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There's no doubt the Ryal Bush harness racing trainer Brett Gray will get a personal training best this season. The only question is whether he can hang onto his lead in the Southland Trainers Premiership. He geared up two feature race winners yesterday (Saturday) at the Invercargill Harness Racing Clubs meeting on the grass at Ascot Park. The well bred Convair Hustler was the first of his two winners in the $12,000 Invercargill Licensing Trust Nuggets Final. Driver Dexter Dunn sat parked with the Mach Three gelding for a good part of the 2050 metre race before getting cover from Duke of Wellington from the 800 metres. Duke of Wellington looked to have his rivals covered but Dunn drove Convair Hustler off his back on the inside to score by half a head. The time of 2-37.6 was the fastest of the day for 2050 metres. Convair Hustler (6) and Dexter Dunn winning from Duke Of Wellington (8)  - Photo Bruce Stewart. The win qualifies Convair Hustler for the $20,000 Super Nuggets Final at the Northern Southland Trotting Clubs meeting this Saturday but Gray is not sure whether he'll line up. "I don't know how he'll back up being so close. I'll see how he pulls up and have a talk to the owners. He did disappoint me over the mile the other day (when he backed up) but he's a Mach Three so a wee bit in and out," Gray said after the win. Convair Hustler, which is raced by the Baynes Racing Syndicate, is named after the Convair B-58 Hustler plane, the first operational jet bomber capable of Mach 2 flight. I suspect he was named by John Baynes, a keen aviator whose wife Penny is one half of the Baynes Racing Syndicate with her brother in-law Kenny. None of the winning owners were on course today with Penny reported to be in Whitianga. Young Conqueror, also trained by Gray won the next race - the ILT Foundation Autumn Cup. Starting off the 10 metre handicap, the Mach Three four year old settled ninth for driver Brent Barclay. With 600 metres to run Young Conqueror was fourth last with plenty of work to do. He tracked Shortys Mate into the race then came home with the good stayers run to beat Shortys Mate by a neck with another length back to Pass The Speights. It was the geldings fifth win in only nineteen starts and qualifies him for the bMac Sheetmetal 2005 Limited Southland Country Cups Final to be held on Diamonds Day at the end of April. Other leading candidates for the series final are; Gotta Del, Royal Bengal, Shortys Mate, The Big Boss, Bevan's Cullen and Deliska.  The two wins yesterday put Gray on twenty five wins for the season - six wins clear of his nearest rival Nathan Williamson. From a PB prospective for the last two seasons he's trained twenty six winners.  Gray's set to line up some of his big guns at this Saturday's Northern Southland meeting including Smokey Mac and Jen Jaccka who will race in the Group Three Pryde's Easifeeds Southern Lights. "Zealand Star will line up in the Super Nuggets Final. He went really good at the workouts on Friday. I'm really happy with him at the moment."  Other features on the card at the meeting are the $20,000 Haras des Trotteurs Southland Trotting Oaks, the $25,000 Group Three Caduceus Club of Southland/Alabar Two Year Old Fillies Mobile Pace and the Group Three Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Trotting Cup worth $40,000. Meanwhile grass racing has helped turn the corner for the Hamish Hunter trained Tiziano. Up until the beginning of February her form had been average at best, but since grass track racing became an option for the four year old Big Jim mare she's regained form. Another grass track victory for Tiziano and Matty Williamson - Photo Bruce Stewart. A fourth at Gore indicated she had a liking for the surface. That was followed up by a win at Oamaru, a third at Waikouaiti at the end of last month and another win yesterday at Invercargill.    Bruce Stewart  Southland Harness

Quality trotter Smokey Mac took the next step when he dealt to a very good field of R66 and faster trotters at Ascot Park today (Saturday). He's been the trotting find of the Southland season so far and continues to impress his Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray. “I actually think he’s turned a corner. At Roxburgh he blew a bit and he just wasn’t right. He had a cut on his leg. I thought we’d just take him home and take him to the workouts. But we kept him at home to keep him settled. In the past ten days he’s gone forward and stopped blowing.” The plan worked and after leading, then handing up to War Machine, he came up the passing lane for driver Brent Barclay to beat Alderbeck and War Machine. “He’s better from behind. He won a nice race at Winton coming from last. He’s got speed and he’s one of those horses you’ve got to go with. It was just another genuious Brent drive.” The four year old gelding, which is owned by John and Pam MacLeod of Winton, is still a work in progress says Gray. "He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve but they’re getting less.” Smokey Mac is named after John MacLeod whose nickname is Smokey. "Pam never told me about the name until it came through," said John. Smokey Mac is out of the Armbro Invasion mare Uncatchable and her pedigree goes back to a breed that Doug McCormick has had plenty of success with.  "We bought the mare with a foal at foot online in a standardbred auction. She was with Ross Hope. She had The Badger at foot. We put her in foal to Thanksgiving again and got Smokey Mac." The MacLeods are enjoying the success Smokey Mac is having. Today's win was his fourth this season from just seven starts. "It's absolutely amazing." Winning connections and sponsors. Pam and John MacLeod far right - Photo Bruce Stewart Gray says he hasn't looked too far ahead in setting out a programme for the four year old.  “We’re just going to have to place him, be wary and pick good races for him. He’s not a week in week out racehorse," he said.  Earlier in the day Gray also won with the Charlie and Ailsa Smaill owned Elva Jaccka, taking out the 2700 metre stand event by four and a half lengths. Elva Jaccka cruising down to the line for Brent Barclay - Photo Bruce Stewart.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing Smokey Mac winning at Ascot Park

Well Said gelding Son Of Lana gave a big group of owners a thrill at Ascot Park today(Monday) when he easily won his first race on his home track. The Murray Brown trained three year old is owned by the Kiwi Connection Syndicate, Fairsay Syndicate and a handful of other individual owners including regular stable clients Murray Heath, Bevan Brown and Barry Croft. "He had a start as a two year old and broke a couple of times. In his last two starts we've got him. He was perfect last week and good again today. Scotty Ramsay (stable foreman) got the Onslow Street Squash Club involved while Arty (Arty Shirley) got together members of the Waikiwi Rugby Club," said Brown. In today's race Son Of Lana settled back for driver Brent Barclay. He improved wide with just over a lap to run to sit parked. He took the lead just before turning in and beat a late charging Archman by a length and three quarters.   Returning to the birdcage with driver Brent Barclay                   - Photo Bruce Stewart He is out of the In The Pocket mare Long Live Lana which won twice for Paul Burrows. As a broodmare her first foal Delightful Lana won seven races in New Zealand and also campaigned in Australia where she had a number of group placings. Her best performance was running third in the Group One NSW Oaks won by Southland owned filly Fight For Glory which ran a World Record time of 2-50.3 for the 2400 metre mobile. Son Of Lana is Long Live Lana's third foal.  "He seems quite sensible from the stand so a one win stand may suit him."  Winning owners    -     Photo Bruce Stewart Son Of Lana was purchased by Dave and Catrina Gordon for $27,000 at the 2016 Sale of the Stars sale. His name then was Marlboroman. The Gordon's have both since passed away and Catrina offered the horse for lease to the large group of owners last season. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing   Son Of Lana winning at Ascot Park  

King Cassidy capped off a fine vein of form, by winning the Gold Chip Final for trotters at Winton on Sunday. It was the five year old's third win on the trot and a very good pay day for his connections, trainer Chris Gerken, Taylor Davies and his partner Tracey Ashton. Gerken, who trains at Fleming near Gore has had the The Pres gelding since August last year. "Neil Munro sent him down to me. He's got a wee bit of a hitch in his gait and he thought he needed a bit of time and they weren't prepared to wait on him. I think the gait thing is just conformation. The first race he had off the place was at the Hawea Gymkhana last year where he beat a couple of pacers," he said. He won his first race at Forbury Park in May this year when driven by Brad Williamson.  "He won that first race probably too quick for his own good. He got chucked in against horses like Golden Gate. It was way too rich and they were just rushing past him." Gerken, who shoes his own horses says the past few weeks have been a bit of a balancing act in deciding when to renew the horses footwear.  "Last week when he raced here the shoes were buggered. But I didn't want to change them before he raced. He got reshod during the week. It was perhaps one of the reasons he trotted rough today. He just needs a bit of wear and tear on his shoes."  Brent Barclay, Sonia Gerken, Chris Gerken, Taylor Davies and Tracey Ashton - Photo Bruce Stewart  In yesterday's race driver Brent Barclay allowed King Cassidy to settle at the rear before moving him round the field at the 1200 metre mark to sit parked outside leader Sky Tower. With 400 metres to run Barclay had the gelding in front and he held on to beat a late charge from Makarewa Rum by half and length. "His next start will be at Hawea on Wednesday. I'll see what sort of rating he gets after today. At Omakau he may have to start against the Free For All horses in a mobile. I don't want to start in a mobile just yet so I may have to look at Cromwell in a fortnight."  