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Shez All Rock (3yo Diamond) - Following the running of the New Zealand Pacing Oaks on Friday the 18th of May it was noted the horse Shez All Rock broke from its gait over the final stages and then paced indifferently through to being pulled up after the race. A post-race Veterinary examination showed the horse to have some minor shoulder soreness. The following day the filly underwent further Veterinary examination at the ‘All Star’ stables where some sensitivity was noted in the horses’ fetlocks. These joints have subsequently been injected. Stewards will continue to liaise with the stable regarding this. Elle Mac (3yo Diamond) - Driver and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen reported she had been slightly disappointed with the efforts of this filly in the New Zealand Pacing Oaks. The stable have advised that it is their intention to have blood taken on the 22nd of May for analysis and undertook to notify Stewards of the results of these. Diababa (3yo Diamond) - Driver and co-trainer Terry Chmiel has notified Stewards that following this fillys performance in the New Zealand Pacing Oaks, which he perceived to be disappointing, a Veterinary examination was carried out. Resulting from this the filly has had her fetlocks injected. Mr Chmiel also had blood taken for analysis and undertook to notify Stewards of the results. Run Boy Run (4yo Emerald) - Run Boy Run was late scratched from the Oamaru HRC meeting on the 20th of May after being found to be lethargic and off it’s food on race morning. Trainer Mitchell Kerr has advised that the horse was also displaying some nasal discharge and a course of treatment has commenced. Mr Kerr added that it was his intention to continue with the horses’ preparation towards the Harness Jewels. Jesse Duke (2yo Emerald) - A slight lump was noticed on the front right leg of this horse following its winning performance in the Sires Stakes Final at Addington Raceway on the 18th of May. The Stable notified Stewards of this and their intention to have the leg scanned. This afternoon a Veterinarian scanned the leg and was satisfied the horse was able to continue with its Harness Jewels preparation. Stewards will continue to liaise with the stable regarding this. HRNZ

Australian Group One winning trotter, Dance Craze, has accepted an invitation to the 2018 Harness Jewels. Following the withdrawal of Custodian from the 4YO Ruby yesterday, interest was high from the harness racing connections of the former Breeders Crown winner to take part in the race.   A four-year-old mare by Muscle Hill out of the great mare, La Coocaracha, Dance Craze has an impressive career record of 11 starts, 8 wins, and 2 seconds.  Included in that haul, along with her Group One Breeders Crown win, is a Group Two victory in the Trot NSW Three-Year-Old Final. She also placed second in the Group One Victoria Trotting Derby, and second in the Group One Need for Speed Princess Final last season.  Dance Craze resumed just yesterday (17 May) with a win as a four-year-old when successful at Ballarat. She is prepared by Anton Golino of Cardigan in Victoria, who trains exclusively for the owners (Yabby Dam Farms). Golino’s rise to success has been a remarkable one. After being involved in a motorbike accident when a farrier, he was forced into a wheelchair for a year. It was after that he decided to head to the United States to expand his skills.  His experience with Noel Daley there then led him to work in Sweden and France, and upon returning to Australia to train he was then approached by Pat Driscoll to work for Yabby Dam Farms.  The partnership has gone from strength to strength.  Dance Craze is regularly driven in Australia by Nathan Jack, who was set to bring Custodian to the Jewels prior to the horse being withdrawn.  Her dam La Coocaracha was an outstanding trotter. She was a three time Group One winner and amassed 23 victories during her career.  One of her Group One wins came on New Zealand soil when successful in the 2002 Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park.  Dance Craze will now try and emulate her dam by taking success at the highest level in New Zealand.  Harness Racing New Zealand

