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Young harness racing driver Ben Hope drove his first winner, when speedy three year old Benhope Rulz won at Oamaru yesterday. Trained by Greg and Nina Hope at Woodend Beach, Benhope Rulz (Courage Under Fire - Victoria Rulz) had to be good to win. He trailed for most of the race, but got carted back by the tiring leader Megawatt on the turn and was blocked by a wall of horses in the straight. Driver Ben managed to angle to the outside of the track in the last 75m and he stormed home to win going away from the John Hay trained first starter Norman Richard. Classie Cullect gained an overdue win when he won for trainer Warren Stapleton and driver John Morrison at odds of $14.10 and $3.80 on the tote. Part owner Dean Stapleton said "we like the horse and we have been backing him, but he has had no luck in his previous starts"  That bad luck changed to good yesterday, when Classie Cullect (Gotta Go Cullect - Classie Emma) had a cozy run on the fence. When the horse saw daylight on the passing lane, he zipped home to win narrowly but well from the rank outsider Rostriever Victory and driver Kim Butt. Mitchell Kerr had another day to remember when his two runners, The Dorchester and Run Boy Run both won their respective races on the Oamaru track.  The Dorchester (Mach Three - Meet Me In Mayfair) was impressive sitting parked and winning as he liked for driver Blair Orange. The smart three year old pacer has now won his first two starts and is headed for the feature 3yo races later in the year. Run Boy Run was also impressive, winning his second race in a row for driver Matt Anderson. He had to be good to win, sitting parked and then staving off all the challenges in the run home. With the two wins he got yesterday, Kerr has regained the outright lead in this years trainers premiership. He has an impressive UDR of 0.7937 and has started seven runners this season with five of them winners. Bite The Bullet led all the way to win this years Kurow Cup for trainer Robert Dunn. Driven by John Dunn, Bite The Bullet (Mach Three - Pistol Packing Mama) was in front early and then ran quick final sectionals to hold off a fast finishing New Years Jay by a head at the line.  His overall time for the 2600m stand was a sedate 3-23.4 for that class, but they zipped home over the last 800m in 56.4 with the closing 400m in slick 26.5 seconds. Ben hope getting his first win.   Bite The Bullet winning the 2017 Kurow Cup   Harnesslink Media  

In form pacer Usain Colt had too much finishing speed for a handy field in this years harness racing Marlborough Winter Cup run at Addington yesterday.  The Greg and Nina Hope trained son of Bettor's Delight settled back in the running for most of the race, but sprinted past them easily in the straight to record a dominant victory. The winners time of 4:02.6 for the 3200m was good in the slushy conditions and Usain Colt could be another name to go in the nominations for this years New Zealand Cup in November. Earlier in the day Hayley Nicole justified her $1.40 tote price when impressively winning in quick time of 3:14.7 for the 2600m.   Harnesslink Media

Things were only ever going to get better for Ricky May yesterday at the Harness Jewels. The champion horseman had, what could best be described as, a bizarre start to the day after he was struck by a car when making his way onto the course. The Mid Canterbury local was knocked to the ground in the incident, but thankfully only suffered a tender wrist in the incident. After being checked by St John’s staff attending the meeting, May was cleared to fulfil his driving engagements for the day. “I was looking in the other direction and the car reversed back and hit me,” May said. “It wasn’t probably as bad as it sounds, but I guess you could say I was a bit lucky.” May shook off the jitters to produce a beautifully patient drive on hot-favourite, Enghien in the three-year-old Ruby and the outstanding gelding called on every inch of his brilliance to get past a game President Roydon. While the win might not have looked all that comfortable, for May it was really never in doubt. “I always felt like he was going to win the race, it was just a case of getting him past the line,” May said. “He is never going to be completely comfortable, but he trots through it. “There’s a fair motor there.” The win could see Enghien elevated to a position where he could potentially be in line for a Trotter of the Year Award at August’s Harness Racing Awards. That would make for back-to-back victories for Greg and Nina Hope with sons of Love You after they took the Award home last year with Monbet. Enghien’s victory was followed closely by the performance of Jewels day from the enigmatic Heaven Rocks. The monstrous pacer was simply stunning in his victory in the Four-Year-Old Emerald and drew his driver, and co-trainer, Natalie Rasmussen into making some pretty astounding comparisons. “He’s just so fast, like the only horse I’ve driven who is as fast as him is Black’s A Fake,” Rasmussen said. “When I asked him to run at the top of the straight, he just took off.” With only one Jewels win next to her name prior to yesterday, Rasmussen extended that tally to three with a victory on Spanish Armada also falling her way. Matt Markham  

