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Canardly Remembers' win at Ascot Park brought back memories of another horse named Canardly for winning Ascot Park trainer Brent Shirley. "I remember a qualifying trial at Winton and one of Hamish's (Hunter) horses called Rolls Canardly. I was driving Loch Nagar and we thought he was pretty smart. I went up thinking, arrogantly,that we would win, but Hamish's horse beat us easily," Shirley said. Rolls Canardly broke down and never raced while Loch Nagar went on to win six races in a twenty start career. Whilst Canardly Remember is not in that league he has been a consistent money spinner for his latest owners, the Not So Mighty And Regal Syndicate. Today was his second win since the syndicate bought him off breeder Graham Cooney in February 2017. "I tried to buy Porche Canardly but it fibulated so I ended up buying this one. We paid $2,500 for him and another $500 after his first win."  The Not So Mighty And Regal Syndicate has thirteen members which includes Brent's brothers Grant and Peter. Some of the syndicate have raced horses with Shirley before, including Dyed Blonde and Ruby Ruby.   The Not So Mighty and Regal Syndicate - Photo Bruce Stewart. "He's been a good horse for us. I've noticed just recently that not too many horses run past him in a race. He runs past ten times as many horses that run past him," said syndicate manager Tony Harvey.   Canardly Remember from 62 starts, has now won twice, had nine seconds and eight thirds, and has banked $31,963.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing  

She looks at least a year away from maturing, so two wins in three starts this season have been a big bonus for the connections of nice filly Dunrobin who won the $12,000 Ryal Bush Transport Nuggets Final at Winton today. "She's a very light framed filly so that's her last start for the season. She can go out now and grow up and come back next season. She's got a bit more of a turn of speed than the others (out of the mare) so hopefully that'll follow on into next season. She had to sprint hard to catch them today," said trainer Brent Shirley. From barrier four, driver Mark Hurrell stayed out of the early rush for the front and settled the filly in the outside running line. Inside the last 300 metres Hurrell launched Dunrobin three wide to make her run. She still had a heap of ground to make up in the home straight but produced a sustained sprint to nab a game Alfie Romeo by a half a head.  "Mark drove her an absolute treat so that was bloody great." Hurrell is having a great run. Today's win was his eleventh of the season and seventeenth in his short career. He's currently in the top six on the New Zealand Junior Drivers table.  Mark Hurrell getting the best out of Dunrobin (4) to beat Alfie Romeo (7) - Photo Bruce Stewart Dunrobin, which is by Well Said out of Satire Franco, is owned by Shirley's wife Raewyn and loyal Bluffies John Edminstin and Earl Shannon. Edminstin, surprisingly wasn't on course today, but he was out fishing. He's one of the driving forces behind next weekends Bluff Oyster and Food Festival so getting seafood had to take priority.  Shirley said the 'road to the races' hasn't been easy for Dunrobin but that's been the case for all of Satire Franco's foals. "The whole family have been hard. They're horrible yearlings, terrible two year olds and pain the arse three year olds. But they mature into nice four year olds. They're not dirty but it's a lot of work just getting them going. If they show something at three you're usually looking at getting a nice four year old." Two races later one of the forgotten horses of Southland harness racing Fiddlethefool made an unexpected return to the races for Shirley. He's been away from racing since his win on this course in December 2016. It was thought that he wouldn't race again. From his twelve starts he'd won four races and ran second behind Heaven Rocks at the Northern Southland meeting in March 2016.  The now the five year old has been gelded and his new part-owner Grant Shirley said that was because he had intended to use the horse as a hack for his children. Grant has done the majority of work with the horse and now owns him with Pat Langford, Mark and Martha Hogan and Raewyn Shirley. "Martha's in the syndicate because she gelded him," said Brent.  The horse's excellent third today is testament to Grant's ground work and Brent's finishing qualities. "He broke down and has been away from racing for eighteen months. He was forward and working as good as he's ever worked. His aim is the Bluff Cup," said Brent.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Broodmare Satire Franco produced another winner when John Coltrane won his first race at the Winton Harness racing meeting today (Sunday). The Real Desire four year old became the sixth winner of the nine foals Satire Franco has produced. And her three other foals of racing age have all qualified. Her progeny have now won forty six races between them.   