Tamworth harness racing followers have seen an emerging star in the making – Pete’s Big Jim. Kudos to Sawyers Gully trainer Stacie Elliott who has done a sterling job with the two-year-old pacer. On Monday, Pete’s Big Jim received an invitation to contest the Harness Jewels, Group 1 Emeralds for two-year-old colts and geldings at Cambridge Raceway in New Zealand on June 2 with a prize purse of $A138,292  prize money for each pacing event. Elliott has trained Pete’s Big Jim to two wins and four placings from nine starts. He has now elected to hand over the preparation for the NZ campaign to Menangle-based and former Hunter team Shane and Lauren Tritton for the Jewels. Pete’s Big Jim emerged as a possible Jewels contender when finishing second behind College Chapel in the Group 3 Sapling Stakes at Menangle in February. Team Tritton were already heading to the Jewels with two-year-old filly Platinum Revolution. After winning a heat of the Leeton Breeders Plate on debut in January, Pete’s Big Jim featured at the Tamworth Paceway for his next career win in April, taking out the Nev Brown Memorial. Owned by Canberra-based golf businessman and former golf pro Peter Kohlsdorf, who has had a keen interest in the sport since the late 1960s, this is the first time he has actually owned a pacer by himself without a syndicate. Kohlsdorf once finished second in a pro am event to Jack Nicklaus. Hats off also to Maitland reinsman Peter Hedges who has driven Pete’s Big Jim in all of his race starts. THE Hetherington stables at Narrabri will be eagerly awaiting the release of the barrier draw for Limousine Livia in the $20,000 Tabcorp Park Menangle Country Series Final to be contested at Menangle on May 26.  After missing a berth in the Tamworth heat on May 4 when the mare finished third to Last Party (Guy Chapple -MR 2.01.6 for 1609m), trainer Jarred Hetherington headed to Newcastle last Saturday night to win that heat with a MR of 1.58 for 1609 metres. Limousine Livia then stepped out at the Maitland meeting on Monday to back up for another win with her stats now recording 16 starts for six wins and four placings. Other winners in the series staged so far and looking for a favourable draw are Joes Star of Mia at Forbes from the Steve Turnbull stables with a MR of 1.57.3 for 1680 metres, and Untitled from the Brad Hewitt stables at Wagga with a MR of 1.55.6 for 1755m, which was also a track record. The last leg of the series will be conducted at Cowra on Sunday as part of Cowra’s Carnival of Cups meeting. SADLY, this week we saw the tragic passing of Strathlachlan Andy at a Cranbourne harness meeting. Strathlachlan Andy was raced by the Harding family, who are former residents of the north-west now based at Bobs Farm in Newcastle. Geoff handled the training of Strathlachlan Andy, while eldest son Matthew was the owner and youngest son James took the reins on occasion. Undertaking a campaign in Victoria under the training of Michael Stanley, Andy had two starts with a second in the Swan Hill Anzac Cup at his first start before a win at the Cranbourne meeting, going 1.55 for 1720 metres. A race fall at Cranbourne on Saturday night saw Strathlachlan Andy suffer a fracture mid-shaft on his near-hind cannon bone and the horse was humanely euthanised on the track. With a career that spanned 73 race starts for 26 wins and 24 placings, some of Andy’s achievements were: 2015 - Harness Racing NSW 2015 Country Cups Champion and broke track records at Tamworth and Armidale. 2015 and 2016 - Wins in the Cootamundra Cup. 2015 and 2016 – Wins in the Armidale Cup. 2018 - Finished third in the Armidale Cup to Clintal Do. 2015 – Win of the Narrabri Cup. 2014 – Heat and Final win of the Muswellbrook Cup. 2015 – Win in a heat of the Tamworth Golden Guitar before taking out the $25,000 Listed Classic Final of the Prydes Easifeed Golden Guitar. 2014 – A heat win of the Menangle Where Horses Fly at Forbes before taking out the $25,000 Listed Classic Final at Menangle where his personal best mile rate of 1.53.9 was recorded for 1609 metres. 2014 – Won a heat of the Maitland Inter City Pace before finishing sixth to All Eyes On Us in the Group 3 Final. HARNESS racing will return to the Tamworth Paceway on May 25. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of The Northern Daily Leader

It has been confirmed by Harness Racing New Zealand today that Aussie invite Jilliby Kung Fu has been officially withdrawn from the 2018 Harness Jewels and will not be coming over to New Zealand. Although having a Miracle Mile placegetter at the Jewels would have been a big drawcard, Australia will still be represented in this years Harness Jewels by Shez All Rock (3yo pacing filly), Wobelee (3yo trotting colt/gelding), Carlas Pixel (4yo pacing mare), Platinum Revolution(2yo pacing filly), Custodian (4yo trotting entire/gelding) and Petes Big Jim (2yo pacing colt/gelding). This years Jewels day will be held on Saturday 2nd June at Cambridge Raceway.  The speedy filly Shez All Rock is already in New Zealand and is currently being trained by top trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen.  Shez All Rock will have her first start in New Zealand on Friday night in the New Zealand Oaks at Addington, where she will start from outside the second row over the mobile 2600m. Harnesslink Media

