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It felt like a homecoming for Ashburton trainer Ben Waldron when his mare Queen Bee Bardon won the Peters Generics Roxburgh Cup today. He was born and bred in Omarama which is just over the hill from Roxburgh, but he moved to the Canterbury region when he was ten. “It’s a massive thrill for me to win a race like this because it’s a wee bit like coming home. Of all the big races this means as much as any of them. It’s a great bunch of guys that run the Roxburgh Club,” he said. Many were surprised to see Queen Bee Bardon back up so soon after a gut busting run in the record breaking Central Otago Cup just two days ago at Omakau.   “All things considered it was a pretty good run. It looked bad but it was a 25 (second) opening quarter. Then she worked again shortly after settling and it was always going to take it’s toll. We had to be realistic and there was improvement there if we could just use her once (in today’s race).” Waldron said the Gotta Go Cullen mare recovered well from the Omakau run. “She’s as hard as nails. As she’s got older and older she’s got tougher and tougher. She’s one of those horses that bounces back remarkably quickly. She’s a good bit of livestock, you might say. She ate up and got on with it. She was tired after the run but recharged her batteries and got back into it.” In today’s 2700 metre Cup, driver Craig Thornley settled Queen Bee Bardon last with Mr Kiwi making the pace. When Pats Dragon and Especial moved forward three wide Thornley latched onto the three wide train. On turning in Queen Bee Bardon was the widest runner and she powered home down the outside to nail Nearis Green by half a length with a head back to Mr Kiwi.   Queen Bee Bardon winning the 2019 Roxburgh Cup - Photo Wayne Huddleston Wild Range Photography.  “I like to leave my drivers to do their thing otherwise I’d do it myself. We obviously wanted to give her an easier trip. Craig did a fantastic job. He’s a bloody good horseman,” said Waldron after the race. Today’s win was Queen Bee Bardon’s seventh in forty four starts and according to Waldron in many of her races she’s been unlucky. “She’s very rarely copped a decent run. She ran second in a Jewels Final behind Piccadilly Princess as a four year old. Generally speaking she hasn’t had a whole lot of luck. She’s been crook at the wrong time. It sounds pretty silly but her record is disappointing compared to what she feels like. She’s pretty sharp.” Waldron says her rating of 79 puts her into a challenging grade. “It is difficult. There is always a nice horse coming through. It’s a tricky grade because you’ve got a lot of potential cup horses on the way through. Or do you try off big marks in a race that’s a bit easier?” Queen Bee Bardon’s next target is likely to be the $100,000 Group One New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Stakes at Addington on the 15thFebruary. “I’ve never been frightened to line her up. You’ve got to have a go.” Although she’s six, Waldron feels Queen Bee Bardon is just starting to peak. “Unfortunately she’s been a slow developing mare. She’s quite a big mare. She’s had a lot of wee niggles and quite a bad virus at one point. Sometimes these types of horses that are from left field breeding can turn up later in life.” Queen Bee Bardon is out of the Bionic Power mare Margaret Bardon and is owned by Renee Williams (Ben’s Fiancée), Gordon Guthrie and Mike Chequer. Guthrie and Chequer had shares in Mr Molly which Waldron trained to win fourteen races including the 2009 Northern Southland Cup Invercargill Cup double. Although she seems to have been round the racetracks for a long time Waldron says there are no plans to retire her. “There’s been no real reason to retire her because it’s felt like she’s got more wins in her.”          Bruce Stewart

Nemera Franco lived up to her high billing today when she dealt to a handy field of R52-R59 horses and in the process broke a fifteen year track record. The three year old Bettor’s Delight filly is trained at West Melton by Steven McRae. “We thought she was a classic two year old filly but she went in the wind and had an operation. After that we’ve been very cautious about what we've said about her,” he said. McRae, a former Southlander, said he’s keen to bring the quality filly back to the province but she’ll have a week off before he looks at heading back to qualify for April's Southland Oaks Final. “We’ll try and get her back down here before she gets up in the grades.” In today's race, driver Craig Thornley settled the filly four back on the outside. With 800 metres to run Thornley had the favourite out three wide. Just before the run home he launched her five wide and she sprinted away to win by an impressive eight lengths. Her time of 2-41.4 for the 2200 metres mobile was a new track record for three year old fillies. The old record, of 2-43.2, was set by Champagne Princess in 2002. Nemero Franco and Craig Thornley winning by eight lengths - Photo Bruce Stewart “She got a great trip today and he drove her a treat. It was more the way she did it that impressed me.” Nemera Franco is out of the three win Union Guy mare Nature Franco and McRae said he wondered if she’d return to the potential she showed as a two year old. “She’s very lazy, trots round on one rein and won’t tighten the bit. This time round we've wondered if what we thought of her (early on) was right. She didn’t seem to be the