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Top Aussie trainer David Aiken is bracing himself for a hectic next month. And it could still include a raid on the Harness Jewels with his classy four-year-old mare Rockstar Angel. Throw in the fact his two stable stars Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay are close to racing again and there is plenty on Aiken’s plate. First, let’s get the very latest on Rockstar Angel and what hope she is on contesting the depleted 4YO Diamond at the Jewels? “I had a long talk with Brendan (James, owner) this morning and there’s definitely a chance she will head across,” Aiken said. “We had a bit of a minor setback with her, but she seems really well again now. “It comes down to this. She’s fast-working this Saturday then there is a race for her at Menangle on Saturday week. “It’s possible, if she runs really well at Menangle, then the flight leaves from Sydney to Auckland on the Monday after that race.” Aiken is leaving the final decision to James. But with Golden Goddess out and Piccadilly Princess seemingly racing below her best, it will surely be tempting to put Rockstar Angel on the plane. Now Aiken’s other “rockstars”, Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay. “Hectorjayjay is set to go. I thought about given him two runs before the Len Smith (June 25), but I’ve settled on a trial and one race,” Aiken said. “At this stage he’ll trial not this weekend, but next and then he race in the Young Pedro free-for-all at Melton on June 9. I like that two week gap from there into the Len Smith.” Lennytheshark is also set to have just the one lead-up run before the Len Smith. “He’ll run in the Golden Mile at Menangle, which is the night after Hectorjayjay runs in the Young Pedro,” Aiken said. Beyond the Len Smith Mile, Aiken said it was “90 per cent” likely both Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay would head to Queensland for the Group 1 winter double in the Sunshine Sprint and Blacks A Fake. “You can’t keep them apart forever. The Len Smith and the two big races in Queensland suit both horses so we’re happy to run them against each other,” Aiken said.   Adam Hamilton

Star mare Golden Goddess is the latest big name Harness Jewels casualty. Owner Merv Butterworth confirmed the plan to return to NZ for a Jewels tilt were over after she flopped at Melton last Friday night. "She pulled up with a cough and her heart rate was right up," he said. "We've decided to give a spell now in Melbourne to the Jewels is out, sadly." Golden Goddess sat parked in quick times, but wilted badly from the home bend when beaten almost 50m in 10th place behind The Orange Agent last Friday night. Her setback is a boost for glamour stablemate A Piccadilly Princess, who is battling to make the cut for a spot in the Jewels 4YO Diamond final. It wasn't all bad news for Butterworth over the weekend with his classy four-year-old Motu Premier winning the free-for-all at Menangle last night. Butterworth Jewels' focus now turns to Melton next Saturday with the return to racing of Mr Mojito. Now with Kerryn Manning, Mr Mojito head across for the Jewels providing he pleases connections first-up in the Group 2 4&5YO Championship on Saturday.   Adam Hamilton

Punters who have taken the short odds on offer for Marcoola to become the Four-Year-Old Ruby at next month’s Harness Jewels will have heartened by what transpired at Tuesday’s Ashburton trials. Unsighted since his well-beaten effort behind Eyre I Come at Addington back in February, the Ken Ford trained trotter looked right back on top of his game with an effortless performance against modest opposition on Tuesday. A slight injury concern has plagued last season’s leading three-year-old trotter for the best part of the last two months but there was no signs of it causing concern in the trial. “He felt good and strong,” driver Clint Ford said. “It was good to get that run into him.” Off a 40 metre handicap, Marcoola was into his work quickly and while not bustled by Ford he worked his way around the field inside the final 800 metres before blasting away from his rivals to win by eight lengths in a corrected time of 3:04 for the 2400 metre stand. “If you’d asked me how quick it felt like we were going I wouldn’t have said that, he made it feel like it was more like 3:10, he did it all pretty easy.” The Ford clan had an eye on a race next week at Addington for a resumption as they prepare for the Jewels, but that may be put on ice for another week with an eagerness to make sure everything is spot on before they tackle a race. “I’m going to get him checked over and then we can make a decision from there.” Rated a $2.40 chance to win the Ruby on June 3, Marcoola’s task has been made a little harder by the continued rise of others in the age group. Friday night’s Rowe Cup winner, Temporale will be there as well as other proven Group One performers, Lemond and Wilma’s Mate while progressive types, Dark Horse and McLovin are also capable. Earlier in the day at Tuesday’s trials, New Zealand’s two best three-year-old fillies went to the line locked together. Spanish Armada eventually got the judge’s nod over Partyon, but both performances were spot on as they prepare for a plethora of riches available to them over the next month.   Matt Markham

