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Some harness racing horses always seem to be ignored by the punters around the country regardless of how they perform. Armazem would definitely qualify as she always seems to start at long odds regardless of how she is going at the time. Twelve days ago at Timaru she was sent out at odds of $41 to one and after leading early and then trailing, Armazen got home well for second to the smart filly Delightful Lana. When Delightful Lana backed that up with a win in the first race last night in 1 :55.9 for the mile, you would have thought that Armazen in race 2 would have attracted some support. But alas the punters ignored the run at Timaru and let Armazem go out at the ridiculous odds of $59 to one against a field that included several runners that she had beaten home at Timaru. Restrained from barrier eight by driver Ross Payne, Armazen settled last early in the running line and didn't move until 1000 metres from home when she joined the three wide line on the back of Twitter Bromac. Given a lovely run up to the leaders, Armazen peeled three wide as they turned for home and sprinted clear and then withheld a late charge from Stopandstare to win by a neck. Armazen paced the 1950 metres in 2:25.2, a mile rate of 1:59.8 with closing sectionals of 60.5 and 27.9. Ross was stunned by the winning tote divvy. "I'm not a betting man but I thought she would have been a $10 shot in that field" " She is a lovely mare to do anything with and on her work I thought she would be hard to beat, " he said. Trained at West Melton by his brother Grant, Armazen is under offer but Ross is hoping that no business is done. "The way she is going, I am sure there is another win or two in her pretty quickly. "Grant has done a great job with her and she is really on the up at the moment," Ross said today. The win has come at a timely point for Ross as he looks to re-establish himself amongst the open driving ranks in Canterbury. Ross has spent the last 14 months as the stable manager at the all conquering All Stars stable but left recently to get back to doing what he loves most, driving. He is looking forward to teaming up with the very talented All Star Man who makes his season debut at Ashburton on Monday but is not overly confident. " We have struck Fly Like An Eagle, Arden Rooney and Tiger Tara on Monday but he is very well and won't disgrace himself. "Whatever he does on Monday, he is a horse to follow in the next few weeks,"  Ross said. One thing that must surely happen in the near future is that any runner involved with Grant and Ross Payne will treated with a lot more respect by punters. Harnesslink Media     

Well respected harness racing trainer/driver Ross Payne has parted ways with the All Star barn at Rolleston after just 14 months in the position of stable manager for New Zealand's leading stable. Ross is leaving the All Stars Stable to explore other racing opportunities which initially involves working with his brother Grant., himself a former foreman for the  All Stars team. Ross, whose appetite for working long hours is well known on both sides of the Tasman, came to the All Stars barn from Australia last year. He returned to his homeland after a long absence to replace his brother who decided it was time to go out on his own. Ross returned from Australia where he had carved out a niche as a trainer, driver and educator of young horses to take up the challenge as stable manager for the All Stars barn.  Ross has a lifetime of experience in the racing game, starting at home with his dad Ken when he was a child through to an early education with Ben Grice and then a number of private training positions on both sides of the Tasman "I've really enjoyed my time here and I like to think I have contributed to the great success the stable has had but my circumstances have changed " he said. Ross has got no regrets about coming back to New Zealand and has no desire to head back to Australia. He is looking forward to teaming up with his brother Grant "The bonus with helping Grant out is it will be an opportunity to get back into driving a lot more which I have really missed. Grant has got some really nice two year olds coming up and has taken over the talented All Star Man as well so things are looking up driving wise." he said. Ross should have little trouble re-establishing him again in the New Zealand scene with the outstanding record he has built up over the last 35 years as a Trainer/ Driver/ Educator. Harnesslink Media 

