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By Garrick Knight    Andrew Sharpe is looking forward to seeing what his horse, Cassius, can do from his first decent draw at Cambridge tonight. The Sir Lincoln three-year-old contests an $8,000 maiden and has come up with the ace draw after drawing no better than six in three starts to date. He has good form through those races, running strong seconds to both Hampton Banner and Cruzee Mach, who each led and won. “I’m rapt with the draw,” Sharpe told HRNZ. “I think he has enough gate speed to lead up or hand up so he should be pretty hard to roll. “He was never going to beat the winners in those last two starts, but he hasn’t been knocked around and is still learning.” Sharpe, who works for Derek Balle in Pukekohe, has his boss to thank for getting Cassius, who he races on lease. “We broke him in at Derek’s and he went out in the paddock. I had the trotter, My Boy Boo, at the time but ended up finishing with him. “Derek asked if I had a replacement then offered me him to lease. “He just sort of owned too many and couldn’t have them all in work. “I had nothing else so figured I might as well give him a go. Sharpe said his initial thoughts on Cassius were just fair, but he’s continued to impress. “When we broke him in, I thought he was just ok. “But since then, everything I’ve asked of him, he’s done it and done it nicely. “He just wants to be out there and is getting better and better with every run.” The higer stakes at Auckland are something Sharpe longs for, but can’t target at this point. “I just can’t quite get him going right-handed. He’s a lot better the Cambridge way. “Personally, I think he’s good enough to race at Auckland but it’s off the cards right now.” There’s always the potential the horse could get sold, and he’s had some interest, but has resisted the offers for now. “We could get some money for him, but I just want a little more. “Even if he wins a race, it’s only going to help his price.” In weighing up this week’s opponents, Sharpe initially thought the Brian and Gareth Hughes-trained Miss Shuga would be the hardest to beat. “But everyone’s telling me it’s not much good and the bookies only opened her at $9. “So, I guess we have to be guided by the market and say Euphoria ($5.50) and Brookies Jaffa ($2.90).” Cassius opened at $5 yesterday and was backed in to $4.60 soon enough. Race favourite Brookies Jaffa has been a revelation since joining Jason and Megan Teaz’s stable, putting in two huge efforts to run third and fourth after sitting three-wide for the last lap. But he’s drawn wide again and will have to raise his game another notch to beat Cassius, it seems. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    She might not have been the punters’ friend at Motukarara on Sunday, but nothing was going to wipe the smile off Anj Mugford’s face. The Leeston horsewoman pulled off a rare three-figure upset when training and driving Night Lights to win a girls’ maiden race, her first victory in both fields. Night Lights was the despised outsider at $113.60 and probably with justification having been unplaced in 23 prior runs. The horse was drawn badly and had no real form to get excited about, but Mugford was still optimistic. “I did think I’d be in the money but I didn’t expect to win because the draw was no help,” she told HRNZ. And Night Lights had to be the best horse in the race to win, too. She was three-wide, then parked and simply out-toughed her opponents in a slogging finish. Mugford was stung with a three-day suspension for going one strike over the whip maximum, but it wasn’t going to take the gloss off the day. “It does feel like it was a long time coming. “It’s hard to explain how I felt when I crossed the line. I didn’t really believe it. “I was waiting for them to get past me all the way down the straight and it never happened.” Mugford has done things a little differently to most in that she had her trainers’ licence for two seasons before taking out a junior drivers’ licence to match it. She has been plugging away with horses that carry limited ability the last few years and it’s no surprise that Night Lights came from another stable. “I can’t afford to go out and buy nice ones from the sales; I have to get other people’s cast offs. “With Night Lights, I had put something up on Facebook saying I was looking for a horse to race over the summer. “Carla Robertson-Holmes messaged me and said they had her there and they think she’s got ability so was probably worth a go. “So, it’s thanks to Carla that I got the horse, otherwise this wouldn’t have happened.” Mugford started working for the late Bryce Buchanan during her high school years before joining his son-in-law, Terry Chmiel’s stable “for eight or nine years”. “Then I took a break and did vet nursing for a year. “I went back and worked for Bruce Hutton and then I was not actually involved with horses when Bruce rung and said I’ve got one here that you should have a go at training yourself.” Before too long she had her licence and a couple of horses around her, including the now-retired but ability-laden trotter, Razor. Now she’s got her drivers’ licence “just so I can drive my own ones, really” and helps out neighbour Kevin Fairbairn, whose track she uses to train her team. Along with Night Lights, Mugford trains the 57-start maiden mare Don’t Tell Ange, who she is determined to win a race with. She’s come close four times, including a second placing at Addington. “She goes alright and I’d like to think she can get a win somewhere along the line.” But if it doesn’t happen, she’s ok with it. “I got in to horse racing for the horses, not for the racing. And that’s still what it’s all about for me.