It is more than 30 years since a team of Aussies so large and talented raided New Zealand harness racing. You have to go back to the 1995 Christchurch Inter Dominion, won by champion Aussie stayer Golden Reign, when this many talented Australian horses crossed the Tasman to tackle the Kiwis at home. Seven Australian pacers or trotters have been invited to contest seven different Harness Jewels finals at Cambridge racetrack, two hours south of Auckland, on Saturday week. They include exciting open-class pacer Jilliby Kung Fu, champion young trotter Wobelee, flying mare Carlas Pixel and record-breaking three-year-old filly Shez All Rock. Surely Australia has the ammunition to finally post the first win by an Australian-trained raider at the Harness Jewels in the 12 years. Australian-trained horses have gone close to claiming one of the Jewels. Our first raider and subsequent Miracle Mile winner Divisive ran second to Monkey King in the 2007 Jewels final for four-year-old pacers at Ashburton. Another 11 Australians have contested Jewels races since and the closest they have come is a pair of seconds, courtesy of Mr Mojito and One Muscle Hill at Ashburton last year. Given the depth and quality of this year’s seven raiders, one will be essential, but the bar should be set at two or more. Depending on final fields and crucial barrier draws, Australian horses could be favourite or at least be right near the top of betting in four, five, maybe even six Jewels’ races. Here is an early look at the seven Aussie invitees and how they stack-up on Saturday week. 2018 NZ HARNESS JEWELS — THE AUSSIE RAIDERS SHEZ ALL ROCK (3yo pacing filly): She’s a special filly. Has blasted her way to stardom winning the heat and final of the NSW Oaks and heat and final of the Victoria Oaks. First filly since Jane Ellen in 1988 to win NSW/Victoria Oaks double. I’m sure she’s at least as good as Elle Mac and we get to line them up in the NZ Oaks this week. JILLIBY KUNG FU (4yo pacing entire/gelding): Australia’s most exciting pacer. So much to like about the way he powered his way to the 4YO Bonanza win. He ran super time winning the Chariots Fire and did such a terrific job when second to My Field Marshal in the Miracle Mile. Light preparation for this, but goes well fresh. Certainly some depth in this division with Eamon Maguire, Star Galleria, More The Bettor, AG White Socks, etc, but could any of them have done what he did in the Miracle Mile? WOBELEE (3yo trotting colt/gelding): Such a talented yet fascinating horse. Oozes talent, but far from the complete package. Great to see him blow them away in the NSW Trotters’ Derby last time, but not ideal him having a gallop at the start. Certainly respect Winterfell and to a lesser extent Majestic Man. If the right Wobelee turns up and does it all right, then look out! CARLAS PIXEL (4yo pacing mare): Keen to see how she goes against Australia’s best mares in the Group 1 Queen of the Pacific at Melton this weekend. Beat a hot field winning the Group 1 Ladyship Mile in February and two runs since have been excellent without winning. I think she’s got NZ contenders like Bonnie Joan, Utmost Delight and Seaswift Joy covered at her top.   PLATINUM REVOLUTION (2yo pacing filly): Real “pro” of a filly with a dash of class — just what you’d expect from Shane and Lauren Tritton. She’s no star, but has shown enough in her best runs to say she can be competitive. Whether she can beat the best “All Stars” locals like Princess Tiffany and Kayla Marie is the big question. Rough chance. CUSTODIAN (4yo trotting entire/gelding): Great to see him returning to where he won the 2YO Jewels final when part of the All Stars barn. Nursed back from injury with a campaign specifically aimed at this by Nathan Jack. Sure to be primed, but will need the right draw and luck to beat the leading locals like Enghien, Habibti Inta and Musculus. Rough chance. PETES BIG JIM (2yo pacing colt/gelding): Great to see connections riding the wave of a fairytale invite. Best pointer is second to College Chapel — who ranks in Australia’s top 2/3 juveniles — in a 1min52.6sec Menangle Mile on February 24. You’d also expect improvement with the recent switch to Shane/Lauren Tritton barn. Still hard to seeing causing ripples against big guns like Jesse Duke and Another Masterpiece. Reprinted with permission of The Herald Sun

Of all the conversations the youngest boss in New Zealand racing has had about the first Jewels meeting he will oversee in two weeks, one theme stands out. "I am getting a lot of people tell me this time it feels like the first Jewels all over again, something new," says Cambridge chief executive David Branch. At 28, Branch is extremely young to be running any racing club, let alone one hosting harness racing's second biggest meeting on June 2. The $1,275,000 day comes with even more pressure after the recent decision to transfer the South Island Jewels meeting next season from Ashburton to Addington. Put simply, if Cambridge have a great, or even good, result they should keep the hosting rights for 2020. If they don't, the pressure to move to Alexandra Park as the northern base will intensify. Unusually calm for one so young in a racing administrative role, Branch is confident without a hint of brashness. "The only worry I have is the weather, and we can't control that obviously," he said. "But even if the weather isn't the best, we have capacity for between 2500-3000 people under cover." That number would be a crowd pass mark for a track as intimate as Cambridge. But Branch wants 4000. Maybe 5000. "The buzz around here, around Cambridge, has been fantastic," he said. "We've had support from the Waipa District Council, we're getting a lot of buy-in from the community and we think we'll get great support from the gallops industry. "For the first time since we started holding the Jewels every second year, there will be no Ellerslie meeting on the same day, no northern gallops. "So we really want to get the gallops people to enjoy a day at the races and we've aimed some facilities directly at them." A pop-up sports bar with a capacity for 400 and hosted by gallops expert Brendan Popplewell will cater for the thoroughbred-keen punters, ensuring ample television coverage of the gallops meetings both domestically and in Australia in between the Jewels action. "And we'll have some of the local celebrities there and of course Peter Moody." Moody is almost as famous for his media work these days as he was when he trained champion mare Black Caviar and he is a key part of Cambridge's attempt to lure the thoroughbred community to their mega meeting. "Peter is great on social media and television and we have an in-depth interview with him at the pre-Jewels function here on the night before. We already have 150 bookings for that, which could double. "He will also be speaking in that sports bar on the raceday itself and we are sure plenty of people will enjoy hearing his views on all things racing." Branch says his new management team "basically tore up the plan" from the last Jewels at Cambridge two years ago. "It will feel a totally different experience right from the time people walk on track. We have a food truck village and sponsors like Corona on board. "So the place will feel different and then of course the racing on Jewels day is always awesome. So the buzz is there, and so many people have told me it feels like the first time the Jewels came to Cambridge." The racing was strengthened over the weekend with the seventh Australian invite and Aussie star trotter Wobelee winning the New South Wales Derby, confirming his trip to Cambridge. "To have seven Aussies coming to the meeting is incredible but we can't take the credit for that, that has all been Darrin Williams from HRNZ. "But it all adds to the exposure and it will be exciting to see how horses like Jilliby Kung Fu and Wobelee go against our horses." Branch said tickets for the premier marquees were selling fast and he expected them to be gone before the start of Jewels week. Harness Jewels Where: Cambridge Raceway. When: June 2. What: Nine group one races, $1,275,000 in stakes. Who: New Zealand's elite harness horses against seven Australian invites. Michael Guerin