For anyone to be a commercial breeder in the standardbred industry in New Zealand means they usually need a benevolent banker and a determination to stick it out for the long term. It is a part of the harness racing industry that sees a lot of participants come in all gung ho and leave a short time later, wiser and poorer for the experience. A small number have been able to structure their breeding operations in such a way that not only are they profitable but they produce a high quality and successful product to boot. At the forefront of this small group in New Zealand is the founder of Studholme Bloodstock, Brian West. Recently we travelled to his magnificent 300 acre property at Coes Ford in Canterbury to spend an afternoon with Brian to get an over view of his involvement to date and what the future holds. Harnesslink When did you first develop an interest in the Harness Racing Industry. Brian West  My first memories were as a thirteen year old. That interest grew to the point where in my early twenties  I  purchased my first horse. I used to go to local dispersal sales looking to pick up well bred stock with a view to trading them further down the track. Harnesslink Anyone you turned to for advice in those early days. Brian West Jim Dalgety was a great help in those early days and I still seek his advice at times today. He has a wealth of knowledge and is very generous with his time. Alec Purdon and Des Callaghan (Tara Lodge) were two others that I sought out in those early years and they both helped me immensely. I am indebted to them all for their help. Harnesslink How did Yonkers Breeding Partnership come about? Brian West In 1986, I set up Yonkers Breeding Partnership in conjunction with four close friends of mine. We floated the partnership and it ended up with 100 investors all up. The aim was to target the top end of the yearling market. The partnership purchased the bloodstock and things looked to be coming together nicely when out of the blue the government of the day completely changed the tax structure for bloodstock. That completely compromised the financial viability of Yonkers Breeding Partnership. As a result we sold down the bloodstock over a period of three years at a significant loss. The partnership was very fortunate however as the funding borrowed from Barclays Bank was secured against the bloodstock and not the investors so the money lost by the investors was minimal. In 1986, we set up Club Classics Syndicates as an outlet for some of our bloodstock. The first syndicate was made up of seven horses with seven different trainers but we were having trouble selecting the seventh horse for the package. Robert Dunn went and looked at a group of horses we owned and to our surprise chose a smallish plain looking Stampede colt as the seventh horse. Of course he turned out to be Defoe 1:53 ($423,372) and that gave the syndicates a lot of creditability going forward. We were based at the old Watties farm in Shands road at the time and we had employed Michael House to do all the pre-training of the syndicate horses which also helped in their success. Harnesslink How did Yonkers Breeding Partnership (1989) come about. Brian West After the wind up of Yonkers Breeding Partnership, a few of the investors wanted to start again. So we wrote to the 100 original investors and offered them the opportunity to be involved. About 10% took up the offer and together we formed Yonkers Breeding Partnership (1989). We purchased the ten best pedigreed mares from the original Yonkers portfolio. Harnesslink How long did Yonkers Breeding Partnership (1989) last for? Brian West A little over twelve years all up. Most of the investors were coming up to retirement and wanted to free up some cash. The Bloodstock was valued and purchased by Studholme Park (BD West) The partnership made a profit every year of its twelve years, something I and manager, Jack Hartley, were very proud of, as they were very difficult days in the standardbred industry in New Zealand. Harnesslink At what point did the bloodstock operations evolve to their present name of Studholme Bloodstock? Brian West Studholme Bloodstock was formed in January 2003. Taking ownership of the bloodstock formally owned by Studholme Park (BD West) Harnesslink Why did you move from the Shands road property as it was beautifully set up Brian West I was looking to down size our breeding operation to create more leisure time, at the same time a developer made an offer to purchase the Shands Road property. I wasn't sure where I was going to go but I ran into an old friend of mine in real estate and not long after that he convinced me to have a look at the farm we are presently on. I would have to be honest and say when I first saw the property as I drove in, I was less than impressed as the house and outbuildings looked very run down. But my friend convinced me to have a look at the farm and I am glad I did because it is an outstanding property. I purchased 70 acres at first and then further down the track I purchased an additional 230 acres of an adjoining property to give me the 300 acres we presently have. It is a beautifully set up farm with 10 acre paddocks and shelter to each paddock from the easterly and the southerly winds. The earthquakes destroyed the main house (built in 1863) and I have yet to finalise its future with the insurance company but I have restored the other buildings on the property including the fourteen box ‘mews’, a two-storey stable complex and recently refurbished a small cottage which is now my home. Harnesslink How many stocks does the farm carry? Brian West Can vary from time to time but usually we would be carrying 100 horses and we finish up to 200 cattle as well. We run the cattle behind the horses and we crop some paddocks each year. All our paddocks are sown with a grass mix that has a heavy emphasis on red clover which seems to suit our soil type here. Harnesslink Any outside clients Brian West No, I have turned down dozens of approaches over the years. I do have breeding arrangements with a few people on a 50/50 basis and race some fillies with friends. I would calculate that Studholme Bloodstock owns outright about 70% of the horses on