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Andrew and Lyn Neal won their second Spring Cup at Alexandra Park last night with a pacer they rate equal in ability to their 2000 Auckland Cup winner, Flight South. They won their first Spring Cup in 2010 when Trigirl Brigade won the 2200m standing start event. This time $13.10 fourth favourite Beyond The Silence proved too strong for Norvic Nightowl and Pembrook Benny in the $25,000 Hydroflow sponsored handicap pace. “He’s only had 14 starts and now this is his seventh win. I have always had a considerable amount of time for him. He’s a quality pacer who has come back well this season. “I just wish Dad was here to watch him race,” said driver Lynn Neal, who co-trains the 5-year-old gelding with her husband Andrew at Cambridge. Dad is former Mid Canterbury conditioner, Frank Bebbington, who passed away in August 2012. “Dad bought him and Andrew and I share the ownership in him with Dad’s estate.  I’d like to race him at Addington one day but this year is a bit too soon. “He needs more racing for that but even at this early stage of his career I rate him right up there with Flight South - and she is one of the best horses we have trained,” Neal (Lyn) said. Beyond The Silence sat in the trail for most of the way behind Te Kawau and Todd Mitchell. Then in the straight he powered along the passing lane to win by a neck and 1-1/2 lengths. He paced the 2200m strand in 2:47.67 (mile rate: 2:02.6) with final 800m and 400m sprint s of 56.7 and 27 even. It was his fourth win in seven starts at Alexandra Park. It was a gutsy performance to win third run back after Beyond The Silence missed most of his 4-year-old season with a fractured cannon bone he suffered in a C2 pace at Addington Raceway on New Zealand Cup Day last year. “It’s been a slow road back but we have always believed in him and tonight he delivered against some of the North Island’s best. “We thought he would go well tonight and he didn’t let us down,” Neal said. The 5-year-old Courage Under Fire gelding won first up after an eight month spell at Alexandra Park on July 11 and then followed that up a third behind Sky Major and Cyamach a fortnight later. He has now won seven of his 14 starts and placed in three others for $59,615. The race didn't pass without some sensation. Averil's Quest was late scratched within minutes of the start of the race after she was found to be lame in the right foreleg. Pembrook Benny earned a tick mark for his fresh up performance - the New Zealand Free-For-All winner made up plenty of ground in his first public outing for the season. Courtesy Of Duane Ranger - Harness Racing New Zealand    

Tony Cameron deserves a break in life.   For the second time his 26 years the South Auckland horseman has defied death.   Cameron, who is employed by Tony and Suzanne Herlihy at Strike Won Stables, was knocked out cold in a training accident at Ardmore on Thursday (September 11) at about 11am.   “I didn’t know a thing about it. I woke up in the hospital on Thursday night. They had to put me under because I was getting too anxious. I think my halfback days were coming back to me.   “Then I thought what am I doing here? I can only tell you what happened from what my workmates told me,” Cameron said.   Cameron, who has driven seven winners since starting out as a junior driver in 2012, was told he was that he was working a filly and the horse in front of him ran out and dislodged him before he was knocked out.   The outer shell of his helmet was torn to shreds. Cameron lay on the track until the ambulance crew arrived from Papakura, which is 10 minutes away.   Cameron spent the weekend in hospital and was released on Monday. He has passed all of his rehab tests and is now just waiting for a clearance to drive.   “I feel as though I can drive now but the doctors have said ‘No’ at this stage. It was just one of those freak accidents. I hope to be back doing light duties the week after next.   “Im not getting the headaches they said I would. I fully understand the risks in the game and I want everyone to know it was absolutely no-ones fault. It was just one of those freak accidents,” said Cameron.   Five years ago Cameron was diagnosed with cancer. He was told he had Hodgkin's Lymphoma (also known as Hodgkin's disease). The cancer originated from white blood cells called lymphocytes.   Cameron said if hadn't contracted the disease he may never have followed his father Dale into the harness racing game.   "I'm the youngest of four children in our family and the only one who got into harness racing. When I left high school I did brick laying for a couple of years and then worked as an engineering labourer.   "Then when I got cancer I thought life was too short and it was time I did something I really enjoyed. I learnt the basic skills off Dad and have been working for Tony Herlihy at Ardmore for just over a couple of years now. He has been really good to me and taught me heaps. You can see why he is a champion horseman," Cameron said.   Cameron is bred to be a top horseman. His father Dale has trained and driven more than 30 winners, while Dale's cousin - Robert was the 1993 World Driving Champion in Macau.   Cameron was born on December 3, 1987 in Southland but shifted to Pukekohe when he was two. He was educated at Waiuku College. Courtesy Duane Ranger - Harness Racing New Zealand

One of New Zealand’s most successful harness racing owner/breeders also knows how to cover himself when it comes to the punt. Terry McDonald, the man who owns and bred three-time New Zealand Cup winner, Terror To Love, has put $500 to win on outsider Hands Christian in the big Group One race on November 11. If Hands Christian does win McDonald stands to collect $10,500. But he would give that all away in a heartbeat to see Terror To Love create harness racing history and win the Cup for a fourth consecutive year. McDonald got Hands Christian at $21. He’s now at $15 after opening at $51. “I backed him because I honestly believe he will be one of the hardest to beat on Cup Day. He beat us in the Easter Cup and went very well against us in Auckland. “I also backed him prior to his nice trial this week,” In that trial at Ashburton (Tuesday) the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained Hands Christian finished a length behind Smolda and Terror To Love. “I thought the horse went really well and reaffirmed my bet. As for ‘Terror’ he’s peaking nicely. I was rapt with that run. He was timed from post to post (last 800m) in 53.2, and both the trainers and driver think he’s still got a lot of improving in him. “He’s also a sensible bet,” McDonald said. New Zealand’s Wellington based harness racing bookmaker, Steve Richardson, who is close friends with McDonald, said he couldn’t believe the Hands Christian bet. “I rang him and said ‘what are you doing?’