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By Garrick Knight    Revell Douglas showed his wares as an accomplished horseman with a fine training performance at Arawa Park in Rotorua on Sunday. The South Auckland horseman produced Revving to win a maiden race, fresh up for 29 months and without any recent workouts. “It’s taken a long time to get her ready,” he told HRNZ. “She arrived up here in May and has been in work ever since. “I took her for two trials right-handed about three months ago but she kept on hitting a knee so we gave up that.” Not really that keen to have horse only able to race left-handed in the north, Douglas tried to get her in foal last month. “But that didn’t work, so I just decided to push on with her and race her until the next breeding season.” Revving, a six-year-old daughter of Art Major, had he first race preparation for Gavin Smith in Canterbury, three starts yielding two Addington placings in 2017 as a late three-year-old. “She got beaten a nose each time but then not long after did a tendon. “It wasn’t too bad and Gavin wanted to turn her out, but Cameron (Mackie, owner) wanted to put her in foal. “The owner won out and she ended up having a foal by Always B Miki. “But it died as a weanling; it ran through a fence.” By now Revving had resumed jogging with Smith but Mackie wanted to horse in the north and resumed his long-standing association with Douglas. Douglas has mixed racing administration and his job as New Zealand manager for Hygain Feeds with training the odd standardbred over the past 15 years. When Mackie rung him with the offer of not one, but two horses last year, he decided to dabble in the craft once again. Douglas is based at Adrienne Matthews’ property at Glenbrook, north of Waiuku, and says the nearby Karioitahi Beach – the same used by Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis – is what helps Revving. “I take her out to the beach three times a week and that allows me to get the miles in to her. “It was because of that that I knew she was fit and ready to go without any workouts, plus she’s probably just a better horse than most in that field. “I’m glad she’s got that win now because she deserved one on her record.” _________________________________________________________________________________________ A few races later, Dylan Ferguson brought up a milestone win with the Peter and Vaughan Blanchard-trained Charlotte Royal. It was Ferguson’s 100th New Zealand driving success for the Hamilton-based junior driver, a tick over six years after his first, aboard Carlos at Cambridge. “I was worried that I might have been going to be stuck on it for a few weeks but it was nice to get it done for longtime family friend Peter Presley and also the Blanchards, after having worked for Pete when he trained with Rogey (Graeme Rogerson),” said Ferguson. “Pete was only one win off giving me my first win and 100th win.” Ferguson is in his final year as a junior and says he wants to “get cracking on the next 100”. The Blanchards had further cause to celebrate when Lovely Bundy rounded out her career with a fine win in the $10,000 Rotorua Trotters Cup. Safely in foal to What The Hill, today was her final race start and she brought up a hat-trick of wins to finish off what has been a rollercoaster ride of a career for connections. All told, she’ll head to the broodmare paddock with 12 wins and over $130,000 in earnings to her name. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    James Stormont is hoping his patience will be rewarded in Sunday’s $10,000 Rotorua Pacers Cup on the grass at Arawa Park. He prepares one of the race favourites, Magilligan Point, who is fresh-up for seven weeks. “He’s had some hard runs up at Auckland through November; I think three starts in a row he had to come home between 55 and 56 seconds. “His owner was going away on a holiday, so we decided to miss the last few Auckland meetings before Christmas and freshen him up.” The son of Gotta Go Cullect hasn’t been seen at the workouts in the interim, which would have been Stormont’s preference, but he’s still delighted with where the horse is at. “I’m very happy with him; his work has been excellent. “He hasn’t had a trial, because there haven’t been many and they didn’t really fit in with his training, but I think he’s ready to go anyway. “The only query is that it’s his first start on the grass but I don’t have any reason to think that will bother him.” It’s only the speedster’s second standing start, too, the first coming at his last start on December 7 when he finished a close-up fifth behind Some Do. “He stepped away clean that day that went rough for a few strides and lost ground.” Stormont reunites with his own horse, Clifton Flutter, in an R47-51 after putting him in amateur drivers’ races for stable staffer Ange Temu in recent weeks. She got the job done with an excellent win at Cambridge on January 5 and he’s done nothing to dissuade Stormont from thinking he can win again this week. “I thought his run the next start was even better; he did a heap of work and stuck on well. “I wasn’t going to back him up but he’s thriving and it made sense to fill the truck up since I was coming down anyway. “He had an issue with ulcers when I first got him, but that’s been treated and he’s been a different horse since.” Stormont’s team is rounded out by the debuting maiden trotter, Take The Monarch, in the last on the card. He’s five, and has been a bit of a project, but he’s getting there, his trainer reckons. “He’s been in work a long time and we’ve had a lot of problems with him.” Take The Monarch qualified for now Australian-based trainer Richard Brosnan as a three-year-old in April of 2018 so it has taken plenty of patience on the part of his connections to get to this point. Stormont wasn’t too sure what to expect from the horse. “I was going to take to Auckland on Friday night, but then I saw the noms for Rotorua – only seven horses – and it looked a far better option for him. “I guess we’ll know more after Sunday.” The day’s feature trot, the $10,000 Rotorua Trotters Cup, is headlined by Pukekohe mare Lovely Bundy, in what is her farewell race. She’s hunting a hat-trick of wins to round out her career for trainers, Peter and Vaughan Blanchard, and will head to the broodmare paddock next week safely in foal to What The Hill. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Blueblood trotting mare Daisy Hill cracked maidens in impressive fashion at Alexandra Park on Friday night, but still has a long way to go. That’s the belief of her driver and co-trainer, Josh Dickie, after the Muscle Hill half-sister to Stent cleared out to win by four lengths. “I’ve always liked her and she’s got a bit about her, but has just been a bit mentally weak,” said Dickie. “A couple of times she has galloped when she felt like she was going to win. “Really, she’s been letting herself down.” And while she’s finally put it all together in impressive fashion, Dickie reckons it will take plenty of racing and miles in her legs before she’s ready for the better company. “She’s the type of mare that’s not going to come out in her next few starts and keep doing this, I don’t think. “I really think we are a year away from seeing the best of her. “I believe with horses like her you’ve got to keep going around, putting the miles in to them. “She works perfectly at home, but she’s got to learn to keep her head in the game on race night.” Daisy Hill is the sixth foal of racing age out of broodmare gem Belle Galleon, who has a 100 percent winners-to-foals record thanks to Stent, Belles Son, Arya, Izmok and Lone Star Lad. She’s owned by Cantabrians Kevin Chapman and Trevor Casey, who have bred her about-turn for the last eight years. Daisy Hill was bred, and is co-owned by Chapman, who has been a regular collaborator with Dickie and his father, John, for a many years. “Kevin always has a nice horse around him and he’s been brilliant to us; we’ve had a bit of luck with the horses he’s sent north. “He did warn us that this one wouldn’t be easy as he’d had a bit of trouble with her, and he was right.” Tony Herlihy was the star of the show at Alexandra Park, training three of the eight winners on the night. Classy trotting mare Kenny’s Dream got her season back on track thanks to a heady drive from stable foreman, Tony Cameron. “It was a good effort after starting from a handicap,” said Herlihy. “There are a couple of nice mares’ races coming up for her.” Dina Brown was the easiest winner on the night, clearing out to win comfortably after leading throughout. “She’s just kept improving and is better than what I probably thought she was going to be. “It’s a great breed and she’s definitely got more wins in store.” And while the betting plunge came for stablemate Delightful Catherine, it as the Herlihy-trained Cowgirls N Lace that won the night’s opening event, a maiden. “She’s a good, honest filly from a nice family.” On The Cards put some disappointing recent performances behind him with a confidence-boosting win in the night’s feature pace, an early mistake the difference-maker for race favourite Double Rocket, who ran second. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Pukekohe mare Best Western is booked to fly to Christchurch next week for two black-type features but first she’ll head to Alexandra Park on Friday night. Her trainer, Jeremy Young, says last season’s Northern Oaks winner is nearing “cherry-ripe” status. “I’m happy with her; she’s working really well and seems very bright,” he said. “I want to have her cherry-ripe for the two Addington races, but she’s pretty close to the mark.” Best Western was an unlucky fourth last week after being held up before the passing lane when trailing a tiring leader. “She just got held up a little bit and there was a very slight snotty nose after the race. “But that’s cleared up now and isn’t a concern. “It had been 17 days since her New Years’ Eve run and I feel like last week has sharpened her up even more.” Complicating matters this week is a wide draw plus the fact her stablemate, On A Roll, is in the same race and has drawn decidedly better. “The stablemate will be going forward so I guess that means we’ll have to look to go back with Best Western.” On A Roll has been a bit of a surprise package for Young since coming north in the early spring. She was effectively ‘sacked’ by previous trainers, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, and arrived at Young’s with no great ambitions. “When we first got her up here from Mark’s, I thought she would be a C2 or C3 horse, maybe. “If we were lucky, we’d be able to get a bit of money for the owners. “But she ran second to Lulu Le Mans, then won one, and then placed a few more times. “So, I threw her in the Group races before Christmas against the best fillies and I thought the second run, especially, was excellent. “She was four-wide down the back and had no right to run fifth, but still battled on well.” It also gave Young and driver, Sailesh Abernethy, an insight in to how she is best driven. “Sailesh and I thought we’d try something different last week and let her roll along in front.” The result? A five-length win in a sensational 2.39.4 (1.56.6 MR). “She’s a funny horse in that she won’t outsprint anything, you’ve got to let her run the whole way. “I had Stylish Memphis here at the same time and she would beat On A Roll off her back every time because she had so much speed. “On A Roll is better off leading and rolling along or even sitting parked, so that’s how we intend to drive her this week and in the future. “More aggressively.” The Oaks races are now firmly in the plans for On A Roll. Rounding out Young’s team this week is Tommy Tukaa, who returns to Alexandra Park from back-to-back wins at Cambridge over the holiday period. “I know he only won at Cambridge, but I think he’s an ‘Auckland horse’ all the same. “Those wins will have given him a bit of confidence and his work has been a lot better since. “The draw is awkward this week but I would expect, just being on the fence the whole way, that he should be able to run in the first three.