Taylor has been a loyal supporter of Gerkens and they were partners in John Henry Galleon and James Galleon.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Well Said colt Nota Bene Denario showed his versatility when he won at Ascot Park today (Saturday). The three year old, which had led all the way at Wyndham on November 19th, came off a nice early sit before driver Brent Barclay took him round to the front with a lap to run. "I think he can race from pretty much anywhere. They backed off the pace so I thought because they were going that slow that I'd better get around them. I think he probably knocks off a bit in front," said Barclay. Nota Bene Denario stayed down in the south at Brett Gray'sstable after his win at Wyndham and went to the Winton Workouts last Friday where he was driven from behind. He won his heat impressively running his last 800 metres in better that 54 seconds.  "He's a very very fast horse if you saw his run at the Winton Workouts. He's got wheels," said Gray. Flying - Nota Bene Denario and Brent Barclay        - Photo Bruce Stewart. The colt, which was bought by Robert and Sharyn Symon and placed in Terry and Glenys Chmiel's stable, has now won two of his three starts and Gray presumes he will return home to the Chmiel's Leeston stable.  Meanwhile junior driver Ellie Barron knocked off another of her early season targets when she won on her grandfather's horse Mass Invasion today. She had her first win on Somejoy, part-owned and trained by her father Clark, and this is another win for the family. Ellie Barron and Mass Invasion                           - Photo Bruce Stewart. The seven year old Muscle Mass mare owned by Owen Crooks ran down pacemaker Grace O'Malley. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing

Age proved no barrier at Ascot Park today. Previous Southland Harness Racing Secretary Peter Burns and his wife Rewa share in the ownership of Ever Ready with their daughter Julie Kilkelly and today the Falcon Seelster gelding rocked punters in the first race winning at odds of 52-1. From eight starts the horse's best placing prior to yesterday had been a fourth for Tisbury trainer Kirstin Barclay. The four year old is out of Abba Bromac which Julie raced with her husband Tom. Abba Bromac was bred by Bob McArdle of Bromac Lodge.   “Bob was a friend of Peter's from years ago and he came down and sold them Ever Ready. We raced his half-sister (Ashira Bromac). He’s a one speed type of horse and Kirstin did the job today. Peter was shaking (with excitement),” said Tom. Ever Ready and Kirstin Barclay beating a game Razcal Alley - Photo Bruce Stewart.  Later in the day Night March, a seven year old by Courage Under Fire, won his third race for veteran Gore trainer Maurice Kerr. It was the horse's seventy fifth start and he's been a consistent pacer all through his five seasons of racing.  “He’s been a good little horse. We bred him and he’s been here all his life. I do it just as a hobby now. I could have sold him but decided not to,“ said Kerr who drove the horse for three starts prior to retiring at the end of the 2014 season.  “I’ve always stuck to the local drivers like Robin Swain and Brent Barclay," he said. Night March (11) and Brad Williamson winning at Ascot Park today - Photo Bruce Stewart Kerr began driving in the late 1960s for his father Davey Kerr, then started training in his own right in 1978. He's trained over 200 winners in that time but has scaled down over the years.  “I’m working four horses. There’s a couple of three year olds that might be alright next year. They haven’t been off the place yet. It’s enough to keep me going.” Lyndon Bond, son of Jimmy Bond who was Maurice Kerr's old driving buddy, also produced a winner on the Invercargill card today when Martin McGuinness, another son of Falcon Seelster, won the second Invitation Drivers race in the hands of Sam Ottley. Bred by the Grice brothers, he's been a model of consistency throughout his sixty starts and todays win was his fifth. “He’s an awesome wee horse to have. He’s nothing brilliant but if he gets the right run he does the job," said Bond. The six year old is raced by a group of mates and their wives who go by the In Touch Syndicate. All are from Mataura where Bond trains. When asked who makes up the syndicate Bond said "Snow Swain - he’s the supervisor on the Mutton Slaughter chain. He’s a bit of a hard case and follows the horses everywhere. He’ll be at the Mataura pub – The Zoo. Others in the group are my wife, Peter Hazlemore and Mike Cain and their wives. The Cains were the only ones here today.” From barrier two on the second row Ottley placed Martin McGuinness fifth early as McKenzie Mara and Canardly Remember went to war up front. "They were going hard which was his go."  Martin McGuinness ended up five back on the inside. Ottley managed to get him off the running line before the 600 metres but had plenty of work to do with most of the field in front of her. He was starting to run on, got a nice drag into the run home on the back of Lorretta Franco before charging through late to beat Grace Burns by a neck.  