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Popular Canterbury harness racing trainer Robert Dunn cracked the 100 winners for the season for the first time as a trainer when a recent recruit to the stable Wesley Silcox took out the the Tinwald Tavern Mobile Pace at Ashburton today. Robert has had the stable firing on all cylinders all season and to reach the coverted 100  club is a just reward for all the hard work the stable has put in throughout the season. Wesley Silcox was recently purchased for stable clients out of the Brent White barn after two very impressive wins at the recent Nelson meeting with the original owner deciding to stay in and remain part of the ownership group. It is not the first time that Robert Dunn has bought out of the Brent White stable with Elios 1:55 ($213,676) an earlier purchase. Steadied out of the gate today from barrier two by driver John Dunn, Wesley Silcox slotted into a nice possie in the running line for the first 1400 meters. Sent forward outside the leader Change Time at the 1000 meter mark, Wesley Silcox sat there until they turned for home when he kicked away for an impressive two length victory with John Dunn hardly moving in the cart. The win made it three from three for Wesley Silcox and the good looking son of Courage Under Fire looks to have a huge future in front of him. He paced the 2400 meters from the mobile in a swift 3:00.6, a mile rate of 2:01 with impressive closing sectionals of 56.2 and 27.5. Falcon's Goddess, the dam of Wesley Silcox is a 1:58.5 daughter of the former smart Soky's Atom mare, Soky's Lass 1:58.9 ($34,754). Soky's Lass is very closely related to two of the best horses to ever set foot on a racetrack in New Zealand in Luxury Liner 1:56.9 ($1,721,984) and Christopher Vance 1:54.6 ($1,747,167). It is a family that has been a bit quiet in recent years but in Wesley Silcox it looks to have found another star. Wesley Silcox Harnesslink media

The Courage Under Fire three year old Rip Roaring has threatened to win a race several times this season. Rip Roaring was originally trained by “Coaster” Howe in Canterbury for whom he ran seven placings which was followed by a placing in his one start out of the Cox and Hoffman barn in Otago before joining the barn of Peter Scaife in the North Island. A third in his first start in the North at Cambridge last week continued his run of placings which was finally broken in the Malcolm Wrigley Insurance Services Pace at Alexandra Park this evening. Sent forward out of the gate from barrier four by driver Zac Butcher, Rip Roaring took a trail after 300 meters behind Monterey Jack driven by Josh Dickie. There Rip Roaring sat until the 200 meters when he took advantage of the passing lane to swoop late for a well-deserved win. The breakthrough win came at start twenty but he has also been placed nine times on his way to earning $13,096 in stakes to date. He paced the 2200 meters in 2:47.3, a mile rate of 2:02.4 with closing sectionals of 58.2 and 28. Bred in Canterbury by Studholme Bloodstock Limited, Rip Roaring is raced by Bill “Gouty” Davis, Colin Tennant and Selwyn pig farmer Ray Seebeck. The trio are well known around Canterbury harness racing tracks as the owners of the former smart Canterbury trotter Beat The Monarch 1:58.7 ($107,325) who did a great job for his owners over several seasons before his sale to Australia. Ray Seebeck is still getting over the win of Gotta Grunter, who he races with long time fellow pig farmer Pete Molloy, who cleared maidens at the recent Timaru meeting. The owners of Rip Roaring are three of the nicer people involved in this industry and Rip Roaring's win tonight is just reward for all the investment they have made in harness racing. Harnesslink media

In the spring of 2013,one of the most talked about horses in the North Island was the Andrew and Lyn Nea trained gelding Beyond The Silence. The son of Courage Under Fire had won five of his first nine starts along with a couple of placings and had impressed many seasoned observers with his high speed and stamina. On the strength of those performances the decision was made by his connections to trek south for the PGG Wrightson $50,000 sales race at Kaikoura and from there to Cup week at Addington. A near enough sixth at Kaikoura was followed by a poor ninth on Cup Day and Beyond The Silence returned to the North Island to rest and lick his wounds. A series of workouts had Beyond The Silence well primed for his new campaign when he stepped out at Alexandra Park in Auckland tonight. Sent straight to the front from barrier three by Lyn Neal, he cruised along in front for a lap before handing up to the favourite, Russley Haste with 1200 meters to go and from there it was just a matter of zooming up the passing lane for an impressive win over the stablemate Who Dares Wins who also used the passing lane to great effect. The time for the 2200 meters in the very windy conditions was only 2:46.3, a mile rate of 2:01.6 but they scooted home from the 800 in 56.6 and the 400 in 27.2. From a Camtastic half sister to the former smart Fred Fletcher trained pacers Roymark ($122,461) and Precious Romance ($62,015), Beyond The Silence belongs to the family of the imported No Nukes mare Romantic 11. Raced by the Neals with the estate of Lyn's father Frank Bebbington, Beyond The Silence looks to have a big future in front of him judging by tonights performance. Harnesslink Media

