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By Garrick Knight    A false start didn’t aid her one iota but Fanny Hill still managed to win the mid-grade trot on the opening night of the Inter Dominions at Alexandra Park. The Oamaru mare, prepared by master trotting trainer Phil Williamson and driven by his son Brad, had to sit parked the last mile to get the win, but did it comfortably. Superstar-in-waiting Tickle Me Pink thundered home down the outside for second after starting off a prohibitive 40-metre handicap. But this was Fanny Hill’s night and Brad Williamson reckoned it took all her will power to be on her best behavior. “She was bloody nervous after that false start; wasn’t calm or settled at all round at the start. “But once we went away, she got a good run early and then relaxed well parked. “So, I was happy to sit there the last lap.” It was her first look at Alexandra Park and Williamson reported she took to it like a duck to water and that bodes well for upcoming assignments. “She got her heart rate up and is having a good blow. Seems to get around the bends better this way too. “She’s lowly-graded and that’s a big bonus.” Just how far she’ll go remains to be seen but you would expect her to get close to open company with the team behind her and an elite sire. “She has quite a bit of speed; is a real fast wee mare. “Probably lacks a bit of real stamina despite what she did tonight, though.” The understated Tony Herlihy was very happy with the run of Tickle Me Pink, fresh up since her excellent Harness Jewels win back in June. “She’s gone super,” he said, which, in Herlihy-speak, is about as good as it gets. Outsider Saint Michel battled on well for third at bolter’s odds, rewarding trifecta punters. For Brad Williamson, the victory also marked his 300th in the sulky in New Zealand, his first, behind Graceandtemika, at Gore in 2012. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It’s no surprise that Sheree Tomlinson isn’t bothered by nerves ahead of the Inter Dominion Trotters series, which starts in Auckland tonight. The Christchurch 21-year-old is the only junior driver taking part in the time-honoured series and she ‘s driving the $3.20 series favourite, Marcoola so you could forgive her for being overawed. But Tomlinson isn’t your ordinary junior driver. She’s already an Australasian champion amongst her junior peers and she won arguably the country’s biggest trotting race, the Dominion, aged just 19, two years ago. So, despite having taking on the country’s elite drivers like Tony Herlihy, Blair Orange, David Butcher, Anthony Butt and Mark Purdon tonight, she’s pretty chill. In fact, when HRNZ spoke to her, she was tired after driving all the way to Dunedin on Thursday afternoon and was more focused on her two drives at Forbury Park last night. “The nerves are pretty good actually; not too bad at all. It might be different on the night before I go out there though.” Don’t confuse that approach with apathy though – Tomlinson is acutely aware of the occasion and the privileged position she is in. “You can’t take drives like this for granted. “Most drivers dream their whole lives about driving in open class races and for many it doesn’t happen. “I’m so fortunate to have been given this opportunity.” It’s been an interesting partnership between Tomlinson and Marcoola so far. They first combined at Addington when running a close second to Oscar Bonavena at Addington in early October before smashing Marcoola’s own New Zealand mile record with a demolition job in the Ashburton Flying Stakes. Next it was the Dominion where both horse and driver sought their second race win, but first together. Marcoola went out second favourite behind Oscar Bonavena but ended up running fourth after setting up the second-fastest time in history. Tomlinson defends the drive, quite rightly pointing out that to beat the favourite, they would have had to go that quick. “I feel like if Oscar Bonavena hadn’t galloped, we would have run that time anyway. But I didn’t know he was out of the race “I didn’t want to move as early as I did, but I was at risk of getting stuck behind horses that were well beaten on the Tuesday. “The last thing I wanted was to be buried five or six back on the fence.” Marcoola got a bit excited in front and at the end of two miles, his racing keenly caught up with him. “He probably over-raced a bit in front. I didn’t really want to be there over two miles but that’s how it worked out. “I think if you reversed the two runs of him and the winner, the result would have gone the other way.” That race is behind them and now the Inter Dominion has dawned for a fresh start. Marcoola has joined Barry Purdon and all reports are that he has settled in well. “Barry has been keeping mum updated and says he’s quite happy with him. “He’s not being too much of a stallion and is behaving himself. “Barry drove him in fast work Wednesday and was really happy.” Marcoola has drawn gate 1 and the main speed threat on the front line in Credit Master has been scratched, so he looks certain to get an uncontested lead. Bookies have him at $1.70 and most judges rate that as good shopping. “I’ll just play it by ear out of the gate. He’ll let me know because he likes to do his own thing. “Over the shorter distance he can tough it out in front but I also wouldn’t be afraid to trail a horse like Tough Monarch. “If I have to take a trail, I won’t be stressing.” No surprises there, either. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. The men in the case are Mark Jones and Benny Hill, co-trainers of exciting filly Stylish Memphis. And the plan was to keep her at home for a $22,000 Sires Stakes Series heat at Addington tonight against inferior opposition to what she would meet in the next heat, in Auckland next Friday. But that’s come unstuck somewhat with the daughter of Bettor’s Delight drawing the outside barrier draw over the sprint trip this week. “We’ve done it on purpose to try and qualify her down here because the field up north will be pretty hot,” said Jones. “If she’s good enough, she’s good enough; the wide draw is a concern but she’s got good gate speed and high tactical speed.” The $150,000 Final is at Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve and Stylish Memphis will go north for it if she can run in the first three tonight. She resumed with a fortuitous win at Wyndham nearly three weeks ago, though Jones felt she could have been better. “She probably should have won by more, but seemed to knock off when she hit the front.” Since then, a workout run at Rangiora, where she flashed home late in quick time, impressed Jones and told him she was on track. Despite the wide draw, bookies opened her a $2.70 equal favourite alongside Sugar Loaf, who was mightily impressive winning her debut on New Zealand Cup day for Robert Dunn. “Sugar Loaf has got the raps, and Nigel McGrath’s one (Miss Graceful) looks an exciting filly in the making, too. “But all things being equal, I’d go my one to beat them if she races up to her ability.” The expectations are high with Stylish Memphis, a full sister to multiple Group 1-placed filly-turned-mare, Delightful Memphis, who is now racing in America. “I actually think she’s got more sheer speed and a touch more brilliance than her sister, but Delightful Memphis probably wasn’t appreciated as much as she should have been. “She was in a crop with Spanish Armada and Partyon.” The stable also has last-start winner Fancy in the race and she’s drawn mid-front line. “She got her own terms but won well last time. A nice progressive filly that I can see winning four or five races. “We’ll probably look to take her down for the Southland Oaks after this.” Later in the night, Skippys Delight will go around in the $24,000 Sires Stakes Silver, a five-horse affair, and Jones expects better luck than he had in the main final on New Zealand Cup day. “I thought his run in the final was good; he got held up and lost ground but still found the line well. “I know Benny is pretty happy with him.” Stablemate Silent Major has been scratched from the same race after being dealt to Australian interests earlier in the week, as has another from the barn in Philadelphia Freedom. In the last on the card the stable lines up Nirvana Beach and Willison, Jones thinking the latter can win it before heading out for a spell. “He’s come to the end of it but is a Derby type of horse. “Looking for the paddock but I expect he should be able to handle that field. “Nirvana Beach hates Ashburton so best to forget that last run. “He’s got the right draw here and that will help.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It wouldn’t be an Inter Dominion Series without some last minute controversy and it has once again materialised on the eve of Auckland’s 2019 edition. The series’ fourth favourite, McLovin, has been scratched from tomorrow night’s first round of the Trotting Championship heats at Alexandra Park. His Victorian trainer, Andy Gath, says the son of Monarchy broke out in a fever this morning. “He didn’t eat up last night and had a really high temperature this morning,” Gath told HRNZ. “So, I got him treated with medication which has ruled him out of tomorrow night.” But as of Thursday lunchtime, he was not officially ruled out of the series. Gath was holding on to hope that McLovin could re-enter the series on Tuesday for the second round of heats, something which is technically possible under the series conditions. “To be eligible to compete in the Grand Final of the Trotting Championship, horses shall start in all Qualifying Heats, unless exemption is granted by the Host Controlling Body, which shall decide upon each case according to its merits,” reads the relevant condition. The host controlling body is Harness Racing New Zealand and they are being called upon to make a determination in the next 48 hours, before Tuesday’s second round of heats are drawn up late Saturday morning. Handicapper Andrew Morris said he would be consulting with the Racing Integrity Unit and the Inter Dominion Council and a decision would be made in due course once all information had been gathered. The Inter Dominion Council includes both HRNZ’s CEO, Peter Jensen, and his Harness Racing Australia counterpart, Andrew Kelly. The Racing Integrity Unit’s Nick Ydgren said he had been contacted by Gath for clarification on withholding periods this morning, but had not yet been notified of what specific medications were administered. Gath says there is a precedent in place, with both Sinbad Bay (1995) and Bag Limit (1987) granted permission to re-enter the series after scratching through illness. “But they were both ultimately scratched prior to racing, anyway.” Bag Limit’s scratching allowed subsequent grand final winner, My Lightning Blue, back in to the field. Auckland Trotting Club Racing Manager, Regan Cotter, believes McLovin would get zero points for Round 1, meaning even if he was allowed back in for Tuesday, he would face an uphill task to make the final. Gath just wants the option available should McLovin recover in the next 48 hours. In another bitter blow for a series already light on numbers, Credit Master was also scratched from tomorrow night’s first round of heats after contracting an infection. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    A right-handed workout at Pukekohe on Saturday furthered San Carlo’s preparation for the Inter Dominion series, which starts in Auckland on Friday. The nine-year-old Victorian pacer, who had never raced or trialed right-handed before put in his best effort yet going ‘the other way’, according to connections. Co-trainer Stephen O’Donoghue, back in Australia this week, said his training partner – and San Carlo’s driver - Bec Bartley, had offered a positive report from the outing. “She’s gradually getting happier and happier with him,” he told HRNZ. “He’s struggled going the ‘wrong way’, he really has. “But with every run he’s gotten a little better and with each workout at Barry Purdon’s property he’s getting more tractable.” There was only one obvious incidence of San Carlo losing his compass in the workout – when extracted off leader Sicario’s back going down the back straight the last time. But he soon corrected it and finished a close-up second on a fast-run 55.5-second last half. “He’s just a big dumb bugger,” says O’Donoghue. “All his life, nothing has come naturally to him. “So, to spin him around and ask him to go quick the other way was always going to be a challenge. “He runs in a bit, but the way we go he runs out; he’s hung all his life in every race or workout he’s ever had.” Aside from the direction, the other concern for O’Donoghue and Bartley had been San Carlo’s career-worst performance in the New Zealand Cup at his last start. But they’ve put that behind them and head in to Auckland with high hopes. “Bec said he felt good and felt really strong so at least what happened in Christchurch is behind him. “We can’t put our finger on anything other than he was gassed up. “His heart rate was high and he was passing wind like he’s never done before. Just a wee bit crook on the day “His blood work since has been all good so we will allow him one bad run from 52 starts.” Watching Our Uncle Sam bounce back from his disastrous Canterbury campaign with a brilliant win at Auckland on Friday night gave O’Donoghue and Bartley a boost, too. The draws were due out at the time of writing but O’Donoghue wasn’t overly engrossed in what might happen. “I don’t worry about draws with him; I gave up worrying about them long ago. “He’ll just do what he has to no matter where he draws. “I’m just happy that he’s pulled up well from the trial and is handling the other way a lot better now.” Sicario was driven by Tony Herlihy in the workout and he will take the reins behind the Brent Lilley-trained former Kiwi in the series. In other pacing series news out over the weekend, A G’s White Socks has joined master horseman Barry Purdon’s stable, usual trainers Greg and Nina Hope opting to focus on their team at home. Purdon withdrew Ball Of Art on Monday morning, leaving 25 pacers in the Series. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Relief washed over Chris Frisby after Our Uncle Sam’s last-to-first win at Alexandra Park on Friday night. After a wretched New Zealand campaign, the New South Wales horseman didn’t know what to expect just seven days removed from what he called the worst run of the horse’s career. “I’ve been shitting myself all week,” he admitted post-race. “He galloped out three races in a row (standing starts) and then last Friday in the Free For All was the worst run he’s ever put in. It’s just not him.” The horse botching standing starts was actually masking a lingering virus, Frisby reckons. “In the second and third runs he blew up over the back, which he’s never done in his life. “So, I think he must have had a virus.” Frisby got him scoped in Christchurch last Saturday and immediately started treating him. In the meantime, the horse flew north to Tony Herlihy’s barn but he barely did any work all week. “I didn’t do a bloody thing with him. He jogged 10 minutes every morning, that was it. “I was still worried about him yesterday morning so I got the vet out to scope him again to make sure everything was right inside. “He said mate, there’s nothing wrong with him.” He was right. Despite the aforementioned issues, plus drawing wide in his first start right-handed, Our Uncle Sam was too good for the pace-making Solid Gold, getting over the top of him in a 1.55.5 mile-rate for the 2200 metres. “That run tonight, that’s him,” said Frisby. “With a sit like that he’s unbelievable. Immediately after the race, Our Uncle Sam was looking like the horse Frisby has come to know and love, no swelling across his back and quick recovery. And that will top him off nicely for the big dance, which starts in seven days’ time – the Inter Dominion Series. He ran second in the A$500,000 Grand Final behind Tiger Tara in last year’s series and Frisby believes that bodes well for this time around. “Last year I didn’t think he would suit the short turnarounds, but his last run was his best run. “He’s a horse that doesn’t need a lot of work as shown tonight, so hopefully it doesn’t knock him around. “You can’t go in to the series even 95%, you need to be at your best.” Herlihy was pleasantly surprised and said he has no qualms that the horse will be right in the thick of the series. “He was really good tonight; handled the track well and hit the line nicely.” Solid Gold held on for second, narrowly ahead of Mr Kiwi and a close-up Dance Time. ___________________________________________________________________________________________ Thames horseman Dale Moore was sent to hospital for observation after taking a tumble in the first running of the night’s opening event. Moore was tipped out of the cart in the back straight shortly after the start and suffered what Stewards called superficial injuries. “Swelling, bruises and a cut above the eye,” said the Racing Integrity Unit’s Steve Mulcay. His horse, The Last Gamble, bolted driverless, dragging a sulky, and eventually went to ground on the point of the home turn, causing a race abandonment. It was re-run, with The Last Gamble scratched, and taken out by Canterbury visitor, Chevron Action. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Punters might not have seen it coming, but Phil Fleming sure did predict the winning double by Claytons Bettor at Manawatu Raceway this week. The four-year-old son of Betterthancheddar caused an upset in a maiden on Tuesday and then backed that up with a good win over American Me last night. “I was pretty confident he would go well at the meeting,” Fleming told HRNZ. “He did it easy the first day and being quite a relaxed horse that takes everything in his stride, I expected similar last night.” Fleming was in the cart on Tuesday but visiting driver Brent Mangos jumped in the cart on Thursday as he was quite familiar with the horse. “He had time with Brent up in Auckland last season. “It was more for education and working with a bigger team of horses and then getting through to the workouts at Pukekohe.” Once qualified, Mangos brought him south to Palmerston North for two races back in April and he went home to Stratford with Fleming after that. “He’s been with me all the way through this prep. He had three or four months out and he really matured. “That time with Brent made him in to a race horse; he can handle anything you put in front of him now. “Down here it would take six months to achieve the same thing.” Fleming, who works in the agricultural sector, races Claytons Bettor with his brother, Nick, who came up with the name. And it’s nothing to do with anyone called Clayton. Instead, it’s a reference to the Australianism that alludes to something that is largely illusory or exists in name only. “He’s not a Bettor’s Delight, but he does have Better in his sires’ name, so he’s a ‘clayton’s Bettor’s Delight’,” explained Fleming. Claytons Bettor is the last and by far most successful foal of the now-deceased Live Or Die mare River Liffey, a daughter of the Fleming family’s broodmare gem, Isle Of Inishfree. She died foaling the next time, and he is the last of her three. We probably weren’t planning on breeding any more out of her, anyway. “She wasn’t the best-gaited mare but this fella though, he’s a bloody beautiful pacer.” Fleming is hoping to make an appearance in Auckland next week, on night 1 of the Inter Dominion Series, but may run in to some trouble with Claytons Bettor’s rating of 62. “I won’t be frightened to go up there with him and race in a boys’ race next Friday over 2700 metres. “But he’s a 62 and I think the race is advertised up to 60, which is a bit of a bugger. “He will be difficult to place, though I do think he will measure up fine in the country cups races later in the season. “I would probably like to sell him, though. “I’m doing four or five and that’s already enough with my work commitments, and I have more coming through.” Former star mare River Polka, who won 10 races for Tony Herlihy, is due to foal to Vincent any day. “I’ll give her the this season off and she can go in foal nice and early next year.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    He’s decided next week’s Inter Dominion series is a bridge too far right now, but that doesn’t mean Tony Herlihy isn’t expecting a win from Forget The Price Tag at Alexandra Park tonight. The exciting trotter resumes in the night’s $20,000 feature trot off a 35-metre handicap but does present as clearly the best horse in the field. He’s unbeaten in two starts fresh-up previously and that bodes well for tonight. “He seems pretty good and ready,” said Herlihy. “First-up, 35 behind, he’ll need to do everything right and get a handy trip, but he certainly can be amongst it. “He’s a horse on the way up.” In Herlihy speak that’s a pretty big rap. So much does he think of the son of Majestic Son that he had him entered for next week’s Inter Dominion Series, but that’s just come around just a bit too soon. “I’ve just pulled him out today actually; he’s not quite there yet. “Potentially he can take that next step up to the top grade – he shows me the ability – but it might be later in the season.” Herlihy has a sizeable team in to race this week, including a number that are resuming from spells. He points to maiden runners, Underthesouthernsun and Delightful Catherine, as his two best chances on the night. Both raced as juveniles last season and have had workouts in the lead up to their resuming runs. “Underthesouthernsun has got the potential, he just needs to justify it now. “He’s got everything going for him to be a really nice horse. “With a bit more racing he’ll be even better and I expect him to keep stepping up. “And Delightful Catherine is a pretty nice filly too – I have a bit of time for her. “Drawn the second line but I was quite impressed with her run at the trials last Saturday.” Earlier in the night, Russley Rush has come up with a good draw and will be looking to eliminate bad luck after locking wheels a lap out last week. “He fits in better in this field than last week. “We had no luck at all so I’m backing him up in the hope he will get some reward.” The interesting runner is Somethingaboutmary, who is a brilliant mare on her day and looked an improver when resuming on November 1. “We’ve had a few hiccups with her. “I took her back to the workouts last weekend and thought her trial was one of the better ones on the day. “The way she finished it off, I’d like to think she’ll be a pretty good chance this week.” Herlihy will also jump in the cart behind Australian pacer Our Uncle Sam in the night’s $25,000 feature, but doesn’t profess to know anything about the horse. “He’s staying here with us but has been having a pretty easy time of it this week. “I know Chris (Frisby, trainer) was disappointed with his run in the Free For All at Addington last week so I’m not too sure what to expect this week. “I haven’t even spoken to him about it.” In other stable news, Herlihy has sold Blazen River to American interests while Miracle Moose was scratched from tonight’s meeting with a similar deal in the late stages. And one of his more promising horses, Mr Yips, is out long-term with a tendon injury. “He didn’t break down, there just a bit of a tear in the tendon. “He was coming up really good and it was out of the blue. So, we’ve done a stem cell treatment and he’s now on the water walker.