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By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Despite a lack of recent racing,  Kiwi-bred pacer Forgotten Highway is being talked up as a big contender for the  $40,000 Easter Cup at Gloucester Park in Perth. Formerly trained by Mitchell Kerr in North Canterbury, the son of Bettor’s Delight finished eighth in the 2018  New Zealand Cup and headed to Western Australia in June last year.  Now being trained by Michael Brennan the six-year-old has had two wins, four seconds and one third in seven starts. But “Butch”, as he was known in New Zealand, goes into a Group 2 staying test over 2902 metres having raced only once in the past five months. In November last year he was spelled after recording an elevated heart rate and low red cell count. But his resumption at Pinjarra on Monday was a winning one. In the Easter Cup he will  be handled for the first time by Nathan Turvey, after regular driver Michael Grantham opted for stablemate Miss Sangrial. He will start from barrier three on the front line with experts in Perth saying he ticks a lot of boxes as a winning chance. Before heading to Australia Forgotten Highway won six from 29 in New Zealand, with his final success as a $1.70 favourite at Methven in March.  Among Forgotten Highway’s rivals in the  feature to be run just after midnight on Friday morning will be another former Kiwi Taroona Bromac, who has won 10 from 13, and Always An Honour to be driven by Gary Hall Junior who has won this race five times already.​ Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Aged 87, well-known racing identity Ivan Schwamm has passed away, only months after training his last winner. It was just October last year when his four-year-old trotter Majestic Sunset and driver Jimmy Curtin combined to win at Timaru. “I got him for nothing off Bruce Negus. Bruce bred him, and trained him, but didn’t really like him. According to an interview he gave at the time , the victory at the Phar Lap raceway was clearly a thrill : “It was so great at the races today, the number of people that called out to me, owners, trainers, drivers – many of them I’ve known for years and years. It’s a fellowship and I love it.” It’s an industry he was part of for nearly 70 years, after first gaining his license while living in Palmerston North in 1954-55. Trotter Perekop was one of his early success stories, while Rocky Star was a stand-out. Against a field of 25 starters, he took out the 1966 Hawera Cup and was a 10-race winner. It appeared Schwamm also had an entrepreneurial streak. He started out milking cows and shearing, and in the 1960s negotiated the sale of numerous horses to North America. “I would hire an aeroplane to take a consignment of 21 horses at a time and I was in the business for 10 years”. He was associated with some great horses. He trained and drove the great mare Tussle to success early in her career after regular trainer and owner Cliff Irvine was away overseas. Tussle ended up winning 38 races including the 1987 Interdominion final at Addington. He also drove Ruling Lobell to victory in the Group 2 Welcome Stakes in 1976. Starting a $2.90 favourite he won by five lengths for trainer Des Grice. 1976 was his best year for driving with 11 wins while as a trainer, he had 122 winners from more than 1700 starters from the 1950s through to the 2020s. The veteran trainer-driver had a stable at Leeston on the outskirts of Christchurch but did most of his work with the horses on the roadside. Known for his bold driving tactics, in 2010 the then 77 year old drove his own horse Doc’s Delight to a win at Rangiora. It was his first for two seasons. At the time the horse was trained by Lew Driver. He followed that up with Saltwater Gold’s success at Orari in 2015. He will be remembered as one of harness racing’s most enduring characters Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma On January 3 Ellie Barron played a part in saving Ricky May’s life. He had just collapsed in the sulky and fell to the track when driving A. G. White Socks in the Central Otago Cup at Omakau. Ellie Barron, a trained physiotherapist, was quickly on the scene and administered CPR until the paramedics took over.  Thanks to her actions, Ricky May has recovered to the point where he is back working on the family farm and is confident of a return to driving when racing resumes post lockdown. The winner of 2949 races  (the third highest in NZ) May has won the New Zealand Cup seven times while Clark is the third generation of her family to be involved in harness racing.  She’s a Junior Driver with 38 wins since starting her driving career in 2018. In this video May and Barron talk face to face for the first time since that day.​   Harness Racing New Zealand