Kiwi-bred two-year-old filly Platinum Revolution has been the latest Australian raider added to the list for the 2018 Harness Jewels to be held at Cambridge Raceway on Saturday 2 June. A Group Three Pink Bonnet winner, Platinum Revolution has accepted an invitation into the 2YO Diamond with a record of three starts, two wins and a third. The win in the Pink Bonnet in early March was over the distance of one mile, in which she recorded a time of 1.54.7. Trained by Shane and Lauren Tritton of Sydney and owned by Rob Jones, Shane was thrilled to receive the invitation and did not hold back on his opinion of the filly. “I’m very happy with Gucci (Platinum Revolution). She has come back better this preparation and is undoubted the best two-year-old filly I have trained,” he stated. “She is versatile and tough and we are very excited to be bringing her to the Jewels.” The daughter of Changeover has a unique to connection to another Australian, now claimed as an honorary Kiwi by the New Zealand racing industry. She was co-bred by commentator Mark McNamara, along with his wife Katie, her father Steve and their good friend Aaron Goadsby. Her dam, Champagne Franco, was lightly raced having just two career starts but won on debut at Rangiora in 2011 for then trainer/driver Mark Jones. Platinum Revolution is her second live foal and first to race, and her career has been keenly followed by her breeders. “I’m really happy for the horse more than anything,” said Mark.  “She was the most beautiful natured yearling an absolute pleasure to have around.” “All the credit has to go to Matt Cross, he broke her in. And to the team at Mark Jones stable who did the early work with her.” “I knew when Shane bought her she was going get her chance but to know now she’s coming for the Jewels is extremely exciting. Her Mum got some extra hay this morning.” Whilst Mark cannot make the Jewels this year, his wife Katie will be present at the meeting to cheer Platinum Revolution home for her breeders. Which is fitting given she gifted the filly her name. “Katie named her. The ‘Platinum’ came from the dam’s ‘Champagne’ factor, and ‘Revolution’ is from the sire ‘Changeover,’” explained Mark. “Katie was away when the horse left, so she is looking forward to seeing her again.” Platinum Revolution joins an impressive Australian assualt on the Jewels in 2018, with invitations already accepted by Custodian, Wobelee, Carla’s Pixel, Shez All Rock and Jilliby Kung Fu. 2018 could potentially see the first year the Australians take a Jewels victory. Jess Smith

Next season’s Harness Racing showcase - the Harness Jewels, will not be at Ashburton next season but up the road at Addington in Christchurch. The decision was made by the HRNZ Board last week after it was presented with proposals from the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club and Ashburton Trotting Club. “In the end the decision wasn’t too difficult to make. It came down to a number of factors. Perhaps the most compiling fact is that the Ashburton Club is going through a transition phase in terms of their management and their club. I don’t think the Board was instilled with confidence for them to run the event. Addington have a good track record of putting on big events,” said HRNZ Chairman Ken Spicer. The first ever Harness Jewels were held at Ashburton in 2007 and from that point on it’s been the preferred South Island host every second year. The event was great for the town and Spicer says the Ashburton TC may reapply to host the event again. “I rang the President straight away. Obviously they’ll be disappointed but in saying that it’s only for one year and there’s a chance for them to regroup and have a crack at in two years time. It’s not as though it’s been taken away from them forever.” Spicer said there are advantages in racing at Addington. “I think from the horsemen’s (trainers and drivers) point of view, they’ll be in favour in going to Addington with a covered barn and the nice track. At a grassroots level I think there’ll be a few people saying it shouldn’t go to a big club, that it should stay at a smaller club. But it wasn’t about this club and that club it was where we thought the Jewels would be better suited in 2019.” He says there’ll be more opportunities to grow the event with a wider range of hospitality options and more corporates getting involved in the event. “There’s also a chance that we may get some major sponsorship by being in a bigger centre. We’ll also pick up on the off-course betting in Australia because Addington seems to get premium betting as opposed to some of the country tracks.” Spicer says there’ll also be some cost saving by hosting the event at Addington. “Obviously we don’t have to set up Marquees.” He says no decision has been made on whether Cambridge could lose it’s North Island hosting rights to the Auckland Trotting Club. “We’ll have a look at Cambridge next year based on what they’re doing this year but all indications are that they’re doing a great job. If it’s a great event (this year) there’s every chance it’ll go back to Cambridge in 2020.” Spicer says some consideration is being given to altering the time of the season when the Jewels are run. “The option we looked at was going to January and putting it over a calendar year. But that would take out the two year olds and you’d have three, four and five year olds (racing) because you’re obviously only having half a season for the two year olds.  The only problem is that we felt it would get lost at that time of year with so much else going on. June is not an ideal time with the weather, but it suits the calendar because there’s not too much on at that time of year.” Spicer also indicated the Board could look at a different location altogether. He mentioned they’d considered bringing it to Southland. And that there was some support for the idea. “I think if it came to Southland it would be a big boost and it would go well but it’s a long way to come and at that time of year it might not be the ideal place to be. But’s it a possibility,” he said. Wouldn’t that be a gem! Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