The best of these is Costa Del Magnifico the winner of twelve races here and another three in Australia. Other winners out of the mare are; When The Music’s Over (five New Zealand wins and six in Australia), Turbine (three), Rowchester (three New Zealand wins and eight Australian) and I Smart (six). It’s a family that Peter Van Der Looy had lots of success with, racing Vanderel (Holmes Hanover) which won fourteen races and Impish which won six. It’s produced its fair share of quality colts including Smart Son, Grobbelaar, Sherlock, Kincaid, Idealindiamonds and King Of Swing. The fillies have been good as well with the pedigree page including The Fascinator (10 wins), Opulent (18) and Twist and Twirl (7 wins). In today's race, driver Matt Anderson settled John Coltrane back from the wide draw. He followed up favourite Zealand Star with 1200 metres to run. At the 800 metres he was sitting parked and with 600 metres to run Anderson put the pressure on leader Zealand Star. At the top of the straight he pinched a break and that proved to be the winning of the race as the only challenger Major McRae was clearing traffic back in the field. John Coltrane just held on to beat a fast finishing Major McRae by a nose.  John Coltrane (13) on the inside holding out Major McRae (6) by a nose - Photo Bruce Stewart. John Coltrane, is named after an American jazz saxophonist and composer, and is owned by Calvin Claridge, Raywen Shirley, Brendon Hiini and Craig McKenzie. They've had success with other horses in the Shirley stable including 2012 Riverton Cup winner Chokullen and Tuapeka Troy. "They're also luck enough to be in on a colt by Art Major out of the mare. I don't want to say too much about him because they'll just get big headed," joked John Coltrane's trainer Brent Shirley. John Coltrane qualified impressively at Wyndham thirteen months ago and has had four workouts and two races prior to today's win.  "He's just taken a bit of time and is still six months away. He's basically like a pupil that's a year behind at school. A four year old but we have to treat him like a three year old. When he was two we turned him out and he didn't do very well. It took him a whole year to come right." Shirley says the horse will be turned out for a short spell now and he'll look at racing him in the New Year. Meanwhile, Some Excusesomewhere capped off a great weekend for Rakauhauka trainer Clark Barron. The upstanding gelding handled the wet conditions well and beat a brave Cast A Shadow by half a length. He was driven by the country's leading reinsman Blair Orange. Some Excusesomewhere (11) winning for Blair Orange - Photo Bruce Stewart. On Friday night at Alexandra Park a horse Barron part-bred, Bettor Joy, won the Group Two Peter Breckon Memorial Caduceus Club Ladyship Stakes Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

One of Southland's favourite pacing sons Costa Del Magnifico will do his future harness racing in Australia. The winner of twelve races and $129,333 leaves the Shirley barn on Thursday and will head to the Melbourne stable of Geoff Webster. "It's a bit of a shame but the way the handicap system is it's impossible to race them down here. To take him to Addington is too big an ask. In Australia he can race twice a week for $20,000 and at the end of each month he can race in a $50,000 final. If he's good enough Geoff can take him up to Sydney. There are a lot more opportunties and the horse deserves it," said Shirley. Another Southland pacer Franco Ledger also spent time with Webster in the 2015-2016 season winning the Group One 2015 Bohemia Crystal FFA at Menangle. "We spoke to Brendon McIntyre (Manager of the What Ever Syndicate which raced Franco Ledger) and he couldn't speak highly enough of Geoff." Shirley says the horse's owners Murray and Sandra Allen will continue to own the horse while he races in Australia. "I think his third at Waikouaiti was his best run this year. He was off fifty metres, he caught the field then lost another ten metres when another horse galloped and he got within a length of the winner." His wins this season have been in the Gore Grass Track Cup for which he came off 35 metres and The Northern Southland Summer Cup off 50 metres which he won by five and a half lengths. Two of his twelve wins stand out for his trainer.  "I enjoyed winning with him at Addington. He went up there and he broke the 2400 metre track record (2-58.8 - stand). It'll probably be a track record that'll be held for some time. The Invercargill Cup (2016) was good. It's a very hard race to win. It's only been won by a Southland horse three times since Prince Rashad won it (1997) and I've won it twice."  Costa Del Magnifico's other important wins were; 2016 Country Cups Final, Alabar Super Series Final at Addington and 2015 Wairio Cup. He still holds a Winton 3200 track record of 3-59.8 when he won the Wairio Cup and a 2600 metre stand record on the grass at Gore. He was named Southland Horse of the Year at the 2016 Southland Harness Awards.  "I do get attached to them. I don't run many horses and they get pampered. Murray knows it's the best thing for the horse. We've talked about selling and looked at all the options. He's been a big part of this horse on race day. He used to gear him up and wash him. Murray thanked me for that. I didn't push him but I encouraged it."   Sandra and Murray Allen and Brent Shirley at last year's Southland Harness Awards  Shirley says the Allens certainly won't be lost to the industry.  "He's (Murray) got a lovely Washington VC yearling colt that's related to Westburn Grant."  Meanwhile Costa Del Magnifico's half brother John Coltrane which qualified impressively at Wyndham in November has been turned out and won't race until next season. "We'll jog him up over the winter. Of all the horses out of the mare (Satire Franco) he'd have the most speed."     Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

The Brent Shirley trained, Nathan Williamson driven Costa Del Magnifico added to his harness racing 'cups record' when he won the McDowell Painting and Decorating Gore Grass Track Cup. His time of 3-20.4 was a new race and track record beating the old record of 3-27.6 recorded by Titian Banner which won last years Cup. With 1200 metres to run Dexter Dunn took second favourite Sovereign Banner to the lead and Williamson sent Costa Del Magnifico forward shortly after. By the 900 metres he'd hit the lead and from there he won untouched, by two lengths from Acolyte. The last 800 metres was run in 57. 7 and last 400 in 28.7. Impressive on a grass track.  He has now won the Gore Grass Cup, Northern Southland Summer Cup, Southern Country Cups Final, Invercargill Cup, Wairio and Winton Cups. Today's win was his twelfth in thirty five starts.  The track today at Gore was lightning fast with six track records being broken. They were as follows: Eamon McGuire: 2-15.3 over 1800 metres mobile for three year old colts and geldings. The old record of 2-19.4 was held by Fiery Ferret. Sheezus 2-18 .6 over 1800 metres mobile for three year old fillies. The old record of 2-29.0 was held by Canderdal . Envious 2-17.0 over 1800 metres mobile for mares. Old record - 2-21.5 was held by Vera's Delight. Costa Del Magnifico 3-20.4 for the 2600 open stand. Previous record of 3-27.6 was held by Titian Banner. Explosive Star 3-30.6 for the 2600 metres open stand for trotters. The record was held by Ottawa at 3-33.0. 2600 metre stand for trotting mares. The new record is now 3-33.3 claimed by Delestic. The old record of 3-44.4 was held by Chiola Belle.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Swap Over after eleven starts finally delivered on the promise he'd shown when he cleared maiden harness racing ranks at Ascot Park yesterday. The now four year old started his career by running in the 2015 Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham- the race was won by Waikiki Beach. Since then the Changeover entire has started first favourite three times on the back of good workouts form but he has failed to deliver.  "He's had a lot of bad luck really. He was going to win at Winton and the cart split in half and Nathan had to pull him up," said trainer Brent Shirley. Swap Over from a good draw yesterday was taken wide going into the first bend by junior reinsman Matt Anderson before going to the front. He held on to win by a neck from Ideal Denario. He's owned by Shirley's wife Raywyn, Ross Anderson and his sister Donna Proudman.  Swap Over with winning connections             Photo Bruce Stewart "I think he'll be sold to Australia" said Shirley when discussing Swap Overs future. He's out of the Live Or Die mare Jenna Franco. Swap Over's full-brother My Wee Man won for Nigel McGrath earlier this month at Rangiora. Later in the programme class pacer Costa Del Magnifico returned to winning form with a stunning victory in the House Of Travel Lakers Summer Cup. He began brilliantly from the 50 metre mark and with 1600 metres to run driver Nathan Williamson took him to the front leaving second favourite The Big Boss parked. Williamson let him run from the top of the straight and he went down to the finish line untouched to win by five and a half lengths. Flashing On was the best of the rest running on for second.  "Nathan says be felt real sharp and he's where he should be. The Omakau run although hard didn't knock him and he's pulled up real good after the run yesterday too. The next race for him is the Invercargill Cup. He's started twice in Country Cups races now and won so he's qualified for the final. We don't have to push him like we had to last season," said Shirley.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Invercargill harness racing trainer Brent Shirley has always had a high opinion of Live Or Die entire Fiddlethefool and yesterday at the Wairio meeting at Winton he beat a small but handy field of class two pacers. It was a nice change of luck for Shirley whose team was struck down by a bad virus at the beginning of the season; Fiddlethefool being one of the worst affected.  "He got very crook. He had swelling in the legs and nose," he said. From an inside second row draw driver Nathan Williamson settled in behind favourite Thisismylastflight which led. With just over 1900 metres to run Williamson came out of the trailing position and attempted to lead but Thisismylastflight and driver Craig Thornley said no. With a lap to run Mr Handleman and Mark Hurrell came forward giving the favourite no peace. "Nathan had a go then Mark Hurrell took over and softened the leader up for us."  Once the passing lane came up Williamson speared Fiddlethefool up the inside and he got up to beat Thisismylastflight by a neck with three lengths back to the third horse - a game Roxy Dale. Fiddlethefool gets up on the inside to beat Thisismylastflight            Photo Bruce Stewart. "He does it so easy. There's always going to be improvement there." The runnerup is part-owned by Southland farrier Brendon Franks and banter between himself and Shirley had been flowing all week. "Franksie and I had a few jugs on it actually."  Franks said afterwards that he struggles to beat Shirley in an agruement so he was hoping he could do it on the racetrack. But it wasn't to be this time.  Fiddlethefool is owned by Shirley's wife Raywyn and was bred by Bill and Karen Grice out of their Holmes Hanover mare Glowing Hanover. "When Bill went into care Mrs Grice gave me the mare. Bill and I raced all the other ones out of her. We thought she wasn't in foal. I chucked her out on a rough block at Sandy Point. I went out to get her one day and she was running around with a black colt on her. That was him." So how did team Shirley come up with the name?  "He's actually named after Norm Scott (former Racecourse Investigator). His stable name is Scotty and Fiddlethefool was a famous saying of Norm's. I think he's a very smart horse. He's still learning. Last year he was just a big dummy but he had ability." Fiddlethefool's full-brother Thrill Factor won five races when trained by Shirley between 2011 and 2013. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Brent Shirley has seen a third of the season go by and his runners have made it to the races only nine times.   However, he's got four in at Winton on Sunday and a workout last Saturday suggests they won't all be just making up the numbers.   “There was a bad virus in the stable at the start of the season and it really knocked them around,” Shirley said, “it was frustrating but I've learnt from the past the wisest thing is to stop. We lost a whole month.”   Slowly but surely, things have returned to normal and that was well illustrated when stable star Costa Del Magnifico joined Winton candidates Fiddlethefool and Black Athena in a six horse one win and faster 2200 metres mobile Workout at Invercargill on 3 December.   “Black Athena led Fiddlethefool and Costa Del Magnifico, then they went together and really cracked it up at the 300,” Shirley explained.   Officially, Fiddlethefool and Costa Del Magnifico dead heated with Black Athena three quarters of a length back in third. The overall time for the trip was an ordinary 2:51.9 but the closing 800 was cut out in quarters of 29.7 and 28.1.   “They went to the line under a hold full of running and their recovery was very good,” Shirley enthused, “so was the feeling they gave you.”   Fiddlethefool resumes in the A B Lime Ltd Mobile 2400 with Nathan Williamson in the sulky. He has drawn two in his first start for two months. That was also at Winton but over a mile and all was not well with the four year old. He beat only one home when finishing nearly 15 lengths from the winner. Shirley expects a lot better on Sunday.   “He was crippled by the virus but he's back and his work has been really good,” he said, “he's done the hard yards, first up is not a problem.”   Black Athena is in the opening event, the John Keenan Memorial 2400 metre mobile. She has drawn four and will also be handled by Williamson in her first start since May. It is more than a year since her only win but Shirley is not prepare to dismiss her chances.   “Her workout against two smart horses was really good, she's done the work and should go close,” he said.   Costa Del Magnifico won't be racing on Sunday but Shirley plans to have him out in the Wairio Cup on Saturday week (17 December).   “He'll have to get race-fit so we'll give him a start off 50 metres,” Shirley said, “he'll maybe go to Gore but the main target is the Central Otago Cup.”   If Costa Del Magnifico goes to Gore on 27 December, he would again start from 50 metres behind but the group three Central Otago Cup on 2 January is a mobile start free for all.   “He's very full of beans, lets hope the virus is behind him.”   Shirley has the non-winner Swap Over in the Nevele R Stud Mobile 2400. The son of Changeover also has the services of Williamson but has drawn the outside of the second line and Shirley is not sure what to expect.   “He has a lot of ability but makes his own problems on raceday,” he said. “He's well in himself but has let the punters down in the past.”   Shirley takes the reins himself behind Iguazu Rox in the Regent Car Court C0 Claimers with no great expectations.   Mac Henry

