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The forgotten challenger to Lazarus's third New Zealand Cup has taken a small step toward making the great race. And while trainer Brian Hughes isn't getting carried away with The Orange Agent's comeback, he says if he gets the glamour mare back to her best he won't be scared to take on the champ. The Orange Agent is on the third injury rehab of her career with a fracture in her cannon bone ending this season before it began but she had the hopples back on for the first time this preparation this week. "It was nothing serious but was good to give her a slow hoppled run and so far so good," says Hughes. "She looks good but very big so she is still a fair while away from racing." Hughes says a successful comeback would still not see The Orange Agent at the races until the middle of winter, when the only lucrative targets would be in Australia. "That might be one option but you would think she would need a race or two here first before throwing her in over there." But if the now six-year-old mare holds together she would ultimately be aimed at the New Zealand Cup, with the great race probably in need of her help. With so many big name pacers being exported this season, genuine group one rivals for Lazarus should he attempt to win his third Cup in November will be hard to find. This season's placegetters, Jack's Legend and Tiger Tara, would be likely along with the emerging Star Galleria and Addington officials would love to get Soho Tribeca to the race but after that horses who could be deemed even mildly threatening to Lazarus's three-peat are scarce. The forgotten challenger to Lazarus's third New Zealand Cup has taken a small step toward making the great race. And while trainer Brian Hughes isn't getting carried away with The Orange Agent's comeback, he says if he gets the glamour mare back to her best he won't be scared to take on the champ. The Orange Agent is on the third injury rehab of her career with a fracture in her cannon bone ending this season before it began but she had the hopples back on for the first time this preparation this week. "It was nothing serious but was good to give her a slow hoppled run and so far so good," says Hughes. "She looks good but very big so she is still a fair while away from racing." Hughes says a successful comeback would still not see The Orange Agent at the races until the middle of winter, when the only lucrative targets would be in Australia. "That might be one option but you would think she would need a race or two here first before throwing her in over there." But if the now six-year-old mare holds together she would ultimately be aimed at the New Zealand Cup, with the great race probably in need of her help. With so many big name pacers being exported this season, genuine group one rivals for Lazarus should he attempt to win his third Cup in November will be hard to find. This season's placegetters, Jack's Legend and Tiger Tara, would be likely along with the emerging Star Galleria and Addington officials would love to get Soho Tribeca to the race but after that horses who could be deemed even mildly threatening to Lazarus's three-peat are scarce. Michael Guerin

  Todd Macfarlane has gone past the $200,000 mark in earnings for the eighth time this season – and expect that amount to increase even further at Alexandra Park tonight (Friday). The Pukekohe horseman has also earned $100,000 every year since 1997-98 and this season he has been driving as good as he ever has been. “I’ve been getting the odd outside drive which is great. It’s also nice to drive for Brian Hughes when Tony (Herlihy) and Maurice (McKendry) aren’t available. “I’ve been happy with my season. I just want to keep winning and keep putting those smiles on owners’ faces. I’ve got a couple of nice each-way chances on Friday,” said Macfarlane, who is also the chairman of North Island Trainers and Drivers Association. Macfarlane has driven 16 winners this season ($212,017) – one more than last year and $37,397 more in stakes. He has four drives on Friday and here’s what he had to say about the quartet: Race 1: The Brian Hughes trained Gooddealehemily (1) – "She's a two-year-old American Ideal filly who had been trialling well going into her first race (June 30). She got stage fright that night and galloped early. She’s normally good off the gate so if she can secure a nice trip then I think she is a nice each-way chance. She feels like a nice type and was second favourite on debut.” Race 2: The Dave & Clare McGowan trained Stunning Shadow (9) – “He’s going to need a lot of luck from out there. He can be competitive if the breaks go his way, but he will be relying on luck. I’ve won one or two races behind him. First four.” Race 3: The Ival Brownlee trained Banner Of Art (4) – “I think he can go pretty close to winning tonight because he went really well last week. He showed a lot of gate speed from the ace and if he can repeat that again then I think the race is his for the taking. I’m as confident as I can be, but it’s racing, so each-way.” Race 8: The Brian Hughes trained Kaitlyn (4) - “It’s a toss-up between her and Ival’s horse as to which one is my best drive of the night. This filly is having her second run back from a spell and even though she went well for second last week she needed the run. She will be a lot better for that on Friday night. You have to remember she had been racing against the best three-year-old girls like Partyon before she spelled. She is a better than the average pacer who seldom goes bad grace. She also has good gait speed. Each-way.” Duane Ranger