The emotion of Ashburton losing the Harness Jewels next season is vastly different from the reality of the decision. HRNZ voted that the hosting rights for the code’s second biggest day will go to Addington next year after Ashburton has held the South Island-based rights to the meeting since 2007.  Cambridge will hold this season’s meeting, which rotates between the North and South Islands, on June 2 and no decision has been made on the northern host for 2020. But if Cambridge have a successful meeting this season, and the early indications are very positive, then they will almost certainly retain their hosting rights.   Ashburton losing the Jewels will be an emotional decision for many who believe the  $1.275milion meeting sits better at a provincial track rather than at the major city tracks like Addington.  And that emotion is understandable. Jewels days at Ashburton have produced some magical moments on the best mile racing track in the country.  But off the track the day had started to feel stale, with few new innovations in recent seasons to suggest the day was moving forward.  However it has emerged that is not the reason the Jewels will move to Addington next season, rather it is a glaring hole in the Ashburton club.  The area is a strong hold of New Zealand harness racing but the actual club has no full-time administrator at present.  The club’s long-time boss Fiona Stuart stood down last season because of ill health while her assistant Gareth Murfitt has taken a job at Riccarton.  So there is nobody actually working in the office at Ashburton and while next season’s Jewels are 13 months away it would have been foolish, bordering on a dereliction of duty, if HRNZ has voted to retain the Jewels at a club with effectively no employees apart from a track manager.  Ashburton’s proposal indicated they would employ a project manager to oversee the Jewels for four or five months but most major race clubs in New Zealand start their planning and build-up to their major carnival the day after the last one finished.  To put nearly $1.3million of the industry’s money and its second biggest day after New Zealand Cup day in the hands of a club without a paid employee to start planningimmediately would be unprofessional. HRNZ boss Edward Rennell realises the move will be unpopular is some quarters of the industry although that is nothing new as barely any decision in harness racing these days meets with universal approval.  But he says the door is far from closed on Ashburton hosting Jewels day again.  “The Ashburton club have been through some changes and will obviously go through some more but they have a lot to be proud of over the last decade of holding the Jewels and I hope they come back with a bid for the series in 2021,” said Rennell.  “But we are also lucky as an industry we have Addington coming on board because we know they can run a big event, they don’t come any bigger than New Zealand Cup day.” The move to Addington will see the first Jewels races run not over the mile distance, with the nine group one races to be staged over 1950m next season as Addington’s mile start point is ridiculous. Michael Guerin

For the man who has won it almost all, there is one glaring gap in Chris Alford’s trophy cabinet. And if he can finally fill that at gap at Cambridge on June 2 he will be the first Australian reinsman to do so.  The Australian challenge for the Jewels went into over drive last night with group one winners Wobelee (three-year-old trot) and Carla’s Pixel (four-year-old pacing mares) invited. Both are high class and would sit near the top of any market, with Wobelee a juvenile sensation last season and Carla’s Pixel having downed a host of Kiwi big names in the Ladyship Mile at Menangle in February.  Alford’s wife Alison trains Wobelee but Alford will drive but he also looks likely to be offered the drive on Carla’s Pixel.  “That will be up to Dean (Braun, trainer) but the owners have said I will be driving it.  “It is exciting to head there with probably two good chances because as we all know no Aussie has won a Jewels.  “I’ve only driven in them once, behind Blitzemcalder, so to get back there will be great.” Last night’s two invites join four-year-old trotter Custodian on the invite list while it is looking almost certain NSW Oaks winner Shez All Rock will be at Cambridge. She is hot favourite for the Victoria Oaks this week and then joins the All Stars for the NZ Oaks, where she could either win her way into the Jewels or still be invited as the Australian for her division. That leaves the biggest invite of all the Australians still unconfirmed, with Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu still being set for the Jewels but not invited yet. The home of the Jewels races tonight with a continuation of the strong juvenile trot numbers.  Unbeaten filly Tickle Me Pink resumes against fellow class act filly in She Reigns, who would be unbeaten but for a gallop last start.  The juvenile trotting fields in the south have been strong with the Phil Williamson-trained Oscar Bonenova catching the eye winning on debut at Rangiora. Michael Guerin

