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Harness racing in the Otago region was thrown into kayos today when without any prior warning, the Forbury Park Trotting Club pulled the pin on the $25,000 Dunedin City Four + Five Year Championship which was due to be run at Forbury Park on Thursday night. The Club received six nominations for the race before nominations closed. Three other trainers indicated to the club that they had horses that were prepared to move to the Group Three race to make sure it got off the ground but the club refused to let the horses in question shift races. The Dunedin City Four + Five Year old Championship is one of a handful of Group races held at Forbury Park and several trainers in the Southern Region had targeted the race months ago in their planning both because of the stake money involved and the opportunity to put some more dollars besides their names on the road to the Harness Jewels at Cambridge Raceway Forbury Park has been in the news for several months now for all the wrong reasons with its well known poor financial position having many in the industry questioning its future beyond this season. The last thing the club needs in its present position is for trainers or drivers in the North Otago, Central Otago, and Southland training ranks starting to bypass meetings at Forbury Park due to the massive amount of ill feeling created by todays decision. John Ayoub, the CEO at Forbury Park was keen to front today and defend the axing of the race. " We were quite clear in the programme notes on Harness Racing New Zealand that you wouldn't be able to transfer into this race." " It is a Group 3 race and we needed horses of that level to make the race viable " " Our fields and selections committee felt that six horses wasn't enough to run the race and that the three C3 horses that had indicated they would be prepared to move to increase the field size to nine were not of the standard required." " The head of the fields and selection committee Daryl Trainor consulted widely with the trainers and drivers before the committee made its final decision," John said. When I asked John why they refused horses the chance to move between races when it is something that Forbury Park does at every meeting it holds throughout the year, John was adamant that it wasn't something they did for horses in Group races at Forbury Park. Harnesslink was keen to know if the race might be rescheduled later in the season but John Ayoub was clear that the decision of what to do next had yet to be considered by the Forbury Park Trotting Club. Quite a few horsemen preferred not to comment when we contacted them today as they were that angry they were concerned they would say things they may later regret. One who was prepared to go on record was leading Southland trainer/driver Nathan Williamson who was furious at the decision. " I set Tas Man Bromac for this race at the start of the season as part of a plan for him to earn enough money for the Harness Jewels at Cambridge." " I talked my owners out of selling him with the carrot of having a horse making it to the Harness Jewels and now that plan is in tatters". " The big reason in my opinion that this $25,000 Group 3 race has been canned is the financial health of the Forbury Park Trotting Club" " They switch horses between races all the time right through the season so that they can get their meetings off the ground so to use that as an excuse here is just rank hypocrisy." " If they are genuine about it being because of a lack of enough quality horses in a Group 3 race and not about the money, then they will reschedule the race at the earliest possible time." " If it is about the money, then the race won't be run this season," Nathan said.  Harnesslink thinks this whole incident has been handled terribly by the club whatever their rationale. They depend to a huge extent on horses and horsemen from outside their province to hold their race meetings and to antagonize them in such in a way when their support is so badly needed for the club to survive is very hard to understand. Someone from the executive of the club needs to sit down with the aggrieved trainers and drivers as soon as possible before this becomes known as the issue that finished the Forbury Park Trotting Club. Mark Robertson - Harnesslink Media