ANONIMITY is a thing of the past for Ange McDowall.  The dairy farming hobby horse trainer and her brilliant, unbeaten juvenile pacer Lumineer are the talk of the sport.   Lumineer’s effortlessly easy win in last night’s $322,000 Group 1 Australian Gold final has opened all sorts of doors for McDowall  …. Including an invite to the Harness Jewels at Ashburton.  HRNZ’s Darrin Williams spoke with a slightly-overwhelmed McDowall this morning and confirmed the Jewels invite.  “We would love a special horse like Lumineer to come for the Jewels,” he said. “He could be the first Aussie-trained Jewels winner.    “Ange seemed thrilled to get a call with an invite to the Jewels. She’s taking the horse back from Sydney to Victoria tomorrow (Monday), will see how he is when he gets home and discuss (the Jewels) with the owners.  “He’s not in the Vicbred series, only the NSW Breeders Challenge. The Jewels would fit perfectly if they skipped the Breeders Challenge and set him for the Breeders Crown.   “I’d expect to hear back with Ange’s decision in the next week or so.”  The proactive Aussie TAB quickly added Lumineer to the Jewels market as a $4.50 shot.  Lumineer made it five wins from as many starts when he speared straight to the front from gate six and settled beautifully in front for young gun driver Jason Lee – McDowall’s second cousin – to steady through a soft 31.9sec second split.  The race was effectively over then, especially with the main danger, Mark Purdon’s Sicario back at the rear and spotting the leader at least 30m start at the half mile.  Lumineer quickened slightly for a 28.7sec third split, but knowing the easy run he’d had, Lee went for home at the top of the long Menangle straight.  The son of Sportswriter zipped home in 26.6sec and looked to win with plenty in reserve by eight metres over Stefsbest with another 3.2m away to Jilliby Lorenzo in third spot. It was a Victorian trifecta.  They ran the mile in 1min54.4sec.  Sicario, unbeaten in his previous three runs, never looked a winning chance when he got so far back in a leader-dominated race. He closed strongly late to finish fourth, almost 16m from the winner.  McDowall said she was always content in the run.  “You never get too confident, but Jason told me thought the horse would fly out and lead. He was right. Then, once he got that easy second quarter I thought he’d be very hard to rundown,” she said.  “We stayed up here (at the Menangle track) for the week between the semi and final and he’s thrived. I think the trip away has been really good for him.  “He’s come through it really. I’ve got a big bruise on the side of my knee to show that … he lashed out and kicked me this morning.”  McDowall praised Lee’s drive.  “He’s so relaxed and has so much confidence in the horse. He knew he’d had an easy in run in front, which is why we he went for home as early as he did,” she said.  And what about that big victory salute?  “We had a big group of family and friends up for the race and Jason said he heard them cheering and thought he should give them something back,” McDowall said.    Adam Hamilton

