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By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Canterbury-based driver Blair Orange has today become just the seventh New Zealander to rein home 2000 winners. The victory came in race 5 at Addington this afternoon , when he steered the Paul Court-trained favourite Terror The Christian to a one length win over the John Dunn-driven Prodigal Guinness. Orange had earlier been a close up second in race 3 with Pat Campbell. Before today Orange’s last winner was on another Court runner in Well Said Love at Wingatui on March 23. That was the also the last race before all harness racing in this country was stopped because of COVID-19. Orange joins six others who have driven 2000 winners, alongside Tony Herlihy (3530), Maurice McKendry (3268), Ricky May (2947), David Butcher (2428), Dexter Dunn (2226) and Colin DeFilippi (2028). With Dunn now based in the U.S., Blair is the country’s top driver, winning the premiership for the past two seasons. Going into today he had 174 wins for the season from 862 starts, streets ahead of closest challengers Matthew Williamson and John Dunn. Orange debuted as a junior driver in the late 1990s and last year his career highlight was Cruz Bromac’s New Zealand Cup win. 2018 though was his most successful with 232 wins for the season. Today John Dunn also got off to a flier, with a second (Yuri – race 1) and two wins in the opening three races (Race 2 - 12 Comfortably Numb – $12.50 + $3.20 and Race 3 - 3 Garry’s Legacy $15.70 + $4.10). He then had a second in the race that gave Orange his milestone win. Blair Orange getting win 2000

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    In 2004 Pauline Pattullo had a “sliding doors” moment that changed her views about horse ownership. She was just 16 at the time. “I had the choice to go to the yearling sales with my grandad or go to Riccarton Mall to go shopping. I decided to go shopping but then felt guilty, ran back and stayed with grandad.” While there with her grandad David “Pat” Pattullo, who was in his nineties at the time, she got chatting with well-known breeder John Scanlan (Brookland Lodge Standardbred Stud) – “of course I had no idea who he was.” Scanlan was having quite the week as it turned out. He topped the sales in Christchurch, with Christian Spirit fetching $120,000. “I left my name and number with John when he asked for it …. and the next day he leased me a broodmare, the first foal I bred wasn’t accepted at the sales and I kept and raced him for four wins. I was hooked, as they say the rest is history.” The broodmare in question was now 19-year-old Caprock mare Brookland Beauty, who Scanlan gifted to Pauline just ten days before he died. And that first foal was Peraki Chief. He debuted as a three-year-old in 2009, going on to win four from 51 starts. By Live or Die he was trained by Kevin James initially for one win and then by Brent McIntyre at Macca Lodge in Southland, where Pauline also worked for a time before moving back to the family’s beef and sheep farm, Peraki Station. All the Pattullo horses are associated with “Peraki”. The name comes from a small bay on the south side of Banks Peninsula and the first European settlement in the province. Horses have always been a part of the Pattullo family. Pauline got her first pony at four and as a child has memories of watching harness racing at Addington with her grand-parents on a Friday night. Her parents David and Lynda also breed and race horses. They became interested in the game after Peraki Chief was bred, among their recent winners was promising three-year-old Peraki Seelster in January. Peraki Chief was also responsible for introducing Pauline to partner Ryan Hayter one night at Forbury Park. Pauline estimates she’s had up to 10 horses over the years. The best of them was Peraki King. Trained by Ken Dixon the son of Mach Three had one win from 17 starts in New Zealand before winning six more (and around $42,000) in Western Australia.  As well as having three two-year-olds, Pauline also has broodmares in foal to Rock N Roll Heaven, Sweet Lou and Sir Lincoln. Her interest in breeding and racing has come a long way in the past 15 or so years. “It’s quite incredible when you think how a chance meeting would end up. If I’d gone to the mall it would have been a very different outcome. The friendships and connections I have made within the racing industry have been the icing on the cake.” Like a lot of people in the industry finding a champion has been elusive though she hasn’t given up hope. “The next one could be a good one, that’s what keeps you going.”

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    A sensational filly on the track, Shez All Rock is a Mum, for the first time. Owned by high profile expatriate Kiwi Chris Ryder in New Jersey, Shez All Rock has had a colt to boom sire Bettor’s Delight. The colt was born on April 27 and the photos of him were taken at 10 days old. Ryder bought Shez All Rock after she won the New South Wales Oaks. In 11 starts she had 10 wins and a second, also taking out the Victoria and New Zealand Oaks and the three year old Diamond at the 2018 Harness Jewels. Her total winnings were just shy of $450,000. “I brought her over here to the U.S. to race but she had a continuing knee problem and I did not race her,” said Ryder. Intially the filly was trained by Mark Pitt in Tasmania before successfully linking up with Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at the All Stars Stable in Christchurch. Ryder is hopeful that he has “an excellent broodmare”. He already has plans to breed her to the 2019 three-year-old colt of the year Bettor’s Wish, who Ryder co-owns and trained.

