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Cran Dalgety couldn't be happier with Christen Me heading in to Saturday's $250,000 Auckland Trotting Cup - it is just the opposition he isn't thrilled with. The Canterbury trainer says the $2.4 million earner is working as well as he ever has leading in to the 3200m group one and he wouldn't change a thing. But that may still not be good enough to win. "I have been thrilled with a couple of his recent runs, but we just keep meeting one better," says Dalgety. "Three starts ago, you would have thought he was enormous running second in the (NZ) free-for-all but Lazarus was just unbelievable. "And then, last start here in the Franklin Cup, I was thrilled with him again but Titan Banner just outstayed him. "He feels great, is working well and is actually running times like he always has but the reality is the best horses of Mark and Natalie's are simply going better. "They are having a freakish run and, while we haven't given up beating them this week, on paper it is hard to make a case we will." Christen Me is the $12 fourth favourite for the Cup, with his half-sister Dream About Me heading a trio of favourites from the All Stars barn alongside Titan Banner and Chase The Dream. That trio have age on their side, with Dream About Me and Chase The Dream only four-year-olds while Titan Banner is a lightly-raced five-year-old, the veteran of only 32 starts. The younger, fresher legs have been the most potent in New Zealand harness racing in the last 12 months, with Have Faith In Me winning this cup last season, Lazarus the New Zealand Cup last month and Monbet dominant as a four-year-old trotter last season. Marcoola did the same in the champ's absence this summer. "It feels a bit like that. My horse feels as good as when he was winning Miracle Miles and when he won this race two seasons ago but the younger horses have gone to another level," says Dalgety. "It is a bit like our horse is Dan Carter and some of the others are Beauden Barrett. " Christen Me's improved standing start manners this season should ensure he gets that luck as he should settle handy, which would give wonder driver Dexter Dunn plenty of options. But the reality is, while he looks a picture and his performances would be excellent coming from most other horses, Christen Me hasn't been as razor sharp as when he went on his Miracle Mile-Victoria Cup-Auckland Cup winning rampage two seasons ago. One rival who seems to have slipped even further, again without any identifiable reason, is last season's Auckland Cup runner-up Hughie Green. This time last year he led the cup until the last few strides and it took a rampant Have Faith In Me to deny him, with Inter Dominion hero Smolda in third. Hughie Green has only shown glimpses of that form since and trainer Brian Hughes says he is happy with the big horse but his racetrack performances have lacked bite. "When you look at his last two runs, he has probably paced his personal best times," offers Hughes. "So I can't be disappointed with him. Maybe the opposition has just gotten better? "Can he win? I hope so, but he would need things to go his way." While Dream About Me ($2.20) and Titan Banner ($2.60) battle over cup favouritism, there is no such dispute in a couple of Saturday's other big money races. Marcoola has come up a jaw-droppingly short $1.20 to win the National Trot even from the outside of the front line, while Ultimate Machete is $1.19 to win the $200,000 Sales Series Pace. Which almost makes the $1.38 for Spanish Armada in the Sires' Stakes Championship Final seem like a decent price. Read more by Michael Guerin  Email Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald            

Cran Dalgety couldn’t he happier with Christen Me heading into Saturday’s $250,000 Auckland Trotting Cup -- it is just the opposition he isn’t thrilled with.  The Canterbury trainer says the $2.4million earner is working as well as he ever has leading into the 3200m group one and he wouldn’t change a thing. But that may still not be good enough to win.  “I have been thrilled with a couple of his recent runs, but we just keep meeting one better,” says Dalgety.  “Three starts ago you would have thought he was enormous running second in the (NZ) free-for-all but Lazarus was just unbelievable.  “And then last start here in the Franklin Cup I was thrilled with him again but Titan Banner just outstayed him.  “He feels great, is working well and is actually running times like he always has but the reality is the best horses of Mark and Natalie’s are simply going better.  “They are having a freakish run and while we haven’t given up beating them this week, on paper it is hard to make a case we will.”  Christen Me is the $12 fourth favourite for the Cup, with his half-sister Dream About Me heading a trio of favourites from the All Stars barn alongside Titan Banner and Chase The Dream.  That trio have age on their side, with Dream About Me and Chase The Dream only four-year-olds while Titan Banner is a lightly-raced five-year-old, the veteran of only 32 starts.  The younger, fresher legs have been the most potent in New Zealand harness racing in the last 12 months, with Have Faith In Me winning this Cup last season, Lazarus the New Zealand Cup last month and Monbet dominant as a four-year-old trotter last season and then Marcoola doing the same in the champ’s absence this summer.  “It feels a bit like that. My horse feels as good as when he was winning Miracle Miles and when he won this race two seasons ago but the younger horses have gone to another level,” says Dalgety.  “It is a bit like our horse is Dan Carter and some of the others are Beauden Barrett. “So I am not saying we can’t beat them. But we might need some luck.”   Christen Me’s improved standing start manners this season should ensure he gets that luck as he should settle handy, possibly even on the markers pegs, which would give wonder driver Dexter Dunn plenty of options.  But the reality is while he looks a picture and his performances would be excellent coming from most other horses, Christen Me hasn’t been as razor sharp as when he went on his Miracle Mile-Victoria Cup-Auckland Cup winning rampage two seasons ago.  One rival who seems to have slipped even further, again without any identifiable reason, is last season’s Auckland Cup runner-up Hughie Green.  This time last year he led the Cup till the last few strides and it took a rampant Have Faith In Me to deny him, with Inter Dominion hero Smolda in third.  Hughie Green has only shown glimpses of that form since and trainer Brian Hughes says he is happy with the big horse but his racetrack performances have lacked bite.  “When you look at his last two runs he has probably paced his personal best times,” offers Hughes.  “So I can’t be disappointed with him. Maybe the opposition has just gotten better?  “But I think he will step away and put himself in the race so he will get his chance.  “Can he win? I hope so, but he would need things to go his way.”  While Dream About Me ($2.20) and Titan Banner ($2.60) battle over Cup favouritism, there is no such dispute in a couple of Saturday’s other big money races.  Marcoola has come up an jaw-droppingly short $1.20 to win the National Trot even from the outside of the front line, while Ultimate Machete is $1.19 to win the $200,000 Sales Series Pace.  Which almost makes the $1.38 for Spanish Armada in the Sires’ Stakes Championship Final seem like a decent price.   Michael Guerin

