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As far as form for a maiden trot goes, She Reigns has the best you could hope for. The problem? It’s from 16 months ago. The daughter of Monarchy resumes as a four-year-old at Auckland on Friday night having missed her entire three-year-old campaign. She was last seen at the Cambridge Harness Jewels in June of last year, where she finished mid-pack behind Enhance Your Calm. But it’s her two prior starts that make for very nice reading – a pair of second placings behind last season’s likely 3YO Trotting Filly of the Year, Tickle Me Pink. Dylan Ferguson is the stable foreman for trainer Graeme Rogerson and will drive She Reigns this week, and he’s expecting big things. “I certainly think she’s the best horse in the race,” he told HRNZ. “And while she’s not there for a gut-buster, she’s there to win and I’d like to think she’ll be very competitive.” The maiden trot is being run over a mile and while She Reigns is drawn wide, that is far less important in this type of race. “Knowing maiden trotters, we should be able to press forward and get an advantage over the ones that make mistakes,” said Ferguson. From there, it should be a formality. “She’s got a ton of speed and I think that will put her in good stead, not just this week but going forward.”  Her and Splitting Image actually set up a New Zealand record for Tickle Me Pink as a two-year-old. “She might not have gone to the level of Tickle Me Pink, but I’ve got no doubt she’s improved a lot since then.” Ferguson only got his hands on She Reigns in March after she returned to Rogerson from Australia. She had been sent there by Rogerson and co-owners, Merv and Meg Butterworth, to race as a three-year-old from the stable of Kerryn Manning. “I couldn’t tell you the extent of what she did over there, but she never raced and returned home with a very minor tendon issue. “I think she had banged it and they thought it was best for her to be here where she could take advantage of the treadmill, the water walker and the pool. “She’s been back in work five months and I’ve been very happy with her every step of the way.” She Reigns has contested two workouts this time in and won them both, the most recent at Pukekohe last Saturday where she reeled in advanced trotter The Hulk with ease. “I’m pretty happy with her. “Soundness-wise, she’s faultless. Her blood was out after her first workout after what she showed on Saturday, I have no doubts she’s back to full health.” Stablemate Splitting Image gives Rogerson and Ferguson a good second-stringer in the race. She also missed her three-year-old season and has had two runs back this time for two placings, at Cambridge. “The vets reckon she is lucky to be alive, let alone racing, after she had an issue with a knee. “A bit of a miracle horse apparently, but she’s not quite up to the other filly.” Ferguson also drives Rogerson’s two other chances on the night – Hey Good Looking in a maiden and High Point and a handy mares’ race. “High Point is a bit outclassed in that race but the mile is her go and is a great starting point fresh-up. “The other horse as had her chances to win one before and has been disappointing. “I’d like to say she’s a good chance, but I’ve thought she was a winner before and been let down.” Ferguson is eagerly awaiting 2020 when he and Rogerson will roll out some of their juveniles bought at the Karaka sales earlier this year, including the sale-topper, Challenger. “I’d like to think we have a couple of early runners there. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the expensive one and he’s certainly at the top of the pecking order at this stage.” Ferguson and partner Jo Stevens are two months into life as parents to daughter Grace, and he says it’s been pretty cruisy to date. “She’s pretty well-behaved – we’ve been very lucky. “I’m usually the one waking her up in the morning. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around. “I guess it can only go one way from here.”   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Smith happy with rejuvenated stable star Top trotter Great Things Happen is inching closer to a racetrack return. Trainer Gavin Smith confirmed the son of Love You is in full work and looking the soundest he has been in a long time. “He’s doing pace work and seems good. “His hoof is the best it’s been for three-and-a-half years. “We could be at the trials in a month, all going to plan, but I am in no hurry with him.” The 2017 New Zealand Trotting Free For All winner, now eight, has been restricted to just 15 starts in the past three seasons as Smith battled soundness issue, predominantly with a hoof. He was last seen when winning at Addington in February just a week after saluting on the same track. It’s very much a case of keeping his fingers crossed, but Smith is confident his stable star will be in the mix for all the Spring trotting features in Canterbury. “I’ll just take it as it comes with him but he doesn’t take a lot of racing to peak, so I don’t have to rush if I’m not happy.” _____________________________________________________________________________ Passing of Christchurch owner/breeder The death occurred recently of successful Christchurch breeder and owner, Gaby Maghzal. Together with his wife, Julie, they bred a host of good horses, including the Group 1 winners, Habibti, Habibti Ivy, Habibi Inta and Ana Malak. Maghzal, a podiatrist by trade, was born in Lebanon and moved to New Zealand in his mid-20s back in the late 1960s. After racing a handful of decent horses, including his first winner, Signor Gabrielli (8 wins), and Malak Uswaad (9 wins), he struck gold when acquiring future broodmare gem Ten To One in 2006. She would have eight foals, three of which won at Group 1 level, another (Releven Dream) was Group 2-placed, while two more, Ten Too and Lothario, were very accomplished as well. More recently he was breeding from the pacing mare Anna Livia and raced then sold her two final foals, Ana Malak and Ana Afreet, to the Perth stable of Greg and Skye Bond. His final breeding venture was two Terror To Love foals out of Anna Ivy, a Bettor’s Delight daughter of Anna Livia. Maghzal, who was 74, died on July 17 after a period of ill health and is survived by his wife Julie and daughters, Sasha and Nadine.   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

