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By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    It was a night for the locals at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday, led by local horseman David Butcher who reined home a winning treble. He opened his account in his own silks when Claudia Schiffer took out the Wisteria Lane Nail Boutique Clinic Mobile Pace (2200m). The daughter of Sportswriter was sent forward early and assumed the lead from the breaking Little Suzie, who driver Benjamin Butcher was able to settle relatively quickly. Claudia Schiffer had a comfortable lead throughout and ran away to an easy three-quarter length victory over Four Kisses. “She was good,” Butcher said. “She just got a better draw (5) this week and that made all the difference. She got an easy lead and was too good.” Butcher then hopped in the cart behind Fira in the Black Dog Furniture Bruntwood Road Mobile Trot (2200m) for local trainer Arna Donnelly. The Thanksgiving mare was given the perfect trip throughout in the one-one and was able to wear down leader Safrakova in the home straight to record her sixth career victory. “She got a really good trip and ended up in the one-one and she got there by a neck,” Butcher said. He then donned the colours of local breaker Brent Donnelly in the Dunstan Horsefeeds Fibre Grow Mobile Pace (2700m) when piloting The Banker. Butcher gave the Arna Donnelly-trained gelding a similar trip, with the son of Auckland Reactor able to secure a nose victory over stablemate Young Conqueror. “The Banker also got an easy trip in the one-one and got there by a nose,” he said. Butcher was not the only member of his family to walk away with a win on Thursday, with son Benjamin reining home Cya Art to win the Racebook Donations Supporting Team Teal Mobile Pace (2200m) for trainers Steven and Amanda Telfer. Butcher was able to secure an early one-one position with the three-year-old son of Art Major before pressing forward for the lead at the bell. The race favourite held on to a one length victory over Wet Flipflops, with Alta Cassino a further 3-1/4 lengths back in third. “We got a good cosy trip early on and the pace wasn’t that quick,” Butcher said. “He lacks a bit of speed, so I thought I would put him in it. He had to do a little bit of work to get there, but he got the job done.”   Full Cambridge results click here!

While punters might have struggled to believe American Dealer beat both Krug and It’s All About Faith in the first group one of the season at Alexandra Park last night, the really unbelievable story of the race was the driver. Because quite incredibly American Dealer’s win in the $140,000 Sires’ Stakes Final was David Butcher’s first group one driving success in New Zealand in nine years. Let that sink in. Butcher, one of the greats of the sulky, a member of the elite 2000 win club and on anybody’s list for being in top five reinspeople in the country, hadn’t won a group one here since Cowgirls N Indians in the Harness Jewels in June 2011. He had won one in the meantime in Australia, reigning King Of Swing to win a Breeders Crown in 2017 for American Dealer’s trainer Ray Green, who deserves most of the credit for Friday’s win. But to think Butcher hasn’t been in the group one winners circle in this country in almost a decade is truly remarkable. Butcher didn’t actually know that exact stat when reflecting after the race, but he knew it had been a while. “I reckon the last time I was driving group one winners back here was when Geoffrey (Small, trainer) was flying,” said Butcher. “So it is nice to get this one and behind a horse who tries so hard. He is a really good little professional,” says Butcher. That fact it had been so long between drinks for Butcher shows just how hard winning group ones is in New Zealand these days, with a reduced number of dominant stables, while Butcher has also had to battle back from a couple of serious injuries. “The body is good now, I am just getting old,” he laughs. His courage under fire early helped win the 1700m event as many would have been tempted to hand the lead to hot favourite Krug, especially when It’s All About Faith came charging mid race and the pressure really went on. But Butcher suits driving for Green because the Lincolns Farms team are never scared to be aggressive and roll the dice and this time it worked. Recently sold to US owners Marc Hanover and Gordon Banks, American Dealer has just kept improving and after this week’s Harness Millions will chase a unique Sires’ Stakes double inside two months by contesting the three-year-old series against basically the same horses. “I am very proud of him,” says Green. “He is a real little racehorse and he has a big season ahead of him.” While the draw may have won American Dealer the race his improvement curve and courage still suggest he is a Derby horse but whether he ever makes it to Australia this season will be interesting with Covid restrictions making hit and run missions on the Derbys there so much less palatable. While disappointed at being beaten driver Blair Orange was proud of Krug, who had to work hard enough early and then came three wide that he probably lost a winning advantage but he still had his chance to beat the leader. Its All About Faith was brave from the second line and can win the Millions with a draw to lead while the big improver in the race was B D Joe, who showed good gate speed to trail and stuck on well for fourth. Later in the night Bolt For Brilliance sent out out a reminder to southern stars Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride that he will take a power of beating in next month’s delayed three-year-old trots at Alexandra Park. He recovered from getting into a horror spot with a lap to go to win the main trot with a 56.4 second last 800m three and four wide on the track, setting up some stunning age group races for the trotters next month. And Brent Mangos pulled off the training performance of the night in The Box Seat Returns Pace when South Coast Arden led throughout to beat Auckland Cup placegetter Triple Eight in the winner’s first start since March. He looks a bigger and stronger horse than last campaign and an open class horse in the making.   Michael Guerin