Ben Waldron is going to let the Harness Jewels come to him, as opposed to going out and chasing it. The Ashburton horseman is taking the if it’s meant to, it will happen approach with his star mare Queen Bee Bardon ahead of the Four-Year-Old Diamond in June on his home track because he knows that if you try and chase it, you’re more than likely going to come unstuck. Queen Bee Bardon currently sits just outside the Top 12 for the Four-Year-Old Diamond with just a few weeks of qualifying time remaining, but she’s within reach of making the field for the $150,000 event if she can pick up a win at some point in the coming weeks. “At the end of the day, if it happens it will be great,” Waldron said. “But I’ve been in this position before with horses where you have to chase a spot and it hasn’t worked out that well for us, so we are going to take the casual approach and hope for the best. “I’ve always said though if you are good enough to make your way into the field, then you are good enough to go and compete and it’s a bonus this year because the Jewels are on the back-door step.” Without the pressure of chasing stake monies, Waldron would be quite happy to see his big pacer driven conservatively at today’s Ashburton Trotting Club meeting thanks to a wide barrier draw over the 2400 metres. The daughter of Gotta Go Cullen has given her trainer and her connections, Gordon Guthrie, Michael Crequer and Renee Williams a few headaches in her short career to date, but the promise is there of some exciting times ahead. “We have had a few battles, she got a virus and it took her a long time to come back from that, but we are getting somewhere, she’s a lot better than what she was. “The key now is getting her to relax better for us in her races, she tends to like to charge out of the gate and then gets quite keen. “I’m not one to give instructions to drivers, but I would think Craig will be quite keen to go back early and see what happens.” Craig is Craig Thornley who has struck up a strong combination with the mare and will drive again today. Drawn eight in a strong field the hope is that a good speed up front will bring Queen Bee Bardon’s speed into play late in the race and she can get home over the top of her opposition. Ashburton Selections by Matt Markham Race 1: Sea Rover, Star Pride, Woodstone, Jana’s Wishes Race 2: Chevron’s Reward, Nicky Anew, Tara Tutaia. Real Obsession Race 3: Sundee’s Son, Castlereagh, Majestic Man, Stress Factor Race 4: Warloch, Spondulicks, Time Traveller, Burning Rubber Race 5: Cindy Bromac, Chloe, Vera’s Delight, Midfrew Tarpediem Race 6: Elmers Hoofing It, Paravani, Time’s Stride, Mega Watt Race 7: All Settled Down, Muscles Galore, Beg Hall, Just A Dude Race 8: Queen Bee Bardon, Christopher Banner, Shineonyoucrazydiamond, Nolan Sackett Race 9: Missandei, McLovin, Royal Shine, Trouble Giero Race 10: Mac Almighty, Mighty Santana, Titanium, Julia Lady Race 11: Pirate Bay, I Am Yours, Novak, Zimfandel Best Bet: Elmers Hoofing It (Race 6) Value: All Settled Down (Race 7)

Former buzz Kiwi pacer Mr Mojito is close to launching the next chapter of his career. And that chapter could well include a trip back to his homeland for a crack at the Harness Racing Jewels. The former Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained pacer has followed the same path as many of Merv and Meg Butterworth’s horses and switched to Kerryn Manning’s barn. The move came after a frustrating Perth campaign late last year when Mr Mojito never looked comfortable around the tight Gloucester Park where he raced three times for a win, a fifth and an 11th. “He didn’t like the track, but he still wasn’t at his best over there,” Butterworth said. “We gave him a good break and now he’s just about ready to race again. “Grant (Campbell, Manning’s husband) put a smile on my face the other day when he said Mr Mojito gave him the feel of a very nice horse.” Butterworth said Mr Mojito was likely to resume early next month. “I’d say that first week of May is when you’ll see him back,” he said. “The Harness Jewels is where we’d love to head with him. If they invite him, we should have time for a couple of runs here before going across.” In contrast, Butterworth said he was leaning towards bringing his classy four-year-old mare Golden Goddess across from Auckland to Victoria for a string of feature mares’ next month. “That’s how I’m leaning at the moment. First I’m hoping she can a cheeky race against Lazarus this weekend,” he said. “If she comes to Victoria, she will stay with Mark and Natalie for those races. Then we’ll decide whether goes back to NZ with them or stays here and goes to Kerryn and Grant.”   Adam Hamilton