Sunday wasn’t a great day for Southern Harness Racing. One of our established stars Franco Ledger fractured a pastern in the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru, whilst up and coming five year old Costa Del Magnifico was scratched in the same race after trainer Brent Shirley noticed he wasn’t quite right. Franco Ledger’s trainer and part owner Hamish Hunter confirmed today that the nine year old has more than likely finished as  a racing proposition. The horse returned home yesterday and will have further x-rays later in the week to confirm the size of the fracture and a final decision will be made on the horse then.   “He’s always been a drama horse being in and out of trouble, but I never thought this would happen,” said Hunter who shares in the ownership with The What Ever Syndicate. From 98 starts he won 25 races, was second and third 11 times. He won two thirds of his stakes in New Zealand and the other third in Australia where he was trained by Geoff Webster. He achieved a remarkable record for a horse that was primarily trained in Southland. In 59 of his 98 starts he ran in Group races. “All the way through his racing career he raced against the top level and was 100% sound. It’s been a terrific ride really. He’s raced from a two year old to nine and won all that money. He’s seen a lot of cup horses come and go.” His biggest win was in Australia in the Group One Bohemia Crystal at Menangle. He also won the Group Two Shepparton Cup beating Philadelphia Man and Lennytheshark. He was also placed second behind Arden Rooney in the 2015 Group One Hunter Cup. On a national front he became the fourth horse to win back to back Hannon Memorials (2012 and 2013). The others were Palestine (1976-1977), Idolmite (1980-1981) and Iraklis (1997-1997).   Franco Ledger winning the first of two Hannon Memorials            Photo Bruce Stewart   His best season was as a three year old when he won seven races from twelve starts. Throughout his racing career he was a bit of a cups king, winning the Central Otago Cup (2012), Wyndham Cup (2012 and 2014), Wairio Cup (2013), Invercargill Cup (2013), Southern Country’s Cups Final (2012), Methven Cup (2014) and Waikouaiti Cup (2012 and 2014). He still holds two 3200 metres track records. One  at Invercargill (3-58.7) and one at Wyndham (3-57.0) which is also a Southland record.  He was twice named Southland Horse of the Year (2012 and 2013). His biggest stakes winning season was in 2015 when he won four races – three in Australia and one in New Zealand. He banked $233,781 that season. Trainer Hamish Hunter drove him to win 15 races while others who were successful on him were; Peter Hunter (3), Geoff Webster (3), Anthony Butt (2) and Colin De Filippi (2). Hunter is rightly full of admiration for the Falcon Seelster stallion and the much traveled and boysterish What Ever Syndicate have also been on board all the way. “They understand what’s happening. They were there when he was scratched from the Sires Stakes Final after getting a tendon injury in his paddock. We thought he was gone then.” Once the dust settles, when x-rays are analysed and the healing process is complete, the next step in Franco Ledger’s career will be mapped out. “There’ll be a niche opportunity for him somewhere. There are plenty of stallions around the country like that.” Meanwhile Costa Del Magnifico's racing season is on hold after he was withdrawn from the Hannon. Costa Del Magnifico                                                                  Photo Bruce Stewart “We’ve scanned him top to bottom and the only thing we can find is signs of a burst blood vessel which he's whacked somehow. His leg is swollen but he’s not lame. We’ve bandaged him and we’ll re-scan him on Friday. With any other horse you’d push on but we're putting him first and have no plans for him at this stage. One good thing to come out of the scan was Brendon (vet Brendon Bell) said he had beautiful joints,” said trainer Brent Shirley.   Bruce Stewart Southern Harness

Sadly one of southern harness racing's stalwarts Gilbert Shirley (Gil) passed away on Sunday aged 84   Gil was a strong supporter of Southland harness racing and began his association with harness racing in the 1950s.   His first win as an owner was at Gore in December 1953, with the trotter White Wings, but he was better known as a successful trainer-driver and breeder.   He trained over 270 winners in a training career spanning five decades, Gil also had more than 50 driving wins during that period.   More recently he trained the good horses Vi Et Animo and Chesterton who between them won 35 races in New Zealand.   Gil also operated the Ascot Stud at Invercargill with Graham Thomas and stood Majestic Chance, the leading New Zealand standardbred stallion in the 1981-82 season.    In 2012 Gil stepped aside from the training role and passed the reins to his son Brent, who is this year preparing Costa Del Magnifico for the New Zealand cup in November.   Costa Del Magnifico is having his first start this season in the Maurice Holmes Vase at Addington on Friday night.     Harnesslink Media

