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One of the things you notice these days when looking at harness racing in New Zealand is no matter what area of the country you are viewing, you are liable to be watching a Merv and Meg Butterworth owned horse racing at some stage of the day. From Alexandra Park in Auckland all the way down to Ascot Park in Invercargill, the Butterworth empire will have a representative at most meetings these days. Their investment and involvement in the harness racing  industry in New Zealand is huge and shows no signs of slowing down or tapering off. With the Butterworths buying so many high class fillies and mares, I suppose it was only a matter of time before they came full circle and started to offer progeny from some of those quality mares they have raced at the yearling sales. This year at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka on February 22nd, the Butterworths will offer Lot 74 for sale. Named Quick As Fire, he is a colt by the champion sire Bettor's Delight from the very smart Courage Under Fire mare in Queen Of Fire 1:57.1 ($176,809) She won 17 races in Australia and ran second in an Australasian Breeders Crown Final to the champion mare Make Mine Cullen 1:53 ($874,178) and was only beaten half a head in the Australian Oaks so she was a high class racemare. There are plenty of smart $100,000 winners close up in the pedigree but most would be unknown to New Zealand buyers however one horse who wouldn't be is the champion pacer Safari 1:55.7 ($535,446) who has been given a chance as a sire in Australia and is doing a passable job to date. When you look at the photos and the video of Quick As Fire, you can see there is a bit of Courage Under Fire in this colt which is a big plus in our book. The exciting thing down the line for yearling sales buyers is that potentially some of the outstanding racemares and fillies that the Butterworths own will having progeny in the sales in years to come. Golden Goddess cost Merv and Meg $101,000 at the APG yearling sales due to an outstanding pedigree. Now that she has shown she has the ability to go with the breeding, her residual value when she is retired to stud will be huge. If progeny from racemares like Golden Goddess find their way into the New Zealand Yearling Sales in years to come, it will be just another boost that Merv and Meg Butterworth have given the New Zealand harness racing industry. Harnesslink Media  

Tonight's $500,000 Hunter Cup looked like a much easier assignment for the champion New Zealand trained harness racing pacer Smolda who has been battling the brilliant  Lennytheshark in recent weeks. With no Lennytheshark or Beautide in the field, Smolda looked a class above his rivals tonight but as races can do Smolda was pushed to the limit to justify his hot favourtisum. As expected Ohoka Punter stepped brilliantly and grabbed the early lead for Anthony Butt and immediately made it clear he was holding the front when Messini and Chris Alford had a look for the lead. Meanwhile Smolda and Mark Purdon were working arounding the field and had a strong look for the lead as well but Ohoka Punter and Anthony Butt kicked up and held the lead. Five hundred metres later, Mark Purdon really put it to Ohoka Punter and this time Anthony Butt let him go as Mark was showing no signs of stopping the attack. Once in front Smolda kept clicking over those sub 30 second quarters and had most of the competition in trouble down the back straight the last time. On the point of the turn Ohoka Punter eased off the trail and looked a distinct threat but though he got up to Smolda he just couldn't get past the whole way down the Melton straight. Smolda just wouldn't lie down and still had a head margin on Ohoka Punter at the finish with the West Australian My Hard Copy fying late for third after having a soft run four back on the inner during the running. Smolda's run gained even further kudos when the time of 3:59.1 was announced which took nearly a second off the old record at Tabcorp Park Melton. That equates to a mile rate of 1:57.3 for the 3280 metres from a standing start which is a great effort while the closing sectionals were covered in 56.4 and 27.9 Mark Purdon was full of praise for his warrior post race. " That was a great effort tonight." " He was very keen out there and never really came back to me at any stage of the race." "He has a high cruising speed and with him over racing and running along like he was I thought he might be vunerable." " However he has refused to let anyone past." It was a great performance" Mark Purdon said. Tonights win was career victory number twenty four for the son of Courage Under Fire and took his lifetime earnings over the $1,300,000 mark. Mark Purdon is now considering weather to head to Menangle next week for a shot at the Miracle Mile with Smolda but is unlikely to make a decision until Tuesday at the earliest. Harnesslink Media