Trainer Steve Telfer says the Alexandra Park stakes increases have him ready to unleash a big team for the remainder of the season but don’t be fooled into backing the one with the most senior driver. Telfer takes six horses to Alexandra Park tonight for the first meeting of the new ATC stake levels, where most horses above maidens for $20,000 or $25,000, akin to premier meeting stakes in any other parts of the country. “The stake increases are a huge help because it means even if your horse can run a placing or two a month they pay for themselves,” said Telfer. “And that means winning stakes can be profit, which makes a real difference. “So we are going to be concentrating on racing closer to home. We have a lot of younger horses and three-year-olds in work and ready to go which we have sort of aimed at for the late autumn, winter months because the stakes are great but the fields aren’t as strong.” Telfer has three chances in tonight’s $25,000 main handicap and the stable number one driver David Butcher is on Hunter Bromac, even though both Parker and Check In are likely to be more favoured. Telfer says punters shouldn’t be fooled into thinking Butcher is automatically on the stable’s best chances so don't follow him blindly. “Different owners prefer different drivers and then you have different conditions for races so it isn’t always the case David is on our best chance. “I actually can’t split them tonight, they are all good each way chances but I think Parker will step well and try and run them along.” That standing start will be crucial for race favourite Mach Shard, whose manners have been iffy at best but looks the one to beat if he behaves. Telfer has only had $30,000 Graduette runner Olivia Rachel (race one) for a week and likes the filly but says the race tonight is her first race right-handed which could be tricky. “And we have two in race five. Triolet is suited by her drawing following the speed but Court On The Edge has gate speed so the second line draw negates that.” Double Rocket looks the horse to beat in the Sales Series Graduate (race two) coming out of last Friday’s Northern Derby where he was a strong fifth. Michael Guerin

Two starts for two wins. An impressive start for the career of filly Dixie Star. The Stephen Boyd trained Bettor’s Delight three year old lead and held on to win the $12,000 ILT Nugget Final at Ascot Park today. “It’s great having races like this, a good incentive to come down,” Boyd said. Dixie Star was bought at the 2017 Sale of the Stars for $8,000 and is out of the five win McArdle mare Dixie Belle. This is the Black Watch family that has produced many good fillies, like Star Of The Ball and Pembrook’s Delight. Since her last win at Winton on February 17th Boyd has kept Dixie Star ticking over. “We don’t do much with her at home so it was a natural improvement really. She only has the hopple runs. It seems to be working. She’s fit enough and wasn’t blowing when she came back.” In today’s feature Northern reinsman David Butcher took her straight to the front and she showed gameness to beat off all challengers, beating the favourite Burlington by three quarters of a length. Dixie Star winning the Nuggets - Photo Bruce Stewart “Richard Bull, one of my owners, is a good friend of David’s and he arranged for him to come down.” Winning connections - Photo Bruce Stewart   Boyd is now eying up the Ladyship Final for Dixie Star on March 16th at Wyndham. “We’ll definitely come down for the Southland Oaks as well.” Boyd says he has thirty horses in work. “I break in a lot of horses for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen so we don’t have many racehorses.” Stephen has held a license for eighteen seasons and has trained in total, twenty two winners. Eleven of those wins have happened this season, four of them in Southland. “I got out of it for a while and drove a courier truck but Dad (John) got sick so I came back to help the business.” His father does all the freeze branding for all the horses in the South Island and he also held a trainers license. Two of the better horses he trained were Dainty Smooth, the winner of seven and Dainty Judy which won six. Stephen Boyd’s first training win was at Westport in March 2000 when Smokey Range which he drove, won.   Bruce Stewart