It’s time for talented filly Freedom Is to shine. The regally bred harness racing three-year-old filly has landed the coveted inside gate in Saturday night’s Gr.1 $75,000 Queensland Oaks at Albion Park. And owner/trainer Phillip Thurston couldn’t be happier. “We needed a good draw and we got it; the filly is racing in excellent form and should acquit herself well but Nike Franco is obviously going to be very hard to beat.” Thurston said. Freedom Is heads into the Oaks feature brimming with confidence following her gritty performance when successful in the Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final at Albion Park in a career best time of 1;55.9. That victory proved to be her first on Queensland soil despite boasting several feature race placing’s. The Courage Under Fire – Alegria filly has always found herself as the bridesmaid and never the bride after placing’s in the Nursery Pace Finals as a two-year-old while placed again this season plus being placed in the Gold Coast Oaks. “This filly is consistent and she tries very hard but often we’ve found one a little better on the night but we get a perfect opportunity to make our own luck from this draw, I was thrilled with drawing the inside gate because she has very good gate speed. “Winning last week provides a perfect platform going into this race; this has been a target all season long and head into the race with confidence. It was great that she fought like she did last week because she was headed in the straight but kicked strongly and that’s important going into an Oaks feature. “This little filly tries very hard and she deserves a big race success so let’s just hope it’s our turn this weekend. She has trained on very well this week and continues to thrive here in the warmer sunshine plus Brad (Cowen – driver) is driving in very good form.” Future plans for Freedom Is remain unclear and a decision won’t be made until after the Queensland Oaks on whether she will chase the Australasian Breeders Crown series in Melbourne next month. Last season, Freedom Is qualified for the rich final and finished a career worst 8th behind Whereibylong. “I won’t make any firm plans until next week, the focus is clearly the Queensland Oaks and we’ll just get through that race first before locking down any plans. “We’ve got the option of starting her in a heat up here and we also have the Redcliffe Oaks as a target but the filly will decide which way we go. It’s been a long season already but it’s also been very rewarding.” And it could prove even more rewarding with a Queensland Oaks victory this weekend. by Chris Barsby Queensland Harness Racing

The footprint left on the harness racing industry in New Zealand by the brilliant Direct Scooter sire, In The Pocket continues to grow. Not only have his sons made their mark as sires with Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire excelling in this role, and now Changeover is starting to make some impact with his first crop, but it is his daughters that have done just as well as broodmares. With just six weeks to go to the end of the season, In The Pocket holds a handy $280,000 lead on his nearest rival Falcon Seelster and appears certain to claim his second broodmare title in the last three years. And he has done that with broodmare numbers significantly less than his competition. In The Pocket had fertility issues for most of his stud career and ended up only leaving 1381 foals in his time at stud in New Zealand. Those In The Pocket foals managed to win $18,230,743 on the track and his daughters have already hit the $15,795,276 mark in the broodmare ranks with the promise of a lot more to come in the next few years. In the current season In The Pocket broodmares have not had any huge stake winners but just a steady stream of high quality winners. These are headed by Isaiah 1:54.6 ($241,778) while others to have had a good season include Sky Major 1:52.1 ($142,422), Linda Lovegrace 1:57.7 ($122,789)  Kate Perry 1:56.7 ($116,872) Willow 1:56.3 ($110,265 and Besotted 1:53.5 ($109,296). Isaiah (out of the In The Pocket mare EJ Becks) winning the sale series final The main threat to In The Pocket as the leading broodmare sire in the next couple of years may come from the champion trotting sire, Sundon. Sundon has made steady progress in the last three years and sits on earnings of $2,121,970 in the present season which is light years ahead of the next best in the trotting ranks, Chiola Hanover who has $499,420 on his card this season. With his large number of mares yet to go to stud or just beginning their broodmare careers, Sundon may yet achieve the notable feat of topping both the overall sires and broodmare sires list in his siring career. For a trotting sire like Sundon  to achieve the broodmare title would be the crowning glory to what has already been a stunning stud career. Harnesslink media  

From the time he first stepped onto a racetrack, Advance Attack had huge boots to fill. After all he was  a full brother to the harness racing champion juvenile Courage Under Fire 1:54.2 ($1,551,941). He was also such a good looking individual and he was in the best stable in New Zealand at Mark Purdons. And for a while it looked like he might fulfill those expectations held for him. As a two year old he won his first seven starts including such time honoured classics as the Sapling Stakes and the Welcome Stakes and he ran time as well, rating 1:57.3 over 1950m. His last couple of runs at two looked well down on his previous displays and he was spelled with a view to bringing him back at three. He was to have seven more runs in New Zealand  at three, winning three with his best run an unlucky second in the $125,000 Great Northern Derby where he was beaten just a neck. It was at this point he was sold to Australian interests and while he was to win a further 18 races and compete in most of the major classics in Australia, one always felt he had never really reached the level he had promised too as a juvenile. Ending up in Perth at the end of his career, he retired from the track the winner of 28 races for stakes totaling $406,094. At this point his full brother Courage Under Fire  had established  himself as one of Australasia's elite sires with a string of high class colts and fillies. At last count he had gone on to sire 521 winners for stakes totaling $15,997,128 in Australasia. So on retirement from the track with his pedigree and race performance being so good, it was decided to give Advance Attack his chance at stud. Expectations weren't that high as he settled in at Henty Brooks Standardbreds farm in Western Australia. A fee of $1500 GST included was settled on but he was hardly rushed with mares even at that fee. Serving just nine mares, he ended up with eight foals which are two years old in the current season and if this small crop is any indication of his siring ability then he is in for some very busy seasons in the years ahead. His flag bearer is undoubtedly Persistent Threat 1:57.6 ($81,725) who has won five of six to date including the Group 1 $100,000 Sales Classic. Three more of the eight two year olds have also raced including the Gary Hall trained filly, Massive Attack 1:57.4 ($11,600) who has won two from three to date and Sheza Red Hot ( $3,700) who was a close up fifth in the Group 1 Sales Classic at just her second start. When you look at the dams of his two winners to date, they both come from good New Zealand families but not ones that have been that successful lately. After such a poor start numbers wise in year one, Advance Attack was not made available in year two and so has no yearlings waiting to race next year. However on the back of some promising reports about his yearlings, Advance Attack served 20 mares the next season which has resulted in a crop on the ground of 12 weanlings at present. While Advance Attack may never reach the heights of his full brother Courage Under Fire in the siring ranks, it is also apparent that he has plenty to offer as a stallion. Harnesslink media