This Saturday's Sapling Stakes at Ashburton Raceway may have only drawn a field of six runners but there is plenty of harness racing talent on show and labelling a winner is not that straight forward. The All Star barn have three runners engaged including the horse many consider the one to beat in More The Better. More The Better was super impressive last week in working during the running and still having too much in the tank in the straight. Driver Tim Williams was thrilled with the effort as he thought the son of Bettor's Delight was a run short going into last weeks race and would be a better horse this week. " He needed that run last week and should strip a much fitter horse this week." " His work this week has been excellent and I think he will be very hard to beat," Tim told Harnesslink today. The stablemate Pacing Major who has only been beaten by a head in both his first two starts has drawn out at six which makes things difficult but Dexter Dunn takes the drive so he has to be a major player here. The third of the All Stars runners is the $200,000 yearling sales purchase in You Gotta Have Faith who has drawn barrier one and will have the services of stable reinsman, Matt Anderson. On his trial efforts to date he has shown enough to be a serious place chance but both the other stablemates look more forward at this stage. So the All Stars barn looks very capable of winning another Sapling Stakes but we think that the Paul Court trained Mongolian Storm can upset the All Stars trio on debut. A $16,000 purchase at last years New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch, Mongolian Storm has had a thorough grounding leading into the Sapling Stakes, winning his last four trials and workouts in some style. The son of Courage Under Fire was super impressive in his latest trial win at Addington last Monday, swooping past the competition in a few strides when driver Blair Orange asked him for an effort at the top of the straight. Mongolian Storm has drawn beautifully at barrier two and with that speed he displayed on Monday, he becomes the horse to beat in our opinion. Trainer Paul Court is really looking forward to Saturday and seeing how his charge measures up. " He is a lovely horse and I think he will go a big race on Saturday." " I am just not sure he is ready to run 1:55 at this stage which they may go on Saturday but he is capable of winning the Sapling Stakes with a run to suit." " I haven't really asked him to run time as yet but I think this race will really bring him on in that respect with a view to the future," Paul said. Paul has been having a dream debut season training on his own account with his barn having two high class two year olds to represent him. Mongolian Hero put in a huge effort for a close third behind More The Better and Pacing Major at Addington last Friday and looms as a major player in all the major two year old races later in the season. He will head back to Auckland for the Young Gun Series early next week while after Saturday, Mongolian Storm will remain in the South Island to target the Kindergarten Stakes and Sires Stakes heats. " I want to keep them apart at this stage for their own benefit," " I am really excited by having two juveniles as good as these two in the barn in my first year training on my own account." " I know how hard it is to get one two year old of this quality so to have  two in the barn is a big thrill," Paul told Harnesslink this afternoon. Whatever the outcome of the Sapling Stakes this weekend, one thing you can be sure of going forward is that Mongolian Storm and Mongolian Hero are are going to be serious players when the juvenile classics are decided over the next four months. Harnesslink Media

Lin Lang is a name that is quickly becoming known throughout the racing world downunder as the deeds of his horses with the "Mongolian" prefix find their way to the winners circle more and more. Through his company Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry Ltd, Lin has been very active in establishing branches in most equine fields. The thoroughbred champion Mongolian Khan is his obvious flagbearer but his harness racing side of the racing empire has also had a good start downunder. Brilliant Strike 1:55.3 ($122,164) has flown the flag initially and this seasons two year old Mongolian Hero has looked very promising with a gallant  third in the two year old race at Addington Raceway on Friday night but surprisingly he is not among the nominations for this weekends Sapling Stakes. Instead the Paul Court stable have nominated another youngster owned by Lin Lang for this weekends Group 3 juvenile classic in the form of Mongolian Storm and judging by his performance today at the Addington trials, he looms a major winning hope. Purchased for just $16,000 at last years New Zealand Premier Yearling sale at Christchurch, Mongolian Storm has won his last four trials and workouts and has seemingly improved off each run. The son of Courage Under Fire settled well back in the running today for driver Blair Orange but when he asked him for an effort at the 200 metres, the response was immediate and he raced past a couple of handy two year olds in Kiwi Bloke and Time Traveller in a few strides and shot clear, winning easily by 3 1/2 lengths. The closing sectionals off the front in the very blustery conditions of 57.8 and 28.4 were smart but Mongolian Storm would have bettered those by a margin and gave the impression there was more left in the tank. At this point there are only seven nominations for the Sapling Stakes which has seen the closing time for nominations extended until 9am on Tuesday. The All Star barn holds three of those in the form of More The Better, Pacing Major and You Gotta Have Faith and hold a very strong hand but the manner of the trial win today by Mongolian Storm would suggest Lin Lang may be celebrating come Saturday night. Harnesslink Media

