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By Jonny Turner Miracle Mile winner Spankem confirmed his New Zealand Cup favouritism when equalling the Oamaru track record during his win of the Hannon Memorial on Sunday.  The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained 5yr-old never gave his rivals a hope of catching him when he produced a stunning 53.3sec last 800m in his front-running victory. Spankem stopped the clock at 3:14.4 for the 2600m standing start event to equal Classic Cullen's 2010 track record. The flawless performance again confirmed Purdon's comments earlier this season that Spankem has returned in even better order than he was in during his impressive Miracle Mile-winning 4yr-old season. The scary news for his New Zealand Cup opponents - and the good news for his fans - is there is more to come, as Spankem builds towards peak fitness for the second Tuesday in November. ''It was a nice run and another step up for him - he went really well,'' Purdon said. Purdon took no risks when driving Spankem by taking the favourite to the front at the 1600m after he made a fair beginning and settled midfield. That early position meant the reinsman had to move forward and try to take the front before it was too late. ''I was going to be in a position where I was going to be forced to go,'' Purdon said. ''If I had waited, it was going to be too late in the race and I was probably going to be forced to sit in the death, and he could have over-raced in that situation.'' After a brief tussle for the lead, Spankem controlled the pace before reeling off his stunning finish. His closing 400m of 26.4sec was even enough to impress his champion trainer-driver. ''He is a very fast horse - he is incredibly fast,'' Purdon said. Classie Brigade got his manners back in check and boosted his New Zealand Cup hopes when running into second. The Robert Dunn-trained pacer put his horror beginning in the New Brighton Cup behind him by going straight to the lead in yesterday's feature. Classie Brigade comfortably held second from Ultimate Sniper, who ran into third after racing three back on the markers. Purdon confirmed last season's New Zealand Derby winner was still in need of racing to get back to his best after his recovery from a knee operation. ''He was off the scene for such a long time - this time will improve him again.'' Chase Auckland arguably produced the run of the race outside of the winner, even though he missed a top-three placing. The 5yr-old looked to be in a headstrong mood when he arrived at Oamaru, and he was not on his best behaviour when galloping with a lap to run. After regaining his composure, Chase Auckland produced an incredible finish to run into fourth placing from last placing before the home turn. The performance confirmed the pacer's winning debut in open class in the New Brighton Cup was no fluke, and that he was a genuine New Zealand Cup contender. His chances in the great race may depend on what mood he is in on the day, as he is prone to getting fizzed up on occasions. ''He has got that nature about him, he is just a horse that you have got to catch him in the right mood on the day,'' Purdon said. A G's White Socks effectively had no winning chance when coming wide on the home bend as Spankem produced his scintillating final sectionals. Though his effort was sound, the pacer has made his third consecutive poor beginning to a spring campaign. The first five horses home in the Hannon Memorial are all expected to race in next month's Canterbury Classic at Addington. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Some say the older you get, the wiser you get, but that does not appear to be the case for Hannon Memorial contender A G’s White Socks. The Greg And Nina Hope trained 6yr-old will attempt to go one better than his runner-up effort behind Dream About Me, in this year’s race, at Oamaru on Sunday. Twelve months ago, A G’s White Socks pinged away from the standing start tapes to lead, before just going down in an action-packed finish. The chances of the pacer making the same kind of beginning, this year, look bleak if his recent manners are anything to go by. The formerly brilliant beginner has developed a habit of putting in some rough strides after stepping off the mark. And it is not only giving his driver, Ricky May, a headache. It is giving away a major advantage to his rivals. That was evident when A G’s White Socks began quickly, before putting in some rough steps, and had to settle three back on the markers in Chase Auckland’s New Brighton Cup. “At the start he made flyer actually, he was in front and then he put some skips in,” May said. “It sort of cost him leading really, the other horse [Chase Auckland] headed me off.” “If he had have been in front it would have been a different story.” A G’s White Socks was effectively out of play when Chase Auckland paced his last 800m in 54 5sec from the front to win. Though he only looked to battle in to fourth, A G’s White Socks’ was timed to pace exactly the same final last split as the winner did. That effort backed up the 6yr-old’s 54.2sec last 800m in his first start for the season behind Classie Brigade in the Maurice Holmes Vase. The pacer’s fast finishes and the feel he has given his driver have May convinced the horse is thriving. “I still feel as though he has been going good and he went real good in his first start back, as well.” “He has got a lot of speed and he proved that at the end of last season.” “He is not far away, he has just go to stop putting a few rough steps at the start.” “It is a bit disappointing, really, we just hope he gets through it.” A G’s White Socks trailed the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained trio of Chase Auckland, Spankem and Ultimate Sniper home in the New Brighton Cup. Spankem produced even more impressive sectionals, when speeding home wide on the track to grab second placing in the event. Like, A G’s White Socks, the Miracle Mile winner was a stride slow to begin and settled back in the field, while Chase Auckland had control of the race in front. If Spankem repeats the sizzling 54.0sec last 800m and 25.3sec last 800m he produced at Addington he must be the horse to beat in the Hannon Memorial. Chase Auckland boosted New Zealand Cup claims in what was effectively his first taste of open class racing against older horses with his good win in the New Brighton Cup. A repeat of that effort, including the standing start manners he showed, will make him highly competitive again. Ultimate Sniper could not match Chase Auckland or Spankem after having a good run in the trail when they clashed at Addington. The horse was presented in bigger condition than his stablemates and could be the biggest improver of the trio at Oamaru. The Hannon Memorial has been robbed of one of its most interesting talking points by the scratching of Southland sensation U May Cullect The Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis trained pacer was found to be suffering from a stone bruise on Saturday morning. Barclay said though the problem was only a minor one, but there was no sense in racing the horse. If U May Cullect’s hoof heals as expected, he will head to Addington for next month’s Canterbury Classic. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Unfortunately boom Southland pacer U May Cullect won’t line up in tomorrow’s Hannon Memorial. “It’s not a big deal. He got a stone bruise yesterday. We just didn’t want to go up there and do something silly. It’s not his bad leg, it’s the other one and if he favours it, it might put some pressure on the other one,” said co-trainer Tank Ellis. Ellis said the horse will have the weekend off, do plenty of wading in the salt water at Oreti Beach and will probably head up to Addington in a fortnight. “It not the end of the world to us, it’s just a wee hiccup.”   Bruce Stewart  