John Hay came within a head of ruining Ineka Lee’s big day at Oamaru yesterday. Hay and his drive, Good Deed, did their best to hold Lee and Franco Nate, their stablemate, out in the third event at Oamaru on Sunday – but Lee, with a little more horsepower up her sleeve, shot along the passing lane to not only score the victory, but also record her first winning drive. The 27-year-old Canterbury reinswoman has worked for Hay, who is also her partner, at his Ashburton stables since her College work experience days - back in the fourth form. “I was 13 when I first started working for John, so it’s been a long time - and then on Sunday he almost denied me my first win,’’ Lee said. “I thought he was actually going to hang on and win but his horse was a bit light on work going into the race and tied up in the last 50m. “It’s been a long-time coming but it’s great to get that first win out of the way. “I actually thought I was going to win behind my first drive at Addington - that was a while ago.’’ That first drive came just 10 starts ago when she finished a brave second on Daughtry Bromac at Addington. “John thought I should get my licence since I knew the horses pretty well and drive a lot of them at the trials and workouts, I never really wanted to get it but now that I’ve had a taste of winning I want more. “I think my next drive will be behind him (Franco Nate) again, I know him pretty well. “The owners – the ‘Two Eye Cee’ Syndicate are great people and have been loyal owners of John’s for years.’’ Franco Nate trailed Good Deed throughout Sunday’s $7,000 PGG Wrightson maiden pace. He won going away in 3:24.8 (mile rate for the 2600m stand: 2:06.7), with final 800m and 400m bursts of 58.2 and 27.8 seconds. It was the black 3-year-old Live Or Die gelding’s first win in two starts. Lee also ran second with him on debut at Ashburton on June 1. But Lee, who has one standardbred and one thoroughbred in training, is no stranger to winning. She’s also trained three galloping winners – the first being Hundred Pipers at Riccarton in May 2011. “I love thoroughbreds, I love the challenge of getting a flighty horse and training him or her into an equine athlete. “I’ve broken a bone in my foot and can’t ride again until I get it operated on. “At one stage I had five gallopers in work, but it’s all harness at John’s now. “He has a strong team. We’ve got 15 in at the moment. The best of them going around would be Jimmy Johnstone.’’ Lee was born in Nelson and educated at Waimea College before relocating to Ashburton and Ashburton College in the fourth form (Year 10). “I used to ride hacks but never knew or wanted to know anything about harness racing until I went to the Ashburton trots one day…I loved it. “I originally mucked out boxes for galloping trainer Shane Marr but it wasn’t long after I got work experience with John. “I left school in the sixth form (Year 12), so I’ve been with John 13 or 14 years now. I love working with standardbreds. “They are beautiful animals, but I’m also a thoroughbred girl as well, I just love horses. For the record - the Hay quinella in Lee’s most memorable race, paid just $3.50. They were first and second favourites. Franco Nate was bred by Spreydon Lodge. He is the first foal out of the un-raced Courage Under Fire mare, Neversaynever Franco. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Harness racing trainer Darrel Graham is cautiously optimistic. On the eve on his shock race return, Fernvale based horseman Darrel Graham believes his brilliant pacer Lanercost will perform at the required level in the Sure Products FFA at Albion Park. The former Gr.1 Chariots Of Fire winner tackles the state’s best open class performer Avonnova while enigmatic pacer Franco Jamar resumes for Belinda McCarthy in the 1660m event. After standing a season at Yirribee Stud where he covered close to 40 mares, a decision by owner Dean Shannon was made earlier this year to return to full work. Lanercost has not started since finishing fourth at Albion Park behind Passion Stride back in January, 2013. With months of foundation poured into the Courage Under Fire entire and three recent trial victories, his time has come - again. “He’s ready to go, I’m really happy with his work and trial efforts and everything suggests that he’s ready to take that giant leap back into racing again. It’s a massive challenge bringing a horse back to the track after standing a season at stud but it can be done, look at For A Reason for example.” Graham said. Lanercost will start from a tricky draw, the inside of the second-line but Graham couldn’t be happier with the draw. The front-line is overloaded with pace with noted speedsters, Franco Jamar, Destreos, Holy Camp Boy and Lebron all set to run the gate hard early. “The draw is the least of my worries; I’m drawn to follow the pegs so whether that means I’m behind the leader or three pegs, it doesn’t matter because the guess work has been removed from the draw. “I’m expecting a time of 1;52.5 – 1;53 so the best place for me to be is on the pegs taking all the short cuts. There is no easy return for a horse of this calibre and despite all the work and trials, there’s nothing like match fitness. “He’s a big boy now, he let down nicely during his time away from the track so he’ll need a couple of runs to bring him back to peak fitness. Right now, I’d say he’s around the 90% mark – while that’s good, it needs to better when you’re racing at open class.” With the winter carnival features at Albion Park just around the corner, Graham isn’t planning any miraculous raids on those feature events just yet. A view to the spring carnival in October makes more appeal but Graham will let his stable star do the talking. “No plans are set in stone at this point, it’s a case of run by run but it’s likely the Grand Circuit race later this year is more feasible rather than next month’s winter carnival features. “This horse has surprised me right throughout his career, so it wouldn’t shock me with whatever he does this campaign but hopefully he recaptures that brilliant form he once displayed. He’s good enough to do anything so fingers crossed.” by Chris Barsby

