rasmussen, who co-trains Australasia's leading harness racing stable with Mark Purdon, said she was a bit "battered and bruised" but it was going to take more than a few scrapes and cuts to keep the gritty Australian out of the sulky. The win does not give Messini automatic entry to the New Zealand Trotting Cup but it almost certainly assures his spot and Rasmussen said that takes some pressure off. "If he didn't go any good today we might have had to go to Ashburton just to try and get him a start and I think that would have been a bit soon for him to back up," Rasmussen said. Messini went into the race ranked 18th for the cup and although he did not upset any super stars he did beat four runners ranked ahead of him and with further defections from the top 15 likely he should be joining All Stars stablemate Smolda in the cup. Messini's next start will likely be the Kaikoura Cup Rasmussen and Purdon were expecting a bold run given Messini's quality horse but his driver puts the win down to getting such a good trip. It was a typically patient and calculated drive from Rasmussen who was happy to settle well back in the running line after starting from the 30m tape. But everything fell into place when Ideal Success made a three wide move with around 1000m to run and Rasmussen was able to jump on board the train behind Te Kawau. "It really helped that we didn't have to come out until very late, he hasn't had to do any work in the running," she said. Messini tired in the final stages to shrink his winning margin to half a length but he can be forgiven in his fresh up run over 3000m on the grass. "I think he'll definitely improve off the run," Rasmussen said. Methven was Messini's first run since the Breeders Crown on August 30. Messini paced the trip in 3-51.7 with a mile rate of  2-04.2 and closing sectionals of 58.0 and 29.5. Quick As A Trick put in a super run for second after being slow away from the tapes with No Doctor Needed, Mighty Flying Mac and Te Kawau filling out the top five. Cup hopefuls Belkmyster, Mach's Gladiator, Ideal Success and Lewy Risk did their chances more harm than good when finishing back in the field. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ   -  Check site here 

Harness racing followers in New Zealand will tell you that when it comes to Premier night racing you back the All Stars barn come what may. Thats how it was tonight in the first race on Premier night at Addington Raceway with the All Stars runner Benicio the warmest of favourites with the punters. Benicio found the death seat a fair way out and when he grabbed the front 200 metres out he looked to have the race in safe keeping until Easy Rider and Bob Butt swooped late and nailed the hot favourite right on the line. Bob Butt was a bit shocked that he had picked up the All Star runner. " On Premier night it is not often that you run down one of the All Stars runners" " When I came out I thought I might get second but it did surprise me that we got up." " However he did impress me last week and he seems to be getting better every start," Bob said. It has been far from plain sailing with the son of Art Official who has shown plenty right from his trials as a two year old. " He ran second to the smart Field Marshal when he qualified but was put aside to strengthen up." " However he was never settled at three and we put him aside again." " This time in he is finally starting to fulfill the promise he showed at two." " He has always had high speed, right from his two year old days," Bob said. The future for Easy Rider is pretty well set in stone with the horse owned in Australia by the long time client of the David and Catherine Butt stable in Tony McGrath. " He has got a few more wins in him here in New Zealand but when he reaches his mark here he will go to Australia so Tony can see him race. " The immediate aim for the four year old is the Futurity final on Show Day," Bob said. The All Star barn are rarely beaten on Premier night but as Easy Rider showed it is not impossible. Harnesslink Media

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