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Ben Aubron is an integral part of the powerful Yabby Dam Racing operation in Cardigan, where the Frenchman plays a key role in the education of the yard's "babies" at the state-of-the-art stable and stud complex. And the 27-year-old was able to celebrate an extra special success on Saturday night when the one horse trained under his name saluted in the Club Menangle NSW Trotters Derby (2400m), when Xebec captured Group 2 glory at just his seventh run for Aubron. "To win a race like that ... we worked so hard to do this. We wake up in the morning dreaming about this, to win some big race like this," he said. "I think I've got a really nice horse." Picture: Ben Aubron salutes as Xebec claims Group 2 glory. Picture: Ashlea Brennan Photography. A far-reaching combination of nationalities helped achieve the triumph, with New Zealander Jack MacKinnon at the controls for the French trainer. MacKinnon settled Xebec back in the field for much of the trip and then capitalised on the early speed to run down front-runner and Yabby Dam rival All Cashed Up. In the end, Xebec raced clear to score by more than seven metres, with the Orlando Vici gelding rocketing home to pip All Cashed Up for second.  The win - at the bolter's price of $31 - came on the back of his maiden victory at Maryborough just a fortnight earlier. Xebec has now won two and placed in another two of his 10 career outings, the first three of which were for Yabby Dam's head trainer Anton Golino. Aubron said the plan was to now send the horse back to Menangle on May 25 for another Group 2, the Trots NSW 3YO Final. It's a further sign of doors opening for Aubron, who arrived in Australia close to five years ago primarily as a monte rider and joined Yabby Dam Racing after an initial stint with Craig Demmler. "It's really different from back home, the racing, but it's a really good country and good people," he said.   Tim O'Connor for Trots Media

North Island based harness racing driver Philip Butcher has been fined $600 for directing abusive and threatening language to junior driver, Jack MacKinnon during a race at Alexandra Park on the 23rd February this year. Butcher was interviewed on 2 March in relation to both his driving tactics and the alleged comments. Mr MacKinnon repeated what he recalled being said to him and this contained ‘profane’ language with repeated use of the ‘F’ word. Mr MacKinnon also made reference to Mr Butcher threatening to ‘drop him and put him in a chaff sack’. Mr Butcher clarified this by saying what he had actually said was ‘I should drop you and they would be picking you up in a chaff sack, but I have too much respect for the other drivers’. The race in question   Full details of the inquiry below: NON RACEDAY INQUIRY IN THE MATTER OF The New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT Mr Steve Mulcay, Senior Stipendiary Steward Informant And Mr PHILLIP BUTCHER, Licensed Open Horseman HRNZ Respondent Rule 303(2) Information No. A10554 Judicial Committee: Mr AJ Godsalve, Chair – Mr AJ Dooley- Committee Member Appearing: Mr PA Butcher, Respondent Venue: Cambridge Raceway Date of Hearing: 18 March 2018 Date of Decision: 21 March 2018 DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE BACKGROUND This matter has its background in race 9 at the Auckland Harness meeting on 23rd February 2018. As a result of concerns held by the raceday Stipendiary Stewards over the way two horses (MAX PHACTOR and WRANGLER) had been driven, an investigation was undertaken. This culminated in the Information, the subject of this hearing, being submitted. Information A10554 alleges that: “On the 23rd day of February, at Auckland, Mr PA Butcher. Driving MAX PHACTOR (in race 9) committed a breach of Rule 303(2), in that he misconducted himself by directing abusive and threatening language to Junior Driver, J MacKinnon (driving WRANGLER) during and following the running of this event”. RULE 303(2) provides: - No person or body who holds a permit or licence under these Rules and no owner, trainer, breeder, stablehand, unlicensed apprentice or racing manager shall misconduct himself or fail to comply with any request, direction or instruction of any Stipendiary Steward, Racecourse Inspector, or Starter. Penalty Rule 1003 (1) provides: - A person who commits a breach of any Rule shall be liable to the following penalties (a) A fine not exceeding $10,000 and/or (b) Suspension from holding or obtaining a licence for a period not exceeding 12 months and/or (c) Disqualification for a period not exceeding 12 months. Plea At the commencement of this hearing the relevant Rule was read to Mr Butcher by the Chairman. Mr Butcher acknowledged that he understood the Rule and confirmed that he admitted the breach. Summary of Facts Mr Mulcay submitted a written Summary of Facts, as follows: 1. Stewards had concerns with the respective driving tactics adopted by J MacKinnon (WRANGLER) and P Butcher (MAX PHACTOR) during the running of this race. (Race 9, Auckland Trotting Club 23rd February 2018). 2. Driver J MacKinnon was interviewed following the event with the assistance of trainer R Dunn, and during the course of the interview made reference to abusive and threatening comments made to him by Mr Butcher. 3. Driver P Butcher was interviewed on 2 March in relation to both his driving tactics and the alleged comments. Mr MacKinnon repeated what he recalled being said to him and this contained ‘profane’ language with repeated use of the ‘F’ word. Mr MacKinnon also made reference to Mr Butcher threatening to ‘drop him and put him in a chaff sack’. Mr Butcher clarified this by saying what he had actually said was ‘I should drop you and they would be picking you up in a chaff sack, but I have too much respect for the other drivers’. 4. Mr Butcher agreed with everything else that was stated by Mr MacKinnon. 5. Mr Butcher then apologised to Mr MacKinnon and Mr Dunn with the respective apologies being accepted (in the presence of the Stewards). 6. The matter was then adjourned to be given consideration. 