A relatively good summer, improved track grooming and the injection of some quality Canterbury horses led to a bumper season for track records in the Southern region. Forty one track records were broken over all southern surfaces during the 2015-2016 season which wrapped up at Invercargill on Queens Birthday Monday - the highest number for many years. And twenty of those were also Southland records. The Club that hosted the most track records for the season was Invercargill where 7 pacers made the list and 6 trotters were added to the record books. The Young Quinn Raceway at Wyndham had 6 pacing and 1 trotting record broken, Central Southland Raceway at Winton had 6 pacers break records. All other southern surfaces got amongst the action, Gore all weather (2 pacers), Omakau (2 pacers and 1 trotter), Roxburgh (1 pacer and 2 trotters), Gore Grass (4 pacers and 1 trotter) and Cromwell Grass (1 pacer and 1 trotter). Heading the class of record breakers was Nek Time who broke the 2400 metre mobile record at Winton in February running 2-53.0 which was also a New Zealand record for a three year old filly. She also broke the 2700 metre mobile record at Invercargill for three year old fillies running 3-19.4.  Meanwhile a number of Southland trainers are heading towards personal best seasons. Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray is currently sitting on 24 winners which is 10 more than his previous best season of 14 in 2015. Gray trains for Australian owners Merv and Meg Butterworth who purchase horses in the province and many stay here initially before heading to Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen in Canterbury, Tony Herlihy in Auckland or to Australian trainers. Clark Barron recorded 22 training wins this season 4 more than his previous best of 18 in 2011 while Ascot Park trainer Brent Shirley who is only in his fourth season of training finished the season with 20 winners - 4 better than his old PB of 16 in 2014. Alister Black was another young trainer to improve his standing with 13 winners. His previous personal best was 8 in 2013. Driver Nathan Williamson was the only driver of note to better his driving PB. He currently has 86 wins on the board, that’s 8 better than the 78 he drove in 2013.   Bruce Stewart - Southland Harness

The $40,000 Northern Southland Cup run at the harness racing meeting at Ascot Park on Saturday drew a very even field with one exception - Mossdale Conner. Due to the vagaries of the dropback system, Mossdale Conner is only rated a C6 pacer in New Zealand so was only given a 20 metres handicap in The Northern Southland Cup while Quick As A Trick and Titan Banner were both given 30 metres handicaps. Now Mossdale Conner might not have won a race this season in thirteen attempts but his placings had earned him over $180,000 prior to Saturdays race. On the Australasian Grand Circuit for 2015-- 2016, Mossdale had finished fifth on the overall table behind the joint winners Lennytheshark and Smolda. Yet many pundits somehow saw him as vulnerable on Saturday but Mossdale Conner showed the advantage of competing at that top Grand Circuit level all season with a comprehensive win during which he hardly got out of second gear. Away well for Ricky May from his 20 metres handicap, Mossdale Conner went to the front after 700 metres and that was race over from there. Keeping up a high tempo from there, Mossdale Conner went to the finishing line with plenty left in the tank and took forever to pull up past the line. He always looks a bit flat when out on his own as he was on Saturday where as in reality he is waiting for something to race Costa Del Magnifico went another top race to run second, especially in light of the fact he had been cast in his box the previous Sunday and had been under the care of the vet most of the week and had missed valuable work as well. Democrat Party battled on for a good third but did have the run of the race most of the way. Ricky May was shaking his head when talking to Harnesslink in the birdcage post race. " He has won that so easy it was scary." " He has never got out of second gear and if something had been able to challenge him, there would have been big gaps to the rest. " When he is on his game like he was this afternoon, he is right up there with the best on the Grand Circuit and I don't think a lot of people realize how big the gap is between a race like today and the Grand Circuit." " I know that Greg (Hope) is toying with giving Mossdale Conner a decent break this year as he has never had a decent break in his whole career." " He doesn't have to improve much from this season to start winning some of those Grand Circuit races," Ricky said. Brent Shirley, the trainer of Costa Del Magnifico was happy with his performance but ruing the bad luck he had suffered pre race which meant his pride and joy went into the race under done. " I am not saying for a minute we would have beaten Mossdale Conner but we would have certainly made him work a lot harder for the victory." Brent said Mossdale Conner paced the 2700 metres from a stand in 3:20.2, a mile rate of 1:59.3 with closing sectionals of 56.6 and 28. His winning time was just one tenth of a second outside of the track record held by Isaiah of 3:20.1. The way Mossdale Conner has progressed this season on the Grand Circuit, he looks certain to become one of the big players in all the classics next year. Harnesslink Media   

