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Bob Sandford has owned standardbreds since the mid-1970s, but he and his wife Jennifer only started to get serious about ownership in the early 1990s. Now almost a quarter of a century later the Canterbury couple have arguably the best 3-year-old pacing filly and colt going around at present. Both Tiger Tara and Venus Serena have are last start Group One winners, and the Sandfords, who are both 72, still say they can’t quite believe that both champion pacers have really come into their own in 2014. “We are over the moon. We have spent several decades trying to get a top-line horse and now we have two. It’s quite unbelievable really. It’s a dream come true,” Sandford (Bob) said. With the Harness Racing New Zealand Awards still a few months away the Sandfords must surely rate as warm favourites to win their first ‘Owner-of-the-Year title. “I must have owned about 60 plus horses over the years and last week’s (Woodlands Northern) Derby is the richest race I have won. We flew up to Alexandra Park to watch Tiger Tara win. “We were also on track the week before to watch ‘Venus’ win the (Northern) Oaks. It’s been an incredible couple of weeks,” Sandford said. To be fair it’s been an incredible couple of seasons. Since making her debut in February 2013 Venus Serena has won 11 of her 16 starts and placed in three others for $503,622. This includes four Group One victories, a Group Two and a Group Three. The four Group Ones came via the Nevele R Caduceus Club 2yo Fillies Classic at Alexandra Park on April 19; the Magness Benrow Sires Stakes 2yo Fillies Championship at Alexandra Park on May 3; the Ashburton Guardian 2yo Fillies Harness Jewels Diamond at Ashburton on June 1; and the Pascoes The Jewellers Northern Oaks for 3yo fillies at Alexandra Park on February 28. Tiger Tara has won seven of his 18 starts and placed in seven others for $277,375. This comprises two Group One victories – the NRM Sires Stakes 3yo Final at Addington Raceway on November 12, and of course the Woodlands Stud Northern Derby at Alexandra Park on March 7. Sandford said he was introduced to ownership by his late brother Brian, who bred many good horses over the years, including the 10-win ($588,106) son of Mach Three, Fiery Falcon. “The first horse I owned was Tarbar in the mid-1970s and then my brother and I owned Tarsudi. I dabbled in a few more over the years but it wasn’t until about 1990 when we started to buy two or three a year from then on,” Sandford said. He said 2002 Wellington Cup winner Agios Nikolaos (eight wins) was one of the better horses he owned. He also rated Rocket Reign (14 wins) and his full brother Cullens Reign (eight wins) as another couple of his well performed pacers. “The two that are going around at the moment have the potential to be my best. I think they will race against each other one day but not this season. “Ultimately I’d love to win a big Cup with one of them. They both stay pretty well so it’s not an impossibility. I’d really like that for Geoff and Jen,” Sandford said. Geoff is Geoff Dunn, Sandford’s trainer since 1992. “He’s a great horseman and has done a wonderful job with my horses over the years. ‘Tara’ and ‘Venus’ are very much evidence of his great horsemanship,” Sandford said. Cheviot born and Christchurch Boys High School educated Sandford said he bought two fillies at this year’s yearling sales and bought back a half-brother to Venus Serena named Bettor Bolt (bettor’s delight – Inspiring Dash). The two fillies are named Nikita Banner (Bettor’s delight – Corporate Banner) and Flyingretna (Mach Three – Gretna’s Girl). They also bred Venus Serena from their Falcon Seelster mare, Inspiring Dash, who won five races for Dunn. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

