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Tonights win by Best Western in the $125,000 Great Northern Oaks was not only a surprise to the punters but a surprise to the owner Dr A Grierson who was not on track for the win, but instead was out fishing at the time of his fillies victory. Trained by Jeremy Young at Pukekohe and superbly driven by Saliesh Abernethy, Best Western (Bettor's Delight - First Western) was unwanted in the betting market paying $38.00 to win, but the nuggety filly dug deepest in the run to the judge and got home to win by a neck, clipping more than half a second of the New Zealand 2700m record in the process. The winning time of 3-16.4 beat the old record of 3-17.1 set by Bonnie Joan in the 2017 Southland Oaks final and equated to a 1-57.0 mile rate. Bettor's Delight sired the first four runners home in the race with all four fillies going under the previous New Zealand record for the 2700m Mobile. Best Western winning the 2019 Pascoes The Jewelers Northern Oaks Earlier in the night the Barry Purdon trained Jack's Legend won the Gr3 The Founders in a 1-52.8 mile rate beating stablemate Mach Shard by half a neck. Smooth Deal won the sixth heat of the Breckon Farm Young Guns series for colts and geldings in 1-56.3 for driver Tim Williams and the All Stars Stables. All Stars also won the Derby Prelude with Jesse Duke who convincingly lowered the colours of the previously unbeaten stablemate and favourite Ultimate Sniper.   Harnesslink Media

The best horse usually wins the Northern Oaks, the classic that starts Derby week at Alexandra Park tonight. That would seem a pretty obvious statement but in harness racing it is not. Barrier draws, tempo and the fact being wide cost horses so much ground can mean being the best horse just sometimes isn't enough. But add distance to that equation, especially for young fillies, and the creme rises to the top because many don't stay and the real athletic superiority comes out. That is what training legend Barry Purdon hopes happens with Belle Of Montana in the $125,000 Pascoes Oaks tonight. There is little doubt that on their form this summer Belle Of Montana and Wainui Creek are the best two fillies in the race, in that order. But with Wainui Creek drawing the ace and all but guaranteed the short way home on the marker pegs Belle Of Montana could have to come from behind her and wide to win. Purdon, who last won this race 30 years ago with Happy Hazel, thinks his filly can do that. "She is very fast and while I'd prefer to see her lead or trail, I think she can come from off the speed to win," says Purdon. "You tend to find in the Oaks the best horses come to the fore and while Wainui Creek is very good too, I couldn't be happier with my filly." While it looks likely Belle Of Montana may have to be clearly superior to win it may not be that cut and dried. Stablemate Havtime is just one rival who could go forward early and at least have a look for the lead. Even if she can't get there it could open the field up and punter shouldn't be stunned if driver Belle Of Montata's Zac Butcher can weave some magic which negates her supposed draw disadvantage. Purdon also goes into tonight's $30,000 The Founders with renewed confidence after Jack's Legend has returned to his best in recent starts, even though he faces serious opposition in Star Galleria and Ultimate Machete. "He feels great and is working really well so I don't think anything will be different from his last couple, he will go forward and maybe even lead." On a night when Ultimate Sniper (race one) and Sweet On Me (race eight) will be many punter's multi anchors, the best each way bet could be Somethingaboutmary in the Breeders Stakes. Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

The two most important drives of Ricky May’s weekend could hardly be more different.  But that doesn’t mean the result will be.  May treks north to Alexandra Park tomorrow night to try and lead throughout the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks with Wainui Creek.  That is not giving away any pre-race secrets as May, who can sometimes lean toward the conservative, is open about what he intends to do in the classic. “She hasn’t had a lot of good draws and she has finally got one so I will be trying to use it,” says May.  “So she will attempting to stay in front and if they are good enough to come from behind her and beat her, then so be it.” Wainui Creek returned to racing with a storming late third at Alexandra Park last Friday and after drawing the ace she and arch rival Belle Of Montana (two) completely dominate the market for the Oaks, the feature at Alexandra Park’s premier meeting to start their Derby week.   Wainui Creek has been able to get in front of Belle Of Montana the last two times they have met and been run down by the northern speed machine both times but this time she could be on the markers while the latter could be covering extra ground in the running line, so often the kiss of death in Alexandra Park staying races.  “That other filly (Belle Of Montana) is very fast but I think you will see the best of Wainui Creek up to the 2700m,” says May. While May has only one plan in the Oaks he is going to let the horse do the talking when champion trotter Monbet returns on Sunday.  The incredible trotter hasn’t raced for over 27 months and at times during that period it felt like his injuries would rob us of ever seeing him again. But after a bold trial at Rangiora last week he has accepted to start in a 1980m mobile trot at Addington on Sunday afternoon in which he has drawn the outside of the front line.  “Greg (Hope, trainer) thought it was easier to go back to the races than chase them off a log mark at the trials,” explains May.  “But after such a long break from racing it is a big, big ask to expect him to win.  “He felt great at the trials last week and most importantly very sound but winning might be another thing.”  So how does a driver approach driving the best trotter, and maybe even the best harness horse in the country, fresh up after such a gigantic break?  “I can’t go out there with a plan. I will have to just drive him how he feels but I really don’t think he will win.”   Michael Guerin