Tonights $120,000 Ballarat Pacing Cup drew two of the best FFA pacers in Australasia and the two heavyweights didn't disappoint, turning on a great battle to give harness racing followers a taste of what is in store over the upcoming Victorian carnival. Smolda and Mark Purdon settled three back in the running line early as Metro Mike lead from barrier one before Purdon launched Smolda with just over two laps to go and surged to the front not long after. Keeping up a hot tempo, Smolda had a lot of the field flat a long way from home. At that stage, Chris Alford launched the other heavyweight Lennytheshark from back in the field and he quickly ended up on Smolda's wheel a lap out. Mark Purdon upped the ante again down the back straight in 28.6 but Lennytheshark was slowly taking ground off him and the two champions slugged it out the length of the Ballarat straight with Smolda still having a neck to spare at the finish. Bling It On got home late well for a good third after doing plenty of work midrace while Mossdale Conner was a fine fourth in his Australian debut. Smolda smashed the Ballarat track record for 2710 metres with a brilliant clocking of 3:14.2, a sensational mile rate of 1:55.3 with closing sectionals of 55.6 and 27. It was the Courage Under Fire gelding's twenty-third career victory and took his earnings over the $940,000 mark. Lennytheshark lost no admirers in defeat especially considering the race was run in a track record and the barrier draw next Wednesday for the Victoria Cup will probably sort out who starts favourite in next Saturday nights feature between these two champions.  Harnesslink Media

The three heats for the Victoria Derby were held tonight at the harness racing meeting at Ballarat and Mark Purdon produced the champion New Zealand three year old Lazarus to throw down the gauntlet to the locals with an outstanding win in quick time in his heat. Heat One Even though he had drawn poorly on the second line for Mark Purdon behind the rank outsider Designer Arden, Lazarus was sent out a $1:30 favourite in the first Victoria Derby heat on the strength of winning ten from twelve in his homeland and nearly $500,000. Allowed to settle four back in the running line by Purdon early, Lazarus looped the field to sit outside the leader Zee Dana and Nathan Jack with just over a lap to go. Purdon never applied any real pressure down the back straight but past the 400 metres he got serious and Lazarus quickly shot to the front on straightening and ran away for a super impressive win with Purdon hardly moving in the bike. Zee Dana stuck on gamely for second in front of Born To Rocknroll who did plenty early and never flinched in holding on for third. Can't Refuse was another to do plenty of work early and hold on for fourth and qualify for the final. The Bettor's Delight colt paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.2, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with closing sectionals of 55.5 and 26.9. Heat Two Heading into the second heat, three horses stood out from the pack on paper and although the three of them had challenging runs in a fast run heat, they still filled the first three placings at the finish. Greg Sugars burned Don't Hold Back off the gate from barrier six to grab an early lead but was immediately challenged by Three Ways and Kate Gath who assumed the lead after 600 metres after a tussle with Don't Hold Back that never got too serious. With a lap to go Brallos Pass and Nathan Jack moved up into the death seat but applied no real pressure until passing the 400 metres mark. Mastering Three Ways on straightening, Brallos Pass looked the winner but Dont Hold Back and Greg Sugars eased out from the trail and flew late for a narrow but impressive victory. Brallos Pass lost no admirers in just going under after sitting parked the last lap while Code Black flew late to grab third from a very game Three Ways late in the piece. The Courage Under Fire colt trained by Mario Attard paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.6, a mile rate of 1:56.7 with closing sectionals of 56.1 and 27.4 which was only .4 of a second slower than Lazarus ran in heat one. Heat Three Again on paper three horses stood out for us on exposed form and they duly ran the trifecta but certainly not in the order that everyone expected. Kingofthestars and Nathan Jack lead with ease from barrier three but the early pace was moderate as several of the poorly drawn horses moved from the back to get handy. The West Australian raider Sprinter was parked for a couple of hundred metres before receiving a trail on the back of the very smart Power Of Red and Amanda Turnbull who took up the death seat. The pace really went on from the half in this heat with Kingofthestars brushing down the back in 27.7 but Power Of Red and Sprinter were still in touch as they turned for home. Just when it looked like Kingofthestars would prevail, Sprinter flew late to grab the favourite for a very smart win. Kingofthestars was slightly disappointing in being beaten after having his own rules in front while Power Of Red stuck on gamely after doing plenty mid race. Iceenothink was a fair way from the first three in fourth which earned him a spot in the Victoria Derby final. The Mach Three gelding trained by Gary Elson and driven by Nathan Turvey paced the 2200 metres in 2:39.2, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with closing sectionals of 55.2 and 27.5 Sprinters winning time was the same as Lazarus ran in winning heat one. Harnesslink Media