7. Following consultation with the Chief Stipendiary Steward and General Manager of Stewards, and after receiving written permission from the Operations Manager, it was decided to issue Mr Butcher with a charge under Rule 303(2) and this information was given to him today by phone. Film - the films of the race in question were available and were narrated by Mr Mulcay. He identified the two horses concerned. WRANGLER was leading the race after drawing barrier 1. MAX PHACTOR had drawn 4. From about the 1500m mark to about the 1300m mark MAX PHACTOR challenged for the lead on the outside of WRANGLER. It was apparent that Mr MacKinnon had no intention of relinquishing the lead, in spite of Mr Butcher using some vigour to try to get MAX PHACTOR past WRANGLER. Mr Mulcay pointed out that from about the 1200m mark it was clear that Mr Butcher was directing ‘a lot’ of comment to Mr MacKinnon while still attempting to get past him. MAX PHACTOR eventually reached the lead when WRANGLER began to tire. Mr Mulcay noted that WRANGLER had finished last, some 20 lengths behind the field. MAX PHACTOR was beaten 4½ lengths. Mr Mulcay then confirmed that Stewards had interviewed Mr MacKinnon, and later Mr Butcher over their driving tactics and had been advised of the matters referred to earlier which resulted in this charge being laid against Mr Butcher. It transpired that the verbal attack by Mr Butcher on Mr MacKinnon had continued after the race when the horses were returning to the stabling area. The Committee asked Mr Mulcay to clarify Mr MacKinnon’s position when he was challenged by Mr Butcher, particularly any obligation he may have had to relinquish the lead. Mr Mulcay stated that Mr MacKinnon was not required to hand-up the lead to Mr Butcher. However, he referred to Rule 868(2), which relates to the obligation on drivers to take all reasonable and permissible measures to ensure their drive wins the race or obtains the best possible position. ‘Reasonable’ in this context could relate to drivers not engaging in ‘speed duels’ which may negate their chances at the finish. A discussion ensued where the Committee and Mr Mulcay confirmed that in their experience, drivers usually handed-up the lead when challenged in situations like this as it was often counter-productive to horses’ chances not to do so. Documents Mr Mulcay submitted in evidence a copy of a letter signed by the General Manager of the RIU dated 18 March 2018, in which authority is given for an Information to be lodged against Mr Butcher for breaching Rule 303(2). Mr Butcher Mr Butcher told the Committee that he apologised for the manner in which he had spoken to Mr MacKinnon. He said that he knew he shouldn’t have ‘done it’…that he was not in a ‘good space’ and that he was very disappointed with himself in that he was not a horrible person. Decision As Mr Butcher has admitted the breach we find that this charge is proved. Penalty Submissions Mr Mulcay submitted that Mr Butcher had never breached this Rule; that he had shown contrition; and that he had admitted this breach. He added that he considered that Mr Butcher’s behaviour bought the Industry into disrepute and added that the Stewards have a duty of care to ensure as much as possible that industry participants are provided a work place free from ‘bullying’. He added that he believed that an aggravating factor was that the behaviour complained of was prolonged and continued after the horses had pulled up at the end of the race. Mr Mulcay referred to an earlier prosecution (RIU v White) and stated that he considered a similar penalty was appropriate in this case. He said that if the Committee determined that a suspension was an appropriate penalty he believed it should be a 4 day suspension. He added that he believed Mr Butcher was likely to have 5 drives a day, and a 4 day suspension would result in him losing approximately 20 driving opportunities. Mr Mulcay said that in the case of a monetary penalty being imposed, Stewards submitted a fine of around $600 to be appropriate. Mr Butcher said again that he was ‘not in a good head space’ and would prefer a suspension as opposed to a fine. Penalty Discussion The JCA guidelines on penalty (2015) for Harness Racing do not list a starting point for the general charge of Misconduct. The starting point for general Misconduct under the Thoroughbred Racing guidelines is ‘fact dependant’. It can be therefore inferred that the starting point for general Misconduct for Harness Racing is also ‘fact dependant’. Previous matters which have been dealt with by various JCA Committees where language and/or threatening behaviour has been involved have in the main not been where a race was underway…mostly they have been where language has been directed at Officials, and/or other industry participants at times other than during competition. A serious charge in the Thoroughbred code (Jockey ‘W’) in 2015 involved threats and offensive language, including during a trial race, and ultimately led to a 12 month disqualification. We mention this to illustrate the seriousness of how this type of offending is viewed by racing Authorities, given the safety issues surrounding racing generally. Horseracing, either code, is at times dangerous and challenging, and participants should not be put at risk by threats from other drivers or riders. In 2009 another rider (Jockey ‘W’, not the person referred to above) was fined $2000 for using insulting and threatening language to another jockey in the weighing area after an inquiry. In 2017 driver ‘D’ was fined $850 after being charged with using offensive and insulting language to Officials while being interviewed about a raceday incident. Reasons for Penalty As stated above we approached this Penalty decision on the basis that there is no starting point, and penalties are ‘fact dependant’. We accept the fact that Mr Butcher has admitted the breach and has no prior history of any breaches under the general ‘Misconduct’ Rule. He has shown remorse. He made reference twice to the fact that he was ‘not in a good head space’ at present. That does not excuse his behaviour. Mr Butcher is a mature man and has been engaged in the Harness industry many years. We understand he also has employment outside the industry. Mr Mulcay has submitted that the Stewards’ preferred penalty involves a suspension of 4 days, which in his estimation could result in Mr Butcher not driving in around 20 races. The Committee finds difficulty in accepting that Mr Butcher would drive 5 times each raceday. Mr Butcher himself stated that he was not driving as often now as he has in the past. While he is a primary driver for one stable we are aware of, it is a fact that on some days he only drives once or twice. Judicial Committees are empowered to assess penalties on the basis that they are ‘meaningful’, i.e. that they will have a significant and appropriate impact on the offending party; and that they are seen to be meaningful to other industry participants, and the public at large. We therefore believe that to achieve a meaningful penalty we have to