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The town’s rugby league team isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire, but Newcastle sure does know how to produce promising young harness racing drivers. Evidence of that came at Alexandra Park last Friday night when Newcastle 15-year-old Andrew Bourke claimed the eighth edition of the Lizzie Of Rosslands Rising Stars Kidz Kart Drivers Series. Twelve Kidz Kartz drivers (eight girls) took part in the six-race series at Cambridge Raceway and Alexandra Park. Bourke, was one of two Australians in the line-up. Gemma Howard-Coney, who finished fifth, was also representing New South Wales. Both Islands here were also represented. Bourke won the Series easily with 70 points. Tayla Collins (Taranaki) and Kaleb Bublitz (Cambridge) both finished with 57 points but Collins won the runner-up prize on a count-back. Bourke was rapt with his win. “I’ve competed in the New South Wales Champs, the Mini Miracle Mile and the Interdominions back home but this is the best I have ever done. “It’s different driving over here, but I loved it. I’m glad I won because this will be my last year with the mini trotters,” Bourke said. Three races were staged at Cambridge Raceway last Tuesday and then another three at Alexandra Park on Friday. The drivers sat behind ponies that were allocated to them. The champion pony – Ruff Rufus was trained by long-time Kidz Kartz stalwart, Murray Goldsworthy from the Kumeu Club. Bourke is in Year 10 at Maitland Grossmann High School and said he would like to be a vet when he left school and also drive in his spare time. “I really enjoyed driving over here. Alexandra Park was very different to back home. That’s the first time I’ve driven that way around. “It was a memorable trip and I would like to thank all the organisers and hosts for what they did for us. I really appreciated it and had a great time in New Zealand,” Bourke said. Series spokeswoman Gayleen MacKinnon termed the two-night event as a success and paid a special tribute to the series sponsors: The Hoggard family, Drill Force, Dunstan Horse feeds, Wallfield Farm, Tony Shaw Transport, Brogden Horse transport, Lincoln Farms, and Photo Force Photography. The final points were: Andrew Bourke (NSW) 70, Tayla Collins (Taranaki) 57, Kaleb Bublitz (Cambridge) 57, Jordyn Bublitz (Cambridge) 52, Anna Howard-Coney (NSW) 51; Brittany Edwards (Franklin) 46, Navana McLachlan (Kumeu) 42, Temika Apuwai Bishop (Otago) 39, Harrison Darby (Franklin) 39, Tyrone Neil (Canterbury) 35, Amber Mitchell (Franklin) 33, Kate Coppins (Waikato) 31. Past winners of the Lizzie Of Rosslands Rising Stars Drivers Series have been: 2015: Kerryn Tomlinson (Canterbury); Kerryn Tomlinson (Canterbury); 2014: Linda Pringle (Kumeu); 2013: Sheridan Rapley (Kumeu); 2012: Dylan Ferguson (Waikato); 2011: Dylan Ferguson (Waikato); 2010: Shane Chalklen (Franklin).   Duane Ranger

This season’s Parawai Thames Grass Cup winner, Sir Richie, is now the 2017 North Island Country Cups champion. The 5-year-old Christian Cullen - Wicklow Express gelding won last night's (Tuesday) $25,000 Revital Fertilisers sponsored event at Cambridge Raceway by two lengths. It was Sir Richie’s seventh career win in 35 starts and he was the $23.40, 10th favourite of the 11 starters. He was the seventh highest qualifier for the Final. For his trainers Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick, it was their first North Island Country Cups title. “It’s really satisfying winning a race that you have set a horse for several months ago. He’s been a bit unlucky in recent starts and Maurice (McKendry) has got on well with the horse for most of his career. “He might have paid more than $20 but going into the Final I thought he was an each-way chance because it was a fairly even field and any horse with a good trip could have won,” Telfer said. After a nice start from gate two McKendry settled Sir Richie third and then nabbed the one-one position at the bell. In the lane Sir Richie had too much stamina and held out second favourite Mo Casino (Zac Butcher) and the pace-making, Beyond The Silence (Lyn Neal). Sir Richie paced the 2700m stand in 3:23.1 (mile rate 2:01 even) and came home in 60.9 and 30.5. Telfer said Sir Richie’s owners could be looking to sell him but he would know more when they had returned from overseas. “He’s found Alexandra Park a bit tough in recent starts and I know there was talk about selling him. Tim and Jane Fleming from Taranaki own him and we will be talking to them when they return from Canada. “Apparently they are delighted with his win. They watched the race on the internet,” said Telfer who is working about 25 standardbreds with Garlick at Ardmore. “He’s a good honest horse who would do a good job in Australia, but I think there’s still a win or two left in him here. Maurice drove the horse a treat last night. “He gave him the good trip and then got him home without over-using him. We are rapt. That was a lovely drive,” Telfer said. Sir Richie was bred by Brian Fleming. Meanwhile, the Peter and Vaughan Blanchard trained Tact Ollie (Peter Ferguson) was the only horse to record a sub-two minute mile-rate at yesterday's twilight meeting. The 5-year-old Badlands Hanover gelding notched up his second career win in the second event - $10,000 Lizzie Of Rosslands Kidz Kartz Pace. The most impressive winner of the evening came in the third event when the Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson trained Three Kisses (Hollis), won the $8,000 WF Feeds Maiden Pace by a whopping 10 lengths. It was the 3-year-old Mach Three filly's first win in 11 starts.   Duane Ranger    