In our prominent harness racing stallion series we have reviewed American Ideal,  Art Major, Bettors Delight, Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire so far and today we have produced an in depth review for Mach Three. Enjoy the read. BREEDING - By the great sire Matts Scooter (sire of over $76 million in stakes with Mach Three his richest son) from the Abercrombie mare All Included (Dam of 12 foals for 9 winners of $3,469,221) All Included left two full brothers to Mach Three, Extreme Three ($336,192) now standing at stud in New Zealand and Omar Khayam ($263,848) now standing at stud in Canada. Mach Three's pedigree is not what you would call a blue blood pedigree but that is becoming common today with a lot of the great sires at stud. Today, brilliance on the race track counts for as much as any pedigree when deciding on a stallion for your mare. RACE RECORD - Was a very good two and three year old with exceptional gait and speed. He faced the starter just 27 times for 18 wins and 6 placings, taking a track record at The Meadowlands of 1:49 in the $1,000,000 Meadowlands Pace and a track record on a half mile track of 1:51.1 in a heat of the Little Brown Jug on his way to earning a total of $2,376,700. This crop of 3yr olds were exceptional, in fact it was one of the greatest crops on record. In The Meadowlands Pace Mach Three beat home in order of finish McArdle ($2,602,694), Allamerican Ingot ($1,238,935), Mini Me ($1,186,376), Pacific Titan ($886,446), Royal Mattjesty ($1,840,681), Three Olives ($1,086,795), Brads Gold ($703,206), Million Dollar Cam ($969,792) and Yankee Sensation ($371,689). Other great horses that raced with Mach Three as 2 and 3yr olds were Art Major ($3,273,317), Red River Hanover ($1,394,626), Ashlee's Big Guy ($1,009,523) and Life is a Cabaret ($869,280). Ten of these horses are sires now at stud. That is a group of great horses!!! Mach Three was purchased by Joe Muscara for US$2,250,000 as an early 3yr old NORTH AMERICAN STUD CAREER - Has stood in Canada for all his stud career at Tara Hills stud. His service fee has been $7,500 right from day one and has never changed to date. He served good numbers in most years at stud in Canada starting in 2003 with 195, 123, 94, 81, 187, 225, 169, 149, 157, 172 and 158 in 2013. His first crop left the good horse Jeremys Successor 1:48.3 ($867,235), Mach You And Me 1:50.2 ($800,819), Canadette 1:51 ($449,634), In The Irons 1:50.3 ($553,193) and Test Flight 1:50.4 ($502,802). This crop have stakes of $15,500,000 with average earnings per starter of $139,361. Another feature of Mach Three's progeny is that they keep racing or have long race careers as in this first crop alone there have been 42 horses that have had over 100 starts and 7 have had over 200 starts lifetime. His second crop left the sensational and spectacular Somebeachsomewhere 1:46.4 ($3,328,755) regarded as possibly the greatest race horse ever seen winning 20 of 21 starts as a 2 and 3yr old and now dominating as a sire from his first two crops at stud. With just those crops on the track he is reshaping the breeding Industry in the Northern Hemisphere. His book is full and closed for 2014 at $30,000 and that tells the real story. Not only did Mach Three leave Somebeachsomewhere from this crop he also left Believeinbruiser an average racehorse winning just $249,654 but he served a few mares at stud and left one of the best 2yr olds in Canada in 2013 called Bugger Bruiser 1:50.3 ($226,730). His third crop with just 52 foals he left Shipps Xpectancy 1:49.1 ($587,668) and Smashbox 1:51.4 ($437,270). His fourth crop of just 46 foals he left the very good Mach Dreamer 1:49.1 ($864,312). His next crop of 124 foals he left the top mare Monkey On My Wheel 1:49.3 ($1,334,394) plus the very fast racehorse in Camaes Fellow 1:47.3 ($819,870). His 2009 crop of 138 foals has produced Machapelo 1:51.3 ($565,838), I Found My Beach 1:50.2 ($524,079) and Mach A Wish 1:50.2 ($430,770). His next crop of 107 foals produced Mach Pride 1:50 ($517,539) and Mach It So 1:49.1 ($395,968). His 2013 2yr olds produced The Metro Pace winner in Boomboom Ballykeel 1:50.4 ($389,702) and the very good Three Of Clubs 1:53.4h ($206,617). US statistics Eligible to race 3yr old and older - 767 Winners - 533 % of winners to foals born 3yr old and older - 69% $100,000 plus - 174 $1,000,000 plus - 2 Sub 1:50 - 17 Average earnings per starter - $97,075 Average earnings per eligible horse - $78.090 Total earnings to date - $59,895,579 AUSTRALIAN STUD CAREER - Mach Three has never had big crops in Australia. Starting in the 2005 season he had 15, 42, 44, 31, 44, 50, and 50 now 3yr old or older on the ground that is just 286. He has produced some outstanding colts and fillies from those small crops. His colts are headed by the brilliant age group star Captain Joy 1:51.4 ($1,004,771) as well as such smart types as Fly Like An Eagle 1:54.6 ($740,174)  super star Majestic Mach 1:54.7 ($611,969) winner of 26 of his 29 starts to date and Mach Wiper 1:54.1 ($280,716). Coupled with fillies of the class of Shake It Mama 1:54.7 ($254,568) and Rosa Mach 1:56.2 ($237,237) he has a great record so far in Australia. Australian statistics Foals 3yr old and older -  286 Winners - 151 % of winners to foals born 3yr old and older - 53% $100,000 plus - 22 $1,000,000 plus -  1  Average earnings