The numbers suggest No Doctor Needed faces a tough task at Cambridge tonight but dig a little deeper and its impossible to go past the star of the show in the Te Awamutu Cup. The warm favourite faces a 30m backmark in the 2700m standing start, never an easy disadvantage to overcome on a track where being handy is almost always beneficial. Add that to the fact he has one placing from two starts on the track and he hasn’t won in seven starts since January and you could start thinking twice about taking what will be short odds. But the 30m could be very much negated by the fact the two horses off the front line will be at long odds and are both on the unruly, while the potential second favourite Northview Hustler is a five-race winner of $63,000 yet only gets a 10m start from No Doctor Needed, who has won 12 races and over $250,000. As for the formline, No Doctor Needed spent the second half of last season racing in Sydney where after two wins he lost form at Menangle but he looked very sharp when second to stablemate  Better B Amazed fresh-up at Alexandra Park last start, only going down in the last 10m. He clearly looks happy to be back with red hot trainer Steve Telfer. And as for his Cambridge record of one placing in two starts? Well, No Doctor Needed’s only starts there has been in the last two Cambridge Flying Miles and he has finished third to Lazarus and Christen Me in one and fourth to The Orange Agent, Ohoka Punter and Franco Nelson in the other. Add that to the confidence of the king of Cambridge Raceway, David Butcher, and No Doctor Needed picks himself. “It’s never easy to win here from a backmark but I think he might be too good for them,” says Butcher. “If one or two miss away then he could be handy on the outer with a lap to go but even if he settles last he might be too quick for these horses.  “I thought Northview Hustler and Valor Lustre were probably the dangers.” Butcher trains the backmarker in the main trot, Sunset Beach, with son Ben to drive and he expects an improved performance. “She hasn’t had much luck and to be honest I have had a few problems getting the right amount of work into her.  “I have stepped her workload up this week and expect her to go better. But it would be nice to get past a few early, which could happen in a field like this.” Michael Guerin

Pukekohe harness racing trainer Ray Green grabbed a training double last night when both Linc's Tiger and Rocknroll Lincoln won their respective races easily in  wet conditions at Cambridge Raceway.  Linc's Tiger gave his sire Sir Lincoln another boost, trailing for most of the race before bolting away in the straight to win by 4 lengths and running a quick 57.7 for his last half in the slushy conditions. Rocknroll Lincoln was even more impressive winning in a very quick mile rate of 1:57.5 for the 2200m mobile. His winning time of 2:40.7 was superb considering he led and was attacked twice in the running before winning untouched for driver David Butcher. Cambridge trainer Nicky Chilcott, also trained a double for the night when Shay Scott and Harry H won the two trotting races on the card. Shay Scott showed his liking for the track when winning his second in three weeks at Cambridge Raceway. Although his winning margin of 4 lengths was not as impressive as when he won by 27 lengths three weeks ago, he still won with plenty in hand suggesting there are more wins in store for the eight year old Sundon gelding. Harry H (Muscles Yankee - Sound Of Chiola), a recent addition to Chilcott’s barn won the the higher rated R51-84 handicap stand later in the night. The half-brother to former eighteen win trotter Martina H trailed for most of the race and got the upper hand close to the line to win by a length from the fast-finishing favorite Lovely Bundy. Trainer Arna Donnelly trained her second winner of the season when 5-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding Bet Out Of Ell won the feature event last night. His time of 2:43.7 was only just outside of Awesome Armbro’s national stand start record for 2200m.  Bet Out Of Ell (Bettor's Delight - Elle Mary Rose) started from a handicap of 20m and the race was held in wet conditions making the run of the winner even better. Donnelly was confident of a good showing, thinking the drop in class last night would suit the horse and he duly obliged.       Harnesslink Media

It is harness racing semi-final time for the kiwi Breeders Crown runners at Bendigo on Saturday night in Australia. The first heat of the night is the Woodlands Stud semi-final for the 2yo colts and geldings and New Zealand is represented by both King Of Swing and Master Moonlite. King Of Swing (Rocknroll Hanover - Twist And Twirl) is trained by Ray Green at Pukekohe and is having his first Australian start. David Butcher will do the driving from a tidy barrier position of three and he could possibly lead from there and be hard to beat. Master Moonlite (Art Major - Miss Moonlite) who won fresh up in Australia on the 9th August, has not fared so well with the barrier draw, coming in at five on the second row. Anthony Butt will drive him on Saturday night with Dexter Dunn likely to get back on for the final if he qualifies. In the second heat, impressive filly Our Angel Of Harlem has drawn perfectly to lead at barrier two.  Trained by Barry Ward at West Melton, Our Angel Of Harlem was late arriving in Australia, due to a delay at Christchurch airport with fog last week, but is now settled in ready to rumble according to trainer Barry Ward. Our Angel Of Harlem (Mach Three - Paradise City) won her final hit out at the Ashburton workouts last week leading all the way for driver Jimmy Curtin in a slick 2:58.9 for the mobile 2400m. She won easily under a hold and paced the last 800m of that workout in a quick 56.9 seconds. Angel Of Harlem or Our Angel Of Harlem as she is named in Australia, will be driven in the semi-final by Anthony Butt who will also do the steering in the final if she qualifies on Saturday night.  Starting in the same heat is Our Bettor Joy from the Cran Dalgety stable. She has drawn barrier 10 and will be starting from three on the second row, which is not ideal, but she does have the services of master driver Gavin Lang to guide her around the Bendigo track. Up against the two New Zealand fillies is the impressive Art Major filly Nostra Villa, who has won all seven of her starts this season. Trained by Emma Stuart, Nostra Villa has drawn badly at one on the second line giving a clear advantage to the kiwi fillies in that heat. Partyon from the All Stars Stable starts in the first semi-final for the 3yo fillies and has drawn perfectly in barrier three. She looks a good thing to lead and then be hard to beat for driver Luke McCarthy. Another All Stars runner in More The Better starts in race five the first semi-final for the 3yo colts and geldings. More The Better (Bettor's Delight - Lucky Pocket) has drawn poorly at barrier 7 with his main danger The Little General faring much better after drawing the pole position of one from the mobile over 2150m. Also in that heat is ex- All Stars Stable runner Stars Align who has won five out of six starts in Australia for owners’ G J Kennard, P I Kennard, P J Creighton, M C Creighton, G R Douglas and K J Riseley. He has drawn badly at six on the second line and will need luck in the running to feature in the finish. Big Mach (Mach Three - Outback Girl) for Logan Hollis starts in the second 3yo semi-final and has drawn barrier 8 and will start from one on the second line needing luck. He is up against the Merv Butterworth owned Motu Meteor who is building an impressive record in Australia for trainer/driver Kerryn Manning. Sicario (Somebeachsomewhere - Bettorthanyou) for the All Stars Stable in the second 2yo semi-final is the last kiwi breeders contender for the night and he has drawn well at barrier four for driver Luke McCarthy.    Harnesslink Media      