the farm at any one time. I am in breeding and racing arrangements with long term clients and friends: Peter Smith and Winky Foley (Kahukuri Bloodstock), Neville Tilsley, Mike and Sue Grainger (Grainger Bloodstock), John Purvis (Grassy Meadows Farm), Vicky Purdon, Mike Gourdie, Gavin Chin, Graham Gimblett and Ken McDonald of Master Musician and For a Reason fame. Harnesslink You didn’t sell fillies at the sales for a period of four or five years there not long ago .Why? Brian West When I first set up Studholme Park, I sold every foal I bred as that was the only way to pay the bills and keep our heads above water. Buyers of yearlings are generally looking for a reason not to buy and unless they are faultless in conformation and pedigree they were not giving me a return on my investment. As I became more financial and aware that our fillies were being sold at a loss in most instances, I decided to retain all fillies and try them as a race horse. The result of this decision has been very positive for my farm. These days we will sell the odd filly but they have to tick every box before I enter them in the yearling sales. This year I retained nine fillies which have all been broken in. Harnesslink What trainers do you use? Brian West I stopped counting when I got to seventy. These days though I mainly use Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen while I also have some with Cran Dalgety and Robert and John Dunn and Grant Payne. Different fillies suit different trainers. Secret Lotion and Art Critic never really settled at Marks and Natalies but have been in great form since joining Robert and John’s team so I am not afraid to move them if I think it might help. One year I sent seven fillies to Nicole Molander in Sydney. They all won enough money to pay their way and came back home with smart mile rates besides their name which is always helpful when selling at the sales Harnesslink How many have you got for next years’ sales and could you give us a rundown on their programme from weaning up to sale day. Brian West I will have 12 colts and two fillies barring injuries for next years’ sale. We run them in small mobs right through from weaning. They are fed a barley based mix that I have made to our specifications which has a 16% protein component. We change the mix on the 1st of August, reducing the protein component to 13% The hard feed is supplemented with lucerne/red clover baleage and some meadow hay. We have 14 double fenced yearling paddocks which we use during the sale prep. The sales prep starts on December 1st, we bring them in from the paddocks at seven in the morning. Following breakfast, they will be put on a walker for 30 minutes. They stay in for lunch and are put back in their paddocks at two in the afternoon and they stay there overnight. We do that right up to Christmas and then give them ten days off to freshen them up. We will then start again in early January and go right through to the sale which is usually around the 20th February. A lot of trainers/buyers like to come and see the horses on farm and we fit in around them as much as we can. Also, we are part of the very successful sales bus tour. Our main marketing push comes in the form of a booklet showing a photograph of each yearling. Harnesslink Whom would you rate the best horse you have raced –bred—seen Brian West The best horse I have raced would have to be Secret Potion 1:57.5 ($285,313) who won both the Great Northern Oaks (Group1) and Nevele R Fillies Final(Group1). Close behind would be Lancome 1:54.9 ($461,278) who won 13 races including the Harness Jewels  4 year old Diamond (Group1) The best horse I have bred would have to be A Bit Of A Legend 1:54.7 ($720,710) who has won 17 to date including both the two and three year old divisions of the Austrlasian Breeders Crown (Group 1) The best horse I have seen would have to be Lord Module 1:54.9 ($251,750) At his peak he made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with his speed and power. Harnesslink What have been some of the major changes that you think have been positive for the industry in your time. Brian West Two stand out for me. 1.) The DNA testing regime was a major step forward and made those mistakes of the past impossible. 2.) The other was the introduction of shuttle stallions which allowed the breeders in the southern hemisphere access to the best stallions in the world. Jack Rice, a USA lawyer and John Curtin had to fight tooth and nail to establish shuttle stallions and yet neither has ever had their contribution recognised which is a shame as we wouldn't be where we are today without their efforts. Harnesslink How do you see the future of harness racing and breeding in New Zealand. Brian West One of the major impediments to the future of the harness racing industry in New Zealand is the archaic governance structure that we have in this industry. The ‘Clubs’ run the industry in New Zealand. Clubs were set up to run race meetings and that should be their primary focus. The industry should be governed by a board of directors elected by industry participants, licence holders, breeders and owners. Such a board would free the industry from the glacial pace of change we have under the current structure. The other major problem that needs attention and soon is the lack of any incentives for people to breed. The number of mares bred this last breeding season was the lowest for 45 years and is in a downward spiral. The focus so far has been to increase stakes and that has been successful to a point but still the numbers of mares bred continues to decline. We need to incentivise the breeders to breed. There are several ways you can do that and there are several places overseas which run breeding incentive schemes. Which one would best meet the New Zealand industries needs further evaluation but one thing is certain, the French have it right, twelve and a half percent of every dollar earned is paid to the breeder. If we don't start to reward the people who produce the product that keeps our industry alive then we may not have an industry long term. Harnesslink Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Brian. It is much appreciated. Harnesslink media  