Pukekohe harness racing trainer Ray Green is having a year to remember with his juveniles with three of his barn having designs on the Young Gun Series Final in early March. Vasari 1:56.4, a son of Art Major has impressed all season while his Mach Three stablemate Alta Intrigue 1:56.6 with two wins from three starts has looked the equal of any two year old racing in the country. The third of Ray's team eying up a Young Guns final appearance is Spring Campaign and the son of Courage Under Fire has done enough to date to suggest he will be a major player on March 11th. Spring Campaign was a gutsy second on debut, running second to stablemate Alta Intrigue off a 55.9 last 800 metres but a couple of minor issues have kept him from the track since. However tomorrow night Spring Campaign steps out for his second start at the races in the last at Alexandra Park but it is not against his fellow two year olds. " The two old race never got off the ground but he needs a run so we are taking on the older horses." " It is not ideal but you need to keep ticking them over with a view to having them ready for the final so your hands are tied a bit, "Ray told Harnesslink this afternoon. Spring Campaign is also going through a bit of a growth spurt at the same time which has Ray not rushing things at this point. " We will know a lot more after the race tomorrow night but he is going through a growth spurt at the moment which he seems to be coping really well with." " His work has been super leading into tomorrow night and he really should be winning the race," Ray said. Ray is facing the same problem with Vasari and Alta Intrigue as he has with Spring Campaign in that finding suitable races to keep them ticking over is not easy. " Alta Intrigue is classed as a C2 horse by the handicapping system which means I have to race older horses to get a run which is crazy." " Vasari is classed as a C1 so he is not much better off and both of them are disadvantaged in where they can start." "I am not going to line them up against the C1 and C2 pacers as it would be too hard on a two year old with all the big races still to come," Ray said. Ray has put together a great record over the years with his juveniles but in this years trio, he really looks to have horse power to take out the Young Guns Final. Harnesslink Media

It was a big night for multiple wins at Newcastle on Saturday night and while local horseman Mark Callaghan won three races, the harness racing meeting was dominated by Ebenezer trainer Colin Edwards as he prepared four winners - the first time he has achieved the feat in his career. All of the winners trained by Edwards were driven by Sydney reinsman Michael Towers and owned or part owned by Ray Cahill. "It was a big night for the stable and it was very special for all of us, I have trained a treble before but that was many years ago when they still raced at Richmond," Edwards said. "A lot of the credit must go to Michael (Towers) he drove them really well and while you can go to the races thinking you have a good chance in a few races it all comes down to the performance of your driver." The final winner on the night for Edwards was six-year-old first starter Behindthebushbarry and the effort on debut was satisfying for the trainer. "We went to the sales and Ray (Cahill) purchased a Courage Under Fire youngster and the next year we noticed the mare had another yearling for sale but this time by Holmes Hanover. "I told Ray he better go buy the Holmes Hanover because we wouldn't want to see it win ten and the Courage Under Fire colt not win a race, so he did." The son of Courage Under Fire was named Aimfire, he had three starts and failed to run a place while Behindthebushbarry spent a long time in the paddock. "There was nothing wrong with him, we just left him in the paddock and I was very happy to see him win at his first start." Reinsman Michael Towers has driven three winners at a meeting on two previous occasions but arrived at Newcastle on Saturday and thought he was in for a good night. "I've just come back from a holiday in Perth and Saturday night paid for the trip it was great," Towers said. "I thought they all had good chances, Courtsinsession really impressed me though, he is a giant of a horse and when he learns what racing is all about I think he might be a really nice horse." Courtsinsession is a son of Art Major and was having his first start in a race. "For a big horse he moves quite quickly, he still has a bit of maturing to do but Col does a great job with his horses and he deserves a night like Saturday." Towers enjoyed having owner Ray Cahill in attendance which added to the enjoyment for the group. "Ray was really happy, he was there and I don't think he had ever had more than a double in one night so you can understand why he was pretty excited." "Col is thinking about taking Rodanthe Nights to the heats of the Inter City Pace and the rest of them might wait until Menangle starts racing again." Greg Hayes