Northern harness racing trainer Steve Telfer trained three winners last night at Alexandra Park giving him a share of the lead in this seasons trainers premiership. Three year old Parker (American Ideal - Pepper Potts) was Telfer's first winner in the first race of the night. After settling back in the running for driver David Butcher, Parker proved too strong when mounting a big run from the 600m and holding on to win by more than a length.  Rolleston owned Valour Lustre gave Telfer a double in the very next race. Valour Lustre a seven year old mare by McArdle, was previously trained in Canterbury by her owner Ivan Court. Court sent Valour Lustre up north in June and she has thrived, winning her last two races quite easily for driver Andre Poutama. Last night (Friday) she raced on the outer before springing out at the 400m and running a very quick 55.8 for her last 800m to hold off the favorite Max Phactor in the run home, Hot favorite Dance Time was Telfer's third winner of the night. A very well bred 3yo by Rock N Roll Heaven out of classy mare Time To Fly, Dance time is a half brother to four race winner Check In (Mach Three - Time To Fly) who is also trained by Telfer at his Papakura base. Dance Time won narrowly but well for driver David Butcher. He trailing for the majority of the race before angling wide on the turn and holding on to beat a fast finishing My Generation by a neck at the line.  Look for him to run in the feature 3yo races later in the year.       Harnesslink Media

Even Zac Butcher admits winning the Alexandra Park Driving Premiership could be a bridge too far for him on Friday. Butcher, who has recorded 36 wins at Alexandra Park this season, is two shy of his father David (38). Maurice McKendry (MNZM) is third with 32 wins. "I think I've run out of time. I've only got four drives this week, compared to Dad who has six or seven. "I think I'll come up short, which is okay. My goal at the start of the season was to record more winners than last year's champion, Tony Herlihy (MNZM), and I’ve done that. "I don't mind losing to Dad. He's still the best driver in our family, and probably will be for the next 25 years," Butcher said. The 25-year-old Clevedon driver, rated the Ray Green trained two-year-old, Linc's Tiger as a good winning chance in the first race. Meanwhile Ardmore reinsman, Robert Argue, is going to have to win behind all three of his drives at 'The Park' on Friday if he is going to equal Jack MacKinnon, at the top of the Alexandra Park Junior Drivers' Premiership. Argue, who has recorded six wins at northern headquarters this season, will get behind the Gary Noakes trained Izinthezone (race 3); the Stephen Argue trained My Cash (race 4); and the Dave Iremonger trained Opawa Speed (race 5). MacKinnon, who has won nine races at 'The Park' this season, will drive the Ivan Court trained Arden Lustre (race 4); the Stephen Argue trained Speedy Lavros (race 5); the Robert Dunn trained Lambros (race 6); and Yagunnakissmeornot (race 7). Last year's Junior Driving Premiership came down to a 0.159 of a point on the UDR strike rate, but MacKinnon just held out Andre Poutama and Kyle Marshall. Zac Butcher's boss, Barry Purdon, has the Training Premiership all parceled up. The ‘Hall-of-Famer’ goes into Friday's meeting with 18 wins at Alexandra Park in 2016-2017 - five more than John and Josh Dickie. Last season's senior driving and training titles saw Herlihy (MNZM) claimed his eighth consecutive Alexandra Park driving premiership and his ‘Strike Won’ Ardmore-based stables’, nabbed their fourth straight training title. Herlihy (46) had nine wins to spare over Zac Butcher (37). Josh Dickie (31) was third. Training-wise Herlihy (40) had five wins to spare over Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen (35). Barry Purdon (29) was third. With just one meeting left in the North Island in the 2016-2017 season, the Alexandra Park Premierships read (tote races only): DRIVERS Driver Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR D J Butcher 221 38 34 30 .3027 Z E Butcher 205 36 26 29 .2932 M W McKendry 225 32 20 26 .2301 A G Herlihy 216 25 25 32 .2294 B M Mangos 148 23 14 13 .2372 JUNIOR DRIVERS Driver Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR J A MacKinnon 82 9 7 6 .1816 S A Grayling 44 8 6 3 .2803 R G Argue 64 6 6 5 .1719 D P Ferguson 53 5 8 9 .2348 T A Cameron 36 4 4 6 .2284 TRAINERS Trainer Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR B P Purdon 186 29 26 22 .2730 J W Dickie & J I Dickie 131 25 15 11 .2824 A G Herlihy MNZM 177 23 19 29 .2442 M Purdon & N C Rasmussen 76 23 15 9 .4518 R W Green 151 22 25 20 .2818     Duane Ranger