"The trainer sacked her in the wash and I took her home."  That was how Invercargill harness racing trainer Brent Shirley described the process by which he took over the training of new recruit Tact Minaj who was previously trained at Winton by Trevor Proctor.   He's had the mare for just over two weeks and has quickly formed a syndicate of owners to race the well bred mare.    "Last start she sat three wide the entire journey and faded out of it." "She got fifth at Cromwell and got held up and finished on not too bad." "Probably the change of stable and the environment have been the biggest thing I've changed," he said.   The new owners are Shirley's wife Raywyn, Brendon Franks, Keith Gaines, Sharyn Gaines, Colin Dixon, John Edminstin and Terry McNaught all of whom have had horses with Shirley previously.   At the Gore harness racing meeting yesterday Tact Minaj settled last of the main bunch. With 1300 metres to run driver Nathan Williamson improved the Lis Mara mare around to sit parked outside leader Hard N Fast. On straightening Tact Minja levelled with Hard N Fast and the two battled down the straight with Tact Minja the bravest, winning by a length.   "I said to Nathan that I thought I had her hopples pretty much right but I said to him to sprint her up in the prelim and take them up if he wanted. I see he's pulled them up two holes."     Tact Minaj is out of the ten win Albert Albert mare Tact Hayley Jane and is a half sister to Tact Hayleys Delight, the winner of four races here and a further eight in Australia.   Interestingly, Proctor gained a win with a new stable runner of his own later in the programme when Tartan Trilogy won at his four attempt for Proctor. He was previously trained by Geoff and Jude Knight. Tartan Trilogy's time for the 1800 metres was 2-17.5 a new open track record bettering the previous record of 2-21.8 held jointly by Applause and Even Flo.     Meanwhile Shirley has designs on winning this Saturday's Group Three Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Cup with stable star Costa Del Magnifico.    "He seems very very well and I couldn't be happier with him." "He's healthy, training well and looking good." "We backed off him after Addington and are peaking him for this race." "Nathan came in and drove him after the workouts yesterday and he seemed happy."   When pressed for times from the private workout, he smiled and got busy answering texts on his phone.   Didn't Shirley used to train a horse called Nothingforthemedia?    Bruce Stewart  - Southland Harness Racing    Check site here  

Saturday's $30,500 Group 3 Invercargill Cup may have only drawn eight runners but it was possible to make a strong case for at least six of them on paper on exposed harness racing form. Local hope Costa Del Magnifico from the front line was a lot of the pundits first pick for the race but queries over his racing style over 3200 metres meant some were keen to question his credentials. As expected Tas Man Bromac made a flier from the 10 metre mark to grab the early lead for trainer driver Nathan Williamson before handing up to the free going Costa Del Magnifico with junior driver Matt Anderson in the bike. Matt immediately lifted the tempo over the next 1000 metres but coming through the straight with two laps to go, he eased the pace slightly only to see Cullect A Guiness and John Dunn appear on his outside at the same time and with their momentum grab the lead. John Dunn made sure there was no loitering in front and appeared to have the field in trouble on the corner but once Matt had angled Costa Del Magnifico into the clear, the son of Mach Three flew the last 150 metres to nail a terribly game Cullect a Guinness right on the winning post. Titan Banner battled into third three lengths away just in front of a slightly disappointing Pulp Fiction who was given every chance by Dexter Dunn. Costa del Magnifico paced the 3200 metres in a smart 4:01.1, a mile rate of 2:01.2 with closing sectionals of 56.4 and 27.3. It was Costa Del Magnifico's eight win at just his twenty third start and along with eleven placings it took his earnings over the $71,000 mark. Matt Anderson was a happy man post race today. “John caught me out a bit when he made that quick mid race move as I wasn't keen to hand up the front to anyone.” “However I made a quick decision