. I said I’m going to tell the press about you betting on an outsider and he laughed, and said ‘go for it’. “If he won this would easily be our worst result. Just goes to show what a champ both he and Terror To Love are. He has backed the horse each time, even though he calls himself a ‘goose punter’,” Richardson said. He said his mate had understandably been a bit down and believed a story like this would lift his spirits and make him laugh a bit. Life hasn’t been easy for 73-year-old McDonald of late. He is still grieving the loss of his younger Ken (69) who passed away unexpectedly in Brisbane last month. “Yes I don’t think I will ever get over that. I’m still hurting a lot, but I know he is with me. I’ve just had a tooth out today and then in a couple of weeks (24th) I have to undergo a back operation. “I had an operation eight years ago and they are now going to replace all the nuts and bolts. It needs to be done, but I’m furious that I will miss ‘Terror’s’ first run back in the Avon City Ford Cup,” McDonald said. McDonald was hoping the John McCarthy trained and Luke McCarthy driven For A Reason will make the trip over from Sydney for the New Zealand Cup. “We want the best possible field and For A Reason placed in this year’s Inter Dominion Final. It would be really fitting because my brother had a quarter share in him,” McDonald said. Courtesy Of Duane Ranger - Harness Racing New Zealand

The powerful Clevedon combination of Barry Purdon and Zac Butcher won the major training and driving honours - while Purdon trained 3-year-olds also won two age-group titles at the 2014 A Rocknroll Dance North Island Harness Racing awards ceremony at Alexandra Park last night. More than 300 people flocked to the Tasman Room to watch the 21 awards handed out. Fifty nine-year-old Purdon won the Veterinary Associates Equine and Farm North Island Trainer of the Year, while 23-year-old Butcher won the IRT North Island Driver of the Year. Their age group stars Sky Major and Ideal Belle won the Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3yo Colt/Gelding and Filly of the Year awards respectively. Purdon trained Pembrook Benny, Sky Major, Maxim and Ideal Belle to Group One victories in 2013-2014. Butcher also drove the Ray Green trained Beaudiene Boaz in the Harness Jewels 2yo Emerald Final at Cambridge Raceway. Pembrook Benny won the NZ Free-For-All at Addington on November 15. Sky Major cleaned up the 3yo Emerald Jewels Final at Cambridge on May 31. Ideal Belle also won the New Zealand Oaks at Addington on May 16. Maxim nailed the Victoria Derby at Melton on February 8. Sky Major was second. The same two horses also produced the quinella in Group One Sires Stakes 2yo Final the season before. “You are only as good as the team around you. This is an honour. We had a very good season and I’m grateful to all my staff for that,” Purdon said. Purdon trained 39 winners from 199 starters last season and amassed $953,433 in stakes. Butcher saluted the judge 72 times from his 551 drives. He banked $1.23m in purses. “I drive to win and night’s like this are a real bonus. I’m very proud to have won this award because there are so many good drivers out there. “I am lucky to be part of a very strong stable. Barry is a legendary trainer,” Butcher said. In other highlights Maurice McKendry won the Sir Lincoln at Lincoln Farms NI Achievement Award, while Richard and Julija Brosnan won the night’s most prestigious (and final) award of the evening – the A Rocknroll Dance Alabar Nevele Stud NI Award for Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing. Adore Me’s victories in the Group One $100,000 Queen Of Hearts Pace and the Group Three $30,000 Northern Breeders Stakes assured her the Auckland Trotting Club’s Aged Pace Of the Year title. The Charlie Roberts co-owned and bred champ also won the Caduceus Club’s NI Filly/Mare of the Year. In fact Roberts himself collected two awards winning the Garrards Horse and Hound NI Owner of the Year, and the Hygain NI Breeder of the Year 2014 A ROCKNROLL DANCE NORTH ISLAND HARNESS RACING AWARDS - WINNERS Glen Elgin Farm North Island Groom of the Year - Amanda Kiddie Dunstan North Island Amateur Driver of the Year -John Kriechbaumer Magness Video Ltd / Vid-Com LtdNorth Island Licence to Train /Owner – Trainer of the Year - Andrew Grant Mitavite North Island Junior Driver of the Year - Sailesh Abernethy PGG Wrightson North Island 2 year old Colt or Gelding of the Year - Beaudiene Boaz                       PGG Wrightson North Island 2 year old Filly of the Year - Linda Lovegrace Breckon Farms North Island 2 year old Trotter of the Year - Yagunnakissmeornot Breckon Farms North Island 3 year old Trotter of the Year - Mum’s Pride Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3 year old Colt or Gelding of the Year - Sky Major Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3 year old Filly of the Year - Ideal Belle               Garrards Horse and Hound North Island Owner of the Year - Charles Roberts Caduceus Club North Island Filly / Mare of the year - Adore Me                                Hygain North Island Breeder of the Year - Charles Roberts IRT North Island Driver of the Year -  Zac Butcher Veterinary Associates Equine and Farm North Island Trainer of the Year - Barry Purdon Equine Veterinary Services  North Island Broodmare of the Year - Scuse Me                North Island Stallion of the Year - Bettor’s Delight                                       Harness Racing New Zealand North Island Trotter of the Year - Irish Whisper                          Auckland Trotting Club North Island Aged Pacer of the Year - Adore Me                                Sir Lincoln at Lincoln Farms North Island Racing Achievement Award - Maurice McKendry A Rocknroll Dance/Alabar/Nevele R Stud North Island Award for Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing - Richard and Julija Brosnan Courtesy Duane Ranger - Harness Racing New Zealand

