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New Zealand harness racing reinsman Adam Sanderson has been thrust into the ‘hot’ seat this weekend. But it’s a role he’s comfortable with. Leading trainer and his boss, Darrel Graham, has stepped aside and entrusted Sanderson with a key book of drives including Mafuta Vautin in the Gr.2 $50,000 QBRED Triad 4yo Entires and Geldings Final plus Chattanoogachoochoo (Christian Cullen) in the $20,000 Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final. This is nothing new for the stable; Sanderson got the call-up to partner giant filly Montana Marie in the 2013 Gr.2 $75,000 Seymour Nursery Pace Final and duly saluted that night. The 26yo is cool under pressure. “I’ve got some good opportunities this weekend and I’m looking forward to the challenge, Mafuta Vautin has an excellent draw while Chattanoogachoochoo has a shocking draw so it’s a mixed bag in that respect.” Sanderson said. Mafuta Vautin will start a short priced favourite after landing the inside gate and his recent form is very strong including his victory in the QBRED Breeders Classic Final on March 27. The Rollon Bigred – Ashleysplace gelding has started once since that victory and proved too good when leading throughout at Redcliffe in a heat of a Rising Stars Championship but was subsequently scratched from the final. But Graham is confident his charge is in great shape. “It wasn’t anything serious but just enough not to risk him with this race in mind and he’s trained on really well since so I’m confident he’s ready to go. The barrier draw is perfect so hopefully it’s a case of aim and shoot,” Graham said. “I’m happy to take a backseat role this weekend, Linda (wife) and I bred this horse and he’s done an amazing job winning 10 of his 14 starts and I’m looking forward to sitting in the stands with Linda and Stephanie and cheering on both Adam (Mafuta Vautin) and Brittany (My Arthur Bee) in this feature event. “Both kids are driving in good form currently and they both deserve this opportunity so I’ll be leading the cheering from the stands.” Chattanoogachoochoo scored a decisive victory in the heat of the Rising Stars on Tuesday afternoon but fellow heat winner Alleluia (Art Major) drew favourably off the front-line and will start from gate five. Connections are looking at several features in the coming weeks with the winter carnival just around the corner. by Chris Barsby Related Links Fields for Albion Park, Saturday 30 May 2015 Form guide for Albion Park, Saturday 30 May 2015

Former New Zealand gelding Chattanoogachoochoo is the stable star for harness racing trainer Darrel Graham. The Fernvale based horseman registered another century season as trainer yesterday (Tuesday) when his Kiwi import raced away to claim victory in a heat of the weekly Seymour Rising Stars Championship at Albion Park. It’s the third straight season the astute mentor has racked up big numbers. But he’s quick to deflect the praise. “It’s a team effort and I’m lucky to have a great support crew; my wife Linda plus Adam Sanderson and my two girls Brittany and Stephanie all provide in many ways and it’s greatly appreciated. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.” Graham said. Chattanoogachoochoo now looms as a genuine threat in Saturday’s $20,000 final but has drawn poorly yet again while main dangers Alleluia (5) and Floyd Mayweather (1) both drew favourably. Alleluia rated 1;55.3 in his heat success while Chattanoogachoochoo rated a slightly slower 1;56.6. “I’ve been really happy with the gelding by Christian Cullen since he arrived from New Zealand but we’re not having much luck with draws and luck in running. His record could easily be a lot better but the wheel will turn and we will be ready to make the most of it when it comes our way. “His best asset is his speed and he showed that with his victory yesterday, he stood the leader up a tidy start at the top of the stretch and he grabbed him pretty quickly and won comfortably. We’re going to need a genuine speed in the final and hopefully they go hard from the start which will then give us a chance of finishing off late. “He’s beaten both Alleluia and Floyd Mayweather previously so I know he’s capable but the draw is unkind. Win, lose or draw this weekend, we’re looking at the Premiers Cup with him because he’s a good stand-start horse.” The Graham family are still on a high following the success of Brittany last weekend when successful in the BOTRA Young Drivers Championship series after edging out Hayden Barnes by a solitary point. In July, Brittany heads to North America along with Trent Moffat for a month long learning experience attending some of the country’s premier racetracks and training facilities. They were announced winners of the Mercedes Benz Centenary Classic Young Achievers Award at last year’s Awards night in Brisbane. Both Darrel and Linda are likely to make the trip to the land of Stars and Stripes in support of their daughter. by Chris Barsby