Second top qualifier, Everything, only needs to step to be a huge chance in this evening's $25,000 North Island Country Cups Final at Cambridge Raceway. This season's Otaki and Stratford Grass Cup winner has won twice and placed twice from four standing starts, but it's the first 100 metres that worries his Cambridge trainer/driver Nicky Chilcott. “He’s been a bit iffy in his last couple of stands. Last start at Hawera he missed away and then recovered to run third. I haven’t given him too much practice from a stand because I think more could worsen the problem. “We won’t be able to afford to give them a start this time because horses like Fleeting Grin (top qualifier) can run a quick 2700m off the front. Apart from that little concern the horse is very well and it’s amazing to think just how much he’s progressed this season,” Chilcott said. Everything shot to prominence on January 29 when he nailed the first of his two Country Cups at Otaki. Everything, who is out of the seven-win ($45, 478) Camtastic mare For The Girls, won the Otaki Cup in 3:57.1 (mile rate for the 3,000m stand: 2:07.1) and home in 58.5 and 30.6. Then on March 5 the 5-year-old Sands A Flyin gelding was the $3.40 favourite when winning the Stratford Grass Cup in 3:31.6 (mile rate for the 2,600m stand: 2:10.9) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 60.3 and 29.6. “He’s a special horse because he keeps on turning up. He’s also such a lovely pacer to drive because you can sit parked, trail, or get back in the field with him - and then when you push the ‘go-button’ he goes. “He also relaxes when you want him to. He’s an absolute pleasure to be around as well. Imajollywally is the horse to beat but if my fella can step then he’s right in this,” Chilcott said. The 45-year-old Cambridge horsewoman has a special affinity with Everything. On the first day of her Otaki Cup win the gelding notched up her 400th training victory. Everything won four of his first five workouts before qualifying 4.6 seconds under time at Cambridge Raceway on July 9 in 2015. "Les White, who works for me, noticed that the horse wasn’t doing much and I got him through Les. He did a lot of his early work, so the horse is a credit to him,” Chilcott said. She said Everything galloped on debut at Alexandra Park on August 14 and then defibrillated next start. He was then turned out and has come back a new horse winning four of his last six starts. “We formed the Syndicate because a lot of people wanted me to get them involved in racing. We have had a wee bit of success to date but nothing major. “It’s all about fun and affording what you can. Some of the 30 to 40 owners might only only a hair out of the tail but they will have fun. I’m sure they did tonight even though I didn’t see too many on-course," aid Chilcott. Everything was bred by Hambletonian Limited. He is owned by the Summer Fun Number 1 Syndicate. Tonight’s Revital Fertilisers-sponsored NI Country Cups Final is the feature event at tonight's 10-strong HarnessRacing Waikato – Bay of Plenty twilight meeting. Chilcott also said Everything was her best winning chance. Past North Island Country Cup winners have been: 2016 (at New Plymouth) - The Anne-Marie Best trained Tijuana Bromac (David Butcher). 2015 (at Manawatu Raceway): The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained and driven Darcee. 2014 (at Hawera): The Pat & Mike O'Brien trained Beckinsale (Dylan Ferguson - j). 2013 (at Manawatu): The Tony Grayling trained Brydon Delight (Sailesh Abernethy - j). 2012 (at New Plymouth): The Ian Small trained Zenola Seelster (David Butcher). 2011 (at Alexandra Park): The Barry Purdon & Scott Phelan trained Kobe Bryant (Brent Mangos). 2010 (at Alexandra Park): The Maurice McKendry trained and driven Percy The Punter. 2009: (at Alexandra Park): The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained and driven Ohoka Dallas. 2008 (at Alexandra Park): The Geoff Small trained Victory Spirit (David Butcher). 2007: (at Alexandra Park): The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained and driven Armbro The Thug. 2006: (at Alexandra Park): The Pat & Mike O'Brien trained Kay N Kayes (Peter Ferguson). North Island Country Cup winners this season were: December 28: Te Awamutu Grass Cup - The John & Josh Dickie trained Joanednobettor (Josh Dickie). January 15: Rotorua Grass Cup - The Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett trained Full Speed Ahead (Todd Macfarlane). January 21: Parawai Grass Cup - The Steve Telfer & Chris Garlick trained Sir Richie (Maurice McKendry). January 27: Wellington Grass Cup - The Andrew Stuart trained Pay Me Visa (Kyle Marshall). January 29: Otaki Grass Cup - The Nicky Chilcott trained and driven Everything. February 5: Tauranga Grass Cup - The Chris Webber trained Fleeting Grin (Peter Ferguson). February 9: The Manawatu Cup - The Mike Berger trained Lusty Mac (Philip Butcher). February 12: Wanganui Grass Cup - The Brent Mangos trained and driven Maxim. February 24: The Franklin Country Cup (Alexandra Park) - The Brent Mangos trained and driven Maxim. March 2: Taranaki Grass Cup - The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained Walkinshaw (Scott Phelan). March 5: Stratford Grass Cup - The Nicky Chilcott trained and driven Everything. March 31: Palmerston North Gold Cup - The Mike Berger trained Bettor Spirits (Philip Butcher). April 17: Hawera Grass Cup - The Arna Donnelly trained and driven Imajollywally. The top qualifiers for the North Island Country Cups Final (with points) are: Fleeting Grin 39, Everything 36, Imajollywally 22, Maxim 20, Full Speed Ahead 18, Bettor Spirits 15, Sir Richie 15, Pay Me Visa 14, Beyond the Silence 10, Joanednobettor 10, Lusty Mac 10, Mo Casino 10, Walkinshaw 10, Extra Guinness 8, Kenrick, Eldolar 5, Major Classic 4, Dikerry 3, Hudy Haxwell 3, The Tracker 3. Duane Ranger