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    One of our greatest ever trotting mares has died. Martina H, the last mare to win the Dominion Handicap, was put down after taking ill suddenly at Woodlands Stud on Monday. Her former trainer, Derek Balle, said, it was a sad end for the winner of over $400,000, but he looked back fondly on her racing career. “She was such a great mare. “Always had lameness issues, but would get up behind the gate or tapes and trot like a stag. “She had such a big heart. I wouldn’t mind another one like her.” Balle was in his 30s when she won the Dominion, Rowe Cup, multiple races across the Tasman, and threw away an Inter Dominion Grand Final with the winning post in sight. “She took me on plenty of journeys and experiences and, at the time, I probably took it for granted a little bit, you know? “I was a young trainer that got to go to the Inter Dominions at Moonee Valley, down to Addington for the Dominion. “Just great times and ones I look back on fondly.” Balle was going through a tough spot at one point during Martina H’s career and her 2005 Rowe Cup win stands out as his personal favourite, for more than the obvious reason. “Her best performance was beating Delft in the Rowe Cup, but it meant a whole lot more to me. “My mum was very sick and died about a week later. “I had been spending a lot of time at the beach with the horse which was such a big stress relief. “I’d be crying for half an hour on the way out to the beach but when we got there, the worry just went away for a little while. “She helped me through quite an emotional time.” She ran second in the 2004 Inter Dominion Final in Melbourne and was 100 metres away from going one better at Alexandra Park a year later. It was a race that features greats of the track like Take A Moment, Lyell Creek, Delft and Sumthingaboutmaori. “The final was up to $250,000 but she had had a leg problem leading up to the series and I was tossing up whether to even line her up 10 days beforehand. “We blistered the leg and she ended up winning her first heat, running second to Allegro Agitato in the second heat and then winning again on the third night. “Her run in the final was massive. “She drew one the second row and ended up getting parked three-wide down the back. “We went out by four at the top of the straight and I thought she was home. “But I gave her a slap on the bum when I shouldn’t have, because she was trying her hardest, and she rolled in to a gallop 100 metres out. “Play On, who sat three-fence, came up the markers to win and we got disqualified for galloping across the line. “She did deserve to win that; it was a massive performance.” Balle was actually in the throes of buying Martina H, believing that the 22-year-old still had a foal or two to give, “Kevin Marr, her owner, has just sold his property at Karaka where he grazes all his horses during the year. “He didn’t want to pay grazing so was looking at selling all his horses and I’d been talking to (wife) Raelene about buying Martina H. “She had a What The Hill filly foal at foot and was back in foal and since she was always pretty healthy, we thought we might even be able to breed another one out of her to try and get a filly. “But before we said yes, Kevin text me on Monday to say we’d lost her. “She was being walked in the barn at Woodlands Stud then stumbled over. “They called the vet but didn’t know whether it was colic or a seizure but it all went downhill very quickly and they had to put her down. “It saved me $10,000. Usually with my luck, it would have happened a week after I paid for her.” The daughter of Sundon had eight foals, seven of them after retiring and did leave a Group 1 winner. “Miami H was great; he won seven or eight races including a Breeders Crown Final at three. “He was very very good, and the best she left, but he always had a clubby foot and ended up breaking down in the spelling paddock.” The Scruff won seven without being a world beater while Philadelphia H won two and is now at stud with Balle training her three-year-old son, Isaac H. “She had a bad foaling after that, a Dream Vacation which was huge and had to be cut out. “We nearly lost her and it took her quite a few years to get back in foal after that. “But we now have a Love You two-year-old colt that’s working up nicely and then the What The Hill weanling filly, too.” Martina H is seventh on the all-time New Zealand-bred trotting mare stakes ladder behind One Over Kenny, Pride Of Petite, Tussle, Allegro Agitato, Landora’s Pride and Quite A Moment. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    A spur-of-the-moment decision has paid dividends for Invercargill horseman Steve Lock, who prepared a quinella on the grass at Waterlea on Sunday. Lock brought six horses the length of the South Island for the four days of racing, firstly in Nelson last week and then in Blenheim this week. After three thirds, a fourth and four fifths across Nelson and day one at Waterlea, he was hoping to break his duck on the fourth and final day. He went close with Maximilian in a mobile sprint earlier on the card, but it was the honest toiler, Honour Scroll that broke through, setting up a $101.70 quinella with stablemate, Kansas City Jim. Needless to say, Lock isn’t looking forward to going back to Southland. “I’m in no rush to go home. “In fact, I think I might have a week or two in Canterbury first. “We were thinking about going to Manawatu but a few of our horses wear spreaders and I’m not sure it the track would suit them.” The trip north wasn’t in the pipeline for long, more an instinctive move to avoid dreary weather. “The plan was hatched after the Cromwell meeting. We were sitting there at 10 o’clock at night and Rory (McIlwrick) said to me, Nelson and Marlborough looks like a decent option. “We were getting sick of the rain and what not back home and here we are. “So it was his doing, his planning.” Ironically McIlwrick wasn’t actually driving Honour Scroll, instead sticking with the runner-up and that left Kerryn Tomlinson to continue her charmed run by recording another win. “Kerryn seems to get on well with Honour Scroll, so I was happy to keep her on.” Lock left Invercargill with seven horses, but lost two and picked up one on the way north. “I re-homed Tact Denzel on the way up and then called in and did a swap for My Nikalya, too. “I would have brought seven but I needed the seventh bay in the truck for all the feed.” Lock spoke effusively about club officials from both Tasman clubs, saying they’ve gone abo end beyond to make him feel welcome and accommodated. “I really can’t thank the two clubs enough for what they have done for us. “A lot of clubs could learn from how both Nelson and Marlborough operate their meetings. “And the horses have just enjoyed their trip away with the sun on their backs; they’ve been so relaxed.” Later in the day, Stars Tonight continued a brilliant summer for his connections, with a dominant win in the $15,000 Waterlea Centenary Marlborough Cup. He adds that to his Westport Cup win on Boxing Day, and the Cup prelude he took out at Waterlea on Friday. Dunn trained the quinella with Hayden’s Meddle tracking through for second while Dadndave finished on out wide for third. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Ellie Rowden was still on cloud nine by Sunday morning, the day after training her first winner, Still Eyre, at Cambridge. “A real buzz, it was just amazing,” she told HRNZ. “I watched the race with Jo Stevens and she said she looked back and I had disappeared. “I think I jumped off the ledge of the grandstand,” Rowden joked. “I just erupted when I knew he had won.” Rowden, who has a background and ongoing involvement in the show ring, is in her first official season as a trainer, based in Patumahoe. She used to help out Gary Noakes when he trained two previous horses she owned, Mr Natural and Cool Son, to win. “I was lucky enough to own a few winners before, but to own and train one by myself? That felt pretty cool.” Rowden leased Still Eyre off Wai Eyre Farm’s Mike Brown back in the early winter time after a chance discussing with Dave McGowan. “Dave said they had a trotter for less down at Wai Eyre, so I sent them a message to enquire. “He’d been out of work for nearly a year and was just sitting in a paddock after a good spell. “It was great to get him in that condition, because I got bring him up from scratch and get to know him a little bit.” After trying her luck at Auckland for a number of runs, Rowden switched her attention to Cambridge after some advice from neighbour, Todd MacFarlane. “I’m very lucky to have the help of Todd; we train on the same track. “He told me it was confidence thing and rather than following them around at the park, he should be going with them at Cambridge. “And he was right. “The last two starts, just being within a few lengths of the winner, his ego has gone through the roof. “At home, he’s gone from flopping around to thinking he’s the man. “The other day he worked in front of a baby and was acting like he was god’s gift to the world. “I guess, even with these older horses, it’s a mental thing.” Rowden plays a big hand in promoting life after racing and is actively involved in the upcoming Anything But Standard Challenge, which essentially encourages participants to break retired Standardbreds to saddle. “The South Island one is being held in two weeks, and the North Island one in three weeks. “We’ve had a heap of sponsors come on board and we’re really looking forward to it.” Rowden’s main squeeze is Mr Natural, who she’s proudly qualified for the upcoming National Horse of the Year competition in the Hawkes Bay. He also led out last month’s Auckland Cup field at Alexandra Park. “He’ll be staying with me forever; there is a lot of sentimental value there with him.” And it’s more than likely Still Eyre’s future lies in the show ring, as well. “I already train him under saddle and he’s qualified for the montes.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It was the call any young trainer dreams of. When Auckland owner Aaron Lowe rang Bob Butt late last year offering him Heavyweight Hero to train, Butt couldn’t believe his luck. “It’s not every day a horse like him comes up the driveway,” said Butt. “I was very lucky to get that phone call.” The giant trotter made it two wins in three starts from Butt’s barn when demolishing a field by eight lengths on the grass at Waterlea in Blenheim on Friday. Given he started off a 35-metre handicap, it was a mightily impressive performance. “He’s a pretty good horse, so I wasn’t surprised,” said Butt. “He loves the grass and he did win the Green Mile two starts ago, so he should have had the measure on those. “There are some nice races coming up for him on the grass, so it’s exciting times.” Butt, based at Woodend Beach, was sent the son of Muscle Mass for two reasons. Former trainer Todd MacFarlane was struggling to manage chronic foot ailments that were being exasperated by training and racing on hard surfaces, and the horse wasn’t as comfortable the right-handed way of going at Alexandra Park. “They felt he was much better left-handed and, because of his feet, he needed beach training. “I knew Toddy from my time up in Auckland and I guess when they were picking out a beach trainer, I was lucky enough to have that connection.” Butt says Heavyweight Hero requires “a bit of maintenance” on his feet, but racing on the grass is half the battle. “The beach usually brings them right, but just getting off those hard tracks has been a huge help for us too. “That’s the main reason we’ve come up here because there are two suitable races for him.” He goes around again on Sunday and finds himself against the same horses, but ten metres further back, off a handicap of 45. Asked if he should be short odds to do the double, Butt was categorical. “Bloody oath. “Yes, he’s 10 metres further back, but the race is an extra 500, which will suit him down to the ground. He’ll love it.” Butt, who also brought up 200 New Zealand driving wins with the victory, has plenty of experience driving good trotters for master trainer Paul Nairn. He won a Harness Jewels in 2017 with Wilma’s Mate and also enjoyed Group 1 success with Conon Bridge and Lotamuscle. So, does Heavyweight Hero have what it takes to measure up to the best trotters if he can stay sound for a full campaign? “Hopefully. He just needs to stay sound and get a bit of confidence. “He feels like a confidence horse, you know? “You just never know whether they’ll take that next step, but he certainly has the ability.” The days’ feature pace on Friday was the Waterlea Cup Prelude, won by Stars Tonight for Robert and John Dunn. He’ll start favourite in Sunday’s $15,000 Centenary Marlborough Cup given he doesn’t get re-handicapped for the lead-up win, per conditions of the two-day meetings’ programme.  