Harness Racing New Zealand and Harness Racing Waikato (Inc) are pleased to announce that the two major sponsors for the 2016 Harness Jewels have been found. Dunstan Feeds the 100% New Zealand owned horse feed company head the sponsor portfolio with Mitre 10 Mega Cambridge securing the second spot at the ‘Naming Rights Sponsors Function’ held last night at the Novotel Tainui Hamilton. It was a successful night, with 32 companies bidding for the opportunity to be involved as sponsors for the event. Mitre 10 Mega Cambridge have drawn the lucky prize twice now, also winning it in 2012. “To experience Harness Jewels action and atmosphere once again in this capacity is unbelievable we are ecstatic,” said Stephen Deverell, Mitre 10 Mega Director. “Our invited guest in 2012 had a ball and thoroughly enjoyed the days racing and this we will repeat again,” he said. Harness Racing Waikato (Inc) is proud to welcome Cambridge Mitre 10 Mega joining Dunstan Feeds for the Harness Jewels. Tickets sales for the event are in full swing with a strong response in all tickets options early on in their sales. The 2016 Dunstan Feeds and Mitre 10 Mega Harness Jewels are being held on Saturday 4th June 2016 at Cambridge Raceway. For more information and ticketing contact: Mike Weston Harness Racing Waikato (Inc) 07-827-5506 promotions@harnessracingwaikato.co.nz

Tomorrow night’s Gyro Youthful Stakes at Tabcorp Park Melton sees exciting harness racing filly Eliza Dushku get her second opportunity to push for a potential New Zealand Harness Jewels invitation. The bay daughter of Bettor's Delight slayed her opposition in last weekend’s Group 2 Pink Bonnet at Menangle with an impressive 14.4m win in 1:55.7. “Her trials had been really good and she’d always showed a lot at home. We’re pretty excited,” trainer Amanda Turnbull said. “In a two-year-old race you’re never quite sure what the others are capable of, but she had shown us a fair bit.” Eliza Dushku was purchased from New Zealand and is not eligible for any of the Australian futurities. “She’s paid up for nothing over here,” Turnbull said. “So we’ll probably go for a spell after (tomorrow night) anyway." Asked if The Jewels could be an option should an invite be forthcoming, Turnbull replied: "If she’s still going good enough (it'd be an option)." Eliza Dushku will come out of gate nine tomorrow night. Burrumbeet trainer Michael Stanley takes a two-pronged attack into the Youthful Stakes with Soho Savannah and Soho Angel drawn alongside each other in two and three, while Geoff Webster’s Shadyshark Hanover filly Graphics was an impressive debut winner at Maryborough and will begin from barrier 10. Cody Winnell

Pukekohe harness racing trainer Todd MacFarlane is never one in our opinion to hype up a young horse but talking to Todd today one got the distinct impression he might make an exception for his exciting young trotter, Cyclone Chief. Last season at two, the big overgrown son of The Pres impressed everyone late in the season with a great run for fourth in the Harness Jewels and then produced an even better effort for an unlucky second in the final of the Australasian Breeders Crown at Tabcorp Park,Melton. Given a good break after his Australian trip, Cyclone Chief has slowly but surely started to fill out into his big frame and Todd is happy with his progress this time in. "He has won his two workouts in the last fortnight but I didn't push him too hard as it is still early in this campaign." " For all that he is pretty forward for Friday night and I am expecting a big run," Todd told Harnesslink earlier today. While Cyclone Chief didn't run time in either of his workouts victories, he did show his trademark speed last Saturday when he brushed over the last 800 metres in 58.9 and the 400 metres in a very quick 27.4. Safely through Friday night, Todd has a suitable program mapped out for Cyclone Chief.  " The aim is to line him up on both of the premier nights in early March and then give him a brief break." " Then all going well, we would set him for the Sires Stakes Final and the Northern Trotting Derby at Alexandra Park in late April and then onwards to the Harness Jewels at Cambridge. " A trip to Addington for the New Zealand Trotting Derby in early April doesn't fit into the plan and it is very unlikely we will head south this season," Todd said. Todd has been around the industry long enough to know that Cyclone Chief still has to make that step up again from what he did last season but feels he is showing all the signs of doing just that. " Everything seems to be on track so far but the next few weeks will tell us a lot more about where we are at overall." " He will tell us by his performances if we are moving in the right direction," Todd said. Harnesslink Media

The outstanding harness racing mare, Lancewood Lizzie has run her last race after injuring a tendon while winning a fillies and mares race at Alexandra Park in late January. The daughter of Bettor's Delight has had an outstanding race career with her record of 13 wins and 12 placings from just 40 starts for stakes in excess of $258,000 very impressive. Her biggest win was undoubtedly in last seasons 4 year old Diamond at the Harness Jewels meeting at Ashburton where she won easily in 1:52.7 but she was also a serious presence in most of the mares races in New Zealand the last 18 months. She ran fourth to Venus Serena in the 2014 3 year old Diamond at Cambridge and a great third to Adore Me in the 2014 Queen Of Hearts at Alexandra Park. Lancewood Lizzie began her career