Simon McMullan has decided to end his junior driving days on a high. The 25-year-old Franklin horseman steered Take A Hint to victory on co-trainer David Butcher’s 50th birthday at Cambridge Raceway last Thursday night – and then said that’s his race-day driving was all done and dusted. “Who knows I might return to the sulky one day, say if I lease a trotter and have to drive him, but that’s it for now. “I certainly won’t be driving as an open horseman next year. I want to concentrate on one thing at a time. I’m in a privileged position working for Steven and I want to keep improving as a trainer. “That’s where my focus is now,” McMullan said. Take A Hint won the last race of the season at Cambridge. He and McMullan sat in the trail and then pounced to win the $7,000 Fairview Motors Mobile for C2-C4 pacers. They won by three quarters of a length pacing the 2200m mobile in a slick 2:42.8 with final 800m and 400m sprints of 58.5 and 29.8 seconds. The black Washington V C gelding won with a 1:59 mile rate. It was the 4-year-old’s fifth win in 28 starts. He was the third favourite and paid $8 to win. “He’s a nice horse. Not many pacers can go 2:42 and that tells me he’s got a couple of wins left in him yet. “It’s a drive I won’t forget in a while,” McMullan said. Pukekohe-based McMullan has driven 55 winners since taking out his licence in 2008. He’s also placed 130 times from his 648 starts, and won $428,521 in stakes. Training-wise he has won 29 races and just over $360,000 since joining forces with Reid at the start of the season. They finished 19th on the national training premiership. But McMullan has been with ‘The Reid Man’ for eight years now. “Steven had no right to make me a partner in his stable at the start of the season. He has rewarded me for my loyalty to him and for that I’m extremely grateful. “That’s why I want to give the driving away. I want to repay Steven’s faith in me and keep doing my best and learning from him,” McMullan said. McMullan’s first training wins came via Roger Ramjet and Sweet Jane in races one and four at Alexandra Park on August 16. McMullan was educated at Burnside High School and has worked for Brent Lilley, Brendon Hill and Doug Gale prior to coming to Reid’s Pukekohe stable. His work ethic soon ensured he was stable foreman before being promoted to a partner on August 1. Reid and McMullan are working a team of about 25 out of the Franklin Trotting Club’s complex on Station Road. “We’ve got some nice young horses coming through the ranks. Potentially I think our rising 3-year-old Art Major colt - Zennart is the most promising racehorse we have got. He won really well first-up at Alexandra Park on Friday. “My ambition is to train a Group One winner next season. Hopefully some of the younger horses or perhaps Unforgiving can do that for us,” McMullan said. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Harness racing trainers' Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick have never had a horse line up in a Breeders Crown Final before, but they won’t be too perturbed if Cyamach doesn’t make the trip across the Tasman next month. “It all depends how he comes through his next race at Alexandra Park on July 25, but after Friday’s race we couldn’t be happier with him,’’ Telfer said. “We will make a decision on the Breeders Crown then. “If we do decide to go he will race over there (Victoria) on August 17 and 24.’’ Cyamach was an impressive winner of last Friday’s fifth event at Alexandra Park – the $14,999 Prudentia Law Mobile for the C2 to C5 pacers. Scott Phelan rushed the recent Winter Cup winner to the lead from barrier five soon after the start of Friday’s 2200m mobile. From there they dictated all the pace to easily win in wet conditions by 2-1/4 lengths in 2:44 even. Central Districts visitor Te Kawau (Todd Mitchell) was an impressive first-up second after sitting outside of Cyamach for the last lap. Cyamach paced a creditable 1:59.9 mile rate in the wet and windy conditions. He sped his last 800m and 400m in 56.6 and 27 seconds. It was his ninth win in 36 starts. His bank balance stands at $154,926. Someone knew Cyamach would win. NZ harness racing bookmaker, Steve Richardson said he received a $5,000 win bet on Friday afternoon on Cyamach at $2.60. That was his also closing price. Telfer is really starting to warm to the exploits of talented 4-year-old. “He’s going really well at the moment. He’s really started to strengthen up and mature lately. He’s a nice horse who has always had speed. But now that he’s strengthened up he’s turned the corner again. “He’s the best we have got.’’ The former Australian, who came to New Zealand from rural New South Wales in 1995, said he was really enjoying his work at present. “We have a nice team, great staff, and a very nice place to work. “Chris is great to work with and Scotty (Phelan) is doing a brilliant job in the sulky,” the 43-year-old horseman said. “I can’t forget my sister Amanda (Tidswell) too. It’s a team effort,” he added. While a Breeders Crown trip would be a real highlight, Telfer said the desire to remain in NZ and focus on some our big races was huge. “It would be nice to win a Breeders Crown but to be honest I’d prefer to win a big Group One race here. “If Cyamach does go then he’s going to have to step up to the next level. Even though there will be some nice 4-year-olds missing good ones like Lennytheshark and Chilli Palmer will be there. “He will either go to Australia or be spelled after his next race,” Telfer said. He said he was quite happy to target the Group One 4&5-year-old races like the Taylor Mile and NZ Messenger with Cyamach next season. Looking to the future Telfer said to watch out for a Grinfromeartoear-Spicey colt named Ashton K. “He’s a rising 3-year-old who has been up for a while now. He trialled real nice as a 2-year-old and we have all got a lot of time for him.’’ By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)    