Greg and Nina Hope wouldn’t have had too many concerns in signing off on Ricky May’s driving fee for his effort behind Enghien in the PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series Final last night. Because while horses winning is as much about the motor they possess, success should also be attributed to, and if often not, the person sitting behind and guiding them and in May’s case last night, it was great horsemanship. It was as clear as day for all in sundry to see that Enghien wasn’t handling the Addington bends as well as he should, and it was just as clear that it was May’s patient and kind hands that helped nurse him through those rough patches which ultimately won him the race. “I think the track was a bit hard for him” May said after the race. “He just wasn’t that comfortable on them as what he should be, he never trots them that well but he was a little worse than usual tonight.” While many will see it as a major flaw heading into the Harness Jewels in two weeks time, there was very little concern if any from the Hope camp. A few gear changes and the more roomy Ashburton bend should help sort the issues. “I’m not worried,” Greg Hope said. “It’s just minor things that we can sort I think. The main thing is that the motor is there.” While May’s drive drew plenty of plaudits there was also just as many for Mark Purdon for his effort on President Roydon who set the terms from the top and went down fighting. Purdon identified that Enghien wasn’t comfortable around the bends and did everything he could to try and ensure that his rival was hitting the bends at speed by holding the running line. In the end Enghien’s class, once balanced up in the straight, showed through and he won reasonably comfortably with May rather quiet in the sulky up the straight. The two bits of horsemanship drew plenty of praise on social media with former World Champion driver, Mark Jones weighing in on twitter to say that it was “true horsemanship from two of the best.” An hour later it was Brad Williamson who was earning the praise for his handling of the exciting Majestic Man who was simply stunning winning the Sires’ Stakes Final for the baby trotters. Trained by his father, Phil the excitement machine did some work after being balanced along early by Williamson and showed his staying potential with a bold effort to run past BJ Lidenny and the brave More Shades Of Gold who set the speed from the front. “I nearly lost him a few times around the first bend,” Brad said. “But after that he was great, he’s going to be a really good three-year-old but is doing a good job now.” Owned by the well-populated, Griffins Syndicate, most of whom were on hand last night to enjoy the win, Majestic Man gives Brad a great chance to follow in the footsteps of his brothers, Nathan and Matty and become a Jewels winning driver in two weeks time. Matt Markham

Waimate (South Canterbury) owner- breeders Lex and Heather Williams have prospects in feature trotting races on both sides of the Tasman this week. They have Petite One in the  $40,000 Sires Stakes Aged Trotters Championship at Addington tonight (Friday) and One Over Da Moon in the  $A20,000 Cranbourne Trotters Cup at Cranbourne tomorrow night. Both trotters are having their first starts from new stables with new drivers. Petite One, who has not raced  for 17 months, is now trained at Woodend Beach by Greg and Nina Hope. A workout win at Rangiora on May 3 indicated the 5-year-old Angus Hall – Petite Sunset mare was forward. Blair Orange has the drive. “Petite One’s knee caved in and we treated her and took an embryo Love You filly from her when she was out,’’ said Lex Williams. Petite One won six races when trained by Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. She won over 3200m in 4.04.9 (a record for a mare) at the 2015 New Zealand Cup meeting and won a Super Series race at Addington. Over Da Moon, the winner of 21 races. including five in Australia, is now trained by Lance Justice in Victoria. One Over Da Moon has to be rated under free-for-all conditions tomorrow night. The  Majestic Son – One Over Kenny entire had his most recent win at Alexandra Park in September when prepared by Tony Herlihy.  One Over Da Moon won eight for Herlihy and eight (including Harness Jewels and NZ Trotting Stakes at two) for Paul Nairn. He won four, including The Holmfield at Melton and a heat of the Breeders Crown at Maryborough for  Chris Lang and a heat of the 2016 Australia Trotters Championship at Ballarat for Chris Alford. One Over Da Moon has sired two foals, colts out of Anna Castleton and Landora’s Pearl for the Williams. Both are rising 2-year-olds. Tayler Strong

“Enghien felt even stronger the right-handed way around than what he did back home”. That was one sentence the connections of this week’s Northern 3yo Trotting Derby hopefuls didn’t want to hear following the Love You gelding’s ninth win from 13 starts at Alexandra Park last Friday. “He’s never felt so strong. He seems to be getting tougher with each run no matter where he lines up. The Alexandra Park-way-around didn’t faze him at all. “If anything he trotted better than he ever has. If there were any slight queries it only came after the false start. He felt a bit keen and was fired up briefly, but once the race was under way he relaxed nicely,” said driver Ricky May. “He’ll be better for that run too. He’s got so much stamina and this week’s 2700m should suit him even more. It’s hard to see him being beaten this Friday if that first-up run is anything to go by,” the Methven reinsman added. If the Greg and Nina Hope trained gelding does win this Friday’s $80,000 Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby, it will be Enghien’s second Group One victory after nailing the New Zealand 3yo Trotting Derby at Addington Raceway on April 7. The stunning Canterbury squaregaiter is also the New Zealand 1950m mobile 3yo record holder as well - making May’s post-race comments even more potent. In February Enghien set the new time of 2:22.2 in the Sires Stakes Prelude at Addington. But on Friday Enghien was having his first look at Alexandra Park in the Group Two $60,000 Lone Star Riccarton Sires stakes 3yo Trotters Championship - and he come within 0.1 of a second of Royal Aspiration's May 2013 New Zealand 2200m mobile record for 3yo trotters. May settled the bay back from his second row draw and then they were three-wide with cover at the bell, and then in the one-one-down the back straight. The $2 favourite then cruised away in the home straight to win by half a length from the fast-finishing second favourite, President Roydon (Mark Purdon). Third favourite Chevron Express (Dexter Dunn) was three-and-a-quarter lengths back in third. Enghien stopped the clock in 2:43.1 (mile rate 1:59.2) and came home in 59.2 and 28.9. May knows what it’s like to win the Northern Trotting Derby behind a hot favourite. His only win in the race came in 2009 behind the Allan and Lee Georgeson trained $1.30 favourite Ima Gold Digger. “It’s a race all drivers and especially trainers of young trotters love to win, and I say I’m proud to have my name on the trophy. “This horse is going better than when Monbet was three. In saying that Monbet didn’t race or win anything big in his 3-year-old season. At the same time of their careers Enghien would be stronger,” may said. “He’s certainly no Monbet yet and has some way to get there but he just feels like a good strong horse who could be like Monbet when he is five,” he added. Monbet never won a Group race when he was three, but he and May were beaten a length by Speeding Spur and Josh Dickie in the 2015 edition of the Northern Trotting Derby. “He’s a future Dominion and Rowe Cup horse all right. Greg and Nina have a great team of trotters to call on. They are a credit to their training regime,” May said. May will drive Enghien’s stablemate and the December 31 National Trot winner, Quite A Moment in Friday’s Group One $150,000 Rowe Cup. Enghien has now had nine wins since making his debut 13 starts ago at Washdyke with a win. He has also placed once and banked $161,779 in stakes. He is owned by the Hopes and Richard Dellaca, and was bred by Heather Middleton and the estate of Carl Middleton; and Millburn Farm Ltd.   Duane Ranger  