under the care of Dave and Claire McGowan, winning four of twelve from their barn before the owners transferred her to the stable of leading trainer Barry Purdon who won another nine races with her. Lancewood Lizzie has the pedigree to go with the ability being from the famous Kamwood family with which the late Dianne Wood had so much success. Lancewood Lizzie is closely related to such smart horses as Kamwood Belle ( 8 wins) who won the Ladyship Stakes at Alexandra Park and was one of the mares that helped establish the "Kamwood " name and she was followed by horses such as Kamwood Kango 1:58.6 ($268,394)  Kamwood Warrior 1:51 ($209,946)  Kamwood Cully 1:57.5 ($159,838) Bold Kamwood 1:58.1 ($133,431) and Kamwood Girl 1:56.8 ($115,964) to name just a few. Lancewood Lizzie is to be covered in her first season at stud by the Woodlands based sire American Ideal who continues to produce quality age group performers. Harnesslink Media

This years Harness Jewels is done and dusted for another year and the harness racing has been covered in great detail by all and sundry. So Harnesslink thought we would review all the other aspects of the day as we saw them. * Big kudos to Stacey Markham and her team from Harness Racing New Zealand for putting on a near flawless display of promotion and marketing for this years Harness Jewels. It showed that it is possible to get everybody on the same page with a bit of give and take and the team should take a bow for a job well done. *On big days like this it is not uncommon for the media room to have plenty of grizzles and moans about things but yesterday was quite the opposite. Nothing but compliments for the Ashburton hosting club and for once the journalists were looked after in style. Believe me it is a really stressful day for journalists and to be looked after so well made the day a lot easier for all concerned. Lets hope that is the standard at all Harness Jewels meetings from now on. * The only quibble the media had all day was down to being denied entry with our passes to the stabling area. Those lovely officious security people really do need to take some people management skills courses before they are registered to work in the community. I suppose they had a job to do but it is the manner in which they do that job that needs attention. * One thing that was spot on on the day was the track which was in fantastic condition. A lot of the leading drivers we spoke to during the day were fulsome in their praise for what a great racing surface the track manager had delivered. * The absence of several leading racing journalists such as Barry Lichter was disappointing in the extreme but something the industry is going to have to get more and more used to. The Fairfax restructuring that is underway meant half the journalists there yesterday are having to reapply for their jobs at present. Specialized racing journalists are an endangered species and the coverage we receive in the mainstream media is about to be cut severely. It looks like only Harness Racing New Zealand and Harnesslink will be left standing when the dust settles. * As someone who covers all the major race meetings it can get a bit repetitive at times when you are interviewing the same people again and again. So it was really refreshing yesterday to watch the connections of Sunny Ruby after her brilliant win in the three year old Ruby. Fred Fletcher was bouncing around like a twenty one year old and the whole extended family were in the same frame of mind. It was a timely reminder of why people race horses. Amanda Tomlinson reinforced that feeling later in the day with a display of emotion not often seen these days. * Hats off to Greg O'Connor for his outstanding and impartial coverage in the leadup to and on the day of the Harness Jewels. Greg manages to put forward his opinions without feeling the need to denigrate or ridicule some of the runners and its that professional impartiality that connects with so many in the industry. *Finally we would like to thank all the tech guys that got us back up and running after we went down after race one. Murphy's law to go down on the big day but with their help we got back on track late in the afternoon. Harnesslink Media