Martin McGuinness and Sam Ottley - Photo Bruce Stewart. “It was penalty free today. He’s won five races so he’s been a neat wee horse for the syndicate.” The win capped off a great day for the Bond and Kerr families with both horses travelling to the track in the same truck. “Maurice and Dad were masters and they’ve been together all the way through. The horses travelled to the races together today. There were only two horses on the truck and they both won. My horse can get a bit cantankerous on the float and he’ll kick with another horse in beside him. Maurice will be smiling and Dad will be sitting at home with a grin and a half on.” Although not on track Lyndon said his father would be at home getting a thrill out of both horses winning. Bond retired from race driving in 2014 after a bad smash at Wyndham. “He has his ups and downs but he’s getting out of bed and bouncing around doing the yards in the morning and the jog team so he’s still full on. He does a great job.” Lyndon says Martin McGuinness's next start will be at Oamaru on the grass. "He loves the grass."  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

"He's pretty green as you can see but he's got a motor," were Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray's words in describing Mr Kiwi who won on debut at Wyndham today. Gray says win loss or draw, today the horse was always going to be turned out and he'll go to part-owner Ben Calder's Grinaldi Lodge tomorrow morning. "He taken a bit to click onto the racing game. We'll give him a good month off and we'll go again. I think he's six months away so we'll attack later in the season. We've got some nice races like the Supremacy but we'll just play the cautious game and hopefully it'll reward us." Prior to today's debut Mr Kiwi had been to seven workouts - all at Winton, winning five including his last two. Gray and regular driver Brent Barclay have played the patience card all the way through knowing that the half  brother to the talented Mr Mojito was worth waiting for.  Mr Kiwi after winning at Wyndham                        Photo Bruce Stewart "I think in time he could be quite a nice horse. I think you just have to wait for the American Ideals. In today's race Mr Kiwi settled in the rear division in a strung out field. When he got in to the three wide running line with just under a lap to run driver Nathan Williamson had to give him a reminder with the whip to keep his mind on the job.  "He also got a bit of a check so he did pretty well on debut. He's come from last down the back so he's gone bloody good. Nathan had never driven him before and we told him he was a trick to drive. Brent gave him instructions on how to drive the horse. Nathan thought that was a bit weird,but Brent was right on the money. Brent told him (Williamson) that you've always got to be on his case because you might think that he's flat as a biscuit but there's always something left."  Mr Kiwi (12) beating Matai Will (1) and James Butt (10)                  - Photo Bruce Stewart. The winning margin was a length from rank outsider Matai Will.  Gray's wife Gina has a share in Mr Kiwi along with breeders Ben and Karen Calder and Earl Shannon and his partner Mrs J Banjnoczi - Shannon.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Smokey Mac is starting to string together a good formline but trainer Brett Gray isn't looking too far ahead with the promising trotter. In yesterday's main trotting race at Gore driver Brent Barclay took the son of Thanksgiving to the lead from the 10 metre mark and made the backmarkers Poppymalda (40 metres), Alderbeck (50 metres) and Father Christmas (40 metres) work hard. The handicap proved too much for this trio with Smokey Mac holding on to win by a length and a quarter from Poppymalda with a nose back to a late finishing Alderbeck in third. "With the draw and with the backmarkers you want to keep them working a bit so we took him to the front. But he's got a great sprint from in behind," said trainer Brett Gray.  Smokey Mac is out of the Armbro Invasion mare Uncatchable and is closely related to Charlie Wood and Perfect du Jour both of which won seven races. He's owned by John and Pam Macleod from Winton who also him and Gray says he's been a bit of a project. "He's just one of those horses. He's always had ability but you just don't know which way he's going to go. So the jury is out at the moment. It'll really be interesting how good he goes when he has to really dig deep. But he does keep on surprising me."  And the stable have sorted out what works best for Smokey Mac particularly on race days.  "As long as his attitude doesn't pull him up I think he'll be okay. We do work him on race day morning and we've got permission to take him around to the start late, it's really working well at the moment. Every time he races now he relaxes and drops the bit. At home he just ambles round and doesn't work that great by himself but if you take a stick with you he'll be away, so he's a bit of a character. He's still only learning but he's really made some progress this year."   