It’s a close race for bragging rights on who will be the most successful driver and trainer heading into the final meeting of the season on the Motukarara track this season. After five meetings for the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club and a further one for the Akaroa Trotting Club, it’s all nice and friendly at the top of the lists for winners over the season with Ricky May leading the drivers’ table and Greg and Nina Hope on top of the trainers. Taking into account only wins, May has six driving successes on the green top of Motukarara while the Hopes have four training wins next to their name. Winners this season have come from Westar Sam, Ella Abbe, Gershwin., Harrysul and English Rose for the May and Hopes’ combination while May was also successful on Novak for Laurence Hanrahan. The Hope’s only chance of adding to their tally for the day comes in the first race when they line Eastwood Cheiftain up in the amatuer drivers event with Paul Wallace in the sulky. May’s chances are limited to just six on the 11 races card with some tidy drives including that of debutant Mo Farah who hails from the stable of his father, Terry. An Ohoka Arizona three-year-old from The Tough Tart, who was bred by May’ wife Judy, Mo Farah was an impressive winner at the Ashburton trials recently. Judy will be looking for her second success of the weekend as an owner after Cullenz Diamond was successful for her at Forbury Park on Thursday night. Jessica Young (five wins), Blair Orange (five) and Dexter Dunn, Craig Thornley, Robbie Holmes and Sam Ottley are all nipping at the heels of May in the driver’s wins column while 11 trainers have trained two winners each during the season at the track behind the Hope team’s tally. All counted, 19 horses will race today who have won on the track already this season with the likes of Maganfique, Celestial Arden, Queen Bee Bardon, Momentous, Novak and Leading The Way all chances to double up in their respective races.   Matt Markham

Putaruru brothers Craig and Tony Jamieson have a good chance of training their first winner together at Cambridge Raceway tonight (Friday). The duo will line up Majestic mare, BK Superstar in the fifth event - the $6,000 St Patrick's Day Handicap for the Up to R48-trained trotters. BK Superstar is the brothers’ on horse at the races, and she has returned two seconds and a third from four starts since arriving in the North Island early this year. They have been a training partnership for a couple of months now. "We bought her off the 'Horse Trader' website and lease the horse off her breeder Brent Smith. She comes from Greg and Nina Hope's stable in Canterbury and has really thrived since she got here. "I think she is enjoying the one-to-one care compared to the big stable where she started out," Jamieson (Tony) said. Tony is one of four Jamieson brothers involved in the horse. He is 29, while Craig is 36. Their two other brothers are also part of the ‘White Diamond Racing Syndicate’ that owns the 5-year-old bay. “It’s a real family thing. Even our parents and kids are involved. I’ve always been keen on training and Craig has been driving them since the turn of the century (41 winners). “I’d love to train my first winner with him, and I think the mare can go close,” Jamieson said. BK Superstar has had eight career starts, and ninth was her best performance for the Hopes before coming north. "I think the new surroundings has worked wonders for her. Just a bit like what The Last Gamble, who has gone from a big stable down south to Paul Springall at Thames. He has done a great job with that mare," Jamieson said. Jamieson said if BK Superstar could repeat her last start second at Cambridge on March 7, then she could go close tonight. “She has the ace draw to work with and made up a lot of ground behind Megamind last start. I thought she could go 2:55 that night and that’s what she did. “It’s all a matter of building up her confidence at this stage and that’s why we will probably keep racing her at Cambridge. I think we made a mistake lining her up at Alexandra Park (11th) two starts ago after she went two very nice races on the Tauranga and Wanganui grass,” said Jamieson. BK Superstar finished third at Gate Pa when making her North Island debut on February 5 and then finished a sound second at Wanganui a week later. Last start’s second at Cambridge was over tonight’s 2200m stand. She was the second favourite that night. “I’ve been able to put a lot of work into the mare and Craig has also done a great job with her. If she steps I think she can give them a fright. She’s improving all the time,” said Jamieson, who is a farrier by trade. Toughest for BK Superstar and driver Craig Jamieson to beat will be the Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett trained Donna May, who starts off the 30m back-mark. The 5-year-old Pegasus Spur mare has been a model of consistency of late and is a R46-rated trotter and shouldn't stay in this class for too long. She will be driven by Maurice McKendry. Duane Ranger

