Canterbury Harness Racing participants are starting to talk. *Can we have faith in the Racing Integrity Unit? *Will a racecourse investigator turn up on my home doorstep? Those are just some of the questions being asked by drivers, stable hands and trainers. Those with little faith in the RIU will now have almost none, after it was revealed that Racing Investigator Ms Kylie Williams turned up on Woodend based driver/trainer Bob Butt's door step and demanded that Butt travel to the Rangiora Racetrack to take a urine and saliva test for prohibitive substances. That was after Butt had called in sick after being struck down with illness, meaning he was unable to take up his drive on Easy Rider at Rangiora. Easy Rider is trained by his parents, David and Catherine Butt at their Woodend training establishment. With the Racing Investigator testing a large range of drivers and stable hands at the Rangiora meeting, and Butt calling in sick, it appears as though they thought Butt had been tipped off and had called in sick to dodge being tested. After arriving at the Woodend stables and repeatedly knocking on the door, the Racing Investigator was unable to raise Butt from a deep sleep, so continued to walk around the Butt's training centre until they found another license holder in Robbie Close, who works for Mark Jones. Jones lease's a section of the Butt's establishment. With the Racing Investigator demanding that Close enter the household and wake Butt up, they then requested that Butt travel to the Rangiora Course to undergo a drug test. With Butt refusing to leave his home due to his obvious illness, Racing Investigator Ms Kylie Williams then arranged for the testing equipment to be transported to Butt's house in Woodend. "I'm not a big fan of them coming to home to do it because I was just sick and only had one drive so didn't bother going. "But I also know why they test for it. So I'm moving on." said Butt, when spoken to by the NZ Herald. With the Racing Investigator also wanting samples from Junior Driver Matthew Anderson, he was forced to travel from his Rolleston base to Woodend after already having left the racecourse after his driving engagement in Race 5. It took over a hour to get the two tests they were after, which both returned negative readings for drugs and alcohol. What were they looking for? David and Catherine Butt were reportedly upset by the events and wrote a letter to RIU general manager Mike Godber and was talked about at a recent HRNZ board meeting last week. The RIU sent Butt a letter yesterday outlining that legal opinion. When spoken to by Michael Guerin from the NZ Herald - RIU's Chief Investigator Neil Grimstone had the following to say: "When Mr Butt didn't attend the meeting, and only pulled out after it may have become obvious there was testing going on, that may have raised some suspicions," "But his test showed nothing irregular and he has no case to answer, we want to be very clear about that. "We are not looking to catch people inside the racing industry who want to drink, even if they choose to do so to excess. "We are about providing a safe environment at race and trials meetings and that can extend to all licenced racing people, but most importantly trainers and drivers. "But this is not the start of some random, out of race or trials day testing of everybody in the racing industry for alcohol or drugs. "Obviously drugs are illegal but alcohol isn't and what racing people do, within limits of course, away from race and trials days is their business." Other questions that need to be answered: How can Peter Lamb be a “Racing Investigator, Stipendiary Steward and a Starter? Take a look at our recent article on the conflict of interest... Why aren't the other three Racing Investigator's doing their jobs and testing for alcohol and drugs in their areas? Why can't it become policy that each driver must sign in when they arrive on course and while they are doing that, then process to do a alcohol test? Would this not be the best way to show the public that our drivers are free of any alcohol prior to their driving engagements. Harnesslink Media
Superstar 3yo trotter Marcoola is looking to add the Group 1 Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby. Unbeaten in his pervious 6 starts including the NZ Derby, Marcoola was dominate winning basically untouched last week by ¾ Lengths. That was his first start right handed at “The Park”. Drawn well in barrier 2, Marcoola’s main danger appears to be handy Purdon/Rasmussen filly High Gait. The Muscles Yankee’s filly was huge last week after an early mistake cost her plenty of ground. She was seen storming home for co trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen to finish 4th, only beaten 5L. An improved effort from Wilma’s Mate is expected, even after a early break last week, the Pegasus Spur filly looked to be coming into the race nicely before struggling to handle the last bend. Driver David Butt was unable to let his charge fully extend in the home straight. One of the races of the night, these trotters do battle at 8.14pm. Andrew Fitzgerald
The first of the tote races for the 2015-2106 season for the two year old trotters was held at Addington Raceway this evening and provided a great spectacle as the first four home all showed enough on the night to suggest that we are in for some great contests as the harness racing season progresses. Custodian from barrier eight left the gate with the mobile for driver David Butt and was in front after 200 metres and proceeded to set a hectic pace in front. The well supported Habibi Inta with Blair Orange in the cart was slow off the gate and settled sixth in the running early while Regal Love and Tim Williams ended up in the open in the running line when things settled down after the start. David Butt kept Custodian rolling in front, putting half a dozen lengths between himself and the field as they went past the 800 metres mark. Tim Williams and Regal Love were the first to make a move to close the gap on the tearaway leader and Habibi Inta quickly got onto Regal Love's back as they passed the 400 metres. These three were joined on the point of the turn by Miracle Rising with trainer / driver Gavin Smith in the bike who had been four back on the inner and these four drew away from the rest. Custodian was still in front 100 metres out but his earlier exertions started to catch up with him and he was claimed by both Habibi Inta and Miracle Rising with 50 metres to go with Habibi Inta holding a neck advantage over Miracle Rising at the