Harness racing reinsman Chris Voak believes Im A Peregrine has scope for further improvement after a top runaway win at Gloucester Park on Friday. Giving Voak the first leg of a driving treble, the Elsu gelding made it look easy when he put 17 metres on his nearest rival, favourite, Jumbo Jet. ”I thought he was my best winning chance on the night,” said Voak on Tabradio. “His runs prior were really good and I thought he would win. “He had to cover ground early and it was impressive. “I didn’t have to pull the plugs or anything and after the race he could have gone another lap. “That was the most impressive thing.” The Bucket List was sent out a short-priced favourite and gave punters little cause for concern when he swept past leader Northview Cardle in the straight. The Christian Cullen gelding posted his second win for trainer Michael Brennan and bounced back after a distant third in the Narrogin Cup. Despite winning comfortably by seven metres Voak said The Bucket List was made to earn his first victory at Gloucester Park. “When you get a standout like him he can become a target for the other horses,” said Voak. “I didn’t think he would have to run the time he did to win the race. “If you look at the sectionals The Bucket List had to work that much harder. “The leader in the race was a tremendous run. “It was good to see him dig in and have his class prevail. “It was a very tough and strong effort.” Voak said there was a sense of atonement when he piloted home Delusional from an outside draw to bring up a winning treble. Voak was behind the Rich and Spoilt gelding when he ran sixth to Fully Zapped at Gloucester Park seven days earlier “A week ago he drew favourably in barrier nine and three back the fence became available, but he got held up,” said Voak. “I kicked myself all week for driving him that way and I wasn’t going to make a mistake on Friday so it was good to get a bit of retribution back for Peter Tilbrook. “He went as well as I thought he would go and showed good tough qualities to hang on in the last 50 metres.” RWWA

A very interesting barrier draw has set up an intriguing race for Friday night's $40,000 WASBA Breeders Stakes at the harness  Gloucester Park. The logical pre-post favourite Libertybelle Midfrew has come up with a tricky alley in gate six and it appears on paper as though driver Mark Reed will have to 'take his medicine' early and look for a trailing position. The outstanding daughter of Christian Cullen was an effortless winner on resumption last Friday night when only required to sprint up the last 'furlong' to record an easy win in a mile rate of 1:58.5 (last 800m 55.7) for the 2536m. "She worked beautifully this morning (Wednesday) at Gloucester Park just dashing up the last little bit. She hasn't left an oat since her first up win and besides the draw, I couldn't be happier," said conditioner Mike Reed. The winner of last year's Group 1 Golden Nugget and the previous season's Group 1 WA Oaks has been imperious since arriving in WA, notching up a record of 10 wins from 15 starts. But there will be no pushover about Friday night's race given the way the draw has fallen. Indomitable has proven herself a sit sprint mare of considerable ability this campaign and driver Clinton Hall must certainly take credit for the consistency with which the Barry Morrison trained mare is now racing. Previously a very headstrong mare with blistering gate speed, Hall's 'softly softly' approach to driving Indomitable has seen her become a potent force in any race where there is early speed. He has piloted the daughter of former WA champion Saab to a remarkable 7 wins from only 16 drives. The early speed duel between Leda McNally, Dontdoubtme and Sensational Gabby will be central to the end result. Certainly Indomitable has the speed to hold up, but it is unlikely that they will shy away from the 'sit/sprint' style of racing that has served her so well this past 12 months. However, it is likely that they will have a strong say in who crosses them in the run through the first turn. Although Leda McNally is a top flight mare at her best, it is fair to say that she has been down on that form in recent times and it may be the case that Hall doesn't consider her a viable trailing option. Dontdoubtme is a very speedy mare that is well suited to short course racing. She resumed with a tidy second to Libertybelle Midfrew last week having come from the pocket, and she looms as a handy alternative given Clinton Hall will be privy to the progress she has made since that run. Along with Libertybelle, Sensational Gabby represents the class in this race, but as ever she remains questionable when unable to find the lead. She was unable to cross from a similar gate last week and her hopes rest on master driver Chris Lewis being able to fire her out with more alacrity. Trainer of the moment Justin Prentice is represented by classy duo Bettor Dreams and The Parade. Both mares are former WA Oaks place-getters and The Parade in particular has been in stunning form of late taking out the $35,000 Race for Roses last week, on the back of her win in the $25,000 The Johnson Final two weeks earlier. Better Dreams should not be dismissed however as she boasts an 8 from 14 record over this trip, and she has drawn to pinch cheap runs from a position on the marker pegs. Jason Lincoln.