consider a fine. In assessing a penalty, we look at the mitigating and aggravating factors. Clearly the fact that Mr Butcher threatened physical harm to Mr MacKinnon is of real concern. It would be naive to think that drivers and jockeys don’t take issue with others during races when things ‘don’t go their way’. That is in the nature of competition. However, in this case Mr Butcher has gone past that and his threatening language to Mr MacKinnon cannot be condoned. It has to be said that Mr MacKinnon’s driving may have been a contributing factor, indeed the Stipendiary Stewards investigated the way in which both he and Mr Butcher drove their horses in that race. However, Mr Butcher is an experienced Open Horseman, while Mr MacKinnon is a Junior Driver and it is not unreasonable to expect a better standard of behaviour from Mr Butcher. The Committee therefore determined that this matter would be dealt with by way of a fine. We adopted a starting point of $800, and after taking into account Mr Butcher’s admission, his clear record, and his apparent contrition, arrived at a figure of a fine of $600. Penalty The Committee therefore imposed a fine of $600 on Mr Butcher. As this matter was heard on a raceday there was no order made in respect to costs either to the JCA or the RIU. Alan Godsalve   Harnesslink Media

A 40m handicap coupled with a junior driver might usually be a recipe that makes punters nervous but trainer Robert Dunn is comfortable with both at Alexandra Park tonight. Dunn trains rejuvenated mare Yagunnakissmeornot who faces that often prohibitive back mark with young Jack MacKinnon in the sulky tonight, taking over from her recent winning driver Maurice McKendry. MacKinnon is no novice, his 16 wins for the season placing him sixth on the national junior driver’s premiership and second equal among the North Island junior and boss Dunn has no concerns by the driver change. “Jack knows her well and a very good young driver as well as being very mature,” said Dunn. “She can be a funny horse to drive and took us a long time to work out because she is vastly better when you drive her with a sit, which Maurice has done brilliantly lately. “But Jack knows that and in many ways that and her handicap takes any pressure off him because he already knows where he is likely to be and what he needs to do.” Backing favourites off 40m handicaps in feature trots at Alexandra Park is not a sound long-term financial plan but Yagunnakissmeornot has been racing like an open class trotter, beating many of her rivals tonight by six lengths under similar circumstances two starts ago. “And the make up of the field helps us,” says Dunn. “Most of the really good horses in the race are back on 30m so she should be with them straight after the start and I don’t see a tearaway leader to run them really hard off the front line.  “So I think she can win, even though they don’t often off 40m.” Dunn, who trains the northern arm of his team while son John takes care of the Canterbury horses, sits second on the national premiership with 87 wins and thinks he can end the season with at least two, maybe three tonight.  “Cmeerock has a good chance in race two because it is her sort of field, although we have worked out she is also best when driven with a sit. “And the horse who has really improved for us has been Johnny White (race six).  “He has always had ability but developed a few problems and took us ages to get right. “But he won well last Friday and has the draw to be handy again this week. If he leads or trails, which I think he will, then he has to be hard to beat.” The pacing highlight of the night will be Butcher dominated, with drivers David (Vasari), Zac (Northview Hustler) and Ben (Max Phactor) on the three favourites. Max Phactor was a very brave second when the tempo of his comeback race was against him last Friday and might have an experience/class edge over his three-year-old rivals but tonight is his first standing start so punters will want $3.50 to take the chance, even though as a very clean pacer who should handle the stand.  Michael Guerin

Jack MacKinnon will be looking to put the icing on another premiership-winning season at Alexandra Park on Friday. The 22-year-old Pukekohe horseman has all but wrapped up the 2016-2017 Junior Driving premiership at northern headquarters and should seal the title when he reins hot favourite Yagunnakissmeornot in the seventh event. MacKinnon’s title comes a year after he won last season's Junior Driving premiership by a 0.159 of a point on the UDR strike rate. Both he, Andre Poutama and Kyle Marshall all recorded seven wins apiece. This year MacKinnon has won nine races at Alexandra Park – three more than Robert Argue. Sean Grayling is actually second, with eight wins, but he now resides in New South Wales. Unless Argue can win all three of his Friday drives and MacKinnon can't pick up a winner in four attempts on then MacKinnon will pick up his second consecutive Alexandra Park Junior Driving title. “It’s been an a very good season and I’m delighted to have won the Alexandra Park premiership again, because it is the main track in the North island and you never get sick of winning there. “I have been able to drive better horses this year and that’s why I’m getting more winners. I’m grateful to everyone who has helped me especially Robert Dunn, Tim Vince and Steve Telfer & Chris Garlick. They have been very supportive. “I think my season highlight was training and driving Kissmeimloaded in the Jewels Final (3yo Ruby Trot) this year. That was my goal at the start of the season and I achieved it,” MacKinnon said. “My next goal would be to represent New Zealand at the Australasian Junior Driving Champs,” he added. MacKinnon has recorded a personal best 16 wins this season ($155,745) – nine at ‘The Park’ and seven at Cambridge Raceway. His previous best in five seasons of driving was the 12 wins ($145,123) he recorded last year. All-up the former Mount Albert Grammar student has won 40 of his 523 lifetimes starts, placed 95 times, and netted $426,406 in career stakes. His lifetime UDR is 0.1606 compared to his 0.1942 this season. The Robert Dunn employee should win at least one race on Friday. He said Yagunnakissmeornot had come of age lately and MacKinnon thought he would be very hard to beat. “Robert has worked her out and since then she’s really come of age. She seems to be getting better with each race. She is my best drive on Friday,” MacKinnon said. Here’s what he had to say about his quartet of drives: Race 4: The Ivan Court trained Arden Lustre (8) - “He’s