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Talented New Zealand harness racing performer Smolda kicked off his latest Aussie campaign on a winning note at Penrith last night. Sent across the Tasman to tackle several feature targets, Smolda annexed the popular Renshaw Cup. With trainer Mark Purdon in the cart, the son of Courage Under Fire scored with ease from Yayas Hot Spot and Blazin N Cullen. Covering the last half in a slick 55.9 seconds, Smolda rated 1:56.7 for the 2525-metre journey, with his time slicing a second off Blazin N Cullen’s track record established in last season’s Cup. Pleased with Smolda’s performance, Purdon stated the outing will “top off” the gelding heading into his main mission – Len Smith Mile. The Group One is scheduled to be conducted at Tabcorp Park Menangle on April 26. “He went super last night and never felt like he was going to be beaten,” Purdon said. “He has been racing well at home without a lot of luck, but tonight he showed he is at the top of his game. "I will keep him ticking along for the Len Smith Mile in 10 days.” Smolda’s success was the opening leg of a double for Purdon, who also scored with exciting youngster Follow The Stars. PAUL COURTS

Mat Rue almost brought off a driving treble in the final race at Bathurst last Friday, going down by just a half-head, but it was hard to detect any disappointment in his voice as he came back to scale with the undoubted “ call “ of the night. “Lexy’s had a big few minutes!” he announced. This was in reference to a wonderful double for Eugowra owner Lex Crosby, with Lexys On Fire scoring its maiden win in the Bathurst race, just minutes after its younger half-sister Read About Lexy had led all the way to take out a heat of the Victorian Oaks at Melton. Lexys On Fire, the Gold Bracelet winner during the recent Bathurst carnival, is a well-known and much-admired filly, trained by Rue’s boss Bernie Hewitt. With the Oaks heat at Melton set to go only ten minutes ahead of the Bathurst race, Rue just, somehow, managed to be late onto the track with Zirconia, and already knew the Melton result. Rue’s drive was impeccable, but it wasn’t good enough to overcome Lexys On Fire ($14.40, Ken Sharp/David Harris), which came from midfield in the running line to get the bob in on the line.  The Courage Under Fire daughter had been most consistent, without winning, in nine starts this season, and her timing in securing this first win, within minutes of her little sister’s biggest success to date, was perfect. For Eugowra trainer Ken Sharp, it was a maiden win on the new Bathurst track, while David Harris, who’s a relative stranger there, was unsure of the result until he checked with the more experienced Rue. Lex Crosby would have been delighted by the spontaneous applause which erupted in the Bathurst clubhouse when Read About Lexy got up at Melton.  No doubt he staged an early exit from the post-race celebrations there, to get to a television monitor for that “other” race back at home.   All of which might be summarized as one late, one early, two Lexys, and timing that worked out just right. Earlier in the night, the feature Western Districts Derby saw a dominant display by Dubbo gelding Mister Jogalong ($2.30 favourite, Mick/Kurt Lew), which dictated terms throughout, sprinting the last half in 55.4 seconds to run out  a very easy winner, from Jethros An Eagle and Lexus On The Beach. It was his first run in six weeks, but a smart trial win at Dubbo had him well prepped for the race. The winner now of six from ten, he will likely aim up at the Breeders Challenge, but is also eligible for the Victorian Sires series, run at about the same time. Other winners on a night of competitive racing which produced some very close finishes: Likeallofus ($4.70, Wendy/Emma Turnbull), too tough in a 2260 metres C1 class, after the slow early speed prompted Emma to change tactics and work to the death seat, where it confirmed the stable’s good opinion with its gritty effort; Allnight  Kiss ($4.30 favourite, Bernie Hewitt/Mat Rue), came three-wide from the bell in a 2260 metres 3C0-3C1, to give Mat Rue the first leg of a winning double (with  a further three seconds); Makin Memories ($85.50, Pat McCarthy), responded well to several changes by his trainer-driver, and on his best behavior throughout the second division of the C1 class, to defy his starting quote; A Mighty Storm ($6.20, Wayne Watterson), highly impressive in a C2-C4 sprint, sprinting sharply when extricated from the markers and stopping the clock in 1:55.1, for his  highly delighted breeder-owner-trainer-driver; Our Castanea ($10.70, Ken/Mat Rue), ground out a tough win in the C0 sprint, after coming three-wide without cover, and prompting a warm tribute from the driver for his modest and unassuming dad; Tailamade Billy ($6.40, Steve Turnbull), its first win at start five, in a 2C O sprint, after some good efforts during the recent carnival, and possibly to continue on to the Breeders Challenge series. The Bathurst HRC made a presentation between races to Steve Turnbull, in recognition of his having his twenty-thousandth starter at a recent meeting.  A staggering milestone, for a champion trainer-driver who’s an ornament to the sport. by Terry Neil