New Zealand two-year-old Iceobar proved too good for his seven rivals in the 2nd heat of the Vicbred Super Series for 2YO Colts & Geldings at Kilmore yesterday. The son of Courage Under Fire, who was trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen while in New Zealand, is being trained by Brent Lilley during the Vicbred Series. After working forward three-wide and eventually finding the front, Iceobar held out second favourite Show Me The Bling, before kicking strongly in the hands of Greg Sugars to pull away for 4.3 metre win. Show Me The Bling, who is a half-brother to Baby Bling and Bling It On, was game in second, while Virgil Hilts was a distant third. Both Iceobar and Show Me Bling were bred by Harvey Kaplan, giving the renowned breeder the Quinella in the race. Iceobar is owned by Natalie Rasmussen, Neil Piltcher, and Trevor Casey, who combined with Brent Lilley for success again in the following race with Crusader Acey. Purdon and Rasmussen will combined with Lilley again tonight when Messini contests a three-year-old heat of the Vicbred Series at Geelong.  By Mitchell Robertson  

On Friday the progeny of Carmenchita won two races on the Nelson card and today it was Putting On The Glitz’s turn. The first of the Walton Hanover mares’ winners was two-year-old Expresso Martini, who was a game winner for driver Blair Orange after being taken on in front on several occasions. Expresso Martini, who is a son of Bettor’s Delight, is trained by Mark Jones and is owned by the Met Eight Syndicate. He has now won one of his five starts and placed on a further three occasions. Putting On The Glitz’s second winner for the day was Secret Lotion, who notched up back-to-back wins at the Nelson meeting when winning in the hands of Samantha Ottley. She has won two of three starts since joining the Woodend stable of Robert Dunn and placed second on the other occasion Secret Lotion is a Courage Under Fire full-sister to Group One winning mare Secret Potion. Other well performed progeny of Putting On The Glitz, who is a half-sister to the well performed American mare Silver Lined Pocket, include four-win pacer How Do Mate. By Mitchell Robertson  

A strong harness racing meeting Friday night at Port Pirie featuring a heat of the Breeders Crown 2yo fillies which has bought together the first two past the post in last weekend's ALABAR BOTRA Golden Nursery in Call Her Julie and the Emma Stewart trained Secret Agenda.   The barrier draw once again favours Call Her Julie who is much travelled but has found her niche in South Australia having won her heat and final of the BOTRA Golden Nursery. Secret Agenda had every chance to run down Call Her Julie in that race and once again looks the main danger.   Major Crocker returns to SA coming off some very good form in Victoria and looks the one to beat, his main danger no doubt will come from Glenferrie Affair the last start Mildura Guineas winner who despite not appearing to comfortable, bolted in at Mildura by some 14 meters, it looks a race in two.   Smart three year old filly Dougs Courage returns to the track after a let up since taking out the SA Oaks and scoring her ninth win in the season looks the one in race 4 the Laucke Mills Pace. Tthe Courage Under Fire filly gets into the C0 event and even the inside of the back line should not stop her from making it 10 in a row.   South Australia also has couple of starters at Melton with Come On Frank drawing the back line in the FFA and his stable mate Lord Manaloo has the prime number one spot in race one. He has not started since finishing second Glenferrie Flash in the Victoria Harbour Cup in January but has trailled nicely at Globe Derby.   An eight event program at headquarters is the $10.000 3yo Trotters Classic Final on which Zahris Idol a daughter of Majestic Son is shooting for a hat trick, she has been in good form of late, her past two wins at this track in similar grade to this. She will take a power of beating again and her main danger is Waikare Aviator having finished runner up at her past two behind Zharis Idol.   On Monday's Queens Birthday Holiday the action heads to Strathalbyn for the running of the 2014 Mt Mooney Strathalbyn Pacing Cup, a standing start C5 and better event has drawn a full field of 12 plus an emergency Caribbean Crest  and if he steps from the pole looks the one to beat.   Gary Newton    