Waikato trainer and administrator Rob Lawson will go into partnership with his son Simon on August 1. Lawson senior will train out of Newstead in the Waikato while Simon will train a team at Pukekohe. “We intend on having a boutique stable of perhaps eight or nine horses, but they will all race in my name. “We could register them in both names but we felt it might jeopardise Simon’s chances of getting more drives,’’ Lawson snr said. “He’s already driving for top trainers like Ray Green, Steven Reid, and Geoff Small when he can. He’s a naturally talented driver who can send them, and save them, when he has to.’’ He said he would head up to Pukekohe regularly to see how Simon is getting on. He believed his son had what it took to be a good trainer. “I’m biased but I know he’s a top driver and I also know he’s been around horses all of his life - so he certainly knows what training is all about. As well as working for me he’s also worked for Peter Simpson, Steven Reid and Geoff Small. He’s learnt a lot from a lot of people.’’ The Lawsons’ will swap their team around from time to time racing at both Cambridge Raceway and Alexandra Park. “We will also be looking to entice South Island owners and trainers to send their horses north to us. I’m vice president at Cambridge but I realise the stakes in Auckland are too good to ignore, so it makes sense to race there. “Even second-placed money at Alexandra Park is nice. Having two stables reinforces our commitment to the industry. I am also going to be the trainers and drivers rep on the harness racing executive – so as you can see the industry means a lot to me and my family.’’ The Nathan Williamson trained The Wonkey Donkey was a recent South Island addition to Lawson’s stable. While in the north the 4-year-old Thanksgiving gelding recorded two seconds and two thirds. Lawson has trained 41 winners from 362 starters since 1991 and he’s also placed 67 times for $248,278 in stakes. His best year was last season when he trained eight winners. This year Lawson has won four times from 12 attempts. Son, Simon on the other hand has had a season in the sulky he will never forget. He won his first group One race behind the Green trained Besotted at Alexandra Park on May 2. That was one of 24 winners for him so far this season – 23 fewer than his best season in 2010. All up Lawson has won 166 of his 1,516 drives. He’s also placed on 322 occasions for $1.3 million in purses. Not a bad effort considering he only started driving in 2009. The Lawsons’ currently have Ton Tine going around at the moment. That son 4-year-old son of Monarchy has won three of his 23 starts “We’ve also got an exciting young rising 2-year-old named Van Mara. We bought him at the yearling sales and he is quite talented. We have a lot of time for him.’’ By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Kristie Hill has always wanted to campaign a horse at Alexandra Park and now thanks to her father Brian and enigmatic trotter Sunchita, she fulfilling that dream. Hill snr, who trains in Nelson, took Sunchita to Auckland and Kristie took over the reins a couple of days before the 6-year-old mare had her first race at Alexandra Park last Friday. Sent out a $3.40 second favourite and under the guidance and driving exploits of Tony Herlihy, the daughter of Sundon never looked like losing. Away well from her 10 metre handicap, Sunchita settled handy to the pace before Herlihy sent her forward to find the lead at the 500 metre mark from where she simply out-trotted her opponents – winning by 1 ½ lengths. It was Sunchita’s third consecutive win, fifth this season, and seventh in a career spanning 51 starts. She’s now banked $52,101. “She had to earn her trip up north and prove to us she was worthy of going up there and she did that at Nelson.’’ Hill senior said. “I have campaigned Single Lord and McShane up there before but this is the first time Kristie has been in Auckland with one of our team. “She has lots of friends up there and she always believed Sunchita would go well that way around because that’s the only way we train her back home.’’ He said Sunchita would have two more starts at Alexandra Park over the next two Fridays before returning home. The father and daughter combination both believe the often frustrating trotter has finally turned the corner and put it all together on the track. “If she keeps improving the way she is, well who knows she could start in the Dominion Handicap in November, I don’t want to get ahead of myself but that is the goal. “It’s every trainer’s dream to have a horse line up in either the Dominion or Rowe Cup.’’ Kristie is staying with Steve and Ann Phillips in Waiau Pa, while Sunchita is being stabled half an hour away at Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis’s Waiuku barn. “She loves being beach trained and the wet track on Friday would have suited her, she has really turned the corner now,’’ Kristie said. “We haven’t made too many changes to her gear. “Once upon a time she either finished first or last because of her tendency to gallop. “I think we can put her recent improvement down to maturity.’’ Hill, who is the former Education Manager for Harness Racing New Zealand, said the stakes at Alexandra Park also swayed their decision to bring Sunchita north. “The money on offer was too good to resist and I always wanted to bring her up here because I felt she would go better this way around. “It was a great performance first-up and a brilliant drive by a brilliant reinsman.’’ Hill is a graduation driver who has won 12 races since 1998. She has also placed 38 times from 293 starts for $93,897 in stakes. Two of those wins have come aboard Sunchita while Blair Orange and Jimmy Curtin have also won on her twice prior to Herlihy’s victory on Friday night. Hill said she wasn’t tempted to jump in the sulky and have a drive around Alexandra Park on this trip and was happy to leave the driving duties to Herlihy. “No I won’t be getting in the sulky when I’m up there, why would you put me in the sulky when one of the best drivers in the world can do the business?” Brian and Kristie own Sunchita and also bred her. She is the third of six foals (and most successful) out of Hills’ three-win Dancing Master mare, Carmenchita, who was also trained by Hill. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Sam Ottley just keeps breaking records and now the Canterbury driver has her sights set on a couple of other milestones before this season comes to a close. The brilliant young horsewoman’s tally of 42 wins for the season makes her the most successful female junior driver in terms of races won – beating off the old mark held by Jo Herbert of 39 which she set in 1998. And now the 23-year-old is determined to win what she terms the “coveted” junior driving premiership. “That is the main goal now, I’ll drive anywhere to win that,” Ottley said. “I’m also proud of the most-female-wins-in-a-season record as well. “I didn’t realise I had achieved it, this all means so much to me. I love driving and I want to be successful.’’ The female junior driver record for wins in a season came just two months after Ottley created more junior driving history at Forbury Park. The Geraldine-born and educated horse woman became the first ever female junior driver to notch up 100 wins when she reined the Michael House trained appropriately named Gogirl Bromac in race one – the Dunedin City Ford maiden trot on April 17. Ottley is one win clear of the her closest junior driver rival in Sailesh Abernethy, who applied a little more pressure with a winning double at Cambridge last night. She is also three wins clear of Natalie Rasmussen – the country’s second best reinswoman in terms of wins. “It would be great to beat them both, especially Sailesh because I’m getting near the end of my junior driving days and I would love to go out a champion. “The Junior Driving Premiership would be the ultimate way to end the season.’’ Kirsten Barclay was the last female to win the junior driving premiership. That was in in the 2004-2005 season when she won 32 races from 315 drives. Ottley has now driven 112 winners from 1,317 drives since first taking out her licence in 2008-2009. She’s also placed 212 times for $815,799. “It’s been a memorable year. It’[s hard to believe I’ve created a couple of firsts this year. I’m so happy because they can never the achievements away from me.’’ She said other career highlights included winning her first race-day drive behind her mother Denise’s horse Nigel Paul; winning the Geraldine Cup on Just Rose for Colin and Julie (De Filippi) and representing New Zealand at the Australasian Junior Driving Champs (third by a point). Ottley paid a tribute to her mother, Timaru trainer Murray Tapper, the De Filippi’s, and all the owners and trainers who put her on their horses. In an effort to enhance her chances of winning the junior drivers premiership, Ottley is currently on loan to the Woodend Beach stable of Robert and John Dunn with De Filippi low on racing numbers currently. She heads to Forbury Park tonight in search of adding to her season tally with a promising book of five drives. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

John Hay came within a head of ruining Ineka Lee’s big day at Oamaru yesterday. Hay and his drive, Good Deed, did their best to hold Lee and Franco Nate, their stablemate, out in the third event at Oamaru on Sunday – but Lee, with a little more horsepower up her sleeve, shot along the passing lane to not only score the victory, but also record her first winning drive. The 27-year-old Canterbury reinswoman has worked for Hay, who is also her partner, at his Ashburton stables since her College work experience days - back in the fourth form. “I was 13 when I first started working for John, so it’s been a long time - and then on Sunday he almost denied me my first win,’’ Lee said. “I thought he was actually going to hang on and win but his horse was a bit light on work going into the race and tied up in the last 50m. “It’s been a long-time coming but it’s great to get that first win out of the way. “I actually thought I was going to win behind my first drive at Addington - that was a while ago.’’ That first drive came just 10 starts ago when she finished a brave second on Daughtry Bromac at Addington. “John thought I should get my licence since I knew the horses pretty well and drive a lot of them at the trials and workouts, I never really wanted to get it but now that I’ve had a taste of winning I want more. “I think my next drive will be behind him (Franco Nate) again, I know him pretty well. “The owners – the ‘Two Eye Cee’ Syndicate are great people and have been loyal owners of John’s for years.’’ Franco Nate trailed Good Deed throughout Sunday’s $7,000 PGG Wrightson maiden pace. He won going away in 3:24.8 (mile rate for the 2600m stand: 2:06.7), with final 800m and 400m bursts of 58.2 and 27.8 seconds. It was the black 3-year-old Live Or Die gelding’s first win in two starts. Lee also ran second with him on debut at Ashburton on June 1. But Lee, who has one standardbred and one thoroughbred in training, is no stranger to winning. She’s also trained three galloping winners – the first being Hundred Pipers at Riccarton in May 2011. “I love thoroughbreds, I love the challenge of getting a flighty horse and training him or her into an equine athlete. “I’ve broken a bone in my foot and can’t ride again until I get it operated on. “At one stage I had five gallopers in work, but it’s all harness at John’s now. “He has a strong team. We’ve got 15 in at the moment. The best of them going around would be Jimmy Johnstone.’’ Lee was born in Nelson and educated at Waimea College before relocating to Ashburton and Ashburton College in the fourth form (Year 10). “I used to ride hacks but never knew or wanted to know anything about harness racing until I went to the Ashburton trots one day…I loved it. “I originally mucked out boxes for galloping trainer Shane Marr but it wasn’t long after I got work experience with John. “I left school in the sixth form (Year 12), so I’ve been with John 13 or 14 years now. I love working with standardbreds. “They are beautiful animals, but I’m also a thoroughbred girl as well, I just love horses. For the record - the Hay quinella in Lee’s most memorable race, paid just $3.50. They were first and second favourites. Franco Nate was bred by Spreydon Lodge. He is the first foal out of the un-raced Courage Under Fire mare, Neversaynever Franco. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