Promising juvenile pacer Aramis might be one of the great bargains in harness racing history. Because whether he becomes a top horse or not it is hard to argue with his price: he was free. The Brian Hughes-trained gelding made it back to back wins at Alexandra Park last night, leading throughout to down fellow classy youngster King Of Swing with a 55.9 second last 800m. Hughes will now discuss with Aramis’s connections the idea of giving him a two-week spell so he can be set for the two northern Sires’ Stakes heats in October. “Two weeks doesn’t sound like much but he hasn’t been up to long and on what he has shown he deserves a shot at the Sires’ Stakes,” says Hughes. Aramis is owned by a group managed by Paul Charlton, who was the one who secured him at a mixed bloodstock sale. “The story goes the mare (Ca Cest Lamore) went through the sales with a foal at foot and was bought by Rod Croon but he didn’t want the foal,” explains Hughes. “So he gave it to Paul, who brought the other owners in and obviously they are pretty chuffed about it now.” Ironically Ca Cest Lamore, from the Interchange family, hasn’t produced a foal since but is in foal to Bettors Delight. While the winner ended the unbeaten run of King Of Swing, that wouldn’t have felt like a disaster to his connections Lincoln Farms considering Aramis is by their sire Sir Lincoln. On a quiet night at The Park, speed freak three-year-old Star Galleria was again too good for his intermediate grade rivals with much-improved Princess Makendon headed home a mares trifecta in the main trot. Michael Guerin    

The Orange Agent capped an extraordinary three weeks of harness racing with a dominant win in the Benstud Queen Of The Pacific completing her clean sweep of the Mares Triple Crown. In Chris Alford’s hands the five-year-old American Ideal mare was again in a class of her own, sweeping to the front early in the $100,000 feature and being unchallenged amid a class group of challengers. “She’s just a perfect racehorse,” Alford said of The Orange Agent, who is trained by New Zealand’s Brian Hughes. “Great to drive, just does everything that you ask.” In fact, she was in such a class of her own Alford said the $1.04 favourite almost drifted off in the night’s feature. “She was just jogging around the home turn tonight,” he said. “She just sort of switched off a little bit when she got away, but once she found the front she was going to be very hard to beat. “If she had something to run with her tonight she would have won as easy as she did last week, but she just got a little lost in front. She’s beaten Grand Circuit horses before and wouldn’t disgrace herself in the really good races.” The victory came on the back of success in the Alabar sponsored Group 3 titles Make Mine Cullen and Angelique Club Cup, a succession of three victories in three weeks that ranged from 1720m through to tonight’s 2760m staying test. Not for the first time it was the New Zealand visitors who departed with a big chunk of the change from tonight’s racing, with My Field Marshall winning a survival of the fittest in the $75,000 TAB.com.au 4YO and 5YO Championship. The Tim Butt trained five-year-old is facing a crucial campaign according to driver Anthony Butt and tonight’s bold showing, when he come with a well-timed burst to mow down a tiring field, was encouraging reaffirmation of the Art Major entire’s elite talent. “Tim’s hoping he’s going to turn into a Grand Circuit horse,” Anthony Butt said. “This is perhaps going to be the make or break for him, he’s had some health issues over the past. He’s got the ability, it’s just getting his health right and Tim’s done a great job so far of doing that.” Tonight’s Group 2 was a certainly a fitness test, with the interchanging frontrunners running a record 41.7-second lead time. While Dont Hold Back, Egodan, Spare Me Days and Mattgregor all contributed to that early pace, Butt was happy to wait at the tail of the field. “Tonight they set it up for him and he was good enough to capitalise,” Butt said. “It was working out really good. I thought there were plenty of horses in no man’s land, I thought there was going to be a bit of speed with no real dominant horse in the race.” My Field Marshall hooked on to the back of Burnaholeinmypocket in the final lap, advancing steadily while Kerryn Manning placed Mr Mojito brilliantly to pinch a break on the field. At 200m to go some 20m separated My Field Marshall from a tiring Mr Mojito and by 100m that margin had halved, with the Kiwi clipping brave Mattgregor and third-placed Mr Mojito in the dying stages to take the honours. “He’s just a lovely horse, he can do anything. He can lead, he’s very adaptable, he can sit in the field, he’s a high speed horse.” And more wins are likely to come. “Tim just took him along quietly this year. He’s doing all his races now at a tough level, he has to race against the best and you don’t always win,” Butt said. “He’ll have a wee campaign over here and he should be a nice horse in the spring again. I think they are going to move on to the Len Smith Mile, it’s just a matter of how they get there. I think they are going to stay down here for a race in between. While he keeps going like that he will stay on.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Not since Make Mine Cullen in 2012 has a mare completed the Mares’ Triple Crown. But a record-breaking win in the Alabar Angelique Club Cup at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night has star Kiwi mare The Orange Agent within one win of completing the rare harness racing treble. The Brian Hughes-trained five-year-old smashed the clock, rating 1:53.7 – a new race record – to score by almost 10m over a game Milly Perez in the 2240m Group 3. Driven by Chris Alford, whose winning double at Melton moved him within three of the 6000-victory milestone, The Orange Agent (American Ideal-Lady Fingers) gapped the opposition to add the Angelique Club Cup to the Alabar Make Mine Cullen silverware she won last week. The next target will come next Saturday night, the $100,000 Benstud Queen of the Pacific, the jewel of the Mares’ Triple Crown. “The fast lead time certainly took the sting out of some of the leaders,” Alford said of last night’s win. “She felt amazing. She just strode up, she was just travelling that hard around the last turn. She was just charging." The early speed came from New South Wales trained Rakarazor, who found the lead from the top of the track early doors and ripped through the first 630m in 43.6secs. The tempo never cooled with Rakarazor then pacing the first half of her last mile in 58.9secs before a 28.4secs third quarter. She couldn’t maintain the rage. Alford let The Orange Agent do what she does best around the final bend and in the blink of an eye she put the pacemakers away. A bold Milly Perez ran on to get second for driver John Caldow, her effort probably one of the best of her career in defeat, while Bettor Downunder for Michael Stanley scorched home for third at big odds. The Orange Agent finished off with a 27.4secs final split despite having sat three-wide throughout the last lap. So now on to this week.  Can anyone turn the tables on The Orange Agent? It’ll be tough. But connections of Milly Perez and Bettor Downunder would have been thrilled with the performances of their mares. Both savaged the line and should appreciate the 2760-metre trip, while Dennis Picker-trained Onlykidding was solid in fourth and Rocker Band found the line well out wide for fifth. You can put Heavens Trend into the forgive file from the Angelique Club Cup. She came in tailed off last after striking trouble around the final bend, while classy Mark Purdon-trained Our Golden Goddess compounded to finish 10th after parking in the chair. She is better than that. The eye-catcher was Shakahari, who was bowled over around the final bend before picking up and flashing to the line in seventh place. She should have finished much closer and could spring a surprise next weekend for Bec Bartley and Stephen O’Donoghue. Cody Winnell (HRV Media/Communications Manager)