same horse and you had to make her do what she did. A couple of times at the trials, Craig has come back and said not to worry about her. She’s picked up the bit and really charged (at the trials). Today he had to give her a couple just to get her to go but when she went she disappeared. He also said in the first ten strides when she came out she just wasn’t going to go anywhere. She’s still got a lot to learn.” Nemera Franco is part of a new syndication scheme that Spreydon Lodge has been running for the last two seasons. “For the last two years we’ve found three yearlings that broke in well that we’re going to keep for breeding. We leased them out for a half share - three year racing only lease. People take five or ten percent. It’s a nice cheap way of people getting into what we hope will be a classic horse one day.” Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart  He said a lot of the syndicate had driven down from Christchurch for the day and others were old rugby mates from Waikaka. "There’s a lot of them here today so the bar takings will be up.”  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Harness racing trainer Colin DeFilippi edged closer to 2000 winners when Izmok won easily at Addington last night. Izmok (Muscles Yankee - Belle Galleon) is a half-brother to brilliant trotter Stent who won thirty races for DeFilippi and owner Trevor Casey. Last night Izmok had a good sit on the outer and finished best when produced wide in the straight. He trotted the mobile 1950m race in a mile rate of 2-04.6 with closing splits of 61.7 and 30.7. Colin was confident Izmok would go a good race but said before the race, "he has missed some work because of the weather and was no certainty but he should go a nice race all the same".  DeFilippi is now sitting on 1999 wins after the win of Izmok and will surely reach the milestone of 2000 in the coming weeks if Izmok can carry on his winning way. Eden Franco put up a good stayers run later in the evening when winning for trainer Steven McRae. Driven by Craig Thornley, Eden Franco (Christian Cullen - Elisit Franco) led from the start and set up a torrid tempo in front. She was attacked by Sheree Tomlinson on Bet On A Rascal for the last 1000m but staved that horse off and went on to win in a quick 2-00.0 mile rate for the 2600m stand. The overall time was for the race was 3-14.0 with a closing 800m in 57.9 and 400m in 29.5 seconds Leigh Major caused a major headache for the TAB bookmakers when she pulled off a betting coup in the junior drivers mares race. Stephen Richardson from the TAB advised Harnesslink that Leigh Major had opened at $43.00 on the fixed odds win market the night before and there had been steady and late money for her right up until the race started.   Leigh Major closed at $10.00 on the final field win market and came from outside the second line to win narrowly by a nose beating another S.McRae trained runner in Tara Tutaia. Earlier in the night Black Art also had the punters cheering, dropping in from an opening quote of $6.00 the night before to close a clear favourite at $2.70 on the fixed odds win market. John Dunn the driver off Black Art had to survive an enquiry for possible breach of the push out rule with 1600m to go, but survived and gave young trainer Andrew Fitzgerald his first training win.   IZMOK winning at Addington Harnesslink Media

They’ve both won two races at Rangiora this season, but only one of either Thisismylastflight or Rocki Warrior can make it three in the past 12 months in today’s Rangiora Winter Cup. The duo are two of only five horses who have won at Rangiora Harness Racing Club meetings this season and are joined by; Witheze, Donegal Carrickfin and Run To Hide - none of whom are racing at today’s final meeting for the season. Tackling the $12,000 event today, the pair both have strong each way chances. Rocki Warrior hasn’t been seen at the races since the end of January, but the Denise Ottley trained pacer looked ready to resume with a big run at his most recent trial where he incidentally beat, Thisismylastflight. Three quarters of a length separated the pair and the big Washington VC gelding has the added advantage of drawing on the front line which suits his usually quick stand start manners. The win would also give his driver, Sam Ottley a good chance to push for overall driving honours at the Rangiora Harness Racing Club meetings. She’s driven seven winners at the club’s meetings, a tally bettered only by Ricky May (9) and Dexter Dunn (8). Gavin Smith is the other in contention with his seven winners as well. The mother and daughter Ottley combination have a chance earlier in the day as well with OK I’m Bad who was third in that same trial won by Rocki Warrior. Thisismylastflight hasn’t been seen other than that trial since running fourth to James Dean at Timaru at the start of the month, but the Steven McRae trained pacer has done a wonderful job in his short career. The Panspacificflight gelding has a big motor and Craig Thornley may elect to unleash it today. James Dean is a big chance in the Winter Cup based on his Timaru win for Leo O’Reilly while Cran Dalgety and Dexter Dunn have a strong chance from Alpha Rock. Greg and Nina Hope and Robert Dunn, who both train out at Woodend Beach, head into the meeting with six winners from the Rangiora Harness Racing Club’s season with Terry and Glenys Chmiel their closest opposition with four wins.   Matt Markham’s Rangiora Selections Race 1: Fiery Comet, Family Night, Sunrise Spur, Tehoro Nova Race 2: Boomer, Out Of Aces, Bicton, Vyndetta Race 3: Got A Beauty, Zakspatrol, Bevan’s Cullen, Northview Major Race 4: Tara Tuatia, Spondulicks, Admiral, Dance N Jewel Race 5: Shes’a Tricky Bridge, Eden Franco, Crackared, Sans Le Sou Race 6: Run Boy Run, OK I’m Bad, Takitimu Express, Den’s Legacy Race 7: James Dean, Alpha Rock, Rocki Warrior, Thisismlylastflight Race 8: Ygritte, Diana Harbour, Cuddly Jess, Rocknpop Race 9: Man Of Steel, Toll Gate, Take After Me, Ask Me Art   Best Bet: Fiery Comet (Race 1) Value: Ygritte (Race 8)