MarkPurdon and Natalie Rasmussen have decided Have Faith In Me, the sensation of the 2014-2015 harness racing season will be allowed to miss his upcoming Australian campaign and instead head for the spelling paddock.   "He has come off the Australian list" Mark said on Sunday   "He has come through the race great but it might be time he had a break after what he has already achieved this season. "   Have Faith In Me has rewritten the record books this season as the only one of his age to win the Sires Stakes, both Derbys and the PGG Wrightson Sales Series and the Harness Jewels.   It has been an incredible ride for All Stars and Mark and Dennis Dunford.   Mark, the Purdon version, got the youngster for $50,000 as a yearling because some critics thought there might have been chinks in his armour.   Nobody has been on record this season as saying they were among them.   The fact that Have Faith In Me put on an out of  character rodeo act on his way to the birdcage on Jewels day was given a low key explanation by Mark.   "I think it was because his head was up a bit high."   "I was further back on Follow The Stars and couldn't tell anyone straight away but I am sure that is all it was."   "He is such a laid back horse it is out of character for him"   Mark thought one of his unluckiest runners on the day was Petite One.   "She was a good fourth but if I had done things a little bit better she could have been third or better."   "I was wanting to get on the back of Monbet when he went forward but she didn't quite have the speed to be where we should have been and it was probably my fault."   "It was a big effort for a filly"   If you thought Natalie and Mark celebrated all night Saturday think again.   "We had a few drinks with friends on the way home but once we got there we weren't going anywhere" said Mark.   The trainers will host staff and friends at a dinner Sunday night as thanks for the staff job leading up to the Jewels and on the day.   It is typical of their professionalism that both were on hand at the low key Ashburton meeting on Sunday driving maiden two year olds far from the glitz and glamour of Jewels day.   Just one more reason for their unprecedented success.   Courtesy of David McCarthy - All Stars Racing Stables    Check site here  

There have been plenty of brilliant fillies in the history of harness racing in New Zealand but after today's run in the Group 1 Harness Jewels $150,000 three year old Diamond at Ashburton, The Orange Agent could well be the best of them all.   Away well from barrier two to lead early for driver Maurice McKendry, The Orange Agent brushed the first quarter in 27.1 and the first half in 55.1 as several of her race rivals had a wee look at the favourite.   Steadied through the third quarter of 30.1, Maurice pushed the go button at the top of the straight and the daughter of American Ideal burst clear and then comfortably held off the pack, still having a length to spare at the finish.   Fight For Glory and Natalie Rasmussen went another great race to again finish second to The Orange Agent while Start Dreaming and David Butcher confirmed the high opinion held of her with a tough run for third   The Orange Agent paced the mile in a brilliant 1:51.1 which took one second off the New Zealand record held by Venus Serena.   More impressive was the fact that after an opening 800 metres in 55.1, The Orange Agent still brushed her last 400 metres in a sizzling 25.6 and that was on a chilly day not conducive to really quick times   Maurice was all smiles on returning to the birdcage.   " She felt tremendous today, so a lot of the credit must go to trainer "Bunty" Hughes."   " The way she felt on the corner, I thought it would take something special to beat her."   " She pricked her ears with 50 metres to go so she still had plenty in the tank," Maurice said.   Weather the Australians get to see this speed machine has yet to be decided but if she does cross the Tasman the Australians are in for a treat.   Harnesslink Media  

The harness racing season always throws up some rough results from time to time and in today's Group 1 $100,000 four year old Ruby at the Harness Jewels at Ashburton it almost happened again.   Hot favourite King Denny with Mark Purdon in the bike led from barrier one and kept up a steady tempo through the first 800 metres while a lot of his more favoured opposition did things wrong and were out of contention early.   Coming to the home turn the well supported Belles Son broke and from then on it looked like King Denny's race to lose.   Clear half way up the straight, suddenly the horse who had sat on his back the whole way Zachary Binx with Amanda Tomlinson in the bike appeared on his inside in the passing lane.   The closer it got to home the closer Zachiary Binx got but at the line he was still half a neck in arrears.   Poppymalda and Nathan Williamsom flew out of the pack late to grab third in front of an unlucky Harrysul   While King Denny paid $1:50 to win, Zachiary Binx paid a whopping $18.70 for a place.   Winning his second Harness Jewels by a small margin, the Majestic Son gelding trotted the mile in 1:55.9 with closing sectionals of 55.9 and 26.8   Mark Purdon was more relieved than anything post race.   " I was getting a bit worried the last bit."   " He just knocked off when he was clear and I had a bit of trouble getting him going again."   " He can do that every now and again but at least we still held on ," Mark said.   Amanda was smiling as though she had won the race.   " How close did I get," was all Amanda wanted to know post race   King Denny has had a great season mixing it with the very best in the latter half of the season and should be in for a big season at five.   