The harness racing pundits were unsure pre race who was the most likely winner of this years $200,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Pace with several runners having their supporters. The All star barn had four runners involved and all had solid support on the tote with Lazarus the best supported of those due to his front row draw of six. Motu Premier and Tim Williams led from barrier two before handing up to Lazarus and Mark Purdon after 400 metres.  Art Form and David Butcher went forward from barrier eight to sit parked giving Shandale and Maurice McKendry the one by one. Going past the 900 metres, Maurice hooked Shandale out three wide but as soon as he did the speed went on up front and Shandale was left out there for the rest of the race. Lazarus brushed down the back in 28.8 before Mark Purdon really upped the ante with a last 400 metres in 26.8 to cruise home a comfortable victory by 2 1/4 lengths over a very game Shandale who kept coming in the straight to just nose out Motu Premier for second. Like a lot of the All Star barn , Lazarus is a son of Bettors Delight and was purchased out of last years New Zealand Premier yearling sale at Christchurch for $75,000 Lazarus paced the 1950 metres in 2:21.2, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with closing sectionals of 55.6 and 26.8. Mark Purdon was pleased with todays run. " He has gone really well today and was still going strong at the finish." " This has been his main aim all season so its good to get him here in such good form." " We have a big opinion of him and think he will make a really nice three year old," Mark said. Lazarus is owned by Mrs G J Kennard, P I Kennard, T G Casey and K J Riseley and was bred by G Chin and Studholme Bloodstock Limited. He is the second foal and first colt out of the Christian Cullen mare Spirit Of Beth. Lazarus has now had the six lifetime starts for five wins and a second for $178,050 in earnings. You couldn't take the smile off Maurice McKendry's face post race. " Shandale has gone super and I was rapt with his performance." " He is still pretty inexperienced and got a bit lost when I pulled him out but he has fought on really well. " The good thing is I think there is still a fair bit of improvement left in him going forward," Maurice said. With the New Zealand Sires Stakes and Harness Jewels still to come, we are in for some very exciting racing over the next three weeks. Harnesslink Media    

The last pacer to win the Victorian “Mares Triple Crown” was the harness racing star whose name adorns the sprint feature at Tabcorp Park Friday night. Make Mine Cullen, a daughter of the mighty Christian Cullen, achieved the feat in 2012, winning the Cinderella Stakes, the Ladyship Cup and the Queen of the Pacific off 20 metres. The Mares Triple Crown these days, bearing in mind it is an unofficial term, consists of the Harness Breeders (Vic) Make Mine Cullen, a $25,275 1720-metre random barrier draw sprint, the Angelique Club Cup next Friday, a preferential barrier draw race worth $25,275 over 2240m, and the jewel – the $100,000 Group 1 Queen of the Pacific, a stand start 2760m race on Saturday, May 23. Before Make Mine Cullen, the last mare to achieve the Triple Crown was Golden Flyin for David Aiken in 2005. Tomorrow night’s Make Mine Cullen looks a tantalising contest on paper with proven five-year-old Frith the benchmark from barrier six up against rising star four-year-old Just Cala from the pole, and stalwart top-line mares Gumdrops (barrier three), Steam Washed (barrier five) and The Good Times (barrier eight) all capable of landing the knockout blow with the right run. Frith, by Four Starzzz Shark out of Jackie Kelly, boasts an extraordinary strike rate, having won 32 of her 44 career starts for $866,572 in prizemoney. Tomorrow night Frith lines up under the tutelage of Belinda and Luke McCarthy for the first time after transferring from the stables of Bruce Harpley. “She has settled in really well,” reinsman Luke McCarthy said of tomorrow night’s $1.35 TAB fixed odds favourite. “She’s been a champion at two, three and as a four-year-old and earned over $800,000 so she’s got a great record.” Just Cala is bound for the Harness Jewels in New Zealand after securing a coveted invite, the four-year-old by Art Major out of Lilsistar a winner of two of her past three assignments. She took out the HBV Ian Daff Memorial over Steam Washed by 2.2m over 1720m in 1:55.4, using the sprint lane from behind the leader to win with a 56.5secss last half and followed that up with a 1.4m win over Lierra Noir in an M0-M1 race over 2240m in a rate of 1:58 (last half 57.5secs), coming with a strong run late. Last start in the HBV Silver Chalice Just Cala sat outside the leader throughout before going down fighting by 3.1m against rising star mare Berisari, who nominated for tomorrow night’s race but didn’t accept. Asked where he thought Frith was compared to Just Cala, McCarthy said the fact his mare was a five-year-old probably tipped the ledger in her favour. “Just that year older, she’s a bit more seasoned I’d say.” Meanwhile, Chris Shinn is going in confident about Steam Washed from gate five. The tough mare has had a superb preparation this time in with wins in the HBV Jodies Babe over Goodtime Marjie and Beauty Secret in 1:53.5 at Melton and seconds in the Terang Cup behind Arden Rooney, the Ladyship Cup behind Majorly Foxy Styx and a third behind Guaranteed and Inter Dominion placegetter Flaming Flutter in the SA Cup. “I think she’d be up there with the top ones in Victoria,” Shinn said modestly of Steam Washed. “She’s got that form around the colts too, not just the mares. “We’ve had a lot of fun with her. She always earns a cheque.” Shinn had a word of warning race favourite Frith, who would love to find the lead unchallenged. “I think mine’s going real good, she gets out of the gate good so I think if we landed the front and Frith was parked, I’d give us a good chance (of upstaging Frith),” he said. “Unless there’s been a heap of pressure on I think we’d be hard to beat if we were in front at the corner.” by Cody Winnell Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Friday 08 May 2015 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Friday 08 May 2015