up here from the South Island staying with Steve and Chris, and he won his workout pretty well on Saturday. It’s not going to be easy from the draw, but Steve is happy with him and we expect him to go a bold race first-up.” Race 5: The Stephen Argue trained Speedy Lavros (10) - “He didn’t go too bad last time but he can be a funny horse at the start. He’s a hit or miss type but feels like he will win one next season. Things would have to go his way from his unruly (five) draw.” Race 6: The Robert Dunn trained Lambros (9) - “Three-year-old who should go better this week. He’s still learning but follows out his stablemate (last start winner, Johnny White) which should assist him. First four.” Race 7: The Robert Dunn trained Yagunnakissmeornot (11) - “Lovely mare who shouldn’t be too bothered with the 40m handicap, because she does things right at the start and loves this distance (2700m). She has won three of her last four starts and finished second and it's good to be back driving her again. She’s the best horse in Robert’s Pukekohe barn. It took a while for Robert to work her out but now that he’s achieved that she’s a very serious trotter. She’s been unstoppable of late and I think that trend should continue on Friday. The other good horses in the race are also handicapped. It would be a great way to end the season for me. I would love to win my 10th race on the track and I’ve got a very sensible horse to do it.” Duane Ranger

Jack MacKinnon looks set to claim the 2016-2017 Alexandra Park Driving title despite being four wins behind the North Island's leading junior - Dylan Ferguson on the national premiership. MacKinnon (KD Hall), Ben Butcher (Red Magic) and Robert Argue (Primus Inter Pares) all had good wins at Cambridge raceway last Friday night. Ironically MacKinnon still trails Dylan Ferguson by seven points on the Cambridge Junior Driving Premiership as well. “I’m 21 now and really want to win as many races as I can before the end of the season. There are some good junior drivers out there and I want to win every premiership that’s going,” Pukekohe-based MacKinnon said. North Island Premiership tables read (top five as at June 20): JUNIORS: Leading North Island Junior Driver (national premiership): 1)     Dylan Ferguson 19 wins from 208 drives; 2) Jack MacKinnon 15 wins from 112 drives; 3) Tony Cameron 14 wins from 64 drives; 4) Ben Butcher 13 wins from 178 drives; 5) Robert Argue 11 wins from 118 drives. Alexandra Park Junior Drivers Premiership: 1)     Jack MacKinnon 9 wins from 68 starts; 2) Sean Grayling (NSW) 8 wins from 68 starts; 3) Robert Argue 5 wins from 54 starts; 4) Dylan Ferguson 3 wins from 42 starts; 5) Tony Cameron 2 wins from 24 starts.  Cambridge Raceway Junior Driver: 1)     Dylan Ferguson 22 points; 2) Jack MacKinnon 15 points; 3=) Robert Argue 13 points; 3= Tony Cameron 13 points; 5) Mark Johnson 12 points.   Meanwhile, Tony Herlihy (MNZM) has won the Alexandra Park training and driving titles for several years now, there will be new champions crowned at ‘The Park’ in 2016-2017.   DRIVING PREMIERSHIPS: Leading North Island Driver (national premiership): 1)     David Butcher 68 wins from 443 drives; 2) John Dunn 65 wins from 525 drives; 3) Zac Butcher 45 wins from 290 drives; 4) Maurice McKendry (MNZM) 42 wins from 318 drives; 5) Sailesh Abernethy 33 wins from 302 drives. Alexandra Park Drivers Premiership: 1)     David Butcher 19 wins from 192 starts; 2) Maurice McKendry (MNZM) 28 wins from 199 starts; 3) Zac Butcher 26 wins from 172 starts; 4) Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 20 wins from 1972 starts; 5) Brent Mangos 20 wins from 132 starts. Cambridge Raceway Leading Driver (of trotters) points: 1)     David Butcher 39 points; 2) Todd Mitchell 29 points; 3) Josh Dickie 24 points; 4) Maurice McKendry 24 points; 5) Sailesh Abernethy 23 points.   TRAINERS PREMIERSHIPS: Leading North Island Trainer (national premiership): 1)     Robert Dunn 81 wins from 611 starts; 2) Barry Purdon 37 wins from 245 drives; 3) John & Josh Dickie 35 wins from 165 starts; 4) Steve Telfer & Chris Garlick 35 wins from 246 starts; 5) Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 33 wins from 226 starts. Alexandra Park Trainers (as of Tuesday June 20): 1)     Barry Purdon 25 wins from 173 starts; 2) Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen 23 wins from 76 starts; 3) John & Josh Dickie 23 wins from 115 starts; 4) Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 21 wins from 157 starts); 5) Ray Green 15 wins from 122 starts. Cambridge Raceway Leading Trainer: 1)     Steve Telfer & Chris Garlick 107 points; 2) Todd Mitchell 96 points; 3) Barry Purdon 86 points; 4) Tim Vince 73 points; 5) Mike Berger 96 points. Cambridge Raceway Trainer (of trotters) points: 1)     Geoff Martin 25 points; 2) James Stormont 24 points; 3) Nicky Chilcott 23 points; 4) Stephen Argue 22 points; 5) Todd Mitchell 21 points.   AMATEUR DRIVERS (North Islanders on the national premiership): 1)     Sheryl Wigg 10 wins from 22 drives; 2) Gerry Cronin 2 wins from 12 starters; 3) Danny Blakemore 2 wins from 14 starts; 4) David Branch 1 win from five starts; 5) Stephen Butcher 1 win from eight starts. Duane Ranger

Jack MacKinnon’s most significant driving win also came in his own training silks at Alexandra Park last night. The 21-year-old former Mount Albert Grammar student trained and drove the lightly tried Kissmeimloaded to win the inaugural $25,000 Haras des Trotteurs North Island Oaks for 3-year-old pacing fillies. “This is the biggest win of my career – both training and driving. I just want to thank Dad and Ray for having faith me. The horse has had her fair share of troubles and I was left with this race to target. “I just want to thank the Auckland Trotting Club and the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Association for getting the race off the ground. We need more trotting races for fillies and this will now put her in good stead when she hits the broodmares’ paddock one day,” MacKinnon said. Kissmeimloaded is owned by Jamie MacKinnon of Olympic Swiss Watches Limited and Ray Thomson. The Majestic Son – Dutch Annie brown filly provided MacKinnon with his first training success of the season and 13th in the sulky. “It doesn’t get any better than this winning an Oaks race behind the only horse you train. She used to be trained by Barry (Purdon) at Clevedon, but he told Dad the horse would be more suited to one-on-one training. “So I got a ready-made trotter trained by a champion. All I had to do was put the polish on. I think most of the credit should