Murray Swain has an eye for a bargain and when he spotted an American bred mare with a Tintin In America filly foal at foot being offered by Spreydon Lodge in the 2014 harness racing Christchurch Autumn Weanling and All Age Sale he liked what he saw.  Seven hundred dollars later he had purchased High Tops Hanover and her filly foal. It was that filly, named Share The Road that won at Winton today. High Tops Hanover is by Western Hanover out of Haps Hanover a Big Towner mare. Haps Hanover is out of Hazel Hanover the dam of Holmes Hanover, four times champion New Zealand sire. “All Holmes Hanover’s cross well with Direct Scooters so that’s why I liked Tintin In America. It just adds speed to the breed,” said Swain who shares in the ownership of the three year old with his wife Wendy. Share The Road is trained by their son Aaron. Tintin In America is out of Zenterfold which is by In The Pocket, a Direct Scooter stallion.  "Craig (Craig Thornley who works at Spreydon Lodge) said she (High Tops Hanover) was a nice mare but she couldn’t run.” And Murray Swain remembers going to see his prospective purchase on the day of the sale. "She (the foal) was quite a flighty filly in the box with the mare and Denice (sister Denice Swain) always said some of the flighty quick moving ones turn out to be okay. I didn’t mind her for $700." Wendy and Murray Swain with trainer Aaron and Share The Road  - Photo Bruce Stewart. In the score up from barrier one Share The Road broke for driver Dexter Dunn and a false start was declared by starter Ben Ward. Dunn quickly decided in the interests of safety that his charge would be better starting from the outside of the front row. “The one draw at the end of the day wasn’t the best draw for her. I’ve been looking after her at home and at the workouts because she can lose the plot a wee bit as she did today. Today was the first time someone else had driven her. If she doesn’t do what you want to do you just have to give her some rein. You can’t pull her in. I thought 'we’re not going to win from the unruly.' But she did stick on.” From the new outside starting position Dunn didn't rush Share The Road, letting her settle two lengths last after the early rush for positions.  With a 1000 metres to run he sent the filly forward and with a lightning move he had her sitting outside the leader and favourite Tara Tutaia inside the 800. At the top of the lane these two started a dog fight that lasted the length of the straight and in the end Share The Road beat Tara Tutaia by three quarters of a length. Repartee was a nose back in third. Share The Road (1) and Dexter Dunn beating Tara Tuaia on her inside - Photo Bruce Stewart. “The plan is to put her in the paddock until next year and target the mares races like the Southern Belle." Swain said he just puts today's misdemeanours down to inexperience. "She’s not like that at home. We have to lead her out of the box. She just got a bit fired up and she didn't have plugs in. It’s just a learning thing.” High Tops Hanover's next foal is a yearling by Net Ten EOM. “He’d be the pick of my yearlings. I’ve got Art Majors and some Mach Threes and I still think this guy is the pick. He’s very solid and the sort of horse that could run at two. I’m going to call him Stiven as John (John Stiven) convinced me to go to Net Ten EOM.” Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Steven McRae has had 14 career wins on Winton's Central Southland raceway. Ten of them had Franco in their name and he's got a good chance of increasing the tally there on Saturday. Three of McRae's four runners are Franco's and the first of them, in the Mico Plumbing Supplies Mobile for non-winners, is Loretta Franco for Spreydon Lodge and the Organ Donation Saves Lives Syndicate. McRae points out he hasn't had the four year old long but she has a good draw, her training suggests she can be competitive and a top-four would not surprize. Next up is the non-Franco, Tara Tutaia in the Breckon Farms Fillies and Mares Mobile Mile. She is racing for just the third time but hasalready tasted mile racing on the Winton track, finishing runner-up, a length and a half behind Somejoy in December and clocking 1:55.7. The three year old daughter of Somebeachsomewhere has drawn two and McRae said that while her gate speed has never been tested, she has enough ability to make use of the good marble. Light Year Franco tackles the Goodman Plumbing Ltd Mobile for non-winners and will go from five off the front. Racing for just the fifth time, the filly already has placings to her credit with McRae commenting she hasn't had a lot of luck in good fields. He notes it is a good field again but reckons with a half-decent run she can get some of it. Selena Franco steps out from gate seven in the PGG Wrightson Mobile, for the same ownership as Loretta Franco. The