Complete confidence in one feature at Alexandra Park tonight, none in the other. That is how champion trainer Mark Purdon is viewing Oaks night tonight as he returns from Australia with his team of stars and Auckland’s biggest week of racing kicks off. Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen totally dominate the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks, with Partyon $1.50 to remain unbeaten and stablemate Spanish Armada rated her only real danger. The two fillies have taken all them on different sides of the Tasman this season and tonight is just their second meeting, the first being when Partyon led and won the Jewels last year. The same scenario and result looks more than likely tonight as the last-start NSW Oaks winner has drawn barrier seven, while Spanish Armada is handicapped by one on the second line. Unless something truly odd happens Partyon should find the front and win, with Spanish Armada such a fine stayer she is likely to come sit parked and run the quinella. But while the All Stars look certain to win the Oaks, Purdon is far from confident with another star three-year-old, More The Better, in the Founders. Last season’s best juvenile has played second fiddle to Ultimate Machete this summer but will have plenty of support against the older horses over 1700m. But Purdon warns punters he does not think he is a good bet. “I am not happy about him being in this race but it was the only one we could get before the Derby next week so he has to start,” said Purdon. “But I am considering going to the stewards and saying we will look to drive him conservatively because his only a young three-year-old, fresh up and against horses who have won major Cups. “So while he will start and you never know what can happen I think the punters deserve to realise this is the wrong race for him and I am not very confident with him." You can’t be more blunt than that and once those sentiments are consumed by punters expect to see More The Better drift in the market. It is not an easy race to find a clear alternative though, especially with outstanding mare The Orange Agent having not raced for 14 months. She is a very special mare back from a fractured pastern and showed both gate speed and her ability to cruise quick sectionals winning at the Alex Park workouts last Saturday. At her best she would win but trainer Brian Hughes is trying not to put pressure on his stable star. “She is forward as she can be after this long away from the track but trials fitness and race fitness are different things,” says Hughes. “I won’t be giving any instructions because she has a wide draw and so much depends on what the ones inside her do. “So she will go well but I don’t want her having a gutbuster.” Doubts over the pair suggest punter’s enemy of late, Heaven Rocks and now veteran Christen Me have chances in a battle of four Jewels winners. But the race stacks us nicely for Christen Me if they decide to launch him at the start. While his stunning best form is long gone he still pushed Lazarus close in the NZ Free-For-All in November and might get revved up for a slick 1700m so could be the each way value. Tonight’s meeting also host two excellent juvenile races before next Friday’s Young Guns finals as well as plenty of top three-year-olds in support races prepping for the Derby. Michael Guerin   