A belief in the direction that the Auckland Trotting Club is taking; and the future of the Franklin Training track; were two major reasons why John Street is relocating Lincoln Farm’s harness racing business from Kumeu to Pukekohe. Street recently bought the National Bloodstock property on Golding Road right adjacent to the Franklin track. He is currently spending another $500,000 upgrading the property into a racing stable. “It’s going to take a couple of months before we can move in because hardly anything has been done on the place for 20 years,'' Street said. “But I’ve got six contractors working on site now. The place has up to 60 horse boxes, so we are able to relocate all 30 of our harness horses. "This also includes 21 rising 2-year-olds. "It took a bit of time planning and negotiating but we are pleased with the purchase.'' Street said the Lincoln Farms in Kumeu would continue to house broodmares and stallions. “The property hasn’t sold yet but we are in no hurry, it is serving a very good purpose now." Street said his team could now just walk through to the Franklin track rather than the current situation where they had to be transported into Kumeu or Alexandra Park to work. “The Franklin track is in a much better state and is regularly maintained, the boys do a good job out there and I believe it will be improved even more to make it the Auckland Trotting Club’s major training centre. “The Auckland Club is doing a good job and I want to support them as much as possible. "We both see Pukekohe as the training centre of the future and personally for us the best place to further our success. “Ray (Green - trainer) and all the staff will relocate, it will be the same team with Simon Lawson, Maurice McKendry, and Zac Butcher being used as our drivers." The 69-year-old Auckland businessman who sold his Pak Save Supermarket last year, said he was now spending his retirement developing his thoroughbred and standardbred enterprises. “We are looking to have 10 per cent of our gallopers race with our trainer Lisa Latta in Singapore, and we will continue to promote our popular harness racing syndicates as well. “We have virtually sold Beaudiene Boaz to Gary Hall in Perth and the boys in that syndicate invested about $10,000 and made $40,000 each on him.” “Ian Middleton is overseeing 10 syndicates for us now, and we have got lots of people, especially South Islanders keen to get in. "I think people are realising now that we don’t keep the horse unless we make money." Street said he enjoyed syndicating standardbreds – simply because they were not difficult to sell on. “They are also easy to sell to Australia for a good price if they have or have not met their grade here,” he added. Meanwhile, Street said it was unlikely he would be relocating to Pukekohe. “I am very happy here in Half Moon Bay. Lincoln Farms was the brainchild of Street and his late great mate Graham Blackburn. The company has been in operation for more than three decades having commenced modestly with two horses in 1985 and has now won well in excess of than 300 races and millions in stakes money. Their greatest victory came via Sir Lincoln in the 2012 Auckland Cup. Their most tightly assessed horse is 14-win recent Taylor Mile winner, Besotted. Lincoln Farms has won numerous age races, the most recent of them being Group $150,000 Emerald 2yo Colts and geldings Jewels winner, Beaudiene Boaz. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Abbey Holdaway says she owes her first training victory to her boss and partner, Todd Mitchell. The 26-year-old Waikato horseman had her green, white, and black colours in the winner’s circle for the first time when Celeris won the Cambridge Primary Mobile Trot at Cambridge Raceway on Tuesday. “It was a huge thrill," she said. "Actually I was excited just getting my trainer’s licence, but now after six starts this happens....I’m still buzzing.” After stints with Geoff Small and Dale Cameron, Holdaway was actually looking for employment in the administration sector when Mitchell offered her part-time work. “I used to manage the Royal Oak Tab for a couple of years but always loved working with horses. "I didn’t think I could earn an income in the harness racing industry again until Todd offered me work." And then when Gene Robb left Mitchell’s early this year, Holdaway was offered full-time employment working alongside the four-time New Zealand Cup winning reinsman. She helps Mitchell work his team of about 13 in Tauwhare, as well as her only horse in training – Celeris. “I paid $2,000 for him off Adrienne Matthews in March last year. "Chris Gillies then trained him for me before I got my licence. "I had my first start with him in March. His previous best finish for me was sixth,” Holdaway said. Celeris drew 10 of 10 at Cambridge on Tuesday and was characteristically slow away. Mitchell had the Pegasus Spur gelding in sixth place (three-back on the outer) at the bell and then took lead at the 400m. They hung on to win by three quarters of a length, trotting the 2200m mobile in 2:48.8 (mile rate: 2:03.4) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 61.5 and 30.5. He was rank outsider and paid a whopping $83.40 to win. “He’s such a slow starter especially from stands, and I thought he might have gone a bit better from the mobile - and he did. "He was slow away again but it was a nice confident drive by Todd. “I won’t forget this win in a very long time,” Holdaway said. Holdaway was born in Auckland and educated at Pukekohe High School. “I wasn’t born into a harness racing family but soon learnt all about it when I was working for Geoff and then Dale. “Todd has also taught me heaps and I'm grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to train. "I am really enjoying it, I have no desire to drive – I’ll leave that to the professionals. “I would like to sell Celeris now and then perhaps lease another one. “I’m totally hooked,” she said. Holdaway shares in the ownership of Celeris with Neill and Aaron Bowrey. The 6-year-old was bred by Matthews, Johnnie Butcher and Philippa. Butcher. He is the 12th of 13 foals out of Game Pride mare, Game Robinson. Trained and driven by the late Max Robinson, Game Robinson won five races between 1989 and 1992. Her last foal – The Fat Controller (by Britewell) – was her most successful in New Zealand, winning 11 races and just over $150,000. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