A drop back from Country Cup racing at Rangiora on Sunday should see Linton Shard tough to roll in the main event on a rare Friday afternoon at Addington Raceway. The Cran Dalgety trained pacer, who lacks nothing in the size department, went down fighting against a strong field in Sunday’s Rangiora Cup on the grass track - beaten only by Imola, Stroke Of Luck and Karanga Red Fantasy. That form should bode well for him heading into an even C2-C3 pace today. A winner of three of his 17 career starts, the half-brother to Smiling Shard and Pemberton Shard might not reach the heights his siblings managed, but he should be in for a good summer around the traps. Dexter Dunn will combine with the gelding again as he looks to peg back Blair Orange’s eight win lead on the drivers’ premiership/ While a standout on recent form arguably, Linton Shard won’t get it all his own way. There’s a bit of depth to the 2600 metre field including in-form pacers Franco Tai and Letspendanitetogetha. The former is running consistently good races for Terry and Glenys Chmiel and off the front mark will give those behind him something to chase. Letspendanitetogetha has won his last two with Craig Smith in the sulky. John Dunn takes the drive tonight. Meanwhile, Weedons horseman Nigel McGrath is keeping things even in his career. As well as being on 470 training wins, McGrath is also on 470 driving wins. He’s got a big month and a bit ahead and should be getting close to at least the training milestone come the end of the season with a strong racing team around him. Today he has My Wee Man and Special Change in an early maiden and then an in-form One Big Fella who tackles the last race of the evening. Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Muscles Galore, One Over Da Stars, Chevron Express, Dragon’s Sister Race 2: My Wee Man, Wall Street Wolf, Waimac Attack, Titanium Race 3: Ice Crusher, Missinmemate, One Direction, Mighty American  Race 4: Ruakapuka Ruler, Culley Backy, Distinctive Del. Mrs Browns Boys  Race 5: Idle Monkey, Little Mo, Sundon’s Flyer, Astrapi Race 6: Cullenz Diamond, Stop Means Stop, Toll Gate, Mac Toddy Race 7: Smithy, Franco Tai, Letspendanitetogetha, Linton Shard Race 8: Debaneyre, Sugar Cane, Forgot To Remember, Galleon’s Royale Race 9: Letsgotothehop, Kitura, Time Traveller, Unico Enchantress Race 10: Remiss, Nui Toc Tien, Joey Maguire. As Kiwi As Best Bet: My Wee Man (Race 2) Value: Ice Crusher (Race 3)

Cup Week is all about the hype, but usually it centres around the action at Addington. The annual Ashburton Trotting Club meeting during the middle of the week is usually a low key affair - a relaxing quiet day of harness racing action with the odd handy type running around, but today there’s a horse on a debut who is creating a bit of an impression already. His name is Raukapuka Ruler and he’s the first foal from former good pacing mare Miss Elsie. Trained by Cran Dalgety the three-year-old colt by Bettor’s Delight has been impressive in recent workouts and trials, including a stunning victory at last week’s Cup Trials where he comfortably had the measure of nice types like Augusta and King Solomon. “He’s got all the makings of a pretty nice horse,” Dalgety said. “Everything we have asked of him he’s handled pretty comfortably, it’s hard not to be a little bit excited about him.” The initial plan was target Tuesday’s Cup Day CO race but a plethora of nominations from horses who were classified as being first preference horses meant he didn’t make the field. So today is the day and the bookmakers haven’t missed the nomination, opening Raukapuka Ruler at the miniscule odds of $1.24 - probably a fair price considering the trial form. Drawn barrier four, driver Dexter Dunn will have plenty of options early in what is not a strong maiden field - but many will expect him to take bad luck out of the equation and go forward from behind the mobile gate. Dalgety and Dunn could be in line for a good day at the office with some strong chances throughout the card. Maiden trotter Chevron Express will be out to improve on the first up fourth effort at Kaikoura while there is a strong quinella opportunity later on in the day with Hit It Rich and Fatima Siad who look set to lead and trail. Millwood Daisy also returns after missing away at Rangiora last week. She returns to a mobile today which will give her a strong chance at turning the form around.   Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Lavros Jack, Chevron Express, Needle, Rebel Kibbybones Race 2: Locked Out Of Heaven, Jakira, Regal Major, Santanna Girl Race 3: Nearis Green, Playingintheshadows, Magical Mitch, Supreme Harmony Race 4: Raukapuka Ruler, Mikey Maguire, Beach Skipper, Carter Michael Race 5: Sparkling Delight, Danny Del Vito, Nui Toc Tien, Absolutely Delighted Race 6: Likely Jereme, Maw Of A Woman, Honour The Bet, Handsome Hero Race 7: Hit It Rich, Fatima Siad, Fire One, Reaza Grunter Race 8: Millwood Daisy, Beaudiene Delightful, One Big Fella, Illegal Immigrant Race 9: Crackabella, Jonty James, Ask Me Art, Joemaro Race 10: I’ve Got This, Mon Richie, Dragon Sun, Solar Storm Race 11: Joey Maguire, Algrancobowjoel, Boomer Bailey, Run To Hide   Best Bet: Raukapuka Ruler (Race 4) Value: Joey Maguire (Race 11)