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 

Harness racing can be cruel at times with injury stopping a lot of horses fulfilling their potential. One horse that would fit that description to a tee is Boom Gate. The five year old son of Courage Under Fire was a super impressive winner on debut when he took out the Sapling Stakes as a two year old but it has been far from plain sailing ever since. Soundness issues have restricted his appearances to the point that tonight he was just having start number seventeen. Now with Robert Dunn on the beach, Boom Gate has impressed his new trainers and they were confident of a forward showing tonight at Addington. Away well from barrier nine for driver John Dunn, Boom Gate worked to the front after 400 metres and kept up a solid tempo in front. John Dunn let him run from the 800 metres and as they turned for home the only challenger was Nevertheless who had had the trail the whole way. Boom Gate sprinted away at the 200 metres mark and went to the line an easy winner by 1 3/4 lengths over Nevertheless with Livura running into third. Boom Gate cut out the 2600 metres in 3:14.2, a mile rate of 2:00.1 with closing sectionals of 57.7 and 28.4. Driver John Dunn was full of praise for Boom Gate post race. " He did that fairly easily to be honest." "He has always been a smart horse but injury has blighted his career,"  John said. It hasn't all been plain sailing since he joined the Dunn camp either. " The first time we worked him up he went sore on us so we had to stop. " We gave him a couple of months out and started again and it has all gone smoothly this time."  " We will just take him day by day at the moment but that won't be his last win if he stays sound," John said. The Dunn barn deserves all the kudos they get for getting Boom Gate back to the track and hopefully he can fulfill his early promise. Harnesslink Media

Any harness racing breeder will tell you there are no guarantees when it comes to breeding standardbreds regardless of their racing record or pedigree. Plenty of top class well bred mares fail to fire as broodmares for reasons that in the main are a mystery to everybody. Well known breeder Trevor Casey has raced a lot of horses over the years and one of his better racemares from a few years ago was Belle Galleon. The daughter of Sundon was bred by Garry Allen, the HRNZ chairman and raced initially by Trevor Casey and Bruce Negus of Courage Under Fire fame who trained the filly. Bruce sold his share in Belle Galleon to Mike Bowden after the filly had had a handful of starts as a three year old and Trevor and Mike raced the mare for several seasons as she accumulated eleven wins and $116,144 on the track. Trevor remembers her as quite difficult to get organized in the beginning. " She took ages to get the hang of it early on." " We would take her to the trials quite a few times and she would just gallop." " She did eventually come to it and we started her at Oamaru but she ran into a real smart one in Jasmyn's Gift and finished second. " We lined her up the next night at Forbury Park and she won easily," Trevor told Harnesslink today.   At her third lifetime start she ran fifth in the New Zealand Trotting Oaks but was disqualified for an early gallop and in just her fifth lifetime start Belle Galleon ran second in the New Zealand Trotting Derby to Thedonsson after having no luck in the running. Belle Galleon changed camps a couple of times during her career moving between Bruce Negus and Colin De Filippi. After been retired to the broodmare barn, tradegy struck the Belle Galleon camp soon after when part owner Mike Bowden passed away. In his will Mike left his share in Belle Galleon to well known Amberley trainer Kevin Chapman. So Trevor and Kevin take year about breeding from the mare and while she was a very smart mare on the racetrack, Belle Galleon is fast becoming a broodmare gem. Trevor bred the first foal, a colt by Dream Vacation that he named Stent due to having had stents implanted earlier that year. He entrusted him to Colin De Filippi and as they say the rest is history.  A smart two year year old Stent has just got better and better every year to the point where he has just gone through a five start Australian campaign including the Southern Star final unbeaten. His earnings stand at a tick over $950,000 NZ and there appears plenty more in store for the now six year old gelding. Kevin sent Belle Galleon to Majestic Son when his turn came around and the resulting foal was named Belles Son. He has hit a purple patch in the last fortnight winning his last two starts and three lifetime from just ten starts and looks to have a bright future. Trevor then sent the mare to Angus Hall and the resultant filly foal was named Arya. Placed with the All Stars barn, Arya was a star two year last year, only missing a place once from seven starts when she was controversially disqualified in the Harness Jewels. Sent to Australia for the Breeders Crown, she was dominant throughout the series, winning the final effortlessly. Arya was left in Australia with Brent Lilley by Trevor as he also has top class filly Wanna Play with the All Star barn and didn't want the two fillies to clash. This season at three she has carried on her winning way for Brent and on Saturday night took out the Group 1 $60,000 Need For Speed Princess final on the undercard to the Southern Star. Arya is now the winner of seven of her eight Australian starts and has taken her earnings over the $160,000 mark and she is still only half way through her three year old season. When Kevin's turn to breed a foal came around he sent the mare to Muscles Yankee and bred a colt he named Izmok. Izmok was sold at last months New Zealand Premier Yearling sale at Christchurch for $90,000, the top price for a trotting yearling at the New Zealand sales this year. Izmok was purchased by Charlie and Kaye Templeton from Invercargill. Trevor sent the mare back to Dream Vacation and has a full brother to Stent on the ground while Kevin has had Belle Galleon served by Muscle Hill. Trevor was at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday and was still bubbling today when speaking to Harnesslink. " It is not very often that you win a Group 1 but to win three Group1s on one night was unreal." " I don't think many mares will have ever left three Group 1 winners on one night apart from maybe Scuse Me." " The funny thing is that the three foals that are old enough to race from Belle Galleon have all won a race for the last two weeks in a row, " Trevor said. There are never any guarantees when breeding from smart racemares but in Belle Galleon, Trevor and Kevin have got that rarest of creatures - a broodmare gem. Harnesslink Media 