Since the mid 1990s, the harness racing breeding scene in Australasia has been home to a resurgence in the Direct Scooter siring line and it shows no signs of tapering off anytime soon. From Direct Scooter line stallions such as  In The Pocket to Christian Cullen to Courage Under Fire to Mach Three, breeders have enjoyed access to some of the best siring talent available. Last years results announced the arrival of another descendant of Direct Scooter in Australasia in Somebeachsomewhere who had a sensational season down under with the brilliant Menin Gate and Waikiki Beach who each dominated their respective age groups in Australia. Somebeachsomewhere has dominated age group racing in North America in three of the last four years and is currently over $1,300,000 ahead of Bettor's Delight on the two year old siring charts this year. With Somebeachsomesomewhere only available via frozen semen and in limited supply, the market was wide open for a well performed son of Somebeachsomewhere to stand in Australasia. Alabar Bloodstock have taken the bull by the horns and have brought in the very well credentialed Sunshine Beach 1:47.8 ($977,438) From the first crop of Somebeachsomewhere in 2010, Sunshine Beach is from a very strong maternal family which keeps pumping out those elite level horses. The dam of Sunshine Beach is the unraced Artsplace mare Light Up. Apart from Sunshine Beach, Light Up has also produced horses of the quality of Safe Harbor 1:50.1 ($549,180), Warrawee Flare 1:50.3 ($524,095) and Western Moonlight 1:52.3 ($366,091 while one of her daughters in Warrawee Cammy has already produced Machal Jackson 1:50.1 ($562,715) The grand-dam is the smart Jate Lobell mare Lights On 1:54 (318,777) who has left eight winners at stud including the very smart two year old After Life 1:51.4 ($659,328) The third dam is the outstanding Flying Bret racemare Enroute 1:53.4 ($753,768) who apart from Lights On has also produced Take Flight 1:53.2 ($602,443), Flight Plan 1:50.1 ($394,251) and Bedeviled 1:55.3($326,212) It is a pedigree full of winners with several $500,000+ earners close up in the pedigree so Sunshine Beach lacks nothing in the breeding department. Sunshine Beach on the track was hindered throughout his career by kidney and bladder stones but when free from pain he produced some outstanding performances. At two, he had a handful of starts, winning in 1:52.2, running second in the $110,000 Nassagaweya Stakes and having a best placed time of 1:50.4 in his heat of the Metro Pace. Treated extensively in the break between his two and three year old seasons, Sunshine Beach came out at three and showed what a high class colt he was. His best performance was undoubtedly in the $500,000 Battle Of Brandywine Final at Pocono where he beat the champion colt Captaintreacherous in a life time best of 1:47.4 Other notable performances at three included the $284,000 Progress Pace at Dover Downs in 1:50.3, a Bluegrass Stakes win at the Red Mile in 1:48.2 plus two placings behind Captaintreacherous in time honoured classics. One was a second placing in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Final by a neck in 1:49.2 and the other was a third in the $635,000 Meadowlands Pace Final in 1:48.4. Sunshine Beach faced the starter 20 times between May and December at three for eight wins and eight placings and over $900,000. In fourteen of those twenty starts Sunshine Beach broke the 1:50 barrier. The kidney and bladder stone issues came back to haunt Sunshine Beach in a big way at four and his form wasn't what it should have been. After he was retired, Sunshine Beach went on the operating table to remove the most humongous golf ball sized kidney stone you will ever see. For Sunshine Beach to have raced as well as he did with that stone annoying him every inch of the way is a testament to how genuine and tough he was. Standing in Canada in his first year at stud in 2015, Sunshine Beach was very well received by breeders, covering 135 mares at $5,000. With Alabar having set his fee at $4,000 in Australasia, Sunshine Beach would seem great value for money and it would surprise us if he didn't serve as least as many mares down under as he did in Canada during this past breeding season there. Harnesslink Media.

Smolda's sizzling speed has made his issues of last season a distant memory. The rejuvenated pacer seemingly jogged home in a 53.1-second last half to win the harness racing $50,000 Group II Ashburton Flying Stakes on Labour Day. The win was in stark contrast to this time last year when trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen were scratching their heads trying to keep him on track before he was eventually scratched from the cup. Phil and Glenys Kennard, who race Smolda with Neil Pilcher and Markus Kirkwood, said the Flying Stakes win was special given the issues of last season. "We didn't know if we would be racing him again after last year," Phil Kennard said. Monday's one-length win has firmed the 7-year-old son of Courage Under Fire into $3 favouritism for the $750, 000 Group I New Zealand Trotting Cup on November 10. The only question mark around Smolda would be, that in his two runs back for a strong second in the Canterbury Classic and the Flying Stakes win, he has done no work and picked up a perfect trip on both occasions. But Purdon is not concerned. "He's tough. "If he has to do some work in the cup I don't think it will worry him one bit," Purdon said. Purdon was so happy with Smolda's effort in Ashburton he is toying with the idea of skipping the cup trial and going straight into the big dance on the second Tuesday in November. "I'm not sure there's much improvement in him but if he stays where he is I think he'll be competitive," a typically humble Purdon said. Given the time of 2:55.1 for the 2400m stand and the last quarter of 26.1, Tony Herlihy was happy with the effort of Ohoka Punter who moved up to sit parked at the 1200m mark and attacked Tiger Tara for the lead down the back straight. Ohoka Punter stuck on gamely until Smolda breezed on by in the final 200m. Ricky May was super impressed with Mossdale Conner who got a run up the passing lane to finish three-quarters of a length behind Ohoka Punter in third. Tiger Tara faded to fourth after leading for the last lap but trainer Geoff Dunn and Gerard O'Reilly were happy with the run that saw him finish two lengths behind Smolda. Dunn is another tipping he will miss the cup trial. Zac Butcher gave Sky Major a big tick of approval after the three-time Harness Jewels winner made ground late to finish fifth, three lengths off Smolda. The movers in the cup rankings when they are updated on Tuesday are likely to be Choise Achiever and No Doctor Needed but neither will progress too far given they only beat two runners ahead of them. Their runs may be good enough to overtake Belkmyster, who was in 15th spot before the race. John Dunn was rapt with the effort of No Doctor Needed, who lost ground at the start but recovered well to catch the field and hit the line strongly. Lancewood Lizzie, who was in in ninth in the cup rankings before Ashburton, is likely to fall a few spots after finishing eighth and Bit Of A Legend will likely drop after being 12th before the Flying Stakes but finishing 10th. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of  Stuff NZ   -   Check site here