The first classic of Auckland Cup week was over almost before it began. Hot favourite Elle Mac led home an All Stars-trained quinella in the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park last night, jumping straight to the lead and never getting out of third gear. While the Alexandra Park specialist probably would have won regardless, she was all but gifted the race when second favourite and arch-rival Bettor Joy's winning chances were extinguished early. She was checked by a galloping rival in front of her, effectively knocked out of winning contention, and did a remarkable job to recover into fourth. Elle Mac had all the ingredients for an Oaks winner, being by super sire Bettors Delight, trained by the All Stars and owned by huge sales spender Jean Feiss.   But it wasn't all plain sailing for All Stars hotshots in the three-year-old features last night as the Woodlands Northern Derby market was turned on its head when Chase Auckland tasted defeat for the first time in the Derby prelude. He was forced to sit parked and couldn't grab stablemate Sicario, who was having his first start since last winter. The result suggested Monday's barrier draw will play a bigger role than expected in who wins next Friday's Derby. The other stars of the night were the Michelle Walls-Bernie Hackett training team, who won both early trots including the Northern Breeders Stakes with Majestic Ali paying $13.90.   Michael Guerin    

Last Saturday night’s ultra-impressive New South Wales Oaks winner, Partyon, is jumping out of her skin, and looks poised to win this Friday’s Group One $125,000 Pascoes The Jewellers Northern Oaks for the 3YO pacing fillies at Alexandra Park. The brilliant unbeaten daughter of Bettor’s Delight will be looking to make it 10 straight in the 2700m mobile, and according to her co-owner Ken Breckon of the ‘Breckon Farms and Top 10 Syndicate’, you wouldn’t know she’s been in a race just a couple of nights ago. “She’s eaten up every grain and not long after that Oaks win in Sydney she was so fired up it looked like she wanted to go out and do it all again. “In fact she was so excited she tried to kick my mate Phil Kennard as he was cheering Have Faith In Me home in a later race. I would have loved to have had a camera. The expression on his face was priceless,” Breckon said. He said Partyon would beat him home to New Zealand. “She left at 4.30am this morning (Tuesday) and I’m leaving at lunchtime. We are so proud of her. She will make a very valuable broodmare one day. Her breeding will look good on the pedigree page. That means a lot to us as well,” Breckon said. The former vice-president of the Auckland Trotting Club was still in awe of Partyon’s 1.1 metre victory over the talented 3-year-old Australian filly, Petacular. “She had to be good to beat her because that filly is one of Australasia’s best. Sure we got the nice sit in behind the pace but the gap closed up along the markers and Mark (Purdon) had to re-balance her and come again on the outside. “She displayed enormous sprint and tenacity to get up and collar Petacular. We are very proud of her. We would love to win the Northern Oaks this Friday. We know we have got the horse-power to do it,” Breckon said. The Breckon – Purdon combination have nailed the Northern Oaks previously when Twist And Twirl won in 3:21 even in 2012. “That was a special night. I don’t think Friday’s draw of seven will bother her too much. I think Mark will press on from out there and then try and lead all the way. “It’s not a given though because her stablemate Spanish Armada is a very good filly and she will take some beating. Our only consolation is that she has drawn one on the second line (9),” said Breckon. Partyon has won three from three in New Zealand including the Group One $150,000 Harness Jewels Diamond 2YO Fillies Final at Cambridge on June 4 last year. Her two other Group One wins came in Australia. In fact she has a six from six winning record over there, including Saturday’s $200,000 NSW Oaks, and the Group One $280,000 Alabar Breeders Crown 2yo Final at Melton’s Tabcorp Park on August 28 last year. The gifted bay, who was born on September 12, 2013, also recorded her fastest mile in Australia. That was in the Group Three $18,000 J. L. Raith Memorial at Tabcorp Park Menangle on January 14 when she stopped the clock in 1:51.3 She’s no stranger to Alexandra Park either. In fact the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained filly won on debut in a $12,000 fillies and mares 2yo and older pace on May 13 last year. That was a 2200m mobile. Friday’s Group One will be her first start over the 2700m. Breckon said Partyon would now follow a similar schedule to what stablemate, Dream About Me, undertook last season with her main goal being the Group One $140,000 New Zealand Sires Stakes 3YO Fillies Final and the Group One $150,000 New Zealand Oaks – both at Addington Raceway on May 12 and May 19 respectively. Duane Ranger