four year old is a daughter of San Rafael, winner on the course of the 2011 Equine Stakes in 1:54.8. Since winning then running second on the grass at Cromwell and Waikouaiti in January and February, Selena Franco has had a run of outs. In part, McRae blames bad luck. “She's due some luck and we've got her steering a lot better, I'd be disappointed if she's not in three,” he said. Brett Gray has 11 runners going round on Saturday including four in the R58 to R90 pace but considers his one-start trotter might be his best chance. Too Cool was the beaten favourite on debut at Gore, breaking on straightening when in a challenging position. On Saturday, she contests the AB Lime Ltd Trot and Gray is expecting a better result. “I think we've sorted her out,” he said In the Aburns Glass Mobile, The High Roller (Matt Anderson-3), Young Conqueror (Brad Williamson-5), Jimmy Mack (Brent Barclay-6) and GI Joe (Blair Orange-12), all go round for Gray. In a strong line-up, he rates the Butterworth Racing pair, Jimmy Mack and GI Joe, the stronger chances. “It's hard to split them,” he added. Mac Henry

Ben Waldron is going to let the Harness Jewels come to him, as opposed to going out and chasing it. The Ashburton horseman is taking the if it’s meant to, it will happen approach with his star mare Queen Bee Bardon ahead of the Four-Year-Old Diamond in June on his home track because he knows that if you try and chase it, you’re more than likely going to come unstuck. Queen Bee Bardon currently sits just outside the Top 12 for the Four-Year-Old Diamond with just a few weeks of qualifying time remaining, but she’s within reach of making the field for the $150,000 event if she can pick up a win at some point in the coming weeks. “At the end of the day, if it happens it will be great,” Waldron said. “But I’ve been in this position before with horses where you have to chase a spot and it hasn’t worked out that well for us, so we are going to take the casual approach and hope for the best. “I’ve always said though if you are good enough to make your way into the field, then you are good enough to go and compete and it’s a bonus this year because the Jewels are on the back-door step.” Without the pressure of chasing stake monies, Waldron would be quite happy to see his big pacer driven conservatively at today’s Ashburton Trotting Club meeting thanks to a wide barrier draw over the 2400 metres. The daughter of Gotta Go Cullen has given her trainer and her connections, Gordon Guthrie, Michael Crequer and Renee Williams a few headaches in her short career to date, but the promise is there of some exciting times ahead. “We have had a few battles, she got a virus and it took her a long time to come back from that, but we are getting somewhere, she’s a lot better than what she was. “The key now is getting her to relax better for us in her races, she tends to like to charge out of the gate and then gets quite keen. “I’m not one to give instructions to drivers, but I would think Craig will be quite keen to go back early and see what happens.” Craig is Craig Thornley who has struck up a strong combination with the mare and will drive again today. Drawn eight in a strong field the hope is that a good speed up front will bring Queen Bee Bardon’s speed into play late in the race and she can get home over the top of her opposition. Ashburton Selections by Matt Markham Race 1: Sea Rover, Star Pride, Woodstone, Jana’s Wishes Race 2: Chevron’s Reward, Nicky Anew, Tara Tutaia. Real Obsession Race 3: Sundee’s Son, Castlereagh, Majestic Man, Stress Factor Race 4: Warloch, Spondulicks, Time Traveller, Burning Rubber Race 5: Cindy Bromac, Chloe, Vera’s Delight, Midfrew Tarpediem Race 6: Elmers Hoofing It, Paravani, Time’s Stride, Mega Watt Race 7: All Settled Down, Muscles Galore, Beg Hall, Just A Dude Race 8: Queen Bee Bardon, Christopher Banner, Shineonyoucrazydiamond, Nolan Sackett Race 9: Missandei, McLovin, Royal Shine, Trouble Giero Race 10: Mac Almighty, Mighty Santana, Titanium, Julia Lady Race 11: Pirate Bay, I Am Yours, Novak, Zimfandel Best Bet: Elmers Hoofing It (Race 6) Value: All Settled Down (Race 7)

Popular horseman, Craig Thornley, has a few good chances to put more ticks in the win column for the season tonight at Addington. With 22 wins on the board for the season, Thornley is well poised to post his best figures for a number of seasons in the sulky. Those numbers could receive a boost tonight with two very strong chances in Lavros Jack and Queen Bee Bardon alongside some other handy steers. “It’s a decent looking book, so hopefully we can get a couple of results,” Thornley said. Queen Bee Bardon has been a revelation in the summer months for Ashburton trainer Ben Waldron with the penny appearing to finally have dropped on the fledgling four-year-old mare. Her four starts this season have netted two wins a second and a third with her last start victory at Addington the best of the lot. She had the aid of a good barrier draw on that occasion and tonight meets a much stronger field, but her current form looks strong enough to make her more than competitive. “She’s had her battles, but Ben seems to be finally getting on top of them. “It won’t be easy from the barrier draw but you have to like the way that she has been going, she’s got a bit of ability.” It’s been a confidence building thing with Queen Bee Bardon and it’s very much the same with Lavros Jack. After taking a few starts to get the