New Zealand's best pacer has been stunningly left out of markets for the Harness Jewels, even though he is still a chance to start there. In a shock for fans of the champion pacer, Lazarus has not been listed in the market for the four-year-old Emerald even though he hasn't been withdrawn from the series. The TAB opened markets on the three and four-year-old divisions of the Jewels on Sunday with Lazarus surprisingly not there even though he will be a $1.30 chance at best if he starts. There is no mention of Lazarus in the market conditions so it is not a market with him excluded as a winning chance - or favourite-out betting, as it is known. Instead the TAB bookies have simply not included him in their initial market because they expect him not to start, instead having his stablemate Heaven Rocks the $1.55 favourite. "We have heard he is unlikely to start and we would rather leave him out than have people backing him and have him not start," said TAB bookie Richard Wilson. Wilson may well be right, with Lazarus not expected to make the June 3 race as trainer Mark Purdon says he could be spelling by then to prepare for his huge season next term. But Purdon told the Herald that is anything but certain. "I don't think he will start but we definitely haven't ruled him out," says Purdon. "He is off to Auckland for the Taylor Mile and the Messenger and then he will probably be finished. "But things could change. "He has some of the same owners as Heaven Rocks and Waikiki Beach and if something happened to them in the next month then they might want Laz to go to the Jewels, Purdon said. "So we definitely won't be withdrawing him from Jewels contention any time soon, after all, that decision doesn't have to be made for at least a month." Which means punters who bet in the four-year-old division could find out in a month Purdon has changed his mind - as he often does - and Lazarus is starting and all of a sudden is a red hot favourite and they have taken huge unders on other horses. By comparison, the main Australian TABs do have Lazarus listed in their Jewels futures book as a $1.50 favourite, with Heaven Rocks at $3.50. The pre-emptive removal of the NZ Cup winner from the market gets even stranger because punters can ring the TAB and ask for a price on horses not listed. If one did so - you might want to try this if you are bored - then Lazarus would surely have to be listed as the favourite and the entire market would be turned on its head. While Lazarus is unlikely to head to the Jewels but still possible, his Auckland Cup-winning stablemate Dream About Me definitely won't be there. The stable have conceded defeat in their battle with hoof issues and she is out for the remainder of the season. "The hoof thing wasn't healing as we wanted and to make matters worse she then started to get other issues, probably from off-loading pressure from the hoof. "So she is out until next season, when the New Zealand Cup will be her big aim." She was the $1.35 favourite for the four-year-old Diamond. The TAB markets are all listed as "Australian out", meaning if Australian horses are invited and win - which has never happened - then the payout will be on the first New Zealand-trained horse home. The two leading Australian chances to come are both now very unlikely. Fillies Petacular and My Sweetchilliphilly are both having a break after tough recent campaigns before being aimed at series like the Breeders Crown later in the season. That leaves two Australians confirmed for the series so far in Rockstar Angel (four-year-old pacing mares) and juvenile trotter One Muscle Hill, who is already in Canterbury. Michael Guerin

It is no secret star Aussie filly Petacular is a prime target with Kiwi officials for the Harness Jewels. The way she pushed unbeaten Kiwi filly Partyon to the limit in the NSW Oaks, underlined Petacular’s immense potential. The thought of rematch in the NZ Oaks and/or Harness Jewels is mouth-watering. So the Harness Jewels invite looks a “lock” if Petacular comes through her Victoria Oaks campaign well. It starts when the Mick Stanley-trained filly steps out in the first and strongest of the two Victoria Oaks heats at Melton tomorrow (Friday) night. Petacular is a $1.30 favourite on the Aussie TAB despite the fact she’s drawn the back row (gate nine) and facing the second-best filly in the series, Miss Graceland (gate eight). “She’s come on really well since winning at Melton a couple of weeks back,” Stanley said. “I couldn’t be happier with how she’s come back from Sydney.” In regards the Jewels, Stanley said it’s right on the radar, but nothing will be locked away until after next week’s Victoria Oaks final. “This is one of her big goals of the season, our home state Oaks,” he said. “Once we’re through this and if she’s well, then the NZ Oaks and Jewels are on the agenda. I’d say she’s more likely to go than not. “She’s the right sort of filly for it. She’s had two trips to Sydney now and come through them well. She seems to take the travel in her stride.” Petacular’s task in the Victoria Oaks has been much easier by the fact no Kiwis have made the trip across to tackle the series. The major players in the second heat are NSW visitor Shezallapples, who ran fourth in the NSW Oaks, and talented Victorian filly Keayang Secret, who ran second to Petacular in the 3YO Classic at Melton on March 17.   Adam Hamilton