The $125,000 Northern Oaks at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park tonight looked a two horse race on paper between the All Stars duo of Golden Goddess and Piccadilly Princess and that is exactly how it worked out. Golden Goddess had been flying in her races and was unbeaten in her races this season until a last start defeat by Piccadilly Princess on the grass at Methven. Most pundits were prepared to forgive her that defeat as she didn't look 100% comfortable on the grass and Piccadilly Princess is a high class filly in her own right. The draw for the Oaks looked to have evened up the race again with Piccadilly Princess drawing beautifully at barrier two while Golden Goddess had drawn awkwardly at one on the second line. When the gates folded, Tim Williams sent Piccadilly Princess forward from her handy draw and grabbed the early lead but was immediately put under pressure by Bettor Think Quick and Josh Dickie and they battled for the front for over 250 metres before Josh eased Bettor Think Quick and sat in the death seat. Golden Goddess with Natalie Rasmussen in the bike had been sitting back beyond midfield watching the early battle and as soon as the pace eased, Natalie sent Golden Goddess around the field in search of the lead. Josh Dickie and Bettor Think Quick kicked up for 100 metres to make Golden Goddess work that bit harder as she went forward and Golden Goddess eventually made the front over Piccadilly Princess  with 1400 metres to go. Passing the 500 metres Golden Goddess opened the throttle up and the only filly who could go with her was Piccadilly Princess and these two cleared out from the rest of the field as they turned for home. Slowly but surely Piccadilly Princess leveled up and eased past by half a length late in the race to claim her first Group 1 victory. Golden Goddess was game in defeat in second while the next filly home in Arden's Choice was nine and three quarters lengths away in third. The daughter of Bettor's Delight from the Holmes Hanover mare Hyde Park Royal paced the 2700 metres in a very quick 3:17.9, a mile rate of 1:57.9 with closing sectionals of 57 and 27.9. Piccadilly Princess takes her record to 11 starts for 5 wins and 4 seconds with $129,143 in the bank. It was a new New Zealand record for a three year old filly over 2700 metres, taking nine tenths of a second off the previous record set by by The Orange Agent in last years Northern Oaks. Tim Williams was his usual modest self on returning to the winners circle. " The feeling in the stable was she had closed the gap on Golden Goddess and I am glad she picked tonight to prove it." " We had a good draw and took advantage of it." "I didn't think I would be put under so much pressure for the early lead by Josh and Bettor Think Quick but once Golden Goddess came around and found the front , my filly relaxed beautifully in the trail." " I really want to thank the connections for putting me on tonight" " When I was suspended in December they kept the drive open for me and when I drove the stablemate at Methven instead of Piccadilly Princess they still kept the drive for me tonight." " I can't thank them enough," Tim said. Tim Williams has had a great last 18 months since joining the All Stars team but he has repaid the faith that Natalie and Mark showed in him with some outstanding drives, especially in the Group 1 events. Harnesslink Media   