The night clearly belonged to champion horseman Luke McCarthy. The Albion Park Harness Racing Club played host to a superb night of racing featuring the Seymour Nursery Pace Finals for two-year-old and three-year-old pacers. But McCarthy stole the show winning three of the four feature events including both Gr.1 $100,000 two-year-old finals with the Susan Hunter trained Waves Of Fire taking the colts and geldings division while his wife Belinda prepared fillies winner Smooth Showgirl. In total, McCarthy drove five winners on the bumper ten race program. “It was a good night at the office; Nursery Pace night is always a special card of racing and to win both feature events was super then to cap the night with Yank (Bling It On) winning another major is very special, he’s fast becoming one of my favourite pacers of all time.” McCarthy said. The Gr.1 $100,000 colts and geldings final featured highly regarded Sydney trained colt Artistic Flite who started a firm punters elect despite his wide draw but luck in running was against him and McCarthy landed a perfect trail with Waves Of Fire. With Admiral Bronski and Artistic Flite engaging in a survival of the fittest battle, Waves Of Fire loomed big danger approaching the final turn before unleashing a strong sprint over the concluding stages to beat a gallant Artistic Flite with A Good Chance running a brave race for third. Waves Of Fire, a Courage Under Fire – Operative Waves gelding was a maiden prior to the final. The winning mile rate was 1;58.4 for the 2138m. In the Gr.1 $100,000 fillies final, Smooth Showgirl started a clear favourite following her dazzling heat victory over the previously unbeaten Makes Every Scents earlier in the week and McCarthy wasted little time in sending the filly straight to the lead after stable Bamako Mali crossed to the marker line first. McCarthy controlled the pace perfectly with Smooth Showgirl before quickly turning the event into a sprint home over the concluding stages, Smooth Showgirl scored comfortably from emerging talent Feel The Faith while Bamako Mali finished third. Smooth Showgirl, a daughter of Art Major – Golden Showgirl is a graduate of the Australian Pacing Gold yearling sale and is raced by the Gurney Family and Paul Montgomery. The winning mile rate was 2;01.8 with the final section recorded in 27.3 seconds. The Gr.2 $75,000 three-year-old fillies final went the way of strong local talent Charming Allie who outstayed Freedom Is and Storm Delle in a thrilling contest. Trainer/driver Grant Dixon made his intentions clear early that he wanted to be up handy to the speed and kept pushing forward before finding the front nearing the mile marker. Dixon rated the filly perfectly in the first half of the race before sustaining extreme pressure from Morethanmeetstheye down the back straight on the final occasion. In the stretch, Charming Allie dug deep to hold off a brave Freedom Is while Storm Delle hit the line strongly once clear. The Mr Feelgood – Charm Personified filly is raced by her breeders, Kevin and Kay Seymour. The winning mile rate was 1;58.5. And in the Gr.2 $75,000 colts and gelding final, Bling It On clearly proved why is regarded as one of the best talents in the country with an effortless victory. Finding the lead with relative ease from Iam Mr Brightside, McCarthy dictated terms perfectly in front before blasting home in supersonic sectionals and winning by an ever expanding margin. The American Ideal colt raced clear in the home straight to score easily from Iam Mr Brightside and Raring To Go. Bling It On joins elite company as a dual winner of the famed Queensland feature. The winning mile rate was 1;59.0 with final splits of 28.5 and 26.5 seconds. McCarthy also claimed the $20,000 Seymour Rising Stars Championship Final with Mac The Finn while New Zealand owned mare Safedra also added to his loot by winning the Experience the Centenary Classic Mercedes Benz QO Pace. The Sydney based horseman has now won the two-year-old feature seven times – Fleur De Lil, Slipnslide, Tip Your Hat, Aussie Made Lombo, Bling It On while both Waves Of Fire and Smooth Showgirl now add their name to the list. The Listed $25,000 Flashing Red Handicap provided young reinsman Trent Moffat with his biggest thrill in the sport after steering veteran campaigner Vegas Bound to victory while his boss Grant Dixon scored in the $14,999 Charity Cup Final with cult pacer Majestic Mach. By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)