finishing line with a game Custodian a close up third just in front of an equally game Regal Love who had dragged the field up to the leader. The winners time for the 1950 metres from the mobile was a smart 2:26.6, a mile rate of 2:00.9 with closing sectionals of 60.2 and 30.7 Trainer Paul Nairn was happy that his charge did everything right at his first race start. " I told Blair he had never been behind the mobile before and to not rush him early which is why he was so far behind them early on." " I knew he was good enough to win the race but I was more concerned that he did everything right at his first start to help build up his confidence." " I think I will give him his next start in the two year old trot at Methven on the grass as a lead into the 2 year old Trotting Stakes at the end of March at Addington as he handles the grass really well," Paul told Harnesslink this evening. Gavin Smith had a huge smile on his face after the run of Miracle Rising to grab second on debut. " I couldn't have been happier with my horse's run." " He is not switched on as yet to what racings all about but he has got an awful lot of natural ability. " I thought he was too big to make a two year old but he is proving me wrong." " He is beautifully gaited and has great manners and going forward there is so much improvement in him that it is scary," Gavin said. Throw in Custodian and Regal Love who lost no admirers with their game runs tonight and the two year old trotting ranks look to be especially strong this year. Harnesslink Media
The first of this season's non tote races for two year old trotters in the South Island was held at the harness racing meeting at Addington this evening and as expected a couple of the stock of Muscle Mass ran the quinella though maybe not in the order that most pundits had expected. The filly Willie McGoogan in the hands of part owner Matthew Williamson led early from barrier one as most of the rest of the field trotted rough or broke. The Roddy Butt trained Custodian had a short gallop early with driver David Butt letting him find his feet before settling third in the running line. Willie McGoogan looked to have them in trouble across the top but when Custodian was switched back to the passing lane in the straight, he quickly got on terms and was half a head to the good at the finish. Five and a half lengths away Eyrish Mist and Dexter Dunn held on well for third in front of another daughter of Muscle Mass in Needle. Roddy Butt was impressed with the effort from his inexperienced young trotter. " He has never galloped at trials or workouts but most of those around him were offstride tonight and I think he just reacted to what was happening around him." " After that he has trotted really well and it was a good effort to pick the leader up," Roddy Butt. Plans are in place for the gelding to take on the better two year old trotters later in the season but first he is due a short break. " If we don't give him a couple of weeks off now, then he won't get a break for the rest of the season." " I think he is good enough to be competitive against the good ones later on if I look after him now," Roddy said. Willie McGoogan was game in second and was fighting back strongly at the finishing line. Matthew Williamson was happy with the run but not so much his own drive. " She has done everything right and was coming again at the finishing line but maybe I have driven her a bit quiet." " I think if I had put the pressure on a lot further out, she may have won the race." " Having said that, Roddy's horse has gone great because we have got home in 28.1 off the front and he has come from off the pace," Matthew said. With a couple from the All Star barn going super at the trials as well as a Love You colt from the Paul Nairn barn, suggests that this years two year trotters division looks to have a lot of depth to it. Harnesslink Media
Harness racing trainer David Butt is in no hurry to get Habibti back to the races. Butt, who co-trains the classy trotter with wife Catherine, has a tentative date of early October for a race day return but no specific target race and the duo are taking a patient approach. A 6-year-old daughter of Love You, Habibti was out of action for seven months with a ligament injury suffered after her last race day start in the Group III Ashburton Trotters Flying Mile in October 2014. Habibti, a winner of 15 races from 35 starts, showed enough to suggest she would be challenging the likes of Stent, Sheemon and Master Lavros last season before her injury and, if she stays sound, Butt cannot see any reason why she would not be just as competitive this season. "I'm really happy with where she is at the moment," Butt said. Habibti ran second to Kincaslough, another Love You mare, in the feature trot at the Rangiora trials on Wednesday. Driven by co-trainer Aimee Edmonds, Kincaslough lead for all but the first couple of hundred metres to win by one and a half lengths, with a further length back to Harrysul. Butt was patient with Habibti, sitting three back on the pegs behind Xmas Joyella as Kincaslough extended to a two and a half length lead as the field rounded the final bend. Around the 200m mark, Butt asked Habibti to go and she did not disappoint. The horse never looked like catching Kincaslough but definitely made ground with a strong finishing burst. Kincaslough trotted the 2600m in 3:24.7 with a mile rate of 2:06.6 and closing sectionals of 59.3 and 29.5. Butt confirmed Habibti will return to Rangiora for the workouts next Wednesday as the husband and wife team will continue to monitor her progress. Habibti holds a nomination for the Group I Dominion Handicap but there will plenty of options later in the season. The former Derby winner already has more than $300,000 in the bank and with a recorded of five wins from seven starts in Australia, another trip across the Tasman looks to be a viable option. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with the permission of Stuff NZ - Check site here