Brilliant Australian juvenile trotter Wobelee and Group One Ladyship Mile winner Carlas Pixel have been named as the most recent harness racing recipients of an Australian invite to the 2018 Harness Jewels Wobelee will wear the Australian silks in this year’s Three-Year-Old Ruby and joins fellow squaregaiter Custodian in the Aussie assault on New Zealand’s richest harness race day.  Trained by Alison Alford, Wobelee last year became the first two-year-old to be named Australian Trotter of the Year following his stellar debut season In just 12 starts he amassed 10 wins (four of which were at Group One level) and over $180,000 in stakes in just his two-year-old season. He collected the Redwood Classic, Vicbred Super Series Final, Vicbred Classic and Breeders Crown in his impressive resume during 2017.   Wobelee extended his winning streak to 12 in March by winning a heat and the final of the Group One Need For Speed Final at Melton.  His connections were thrilled to receive the invitation and cannot wait to unleash the son of Down Under Muscles on Jewels day.  Regular driver Chris Alford said it was great to be asked to bring a horse to a prestigious race day like the Jewels.  “Especially with one of our own horses. We only train a small team and we may never have another one good enough to get an invite, it will be a great experience. “I did get to drive Blitzthemcalder a few years back when it was held at Ashburton (2013) and unfortunately his manners let him down on the day, but to be able to bring a horse over there and compete at the highest level will be something different,” said Alford.  Despite the dizzy heights Wobelee has reached already, the horse didn’t indicate much before his first start about what lay ahead.  “He didn’t show us anything special at home. When we first trialed him we thought oh well that’s alright at least he’s going to make it to the races. Then he just got better and better.”  Outstanding Australian Four-Year-Old Pacing Mare Carlas Pixel is a recent Group One Ladyship Mile winner. She defeated Delishka in a scintillating 1.49.5 on that occasion. The daughter of Courage Under Fire is trained by Dean Braun and has won 14 of her 39 career starts with stakes edging close to $300,000.  In the start prior to her Ladyship win Carlas Pixel recorded an impressive Group Three victory over a mile in 1.51.7 in the Robin Dundee Stakes also at Menangle.  After attending the Jewels as a spectator four years ago, which was his first trip outside of Australia, her co-owner Shannon Nixon cannot wait to compete at the Jewels.  “I’m very excited and looking forward to it. To be honest, I only came into the ownership of the horse at the start of this season. I purchased her as a breeding proposition in the future so everything she has done this season she has just gone from strength to strength,” said Nixon.  “She’s versatile. In her last two starts she won when leading in her lead up to the Ladyship Mile and then she won the final from near last on the turn. So I think she has the versatility, and if conditions suit she certainly has the ability to run some special times. Once it appeared that an invitation could be on the cards Nixon and the connections were quick to make their bookings to ensure they were part of the action on Jewels day. They are excited to be representing Australia and experiencing racing a horse overseas on a prestigious race day.  “We’re looking forward to making it an occasion, and Pixie I’m sure will account herself well and make it a memorable one.”  To hear the full interviews with Chris Alford and Shannon Nixon please head to  Jess Smith Communication and Ownership Co-Ordinator | Harness Racing New Zealand Inc

Finally the Harness Jewels may be set for some serious Australian interest. Former Kiwi trotter Custodian, now trained in Victoria, has been issued the first Australian invite to the $1,275,000 mega meeting at Cambridge on June 2, which means he will return to the venue where he won the two-year-old division two years ago. Custodian, who stayed in Australia after winning the Breeders Crown that season, missed the back end of last season when his connections were keen to defend their title. But they have jumped at the opportunity to come back for the four-year-old trot division and take on hot favourite Enghien. And it looks likely they could have some company, with at least five high-profile Australian-trained horses in the running for invites. Since Harness Racing New Zealand started inviting one Australian runner for each division a few years ago they have had plenty of disappointments, with withdrawals for a variety of reasons seeing most Jewels meetings run with only one or two Australians and some with none. Getting Australian horses to the series is seen as pivotal in increasing awareness and popularity in Australia, leading to increased turnover. Last season two Aussies made it to Ashburton and both ran second so no visitor has won a Jewels race yet. Custodian will need to be good to change that if Enghien turns up in his best form. But HRNZ are confident they have and will continue to secure some other big names. "We have had a lot of interest, more than any other year," says HRNZ's Darrin Williams. "The Custodian team are thrilled to be coming back because Nathan Jack [trainer] loved it last time he brought a horse. "And I think having it at Cambridge helps this year as it is easier to fly in to Auckland, stay a few days and fly out again. "But we have some really high profile horses we are speaking to the connections of." The biggest of those is Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu, who is a real chance to take on Star Galleria in the four-year-old Emerald. Last season's champion Australian two-year-old trotter Wobelee is also rated a serious hope as is Ladyship Mile winner Carla's Pixel. And two of Australia's best three-year-old pacing fillies Shez All Rock and Soho Burning Love are believed to be competing for that invite, with the New Zealand Oaks next month possibly the deciding race. The New Zealand TAB has yet to open markets on the Jewels even though the main Australian TAB has had them open for the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Cambridge race on their newly resurfaced track tonight just a week after 320 tonnes of new surface was put on it in preparation for the Jewels. They host a rare Wednesday meeting the next two weeks with tonight's feature actually being a non-tote, with some of the north's best juvenile pacers in a five-horse Sires' Stakes heat. By: Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