All week the harness racing pundits previewing the Great Northern Oaks had predicted that Classical Art from barrier one would lead and control the race with the favourite The Orange Agent unlikely to get the lead off her. No one obviously told Maurice McKendry on The Orange Agent because he did exactly what everyone said couldn't be done. Maurice worked her forward from barrier four and grabbed the lead from Classical Art inside the first 200 metres and that effectively was race over. Allowed to get away with a couple of easier mid race sections, Maurice applied the pressure from a fair way out and then blew them away with a last half in 55.1 and quarter in 27.4 to cruise home home by five lengths in a new New Zealand record of 3:18.8 for the 2700 metres mobile. When talking to Harnesslink during the week, Maurice said contrary to what a lot of people thought, The Orange Agent could really leave the gate and he thought he would go forward. The daughter of American Ideal has been a revelation this season with her win tonight her seventh from just nine starts with her only unplaced run coming in the Sires Stakes Final for fillies on New Years eve when pushed out four wide by Democrat Party with a lap to go. The inexperienced Start Dreaming provided a minor highlight of the race by running home well for second to give American Ideal the quinella with Supersonic Miss holding on for third after sitting parked for the last 1200 metres and Classical Art disappointing in running fourth after having the run of the race. Maurice was pretty philosophical about the win post race. " I got the lead pretty easily really and there was no real pressure so I was pretty confident during the running that she would be tough to beat." " When you run home in front in 55 it makes it pretty hard for those behind you." " She knocked off a bit the last 100 metres when she was out on her own but she won with a bit in hand". " I like winning those Group 1 races because the extra money keeps the bank manager happy," Maurice said with a bit of a chuckle. Maurice thought that The Orange Agent would now head south to Addington. " The plan at the moment is to head south now for the New Zealand Oaks and Nevele R Fillies Final in early May," Maurice said. With a combination of a filly as talented as The Orange Agent and a driver right at the top of his game like Maurice McKendry, then you need to look no further for the favourite for the remaining fillies classics this season. Harnesslink Media  

Brian Hughes has a habit of winning the Group One Northern Oaks every decade…..and his 10-year anniversary just happens to be at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park this Friday night.   The man they call Bunty bred, owned and trained Iman to win the 1995 edition of the Group One classic for 3-year-old fillies, and then in 2005 Hughes owned and trained Tosti Girl to her neck victory over Cruzee Lass. They were the first and fourth favourites respectively. This Friday Hughes will line up one of the best fillies he has ever co-owned, co-bred or trained in the Pascoes The Jewellers sponsored 2700m mobile feature – and naturally The Orange Agent will again be a hot favourite.   “She’s a classy mare all right. She has come through her last win very well. She’s eaten up everything and is rearing to go. She hasn't had a workout or trial since that race but Dad (Bunty) has been putting the work into her.   “From the draw she is going to be tough to beat,” said Gareth Hughes, son of Bunty, and a man who does a lot with his father’s team.   The Orange Agent has drawn perfectly at four this week and compared to her six draw last time out in the second $20,000 Nevele R Fillies heat.   That night she looked like she would have to settle for the runner-up prize after second favourite Democrat Party got away from her on the home turn.   “She’s got a bad habit of drifting wide simply because she goes too fast for her own good around the final bend. Once she got balanced up last start she came again to win. That was a very good performance.   “We are confident she will fly around the final corner untroubled this time,” Hughes said.   The 3-year-old daughter of American Ideal and Lady Fingers has now won seven of her 12 starts and just over $105,000 in purses.   She is yet to nail a Group One victory but did win the $80,000 Caduceus Club Ladyship Stakes at Alexandra Park in December.   All seven of her wins have been at at northern headquarters, but she is yet to start over the 2700m.   “The distance won’t hurt her, especially from the draw. The Oaks has been one of Dad’s main targets with her for some time now. It’s a race that means a lot to him. He’s already won it twice,” Hughes junior said.   Another race that means a great deal to Hughes is the Great Northern Derby, which will be run on Friday week – Auckland Cup night.   The Hughes trained Hughie Green will line up one of the favourites in the sixth race on Friday – the $20,000 Derby Prelude.   With some of the best 3-year-olds missing this week a good performance will be required to make the final Derby field.   Follow The Stars, fresh from his placings in Australia, will be tough to beat but Hughes is confident Hughie Green will put in another bold showing.   “He did really well to beat Ohoka Punter last start and Dad says he’s progressed nicely since then. Both he and The Orange Agent have done everything he has asked of them.   "If I was going to single one out at this stage it would be ‘Agent’, simply because she has the better draw and the Derby Final isn’t for another nine days. Sure we will be trying to win it but the main goal is to make the final,” said Hughes.   In fact the Hughes team has five winning chances on Friday.   Gamma Lady won well here a month ago on debut and then was a nice workouts winner on Saturday. Hughes rated her right up there with The Orange Agent as one of his stable’s best winning chances in race four.   “She is flying at the moment for a young horse that has only had one run." "My Kiwi Mate can also win the last race, while Girls Are Better can also follow up her good trial form in ‘Gamma’s’ race,” said Hughes.   “She ran a nice second behind Gamma Lady in the same Workout at ‘The Park’ on Saturday,” he added. Duane Ranger - Courtesy of Steve Richardson (TAB)