The old saying in harness racing that the cream always rises to the top all things being equal is never more appropriate than in the case of young North Canterbury trainer Gavin Smith. After a promising start to his training career, Gavin had struck one problem after another from blood issues to soundness problems and it seemed to be never ending and as a result, Gavin was on the verge of giving the training game away as recently as earlier this year. The harder he tried the worse it seemed to get and not surprisingly Gavin was having thoughts of getting a Monday to Friday job to pay the bills. This from a horseman who looked just a few years earlier to have a huge future in the harness racing industry after a stellar junior driver career. Gavin started out in the industry helping out Murray Hamilton during the school holidays. " Murray was a friend of mum and dads and I would help out there during the school holidays." " The first time I sat in a cart I was hooked and from that time on this is all that I have wanted to do," Gavin told Harnesslink this week. While his parents raced the odd horse, there is no family history of involvement in the industry. " I am pretty sure I am the only one from either side of the family who is involved in the racing industry as a career," Gavin said. Hooked by harness racing, Gavin got his first job in the industry at age 16 when he went to work for Doug Gale. " Doug was really good to work for and I was there for over two years before doing a three year stint with Mark Purdon." " You never stopped learning off Mark and he was always good to watch and learn from." " From there I did over four years with David and Catherine Butt and I can never thank them enough for all the opportuniities they gave me." "It was while there that I got established as a driver and I don't think I would still be in the industry if it hadn't been for their help." " After that I did 18 months working for Graham Rogerson when he was in partnership with firstly Peter Simpson and latterly with Steven Reid and like everyone you work for, you pick up little things from them that helps give their horses that edge," Gavin said. Deciding it was time to go out training on his own, Gavin returned to Canterbury and purchased a 20 acre block at Leithfield beach and it wasn't long before he brought another adjacent 20 acre block. While his driving for outside trainers such as Phil Burrows and Robert Dunn was going great, his own team was forever having issues. " I got a bad virus that went right through the stable and the horses struggled to get over it." " I could never get their blood right and I tested everything to try to get to the source of the problem with no luck." " I just had one of those runs where nothing went right." " It got to the point where I was thinking seriously about giving the training away." " Then I got the opportunity to lease the complex at Dancingonmoonlight and I thought a change of scenery might change my luck so I moved here on April 2nd this year." " The horses were coming right before I moved here and since the move they have continued to improve." "I have put a lot of time into understanding the results of blood tests and I now like to think I can nip a lot of things in the bud before they become a major problem,"Gavin said. Gavin is thankful to his owners who stuck by him even when things weren't going that well. "Trish Dunell has been with me since I started out on my own and she has been great to train for." "She has been so loyal to the stable and its good she is getting a bit of payback now," Gavin said. Over the last few years Gavin has brought a handful of cheaper yearlings at the sales with the aim to turn them over quickly at a profit and been reasonably successful in doing so but now the plan has changed. " I am not buying as many as I use to but the quality is a lot better and they are by better sires." "I really like three that I bought at this years sales." * Filly by The Pres from Howz Lucky for $16,000 * Colt by Muscle Mass from Whosinthenest for $19,000 * Colt by Artsplace from Sirius Flight for $38,000. " They have all shown plenty to date so I am really looking forward to racing them next season," Gavin said. Gavin is also breeding from three mares in Hanover Glory, Bute Falcon and All Settled Down and has covered them with high profile stallions with Hanover Glory going to Sportswriter, Bute Falcon to Mach Three and All Settled Down to Majestic Son. As with all stables Gavin has one horse that he has really high hopes for next season. " I think Scarlett Banner could be very competitive in the big fillies races next season." " I gave her one start this season when she ran fifth to Dream About Me and Arden's Choice and then had to put her aside." " She has just blossomed in the last couple of months and I am really looking forward to next season with her," Gavin said. Since the move to his new stables Gavin has really got his mojo back, racking up 15 wins as a driver and more importantly 10 winners from his own barn. The highlight though was undoubtedly his drive on the Fred Fletcher trained Sunny Ruby to win the 3 year old Ruby on Jewels day. " Fred and Sam did such a great job just to get her there." " She never started to come right until ten days before the race so to have her ready to run 1:54 was a great training achievement." " She use to over race quite badly but they have got her to settle now so they deserve a lot of credit for the turnaround in her attitude." "She has an all round game and I think she will measure up in the best company in time," Gavin said. With the massive turnaround in stable fortunes since the move to his new stables, Gavin is looking to the future with a lot of confidence. " The move has been positive on so many fronts." Not only with the horses but I get to see a lot more of the family not having to travel so much up to Leithfield. "Sara is running the breeding side with her father Robert and so we work in together a lot with the two operations." It is working out really well, Gavin said. Gavin knows how lucky he is to be in the position he now finds himself in. "I know how hard it is for people who don't have family in the industry to get established." "When I have a look now at all the drivers who were about in my junior driving days, only Nathan Williamson and Jay Abernathy have made it in the training ranks which shows you how hard it is for a young trainer to get established in harness racing," Gavin said. With the way his team is performing at the moment and the confidence he is gaining from driving so well at present, Gavin looks poised to reach the high levels that many astute judges in the industry always thought he was destined for. Harnesslink Media