Despite a nice win at the Auckland Trotting Club’s Workouts in Pukekohe last Saturday (February 11) the multiple Group One winning mare, The Orange Agent, is still very much a day-to-day proposition. Those words came from her Ardmore trainer, Brian (Bunty) Hughes, three days after the American Ideal mare won her 2500m - R55 and faster mobile in the hands of Tony Herlihy (MNZM). She nailed the six-horse trial (right-handed) by three quarters of a length, stopping the clock in 3:15.9 (mile rate 2:06) and last 800m and 400m in 59.2 and 27.8. The Orange Agent started started from the outside of the front-line and Herlihy eased her to the rear early. The classy mare then got a drag into the race from Bet Out Of El at the 700m and then in the lane had too much sprint for her opponents. She won untouched. That was her first run since winning at Cambridge Raceway on January 8 last year when she triumphed in the Group Two Waikato Flying Mile in 1:56.3. Hughes said he was delighted with where she was at, but wasn’t getting too carried away. “When you have a horse go through what she’s been through then you can only take her one day at a time. One day she could be fine and the next she could end up lame. “She’s healthy now but you never take anything for granted in this game. It’s all about getting her fit for premier racing at Alexandra Park next month,” Hughes said. The Orange Agent suffered two breaks in her hind leg and was boxed for three months at a time - twice. At the time of her injury she was New Zealand’s best pacing mare and then while she was on the road to recovery vets found another fracture in her pastern in July last year. “You can’t look too far ahead with a horse like this, but if she comes through her Auckland races okay then there are Australia options later in the season. “It would be just great to have her back to her best, because she was a quality mare and one of the best of her sex going around,” Hughes said. The Orange Agent has raced 25 times for 18 wins, four seconds, and banked $562,175 in stakes. Her Group One wins came in the Northern Oaks (3yo), the Nevele R Fillies Final, the Harness Jewels Diamond - all in 2015. She has had two starts in Australia for a Breeders Crown heat win at Ballarat on August 22, 2015 and then eight days later crushed her 11 opponents in the Group One $175,000 Breeders Crown Final at Melton's Tabcorp Park. She was also crowned 4-Year-Old Pacing Mare of the Year at the 2016 Harness Racing Awards in Christchurch. The Orange Agent’s first race-day assignment will be in either the Group Three $25,000 Lincoln Farms Free-For-All 'The Founders Pace' or the Charles Roberts $20,000 North Island Standardbred Breeders Stakes for 4-year-old and pacing mares on March 3. “I can’t stress enough that’s she’s day-to-day proposition, but at this stage she is healthy and we just need to get her fit,” Hughes reiterated. Duane Ranger

Champion driver Maurice McKendry described Hughie Green’s return to harness racing at Alexandra Park last night as “perfect.” But while the Magic Man might have been happy with the nail-biting win remarkably plenty of punters weren’t after one of the strangest betting drifts in recent New Zealand pacing memory. Hughie Green opened the $2.80 favourite last Thursday night for the $20,000 Spring Cup, which even then seemed overs considering this was the horse who pushed Have Faith In Me so close in last season’s Auckland Cup, beating home the likes of Smolda, Ohoka Punter and Tiger Tara. But things got really strange in the hour before the race, with Hughie Green drifting wildly to start $4.10 on the tote, with Start Dreaming shortening into the clear favourite. The latter had no luck so her run is best forgotten but the fact a horse who could rightly claim to be the North Island’s best pacer didn’t start favourite, especially after a sizzling last 400m when winning at the workouts the Saturday before, is an inexplicable punting oddity. The punters who did stay strong had a nervous few moments at the top of the straight as Hughie Green, who began brilliantly before trailing No Doctor Needed, lost momentum up the passing lane at the same moment the greatly-improved The Faithful shot clear. But it was a sign of his class that the big fella was able to gather himself up and make up two lengths in the last 200m, even with the final 400m in 26.9 seconds. “It was a bit touch and go there but he sprinted well,” said McKendry. “And that was a perfect return. His manners were good, he didn’t have a hard run but he still go the win.” Hughie Green wouldn’t be out of place in the New Zealand Cup but trainer Brian Hughes told HRNZ not only will he not head to the great race but that Cup week has been ruled out all together. So he can expect a solid diet of Alexandra Park racing aimed at the Auckland Cup on a December 31. No Doctor Needed was a close up third and remains on track to be the sole northerner in the Cup. It was a good night for Hughes’s small racing team as Neighlor recorded an impressive win earlier for McKendry. The three-year-old made up for a luckless performance in the first Sires’ Stakes heat at Cambridge, where he was trapped three wide, with a last stride win and will likely head to the second northern heat of that series. One horse who was already heading south to chase further riches but only sweetened that trip was Realmein, who overcame a 40m handicap to win Friday’s main trot. He bolted home in his best performance for at least a couple of years, trotting 3:27.1 for the 2700m standing start after never being on the marker pegs. The eight-year-old son of Real Desire looks back to his best and will head south for the elite trots over the next six weeks.   Michael Guerin

