Day At The Track
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Meagan Dampier-Crossley is Harness Racing New Zealand’s latest acquisition - and she is all about traceability, which is an important part of HRNZ’s overall commitment to animal welfare. Meagan will focus on the InfoHorse section of the HRNZ website to update the status of horses when they leave the racing industry. It’s part of HRNZ’s initiative to improve the traceability of Standardbreds. Meagan has her spreadsheet at the ready and will be contacting owners, trainers and other licence-holders throughout the country. “I’m just getting my feet under the table and I’m excited to get started.” Meagan comes to HRNZ after spending the last 13 years as a mother. She has an extensive background in all things equine. A qualified vet nurse she has also been a South Island rep for a horse massage therapy company, and even rode trackwork in Toowoomba during a four year stint across the Tasman in the early 2000s. “I have been riding horses since I was a kid.” We are excited to welcome Meagan to the HRNZ team, and she will be contacting owners and trainers over the coming weeks to talk with them about their horses.   Harness Racing New Zealand

A big change is coming to the way Standardbreds are identified in the future. This season foals have been both microchipped and branded but from next season they will be microchipped only. The change is all about traceability and animal welfare as well as embracing technology which is changing and improving all the time. HRNZ has put together a video explaining what the changes mean for horses, trainers and other licence-holders and how microchipping will work.   HRNZ

John Dunn on way to season’s best Two decades after his first season, John Dunn is poised for his most successful season yet. He reined home winner number 100 for the season with the Gavin Burgess-trained Rocknsnap at Banks Peninsula on Monday. It’s the fourth time he’s hit three figures in one season and he now looks set to eclipse his previous best of 109 in 2016. He’s had 1265 wins altogether since his first, Scotlynn Jag at Franklin in 2001. “I’m not going too bad,” Dunn said post race, adding his best victory was probably Sundees Son’s win the Dominion.   Dexter also shows winning ways John Dunn’s brother Dexter also had a good weekend, with a hat-trick of wins in races 10,11 and 12 at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. As of the weekend he had 111 wins for the year to have him eighth overall with the fourth highest stakes total of $1,155,908 ($NZ 1,640m).   Dibaba goes 7 in a row A change of scene has very literally produced a massive change in fortune for Dibaba and her Australian-based Kiwi trainer Jack Trainor. Last season the mare went 51 races without winning but after a move from Western Australia to a much kinder handicapping system in New South Wales she has now gone seven from seven. At the weekend she won at Penrith paying $1.04. The horse should not be confused for the former Chmiel-trained pacer who won seven from 26 here before being sold to North America.   Dan Patch on canvas What is being billed as a rare painting of one of harness racing’s great champions is being offered up for auction in the USA. It’s by noted artist Gean Smith and it depicts the champion horse of the early 1900s Dan Patch winning at Readville Trotting Park in Massachusetts. Dan Patch was the sport’s undoubted superstar at the time, remarkably winning all 73 races he contested. The painting will go under the hammer in Arizona this weekend, with the top bid currently at $US1250.   Club News - Methven The Methven Club is gearing up for its penultimate meeting of the year on Sunday April 11 at the picturesque Mt. Harding racecourse. It will be a mainly low key meeting with the highlight being the Woodlands Mt.Hutt Cup run over 3,000m for the developing staying types. The theme of the day will be club members, with all members invited to the Goodwin Lounge for a day of light refreshments, a few giveaways and a chance to reminisce about days of old. At this stage it is hoped all life members and past presidents will be present and available for a chat. Included is one gentleman talented enough to drive in a race against legendary reinsman Peter Wolfenden,run in a race against New Zealand’s best ever runner Peter Snell and play provincial rugby against New Zealand’s most famous footballer Colin Meads. Anyone wishing to come who is not a member simply needs to duck into the secretary’s office fill in a form and pay $15 to join the club and thus eligible to enter the Goodwin Lounge on the day. See you Sunday at Mt. Harding at 12 noon where remember the sun always shines - Mike Heenan for Methven Trotting Club.   Harness Racing New Zealand