racing caper sorted out, the Russell Kennedy trained trotter is flying currently. An introduction to mobile racing looks to have been a big assist to him as he struggled to find his feet early in stand starts. His seventh last time out was a lot better than the placing would suggest as he weaved his way through from back in the field to make up stacks of ground late in the piece. “He was a run short for that race, so he should have come on with the run. “But it was a great confidence building race for him, he got in amongst everything and never put a foot wrong. “He’s got a big motor and is getting better and better every time he goes to the races.” Lavros Jack will start from the outside of the mobile arm due to being on the unruly from behind the mobile but his motor should take him a long way toward winning the race if the manners come. Thornley also has good each way drives tonight on Loretta Franco in the last race of the night and Ranfurly Rulz earlier in proceedings for the Greg and Nina Hope stable.   Addington Selections – By Matt Markham Race 1: Castlereagh, Majestic Hurricane, Well Defined, Thank You Race 2: Missinmemate, Speedy Mach, Johnny White, Compliant Race 3: Firenze, Madam Spur, Kingdom Come, Sugar Cane Race 4: Let It Ride, Real Obsession, Grand Rainbow, Mr Kalypso Race 5: Stars Align, Kitura, Reaza Grunter, Bella Jones Race 6: Alta Orlando, Mossdale Conner, Maverick, Cullen Who Race 7: Lavros Jack, Benchmark, Arditi, Missandei Race 8: A G’s Whitesocks, Queen Bee Bardon, Bailey’s Rock, Cable Beach Race 9: Master Lavros, Everybody Knows, Hey Yo, Harriet Of Mot Race 10: Hilarious Magic, Pick Me Pocket, Mighty American, Sans Le Sou Race 11: Loretta Franco, Camwell Park, Blue Chip Lad, The Golden Cross Best Bet: Let It Ride (Race 4) Value: Loretta Franco (Race 11) 

The Organ Donation Saves Lives syndicate, whose members include Aaron Coull, a heart transplant recipient, had success with Selena Franco at Cromwell on Saturday.   “To own a horse was on the wish list of Aaron when he had a heart transplant a few years ago,’’ said Todd Butts, manager of the Christchurch –based syndicate.   The syndicate, comprising 23 couples, linked with Spreydon Lodge and trainer Steven McRae to lease a horse and won two races with Nerida Franco last year before she was sold to the United States.   Selena Franco was a subsequent venture. She was having her second start when she led through 2600m in the hands of Craig Thornley.    She is a 4-year-old by McArdle and the first foal of San Rafaella, who seven races  with McRae and three in Australia where she took a record of 1.52.3 at Menangle. Coull owned and trained the greyhound Cool Tee Jay,  who won 37 races before she was retired in 1994. She is in the canine Hall of Fame.   The Wyndham Harness Racing Club hosted the  race meeting on Saturday and three of the committee members had the thrill of winning races.   Ian Hunter, a member of the committee for 43 years and a life member, is the owner of Gotta Del, who won in dashing style.   Bathan Muir and Brendan Duffy are in the ownership of Glenferrie Classic, who prevailed in the Alabar Cromwell Cup. Brendan was in charge of the punters club and wagered $400 to win on Glenferrie Classic, who paid $3.30.   Phil Williamson had his 500th training win in New Zealand with trotters when Astral Ruler held on by a nose. Astral Ruler, driven by son Nathan Williamson, led over the last 1400m.    It was third win for Astral Ruler, raced by long time stable patron, Bill Stevenson, of Oamaru. Phil had his first win with a trotter with Role Model at Addington in 1995. Role Model had earlier won six races as a pacer.   Williamson has also won good races in Australia with Springbank Richard (Victoria Trotting Derby) and One Over Kenny (The Holmfield).   The 3-year-old trotter President Roydon won in style on Saturday  at his second start.   “He started out with Mark Purdon and then had a wind operation,’’ said Brett Gray, who trains President Roydon for Merv and Meg Butterworth. President Roydon was a $10,000 premier sale purchase.   Tayler Strong

Invercargill harness racing trainer Brent Shirley has always had a high opinion of Live Or Die entire Fiddlethefool and yesterday at the Wairio meeting at Winton he beat a small but handy field of class two pacers. It was a nice change of luck for Shirley whose team was struck down by a bad virus at the beginning of the season; Fiddlethefool being one of the worst affected.  "He got very crook. He had swelling in the legs and nose," he said. From an inside second row draw driver Nathan Williamson settled in behind favourite Thisismylastflight which led. With just over 1900 metres to run Williamson came out of the trailing position and attempted to lead but Thisismylastflight and driver Craig Thornley said no. With a lap to run Mr Handleman and Mark Hurrell came forward giving the favourite no peace. "Nathan had a go then Mark Hurrell took over and softened the leader up for us."  Once the passing lane came up Williamson speared Fiddlethefool up the inside and he got up to beat Thisismylastflight by a neck with three lengths back to the third horse - a game Roxy Dale. Fiddlethefool gets up on the inside to beat Thisismylastflight            Photo Bruce Stewart. "He does it so easy. There's always going to be improvement there." The runnerup is part-owned by Southland farrier Brendon Franks and banter between himself and Shirley had been flowing all week. "Franksie and I had a few jugs on it actually."  