Don’t let the usual fresh up harness hoodoo put you off Hughie Green in the $20,000 Spring Cup at Alexandra Park tonight. Because while it seems the majority of our pacing elite get beaten in the first start of their campaigns these days tonight’s sprint looks the big fella’s to lose. Already this season we have seen the absolute best pacers return, be driven cold and finish on nicely in the best races, none of which pays the punter. It is often the nature of open class races early in the season, with those at the front of the field having quinellaed all three open class races so far this season. Which could make you think twice about backing Hughue Green off a 10m handicap over 2200m tonight, especially as the pacing giant hasn’t raced since April and hasn’t won since December. His astute and conservative trainer Brian Hughes doesn’t do much to boost punter confidence, admitting he wouldn’t be surprised if Hughie was beaten even though he is happy with his condition. But for all of that, picking something to beat the favourite is hard to do with any confidence. Hughie Green is, after all, a genuine open class force, good enough to be pipped on the post by Have Faith In Me in last season’s Auckland Cup, beating home the likes of Smolda, Tiger Tara and Ohoka Punter. That only confirmed the ability he showed right from his three-year-old days and he has regularly reeled off sensational sectionals at The Park. He did something similar at the Pukekohe workouts last Saturday, continuing a strong spring build up with an easy win in 55.7 seconds for his final 800m, the last 400m in a sizzling 26. He was reined up by driver Maurice McKendry, insuring his lungs were opened up and his mind put on the job for tonight’s sprint. While the 10m handicap is hardly ideal, he has only seven rivals and three of those  the front have never raced in open class, the exception being Beyond The Silence who won this race two years ago but has battled since. Of his rivals joining Hughie Green on the 10m, Start Dreaming was a brilliant last start winner, her 53.1 second last 800m the fastest officially clocked at Alexandra Park. But this is her first serious open class contest and while she may measure up she has yet to prove she can beat an Auckland Cup placegetter. So you would want $5 for her compared with a base line dividend of $2 for Hughie Green to make her value. Rocker Band is a Jewels winner but new to open class so that leaves the consistent No Doctor Needed as the only other threat and he has beaten both Hughie Green and his glamour stablemate The Orange Agent before. So he might be the better upset option a price approaching $9-$10, but in reality, unless Hughie Green misses away -- and his standing start manners are usually good --- he should defy the first-up defeat trend. Also returning tonight is handy intermediate grade trotter Blackguard’s Corner, good enough to finish fifth to Monbet in the Rowe Cup. He is now trained by Tony Herlihy and gets a healthy 30m start over key rivals Realmein, who looks back to his best and the enigmatic Cool Cobber.   Michael Guerin

Group 3 Summer Cup winner of last season Hughie Green will resume in the Spring Cup at Alexandra Park on September 30. The big son of Art Major and Alta Serena will then line-up in The Holmes DG Pace on October 14 at the same venue. “That’s all we have got planned for him right now. After the Holmes DG then we will see where he’s at and plan his racing schedule from there. He isn’t nominated for the New Zealand Cup. I think the Auckland Cup at the end of the year is the long-term target,” Gareth Hughes said. Hughes and Jon Habraken are working the 11-strong Brian Hughes team at present, while the man nicknamed Bunty recovers from a hip replacement operation. Hughes’ son Gareth said his father was pleased with the way Hughie Green won his second Workout at Pukekohe last Saturday. “He had his first Workout the week before on the same track and finished fourth of four. He just went around to get him back in the groove that day. That was his first race since he spelled with a second behind No Doctor Needed in March. “He suffered a virus earlier in the year and Saturday’s win showed us that he is developing nicely towards his season debut at the end of the month,” Hughes said. The 5-year-old gelding and regular pilot Maurice McKendry stepped nicely in Saturday’s right-handed 2500m stand and were in front of their three opposition after 150 metres. McKendry then dictated the pace to beat Start Dreaming, Ideal Belle, and Robbie Burns by a length, two lengths and a length. 'Hughie' stopped the clock in 3:12.4 (mile rate 2:03.8) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 57 and 27 flat. “We are pleased with the way he has matured. Maurice never really asked much of him on Saturday. They got a soft lead and he won well. We just want to keep sharpening him up as we head towards his first run back on September 30. “He will trial again at Alexandra Park this Saturday (September 17) to sharpen him up,” said Hughes. Hughie Green, who is owned by John Green and was bred by his family, has won nine of his 20 starts and placed in four others for $162,199 in stakes. He won two of his seven starts last season and his biggest win to date came in the $30,000 Group 3 Summer Cup at Alexandra Park last December when beating Besotted, Tiger Tara and Have Faith In Me with a 1:58.2 mile rate. Thirteen months before that he was a hot favourite going into the Group 1 Sires Stakes 3YO Final, before galloping inward in the home straight. “Those days are well and truly behind him. He’s a big mature horse now with a few more brains. We are quite confident that he will have a good season,” Hughes said. Meanwhile, stablemate and multiple Group 1 winning mare, Alta Serena is still boxed and can walk gingerly in a small yard while she recovers from a leg injury. Duane Ranger