The number of harness racing mares served in Australasia by individual pacing stallions in the 2013/2014 season makes for some very interesting reading. The usual suspects are near the top of the list but it is surprisingly headed by the first season sire Auckland Reactor. While it was always expected that Auckland Reactor would serve a large book in New Zealand and he did with 212 mares, his book of 182 mares in Australia was larger than even his most ardent supporters would have predicted. A very realistic service fee of $3,000 certainly helped and means Auckland Reactor has been given every chance to prove himself at Stud. Shadow Play served a huge book in Australia of 295 with a further 80 in New Zealand. That was off the back of some great results with his two year olds in Canada in 2013 but those breeders will be feeling a bit anxious at the moment as his two year olds in both Australia and New Zealand are yet to make an impact. Bettors Delight continues to serve huge books with 249 in New Zealand and 125 in Australia while Art Major served similar numbers with 266 in Australia and 94 in New Zealand. Rock N Roll Heaven was well received by breeders, especially in Australia where he served 225 with a further 41 in New Zealand. Mach Three was thereabouts again with 160 in New Zealand and 99 in Australia along with American Ideal who covered 141 in New Zealand and 109 in Australia. The champion North American sire Somebeachsomewhere continued to be very well supported (by frozen semen) with 135 in Australia and 88 in New Zealand even though his progeny to date down under have not set the world on fire yet. Betterthancheddar had an excellent first year as he didn't arrive until late October yet still served 102 in Australia and 98 in New Zealand to give him a great start to his career. The surprising stat amongst the other stallions was the numbers served by champion sire Christian Cullen. He served just 83 in New Zealand and 26 in Australia. With horses of the class of Christen Me, Franco Nelson, Locharburn and Libertybelle Midfrew starring on the track one would have thought he could have easily doubled his numbers. Of the remaining New Zealand based stallions, Changeover stood out with 142 in New Zealand and 39 in Australia while newbie stallion Sir Lincoln did very well serving 114 in New Zealand and 23 in Australia to make a total of 137. Australian stallions to serve large books included Artistic Fella with 182 in Australia, Sportswriter with 155 in Australia and 17 in New Zealand, Always a Virgin with 145 in Australia and 10 in New Zealand, Courage Under Fire with 127 in Australia and 19 in New Zealand, Roll With Joe with 124 in Australia and 15 in New Zealand and Western Terror with 125 in Australia. At the other end of the spectrum, Elsu managed just 16 in New Zealand and 20 in Australia which would tend to indicate that he is nearing the end of his commercial career. MOST POPULAR SIRES IN AUSTRALASIA IN 2013/2014 STALLION                         NEW ZEALAND      AUSTRALIA       TOTAL Auckland Reactor                      212                      182                394 Shadow Play                              80                       295                375 Bettors Delight                           249                      125                374 Art Major                                    94                       266                360 Rock N Roll Heaven                    41                       225                266 Mach Three                               160                       99                 259 American Ideal                           141                     109                 250 Somebeachsomewhere                88                     135                 213 Betterthancheddar                      102                      98                 200 Artistic Fella                               -                        182                 182 Changeover                                142                      39                 181 Sportswriter                                 17                     155                172 Always A Virgin                           10                    145                 155 Courage Under Fire                      19                    127                 146 Roll With Joe                               15                    124                 139 Sir Lincoln (Lincoln Royal)            114                     23                 137 Western Terror                            -                        125                125 Grinfromeartoear                          34                     90                 124 Modern Art                                  -                       111                111 Christian Cullen                           83                       26                109 Four Starzzz Shark                      -                        109                109     When assessing the trotting stallion numbers it soon became clear that everyone was chasing Majestic Son. With 161 mares served in New Zealand and 90 in Australia for a total of 251, this son of Angus Hall looks set to dominate the trotting scene in the immediate future with such a massive numerical advantage over all his competition. Harnesslink media  