Kirstin Barclay chats to Trackside about U May Cullect and what it is like having a horse aimed at the NZ Cup.

Hype pacer U May Cullect faces a tricky introduction to the big time of New Zealand pacing. Because the Southland star has drawn the ace for Sunday’s Hannon Memorial at Oamaru and while that sounds good, it almost certainly isn’t. The winner of seven of his eight starts, U May Cullect is one of the more exciting pacer to emerge away from the usual age group channels to open class in recent seasons. Even his last start third off a 50m handicap when resuming saw him pace sectionals that suggest he won’t be out of place in open class and he adds a fresh dynamic to a sometimes stale elite pacing scene. Sunday is his chance to prove he can run with the big boys, up against proven superstars like Miracle Mile winner Spankem but while the ace draw may sound ideal in a mobile start, it could be niggly in what is U May Cullect’s first full standing start. He has had two standing starts before and both have been off handicaps, where most horses tend to step well with plenty of room to move. But on Sunday he will have to come into line first and stand the longest with a full front line outside him. That can be annoying for even the most experienced horses and he is going to need to be very professional to hold his field position against many of the best pacers in the country. Driver Kirsten Barclay told Trackside TV yesterday the six-year-old pacer had come through his resumption well but admitted the standing start under full front line conditions concerns her. Spankem looks set to start a dominant favourite on Sunday after a huge second when resuming at Addington last Friday night but the Hannon has drawn the best field of the season so far, with Chase Auckland, Ultimate Stride and A G’s White Socks also entered. The latter’s trainer Greg Hope has decided to give both his open class trotters Monbet and Enghien this weekend off but has not given up on getting Monbet back to winning form. The former champion trotter has looked a shadow on himself in two starts this campaign, finishing 23m behind Sundees Son in the Ordeal Cup last Friday night. “He just isn’t fit enough and I think he might be looking after himself when he is getting back in the field,” admits Hope. “But he is sound so we are going to press on with him and up his work. “It is hard for him because he had almost three years away and it is like a rugby player not playing for three years and then coming back at All Black level, rather than playing at club then provincial level first. “So I’d like to see him get more handicapping relief so we can race him back into form.  “If he runs a few more races like that retirement might loom but for now we are heading toward Addington next week.”   by Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner Trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have chosen Oamaru as the starting point for Miracle Mile winner Spankem’s New Zealand Cup campaign. The 5yr-old, who looked sharp winning his first public appearance of the new season at Tuesday’s Ashburton trials, will be set for the Hannon Memorial on September 22. Spankem unleashed an eye-catching burst of speed to outsprint his Hannon-bound stablemates, Ultimate Sniper and Chase Auckland, in their 2400m handicap.  Purdon said he has been delighted with the way his Miracle Mile winner has returned from his winter spell. “He has come back really well, we are very happy with him,” the trainer-driver said.  Ultimate Sniper, was far from disgraced when overhauled by Spankem and runner-up, Clasina Maria, in the last 100m of Tuesday’s event.  The 4yr-old a half a length and a neck behind the first two in his first public appearance since winning the New Zealand Derby in April. Ultimate Sniper has returned in excellent following his battler with the knee problem, which required surgery, that ended his brilliant 3yr-old season.  Purdon said the 4yr-old and fourth placegetter, Chase Auckland, had also pleased him since returning to training.  “Ultimate Sniper had a little bit longer out than the other two.” “But, I have been very happy with the three of them, they have all been training well at home.” “And I was happy with their efforts in the trial.” Spankem and his two stablemates will trail again, next week, before heading to Oamaru for the Hannon Memorial. “We will trial them again next week and then we will look to kick them off in the Hannon,” Purdon said.  Purdon and Rasmussen’s remaining two New Zealand Cup nominees –Thefixer and Ashley Locaz – could also head to the trails this week. Defending New Zealand Cup champion, Thefixer, could not trial this week as his fitness has slipped behind his three stablemates that stepped out on Tuesday.  The pacer had to be given a few easy days to recover from a hoof issue, recently. Purdon confirmed it was the same issue that dogged the 6yr-old ahead of his epic home straight duel with Tiger Tara in last year’s New Zealand Cup.   “He has just had a slight setback, but he is over that now and he should be at the trials next week – all going well.” “It’s the same hoof problem, but we are a bit more advanced with our knowledge now, so we were on to it straight away.” Purdon said Thefixer’s hoof issue was one that was unlikely to go away.  “He is just one of those horses - we are just going to have to monitor it and keep on top of it.”  Classy trotter Oscar Bonavena looked sharp in winning the fast class trot at Tuesday’s trials.  Purdon and Rasmussen gave the 4yr-old a month off over winter, rather than sending him to the Breeders Crown. That plan could pay big race dividends at the New Zealand Cup carnival.  “We gave him those last couple of runs for the Breeders Crown, but there are probably bigger things in store for him,” Purdon said.  Oscar Bonavena powered to the line showing no signs that the knee issue that ruined his 3yr-old season was still affecting him. Purdon said the Dominion would be the major target for the lightly raced squaregaiter.  “We are rapt with him, hopefully he will be there at Cup week in the big ones.” The All Stars stable have just two Dominion nominees with Winterfell in contention for the 3200m feature, as well. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