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk     Alta Christiano,  a Group One winning son of Christian Cullen,  has died in Australia as the result of a colic attack, aged 10. His death occurred at the Tipperary Equine Stud in New South Wales, where he was earmarked as a stallion of immense potential. The first four sires in his pedigree were all champion, premiership-winning sires (Christian Cullen, Fake Left, Vance Hanover and Noodlum) and he had the former NZ Broodmare of the Year, Black Watch as his fourth dam.  In his first season he left 78 foals, among them the talented I'm a Blake, Fake News and While They Pray. Alta Christiano was bought by North Canterbury trainer Paul Kerr Kerr  for $50,000 at the 2011 Australasian Classic sale.  He won his first four races including the Kindergarten Stakes in New Zealand and was sold to clients of high profile Australian trainer Gary Hall in Perth in 2013. Leg injuries were a problem during much of his racing career  though he ended up winning 13 races overall.   Hall had said :  “Of all the top sons of Christian Cullen he had the gait that was closest to ‘Cullen’ himself as I’d seen. He’s got all the attributes you could want in a horse – he’s fast, he can stay and he’s great gaited.” Alta Christiano had just completed his busiest ever season, covering in excess of 160 mares and, according to Tipperary, had advanced bookings for 40 mares next season.​ Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Dave Di Somma from Harness Racing NZ catches up with trainer Cran Dalgety who is currently in isolation in Auckland.   Harness Racing New Zealand

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    At just 14 hands high it was no surprise when the racemare formerly known as Trina Jaacka got the nickname Peanut.  Now she lives in Balfour in Southland,  with owner Jane Orr describing  her as like “a little Labrador who follows you around the paddock.” “She’s a kind little soul”. After her deeds on the track which included one win for Southland trainer Murray Brown the now 13 year old is enjoying life after racing .  “She was bred by Charlie and Ailsa Smail, and bought off Shannon and Archie Armour for my daughter Madeleine four years ago to learn to ride,” says Orr. Her latest exploit has been pulling a wagon for eight days at the Goldfields Cavalcade. It was her first attempt and Jane Orr’s fourth. The 28th Cavalcade  was held in  South Otago and Eastern Southland  with  the finish at Owaka in the Clutha District,  with Peanut covering around 25 kilometres a day.    “She worked hard, but she enjoyed it.” And Peanut clearly looked good doing it too. So good that she was the winner of the 2020 Cavalcade photo competition. A shortlist of the ten best looking Standardbred photos was drawn up, and after an on line vote Peanut took out the first prize of a $250 voucher courtesy of Dunstan Horse Feeds. Other Standardbreds living on the Orr farm include  6-race winners Hurricane Banner and The Receptionist.  “ I love promoting my little standy for life after racing, she has attended Waimea Plains Pony Club, pony camps, in December last year Madeline did the Wyndham A & P Show SB classing, pony trot and jumping,  also I’ve joined the Gore Shafts n Wheels Club for driving her.” The 2021 Calvacade will finish in Twizel,  Peanut may just be getting a trip north.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Champion reinsman Blair Orange is now a tantalising one win away from 2000 winners, but like everyone else he will now have to wait and see if, and when, the milestone will be his.   The escalation of the COVID-19 alert to level 4 means all racing is off for at least four weeks.  It’s an uncertain time for all. At the Forbury Park Trotting Club’s 6 race grass track programme at Wingatui he kept the best for last as he piloted Well Said Love to a narrow win. It was an impressive finishing burst from the four year old younger brother of three-time NZ Cup winner Terror to Love. Paying $4.90 it started a second favourite to Black Ops, who broke before launching mid race and then wilting. Orange started the day on 1998, needing two wins to become just the seventh New Zealand driver to crack the 2000 barrier and join Tony Herlihy (3530), Maurice McKendry (3268), Ricky May (2949), David Butcher (2428), Dexter Dunn (2226) and Colin de Filippi (2028). Before his win in the sixth and final race of the day,  Orange had finished second on three occasions, with Windsor in the opening trot, and then Fiery Reactor and Coolhand Easton. “Fiery Reactor” was beaten by the impressive Graeme Anderson-trained Celebrating in race three. The three year old was having just his second start and the win wasn’t an easy watch for backers.  The $2 favourite driven by Matthew Williamson broke mid-race and was a clear last before circling the field and winning comfortably by three quarters of a length.  Coolhand Easton was beaten by 23-to-one outsider Gomeo Denario for trainer Amber Hoffman and driver Brent Barclay. And that wasn’t the only upset winner on the programme, at more lucrative odds was $30 outsider Miss Bamboocha who  held on to win the Dunedin City Motors Handicap Trot. It was win number three from 67 starts for the seven-year-old. That gave Edendale trainer Craig Laurenson a double.  