The 3-year-old filly Pembrook Ideal led home a procession at Forbury Park on Thursday night when having her first race.   Pembrook Ideal led for the last 1600m of 2200m in a field of fillies and mares and won by a  length  from Susie’s Desire with eight and a half lengths to the third horse and 14 3/4 lengths to the fourth placegetter. Pembrook Ideal ran the 2200m (mobile) in 2.44.7, a 2.00.5 mile rate, the fastest of the night.   Trained by Cran Dalgety, she is by American Ideal from Dudinka and raced by her Kaiapoi breeders Wally and Gwynneth Power. She is a half sister to the winners Dudinka’s Cullen, Dudinka’s Beau, Dudinka’s Star, Dudinka’s Christian and Dudinka’s Angel. Dudinka’s Cullen won 41 races – six in NZ, three in Australia and the remainder in the United States where he took a record of 1.52.4.   Pembrook Ideal is the last of nine foals produced by Dudinka, a Save Fuel – Liminka mare.    Pembrook Ideal  was left in the care of trainer Graeme Anderson at Westwood for a fillies and mares race at Forbury Park on Sunday.   Anderson had a hand in  the winners Motu Time To Shine and Four Starzzz Special  on Thursday night, both driven by Dexter Dunn, who drove Pembrook Ideal.   Anderson is the trainer of Motu Time To Shine, who led and came again after being headed a length at the 350m. Anderson said he would decide in the next two days if he would start Motu Time To Shine on Sunday. She is in the same race as Pembrook Ideal.   Four Starzzz Special, who led over 2200m has been  in the care of Anderson for the past three days.   He is trained at Amberley by Kevin Chapman for Brent Cusdin. Four Starzzz Special is by Four Starzzz Shark and the first foal of Special Pocket, who won two races for Martin Brereton. Chapman had  good success with the Four Starzzz Shark entire, Four Starzzz Flash and won races with another progeny  of the same sire, Four Starzzz Shiraz.   Glenstone, a $6000 purchase by Carl Nordqvist, of Methven at the 2014 premier yearling sale, cleared maiden ranks with an all-the-way win.  The Stonebridge Regal – Glendowan mare is trained at Waikouaiti by Amber Hoffman.   Belmont’s Greatest who was passed in for $1500 at the 2013 premier sale, won a C0 trot for Ashburton trainer David McCormick and his wife, Liz. They leased the son of Great Success – Florika from Timaru breeder Donna Williamson. Belmont’s Greatest is the first foal of Florika (Britewell – Jenola Bay), an unraced sister to Uncle Petrika and Neville Vaughan.   Uncle Petrika won the 2003 Interdominion Final in Adelaide and a Great Northern Trotting Derby.   Neville Vaughan numbered a Greenlane Cup among his 10 wins in NZ and he won another 23 races in Australia.     Tayler Strong

There’s only one person Cran Dalgety takes orders from. And when she speaks, he listens. So when his wife Chrissie told him early this week that he was being too soft on his star pacer Christen Me and needed to have him at the races, Dalgety did what any sane husband would do and decided to race in Monday’s Ashburton Flying Stakes. “When the boss speaks, it pays to do what you’re told,” a tongue in cheek Dalgety said. But that wasn’t the only issue Dalgety had to deal with. Just down the road his brother-in-law, Tim Butt was preparing his star pacer Field Marshal to resume in the very same race, and he has been doing so with the knowledge that Dexter Dunn would be available to take the drive on his multiple Group One winner with Christen Me earmarked to miss the race. “Dexter made me ring Tim and tell him that he couldn’t drive his horse. So that was fun.” All joking aside though, Dalgety has sort of been forced into racing this week by the continued thriving of Christen Me at home and the potential risk of having so long in between starts. It would have been 31 days in between races had he not lined up with week and with the Cup Trial a potential non-even this year due to what could be low numbers, it was a risk he wasn’t willing to take. “The horse is on top of the world at the moment, he’s absolute thriving and that made the decision a little bit easier. “We won’t treat it any different than another race either, I don’t tell Dexter what to do and I’m not going to start this week either. “He knows what we are trying to achieve and I’m sure he will do the best by the horse.” Eight horses have accepted for the final field for the Flying Stakes on Monday with Quick As A Trick a dual acceptor into another race. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have a strong hand again with their three leading contenders; Lazarus, Smolda and Have Faith In Me. There will be plenty of interest in their stable earlier in the day though with class mares Dream About Me and Piccadilly Princess both tackling an intermediate grade race while with another eight runners engaged across the programme last season’s leading stable looks to have really kicked into gear for the season. Monday’s other feature, the Ashburton Trotting Flying Mile will see the resumption of reigning Horse of the Year, Monbet. The Greg and Nina Hope trained trotter is on a march to the Dominion Handicap and looked solid when running second in a workout on the Ashburton track during the week. He’s drawn barrier seven in the one mile event while his apparent main rival, Marcoola has drawn three on the second row. Matt Markham