On Thursday racing returns to Wyndham and the Group 3 Kindergarten Stakes is the feature on the card, with this year’s batch of two-year-olds battling it out over the mile. In 2018 the fastest Kindergarten Stakes was won by War Dan Delight, owned by colourful Australian Danny Zavitsanos, who also owned 2019 New Zealand Cup winner Cruz Bromac. Driven by Natalie Rasmussen the favourite was in the trail behind All Stars stablemate Jack Jones (AUS) (Mark Purdon) only to be slightly held on the home turn before rallying in the middle of the track to beat All Stars stablemate Another Masterpiece (Tim Williams) by a neck. War Dan Delight’s winning time for the 1609 metres was 1:53.3. The last 800 was in 55.9, the last 400 in 27.0 All Stars have won seven of the last eight Kindergarten Stakes with Brooklyn Brawler (Robert Dunn) breaking their streak in 2017. Another All Stars runner Lennon dead-heated with the Ray Faithful-trainer Bought In The Pub (Brent Barclay) in 2003, while other notable winners over the years include local hero Honkin Vision (1989), Master Mood (1984), Young Quinn (1972) and Lordship (1961). Thursday’s edition of the Kindergarten Stakes is timed to go at 4.15pm.   HRNZ

This Friday will see the first running of the Ian Dobson Classic at Addington Raceway. It’s part of a ten year sponsorship arrangement -  and to mark the occasion HRNZ sat down with the veteran owner-breeder  who’ll forever be associated with the  champion Christian Cullen.   HRNZ Marketing  

Nearly a year after Trackside radio went off air, plans for a new racing and sports station have been announced. The Australian-based Sports Entertainment Network (SEN) has acquired 29 TAB NZ AM/FM radio licences and plans to become “New Zealand’s new home of sport and racing”. In April last year Trackside was taken off air due to the impact of COVID-19, with the TAB saying the decision would be reviewed when racing in New Zealand resumed. Radio Sport also closed in March last year. SENZ will establish radio studios in Auckland and Wellington and will produce local sports content from both studios. No dates have been disclosed yet for when the station will be up and going. One key detail though is that former Blackcaps skipper and racing personality Brendon McCullum is very much part of the set up. He will front the all-important breakfast shift. “I’m obviously hugely excited to be taking the lead on such an inventive move forward for sports radio in New Zealand,” said McCullum. TAB NZ Executive Chair, Dean McKenzie said the sale of the Trackside radio frequencies to SEN was a positive outcome. “SEN has a proven track record in delivering quality sport and racing coverage in Australia and we look forward to a close and mutually beneficial relationship in promoting and covering sport and racing in New Zealand. "We're confident racing fans will be well-served by the introduction of the new venture which will be in addition to Trackside's separate existing live simulcast of racing which continues to be available through the TAB website, app and streaming services." Sports Entertainment Network CEO, Craig Hutchison said he was excited to be expanding the SEN footprint internationally. “New Zealand is one of the most passionate places in the world for international and local sport and we are delighted to have reached agreement to unleash SENZ onto an unrivalled radio footprint across the whole country,” Hutchison said. “Not only is Brendon revered as one of New Zealand’s greatest ever cricketers – he’s also a racing expert, horse owner, coach and commentator. There’s possibly no bigger name in New Zealand sport and we are honoured and excited that he will join SENZ. In Australia, the business owns and operates 18 radio stations around the country – including 1116 SEN Melbourne, 1170 SEN Sydney, 1629 SEN SA in Adelaide, as well as 11 stations under its racing brand SENTrack. It also owns a newspaper, magazine and talent management business.   HRNZ