Mossdale Conner, winner of the group one Taylor Mile and 12 other races in New Zealand, has been sold to the United States and leaves NZ this week. “It wasn’t an easy decision,” said his owner-breeder Archie Affleck disclosing the sale. Mossdale Conner is the best horse bred and raced by Affleck in 30 years in the Standardbred business. Mossdale Conner, now a seven-year-old, has taken  the semi-retired Riversdale (Southland) farmer and his wife, Margaret throughout New Zealand and Australia to see the Bettor’s Delight – Mossdale Kara gelding race. Affleck rated the best of Mossdale Conner’s 13 wins as the 2015 Taylor Mile for four and five-year-olds at Alexandra Park.  Mossdale Conner raced 1.51.7, a NZ record, for the 1700m(mobile). Driven by Maurice McKendry, he was 8/7 in the betting but won by a length from the favourite Border Control. Tiger Tara was fourth and Sky Major eighth. Mossdale Conner (Ricky May) had won the Green Mile on the grass at Methven four months earlier in 1.59.3. Mossdale Conner delivered for the Affleck’s in their home province with his win in the $40,000 Northern Southland Cup at Invercargill 12 months ago. Last month he won the Roxburgh Cup on a slushy track after adding to his 40m handicap at the start. Affleck had a host of family members on hand to share the occasion. Trained at Woodend Beach by Greg and Nina Hope, Mossdale Conner amassed $461,714 in stakes from his 13 wins, 14 seconds, 13 thirds and 14 fourths from 73 starts. He had some notable minor placings: a third in a Harness Jewels at four; a third to Arden Rooney and Smolda in the 2015 NZ Cup; a  second to Tiger Tara in the 2015 NZ Free-For- All; a third to Lennytheshark and Smolda in the 2016 Victoria Cup and a fourth in the 2015 Auckland Trotting Cup. Affleck has had disappointment recently with an embryo transplant from Mossdale Kara failing to hold. She is now 14 and has not produced a foal since Mossdale Rose in 2013. The Hope-trained Mossdale Rose, a sister to Mossdale Conner, has won twice and placed four times from six starts. Mossdale Kara has also left the winners Mossdale Major, Mossdale Flynn and Mossdale Sue from a total of six foals. Mossdale Kara qualified but did not race. The daughter of In The Pocket is a granddaughter of Keyali, who won seven races for Affleck and Charlie Smaill in the late 1980s when trained by Ernie Lee at Wyndham Tayler Strong

Grass track three-year-old trots might not be the traditional path to Group One success, but today’s Orari meeting may prove to have a major impact on the age group for the remainder of the season. A lot of that lays with which version of exciting young trotter, Enghien turns up. If the best version arrives on the green surface, then the race should become a fait accompli - but if he doesn’t, things become a little bit like open slather. Last season’s two-year-old colt and gelding trotter of the year has produced a mixed bag so far in his three-year-old season with a stunning fresh up win at Addington late last year, undone with a late gallop when looking likely in the Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton earlier in the month. That’s put the pressure on his trainers Greg and Nina Hope to get things sorted with the well-bred gelding. “He’s come through Ashburton ok,” Greg Hope said. “I guess we just have to wait and see which one will show up, we know what he’s capable of if he does it all right.” The son of Love You has the advantage of having placed on a grass track back when he ran second at Methven last season behind Habibi Inta - so the Orari surface shouldn’t prove too much of a foil for him. With some major assignments ahead of him, gaining confidence will be a big boost for the camp. Off the second row Enghien does have to contend with a decent field in the $10,000 event including Hambletonian runner-up Muscles Galore and last season’s two-year-old filly of the year, Di’z Luck. The Gavin Smith trained filly was very good fresh up at Rangiora and with natural improvement and a good draw she may prove to be the horse to beat for Enghien.   Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Whataboyz, Moment Of Kaos, Princess Harbour, Scarlet Bromac Race 2: Sharknado, Sky City King, Master Jordy, Garry’s Legacy Race 3: Fear Rockn, Supreme Banner, Dying To See You, Enchantee Race 4: Free Bird, Tijuana Taxi, Monkey Luck, Glenis Marie Race 5: Mickey Gee, Unico Legend, It’s All Over Now, Clarendon’s Last Race 6: Shadow Galleon, Missie Castleton, Chivasion, Native’s Lasting Love Race 7: Trailer Park Girl, Jemima Franco, Crystal Slipper, Scotlyn Made Race 8: Enghien, Di’z Luck, Muscles Galore, Firenze Race 9: Tahlia Franco, Ok I’m Bad, My Cash, Star In The Future Race 10: Errol Finn, Franco Tmick, Cimarron, Wozniacki Race 11: Franco Texas, Clive, Scotty’s Image, Highview Freddy Best Bet: Mickey Gee (Race 5) Value: Sharknado (Race 2)

