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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

On a relatively placid day of racing at Invercargill on Sunday, the Inter-provincial Drivers’ Challenge will be the clear highlight. First run in 1989, the Inter-Provincial Challenge has been won by every province that competes in, most have won it on multiple occasions, apart from Otago that is, they are still sitting on a duck egg. Out to change that on Sunday are gun reinsmen Matthew Williamson and Jonny Cox, who, no offence to previous Otago reinsmen, are probably two of the best representatives they have ever had. “Between me and Jonny we look to have some decent drives, so hopefully we can break the drought,” said Williamson. “We shouldn’t go any worse than the Highlanders anyway,” he laughed. Williamson has a good book, headlined by Free Dreams and Deano Robyn, while Cox, on paper, looks to have a few place chances as well as a good winning chance in the form of Canardly Lover. “I think Free Dreams is my best chance for the day,” confirmed Williamson. “He is quite a nice trotter and I am fortunate enough to know the horse a little bit, whereas a lot of the other fellas will be driving their steeds for the first time,” he added.  The other teams competing in the 25th running of the Inter-Provincial Challenge are: AUCKLAND: Z Butcher, S Phelan WAIKATO: P C Ferguson, D J Butcher CENTRAL DISTRICTS: A Poutama, B Weaver CANTERBURY: D J Dunn, J R Dunn MID-CANTERBURY: G D O’Reilly, J Hay OTAGO: M Williamson, J W Cox SOUTHLAND: N P Williamson, T M Williams. Interprovincial Drivers Championship 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

Don’t expect last Friday’s Addington feature trot winner – Phil’s Gift – to line up in the Group One $200,000 Dominion Trot on Show Day (November 15). Trainer Murray Tapper said he preferred to start the Sundon gelding in the Free-For-All on Cup Day (November 12). “I’ll talk to the owners again but they know how I feel. I’d rather start him in the shorter race on Cup Day than I would the Dominion. “There’s no way he could back up in three days for both. He’s not that type of horse. Racing can take a lot out of him and he can take some time to recover. The 3200m is a bit far for him at this stage,” Tapper said. “I think he would be a better Dominion horse in 13 months,” added the Timaru horseman. Tapper said the 6-year-old bay had to be driven with a sit and that’s exactly what Ricky May did on Friday. “He has won in front before but as he’s gone through the grades it’s got harder, and I’ve now trained him to have one sprint at them. “It’s a tougher class opposition now and I’ve had to adjust my trainer because of that. He’s got a very good sprint when saved for the run. That was evident on Friday,” Tapper said. May had Phil’s Gift second last early and swinging for home were still in that position with favourite Escapee snookered last on the markers. They both flew down the outer with Phil’s Gift hanging on to beat Escapee and Mark Purdon by half a head. Raydon and David Butt were 2-1/2 lengths back in third. They won the $7,500, C3 and faster trot in 3:23.2. Mile rate for the 2600m stand: 2:05.7. Last 800m: 59.8. Last 400m: 28.9. Phil’s Gift started from the 40m back-mark and was the $5.80 third favourite. That was his ninth win in 33 starts and he’s also placed eight times for $76,997. Tapper paid $16,000 for him at the Christchurch yearling sales. He said he was easily the best of the 12 horses he had in work at Levels in South Canterbury, but said Phil’s Gift had some way to go to surpassing the best trotter he’s trained – the recently retired Stylish Monarch, and Group One winning 10-year-old son of Monarchy, who has won 17 races and $500,620. “Phil’s Gift has more speed but Stylish Monarch is a tougher grinder who can churn out solid quarters. “We’ll see exactly where Phil’s Gift is at when he lines up on Cup Day. He would make a good Australian horse and that could be an option down the track but for now it’s all about progressing through to compete with the best,” the 50-year-old said. Phil’s Gift is owned by K.P. Tapper, R.L.P. Scott, P.F. Parker, and M. L. Hynes. He was bred by Colin and Rona McKay. He is the seventh foal of eight out of the one-win Speedy Summit mare, Ilona Del. Phil’s Gift’s full sister (and fourth foal), Jasmyn’s Gift won 17 races, including the Group One New Zealand Trotting Championship and New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All. Phil’s Gift’s biggest win to date was the $25,000 Group Three Glenferrie Farm Trotters Championship in March. Friday’s win was his second race back since finishing fifth behind Charlemagne in the Harness Jewels final at Ashburton in June. Exciting trotter Experiment heading to Addington Exciting Southland trotter, Experiment will head to Addington Raceway to compete in two mid-graded races on Cup and Show Day. The 5-year-old Sundon mare confirmed the trip north when notching up her third win in a row and fourth in five starts this season at the Riverton Trotting Club’s meeting on Sunday (November 3). The Tony Barron trained Experiment blitzed her opposition with an effortless front-running display in the in the $8,000 Never Cleaver Fishing discretionary for the C1 and faster trotters. She has also won at the Wairio, Gore, and Forbury Park meetings this season, after racing 12 times in 2012-2013 for just two placings. Errol Forde (72) owns Experiment with his partner Jan Hawthorn (68). The retired Makarewa resident said now that his mare had turned the corner she would definitely now be heading to Christchurch. “I’m still on a high. I’ve had horses since the 1980s but never had one this good. I would never have ever thought I’d have a horse good enough to win three races in a row. “She will now head north and take on some of the best in her grade. One day, maybe two years, I’d like to think she could make a Dominion horse. That is one race I’d really like to win,” Forde said. He said Experiment had been a work in progress and it now appeared that Barron had ironed out most of her issues. “We had a bit of trouble with her early on. She had a few bad habits, but with training, time and age she has developed into a nice trotter. “We are hoping she will go on with it now she has won four races,” Forde said. Brent Barclay got Experiment away quickly from her 10m handicap on Sunday and then when they hit the front at the 2000m, the race was for second. Experiment simply out-trotted her 12 opponents, stopping the clock in 3:34.8 (2700m stand) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 60 and 28.9. Her winning mile rate was 2:08. She was the $3.60 favourite. Forde and Hawthorn have two-and-a-half years left on their four-year lease. Then then have right of purchase from breeder Michael House. “She’s still got plenty of time and there’s plenty of improvement left in her yet,” said Forde who does a bit of work with his pride and joy. Forde, who worked in the engineering trade, retired to Makarewa from Nightcaps and assisted Ron Barron there before he retired. “Ron asked me if I wanted to buy Experiment and it all went from there. That’s how Tony ended up with her,” Forde said. He said Experiment’s racing future would not be decided until after her race on Show Day. “That’s when we will sit down and plan her racing. Auckland could be an option over Christmas because Tony has campaigned horses up there before. “I’ve never had a horse good enough to race up there. It is a possibility, but like I said it all depends how she fronts up in Christchurch,” Forde said. Experiment has now won just under $20,000 from her 18 starts, which includes four wins and three placings. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