Twelve months ago harness racing trainer Gary Quinlan celebrated a victory in the Australian Pacing Gold for two year old fillies at Tabcorp Park Menangle when Queen Of Pop scored at the odds of 30 to 1.  Mark Purdon’s filly Supersonic Miss was expected to win the rich final comfortably after annihilating her rivals in the semi final but could only finish fourth. This year’s lead up to the APG for two year old colts and geldings is eerily similar.  Kiwi trainer Mark Purdon has the raging hot favourite, Our Waikiki Beach that is yet to taste defeat and Quinlan’s entrant Most Happy Cullen is given very little chance of winning by the bookmakers. “I didn’t think Queen Of Pop was a chance of beating Supersonic Miss last year in the final and I actually thought my filly may have been better placed in the consolation but everything fell into place and we got the win in the big one,” Quinlan said. “It is the same this year, I can’t see how my horse Most Happy Cullen can turn the tables on Our Waikiki Beach but I’m happy to be in the APG anyway.” Most Happy Cullen squeezed into the final field after running fifth in Saturday night’s semi final behind Our Waikiki Beach. “We were 30 metres off the winner in the semi but to be honest I was a little bit concerned going into the race because I thought Our Waikiki Beach might lead and get a very comfortable middle half and that doesn’t suit my horse, he needs to sit on the back of a solid tempo.” “I was really pleased with Most Happy Cullen, he got a bad check on the first turn but recovered well and chased hard in that final (26.6 second) quarter.” While Quinlan will be cheering his runner home on Sunday afternoon he confirmed he does have a soft spot for Our Waikiki Beach. “Debbie and I prepared Our Waikiki Beach for the sales, we both had a lot of time for him, he would free leg on the jogger and it didn’t surprise us that he has turned out to be a nice horse.” “The horse was bred by the Fusinato family and they have been clients of ours for about 25 years and have put together a really nice band of broodmares.” The Fusinato family also retain a 50% share in Most Happy Cullen after they bred the son of Christian Cullen. “He is a full brother to Jazzam and I think with a bit of time he is going to be a really nice horse.” “It is going to be a big weekend for the stable, we’ve got two fillies in the APG semi finals on Friday night so hopefully it is a good one.” Sydney reinsman Blake Fitzpatrick will retain the drive after partnering the two year old on Saturday night in the semi final. Greg Hayes

The harness racing meeting in Hobart on Sunday night served up eight odds-on favourites on the eight-event card and had it not been for a bolter winning the fourth event it would have been a clean sweep for punters. The first three favourites saluted with all-the-way wins including the Nathan Ford-trained Supersub that made the most of the pole position to lead comfortably. It was a stroll in the park for the gelded son of Christian Cullen and it was a gun drive from novice driver Tayla Ford who has delivered some brilliant efforts in the sulky of late. Supersub was well placed in the C3-C4 event that offer a mare and novice driver concession. The gelding covered the 2090 metres in 2m.35s and clocked a mile rate of 1.59.4 and covered his last 800m in 59.3. Ford kept Supersub's mind on the job over the concluding stages because he had shown a tendency to let his mind wander in a couple of previous races. Supersub has won three and notched six second placings from his 13 starts in Tasmania with his overall record standing at nine wins and 20 minor placings from 65 starts for $62,528 in stakes. He arrived from NSW in September last year and after three unplaced efforts he has developed into a very handy pacer that has bright prospects. Peter Staples

With this years harness racing season moving into its eighth month, we thought it a good time to look at any trends in the sires charts in Australia. A quick look told us the overall sires list is little changed from the last few seasons with the same four sires once again holding sway. The leader once again is the champion sire in Bettor's Delight who holds an $800,000 lead over his arch rival Art Major with over a $2,000,000 gap back to Christian Cullen in third and another $500,000 back to Mach Three in fourth.  These four sires have been the leading quartet for a few years now and nothing has materialized in the last few seasons to suggest that is going to change any time soon. When you go to the three year old sires list the roles are reversed with Art Major holding a $150,000 lead over Bettors Delight with Sportswriter another $200,000 back in third with Somebeachsomewhere making up the top four another $80,000 back. With the leading two three year old sires in Art Major and Bettor's Delight having plenty of classic runners to represent them in the latter part of the season, the battle for three year old supremacy looks likely to be decided between these two champion sires. When you go to the two year old sires list, Art Major is once again at the head of the class followed closely by Courage Under Fire and then Rock N Roll Heaven and Rocknroll Hanover. The first season sire Rock N Roll Heaven has started to replicate his North American siring performance with five of his seven winners being fillies and he should get a further boost on that front when the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained filly MacKenzie lines up in the APG heat at Menangle on Saturday night. Courage Under Fire has always had the ability to throw up that outstanding youngster and he looks to have another ready made star in Don't Hold Back whose effortless win in a stunning 1:53.7 at Melton was the star turn amongst the juveniles so far this season in our opinion. As has been noted several times before, three of the four leading overall sires on the Australian sires list are based in New Zealand. It is to be hoped that one or two of the newer sires available to breeders that are based in Australia can come through in the next couple of years to challenge the Kiwi domination. Harnesslink Media 