Tonight at the harness racing meeting at Addington Raceway, we will see the debut performance of the very smart three year old, Freedom Fighter. A son of Courage Under Fire, Freedom Fighter went through the 2014 New Zealand Premier Sale at Christchurch where he changed hands for $48,000 The vendor Brian West of Studholme Park had a lot of time for the colt and arranged to be part of the syndicate that was formed to race the horse by the purchaser Robert Dunn. Freedom Fighter had half a dozen starts at trials and workouts at two against some of the best two year olds around and was always competitive but was put aside to mature Now a three year old, Freedom Fighter has been burning up the trial tracks in Canterbury lately with his last effort at Rangiora especially noteworthy when he came home in 56 and 26.5 for an easy 6 1/2 length win. Tonight on his debut he will face some really nice horses such as Articulight, Imola and Linton Shard but he looks to have all the attributes to make a winning debut.  Driver John Dunn has a good opinion of Freedom Fighter. " He is a really nice horse and I think he will be hard to beat tonight." " His run at the last workouts was very good and I'm going in pretty confident," John said. Any good horse that is running sectionals like Freedom Fighter has at the trials recently always attracts the attention of the bloodstock agents and it is no different here. " There has been quite a bit of interest in him but he hasn't been sold at this stage." " The agents are keen to watch him run tonight and then make a decision," John said. With the aid of barrier one, Freedom Fighter looks very hard to beat here in what is shaping as his only start for the Dunn barn Harnesslink Media  

This years mixed age sale at the Shepparton harness racing complex yesterday (Sunday) reinforced the view that it is a tough market out there at the moment. Sixty nine of the cataloged horses went through the ring yesterday but 22 (31.8%) were passed in which must have disappointed both the auctioneers and the vendors. The first horse to stir a bit of emotion from the bidders was lot 12 which was a two year old filly by Courage Under Fire from a Holmes Hanover half sister to nine winners including Allwoods Chief ($465,497) She was knocked down to the bid of Trevor Cottrell for $20,000 which was the equal top price for the whole sale. Shortly after lot 16 had the bidders active again with a three quarter sister to lot 12 attracting a lot of interest. The two year old filly by Courage Under Fire was from a Even Odds half sister to Allwoods Chief ($465,497) but failed to sell, being passed in for $10,000. It took more than another twenty lots before the bidders got fired up again. Lot 37 was the smart Modern Art racemare More Than Alright 1:58.6 ($45,369) who is a daughter of the very smart Imported Cam Fella mare Out Of Sight 1:52 ($200,142) who is a half sister to the champion Volez Hanover 1:49.4 ($1,690,543) Sold as either a racemare or a broodmare, More Than Alright surprisingly only made $10,000 and was knocked down to the bid of Garry Hawthorn The next lot after that was the half sister by Badlands Hanover to More Than Alright in Vista Bella 1:57.9 ($110,291) In foal to the champion sire Art Major, Vista Bella went home with Bruce Dumesny after he bid $20,000 In the yearling section, two youngsters shared the top price of $9,000  Lot 58 was a Majestic Son colt from the racewinning Holdonmyheart mare Closetomyheart from the family of the top New Zealand trotting filly French Accent who was sold to Nathan Jack. The other top priced yearling was lot 72 who was a Mach Three colt from the very speedy Artiscape mare in Room With A View 1:56 ($45,369) who was purchased by the Racerpacer group. This sale has the potential to be a really good clearing sale for breeders and trainers but it is not quite there yet. Check sale results here Harnesslink Media