Popular horseman, Craig Thornley, has a few good chances to put more ticks in the win column for the season tonight at Addington. With 22 wins on the board for the season, Thornley is well poised to post his best figures for a number of seasons in the sulky. Those numbers could receive a boost tonight with two very strong chances in Lavros Jack and Queen Bee Bardon alongside some other handy steers. “It’s a decent looking book, so hopefully we can get a couple of results,” Thornley said. Queen Bee Bardon has been a revelation in the summer months for Ashburton trainer Ben Waldron with the penny appearing to finally have dropped on the fledgling four-year-old mare. Her four starts this season have netted two wins a second and a third with her last start victory at Addington the best of the lot. She had the aid of a good barrier draw on that occasion and tonight meets a much stronger field, but her current form looks strong enough to make her more than competitive. “She’s had her battles, but Ben seems to be finally getting on top of them. “It won’t be easy from the barrier draw but you have to like the way that she has been going, she’s got a bit of ability.” It’s been a confidence building thing with Queen Bee Bardon and it’s very much the same with Lavros Jack. After taking a few starts to get the racing caper sorted out, the Russell Kennedy trained trotter is flying currently. An introduction to mobile racing looks to have been a big assist to him as he struggled to find his feet early in stand starts. His seventh last time out was a lot better than the placing would suggest as he weaved his way through from back in the field to make up stacks of ground late in the piece. “He was a run short for that race, so he should have come on with the run. “But it was a great confidence building race for him, he got in amongst everything and never put a foot wrong. “He’s got a big motor and is getting better and better every time he goes to the races.” Lavros Jack will start from the outside of the mobile arm due to being on the unruly from behind the mobile but his motor should take him a long way toward winning the race if the manners come. Thornley also has good each way drives tonight on Loretta Franco in the last race of the night and Ranfurly Rulz earlier in proceedings for the Greg and Nina Hope stable.   Addington Selections – By Matt Markham Race 1: Castlereagh, Majestic Hurricane, Well Defined, Thank You Race 2: Missinmemate, Speedy Mach, Johnny White, Compliant Race 3: Firenze, Madam Spur, Kingdom Come, Sugar Cane Race 4: Let It Ride, Real Obsession, Grand Rainbow, Mr Kalypso Race 5: Stars Align, Kitura, Reaza Grunter, Bella Jones Race 6: Alta Orlando, Mossdale Conner, Maverick, Cullen Who Race 7: Lavros Jack, Benchmark, Arditi, Missandei Race 8: A G’s Whitesocks, Queen Bee Bardon, Bailey’s Rock, Cable Beach Race 9: Master Lavros, Everybody Knows, Hey Yo, Harriet Of Mot Race 10: Hilarious Magic, Pick Me Pocket, Mighty American, Sans Le Sou Race 11: Loretta Franco, Camwell Park, Blue Chip Lad, The Golden Cross Best Bet: Let It Ride (Race 4) Value: Loretta Franco (Race 11) 

Frustrated with the current farming life, champion harness racing driver Ricky May might find driving high-priced racehorses today at Ashburton somewhat of a stress relief from the battles he’s facing on the farm.  The Methven horseman is currently juggling harvest work with driving horses, but as the unpredictable weather continues to wreak havoc on his yields, May, has the luxury of being able to focus on the job at hand on the racetrack a little more than what he usually does at this time of the year. “It’s been a bit of a weird old season,” May said of the cropping life.  “We are getting a couple of really good days and then some wet ones which is meaning the crops aren’t drying and it keeps pushing things back.”  Today though the focus will be solely on the track as he looks forward to two of the Ashburton Trotting Club’s most prestigious juvenile races – the Hambletonian Classic and the Sapling Stakes.  His Hambletonian drive – Enghien, is a beauty.  The Greg and Nina Hope trained three-year-old hasn’t been to the races since a stunning fresh victory back prior to Christmas.  He did trial at Ashburton last week, galloping late in the piece when beaten by race-rival today, Habibi Inta.  “It’s always a concern when they do that, but I think we can forgive it, I’m not worried about it.”  “They have made some changes to his shoes since then and knowing Greg and Nina he should be sorted.” May used the trial as a chance to push Enghien out of the gate and he responded beautifully looking powerful as he surged forward.  “That’s the best he has felt out of the gate, I was really happy with it.  “We are going to have to go forward from our draw, so I’m pleased we did it.” Enghien will start from barrier eight. His biggest rival, Habibi Inta, will start from the second row for Blair Orange.  Never far from the action at Ashburton, which is just a 20 minute drive from home base, May is closing in on 200 driving wins on the track over his career. He’s got 182 wins on the grit track and one sole victory on the grass track from when he drove Liz Winter to success for David Isherwood in 1979 – the first of his wins at the Ashburton Racecourse.  In the Sapling Stakes, which he won back in 2000 with Thank U John, May will take the reins on Cullenburn for Benny Hill. The big-figure purchase at last year’s yearling sales is a brother to open class pacing star, Locharburn and has had two public appearances ahead of his debut in the two-year-old feature.  “He’s got all the makings of a really nice horse, he’s going to be pretty tough when it all clicks together.  “I don’t know about this week though, he might just need the experience, I think he’s good enough but we will have to see.” Gerard O’Reilly will drive the likely favourite in the event, Cole Porter – a son of former top racemare, De Lovely by Bettor’s Delight.  May’s other chances today include Mossdale Rose and Bella Jones for the Hope stable while he made Diamond Life his best of the day.  “I thought he’d be pretty hard to beat. It’s not a super field.” Diamond Life is trained by Hill and part-owned by popular rodeo identity, Craig Wiggins along with May’s wife Judy who bred the foal from her broodmare, Ruby Wax.    Ashburton Selections – By Matt Markham  Race 1: Say Your Pres, Kai Time, Louis Moss, Paradise Spur Race 2: Sky City King, Cleaver Green, Loretta Franco, Locked Out Of Heaven  Race 3: Diamond Life, Waimac Attack, Glenferrie Duster, Kotare Mist Race 4: Woosh Factor, Burn Off, Living Legend, Elusive Flight Race 5: Matrika, Tahlia Franco, Supreme Banner, Happy Styx Race 6: Mossdale Rose, Bonnie Joan, Ariadne Lavra, Ask Again Race 7: Mighty American, Cruzy Dude, Gumpowder, Crackamoa Race 8: The Brooklyn Brawler, Cullenburn, Cole Porter, John The Plumber Race 9: Enghien, Habibi Inta, Chevron Express, Firenze Race 10: Habibti Ivy, Arannalea, Sugar Cane, Agatha Tyron Race 11: Ultimate Desire, Glenferrie Classic, Cmeerock, Bella Jones Best Bet: Ultimate Desire (Race 11) Value: Sugar Cane (Race 10)