The time honoured harness racing classic for two year olds, the Welcome Stakes is up for grabs on Friday night and we thought an in depth preview was in order. New Zealand Welcome Stakes 1) Arden's Choice - Starts: 3    Wins: 0    Secs: 2    Thirds: 0    Life: $9,550 Lovely filly who followed up two big runs leading into the Young Guns Fillies final at Alexandra Park by throwing her toys out in the big race with an early gallop. Ability not in question and while two or three of the colts may have her measure, she is more than capable of holding her own against most here. Trifecta and first four chance from the draw. 2) Classie Brigade - First Tote Start Beautifully bred son of Bettor's Delight from the former top racemare Trigirl Brigade 1:52.3 (pld) $143,711) who was a $60,000 purchase at last years Australasian Classic sale at Karaka. Has been prominent at trials and workouts in Canterbury but yet to win one yet from four attempts. His last trial was his best effort though with a 4 1/2 length second to Waikiki Beach at Rangiora. A work in progress for us and not in this field at this stage. 3) Sophisticated Lady - Starts: 2    Wins: 0    Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $4,668 Very good run on debut in Leonard Memorial when a smart second to Northern Velocity. Disappointing in the Caduceus Club Classic last Saturday at Invercargill but in her defence the track was very wet and she didn't look comfortable in it at anytime during the race. Still learning what the racing game is all about and at this stage we would prefer her in a fillies race rather than up against the colts here. 4) Waikiki Beach - Starts: 1    Wins: 1  Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $16,300  Outstanding debut at Invercargill in the $25,000 Kindergarten Stakes where he zipped the last 400 metres on a slushy track in 26.7  This big impressive looking son of Somebeachsomewhere was super impressive at last Wednesdays workouts at Rangiora and showed real speed off the gate which is a big plus here. The draw makes him the one to beat in our book but it won't be easy with Chase The Dream in here as well. Include in everything. 5) Vanquished - Starts: 1    Wins: 0  Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $1,150 Another well bred son of Bettors Delight who cost $26,000 at last years Premier sale at Christchurch. Has won a couple of workouts but not against the horses he faces here. His first up fourth in a field of five from barrier one was just ok and too many here  have the wood on him for us to see him as a major player. Not for us. 6) Ice Crusher - First Tote Start This smart looking son of Chistian Cullen cost $68,000 at last years Premier sale at Christchurch. Was looking sharp at trials and workouts in January after which he had a brief let up and he has come back in late March with a couple of tidy runs including a quiet third today at Rangiora. Has run time and looks a progressive type to us and appeals as a roughie to spike up those trifectas and first fours.  7) Motu Premier - Starts: 3    Wins: 0   Secs: 1    Thirds: 2    Life: $9,091 Lovely Bettors Delight colt who has gone three smart races in his career to date. Unlucky third in the Sapling Stakes after jumping a shadow on the corner which was followed by a run at Invercargill for second on a slushy track which he didn't seem to handle all that well. Last start third third to Chase The Dream was full of merit as he drew the widest in the small field and worked mid race as well. A must have for all combination takers. 8) Chase The Dream - Starts: 4    Wins: 4    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $99,414 ($99,414) Unbeaten in four starts as a juvenile but that record is under threat here from his stablemate Waikiki Beach. Has great ringcraft which all the smart two year olds have and has an all round game being both quick and tough. You can't do anymore than win and being a Bettors Delight he won't give up his unbeaten streak without a real fight. But for the draw would have been first pick. Include in everything 9) MacKenzie - First Tote Start This daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven from the former outstanding racemare Kept For Pleasure 1:56 ($542,343) was an $82,000 purchase at last years Australian Pacing Gold sale at Sydney. Has been very prominent at trials around Canterbury and is being aimed at the APG sales race series in Australia. Big strong filly who has shown the ability to work in her trials and workouts. Quiet trial win at Rangiora today but home in 27.1 and not out of her depth here but draw makes it hard. Include in first fours SELECTIONS  This really is an All Star barn benefit. The draw makes us lean towards Waikiki Beach who has looked special at trials and his one raceday start. The obvious danger is Chase The Dream and these two look the obvious quinella. Motu Premier is a clear third choice for us in front of Arden's Choice, Ice Crusher and MacKenzie who should fight out that fourth placing. Harnesslink Media