When Alannah Hall and Have Faith In Me were successful at Ashburton yesterday it was the 56th time that Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have trained multiple winners on a card this season. The 55th time was last Friday night at Addington where they were successful with Saratoga and Vice Consul, who where both driven by Mark Purdon. However, on Sunday Purdon was driving at Maryborough in Victoria so it was Rasmussen who did the driving honours. In the first race she gave two-year-old trotting filly Alannah Hall a beautiful trip in the trail before using the passing lane for a neck win. Owned by The Good Sports Syndicate which has enjoyed a tremendous season, Alannah Hall is a half-sister to top three-year-old trotter (Our) Twentyten and is the fourth New Zealand winner by top American stallion Angus Hall. Remarkably, Purdon and Rasmussen also train two of his other three NZ winners in (My) Arya, who finished a very good second in the Redwood Classic on Sunday, and the talented Petite One. Rasmussen then guided Adore’s full-brother, Have Faith In Me, to an effortless win, dashing away for a three length win in a slick last quarter of 26.7. Bettor With Bourbon, who is also from a family that Purdon has had plenty of success with, finished in second with stable foreman Ross Payne in the bike. Both juveniles are owned by the Dunfords, giving them the race Quinella. The lethal partnership has now trained 19 individial two-year-old winners this season and 156 in total, which is 18 winners more than Purdon’s previous best term of 138 when in partnership with Grant Payne. By Mitchell Robertson