The All Stars barn principals Natalie and Mark probably have to check each morning at the moment just to see which country they are in. The duo travel between Christchurch, Sydney and Auckland so much at the moment that it must make their heads spin at times. Mark will spend  this week in Sydney preparing the team for the big day at Menangle on Sunday. Natalie is already back in Christchurch after her big night at Sydney preparing the team for meetings at Addington and Auckland. Natalie will head to Auckland on Friday and then over to Sydney after the Auckland meeting. Natalie will take the drives on all of their runners on Sunday including Adore Me. The Auckland based team at the moment is under the care of Duane Marfisi and Tim Williams. Natalie was pleased with how things panned out on Saturday night at Menangle "We were especially happy that the Sydney team had a really good hitout because it is such a testing track and nearly all of them needed a strong race." "Isaiah  thrilled me with his run." I thought with his lack of recent racing if he got fourth even with that run in a race that quick he was doing well and he did better than that." "Mark was very pleased with Adore Me as you might think." "Isaiah's draw in the Chariots is quite a good one without having had time to analyse the form." "But he will improve heaps with the run." "Hug The Wind and Fight For Glory were both great." "Hug the Wind has drawn one." "I would have preferred two to four to be honest but we will take one." Fight For Glory has a tough draw but she is at the top of her game and she can tough it and still sprint home so it could have been worse." " They were all good," Natalie said. Its hard to comprehend at times how many top horses are part of the All Star barn but this weekend is a good example of their depth of talent. On Friday night they will line up serious winning chances in the Great Northern Oaks and City Of Auckland Free For All before heading to Sydney where they have big chances in the New South Wales Derby, Oaks, Ladyship Mile and Chariots Of Fire. 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  

Star pacers Venus Serena and Border Control will both compete in legs of the  Pick6 at Forbury Park tonight, meaning that you should only have to pick four winners to scoop a share of the $40,000 pool. The former, Venus Serena, who is first first-up since a staggering win in the Great Northern Oaks, would only need to race close to her best form to win the Nevele R Fillies heat, while Border Control, who was a game second behind Adore Me in record time last start, should claim glory in the 4 & 5YO Championship despite his 20 metre handicap. Other features on the Forbury Park card include a heat of the Sires Stakes for two-year-old fillies which will see impressive debut winner Katy Perry go head-to-head with the well-backed Du Vella, while speedy filly Democrat Party will do battle with capable three-year-old filly Millie Sampson in the second race at Cambridge. Suggested Forbury Park Pick6: Leg 1: 2, 3, 7 Leg 2:  7 (Venus Serena) Leg 3: 1, 3, 7, 11 Leg 4: 9 (Border Control) Leg 5: 2, 3, 4, 8, 9 Leg 6: 2, 3, 6, 7 $50 = $40% By Mitchell Robertson    

She may not have the sheer speed of a mare like Adore Me, but Venus Serena has the staying ability to go down as one of the best fillies in New Zealand racing history. That was the opinion I was left under after the Mach Three megastar made mince meat of her rivals in the $125,000 Great Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park tonight. After being caught wide early, driver John Dunn worked Venus Serena forward to wrestle the lead of Rocknroll Arden with just under two laps to go. She then paced even clips in front, before dashing away for a supersonic 7 & ½ length win in a New Zealand fillies record time of 3-18.9, which shaved more than two seconds off the previous 2700m record held by Twist N Twirl. Rockroll Arden, who enjoyed a nice run in the trail, finished in second position, while Rockn Ruby, who edged out Pricillas Girl, was a further 4 and ½ lenghts away in third. Driver John Dunn was understandably astonished by the ease of Venus Serena’s win. “It’s pretty unbelievable how easily she is winning when you consider the times,” said Dunn. “After her two-year-old season I didn’t think she could get any better but she has proved me wrong and continues to step things up a notch,” Dunn enthused. Dunn was also full of praise for his uncle, and Venus Serena’s trainer, Geoff Dunn. “He does a terrific job with a small team and deserves every bit of success that he gets.” Meanwhile, driver Simon Lawson looks poised to get his first taste on big race success during the Auckland Cup carnival after winning both two-year-old events on tonight’s 10-race card. Lawson combined with Ray Green to win the PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales Graduate for colts and geldings with classy two-year-old Chachingchaching, before claiming the sixth heat of the Gotta Go Cullen Young Guns Series with talented filly Unforgiving. Both two-year-olds will compete in Group features on next week’s Auckland Cup night. By Mitchell Robertson