“He’s a bloody ripper,” declared a beaming harness racing driver Michael Bellman after driving Uncle Wingnut to victory in Sunday’s Greggs Electrical Ouyen Pacing Cup. The Joe Costa-trained seven-year-old gelding broke the track record for the 2809-metre trip, his 7.3-metre win accompanied by a mile rate of 2:00.4 – bettering the previous mark by 0.7secs. Despite sitting in the sulky behind the best horse in the race Bellman still produced some magic, easing three-wide early to commence a move and flushing out South Australian Mister Styx, which allowed Bellman to jag into the coveted one-out-one-back trail. Michael Smith driving Mister Styx must have immediately regretted his move as fellow border-hopper Glenferrie Rustler declared the death seat not up for grabs, posting Mister Styx three-wide and in a bind for the remainder of the race. Entering the back straight the final time Bellman made his move, angling the $2 favourite three-wide when Mister Styx tailed out after a torrid run, Uncle Wingnut dashing to a clear lead at the top circle. Gollahman and Our Waldenbury had both enjoyed economical runs from their respective drivers, Zac Phillips and Damian Wilson, and both ran into the placings but there was no catching Uncle Wingnut. The son of Christian Cullen powered home, his last half clocked at 56.3secs. “When I lobbed the one-one I was quietly happy with things,” Bellman said. “He’s versatile. There’s no set way to drive him. Joe (Costa) and the team have done a great job with him.” Costa said Uncle Wingnut was “a great trier” who was “easy to train” and “laidback”. Meanwhile, the Alabar Bloodstock Northern Region Championship Final was taken out by Vince Vallelonga-trained Bonny Under Fire. The consistent mare found the lead from gate two, crossing stablemate Kissed Flush who eventually went off stride and had to be pulled up after breaking gear. Several runners put the pressure on Bonny Under Fire mid-race, but she was able to overcome it and respond tenaciously for a 3.3-metre win in a track-record run of 1:57.9 for the 2040m start. Madis Made finished second in the Championship Final for Bellman, with Dark Side third. It was a big day for Bellman, who finished with two winners – the cup aboard Uncle Wingnut and Race 2 with in-form Murranji Track. The Ararat reinsman also finished second with Scout Hall Road in Race 3, Life Of Ted in Race 4 and Rayner Storm in Race 6, and placed third on outsider One Knight Stand in the last race. A huge crowd was on hand at Ouyen, club president Graeme Mengler thrilled with how the day played out. “I’ve had people telling me how good the kids’ entertainment was and the crowd was excellent,” Mengler said. “It was a really positive day for the club.” Local Amanda Foster won $1000 from the TAB thanks to Harness Racing Victoria’s TAB Trots Selfies competition, while loads of other patrons walked away with prizes from the plethora of on-course giveaways that were offered. >> VIDEO: Watch Uncle Wingnut take out the Greggs Electrical Ouyen Pacing Cup by Cody Winnell

Statesman N (Christian Cullen) had to settle for second best as the betting public's favorite in last Saturday night's $17,500 feature at Saratoga Casino and Raceway but this week, the Ron Burke-trained eight year old would not be denied. Statesman N, who came from off the pace in last week's 'Winners Over' pacing feature, moved out to the early lead for driver Jim Morrill Jr on the foggy Saturday night in Saratoga. Once he got to the lead, the 1-5 favorite would not be denied and hit the wire first in 1:54.3. Classic Gent (Stephane Bouchard) sat the pocket to the winner and held strong in the stretch to finish second while longshot JK Panache (Jim Devaux) earned the show spot. While Statesman N was the feature winner, it was Mickey Hanover (Billy Dobson) who put up the fastest time of the young season at the Spa with a sensational victory that came in 1:52.4. Live racing continues on Sunday afternoon with a matinee beginning at 12:45pm. Mike Sardella  

Handy harness racing performer Blazin N Cullen will appreciate the drop in class this weekend. Fourth in the Inter Dominion at Tabcorp Park Menangle earlier this month, Blazin N Cullen will return to the country scene for Saturday night’s Young Cup. Despite his second row draw, the John McCarthy-trained pacer is the early favourite at $3.20. Blazin N Cullen is no stranger to provincial feature success having captured last season’s Renshaw Cup at Penrith. Pleased with the gelding’s progress since his Inter Dominion campaign, McCarthy is confident Blazin N Cullen is ready to return to the winners’ circle.  “I’ve been really happy with how he has recovered since the Inter Dominion, and when I saw this race programmed, I thought it would be a good option for him,” McCarthy said. “He broke the track record at Penrith not long after he arrived from New Zealand, so the smaller track will not be any worry at all.” With next season’s Perth Inter Dominion already his main goal, McCarthy will base Blazin N Cullen’s form around the time-honoured series, including sending the son of Christian Cullen for a spell soon. “At some stage he is going to need a break, but while he is racing well, he will continue to keep going around,” McCarthy said. “He is owned by WA interests, so the aim is to take him across to Perth at some stage later in the year, but while he is racing well I will press on.” PAUL COURTS