The Allstars training partnership of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen seems to be forever rewriting the harness racing record books so it is no surprise that the duo are about to set a new record for the number of winners produced in a season from their Levi road property. The most winners produced by the Mark Purdon/Grant Payne partnership in a season stands at 138 which they achieved in 2012. Mark and Natalie, in their first season in partnership have already racked up 138 wins with six weeks of the season still to go on this side of the Tasman. Apart from the established stars heading to the Australian Breeders Crown, the Purdon/Rasmussen barn continues to bring promising reinforcements into the racing team. On Saturday at Motukarara, the partnership had seven unraced two year olds at the workouts and most showed enough ability to suggest wins are close at hand from this group. Mark and Natalie have both achieved great results previously in different partnerships but the joining together of these two outstanding horse people at the Allstars stable at Rolleston seems to have raised the bar to a level that the competition is really struggling to compete with. Harnesslink media

Ten horsemen and one horsewoman were inducted into the Noel Taylor New Zealand Trotting Hall Of Fame on Auckland Cup night last Friday. But it was harness racing legend, Charlie Roberts, who stole the limelight at the 4pm ceremony. He was one of four industry participants who were also bestowed with ‘Harness Racing Contribution Awards’. Mr Roberts, who turned 90 this month, left hospital on Friday especially to be at the function and to watch Adore Me run second in the Auckland Cup.  A renowned veterinarian, breeder, stud master and owner, Mr Roberts has been a driving force in New Zealand harness racing circles for more than 60 years. Initially involved in thoroughbreds it has been his association with Woodlands stud that has kept him a household harness racing name. For example at last year’s annual Harness Racing Awards he Christchurch Mr Roberts won five trophies including Owner and Breeder-of-the-Year, as well as awards for his champion stallion and broodmare Bettor’s Delight and Scuse Me. As co-owner of Christen Me and Adore Me, added to his status as a true harness racing legend. Mr Roberts is also the only person to be named Breeder-of-the-Year in both the standardbred and thoroughbred codes. Being an original shareholder in Sir Tristram is another one of the many feathers in his cap. Long before Woodlands Stud Mr Roberts was associated with Haunui Farm, and later qualified as a veterinary surgeon based at Takanini. He became an expert on the reproductive aspect of breeding and more than six decades ago he helped set up the original swabbing proceedings on a national basis. In 1976 Mr Roberts established the Riverside Veterinary and 11 years later the Auckland Vet Centre in partnership with Andrew Grierson, who is now the leading advisor to both codes in all veterinary matters. In partnership with Grierson, Mr Roberts in 1987, bought what was then ‘Harness World’ at a mortgagee sale. They returned its original title of Woodlands and revolutionised standardbred breeding in New Zealand by concentrating on shuttling stallions from the United States and then buying the Southern Hemisphere rights. In The Pocket was the first and his line changed the face of breeding in this country. Then Bettor’s Delight made an even greater impact, now dominating premierships on both sides of the Tasman as well as premierships in North America. He has also been our most dominant forces at recent yearling sales. The 15 people to receive a commemorative plaque and Hall Of Fame cap were: TRAINING ACHIEVEMENT (500 wins or more): Tim Butt – 583 wins and $7,406,072. Tony Herlihy (MNZM) – 670 wins and $8,304,330. Doug Gale – 524 wins and $4,809,758. John Hay – 530 wins and $4,168,136. Grant Payne (Mark Purdon) – 585 wins and $14,433,012. David and Catherine Butt ¬– 676 wins and $5,420,711 DRIVING ACHIEVEMENT (1,000 wins or more): Dexter Dunn – 1,232 wins and $12,047,272. David Butt – 1,100 wins and $9,789,301. Ken Barron – 1,024 wins and $8,557,176. Jim Curtin – 1,430 wins and $11,225,559. 3,000 WINS: Maurice McKendry – 3,002 and $25,452,271. OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO HARNESS RACING: Charlie Roberts. Alby Gain. Bob McArdle Pat O’Brien. Note: Statistics were as at March 10, 2014. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing NZ)