Well-bred harness racing youngster Redbank Lenny will be given the opportunity to match the feats of one of his famous relatives. A stylish winner at Goulburn yesterday, Redbank Lenny has been aimed at the famed Bathurst Gold Crown – a feature won by his clan member Lombo Pocket Watch. Arguably the greatest freshman produced in the Southern Hemisphere, Lombo Pocket Watch captured the 2006 edition of the Group One. While she isn’t ready to make any comparisons between the pair, trainer KerryAnn Turner is confident Redbank Lenny can join the former great on the honour roll. “He is a very nice two-year-old, which should keep getting better,” Turner said. “He finished third in 1:53.9 at his second start and has come out and won his next start quite easily. “There is plenty to like about him.” With Turner holding the reins, Redbank Lenny led throughout from the pole to score by a metre-and-a-half from Boobalaga Road, with Condafew five-and-a-half metres away third. “Once he led he was always going to be hard to beat and he got to the line with a bit up his sleeve.” Covering the last half in 58.9 seconds, the son of Courage Under Fire rated 2:00.2 for the 1710-metre trip. PAUL COURTS

If there is any yearling which can brag a family littered with Group One winners, then this is it! A striking bay, the colt is part of the Yirribee Pacing Stud collection ready to ‘go under the hammer’ at the Sydney Australian Pacing Gold Sale. With ‘movie star’ looks, the youngster will enter the ring as Lot 293. As for his bloodlines, the colt is by the greatest juvenile produced in the Southern Hemisphere – Courage Under Fire. Successful at his first 24 starts, Courage Under Fire won a record six Derbys on his way to earning more than $1.4million. At stud Courage Under Fire continues to set records, including becoming only the third Victoria Derby winner to sire a subsequent winner in more than 100 years. Courage Under Fire’s effort saw him join Robert Derby and Radiant Robert – two immortal stallions! Lot 293 also boasts Group One success on his maternal side being from All Fire N Ice, which is the dam of four winners from five starters. All Fire N Ice is from Group One winner Rain Girl, which is the dam of multiple Group One winner, Atitagain, Group One winner Rain Again. The family also includes Group One winners Go West U Terror, Tricky Styx and Willow. PAUL COURTS