By Garrick Knight    Relief. That was the over-riding sentiment from Steven Reid after Star Galleria’s return to the winners’ circle at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The classy pacer upset hot favourite Belle Of Montana with a sharp front-running performance, confirming to Reid and driver Todd Mitchell that they still had a Group 1 level horse. Not that Reid wasn’t happy with his recent racing but it was Star Galleria’s first win in the best part of 12 months. “His last two runs were good, I thought. “The Auckland Cup effort was phenomenal; five-wide around the bend and came home in 54.2. “That sort of showed me he had bounced back. “Then in the Cambridge Mile, well Toddy said it probably wasn’t his best drive. “He was following Chase Auckland in to the race then tried to cut down on the inside but ran in to a wall of horses. “So, he spent the whole length of the straight angling across them.” Where to next is the big question for Reid and the horse’s owners because there are two possibilities. He is booked on a plane to Sydney on Monday, where the plan was for him to join Luke McCarthy for a campaign through until the Len Smith Mile. “Then come home because I’d like to have another crack at the New Zealand Cup with him.” But there has been some strong American interest in the horse, too, and the ownership group will need to make a decision in the next 48 hours. “If it was up to me, he’d go the Aussie route, but I’m not the only owner.” The New Zealand Cup was on the agenda for this season but had to be scraped after a frustrating run of minor issues that caused setbacks in his preparation. “After his first trial back, where he ran super, I got him scoped to make sure last year’s throat operation was a success. “What they found was a nasty throat infection which led to him having seven days off. “No sooner had I got him back then in the paddock one morning he had a big leg. “I got the vet in and he said he thought we may have jacked up the suspensory, but would have to wait for the selling to go down to be sure. “It turned out he had just banged it, but that was another five or six days’ setback. “Then, as I got him back going again, he walked in one day tippy-toeing in behind and a massive foot abscess had to be cut out. “So, he missed another nine days with that which meant everything probably accumulated to about three weeks off at the worst possible time.” Belle Of Montana fought on well for second while Solid Gold, in his first run for Tony Herlihy, held on for third. Later in the night, Reid was surprised when juvenile filly Shes No Lady ran a cracking second for owners, Woodlands Stud. “There was a little bit of shock there, I can’t believe she’s gone that good. “She’d sort of shown at home that a 2.03 run would pull her up but I guess she’s just one of those horses that gets better come race night. “We were going to tip her out but I think I’ll keep going with her now.” That race was won super impressively by Passion and Power for trainer John Dunn, who also won earlier in the card with Pretty Majestic and twice at Blenheim in the afternoon with Madam Sass and Stars Tonight. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Phil Fleming has been enjoying the best season of his 10-year training career and expects that to continue at Cambridge on Saturday. The Stratford horseman will be up bright and early and on the road with a trio of good chances, headed by promising mare, Sheikh Yabooty. By the time she scores up in the 1700-metre sprint, she’ll be seven days removed from running back-to-back seconds, 18 hours apart, on the same track. “Those two runs last week were both really good runs and she showed she can do it both ways,” said Fleming. On Friday night she was driving cold and got no luck in behind Underthesouthernsun then on the Saturday she sat three-wide and then parked outside eventual winner, Eagle Watch. She’ll add a third strong to her bow this week when showing gate speed to lead, Fleming reckons. “It’s only a sprint trip, so we’ve probably got to lead, I think.” With three wins under her belt, Sheikh Yabooty gets in at a luxury rating of 49 and that will delay her inevitable sale off shore. “She’s well-rated so I’d probably like to win another couple with her before putting her on the market.” Stable veteran Our Wicklow recorded his 10th career win last Saturday at start 131 after finding the front at the mile. He doesn’t win them out of turn, and is drawn on the unruly again this week, but Fleming is pretty confident the horse will go close to recording back-to-back wins. “He’s definitely more than a runners’ chance; he always goes his best races at Cambridge and I think he’s actually a pretty good show. “If the pace is on, that will suit.” Fleming is right in that Our Wicklow does have three wins and three placings from just 12 starts at Cambridge, plus it is not a strong field at all. Rounding out the team is trotting mare Caitlin’s Surprise, who tackles one of the day’s features, the $10,000 Harcourts Te Awamutu 2020 Waipa Trotters Cup. Like her stablemates she raced both days last week, running fifth both times. She’s perhaps not in career-best form but Fleming has a hunch she’s about to find her footing again. “I’ve had some tying up issues with her so I’ve had to back off the oats, basically. “That and she’s such a good doer, I’ve been trying to keep her weight down. “But she generally hits her best form around February onwards and I think that will be the case again this year. “There are some nice mares’ races coming up for her and I’ll be looking towards those.” Caitlin’s Surprise will face some stiff opposition from the in-form Anna Kate and last Saturday’s winners, Lovely Bundy. The pacers face off in the Brown & Pennell 2020 Waipa Pacers Cup and the John and Josh Dickie-trained mare Callie’s Delight will likely start favourite. Parker has been going excellent races without much recently while the Chris Webber-trained pair of Bugalugs and Fleeting Grin are drawn to do no work on the markers over the 2700-metre trip and are must-includes in multiples. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    It’s been a frustrating season for Mike Berger and Matty White as they dealt with setback after setback with their stable star, Eagle Watch. The sophomore colt was far too good for his opponents at Cambridge on Saturday, clearing out to win easily in the hands of Todd Mitchell. It was one of two winners at the meeting for the partnership after Carse O Fern Tom opened the day’s racing with a maiden victory. It was only the second start of the season for Eagle Watch, who raced in the both the Sires Stakes Final and Jewels at Addington late last season. “We thought he’d be ready to go in October, but got quite a bad virus and it took him a while to get over it,” said Berger. “Once we finished with that idea, he had some niggly growing pain-type issues which meant we had to back off him. “Nothing major at all, just a sore back and that type of thing. “But we seem to be on top of all that now so fingers crossed.” Berger was grumpy at being penalised 8 points for what was a very cheap race on his home track and says he and White will be taking a “casual approach” to Eagle Watch’s racing for the rest of the season. “We’ll potter around and see if he can earn enough to make the Jewels again. “I’d like to think he’s good enough to win a couple more quickly, but he’ll shoot right up the grades and then have to race the best horses. “His future is probably not in New Zealand unfortunately. It’s bloody hard going here for three-year-olds. “He’s just a touch behind the top ones but is a good, honest, genuine little pacer.” Carse O Fern Tom was one of two winners from the first, small (16) crop of Highview Tommy on the card, the other being the Jeremy Young-trained Tommy Tukaa. “He’s the only one I’ve had by the sire, but I’ve just broken in the yearling full sister and tipped her out. “He probably hasn’t had a lot of opportunity because there are so few foals. “This fella is a little bit stronger than last season. He was big, rangy and weak and wasn’t quite there. “But he can cope with it a bit better this time. Certainly lacks a bit of speed but it won’t be his last win.” Luke Whittaker did the driving with White on the sideline after his nasty spill six days prior and Berger speaks highly of his soon-to-be new employee. “In another week he’ll be joining us; he’s just gone home for a week to celebrate his father’s 60th birthday. “He was actually having two weeks off between jobs but was good enough to come and help us last week when Matty ended up in hospital. “He went above and beyond. Nothing was an issue. One day he was there for nine hours and just kept trucking. “We had trouble keeping up with him.” It was very much a team effort, Berger reckoned, with White incapacitated. “We had a few people come in and lend a hand including Matty’s dad, Les, Tony Hamblin and Kevin Dysart. “We were pretty focussed on getting some results for Matty more than anything, so we were happy with how the weekend’s racing panned out.” Berger doesn’t know how long it will be before his training partner returns to active duty. “I’ve really got no idea and I don’t think he knows himself. “He certainly won’t be able to get in the cart for a while. He came down yesterday morning and was walking pretty crooked. “He won’t be liking it either, because he’s not the kind of person to sit around doing nothing.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    The northern junior driver ranks have received a timely boost with the re-licensing of former Southland lad Tyler Dewe. He’ll drive Armed Reactor at Cambridge on Saturday for new employers Jason and Megan Teaz. It’s been six months since his last drive and in between times Dewe admits that he has been waging a personal battle with himself. “About six months ago I made some very bad life decisions and my mental health started suffering as a result. “And instead of opening up about it, I ran away. “I was facing money troubles and ended up going to Nelson and getting on a fishing boat for a couple of months. “I did it to get square and get my head right. “It was actually a horrible decision and one I wouldn’t advise anyone else to do. “You work eight hours on, eight hours off, constantly, for 32 days in a row. “It took its toll, but it served its purpose in more ways than one.” Back on track financially and feeling a whole lot better about himself and life, Dewe spent spring and the early summer helping out his uncle. “Doing a bit of relief milking, odd jobs around the farm and things like that.” He had no interest in returning to the racing industry, fearing he had burnt too many bridges. “I was adamant I wasn’t coming back. More than anything I was worried about what everyone else thought. “But my father drilled it in to me that I can’t be scared to go back in to the game if it’s what I really wanted to do with my life.” By now Jason Teaz, who Dewe had got to know when based in Southland and when Teaz was commentating, had made contact. Numbers at he and wife Megan’s stables in Ohaupo had swelled and they desperately needed someone who could drive fast work. “Jason rung me up out of the blue and offered me a fresh start up here. “I put him off for about three weeks but then on the first of January I thought, why not?” A fresh start in a different area where junior drivers were needed sounded quite appealing. “Before I came up I thought I’d take it day by day given what I’d been through. “But now I’m up here, as long as they’re happy with me and have enough work for me, I’ll be staying. “I have two-and-a-half seasons left on my juniors and I think a few guys like Dylan Ferguson and Fergus Schumacher will be coming out of their time later this year. “So I see a great opportunity to drive some winners and get back in the winners’ circle.” In Armed Reactor, he pilots a big horse with a lot of ability but perhaps a lack of consistency. “I’ve watched all his races and thought he was quite impressive when he won at Cambridge a few starts back, beating Ideal Agent. “He’s had some tough runs but I reckon he’s up to this field on ability.” One thing is for sure – Dewe will just be happy to be out there. Something he didn’t think possible mere weeks ago. “After the first morning driving work here I had that feeling back. That drive to get back out there on race day and compete.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    No issues with Belle Of Montana Star mare Belle Of Montana has been cleared of any injury or niggles after her uncharacteristic gallop at Alexandra Park on New Years’ Eve. She paced roughly and broke heading in to the first bend and was later terminally checked on the final bend when back in the field and racing roughly again. Trainer Barry Purdon says that after a worrying period, he’s satisfied there is nothing wrong. “There were a couple of sleepless nights but everything is really good with her now. “One of the pins came out of her shorteners early and it unbalanced her. “It was all a bit new to her and she didn’t really know what to do. “We’ve had her checked out and she’s definitely sound and there is nothing wrong with. “We’ve turned the page on that and she’ll race at Auckland on the 17th before heading across to Melbourne.” The Group 1 A$100,000 Ladyship Cup at Melton on February 1 will be her first target, before heading across to Sydney.   