By Dave Di Somma -Harness News Desk The father-son combo of Tim and Riley Butt continues to kick goals. Last night Tact Tama, trained by Tim and driven by his son, was untroubled to make it four wins from four starts. Starting a $1.50 favourite the son of Christian Cullen speared to lead from barrier five in race six at Menangle in Sydney and from there the result was never in doubt. The four year old cruised to the line to win by over seven lengths. The winning time for the 1609 metres was 1:51.9. Tim Butt moved to Australia permanently around three years ago after a highly successful career on this side of the Tasman guiding such stars as Lyell Creek, Take A Moment, Mr Feelgood and Flashing Red.

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk As the countdown continues to the first meeting of the “new” season, racecourse manager John Denton says Addington “will be ready to race”. The first trials at the track since the COVID-19 outbreak will be held tomorrow (Thursday) and in preparation for that Denton and his crew have been busy re-laying the surface. All the old chip and sand was removed, before we “put 320 tons (290 tonnes) back on.” ‘The work was done over three and a half days, we’re more than confident it will be a good track over the winter months”, says Denton. With Friday and Sunday racing scheduled for Addington the track is going to see plenty of action. Denton says the track is constantly assessed and tweaked, especially before major events like the Cup meeting in November.  Thursday’s trials are expected to attract plenty of horses and interest, with the first meetings proper set down for May 29 at Addington and then Ascot Park in Invercargill the next day.

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) has hailed the funding announcement by Racing Minister, the Rt Hon Winston Peters as “timely and vital”. In response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Government has announced a $72.5 million dollar support package for the racing industry. “We are going to make racing great again.” “This is exactly what’s required,” says HRNZ Chair Ken Spicer, “we are very appreciative of this funding package, it helps with the here and now and also into the future.” The support package consists of: - $50 million dollar relief grant for the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) - Up to $20 million in funding to construct two new All Weather race tracks, at Awapuni and Riccarton. - $2.5 million dollars for the Department of Internal Affairs to fast track work on the online gambling revenue, and address loss of revenue impacts on community and sport groups. Mr Peters said, “We can’t gild the lily… It is a matter of urgency for the Government to provide support.” “Of the immediate grant, $26 million will be used by RITA to pay its outstanding supplier bill which it hasn’t be able to do because of strangled revenue. The other share of this package will ensure RITA, and each of the racing codes, can maintain a baseline functionality and resume racing activities,” said Mr Peters. “That’s the key for us,” said Spicer, “this allows the industry to begin to plan for the weeks and months ahead with renewed optimism.” “It’s too early to say how the funding package will be allocated, but it’s great news for all of racing.” The announcement comes little over a fortnight before harness racing resumes at Addington on May 29. “In the long term, if we get all the steps correct, there is no reason why racing in this country cannot be a world class industry, stronger than ever,” Peters added. “We are out of the gate but we have distance to cover before we get to the home straight and the winning post.”

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk Racing’s new concept the Trotrods has left the best to last, and it was a Kiwi-bred to the fore. Raced over 947 metres at Redcliffe Raceway in Queensland the Trotrods is racing’s version of T/20 cricket. It features a series of quickfire races with a field of up to five facing the mobile. Held over a series of 16 heats, the big finale was held  last night. Going into the last heat Risky Business had the best time of 65.24 seconds, only for With The Band to go 64.77 and take away the $10,000 prize. Drawn four of four Paul Diebert got the favourite into the one-one and then powered away for a comfortable win.  With The Band is by 2008 New Zealand Cup winner Changeover out of Flashbang and raced in New Zealand for three wins from 28 starts before crossing the Tasman. Trained by Chris McDowell and driven by Leo O’Reilly the horse’s last win in New Zealand was at Banks Peninsula  in December. The Trotrods have proved a hit, especially with its on-board cameras that provide a new perspective for the fans on track and at home. To watch the race click here:

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk Elizabeth McCormick’s first experience of horse ownership in 1979 wasn’t good. It even put a major, albeit temporary, strain on her marriage! Her husband David McCormick had just given her a half share in a horse he bred as a Christmas present. But just four days later he got an offer he couldn’t refuse and it was gone from their Mid Canterbury property. “I was coming home from a nursing shift and saw this horse float down the road and thought nothing more about it.” says Elizabeth. But she soon realised that the horse was gone, and her husband was to blame. ‘It was very quiet there for a bit,” she says. Firewood had been sold for $6000. Records show he went on to have two wins three seconds and four thirds in 78 starts, earning just over his purchase price. The McCormicks have been part of the racing landscape for generations, and trotters have been their mainstay. David has driven and trained over 100 winners following on from his dad, the late Doug McCormick who held a license till he was 83. Many of their horses have had the “Perfect” or “Wood” moniker. David and Elizabeth have three children, Jane (38), Graham (35) and Lawrence (33) – he was the “one who inherited the racing genes”. At Forbury Park in 2009 all three generations - Doug, David and Lawrence McCormick – were in the same race, all driving horses trained by David McCormick. Lawrence won on Cathy Combo. “Charlotte Wood was our foundation mare, “ says Elizabeth. On the racetrack she won four from 65 and among her progeny was Queen Charlotte who won six from 92. She in turn produced a number of good horses, including Glendaloch (Sundon-Queen Charlotte) who made nearly $60,000 and raced at the Harness Jewels at their home track (Ashburton) in 2011. He finished 10th, with Vulcan winning the four-year-old Ruby that year. Though not bred by the McCormicks, Lets Get Serious was also out of Queen Charlotte. He won 40 races from 140 starts, earning over $800,000. Elizabeth was around horses as a youngster but it wasn’t until she got married that her interest in the industry grew. “We went to the races all the time, especially with a young family if you didn’t go with him (David) you got left behind.” These days both have day jobs – Elizabeth is a nurse, and David is the area manager for the Mr Green lawn-mowing franchise - and they are very much hobby trainers and breeders. They currently have three horses that will be good to go once racing resumes. They include two of their own trotters Sugar Cane ( 6 wins – 96 starts) and Dora Explorer (1 -28), and also Sungait’s Legacy, who they bought at the All Aged Sales in Christchurch last year. And in case you are wondering about that very quiet Christmas four decades ago, yes David and Elizabeth McCormick are still together - the “Firewood” incident now part of McCormick family folklore.

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk Denise Ottley can vividly remember the time her daughter Sam left home. “It wasn’t my best day, it was just horrible at the start.” “And I didn’t want to leave,”says Sam. At the time the mother and daughter – “it’s always just been the two of us” – were living in South Canterbury and Sam was around 19. “I had a four-bedroom house all to myself,” says Denise, though she says it was her who insisted that Sam leave to take up a job at Colin and Julie DeFilippi’s Canterbury stables, as “I knew if she didn’t go then she’d never go.” At the time Sam had been working at Murray Tapper’s stables in nearby Timaru. A year or so before she left home, Team Ottley had a “fairytale” result, as Denise puts it, at Oamaru in November 2008. Sam won her very first race-day drive on a horse trained by her mother, on her 18th birthday. Nigel Paul was the horse in question. After starting well he went to the lead, then lobbed the trail only to take the passing lane and get the job done. “It’s the stuff you think about in your dreams,” said Sam. “It was pretty exciting,” said Denise, “to train my horse to win on her birthday.” And it was far from a one-off. Rocki Warrrior won five from 38 including the 2017 Tuapeka Cup at Forbury Park. Backmarker Eamon Maguire was the hot favourite but Rocki Warrior stepped well, went straight to the front and stayed there. Sam : “We just thought, let’s just go as hard as we can for as long as we can, and he won easily.” And at the nice odds of 19-to-one. As a driver Denise has had two wins and eight placings in 62 drives, and has trained 30 winners from 441 starts while Sam was the first female junior driver to post 100 winners in New Zealand and currently has 438 wins (4494 drives). In the current drivers’ premiership she is 4th on 51 wins behind Blair Orange, Matthew Williamson and John Dunn. “It’s quite unreal,” says Denise , “to think this is just a little girl from Orari, there’s a lot of pride” Sam : “I pinch myself sometimes, just at the opportunities I’ve had.” In recent years Denise made the move north to join Sam and her partner Stevie Golding. She lives in a separate cottage near the main house. “We don’t live in each other’s pockets,” says Denise, though the pair usually catch up at least once a day. Denise works horses at Ken Barron’s property before looking after the eight she has in work while Sam is busy at Mark Jones’ stable at Burnham six mornings a week. Both reckon they are pretty similar to each other, agreeing “they are easy-going and are passionate about horses”. There’s also a strong work ethic. While at Orari Denise juggled a number of jobs including milking cows, caring for the elderly and doing the bookwork at a local hotel, as well as training her horses. “I remember being at the rest home and whistling them up at dinner time, like I did the cows. Sometimes I forgot which job I was at!” While the COVID-19 crisis has been “strange” both are eagerly looking forward to racing’s return. Denise is keen to qualify a promising trotter she has called “Majesticmite” while it’s another Majestic that Sam has signalled as one to watch. It’s the Mark Jones-trained Majestic Lavros, a last race winner by a nose over One Majic Kenny at Addington in March. As for any special activities they have planned for Sunday? Sam : “Usually we’d be racing at Timaru but we will just probably go for a walk or something.” Denise : “Hopefully I’ll get a box of chocolates, I love chocolate.”