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Belle Of Montana confirmed her billing as New Zealand’s top race mare with an effortless win in the $100,000 Group 1 Queen of Hearts on Saturday night. Driver Zachary Butcher had a relatively easy task once he found the front early on in the race, his mare’s clear class edge meaning opposing drivers were simply unwilling to challenge him. As a result, the race was run in a relatively sedate 2.40.7, but punishing finals splits of 55.2 and 26.5 gave her the upper hand. Trainer Barry Purdon said post-race that the Auckland Cup in just over two weeks’ time was off the table, but she might get a wee ‘taster’ against the boys early next month. “There’s a rating 50 and faster programmed for Auckland Cup night, but I’m nut sure what sort of field that will be. “Maybe we’ll go to the mile at Cambridge the week after. We’ll see.” After that, it’s off to Aussie to tackle two key Group 1 races across the ditch. “There’s a nice race in Melbourne at the start of February, the Ladyship Cup. I’d like to target that and then possibly the Ladyship Mile at Menangle.” There are firm plans to tackle the open class ranks next season with the daughter of Bettor’s Delight. “Next year she’ll be five and I really think we’ve got to have a go at the really big races like the (NZ) Cup. “But for now, she’s only four and there are some good race against her own sex. “We can space them out a bit and look after her.” On hand to receive the trophy was Belle Of Montana’s Queensland owner, Dean Shannon, a self-made business tycoon with a real love of the horses. “I’ve had seven or eight businesses over the years that I built up and sold.” He’s had a longstanding relationship with Brisbane horseman Darrell Graham, who was also on course to celebrate, but Shannon decided to team up with Purdon two-and-a-half years ago, a move he’s never regretted. “I’ve bought horses from the sales for the last 20-odd years. “I decided I’d like to race a few here so I went to the sale and bought four, then I just needed a trainer to leave them with. “I went and saw Barry and asked if he had any room for these horses that I’ve just bought and he was more than happy to. “I’d met Barry and (wife) Katrina a few times over the years and they are really lovely people. And of course, he’s just an awesome trainer. “Couldn’t be happier with my decision. “And now I’m fully engaged in New Zealand racing. I’m watching it every weekend and know all the horses.” Belle Of Montana, Shannon humbly concedes, was one he picked out on his own from the sale catalogue. “She was on my short list and I came over and saw her in the flesh. “I always spend a couple of days looking at all the horses I like and get the vets to go over them “In my system that I use, she actually rated a nine out of 10. “Being a three-quarter sister to Carabella I thought I’d have to pay $100,000 for her. “So, I was stunned when I got her for $40,000 or $50,000, I can’t remember exactly how much. “She was my top pick of the sale.” Any while the other three Shannon bought in that first crop have ended up in Queensland with Graham, Belle Of Montana won’t be following suit. “One hundred percent, she will be staying with Barry for good. “She’s not going anywhere.” Except, most likely, back to the winner’s circle. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Natalie Rasmussen cemented her place in the annals of harness racing history with a record-equaling Inter Dominion triumph at Alexandra Park on Saturday night. The expat Queenslander equaled the record for most driving wins when reining Ultimate Sniper to a typically courageous win in the $500,000 showpiece event. It’s unlikely any horse will ever supersede her former champion pacer, and four-time Inter Dominion winner, Blacks A Fake, but Ultimate Sniper, who she co-trains in Christchurch with Mark Purdon, will hold a special place in her heart. “It’s pretty up there,” she said post-race. “I’ve been lucky enough to drive so many great horses but this is really quite special tonight because I matched Brian (Hancock)’s record. “And for a four-year-old to do it the way he’s done it – he never had an easy run or anything but he made his own luck – I’m just absolutely rapt for the horse.” The win cemented Ultimate Sniper’s position as the country’s premier pacer, even allowing for the absence of his illustrious stablemates Turn It Up, Spankem and Self Assured. He was dominant throughout the series, going through the three heats last week without any luck whatsoever but still proving too good, and decisively so. His Grand Final run was comparatively easy – sitting parked outside the leader A G’s White Socks for the past mile – and he had too much in reserve down the straight. “I didn’t sort of bustle him too much early and I did all the work. “He just relaxed so well and he’s so kind and lovely. “Then, when I asked him, he just had that kick left. He was tired on the line but he never gave up.” For Ultimate Sniper’s co-owner, Phil Kennard, the win was a continuation of a brilliant recent run across Australasia’s Grand Circuit. Between all-conquering champion Lazarus, last season’s Horse of the Year, Spankem, and now Ultimate Sniper, he, wife Glenys and many of their close friends have been on the ride of a life time. But this last win very nearly didn’t happen. For two reasons. “The Thursday after the Trotting Cup last month, we were talking to Mark and Natalie about what we were going to do with him. “It was really a toss of the coin about whether he contested this series. “But Nat said I think we should give him his chance, and try and go easy on him in the heats. “Obviously her idea of easy and a Kiwi’s idea aren’t the same thing!” His New Zealand Cup campaign was aborted after a below-par effort in the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Labour