Smart three-year-old trotter Trouble Rieu is the latest to emerge on to the scene in time for Saturday’s $30,000 Group Three Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton, which is shaping up to be a stellar field. After disappointing when fifth at Addington on January 17, the Brent White trained son of Great Success looked right back to his best at Geraldine on Saturday where he easily accounted for his 14 rivals after looping the field to sit parked. “Brent (White) has had a few minor issues with him, but he seems right back on top of his game now,” said driver Stephen McNally. “At his best he is definitely capable of matching it with the best of them,” warned McNally. “He proved that last season and I always thought he would be better at three,” he added. Trainer Brent White was quick to agree. “He is a lovely horse, who has derby type written all over him,” said White. “He generally has good manners too, which could be a big assist in a race like the Hambletonian.” Others who will more than likely compete in Saturday’s trotting feature include Thebestlove and Majestic Time, who were both super impressive when winning at Rangiora last Tuesday. In fact, Thebestlove set a new 2000 metre New Zealand record for three-year-trotters when downing Lothario, who will also stake a claim on Saturday. “And of course One Over Da Moon will be there, and we all saw how good he was last season,” added White. Meanwhile, Thorn In My Side, who was the winner of the ninth race on the Geraldine card has been retired on a winning note in foal to super sire Bettor’s Delight. “She is actually a really nice mare, but she has been plagued with soreness issues and bad luck her whole career,” said trainer Peter Robertson. “She is by Falcon Seelster from a sister to multiple Group One winner Lanercost, so she should make a lovely broodmare,” he added. In other news from Geraldine, junior driver Nathan Purdon continued his good association with Uncle Grant Payne when guiding Little Miss Sunshine to victory at odds of $27.90. Purdon has now driven for Payne on six occasions, resulting in three wins and a placing. Little Miss Sunshine was having just her second start for Payne after being transferred from the barn of Robbie Holmes. “She was in need of the run her first start for Grant and she ended up having a tough trip, so we were actually quietly confident of a bold run today.” By Mitchell Robertson

Grant Payne may have co- trained over 500 winners and $14 million in stakes while in partnership with leading trainer Mark Purdon, but that didn’t make his first win since the pair split any less satisfying. The first win I refer to, was Miss Lisa at Geraldine on Saturday, who upset at odds of $37.10. Partnered by Payne’s nephew Nathan Purdon, Miss Lisa missed an early tangle which saw Arising Easton (Jeremy Markham) lock wheels with Steal A Grin (Matthew Anderson), and dislodge driver Robbie Close from the sulky of favourite Mossdale Connor.  Purdon then settled the daughter of McArdle towards the tail of the field before pulling her wide on the home bend and coming with a whirlwind finish to win by two lenghts over Lumos (Matt Purvis) and Clarisa (Sam Ottley). Meanwhile, Close was given a standing ovation for his efforts in holding on to the more than handy pacer Mossdale Connor despite being dragged over a fair proportion of landscape. “I knew I’d be in too much trouble with Ben (Hope) if I let go of his favourite horse,” Close later joked. The win was Payne’s first from eighteen starts since he split with Purdon, but not his first on his own account as he trained 22 winners, including a Kaikoura Cup and 3YO Sales Series Final, while Purdon was disqualified in 2006. As for Nathan, it was his second win from just five drives. His other three have resulted in two placings. Later on in the day at Geraldine, last season's three-year-old male trotter of the year Royal Aspirations resumed in tremendous style downing a strong field including The Fiery Ginga (2nd) by eight lenghts. He will now compete in the Green Mile at Methven next Sunday where he will go head-to-head with Dominion winner Master Lavros. Stipes Report Race 6 TEMUKA TRANSPORT MOBILE PACE MACH’S GLADIATOR underwent a pre-race veterinary examination after this gelding became agitated in the stabling area which resulted in it receiving a superficial wound to a hind leg. As a result MACH’S GLADIATOR was declared a late scratching on veterinary advice at 2.05pm. A veterinary clearance will be required prior to this horse resuming. INDEPENDENT ANVIL broke early in the score up but was able to regain its rightful position prior to dispatch. ARISING EASTON broke shortly after the start and shifted in abruptly locking wheels with and causing a considerable check to STEAL A GRIN. In consequence to this INDEPENDENT ANVIL was checked into a gallop and R Close as the driver of MOSSDALE CONNER was tipped from the sulky. Soon after this J Markham as the driver of ARISING EASTON was also tipped from his sulky, being dragged for some distance. Drivers J Markham and R Close were examined by St Johns ambulance staff and cleared of injury. ARISING EASTON and MOSSDALE CONNER were examined by the veterinarian subsequent to this incident and also cleared of any injury. CLARISA raced keenly in the middle stages. LUMOS was held up in the early stages of the run home. AJAYE and MUNDAKA were held up throughout the run home. Driver S Ottley reported that she was unable to activate the removable hood on CLARISA due to the cord breaking. This gear was inspected and found to be in good order. Stewards advised the connections of ARISING EASTON that their runner had now been declared ineligible to start from mobile races until such time that it can trial to a standard satisfactory to the Stipendiary Stewards. By Mitchell Robertson