Last nights harness racing meeting at Addington was notable in the first instance for being held on a Wednesday night which is unusual to say the least. Several longshots got home early in the programe with one of these being the Andrew Stuart trained Styx On. Driven on racenight for the first time by in form reinsmen Bob Butt, Styx On jumped to an early lead from the 2000 metres stand, steadied them in the middle stages before zipping home in 27.8 to just hold out the big late charge of Matty Groves and Ricky May. Bob liked attitude of the Art Major three year old filly. " She has got lovely manners and that's what got her home tonight" " She does everything right and thats always a big help in standing start races," Bob said. That was the start of what turned out to be a productive night at the office for the North Canterbury horseman. Next up was Kashana in the two year old pace and that was to be the only time Bob missed a dividend bearing place in his five drives with Kashana finishing sixth. Bob's next drive was on a horse he part owns and trains in Ancient Moonlight and he turned in a career best effort to only go under by a nose to Change The Rulz after coming from second last at the 800 metres mark. The son of Live Or Die was privately timed to run his last 800 metres in 57 out three and four wide and Bob was thrilled with the effort. " He went huge from where he was." " I had to go when I did or else it would have just been a sprint from the 400 metres and we would have got nothing". "Going by that run, his next win is not far away," Bob said. The next drive for Bob was on the old warhorse Vulcan who had been very disappointing lately after some good form around christmas time. Away well from his 30 metres handicap, Bob settled Vulcan three back in the running line and didn't move until the corner where to the surprise of everyone, Vulcan sprinted up to the leaders and only went under by 3/4 of a length when running third to the very impressive Belles Son. Bob was a bit non plussed about what to make of the run. " That was a lot more like it tonight but I think the slow sectionals in the middle stages helped." " In saying that, Roddy has been making a few little changes and that probably helped as well," Bob said. Bob's last drive of the night was on the son of American Ideal in Idealindiamonds who is trained by his parents, David and Catherine and once again manners were the key to the win. Away well to lead early, Idealindiamonds was restrained to trail the well supported Sandvik Star after 600 metres and that move was the winning of the race. Sandvik Star took Idealindiamonds to the passing lane and he zipped home in 28.2 to just hold out a fast finishing Four Starzzz Shiraz and Dexter Dunn and claim his second win at just his fourth lifetime start. Bob half expected a good run. " He has got such great manners from the stand and I thought we would get a good run if he could lead early." "He is a wee tradesman and his manners always give him a chance in a race like that," Bob said. Bob has been having a great run lately and the thing to note for punters out there is he rated Waterloo Sunset at Alexandra Park tomorrow night his best drive for the week. Harnesslink Media
Harness racing often has horses that one describes as the "bridesmaid" due to their ability to always find one better on raceday. Such was the case with the Monarchy gelding Sheemon all through his 3 year old career with Habibti, Royal Aspirations and Blitzemcalder all having the wood on him at that stage. At four Sheemon started to beat those same horses with a win in the Harness Jewels and a close second to the reigning trotter of the year in Master Lavros in the Rowe Cup among the highlights. This season at five, Sheemon looks to be back better than ever and if yesterdays win in the open class trot at Kaikoura is any guide, then Sheemon looms as the major danger to Stent over the Cup week features. At his last start before Kaikoura at Ashburton, Sheemon had uncharacteristically broken twice but yesterday was back to his reliable self. Stepping well from barrier one, Sheemon settled three back on the inner early as Lotalov lead with Donaldson in the trail. After 800 metres Dexter Dunn moved Sheemon out into the running line and had a look for the front but David Butt on Lotalov wasn't keen on handing up so Sheemon settled in the death seat. Passing the 600 metres Sheemon surged to the front and set sail for home and that was the last anyone saw of him as he distanced a quality field. What made the run even more impressive was Sheemon set a new New Zealand record in the process. taking four tenths of a second off the previous mark. Sheemon trotted the 2400 metres from a stand in 3:00.6, a mile rate of 2:01 with closing sectionals of 58.5 and 30.5 Donaldson stuck on well for second albeit 5 1/2 lengths away while Irish Whisper was ok in running into third, a further 6 lengths back. Dexter was full of praise for Sheemon after the race. " He is such a lovely horse to drive "He went to the front on his own down the back and when I clicked him up at the 400 metres he took off" he said Dexter was keen to put the Ashburton run behind him. "We took the overcheck off at Ashburton and it back fired on us "It was back on today and it is staying on" he said The disappointment of the race was last years trotter of the year in Master Lavros who broke early and settled back before getting a charmed run up on the inner. He had run into third 50 metres out before galloping again and was disqualified. While the huge trotter is unsuited to the tight flat track at Kaikoura, his trainer Mark Jones is running out of time to sort the champion trotter out with Cup week only seven days away. With his manners and the form he is in Sheemon looks to be in a great position to finally rid himself of that "bridesmaid" tag in the Group One features over Cup week. Harnesslink Media
The outstanding Love You trotting mare Habibti will be missing from all the trotting features over the New Zealand Cup harness racing carnival after sustaining an injury to a suspensory ligament. A scan at trainer David and Catherine Butt's property this morning confirmed their worst fears and Habibti will have six months off now before being rescaned. A winner of 15 races and over $307K to date, Habibti will be given every chance to overcome the problem with her suspensory. Owner Rob Paterson was very phisophical when contacted by Harnesslink this afternoon. " You have to take the good with the bad in this game and we have had a great run with this mare. " We will scan her in six months and take it from there" he said. Habibti won't be completely idle during that six months as she is due to again have a embryo transfer this season after being served by Majestic Son last year and then having the embryo transfered to a surrogate mare. Rob Paterson is looking to follow the same path this season. "Habibti is going to be served by Angus Hall and then we will look to do another embryo transfer" he said. Habibti became a mum recently when the surrogate mare foaled a Majestic Son filly three weeks ago and then the filly promptly had issues with who her mother was. " The Majestic Son filly swapped mothers again so she has had three mothers and she is only three weeks old", Rob said today. Just when it looked like the open class trotting ranks were overflowing with talent leading into this season, injuries to Habibti and issues with Master Lavros have thrown the feature trots at the New Zealand Cup carnival wide open. Harnesslink Media