Weekend, one Kennard calls an “aberration”. But he came out “after a four-day freshener” and blew his opponent of the track on the undercard. It was enough to convince Rasmussen. And for Kennard, there was a lot of hesitation about going to $85,000 to buy the colt at the 2017 Christchurch yearling sale, having bought and raced his illustrious but injury-plagued older brother, Ultimate Machete. “There was lots of doubt. I’ve never really gone for the full brother of one we’ve raced before. “But we kept going back to him. We liked him and knew he was a different type of horse to Machete. “We were looking for a reason not to buy him, but Mark and Nat went over him and the decision was made when we got outbid on another horse earlier in the sale. “Phil Creighton, who is in the horse, tried to talk us out of it, but eventually came back and said he was on board.” Two flip of the coin decisions, both went their way. The pay off? A champion confirmed and history made. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It’s been a whirlwind six months for New Zealand’s most promising junior driver, Sarah O’Reilly. After a thrilling week of competition against the best of her peers from here and in Australia, she was crowned Australasian Junior Driving Champion at Alexandra Park in Auckland on Friday. It comes just five months after she secured the New Zealand title at Addington during the winter. The attention and fanfare that comes with such accomplishments has proved daunting for the quietly-spoken teenager from Rakaia. And it’s fair to say having a virtually unassailable lead for the past 24 hours weighed heavily on her shoulders. “I woke up a couple of times last night because I was so nervous,” she said. “But I was trying not to overthink it. They told me last night what I said to do in the last race to stay in front so I was just focused on that.” After reining M T Pockets in to fifth place – enough to secure the title – she finally let herself enjoy the moment, joined by her horseman father, Gerard, and mum, Jane. “It’s pretty amazing, I can’t believe it. I didn’t expect any of this. “I was just happy to drive 20 winners last season.” Gerard taught her everything she knows, she reckons, but she made special mention of another lady driver who has become a mentor and role model for her. “Sam Ottley has been really good to me. She’s been there for me since my very first workout drive.” With the two big goals already ticked off her ‘to-do’ list, O’Reilly has a rather modest target moving forward. “I just want to keep going the way I am, keep driving winners and, hopefully, beat last season’s total.” One thing’s for sure – she’s a lifer in the game.  “I just want to keep driving as much as I can for the rest of my life.” Sydney’s Cam Hart finished second after a very hot and cold series where he drove the first three winners only to have his next two drives pulled up without taking any serious part. O’Reilly’s fellow Cantabrian, Sheree Tomlinson, who won the final heat with The Paua Diver, rounded out the podium finishers, unable to defend the title she won 12 months ago. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    The first batch of race-ready juveniles will step out at Alexandra Park tonight in a $25,000 Young Guns heat. For Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon, it’s a chance to step out a colt they have very high hopes for as perhaps their next stable star. His name is Krug and at $155,000, he was the third highest-priced colt out of the Christchurch yearling sales earlier this year. Money well spent according to Purdon. “He’s probably right up there with some of the best two-year-olds that I’ve driven,” he declares. “He’s definitely got a lot of ability and this trip away is doing him the world of good. “A typical Bettor’s Delight; has got a great attitude and is very versatile.” After being unbeaten in two trials in his home province, Krug came north and immediately made an impression winning at Pukekohe on November 30, over most of the horses he meets tonight. But First Class, co-trained by Purdon’s father, Mark, turned the tables on Krug in a workout between races at Alexandra Park last Friday night, and that has him a little weary tonight. Especially with Krug drawn wide and First Class in the two-hole. “First Class looks the one to beat on what he showed last week. “Blair Orange drove our guy last week and was very happy with him; he didn’t ask him for too much and just came out at the top of the straight. “He got in a wee bit on the journey so we’ve put a rein pole on him tonight to help that.” Purdon just wants to see Krug do everything right and hit the line well tonight, to confirm that they are on track for richer upcoming assignments. “The main aim is for him just to do everything right. It would surprise me if he didn’t because he’s got great manners. “He’s grown a lot in the last six weeks and hasn’t copped a lot of hard work. “We’ve given him four or five days off here and there to manage him through it and he seems pretty bright at the moment. “He’s a horse that we think has a big future, but he’ll tell us how far he wants to go this season.” Also tonight, Dalgety and Purdon line up three-year-old trotting filly Chevron Action against the older horses over a mile. “She’s a lovely trotter and one that has really matured since she’s been up here. “I think she’s thriving on the trip but as far as the race tonight goes, she’s against the older ones and I wonder whether the mile might be the undoing of her.” The team has Gemma Mac and Dr Susan in the Group 1 Ladyship Stakes tomorrow night and Purdon says the latter is the stable’s better chance of running in the money. “She’s a lovely filly and is probably thriving fractionally more than Gemma Mac up here. “The other filly has squeezed up a bit, which isn’t uncommon in Art Majors, but just the way they’ve been going I think Dr Susan is our better hope. “Probably can’t beat Amazing Dream but wouldn’t surprise me if she ran in the money.