Franks said afterwards that he struggles to beat Shirley in an agruement so he was hoping he could do it on the racetrack. But it wasn't to be this time.  Fiddlethefool is owned by Shirley's wife Raywyn and was bred by Bill and Karen Grice out of their Holmes Hanover mare Glowing Hanover. "When Bill went into care Mrs Grice gave me the mare. Bill and I raced all the other ones out of her. We thought she wasn't in foal. I chucked her out on a rough block at Sandy Point. I went out to get her one day and she was running around with a black colt on her. That was him." So how did team Shirley come up with the name?  "He's actually named after Norm Scott (former Racecourse Investigator). His stable name is Scotty and Fiddlethefool was a famous saying of Norm's. I think he's a very smart horse. He's still learning. Last year he was just a big dummy but he had ability." Fiddlethefool's full-brother Thrill Factor won five races when trained by Shirley between 2011 and 2013. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Yesterday's win by West Melton trained Franco Tristan had a good local angle to it. The horse is part owned by former Southland rugby player and horse trainer Ken McRae who relocated to Canterbury over a year ago after selling his Waimumu property. "He's currently at the Yaldhurst with a group of family and friends celebrating his 70th birthday. The rest of the owners are there except Paul Hitchens," reported stable driver Craig Thornley after the horse won the Otautau Four Square Supermarket Wairio Cup. "He loves it up there. He's our main worker." McRae is one a handful of owners involved with the four year old McArdle gelding which is trained by his son Steven.  Franco Tristan lead into yesterday's feature with impeccable form, only running out of the money in three of his nine starts. "He's just getting better and better. He looked like a nice two year old. Then he had to have a wind operation so he missed the whole of his three year old year. But he's come back a bit stronger." After a slow beginning yesterday Thornley settled the gelding four back on the inside. With a lap to run he was five back on the inside after favourite The Big Boss took over. When Acolyte moved off the running line with 950 metres to run Thornley had Franco Tristan on his back slotting into the one one. At the 350 metre mark he popped him out and started to progress forward. Under a hard drive Franco Tristan got up to beat Flashing On by three quarters of a length with The Big Boss one and three quarter lengths away in third. Franco Tristan winning the Wairio Cup                  Photo by Bruce Stewart "He was always travelling good and I thought he could run in the money. Wasn't so sure about winning. But we managed to." The overall time for the 2400 metres was 2-58.1. The race record is held by Jamie who recorded 2-57.2 back in 2006. Ken McRae won the 2005 Wairio Cup as a trainer with Wattie. He was driven by Robin Swain.  Second favourite Costa Del Magnifico ran the race post to post in 2-55.7 running his last 800 metres in 54.7 seconds. He was closing off nicely finishing less than five lengths from the winner. It was his first run since the beginning of September. There was also plenty of merit in the performance of runner up Flashing On. Thornley said Franco Tristan is likely to contest the Country Cup Series.  "I'd like to think so but in his last two starts he's just missed away (enough) to be a nuisance. It worked out today because we got a good run afterwards. He's got a great attitude. He always hits 110% when he goes out there. He's got a bit of speed and is tough." Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Overcoming adversity was a common theme among a number of winners at Winton on Sunday including the Otautau Four Square Supermarket Wairio Cup victor Franco Tristan. The four year old's driver Craig Thornley pointed out after the win that despite winning a trial as a two year old, Franco Tristan had a wind problem which required an operation. It kept him away from competition for more than a year but the wait was worth it and he made a winning debut on 29 July. The Cup was his third win in eight starts since and helped his West Melton co-owner Ken McRae celebrate his 70th birthday. Former Southlander McRae, whose son Steven trains Franco Tristan, had reached the milestone on Wednesday. The Roxburgh Cup is the next target for Franco Tristan. Lamborne Road bounced back from a lung infection to race for the first time since February and win the SBS Mobile. The Wayne Adams-trained five year old, raced by Joe and Raeleen Thompson, Niki and Stephen Keast, won two in his first five-race campaign but flopped in his second. “He always had ability but was training well and racing poorly,” Adams said. So Lamborne Road went for a spell on the Keast property at Myross Bush, where he began frothing at the nose and got very sick. “It was hard to get a diagnosis,” Niki Keast, a qualified nurse said. “It was caused by e-coli and pseudomonas. He had six weeks of antibiotics and nursing then we turned him out to grow.” From 11 off the gate, Lamborne Road clocked 2:54.6 in his comeback win. Somejoy, the first foal of group two Southland Oaks winner Jumpforjoy, made a winning debut in the Highway Services Invercargill Fillies and Mares C0 Mobile. Jumpforjoy had raced and won at two but Somejoy didn't even get to the workouts until August this year, by which time she was three. “She had an immature throat at two,” Barron said, “she was turned out and it got better.” The Somebeachsomewhere filly is raced by the Miracle Lodge Syndicate of which Barron and Ashburton accountant Eric Parr are the principal members. Barron said he has four by the sire and they can all run, as can members of her dam's family. “It's a good breed but they don't usually show it till raceday,” Barron explained. A fortnight before winning her debut on Saturday in 1:55.4, Somejoy had won on the grass at the Balfour picnic meeting in the hands of Barron's daughter Ellie.  