Don’t be put off by Walkinshaw’s terrible standing start record in the $25,000 Country Cups Final at Cambridge today. Because if the best version of the smart four-year-old turns up he can overcome his 20m handicap, even on a track where chasing can be hard work. The field brings together mainly the journeymen of the country pacing circuit, whereas Walkinshaw and Bettor Spirits are genuine Alexandra Park horses who have raced in the big time. Walkinshaw finished third to Lazarus and Chase The Dream in last season’s Northern Derby but has failed to reach those heights this campaign. “He has had some up and down runs but the grade he is racing in can be very, very tough especially at the carnivals,”says trainer-driver Tony Herlihy. Which is one reason Walkinshaw has had five standing start races without a placing. Two of his most recent stands have been behind superstars in Vincent and Heaven Rocks at Alex Park premier meeting, while another of his standing start failures was in the Sales Series Pace at Kaikoura. The last was in the Hawera Cup last start when he clearly didn’t handle the softer track so his poor stand statistics may not be relevant and with the front line for today’s 2700m stand not overly imposing he looks the one to beat. “You always need luck in this sort of race at Cambridge but he is well and he can definitely win,” said Herlihy. Bettor Spirits has similar career highlights to Walkinshaw but his manners early and luck from the 30m backmark could decide his chances. Victory with either Eldolar or Imajollywally in the Final could cap a huge season for trainer Arna Donnelly, who has been in career-best form. With a stable lacking any high-priced stars Donnelly has won a personal best 24 races this season, taking her past the 100 career training wins and she sits an impressive 14th on the national trainers premiership. One of the other highlights of today’s twilight meeting will be another northern two-year-old trot, races which have been better supported early this season than in the past. If Paramount King trots all the way he should win race one as he uses the race as his final trial before heading southern to take on baby trotters who have been racing in far bigger fields. “Our horse may not have the experience some of the southerners have but we think he is pretty good,” said trainer John Dickie, one of the best in the business with young trotters. Michael Guerin

When the eldest son of 2005 New Zealand Cup winner Mainland Banner won at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday night it continued a long and successful association with Bruce Tarry and the Mitchell family. Tarry, who co-owns Stunin Banner, wasn’t on track to watch the 8-year-old entire notch up his 16th career win in the $9,000 Furnware Industries R60 & faster handicap due to the severe weather warnings. “I live at Mangawhai Heads and was going to come down but when I rang Todd he said Cambridge could cope with the rain but the strong winds could have posed problems. He wasn’t sure at that stage if the meeting would progress. “I like to get and watch my horses run as much as possible, but this time Iremained a bit cautious and stayed at home. It was a great training and driving effort by Todd. We were delighted,” Tarry said. Stunin Banner started from the 10m handicap and led after 100m due to the only horse off the front line (Romanite) breaking at the start. Mitchell then controlled the pace throughout to hold on and win by three quarters of a length and a length over Ideal Roman (David Butcher) and Lola Jones (Todd Macfarlane). The son of McArdle paced the 2700m stand in 3;26.7 (mile rate 2:03.1) and came home in 56.9 and 28.1. He was the $16.70 seventh favourite (of eight). "He's been a nice horse to claim. Todd claimed him from Graeme Rogerson at the Cambridge meeting last May,and he's done a good job for us since. I think we paid $6,000 for him and we've so far got about $10,000 to $15,000 in the bank," said Tarry. The retired businessman owns Stunin Banner with Mitchell, his partner Catherine Cameron, and Murray Gower. He was bred by Ian Dobson. Tarry said he had raced horses with Mitchell's father Robert for many years and got to know Todd through that connection. "I think Todd had one of his first drives behind one of my horses back in the early 1980s and then when his Dad retired from training I sent my horses to Todd. "I go back several decades with the Mitchells and they have always been very professional horsemen and treated our horses very well. That was a great front-running drive from Toddy on Thursday," Tarry said. Stunin Banner has now had 81 starts for 16 wins, 17 seconds and 12 thirds. His stake earnings currently sit at $129,987. Mitchell has now had three wins and five placings (plus three fourths) from 16 starts with the bay. Stunin Banner is the second of five foals left by the 17-race ($684,579) Christian Cullen - Corporate Banner mare, Mainland Banner. Foal number four Rocker Band (by Rocknroll Hanover) was born via embryo transfer. She has so far won 10 of her 32 starts including this year's Group One $100,000 Ladyship Cup at Melton's Tabcorp Park on February 17. "We always knew Stunin Banner was from a good family and he has given us some happy times. I think claiming is great for harness racing. It gives everyone the same drink out of the well," Tarry said. Tarry, a former galloping owner, said he loved harness racing because of its people. "They are down-to-earth friendly people who are all trying to make a buck. I love the game and will never forget winning my first Group One with Linda Lovegrace. "I'm hoping Spandau Ballet will follow suit," Tarry said. Stunin Banner will line up next at Cambridge Raceway in a fortnight. There were eight races at Thursday's Harness Racing Waikato - Bay of Plenty meeting and eight different stables were successful. David Butcher was the most successful reinsman with two wins behind the Craig & Tony Jamieson trained $5.90 fourth favourite, BK Superstar in race one; and the Ray Green trained $1.40 hotpot, Onedin Amethyst, in the second event.   Duane Ranger  