With all the hype coming from across the Tasman as we build towards Sunday’s Inter Dominion Grand Final Day, you could almost be excused for forgetting that there is a supersonic racenight at Alexandra Park on Friday. However, one man who definitely won’t be forgetting is Geoff Dunn, who will line-up both of his star three-year-olds on the ten-race card. But, while Friday’s Prelude will just be a warm-up before next week’s Derby for top colt Tiger Tara, the $125,000 Great Northern Oaks is Venus Serena’s grand final. “They have both travelled up really well and have both been eating up and drinking,” said Dunn, who stables his horses with Andrew Grant when in the North Island. “They both seem well and I have been very happy with their work,” said Dunn. “So I guess my only concern is the draws,” he added. Superstar filly Venus Serena has drawn out in six, with two of her main dangers inside her, while Tiger Tara is only slightly better off in barrier five. “The Derby Prelude field only has six horses in it, so Tiger’s draw probably isn’t as much of a disadvantage as Venus Serena’s is,” admitted Dunn. However, Venus has shown time and time again that she can make her own luck, so I don’t see why Friday will be any different,” said a bullish Dunn. Dunn also sees the step up to 2700 metres as an advantage for Venus Serena. “We all know how tough she is and over the longer distance Johnny (Dunn-driver) will be able to choose when he puts her in race,” enthused Dunn. But while Venus Serena has already won five times in the North, Alexandra Park is uncharted territory for Tiger Tara, however Dunn does not see that as a concern. “He seems equally happy going the Alexandra Park way round, and he has worked well on the Pukekohe track,” said Dunn. “With four nice horses having drawn inside him he will probably have to go back at the start, but he can follow speed all day so if they go hard he will be coming over the top of them at the finish,” predicted Dunn. "And you would think next week's Derby distance will suit him as well," he concluded By Mitchell Robertson

Smart filly Snooki looks primed and ready for next week’s Great Northern Oaks after leading all of the way in Friday’s $15,000 prelude. After showing good gatespeed, trainer-driver Tony Herlihy quickly had Snooki up vying for the lead. He then let the Bettor’s Delight filly roll along in front, before kicking strongly in the straight to hold of Rocknroll Arden, who had ample opportunity to slick shot her after enjoying the gun run in the trail. Pricillas Girl finished on well for third, but was no match for the first two. Snooki paced the 2200 metre journey in a slick 2-41.9, with slick sectionals of 57.5 and 27.3. She has now won six of her 11 career starts and placed on a further four occasions. Meanwhile, Ideal Power proved to be a very good second-stringer for Nigel McGrath on Friday, winning the fifth heat of the Nevele R Fillies Series at Methven. McGrath, who recently sold his star filly Libertybelle Midfrew to Perth, sent the daughter of Western Ideal straight to the top, where he set a stern tempo. Ideal Power then packed too many guns in the home stretch, holding of Cala and Angelina Jolie to win in a slick time of 1-57.9 in what was the first ever heat of the Nevele R Fillies run on a grass track. By Mitchell Robertson  