There were no surprises when Luk Chin handed out his pre-race driving instructions to Nathan Delany at Cambridge on Thursday. Delany had picked up the drive on the Chin-trained Safrakova in the R40-53 trot because a win with a junior driver aboard would be penalty-free. “He said go to the front and don’t hand up,” Delany told HRNZ. The classic Chin tactics are never a surprise and in this case they proved very effective, Delany getting the daughter of Monarchy home first. It wasn’t Delany’s first drive on Safrakova either – they had partnered up in a junior drivers’ race at Alexandra Park back on May 31, running sixth. “She didn’t give me much of a feel that night. “She was trotting nicely but was no match for a horse like Kenny’s Dream.” Facing a much easier class of field this time meant Delany had no qualms about taking the drive when a mate called to tip him off earlier in the week. “I didn’t even think about calling up for the drive actually. “But Scott Iremonger, who had a drive already for Dale Moore, rung me and asked if I wanted to drive her. “I wasn’t going to say no to driving a favourite.” Once in front, Delany rated her to a nicety and she never looked like being headed. “She kept bowling along nicely; really loved her work in front.” With two wins on the board already, Delany looks in for a very good season. He works for Barry Purdon – arguably the best gig in town for a junior driver – and that is already paying benefits. He’s had a few placings behind classy trotting mare Sunny Glenis recently, and will probably drive her again this coming week, plus got the win behind the Purdon-trained Sole Ambition last week. “I’ve been getting good opportunities from Barry and a few other trainers. “Barry especially has been a big help to my career. I love going to work there. “He’s got quite a few horses in work and there are plenty of nice ones to drive. “I had just started working for Peter and Vaughan Blanchard when Zac Butcher rung and asked if I wanted to go and work for Barry. “It’s hard to turn an opportunity like that down so I jumped at the chance and owe Zac a huge thanks for putting my name forward.” Delany is hopeful of driving exciting prospect Henry Hu at his next start as a penalty free win is the immediate goal. “Keep an eye out for him – a nice horse and one I hope I get to drive.” So, could this be Delany’s break out season? “I’d like to think this could my year. The first goal is to try and get to 10 wins and take it from there. “I’m just grateful for any opportunities that I get.”   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