Most harness racing enthusiasts in New Zealand headed to the sales this week at both Auckland and Christchurch and a lot took home a yearling or two. With the dust just settling on the two days at the Premier Sale in Christchurch, we thought it a good time to assess the performance of our leading sires at that sale along with a few of the other sires who aspire to reach that level. All the numbers used are correct at the present time but may vary slightly as more of the passed in horses are sold post sale The elephant in the room in any review such as this is of course Bettor's Delight. He just completely dominated both days at Christchurch both in numbers sold and the average over the two days. Bettor's Delight  Number sold - 49 Overall average - $51,091 Colt average - $56,645 Filly average - $34,291 The surprising thing from those statistics is the big gap between his colts and his fillies. Bettor's Delight is renowned for leaving great fillies so to us the gap was surprising. Apart from that what can you say. A great sire who continues to dominate the sales and nothing happened in the two days at Christchurch to suggest that any change to the status quo is coming anytime soon. The next most successful sire with big numbers was the stallion that Bettor's Delight dethroned from the top spot in the yearling sales averages in Christian Cullen. His numbers held up well considering all the challengers he is facing on the siring front. Christian Cullen Numbers sold - 18 Overall average - $37,611 Colt average - $40,133 Filly average - $25,000 Considering where his service fee presently sits, Christian Cullen represents great value on yesterdays results and that is not something we were able to say just a few years ago. Every year the pundits predict his demise as a sire of significance but every year the buyers continue to put their hand up for the Christian Cullens and for big money to boot. Another elite sire who had a good sale was Mach Three. Mach Three Numbers sold - 20 Overall average - $30,700 Colt average - $32,062 Filly average - $29,791 This was one sire who had little difference in the average between his fillies and his colts. The top price of $71,000 was the same for both his best filly and colt and most of the leading trainers brought one or two by him. Has been doing a great job over the last few years but is probably overdue another high class colt in the next twelve months or else the so called experts will be suggesting his best days are behind him. American Ideal Numbers sold - 22 Overall average - $15,681 Colt average - $19,166 Filly average - $11,500  Considering the great last twelve months that his stock have had on the racetracks of Australasia, it was a real surprise to us and no doubt to vendors as well that he struggled as much as he did. Even more confusing was the lack of interest in his fillies when they have been his flag bearers in New Zealand over the last twelve months. Sometimes there is a lag in racetrack performance being converted into sales success and to us that is the most logical explanation here. Courage Under Fire Numbers sold - 8 Overall average - $32,375 Colt average - $34,857 Filly average - $16,000 Just continues to fly under the radar of most of the breeders in New Zealand but not the buyers thats for sure. Only sold one filly so that average is misleading but his colts were highly sought after throughout the two days. Has shown repeatedly that he can compete with any sire in the sales ring but his number of mares served in New Zealand continue to decline. He only served nineteen mares in 2014 so some vendors who have a foal by him may be in for a good return at next years sales. Art Major Numbers sold - 14 Overall average - $29,600 Colt average - $28,833 Filly average - $30,187  Considering the run that Art Major is having on both sides of the Tasman, the lack of big money for most of his yearlings took us by surprise. He did have one six figure filly but his second best yearling price wise only made $45,000. Didn't appear to us to be anything amiss with the yearlings in question and the only answer we could come up with was they weren't Bettor's Delights. Amazing result really when you look at the super season his three year olds are having in New Zealand Somebeachsomewhere Numbers sold - 5 Overall average - $48,000 Colt average - $55,000 Filly average - $20,000 First crop of any size in New Zealand and these yearlings were conceived via fresh semen. Without exception they were good looking types and were keenly sought after. Going by the type of yearling produced by Somebeachsomewhere at this years sales,  we could be about to see why the North Americans hold the son of Mach Three in such high esteem. Rock N Roll Heaven Numbers sold - 4 Overall average - $30,250 Colt average - $40,000 Filly average - $20,500 They all were nice types but what surprised us was his only filly made just $20,500. The fillies have been the ones flying the flag for Rock N Roll Heaven in North America and in Australasia so the emphasis on the colts was a surprise. Look very much like clones of their grand sire Rock N Roll Hanover which is a good thing in our book though attitude did seem an issue at times with a couple of them. Sportswriter Numbers sold - 5 Overall average - $26,300 Colt average - $27,625 Filly average - $21,000 The whole five of them were lovely types and we thought they under sold when you looked at the pedigrees and the individuals at the sale. All of them made at least $20,000 but only one kicked on from that to make $46,000. There are question marks over whether he can leave that elite level colt or filly but you couldn't fault the yearlings in Christchurch and we were a touch disappointed with the prices they made. Changeover Numbers sold - 10 Overall average - $11,550 Colt average - $12,333 Filly average - $10,375 Not the kind of sale he would have been looking for. He had his moments but his lack of classic winning horses from his first crop is starting to hurt him. All he needs is one or two top liners to appear and his stock will double in value over night. His overall numbers are great and everything else is on track but he does need those couple of stars and sooner rather than later. Love You Numbers sold - 4 Overall average - $28,875 Colt average - $28,875 A great result for a trotting sire to have four average over $28,000. They were keenly sought after when ever a Love You entered the ring. The only issue now is he only served 13 mares in 2014 and was unavailable this season so there will few of them at the sales in the next year or two. Muscle Mass Numbers sold - 13 Overall average - $16,923 Colt average - $16,625 Filly average - $17,400 A great return to New Zealand for the son of Muscles Yankee and he had a big sale considering his numbers and the fact some of the maternal families were ok but not sensational. A sire who is really on the up in North America but the only downside is this is his only crop in New Zealand to go through the sales and at this stage it will be his last as he hasn't shuttled for the last two years. Overview All the sires we have reviewed would in the main be satisfied with what they achieved at this years Premier sale in Christchurch. Some probably hoped to do a bit better and some probably did a bit better than they thought they would but the numbers for the sires we have covered are commendable. Some sires at this years Christchurch sales that we haven't reviewed here didn't help the overall sale on any level and you would have to question the value of continuing to present stock by them at what is meant to be a "Premier" sale. Harnesslink Media