Harness Racing New Zealand and Cambridge Raceway are thrilled to announce that Nathan Jack’s Custodian has been officially invited to represent Australia in the Harness Jewels. A former Harness Jewels winner, Custodian has been the recipient of the very first Australian invite for the 2018 Harness Jewels which will be held at Cambridge Raceway on Saturday 2 June. As a two-year-old Custodian was successful in 2016 for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, with Mark Purdon in the sulky for then owners Stuart Valentine and Roddy Butt (who was the initial trainer of the horse). Custodian then went on to win the 2YO Breeders Crown Final at Melton in August of 2016 for Purdon. Since then the son of Muscle Mass has joined Nathan Jack’s team and was successful for him as a threeyear-old in the New South Wales Trotters Derby. Nathan Jack spoke to Harness Racing New Zealand following the invitation was issued and was thrilled with the news. “His manners have progressed a lot better and he has matured a lot and he’s grown into a big strong individual. I think he has taken the next step,” said Jack. “It has been the main aim all the way through (to get the Jewels) and all going well we’ll be there and give it our best shot.” Jack has been at the Jewels before with Just Cala and Glenferrie Bronte at Ashburton in 2015 and despite not being successful on that occasion, the trip did have its benefits. “We had a ball there and we learned a lot about what sort of horse we need. We were really well looked after and treated like royalty and that’s half the reason we are so keen to come back again.” To hear the full interview with Nathan Jack please visit   

Enghien's defence of his Harness Jewels title is under huge pressure with no easy way to solve the problem. And trainer Greg Hope admits the young trotting star has nobody to blame but himself. Last season's champion three-year-old trotter heads to Addington's day meeting on Saturday when the Harness Jewels leaders colours will make their first outing for the season — but after wearing them for much of last autumn Enghien couldn't be further from them this term. His only two starts have resulted in two unplaced runs after galloping, meaning Enghien has a grand total of $0 next to his name on the Jewels qualification table with about $25,000 needed to qualify by mid-May. Making life even tougher for Enghien is the fact while he races four and five-year-olds on Saturday, his three confirmed starts before the Jewels cut off point are all likely to be in group one open class races. "He doesn't have an easy pathway to get the money he needs to qualify so it is starting to play on our minds a bit," says Hope. "But I suppose if he isn't good enough to win that money in the next six weeks then he doesn't deserve to be there. Still, it is harder when you are racing mainly in open class." Enghien could go about halfway to solving his Jewels qualification problems with a win on Saturday and Hope is adamant the four-year-old is close to getting things right. "We had half blinds on last week and when the horses behind him at the start came rushing up past him he panicked and galloped," explains Hope. "So we will leave those off this week and if he steps away and behaves, which I think he can do, then he has to be hard to beat. "Ricky [May, driver] said he trotted beautifully once he got going last week." And Hope has an ace up his sleeve on the steep Jewels climb — Enghien likes Alexandra Park more than Addington. "He has always been better right-handed so races like the Anzac and Rowe Cups, while they will be good fields, should see him more comfortable." The clash between Enghien, Temporale and Benchmark in the $30,000 trot will be one of the highlights of the Addington card because it looks the least predictable of the main races. Whereas the $100,000 Easter Cup looks to be More The Better's to lose, even after he was beaten when doing a power of work last Friday. He is a genuine group one horse whose earlier comeback win at Invercargill was huge and if the best version of him turns up he should win for the partial sponsors of the race, the All Stars. Hope has A G's White Socks in the Cup but warns the classy pacer has been struggling to find his best form. "He is working well but he has had problems with his heart rate coming down as fast as it should. "So I think he is a place chance but it is very hard to see Mark's horse [More The Better] beaten." The same could apply to Enhance Your Calm in race four, the Trotting Stakes, in which only the brave filly Running Free looks a serious threat if they all trot throughout. Easter treats • Best bet: Princess Tiffany (R2, No.1): Impossible to make a case against her after her last start win and she gets best draw again. • Derby trial: Sheriff (R11, No.5): Getting ready for next week's Derby and drawn inside the other key runners on same path. • Star trialist: Mr Kalypso (R3, No.3): Has raced some serious horses but still a maiden. Two recent workout wins suggest that about to change. Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