Brian (Bunty) Hughes has two nice 3-year-olds lining up at Cambridge Raceway tonight (Thursday) – a filly and a gelding which the stable both rated each-way prospects. Hughes’ right hand man, and son, Gareth is one of the most humble horsemen going around, but reading between the lines while talking to him you can’t help that feel Youshallnotpass(race 4) and Runrunjimmydunn (race 9) are above average. Hughes said they could both win, but rated American Ideal filly Youshallnotpassthe better chance of the two – simply because she had drawn better. “Dad has a high opinion of them both, and even though they have been trialling well, they both badly need racing experience. “The filly has drawn well at four, but Runrunjimmydunnhas drawn eight of eight in a smaller field,” Hughes said. Youshallnotpass will make her race-night debut in the $6,000 Gold Ace A Nevele R Stud Fillies & Mares Mobile. She qualified 4.1. seconds under the required time at Pukekohe in January and comes into her first race with a half-length (2:04.1 mile rate) victory at the Alexandra Park Workouts last Saturday. Tonight’s pilot, Maurice McKendry, has reined the bay in all five of her trials and workouts races. “She’s a nice filly who is a home-bred (out of Artiscape mare Twice As Great). She qualified as a 2-year-old. Ring-craft and experience is what she’s lacking now but she has the ability and draw to win. “We will take just one race at a time with her, but the Sires Stakes at Cambridge in a fortnight is the next mission for Runrunjimmydunn. He’s ready to run a race and I think it’s only the draw that can stop him from going close,” Hughes said. The 30-year-old Clevedon trainer said Runrunjimmydunn ran a brave third behind Casino Belle at Alexandra Park on March 31. “We gave him one run as a 2-year-old and then tipped him out. The Sires Stakes has always been the plan. We will know this month if he’s up to that class, but we certainly like him all right. He also paces very well,” said Hughes. He will also be driven by McKendry in the $6,000 Ames Waikato TAB Mobile Pace. Runrunjimmydunn is a son of American Ideal and the un-raced Delightful Paula (by Jaguar Spur). He hails from a nice family.  Older siblings Whambam (Christian Cullen) won 18 races and more than $580,000 here and overseas; Tosti Girl (Christian Cullen) won seven races and just under $200,000; and Delightful Christian (Christian Cullen) won nine races and just under $220,000. Runrunjimmydunn has finished second at his last two Alexandra Park Workouts the last two Saturdays. “He will benefit from Thursday’s run. He’s done a good job since spelling. We know he can pace a bit, but it’s one step at a time with him for now,” Hughes said. He and his father work about 13 at Clevedon, spearheaded by The Orange Agent and Hughie Green. The former is still boxed and is recovering from a leg injury, while the latter is now five, but hasn’t been nominated for the New Zealand Cup. Duane Ranger   Super Selector - Matt Markham Race 1: Zakspatrol, Brydon Delight, Elliot Daniel, Shardon's Pearl Race 2: Mr Natural, Danke, Lundqvist, Donna May Race 3: Sifty Tuesday, Count Landeck, Drover's Eyre, Chrissie Jet Race 4: Youshallnotpass, Up All Nite, Opoutama, Stars Delight Race 5: Sunset Peak, My Sky, Creamee, Little Bro Race 6: Alta Valencia, Charleston Belle, On The Razzle, Lincoln's Keepsake Race 7: Awesome Dude, Gotta Go Electobet, Gotta Go Jet Away, Dreamy Nights Race 8: Inkyroe, Saint Michel, Cool Sun, Springfield Hugh Race 9: Runrunjimmydunn, The C E O, Spyda, Rev The Chev   Best Bet: Sunset Peak (Race 5) Value: Alta Valencia (Race 6)