Astute New South Wales trainer Colin Thomas experienced the highs and lows of harness racing this week. Just days after registering one of his biggest victories at Tabcorp Park Menangle when successful with rising star Bettermatch, Thomas had to humanely put down stable ‘King’, Business In Motion. One of the state’s most promising pacers, Business In Motion’s demise was the result of a freak paddock accident. Having also competed at Menangle, Business In Motion was placed in his usual paddock upon return to Thomas’ property the following day where he was set to enjoy an easy week. The following morning, however, Thomas discovered the entire impaled on a metal pole in his groin. Although Business In Motion had a few cuts from the incident, the son of Courage Under Fire “appeared to be okay.” In fact, the four-year-old even ate his lunch! “A mare in one of the back paddocks had escaped and he must have reared up and come down on top of a metal post,” Thomas explained. “Once I washed him off, I tended to a couple of cuts, but it didn’t seem that bad. “I checked on him all day and he appeared to be okay, he even had a feed. “Later in the afternoon when I checked him he had swelled up around the cuts and was haemorrhaging pretty badly…he must have pierced himself right up his ‘old fella’. “In the end, I had no choice and it was the humane thing to do.” A classy performer, Business In Motion won his first five starts before finishing his freshman season with 10 wins. Making steady progress through the grades at three and four, Business In Motion’s record sits on 20 wins and 13 placings from 43 starts for earnings of $161,840. On a brighter note, Bettermatch has “pulled up well” from his latest victory, which saw the son of Kenneth J maintain his unbeaten sequence from four starts. Thrilled with the two-year-old’s progress, Thomas has aimed Bettermatch at several key features. “That was his toughest run to date and he has pulled up well,” Thomas said. “Steve said he thought the horse may have been gone up the straight, but when he put a couple on his bum, he responded well. “Only good horses find extra under pressure and he is a serious racehorse. “I will set him for the Bathurst Crown next. He is eligible for the Breeders’ Challenge, Vicbred and Breeders’ Crown, but I don’t want to overtax him. “Even if he goes in all of those, he won’t do much between the heats and Finals.” PAUL COURTS

She might bear closer resemblance to a pony than a quality harness racing performer, but ‘pocket sized’ filly Du Vella is all class according to trainer Geoff Webster. The Kiwi-bred daughter of Courage Under Fire – known as “Mighty Mouse” during his racing days – will be a key player Friday night’s $15,000 AJ Prendergast Memorial Oaks Trial at Ballarat. Webster acknowledges his youngster faces tough opposition in the time-honoured 2200-metre event, which was first run in 1981 and has produced winners the calibre of Bellas Delight, Jadah Rose, Ashlees Babe and Jasmarilla. However, the accomplished Bannockburn horseman is confident Du Vella, which is aiming for her fourth consecutive win, can more than hold her own despite an unfashionable barrier 11 draw. “She’s a lovely filly,” Webster said.  “She only came over here from New Zealand last season and she’s going very well. “She has progressed through the grades to C2 class quite quickly and I’m really happy with the way she’s developing. She gives me every reason to think she’ll measure up against the best of her age.” The Oaks Trial provides a launching pad into a raft of features, most immediately heats of the New South Wales Oaks to be run at Tabcorp Park Menangle on February 21. The $200,000 Group One Final will be staged at the same venue on March 1 – Inter Dominion day. “New South Wales is our main target at present, so the Ballarat race will give us a better guide to her chances against the good fillies,” Webster said. “That said, she came off a quick speed to beat a smart field at Melton a couple of starts back after being held up and I do believe she’s a really nice horse. “She seems to go best when driven sit-sprint and she’s going to need to get the right run into the race from her draw, but I think she’s capable.” Webster has also qualified recent Kiwi import Angus T Jones for the second of Friday night’s features, the $30,000 Group Three Flying Horse Bistro Tontine Pacers’ Series Final, but does not fancy his chances of notching an unprecedented third consecutive victory in the prized provincial championship. Webster trained and drove Charlie Machsheen to win the race in 2013 and prepared Flaming Flutter, which was partnered to victory by Greg Sugars, in 2014. “Angus T Jones is honest, but I think he’ll struggle in that field,” Webster said. “It’s a super line-up and on paper they look like they’re better than him. “He had every chance when third in a heat of the series at Hamilton (beaten 23 metres) last start and Friday night’s opposition is stronger again so I’d say the best we can hope for is a place.” Dominant Smythes Creek training duo Clayton Tonkin and Emma Stewart look to have one hand on the Tontine trophy, preparing leading hopefuls Another Safari and Major Secret. Another Safari will begin from barrier three, with New South Wales Derby winner, Major Secret, to come out of 10. Ballarat Media