It was an easy decision for the Executive of the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders’ Association and sponsor PGG Wrightsons’ to make, awarding Scuse Me bred and owned by Charles Roberts with the Prestigious Broodmare of Excellence award. Scuse Me’s progeny reads like a ‘who’s who’ of racehorses and the mares are going on to breed champions of their own. She was chosen due to her overall lifetime contribution to the breed. This award ranks her as one of New Zealand’s top broodmares of all time and took into account her successful racing career, that of her progeny and descendants following. Scuse Me who is nearing old age at 20 years old, is by B G’s Bunny out of Super Smooth. During her race career, Scuse Me won the Group 1 Great Northern Oaks and recorder her fastest recorded mile rate, 1.53.3, set at Alexandra Park when winning the Group 2 Noel Taylor 4YO Mile. Retired after the 1998 season all of Scuse Me’s progeny that went on to race have won, with superstar mares Imagine Me and Adore Me being the pick of the bunch. Below is a summary of her progeny, outlining their achievements on the track and as broodmares: Megabucks by Life Sign born 1999, winner of 5 races before being exported to the United States where he went on to record a mile rate of 1.49.6. Splendid Dreams by Dream Away born 2001, winner of 2 races. Dam of multiple Group race winners Hands Christian and Christen Me both by Christian Cullen. La Filou by In The Pocket born 2002, winner of 1 race. Dam of winners Fagan by Dream Away and The Dip by Bettor’s Delight. Coca Vicola by Il Vicolo born 2003, winner of 1 race. Dam of winner Makah Warrior by Sands A Flyin. Pardin Me by In The Pocket born 2004, winner of 1 race in New Zealand. Exported to Australia where he won a further 10 races. Imagine Me by Dream Away born 2005, winner of 9 races including Group 3 North Island Breeders Stakes. Dam of one foal yet to race. Toledo by Christian Cullen born 2006, winner of 7 races. Exported to Australia in 2012. Abide With Me by Christian Cullen born 2007, winner of 4 races. Idolise Me by American Ideal born 2008, winner of 3 races. Exported to Australia in 2013. Adore Me by Bettor’s Delight born 2009, winner of 12 races including five at Group One: HarnessJewels 3YO Diamond, Canterbury Breeders NZ Oaks, Nevele R Fillies Series Final, Northern Oaks andSires Stakes Fillies Championship. Congratulations Charles on breeding a wonderful mare and we wish you continuing success in the seasons to come. Kiely Buttell Executive Manager, NZSBA

It’s been 16 years since Vicki Purdon owned her first Group 1 winner but come November 12 at Addington Raceway, Cambridge-born Purdon could nail the greatest New Zealand harness racing event of them all. “The New Zealand Cup is such a hard race to win. You can never get carried away in a big race like the Cup. Any horse can win it because they are all good enough to be there. “All the pressure is on us because we are the favourite. It would be much nicer if Christen Me was third or fourth favourite,” Purdon said Purdon and breeder Charlie Roberts own Christen Me – the pronounced $2.60 favourite for the New Zealand Trotting Cup. Two-time winner Terror To Love is at $3.60 while Inter Dominion king Themightyquinn is the third elect at $4. Last week Themightyquinn’s Australian trainer Gary Hall Senior said he didn’t fear Christen Me. Hall made the following comments after Christen Me’s emphatic first-up win in the Group Three Avon City Ford Cup on September 27: “I don’t see what all the fuss is about. The race didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. It was nothing more than a jog round and a sprint home. “All the talk just fuels us all to get across there and take those horses on.” Purdon said she didn’t want to get into a slanging match with Hall because she respected him as a horseman, but said this was not the first time he had given a dig about a horse she had been closely associated with. “He said Jack Cade was a dog once and couldn’t handle the passing lane. I did a lot of work with ‘Jack’ and after those comments he then went out and placed behind Just An Excuse in the Cup. “Gary is entitled to his opinion but I never forgot those comments all those years ago. Christen Me is a little bit better than what he thinks,” Purdon said. Former New Zealand mile record holder Scuse Me is the grand-dam of Christen Me. She gave Purdon her first taste of Group One glory when winning the Great Northern Oaks at Alexandra Park in February 1997. Purdon has owned some good ones since then including the Group One winning daughter of Dream Away and Scuse Me – Imagine Me. “I’ve been fortunate to have owned some really nice horses. Fear Factor was also a nice horse who won a Sires Stakes Trotting Championship,” Purdon said. Purdon said she hoped trainer Cran Dalgety and driver Dexter Dunn could also nail their first New Zealand Cup wins. “They have done a wonderful job with Christen Me. He is very kind to Dexter and really runs for him. Cran has also got the best out of him. She described Christen Me as a gentle horse who had the all-round game. “The great thing about him is that he’s not highly strung. He’s quite gentle and I think that will help him in standing starts. “But he might not be a jumpy horse but I can tell you when he runs in the Cup I’ll probably be the most nervous person on course. “I was like that the other night when he won. I think it is going to be a very anxious Cup day – that’s why it would be much easier on us all, including the horse, if he was the third or fourth favourite rather than the horse to beat,” said Purdon. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

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