Greg and Nina Hope gave up being surprised by Everybody Knows a long time ago. So when the dour little trotter stepped out on Friday night in an underdone condition and beat a handy field of trotters, there was a little bit of head shaking from the Woodend Beach camp, but not too much shock. “He’s done that for most of his career,” Greg Hope said. “When you least expect him to go a great race, he’ll go out and run something like he did just then.” Unsighted since winning in December 16, Everybody Knows extended the winning sequence to three on Friday night when he took full use of a quiet run on the markers and snuck up the fence to win. “With nothing serious under the belt I thought we might be a bit vulnerable, but it panned out beautifully.” The Quite Easy gelding has now eight of 38 career starts. There’s always been a belief within the Hope stable that he would make it to open class at some point, but no one probably expected it to play out the way it has. “I’ve known he’d make it to the top grade, but I just thought he’d do it through the back door. “But it’s snuck up on us a wee bit.” Everybody Knows will now be aimed and the Four & Five Year-Old Trotting Championships before taking on the big guns in some of the other open class trotting features at Addington. “He follows speed pretty well, so he should be able to hold himself up well in those big races.” Cullen Who enhanced her claims as a broodmare later in the night on Friday when she rated 1:55 for the mile to win the 1950 speed event. The Ken and Tony Barron trained mare, who was a $100,000 purchase, was too good for her rivals, running them into the deck to win from Superfecta. Blair Orange handled the mare on Friday night and she was the first leg of a driving treble for Orange as e went on to win with Reaza Grunter and Idle Monkey in the next two races. His effort was only matched by Dexter Dunn who managed to win with Absolutely Delight, Raukapuka Ruler and Chevron Express. Matt Markham

Classie Brigade is the one to beat in the $30,000 McLarens Transport/RD Petroleum Central Otago Trotting Cup at Omakau on Monday on the strength of a record win in the Ashburton Cup last Monday.   Classie Brigade only won the Ashburton Cup narrowly from his stablemates Maverick and Ears Burning but his time of 3.58.3 for the 3200m was 1.2sec inside the race record set by Four Starzzz Flash in 2012.   Another pointer to Classie Brigade at Omakau is that Four Starzzz Flash won the CO Cup a week later. Ears Burning is again in the field, giving Weedons trainer Nigel McGrath a strong hand. McGrath and Blair Orange, who drove Classie Brigade, combined to win another two races at Motukarara on Thursday.   McGrath had to scratch Maverick at Omakau.   “He (Maverick) has a bit of a cough,’’ said McGrath.“The other two are both really well.”   McGrath has replaced the blinds on Classie Brigade with sliding blinds in the hope that the 4-year-old will finish the race off better.   “I was just not happy with the way he came off the back of Maverick at Ashburton.”   Dexter Dunn, who drove Four Starzzz Flash in his Ashburton and C0 Cup wins, is aboard Captain Dolmio on Monday. Captain Dolmio was far from disgraced when second to Acolyte in the Gore Trotting Cup on Tuesday.   He was given little respite when attempting to lead for the last 1000m of 2700m in blustery conditions after starting from 30m. The 2600m (mobile) of the CO Cup is ideal for Captain Dolmio, who won over the distance in 3.07.7 at Addington in April. He won there in 3.11.5 in November.   The track record at Omakau is 3.10 set by Quick As a Trick (now in Australia) in the C0 Cup last year.   Woodend Beach trainers Greg and Nina Hope, who have won two of the last three CO Cups with Jason Rulz, have Mossdale Conner in contention. Ricky May, who drove Jason Rulz, is back on Mossdale Conner, who worked hard early when sixth in the Ashburton Cup. The Hope stable have won the group one National Trot with Quite A Moment and six races at the Westport and Reefton meetings in the past week.   Costa Del Magnifco and Robyn’s Bad Boy are chances for longer odds. Costa Del Magnifico  was having his first race for three and a half months when he finished sixth the Wairio Cup from a 40m handicap on December 17.   Robyn’s Bad Boy, who won in 2.54.7 for 2400m (mobile) at Winton last month was disappointed for a run at his last start.   The star trotter Master Lavros is a standout in free-for-all on Monday. Master Lavros resumed racing after a 12 month lay-off with a superb win in a ffa at Addington on December 23 after going off stride and losing some 50m at the start. The winner of two Dominion Handicaps, a Rowe Cup and New Zealand Trotting Championship, Master Lavros looks a class above his five rivals.   Phil’s Gift, the other open class acceptor and last start winner, has been scratched when showing soreness, leaving trainer Phil Williamson with Father Christmas, Monty Python and Springbank Eden in the field.   Bet of the day: Master Lavros. Longshot: Costa Del Magnifico (race 10).   Tayler Strong