“Pretty much perfect” is the way Gemma Thornley sums up a golden few days on the West Coast. The Canterbury-based junior driver had what commentator Matt Cross called a “field day on the circuit” with three wins and two seconds at Westport last Friday and Reefton on Sunday. That took her season’s tally to 7 wins from 56 drives. At Westport her first win came with the very promising Swedish Franco. “And it was my first win wearing the Teal Pants too,” she said, referring to the Teal Pants campaign that raises awareness and funds for ovarian cancer research. Then two days later at Reefton she won with Superfast Gorsey. It was a breakthrough win at start number six for the trotter trained by her father Chris. She also won with Swedish Franco, this time with an emphatic performance. “It was my first double, so that was pretty cool,” said a clearly delighted Thornley. In the space of two race meetings she’s taken her career winning tally from six to nine. She also romped away with the West Coast Team Teal Ladies Driver Championship with 18 points, ahead of Kerryn Tomlinson on 10, who won on both days with now nine-win trotter The Bloss (both times ahead of Thornley’s drive, Rachmaninov). “It was pretty good,” she said, “in fact it couldn’t have been much more perfect.” Swedish Franco is trained by her employer Steven McRae at West Melton just outside Christchurch and has now had three starts for three wins. After a narrow half length win at Westport the four-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight careered away to a 10 and a half length win on Sunday. “She was very green in the first race and gave me some interesting moments.. she left the gate sidestepping a bit.” “I felt a bit nervous before the second race, when they talk up the horses the pressure is on you …. but she went better on the Sunday than the Friday.” “At the 600 I was pretty confident , I had a handful of horse.” She’d love to retain the drive, but faces competition from the stable’s top driver, who just happens to be her uncle Craig Thornley, who drove the mare to win on debut at Wyndham in January. Gemma Thornley is the third generation of her family to be involved in harness racing following on from her father Chris and grandfather Robin. “But I’m the only grandchild,” she adds As to the future she is looking forward to further making her mark in the junior ranks. “Johnny (Morrison), Sheree (Tomlinson) and Ellie (Barron) all leave juniors at the end of this season so there will be some good opportunities.” Her winning ways on the West Coast will certainly help with that – a lot.   HRNZ

Former star two-year-old Smooth Deal is likely to have one last race in this country before heading across the Tasman. The winner of five from 22 and over $150,000, Smooth Deal will go to ex pat Kiwi trainer Brent Lilley in Bolinda, just out of Melbourne. In the meantime the horse has been transferred from Hayden Cullen to Bob Butt’s Woodend stable. “He’s had some wind issues but has arrived in immaculate condition,” says Butt, “and he’s fit.” “He’ll probably run at Addington this Friday and then fly out next week.” The son of Bettor’s Delight won four from eight as a two-year-old but has had just one win since then (in Australia in Feb 2020), though of late he has been racing against the likes of It’s All About Faith, Ragazzo Mach, and Italian Lad. “He’ll head to Australia when he’ll be on a low mark racing against the C1s over there ..he’d have the ability to win 3-4 races.” Butt has around 20 horses at the moment – a “lot of young ones” – with stable star Heavyweight Hero also likely to front up on Friday. The winner of last year’s NZ Trotting Free-for-all at Addington on NZ Cup day Heavyweight Hero (Muscle Mass – Successor) hasn’t raced since December. “He’ll take two or three races to reach his peak, he always does,” says Butt, “and we’ll aim him at the trotting champs in April and then going well onto Auckland and the Rowe Cup.” Butt also bought Heavyweight Hero’s full brother at the yearling sales. “He’s being broken in and we’ll know more by the end of winter.”   HRNZ

Magness Benrow - SSQ1 With her second win in three starts Regan Todd-trained Play Philly has booked a place in the Magness Benrow 2YO Fillies Series Stakes Final in Auckland.  The daughter of Art Major ground out a tough win over Suntan in the first Sires’ Stakes Qualifier at Addington on Sunday for driver Robbie Close.   The second qualifier will be at Ascot Park, Invercargill on Saturday March 13, with four further heats before the Championship decider at Alexandra Park on Friday April 30.   NZ Sires Stakes Series 'Road to the Final' update: Magness Benrow 2YO Fillies Series 38 Nevele R Fillies Series - Heat 3 Better’s Tart has taken out the third heat of the Nevele R Fillies Series with an all-the-way win at Ashburton, and in doing so has qualified for the Final at Addington in May.  Racing on her home track on Saturday, February 27 the Brent White-trained three-year-old was quick off the arm and was never headed as driver Stephen McNally held on for a length and a quarter win over favourite Passion And Power.   Bettor Talk Art was third, following on from her second at Methven in heat two on February 14.  There will be seven heats in all,  with the three heat winners so far Darling Me, Braeview Kelly and now Better's Tart all booking their places in the Final at Addington on Friday May 14.  NZ Sires Stakes Series 'Road to the Final' update: Nevele R Fillies Series 43 Garrard's Horse and Hound 2YO C & G Series - SSQ1 The Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan-trained Montana DJ has booked his place in May's Garrard’s Horse and Hound 2YO Sires Stakes Series 38 Final.     The son of Captaintreacherous was victorious in the first qualifier for driver Zachary Butcher at Alexandra Park on February 19.   Classy Operator was second, with Mr Ibiza third.   The first heat in the series is at Addington on March 24, with Montana DJ the first to guarantee a place in the final at Addington on May 21.    NZ Sires Stakes Series 'Road to the Final' update: Garrard's Horse and Hound Series 38   Harness Racing New Zealand