Cran Dalgety is expecting life to be a little tougher for Christen Me tomorrow night at Addington. The West Melton horseman is still heading into the slight unknown as he builds towards the second Tuesday in November with his star pacer, but is taking every day as it comes and hoping for the best. Unsighted since his very good fresh up second behind Franco Nelson in the New Brighton Cup, Christen Me will return to Addington tomorrow night for the Canterbury Classic an improved horse. But Dalgety knows he will have to be. “It’s a completely different ball game this week,” Dalgety said. “Everyone is going to be improved and I don’t think things will be quite as quiet as they were from Mark and Natalie’s three. “So we are going to have to be better without doubt, but my guy has definitely improved off that first run.” As he builds towards the New Zealand Trotting Cup, Dalgety still doesn’t have a firm plan on where he is headed post tomorrow night but it is likely it could be Christen Me’s final race before the big show. Ashburton is looking less and less likely while Kaikoura is being bandied about but doesn’t seem a serious option so the Cup Trial could be the next time he’s seen publicly. “We don’t have to keep the work up to him as much these days, being an older horse he doesn’t take a lot to get back to fitness. “So we just keep him ticking over really.” Christen Me was able to take full advantage of a smart beginning in the New Brighton Cup to find the lead and although the camp weren’t really that keen on leading up in their first run - the race panned out quite well and it was only the sheer speed of Franco Nelson who sat on his back that saw him defeated. A winner of this race three years ago, Christen Me finished third to Terror To Love in 2015 and then was third behind Tiger Tara last year. Dalgety has the added bonus of another runner in the race with Mighty Flying Mac joining the fray this week. He returns after a stint on the beach with Robert Dunn during which he raced strongly during the later stages of last season. Blair Orange will take the drive on the horse this week off the back of some handy workout and trial performances. Bookmakers opened up Lazarus a $2 favourite for the Canterbury Classic last night off the back of his impressive third in the New Brighton Cup. Have Faith In Me holds the next line in betting at $3.60 while Locharburn, Smolda, Christen Me and Franco Nelson are all next at $8.50.   Matt Markham  

They’ve been pretty quiet in recent months but expect to see a bit more of the old firm of Cran Dalgety and Dexter Dunn in the coming weeks. It’s been steady as she goes over the winter months for one of the most dominant trainer and driver combinations in New Zealand harness racing, but a promising team of newcomers, mixed in with some new blood, should see them back to the fore. That could start tonight at Addington where they combine with four strong winning chances across the night’s racing. And that coupled with the return of Christen Me and On The Rantan should makes for happy times. “There’s a nice team there,” Dalgety said during the week. “They all look capable of winning a race or two, but it’s always really nice to have a few of the good ones back in the action too.” The team tonight, spearheaded by the return of the talented Alpha Rock looks ominous. The Rock N Roll Heaven gelding, out of the super broodmare Spark’s A Flyin has only once been outside of the top three in his 10 career starts and looked strong winning a recent trial. Spark’s A Flyin is yet to miss as a broodmare, with her five foals prior to Alpha Rock all having won more than 10 races and he looks capable of doing the same. Drawn out wide in his resumption with a strong field inside and around him the task won’t be easy, especially over the 1950 metres, but his talent is undeniable. First starters Fatima Siad and Beautiful Mind are also in action tonight. Beautiful Mind is a three-year-old filly by the little known stallion Dali and has some strong trial and workout form - including a recent trial victory over race rival tonight, Crackared. Fatima Siad, a Bettor’s Delight three-year-old filly, has also been impressive around the traps at workouts and trials and she looked strong in a recent trial at Rangiora when she finished third behind quality three-year-old Mongolian Storm and the promising Titanium who also lines up in the last race tonight. After missing almost the first month of racing, Dunn has made a steady start to defending his national drivers’ crown with seven winners from his 36 drives. He kicks off a busy weekend tonight with eight drives before heading south to Invercargill for close to a full book before returning to Canterbury to drive at Methven on Sunday. Super Selector - By Matt Markham  Race 1: C’est L’heure, Aveross Brachole, Imola, Don Pierre  Race 2: Gotta Go Ya Hu, Afterdinnerspeaker, Gunpowder, Rum Delight Race 3: Royal Jester, Rocki Warrior, Flyingretna, Jay Jayz Boy Race 4: Jean Sebastien, Cuddly Jess, Gee Gees Invasion, Ruthless Success Race 5: Dana Duke, Alpha Rock, Ranfurly Rulz, Gimmegold Race 6: Beautiful Mind, Kitura, Fire One, Crackared Race 7: Lewy Risk, Beyond Belief, Delightful Dash, Kotare Yael Race 8: Ask Me Art, Linton Shard, Audi Hare, Going To California Race 9: Jayceekay, The God Botherer, Little Mo, Donsmedad Race 10: Franco Hampton, Titanium, Fatima Siad, The Bachelor Best Bet: Jayceekay (Race 9) Value: Ask Me Art (Race 8)