Top Aussie trainer David Aiken is excited and ready for a new challenge. The man behind Australia’s two best open-class pacers Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay will be part of this year’s Harness Jewels. Aiken and owner Brendan James last night delightfully accepted an invite to contest the Jewels at Ashburton with their classy four-year-old mare Rockstar Angel. It was the first official Jewels invite offered to an Australian horse for this year’s Jewels. “This is a thrill and Brendan (James) is really keen to give it a go,” Aiken said. “We think she’s a really nice mare and still improving. “It fits her season well. She’s got the final of a mares’ series she’s already qualified for as a lead-up to the Jewels and then her next target at home isn’t until the Vicbred 4YO mares’ series, which is well after the Jewels. “We know going across to run against the Kiwis over there won’t be easy, but we’re up for the challenge.” Rockstar Angel finished last season with a luckless third in the Breeders Crown 3YO fillies and has returned this season with six starts for four wins, a second and a third. “She won her first four starts back and has run really well in defeat at her past couple,” Aiken said. “Initially we were a bit disappointed when she led and Four Ex Dan beat her in the Wangaratta Cup, but the inside was a bit off that night and the winner has since gone to Melton and won in fantastic style. He’s obviously very good. “Her only run since was a close third at Kilmore last weekend when she had to come with a long three-wide run without cover and was beaten in a three-way photo.” Rockstar Angel’s form says she will be very competitive with the right draw and some luck in the Jewels. The added bonus of having Aiken, Australia’s top trainer at the moment, part of the Jewels is a real coup for the event. In other stable news, Aiken said Lennytheshark was having a freshen-up then a stint on the water-walker before returning to racing in the Bulli Cup at Menangle in May. “Then comes the Len Smith Mile and probably a trip to Queensland for the winter carnival,” he said. More immediately, Hectorjayjay is finishing a water-walker stint, returns to Aiken’s stable this week and is being set for the Warragul Cup on April 16. Adam Hamilton

Buzz Aussie juvenile filly My Sweetchilliphilly made almost as many waves in NZ as she did in Australia with her stunning Bathurst Gold Tiara win last weekend. Lots of Kiwis tuned-up given Tim Butt’s filly Lady Chatto was backed into favouritism, but no matched for the juggernaut that is My Sweetchilliphilly. One of those Kiwis watching closely, but for a variety of reasons, was Harness Racing NZ’s Darrin Williams, the man who drives the Aussie invites to the Harness Jewels. Like everyone else, Williams was mightily impressed. “That’s one of the most impressives runs by a two-year-old filly you would ever see,” he said. “Of course we’d love to see her at the Jewels. I’ve already spoken to Shane (Tritton, co-trainer) and will stay in touch. “She’s tough and super quick. She looks ideal for a mile at Ashburton where, given the time she ran at Bathurst, she would clearly be capable of breaking the NZ record 1min53.3sec held by Dream About Me. “I’ve also got to say Shane and Lauren (Tritton) are terrific to deal with and always helpful with media and functions when here in NZ.” Tritton said the final call on an NZ trip would rest with the filly’s owners. “Her next run is the Pink Bonnet on Saturday week where she’ll run into Lady Chatto again,” he said. “After that we’ll have to decide whether we give her a break with a view to the Breeders Crown or go to NZ. “It’s a big call whether we do something like NZ with her because we think she’s a bit special and will be an Oaks filly next season and then a Ladyship Mile mare in future.”   Adam Hamilton

The Ashburton Trust has signed back on as the naming rights sponsor of one of harness racing’s biggest days - the Harness Jewels which will this year be held at the Ashburton Racecourse on June 3. The Ashburton Trotting Club were delighted to be able to announce the news on Friday after a period of uncertainty in which nobody was quite sure what was going to happen. “We are delighted to have The Trust back on board continuing their association with this iconic event,” Ashburton Trotting Club president Craig Harrison said. “They’ve been with us since 2009 and to have that continued support is greatly appreciated.” Held this year for the 11th time, the Harness Jewels began in Ashburton and sees more than 100 of the best Standardbreds from Australia and New Zealand competing for more the $1.5 million in stakes in nine one mile, speed based, races. With a huge economic impact on the region due to the thousands of people it attracts to the region, the decision by the Ashburton Trust to continue its association is a logical one. The Ashburton Trotting Club is currently exploring a number of new aspects they are hoping to bring to the occasion, including a revamp of the Friday night function. Tickets are currently on sale for the day with three package options available. The first is for the main marquee which is located next to the birdcage with prime viewing and food and beverages available as well as reserved seating and an MC and big screen. Priced at $220 per person or $2,000 a table, tickets are selling fast for the marquee with only a third still available. The Parade Ring Marquee which is situation down in the carpark is priced at $100 per person or $1,000 per table and the third option is the Lindauer Luncheon which is priced at $80 per person. Tickets can be obtained through the Ashburton Racing Centre or via the Harness Racing New Zealand website. Matt Markham