Invercargill trainer Brent Shirley produced his first winner of the season when Fiddlethefool won the Ryal Bush Transport Ltd Pace. Earlier this season, Shirley's team was affected by a virus. Fiddlethefool was among them and the first to show he was over it. A four year old entire, he is the fourth winner from the Holmes Hanover mare Glowing Hanover whose grand-dam Bonnie Countess is the dam of 1982 New Zealand Cup winner Bonnie's Chance. After closing the door of his class-room for the year on Thursday, Central Southland College school teacher and junior driver Jamie Campbell's attention immediately turned to his passion for harness racing.  By two 'o clock on Saturday, he'd driven his second winner in six days, and third for the season from just nine drives. Later in the day, Campbell claimed a second placing in his only other drive. Campbell's specialist subjects are physical education and agriculture, and while a student at Canterbury University, he also spent time with Colin and Julie de Filippi. The 25 year old is showing now the benefits of the grounding he received there and his recent success has created an appetite for more. “I hope it helps me get more drives, I love it,” Campbell said, “that winning feeling, it's great.” During the early school holiday period, Campbell says he'll have more time to help out trainers and fellow drivers Craig Ferguson and Kirstin Barclay. After Christmas he has an option to work for Amber Hoffman at Waikouaiti for a few weeks. Campbell's winner on Saturday was Rocking Robyn in the Southland Vehicle Sales Junior Drivers Mobile Pace. The son of Christian Cullen and New Zealand Oaks winner Robyn's Treasure had been successful on the track six days earlier after leading for the final 1700 metres. Following the same recipe on Saturday, Rocking Robyn held the opposition out again and clocked a track record-equalling 2:54.1. In an extraordinary coincidence, the time was identical to the track record for males set six days earlier by Rocking Robyn's stablemate and close relative Robyn's Bad Boy. Campbell's other drive for the day was aboard trotter Spotlight The Valley in the Transport Services Ltd Junior Drivers Handicap. Always in contention, the pair challenged the leader Astral Ruler strongly in the run to the line but came up half a neck short in second place. Canterbury trainers David Mitchell, Nigel McGrath, Brent White and Steven McRae each had a win and Blair Orange drove two of them. With winning drives on Pick My Pocket and Franco Hamilton, Orange was the only driver to pick up two for the day. Mac Henry

One of the greats of New Zealand harness racing doesn’t get to see his newest Alexandra Park winner very often. But you can rest assured, John Butcher is watching when Sunset Peak is winning. The former Canterbury trotting mare made it two wins from four starts in the north at Alexandra Park on Friday night, leading throughout as she did two starts ago. She is trained by John and his son David, although truth be known John doesn’t get down to the stables much anymore. The 80-year-old patriarch of one of New Zealand’s great racing families is suffering from lung problems which restrict how much physical activity he can undertake. But it doesn’t stop him watching races on television or keeping up with the industry going-ons via the computer. “He knows everything that goes on in the game, he is the one who tells me,” says David. “But with the lung problem he has got he doesn’t leave the house much. He is a lot better if he doesn’t over exert himself.”
 The father and son have been training in partnership for years but rarely have they had a trotter able to win twice so quickly at Alexandra Park. It helped that Sunset Peak came north well educated by owner Paul McDonald, a Canterbury builder who was training her himself. “I think Paul thought with winter coming and all the work he had on she was better off up here,” explains David. “So Craig Thornley, who had been driving her, put him on to us and she is a lovely horse to get hold of. “To win two so quickly at The Park doesn’t happen very often and you would think she will get down to being a 3:30 trotter (for 2700m stand). “And that is probably good enough to get her at least five wins because when they trot 3:30 off the front they are hard to catch. “The other night she trotted her last three quarters (1200ms) in about even time so the ability is there.”
 The Butchers have never been huge trainers of trotters but have two recent winners in that gait, the other being Larch, among the 9-10 horses they are training. “Soon half the horses at Alexandra Park will be trotters,” jokes Butcher about the new-found depth of the gait in the north. “And they are ideal for up here, races every week and for good money. “So to have a nice one right now is a real bonus.”