There's been much spoken about the lack of horses around at present and the losing of some meetings. To counter that somewhat we expect to see more than 40 horses nominated for the 2011 Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup and some international involvement too.

Yesterday's twilight Invercargill Harness Racing Club meeting (Thursday December 2) was dominated by Southland with Nathan Williamson winning his first race as a trainer. He then combined with Brent Barclay for Southland to take out the 2010 American Ideal Inter-Provincial Drivers Challenge.

Capable Winton owned and trained mare Tact Lizzie furthered her preparation for her 5 Year Old debut at Ascot Park in Invercargill on Friday week (2 October) when she won the main harness racing heat at the trials held there today (Wednesday, September 23) 2009.

Gore winner Mexican Invasion is bound to be driven assertively again at Winton tomorrow (29 March) in an attempt to take advantage of her strengths and minimise the impact of her weakness.

Just as she had done about 11 months earlier, Nevele R Fillies series final winner Badlands Jewel made a winning start to her season, with success at last night's (5 December) fixture at Ascot Park.

Palmerston North driver Stephen Doody is poised to have a major say in the outcome of American Ideal at Woodlands Stud Provincial Drivers' Championship, staged at Ascot Park on Saturday (22 November) for the 20th time. His best winning chance in the five-race series would appear to be Rakarebel while Demon Darb, Jaccka Nikos and Washington Seattle represent a more than useful supporting cast.

Ascot Park trainer Wayne Adams is looking for Gerber to be on his best behaviour when he leaves the comforts of his home track at Invercargill for just the second time in his career.

As far as southern harness racing was concerned, the weekend belonged emphatically to Noreen Stiven and her son John from Tapanui (West Otago), with success at both ends of New Zealand.

Nathan Williamson has picked up a $1000 prize for being the leading driver over the 15 race meetings held by the Invercargill club this season and Doug McLachlan took out a trainers' award.

Perhaps it was an omen, the warm but brisk nor-wester at Gore last week (15 March) forecasting Washington Breeze, out of Breezie Girl, would put his best foot forward and break out of the non-winners grade.

Even though the 3-year-old Cullen’s Consort made it two wins and a second from three starts when successful at Ascot Park yesterday (7 March), Roger Price is taking a conservative approach with him.

Veteran Omakau farmer and harness horse identity Jim Morgan gained a popular home town success when Jazzalong staged an auspicious debut against the 3-Year-Olds at the Central Otago fixture today (January 2).

Talented junior driver Dexter Dunn is the bookies’ favourite to emerge from the Christmas holiday period at the top of the Hot Holiday Drivers table.

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