Steve Telfer has purposely taken his time with rising three-year-old, Dance Time, and that strategy worked the oracle second-up at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The black son of Rock N Roll Heaven justified his favouritism in the first of the nine races carded by the Auckland Trotting Club. He was having just his second start after finishing second behind Gooddealehemily on debut on the same track a fortnight earlier. David Butcher has driven the two-year-old both times. "We gelded him and held him back until late in the season. His mother was a Group One winner and she was a big nice filly who took time to get going. He’s from the type of family that needs time and that’s why we held back on him. “He’s got a lot of ability and I thought he would go close to winning that race, but he’s still very green and has a heap to learn. He’s had some wayward traits all right, but has got better and better with time,” Telfer said. “Ability-wise he’s one of the better two-year-olds we have got,” he added. The Telfer and Garlick trained gelding was too strong pacing the $12,000 Franklin Park Yearling Parade (July 29) Mobile, for two-year-olds, pacing the 1700m mobile in 2:08.1 (mile rate 2:01.2) and came home in 57.1 and 27.4 He got up by a head and paid $2.50. Dance Time is fourth of five foals out of the 2002 Sands A Flyin mare, Time To Fly. She won eight races ($105,153) for trainer Robert Dunn - including the $200,000 Group One 2008 New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Stakes. “I’ll give him another three or four starts this preparation, and then bring him back later in the season, when he’s a more mature three-year-old. It’s all about ridding him of that green-ness now,” said Telfer who works a team of about 30 with Garlick at Ardmore. They have now won 37 races this season - four less than their best year recorded in 2015-2016, but the $469,509 they have earned this season, is a personal best by $63,575. Ray Green was the most successful trainer on Friday night, landing three winners via Alta Intrigue (Zac Butcher) in the feature pace, the $14,999 Italian Night (August 11) R75 to R93 Pace; Spring Campaign (David Butcher) in the $14,000 Hydroflow R55 to R65 Mobile; and King Of Swing (David Butcher) in the Australasian Breeders Crown 2YO Colts and Geldings Pace. Green's 34 winners ($422,755) this season is also a personal best - by three. Alta Intrigue was the most impressive winner on Friday night notching up his fourth win in 26 starts ($98,631) with a slashing 1:57.6 mile rate. The only other horse to go a sub two-minute mile rate was the Steven Reid trained, and Zac Butcher driven Utmost Delight (1:59.7) in the fourth event. Alta Intrigue and Zac Butcher led all the way in the 1700m mobile holding out favourite, Max Phactor (Philip Butcher) by half a head. The three-year-old Mach Three colt stopped the clock in 2:04.3, and came home in 57 even and 28.1. Lola Jones and Todd Macfarlane were a head back in third. Duane Ranger  