go to Barry and his team,” MacKinnon said. MacKinnon took over the training duties last September after Kissmeimloaded won a workout for Purdon. Last night's win came in just her second start. Kissmeimloaded finished fifth on debut at Cambridge Raceway on ANZAC Day when a warm favourite. Last night she was the $23.70 fifth favourite of five, beating $1.30 hot pot Chevron Express (Dexter Dunn) by a head. "I served it up to the favourite down the back straight the last time because I knew my filly could stay a bit. I was delighted that she out-toughed the South Island horse in the straight. "That was a real gusty performance because Chevron Express is no mug. She has won five races. My filly can only get better now," MacKinnon said. Meanwhile the CEO of the NZSBA, Brad Reid, said it was very satisfying to get the North Island Oaks off the ground, despite the small numbers. "It was disappointing to see only six nominate but we had to start somewhere and can only improve upon this. Having spoken with a few horseman and Regan (Cotter) at the ATC most agree a date change and some programming tweaks can be made." "A number of trainers said they would have travelled from the south if there was a lead up race to the Oaks, giving connections of fillies two bites at the cherry up north so to speak. Being programmed so close to the Derby may have robbed that race of a runner or two also," Reid said. The CEO believed an alternative appeared to be programming the Northern Trotting Oaks around the Great Northern Derby (March 10th) which this year was run three weeks before the New Zealand Trotting Oaks (March 31) at Addington. The NZ Trotting Derby is run a week later at Addington (April 7).  "The fillies deserve the opportunity to compete against their own sex more regularly and I understand HRNZ, the Sires Stakes Board and clubs are looking at how they can accommodate them.  "However it's up to the owners and trainers to support them when and as they do. Last night was a great example of their being no certainties in racing with many feeling they were outclassed by Chevrons Express. What an amazing training effort from a young guy like Jack!" Reid said. "Thanks must also go to Dave Sanders and his team at Haras des Trotteurs for making it happen," he added. Reid then made people aware that there were 14 Group races and $1.5 million up for grabs in 3-year-old pacing events each year. "With the 3-year-old trotting fillies there are two races collectively worth $65,000 in stakes, and yet they cost the same to train. Unfair?" Reid questioned. MacKinnon agreed saying he would now trek to Christchurch with Kissmeimloaded. “The North island Oaks is a great start but more needs to be done for young trotters. Trotting is more popular these days. Last night for example five of the 10 races carded by the Auckland Trotting Club were trotting events. “I think we have now virtually qualified for the Jewels Final (10th) so I might give her a run in the (Listed PGG Wrightson) New Zealand Yearling Sales Final On May 19 as a lead-up,” MacKinnon said. Kissmeimloaded trotted the 2200m mobile in 2:47.8 (mile rate 2:02.7) and came home in 60.1 and 29.1. Bonnie Highlander and Maurice McKendry were four-and-a-half lengths back in third. Kissmeimloaded was bred by Tony and Anne Parker. MacKinnon had a good night at the office last night. He also drove his boss's (Robert Dunn) pacer, Robbie Burns, to win the feature pace - the $13,999 Culley's Handicap for the R68 to R111 pacers. "It was a night to remember all right. 'Robbie'went real well too. That was his ninth win. "You have hot and cold nights in racing and last night was a hot one and one I won't forget in a hurry," MacKinnon said. "I'm just thankful to everyone for giving me the chance to get out there and do what I love," he added.   Duane Ranger

One of New Zealand’s best trainers of standardbred horseflesh also knows how to bring out the best in the people that work for him. Robert Dunn’s stableemployee in Pukekohe, Jack MacKinnon, has come of age this season under his boss’s tutelage, and that was clearly evident at Alexandra Park last night (Friday). The 21-year-old former Mount Albert Grammar student displayed his growing prowess in the sulky when he got two longshots home for the powerful Robert Dunn and Steve Telfer/Chris Garlic stables. MacKinnon drove the Dunn trained roughie Cobra Banner to win the 11th race by one-and-a-quarter lengths - at odds of $61.50 and $10.30.  He was the 11th favourite of 11 resulting in the highest winning dividend at Alexandra Park since the Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett trained Commander Paris (Todd Mitchell) paid $73.50 and $12.90 (10th favourite of 10) on March 11 last year. MacKinnon also drove the Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick trained Check In to win the sixth event at odds of $15.70 and $3.80. They won by one-and-a-half lengths and were the sixth favourites of 11. “I’ve been really lucky that top trainers from top stables like Robert and Steve/Chris have believed in me. Most of my 11 wins this year have been for them and they are both in the top three North Island trainers. “Working for Robert has really bettered my driving and I think I have improved. He is an amazing trainer. He pays so much attention to detail and spends so much time on every horse. He is meticulous and you never stop learning from someone like him,” MacKinnon said. MacKinnon has driven 11 winners this season and looks certain to beat his personal best of 12 he set last year. He is currently four wins behind the North Island’s leading junior, Dylan Ferguson. But MacKinnon’s two wins at ‘The Park’ last night have seen him close to within two victories of the now New South Wales-based junior,Sean Grayling, who stillleads the ‘Alexandra Park Junior Driving Premiership’. “I would love to win the Alexandra premiership again. It was great to win that last year. It’s the premier track in the north and we all love to win there, but being the top North Island junior means a little more to me. “If I can achieve that, then the Alexandra Park titleshould take care of itself. The ultimate would be to keep learning and then win the New Zealand Junior Championship before I enter the open ranks,” MacKinnon said. And speaking of ‘drivers on fire’, Cambridge reinsman David Butcher increased his lead at the top of the Alexandra Park Driving Premiership from 20 to 24 wins last night. He drove four winners on the 12-strong card and his 53 wins this season now sees him in fifth place on the national driving premiership. The ‘Butcher quartet’ started in the first event when the with the 5-year-old Sundon mare he trains - Sunset Peak – proved too smart, and then he nailed an early hatrick behind the Telfer/Garlick and Lew Driver trained Rocknroll Princess and Gentleman Sir in races two and three respectively The 51-year-old Cambridge reinsman, nicknamed ‘The Chief’, also steered the Telfer and Garlick trained Step Up to win the ninth event. Telfer and Garlick won three races on the programme and took their season tally from 26 to 29 wins and in doing so moved into the top 10 on the national trainers premiership. “Steve and Chris are great to drive for because they always have their team spot on. I also drove Check In to win for them two starts back at Cambridge. That’s three straight for him now. “He had the draw (1) to work with tonight and I thought he might go close, but Cobra Banner’s win was a bit of a surprise, because he drew five and needed everything to go right so he could have one last go at them – and that’s exactly what happened,” said MacKinnon. Four horses recorded sub two-minute mile-rates last night. The first came in the fourth event via the Frank Cooney/Tate Hopkins trained and Maurice McKendry driven Churchill Downs (1:58.8); Check In (1:57.0), Step Up (1:56.3) and the Brent Mangos trained and driven Maxim. Mangos said he would decide in the next couple of days whether he would now take Maxim to Addington Raceway to contest the Group One $100,000 Easter Cup on Saturday week (April 15). It was the 2014 Victoria Derby winner's eighth victory in 25 starts and took his career earnings to $421,511. Several North Island drivers were plying their craft at the New Zealand Derby meeting at Addington Raceway last night which allowed MacKinnon and Butcher to make big moves on the Alexandra Park Driving Premierships. Here’s how the ‘Top-5’ table stands (wins plus movers) after last night’s meeting: Open Drivers: 1) David Butcher 20 to 24 wins; 2) Maurice McKendry 19 to 21; 3) Zac Butcher 19, 4) Brent Mangos 18 to 19; 5) Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 18. Junior Drivers: 1) Sean Grayling 8; 2) JackMacKinnon 4 to 6; 3) Robert Argue 2; 4) Dylan Ferguson 2; 5) Andrew Drake 1.   Duane Ranger  

Jack MacKinnon has driven some pretty handy types in his four seasons as a junior driver, but when it comes to race-night the best of them will line up in the feature pace at Alexandra Park on Friday. The Pukekohe-based 21-year-old will drive his boss Robert Dunn’s Live Or Die gelding, Robbie Burns, from the outside of the front row in the fifth event – the $14,999 Generation Homes R67-R99 Pace. It will be the first time MacKinnon has driven him. Regular pilot John Dunn is committed to the Addington Raceway meeting, also on Friday night. Robbie Burns, who is an Auckland Cup nominee, will be attempting to win his third race from four starts this campaign. The 5-year-old bay is the highest assessed pacer lining up tonight with a R99 rating. “I’ve driven some real nice horses in training but this fella would be my best race-day drive. He’s lot more tractable than what he used to be. He now gives us options when races. “He has had his fair share of problems though and is still on the way back. He doesn’t hang so much now. I think the owners will line him up in the Auckland Cup if he goes well the next few races,” said MacKinnon who is searching his third winner of 2016-2017, and 27th overall. “A race like that will suit him down to the ground because he’s such a good stayer. The further they go the better he will like it,” he added. Trainer Dunn believed Robbie Burns would make next year’s New Zealand Cup field providing he stayed free from illness and injury. MacKinnon agreed. “He’s going to develop into a very nice racehorse. In six months I think he could be the ‘real deal’. he’s an underrated horse who is yet to show his true potential,” the former Mt Albert Grammar student said. Five of Robbie Burns’ eight career wins have been at Alexandra Park, including three over tonight’s 2200m mobile. MacKinnon said he was only too aware of the pace inside him. “It’s quite a tough race to work out. There’s a lot of speed inside me and although I’m confident I am driving the best horse in the race I’m going to have to see what happens when I leave the gate. “Jo’s dream and Killer Queen can both get away quickly and Jo’s Dream proved that with a nice win last week. “Even though it’s not an easy race to read, Robbie Burns is a tough stayer, and I’m confident the best horse will be in front when it counts,” said MacKinnon. The Franklin driver rated Robbie Burns a win chance and his other two drives at the meeting as each-way and place prospects respectively. “Steve (Telfer) and Chris (Garlick) will have Rocknroll Princess (race one) spot on for this. She’s drawn a bit wide but we got squeezed up on the final bend last start and that cost us. She’s a real good stayer and can get some of it. “Any Old Way (race six) will start from a 15m handicap and I’m driving him for Paul Nairn. He’s a very good horse when right but you can never be sure which Any Old Way will show up. He’s travelled up well and this will be his last race before he goes to Australia,” MacKinnon said. “It would be nice to send him on his way with a win but a place looks best for him in this. Five of his seven wins have been at Alexandra Park though, and he did place at odds on (NZ) Cup Day recently,” he added. The next two Fridays are the ‘Calm before the Group One storm’ at Alexandra Park next month. December is the Auckland Trotting Club's busiest and biggest month. The big races on offer are:   December 9: Group Three $30,000 Summer Cup Group Three $30,000 Caduceus Club Northern Breeders Fillies & Mares Stakes   December 16: Group Two $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial Ladyship 3yo Fillies Stakes Group Two $40,000 Lyell Creek Stakes for the open class trotters Group One $100,000 Rosslands Queen of Hearts Fillies & mares Pace Group Two $50,000 Alabar 3yo Classic Group Two $40,000 Franklin Cup   December 31: Group One $150,00 Alabar Sires Stakes 3yo Fillies Final Group One $80,000 National Trot Listed $175,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 3yo Open GROUP ONE $250,000 TRILLIAN TRUST AUCKLAND CUP   Duane Ranger