Later in the programme Erin Jaccka returned to the winners circle when she held on by a neck to beat Jabali. It was the five year old mare's third win from eighteen starts and Gray says he was pleased to see her win yesterday on the rain affected track.  "Maybe with the wet track she appreciated it a bit more. I was a bit worried about the track though, as she can jump out of her gear." Erin Jaccka looked very smart as a three year old winning a mile race at Winton in what was then a track and Southland record time of 1-53.9, but she hasn't built on that form. "We suspect it was a joint issue (that was affecting her) but we haven't really got to the bottom of it. We work on her knees a bit. We do give her treatment for arthritis by injecting her in the muscle which covers all the joints." Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Southland's leading trainer from last season Brett Gray, was back training winners at Winton today. Four year old mare Ideal Conquest capped off solid maiden form by leading all the way to win the Terror To Love At Pinelea Farm Fillies and Mares Mobile Pace.  She was bought by Winton Plumber Marty Fairbairn at the 2015 Australian Classic Yearling Sale when offered by Woodlands Stud on behalf of Charlie Roberts.   "I thought she was sold. I was talking to Tony Barron and said to him - gee that was a cheap horse. A guy overheard me and told me the horse hadn't sold and would I help him out. The reserve was $5,000. I said give me a minute. I shot outside and rang Robert Symon. He's the man with all the money. 'Robert Butterworth' I call him. We bought her and decided that the girls (wives) would own her (Sharon Symon and Daphne Fairbairn). I took her home and the first thing she did was kick a horse I'd paid quite a bit more for. We discovered that you couldn't get near her so that's why she was a $5,000 purchase," Gray said. Ideal Conquest is by American Ideal out of the one win In The Pocket mare Pocket Conquest. Her dam is the smart seventeen win mare Victor Supreme. Her winning time over the 1609 metres today was 1-56.9 and she won by three lengths. She was driven by regular pilot Brent Barclay.  Ideal Conquest winning easily "She's such a big mare we wondered whether a mile was suitable. We were going to be looking for standing starts but she's got a bit of an attitude," added Fairbairn. Some thought will be given now, to whether she'll be set for the Southern Belle Speed Series or take on more staying tests.  "I haven't worked that out yet. We'll see what the owners think. We've just got to go with her rather than plan," said trainer Brett Gray.  The Gray trained trotter Smokey Mac was sensational when he won Race Three. The four year old Monarchy gelding was slow to go and settled well off the pace early. He was second to last of the main bunch with a lap to run. At the 400 metre mark he skipped for a few strides when following a retreating Our Budd and was taken back to last. As the field opened driver Brent Barclay wove a path through the middle of the field and he stormed home to beat pacemaker Scarlet Lane easily by a length and a half.   Smokey Mac winning "He was unbelievable. He had a wee skip and still won. He's perfect around the place but when he gets to the races he gets a bit hypo. We've had a couple of workouts but we've been careful with him because he can over race. He's got the ability but it's his attitude we have to work on," said Gray about the talented squaregaiter.  "We just work him in the morning on the day of the races and that takes a wee bit of the sting out of him and try to take him onto the track as late as possible."  Meanwhile Gray also won both the days qualifying heats. The well bred Mr Kiwi, which is a half brother by American Ideal to Mr Mojito, won his mobile heat in 3-05.3.  "He's pretty green. He's got a bit of ability but he just has to switch into it. I'll look to freshen him up." The Ryal Bush trainer's second winner was Live Or Die entire The Heart Rulz. He's owned by loyal owner Caroline Pannett. "She's getting excited and we're all happy for her. She's got a nice horse." He's out of the three win Master Mood mare Nevalookbak.  Bruce Stewart Southern Harness Racing

Trainer Peter Hunter may be confined to the kitchen for a while, making his favourite bangers and mash, and because of the way his team is going on the race track at the moment he's afraid he may have to stay there. The Ryal Bush harness racing trainer has been sidelined after being concussed in a nasty smash on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park at the end of last month. Since then his wife Jo has been doing most of the hands on work with the team, and in the last two weeks the stable has picked up three wins.   “They told me to take it quietly and said I’d get tired, and I do. The teams going quite good without me so I’d better stay put. I like bangers and mash and can cook spuds," he told me after Bold Ruler won his second race at the Invercargill meeting today (Saturday). It seems that the Changeover gelding, which is owned by Hunter's brother in law Brendon McIntyre and Bill Moffatt has been around forever. Today's was his sixty fifth start. His last win was on this track at this meeting two years ago. Brent Barclay, Bold Ruler, Jo Hunter and Brendon McIntyre       - Photo Bruce Stewart. “He’s a bit different – precious. He had a bit of ability when he was young but wasn’t strong enough to run young. He qualified behind Pulp Fiction. His three year old season was a washout, he just wasn’t strong enough. He’d just gone the odd good race to keep you interested. This year he’s been really good.” Bold Ruler was on warning after refusing to go with the mobile arm at Winton last weekend resulting in driver Brent Barclay pulling him out of that race. “He never races good at Winton. The starting point throws him a bit because it’s near the gate. With those sorts of things he plays on it and he over thinks things. Brent didn’t pull the plugs on him today. He couldn’t believe how different he was (in mood) from last week.” Bold Ruler and Barclay ended up slotting into the one one. He managed to get on to the back of Magnetic Watch inside the last 800 metres. He was carted up by that horse until the field straightened and he came resolutely down the middle of the track to beat pacemaker Wayward Roc by a length. Bold Ruler and Brent Barclay winning at Ascot Park       - Photo Bruce Stewart But not happy with just winning, the horse carried on under a tight hold for another lap before Barclay was able to point him in the direction of the birdcage.  “That’s him showing off.” The Hunters and Bold Ruler's owners have had to be patient with the five year old which has a few tricks.  “He races a bit more kindly. He's not so revy out there and he’s quite nice to train now. He never used to be. Pull down blinds make a difference to him. They just sort of bluff him. I wouldn't play cards with him, he’d be quite good at it I’d imagine.” Hunter also says he's a bit bossy around the stables and needs to be watched. “I’ve got to be careful (with who he’s paddocked with) because he beats them up. He’s by himself at the moment because he beat up the last one.” Bold Ruler was purchased at the 2013 Sale of the Stars for $19,000 when he was offered by Regal Lodge Stud. He's closely related to Bogan Fella. His lifetime earnings are now over $25,000. Later in the programme Rakarover owned by loyal stable client Brendon Fahy cleared maiden ranks when he beat the favourite The Night Hawk by a length. It was the three year old's first start in six weeks. Prior to today's win he'd run second twice and third four times.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

President Roydon looks to be a trotter with untapped potential after an easy win at the Wyndham Harness Racing Club meeting at Cromwell today. In the Osborne Engineering/Checketts McKay Law Handicap Trot driver Brent Barclay settled the three year old gelding three back on the inside. When Dream Big galloped with a lap to run he slotted President Roydon into the one one. At the 600 he launched his run and moved up beside the leader Majestic Peak. He'd reached the lead by the top of the straight and trotted home untouched to win by four and a half lengths.   President Roydon is out of the two win Sundon mare Dear Diedre and is a half-brother to The Earth Moved (6 wins) and Duchess Dieret (5).   He was bought by Merv and Meg Butterworth for $10,000 at the Sale of the Stars in 2015 and had his initial education at the Rolleston barn of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. "He had a minor wind problem as a yearling but there's no problems now. He'll probably go back to Mark and Natalie's and end up in Australia," said trainer Brett Gray.  By The Pres, President Roydon was having his second start today after breaking on debut at Gore when second favourite. His win dividend today was $33.40.  "I was surprised at the price. He went out one of the favourites at his first start. He hasn't been to any workouts but we decided to start him after he worked well at the Winton track. He impressed me today because a couple of horses galloped round him and he could have gone out in sympathy but he didn't. He's got high speed."  Trainer Brett Gray with President Roydon       - Photo Wayne Huddleston  Although Gray knows that the three year old gelding won't be in the stable long term he realises that he plays an important part in servicing the Butterworth Racing Syndicate and the large number of horses they race on both sides of the Tasman.  "Merv will let me know when he's ready to move on but we'll have a bit more playing around and get more miles into him." Gray says he has three nice three year old trotters in his Ryal Bush barn including Smokey Mac and Jaccka Josh. "He'll (Smokey Mac) start on Thursday. I have four or five nice trotters at the moment. Charlie (Smaill) is jogging up Jen Jaccka (the winner of four races and New Zealand record holder who is now five) and I like her half brother Jaccka Josh (Majestic Son - Janine Jaccka)." Jaccka Josh started at the Invercargill trials last month and despite running under the qualifying time didn't get his qualifying ticket because he broke at the start. Gray trained a nice three year old two season's ago called Sky Commander. He won three times for the stable and was good enough to run fifth in the New Zealand Trotting Derby won by Speeding Spur. He was then transferred to Kerryn Manning's stable in Australia where he's won another eight races. He ran second in the Victoria Trotting Derby in 2015. He was bought out of Southland by the Butterworth Racing Syndicate. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Winners are never far away from Gore trainer Allan McVicar and his latest It Ain't The Money appears to be one of his best. In just five starts he's record three wins and a second and is starting to impress his regular driver Brent Barclay.  "I think he'll only get better. We got a pretty good run today and he did the job and did it easily enough. He just heated up a little bit today but we'll get some ear plugs in him and he'll be fine," he said. Getting up to beat El Dinero on his inside              - Photo Bruce Stewart It was Barclay's tenth winning drive for McVicar who has now trained thirty four winners since he took out his licence in 1976.  "He's very astute and you only see the ones he brings out. The ones be brings out are always ready." McVicar's biggest winners have been Kawerau Bar and Char Do Neigh which both won four races. Motu Prince Of Peru was also a nice horse McVicar developed before he was sold into the Tim Butt stable.   "He reminds me a lot of Motu Prince Of Peru and he was a really nice horse and this fella feels very similar to him. I think he'll do a good job." Barclay says the plan now is the head to Roxburgh early next month and then the Country Cups series could be an option. "He'll skip round Roxburgh quite nice. We'll have to get him going away from the stand because the Country Cups are coming up. He's sensible enough and he's a good gaited horse so I don't see it being a problem."   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Few harness racing punters were expecting The Dali Express to win at Ascot Park yesterday.   Despite showing some good workout form the Dali three year old had a below average race day scorecard with a thirteenth at Winton and a seventh on his track in his only two starts.    However as owners Murray and Wendy Swain both pointed out he'd hadn't had much luck either.    "He was unlucky last start. He was five deep (on the inside) and it was all over after the leader ran his last quarter in 27 seconds. It just worked out perfectly for him today," said Murray.   Driver Allan Beck positioned The Dali Express three back on the inside while Better Than Most set the pace. With 400 metres to run the field opened up and Beck was able to get him off the running line. At the top of the straight the ear plug came out and he started to make up the four lengths behind Better Than Most. He came down the middle of the track to win easily by three quarters of a length. The 2200 metres was run in a smart 2-42.4.    The Dali Express winning           Photo by Bruce Stewart       "I bought him at the Christchurch Weanling Sales for five grand. I liked the look of him. There's about 24 Dali's around and I've got three of them."   Straight after the run local agent Geoff Gibson-Smith was on the scene.    "All of my horses are for sale. He's a nice handy horse that's getting better and better all the time. He's just taken time to develop. He wasn't a high speed horse at two but he's got great confirmation."    Swain also has high hopes for a two year old that he took to the Winton Workouts on Friday. Major McRae is by Art Major out of the Christian Cullen mare Whitewash. He owns the gelding with Wayne Pope.    Meanwhile Invercargill lawyer Lester Smith, driver Brent Barclay and Winton trainer Lauren Pearson scored a double yesterday when Reciprocity won the Gore New World Fillies and Mares Mobile Pace and Venice Beach won her second race in as many starts when she took out the last race on the card.   Reciprocity is a three year old filly by Panspacificflight out of Weka Lass which Wayne Adams trained to win six races. Barclay took her straight to the lead and she won by one and a half lengths.    Reciprocity winning easily                          Photo by Bruce Stewart   Venice Beach was even more impressive. She settled last on the inside, got off the running line when Betta Go Fernco improved with 600 metres to run and followed that horse up. The Somebeachsomewhere filly was brought five wide at the top of the straight and charged home to beat Bootie Bromac by a length and a quarter. The winning time for the 1700 metres was 2-04.4 with Venice Beach running her last 800 metres in 56.6.   It was the second time Pearson has scored a double. The first was on her home track in  May 2010 when Montecrengle and Akaroa Charlie won. Both were driven by Barclay.   The Pearson/Barclay combination looked unlucky when their other run Highland Girl broke at the start, made a run from the 600 and got within a length and a half of the winner Northview Dave.      Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Local entertainer Dene Allen is singing the praises of local trainer Matt Saunders after the West Plains trainer won the Foveaux Equestrian Claimers Mobile Pace at Ascot Park today with Pocket Caesar.   It was the first horse Allen has ever owned; he had his first start and won to boot.   However he's not completely new to the industry.    "My cousin Andrew Faulks trains horses so I've been following them for a few years but I've never owned one. I got the opportunity when Matt came along and said if you do a gig for me what would you charge, I'll take that cost off for you and race a horse with a ten per cent share," said Allen.    Pocket Caesar was having his first start for Saunders after having seventeen starts for Lindsay Veint.    From barrier five driver Brent Barclay speared the five year old to an early lead before handing up to favourite Hurricane Banner. That order remained until the home straight when Barclay and Pocket Caesar made up four lengths to get up and beat Hurricane Banner by half a length. Allen said "It's funny when someone says (the trainer) "we'll take the lead and then hand up to the favourite." That's what happened today. How often does that happen - hardly ever!"    Allen completed a music course at SIT. He shares the ownership of the horse with two well established Saunders syndicates - The Sue Ping Syndicate which is made up of rugby mates of Saunders including Jamie Mackintosh and Scottish International John Hardie, and the Bratk Syndicate which are Saunders family members.     Although racing was today's focus a major stage production is also to the forefront of the guitarist singer's mind.    "We've got the Johnny Cash show coming up at the Civic Theatre so that's the next thing. We've sold 600 tickets and we've got another 300 to sell." Pocket Caesar   Bruce Stewart

Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray describes Bettor Go Hurry as one of the unluckiest horses he's ever trained.   Yesterday, aided by a positive drive by Brent Barclay who took the four year old straight to the lead, the gelding won the Abernethy Contracting Pace easily by four and three quarter lengths.   "This is the first time he hasn't been unlucky." "He's been racing super to be fair in good fields, so it's been no surprise." "I'd like to give him one more start and have a let up." "I think he's a pretty nice horse." "I'd love a stable full of horses like him," said Gray.   Better Go Hurry was bred by the late Colin Baynes and sold to the Butterworth Racing Syndicate after he qualified on this track in March.   His first three starts yielded three seconds before he ran fourth behind quality three year old Galactic Star at Winton last weekend.    "It was his own fault last start when he flopped out of the gate and got back on the rails."     He's the first foal out of the Bettor's Delight mare Better Hurry. She's a half sister to Country Ways which won eighteen races including the Newstalk ZB Flying Stakes at Addington as a three year old in 2001.    Later in the programme Gray won with the Charlie and Alisa Smaill owned Odette Jaccka. Her win over 2200 metres in 2-41.3 was a new track record for mares. The previous record of 2-41.9 was recorded earlier this season by Sheeza Shark.    Gray has now won thirteen races so far this season and it seems certain he will break his PB of fourteen recorded last season.  Bruce Stewart  -  Southland Harness Racing  

Top Otago-based reinsmen Matthew Williamson and Jonny Cox yesterday provided Otago with their first ever win in the Inter-Provincial Challenge at Invercargill’s Ascot Park.  First run in 1989, Otago, up until yesterday, were the only province (team) that compete in the challenge that had never won it. Williamson was successful aboard Deano Robyn and finished second with Free Dreams, while Cox was victorious with Canardly Lover, giving the team a combined total of 32 points. Canterbury (John and Dexter Dunn) were second on 25 points, while Mid Canterbury (John Hay and Gerard O’Reilly) were third after accumulating 21 points. While Williamson and Cox took out the team division, Dexter Dunn was the individual winner (24) narrowly downing Matthew Williamson (22). David Butcher representing the Waikato was a distant third of 12 points. Below is a list of the past winners: Year Individual Winner Team Winner 1989 Hamish Hunter Southland 1990 Kirk Larsen Southland Under 20 1991 Anthony Butt Canterbury 1992 Anthony Butt Waikato 1993 Ken Barron Southland    1994 Trevor Walsh Mid Canterbury 1995 Jan Gould Central Districts 1996 Greg Cowie Mid Canterbury 1997 Ali Malcolmson Mid Canterbury 1998 Hamish Hunter Southland 1999 Colin De Fillipi Canterbury 2000 Colin De Fillipi Canterbury 2001 Clark Barron Southland 2001 Stephen Doody Southland 2002 Maurice McKendry Auckland 2003 Peter Ferguson Waikato 2004 Clark Barron Southland 2005 Ricky May Central Districts 2006 Brent Barclay Southland 2007 Mark Jones Waikato 2008 Ricky May Canterbury 2009 Dexter Dunn Canterbury 2010 Dexter Dunn Southland 2011 David Butcher Waikato 2012 Blair Orange Canterbury By Mitchell Robertson

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