per starter - $46,743 Average earnings per eligible horse - $32,687 Total earnings to date - $9,348,653 NEW ZEALAND STUD RECORD - His record in NZ is outstanding and overall probably the best of the countries he has stood in. His ability to leave good numbers of outstanding colts and fillies with in the main small crops early in his career has earned him the much larger books he has been serving the last few years. From his first crop came two millionaires, the champion Auckland Reactor 1:51.4 ($1,837,043) and Mysta Magical Mach 1:52.2 ($1,241,941), plus the ill fated Fiery Falcon 1:54.6 ($588,106), Macraider 1:48.4 ($771,433), Trigirl Brigade 1:52.3p ($143,710), Torias Secret 1:52.3 ($175,054), Sammy Maguire 1:57 ($199,354) and Muscle Beach 1:56.6 ($200,850). He produced from his second crop the fast mare Joyfuljoy 1:51.3 ($480,412), Scotty Mach 1:49.4 ($257,270) and Hes My Hero 1:54.3 ($221,903). His next crop was another great one with the likes of Sir Lincoln 1:54 ($663,601) and now standing at stud, Russley Rascal 1:53.3h ($707,656), Mah Sish 1:55.4 ($771,786), Devil Dodger 1:53.3 ($537,926), Mach Banner 1:57.6 ($225,565) Millwood Meg 1:53.5 ($336,795) and Kotare Mach 1:53.1 ($260,308).  The 2007 crop of just 18 foals he still produced a top horse like Mustang Mach 1:55.2 ($349,547) plus Mach Alert 1:50.9 ($394,944), Precious Mach 1:57.9 ($86,179), Mactavish 1:52.9 ($168,101) and Collectable 1:58.2 ($112,108). His next crop left the good mares Here We Go Again 1:55.6 ($132,457) and Three Jewels 1:57.6 ($81,037) while his current 4yr olds of note are Safedra 1:56.3 ($111,848), Mighty Fling Mac 1:58 ($113,879), Cyamach ($125,992), Sir Eric 1:52.5 ($69,000) and the promising Kotare Mahal 1:58.4. His current 3yr olds are led by the fillies Venus Serena 1:54.7 ($330,746), Te Amo Bromac 1:57.9 ($106,836), Pricilla's Girl 1:58.9 ($44,635), Luminesce 1:57.6 ($27,610) and Lincolns Megastar 1:57.1 ($42,024). His 3yr old colts that stand out are Cyclone Prince 1:57.1 ($108,064), Regulus 1:57.5 ($89,376) and the promising Machtu who has won his last 4 straight and he has already produced a winning 2yr old this season in Chachingcharching. New Zealand statistics 3yr old and older - 686 Starters - 378 Winners - 331 % of winners to foals born 3yr old and older - 48% $100,000 plus - 21 (29 in Australia) 50 $1,000,000 plus - 2 Average earnings per starter - $30,313 Average earnings per eligible horse - $16,703 Total earnings to date - $11,458,573 POSITIVES - Right throughout his career he has shown the ability to leave that exceptional horse who are as dominant on the racetrack as he was. His champion son Somebeachsomewhere 1:46.4 ($3,328,755) is the hottest sire in the world right now and his Southern Hemisphere champion in Auckland Reactor 1:51.4 ($1,837,043) is being given his chance to follow suit with him serving a huge book in his first season at stud. NEGATIVES - Some of his progeny has a reputation for becoming "hot" at times like most of the Direct Scooter line stallions, his sons and grandsons are known for the same thing. Mach Three's fertility has been an issue at times. Since coming under the management of Alabar his numbers seemed to have picked up and are now heading towards the industry average of 70%. OVERVIEW - One of the few sires who is able to leave one as good or better than himself (A special one) both on the track and at stud. Somebeachsomewhere is reshaping the North American breeding industry with his complete dominance of his stock on the race track. Auckland Reactor is being given the same opportunity at stud in Australasia. All in all, just a great sire OVERALL RATING - 9/10 JC A Sire review - American Ideal A Sire review - Art Major A Stallion review - Bettors Delight A Stallion review - Christian Cullen A Stallion review - Courage Under Fire Harnesslink has had such positive feedback on our "forgotten sires series" that we are running a series of reviews on our more prominent harness racing sires. As they say in racing you can criticize some ones car, house or wife but never their horse, and that still rings true. As a disclaimer to our next chapter of analysis we look to provide educated opinion based on years of industry knowledge and the truest form of critique backed by statistical data. The above PREVIEWS are set to strip back any sugar coated publicity often associated with Stallion promotion and give you the cold hard facts as JC sees them.  (All statistical data was provided by TrackIt for North American stats and the official organizations of New Zealand and Australia)  And here is "The forgotten sires series" This is a series of stallion reviews that Harnesslink have already completed with a view to sheading some light on some of  the "forgotten"sires in Australasia. Elsu - Redemption awaits McArdle - The quiet achiever Santanna Blue Chip - On the up and up! Major In Art - Big and fast Mr Feelgood - Dual hemisphere champion Pay Me Christian - Blistering speed Monkey Bones - All class Tinted Cloud - Still going strong Real Desire - The real deal Washington VC - Continuing excellence Wetern Ideal - A superstar sire Bacardy Lindy - Blue blood Monarchy - Out of Sundons shadow Artiscape - Frozen semen blues? Dream Vacation - Frozen semen superstar Badlands Hanover - Great value Lis Mara - The quiet achiever Brylin Boyz - Potential fulfilled    