Harness racing fixed odds early movers for Cambridge today as at 3:30pm Race 1 - Megamind $4.50 is best backed in win & multi betting.    Race 2 -  All the win & multi money is for Onedin Amethyst $1.60 - $1.50 with the largest bets $2,000 at $1.55 & $1,000 at $1.50.    Race 3 - Ring The Till $2.90 leads multi betting over The Dali Express $7.50.   Race 4 - De Lancome $3.20 is easily the best backed runner in win betting over Rosa Belle $21 and Gold Orchid $4.00. De Lancome also leads multi betting over Gold Orchid and Linc's Tiger $1.85.    Race 5 - Monkey Luck $14 - $12 leads win betting over Tereskova $8.80 - $7.70.   Race 6 - American Empress $4.20 leads win betting over Kiwi Tinttin $14.   Race 7 - Ideal Roman $7.00 - $6.00 easily leads early win betting with the largest bet $1,400 at $7.00. Lola Jones $5.80 is a clear leader in multi betting early over Bettor Spirits $3.60.   Race 8 - R Gee Three $5.50 leads win betting with Father Frank $3.20 a clear leader in multi betting. The $1.80 opening favourite Robert The Bruce was scratched at 11:09am this morning and 40% win and 24% place deductions will be applied to any win or multi bets placed prior to that scratching time.   Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

The harness racing ringaround again selected a few winners last week and several placings. This week there are five meetings with selections, with the highlight the Easter Cup at Addington on Saturday night. It looks like being a wet and wild weekend and wet track form could provide a few winners especially on grass at Motukarara and Hawera. Note: We will keep adding to this page if more tips come in, so check back often   Forbury on Thursday night Andrew Suddaby - thinks Delightful Dani would be his best chance this week in Race 4 Ricky May - Ricky says his best drive at Forbury is Cullenz Diamond also in Race 4 Cran Dalgety - Cran thinks it will be very hard to beat Partyon in Race 5 Rory Mcllwrick - Rory says his best drive would be Belmont Invasion at Forbury in Race 7 Matthew Williamson - Matthew is opting for Dream Big as his best drive also in Race 7 Brent Barclay - Brent thinks his best drive at Forbury would be Jimmy Mack in Race 8 Geoff Knight - Geoff is going for Idealistic Lass as his best chance at Forbury in Race 11   Cambridge on Thursday night Stephen Richardson (TAB) - thinks BK Superstar can go close to winning at Cambridge in Race 1 Todd Mcfarlane - Todd thinks Dreamy Nights would be his best drive this week in Race 3 Tony Herlihy - Tony is going for Gold Orchid to be his best chance this week in Race 4 Scott Phelan - Scott says Admiral's Flight would be his best drive at Cambridge in Race 8   Hawera on Saturday Andre Poutama - Andre is opting for Commando One as his best drive in Race 2 Kyle Marshall - Kyle thinks his best chance is Take A Gamble at Hawera in Race 4 Jay Abernethy - Jay is going for R Gee Bee as his best drive at Hawera also in Race 4   Addington on Saturday night Sheree Tomlinson - Sheree thinks her best chance this week is Donegal Carrickfin in Race 2 Gerard O'Reilly - Gerard is picking Tornado Valley as his best chance in Race 4 Blair Orange - Blair says his best chance could be Aloka at Addington in Race 7 Nathan Williamson - is opting for Captain Dolmio in the Easter Cup as his best drive in Race 9 Terry Chmiel - Terry says his best chance this week is Framco Tai in Race 10 Bob Butt - says his best chance this week is Hashtag at Addington in Race 11 Mark Jones thinks his best chance this week is Bushido at Addington also in Race 11 Racechat - Lance thinks Corena Lea is a chance at longer odds also in Race 11   Banks Peninsular on Monday Jim Curtin - Jimmy thinks his best drive this week is Red Terror at Motukarara in Race 3 Harnesslink Reporter - thinks Glenis Marie can go close to winning in Race 4 Gavin Smith - Gavin is going for Di'z Luck this week also in Race 4 John Curtin - John says Julia Lady could win again at Motukarara in Race 8 John Morrison - John thinks his best drive this week is Leading The Way in Race 11   Good luck and Happy Easter!   Harnesslink Media  