Hall-of-Fame galloping trainer Graeme Rogerson notched up his second harness racing win of the season at Cambridge Raceway on Sunday, and in doing so he said he still loves training standardbreds and will always have a few in his Hamilton barn. Todd Mitchell wore the familiar red, blue and green Rogerson colours to victory behind a 3-year-old son of Bettor's Delight gelding, named Flash Boy. They had a neck to spare over Bettor Buy A Rose and Zac Butcher. The 3-year-old bay paced the Turf Bar Maiden in 2:47.8 for the 2200m mobile. He came home in 59.4 and 25.8 and produced a 2:02.7 mile rate. That was his first win in two starts. It was also Rogerson's first victory since Little Bro and Hayden Cullen won at Cambridge on November 17. Prior to that his last two victories came via Easy For Cullen and Steve Phillips won at Rotorua on January 24 last year. Prior to that his previous solo victory came via Muscle And Power (David Butcher) and Cambridge Raceway on August 18, 2011. “I don‘ t get to the trots much these days but I still enjoy watching them on TV and training a few. I’ll always have a trotter or two – I like them. We’ve got a few young ones coming through next season. “I’m looking forward to them going around. As for this fella, well Mark Purdon had Flash Boy. He had a throat infection and Mark sent him to us. Our vet saw to him and he’s come back good this campaign,” Rogerson said. “I think he’s capable of going on with it,” he added. Rogerson has only had 26 starters to the races this season compared to 500 (46 wins) in 2011, or the 717 starters (98 wins) when he was at his peak with Steven Reid in 2009-2010. All up Rogerson has trained 344 winners and netted more than $2.3m in stakes since he first took out his licence in 2007. They comprised 51 winners ($369,418) as a solo trainer in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 and this season. Rogerson trained a further 108 winners ($680,223) when he trained in partnership with Peter Blanchard from 2012 to 2016. He also conditioned a whopping 168 winners ($2.2m) in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 with Steven Reid. Rogerson started training standardbreds with Peter Simpson in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009. They won 17 races together and $189,464 “I’m very busy with galloping. As you well know I have a horse or two there as well. Warren Rich, Hayden Cullen and Michelle Northcott oversee the standardbred arm of our operation. “They will tell you about some of the nice ones we will have going around. We have lots of babies including three or four trotting yearlings,” Tauherenikau-based Rogerson said. He did make special mention of a couple of up-and-comers They were a 3-year-old Bettor's Delight - Tanisa Bromac filly named Trinity Bromac; a Monarchy - Santorini yearling filly named Estelita and a brown Monarchy - Banana Smoothie yearling filly named Splitting Image. “Quite a few of them show a lot of promise. With all our young ones and nine above average trotters I think we will be in for a much better season after August,” Rogerson said. Duane Ranger

Trainer Ray Green and driver David Butcher have different views over how clear cut tonight’s feature pace at Alexandra Park will be. Butcher says while he chose Vasari over last-start Winter Cup winner Northview Hustler, he isn’t sure he has made the right choice. Yet Green is adamant he has. “I think Vasari is clearly the better horse and definitely our better chance,” says Green, who is still on track for his best season ever. “He had his issues with Vasari but has always been a good horse, and now we have gelded him he is right back into it. “This might be his first standing start, but he has handled the ones I have given him at home well, and he is too good a pacer not to step safely. “Northview Hustler is a real little pro, typical of the Bettor's Delights, but I don’t think he is as good as Vasari.” Butcher, who will win the North Island Driver’s Premiership again, needs a bit more convincing. “The difference is I am sure Northview Hustler (who will be driven by Andre Poutama) will step up because he did for me last start in the Winter Cup. “Whereas Vasari I am not sure about, because I haven’t seen him do it. “So while I am driving Vasari I could have just as easily gone the other way.” The pair highlight a potentially good night for Green, whose high class juvenile King Of Swing takes on older horses in race six.“We think a lot of him and he is still very much a chance to go to the Breeders Crown in Victoria next month,” says Green. “He is very big and raw but he has a good motor, so we will see how he goes in his heat next week.” As sharp as King Of Swing has looked, Butcher warns punters tonight poses a tricky test for the juvenile. “He might be too good for them but against the older horses it is hard to make your own luck, so he is no good thing.” Green also has impressive workout winner Alta Shangri La in race one while Butcher takes his stable star Sunset Peak to the 1700m mobile trot to finish tonight’s eight race programme. “She is racing well but the way Yagunnakissmeornot won last week I can’t see us beating her,” says Butcher. Addington also race tonight, with two legs of the national junior driver’s champs, the remaining two legs to be held at tomorrow’s Forbury Park day meeting, which was transferred from last night because of the weather.   Michael Guerin

The last 16 months of Vasari’s career has hardly panned out as his connections could have liked. And it really hasn’t panned out the way Vasari would have liked it. But when the highly-talented three-year-old bolted to an effortless win at Alexandra Park on Friday night he finally looked like the horse he promised to be as a late juvenile. The long-striding son of Art Major may have been harshly judged for much of this season, with perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to him being his win in a Sires’ Stakes heat at Addington last year. That night he lead and beat juvenile of the year More The Better, just a month after thrashing his opponents in a SIres’ Stakes heat at Cambridge by six lengths in a 1:55 mile rate. After that level of performances anything but group one glory was going to seem like a waste of Vasari’s talent but luck deserted him in the best races as a juvenile and then an old problem kicked in this term. Trainer Ray Green told driver David Butcher that by the time colts get to midway through their three-year-old season they either adapt to being a boy around girls or they can’t handle it. “One night at Alexandra Park he didn’t try and when I came back in Ray summed it up nicely. He said ‘he has turned into a werewolf,” laughs Butcher. So Vasari was gelded and now his mind is back on racing he looks more like his old self. “He has always had the ability and the good thing about him is he relaxes so well. “He felt great out there tonight and that is a very handy ability to have, the ability to park out and relax then kick hard  “So who knows how far he can go now, after all, he is still only a three-year-old.” The win was Vasari’s fifth and he should have little problem adding more in coming weeks and then the question will be whether Lincoln Farms want to keep him here in New Zealand or send him to somewhere like Menangle, where he would look suited. But with the stake rises coming at Alexandra Park, maybe the days of handy mid-grade horses heading off shore will become less common, with a Vasari well capable of winning good money at home if the better-end races get off the ground. His win extended Butcher’s huge lead in the North Island drivers premiership on a night when his son Zac landed two and brother Phil reined Pakipaki to an impressive win in a good fillies and mares race. With Alta Intrigue second to Vasari it provided Ray Green with the quinella and took him to 28 wins for the season, still with a shot at his personal best of 31 set in 2012. Already Green has bettered last season, is almost level on stakes won that term and has a better strike rate so has done another huge job to sit fifth of the northern trainers on the premiership. Michael Guerin  