King Denny was the fourth winner of the day for the Allstars training duo of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen.   Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing is a very competitive sport especially when it comes to the two year olds but that hasn't stopped the All Star barn dominating the age group in the last few years in New Zealand.   Today the training pertners Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen had four starters in the Group 1  Harness Jewels $150,000 two year old Emerald at Ashburton and by the end of the race they had claimed the trifecta which is a real feather in their caps.   Salty Robyn and Laureen Panella worked to the front early before handing up to Chase The Dream and Natalie Rasmussen who kept up a steady but not spectactular tempo.   Code Black and John Dunn ended up in the parked position giving cover to Lazarus and Mark Purdon.   Chase The Dream turned for home in front but was quickly claimed by Lazarus and then Motu Premier and Tim Williams flashed late to grab second off a game Chase The Dream who ended up third   A minor highlight of the race was the run of the Australian bound Code Black who looped the field from the outside of the front line and stuck on for a game fourth.   Not only was it a trifecta for the All Star barn, it was also a first four for the champion sire Bettor's Delight with all the first placegetters by him.   Lazarus paced the mile in 1:52.9 with closing sections of 54.8 and 25.1 which made it hard for horses back in the field to make ground.   Mark was reserved as always post race.   " He was unlucky last start but got a lovely run today and that's what made the difference."   "There is nothing between Lazarus and Chase The Dream ability wise and it is only the run they get that makes the difference," Mark said.   The All Star barn has dominated juvenile racing in New Zealand this season and took out five of the six placings in the two year old pacing races today.   Harnesslink Media  

Many harness racing trainers in New Zealand focus on trotters rather than pacers and one of the most successful in that regard is the Weedons horseman Fred Fletcher.   Whenever Fred lines a trotter in any of the classics it pays to take notice as he has had a great run for longer than I care to remember.   Today at Ashburton he lined up the smart Sundon filly Sunny Ruby in the Group 1 Harness Jewels three year old $100,000 Ruby and although the formline was impeccable, she went out at odds of twelve to one.   Away well to lead from barrier two for driver Gavin Smith, Sunny Ruby took a trail soon after behind the well performed Prince Fearless.   Monbet and Ricky May breezed up at the 500 metres mark and slowly started to wear down Prince Fearless.   Just when everyone was acclaiming Monbet the winner, Gavin Smith angled Sunny Ruby wider on the track and flew late to win a lot more easily than it looked.   Monbet battled on bravely for second in front of the pacemaking Prince Fearless.   Warm favourite Speeding Spur galloped wildly soon after the start and then produced a massive performance to run fifth just under seven lengths from the winner    Sunny Ruby trotted the mile in 1:54.7 which took a massive 1.8 seconds off the previous New Zealand record for a three year old trotter held by Prime Power.   Gavin Smith was quick to heap praise on Fred post race.   " Fred has done a great job with this filly to get her to race a lot kinder and he deserves a lot of the credit for today's win."   " I got a lovely run on the back of Prince Fearless and I thought I was a chance at the 200 metres when she was travelling so well."   "She has tremendously high speed if saved for one run," Gavin said.   Todays Harness Jewels win by Sunny Ruby was Fred Fletchers third and just further added further lustre to his reputation as a great trainer of trotters.   Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing glamour mare Venus Serena has always been looking over her shoulder for a Barry Purdon trained runner throughout her career.   Last season it was Ideal Belle who beat her in the Oaks and pushed her so close in last seasons Harness Jewels.   This year in the Group 1 $150,000 four year old Diamond at the Harness Jewels at Ashburton the new challenger was another Barry Purdon trained runner in Lancewood Lizzie.   Drawn one off the front line,driver Zac Butcher hustled her out of the gate early and lead for the first 800 metres before handing up to the favourite Venus Serena and John Dunn.   These two went clear as they turned for home and Zac waited and waited before launching up the passing lane at the 200 metres mark with Lancewood Lizzie.   They quickly grabbed Venus Serena and dashed away for an easy win with Venus Serena battling on gamely to be clearly second.   