The mare that was named after the character ‘Fizz’ on Coronation Street can notch up her eighth career win at Cambridge Raceway tonight. Fizzi Lizzi goes into the $7,000 Furnware Industries Bodyfurn Handicap for the R60 and faster pacers with a nice workout win at 'The Raceway' on Saturday. "She's a reliable little mare who steps well and doesn't have a problem sitting parked. Back-marker Bettor Spirits (35m) will be the toughest to beat and even though she's beaten some of those old claimers before, it's never a given from 25 metres behind,"Hamilton-based MacKenzie said. He said he was delighted with where the McArdle mare was at, but half expected her to win her Workout last Saturday. "She's had a few niggles in recent seasons and all four of my wins this season have come via her. "I gave her a couple of weeks off and she has come back nice and strong. I would have been a bit surprised had she not won on Saturday," Mackenzie said. James Stormont will drive her on Thursday but Kyle Marshall did a good job of steering her to a one-and-a-half length victory over Sypda in Saturday's 2200m mobile for the R51 and faster pacers. Fizzi Lizzi currently has a R88 rating brought largely on by her three consecutive wins at Cambridge Raceway in November and December. On Saturday she stopped the clock (off the front) in 2:47.1 (mile rate 2:02.2) and came home in 58.8 and 29 even. "The small field (eight) should help her, but in saying that the speeds they go up front these days turns a 25m handicap into 40m. "I know she can step okay and she loves the track and distance and is race-fit, so yes I think she can go close," the Waikato horseman said. Three of Fizzi Lizzi’s four wins this season have been over Thursday’s 2700m distance, and five of her of seven wins have come at Cambridge, including three over the distance. Her standing start record is also impressive: 6-3-2. "She's the only one I've got in work. I'm also breaking in a Bettor's Delight youngster," said Mackenzie who works Fizzi Lizzi on the Tuhikaramea galloping track. The mare copped her name thanks to Myross Bush breeder Debbie Smith, who loves watching Jennie McAlpine - the actress who plays ‘Fizz’ on Coronation Street. Smith and her husband Mark have owned and operated Shard Farm Standardbreds since March 2004. They have put thousands of hours into their breeding empire, but Smith (Debbie) admits she was in and out of the Fizzi Lizzi breed within a month. “We bought the mare, Averil’s Atom (by Soky’s Atom) privately off Sylvia Purdue after the Sales. That wasn’t long after Sylvia’s husband John passed away. Mark O’Connor bought her and then bred from her after we had her for about a month. “The only horse we bred from the mare was Fizzi Lizzi but we then sold her as a weanling to Rod,” Smith said. Fizzi Lizzi is owned by MacKenzie, Jaymz Mackenzie-Hooper, Catherine Smith, and Nancey Taylor.   Duane Ranger

Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins will unleash their 2-year-old filly, Gottabearose and Cambridge Raceway on Thursday, but Positano is a better winning chance in the second event. Gottabearose has drawn three, of seven, in the fourth race - the $7,000 Autex Industries Maiden for the 2-year-old pacers, whereas Positano has copped the widest second row draw in the NSSC Mobile for maiden pacers. "It wouldn't surprise me if Gottabearose won on debut. She's good enough but at this stage of her career she just lacks a bit of ringcraft and confidence. "Positano has had nine starts and has been real consistent of late. He's a nice 3-year-old gelding who just needs luck in the running from gate 14," said Tate Hopkins who trains the duo with Frank Cooney at Taupaki. Gottabearose is the third of four foals out of the two-win 2002 Live Or Die mare, Gottabeseptember. Gottabearose finished fifth (of five) when qualifying 4.4 seconds under time at Pukekohe last Saturday. The Sir Lincoln filly finished half a second behind winner, Caitlyn Clarke and Scott Phelan. "Whatever happens on Thursday she will benefit from the run. She appears to be an honest filly who tries her guts out, and from gate three she will have every show. "We are working about 14 horses at the moment - six of which are two-year-olds. This filly would rate third or fourth best 2-year-old we have got. Last week’s winner Churchill Downs is right up there," Hopkins said. Maurice McKendry drove Gottabearose to qualify, but has opted to drive the likely favourite - the Robert Dunn trained De Lancome in the 2-year-old pace. James Stormont will drive Gottabearose. De Lancome was a beaten four-length favourite when making his debut at Alexandra Park last Friday night. He drew two that night and has copped the one marble on Thursday. That run would have done him the world of good. Hopkins said regular reinsman, Tony Herlihy (MNZM) would again drive Positano, who has placed four times from nine lifetime starts and has a two from three place record at Cambridge - and four from nine over Thursday's 2200m mobile distance. “Sure he will need a bit of luck from out there but he’s been racing real well of late and has the driver to win. He went 2:46 when finishing a close-up fourth (from gate 10) at Alexandra Park last start. “That was an encouraging performance and this race doesn’t look any harder. He got well back and ran home well that night. We’ve only got two in on Thursday and he’s our best winning chance,” Hopkins said. Cooney and Hopkins have been training together since 2012-2013 and have trained 40 winners from 302 starters since then. They have so far conditioned six winners from 41 starters this season.   Duane Ranger

Kumeu amateur driver, Cheree Wigg is on the verge of creating a bit of New Zealand amateur driving history. The 45-year-old horsewoman is not far from winning the Summer Series and North Island Championship for the third consecutive year. “I don't think anyone has done that before and it was one of my goals at the start of the season to win them both. “I'm inching closer to achieving that, and hopefully in the next two weeks it will be realised,” Wigg said. Wigg is one of six drivers currently competing in the North Island Championships. She has already qualified for the New Zealand Championships later in the season. The founder of New Zealand Amateur Driving, Steve Phillips said Wigg was competing against Phil Niall, Angela Temu, Jeff Darby, Logan Darby and her partner Mike Stevens in the North Island Championships. “We have had two of the four heats and the third will be staged this Saturday (April 8) at Alexandra Park. Cheree won first heat from Jeff and Angela while Phil won the second heat from Cheree and Mike. “The fourth and final heat will be run at the Alexandra Park Workouts the Saturday after Easter (April 22),” Phillips said. He said the North Island Champion would be crowned at the ‘2017 North Island Amateur Driver-of-the-Year’ at the annual ‘North Island Harness Racing Awards’ ceremony. “The New Zealand Champs are in May and will be tote races. The finalists for that Series qualify from a combination of summer series and tote races. To qualify all amateurs must hold an advanced amateur licence,” said Phillips. “I would love to win this North Island Championship and then repeat the dose at the New Zealand Champs. Until then I'll just keep doing what I'm doing. It will be my first time in the New Zealand Championships. I've qualified. Points are accumulated via race-day results and Summer Series points. “I would love to win them both and then ultimately the World Championship one day,” Wigg said. Wigg, who also has four training successes to her name, has two horses in work – one of which is the at present one is the eight-win Art Major 7-year-old gelding, Minstrel Boy, who is resuming after a spell. Wigg drove two winners last season and has saluted the judge once in 2016-2017, that was when she trained and drove Elliott Daniel to win at Cambridge Raceway on February 5. She has also placed six times from 14 starts this season. Last year she won two of her five drives and placed in one other. Her UDR strike-rate this season is 0.2460 compared to her life-time UDR which is a very healthy 0.3041. Her fiercest rivals are her twin sister Sheryl and her partner Stevens, who is about to embark on his amateur TAB career. “I don’t care who I’m driving against. I just want to beat the lot of them,” said Wigg. Points after two of four heats of the North Island Amateur Championships are: Cheree Wigg 16; Phil Niall 14; Jeff Darby 11; Angela Temu 11; Mike Stevens 9 and Logan Darby 7. Points are allocated 9, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, from first to sixth    Duane Ranger