Northview Hustler is an unassuming little fella, who in work, seldom gives his trainer Ray Green the impression he could beat a maiden field let alone a quality Winter Cup line-up comprising of last year’s Auckland Cup runner-up. But that’s not to say that Green didn’t think his three-year-old could beat his older and more experienced rivals in the feature pace last Friday at Alexandra Park. “He’s an average worker but he’s a whole new racehorse when the day tote opens. He’s a tough little fella and I thought if he stepped away cleanly he would be right in it. “But to win like he did surprised me a bit. He’s an unspectacular sort of horse who always has the ability to do the unexpected. He seems to be able to rise above and beyond,” Green said. The R77 ranked Northview Hustler displayed a heap of character and guts to sit parked for the last 1300m and then win the $20,000 Smith & Partners Lawyers sponsored 2017 Winter Cup. All nine of the runners in Friday's feature pace for the R70 to R104 ranked pacers were four years or older - all except Northview Hustler. The three-year-old black Bettor's Delight - Northview Desire colt was only having his 11th start compared to some in the field who had raced seven and eight times more than that. David Butcher settled Northview Hustler fourth along the markers (in single file) not long after starting from their 10m handicap. That's where they remained until Butcher went and sat parked with him at the 1300m. Then for the remainder of the race the talented colt showed more heart than Mother Theresa to hold out 2016 Auckland Cup runner-up and the 102-ranked favourite, Hug The Wind (Zac Butcher), by half a neck. Second favourite Bettor's Pocket (Tony Cameron) was a neck back in third. Northview Hustler paced the 2700m stand in 3:22.5 (mile rate 2:00.6) and came home in 57.6 and 28.6. He was the $8 fourth favourite. “I’m proud of him. To be honest I thought Alta Intrigue and Vasari were my best winning chances on the night and they finished second and third in the last race. “That was his fourth win now and he’s done much better than we thought he might after less than a dozen starts. We will just race him over the winter and see what develops. “He will tell us where to next. He’s only ever raced at Alexandra Park. The Breeder’s Crown isn’t a reality but Australia could possibly be next season. I think he will make a nice four-year-old,” Pukekohe-based Green said. Northview Hustler was ranked in the top 10 for the 3YO Emerald Jewels Final but Green opted to race him at northern headquarters instead. He has now banked $54,249 for his owners - Lincoln Farms Bloodstock Ltd, Shannon Flay (Mangere), Ian Gradwell (Henderson), Chis Western (Mairangi Bay), Ian Middleton (Greenlane, and the Four Legs Syndicate). He was bred by Murdoch Bloodstock Limited. Meanwhile Waiuku trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett won both Breeders Crown heats with Our Rosa (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and Mass Destruction (Hackett). The latter won by a walk-over. Their recent Monte Saddle Trot winner, Majestic Ali, won the feature trot – the $14,999 Princess Manoja Stakes for the R47 to R60 trotters. It was Majestic Ali's fourth win in 28 starts and the five-year-old Majestic Ali mare provided Herlihy (MNZM) with his second win of the evening. The 'Iceman' got his hatrick in the ninth event when the three-year-old filly he trains - Moving Money - won easily in 2:47.4 (2200m mobile). Duane Ranger