While there were plenty of highs to come out of Cup Week, there were also a few lows, and one of them was the retirement of ‘crowd favourite’ Highview Tommy, who ran well down on his best in the New Zealand Cup on Tuesday. “He has had a great career, but I think it is time to pull the pin. He just hasn’t been the ‘Tommy’ of old recently,” said his co-owner and biggest fan, Hazel van Opzeeland. van Opzeeland purchased Highview Tommy out of the Ready-To-Run Sales as a two-year-old, and has been on the ride of her life ever since. “I was working for Michael House at the time, he was preparing ‘Tommy’ for the sale and I fell in love with the horse,” recalled van Opzeeled. “I followed his progress the whole way through and even before I had purchased him, I claimed him as mine,” she laughed. “Every time he worked the stable boys would joke to me saying your horse just went up $10,000 today Hazel. “At the time, I was new to racing and I didn’t even know what that really meant but now I know it must have been because he was working so well. “When I talked to Michael about buying him he said I don’t care what you do, just make sure you get Mark Purdon involved.” So, that is exactly what van Opzeeland did, albeit not until the day before the sale. “I was still a bit undecided and left it until the last minute. That was the first ever time I spoke with Mark Purdon. The next day van Opzeeland and Purdon secured Highview Tommy, the quickest time trialist of the 2007 Ready-To-Run, for $200,000, before Phillip & Glenys Kennard came on board once returning from the Rugby World Cup. “I had met Phillip and Glenys through their Micheal and Michelle House and their purchase of Fiery Falcon, who also went on to be a top horse, out of Micheal’s 2006 Ready-To-Run draft,” explained van Opzeeland. Wind the clock forward a few months and the brilliant racing career of Highview Tommy had begun, starting from a modest two placings in Auckland and building to the heights of wins in the $100,000 Welcome Stakes and the$200,000 2YO Harness Jewels and placings in the Sales Series Open and Sires Stakes Final, this saw him crowned Two-Year-Old Male Pacer of the Year. “He was only really ranked as Mark & Grant’s second best two-year-old earlier on behind Sir Clive, so Blair Orange got the drive on him and they managed to string up a wonderful association,” explained van Opzeeland. As a three-year-old ‘Tommy’ placed third in the 3YO Sires Stakes’ Final and second in the 3YO Sales Series Open, with Stunin Cullen the fly in ‘Tommy’s ointment, but it wasn’t long before the bulky black son of Bettor’s Delight kicked back, winning the $50,000 Southern Supremacy Final in record time. “It was a big thrill to take ‘Tommy’ home to Southland and win the Southern Supremacy and the Invercargil Cup,” said van Opzeeland. “I’ve become very good friends with the Clark family who bred Tommy, and it was wonderful for them. Highview Tommy is a first foal from his dam Baptism Of Fire (Christian Cullen), while he was also the first horse bred by Riverton's Allan Clark, a son of Highview Stud's Dave Clark. "The story goes that Dave gave me Baptism Of Fire in return for the good work on the yearlings to get me started, but there was a bit more to it than that,” says Allan Clark "She has certainly been a good start though," he added.       Baptism Of Fire’s next three foals were Highview Chartom (5 wins), Highview Chasue (4 wins), and Highview Teejay (5 wins), and van Opzeeland has been involved in the ownership of all three of them. “I recently sold Highview Teejay, he is now with Grant Dixon in Queensland. Highview Freddy who sold at this year’s Yearling Sale for$122,000 is the first one from the family that I haven’t bought into.” As an older horse, Highview Tommy was successful in the Superstars Champion, the Tuepeka Cup, the Invercargil Cup, the Manukau Summer Cup, the Interdominion Consolation, the Franklin Cup, and ofcourse the Group One Ballarat Cup, where he come flying down the outside to beat Sushi Sushi and Smoken Up at odds of $101. “I wasn’t even there that night, but it was still so exciting and definitely has to be one of his career highlights. “To beat horses of the calibre of Sushi Sushi and Smoken Up, who at the time, were right on top of their game, was absolutely amazing.” Highview Tommy, who also has dual New Zealand Cup placings on his resume, cracked $1 million-dollars in stake earning earlier on in the season when being trained by Greg & Nina Hope, who trained the entire for the last eight starts of his 104 start career at Woodend Beach, in an attempt to get him back to his best form. “One of the things I am very proud of is that he won $100,000 every season from when he was two-years-old to seven-years-old,” proclaimed van Opzeeland. “There are plenty of horses that win $100,000 as a two or three-year-old or a $100,000 as an older horse, but not many that do that right the way through their career,” she clarified. On a personal note, one of my favourite memories of the horse that rocked a mohawk haircut was his staggering win on Cup Day of 2009, when he blitzed his rivals in a time of 3-08.5, equalling the 2600m New Zealand Record of Desperate Comment. Van Opzeeland said that she is still unsure where Highview Tommy will be standing at stud next season, but with her involvement at Woodlands, I would have it as the $1.50 favourite. *Video attached: Highview Tommy winning on Cup Day in New Zealand record time. By Mitchell Robertson      