When it comes to Monbet, Greg Hope is sick of talking to the media. For the best part of three years now, he has done his best to answer regular questions about the recovery and progress of the former Horse of the Year that has suffered setback after setback. It got to the stage that he started to think talking to the press when Monbet was nearing a public return was a bad omen. So often after commenting on an impending return to the trials, the horse would go amiss or suffer a setback. But then, when Monbet was struck down again in March – and this time nearly died - after finally making a race track return, Hope started to wonder whether it was just the racing gods at work. So, this week, after both Monbet and stablemate Enghien returned to the trials at Rangiora, he was finally willing to talk to the press about his stable stars. Monbet, the 2016 New Zealand Horse of the Year and two-time Trotter of the Year, has raced just once since winning the Dominion Handicap in November of 2016. After numerous setbacks - too many to list - he returned back in March, finishing mid-pack on a Sunday at Addington. But the stable’s relief was short-lived. “About a week later he developed an infection in his leg that went right through his body,” Hope told HRNZ. “At one stage we were frightened he was going to die. “We ended up running every antibiotic known to man through him and that eventually got on top of it.” So, it was back to square one – again for Hope and wife/training partner Nina. It’s hard to complain when a horse has won you over $770,000 but you get the impression Hope was at the end of his tether. “One day we’ll be able to write a book about him. We’ll call it ‘The Trials and Tribulations of Monbet,” he quipped. “It will be a best-seller.” Enghien, a former two and three-year-old Trotter of the Year, hasn’t been seen since the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in June of last year. He missed his entire five-year-old season. “He had a little strain on a fetlock so we played it safe, really. “Just to make sure it didn’t end up being a problem long term we played it on the side of caution. “He’s good as gold now after a long, slow build. It’s probably been five months since he came back in to work.” Enghien, in the hands of Ben Hope, won the four-horse trial, getting over the top of In Sequence and Hey Yo in the shadows of the post. Monbet sat last, on his stablemates back, and was allowed to run to the line under his own steam for regular driver, Ricky May. Greg Hope, speaking 24 hours after the trial, was suitably pleased with everything. “Ricky jumped off Monbet and said he felt awesome. “They both pulled up well and I gave them a light jog this morning (Thursday). “They’ll trial again next week and then we’ll have a look at a race for them.” That won’t be easy. “They’re so high in the handicaps, we really need a free for all because I don’t want them chasing off long marks. “Enghien is rated 100 and Monbet is a 127.” Hope said he enquired about getting Monbet’s rating reduced given it was approaching three years since his last win, but that fell on deaf ears. Enghien is the more forward of the two, and with a slightly more palatable rating, he might be the first one seen on race night. “Based on what we’ve felt, Enghien is slightly more forward than Monbet, and their heart rates reflect that, too. “There is nothing like a good run or two under the belt and hopefully we can get those runs before the other good ones hit the track.” Don’t for a second think either horse will have lost their edge, either. “I’ve got no doubt they’re both as good as anything running around at present. “I know they’ve had a long time off the scene and are going to need a race or two to see the best, but it’s still there.” As for driving engagements when they inevitably clash, Hope says May will get the pick of the two and son Ben will drive the other. “We are lucky that we own Monbet ourselves and our partner in Enghien, Richard Dellaca, is very relaxed about it, too.”   by Garrick Knight Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Former champion pacer and now star harness racing sire, Somebeachsomewhere, will not be shuttling down under this season.

The most contentious decision to come out of this year's Harness Racing Awards at the Wigram Air Force Museum in Christchurch this Saturday night (July 28) could be in the 3-year-old pacing fillies' division.

Tragedy has struck celebrated Cambridge trotter Paramount Geegee, the champion age-group harness racing performer was found dead in his paddock on Monday morning (May 28).

The career of one of harness racing's rising stars looks to be over, just as it was kicking into top gear. Tintin In America, renowned for his explosive sprint, has not raced all season after suffering a serious hind leg injury.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing in harness racing - just don't remind Kevin Marr. The long-time Black Sticks hockey team manager and horse breeder had to authorise putting down his star trotter Miami H last month after a nine-month battle to save him.

Prominent Canterbury harness racing breeder Brian West is shifting a large part of his operation to Australia in what looks an ominous sign for the New Zealand industry. Furthermore, one of the north's most promising horsewoman, Nicole Molander, is on board with the move as a trainer which will see her based at Menangle in Sydney.

Beau Rivage (6g Village Jasper-Glimmering) joined the elite company of New Zealand exports when running a sensational 1.49.8 in a $11.000 event at Balmoral Park, Illinois, on Saturday. The winner of seven races with Cran Dalgety was exported at Christmas time and joined the Monee stable of Charles Von Knoblauch from which he has won three races and a tick over $20,000 this year.

Christchurch-based journalist Frank Marrion is one of the most respected standardbred breeding knowledge bases in the world. His writings and knowledge are a common resource for commercial and hobby breeders in New Zealand and Australia.

Former age group star and Grand Circuit horse Stars And Stripes (12g New York Motoring-Star of Bethlehem) was the best performer of the week, winning two races in the space of five days.

Christchurch-based journalist Frank Marrion is one of the most respected standardbred breeding knowledge bases in the world. His writings and knowledge are a common resource for commercial and hobby breeders in New Zealand and Australia. As a result, and in response to the endless demand for his recommendations, the Hall Of Fame writer has started his own business - Standardbred Breeding Consultancy.

In what has become an interesting trend since the start of the season, two more junior drivers reined their first winners at the Cambridge-Te Awamutu Harness Racing Club's meeting at Cambridge this evening, August 21.

Kamwood Warrior (5g Courage Under Fire-Kamwood Lass), who recently gave his sire his first 1.55 credit, was an impressive winner at Harrington, Delaware, last Monday.

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