The field for todays PGG Wrightson Hannon Memorial at Oamaru has been reduced down to a field of seven, with the latest scratching of the Greg and Nina Hope trained Usain Colt, who has been sold to Australia.  Hope still has the current second favourite Seel The Deal engaged in the race. He is a big mover on the FF win fixed odds, caving in to $3.80 after opening longer than $5.00 on Thursday night. There is a lot of confidence in the Hope stable that Seel The Deal can go a cheeky race today, in preparation for the New Zealand Trotting Cup in November. Driver Ricky May is also quietly confident about the seven year old geldings chances and said "he could need the run without any racing, but I like him a lot in that race" Seel The Deal has been ticking along nicely at the trials and workouts. He ran slashing final sectionals at the Rangiora trials on the 13th September, running home in around 55 seconds for his last 800m in that Rangiora trial. Race rival Alta Orlando trained by Robert Dunn, zipped over his last 800m in a tick over 54 seconds in the same trial, also justifying his readiness for todays race.  The Graeme Anderson trained and Dexter Dunn driven Titian Banner is currently the warm favourite ($1.65 FF) to win the Hannon Memorial, after an easy win fresh up at Addington on the 1st September and then a good second placing to Have Faith In Me in last weekends New Brighton Cup. Seel The Deal and Alta Orlando in their latest trial   Robert Dunn also has the speedy Tuapeka Trick engaged today in Race 6 with John Dunn doing the driving. Tuapeka Trick was placed last season in the group three kindergarten stakes behind stable-mate The Brooklyn Brawler and has come back a stronger horse judging by his latest dominant win at the workouts. The well bred Bettor's Delight colt is raced by the Westview Racing Super17 Syndicate, many of whom are heading down to watch the race today.     Harnesslink Media