Twelve months ago Hughie Green was burning up the tracks on his way to the NZ Sires Stakes final at Addington and went into that race a hot favourite. However it all unraveled a bit on Cup Day for the huge son of Art Major when after being repeatedly attacked in front throughout the race, Hughie Green veered to the inside of the track in the home straight when tried with the whip. Although Hughie Green came back to race with distinction at Alexandra Park after that, he just didn't quite seem the same horse he had been earlier in the season. So instead of chasing the NZ Derby and the Harness Jewels, 'Bunty Hughes' put Hughie Green aside for the season after he  finished third in the Great Northern Derby. Reappearing at trials in the last few weeks, Hughie Green has looked much more like his old self with several impressive performances and was sent out a warm favourite in his first race back at Alexandra Park last night. Away well for regular pilot,Maurice McKendry, Hughie Green circled the field mid race and once he found the front it was race over. Allowed to stretch out a bit from the 800 metres, Hughie Green dashed home in 55.9 and 26.8 to win by an ever increasing 5 3/4 lengths with Maurice sitting quietly in the cart. The run certainly impressed Maurice who is never one to get carried away about a horse. " He did that so well without much urging from me." " He is such a lovely horse to drive and gives you a great feel." " Once I got the front I was pretty confident as those back markers had to do a lot of work to get handy," Maurice said. Hughie Green has filled out between seasons into his massive 17 hand frame and looks to have strengthened up appreciably as well. " He has certainly filled out since last year and feels a lot stronger as well this time in." " If he keeps improving over the next month, then they may have to have a look at a race like the Auckland Cup," Maurice said. With the open grade in New Zealand going through a transition phase at the moment, Hughie Green is more than capable of winning a race like this years Auckland Cup. Harnesslink Media

One of the real superstars of the harness racing scene in New Zealand in the just completed season has been the American Ideal three year old filly The Orange Agent. While showing some promise at two where the The Orange Agent won once and was placed once from four starts, she hadn't really given given out any signals to what a champion three year she would become. When you look at her record for the 2014/15 season, the thing that instantly takes your eye is the length of the season she had. Active in early October 2014, The Orange Agent would be facing the starter for the18th time in the last eleven months when she lined up last Sunday for the Breeders Crown final at Tabcorp Park Melton. It is a huge season for any horse but it takes a special three year old filly to still be at her peak last Sunday after such a huge season at the elite level of our industry. Brian Hughes has done a magnificent job keeping her at such a high level for so long and Brian is sure he knows why The Orange Agent has been able to take it all in her stride. " She takes absolutely nothing out of herself away from the racetrack." " She is a terrible horse to jog as she is just so lazy." " As for trackwork, she doesn't give you any indication of how good she is." " I have always regarded it as a sign of a good horse when they look after themselves away from the track like she does," Brian said. Driver Maurice McKendry, the longtime stable driver for the Hughes barn has been along for the ride all season and there is no mistaking when talking to Maurice about how highly he rates the now four year old mare. " She doesn't always do everything right but she can make up for it with her ability." " It wasn't my intention to race Start Dreaming with a lap to go in the Breeders Crown final but she bolted on me when the other horse came around us and it took me 400 metres to get her back under control." " To go on and win the race after doing that is just another sign of how good this filly is," Maurice said. Safely back in New Zealand, The Orange Agent will now have a short five week break before being aimed at the mares races around Christmas such as the Queen Of Hearts. Brian is adamant that the  five weeks break is plenty for The Orange Agent. " She is a great doer out of work so if I leave her out too long I will never get her ready in time," Brian said. With the loss of Adore Me from the open class mares ranks for this season, The Orange Agent looks well capable of taking over her mantle as New Zealand's leading racemare. Harnesslink Media

There have been plenty of brilliant fillies in the history of harness racing in New Zealand but after today's run in the Group 1 Harness Jewels $150,000 three year old Diamond at Ashburton, The Orange Agent could well be the best of them all.   Away well from barrier two to lead early for driver Maurice McKendry, The Orange Agent brushed the first quarter in 27.1 and the first half in 55.1 as several of her race rivals had a wee look at the favourite.   Steadied through the third quarter of 30.1, Maurice pushed the go button at the top of the straight and the daughter of American Ideal burst clear and then comfortably held off the pack, still having a length to spare at the finish.   Fight For Glory and Natalie Rasmussen went another great race to again finish second to The Orange Agent while Start Dreaming and David Butcher confirmed the high opinion held of her with a tough run for third   The Orange Agent paced the mile in a brilliant 1:51.1 which took one second off the New Zealand record held by Venus Serena.   More impressive was the fact that after an opening 800 metres in 55.1, The Orange Agent still brushed her last 400 metres in a sizzling 25.6 and that was on a chilly day not conducive to really quick times   Maurice was all smiles on returning to the birdcage.   " She felt tremendous today, so a lot of the credit must go to trainer "Bunty" Hughes."   " The way she felt on the corner, I thought it would take something special to beat her."   " She pricked her ears with 50 metres to go so she still had plenty in the tank," Maurice said.   Weather the Australians get to see this speed machine has yet to be decided but if she does cross the Tasman the Australians are in for a treat.   Harnesslink Media  