Harness Racing Waikato was over the moon with the way Jewels Day 2016 unfolded. In fact HRW described the day as the best Jewels meeting it had ever hosted. HRW president and Harness Racing New Zealand executive member Rob Lawson said the brilliant weather conditions in New Zealand and poor weather in Australia ensured a massive off-course turnover. It also meant the largest Australian TV audience for a Jewels meeting. Jewels betting with the Australian TABs on June 4 was up over A$1million on last season, jumping from A$663,013 to a massive A$1,696,1467. On-course Turnover was $311,000 however that is a slightly misleading figure in that it includes inter-track betting. That saw HRW even out-perform the Ellerslie and Wanganui thoroughbred meetings run at the same time, a result Australian harness racing bosses wouldn’t dare dream of in their country. The skyrocketing turnover was enormously boosted by the Queensland Oaks meeting at Eagle Farm as well as other Australian gallops meetings being abandoned because of torrential rain, meaning the entire Jewels meeting moved to the premium Australian racing coverage channel, Sky1. "The weather was spectacular. The Track outstanding and we received many favourable comments from the drivers about the state of the track. The Facilities were again presented in pristine condition which was a real credit to our grounds staff. The racing was of the highest order. We couldn't have asked for anything better," Lawson, a Waikato-based licensed trainer said. "The Sky 1 exposure in Australia ended being a complete bonus that will benefit the entire industry going forward," he added. Lawson said HRW was pleased to be able to present to the entire harness industry a successful event that highlighted our great sport. "We are yet to crunch all of the numbers but are confident that it will be a financial success with benefits flowing through all North Island harness participants. Our predominant staff in Kerry Wells and Mike Weston once again showed how capable they are in presenting an outstanding showcase of harness racing," Lawson said He said total domestic turnover was $2.442 million, which was the second highest in Jewels history. "Export Turnover (Australians betting on the Jewels) was $1.7 million – the highest turnover in New Zealand harness racing history. And in other HRW news, Lawson said former Auckland Trotting Club marketing and assistant racing manager, David Branch will join HRW on August 1 as Business Development Manager. "David is returning from England especially for the job. We are excited to have on board someone of David’s capabilities and knowledge in our team. David’s prime task will be to grow the revenue earning opportunities of harness racing in the Waikato and surrounds, and push us into the future with regards to facilities, income, and entertainment. "This is a fresh new additional position and will see David work alongside Kerry and Mike to project Cambridge Raceway and harness racing in the region into a new era. Lawson said he was also excited that John Coulam has joined him on the HRNZ executive. "I am delighted to have another HRW person on the Executive with me. It will strengthen the representation from this region and also John’s business acumen will be an asset to the Board," Lawson said. "Not to mention that he is a 'good guy’ with a real passion for harness racing," he added. Duane Ranger

Harness Racing Jewels winning mare Rocker Band will get her chance to compete against the best of the best. The daughter of New Zealand Trotting Cup winning mare, Mainland Banner, was earmarked for retirement following her emphatic 4YO Diamond victory at last month’s Harness Jewels, but discussions between her trainer Mark Jones and owner Greg Brodie have led them down a different path all together. The fledgling mare will become a mother still with an embryo to be taken from her and partnered with champion stallion Bettor’s Delight before being placed in a surrogate mare. “Greg and I had a pretty big chat about her future and it’s his wish to continue racing her,” Jones said. “But by taking an embryo from her we get to safeguard anything that might happen in the future.” On the racing front the trainer/owner combination have settled on the Queen Of Hearts as the first major assignment for her five-year-old campaign. “We will give her a few starts here and see where we are at before making any other decisions. “Australia is an option for us if it proves to be too hard for her here. “She’s a C8 mare, and even with a new handicapping system she would still have to race the Cup horses. “I probably don’t give her enough credit, she’s capable of doing it but it will be a big ask.” There are plenty of other mares around New Zealand in a similar boat - particularly those Rocker Band beat in the Diamond like; Expressive Victor, Democrat Party and Better B Amazed. While the open class mares’ ranks weren’t overly strong this season they are expected to return to a high standard with the Dream About Me, Golden Goddess and Piccadilly Princess joining the ranks along with the return of The Orange Agent. “It’s going to be tough, but it’s better to die wondering than not try at all. “So we will give her a chance and see what happens. With the racing calendar we’ve got she could chop and change between here and Australia.” While the news that his outstanding mare would be returning to his stable and not to the broodmare paddock was welcomed by Jones, it hasn’t all been warm and fuzzy this week. Open class pacer Saveapatrol is back in the hospital ward for another three to six months after cracking another pastern. The big pacer who down Terror To Love to win an Invercargill Cup has been plagued with injuries throughout his career and the latest blow was nearly the last straw. Jones and owner Grant Hatton discussed the option of calling time on the gelding’s career but have instead opted to have a screw inserted into the pastern to see if that holds together. “It’s pretty disappointing, especially for Grant who has been so patient. “He’s out for at least three months.” With 52 wins on the board and the promise of a few more before the season is done, Jones is reflecting on another good 12 months at the coal face. “We managed to win two Group Ones which is fantastic but we have also well and truly exceeded expectations. “When I sat down at the start of the season I thought 20 was a good figure so to be close to triple that is something I’m proud of.” The Burnham and Woodend Beach horseman said the stable was in a real transitional phase at the moment with a large number of younger horses on the books with some of the racing team sold on to other interests. Matt Markham