Steve Hawkins is no stranger to feature race success. The popular tri-code race caller is a relative newcomer to harness racing ownership but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what winning feature races are all about. Hawkins raced brilliant greyhound Queen Lauryn who endeared herself to a nation with some scintillating performances throughout the country which netted her two Gr.1 victories while also collecting two Gr.2 and three Gr.3 victories plus setting seven records. Like most, Hawkins has raced his fair share of slow types in all forms of racing but his latest venture looks very exciting. Hawkins shares ownership of emerging two-year-old filly Mathilda Diventa who looms as definite threat in the Gr.1 $100,000 Seymour Nursery Pace Final at Albion Park on Saturday night. “To start with, this wouldn’t be possible without Chris and Daren Garrard who selected the filly from the Redcliffe Yearling Sales last year. I was keen on another type that was ultimately withdrawn and the boys kindly offered me a share in this filly and the rest is history and it’s really exciting.” Hawkins said. The Cammibest filly is in the astute care of Darren Weeks and Kylie Rasmussen who have a consistent knack of producing smart, well-educated pacing talent from their Toorbul property. And this filly is no exception. Mathilda Diventa qualified for the rich final after an outstanding effort in the heat on Monday when a narrow second behind boom filly Bamako Mali after coming from a rearward position at the home turn. “From the very beginning, this filly has shown obvious talent because she won all of her education workouts while her official trials were also very impressive. “Her first two starts resulted in victories before running into a very smart horse in Mista Natural at her third start and that form looks like stacking up quite well while her heat effort was excellent. “I know Chris and Daren are excited and it’s infectious because I’m no different, that winning feeling is the best and we’re a realistic chance in a Group feature this weekend. I’ve got my family and a bunch of friends coming along on Saturday night.” Mathilda Diventa will sport saddlecloth number three on Saturday with the McCarthy duo of Smooth Showgirl and Bamako Mali on her immediate outside. Early tactics will prove crucial but Hawkins believes his filly has options. “I won’t be giving any instructions to Kylie because she’s one of the best going around but she clearly has options from the handy draw, she can lead and she can come from behind. “I know that the filly is trained to the minute and will be very competitive so you can’t ask for any more than that. A victory would also be a perfect tonic for Chris who hasn’t been in the best of health this week.” The entire Hawkins family will be cheering loudly for Mathilda Diventa on Saturday night headed by Steve and his wife Kate plus their three daughters Lauryn, Jessie and Alex. Is The Time Right For Thurston Forbes trainer Phil Thurston is chasing his biggest success this Saturday night. The retired school teacher prepares smart three-year-old filly Freedom Is who will tackle the Gr.2 $75,000 Seymour Nursery Pace Final at Albion Park. The regally bred filly was outmuscled in the heat on Tuesday after leading behind classy local filly Charming Allie in a time of 1;58.2 for the 2138m. The Grant Dixon stable dominated both heats on Tuesday with Charming Allie and Joys A Babe proving successful and both will be well fancied to claim the final. But Thurston is not prepared to yield just yet. “I was disappointed on Tuesday but we were beaten by a tougher filly on the day but she’s not a natural leader, last season she wouldn’t go a yard in front but she has become marginally better with more maturity but clearly she is most effective with cover.” Thurston said. Freedom Is will be looking to go one better after finishing a narrow second in the two-year-old final behind Joys A Babe last season when looking the winner near the finishing post. A handy front-line draw for Freedom Is gives Thurston and driver Brad Cowen plenty of options. “I’m happy with the draw because I think there will be strong pressure throughout and that will suit my filly, we’ll be handy to the pace and hitting the line hard. “The two Dixon fillies will have to work at some stage because of the barrier draws while Morethanmeetstheye is the big query because of her very fierce racing pattern coupled with the fact she has drawn so badly off the second-line. “My filly is very under-rated and doesn’t gain the recognition she deserves but I wouldn’t swap her; her form this season has been very solid with the only time she missed a cheque in ten starts this term coming in a heat of the New South Wales Oaks at Menangle when she was checked and broke but still almost managed to qualify.” The Courage Under Fire – Alegria filly ranks as a full sister to standout performers Glenferrie Alexis (19 wins - $288,000), Jackaroozy (16 wins - $112,000) and Im Alex (10 wins - $73,000). Victory on Saturday night for Freedom Is will push her career prizemoney past the $100,000 mark. “When Denise (wife) and I bought this filly as a yearling, we wanted her mainly because of her pedigree with a view of breeding from her later on and she’s proven to be a lot of fun. She’s a lovely filly with great manners and she’s very consistent. “We currently have five racehorses but three of them are with other trainers while we potter around with this filly. We enjoy breeding and sell our colts at the yearling sales; obviously this filly will become our prized broodmare once her racing days are over. “We really enjoy coming to Queensland; the climate is so much warmer compared to back home and the facilities here with Scott (Miller) and Shannon (Price) are just sensational. We were always keen to head back this year considering how close we came last season.” All going to plan, Freedom Is will remain in Queensland for Brisbane winter carnival features starting next month. By Chris Barsby (Harness Racing Australia)  

Since the 1980s when the late Wayne Francis brought a large number of well bred/performed Australian mares for his breeding partnerships, the Australian influence on the New Zealand harness racing and breeding scene has been slowly growing. The biggest contribution initially was from the Overtrick mare in Pleasant Evening who is the grand-dam of the outstanding race horse and now champion sire, Christian Cullen. As well as the Australian mares at stud in New Zealand, several trainers with Mark Purdon being the most active, have been raiding the Australian yearling sales lately with outstanding success. Horses such as Fly Like An Eagle, Smolda, Border Control, Willow and Follow The Stars have all made Kiwi trainers and owners sit up and take notice and re-evaluate the worth of the Australian bred product. Another sign of that growing influence is the importation to New Zealand of some well bred high performing race fillies by some of New Zealand's leading commerical breeders. One of those fillies to quickly make her mark in New Zealand is the very smart Totally Western mare, La Joconde p2 1:59h (1730m) $153,285, whose seven two and three-year-old wins included the $100,000 West Australian Sales Classic for three-year-old fillies. Bought as a yearling by leading West Australian trainer Gary Hall for $7,000, she was given to his wife to be, Kiwi Karen Stephens, as an engagement present. On La Joconde's retirement from the track, the Halls decided the breeding side of the industry was not for them. At the same time, Karen Hall's brother-in-law, Tony Dickinson of Alta Breeding fame in New Zealand, was on the lookout in Australia for a quality filly for his commerical breeding broodmare band. They quickly joined forces on a foal for foal arrangement with La Joconde and she was then relocated to the Alta Breeding establishment at Waiau Pa in New Zealand. Sent to Courage Under Fire in her initial season at stud, the resultant colt foal named Alta Orlando was sold by Tony Dickinson through the 2013 Australasian Classic yearling sale for $35,000 to long time Mark Purdon client, Neil Pilcher. Raced by Pilcher  in partnership with thoroughbred hall of fame trainer Jim Gibbs and his wife Anne, Alta Orlando has taken the New Zealand two-year-old racing scene by storm in the last six weeks. What has made the last three wins so impressive is that Alta Orlando is far from the finished racing product, having none of the ringcraft normally associated with top two-year-olds. His win in last weekends $200,000 PGG Sales Series race had all those characteristics on display as he ran about at the start, settling back before looping the field a lap from home and holding the smart Say My Name at bay in the straight in 2:20.9, a mile rate of 1:56.2 for 1950 meters. His stake earnings already stand at $141,749 and he looks a horse to follow next season at three. The second foal from La Joconde is the Bettors Delight filly in Myeyesadoreya. She was also put through the 2014 Australasian Classic yearling sale on behalf of the Halls. Brought back for $21,000, she was sent to Brent Donnelly after the sales to be broken in and then spelled. The "for sale" sign for her is still up but given the performance of Alta Orlando lately it won't be much longer.   The third foal is a striking Santana Blue Chip weanling filly owned by Tony Dickinson who is entered in this months all aged sale on May 30th at Auckland. La Joconde is now back in foal to Mach Three for the Halls.   New Zealanders are very proud of their breeding industry and its record of achievement both in New Zealand and in Australia and have always considered the Australian bred horse in a lesser light.   What the results of the last few years have shown is the gap is no where near as big as some would like you to believe.   Harnesslink media