Nine-year-old trotter, Dauntless, doesn't win his races out of turn, but when he does Mangere fish ‘n chip shop owner Brett Edwards is happier than most. The 47-year-old South Auckland horseman has driven Dauntless to three of his four career wins - the last three at Cambridge Raceway, the Thames Grass and Alexandra Park. Even Edwards admits it’s been a waiting game. The Pegasus Spur gelding’s neck win in the $7,000 Fiber Mix Trot from 30m behind at Cambridge Raceway last Thursday night came 14 months after his Thames triumph. That was two years 11 months after his Alexandra Park victory. "We don't win them out of turn do we, but I still like him and think he can go close again at Manawatu. He’s very fit and ready to go a bold one again," Edwards said. Edwards, the son of Dauntless's trainer Ted Edwards, has now driven six winners from 146 drives in a ‘hobby career’ spanning back to 1995. "I do a bit more training these days because Dad is pretty busy with his main jobs. Jay Abernethy is taking the horse down today (Tuesday) and I will drive down with my daughter on race-day and drive him both days before coming home after Friday’s race," Edwards said. He said Dauntless was in an Up to R48 Trot last week and tomorrow he will start off the front in a R49 and faster event. “It was an awesome feeling to win behind him the other night. His wins have been few and far between, but when they do come it is a real buzz. “I’ve still got the bug and the family really enjoyed his win as well. The way he’s going at the moment I think he can be a real threat off the front tomorrow. He’s won over the distance (2500m stand) but this will be his first look at Manawatu,” Edwards said. “It’s rewarding when he wins because Dad does the breeding side mostly these days while I do the training,” he added. Dauntless is from his father's breed which dated back to the late Wayne Francis 1974 Gerry Mir mare, Capucci. He is out of the unraced Game Pride – Capucci mare named Tat’s Pride. Edwards senior has produced about 80 trotting and 50 pacing winners. The best of them a son of Royal Heights named Muscle And Power (by Muscles Yankee). He won seven races and was a hot favourite in the 2yo Jewels Final at Cambridge (2008) when he was disqualified. His career was cut short by laminitis. Edwards (Ted) said he could trot 27.2 quarters for fun. “The Game Pride mare Royal Heights was pretty good. She won six races. Actually the first horse I got was also pretty good too. “His name was First Grade and I won 15 races with him after saving his life from the knackers yard at Bombay. I got him off Ray Norton and three months later he went eight seconds under the qualifying time,” Edwards senior said. “I really want to breed that champion one day and I am not afraid to go to any good stallion, including those wonderful French sires,” he added. Duane Ranger  

A small place bet on a horse at a low-key country meeting in the North Island led Ashburton owners, Stuart and Liz Leadley to buying boom two-year-old pacer, Alta Maestro. The Ashburton dairy farmers are dabbling more and more into the world of harness racing but haven’t had the best of luck with injuries curtailing many of their promising horses.  Owners, or part owners, in Alta Las Vegas and the very talented Franco Christiano, the Leadley’s weren’t looking to buy at the Yearling Sales when Alta Maestro was set down for sale.  “Robert Dunn had rung me and said he’d spotted a colt, who was simply stunning,” Leadley said. “He also said he was a brother to Alta Las Vegas, but I said to him that we weren’t going to be buying that year and that was that. “On the Sunday before the sale there was a race meeting in the North Island a horse called Alta Teresa was racing and I said to Liz that I was going to have a bet on the horse and if we collected off it that we would buy the colt.  “It ran third and I made a very small profit, but we rang Robert that night and said we would buy him.” The move has turned out to be one of the most fortuitous ones the Leadley’s have made since getting into horse ownership with Alta Maestro making an immediate impact when stepping out onto the track.  The Robert Dunn trained pacer has now won three of his four career starts and last Thursday night at Cambridge set a New Zealand record for a two-year-old pacer over 1700 metres when smashing his rivals by four and a half lengths.  The showy colt paced the distance in 1:59.7 and the Leadley’s were on hand to witness it.  “He was very impressive, it was great to be able to be there to watch him go. “Robert speaks very highly of the horse, he told me one day he thinks he might just be the brainiest horse he’s ever trained to which I said to Liz must mean we own Mr Ed.  “Hopefully this is just the start of it for him though.” In winning, Alta Maestro qualified himself for the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Final in May at Alexandra Park in Auckland.  The Leadley’s rarely miss one of their horses racing and Stuart said they loved the being able to go and enjoy watching their horses race.  “That’s our life at the moment, following race horse and rugby. Probably in the wrong order though.” Alta Maestro winning at Cambridge Matt Markham