1:51 miler Pure Power will arrive back in New Zealand tomorrow (Tuesday), 17 months after joining Nicole Molander’s New South Wales barn. The 2012 New Zealand Free-For All runner-up will now be spelled and then brought back for the New Zealand Cup and lead-up races at Addington Raceway in the spring. But to do that he will first have to overcome a muscle-tear which he copped when finishing seventh in the Society 389 Free-For-All at Tabcorp Park Menangle on May 10. It was Pure Power’s first run back since February and Molander said it was unfortunate because he had been trialling well prior to the injury. Original co-trainer, Dave McGowan said the horse now needed the expertise of his wife Clare – a renowned equine physiotherapist, and also co-owner and trainer of the rising 8-year-old. “It sounds like an injury which Clare could treat,’’ McGowan said. “He’s pulled a muscle in his rump so we will get him home and get Clare to manipulate him – and then we will put him out for while. “It’s good timing because Clare gets home from England this week.’’ Both McGowan and Molander believed Pure Power’s 23-race stint in Australia had been a success. He won four of those starts and placed four more times for $177,035 in stakes. The bay won in 1:51 and placed in 1:50.6 and also won the Group Three $40,000 Ilsley Cup at Menangle on May 25 last year. He also ran third behind Baby Bling in the 2013 Miracle Mile. “It will be great to have him back, Nicole, who is like a daughter to me, has done a wonderful job with him. “He will probably end up with Nicole and Dean next year but for now it’s all about diagnosing his injury and then treating it. “If he does come back okay he can only really race at Addington because he can’t go the right-handed way around. “We would probably send him down to the beach for the lead-up races to the Cup. “There’s nothing for him at Cambridge, so that’s his only New Zealand option really.’’ Pure Power won on debut (with Tony Herlihy (MNZM) in the bike) at Cambridge Raceway back on July 1 2010. The Grinfromeartoear gelding has had 31 starts in New Zealand, winning nine of them and placing four times. His biggest win came on May 8, 2011 when he won the Group Three $50,000 Rangiora Classic. His last start in this country, on November 16, 2002, saw him run second behind Gold Ace in the New Zealand Free-For-All. His career stats now read 54 starts, 13 wins, six seconds, two thirds and $301, 202 in purses. “It’s a shame he can’t be treated in Australia, a vet can only do so much but physiotherapists can actually treat and cure the problem. “Personally I don’t think there are not enough equine physiotherapists in harness racing – and to me that is a shame. “It’s weird because every sports athlete or team has one. “I’m just so grateful for the skills that Clare has, I have learnt so much from her. “Without her skills there was no way in the world Be Seein Ya would have won at Alexandra Park last week. “She was a cripple until Clare worked on her.’’ By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

If prominent American owner/breeders Gordon Banks and Mark Hanover could win one aged Group One race in New Zealand it would be a Harness Jewels Final. The Florida-based cousins are the only owners in the world to have won Breeders Crown finals in both North America and Australia, but have yet to win a Harness Jewels crown. “That would be a dream come true,’’ Banks told HRNZ from his Miami base. “The only reason we own horses is to win the big races. “Sure the New Zealand Cup and an Inter Dominion Final would be nice but we don’t usually race aged pacers so a Jewels title would cap it off nicely. Banks and Hanover could get their wish on May 31 when the Jewels leader they own - Joanne’s A Delight lines up in the $150,000 2YO Fillies Diamond Pace at Cambridge Raceway. Both men stayed up until 3.30am last Friday to watch Joanne’s A Delight win their first New Zealand Group One race. The Nigel McGrath trained daughter of Bettor’s Delight won the $150,000 Magness Benrow Sires Stakes Championship. “I couldn’t get to sleep after watching the race, I must have watched the replay five times and she won every time. “Then when I tried to get to sleep I kept seeing the race in my head. “It was a great night despite the lack of sleep,” Banks said. His cousin agreed saying it was one of the recent highlights in their ‘Down Under’ racing careers. “We have won two New Zealand Messengers and Tupelo Rose won almost every aged Group race down there, but this was a real highlight,’’ Hanover said. “Nigel has got her in fantastic condition for the big races this month. “It was also a great drive from Anthony Butt, to win the Jewels Final would be a dream come true.’’ The cousins have won numerous Group One races in both hemispheres. They won the North American and Australasian Breeders Crown Finals with Molly Can Do It (2002) and Passions Promise (2010). Alert Fulla and Tupelo Rose also won the 1990 and 2001 New Zealand Messenger Championships at Alexandra Park. “The year Molly Can Do It won the Breeders Crown, Tupelo Rose also ran third in the race. “She is the best ‘Down Under’ horse we have owned,” Hanover said. Banks and Hanover said there was a possibility that they could fly to Cambridge to watch their filly line up a favourite in the Yarndley sponsored Group One Final. “It would be great to get down there again and see her race in the flesh, but it all depends on our commitments up here. “I was in New Zealand and Australia for 10 weeks this year as a guest at the Inter Dominion final. “I did some sight-seeing and also went to the Sales in both countries. “If we can’t make it we will certainly be glued to the TV. “She’s a real darling and I think we are going to have a lot of fun with her,” Banks said. “I’d love to come as well but it depends on our commitments up here, It’s a long way to Tipperary,” Hanover added. The cousins fell in love with harness racing in New Zealand three decades ago and then became even more hooked when they brought Presidential Ball. They bought his first two foals – Lets Thank Heaven and Its Forever Now, which both went on to win Group One races. “We fell in love with harness racing in New Zealand a long time ago and still love it. That’s why we keep attending your sales there and in Australia,’’ Banks said. “To be frank racing in North America is boring. “Mobile mile races day in and day out is all you get, It’s very monotonous and the only time you get a crowd up here is for the big races. “The rest of the time the tracks are empty, you guys put on a great show down there and we are proud to be a part of it. The pair have about half a dozen horses, all youngsters, with McGrath at Weedons. They bought two Bettor’s Delights at this year’s yearling Sale and two last year. Their stock includes 2yo fillies - Cyclone Charlie (Rock N Roll Hanover – Eyre To The Throne); Baileys Gold (Bettor’s Delight – Baileys Pearl); and 2yo colt Listentothemusic (Bettor’s Delight – Shoshana Hall). By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

