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Last week at the harness racing meeting at Invercargill, Jetsdream was sent out a dominating favourite on the back of a couple of very impressive trials prior to his debut run. Leading early from barrier one, Jetsdream was looked at by Costa Del Magnifico for most of the last lap and battled the last 200 meters to finish fifth which on the surface looked disappointing but that's not how his driver Shane Walkinshaw saw it. "He had only had a couple of trials before last Friday and didn't have the grounding for a 2:00 clip over 2200 meters on a slushy track" he said when talking to Harnesslink this week.  "I would have taken a trail normally but he was so well backed I had little choice but to stay in front so he was a victim of circumstances in a way" he said when explaining the run. A 3 year old son of Jeremes Jet, Jetsdream is the first foal of the handy Dream Away mare Dream Of Amy 1:58.3 ($24,721) who is a full sister to the talented duo of The Ragpickers Dream 1:56.8 ($126,648) and Dream Guest 1:57.7 ($87,986) This is the branch of the famed Estella Amos family that Jack Smolenski had so much success with over many years. The grand dam of Dream Of Amy is a half sister to the former champion racemare Hilarious Guest 1:57.3 ($283,230) Shane has liked Jetsdream from the time he first arrived at the stable. "He is such a lovely horse to do anything with and has been from day one.  He just does everything so easy and being such a great gaited horse is a big plus" he said  On Friday Jetsdream lines up at Invercargill again for his second lifetime start but this time he has drawn eight and the the field is once again full of talented 3 year olds. Costa Del Magnifico and Macs Man are back for round two and have been joined by the very talented trial winner Memphis Mafia who won his latest trial by seven lengths last Saturday. The wide draw will mean a change of tactics this week and Shane thinks it will help Jetsdream. " He is much better with a sit than being out in front so the draw could actually work in his favour" he said Whatever happens on Friday, Shane is confident that long term Jetsdream will win his fair share of races. " The stable have liked him all the way through and think he has a big future so he is a horse to follow" he said. Harnesslink Media

Anthony Butt still maintains Joanne’s A Delight is one of the best 2-year-old fillies he has ever driven. “She put the pressure on all the way tonight and proved to me again just how good she is," Butt said. "She never really got an easy quarter. It was a gutsy run." The champion reinsman made those comments shortly after Joanne’s A Delight won the Group One $150,000 Magness Benrow Sires Stakes Championship for 2yo fillies at Alexandra Park tonight. The Nigel McGrath trained daughter of Bettor’s Delight burned to the lead early from gate two and never relented holding out the fast finishing Fight For Glory and Natalie Rasmussen by a nose. There was a length and 2-3/4 lengths back to Bettor Be Supreme (Tony Herlihy) and Unforgiving (Simon Lawson). The brown filly stopped the clock in 2:01.97 with a very slick mile rate of 1:55.4. Her final sectionals for the 1700m mobile were 59 flat and 29.5. “She just kept giving tonight." "I’m pleased for Nigel because he’s got her in brilliant condition and she hasn’t been far away in recent starts." It was Joanne’s A Delight’s second win in five starts. She placed in her first look at Alexandra Park last week. “She’s just got a great feel to her and there wouldn’t be many 2-year-old fillies I’ve driven that would be better than her,” Butt said. “I think this will be the first of a few more big wins,” he added. The gifted filly took her stake earnings to $107,458. She is owned by American’s Mark Hanover and Gordon Banks and was bred by Jack Smolenski. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Harness racing trainer / driver Mark Purdon could be excused for having a bit on his mind this week. There were the yearling sales, where he secured about 15 new babies to join the country's most powerful stable. And there's the small matter of planning a five group-one race assault on next week's Inter Dominion carnival in Sydney, headlined by Smolda and Adore Me. But for a few hours tonight Purdon will allow himself to become a spectator watching his early raiders at Alexandra Park in the countdown to Auckland Cup week. Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen have three runners there tonight, all to be handled by Blair Orange as the boss has chosen to stay home and drive at Methven. But he expects all three to be highly competitive and hopefully kickstart a successful weekend.   Rocknroll Arden starts the night in the Oaks trial and even allowing for the class of her northern opponents she will be close to favourite after finishing second to Venus Serena in a national record 1:52.2 mile at Ashburton last start. "She is a good filly and races well at Alex Park so she will go close, even though Snooki is a good filly and there is a bit of depth there," said Purdon. He sends debut-winning juvenile Jay Dub north for the last heat of the Young Gun series, with the youngster having some historical pressure on his back. He was bred by, and named in honour of, the late Jack Smolenski, one of harness racing's great trainers who had a spectacular record at Alexandra Park. "He is a lovely horse, although probably not as advanced as my best juvenile Follow The Stars at this stage," says Purdon. "But it looks like we have got him into a good heat for him and he can win providing he has some luck from that wide draw." While both horses will have strong support, Purdon rates Bonechip in the last race his best chance of the night. "He is actually better right-handed which is one reason he is up there," says Purdon. "And with the small field he is going to be hard to beat." Purdon will then turn his attention to Menangle tomorrow night where Willow and Isaiah need only to finish top five in their heats to qualify for the New South Wales Oaks and Derby respectively. Willow is unbeaten but meets exciting Victorian filly Nike Franco so faces a big test, while Isaiah has drawn the weaker of the two Derby heats. "He needed his run at Addington last week and is ready for a good hit out this week before the Derby," Purdon says. Purdon will take champion mare Adore Me to Addington for a private workout on Monday before she heads to Sydney with Smolda on Tuesday, where they will join up with tomorrow night's starters as well as Border Control. That should see the stable with five fancied runners in group one races worth A$1,550,000 on Sunday week. Both Smolda and Adore Me have been nominated for the Auckland Cup so could return to Alexandra Park for the great race five days later. "I will wait to see what happens on that Sunday before making that decision." Smolda is shortened to be joint favourite for the A$750,000 Inter Dominion Final, for which the barrier draw will be held on Monday morning. Courtesy of Michael Guerin and the New Zealand Herald  