Sometimes the hype around some of our Cup and Classic races is so big that everyone feels a bit let down when the race doesn't live up to all the pre race predictions. Tonights $250,000 Auckland Trotting Cup at Alexandra Park was hyped up all week by the media and harness racing pundits but on this occasion the race was better than the pre race hype had suggested it would or could be. From the time the barrier arms folded the horses went to war. As expected Lancewood Lizzie flew the gate to lead early but she immediately handed up to Ohoka Punter who was then set upon by Elios who went to the lead after 500 metres. While this was happening up front, Dexter Dunn had settled Christen Me four back in the running line as the leaders kept up the scorching pace. Mark Purdon sent Adore Me forward to find the death seat shortly after and then landed the one by one when her stablemate Smolda went to the death seat. As soon as he got there, Smolda began to over race and pressured Elios in the lead until finally breaking that horse at the 700 metres mark. Smolda burst to the lead down the back with Adore Me in hot pursuit and Christen Me and Dexter Dunn looming up wider out after a cosy run four back on the outer. Nearing the 500 metres mark Adore Me faulted for a stride or two but quickly got going again as they turned for home. Adore Me and Christen Me looked set to fight out the finish but they were quickly joined by Ohoka Punter who had cleared a pocket on the inner. Passing the 100 metres mark the three of them were in line but right on the finishing line Christen Me got his nose in front of a very game Adore Me with an equally game Ohoka Punter a further 1/2 neck back in third. It was a race for the ages and worthy of every bit of hype that had been showered on it leading up to the race. Christen Me paced the 2700 metres in a new New Zealand record of 3:13.8, a mile rate of 1:55.5 with closing sectionals of 56 and 28. The time of 3:13.8 took two seconds off the previous record of 3:15.8 held by Tintin In America. Dexter Dunn was full of praise for the Christian Cullen gelding. " This horse has taken me all over Australasia and never let me down." " I actually think that I went too early but I was traveling that well off the back I let him run." "It has probably worked out well going in fresh tonight because he always races great in that condition." "It was nice to drive him cold for a change tonight as well," Dexter said. It wasn't a perfect build up for Christen Me with his lack of recent racing and Dexter wasn't happy with how he warmed up tonight. " He wasn't comfortable with the murphy blind in the warm up so in the end I took it off." "He actually travelled beautifully without it,"Dexter said. Adore Me pulled up a touch sore post race due to the incident with 500 metres to go and has been sent to the spelling paddock and won't be seen again this season. Harnesslink Media  

Rocker Band booked a start in the $140,000 Nevele R Fillies Final at Addington on May 9 when defeating last season’s Breeders Crown-winning 2YO filly Katy Perry at Methven on Sunday, February 22. The daughter of Rocknroll Hanover and 2005 New Zealand Cup winner Mainland Banner shared favouritism with Katy Perry in the Hororata Trotting Club’s Nevele R heat on the grass. Both had turns at leading, with Rocker Band having the early gate speed to cross, then driver Ricky May elected to take a trail on Katy Perry nearing the final 800m. Rocker Band had the superior sprint in the run home, coming clear by 2 1/4 lengths in a useful 2:02.3 (1609m) on a drizzle-affected grass track. She was a slightly disappointing fourth at her previous start in the Ashburton Nevele R Heat for trainer Mark Jones, who expected more after securing the perfect trail. She was still racetimed in 1:55.6 there, but couldn’t go with the top Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen-trained fillies of Fight For Glory, who was too good in 1:54.5 from Linda Lovegrace and Supersonic Miss. Both Fight For Glory (New South Wales Oaks Heat) and Supersonic Miss (Pascoes The Jewellers Northern Oaks Prelude) complimented the Ashburton heat run by winning again last weekend. Rocker Band had also been earmarked for the New South Wales Oaks series, but the domestic Nevele R heat was a more suitable target after Ashburton. She was recording her second win at her fifth start for Queensland owner Greg Brodie. The Overport Lodge stable moved to 34 wins and crashed through the $300,000 stakes barrier for the season wtih Rocker Band’s success. The stable also produced Zakspatrol for an upset $40.80 win price in the hands of Kimberly Butt at Addington on Friday night. Kim was able to secure a good trail on the outer with the Grant and Katherine Hatton-owned Zakspatrol in the Blue Star Taxis Pace. They finished too well for Sunnivue Bay Boy, Little Lion Man and Mach’s Terminator in 3:21.5 for the stand start 2600m. The stable also went close at Auckland with trotter Charming Lavra, who ran a close second after moving up in the open for Blair Orange. Courtesy of Mark Jones Racing Stables - Check site here  