Sweet Art never left the inner the whole journey as she sat on Lancewood Lizzie's back and fought on gamely for third in front of Willow who finished well late.   Lancewood Lizzie paced the mile in a swift 1:52.7 with closing sectionals of 54.7 and 25.4   Zac Butcher was full of compliments for trainer Barry Purdon on returning to the birdcage.   " Barry always has them spot on for the big day."   " She felt super the whole way and I handed up to Venus Serena as she was the horse to beat."   " I was pretty confident at the 200 metres mark as she was travelling super and once I moved into the passing lane, she picked her up pretty easily actually, Zac said.   John Dunn was rapt with the run of Venus Serena.   "I couldn't have asked for any more, she has gone super," John said.   One sad note post race was that Gracious Star was found to have suffered multiple fractures of the right front pastern and she was humanely euthanised.   Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing never has such things as past the post certainties but High Gait was about as close as you could get in the two year old Group 1 Harness Jewels $100,000 Ruby for trotters at Ashburton today.   High Gait was five for five and had looked nigh unbeatable heading into today's race although stablemate Missandei had made a race of it at their last meeting.   Missandei and Mark Purdon got out well from barrier two and grabbed the lead while quite a few had a gallop early.   Before too long High Gait and Natalie Rasmussen had worked around to sit outside her stablemate and the pace then dropped right off which suited the duo in front.   The race then basically turned into a sprint up the straight with Missandei holding her more highly rated stablemate High Gait by half a head with Wilma's Mate running on well for third in front of a big finisher in Cyclone Chief.   The mile was cut out in 2:01 with the last half in 59.4 and quarter in a swift 26.8.   Mark Purdon was thrilled with the progress of the Angus Hall filly.   " She has just kept improving and from the draw I had to go forward."   " She was going really well on the corner but I was never that confident that I could hold High Gait at bay"   "Its great for Trevor who raced her mother and bred this one," Mark said.   The disappointment of the race was Conon Bridge who galloped in the back straight.   " I don't why he did that.'   " He just dropped his head right down and lost his balance and galloped," Bob Butt told Harnesslink post race.   Two races down and two quinellas for the All Stars barn so far.   Harnesslink Media    

The Harness Jewels are the one harness racing meeting each year where all the best age group horses gather and do battle.   Ashburton is the scene of this years Harness Jewels and the race to kick off the programme was the Group 1 $150,000 two year old Diamond.   The hot favourite was the unbeaten Dream About Me who was four for four going in to the race and had trialed brilliantly on the track last Saturday.    Away well from the outside gate, Dream About Me and Tim Williams went forward on the back of her stablemate Northern Velocity and made it to the death seat outside Luisanabelle Midfrew with 800 metres to go.   As they went past the 400 metres mark Tim asked Dream About Me for her best and she shot clear.   Half way up the lane she looked to knock off at the same point as Arden's Choice and Natalie Rasmussen made her claim but once she saw the challenger Dream About Me grabbed the bit and drew clear for an emphatic victory.   Dream About cut the mile from the outside of the front line in a new New Zealand record time of 1:53.3 with closing sectionals of 55.5 and 26.2.   Arden's Choice was just as clearly second in front of Killer Queen from the Ray Green barn while Nek Time and Terry Chmiel ran on late for fourth.   Tim Williams was fulsome in his praise of the daughter of Bettor's Delight.   " When she got to the death seat as easy as she did, I was confident she would be hard to beat.   When I pulled the plugs she went clear but then knocked off as she couldn't see Arden's Choice coming.   I had to shake her up but she responded like the top filly she is, Tim said.   The run of the "Scuse Me" breed in New Zealand in the last few years has been fantastic and in Dream About Me they have another superstar.     Harnesslink Media