I say this every week but there is definitely plenty going on in harness racing right now - on and off the track.

Today (Friday February 8) the harness racing community mourn the loss of one of the industries greats. John Joseph (Jack) Warren Smolenski sadly passed away last night (Thursday February 7) at Diana Isaac retirement home aged 78 after a series of strokes.

The only woman to have ever driven a Group One winner will leave New Zealand on June 11 for a new harness racing life in New South Wales. Pukekohe-based Nicole Molander will take six horses with her and will be based on Racecourse Road - just two properties down from Menangle Park Raceway.

There would be few more qualified observers or participants on the state of the industry than Weedons identity Fred Fletcher who produced the juvenile trotter Jinja Gal to win her Jewels edition at Ashburton last month. A licence holder for 40 years, the former master of Roydon Lodge who now trains out of Claymore Farm, won a Jewels title at his first attempt with a qualified finalist.

John Hay was the toast of Addington racegoers tonight after becoming the 17th driver to land the winners of 1000 or more races in New Zealand. Hay achieved the feat with his stable runner Sun of Loose in race two.

The Cheviot Trotting Club's Nevele R Stakes, which will be raced for this Sunday and was earlier known as the Leonard Memorial and Talltree Stud Sweetheart Stakes, has unearthed some outstanding juvenile fillies and trainer-drivers in it 42 year history. The late Graham Holmes drove Worthy Guest to score in the inaugural 1968 contest.

The Cheviot Trotting Club's Nevele R Stakes, earlier known as the Leonard Memorial and Talltree Stud Sweetheart Stakes, has unearthed some outstanding juvenile fillies and trainer-drivers in it 42 year history. The late Graham Holmes drove Worthy Guest to score in the inaugural 1968 contest.

Jack Smolenski boasts a notable record in the Cheviot club’s Nevele R Stakes or Leonard Memorial and Sweetheart Stakes as it was known earlier and has distinct prospects of adding to his score with Our Princess Royal in Sunday’s renewal at Addington.

Legendary horseman Jack Smolenski was a proud man as he watched his son Mark and grandson Sam attend to his royally bred filly Our Princess Royal after she won her qualifying trial for two year old fillies at Addington today Wednesday 25 February.

A clearance rate of 83 percent and an average of just over $25,000 ensured the second day of the PGG Wrightson Premier Yearling Sale in Christchurch today would be successful. Senior auctioneer Paul Davies said buyers endorsed the buoyant state of the industry with a positive signal of confidence that only augured well for the industry's future.

An intelligent drive by Blair Orange assisted precocious juvenile filly Lancome to stage an auspicious winning debut in the First Heat of the Magness Benrow Sires’ Stakes Series at Addington tonight Friday 13 February. Orange eased the front running filly through two relatively sedate first two quarters of the last mile in 31.9 and 32.7 before heating up the tempo over the closing 400 in 27.9.

Veteran horseman Jack Smolenski has resigned himself to the fact he will never race drive again but he is determined to get back into the cart one day at his Weedons stable.

Canterbury horseman Jack Smolenski's condition has stabilized slightly since under-going brain surgery on Saturday morning after suffering what was believed to be a stroke on Friday night.

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