When David Branch leaves New Zealand bound for London on Sunday June 1 he will know he has played a huge part in developing possibly a world first at the Auckland Trotting Club. The former assistant racing manager, and now sales and marketing coordinator at the ATC, has been the leading force behind the club’s new-look website which will be launched on May 23. The website will stream all of its weekly race-card, as well as non-totes, Kidz Kartz Races and in fact all Alexandra Park happenings on race-night via APTV. “We have been working on this launch for several months now. It will be sad to walk away from it all just as it’s taking off – but I will walk away satisfied knowing a new revolution in racing has been forged,” Branch said. “The website will also have individual driver pages with their latest tips and information, as well as video interviews. But it is APTV that excites me the most. I don’t know of any other club that does this,” the 24-year-old added. Branch said the time was right for him to do his OE and see the world. “It took a lot of thought because I work with a wonderful team at the ATC and that’s going to be the hardest part – saying goodbye to them. I think Dominique (Dowding) is an exceptional CEO with revolutionary ideas. APTV and the new website is just one of them,” he said. “The club is heading both with the times and in the right direction because of her,” he added. Branch, who is the son of Hautapu trainers Murray and Susan Branch, started driving in the 2007-2008 season. He was appointed ATC assistant racing manager in May 2010. That was almost two years (August 2008) after he drove his first winner behind the John Green and Brian Hughes trained Roddick at Cambridge Raceway. That was the same year Branch was named 2008 Northern Harness Racing Cadet-of-the-Year. His racetrack highlight however came in May 2011 when he trained his first winner on his hometown course of Cambridge. The horse was his favourite all-time pacer - Ripped Pocket. “He was just the coolest horse to do anything with and definitely my favourite. I started working with him when I worked for Michelle Wallis (2010) and was later given the chance to train him thanks to Michelle and his owner, Tim Vince,” he said. He said he would sorely miss being around horses.  “I love harness racing and sadly where I’m heading it’s not strong but I’m looking forward to a complete break from the industry,” he said. Branch said there were many highs during his four years with the ATC. A couple of those were hosting the 2011 Inter Dominions with the NZMTC and then this year’s Auckland Cup. “I enjoyed working with the team from Christchurch and then again this year the Auckland Cup was so satisfying because we all worked so hard - and pulled off an amazing event,” Branch said. Branch said he would be coming home for Christmas before deciding his next move. “It was always going to be hard leaving and it’s even harder knowing the Club is experiencing a lot of changes and I can’t be there to see them develop. “But if I don’t do it now I may never get the chance. At 24 I feel the time is right.” For the record Branch has driven 18 winners since 2008 and trained five more. Branch also paid tribute to his parents. “Both Mum and Dad have been amazing and thoroughly supportive with my decision. That made it a lot easier knowing I have their blessing,” he said. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Josh Dickie’s first serious assault into harness racing ownership looks set to be successful one if his pride and joy Giuliana Rancic is anything to go by. The 2-year-old filly, named after the courageous Italian/American television personality, looks to have the tenacious fighting qualities of her namesake. Driven by Dickie, Giuliana Rancic led all the way to win last Thursday’s Dunstan Feeds Fillies and Mares Maiden at Cambridge Raceway. She was a pronounced $1.40 favourite and never looked like losing the 2200m mobile cruising to victory in 2:45.7 (mile rate 2:01.2), with final 800m and 400m bursts of 58.1 and 28.5 seconds. “I think she has a nice future but I’m not getting too carried away after just one start,’’ Dickie said, who co-trains the daughter of American Ideal with his father John at Clevedon. “She’s an athletic type who has a great conformation. “I liked her from day one because she was a big natural looking horse who had a good size about her.’’ Dickie paid Woodlands Stud $10,000 for the filly as a weanling at the All Age Sale. He then tried to sell her at the annual Yearling Sale but received no bids. “I’d never done this sort of thing before, so it was quite new - yet quite exciting. “I thought she might have been okay when I saw Bunty Hughes was doing the under-bidding at the All Age Sale, that was an encouraging sign. “Since then she has progressed really well, but when I bought her I had to convince my grandmother (Gwen Dickie) to free up the money to purchase her. “My Nana looks after my finances and she was quite reluctant to fork out that much for a baby. “I talked her into it and I think she’s now a bit happier after last week’s result,” Dickie said. He said he named the big bay after Giuliana Rancic because both he and his girlfriend Angela admired the TV journalist. “She had both of her breasts removed and then had to resort to an embryo transfer after not being able to give birth. “She has fighting qualities that both Ange and I really admire. “If my horse is half as gutsy as what Giuliana Rancic is then I’ll be a very happy owner,” the 23-year-old said. Dickie said the filly’s dam line also lured him into buying Giuliana Rancic. “I thought she was worth a crack because her mother (Finiamo) had good bloodlines via Party Baby and Bee Gee’s Dream. “She was put together very well,” Dickie said. He said he could give Giuliana Rancic perhaps one more run before spelling her for her 3-year-old season. “I’m not too concerned about the Jewels. “If she did qualify I don’t think I would line her up, I think she is a better long-term proposition. “She’s ready just yet to line up against quality opposition after just one start, It could break her. “Her long-term welfare means a lot to me. “I’ll bring her back as an early 3-year-old and take it from there.’’ Giuliana Rancic easily won her debut start by five lengths after leading all the way from barrier two. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

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