as it was happening not to kick up and try to keep him out at that point as there was a long way to go and I didn't think John would be handing up to anyone so I would get the run of the race.” “I know it took him the length of the straight to claim Cullect A Guinness but I was pretty confident once I got out.” “I just can't thank the connections enough for putting me on in such a big race.” “The only problem now is to sort out how to keep the drive when Nathan is available again,” Matt said with a big grin. Trainer Brent Shirley was unsure initially if his charge had got up. “From where I was I thought we had run second so I was rapt to see we got up.” “I never gave Matt any instructions before the race.” “I have a lot of confidence in his judgment and told him to drive his own race,” Brent said. Shirley said the Addington Super Series is the entire's next aim on the 12th February. Matt Anderson has continued to impress all season with his displays of mature driving in testing situations and todays calmness under pressure was further evidence of his growing confidence in the bike. Harnesslink Media

"Amazing. To win like that was an absolute thrill," was the reaction by trainer Brent Shirley after his charge Costa Del Magnifico impressively won the Alabar Centenary Cup at Winton on Sunday.   Not only did he annihilate his rivals winning by six lengths, he smashed the race record and fittingly became the first horse to run 3200 metres on the Winton track in under four minutes (3-59.8). His last 800 metres off the front was a sensational 54.8 seconds.     Since travelling to Canterbury Shirley has noticed a change in the Mach Three entire.    "He went away." "He settled and came back and felt different in training."   He's also very complimentary of regular driver Nathan Williamson who didn't over push the horse last season preferring him to find his feet.    "He was handled with kid gloves." "Nathan knew that potentially he was a nice horse and he drove him accordingly," said Shirley.   "I just made sure he didn't make any mistakes or gallop in his races because he was pretty green." "The best thing is that we've had standing starts and mobiles with him and he's adept at either and he's become a lot more tractable," said Williamson.    Once on the very fast Winton track yesterday Williamson knew he had a good show of winning the feature.    "He was just spot on for today." "He just loved it out there." "I could tell the moment he hit the track that he was on the ball."   The winning of the race came when Williamson saw I'm Full Of Excuses progressing forward with 2000 metres to run and he decided to leave the trail behind Rainbow Romance to take up the front.    "He's a great stayer." "I thought at the 600 that we had them in a whole heap of trouble and he was just jogging it." "So I just increased the speed." "He's proving himself now."   The Southland record for 3200 metres of 3-57.0 and is held by Franco Ledger. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing   -   Check site here   Costa Del Magnifico

He was the easiest winner to pick at Ascot Park on Friday and Costa Del Magnifico lived up to his name when he  won by the biggest margin - eleven and a half lengths.   His time of 2-40.8 with a bit of wind around indicates he's on the road to a better class. (He does hold the track and Southland record for three year olds for this distance of 2-40.1).    So the plan now is to venture to the big smoke.   "We'll have a look at Addington next week." "You'd like to hope you're up to that class but he's only C1 and then he'll come back for the Wairio Cup," said trainer Brent Shirley.   The four year old entire by Mach Three was driven with style by junior reinsman Matt Anderson who works for the all conquering All Stars stable in Canterbury.   "He's been bugging me for months." "He drove for me a few months ago when he first started and I was very impressed by him and the way he asked questions about your horse." "I said to him I'll give you some decent drives some day." "He drove Zen Warrior for me at Gore and that was just the perfect drive."    From barrier five Anderson settled second last in the field. The early leaders were Annajodi, A Damn Good Excuse and Lamborne Road. With a lap to run Anderson moved Costa Del Magnifico up to sit parked. With 600 metres to run he had the entire pinging along and after he cornered, in the words of commentator Dave McDonald 'gapped them by seven lengths.' His winning margin was eleven and a half lengths with Changesaw running on for second again.    During some after race banter, it was mentioned that Costa Del Magnifico wouldn't be out of place in the All Stars Stable but as long as 'lucky Sandra' and husband Murray Allen are enjoying the ride, fat chance.    In the next race the couple's luck continued when Bailey's Wish won for the second time in a week.  Bruce Stewart Reproduced with permission of Southland Harness Racing   -   Check site here

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