As this weekends Australasian Breeders Crown finals loom large, here at Harnesslink we thought we would do a runner by runner preview of each of the finals at Tabcorp Park Melton. First up is the $84,000 two year old trotting fillies final 1) High Gait  (Muscles Yankee)     Starts 8   -   Wins 7   -   Seconds 1   -   Thirds 0     Stakes  $100,631   High Gait has had an outstanding season winning seven from eight and being beaten a nose in her other start. Beat the boys on Redwood day and from this draw with her gait speed it is hard to see her beaten.  Great manners just add to the impression that she is nigh on unbeatable from barrier 1 2) The Cooler  (Majestic Son)   Starts 4   -   Wins 0   -   Seconds 0   -   Thirds 3   -   Stakemoney $8,200 The Cooler is yet to go a bad race in her brief four start career with three thirds and a fourth. Hard to see her troubling two or three here on class but does things right which is a big plus in two year old trots. Throw in for trifectas and first fours 3) Smile Smile Smile  (Angus Hall)   -   Starts 3  -  Wins 2  -  Seconds 0  -  Thirds 1  -  Stakes $7493 Promising filly with a good draw but needed to draw inside High Gait to be a chance to beat her. Still on the up and looks a major player her. Must include for trifecta and first four takers. 4) A Nip Will Do (Bacardi Lindy)  Starts 14  -  Wins 0  -  Seconds 1  -  Thirds 3  -  Stakes $7,178 Thereabouts in a lot of her starts this season but it is hard to see her playing a major part here. Several runners appear to have the wood on her in this race going on past performances. Not for us. 5) Jay Bee Flex (Federal Flex)  Starts 6  -  Wins 0  -  Seconds 0  -  Thirds 2  -  Stakes $4363 Last run at Maryborough was her best run this season, finishing a close up third to Smile Smile Smile. However the depth of this field is far stronger and the draw doesn't help either. Not for us. 6) Liava (Bacardi Lindy)  Starts 4  -  Wins 0  -  Seconds 0  -  Thirds 0  -  Stakes $1403 Has failed to really impress in her four starts todate. Hard to see on exposed form how she is a player here. Not for us 7) Parisian Chic (Love You)  Starts 6  -  Wins 3  -  Seconds 1  -  Thirds 0  -  Stakes $18,658 A real winning chance if she had just drawn well instead of the outside of the front line. Really nice second two starts back to Missandei and has won three of her last four. Major player here but more a trifecta and first four chance due to the draw                                                                                                                         SECOND LINE 8) Missandei (Angus Hall)  Starts 7  -  Wins 3  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 1  -  Stakes $76,530 The obvious danger to High Gait  having drawn on her back and seems to have improved even further since her Harness Jewels win. Only filly in this field to have beaten High Gait but her fortunes may depend on how much mid race pressure the favourite is put under. Can win this but does need a few things to go her way. Clear second pick. 9) Cobbler Creek (Great Success)  Starts 9  -  Wins 1  -  Seconds 1  -  Thirds 0  -  Stakes $6438 Has won a race this season which is more than some here. Just appears to be be a length or two off the good ones in this race Not for us. 10) Sky Majesty (Skyvalley)  Starts 8  -  Wins 1  -  Seconds 2  -  Thirds 1  -  Stakes $12,540 Has really come solid in her last four starts and has definitely improved lately. Needed a good front line draw to help her chances so from three second line she faces a real challenge. First four player at best for us from the draw. 11) Fear Not (Skyvalley)  Starts 12  -  Wins 0  -  Seconds 0  -  Thirds 0  -  Stakes $2935  ( Emerg 1) The emergency for the race and on disclosed form would appear to be out of her depth. Not for us 12) Social Fireball (Courage Under Fire)  Starts 7  -  Wins 1  -  Seconds 4  -  Thirds 0  -  Stakes $18,676 Pacing bred filly that has developed into a lovely trotter. Hard to fault her last five runs with her second in the $60,000 Vicbred Trot in smart time over the distance of 2240 metres a good pointer. Appeals to us as a trifecta and first four player even from the draw. 13) Mizurri (Skyvalley)   Starts 3  -  Wins 0  -  Seconds 1  -  Thirds 0  -  Stakes $1,038 Very inexperienced filly and this looks a huge jump in class to us. Throw in the draw and it looks like mission impossible. Not for us. SELECTIONS High Gait from the draw looks very hard to beat. Should lead and should win Missandei is the clear second pick and if High Gait is eyeballed in front during the race, she is a chance to upset the favourite up the passing lane. For trifecta and first four takers, throw in The Cooler, Smile Smile Smile, Parisian Chic and Social Fireball. Harnesslink Media