The local harness racing scene in Westport is supported by a number of local enthusiasts enjoying success on the racetrack and also in the breeding industry.   A Westport Breed A long established Westport breed continue to make their mark on the New Zealand Standardbred scene. Already this season Ranfurly Rulz and Lis Rulz have won a race each with both these horses out of Victoria Rulz. Victoria Rulz is a daughter of Rule Zona and traces back on her maternal side through May Rule, Ima Rule to Golden Rule who was the foundation mare for the Reedy dynasty. Golden Rule herself was out of Envy who was out of Marie Scott who was a U Scott-Whispering Grass mare bred by the late Bill Craddock. Both Ranfurly Rulz and Lis Rulz are trained by Greg and Nina Hope at Woodend but both are partly owned and raced by local connections. For Ranfurly Rulz a group of Carters Beach residents share in the racing under the Ranfurly Inn Syndicate banner while Lis Rulz includes in her ownership  the Double YouTeeCee Syndicate  representing a group mainly made up of stewards of the Westport Trotting Club. The two time West Coast Horse of the Year Jason Rulz (owned by Richard Dellaca, Jason Yang and Greg & Nina Hope) is by Rule Zona, a daughter of May Rule, out of Ima Rule out of Golden Rule who was a daughter of Envy. Envy was Marie Scott’s first foal. Golden Rule became the foundation mare for the Reedy family with her progeny winning races in New Zealand, Australia and America. The next of this breed, due to race as a late two year old, is named Ben Hope Rulz. His breeding? Courage Under Fire by Victoria Rulz out of Rule Zona out of May Rule out of Ima Rule out of Golden Rule out of Envy out of Marie Scott. He is a three quarter brother to Jason Rulz. He is to be raced by Greg and Nina Hope, Richard Dellaca and the DoubleYou Tee Cee Syndicate. Incidentally Rule Zona was good enough to run second in the 1996 Westport Cup which was won by Happy Asset who went on to win the 1999 Auckland Cup. Ranfurly Rulz has won six races with Lis Rulz successful twice. Both horses are likely to race on Boxing Day at Westport. Lis Rulz is a possible  candidate for the 3200m Westport Cup and would be a popular winner if she could return at the head of the field. Racecourse patrons will need to be prepared for the roar from the Stewards Stand if Liz hits the front and carries off this most coveted of trophies.  Champion Two Year Old Enghien is well known in Europe as a racecourse just outside of Paris but in New Zealand harness racing circles Enghien is the name of a promising three year old trotter raced by Richard Dellaca and Greg Hope and trained at Woodend Beach by Greg and Nina Hope. Enghien is by the French stallion Love You (Coktail Jet-Guilty of Love) from Another Starlet (Sundon-Lilly the Pink.) Love You has left 55 winners in New Zealand including the Champion Monbet. Enghien won four races last season and was crowned New Zealand 2 year old Trotter of the Year at the New Zealand Harness Racing Awards. He returned to the race track on December 8th winning a mobile 1950m trot at Addington. His three year old career will be worth watching as he is in form and likely to be kept to age group racing. Other Horses To Watch Richard Dellaca and Jason Yang have an interest in a Love you –Doli gelding named My Amour. This trotter is showing plenty of promise and has already won this season and looks to have a bright future.Lolita Franco (  Lis Mara-Liadian Franco) was placed last season and is trained at Patterson Park by Rodney Dickson. She is raced by Phil, Jill and Noel Beveridge and her return to the race track is awaited with interest.  Local identities Johnny Reedy Junior and Dean Phibbs  have an interest in JJs Delight (Bettors Delight-Nessey Bromac) that is trained at Cust by Craig Kennedy. JJs Delight ran a fourth at Westport last year and then was second at Reefton. Bob Higgins has made a welcome return to Patterson Park and has already had a win this season with RocknRoll Nevin (RocknRoll  Heaven-Mary Nevin.) She is raced by the Patsy Marie Syndicate. RocknRoll Niven traces back through the female line to Patsy McReedy (3 wins) and Patsy Marie (3 wins.) Tim Jellyman has two horses in work, Miranda Cullen (Gotta Go Cullen-La Rouge) and Little Miss (Now Another Look-Enthuse) with both due to resume racing on Boxing Day. The Reedy stable has four pacers in work, Tom Rule (Four Starzzz Shark-West Texas Rule), the well-bred You Bettor Rule (Bettors Delight-Deb’s Rule), Olde Oak Ellie (Magic Rule- Exceptional Rule) and Old Oake Emma (Bettors Delight-Exceptional Star.) Paul Reedy is working a 6 yr old gelding by Charles Bronson out of Rosey's Rule named The Outlaw's Rule. Trevor Walsh is working an American Ideal–TK Swift 2year old filly for Graeme and Katrina Walsh that is showing promise and could well be racing after Christmas. The Breeding Scene There is a horse running around on Western Australia called Major Reality (Art Major-Reality Check) that has had 27 starts for 16 wins and 9 placings. Among her wins has been the Western Australian Oaks. Her stake earnings to date are in excess of $300k. She was foaled on Abattoir Road on the property of Graeme and Katrina Walsh and sold through the yearling Sales. A half-brother by Bettor’s Delight out of Reality Check was purchased for the Purdon/Rasmussen stable and has had 11 starts for 5 wins including the big three year old race at Addington on Cup Day. His name is Ultimate Machete and he is currently the number one ranked three year old in this country. He is also the current fixed odds favourite for the New Zealand Derby and the Victorian Derby. Reality Check has only had two foals to the races and both are Group one winners. Reality Check foaled a full brother to Major Reality last week. It is interesting to note that the paddock in which these horses were born is the same paddock that the mighty Durban Chief grazed while being prepared for his assaults on the New Zealand Trotting scene on the late 1950s. Two further foals, a 2 year old filly by American Ideal and a Bettors Delight yearling colt are being prepared for sale. Given the success of the family the yearling colt will be sought after at the Yearling sales.  Other yearlings the Walsh’s are preparing for the sales include one by Rock’n Roll Dance out of TK Swift and another by Art Major out of Time Flies. Rodney Dickson also has three yearlings being prepared for the sales. They are a colt by A Rocknroll Dance out of Cantina, a filly by A Rocknroll Dance out of Mozart Lace, and a filly by Somebeachsomewhere out of Rejoicing. West Coast Harness Horse of the Year While the season is only a few months old the title of West Coast Horse of the Year for 2016/17 looks like being a seriously contested event. With some stables not even having  a horse to the races at this stage of the season,  Enghien, My Amour, Lis Rulz, Ranfurly Rulz and RocknRoll Nevin have recorded a win for local owners so the remainder of 2016/17 season looks an exciting one for all those involved in Harness Racing in the Buller.   By Dan Moloney