Willie Fleming was an hour away from making the arduous 420km journey from Hawera to Alexandra Park when asked to comment about his two runners at Alex Park tonight (Friday). It’s a six hour float drive Fleming has become accustomed to since he took out his trainer’s licence in the early 1990s. At lunch time (Thursday) Fleming was just about to load Rory McIlroy and Rangi Rangdu, but in true ‘Taranaki fashion’ he didn’t hesitate talking to HRNZ. “It will be good to have ‘Rory’ back racing again after three months away from the track. He is travelling up with his training mate Rangi Rangdu. We will stop over at Ron and Shirley Bassett’s galloping stable in Cambridge to break the trip down,” Fleming said. Even though he hasn’t raced since March 17 and has drawn two on the second line, Rory McIlroy should still start one of the favourites in the $13,500 Ritchies Bus & Coach NZ Mobile for the R47 to R60 pacers. Rory McIlroy is rated 56. “It’s hard to get a gauge on him because he only works with his stablemate down here. He’s a nice horse when right – better than average. He can win first up because he raced against nicer fields last campaign and acquitted himself okay. “No matter what happens he will strip better for the run. His only win came on the track,” Fleming said. That was also over the 2200m mobile back on October 7. That night Rory McIlroy and David Butcher beat Wrangler by a head stopping the clock in 2:47.3 (mile rate 2:02.3) and home in 57.7 and 29.2. Rory McIlroy has been lining up against quality pacers like Jewels winner Jack's legend, Star Galleria, Sporing Campaign, Step Up, Don Domingo and Mac Phactor. There are no horses of that quality in tonight's field. "He suffered from a sore back and I had it treated and he seems to have bounced back well, He's got the ability to win a few more races. He's been working well and looks well, he’s as healthy as he has ever been," said co-owner, Fleming. "He's the best of my two chances. Scott (Phelan) will drive him well, I’m sure," he added. Rory McIlroy is a three-year-old Grinfromeartoear gelding, who is the second of two foals out of the maiden Presidential Ball mare, River Tango. He was bred by the late Brian Fleming. “I’ve always had a bit of time for him and I think he will make a fairly nice four-year-old. He doesn’t have that ole niggly injury any more so I’m hoping for a good campaign this time around. “He seems happy within himself and it wouldn’t surprise me if he went close first up. He has been feeling good,” Fleming said. Jacob Wallace will drive Rangi Rangdu in the fourth event for junior drivers - the $8,000 Rutherford Rede Mobile for the up to R56 pacers. "He's just a runner's chance from one on the second line. If the gaps open up at the right time he could get some of it. I wouldn't be bringing him all that way if I didn't think he could get a cheque." Fleming said the two horses would return to Cambridge after the races, before leaving Cambridge on Saturday. "Depending on how Rangi Rangdu goes I might bring 'Rory' back for the meeting in Auckland on the 14th of July, and then race 'Rangi' at Cambridge two days later on the Sunday. "First things first though. I'd love to win two races on Friday. If 'Rory' doesn't win this week he will be much better for the run and should nail his second win at short notice," Fleming said. “He goes better the Alexandra Park way around,” he added. Duane Ranger

The North Island’s leading reinsman, David Butcher, who is also fourth of the national driving premiership,drove half the card at Alexandra Park on Friday night. And in doing so the Cambridge driver also shot five wins clear at the top of the ‘Alexandra Park Driving Premiership’. His 31 wins are five more than his son, Zac, who has 26 wins with Maurice McKendry – and six more than Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 20, who is followed by Brent Mangos with 19. “It’s been a good season and it was a good night tonight. I just want to keep chippin' away and clocking up the winners – it doesn’t matter where it is. “The Alexandra Park premiership is far from parceled up, but I’d like to keep that young fella of mine at bay and win it so I can have the bragging rights. That would mean a lot because I cant him thinking he’s better than me just yet,” Butcher joked. The man they call ‘The Chief’, who has been victorious 66 times and amassed just under $700,000 in 2016-2017, drove the winners of four of the eight races at northern headquarters. They were behind the Ross Paynter trained Royal Willie in race two; the Geoff Small trained Zadaka in race three; the Ray Green trained Royal Lincoln in the fifth event; and the Peter and Vaughan Blanchard trained Lovely Bundy in race seven. Butcher thought the latter mare won nicely. “It’s the first time I’ve driven her and she felt real nice throughout - though she did switch off a bit when she hit the front. She seems to do things right and Peter and Vaughan appear to have her manners sorted out. “The other three were goodwins too also, but I thought that mare felt nice in winning,” Butcher said. Butcher sat parked with the Love You - Kelly Bundy mare for the final 1100m of the 2200m stand. In the lane they had too much sprint for place-getters, Torbjorn (Richard Brosnan) and Tereskova (Dr Luk Chin). The 5-year-old bay got home by one-and-three-quarter lengths and a nose, trotting the $14,999 Fresher Foods Handicap for the R61 to R89 squaregaiters in 2:50.8 (mile rate 2:04.9), and came home in 61.3 and 30.5. Lovely Bundy was the $2.60 favourite and it was her third win in 14 starts for owners Garrick Knight, Susan Grant, Dan Magill, Revel Knight, Wendy Robinson, and the Hoof It Racing Syndicate. She was bred by Magill and Trevor Hansen.   Duane Ranger

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