Alta Maestro saved his best career performance for Cambridge Raceway last night (Thursday) when smashing the New Zealand 1700m mobile record for 2-year-old pacers. The Art Major - Alta Camilla colt lowered More The Better's record set at Alexandra Park by 0.3 of a second. His time of 1:59.7 even beat Better B Amazed’s national mares' record of 1:59.9 that she set at Alexandra Park last April. Trained by Robert Dunn, Alta Maestro went into the race having won two of his three races. His only blemish came last start at Alexandra Park when he finished third behind Mach Shard and Spankem in the Group One $100,000 Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes. He sat parked that throughout that night when he was one-one in the betting. He was again the warm $1.60 favourite last night. Driver Dexter Dunn praised the colt’s performance in last night’s first heat of the $20,000 Garrards New Zealand Sires Stakes heat. . “He’s back on track now. We were attacked early on but he felt awesome throughout the race. It was only in the final 50m I had to keep him up to his work. He couldn’t have been more impressive. “He was travelling so fluently throughout. The New Zealand record was a bonus,” Dunn said. Alta Maestro set a sizzling mile rate of 1:53.3 and sprinted his final sectionals in 56.6 and 28.3. He had four-and-a-half lengths to spare over the second placed second favourite, Culpeka and Brent Mangos. Dunn said he had driven some nice 2-year-olds in his career including Smiling Shard and Bit Of A legend and rated this fella not too inferior to them at the same time early in their careers. “He’s only had four races but what he’s shown us so far, he’s going to be a very handy 2-year-old. He just felt so fluent tonight. He wasn’t quite himself last start,” said Dunn. Alta Maestro is now ranked second behind Mach Shard for the Group One $200,000 Emerald 2yo Jewels Final at Ashburton on June 3. All his major 2-year-old races will now all be in the South Island. There's the Group Two $40,000 Welcome Stakes at Addington Raceway on April 7; the Listed $175,000 PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Final at Addington on May 12; and the Group One $170,000 Garrards Sires Stakes Final, also at Addington Raceway on May 19. “He’s got an exciting schedule ahead and tonight’s race has put him in good stead for those big races down south. Dad has always had a lot of time for this fella and I can see why. “He relaxed really well in front and just felt like a good horse. He seemed to really enjoy tonight’s race. We will find out in the next couple of months as to where he sits in the 2-year-old pecking order, but from my opinion he’s right up there,” Dunn said. Alta Maestro is owned by Tinwald couple Stuart and Elizabeth Leadley and was bred by the Alta Breeding Company Limited at Waiau Pa. They paid $100,000 for him at last year’s Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka. Meanwhile local trainer Arna Donnelly notched up her 100th career training victory when the Andre Poutama driven Bet Out Of El won at $14.60 odds in the 10th race. Donnelly was aboard stablemate, No Way Else, who finished eighth. Bet Out Of El paced the 2200m mobile in 2:40.2 (mile rate 1:57.2) and came home in 57.2 and 28.7. It was the 4-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding's fourth win in nine starts. All up Donnelly has now trained 100 winners from 946 starters since 2003. She's also placed 184 times and banked $681,640 in career stakes. It was her 20th win from 115 starters this season. Donnelly has also driven 158 winners since 1998. Duane Ranger  

Harness racing fixed odds early movers for Cambridge today as at 5:00pm Race 1 - Romanite $2.60 is easily the best backed in win & multi betting.   Race 2 - Only two runners are wanted in multi betting here Saint Michael $2.30 and Primus Inter Pares $3.40.   Race 3 - American Empress $2.40 is huge in win and multi betting with little interest in any of her rivals early.   Race 4 - Dreamy Nights $7.50 - $6.50 is best backed early on the win book but in multi betting it's all one way traffic for Maheer Mister $3.20.   Race 5 - King Of Rock $8.00 leads win and multi betting over Itsnowornever $10.50.   Race 6 - Il Pirata $4.50 leads multi betting with Precious Moment $4.00 leading win betting.   Race 7 - Culpeka $5.20 - $3.80 is best backed in win betting over The Black Prince $8.50 but in multi betting the $1.45 favourite Alta Maestro is the only runner punter's want to be on.   Race 8 - Ring The Till $4.80 leads win betting with Pay me Overs the $3.30 favourite the clear multi leader.   Race 9 - Lola Jones $8.00 - $3.50 is the biggest mover on the card so far and is a bad liability for the book and she is also a clear multi leader early.   Race 10 - Ideal Roman $2.70 easily leads multi betting.   Race 11- Miss Kitty $2.20 easily leads multi betting.        Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