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Punters planning to load up on Blair Orange and Michael House at Manawatu Raceway today should be very wary about spending this week’s pay cheques. That’s the message from House as he grapples with a “horror show” of draws on the second of two days in Palmerston North. The stable has 19 horses across nine races and has managed to come up with the inside of the second row five times and only one – Jessie Kelly – has drawn inside gate three. Add to that that many of the team were disappointing on Tuesday and House was rather downcast when spoken to by HRNZ between meetings. “This could go down as the poorest two-day Palmy meeting of all-time for us,” he said, referencing just the two wins on Tuesday. “It’s actually unbelievable the draws we have come up with. We’re pretty much rooted.” “You just can’t get the draws we’ve gotten and expect to get results.” Having Orange in the cart will help but, as he found out on Tuesday, having aggressive drivers the likes of Brent Mangos, David Butcher and Sailesh Abernethy there means he can’t lead and control races as he usually does at the track. An attempt to go through the team with House was met with lament, most horses written off thanks to poor efforts on day 1, poor draws today, or a combination of both. The one horse House conceded “should win” was Den’s Legacy, who will go around as a $1.40 favourite in race six. “He should have won on Tuesday but didn’t. “At least he has a draw to work with and it’s not a strong field. Probably our best hope.” Mekong Princess is off 50 metres in the trot and will struggle, he reckoned, while Voodoo Prince “was terrible in third” on Tuesday and Burst Out Laughing stopped sharply “and I don’t know why”. Masada “should have won with the run it had” as should second-placed Magic Blaze though “he’s won one from 50 for a reason”. Rake and Play Ball were tidy winners on Tuesday but have both drawn the inside of the second row on Thursday which should spell the end of their chances, reckoned House. Jessie Kelly is drawn two it was questionable whether she could run out a strong 2500 metres, her trainer felt. Martin McGuiness, who dropped out from a soft trip on Tuesday, would not be returned to Canterbury after today. “I’ve rung 10 people to give him away today and no one wants him.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight     Steve Green will never forget the day he knew he had a decent trotter. Because it was the same day that he thought he was going to die. That trotter, Recycle, cleared maidens at Alexandra Park on Friday night, endorsing recent placings and solid trial form. Green, an electrician who trains a few horses on a small track in Pukekawa, half an hour south of Pukekohe, was over the moon. “It was a pretty special night. An emotional night,” he told HRNZ. “Seeing Andre (Poutama, driver) get out of the cart to have his photo taken with the horse after all we’ve been through with him. “I was pretty emotional. I’ll cherish that photo until the day I die. “And I didn’t get much sleep last night after the race; I was up looking at programmes.” Recycle, a four-year-old son of Monkey Bones, was close to being sacked a number of times. So much so that Green believes if he was with any other trainer, he probably wouldn’t be around anymore. “It took me about two years to make him. That’s the long and the short of it. “I’d sacked him twice and he was having his last run one day when the bit broke.” It’s a day Green will never forget. “The only thing I could think of was I was going to die. “I’ve only got a small track here and the bastard just kept increasing and increasing his speed. “After ten rounds he finally stopped and turned around. “After 15 minutes of sweating and shaking – me not the horse – I took the gear off him and he didn’t have a mark on him. “From that day on I knew I had something.” Green has pottered around with a modicum of success for many years, but before Friday, he’d never won a race with a trotter. He hadn’t even lined one up for seven years. “My partner, Sue (England), always wanted a Monkey Bones grey horse and we tried to get two or three but missed. “Then we found this one but he wasn’t grey. “The deal was if she got it, she would work it. Well that didn’t really pan out,” he joked. Driver Andre Poutama has warned Green that the next grade up for trotters at Auckland is a stiff rise, so he’s considering an alternative, for more than one reason. “I haven’t been able to go to Cambridge with him because it’s taken nine months to get him going that way around. “But he did it twice this week and trotted absolutely faultlessly. “I don’t want to go straight back to Auckland, so I’m thinking of something a little easier. “And I remember Gary Hillier saying to me a trip away can make a horse.” Next stop? Palmerston North. “I think that would be logical.” Green says a few potential buyers have been ‘kicking tyres’ but not exactly endearing themselves to him. “Some of the prices have been a bit of a lottery but no one has actually fronted up with the money. “Most of them say, imagine what he’ll do in another stable. “And I say, well, he wouldn’t be here if he had been in another stable.