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Quality stock ship to USA Fresh off competing in the Inter Dominion series, open class pacer The Devils Own has been sold and will do his future racing in North America. He's been scratched from his engagement at Alexandra Park on Saturday night and was due to leave Auckland today (Friday). Also on the flight is promising pacer Flying Finn, a last start winner on night one of the Inter Dominion carnival. Trainer Barry Purdon confirmed the deal, which will see ex-pat Australian Ross Croghan his new trainer.  Flying Finn joins Croghan's other recent purchases, Otago mare Anne Bonney and the brilliant Queensland mare, Eleniark. Others headed to America this weekend include Stratford pacer Claytons Bettor, who won three races in a row recently for Phil Stratford, and well-performed mare Somethingaboutmary, trained by Tony Herlihy. Purdon confirmed he has also sold two other mid-grade pacers from his stable. “Sole Ambition is going to Brisbane and Mohs Em Down to Sydney. “None of them were actively for sale, but the right offers came along at the right time so we agreed to sell.”   Court for Canada Canterbury trainer Paul Court has confirmed he is moving to Canada at the end of the season. It’s not the first time Court, whose wife is Canadian, had moved to North America. “This has not been an easy decision and has definitely not been taken lightly,” he said. “But due to personal reasons, my family and I have decided to move.” It is expected that Court’s current foreman, Simon McMullan, will take over the sizeable West Melton operation.   VC winding down Southland’s longtime stallion, Washington VC, is in the twilight of his career and is serving a small book under very restricted terms this season. “We’ve capped him at 25 mares, and they have to be local,” said Keith Norman, of Bryleigh Stud. “His fertility is questionable and I don’t want to be responsible for owners paying to truck mares here when they might not get in foal. “A few weeks ago, someone from Canterbury wanted to send two mares down and I declined.” Norman also mention he is close to taking Themightysamson, a full brother by Washington VC to champion pacer, Themightyquinn, to the workouts. “I took him in to Wyndham to the other day and he ran a mile-and-a-half in 3.26.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    When you talk to Brad Williamson, it quickly becomes apparent that he has an aptitude for race tactics. He’s a student of the game. Does his research. Knows his opponents and what he needs to do to beat them. So, it’s no surprise that he has a clear idea in his head ahead of Saturday night’s $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final at Alexandra Park. Williamson drives second-favourite Majestic Man for his father, Phil and they face a rather daunting task trying to beat the even-money pop Winterfell, and Mark Purdon. “Just at the moment, Winterfell appears to be in the zone and I don’t think any trotter could sit outside him and beat him,” Williamson says. With that statement he’s justifying what was a meritorious effort by Majestic Man to run third after sitting parked outside Winterfell in a New Zealand record in the final heat last Friday night. This week is a different kettle of fish though – both horses are drawn well and Williamson fancies his chances of finding the markers first. But it’s not as much of a formality as many might think. “It’s a tricky one because obviously Majestic Man has super gate speed, but Winterfell is also a lot quicker than people realise. “I had trouble crossing him in the Northern Derby and I wasn’t able to get across him when we were drawn side by side in another race. “That being said, Majestic Man is in the zone and the markers are the place to be so I have to get there.” Williamson confirmed his father had given him a clear directive accordingly. “Dad mentioned to me that he does want me to cross and, realistically, looking at the race, that’s the only way I could see us winning.” But the lead isn’t something Williamson wants, either. In fact, he wants the trail. “I don’t think he’ll be able to lead and win in this race.” So, does he hand to Marcoola and put Winterfell three back, or is he expecting Purdon to immediately come out and challenge for the front? Honestly? he doesn’t especially care. “Both Winterfell and Marcoola are stayers and when they find the front won’t be giving it away. “So, we’ll be handing up to which ever is the first of them to come looking. “And I’m 90 percent sure that will be Winterfell.” Williamson is banking on his horse’s sheer speed coming to pass in one last stretch battle. “Majestic Man is as fast as anything in the race over a quarter but I’m picking Mark is not going to leave it to a sharp sprint home. “It’s not going to be a slowly run race, that’s guaranteed being an Inter Dominion Grand Final. “Winterfell broke the New Zealand record under a hold last week and probably had a couple of seconds up his sleeve, too.” Even then, it will be out of Purdon’s hands anyway as a bevvy of decent trotters try and get in to the race from wide or second line draws, primarily Marcoola. “It’s not really going to affect me, what the other horses do, because the markers are the place to be in this race. “But, being a Grand Final, I don’t think everybody is going to be sitting back and not moving.” Outside of the big three, Williamson reckons Temporale, who maps to sit four pegs for most of the race, could be the blowout