Harness Racing Trainer Paul Court has a Blenheim winter double in mind to wind down Expressive Victor's stellar season on a high.  Court will start the Harness Jewels runner-up in the Winter Cup Prelude on the first day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club's double header and she is likely to go again in Sunday's Winter Cup. Expressive Victor was given a week off following her second in the four-year-old Diamond behind Rocker Band. She has not been sighted publicly since but her West Melton-based trainer is confident she is forward enough to be competitive on both days Waterlea. "If anything she might be better for the run on Friday, but I wouldn't be coming if I didn't think she could (win)," Court said. Expressive Victor starts off 10m in Friday's Prelude but being the reliable and speedy beginner she is from the stand, the winner of seven races should be able to find the front if Blair Orange wants it. Court believes Expressive Victor is versatile and is not concerned if she does not lead. The daughter of Changeover raced by the De Novo Syndicate has chalked up five wins and six minor placings from 16 starts this season to exceed Court's expectations. "We always thought she was a pretty handy horse that could win two or three pretty quick but she just keeps stepping up." But Expressive Victor has not been the only bright point of Court's first season training on his own accord. Before Thursday night's Forbury Park meeting, he had already tallied 25 winners and could not be happier with how the season has panned out. He spent seven seasons training in partnership with his father Graham - highlighted by three consecutive New Zealand Trotting Cup victories with champion pacer-turned-sire Terror To Love. Thirty winners for the season looks possible but Court is not targeting any specific number. "I'm over the moon really. I didn't think about how many we might get beforehand, I just like to let it play out and see what happens. "I've been really happy with how many runners we have had in the Group races and how competitive we have been in them," Court said. Court also has a couple of leading hopes in c1 races over 2300m on the first day at Blenheim. Hypervelocity​ (race 6) and Courage To Live (race 9) both start from barrier two and although Court is not brimming with confidence, he rates both winning chances. The Bruce Hutton-trained Ideal Arden, who won the Nelson Winter Cup Prelude and Nelson Winter Cup will look to repeat the double in Blenheim. Highview Freddy​ ran two placings behind Ideal Arden at Nelson with stablemate Graduate Under Fire finishing just in behind with two top five finishes for the Robert Dunn stable. "Highview Freddy would have to be the pick of them just on that Nelson form," stable representative John Dunn said.      The highlight for the Dunn stable will be the return of exciting pacer Franco Cristiano​ who makes his makes his comeback from a long injury layoff in the c2-c3 pace over 2300m. The three-year-old was one of the main challengers to the All Stars colts before fracturing a pedal bone earlier this season. "He's pretty forward, he's had two nice trials," Dunn said. Mat Kermeen