What happens next in the career of exciting two-year-old pacer Alta Orlando is, ultimately, up to Alta Orlando. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained son of Courage Under Fire added a substantial cheque to the bankroll this afternoon (Saturday) when winning the PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series 2Y0 Final. But while he was brilliant in his victory, Alta Orlando has the potential to be so much better and sorting out the top two inches will go a long way to sorting some of the issues out. “You can’t afford to take your mind of him for even a minute,’’ Rasmussen said. “He could just as easily spin around on you so you have to be on the game when driving him. “The fact he is a really talented horse makes it a little easier to deal with.’’ The minor problems nearly cost the team victory yesterday with alleged interference on the Bob Butt driven Maverick shortly after the start leaving Rasmussen sitting in a chair in the Stewards room. The inquiry was quickly dismissed though after it was ascertained that Maverick’s galloping was no direct fault of Alta Orlando. “It probably didn’t look all that good, but we haven’t made contact and it’s more just two-year-olds acting their age a bit.’’ The early issue out of the way, Rasmussen and Alta Orlando soon found themselves outside the speed and trying to grind their way to victory – and that’s exactly what they did. Stopping the clock at just over 2.20 for the 1950 metre mobile, Alta Orlando was too good for a game Say My Name with Express Stride running home well to finish in third position. “He doesn’t mind a fight,’’ Rasmussen said. “He just keeps giving and doesn’t like other horses getting anywhere near him. “It’s a good quality to have.’’ Alta Orlando will now be aimed at the Harness Jewels where he will have to square off with his unbeaten stable mate Follow The Stars who returned from a successful Australian campaign this week. Owned by Neil Pilcher and legendary galloping trainer Jim Gibbs and his wife Anne, Alta Orlando has now won three of his five career starts and the $107,000 he added to his earnings yesterday took him to $145,000 for the season. Wanna Play sets NZ record Natalie Rasmussen thinks she might finally have enigmatic Wanna Play sorted out. The two-year-old trotting filly made light work of winning her first race today (Saturday) at Addington in the Seelite Windows and Doors Sires’ Stakes 2Y0 Trotters Championship worth a cool $60,000. In seven previous starts the daughter of Majestic Son has shown enough potential to warrant total respect in any race she lined up in, but those performances had been mixed with some bad manners. But today’s effort contained none of that. In fact it was quite the opposite. Balanced up early by Rasmussen and allowed to find her feet, Wanna Play then surged forward to take the lead off her stable mate Arya at the 1000 metre mark and, from there, never looked back. Despite the quality of her opposition the lightly framed filly ran them off their feet smashing the 2Y0 trotting fillies New Zealand record for a 1950 metre mobile in the process. Previously held by Kylie Ree with a time of 2.27.5, Wanna Play stopped the clock at 2.24.2. “She did it easily really,’’ Rasmussen, who co-trains the filly with her partner Mark Purdon, said. “The ability has always been there, around home I have always said she is a pretty nice horse. “But I’ve figured her out I think, you are better off just letting her run than trying to get her to stop and start all the time. “When you start fiddling with her mouth she can get a little bit funny in her gait, but letting her run today she was great.’’ Wanna Play is out of the former top race mare, Miss Whiplash who won 13 races and was trained by Purdon. She has since left solid performers Emma Hamilton and Dutch Annie but looks to have thrown a real potential star in Wanna Play. And the best part for Rasmussen…she owns a share in the filly with prominent juvenile trotting owner, Trevor Casey. “That adds a little more excitement to the win for sure, this is pretty special.’’ Casey also owns runner-up Arya who was brave in defeat for Colin DeFilippi while Monbet ran well to finish third. He won the race last year with Daenerys Targaryen. Wanna Play will now be pointed toward to the Harness Jewels at Cambridge at the end of the month and her victory today adds another interesting piece to a difficult puzzle in the 2YO Trotting category. By Matt Markham (Harness Racing New Zealand)

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