Australia's most exciting pacer is confirmed for the 2011 Auckland Cup meeting and he could have plenty of company on the plane over. And Themightyquinn could head a remarkable early Australian harness racing domination at the head of the markets for the group one classics on Auckland Cup Night on March 11.

Fiery Falcon was outstanding yet somewhat unlucky on the racetrack in that he ran into exceptional horses in both his two and three year old years-and he overcame that. But he could not overcome the virus which afflected him after the Motukarara harness racing workouts last Monday and which took his life at Roydon Lodge on Thursday evening.

Ohoka Nevada might have been denied the $20,000 West Coast bonus when beaten a head and a neck in the Reefton Cup but he has certainly made up for it by winning two $30,000 races in four starts since.

Fiery Falcon will be aimed at the Auckland Cup next March, providing he can continue on with the brilliant New Zealand record breaking form he displayed at Addington Raceway this afternoon (November 11).

In any other season Fiery Falcon (Mach Three) would be the best three-year-old in New Zealand and probably the best horse in the powerful Mark Purdon/Grant Payne stable.

TAB Harness Bookmaker Steve Richardson reported a relatively quiet afternoon of Harness Jewels fixed odds betting action, with only Fiery Falcon and Changeover attracting serious wagers.

The dominant All Stars racing juggernaut heads two ways from Rolleston this week to chase the big money at different ends of the country. Mark Purdon and Grant Payne, with 69 wins, are making a one horse race of the trainers' premiership, breaking Catherine and David Butt’s vice like grip in recent years.

Mark Purdon's vice-like grip on the $200,000 2008 Christian Cullen New Zealand Derby (2600 metres) at Addington on Friday night is a continuation of the remarkable run of success he has enjoyed in the classic.

Horses can’t talk but, if they could, it would be interesting to ask Classic Cullen why in the words of his co trainer Mark Purdon he is “racing now with more will to win.’’

Mark Purdon and Grant Payne have the 3-Year-Old colts and geldings feature races seemingly at their mercy after Fiery Falcon led all the way to win the Woodlands Northern Derby at Alexandra Park tonight (February 29).

New Zealand’s joint leading driver of the season Peter Ferguson can’t get over how laid back star 3 Year Old pacing filly Lizzie Maguire has become after he drove her to preserve her unbeaten southern record at Ashburton today Saturday 9 February.

Despite not being 100 percent as well suited the right handed Auckland way, Fiery Falcon is expected to contest the $200,000 Woodlands Northern Pacing Derby (2700m, mobile) at Alexandra Park on Friday 29 February.

Exciting sire Mach Three came of age when his outstanding sons and stable mates Auckland Reactor and Fiery Falcon completed the quinella for Mark Purdon and Grant Payne in the Gr 1 $200,000 NRM New Zealand Sires’ Stakes Final (1950m, mobile) at Addington today Tuesday 13 November.

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