 Sunset Peak’s win capped a good night for the family as earlier David’s son Zac drove Atomic Betty to break her maiden and he can probably claim an unofficial training success with Hug The Wind in the $20,000 Smith And Partners Winter Cup. Zac has been in charge of the Barry Purdon stable while the boss has taken a small holiday and had Hug The Wind well enough for driver Brent Mangos to launch him as only Mangos does in the main pace. Aided by a brilliant beginning which gave him field position, Hug The Wind worked forward to get the lead and was way too good in a race where new stablemate New Years Jay also caught the eye when third, promoted from fourth. The favourite Shandale was given a good trip by trainer-driver Maurice McKendry but disappointed, suggesting his season may soon be over. Earlier in the night McKendry partnered the McCaffrey-Paynter trained Ideal Flipflop to a good win in a tough c1 race, the three-year-old pacing 2:40.3 for the 2200m on a chilly night, indicating there is plenty more in store for him. Michael Guerin

There were plenty of smiles in the Rangiora birdcage today when the Peter Robertson trained Bacardi N Coke captured the Fernside Handicap Trot. Driven to perfection by Craig Thornley who is well known for his big smile, the Bacardi Lindy gelding exploded through the gaps to record his second career victory. “He's getting stronger with racing and finally starting to figure out what it's all about” said part owner Maree Robertson. Away quickly from the stand, Bacardi N Coke was slotted into a trailing spot behind Sarah Palin, but with a couple of lead changes, Thornley soon found himself all dressed up with nowhere to go back on the pegs. With some jostling for positions happening up front, Thornley was able to sneak up the pegs before squeezing through between favourite Monkeys Way and Sarah Palin. “We have been getting some acupuncture for him lately and he really seems to be responding to it” The 4yo gelding is owned by Maree Robertson, Peter Robertson, Mitchell Robertson, Michelle Gason and Brad Robertson. Bacardi N Coke Meanwhile, Balcairn trainer and driver Don Burrows picked up his first driving win since 2003 when he saluted the judge with maiden trotter Lightworkofit. His last driving win was In Shot at the Kapiti Coast on the 3rd of January 2003, but since then Burrows also trained 3 winners including Stanley Bay who was successful at Hawera back in April of 2007, Robbie Holmes was the driver on the occasion. Lightworkofit Andrew Fitzgerald

Most harness racing followers have a 'Bucket List' of racedays they would like to experience in their lifetime.    Little Brown Jug Day is on most peoples lists as is Hambletonian Day but one that wouldn't find a place on most peoples list is the Christmas meeting at Westport on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.   However we have always rated it as a not to be missed meeting and being here today has just confirmed to us once again that this meeting is one out of the box.   A combination of the festive season, an extremely enthusiastic club and a township that is fully involved in the day and you have the recipe for a great day.   The first race for this years meeting drew a big field of fourteen but the race was as good as over soon after the start when the talented Bolting flew the start and grabbed the lead.   Driver Craig Thornley kept the four year old son of McArdle up to the mark in front and it was clear a long way out that he was the one to beat.   Although Windfall and John Dunn challenged gamely in the straight, Bolting always looked to have them covered in the last 200 metres with Bobby M and Robbie Close running on well for third.   The 2000 metres on the grass took 2:39.1 with closing sectionals of 60.1 and 30.   Craig Thornley was confident a fair way out he would hard to beat.   “Steve McRae always has them ready to run and once he found the front I was pretty confident.”   “I kept them running along at a reasonable rate which kept any mid race challenges away and even though Windfall got close, I always had him covered. I didnt even pull the sliding blinds,” Craig said.   Last year at the second day of this meeting, Bolting was a very difficult drive for Craig but all that  is well and truly behind him now.   “He is quite a big horse and was just weak and immature last year but he has matured in the last twelve months and this time in he is a sensible, tractable racehorse.   “Spreydon Lodge likes to turnover its racehorses and I think Bolting is for sale after the second day at Westport, Craig said.   On what he has shown in his brief career to date, Bolting looks like a horse with a good future in front of him.   Bolting     Harnesslink Media    

Last week was an improvement from the week before with our tipsters selecting six winners along with eight placegetters so not far away from a great result. Clark Barron, Todd Mitchell, Zac Butcher, John Curtin, Matthew Williamson and Maurice McKendry all got their selections home first to carry on the good strike rate that most of that group have. This week we are covering the four meetings with declared fields but we would suggest that anyone backing a horse at Westport on Friday follows their selection through to Reefton on Sunday. Forbury - Thursday night Terry Chmiel - Gives Moment Of Love a big chance of turning her form around and winning race 4 Brad Williamson - Very bullish about the chances of Mokosun in race 9   Westport - Friday afternoon Jim Curtin - Likes the chances of Insignificant even off 30 metres in race 2 Robbie Holmes - Thought As Kiwi As was due a change of luck and could win race 4 Gerard O'Reilly - Reckons Breakdance can turn her form around and win race 5 Steve Richardson (Tab) - Thought the durable Ideal Arden would be hard to beat in race 7 John Dunn - Rates Geisha Girl a huge chance to make it three in a row, also in race 7 Bob Butt - Gives Georgie Mach a big winning chance even from the unruly mark in race 8   Auckland - Friday night Maurice McKendry - Reckons Yagunnakissmeornot can carry on her winning way in race 2 Blair Orange - Thinks Barry with a drop back this week would be very hard to beat, also in race 2 John Curtin - Gives Chase The Dream a big chance of upsetting Lazarus in race 3  Scott Phelan - Thought First Home, even from barrier eight could upset them in race 4  Tim Williams - Rates Dream About Me a big chance to make it three from three in race 5 Todd Mitchell - Gives Prime Power a great chance of going back to back in race 7 Ricky May - Thinks Jason Rulz is a great place chance from barrier two in race 8 Tony Herlihy - Rates San Diego Love coming in fresh a big chance of winning race 9   Gore - Sunday afternoon Brendon McLellan - Gives Taranto a good chance on grass to win race 2 Matthew Williamson - Thought Falcon Asset would be hard to roll in race 6 Nathan Williamson - Reckons Statham has kept improving lately and will win race 7 Shane Walkinshaw - Thought with a drag into the race Viscountess could get some of it, also in race 7 Clark Barron - Gives Flight Deck a good chance of making a winning debut in race 10

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