A trip across the Tasman for a host of Victoria’s premier harness racing events awaits top trotter Habibti. Earmarking several key targets for the daughter of Love You – including the Dullard Cup at Ballarat on December 13 – trainer David Butt is planning a four-month campaign with his stable flagshsip. The Aussie campaign will conclude with the Great Southern Star at Melton on March 7. Before the international sojourn takes place, Habibti will tackle several homeland features, including the two New Zealand Cup week majors. Beginning with the Group One free-for-all on Cup day, Habibti will back-up three days later in the Dominion Handicap, which doubles as the first leg of the Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters. “She has done well this time in and is getting better with racing,” Butt said. “She will probably have another two starts before Cup day, then race again on the Friday. “After that, all going well, I’ll take her to Australia for the main trotting races before Christmas. “She will stay over there and compete in the various big races leading up to the Great Southern Star.” Having her fourth run from a spell at Addington last Friday night, Habibti overcame a 20-metre back mark to account for Sheemon and Stent. Rating 2:01.7 for the 2600-metre stand, the five-year-old extended her record to 15 wins and 12 placings from 33 starts for earnings of $307,218. “You can never be too confident in that company, but I knew she was in top condition and ready to run a good race,” Butt said. “After getting a good cart up into the race, she race on quite well. “That’s her fourth run this time in and has put her pretty much right at her peak. “Barring the unknown, she will be in perfect shape come Cup week.” PAUL COURTS
Race 1 Winner: Meticulous Trainer: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen Driver: Tim Williams Owners: Phil & Glenys Kennard Bloodstock Ltd, Grant Dickey, Rex & Heather Knowler, Stewart Gillan and Phil Creighton. The For Sale sign has been taken down from the window of Meticulous. For most of this week there was speculation the Christian Cullen four-year-old would be withdrawn from this week’s assignment due to a pending sale which never eventuated. Now, following the impressive geldings eighth win from 21 starts, Mark Purdon is quite keen to keep him in the barn. “It’s probably a bit hard to sell him after that,’’ he said. “He’s had his fair share of problems, but right now he seems the best he has ever been in terms of his calmness. “He could carry on and do quite a nice job I think.’’ Handled expertly by Tim Williams, the speedy pacer crossed the outside of the front line from his 9 barrier and led with ease. Stablemate, Backup sat on his back throughout and was the only one close at the finish when running second. The one for next time: Phoenix Warrior: Left in no man’s land from the barrier draw but managed to weave a path through from near last at the 800 metre mark to finish a bold third. Race 2 Winner: Hug The Wind Trainer: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen Driver: Mark Purdon Owners: Anne & Tony Parker, Jim and Ann Gibbs and Kevin Warneford Mark Purdon might have picked Alta Orlando to win the Sires’ Stake heat but that never meant he didn’t think he couldn’t win it with his drive, Hug The Wind. As it turned out his prediction proved wrong as he and Hug The Wind wore down Natalie Rasmussen and Alta Orlando in the shadows of the post. “He kept giving and trying the whole way up the straight,’’ he said. “He’s a beautiful cut of a horse and he has quite a future. “I would expect he would improve a bit with the run too as he is still carrying a bit of condition.’’ Rasmussen revealed that Alta Orlando’s tendencies to make life difficult for himself by over racing and wanting to things wrong seem to have carried into his three-year-old days. “He’s just fighting a bit too much out there and pulled to hard tonight,’’ she said. “But hopefully with a few good runs under his belt those wee issues might sort themselves out.’’ The All Stars Stable made it a clean sweep of the race by picking up third placing with Change Stride who snuck along the markers to complete a stable trifecta. The one for next time: Zin Zan: Got going quite late in proceedings after looking like he was labouring at the top of the straight. A good run in his first look at the elite company. Race: 3 Winner: Donaldson Trainer: Greg and Nina Hope Driver: Stevie Golding Owners: Greg & Nina Hope, Morrie Molloy, William Middleton and the Coffey Family Syndicate. Greg Hope feels Donaldson deserves a crack at the Dominion Handicap during Cup Week, but he’s not sure whether or not he will get the chance. The consistent trotter mate it win number seven against a small but handy field in the lower grade trot continuing a great run this season for himself and his young driver, Stevie Golding. The pair have footed it with the best in Canterbury and took the opportunity to drop in grade this week and then went and made the most of it. “He’s been really good this time in,’’ Greg Hope said. “I’d like to think he could work his way into the Dominion but he’s quite low in the grades so it might be hard for him. “He definitely deserves a shot though.’’ Golding joined up with the Woodend Beach stable at the start of the season and has been in a purple patch of form winning six races and currently leading the national junior drivers premiership. He showed real patience with the son of Earl keep him held up until he could have one shot at them in the run to the line, snatching victory from the jaws of Rare Opportunity who was a brave runner up. The one for next time: Oh Nova: Nothing really went right for the speedy little trotter. Got caught on the markers but was putting gin some pretty telling strides late in the piece. Race: 4 Winner: Bio Marinus Trainer: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen Driver: Mark Purdon Owners: Lavros Lodge Ltd Usually a horse who takes him time to come to peak fitness after a spell, Bio Marinus has, for this campaign anyway, hit the ground running at full speed. After a bold fresh-up second behind the smart Wesley Silcox last week the Art Major four-year-old was very impressive winning after sitting parked for the last lap and then wearing down a brave Billie’s A Star in the run to the line. “He probably wasn’t travelling that good at the top of the straight. “But each time I asked him for some effort he gave me a little bit more. “He’s not an all and all out star, but he is a very nice horse who will keep doing a good job.’’ Billie’s A Star was massive in defeat and will snare another win at short notice for Phil Burrows. The one for next time: Nicky’s Dynamic: Dragged the three wide line up in the last lap and never gave up the task in the run to the line. Should drop into something a little easier in the coming weeks and be hard to beat. Race: 5 Winner: Habibti Trainer: David and Catherine Butt Driver: David Butt Owners: Robert Paterson, Birchbrook Breeding Ltd, Lynne Paterson David Butt isn’t quite sure what to make of Habibti. The Woodend Beach horseman hasn’t been all that happy with his star performer so far this season, but each time he takes the brilliant mare to the races she seems to lift. That was the case this week when she wore down a star-studded field in the Group 3 Canterbury Park Trotting Cup, showing her blistering turn of foot. “She surprised me a bit to be honest,’’ Butt said. “I haven’t been at all happy with her at home, but she’s certainly lifted when we have taken her to the races that is for sure.’’ Camped off the speed while those in front were running a hot pace, Butt angled Habibti to the middle of the track and she stormed home to win impressively from Mr Consistent AKA: Sheemon with Stent third and Master Lavros fourth. Butt will now point Habibti toward a run at Methven next week off a long handicap in a $13,000 Fillies and Mares’ Trot. Mark Jones reported he was much happier with Master Lavros whose condition told inside the final 200 metres. The one for next time: Superbowlcheerleader: Forced to sit parked on a hot speed the tough mare never shirked the challenge and although beaten she kept fighting. Race: 6 Winner: Tiger Tara Trainer: Geoff Dunn Driver: Gerard O’Reilly Owners: Bob & Jen Sandford, John Gould and Geoff Dunn Don’t be fooled by the narrow margin, Tiger Tara made things look a little more difficult than they were. The Geoff Dunn trained pacer continued his incredible run which should culminate in a run in the New Zealand Trotting Cup with a tradesman like performance in a small, but talented intermediate grade pace. In front and rolling along the tough little pacer showed, again, his liking to allow horses to get close to him before kicking clear again. “He’s just mucking around,’’ Gerard O’Reilly said. “At the end of the race he was actually doing it pretty easily.’’ Dunn will now consider his options looking forward with Tiger Tara already inside the cut off line in the rankings for the Cup. He may look to keep him away from the big guns for as long as possible which could mean he won’t take them on until Cup Day itself. American import, Johny Rock, was a very good second after flying out of the mobile gate and he will continue to improve as he gets more racing under his belt. The one for next time: Mighty Flying Mac: Expect this guy to take huge benefit out of his first up run. He wasn’t far away but clearly his condition told in the closing stages. Race: 7 Winner: Terror To Love Trainer: Graham and Paul Court Driver: Ricky May Owner: Terry McDonald If connections of horses in the New Zealand Trotting Cup weren’t already worried about Terror To Love, they are now. The three-time New Zealand Trotting Cup winners was simply freakish in winning the Canterbury Classic coming from a mile off the speed to breeze on by some quality opposition and win in style. In a typically patient and no fuss fashion, Ricky May never panicked despite at one stage being at least 15 lengths off the leader, Pure Power. Forced wide on the bend, Terror To Love was vulnerable without doubt but he flattened out and stormed into it. “His speed is pretty unreal,’’ May said. “He picked them up pretty easily in the end, it was a really good performance.’’ The win left the camp behind the champ all smiles with Paul and Graham Court both adamant there is still some improvement to come yet. What was more concerning was that he had a small gallop at the beginning of the race. “He actually paced away, and then things got a little tight and I think he got a fright. “I don’t know if we need to be too concerned about it but it doesn’t help the cause.’’ In behind the action there were plenty of meritorious performances. Franco Nelson boomed home from well back as well to nab second while Christen Me who was forced to sit parked on a slick pacer was brave to the end in running third. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen pairing of Hands Christian and Adore Me were both hitting the line well – as was Four Starzzz Flash. The one for next time: Adore Me: She made up a tonne of ground. A really good starting performance from wonderful mare. She won’t be out of contention in a Cup. Race: 8 Winner: Parramatta Trainer: Terry and Glenys Chmiel Driver: Terry Chmiel Owners: Audrey and Thomas Piercy Terry Chmiel has always had a high opinion of Parramatta and this week he showed why. The talented four-year-old entire overcame an outside of the second row barrier draw to win the Super Series final for horses who were graded as CO at the 9th of August. Chmiel took bad luck out of the equation by pushing forward from his back row draw to find the lead within the first 600 metres and from there he dominated – dashing away to win in stylish fashion by a big margin. Out of the former speedy mare Sheng Li, the son of McArdle has had raps on him since day one. “He’s going to be a pretty nice horse in time,’’ Chmiel said following an earlier win. Parramatta was the fifth winner for the stable for the season who set a personal best tally of 36 last term. Brilliant Strike who worked around to sit parked outside the winner kept whacking away up the straight and will win a race at short notice. The one for next time: Bird Of Paradise: Was probably going to run second had it not been for a check late in proceedings. One for odds in the coming weeks. Race: 9 Winner: Hot Pants Trainer: Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen Driver: Mark Purdon Owner: Trevor Casey