Mark and Pauline O’Connor have been breeding horses for twenty years and their Denario name has had a fair amount of success over the years at the National Yearling Sales. Both Mark and Pauline come from harness racing backgrounds with Pauline having a rich pedigree. “She was brought up on a farm and has been around horses all her life. Her mother was a Dalgety so her uncle is Jim Dalgety and cousin is Cran Dalgety,” said Mark. Mark also has a ‘bloodline’ which is perhaps a bit more grass roots. “It started when I was young kid and my father worked on the tote in Southland and travelled around to both galloping and harness meetings. My grandfather was JJ Burke who was a hobby trainer and I got some exposure to stable and training environment.” One of a handful of winners for Burke was Darkie Song in the Borough Handicap at Winton in 1972 when driven by TB Fordyce. Darkie Song was owned by A R McEachern who also owned and drove the second horse Garrison Band - also trained by Burke. Darkie Song and Garrison Band were half-brothers. When Mark left high school he worked for NZI Trust and whilst working there he undertook tertiary study. “I did most of my study when working. I went to the local community college which is SIT now. I did the last year full time at Otago University so made a few jaunts out to Forbury Park. I remember back in the day you got your bursary allowance at the start of the term so there was always a great lunge by the guys to take the money out to the races.” After University he was employed by local accounting firm Ernst and Young. “I had ten years with them including two years in Canada; towards the end of that time. Pauline and I had just got married.  I got a contract role in Toronto for two years and we went to a few race meetings over there. There was a track in downtown Toronto at the time called Greenwood and we also went to Mohawk and Woodbine.” Two years after returning from Canada the O’Connors purchased a ten acre life style block on the outskirts of Invercargill rearing bobby calves for the first two seasons before they started to accumulate a few riding horses. At that time Pauline was a teacher at James Hargest College. “When I was first courting Pauline I went to my first yearling sales with her and her parents. I thought it was pretty good fun and got the bug. She started a riding school for kids after schools twice a week offering the basics of riding for young children. She’s currently got ten horses that are been ridden twice a week. She started to grow her horse numbers so I bought a few harness broodmares.”  The first mare the O’Connors bought in 1996 for $3,500 was the Talk About Class mare Campeche in foal to Safely Kept. The resulting foal Flow Denario won one race for Alan Paisley. She’s now owned by Dexter Dunn who’s since bred the five win Mach Three gelding Mach Denario from her. The second foal Dreamo Denario, won four but it was the next foal Fake Denario that put the Denario name on the map. He was bought by Stephen Reid for Robert Famularo and won the Australian Breeders Crown and Sires Stakes Final as a three year old before he was sold to America. While racing there he recorded a mile World Record on a 5/8 track of 1-48.4.  Denario translated is Latin for money, and the Fake Denario family certainly has plenty of big money earners in its extended pedigree. It’s produced the likes of Delightful Lady (47 wins), Jacron (9 wins), Grinaldi (10 wins), Ross The Boss (10 wins), Slugger (10 wins), Davey’s Jill (10 wins) and Kotare Jaeger (8 wins). Over the years lots of horses have passed through the O’Connors hands either as yearlings for sale or as racehorses. And they had some good returns. They sold Cee Cee Denario for $65,000 in 2008, Romeo Denario for $55,000 in 2012 and Magnifico Denario for $46,000 in 2014. They now have a much smaller operation with fewer mares but still have a focus of breeding good saleable stock. “When you’re breeding for the yearling sales you have to be reasonably brutal because if you haven’t got any well credentialed offspring close up in your line you’re going to struggle.” They’re now breeding from Averil’s Atom (Soky’s Atom – Quest Of Glory), Southern Delight (Bettor’s Delight – Averil’s Atom), Presidential Sweet (Presidential Ball – Stylish Sweetheart) and Shezaball (Presidential Ball - Averil’s Atom). They’ve also leased out two mares; Goodtogo Denario (Presidential Ball) and Ergo Denario (Bettor’s Delight) to Woodlands Stud. “I haven’t had an in-depth discussion with the principals of Woodlands but my understanding is that they were directing a lot more progeny to the weanling and yearling sales and they also wanted to get a good number of mares locked in for Sweet Lou.” Over time both Mark and Pauline have been great supporters of the racing side to the industry and have raced many of their horses with friends and acquaintances including Shezaball which won eight races and recorded a 1-56.2 mile time. “We had a lot of fun racing her and those friends have stayed in and formed a breeding syndicate so hopefully we can carry on with that ride. She’s probably our best credentialed broodmare at the moment.” The mare’s first foal by Rock N Roll Heaven will race for the O’Connors while her latest foal, a colt by Art Major, will go through the yearling sales. “He’s called Ronnie Denario and is a nice striking type.” Also heading to the Christchurch sales next year are a well bred filly by Somebeachsomewhere out of Averil’s Atom, a Sportswriter colt out of Southern Delight and a Rocknroll Dance filly out of Presidential Sweet called Jive Denario. On the racing front the O’Connors are excited about a Somebeachsomewhere filly with Cran Dalgety called Mantis Denario. “She qualified back in February and we’re hoping she’ll perform and help the progeny that’s going through the ring next year.” Another arm to the O’Connor breeding operation is Stylish Breeding Partnership with former Southlander now Queenstown based Owen Shaw. “Owen and I have been friends since we were kids. He hadn’t been involved in harness racing before but liked the idea of seeing some action around the track. We bought some mares originally to breed from and we raced Stylish Arden. We bred a horse out of her by Camtastic called All Style and didn’t sell it because it got caught up in a fence a few weeks before the sale. We took it home and tried it ourselves. It was no star and we sold it for a couple of thousand dollars. The second horse we bred from the mare was Cut And Style (Presidential Ball). She didn’t fetch what we wanted so we brought her home and raced her.”   Cut And Style was sold as a four year old after winning three races for Invercargill trainer Wayne Adams. She won a further four races in New Zealand before being exported to America. One of the last acts for the partnership was the purchase of For The Corz (Lis Mara) bought at the Christchurch weanling sales 18 months for $7,000. She’s a rising three year old filly and a half-sister to big Australian winner Corzin Terror. (19 wins and $276,857). This is the family of Sogo (13 wins) and Hitchcock (10 wins). “That’s probably our last horse under the Stylish Breeding banner.” Although Mark is the face of Denario Breeding he’s quick to acknowledge his wife Pauline as being an essential part of the operation. “She’s a critical part of the Denario breeding operation. She’s the horsewoman and knows how to handle the horses correctly and gives them the right direction and grooming as a young animal. I’m responsible for the feeding. Luckily she’s a school teacher, so she doesn’t get a holiday over the Christmas break as the yearling are brought in everyday at that point. We have a weaning process where if we’ve got three or four mares in the paddock we just pull one mare out at a time rather than separate them all cold.” On the business front Mark is CEO of South Port and is also on the executive of New Zealand Standardbred Breeders, and is impressed with the strength of the group around him. “John Mooney is doing a fantastic job as Chairman. He’s committed and invested in the breeding side of the industry.” There’s also a recognition that there are challenges. “It’s a game that’s become more challenging because of the challenging entertainment offerings in the market.” But the O’Connors are continuing to do their bit to get more people involved in the industry. “We’ve formed a racing syndicate to race Muso Denario (Rocknroll Hanover – Averil’s Atom) with my older brother Stephen who’s going to be the syndicate manager. Half the crew are from where I work at South Port and the other half are from the Marist Rugby Club. There are fifteen shares and about twenty people involved and I think that’s the way forward. We need to try and broaden the base as much as we can and give an insight into how the game works. It always looks a bit mysterious looking from the outside in. It’s about getting a bunch of people who know about it and mixing them with greenhorns and help them understand the risks and the upside.” And one final comment of ownership from O’Connor. “If all people involved in harness racing took that approach and invited their circle of friends that weren’t involved, we would have a much broader base to draw on and that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day.”   Bruce Stewart