The Teal Pants signed by Kerryn Manning, the world's most successful female driver, have sold for $455. The pants were donated to the campaign and then auctioned on Trade Me. Bidding was keen from the start, and had fetched $455 by the time the auction closed this afternoon (Thursday). All proceeds will go to the Teal Pants campaign which raises funds towards ovarian cancer research.  The campaign started on February 1 and finishes this weekend.  Manning recently became the first woman to drive  4000 winners and also made history as the first woman to win a New Zealand Cup when she drove Arden Rooney to victory in 2015. When talking to HRNZ earlier this week Manning was pleased with the way the auction was going, conceding that teal pants don't go with every outfit.   HRNZ

Ascot Park Raceway has had a makeover ahead of its premier harness racing meeting on Saturday being hosted by the Northern Southland Trotting Club. Three Group 3’s are carded including the $30,000 Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Cup, the $25,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Southern Lights Trot and the $25,000 Caduceus Club of Southland/Alabar Fillies Classic. Another feature on the day is the Grinaldi Lodge/Stella Frost $12,000 Ladyship Final. This meeting is part of Southland’s “Big Money March” promotion. The full re-surfacing of the track was carried out this week with 360 tonnes of product being replaced. By all reports local trainers say the track is good to go for Saturday. Racing starts at 12.05pm.   HRNZ

The Northern Southland Trotting Club host their feature meeting of the season at Ascot Park Raceway in Invercargill this Saturday, 13 March. It is a massive day with great racing and plenty of activity around the course. It is a day of quality harness racing with three Group 3 races on the programme – the Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Cup, the Prydes Easifeed Southern Lights Trot, the Caduceus Club Of Southland / Alabar 2yo Classic plus the Grinaldi Lodge / Stella Frost Ladyship Final Mobile Pace. One interesting race on the programme is the Southland 9 Canterbury 3 Mobile Pace, a race that will trigger some great memories for many rugby fans on course! The Cup will see the meeting of two of the south’s best U May Cullect and Pembrook Playboy in what should be a superb contest. The first race is timed to start at 12 noon. Admission at the gate is free but $40 gains you access to the Top Of The Park with superb viewing and food and beverage provided as part of the price of your ticket. Once again, a lucky punter will win a flight to Stewart Island courtesy of Stewart Island Flights with a draw just before the last race from losing tickets and also race book coupons to find the winner. The club are again committed to the Team Teal Campaign which raises funds for research into ovarian cancer. Donation buckets will circulate the course on race day and a nice donation could pocket you a pottle of Bluff Oysters or an ice cream courtesy of Tip Top Southland. Racegoers are also encouraged to wear teal on the day to show their support for the campaign and teal merchandise will be on sale in the Secretary’s Office. The Robin Dundee Club will also support the campaign, donating $50 for every winning female driver and a further $50 for every winning filly or mare. They are also running a Team Teal Ribbon Appeal selling tickets at $5 each with up to a dozen draws for some great prizes. The club will also donate $100 to the campaign for every female driving success on the day with a further $100 from Southern Harness Racing, $100 from HRNZ, $50 from Todd Racing Ltd adding up to $350 per win. Driver Mark Hurrell is also donating to the campaign each time he drives a winner while start crew member Art Bloxham has been donating his wages from every meeting during the Teal Campaign. To top it off, in another generous gesture Tom Kilkelly has pledged $1000 to Team Teal should U May Cullect win the Cup or $500 should it run second and $250 for any other place. Owners are welcome in the Alabar Owners Room on the first floor of the main grandstand where they can enjoy hospitality throughout the day while an Owners Prize draw will take place with the club drawing a winner at each of their three race days this season (10 October, 13 January, 13 March) to culminate with the announcement of an overall winner who will win a Stewart Island travel package, while second receives an Ascot Park Hotel package and third a prize from Macca Lodge. Prior to the meeting the club has drawn two members who will win a $100 betting voucher to use on the day, with this weekend’s prize winners Lisa Barrie and Greg Hewitt. Brian Pitcher of AON Insurance has won a $100 betting voucher in the Lucky Sponsor draw. Kidz Kartz will also take to the track in a big day of action. Tote operators will be on course to personally take your bets. Head to the Northern Southland Trotting Club Facebook page for more information on a great day of action.   HRNZ