The All Stars barn via Dave McCarthy preview their runners at the harness racing meetings every week.   This week of course is the Harness Jewels meeting at Ashburton on Saturday (May 30th) and with their kind permission we reproduce here the comments for the 23 runners the All Stars barn have in on Saturday      HARNESS JEWELS- Rated out of 10 as a winning chance with the comment by the driver of the horse on Staurday     Race 1 - Two Year Old Diamond   Northern Velocity (7)   Form: Won Sales Final at Addington.   Comment:   7- "I would rate her a 7 and a good one. Equal second best of ours on form. " (Mark)   Dream About Me (9)   Form: Just keeps winning and bold in trials last week.   Comment: 9 " The draw seems a problem though she has never really had good draws. Doing everything right and I am hoping she will just be too good for them" (Tim)   Arden's Choice (11)   Form: Good in 1.54 MR after getting back early at Auckland. G1 winner previous.   Comment: 6 "She might be better than that but as a win chance it is going to be very hard from that draw. I think it is the worst draw of the lot in some respects because it is harder to get on the three line line" (Natalie)   Race 2 - Two Year Old Ruby   Missandei (2)   Form: Looked the winner last time until stablemate came on the scene. This her best draw yet.   Comment: 7 "Gets better with each run and this is the best draw she has had if she can hold up early" (Mark)   High Gait (12)   Form: Huge run last time to come from impossible possie to win.   Comment: 9 "I don't like the draw but she can follow Missandei out which is a help. She is working terrific and only the draw stops her from being my best for the day" (Natalie)   Race 3 - Four Year Old Diamond   Willow (12)   Form: Three on end is hard to beat even if some easier than this.   Comment: 8 "Again a draw I am not thrilled about but she is following some useful early speed. She is good enough to make her own luck and she tries so hard she could offer some value" (Natalie)   Race 4 -  Three Year Old Ruby   Prince Fearless (3)   Form: Raced solidly in the north and at Addington without being quite as impressive as formerly.   Comment: 8 "I am very pleased with him and his work has been excellent. He likes Ashburton and is at his best in sprint type races.  He is a danger" (Natalie)   Petite One (10)   Form:  Returned to near her best at Addington winning well.   Comment; 6 "She seems well but that draw is going to make things hard for her against the boys and they will probably be too strong." (Mark)   Race 5 - Three Year Old Diamond   Supersonic Miss (9)   Form: Faded after hard run in the Oaks. Nearly landed third in G1 start before.   Comment: 5 "It looks tough for her from out there especially with the pace inside. You can only hope you get on to a train when she would be competitive but it won't be easy" (Mark)   Linda Lovegrace (10)   Form: Been running on strongly from bad draws. Has a moderate one again.   Comment: 7 "She can run home strongly over a mile as she has shown here before. Blair will drive his own race but if she got the run she can be at least in the finish" (Natalie)   Fight for Glory (11)   Form: Outstanding in the NZ Oaks and tested  The Orange Agent in the Nevele R Final after being parked.   Comment: 7  "I really don't like that draw. I reckon even 12 would have been better. We are in behind some speed certainly but she has to have luck to get a crack at them which is why I have her down a bit as a win chance. She is doing everything right at home" (Natalie)   Classical Art (14)   Form: Ran on in Oaks after enjoying nice trail. Likes this trip   Comment: 5 "It is going to be hard to win from there. But she is very well and she could surprise a few. Mark said after he worked her Wednesday if she had drawn the front line she could be right in it. The mile will really suit her where she can go hard all the way. Might be a place bet at odds" (Tim)   Race 6 - Two Year Old Emerald   Motu Premier (2)   Form: Consistently placed at highest level including the Sapling Stakes here earlier.   Comment: 6 "A couple of our others might have it on him for brilliance but he has a bit going for him even though a place looks more likely. I think he has the gate speed to get a nice trip from a good draw and he is a genuine horse. He will try all day. " (Tim)     Chase the Dream (4)   Form: Winner of the Sires Stakes Final at his last start and other juvenile features earlier.   Comment: 9 "He is my best drive of the day I think. He can speed out of the gate and he is as tough as. The draw is going to be a big help for those abilities (Natalie)   Lazarus (7)   Form: Brilliant late run for second in Sires Stakes Final after easy win in Sales Pace.   Comment: 8 "A brilliant horse so you use him out of the gate if you need to or use him during the race. Has an ideal draw. He is probably a bit quicker than Chase The Stars but not quite as  tough at this stage. He can win but Chase The Dream will be tough to beat" (Mark)   Cash n Flow (11)   Form:  Finished on in Sires Stakes Final and a late arriving two year old with ability (Jim Curtin to drive)   Comment: 6 "A really lovely horse but he is going to find it hard to beat the top one from where he is" (Natalie)   Race 7 - Four Year Old Ruby   King Denny (1)   Form: Beat all but Master Lavros at Addington in lead up race.   