Cran Dalgety’s not giving up on the hope of winning a New Zealand Trotting Cup with harness racing champ Christen Me just yet. But the West Melton horseman knows it’s going to take something special for the former Miracle Mile winner to usurp some of his much younger rivals who will head to the second Tuesday in November. In the hype of the likes of Have Faith In Me and Lazarus joining the Cup fray this season, Christen Me’s name has been sparingly mentioned. “We are very much the old boy on the block this year,” Dalgety said. “There’s some pretty impressive stock coming through which is going to make things pretty tough and we don’t want to be tackling them any earlier than what we have too that’s for sure.” Since his disappointing Queensland campaign, Christen Me has been ticking along quietly around the stables and probably could have been a contender in some of the early Cup lead up races. “It’s more of a case of me trying not to be too keen with him to be honest. “We could target all this early stuff and leave ourselves overdone come November so at this stage I’m thinking we won’t see him at the races too much before things get serious.” That could mean that Christen Me’s first appearance comes in the Ashburton Flying Stakes in October - leaving just a matter of weeks before the Cup. While he is still to sit down with Charlie Roberts and Vicki Purdon to discuss a campaign plan for Christen Me, Dalgety was pretty adamant that he didn’t believe the Perth Inter Dominion was on the radar. “It could end up being tougher than the New Zealand Cup from what I’m hearing. “So we are probably going to be better off here trying to pick up the big one at home.” In a small side story from the plans for Christen Me, the jury is still out on whether or not Dexter Dunn will be available to drive the gelding. Dunn, who returned from a successful holiday last week and will drive Franco Cristiano on Breeders Crown Final Day this weekend, is also the regular driver of Locharburn. There’s plenty of speculation circling about who the World Champion reinsman will drive. Dunn himself has remained certain that there would be no firm decision made until later into the respective campaigns. Blair Orange is the likely person to jump on Locharburn if Dunn goes Christen Me’s way. Locharburn will trial again today at Rangiora alongside Cup contenders; Tiger Tara, Franco Nelson and Idealindiamonds. Also in action out in North Canterbury today is open class trotters Sheemon, Jags Invasion, Sunny Ruby and Belle’s Son. Harness Jewels winning mare, Rocker Band will also make her first public appearance since her Cambridge win when she tackles a small field in a mobile event earlier in the day. Matt Markim - HRNZ

Harness Racing Form analyst Trent Orwin previews the Group 2 Sunshine Sprint (1660m) at Albion Park on Saturday night.    The biggest question that arises is which Ultimate Art will leave the gate on Saturday night? Will it be the last-start-winning Ultimate Art who showed plenty of gate speed to lead, or will it be the one from two starts ago who was easily crossed when beginning from barrier one?   Let’s hope it is the six-year-old entire that can hold up because our chances hinge upon that. If Ultimate Art is crossed at the start, it is going to be extremely hard for the Cran Dalgety-trained seven-year-old champion Christen Me.    This race will be run at a very strong tempo but it should be dominated by those on the speed.    I can only envision four winning chances no matter how the race is run and they are Ultimate Art, Avonnova, Christen Me and Hectorjayjay.   Avonnova must lead in order to win the race; he is racing in excellent form and can run a great race from the breeze but it is hard to fight off high-quality horses that haven’t spent a penny in the run.   So down to three chances. When I first saw the draw I thought Hectorjayjay can get a great run and swoop over the top of them. But then I delved deeper into the numbers and realised that Hectorjayjay is going to be three, four or five-wide in a last half that should be around the 55-second mark.    Running a personal last half of 54 seconds is definitely in Hectorjayjay’s arsenal. Trying to gun down horses that can also run a similar last half on the pegs is another question and it remains to be seen where this star pacer will land in running.   Ultimate Art has been in beast-mode in Queensland and thoroughly deserves a big race win this season. He is going to cop plenty of pressure and could be left a sitting shot for Christen Me.   I’m sure some people were disappointed that Christen Me was beaten last start when $1.60 favourite but the run was terrific. He covered plenty of ground in the final circuit and clocked somewhere close to 54.8 seconds for his own last half while racing off the track for most of the final 800m.    Glenferrie Hood came from behind Christen Me to beat him which seems an immediate concern about how good the Kiwi’s run was, but there was a reason for that; Glenferrie Hood left the 1 out 2 back position with 300m left to travel to run down Christen Me by a 1.1m margin. In contrast, Christen Me made his run with around 550m left to travel and the third quarter (27.6) was quicker than the final quarter (28.2).   As mentioned earlier, the start is crucial so let’s hold our breath, hope Ultimate Art leads with Christen Me on his back and wait for Dexter Dunn to use the sprint lane to charge past the leader and claim another feature race success with this New Zealand champion.   reprinted with premission of  www.racingbase.com