Tonight at Alexandra Park we see a huge night of racing with SEVEN feature races going ahead!   With three Group 1 races to be run we will be bringing you a short video on each of these to showcase the horses that are racing at Group 1 level!!   Here we are with the Group 1 Pascoes The Jewellers Northern Oaks which is set to go at 7.26pm!   Congratulations to all of the connections getting a chance to contest this year's oaks - we wish you all the very best of luck!     Harness Racing New Zealand

At this week's Riverton Trotting Club Meeting at Central Southland Raceway every win by Team Teal will get an extra $100. The gesture comes from the Wairio Trotting Club who have a close association with the Riverton Trotting Club and wanted to contribute to the Teal Pants campaign. Wairio Trotting Club President Darryl Hewitson said “our club is right behind this appeal and as we don’t have a race meeting in the timeframe we still wanted to be able to support this worthy cause”. Therefore each win by the Teal Pants drivers on Thursday will result in $300 being donated to the appeal ($100 Riverton TC, $100 Wairio TC and $100 Southern Harness). The campaign, which runs from February 1 to March 14, aims to raise awareness about ovarian cancer, as well as raising funds for research. The Riverton Trotting Club is hosting an 11 race card starting at 2.54pm on Thursday (4th March) with features being the Neville Cleaver Fishing FFA Mobile Trot which sees Dark Horse and Humble Lad race over a mile. The Ryder Roofing Nugget Final has attracted a very nice field as has the Vet South Equine Southern Belle Speed Series heat where Miss Auckland will be looking to complete her picket fence. Race 10 at 7.04pm is the DT Kings Transport FFA Mile which has attracted a small but outstanding field of I’mallaboutthebase, Franco Santino, Robyns Playboy, U May Cullect, Vintage Cheddar and Pembrook Playboy. This is the first meeting of the Southern Harness ‘Big Money March’ promotion.   HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk  Southland driver-trainer Kirstin Barclay has had one last chance to say “see you later” to Watch Me Now. The two combined for their first ever Group One in the Breeders Stakes at Addington last month in what was the mare’s last race before heading offshore. It was an emotional win for Barclay and recently she took time out from her time at the NZB Standardbred yearling sales in Christchurch to have one last sit behind the horse she admits to being “very attached to”.     HRNZ Marketing

Harness Racing New Zealand has recently had some keen potential owners contact us looking to be a part of a racing syndicate. If you are currently racing a horse where there are shares available please get in contact with Courtney Buchanan at HRNZ so that we can work together to get new owners into Harness Racing and into your syndicates.  Likewise we are keen to hear from anyone wanting to get involved in ownership. You can already have horses and be looking to extend your involvement, or you can be a total novice.    The options for owners are many and varied. You can buy horses outright, go into a syndicate,  or enter into  lease agreements. The options are designed to fit it with people’s individual circumstances  – it does not have to blow the budget.    If you want to experience the thrill of owning a horse or have shares in a race horse available please contact Courtney -   HRNZ

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