Harness Racing bosses are hoping an Australian betting bonanza on the Jewels helps increase premium coverage of the industry there. Betting with the Australian TABs on the Jewels at Cambridge on June 4 was up over A$1million on last season, jumping from A$663,013 to a stunning A$1,696,1467. That saw it even outperform the Ellerslie and Wanganui thoroughbred meetings run at the same time, a result Australian harness racing bosses wouldn’t dare dream of in their country. The skyrocketing turnover was enormously boosted by the Queensland Oaks meeting at Eagle Farm as well as other Australian gallops meetings being abandoned because of torrential rain, meaning the entire Jewels meeting moved to the premium Australian racing coverage channel, Sky1. But HRNZ racing manager Darrin Williams says while that undoubtedly aided turnover on the Jewels, they hope it boosts punter awareness of the quality of the New Zealand product in Australia. “Getting on Sky1 for the day was a huge boost, and we thank them and everybody involved for making it happen,” says Williams. “But we would love to think this won’t be the last time. “Our elite harness racing product is very good and we were already going to have a number of the Jewels races on Sky1. “So after they got such great turnover results we are hoping we can get Sky1 coverage again for the Jewels and meetings like the New Zealand Cup.” Williams worked hard to get five Australian-trained horses invited to the Jewels, only to have four fall away through health or loss of manners/form. “But we won’t stop inviting them and the bridges we have built have been huge. And now with all the exposure it has had we are sure it will continue to grow.” The increased turnover doesn’t go directly back to the Cambridge club or even Harness Racing New Zealand but into the Racing Board’s general international turnover. But it does show administrators on both sides of the Tasman how profitable harness racing coverage can be when the best meetings are giving reasonable lead-in times on television, something Australia’s best harness meetings are often denied. No major changes are expected to the Jewels format next year, with Ashburton already locked in for its two-yearly hosting and the distance certain to stay at a mile even after occasional calls for Cambridge to move to 1700m races. Michael Guerin

Mark Purdon Well naturally Jewels day was a great one for us, and it was a great feeling after all the hard work we and the staff had done in the leadup. Those couple of weeks before are so important and our team in the north made a big contribution. The highlight? I think overall it would be HEAVEN ROCKS. The other wins were all outstanding for one reason or another but he gave me the feel of a really good horse. So he will earn his go at the Breeders Crown now. We have Custodian, Partyon and Pacing Major going over to join My MacKenzie and Waikiki Beach. The Jewels are being talked about. I feel that it might be time to try them at Alexandra Park and Addington for two years just to see if it can draw bigger numbers. That would mean a change in distances but I don't think that would be too much of an objection. I just feel after 10 years it might need some adjustment to help it grow because it is a great concept. Being at tracks with full facilities might be part of the answer. It makes me smile a bit when people say we are dominating the big races and stakes and nobody else is getting a look in.  We might have won a lot of money last Saturday but we came home to a lot of bills. In fact we recently commissioned a survey of our business over two years (2014 and 2015) and you would be surprised how narrow the margin of profit in training horses is and our rates are higher than most. Our staff ratio is high because when you have valuable horseflesh you have to look after that investment and you don't take shortcuts.  There are all sorts of other costs like track maintenance when so many horses are being trained on it. I am not saying we are complaining given our success but it is interesting to see all your costs laid out versus income instead of just thinking you are doing better than you are. Natalie and I leave on Wednesday for a month vacation starting in New York and we are really looking forward to a break after all that has been going on . We will be back before the Breeder's Crown heats up but we will miss the Breeders Challenge.   Natalie Rasmussen There wasn't really any of our horses in the Jewels you could say were disappointing. Two were definitely unlucky. Dream About Me and Pacing Major were just beaten by the draws they had and there is not much that could be done about that on the day. However that does bring up one change I think should be considered for the Jewels -not having a second row. I know it will affect the size of the field but there might be too many horses racing at Cambridge as it is. My feeling is that the Harness Jewels are a championship and within reason should be treated as such and every horse should have its chance. Even if they started more on the front it would be better, or at least fairer. Other than that the concept seems good enough.  I think people expect it to retain the status of the Breeders Crown but the BC races can be worth over $300,000 and that makes a difference ! Yes Mark and I have had an expert survey of our business done and it was an eye opener. Basically if the horses aren't racing we are barely making anything  on training. The outlook for the industry is not that good at the moment and if our stable is not showing any margin on training costs when our rates have to be at the top of the market then how bad it must be for those whose horses aren't winning the big stakes ? The problem is not a new one. It is all about stakes being relatively static over 10 years or so but costs of services continuing to rise.  And owners have other costs besides just training rates. Of course we have high overheads because we only want to do things one way and that is properly. That is the only way to approach running a business like ours. But its a mistake to think, as many people do, that just because we have won a lot of money it means a huge profit. You should see some of the bills we have to deal with!   I am not complaining because we have had a good season and are luckier than most but it helps you understand how those trying to make a living training without a topliner have to battle away just to survive. Hopefully it will improve but that is not likely in the short term. But Mark and I can put our concerns out of the way during our trip and I am looking forward to the break. Reprinted with permission

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