Some of New Zealand’s top harness racing trainers have always believed in Jack MacKinnon and now the recently turned 21-year-old is starting to repay their faith in them. When MacKinnon was 17 master Canterbury trainer Paul Nairn entrusted the then Ponsonby teenager with some of his team in the North Island. Since then MacKinnon has also worked for several horsemen and women including Tim Vince, Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett, but in 2015 he started to impress top New Zealand trainer, Robert Dunn. “Jack worked part-time for me for about a year while he worked for his father (Jamie) in his Auckland ‘Olympic Swiss Watches’ business. “He came to me very experienced considering he was just 19 or 20. Then in February we took him on full-time in Pukekohe. He gets on well with a lot of my horses and he is a very capable horseman who came to me with a very impressive CV,” Dunn said. “If Paul Nairn can put his faith in him as a teenager, then that’s good enough for me,” Dunn said. Nairn also had high praise for MacKinnon. "Jack has helped me out when I come north and he is a smart young guy and very conscientious. I’ve always believed in his horsemanship, he has a bright future in the game," Nairn said. Going into Friday’s (June 17) meeting at Alexandra Park, MacKinnon was the leading junior driver at ‘Northern Headquarters’. He put that down to experience and a better quality of horse he is now driving. “I really want to win the Alexandra Park premiership. It was my goal last year and I finished in the top five. Coming to Robert’s was one of the best decision’s I’ve ever made. “My driving has improved I think because Robert has a large team and therefore I can get better quality drives. I’m learning all the time. Robert is one of New Zealand’s best trainers. The statistics will tell you that,” MacKinnon said. This was clearly evident last Friday night when MacKinnon drove the Dunn trained Cherry Bay to her first win in four starts. “He gets on very good with that filly and got the best out of her last week. He also had a good rapport with Whitney. He’s a very good wee driver and we have yet to see the best of him. “I’m just happy we are able to provide him with the next stepping stone in his driving career,” Dunn said. Both of MacKinnon’s parents were delighted with the way a city boy was making it in a predominantly rural sport. “It’s not easy for him because he wasn’t born into a prominent harness racing family. But now he’s working for Robert Dunn and he’s a very good friend of mine and he is an exceptional trainer. That can only be good for his career,” said Dad, Jamie. MacKinnon’s mother was equally proud. “I am one of Jacks biggest supporters. He has the whole family backing him and we are absolutely thrilled with his success. His dedication and hard work is paying off and it's great to see his name out there amongst the best of the best,” his Mum, Gayleen said. Auckland-born and Mt Albert Grammar educated MacKinnon is currently experiencing his most successful season in the sulky with nine wins – six of them at Alexandra Park. All up he’s saluted the judge 21 times since 2013. He’s also trained three winners since 2014, including two this season – Kneed The Dough at Thames in January and Any Old Way at Alexandra Park in August. “I just want to keep turning over the winners so other owners and trainers realise I can drive a bit. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I am living the dream and am delighted to be working in one of New Zealand’s biggest and most successful stables,” the Northern 2014 Primary ITO Cadet of the Year said. MacKinnon trained his first winner when Ruby Castleton won at Tauranga on January 26, 2014. That came 19 months after MacKinnon won his first race in the sulky behind his mate David Branch’s then 6-year-old pacer, All About Speed (June 11, 2012). MacKinnon, a former star in the Kidz Kartz ranks, paid a tribute to those who taught him during those mini-pony days. "If it wasn't for Kidz Kartz and the people who educated me on how to drive I wouldn't be where I am today. I have always wanted to be a driver and Kidz Kartz made my dream come true," MacKinnon said. “I also want to thank every owner and trainer who has put their faith in me since then,” he added. There have been 19 junior drivers who have lined up at ‘The Park’ this season. The TOP FIVE Junior Drivers at Alexandra Park (as at June 16) are: Junior Driver Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR Jack MacKinnon 84 6 14 7 0.1918 Tony Cameron  27 5 1 2 0.2305 Sean Grayling  26 5 1 5 0.2778 Kyle Marshall  53 5 2 7 0.1593 Andre Poutama  39 4 2 1 0.1396 Last season's TOP 5 Juniors at Alexandra Park Junior Driver Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR Tony Cameron 41 6 7 6 0.29 Michael Blakemore  27 4 5 4 0.3004 Kim Butt  9 4 0 2 0.5185 Robbie Close  11 4 2 2 0.5253 Jack MacKinnon  59 4 8 5 0.1714

North Island junior horseman, Jack Mackinnon will fly the Northern region flag in the inaugural running of the Primary ITO Cadet of the Year competition later this month after winning yesterday’s regional final in Auckland. The 19-year-old former Mt Albert Grammar Student held off the challenge of seven of his fellow Cadets from the Northern region to claim the title and book himself a spot against Dylan Stratford, Alex Veint and Rory McIlwrick in the national final at Addington on July 30. He finished five points clear of runner-up Michael Blakemore In a display of consistent all round knowledge and horsemanship, MacKinnon, who is also New Zealand’s youngest licenced trainer, was in dominant form throughout the day – winning four of the six challenges set for the group. His score of 57 in the timed driving challenge was equalled only by Mathew Salaivao while he also claimed the highest score in the general knowledge quiz, name the gear and points of the horse. MacKinnon also finished second in the name the feed challenge and third in assembling the gear. Harness Racing New Zealand’s Education and Training Manager, Natalie Gameson said the day followed suit from the two previous regional finals and was very successful. But she also noted that it was important to recognise the contribution of the cadet’s employers who allowed them time off to compete in the challenge. “Obviously something like this wouldn’t work without the support of the employers,’’ Gameson said. “So we are thankful to them for allowing the cadets to compete in the competition. “It’s our plan for this event to continue to grow in future years, so keeping that great support up will be key to the competition’s success.’’ Like both the Canterbury and Southern regional finals, the North Island version yesterday was of high quality with very few points separating the cadets in all of the challenges. “The cadets today have done some great work it’s been a really good day of competition.’’ MacKinnon, Veint, Stratford and McIlwrick will all meet in Christchurch at the end of the month to compete for the overall title of Cadet of the Year and will face a new set of challenges from those they met in the regional finals. “The Finals will be very different to what we have seen over the three days of regional finals. “It’s going to be a very interesting day and hopefully we can get people out to watch and support the four finalists.’’ Once the competition is complete on July 30, the four cadets will have to wait until the annual Harness Racing New Zealand Awards function to find out who is crowned the first-ever Primary ITO Cadet of the Year.  Harness Racing New Zealand