Outstanding Kiwi pacer, Christen Me, will have to overcome a tricky second line draw if he is to win Saturday night’s harness racing Group Two Sunshine Sprint at Albion Park. The Cran Dalgety trained gelding will start from the inside of the second row in the 1660m event - the same draw which saw him beaten in the Wondias Mate two weeks ago. On that occasion his regular pilot, Dexter Dunn, was able to extricate his charge off the fence and into the running line early but that task might not be quite as simple this week. In his favour is that he follows out an in-form Ultimate Art who does have strong gate speed. So Dunn will have a decision to make early on as to whether or not he takes the gamble at staying on Ultimate Art’s back or whether he tries to get off the fence again. Dalgety, who is currently holidaying with his family in America, said late last week that Christen Me had progressed on nicely since his first up run and was doing well in the care of his travelling companion, Murray Howard. “The reports from Muz have all been very positive,” Dalgety said. “He should be an improved horse with that run under his belt but he will have to be because it’s going to be a lot stronger this time round.” Len Smith Mile winner, Hectorjayjay has made the trip to Queensland for this week and then next’s weeks $200,000 Blacks A Fake - while Ohoka Punter adds another dimension to the race as well. The Nathan Purdon trained pacer, who was third in the Len Smith Mile after doing a power of work hasn’t been blessed with a great barrier draw either, starting from the outside of the second line. Fellow Kiwi pacer, Nek Time received a much better draw in her bid to win back-to-back Oaks for Terry and Glenys Chmiel. The speedy filly, who dominated Saturday night’s Gold Coast Oaks has drawn up well in barrier four this week for the $75,000 Group One Queensland Oaks. Owned by Robert and Sharyn Symon, Nek Time is an outside chance of extending her Brisbane stay to contest next week’s Queensland Derby. If she was to win this week she would then be in line for a $30,000 bonus as part of the UBET Picket Fence Initiative which rewards horses who can win twice in the lead up to the grand finale night of racing on July 16 and win one of four selected races on that programme. Already a winner of the Southland Oaks and Harness 5000 on New Zealand soil this season a win this weekend and then potentially even the following week would cap off an incredible season. From 16 starts this season the daughter of Gotta Go Cullect has won on six occasions with six further placings. She’s won $90,000 in the process with the promise of a lot more both on and off the track in the future. Matt Markham

For the 5th time in his Harness Racing career, leading New Zealand driver Dexter Dunn has saluted on his 200th season winner. Many were expecting Dunn to pick up that milestone at Forbury Park last week (23rd June). The West Melton based driver headed to Forbury needing just the two wins, but could only manage the one. Dunn was successful on Lightning Mach for Cran Dalgety in the feature race for the night, but also picked up four second placing. Straight back on the road, Dexter arrived at Blenheim last friday needing just the one win from eight drives. Driving several runners for long time employer Cran Dalgety and father Robert Dunn, it would be no secret that Dunn would love to bring up his 200th win in one of their colours. But as a shock to all, Dexter couldn't manage a win and had to wait for today's Addington meeting to bring up his 200th. Driving Dusky Eyre for Katiki Beach trainer Ricky Allen, Dunn was off the mark quickly and in his favourite position, in front. From there on Dunn was able to hand up to faviourite Westy Boyz and was always traveling a winner at the turn. Hardly moving in the bike, Dunn captured win number 200 for the 3rd time in a row and 5th time in his career. Andrew Fitzgerald.

Super pacer Christen Me has come through the first run of his Australian harness racing campaign with flying colours. The gelding’s trainer, Cran Dalgety said on Monday that there was a bounce in the step of his star on Monday morning after he was initially a quite tired horse on Sunday. Christen Me finished third in Saturday night’s Wondias Mate at Albion Park. The defeat was a shock one, but considering he drew one on the second line over a mile and was then forced three and four wide in a 27.1 third quarter, the run of the former Miracle Mile winner was full or merit even though the winner, Glenferrie Hood, came off his back inside the final 150 metres to swamp him and leader Ideal Scott. “I thought the run was super. Dexter (Dunn) said he was flying coming off the back,” Dalgety said. “He was a bit jaded yesterday and then again today. “But there was a bit of a bounce in his step this morning as well so I’m happy with where we are at. “I guess initially it probably looked disappointing, but when you break it all down it was a very good run. “And it’s a run which he will improve on. “He tries so hard every time he races so it seems to take a little extra out of him than it might another horse so his recovery is just as important as anything else.” The defeat, and the decision not to race again until the Sunshine Sprint on July 9 means that they will forgo the opportunity to win a $50,000 bonus as part of the UBet Picket Fence initiative. Horses are required to win two races in the lead up July 16, which has been touted as Finale night with four selected races carrying bonuses if their winners have won two races in the lead up the meeting. Christen Me’s bonus was worth $50,000 but Dalgety was happy to now be looking ahead to the two major assignments without any other distraction. “It would be nice, it’s $50,000 after all but the horse owes us nothing so he comes first. “That should ensure now we are ready for the next two races and are firing on all cylinders.” Dalgety is due to return to Christchurch today with Christen Me’s right hand man, Murray Howard taking over the day-to-day control of the pacer in the lead up to the Blacks A Fake. “Muz knows the horse better than anyone. “He’ll have him ready for the big show I’m sure of that.” Back on home soil Dalgety has a race of his own to focus on. He’s currently third on the national trainers’ premiership with 57 wins, but has the Greg and Nina Hope (55), Mark Jones (52) and Phil Williamson (51) stables breathing down his neck.  He’s got 13 horses engaged over three meetings in both the South and North Islands this weekend including unbeaten two-year-old On The Rantan who will look to make it three wins in as many starts in his bonus run in the C1 grade at Addington on Thursday night. Matt Markham