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight New Zealand’s leading driver capped an unforgettable week with victory in the country’s biggest trotting race at Addington on Friday. Blair Orange, three days removed from winning the New Zealand Cup, pulled off another double-figure-priced upset when Habibi Inta blew his opponents off the track in the $300,000 Dominion Trot. Orange combined with trainer Paul Nairn in victory and paid tribute to the master trainer of trotters post-race. “He’s an outstanding trainer; it’s just like when you drive for Mark (Purdon) and Natalie (Rasmussen). “His horses are fit and healthy and they just trot beautifully and I’m just a lucky guy to be sitting here.” Habibi Inta was a last-start winner at Kaikoura but punters preferred Purdon and Rasmussen’s boom four-year-old, Oscar Bonavena. But he struck trouble on the first bend and took no further part. Second favourite Marcoola, hunting back-to-back wins in the race, led up but couldn’t muster any more down the straight as Habibi Inta cleared out. “Going in to the race, I never thought we could beat Oscar Bonavena or Marcoola,” said Orange. “I thought we could run second or third. But once again it comes down to Paul’s ability to have them ready on the day. “We got a bit of luck and the horse did the rest.” Nairn was typically under-stated after adding yet another Group 1 to his record, and a third Dominion after Call Me Now in 1995 and Stig in 2008. “I’m thrilled. “He’s been working sensational but I thought there were four or five good winning chances in the race. “I kept the work up to him after Kaikoura because I knew he’d have to go very well, and it worked.” Julie Maghzal owns the Love You stallion and was in shock shortly after receiving the trophy. “I can’t believe we’ve won it, I just can’t believe we’ve won it,” she said gazing with amazement at the grandiose trophy. “I’m absolutely thrilled and elated to see him do what I always knew he was capable of. “He’s been nurtured all the way by the nicest, most lovely man you could ever have dealings with. “Paul and I have been together in racing for a long, long time.” Maghzal is in love with Habibi Inta and says he will stand as a stallion one day, privately if not commercially. “He’s a beautiful, beautiful animal and a very solid trotter and I’ll definitely be breeding from him later on. “His sister, Habibti Ivy, just had a wee filly by Father Patrick a few days ago so it’s been a great week. “I’m just so happy to have everyone here to share the day with me; my brother, daughter, all my family and friends. “To win this race means so much – and I was just happy to have a horse in it.” The final word went to Orange, who acknowledged former mentor Mike Austin in his speech. “My first thought when I crossed the line was my late mate Mike Austin. “I drove a lot of trotters for him and I know he’d be so proud. Thanks MG.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight A trip to Southland is looming on the horizon for Thursday’s ultra-impressive debut winner Ashburton, Bundoran. The three-year-old Sir Lincoln gelding showed rare speed to surge up the passing lane and beat another handy type in Unico Veloce, justifying the faith his connections have in him. “On ability we were confident,” said co-trainer Amber Lethaby, who also did the driving. “He took a couple of cracks at qualifying because he just got a little bit over eager to do things. “But he’s got a lot better with every run he’s had and his ability has never been in question.” After stepping well from the mile-and-a-half standing start point, Lethaby opted to take a trail on Bundoran behind Unico Veloce. The latter got a fairly soft lead in front, but was touched up by Calypso Rock in the 500 metres approaching the home straight. It took the sting out of the leader and allowed Bundoran to accelerate past him with ease over the last furlong. “Even if that didn’t happen, I’m pretty sure I probably would have got the leader anyway because we think quite a bit of our fella.” Australian interest is there in the horse, and regular high-end buyer from Perth, Greg Bond, inspected the horse on Wednesday before flying home, but no deal has been reached as yet. “I couldn’t say for sure whether he’s staying here or being sold; we’ll have to wait and see. “We’ve had some interest but maybe the Sir Lincoln factor is putting a few of them off. “To us, we know he’s a nice horse and we’re not going to let him go for nothing.” So, Southland might be next, with Lethaby’s husband and training partner, Jason, mapping out a course for the horse. “It’s back to the drawing board now, pretty much, and seeing what we’re serious about. “I’m not too sure but I know Jason was keen on getting him down south and looking at some of the Southern Supremacy heats. “Time will tell whether that’s going to work out or not. “At the moment, we’re sticking him to stands so we’re going to have to put him in mobiles if that’s a real option.” Lethaby says they’ve never had a Sir Lincoln in the stable before, but purchased him on type for just $5,000 at last year’s Christchurch yearling sale. “He’s the only one we’ve got in the stable. “He’s isn’t tall, but is strong and really solid. There’s still plenty of improvement in him too. “My husband owns half of him with three other guys, just loyal owners that we’ve had with us for a long time. “And we’re all just absolutely stoked to have a good horse.” One race later, Canterbury media darling Cassie Fahey, home from Australia to cover Cup Week for Sky Racing, had cause to celebrate. Her family’s horse, Cheezel, won the junior drivers’ race at her first start for Woodend Beach horseman, Regan Todd. Fahey, along with sister Tess and dad, Brian, were there to celebrate what was the daughter of Betterthancheddar’s fourth win, the previous three coming under Brian’s tutelage. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Glamour mare Belle Of Montana makes a welcome resumption at Alexandra Park on Friday. Last season’s Filly of the Year has had two workouts in preparation for the race and trainer Barry Purdon says both he and driver Zachary Butcher have been satisfied with proceedings. “Really happy,” he told HRNZ. “I think she may be a little bit vulnerable this week from a wide draw against some good ones, but she is there to win.” After enjoying a good, and well-earned, winter spell, it took some extra work to get the daughter of Bettor’s Delight back in to race trim. “She’s been pretty big in condition and isn’t quite there yet but is looking a picture.” Belle Of Montana strikes a strong field over the mobile mile which includes the likes of Star Galleria, The Devils Own and her own stablemates, Havtime and On The Cards, who are both also resuming from spells. Purdon believes On The Cards is the fittest of his trio and despite drawing the outside alley, probably presents as the best of his hopes in the race. “He’s won both his trials and has gone good in doing so. “He’s pretty forward for this week and it’s just the draw that will hurt his chances.” Belle Of Montana is being set for next month’s Group 1 Queen of Hearts, where she will likely go head to head with her nemesis from last season, Princess Tiffany. “After that, we’ll probably look across to Australia for the Ladyship Mile if she’s going good enough at the time.” Purdon has gotten off to a rampant start this season, training 19 winners and 18 place-getters from just 60 starters and he is six clear of the next best northerner on the trainers’ premiership. Accordingly, he has a very strong team in tonight and could easily go home with another three or four winners. Asked for an indication on perhaps his strongest chance on the night, he looked towards maiden pacer Bettor Listen, who is having just his second start after an encouraging second on debut. “He’s a nice horse and shouldn’t be a maiden for much longer; I expect him to go a good race.” “Little Miss Perfect is fresh-up and might just need the run in what is quite a good field. “We have Some Do in the same race and she’s a really nice filly, just not ideally drawn.” Purdon is in Christchurch this week, firstly for Mach Shard’s New Zealand Cup tilt on Tuesday and now Wainui Creek’s $40,000 Mares Classic tilt today. Mach Shard isn’t backing up after a disappointing run, where we dropped away from a perfect striking position on the point of the turn. “We haven’t had the bloods back yet but he’s feeling a little bit down on himself. “I think he’s just jarred up. “It’s just one of those things you can’t do much about.” The Racing Integrity Unit’s head harness steward, Nick Ydgren, said he was yet to be advised of any other horses having felt the effects of the track from Tuesday’s racing. “We haven’t heard anything, good or bad, about the state of the track.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight The race career of last season’s top juvenile pacing filly, Sweet On Me, has come to a premature end. Her connections made the decision to retire her last week after being told by vets she would not race as a three-year-old this season. “We had the option to put her out for six months and bring her back for next season,” said Paul Kenny, who raced her with wife Mary and father-in-law, Charles Roberts. “But by that time, she’s a four-year-old and when we really looked at it, we felt like she’d done enough. “She had a glittering career as a two-year-old so we thought we’d just leave it at that and have her as a broodmare.” It’s a fair assessment – the blueblood first born daughter of champion mare Adore Me won nearly a quarter of a million dollars in a career spanning just seven starts. She won two Group 1 races, including the 2YO Diamond at Addington’s Harness Jewels back in June, from the stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, and also won the 2YO Pacing Filly of the Year title. The diagnosis came while she was back in work with Purdon and Rasmussen after undergoing winter surgery. “When she was heading back south last season, Mark suggested we stop in and get scintigraphy done in Matamata,” said Kenny. “There was a chip in one knee and some minor cartilage issues in both knees. “They said we could keep racing her so we did that. “Then, on the way home after the Jewels she stopped off and had an operation and subsequently went through a faultless post-operative recovery.” It was all systems go for her three-year-old season and, after a period of swimming work, she returned to Canterbury for a new preparation. “But she just wasn’t comfortable at speed so we had some x-rays taken and it showed further problems. “We are too fond of the horse, all our horses, to risk her as we have plenty of others to go on with. “We’re not greedy and are very grateful for the success we have. “She gave us some great thrills last season.” Sweet On Me will not be bred now, but rather early next season. “You’re not going to get an early foal and we are breeding from 30 others, so we’ll start her nice and early next season.” Adore Me’s next foal, a full sister named Darling Me, is showing great promise for Purdon and Rasmussen. “On type and temperament, she’s a lovely filly but you never really know how good they are until they get to the track.” In a further blow for Roberts and the Kennys, they’ve also had to retire an unraced, but qualified, three-year-old full sister to recently-retired champion mare Dream About Me. “She had a problem with a suspensory as a two-year-old last season and now, unfortunately, she’s gone in the other suspensory. “She hadn’t raced, but she’d done enough at the trials stage to know she had some ability.” Dream About Me has returned a positive scan to Captaintreacherous, which would be her first foal. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Ex-pat Kiwi horseman Anthony Butt put aside a hellish 18 hours to win the day’s feature trot at Addington on Tuesday. Driving Sydney visitor Tough Monarch, Butt executed an aggressive front-running drive to win the $100,000 Group 1 New Zealand Trotting Free For All. In frantic scenes, the now Sydney-based Cantabrian Butt only arrived on course mere minutes before the horses were due to go on track. Smoke from the wild fires raging in New South Wales saw his flight cancelled last evening and he only landed in the country 1 hour before the start of the race. “It was a nightmare,” he said post-race. “I went there yesterday afternoon and when I’d nearly got to the airport, I got a text that said the flight was postponed for three hours until 10 o’clock last night. “I went to them and said, tell me now if it’s not going to go and I’ll get on something else. “They said no, no it’s definitely going to go and then at about 9 o’clock they cancelled on me. “By then it was too late to get on anything else.” So, Butt went back home to Menangle and tried everything he could to try and get to Addington the next day. “I was up half the night trying to find flights. “I tried everything – through Auckland, through Melbourne, through Brisbane. “But there was only one option and it got in at 2 o’clock.” The race was set down to start at 2.47 on the other side of town. It didn’t seem likely. “But luckily we landed 10 minutes early. Plus, I only had carry-on and the attendants put me right by the door so I was first off.” His mum, Jenny Butt, picked him up and rushed across town while Butt got changed in to his driving gear in the back seat. He ran in to the Addington stables just five minutes before the horses were called on to the track. Tough Monarch, off the back of an excellent trial on the track last Wednesday, was a $3 favourite with punters and never them any cause for concern. “He felt good the whole way,” said Butt. “We sort of had to a bit early but he was comfortable and Rickie (Alchin, trainer) said to not let them get up to him. “Round the bend they started to drop off and we put a gap on them.” About then, fellow Australian trotter, McLovin, was extracted to the outside by Kate Gath and launched a grinding finish. He got close, but not close enough, and the pair recorded a famous Australian quinella on New Zealand’s biggest race day. Tough Monarch has been there or thereabouts in all the features across the ditch in recent seasons, but Tuesday’s was his first Group 1 win after three placings. “He’s just a wee professional. “It was his first Group 1, but he’s been around about it a lot of the time so he really deserves this.” Gath was thrilled with McLovin’s effort, saying he overcome a less-than-preferable draw and trip to finish close up in second. “I was really happy with him. “I was a little bit disheartened when the draws came out and we knew Tough Monarch would be tough to beat off the front. “So, to get as close as we did was pleasing and it’s a good sign for the Dominion on Friday.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight Young Christchurch trainer Darren Keast had a day he will never forget when training two upset winners on New Zealand Cup Day, Tuesday. The 22-year-old could barely believe what had just unfolded before his eyes when Ascalabus won paying $49.10 with his dad, Jamie in the cart. A couple of hours earlier, the father-and-son combo had opened the day with a victory by trotter Lovey Dovey Moment. “I absolutely flippin’ can’t believe that that’s happened,” said the younger Keast after the second win. “At the start of the day I was thinking Lovey Dovey Moment was a live chance. “And Ascalabus, it’s hard to get confident at $50 but I thought his last start at Addington was as good as it could be. “He was three-wide and just got beat on the post by a horse we dragged in to the race.” In another layer to the story, Ascalabus is owned by one of the biggest names of yesteryear, local fisheries businessman, Kypros Kotzikas, who won the New Zealand Cup in 1997 with Iraklis. “I’m just unbelievably grateful to have Kypros behind me. “How many young fellas would have a big owner like him behind them? “We’ve had our issues with the horse. “This time last year he raced in the Cup Day maiden and finished fourth and we got offered really big money for him. “But when he was checked over by the vets, he had a niggle in a leg and had to be boxed for six weeks. “Kypros was probably entitled to take him off me then but he stuck by me and gave me a go.” Training two winners on the country’s biggest race day is one thing, but having his dad drive them was the cherry on top for Keast. “It’s just unbelievable. “He served it up with that trotter; he came out and attacked Majestic Hurricane, which is a known puller, and that was really ballsy. “But it was the winning of the race. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Dad and his support and I’m forever grateful for everything he’s done for me.” Keast left school at 15 to go and work in Sydney and then Brisbane before returning to Canterbury. “I got a bit home sick so came back and started working for Cran Dalgety.” He will now turn his attention to Auckland a crack at the Inter Dominions, which start at the end of the month. “Lovey Dovey Moment is about 95 percent sure to go because he trots so much better that way around. “I’m not sure about Ascalabus though; I’ll see what Kypros is happy doing and go from there.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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