Pinjarra harness racing trainer Michael Brennan has completed arrangement for exciting gelding Nathans Courage to travel to Victoria to contest the rich Breeders Crown for two-year-old colts and geldings. Brennan will accompany Nathans Courage on a flight from Perth next Tuesday week and Chris Voak will drive the son of Courage Under Fire in a semi-final of the Breeders Crown at Ballarat the following Saturday night. Brennan is hopeful that Nathans Courage, a stylish all-the-way winner at Gloucester Park at his only two starts, will qualify to run in the $288,000 final at Melton on Sunday August 30. "He should go well," Brennan said. "He's a lovely little horse, a professional racehorse and he's so relaxed." Two of Nathans Courage's most serious rivals appear to be Our Waikiki Beach and Zee Dana. Our Waikiki Beach, trained by New Zealander Mark Purdon, is unbeaten at his ten starts and has amassed $324,081. He sped over the final quarters in 27.1sec. and 27.8sec. and rated 1.56.3 when he scored a four-length victory in a heat of the Breeders Crown over 2300m at Menangle on July 21. He won the group 1 Australian Pacing Gold, covering the 1609m journey in 1.54.3 at Menangle in April and he won the 1609m NSW Breeders Challenge final in 1.53.7 at Menangle in June. Zee Dana notched his second win from three starts when he sat behind the pacemaker and finished strongly along the sprint lane to win a heat of the Breeders Crown at a 1.58 rate over 2190m at Shepparton on Tuesday night. Ken Casellas

Nathans Courage, a typically small son of former champion pacer Courage Under Fire, looks set to give punters a flying start to the harness racing meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night by winning the opening event, the 2130m Taylor Sulky Repairs Pace. The two-year-old, prepared at Pinjarra by Michael Brennan, made an auspicious debut when he set the pace and won by almost two lengths from El Hombre, his only rival in a qualifying heat of the Breeders Crown at Gloucester Park on Monday. He sprinted over the final quarter in a sparkling 27.3sec. Reinsman Chris Voak was impressed with the gelding, saying: "He's got potential and there's plenty of upside. I think he will have benefitted from his run on Monday." "He's drawn barrier four on Friday and that's the best of the main chances." "He showed good gate speed on Monday and I'll be looking to replicate that performance." "I'll be heading forward to take the lead; that's my game plan and I think that Mouse (Brennan) will agree." "This is a jump up in grade and will test him." "But he's up to the challenge." "He did it quite comfortably on Monday and I didn't pull the ear plugs or really get stuck into him." "He's got a quick quarter and can run a good half." "I don't expect too much pressure, but maybe Browny (Colin Brown) might have a crack with Franco Rayner." Franco Rayner, an effortless all-the-way winner at his Australian debut, over 2185m at Pinjarra on July 13, finished seventh behind Sprinter in the Golden Slipper at Gloucester Park four nights later when he started from the back line and was always well back. Franco Rayner will start out wide at barrier eight on Friday night. He dashed over the final 400m in 28.6sec. when an easy winner in a 2150m trial at Byford on Sunday morning. "He handled Pinjarra a lot better than he handled Gloucester Park," Brown said. "He's not a big horse, but he wasn't comfortable in the run at Gloucester Park." "I changed some gear on him for Sunday's trial, but it didn't work." "However, he still ran home very quickly." "Now he will have a lugging bit added and hopefully I will have a better steering horse." Ken Casellas  

Harness racing royalty in the form of Franco Jamar, a beautifully bred son of Courage Under Fire will stand his first season at stud at Lancefield Park in Boyanup at a very competitive fee of $1,500 with a live foal guarantee. Brought to Western Australia by Bridgetown owner/trainer Graeme Waters, Franco Jamar was a quality racehorse winning a total of 21 races and taking sub 2:00 records as a 2yo, 3yo and his lifetime mark of 1:51.2 as a 5yo on his way to earnings of $378,302. Franco Jamar finished second to Captain Peacock in the Group One $250,000 New Zealand Derby before beating that horse in the Group Two Southern Supremacy Stakes at his next start. Interestingly Franco Jamar won two 3yo races in New Zealand with the now WA based Reon Tither at the reins. As a 5yo Franco Jamar won six straight city class races at Menangle culminating in the Group Two Coca Cola Sprint when he overcame the extreme outside barrier over the mile in 1:52.2  to thrash the field by more than 10 metres running the final quarter in 26.4 seconds and last half in 54.9 seconds with the WA owned millionaire polemarker Washakie back in fifth place. A month later Franco Jamar finished fifth to Smoken Up, Mr Feelgood, Raglan and Washakie in the $425,000 Victoria Cup  with WA champion Im Themightyquinn down the track in 12th place. Franco Jamar is one of three 2:00 winners produced by the Falcon Seelster mare Jamel Franco 1:57.7TT. Courage Under Fire has sired 15 horses which have each won in excess of $300,000 in stakes – five of the 15 are out of mares by Falcon Seelster. By virtue of Franco Jamar standing in Western Australia his progeny will be eligible for Double Westbred Bonus payments when winning as 2yos and 3yos. For further information contact Graeme Waters on 0402 779 662 or studmaster Lisa Adams on 0429 315 239. Alan Parker

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