Hamish Hunter became the first Southland based Harness Racing trainer to join the elite 500 club when I Try won at Forbury Park last night (Thursday 23rd). I Try is owned by  Hunter and loyal clients of the stable The What Ever Syndicate. Together, they also own the stable's biggest winner, Franco Ledger. I Try is a Mach Three four year old. Tonight he raced three back on the rails and found room in the straight to get up and nab Pembrook Harry.  "It was pretty good for a middle of the road trainer as I describe myself. I was aware I was getting close as my family informed me," said Hunter.  Hamish Hunters best season was in 2014 when star pacer Franco Ledger was a leading stake earner. That season he racked up 33 wins from 339 starters and $347,376 in stakes. "He's back in work (Franco Ledger). He's a 100 percent sound and all going well we'll have one more go at the cup. It's probably be his last chance."  In 1989 he recorded his best UDR ranking when he started horses 174 times for 23 wins, 18 seconds and 14 thirds for a UDR .2165. Horses racing that season included Betonim, Benachie Lad and Admiral Luca. He's won the Southland trainers premiership 6 times; 1985, 1986, 2007 (jointly with Brendon McLellan and Kirk Larsen), 2008 (jointly with Murray Brown), 2011 and 2014. Out of his 500 training successes he's driven 374 himself. His first winner was Karen's Pride at Waikouaiti in October 1976. He won five races on the mare between October and June of that season. In the following two season's he had the services of half brothers Good Too and Model Hardcraft. Model Hardcraft won his first three races as a two year old including the 1979 New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham. Good Too won eight races for Hunter. Hunter has trained three winners in one day three times; Forbury Park October 1984 (Heiden, Sissy Bogart and Tapado Time), Invercargill September 2001 (Catalina Dreaming, Galleons Treasure and Grenadier) and Northern Southland October 2005 (Grenadier, Rockie's Dream and Mainstay).  Of all the Southern Harness feature races it's the Wairio Cup that he's won the most: Josephine Bret (1984), Yandoon (1992), Grenadier (2004), Franco Ledger (2013) and Canardly Lover (2014).  List of major winners: Franco Ledger (25 wins) Malaz (15 wins)  Nursemaid (14 wins) Devil May Care (11 wins) Canardly Lover (10 wins) Good Too  (8 wins) Grenadier (8 wins)  Cornell (8 wins) Betonim (8 wins) Model Hardcraft (7 wins) Holmezy (7 wins) Galleons Treasure (7 wins) Southern Boy (6 wins) Christian Ruler (6 wins) Stand Asquire (6 wins) Galleons Cheer ( 5 wins from just nine starts) Nordette (5 wins) Blueberry Hill (5 wins)  Benachie Lad (5 wins)  Admiral Luca (5 wins)  Congratulations Hamish - great effort. Meanwhile, Dexter Dunn got win number 199 for the season behind Lightning Mach for trainer Cran Dalgety. Four Starzzz Shiraz won heat 4 of the Claimers series for new trainer Brian Norman & driver Blair Orange, and Run To Hide was claimed by Canterbury Junior Driver Andrew Fitzgerald. Bruce Stewart - Southland Harness.

Star Kiwi pacer Christen Me and harness racing trainer Cran Dalgety are all set for a tilt at the inaugural UBET Picket Fence Bonus. After arriving in Australia last Saturday, the pair familiarised themselves with the Albion Park Harness Racing Club circuit on Wednesday ahead of Christen Me's first Brisbane start for the Queensland Winter Racing Carnival. The $2 million earner will line-up as a short-priced $1.30 favourite with UBET in Saturday night's Group 3 Wondais Mate (1660m) at Albion Park en route to the Group 1 $200,000 Blacks A Fake (2680m) on Saturday, July 16. If Christen Me can win two races on the trot and also take out the feature Blacks A Fake, connections will secure the $50,000 UBET Picket Fence Bonus on offer for Open Class pacers. Christen Me’s trackwork session at Albion Park and hear Dalgety’s thoughts on the UBET Picket Fence concept. Watch the UBET Picket Fence promotional video. While Christen Me is the star attraction for Saturday night’s Wondais Mate, the field also includes the Narissa McMullen-trained Bettor Draw, who has returned to Queensland following a successful stint in Sydney which netted a credible second to World Record holder Beautide at Menangle on March 11. Queensland ironhorse Destreos will also line-up for his 410th race start for trainer Ken Rattray, while rising star trainer Ryan Veivers will gear-up in-form gelding Secret Smile, who faces his acid test after winning his past five starts. In other races on the program, Stormfortheboys (Vicki Rasmussen) will vie for his second UBET Picket Fence series victory, after winning at Albion Park last Saturday on the opening night of the eligible race period. Three-year-olds Living Again (Belinda McCarthy) and Catcha Lefty (Cristina Monte) are also vying for their second Picket Fence victory in Saturday’s Rising Stars Championship Final (1660m). UBET Picket Fence Winners (as of 23/6/16)         18-Jun   Open Class   3 YO Horse   2YO QBRED - C&G   2YO QBRED Fillies Albion   AVONNOVA   LEOS BEST   MAESTRO BELLINI   BONNIE JUJON     STORMFORTHEBOYS       CLINTAL DO   IM NORMA JEAN                   21-Jun   Open Class   3 YO Horse   2YO QBRED - C&G   2YO QBRED Fillies Albion       LIVING AGAIN NZ                 CATCHA LEFTY                 TIMMO TIME                           22-Jun   Open Class   3 YO Horse   2YO QBRED - C&G   2YO QBRED Fillies Redcliffe       ROCKNROLL ANNIE   SHADOW STORM                       Albion Park, Saturday, June 25 - Horses aiming for their 2nd Picket below:     25-Jun   Open Class   3 YO Horse   2YO QBRED - C&G   2YO QBRED Fillies Albion   STORMFORTHEBOYS   LIVING AGAIN NZ                 CATCHA LEFTY           For further information please contact: Communications Manager Adam Gardini on 0438 733 738 or agardini@racingqueensland.com.au Communications Officer Michelle Anderson on 0408 579 285 or manderson@racingqueensland.com.au

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