IN-FORM Aussie trainer Shane Tritton expects to spend a fair bit of time in NZ this year. It could start with a Harness Jewels raid and end with former Kiwi pacer Franco Nelson returning to his old stomping ground at Addington for the NZ Cup. As much as Franco Nelson achieved through his many successful years in NZ, it seems he reached a new career high since joining Tritton’s stable. Even the doubters would have been silenced with his simply unbelievable Menangle win last Friday night. Menangle has seen some great performances and blazing miles, but not many better than what Franco Nelson produced. The eight-year-old was trapped three-wide for the entire trip and still powered home to beat a classy field in a flying 1min50.3sec mile. “Even when he was out three-wide like that, I still though he’d win. He’s just getting better and better. His work this week amazing,” Tritton said. “Because of all the issues he’s had for the past few years, I think trainers have been cautious about working him too hard. I’ve worked him like I do my others and I think he’s fitter than he’s ever been before.” Franco Nelson has won five of seven starts since moving from NZ to join Tritton’s Menangle stable. “We need to look at plans now. Races like the Len Smith Mile, possibly Queensland and definitely the Inter Dominion are on the cards,” Tritton said. “The owners are keen for him to go back for the NZ Cup and he’s such a great standing-start horse I’d love to give it go. “It’s easier to do the NZ Cup this year and get back for the Inter Dominion with it being in Melbourne rather than Perth.” Tritton hopes Franco Nelson’s success will stir interest from other Kiwi owners to send horses to him. “There must be lots of horses like Franco Nelson who it’s hard to find suitable races for in NZ, but we have a proven record of finding ways to get horses back to their peak form and there are lots more opportunities over here,” he said. While Franco Nelson is the stable star and best horse Tritton and wife, Lauren, have trained, the rest of their barn in flying as well. Franco Nelson was part of a winning treble for them at Menangle, including star three-year-old filly My Sweetchillyphilly returning to winning form in a 1min52.1sec mile in the Golden Easter Egg. Their classy mare Reaza Grunter also impressed again by burning out from a wide draw to lead and winning well in a 1min51.5sec mile. Reaza Grunter and Tritton’s exciting two-year-old filly Platinum Revolution could be Harness Jewels bound. “We’ve talked to the Kiwis to express our interest. If Platinum Revolution got an invite, we’d be keen to go because there isn’t much else for her,” he said. “If she went we’d push for invites for a couple of others as well, including Reaza Grunter, who won really well again the other night.”   Adam Hamilton

Finally the ugly ducklings of the harness racing world are starting to see some love. For decades stakes for trotters have lagged embarrassingly far behind the money the best pacers race for but slowly the gap is closing, with increases to some of the biggest trotting races in the country this week. The most telling improvement is in the stake for the three trotting Jewels, which all increase from $100,000 to $125,000 for next season, putting them only $25,000 behind the pacing Jewels. While the trotters' Jewels races are still open sex, whereas each pacing age group has separate Jewels for either sex, the stakes gap between the two gaits is now small compared with other group one races.   In the past decade in particular races like the Inter Dominion, NZ Cup and Miracle Mile have been enormously higher than their trotting equivalents, with trotting fans even more infuriated when the Inter Dominion trotting series was dropped altogether for no good reason. But Addington have added further respectability to the trotting ranks with the Dominion to be run at Addington in November rising from $260,000 to $300,000 for this year, making it the richest trot in New Zealand. That continues the recent improvements in trotting only stakes, with the NZ Trot Champs going from $80,000 to $100,000, as will the Northern Trotting Derby next term while the $100,000 Anzac Cup at Alexandra Park is still a relatively new race. The A$300,000 Great Southern Star at Melton has raised the bar across the Tasman, where the Breeders Crown has also seen the trotting divisions split into males and females. "We think the trotters deserve a boost in stakes for the Jewels," says HRNZ boss Edward Rennell. "We would love to raise the pacers too and hope in the future we will." While the elite trotters like Monbet and Speeding Spur - both returning next season from injury - will have some big-money targets, the lot of the lower grade trotters has also never been better. With Alexandra Park moving to $12,000 minimum stakes next season and Addington to $10,000, trotters who race at the two premier tracks will go their entire careers without having to race for less than five figures Which makes them some of the best value horseflesh in New Zealand as trotting-bred yearlings average around $20,000 at the sales, with only a handful each year fetching more than $50,000. The closing of the gap will please enthusiasts of the squaregaiter, whose love of the gait is only matched by the near zealot-like devotion of galloping's jumps racing fraternity. For decades our elite trotters have won hearts in no small part because of their durability and how often punters are able to see them. Horses like Lyell Creek, Take A Moment, I Can Doosit, Pride Of Petite and more lately Monbet have been world class, the latter in particular boosting the French blood through his sire Love You needed to bring the New Zealand breed into the 21st century. Trotting stakes still have some way to go, with three-year-old Enghien winning nine of 10 races this season and almost every one that matters at the top end but still only bagging a respectable $234,041. That tally could go well past $300,000 should he win the Victoria Trot Derby and Breeders Crown next month, when he will still be a three-year-old until September (long story, don't ask). That at least compares favourably to the $481,055 Spanish Armada won as New Zealand's highest stake earning three-year-old pacer this season, with Vincent the highest earner male three-year-old pacer with $418,316, much of that in Australia. But the real boost for the trotting gait has come at the lowest end of the scale, where they have been a godsend for Alexandra Park, who often card full field maiden and one-win trots while the track is struggling for turnover-driving numbers. "The trotters have been huge for us and not long ago we had a meeting where we had almost as many trotters racing as pacers," said ATC racing boss Regan Cotter. "And those numbers should only keep getting better with the new minimum stakes." Trot's top-up • Stakes for trotters have always lagged behind pacers. • But some of NZ's biggest trotting races, the Jewels and the Dominion, are set to increase. • Once the poor relations of harness racing, trotters have been instrumental in securing decent field sizes at Alexandra Park. Michael Guerin

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