Brian Hughes has a habit of winning the Group One Northern Oaks every decade…..and his 10-year anniversary just happens to be at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park this Friday night.   The man they call Bunty bred, owned and trained Iman to win the 1995 edition of the Group One classic for 3-year-old fillies, and then in 2005 Hughes owned and trained Tosti Girl to her neck victory over Cruzee Lass. They were the first and fourth favourites respectively. This Friday Hughes will line up one of the best fillies he has ever co-owned, co-bred or trained in the Pascoes The Jewellers sponsored 2700m mobile feature – and naturally The Orange Agent will again be a hot favourite.   “She’s a classy mare all right. She has come through her last win very well. She’s eaten up everything and is rearing to go. She hasn't had a workout or trial since that race but Dad (Bunty) has been putting the work into her.   “From the draw she is going to be tough to beat,” said Gareth Hughes, son of Bunty, and a man who does a lot with his father’s team.   The Orange Agent has drawn perfectly at four this week and compared to her six draw last time out in the second $20,000 Nevele R Fillies heat.   That night she looked like she would have to settle for the runner-up prize after second favourite Democrat Party got away from her on the home turn.   “She’s got a bad habit of drifting wide simply because she goes too fast for her own good around the final bend. Once she got balanced up last start she came again to win. That was a very good performance.   “We are confident she will fly around the final corner untroubled this time,” Hughes said.   The 3-year-old daughter of American Ideal and Lady Fingers has now won seven of her 12 starts and just over $105,000 in purses.   She is yet to nail a Group One victory but did win the $80,000 Caduceus Club Ladyship Stakes at Alexandra Park in December.   All seven of her wins have been at at northern headquarters, but she is yet to start over the 2700m.   “The distance won’t hurt her, especially from the draw. The Oaks has been one of Dad’s main targets with her for some time now. It’s a race that means a lot to him. He’s already won it twice,” Hughes junior said.   Another race that means a great deal to Hughes is the Great Northern Derby, which will be run on Friday week – Auckland Cup night.   The Hughes trained Hughie Green will line up one of the favourites in the sixth race on Friday – the $20,000 Derby Prelude.   With some of the best 3-year-olds missing this week a good performance will be required to make the final Derby field.   Follow The Stars, fresh from his placings in Australia, will be tough to beat but Hughes is confident Hughie Green will put in another bold showing.   “He did really well to beat Ohoka Punter last start and Dad says he’s progressed nicely since then. Both he and The Orange Agent have done everything he has asked of them.   "If I was going to single one out at this stage it would be ‘Agent’, simply because she has the better draw and the Derby Final isn’t for another nine days. Sure we will be trying to win it but the main goal is to make the final,” said Hughes.   In fact the Hughes team has five winning chances on Friday.   Gamma Lady won well here a month ago on debut and then was a nice workouts winner on Saturday. Hughes rated her right up there with The Orange Agent as one of his stable’s best winning chances in race four.   “She is flying at the moment for a young horse that has only had one run." "My Kiwi Mate can also win the last race, while Girls Are Better can also follow up her good trial form in ‘Gamma’s’ race,” said Hughes.   “She ran a nice second behind Gamma Lady in the same Workout at ‘The Park’ on Saturday,” he added. Duane Ranger - Courtesy of Steve Richardson (TAB)

It took driver Josh Dickie just a few seconds to find out how good Gamma Lady was at Alexandra Park last Friday. And the talented horseman liked what he felt. The first northern fillies juvenile pace of the season was a two horse war on the tote and so it proved to be on the track, with southerner Nek Time the leader and Gamma Lady the midfield stalker. Often in a juvenile race at Alexandra Park leading is enough to get you home and that looked to be the case at the top of the 400m mark, with Nek Tike going well and Gamma Lady forced four wide. But when the daughter of Mach Three straightened she put her head down like a little pro and demonstrated high leg speed to catch the leader in the shadows of the post. It was impressive stuff from the Brian Hughes-trained filly, rating 1:58.6 for the 1700m and she must have clocked not much over 27 seconds for her last 400m. Dickie got the drive through his association with Rosslands Stud, who bred and own Gamma Lady and he was beaming. “That was a big win and she is a lovely filly,” said Dickie. “They don’t often show you speed like that so she has a big future. “And it is exciting because she has the final of this series not too far away,” he said in reference to the Delightful Lady Classic, the culmination of the Young Guns fillies series. Gamma Lady is bred to be good, being out of Maheer Lady, who won six herself and was a daughter of Fern Glen. Michael Guerin - Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand  

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