With Cup Day on the horizon I thought we would test our readers ‘Cup Day’ knowledge and give one lucky reader the chance to win a $50 Final Field each-way bet on Cup Day courtesy of Steve Richardson and the New Zealand T.A.B – Who said they weren’t generous? The winner of the quiz, and therefore the $50 Final Field each-way bet will be the first person to answer 10 or more of the 15 questions correctly. So, here goes.... Q1: What horse won the New Zealand Cup as a 4yo and then came back and won it again as an 8yo? Q2: Name the horse that was a promoted winner of the 2006 Sires’ Stakes Final? Who crossed the line in first place? Q3: Two trotters have won the New Zealand Cup. Name them? Q4: Who was the last horse to win a New Zealand Cup from a handicap? Q5: How many times has Anthony Butt won the New Zealand Trotting-Free-For-All? Q6: In the Sires Stakes Final that Auckland Reactor won Mark Purdon and Grant Payne lined up six horses in the race. Name the other five? Q7: Who was the original trainer of the 2008 Sires Stakes winner Stunin Cullen? Q8: Who is the only free-legged pacer to win the New Zealand Trotting Cup to date? Q9: Who was disqualified from the New Zealand Cup that Spry was a promoted winner of? Q10: Name the only mare to win the New Zealand Cup as a four-year-old? Q11: Name the last six mares to win the New Zealand Cup? Q12: What horse started favourite twice in the New Zealand Cup during the 2000’s but never won one? Q13: New Zealand Cup winners Gold Bar and Haughty crossed to leave what open class pacer? Q14: Who is the only horse to win the Junior Free-For-All twice? Q15: Who is the only three-year-old to finish in the money in a New Zealand Cup? *To enter – comment below. By Mitchell Robertson  