The biggest buyers of harness racing bloodstock in the southern hemisphere are turning a new leaf in New Zealand next week when they consign a colt to the Australasian Classic yearling sale. Everytime you looked up in the last few years Merv and Meg Butterworth had been buying yearlings at the sales or snapping up promising racehorses in New Zealand for their huge racing empire. The Butterworths have enjoyed huge success in the last few seasons especially since they hooked up with the leading New Zealand training duo of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. The Butterworths have just enjoyed their best night as owners on Saturday when Arden Rooney scooped the $400,000 Hunter Cup. So next week when Lot 109 walks into the ring at Auckland the Butterworths will have come full circle. Lot 109 is named Bettor Under Fire and just like his vendors, he is from a 100% Australian maternal family. Bettor Under Fire is the first foal from the outstanding Courage Under Fire racemare in Queen Of Fire 1:57.1 ($176,809) who ran second in both the Australian Oaks and the Australasian Breeders Crown final for four year old mares. Queen Of Fire is from Penultimate who has left six other winners including Majestic Emperor 1:58.1 ($186,378) and Major Mac 1:59.2 ($72,163) and the dam of the very promising Machtwister 1:55 ($57,578) Penultimate is a half sister to six winners including Detroit Dan 1:56.8 ($118,639) Mister Motown 1:59.6 (72,163) and to Star Chaser who is the dam of four $100,000 winners including  the champion Australian pacer Safari 1:55.7 ($535,445) as well as Astronaut 1:57.1 ($141,129) Our Maid Marianne 1:57.9 ($110,338) and Major Frank 1:52 ($108,228). Kiwi buyers have had a tendency to overlook Australian bred stock in the past but Mark Purdons successful raids on the Australian yearling sales and the performance last season of Alta Orlando 1:56.2 ($173 486) who is from a West Australian mare has certainly changed that perception on this side of the Tasman. The hardest thing for Merv and Meg to get the hang of next week may well be the inclination to put their hands up when the bidding starts. Old habits are hard to break. Harnesslink Media  