Trainer-driver-breeder Graham Pearson, best known for his achievements with champion mare Under Cover Lover, enjoyed a good day at the office at Motukarara on Sunday where he trained and drove one winner and bred two. Pearson was the successful breeder of Vegas Sicilia, who was victorious in third race for Ricky May and Greg & Nina Hope, before winning the fourth race with his own charge Albuquerque. Albuquerque, who is a three-year-old filly by Bettor’s Delight out of another nice mare Pearson trained in Princess Alberta, produce a tough performance to narrowly beat Pembrook Belle and favourite Art Critic, who incidentally is also bred by Pearson. Meanwhile, the often unlucky Roxy Bromac broke through for her first win since the same meeting of last year. Jack Mackinnon trains his first winner   At the start of the week Jack Mackinnon had driven two winners and trained none. I had also never written an article about him. Now, the young racing enthusiast has driven four winners, trained one, and I am currently writing my third piece on him. “It been an absolutely amazing weekend,” said Mackinnon. “I am just really grateful to all the people that have supported me and made it possible.” Mackinnon’s wicked weekend started with an emphatic six and a half length win on his old favourite Dr Hook, who he has also been the caretaker driver of. He later described that win as an even bigger thrill than his first driving win. The icing on the cake was his first training win with Ruby Castleton at Tauranga on Sunday. It was also his forth driving success. “She has plenty of ability but manners have always been her issue,” explained Mackinnon. “I don’t think it will be her last ever win.” By Mitchell Robertson

Jack MacKinnon trained his first winner when Ruby Castleton won at Tauranga yesterday (Sunday). His one length triumph behind the race favourite in the C0-C1 Wilson trot came 13 months after his first driving win behind All About Speed at Alexandra Park. But the promising 18-year-old said those two victories meant nothing compared to what he experienced at Alexandra Park on Friday (January 24). “Nothing beats driving Dr Hook to win the feature trot at Alexandra Park. He’s been my favourite horse since I was doing Kidz Kartz. “I was just so pleased I could win the race for Paul (Nairn). He has put a lot of faith in me. I’m so happy for him. It was my way of repaying his trust in me,” MacKinnon said. When Nairn departed Auckland in the New Year bound for his Leeston home with Stig, Lotalov and Any Old Way, he left Dr Hook in the care of the former Mt Albert Grammar student. It’s not the first time he’s let MacKinnon take over his training duties. “I’ve know Jack since he was a young kid and he has always shown me his youthful enthusiasm. You can’t beat that. In the early days he would paddock, water and box them for me. “I knew how keen he was, and I’m just so happy for him. I had no fears whatsoever. I’m just glad I never gave him any driving instructions because I probably would have told him to take Dr Hook around to the front. “Instead he stayed back and bided his time. It goes to show how much I know,” joked the master Canterbury trainer. MacKinnon took out his training licence this season and worked his team out of Alexandra Park. Then when the track was being used for the annual ‘Fun Fest’ a couple of weeks ago he transferred his horses to Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis’s stable at Waiuku. “The horses really thrived on the (Karioitahi) beach and I’ve helped out Bernie and Michelle in the holidays and weekends for about six years now. “I’m now based there fulltime and I’m loving it. The horses really like it two,” said MacKinnon who has Dr Hook, Ruby Castleton, and Trot Up A Storm in work. “I prefer working trotters. I’ve learnt so much from Paul, Bernie, and Michelle. There’s also not so much gear to clean either. I like that,” he said. Mackinnon bought Ruby Castleton off Phil Williamson while he spent three months in the South Island working for Waikouaiti horseman Andrew Faulks. He has a half share in Trotupastorm with his ‘mentor’ – prominent Auckland owner and amateur driver Tim Vince. “Apart from my parents Tim has been my greatest supporter. If it wasn’t for him I don’t think I’d be where I am today. He gives me horses and he’s a straight talker who has inspired me to reach my potential. He’s one of my best friends and the person I turn to for advice,” MacKinnon said. Vince was doing handstands when MacKinnon and Dr Hook crossed the finishing line a whopping 6-1/2 lengths in front of Duchess Diedre in Friday’s C4-Oc $12,250 Hydroflow Trot. In fact Vince described it as his greatest moment in trotting. That’s a huge statement considering he has owned numerous Group One winning champions like Light And Sound and Cool Hand Luke. “It was even better than my first driving win. I think the world of Jack. He’s started 20 lengths behind the field simply because he’s got into the game without a famous racing surname to fall back on. “He’s such a hard worker. I’m just so pleased for him. He deserves every little bit of success that comes his way,” said Vince. MacKinnon could have one more start with Dr Hook before Nairn brings him home to prepare for the Rowe Cup. “It will be sad to say goodbye to him because it’s been a huge thrill to be able to train a horse I have admired since I was a young kid. “To drive an open class trotter with all that speed is a dream come true,” MacKinnon said. Speaking of dreams he said he wouldn’t have been able to fulfil his lifetime ambition had it not been for his parents. “Mum (Gayleen) has always been there for me since day one while Dad (Jamie), who owns ‘Olympic Swiss Watches’ has also been a great supporter and my race sponsor,” he said. Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

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