MacFarlane awaiting surgery Injured horseman Todd MacFarlane has been overwhelmed by well-wishers after his nasty accident at Cambridge on Sunday. MacFarlane is still in Waikato Hospital, along with Matthew White, after the pair and Jay Abernethy were injured. His wrist was broken and dislocated and he banged his head, both having fairly serious consequences. “Obviously I had concussion, but there are no concerns there now. “A few bruises and grazes on the face, but some might say that’s an improvement,” he joked. “I am waiting on an operation on my hand and arm at the moment but am getting well looked after. “I appreciate everyone’s concern and well-wishes; so many people have offered their support in the many forms. “It’s been quite overwhelming and I’m blown away by the offers of support. “What great people we have in and around our industry.” White is also still in hospital but hopes to be discharged by the end of the week. As well as a severe concussion after being knocked unconscious, he has been diagnosed with small fractures in three vertebrae at the base of his spine. Abernethy’s broken wrist is in a cast but he has been cleared of any structural damage to a sore shoulder.   Temu off the mark as a driver Pukekohe amateur driver Ange Temu recorded her first win at Cambridge on Sunday. She piloted Clifton Flutter to overcome a severe last-lap inconvenience and win for trainer James Stormont at what was just her second race-day drive. Clifton Flutter was buried on the markers when Banner Of Art stopped in front of it at the 900 metres, dragging it all the way back to last and losing valuable momentum. But Temu didn’t panic and, once extricated, nursed Clifton Flutter down the outside with a charging late finish to get the win in the shadows of the post. Speaking after the race, the mum of five said it was a great reward after taking the plunge in to an amateur drivers’ course six years ago. “I used to go to the races with my parents when I was young and it was something I always wanted to do, but it never really happened when I got married and had the kids. “I ended up doing the horse-power experience in Christchurch about 11 years ago with the intention of one day doing the amateurs’ course. “I just wanted to try out first and do my homework.” She flew back to Christchurch to do the final amateur drivers’ course at Addington before the new stables were built and then eventually started helping out various trainers in Kumeu, including Ray Green and Ken Sefonte. “We eventually moved to Pukekohe and after intruding on Steven Reid’s for a while I ended up getting a job with James Stormont and have been there ever since. “Every morning, six days a week.” The thrill of winning her first race is a feeling she’ll never forget. “It was kind of like ‘did I just do that’? “It was only when I heard my youngest daughter yelling and screaming afterwards that it kind of dawned on me.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    The fall-out from a horror crash at Cambridge yesterday will see three senior North Island drivers on the sidelines for a couple of months. The incident saw race 8 abandoned soon after the start when Afortunado (Jay Abernethy) couldn’t avoid a galloping Ima Denny Too (Tony Cameron) and fell to the track. A chain reaction saw Comic Book Hero (Todd MacFarlane) and Racketeers Boy (David Butcher) also fall while Matty White was flung viciously from the sulky of Machs Little Soaky. Butcher came out of the crash effectively unscathed apart from some bruising and sore ribs but MacFarlane, White and Abernethy all have significant injuries. Matty White remains in Waikato Hospital having suffered a brain bleed and will have further scans and x-rays on his hip and pelvis this morning. “He’s ok at the moment; he’s awake and alert,” said his wife, Brigette Solomon. “He does have a minor brain bleed though; it’s called a petechial haemorrhage. “He is also displaying really severe concussion symptoms too, repeating himself a lot. “They x-rayed his hip and shoulders last night which came back clear but they’ll do more scans today because he is still getting a lot of pain on his right side.” Todd MacFarlane is also in Waikato Hospital, his worst injury at this stage appearing to be a badly broken wrist. “I spoke to Todd late last night, around midnight, and he said that he had broken and dislocated his wrist,” said good friend, Jeff Darby. “They were looking at whether he needed surgery on it today. “He had a scan on his head and neck which came back with positive results and they’re pretty happy with that. “He also had a concussion and his memory of the race was a bit sketchy.” Jay Abernethy left Waikato Hospital at midnight and was at his doctor’s office first thing this morning. “I’ve broken my wrist. They nerve-blocked my arm to put it back in to place and put a cast on it. “I’m just getting my shoulder checked out this morning because that feels sorer than the wrist but I think it’s just badly bruised.” David Butcher considered himself fairly lucky given what happened to his colleagues. “I’m alright; I haven’t broken anything. “Just bruising. I had x-rays done last night and they were all good. “I’ve talked to (Stipendiary Steward) Steve Mulcay and told him I’ll just be taking it easy for a couple of days but should be fine to drive later in the week.” All four horses escaped relatively unscathed with only minor grazes and cuts reported, Racketeers Boy the only one requiring attention from the on-course vet, for a shoulder laceration. A stewards enquiry deemed no one driver was to blame for the event. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight The transition from boy to man can take some time, in horses as well as humans, but Double Rocket has had to grow up pretty quickly over the past few months. The Cambridge four-year-old continued his swift development with a tenacious victory at Alexandra Park on New Years’ Eve over the hot favourite Dina Bolt. It was the result of being thrown in the deep end from his first start as a four-year-old and having to race open class-level horses such as Self Assured, Mach Shard, Belle Of Montana and Our Uncle Sam. “He was only a four-win horse but was pretty much racing open class horses straight away,” said his trainer, Arna Donnelly. “So it took him a few runs to probably ‘harden up’ and learn to sort of run the times needed in this grade. “He hasn’t been disappointing either – he was never far away, just didn’t get all favours for three or four runs.” He’s got good gate speed and that had been a real asset in his recent racing, though Donnelly says they’ve tried not to abuse it and that applied on Tuesday. “Sometimes it can be his downfall because he loves running the gate but you can’t always do that and be there at the end. “We did pull back the other night but it was a great drive from Scott (Phelan) in the end to go forward without burning too hard.” Once in front, and with Dina Bolt on his back wearing the invincible colours of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, Phelan steadied the pace, reflected in what is now a relatively sedate overall time of 2.40.4. But it was a smart drive because he backed Double Rocket’s point-to-point to speed and final splits of 55.0 and 26.5 ensured he couldn’t be reeled in. For Donnelly it was nice to be one of just two stables on the afternoon to beat the All Stars barn, a rare occurrence with the money up on premier night. “It was a real thrill, especially being able to beat the top stable.” One person not on course was Donnelly’s mum, Mary Walker, a part-owner of Double Rocket and huge supporter of her training career, who was undergoing an operation on the day. “I’ve been given a rev up for even mentioning it on our Facebook page so I best not go in to it, but she’ll bounce back and hopefully be there for his next win.” Two owners that were on course to share the success with Donnelly were Peter and Jan Argus, who are big supporters of the stable. “They are very passionate owners that have been fantastic to me back from when I first started out with the likes of Ideal Success. “They’ve really helped put me on the map and I couldn’t be more grateful.” The big question is where to go next with Double Rocket and the answer might be next Friday night’s $50,000 Flying Mile on his home track in Cambridge “There’s not really any other races for him so we might nominate and have a look. “I have no real set plans with him for the rest of the season, though we will probably try and have a crack at the Messenger and Taylor Mile later.” And while pushing through for a tilt at the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in late May would seem the obvious that might not be the case. “We’ll probably try a Cups campaign with him next season or at least look to target some of the nicer races down south in the Spring. “So we won’t want to be chasing our tail just for the Jewels.” Donnelly chose Double Rocket at the 2017 Karaka yearling sale, going to $26,000 for the son of broodmare gem Spirit Of Eros and American Ideal. That made him a half-brother to a bevy of winners including Crown Law, Spirit And Desire, Spirit Of Art, Spirit Of Delight and fellow Cambridge alumni, Bettor Spirits and Spirit Of Anzac. Two of his half-sisters are the dams of God’s Spirit, Dracarys and Spirit Of St Louis as well, so she’s been one of the great modern day producers. The pedigree page also includes none other than our greatest ever pacer, Lazarus, as well a newly-crowned Auckland Cup winner Self Assured, Star Galleria, Stars And Stripes and Spirit Of Zeus. “I did like the look of him, even though he was only little; a nice type,” said Donnelly. “The family just seems to leave winner after winner but there wasn’t a hell of a lot of bidding interest in him so we ended up getting him pretty cheaply, I thought.” Double Rocket is undoubtedly the star of a stable that has swollen in size recently as Donnelly solidifies her as the biggest stable in the Waikato. “We’ve got a big team – it’s sitting around the 30 mark at the moment. “That includes about 10 two-year-olds that we’ve already gone through, some of which I’d like to qualify shortly before tipping out. “We’ve also got really big numbers in the paddock, too, which is a nice position to be in.” Courtesy of HRNZ

By Garrick Knight    Less than a week after his stablemate took out the Inter Dominion Grand Final, Oscar Bonavena has reaffirmed his position as the country’s best trotter. The four-year-old star showed a scintillating burst of speed to ward off the challenge of another flyer, Majestic Man, and win Tuesday’s $50,000 Gr. 2 Trotters Flying Mile at Cambridge. Punters who included him in their multis at microscopic odds of $1.22 were probably sweating at the furlong, but as soon as co-trainer Mark Purdon asked him to sprint up the passing lane, he responded with gusto. It was his seventh win in eight starts this season, the only error coming at the worst possible time – in last month’s Gr. 1 Dominion Handicap at Addington. Purdon has made no secret of the fact he harbours a desire to go to America in 2021 with the Majestic Son entire that could well be a generational talent. But first it will be back to Alexandra Park on New Years’ Eve where he will clash with Winterfell in a contest that will have fans buzzing. Another All Stars square-gaiter, Enhance Your Calm, will also be there in spite of his disqualification from third at Cambridge after galloping the length of the home straight. He led throughout and looked to be travelling well on turning in, but became unbalanced and flew to bits, according to driver, Brent Mangos. Destiny Jones was the benefactor of his error, the bonny Canterbury mare slipping up the markers to be fourth across the line, promoted to third. There was some early drama when the usually very well-mannered Marcoola galloped off the mobile arm for new driver Zachary Butcher. He took no further part and, given it was his second gallop in a row, trainer Barry Purdon has plenty to work on ahead of next Tuesday’s National Trot. On the under card, local trainers Andrew and Lyn Neal got some early Christmas presents when they trained a double at either end of the card. One - $1.40 favourite Louie The Horse – was expected while the other – double-figure shot A Better Dancer – was not. Louie The Horse was one of two winners on the card for driver Todd Mitchell, the other being Our Spitfire for Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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