The first of this years harness racing yearling sales were held in Melbourne yesterday with  the Victorian section of the  Australian Pacing Gold being staged As has become common in recent years, there was quite a few Kiwis on hand and they were active again throughout the day. The first Kiwi in action was Neil Pilcher who continued his long standing habit of buying a son of Courage Under Fire at most sales. On this occasion Neil brought lot 7 which was a colt from the former 1:58.7 two year old Artificial for $25,000. Artificial has already left Im For Real 1:55.6 while the grand dam is the talented racemare Counterfeit Girl 1:58.1 ($118,769) Neil has had a great run with his Couage Under Fire purchasers in the last few years and this one has all the credentials to keep up his strike rate. Second cab off the rank for the Kiwis were the prominent husband and wife team of Philip and Glenys Kennard. Their first purchase was lot 102 which is a Bettor's Delight colt from the unraced Mach Three mare Miss Montoya. Her claim to fame is she is a half sister to the dam of A Bit Of A Legend 1:54.7 ($760,747) and London Legend ($456,124) so the $26,000 purchase price looked good value to us. Well known trotting owner Trevor Casey was next up but as this was a pacer only sale, thats what he brought. Trevor brought lot 105 which is a son of Art Major from the imported American mare Magic Z Tam 1:57.1 ($83,942) The first foal from the dam, the colt is related to a string of top performers in North America and even though he cost Trevor $72,000, he didn't appear an expensive colt once you had read his pedigree page. High flying New Zealand trainer Cran Dalgety was the next Kiwi into the fray forking out $60,000 for a colt by American super sire Somebeachsomewhere from the imported daughter of Bettor's Delight in Molly's Lucky Star 1:54.2 ($96,700) The grand dam Pacific Destiny is a half sister to the brilliant Pacific Fella 1:48.2 ($1,064,631) so he has all the credentials to make it on the track. The Kennards were next into the fray again when they went to $42,000 to secure lot 131 who was an Art Major colt from the race winning Albert Albert mare in Nosotros who has already produced Red Vee Hanover 1:58.8 ($89,094). The dam Nosotros is a half sister to the former brilliant grand circuit performer in Hexus 1:55 ($555,114) and with Nosotros being a 3/4 sister to the smart Winforus 1:55 ($139,915) this colt ticks plenty of boxes. Mark Purdon waited to lot 167 before he brought his one and only purchase for the day. Mark purchased a Modern Art colt from a Badlands Hanover half sister to the champion juvenile Gotta Go Cullen 1:58.2 ($1,127,567) for $34,000 The grand dam is a half sister to Mark's former champion pacer Il Vicolo 1:56.7 ($1,580,945) and to the dam of Stunnin Cullen 1:54.1 ($1,359,094) Mark has a history of plucking horses out of sales for not a lot of money and turning them into stars and this colt has a maternal pedigree to die for. The last purchase by Kiwis for the day was when the Kennards went back to the well for the third time and spent $30,000 to buy lot 173 who is an Art Major colt from the former race winning two year old Sophies Girl. She was from a half sister to Seinfield 1:55.1 ($126,082) and belongs to the New Zealand family made famous by the great Manaroa 1:58.1 ($218,159) back in the 1970s. The top priced colt for the sale was lot 63 who was a Western Ideal half brother to the brilliant Guaranteed 1:50.4 ($829,5910). The top price in the fillies division of $51,000 was shared by Lot 159 who was a Rocknroll Hanover filly from a mare tracing to the great New Zealand broodmare Armiss and Lot 187 who was a Bettor's Delight filly who had the outstanding Lordship broodmare Black Debate as her third dam. Overall the sale would have to considered a big success with the average up nearly $3,000 ($26,046)  and the clearance rate on a par with last year at just under 80%. Harnesslink Media

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, January 17, 2015--Rank outsider Flem N Em N (Jason Bartlett, $71.50) stunned 'em from first-up Saturday night, easily winning Yonkers Raceway's $35,000 Open Pace. Sitting early from post position No. 4, Flem N Em N saw Cam B Zipper (Brian Sears) break leaving. Sapphire City, also leaving, worked around pole-sitting BJ's Guy (Matt Kakaley) before a :27.2 opening quarter-mile. After a seemingly-soft 57.1 intermission, Flem N Em N moved briskly from fourth. The same horse who tired noticeably in the pocket the previous week blew eight on by here, disposing of Sapphire City nearing the 1:25.2 three-quarters. The tiring leader trapped both BJ's Guy and last week's winner, Take it Back Terry (George Brennan), in behind. Flem N Em N opened four lengths into the lane before winning by 3¼ lengths in 1:52.4. "Terry" shifted out and closed for second, with McErlean (Eric Goodell), BJ's Guy and Sapphire City settling for the remainder. For Flem N Em N, a 10-year-old Down Under Courage Under Fire gelding owned by Bamond Racing and trained by Jeffrey Bamond Jr., it was his first win in two seasonal starts. The exacta paid $285.50, with the triple returning $1,504. Flem N Em N now has lifetime earnings of $604,865 from 33 wins 32 seconds and 29 thirds from 181 starts. Flem N Em N Special Saturday props to Warrawee Needy (MacDonald, $5.90), whose zipped through his $21,000, 12th-race rivals in 1:51.4, fastest local mile of the season. Note that since no one took down Saturday's Pick 5, Monday's gimmick begins with a carryover of $2,665.18 (50-cent base wager, races 5 through 9). The Raceway's live season continues Monday (7:10 PM), then Tuesday (1 PM) and Thursday through Saturday (all at 7:10 PM). by Frank Drucker, for Yonkers Raceway