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk She’s been thinking about it for six months. And now Canterbury driver-trainer Amber Lethaby has made the call : she’s getting her head shaved to raise awareness and funds for Child Cancer research. “I’ve been talking about it, and putting it off, well it’s time to do it!” She says nothing in particular has prompted her, she just decided it was a cause she wanted to be involved in. And she knows it’s going to feel weird. She says she’s had the same hairstyle for years - “everyone who else knows me knows that I wear it up” – and that the last time her hair was really short was when she was a child. “Mum gave me some outrageous hairdos when I was little” Soon it won’t just be short, it will be non-existent. “It’s going to be a cold winter but I’ll buy some hats and by the time Cup day comes along, I should be ok for that.” A venue and time for the head-shaving hasn’t been organised as yet because of the uncertainty about what everyone can and can’t do with COVID-19 restrictions but in the meantime she is keen to raise as much as money as possible. Initially she set a target of $1000 – but in just a few days she had surpassed that already. Amber is well known in the industry and many of her fellow trainers and drivers have been quick to contribute to the case already. Anyone wanting to donate can go to : https://createyourown.everydayhero.com/nz/amber-lethaby-shave-for-a-cure

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk The title says it all really. “Trot Rods” is a new concept of racing being trialled in Australia and this version of equine hot-rodding is becoming a mid-week feature across the Tasman. The concept, developed by Racing Queeensland, started in March and is being held every Wednesday night. All races are over 947 metres with just five starters behind the mobile. From dispatch it is full-on for horse and driver, with the fastest cutting out the mad dash in a tick over 65 seconds. A $10,000 bonus will go to the connections of the fastest horse. Modelled on the likes of T/20 cricket and Netball's Fast5, Trot Rods is all action with a camera mounted onto one of the driver’s helmets providing a unique glimpse into what hard racing at close quarters looks like. The initiative aims to breathe new life into midweek racing at Redcliffe Paceway and so far it seems to have been received well by race fans. The final races of the series will be held on May 10.

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Twelve days after reining his first winner Riley Butt has done it again. The 17 year old was back in winning form with the same horse trained by his father Tim Butt at Menangle last night. Tact Tama debuted as an odds-on favourite nearly a fortnight ago and duly won giving Riley his first ever win. Last night the horse was paying up to $9 in the Australian markets with Game Set Major considered a $1.25 certainty. In the Nationaltrotguide.com.au mile the favourite speared to the lead from a wide gate, only for Tact Tama to take the trail. At the top of the straight Butt took his charge outside the leader and powered away for a five length victory. The horse winning like it is destined for better things. Tact Tama is by Christian Cullen out of Tact Hayley Jane while Riley Butt is the latest member of one of New Zealand’s most famous racing families to taste success on the track. As well as his dad having success in Sydney, uncle Anthony Butt is also excelling as the trainer for the powerful Rosati barn based at Menangle. Among his triumphs was training the quinella in the NSW Derby last month.​   Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Just ask Kirstin Barclay what her ultimate plans are for U May Cullect and the answer is simple: “The New Zealand Cup”. After being unbeaten in his first seven starts the Southern pacer was the talk of harness racing last year and at one stage had firmed into third favouritism for the New Zealand Cup. But after his first defeat, a fast-finishing third at Winton, he was sidelined with tendon problems for the third time in his career. It was a cruel blow for Barclay and training partner Paul “Tank” Ellis with vets diagnosing a small tear and advising their star pacer take 4-6 months off to recover. Now the six-year-old is showing promising signs. “The vet has been well pleased with the last scans, it is looking good” At the moment “Carlos” is boxed 24/7. “Initially he was not a fan. Now he gets 25 minutes walking and 20 minutes trotting a day”, with plans to increase that gradually in the next few weeks and months. And physically there have been changes. “He was actually quite a narrow light framed horse but he is carrying more muscle and condition.” “His diet is very fibre high to keep his stomach right and avoid ulcers . Meadow hay and lucerne hay is available all the time and he gets a small amount of grain hand fed to him twice a day.” As long as the scans remain positive Barclay is confident her star pacer could be at the start line at Addington in November. “We have heaps of time.” But she admits there’s been some frustration during his lay-off, especially knowing what U May Cullect could have achieved. “I see the likes of Classie Brigade and Triple Eight and how well they’ve gone and know that we were competitive.” U May Cullect beat Classie Brigade by a nose with Triple Eight third at Addington in June last year. Classie Brigade went on to win the Kaikoura Cup and then finish third in the New Zealand Cup behind Cruz Bromac and Spankem. Barclay says it would be a “dream come true” to drive U May Cullect in the Cup but she knows it is literally one step at a time. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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

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