ENGHIEN SHINES, AND NOW SPELLS Stage one of the three-year-old campaign for Enghien is complete. The next stage won’t come until 2017 though. Last season’s two-year-old trotter of the year made light work of his three-year-old debut on Thursday night at Addington sitting parked outside Harness Jewels winner, Donegal Bettorgretch, before grinding her into the deck to win with a bit of authority. And while the temptation might be there for Greg and Nina Hope to keep the foot on the pedal, Enghien is now in the paddock enjoying a couple of weeks off. “The plan was to always get him up for a race and then turned him out for a while,” Greg Hope said. “He will head out for a bit now and then we can bring him back up and get ready for the three-year-old features later in the season. “I’m more and more impressed by him, there’s a lot of ability there.” Enghien trotted home in 56.7 to win the event, showing that despite his impressive staying abilities, he is also a horse of high speed when required which will make him a dangerous prospect through the Derbies and then onto the Harness Jewels.   ASHBURTON BOUND BRIGADE Nigel McGrath is looking at a three-pronged Ashburton Cup attack on Boxing Day. A stable quinella, headed by his stable star Classie Brigade, was a highlight for his stable over the weekend and the NZ Derby runner-up and Ears Burning will be joined by Maverick in the Mid Canterbury feature. “Auckland was a possibility, but I think we are better off looking at Ashburton and sticking a bit closer to home,” McGrath said. “He’s going good, but probably not as good as he can yet and I can’t put my finger on what’s going on. “It could be a number of things, or it could be something quite simple.” Ears Burning showed he’s going to be no slouch in the intermediate grade with his great run for second. Maverick went around in last Sunday’s Methven Green Mile, but does appear better suited to the Ashburton Cup.   FORD COMES UP DIAMONDS Jason Ford had to wait a wee while for Sunday. So when Time For Diamonds went past the post first in the opening race at Motukarara, the Rakaia horseman had every reason to raise a hand in the air in celebration. After taking out his trials licence back in 2004, Ford’s first full season in the sulky as an open driver has been successful thus far and Time For Diamonds win put the icing on the cake. It was Ford’s first win in the sulky and he produced a gem of a drive on the horse trained by his father Allan. After placings over the previous two weeks, the five-year-old daughter of Majestic Son was in line to break her maiden status and did so with a wee bit of authority yesterday. Matt Markham

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