Yesterday we did a review of how all the harness racing sires fared at the two day sale at Christchurch this week. Now we turn our attention to Auckland and as expected the Australasian Classic was the success everybody thought it would be with a catalogue as strong as anything ever presented at Auckland. The one huge plus at this years sale was that the champion sire Bettors Delight ended up with with 35% of all horses sold at the sale. Between them Bettor's Delight, Art Major, Mach Three and American Ideal provided nearly two thirds of all the horses sold at Auckland which is such a help when it comes to averages overall. Bettors Delight Number Sold - 40 Overall average - $55,512 Colt average - $62,820 Filly average - $43,330 Just the backbone of the sale and his colt average for 25 sold of $62, 820 is outstanding for any standardbred sale worldwide let alone in New Zealand. Surprisingly for us his fillies averaged nearly $20,000 less than the colts which for a sire who is the best filly sire on the planet is a bit of a mystery to us. Art Major Number sold - 14 Overall average - $48,000 Colt average - $64,100 Filly average - $39,055 Compared to how he fared in Christchurch, Art Major had a stunning sale in Auckland. He has the highest colt average at $64,100 and his fillies brought money more in line with how they are performing on the track. The issue in New Zealand for Art Major has always been one of numbers in the sale due to him never breeding huge numbers of mares in this country. That changed this season when he served a book of 170 mares in New Zealand and therefore he should have a much bigger presence at the sales in the near future. Mach Three Numbers sold - 6 Overall average - $38,333 Colt average - $40,000 Filly average - $30,000 Those figures are a good indication of where Mach Three sits in the overall scheme of things.  Right up there with the big boys but commercially just a touch behind the other two sires above. Continues to have fluctuations in his numbers for sale due to foal numbers but does have bigger crops coming through so may have bigger representation in the future. American Ideal Numbers sold - 11 Overall average - $33,863 Colt average - $40,714 Filly average - $19,375 His numbers at Auckland were a lot better than they were at Christchurch but that was due entirely to one lot who made $150,000. We are still at a loss to explain the lack of demand for American Ideal fillies which have been his flag bearers in New Zealand. Hard to pinpoint what the problem is here with buyers overlooking his stock in favour of stock by sires he is matching on the track. It may just be the lag effect between racetrack performance and sale ring success but we will be watching closely next year for the uplift in prices his performance deserves. Somebeachsomewhere Numbers sold - 4 Overall average - $36,625 Colt average - $42,500 Filly average - $34,333 As in Christchurch the SBSW were great types and were keenly sought after. The only Somebeachsomewhere colt in this sale went to the All Stars barn who have had some success with stock from his very small New Zealand crops to date. His biggest New Zealand crop are now foals on the ground and with the success at this years sales you would anticipate a much bigger representation at next years round of sales. Christian Cullen Number sold - 5 Overall average - $28,900 Colt average - $36,500 Filly average - $22,500  A bit surprising to see Christian Cullen struggle as much as he did in Auckland. Still in the frame as a commercial stallion as he proved at the two days in Christchurch but apart from one lot he was not wanted at this sale. His fillies in particular were marked down which considering their success over the years was a minor surprise. Rocknroll Hanover Number sold - 7 Overall average - $32,714 Colt average - $36,500 Filly average - $30,000 We didn't include Rocknroll Hanover in our Christchurch review as we took the view that being deceased meant he had a limited future impact on New Zealand sales. But having sold seven at Auckland and having such healthy figures persuaded us that we should include him in the Auckland review. A lot of breeders have used him over their Artsplace mares and horses bred on this cross are highly sought after world wide as this cross has produced six of Rocknroll Hanover's eight millionaires. Muscles Yankee Number sold - 3 Overall average - $42,333 Colt average - $43,500 Filly average - $40,000  Muscles Yankee only had the three lots in the whole sale but they all made over $40,000 so their is a real demand still for his stock. The maternal families of all three lots were top class which may have helped the overall result. Majestic Son Numbers sold - 3 Overall average - $34,500 Colt average - $52.500 Filly average - $25,500 The small number in the sale is due to the fact that Majestic Son only has eight yearlings on the ground in New Zealand Should have a much bigger representation next year as he served 161 mares in 2014 on the back of his earlier small crops performing so well. Overview  This sale is the best promotional tool that harness racing has in New Zealand but it has the potential to be so much better in our opinion By natural attrition of smaller breeders in the North, the sale has few lots by sires who are not in the elite group as the above statistics show. We firmly believe that the Australasian Sale could reach far greater heights if the following changes were implemented. *Limit the sale to 125 lots * Make it a select sale * Have a set number of places set aside for southern breeders. The whole point of the changes is to turn the Australasian Sale into an elite sale that dominates the top end market in Australasia. The thoroughbred breeders do it very successfully with K1 at Karaka and while we will never reach those heights we can close the huge gap a wee bit. Breeders in the north who don't get accepted for the Australasian Classic have a ready made alternative these days with the all age sale in May which has gone from strength to strength in the last few years. Last year it hit a five figure average for the first time and the bench of buyers included most of the regulars on the New Zealand sales scene. We have a chance to position our industry in the best possible light with a smaller select sale at Auckland and it is something that we would hope would be considered by PGG Wrightson and The North Island Breeders Association.. Harnesslink Media

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