option. “Looking for an outsider, Temporale has got the best draw of the others outside of Winterfell, in my opinion. “He’s drawn to sit on the markers on a likely record run and all he’ll need is a wee bit of luck of the last 800 metres. “And you’d back Tony Herlihy, out of anyone, to find a path through them. “He knows the track better than anyone and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take advantage of a cold shot at them.” With all the planning and thinking done ahead of time, Williamson was looking forward to getting up to Auckland and just taking it all in. After all, he’s a live chance of joining the greats of the game – Anthony Butt, Mark Purdon, Gavin Lang, Tony Herlihy, Barry Purdon, Doody Townley, David Butt, Peter Jones – as the winning driver in an Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final. The annals of harness racing history await the lad from Oamaru. “There is just something about it that I’m really looking forward to. “The Inter Doms are all anyone is talking about at the moment and I’m privileged to be a part of it.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Like a fine wine, Mister Harris is seemingly just getting better with age. The 10-year-old veteran pacer, a winner at Manawatu on Thursday evening, is in career-best form for his Hawera trainer, Willie Fleming. He’s won three of four starts this season and now sits on nine for his career. “I’m bloody rapt with how he’s going,” said Fleming. “I haven’t done anything different with him, the only thing I can see is that I’ve changed my feed. “Whether that’s it, I don’t know, but Scott Dickson made a point of telling me today when the horse was warming up that he looked bloody well.” Fleming took over training Mister Harris at the start of last year, when his breeder and then owner/trainer, Dave Cambie got injured. “Dave had cut the end off his thumb and didn’t want it getting infected, so he sent me the horse to look after for a while. “I actually had him when he got his last win in Dave’s name and he then retired from training and got out of the game.” He offered Fleming the horse on lease and it was an easy proposal to accept. “Dave was made a life member at the Taranaki club before he retired but has now backed right away from it all. “He’s trying to get a bit more golf in, I think. “But he still watches the horse and was the first one to ring me after the race today.” Fleming reckoned he knew Mister Harris was on song for his five-horse race yesterday in the tie-ups before going out on the track. “He gave me a couple of nips and flicked his foot at me. “When he’s grumpy like that, I know he’s going to race well. “He’s a really neat old horse with a bit of character about him.” Fleming actually expected his near-perfect start to the season (four wins and a placing from five starters) to continue a few races later when Sonny Reactor lined up in one of the Australasian Young Drivers’ Championship (AYDC) heats. “The other fella, I thought he was a real chance. The better chance of the two. “But he just over-raced which was disappointing. Ben Butcher said I just had him too well.” Where to now is the big question for Fleming with Mister Harris, who now finds himself an R67. “You tell me because I don’t know. We were lucky that the first win this season was penalty-free, which gave us a lifeline, but he’s getting up there now. “He seems to love racing at Manawatu so I’d like to keep him here if I can. “Last season I tried to pick up a couple of country cups with him on the grass, but he seems better on the hard surface. “The days of him winning from in front are gone, I think, but he’s still got one hell of a sprint when saved up for one run at them.” Another three heats of the AYDC were held and it was series leader Sarah O’Reilly again holding court with two seconds and a fourth to maintain her lead heading in to tonight’s final heat at Alexandra Park. Cam Hart, from Sydney, is the only one that can beat her for the title, but will need a minor miracle as he drives the rank outsider, Johnny Mac. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Two vastly-contrasting days at Manawatu Raceway saw a change of leader in the Australasian Young Drivers’ Championship on Tuesday. New South Welshman, Cameron Hart, had been perfect through the first three races of the series, going unbeaten. But the wheels fell off in a big way when Hart’s first two drives took no part in their races and were pulled up, giving him the least possible points yield. In contrast, Canterbury’s Sarah O’Reilly had a near-perfect day, recording two wins and a second placing to leapfrog to the top of the table with three heats to go. “I was lucky to drive some nice horses today,” said O’Reilly. One of them was Auckland visitor Ace Strike, who was too good in the last on the card despite sitting parked. “He had good gate speed but Rake wasn’t going to hand up to me. “So, I just let him do his own thing out parked and he was nice and relaxed. “I thought rounding the last bend that we could pick the one in front up because he just kept responding.” The tour was only originally supposed to have two heats at the meeting, but an excess of nominations meant the juniors were treated to three heats. “I would like to thank the trainers who put their horses in the champs,” said O’Reilly. “I’m having a great time so far and it is great to meet new people on the trip.” O’Reilly sits on 65 points, seven clear of Hart, who managed a fifth behind Scelta Uno in the final heat of the day, while kiwis Benjamin Butcher (45) and Sheree Tomlinson (39) are next best, then Perth’s Corey Peterson (36). Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Cam Hart is reveling in the glory of a perfect start to this year’s Hanley Formula Australasian Young Drivers Championship. The New South Wales representative, from Sydney, added to Saturday night’s first heat win at Addington with two more at Sunday’s grass track meeting in Methven. Accordingly, he has more than double the points of his nearest rival, defending champion Sheree Tomlinson. Tomlinson and her three fellow kiwis are in positions two through four on the points ladder, while Hart’s comrades from across the ditch are languishing at the bottom of the table. Hart did have the benefit of a couple of well-fancied drives at Methven, but still had to get the job done in what was his first experience driving on a grass surface. “Having a bit of luck makes a difference and I was lucky enough to draw a couple of nice horses today. “It was a good experience, my first time on the grass. “It was quite a nice track – smoother than I expected.” Refine won from the front in heat 2, but Beau Major had to be the best horse in the race after sitting parked throughout. “He gave me a really good feel. He’s a tough horse with change-up speed. “When I asked him to go, he found the line well. “It was a really impressive win and I think he’ll go on to do a good job.” Being so far in front is a luxurious position for Hart, but not one he is taking for granted. “I won’t think too much in to it. “I just have to go out there with a clear mind and drive the races the way I always would. “They’re all good drivers and with a bit of luck, they could catch me, especially the Kiwis.” The series moves to Manawatu on Tuesday and Thursday now and a glut of nominations will see a bonus race for the series on Tuesday as there were enough to cart three heats rather than the planned two. It also gives his opponents an extra chance to bridge the gap on him. Hart has drawn three horses in Our Wicklow, Brooke’s Image and Scelta Uno that are all capable of finishing in the money so he’s a live chance of holding his lead. “I haven’t had a chance to look at the fields yet, but I plan on doing it tomorrow on the trip up.” Hart works for Shane Sanderson at Menangle so is used to the hustle and bustle of hard mile racing. Longer trips and a more sedate tempo is something uncommon to him. “We have the 2300-metre start at Menangle but it’s mainly mile racing. “You get a bit more of a breather over here, I’ve noticed. “In Aussie, especially in Sydney, if you try and have a quiet quarter in front you’ll get taken on.” Hart is looking forward to the series’ final night, in Auckland on Friday, the night before the Inter Dominion Grand Finals. “It’s been good coming over here and driving on the grass on a big track, and I can’t wait to get up to Alexandra Park and race the ‘other’ way, too.” Points after 3 heats: Cam Hart (NSW) 50; Sheree Tomlinson (Def. Champ) 23; John Morrison (SI) 22; Sarah O’Reilly (NZ Champ) 21; Benjamin Butcher (NI) 18; Matt Elkins (Qld) 18; Corey Peterson (WA) 15; Brodie Webster (SA) 13; Conor Crook (Tas) 7; Zac Phillips (Vic) 6. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Winterfell earned himself favouritism for next Saturday’s $150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final with a dominant New Zealand record win on the third and final night of heats at Alexandra Park. In the hands of co-trainer Mark Purdon, the rangy square-gaiter had too much power for a key rivals Majestic Man and Massive Metro after leading over the 2700-metre journey. It’s been a remarkable turnaround in fortunes from the horse that had earned the distrust of punters through the spring. “He’s picked it all up now and we’re starting to work together, which is a big help,” said Purdon post-race. “I said to Nat (Rasmussen) during the week that he’s almost turned the corner. “He enjoyed bowling around in front and felt good. “He likes this way around and has settled down a lot. He seems a really happy horse at the moment.” His Canterbury breeder and owner, Trevor Casey, was on course to celebrate and was at pains to say how it was just a matter of patience. “It’s always a pleasure to win a race, but to win an Inter Dominion heat – two of them – incredible. “He’s only had 23 starts and only really stepped up to open company this year. “They can win at age group level, but they still need the ringcraft to hit the top grade.” That’s something Winterfell clearly didn’t have. “He did get really keen and he used to hit the cart as well. “We’ve got to have a really long cart on him because he’s got such a long stride. “But Mark said Tuesday night was the best he’s ever settled.” Winterfell continues a brilliant production run for his dam, Una Bromac. “It gives me so much satisfaction because is out of a pacing bred mare that trotted called Una Bromac. “She used to whack a knee and nobody wanted her so I bred from her. “The first one she bred, Harley, was 18 hands, but she’s left four open class trotters after that, including Escapee and Needle.” Casey has sold Una Bromac now “because I had that many trotters, was about to breed from Escapee and it was time to move on an older mare.” Massive Metro, who trailed, fought on well enough for second but never looked like threatening the winner down the straight, while Majestic Man ran third after sitting parked. In the night’s earlier heat, Temporale went back-to-back with another front-running win for Tony Herlihy and trainers, Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis. It was arguably the stronger of the two heats, but went over three seconds slower than the other one thanks to no mid-race pressure on Temporale. Paramount King finished on nicely for second in a sprint home, narrowly ahead of the Australian, Tough Monarch, and Marcoola, who rushed home out wide after going rough when wide on the final bend. Inter Dominion Final field: Winterfell ($3), Majestic Man ($3.40), Marcoola ($4.80), Temporale ($7), Massive Metro ($8.50), Paramount King ($11), Habibi Inta ($18), Tough Monarch ($26), Big Jack Hammer ($41), Destiny Jones ($81), Bonnie Highlander ($101), Valloria ($101). The emergency is Monty Python ($151). Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Jeremy Young was a pretty emotional man when Circus Boy won at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The horse he spent three years waiting on and slowly nursing back to health, rewarded him as both the owner and trainer with victory in a $20,000 race. “This would be one of the most satisfying wins of my career,” he told HRNZ post-race. “To have a horse with a broken bone like he did  make it back to the races and win on a night like this, it’s awesome. “I looked after him, now he’s looked after me.” Young took over training Circus Boy three-and-a-half years ago when sent the horse by Canterbury trainer Tony Barron. He had seven starts for a win before injury took hold. “He had a quarter crack that blew out so I gave him nine months out. “He was back in and coming up good a year later then he came off the track at Pukekohe lame one day. “I thought it must have been a stone under his shoe but we took an x-ray and he’d broken a hind pastern.” Young wasn’t in a position to pay for the conventional surgery option, but also couldn’t bear to see the horse put down. “He’s such a lovely, quiet horse and I like his character, so I rung my vet, Ivan Bridge, and asked him what the options were. “Since I couldn’t afford to screw him, Ivan said let’s bandage him up and put him in a box for four-and-a-half months. “So, that’s what we did. “When the time was up, I brought him back out of the box and he was walking sound, but it’s in the back of your mind about whether the leg was going to last” Just happy to have the horse safe and sound, and too scared to try him as a race horse, Young eventually just started working the horse as a guide to the rest of his team. “I used him in front of my young horses. He’s just such a quiet, placid trotter. “After eight months of slowly bringing him up I decided to try him again even though it was always in the back of my mind that it could fracture again.” Everything went smoothly and, this week, after a couple of runs to blow out the cobwebs, he shot up the passing lane to win at bolters’ odds. Young was noticeably emotional post-race and just so proud of the courage the horse has displayed. “It’s just such a pleasure to train this horse. “He’s part of the furniture; he can stay with me and maybe someone will want to ride him later on. “It would be my most satisfying win outside of the Northern Oaks with Best Western. “Because I saved his life and we’ve been through so much together. “It’s just so pleasing.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    While their fellow countrymen and women are on the big stage at Alexandra Park for the Inter Dominions, half-a-dozen lesser known Australian drivers have made their way across the ditch for some trans-tasman competition as well. They’re here for the Australasian Young Drivers Championship, which kicks off at Addington tonight before moving to Methven on Sunday, Palmerston North Tuesday and Thursday, then Auckland on Friday. Travelling the furthest for the series is West Australia’s Corey Peterson who, at 19, is the youngest of the 12 drivers in the series. When told of his selection recently, he didn’t quite believe it. “My old boss, Kristian Hawkins loves playing jokes on me. “He was always ringing me pretending to be someone else so when I got the call, I thought it was him at first. “I hung up thinking it was a joke, but then the email arrived the next day and knew it was actually real.” It’s his first trip to New Zealand and he can’t wait to get amongst it. “Really, really excited to go away and represent my state. “The New Zealand style of racing is all new to me. I’ve heard some of the drivers talking about it but I don’t know a lot. “So, I actually spoke to Gary Hall Jnr about it and he went through a few of the different rules to do with pushing out and pushing down, just the basics.” He’s especially looking forward to driving on the grass at Methven on Sunday, which will be another first. “That’s going to be an experience and a half. I’ve heard it’s quite bumpy.” Peterson spent some time working for Hall Jnr and his father, Hall Snr, before joining Hawkins. “The best horse I’ve driven would be Ideal Liner of theirs. “I worked there for about 10 months. I just started off doing yards and that kind of thing, then started jogging them and them a full tie job opportunity came up. “At the time you don’t think you’re learning much from guys like that, but when you leave the place, you realise how much you actually did.“ A typical week for Peterson consists of “12 or 13 drives” at all tracks state-wide. “I’m at Northam at the moment and I drove two winners at Pinjarra last night which was a surprise, because it’s a track where I never have any luck.” “From my house it’s roughly an hour-and-a-half each way to all the tracks. I’m smack bang in the middle.” Peterson has drawn the Kevin Townley-trained mare, Chasing Great in tonight’s first heat, rated a $15-shot by bookies, At Methven on Sunday he has live chance Beau Major while he’s drawn Amaro, Jessie Kelly and Rake in typically even fields at Manawatu on Tuesday. The field: Sheree Tomlinson (defending champion), Sarah O’Reilly (NZ champion), Benjamin Butcher (North Island), John Morrison (South Island), Cameron Hart (New South Wales), Conor Crook (Tasmania), Brodie Webster (South Australia), Corey Peterson (Western Australia), Matthew Elkins (Queensland), Zac Phillips (Victoria). Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    You’ve got to hand it to Steve Telfer. The Ardmore trainer has been dealt three cruel blows that have devastated his carefully-laid Inter Dominion plans with stable star Triple Eight, but he’s not hanging his head. “I’m not frustrated, that’s just the way it goes sometimes,” he said. “You just have to take the good with the bad.” After getting caught wide early from an awkward draw on night 1 last Friday, Triple Eight flew home from well back for an unlucky sixth placing. On Tuesday, in the second round of heats, he drew even wider, over a shorter distance and ended up being stuck four and five wide the last lap. “Then he got a flat tyre for the last 500 metres as well, which was not beneficial.” In a series where every finishing position matters, and a $500,000 final is on the line next Saturday night, it was a tough pill to swallow for connections. Tonight, in the third and final round of heats, Triple Eight has drawn the inside of the second row, following out Star Galleria, who dropped out to finish last on Tuesday. With gate speed on the front line from Cruz Bromac, Bling It On, Atomic Red and Thefixer, Triple Eight maps to be stuck four back on the markers or worse. “We’re really reliant on what Star Galleria does but I don’t envisage that it’s going to work out too well for us,” said Telfer. “It’s a shame because tonight he gets out to his preferred distance and he’s very well within himself. “He’s come through the runs good and I’m happy in that regard. “It’s just been a tough series that hasn’t gone our way.” Triple Eight is still only three points off the 12th horse though, and Telfer is thinking a top three finish would be enough to sneak him in the back door to the final. “Top two definitely, top three probably, so he’s still a chance. “He’s a better stayer than a sprinter, and these next two 2700-metre races were always going to be his go.” If things don’t go his way, Telfer will cop it on the chin and turn the page. “We took our chances and missed the New Zealand Cup to set him for December. “And if we don’t make this final, we still have the Auckland Cup two weeks later.” Telfer actually has Dance Time closer to qualifying for the final after running fourth at bolters’ odds on Tuesday. “He’s way better over the short trip and that was his best chance to get points the other night. “He’s drawn outside of the back row which won’t help but if he did get a drag in to it, there’s no reason why he couldn’t run in the first six and maybe qualify for the final.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Temporale added his name in the mix of an open Inter Dominion Trotting Championship with an impressive front-running victory over the short course at Alexandra Park on Tuesday night. Beach training appears to have worked the oracle with the seven-year-old son of Monarchy, who has been boarding with Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis in Waiuku for the past couple of months. “He’s just trotting so good now,” said Tony Herlihy, who drive the horse and is still officially the trainer. “Bernie and Michelle have done a great job on the beach with him. “His couple of races before the series were really good and he trialed nicely the week before, too.” He was a brave fourth behind Winterfell on night 1 last Friday after first leading, then trailing and moving to parked half a lap from home. But it was straight to the front on night 2 and race favourite Marcoola was unable to bridge the gap from three back on the markers. Now safely ensconced in next Saturday’s $150,000 Final, Herlihy can’t help but cast his eye ahead. “My fella has been terrific, but the longer trip will suit a few of the good horses, too. “I just hope we get no bad luck in the run and have our show. “Massive Metro will suit the 2700 metres and a few of the other boys can stay. “Majestic Man is racing so terrifically at the moment, and Marcoola, too.” Michelle Wallis said Temporale is a low-fuss commodity that is a pleasure to train on loan from Herlihy. “He’s a cool horse to do anything with. He just does what you ask him to and does it well. “We didn’t do much with him between Friday and today, just kept him happy, really.” Wallis and Hackett’s own horse, Massive Metro, made good ground from a hopeless position to finish third over an unsuitable short trip. Perhaps with a touch of bias, she declared he was the stable’s better chance in the final, but that it was a very open race. “Any one of half-a-dozen could win it. “It’s a good bunch of trotters with no real standout in my eyes. “Marcoola might be the one to beat – he’s had two nice soft trips on the markers and has ran home well both times.” Marcoola’s driver, Sheree Tomlinson, was thrilled with his performance and said everything is boding well for the final. “Really happy with him again tonight. He’s so well within himself and is thriving up here. “Probably drawing one isn’t helping us as he just can’t quite go with them early on.” Night 1 winner Paramount King was superb again, looping the field over the last half-lap and pushing the first two home to half-a-length. Co-trainer and driver Joshua Dickie couldn’t have been more pleased with the effort and said it gives him further confidence that the horse is a legitimate chance of winning the final with the right run. Trotters’ points after night 2. 25 Majestic Man, 25 Paramount King, 24 Marcoola, 23 Temporale, 23 Winterfell, 22 Massive Metro, 18 Habibi Inta, 15 Destiny Jones, 14 Bonnie Highlander, 13 Big Jack Hammer, 12 Monty Python, 12 Tough Monarch, 12 Valloria, 10 C K Spur, 10 Sertorius, 8 Pres The Belle, 7 Ronald J, 6 Didjabringthebeers, 6 Kenny’s Dream, 4 Woodstone Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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