and Natalie Rasmussen Trevor Casey had double the reason to smile this week. Not only did his star trotter Stent return to form with a good third in the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup but he also produced a winner with Hot Pants who he co-owns along with Natalie Rasmussen. After a luckless resuming run, the speedy little trotter took luck out of the equation by working to the lead early in proceedings before handing the lead to Shell Seeker with a lap left to run. With one cold shot at them the daughter of Majestic Son was too slick The race itself was farcical with gallopers a plenty both early and late in the race. After training six winners for the season prior to the night beginning, Purdon and Rasmussen almost doubled their tally in one night with a quartet of wins. That puts them right up into the top three or four trainers for the season. The one for next time: Indiana Jones: Making up huge ground late in the piece and looks set to be in for a good few months. Trotter with a lot of ability. Race: 10 Winner: Mr Franklin Trainer: Steve Dolan Driver: Blair Orange Owner: Mark Wotton, Max Braithwaite, Neil Struthers, Wayne Milligan, Simon Consedine and John Gould. Good manners, a perfect drive and some good old fashioned luck all led to back-to-back victories for Mr Franklin. The Steve Dolan trained pacer was very good winning a junior drivers race last week when handled perfectly by Tom Bagrie but he stepped up a level again this week to sneak along the markers and grab a very brave Provocative Prince in the shadows of the post. When race favourite, Tokahoka went bush on the bend and extinguished his chances Orange seized on the opportunity to sneak to the inside and grab the dream run along the markers to sneak the win. A four-year-old gelding by Grinfromeartoear has now won four from 22 and placed on a further six occasions. The runner up, Provocative Prince was massive in second after doing plenty of work and only faded in the dying the stages – will win one soon. The one for next time: Johnny Eyre: Came from a long way back again and only needs an ounce of luck before he wins a race – maybe Methven next week? Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand
Woodend trainer-driver David Butt is dismayed as to how his star trotting mare Habibti has been given a 20 metre handicap – 10 metres behind Clover Don and Sheemon who beat her off even terms last start - in Sunday’s D G Jones Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup. “They want to keep the good horses in the country and then they go and treat us like that,” said Butt. “Clover Don has won nearly twice as many races as she has, beaten her fair and square last start, and yet we are expected to start from 10 metres behind him this week.” “It’s an absolute joke. I’ve checked the programs and unless something changes she will be on the first flight to Australia after the Dominion. At least there she will be able to race the open class trotters under free-for-all conditions.” One of Habibti’s main age group rivals, Royal Aspirations, will also get a ten metre buffer on Habibti on Sunday despite having won 16 races, two more than Habibti, and just $17,000 less in prize money. Sheemon also has a similar record and also gets to start off a handicap of just 10 metres. When Butt voiced his concerns to HRNZ Handicapper Andrew Morris, Butt was told Habibti had been given a 20 metre handicap because she had won the Group One Dullard Trotting Cup ($A50,000) at the start of her 4YO season. “That was only her second win for the season and she then returned to New Zealand and raced below her best and was well beaten in open class company twice.” Habibti was then sent for a long spell before winning her resumption in emphatic style on the 5th of September in a race that was below open class quality. She was then a beaten third in the open class Ordeal Cup. “She is yet to win an open class race in New Zealand and here we are giving them a 10 metre start,” Butt rightfully argued. “The handicapper has no one to answer to and apparently what they say goes and there is nothing anyone can say or do about it," he added. However, while Butt is clearly perplexed over her handicap, he is definitely not writing her out of Sunday’s Group 3 feature, especially after the way she trialled on the grass at Motukarara last week when coming her last half in better than 58.5 and easily accounting for both Royal Aspirations and Sheemon. Habibti’s main danger in the race looks to be Stent, who was an emphatic fresh-up winner last week. He will also start of the 20 metre back-mark, however, given that he won, and was placed in, numerous Group Ones last season and earned close on $300,000 his handicap looks far more justified. “It would be stupid of me to say she can’t win now because of course she can, but it is certainly going to make it a lot harder," he concluded. Harnesslink Media
The talented Love You mare Habibti steps back onto a harness racing track for the first time in over seven months when she lines up in the Dominion Trading Company handicap trot at Addington tomorrow night (September 5th). The winner of 13 races from just 29 starts,the David Butt trained and driven mare has been off the scene since the end of January 2014 when not quite at her best. Instead of chasing the big money in Australia, it was decided by everyone involved that a lengthy break was what was required to help her get over all the racing and travel she had done in her career to date. It now looks like a wise decision as Habibti has come back better than ever judging by her couple of serious runs at trials and workouts recently to ready her for tomorrow night. A nice win over Sheemon with closing sectionals of 56.3 and 28.7 showed Habibti had lost none of her trademark speed. She backed that up with a quiet run at last Mondays Rangiora trials where Habibti ran third to race rival Clover Don with closing sectionals of 57.7 and 28.9. Everything points to Habibti being the one they all have to beat tomorrow night but she certainly won't have it all her own way. Clover Don is also having his first run back for the season tomorrow night and the big free going son of Sundon is ready going by Monday's trials run. These days in the barn of Robbie Holmes, Clover Don has had four runs at Addington for his new stable for two wins and two seconds against the elite trotters so ignore him at your peril. The other three trotters off the 25 meters handicap with Habibti and Clover Don are King Of Strathfield (21 wins) Jaccka Justy ( 12 wins) and King Kenny (9 wins) and all three are more than capable of being in the finish but it is hard to see them toppling both Habibti and Clover Don. So for us it is Habibti just in front of Clover Don with the other three backmarkers close up behind the favoured duo. Harnesslink Media