Promising harness racing youngster Sporty Spook claimed the Temora track record when successful at the country circuit last Saturday night. First-up from a spell, the David Kennedy-trained gelding covered the mile in a slick 1:57.5 when driven to an effortless victory by Jarrod Alchin. After finding the front from barrier three, the son of Sportswriter was untouched to score by 20-and-a-half metres from Casino Grin, with Itsallaboutex 14-and-a-half metres away third. The three-year-old sprinted through the final 800 metres in 57.7 to extend his record to an impressive six wins and five placings from 12 starts for earnings of $63,800. Sporty Spook’s placings include the Bathurst Gold Crown and Breeders’ Challenge Finals. “Dave must have been thinking he was ready to race because he told me he had checked up what the track record was in the lead up to the race,” Alchin said. “Just as he left the gate he just flicked a wheel, and it fired him up a bit, but I didn’t really want to fight him so I let him stride.” Set to back up in this weekend’s Simpson Memorial at Tabcorp Park Menangle, the three-year-old may be taken south for the Victoria Derby heats later in the month. The New South Wales Derby and another crack at the Breeders’ Challenge are also on the agenda. “Dave was pretty clear that he wanted to see him race well because if he is going to be competitive in a race like the Simpson Memorial then he needs to be in good form leading into it,” Alchin said. “The Victoria Derby heats are also on the cards, although that will be a big step up with some of the big names coming from New Zealand. “I guess that decision will be made after he races at Menangle.” Another rising star also established a track record earlier in the night, with Business In Motion setting the standard over 2000 metres. Completing a hat-trick in the process, Business In Motion rated 2:01.2, with the last half covered in 57.9 seconds. Thrilled with the son of Courage Under Fire, trainer Col Thomas has set his sights on the rich Chariots Of Fire. Australasia’s premier four-year-old event, the Group One is scheduled to be run at Menangle on March 1 – TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion day. Thomas is also considering heading south of the Murray River to contest the Bonanza on February 7. The feature is part of the A G Hunter Cup program. “He’s gone well again,” Thomas said. “I will just keep racing him along before a possible trip to Melton for the Bonanza in February.” PAUL COURTS

Tasmanian harness racing trainer Steve Lukac admitted to being surprised after Pockets of Courage won the first two-year-old race of the season in Launceston last night. Lukac was not surprised the gelding won, but taken aback at the odds offered about the youngster in the $10,000 Keith Stanley Debutante Stakes over 1680 metres. Pockets of Courage paid $11.80 on the Tote and much the same was offered by the fixed odds corporate bookies. “He finished first and second in the two trials and I was very confident he would run well, so yes, I was surprised he paid so well,” Lukac said. “His biggest asset is that he is a beautifully-gaited horse with good manners. There’s a lot of upside to this horse.” Lukac admitted the win also had a lot to do with a very good drive from Nathan Ford. Pockets of Courage was well away from the mobile, but despite beginning from the pole, he couldn’t match the speed of Goggo Gee Gee, which landed in front, with the favourite Sultan Fella facing the breeze. Ford was content to settle the son of Courage Under Fire and Rangiann behind the leader where he stayed until the home turn. When Ford called on Pockets of Courage for the supreme effort in the home straight the freshman responded magnificently to score by two metres from rank outsider Origin Cronk, with another outsider, Chica Bella, flashing home to be four-and-a-half metres away third. PETER STAPLES

Integrity will be at a premium for the annual Garrards 2YO Trialling Sale to be conducted at Tabcorp Park Menangle this Sunday. HRNSW will take a select number of samples in consultation with the Sales organisers including the fastest horse of the morning. In addition to this any buyer will be able to have their purchase tested for Steroids by notifying the HRNSW representative at the sale and paying the appropriate fee. This is the first sale in which buyers have had this opportunity. The 51-head catalogue has brought together two-year-old colts, geldings and fillies from every Australian eastern Mainland State as well as New Zealand. Included in the draft are sons and daughters of such notable sires as Beautide's sire, Bettors Delight, Courage Under Fire, Mach Three, Rocknroll Hanover and Rock N Roll Heaven. HRNSW CEO John Dumesny said the controlling body want to make it clear that all prospective owners, stakeholders, participants and supporters that they can have faith in harness racing in NSW. "As has been acknowledged nationally HRNSW has the strongest approach of any jurisdiction to integrity processes." "The HRNSW commitment covers every aspect and it is with the support of the Ready To Race Sale organisers that swabs will be taken, tested and if required stored for future analysis." Only graduates are eligible to nominate for the associated Group Three feature, the C.J. Garrard Classic, to be held at Tabcorp Park, Menangle, next August. NSW Breeders Challenge Owners Bonus certificates can be used as legal tender at the sale. By Dale Walker  

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