Comment: 9 "I would say my best chance on the day. He has trained on well has a nice draw which gives him options and no Master Lavros or Stents in this time" (Mark)   Race 8 - Four Year Old Emerald   Isaiah (13)   Form: Faded after tough run last time and has trained well this week   Comment: 4 "I suppose that sounds harsh but it is just that for this race he is in a bad place from the draw and personally I don't think a mile is his best trip " (Natalie)   Messini (14)   Form: Outstanding win at Addington back to left handed track last start.   Comment: 8 "He is just back to the best form he showed in Australia really. The mile will not bother him. He's a tough customer and he has a shot at them" (Mark)   Race 9 - Three Year Old Emerald   Hug The Wind (1)   Form: Outstanding win in class racing at Addington showed his real class.   Comment: 6 "I just don't think he is quite with the other two at this stage. He has the draw and has the gate speed to hold up. If I landed in front I would probably stay there as long as I could because that is his best chance of upsetting them. He was terrific last start but this is a way stronger field " (Natalie)   Have Faith In Me (4)   Form:  First race since late March when he won the NZ Derby. Trials since.   Comment: 9 "I don't think the lack of racing will be a problem for him. He has had two good hitouts at trials and has done it easily. The thing about him is that he loves to be out there and really enjoys his racing. From the draw there are options and while I was reluctant to put a number on him he should be the one to beat" (Tim)   Follow the Stars (5)   Form: Runner up in three Derby's this season and three wins in easier company in Australia to fit him for this. Worked well this week.   Comment: 8 "I don't think that he can beat Have Faith In Me all things being equal. The pecking order is fairly well established now. For all that he seems very well and he has been enjoying his work. He is a class horse even if there seems to be one better at the moment " (Mark)   Lightfingered (13)   Form: Battled into fifth at Addington last start. Has made strong progress this year however.   Comment: 3 "I don't like to put a number on him. I am just grateful I have been given an opportunity to drive on the day and behind a horse I know won't let anybody down. Sure there are stars in there but I like to think he will go a pretty good race" (Matt)     Courtesy Of Dave McCarthy - All Stars Racing Stables - Check site here  

Harness racing trainer Steve Dolan is back in Group I company and hungry to make sure it's where he stays. The Russley trainer has Mr Franklin in the four–year–old Emerald and Tintinara as the first emergency for the three–year–old Diamond at Saturday's Harness Jewels at Ashburton on Saturday. Neither will have punters running for the tote with wallets in hand, but for Dolan it is a giant stride in the right direction. He knows the ebb and flow of harness racing all too well. A few short years ago his stable was heading for greatness with star pacer Franco Jamar contesting the Inter Dominion final, Miracle Mile, Harness Jewels and New Zealand Derby. By Courage Under Fire out of Jamel Franco, Franco Jamar went on to win 20 races, eight in his three–year–old season alone, and earn more than $380,000. He also had the likes of Dream Out Loud, Castellina Lover and Candy Styx who were winning races for fun but things soon slowed down. The race wins have kept coming for Dolan but not on the big stage. "It's like a rugby player, it's nice to play at club level and do well but playing test rugby at the very highest level is the ultimate and I'm desperately keen to get back to racing horses at that very high level." But with two runners in Jewels contention Dolan is starting to climb back up the ranks. I'm aspiring to get back to where I was a few years ago when I had a couple of open class pacers in the stable and a three–year–old filly contesting the Group I races," Dolan said. "I'm looking to grow the stable and find those horses that can contest those classic races." He is realistic about the chances of Mr Franklin who needs a stack of luck against the likes of Tiger Tara, Sky Major, Messini and Ideal Success. Raced by Mark Wotton, Mick Braithwaite, Neil Struthers, Wayne Milligan, Simon Consedine, John Gould and Tim Sissons, the Grinfromeartoear gelding has a horror barrier draw to contend with starting from the outside of the front line. "It will be a big thrill for the owners to be in the race but they are realistic and know they we are probably not much of a chance of winning," Dolan said. Dolan said the Jewels was never the aim with Mr Franklin but after a consistent season and a few withdrawals they began to realise they were a good chance of making the field. He would love Tintinara to get a start but said they are also realistic about her chances if she does make the field.  "We are realistic that the likes of Fight For Glory and The Orange Agent are a class above, they are top class fillies." By Mat Karmeen Reprinted with permission of the Christchurch Press

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