He won both the day’s trotting races after Sage Trouble took out the Shearing Handicap Trot, ahead of Orange’s drive Windsor. It was just win number two from 34 starts. With Wingatui being the last meeting for a while, just when and where the next winners come from no one knows. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Wedding plans for a well-known racing couple have been put on hold, and Covid-19 is the reason why. Canterbury-based driver-trainers Kimberly Butt and Jonny Cox had put a circle around April 17, at Darfield’s Bangor Farm. Now that’s off and been rescheduled, with fingers crossed, to October 9. The decision, Kimberly Butt says was ultimately straight-forward “It just puts a lot of people at ease, it just wasn’t feasible.” The problem is two-fold. 140 people were on the invite list and large gatherings of people are a no-no at the moment because of the Corona Virus outbreak. The other revolves around her dad, Anthony Butt, who’s based in Australia and facing lengthy periods of self- isolation if he travels. “There was no pressure to postpone but he’s a big part of it so it would be rude not to and it was just easier to call it off now.” Anthony Butt and his partner Sonya Smith live in Sydney and prepare a big team owned by high profile entrepreneurs Emilio and Mary Rosati at Menangle. As he’s based in Australia he needs to self- isolate for 14 days when he arrives, and then do the same across the Tasman on his return.  “He’s just too busy training and driving, it’s not so viable.” Before moving across the Tasman, Butt was best known for his association with star trotter Lyell Creek (34 wins) and his three New Zealand Cups with Flashing Red  (2006-07) and Blossom Lady  (1992). Kimberly Butt is the fourth generation of her family to be involved in racing, dating back to her great grandfather and seven times leading trainer Wes Butt in the 1940-60s.      The couple have been together for five years with about a dozen horses in work at their Dunsandel stables, 30 minutes south of Christchurch. Currently Butt has 114 wins from 1430 drives, since reining her first winner in 2014.   By October she’s hoping the Corona Virus crisis will be over.  She’s not alone there. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Trotting star “Tickle Me Pink” has run her last race, her future now will be as a broodmare. The four-year-old bay mare pulled up with muscle soreness after a lacklustre ninth on February 21 at Cambridge with subsequent investigations finding “multiple hotspots”. Breeders Breckon Farms saying the decision just made sense. “Extended rest could have seen her race again but given the depth of her CV and the battles she'd already overcome it was decided it was in the mare’s best interest to retire her.”    In 2018 “Tickle” nearly died after suffering from travel sickness during a trip to Australia. She made a triumphant and emotional return to the track, winning the Group 2 Sires Stakes Championships.  Champion reinsman Tony Herlihy trained and drove her in all 16 starts, winning nine of them, including the Group 1 3YO Harness Jewels.  She won $160,174 in stakes. She also set a New Zealand record of 2.07.2 over 1700 metres at Cambridge. Crtitical to the horse’s success was Chanelle Lawson. Chanelle said, “I feel so grateful to have been part of her story. She was a pleasure to do anything with and it won’t be the same without her around. She took me on the ride of a lifetime and for that reason will forever be my “One In A Million”.  “Tickle” will now join her mother Luby Ann in the broodmare band at Breckon Farms base at Ohaupo. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma    The third annual Team Teal campaign has now topped $50,000, more than ten thousand over its target. The final tally will be known in coming days, but it’s expected to be at least a $15,000 hike on what was raised last year. “It exceeded all expectations,”  says Team Teal project leader Courtney Clarke, “The buy-in from all the drivers, the sponsors and the industry as a whole was awesome.” “This is the most successful campaign we have had.” All proceeds go towards funding research  of Ovarian cancer.  It was founded by Duncan McPherson in Victoria in 2014,  and extended to New Zealand for the first time in 2018. Every female driver in New Zealand wore the Teal Pants between February 1  and March 15, with each win receiving $400 in donations, $200 from Harness Racing New Zealand, $100 from Woodlands Stud and $100 from the respective Club. Various clubs also hosted teal themed events  including, Team Teal racedays, ladies only races, fashion in the field, and celebrity dual sulky races to help in the fundraising efforts.. Canterbury-based Samantha Ottley was the most successful Kiwi driver, with 15 wins in the six weeks it ran,  eight fewer than Australia’s best,  Kate Gath. “All round it’s a fantastic result,” says Courtney Clarke, “and  it should only get bigger in the years to come.” For more information contact Courtney at Harness Racing NZ- or 0276364355 Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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