It never takes long in harness racing for a horse to be forgotten when its not racing every week. People move on quickly and focus on what is racing. Habibti 1:56.5T ($283,007) falls squarely into that group as the forgotten superstar of trotting in Australasia. The daughter of Love You had an amazing 3 year old season last year in which she won The New Zealand Trotting Stakes (Group 1), New South Wales Derby (Group 1), New South Oaks (Group 1) and the Victorian Oaks (Group 1) amongst her nine wins. She accounted for Blitzthemcalder, Sheemon, Spidergirl and Royal Aspirations amonst others during the season. Coming back early as a 4 year old, Habibti jumped straight in the deep end and took on Australia's best trotters in Melbourne. The best win was undoubtedly in the Dullard Cup (Group One) where she accounted for Keystone Del, My High Expectations and Aleppo Midas amongst others. Returning to New Zealand, Habibti just started to show signs that all the racing and traveling was taking its toll on her. Trainer/ driver David Butt convinced the owners to miss all the rich plums on offer and give the mare a well deserved break with a view to her coming back bigger and better at five. Prior to that Habibti was served and conceived to top trotting sire Majestic Son and the embryo was transferred to a surrogate mare who is due to foal later in the year. After a lengthy spell Habibti returned to the Butt barn in early May and she is on track to return to the trials in September with a view to being ready for Cup week at Addington. Thought is being given to another embryo transfer early in the new season with Angus Hall and Andover Hall the main sires in consideration. To add further to Habibti's value as a future broodmare is the emergence of her full sister Habibti Ivy who was 11 seconds under the previous New Zealand record for 2400 meters from a stand when she qualified for trainer Paul Nairn in 3:09.5 at Ashburton on Tuesday 29th July. On that run, Habibti Ivy will be a serious player in the 3 year old classics next season. Meanwhile Habibti only needs to reproduce her early 4 year old form to once again become a serious contender in all the major trotting races next season. After looking after Habibti's welfare so well in the last twelve months, David Butt and the ownership group deserve to reap the rewards of their patience over the next twelve months with this outstanding mare. Harnesslink media
Last week was a quiet one for the ring-around with just the two winners. However, T.A.B Bookmaker Steve Richardson did find us some value in the form of $8 and $2.50. Let’s see what good oil the boys have found for us this week. Forbury – Thursday Matthew Williamson: Has opted for Monnay, who is the class horse of the field but and looks a chance despite his huge seventy metre handicap – race six. Nathan Williamson: Rates the chances of Onedin Mach, who should have benefited off his fresh-up fourth. He looks the one to beat in race seven on the card. Jonny Cox: Rates the chances of Homeforabubbly, who looks well placed in the ninth race on the card. Alexandra Park – Friday Simon Lawson: Has selected Westwind Flyer as his best bet of the week – race one. Scott Phelan: Believes Pieces Of My Heart can go one better in the third race on the card. Josh Dickie: Has opted for Katieellen Castleton, who would only need to do things right to win the fourth race. Addington – Friday Stephen Richardson (T.A.B): Has selected Hikoi, who got too far back last start before finishing strongly for fourth. Steps up to 2600m this week which should suit – race two. David Butt: Rates the chances of Stingray, who returned to form last week with a nice win. He meets the same sort of field this week and looks a good each-way chance again - race five. Ricky May: Has opted for the impressive Dalton Bromac. He looks the one they all have to beat in the same event – race five. Craig Thornley: Has opted for Playaway, who was a fast finishing second last start. She looks a good each-way chance in the sixth race. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Spell – race eight. Ashburton – Sunday Mark Jones: Expects smart filly Goodness Gracious Me to prove very hard to beat in the sixth race. Ken Barron: Has opted for Change Time, who returns to mobile racing and has landed the plumb draw. She has produced big runs in her last two outings after missing the kick from standing starts and looks a good chance on Sunday – race eight. John Dunn: Thinks stable newcomer Wesley Silcox, who trialled up nicely on Monday, can keep his unbeaten record intact – race eight.
Last week was a bit quieter for the ring-around with just Matthew Williamson, Ricky May, Ken Barron, David Butt, and Tony Herlihy tipping out winners. Hopefully we can top that performance this week Cambridge - Thursday Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Present Arms - race three. Josh Dickie: Rates juvenile Monterey Jack as good each-way prospect in the sixth race on the card. Alexandra Park - Friday Scott Phelan: Thinks Cyamach, who was an impressive last start winner, can repeat the dose in the fifth race on the card. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Ace Moment in the fourth event. Addington - Friday Craig Thornley: Thinks capabale type Al's Courage will measure up well in what is a very strong line-up - race seven. Samantha Ottley: Would love to win the Darren DeFilippi Memorial and thinks she can with Jayceekay - race seven. Ricky May: Has opted for Dalton Bromac who was super impressive when winning his South Island debut. - race eight. Anthony Butt: Rates Gotta Go Artelect as a good each-way chance in the same event. Blair Orange: Has opted for Franco Tevez, who finished third last start, in the ninth event at Addington. Oamaru - Sunday Matthew Williamson: Has opted for Monnay, who has been herculean when overcoming back handicaps to win his last two starts. He will attempt to do that again in race five. Mark Jones and Jonny Cox: Both think smart filly Goodness Gracious Me, who was super at the recent Motukarara workouts, will prove very hard to beat in the seventh race. Nathan Williamson: Has selected capable three-year-old Onedin Mach, who races well when in a fresh state. He will take all sorts of beating in the ninth race.