Yesterdays Hannon Memorial at Oamaru Raceway was meant to be a walk in the park for harness racings pin up boy,Christen Me. After all here was a two time Australasian Grand Circuit champion with $2.3 million in the bank starting off level marks against a field several notches below what he faces on the Grand Circuit. However right from the start of the race things didn't pan out for the champion pacer. Christen Me with usual pilot Dexter Dunn in the bike went away okay but not quick enough to cross the field early and as a result he was forced to settle second last in the eleven horse field. Mossdale Conner, having his first run back this season bounced straight to the front for driver Gerard O"Reilly and kept up a steady tempo in front. With a lap to go Dexter sent Christen Me forward three wide and that is where he was posted for the remainder of the race. Christen Me looked to be still travelling like a winner as they turned for home and he quickly mastered Mossdale Conner and looked to be the winner half way up the straight. However Mighty Flying Mac and Robbie Holmes had eased out of the one by one as they turned for home and started to descend on Christen Me late and to everybodys surprise sailed on pass for a decisive win. Christen Me held second while Mossdale Conner stuck on gamely for third. Mighty Flying Mac cut out the 2600 metres in a smart 3:14.8 in the windy conditions, a mile rate of 2:00.5 with sharp closing sectionals of 55.6 and 27.4. It was the twelfth career victory for the son of Mach Three and took his earnings over the $170,000 mark Robbie Holmes was all smiles post race. " The secret this week is he stepped away so well." " I was pretty confident on the corner that I would be in it as he was travelling really well and I hadn't pulled the plugs yet." " He did it fairly easily in the end," Robbie said. Cran Dalgety, the trainer of both Christen Me and Mighty Flying Mac was scratching his head a bit after the race. " I thought Mighty Flying Mac would go a big race as he has been working the house down at home but I didn't think he would beat Christen Me." "Robbie drove him a treat though but it is still a bit of a surprise." " I really thought Christen Me would just win the race but considering he was out three wide for a lap in that wind and they ran home in a touch over 55 for the last half, I can't be too disappointed with the run." " There is certainly no need to panic at this stage," Cran said. Being a seven year old, Christen Me will take an extra run or two to hit top gear this season and he looks on track for the second week in November. Harnesslink Media  

Below are the current Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup and Hellers Dominion Rankings as at the 8th of September. In the Cup Rankings you will see moves from Jason Rulz, Choise Achiever and Provocative Prince. These moves are as a result of the Maurice Holmes Vase which was run last Friday night. In the Dominion Rankings,  Maori Time has moved up two spots after his Breeders Crown Graduate win and Monty Python has moved up three placings after running second to Sheemon last Friday. With the sad demise of Jaccka Justy, who was number one, all trotters move up one spot. The next set of rankings will be released following a committee meeting next Tuesday after the running of the Ordeal Cup at Addington on Friday September 11 and the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday September 13.  If you require any further information on this, please do not hesitate to contact the Racing Department at HRNZ on 03) 964 1200 or Brian Rabbitt at Addington Raceway on 03) 338 9094. For New Zealand Cup Rankings click on this link For The Dominion Rankings click on this link. Communications and Marketing | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

Oamaru harness racing followers are set to see last season's horse of the year in the flesh. Cran Dalgety is declaring Christen Me ready to go ahead of his resuming run in Friday's Group III Maurice Holmes Vase at Addington and his next stop will be the Group III Hannon Memorial in Oamaru on September 13. Dalgety is satisfied where his stable star is at after three appearances at the trials this preparation, but there has been a change in plans with the Oamaru trip now on the radar. Initially only three lead-up races before the New Zealand Trotting Cup were planned because of a gruelling schedule that will see Christen Me head to Perth for the Interdominion heats just days after the cup. "We'll put a bit of racing into him this time," Dalgety said who was not sure of exact race plans after the Hannon. Coming off a million dollar plus season that netted the NZ Free-for-all, Auckland, Easter and Victoria Cups plus the Miracle Mile, the now 7-year-old, will start a dominate favourite in the Maurice Holmes Vase despite drawing out wide for the 2600m stand. "He's pretty tight and ready to go," Dalgety said. "Any free-for-all now days you have to go in 98-100 (%) to stand to attention otherwise a supposedly less superior but fitter horse will beat you." On paper he should defend the race he won last year with ease, but Dalgety is not taking anything for granted. Christen Me, raced by veteran breeder Charlie Roberts and Vicky Purdon, will have the services of regular driver Dexter Dunn. Dalgety has two other runners with cup nominations in the race. Duel Breeders Crown winner Bit Of A Legend resumes after his Australian campaign which produced a modest win and three placings from 10 starts. "He was racing adequate but not to his true talents in Australia," Dalgety said. No issues were found so Bit Of A Legend was given a decent break and is now showing signs of getting back to his best but it may not come on Friday. "He's probably not quite super fit yet, he's still a wee bit round at the moment but we can fix that by racing him." Dalgety knows it's common for two and three year-old stars to take time to mature into open class pacers after being busy in the early part of their careers so he is hoping the 6-year-old son of Bettor's Delight can make his mark on the open class ranks this season. Mighty Flying Mac will be fresh up since January. Dalgety knows Friday will be a shock for the 6-year-old son of Mach Three - his first start in free-for-all company - but pointed to his impressive trial effort at Motukarara and said November is still his major target. "Normally we just see the under-age stars and under-card horses come through to open class ranks but some steady handicap horses do too and I think he's one of them." Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ - Check site here

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