Even a holiday in Rarotonga won’t stop Jeremy Young coming back to Cambridge Raceway tonight (Thursday) to watch his flagship horse do the business. The Pukekohe trainer left for the Cook Islands last Friday and desperately wants American Empress to finish in the top two in race three. The daughter of American Ideal will start from gate three (of seven) in the fifth heat of the $20,000 Nevele R 3YO Fillies Series. The Group One $140,000 Final will be run at Addington Raceway on May 12. "It's my last chance to qualify her for the big race. I know there might be a Nevele Consolation if she doesn't make it. "That would tighten her up nicely for the (Group 1 $150,000) New Zealand Oaks the week later. That is her main targets this season and then of course the Jewels in Ashburton not long after," said Young, who returns to New Zealand on Wednesday night. American Empress is currently fourth on the 3YO Diamond Harness Jewels leader board. "The filly means a lot to me," he added. By that Young said American Empress was his 'flagship' horse - the one he first went out and got new owners for after his main stable client and good friend Bryan Newberry passed away in April 2016. Young paid $8,500 for American Empress at the 2014 Weanling Sales. Her owners are Hazel van Opzeeland (Prebbleton), Kenneth Moore (Onehunga), Paul Curran (Pukekohe), and the Zinnycef Syndicate. “I’ve got owners from all parts of the country involved and I’m just so glad they’ve got a decent horse,” he said. American Empress was bred by John Green. “I like her chances on Thursday because outside of Party On and Spanish Armada I think the 3-year-old fillies are an even lot. There are some nice age group horses who can all go well. “I didn’t see her trial on Saturday but from what Sailesh said she got the best possible trial going into race-night,” Young said. Abernethy never had to pull the plugs as American Impress beat Kiwi Tintin and Delightful Zen by a head and half a head in a R55 to R75 workout at Pukekohe on Saturday. She is an R61 pacer and boasts the highest ranked in Thursday’s field. American Empress trailed Delightful Zen and Andrew Sharpe throughout and then the pair had a speed dual 400m from home with the Young trained filly having too much stamina at the finish. She paced the 2050m mobile (left handed in 2:38.5 (mile rate 2:04.4) and home in 58.5 and 28.6. “Even though I didn’t see it I’m rapt with that. I think she is good enough to make the final, but she can be a bit slow away at times. She will need to do a bit to stay in touch, but in saying that she has drawn well (3) and it’s only a small field,” Young said. The 44-year-old Franklin horseman said he loved sport and saw racing as no different. “When you play a sport you want to play it to the best of your ability, and as a trainer I have only ever wanted a horse to race and compete well in Group 1 company. “I rode on the coat tails of Mark for many years when I worked for him and was Auckland Reactor’s strapper. I tasted Group One victory on many occasions thanks to him and it felt great. Now I want that feeling again – in my own name,” Young said. American Empress’s only win came when she beat recent Group One Northern Oaks runner-up Juice Brogden in a $12,000 maiden at Alexandra Park on December 2. She drew the ace that night and sprinted the 2200m mobile in 2:41.5 (mile rate 1:58.1) and last 800m and 400m in 56.7 and 27.9. That time would go close to winning tonight's feature pacing event. American Empress has now had 14 starts, for one win and seven placings. She has won $42,736 in stakes. “We will have all guns blazing on Thursday. Her trial win has put her in good stead for this week. It’s just so rewarding to have a horse good enough to contest these races,” Young said. Duane Ranger

It’s been 3,376 days since Craig Jamieson drove his last winner and wow was he rapt to be back in the winner’s circle last Friday night at Cambridge Raceway. Not only did he rein home BK Superstar to win the fifth event, but he also trained his first career winner with his younger brother Tony. The Putaruru-based brothers have now had five starters to the races for a win and three placings. “It was an awesome feeling to do it in front of my family because BK Superstar is a family-owned horse. Tony does all the work with her. I just sat in the sulky tonight and she did the rest. “All the credit must go to Tony. It’s easy to win when you have a horse set for a race in the mint condition this girl was in. Tony reminds me a lot of Dad (Kevin) – a real masterclass when it comes to horsemanship,” Jamieson said. Jamieson is the oldest of four brothers – and all four and their partners have shares in BK Superstar, as do as parents Kevin and Cheryl. “I’m the oldest, then there’s Carl and his partner Cindy; then Tony and Becky; and then Lance and Katie. I’m so pleased we all had a win. The victory was also for our family members who couldn’t be there tonight like both sets of grandparents who are no longer with us. “We have always been into harness racing. Mum’s late brother was another big influence. It’s just a great feeling to be back winning again,” Jamieson said. The last time Jamieson drove a winner was behind the Gareth Dixon trained Whistler at Alexandra Park on December 16, 2008. All up he's driven 42 winners from 312 starters since 2000, bu he hasn't always been in New Zealand to drive. “I lived in Australia for more than five years driving for a transport company. We bought a house over there and I never drove at the races. The plan was to buy over there and then come home and buy some land for the horses with our house money. “Ideally Tony and I would like to have six to eight horses in work. We only have one racehorse at the moment but we are building up towards that goal,” Jamieson said. The Jamieson brothers trained BK Superstar started cautiously from barrier one in the $7,000 St Patrick's Day Handicap for the Up to R48 and R47 trotters. Jamieson had her parked down the back straight the first time and then went to the lead on the far corner. They then ran their 10 opponents of their feet, trotting the 2200m stand in 2;54.2 (mile rate 2:07.4) and home in 61.1 and 30.7. The Majestic Son mare bolted in by five-and-a-half lengths. It was her first win in nine starts. The 5-year-old bay was the $1.90 favourite. “It’s just nice to have the family’s purple, white and blue colours in the winner’s circle. Going by how well she did it, I don’t think this will be her last win,” Jamieson said. The brothers have been a training partnership for a couple of months now. "We bought her off the 'Horse Trader' website and lease the horse off her breeder Brent Smith. She comes from Greg and Nina Hope's stable in Canterbury and has really thrived since she got here. "I think she is enjoying the one-to-one care compared to the big stable where she started out," Jamieson (Tony) said. “It’s just so cool to have a family-owned horse and to train your first winner with the bro. The driving was just a bonus, but I must say it was great to be out there again and get that winning feeling back,” big brother Craig added. BK Superstar is owned by the 'White Diamond Racing Syndicate' and was bred by Brent Smith.   Duane Ranger

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