Blair and ‘Tommy’ go way back. And on Monday (November 4) Blair Orange and Highview Tommy will be looking to reignite their long-term partnership in the $50,000 Alabar Kaikoura Cup at the picturesque South Bay Racecourse. Highview Tommy hasn’t won the Kaikoura Cup in three attempts. He did finish a half-head second behind Smiling Shard in 2010. He was fourth in 2011 and seventh last year. Orange on the other hand has won a Kaikoura Cup previously. That was in 2004 when he steered the John Parsons trained Harnetts Creek to victory in 2:59.6. Blair and ‘Tommy’s’ first big win came five-and-a-half years ago when they won the Group One $100,000 Welcome Stakes at Addington Raceway. ‘Tommy’ was just two. The black Bettor’s Delight – Baptism Of Fire entire is now eight and on the verge of competing in his fourth straight New Zealand Cup. Orange said the Cup could be D-Day for the Greg and Nina Hope trained pacer. “That will probably be the day we know whether or not he will be retired or not. He’s been one of my favourite horses I have driven over the years. “He’s given me a lot of pleasure, but he hasn’t shown much lately. You never can write him off though. It all depends which ‘Tommy’ turns up,” Orange said. He said he would be surprised if he won the Kaikoura Cup but was looking for an improved performance heading into the New Zealand Cup on November 12. “He’s a great grinder and the New Zealand Cup suits his racing style. It would not surprise me if he showed up in the Cup because when he wants to he can mix it with them. Like I said it depends which ‘Tommy’ turns up,” Orange said. Highview Tommy finished a three-quarter length second to Terror To Love in last year’s NZ Cup; the same margin plus a nose third in 2011, and ninth in 2010, “He runs his best races on a loose rein. He’s an out-and-out stayer. In saying that he must reverse his form-line or that might be it,” Orange said. Highview Tommy was trained by Mark Purdon up until his 11th in this year’s Auckland Cup. In late March he transferred to the Hope stable. He has had seven races since then for a third. “He needed a change of scenery and that’s why he went to Greg and Nina’s. A change is as good as a holiday. “You have to remember his lead-up form into last year’s Cup wasn’t good and he finished less than a length from winning,” Orange said. Highview Tommy has recorded two placing’s from four starts at Kaikoura, and a win and three placing’s from eight starts at the 2400m standing start distance. All up Highview Tommy has won 17 of his 102 starts and placed in 27 others for $1,009, 323 in purses. He is ninth in the NZ Cup rankings and paying $61 to win the great race in just over a week. ‘Tommy’ has finished sixth, fifth, eighth and 10th this campaign. Highview Tommy’s stablemate, Jason Rulz will be tough to beat on Monday. The 14th New Zealand Cup seed was the $6.50 fourth favourite when odds on the Kaikoura Cup opened this week. Only Aussie pacer Suave Stuey Lombo $3.50; Fly Like An Eagle $4.80; and Jarcullembra $6 are favoured to beat ‘Tommy’ in the Group Two event. Opening odds for Monday’s 2013 Kaikoura Cup were: Suave Stuey Lombo $3.50; Fly Like An Eagle $4.80; Jarcullembra $6; Jason Rulz $6.50; Easy On The Eye $7; Jimmy Johnstone $10; Pass Them By $17; Highview Tommy $21; Mach Banner $21; Phantom Grin $31; Ellmer Hanover $51; Ardghal $51. Kaikoura Cup winners since 2000 (with drivers and times) have been: 2012: Sushi Sushi (Natalie Rasmussen) 2.55.5. 2011: Smiling Shard (Dexter Dunn) 2:58.7. 2. 2010: Smiling Shard (Dexter Dunn) 2:58.9. 2009: Nearea Franco (Craig Thornley) 2:59.9. 2008: Report For Duty (Anthony Butt) 3:01.1. 2007: Bondy (David Butt) 2:59.8; 2006: Tribute (David Earnshaw) 3:01.5. 2005: Imagine That (Grant Payne) 3:03.6. 2004: Harnetts Creek (Blair Orange) 2:59.6; 2003: Falcon Rise (Peter Ferguson) 2:59.2. 2002: Disprove (David Butcher) 2:59.2. 2001: Pic Me Pockets (Tony Herlihy) 3:01.3. 2000: Bogan Fella (Mark Purdon) 2:59.4. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

With harness racing's most exciting time of the year quickly approaching, Harnesslink thought it was only right that we caught up with some of New Zealand's leading trainers and drivers to talk to them about how their cup contenders have come up and their likely build up race programmes.

New Zealand harness racing history was created at Alexandra Park in Auckland tonight (Friday February 25) when a legend nick-named 'The Iceman' became the first reinsman to drive 3,000 winners. No driver or jockey has won that many races before. Tonight Tony Herlihy - the 52-year-old they call 'Alexandra Park's favourite son' changed all that!

Harness racing colossus Auckland Reactor was the star trialist at the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club's Trials held at Motukarara today (Wednesday February 2). The son of Mach Three stepped back into the public arena at the Ashburton Trials last Wednesday and didn't disappoint his entourage of followers, coming from last on the turn to win effortlessly with some exciting sectionals.

The Mark Purdon and Grant Payne trained Highview Tommy picked up another feature win at the Invercargill Harness Racing Club's meeting held at Ascot Park yesterday (Saturday). Hard to believe but it has taken over twelve months and 22 starts for Highview Tommy to get another win.

The smile on the face of harness racing horseman Mark Purdon said it all following a dazzling retun to the public arena by superstar pacer Auckland Reactor. The 6-year-old entire sprinted sharpely at the finish to win the C2 And Faster Mobile Pace at the Mid Canterbury TOA Trials held at Ashburton Raceway today (Wednesday January 26).

Experienced harness racing horseman James Stormont is set to leave the stable of Mark Purdon and Grant Payne. Stormont, who has reined home in excess of 1000 winners on the race-track, revealed he will leave the North Island branch of the Purdon/Payne barn at the end of the month.

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