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A happy horse, doing so well in his build up to the second Tuesday of November, has led John Dunn to alter his plans slightly. The Woodend Beach based Dunn, who runs the South Island branch of his father Robert’s training operation, wasn’t intending at being at Kaikoura on Monday with New Zealand Trotting Cup aspirant, Franco Nelson – but the former Cup runner-up is doing that well with life at the moment that Dunn was left with little choice. “He’s absolutely flying, I actually couldn’t be happier with him at the moment,” he said. “Initially I had said no to Kaikoura with him but the way he is at the moment I think he needs a race under his belt and we might not have got that if we waited for the Cup Trial on Wednesday.” A winner of the Hannon Memorial and then the New Brighton Cup, Franco Nelson’s lead up form has been exceptional thus far and is also giving an insight that leads towards the showy pacer putting everything out in the open when the Cup finally does roll around. Dunn has kept him ticking along nicely since his last appearance in the Canterbury Classic and a workout last week at Rangiora ticked all the boxes for the young horseman. “He felt super that day, it was a really good hit out for him and he probably felt the best he’s felt this time in I think.” Monday will be no walk in the park though with arguably one of the strongest Kaikoura Cup fields on offer in recent years. Franco Nelson will start three in from the outside fence with noted speedster early, Seel The Deal and No Doctor Needed outside him meaning Dunn will be hoping for another flying beginning. “That’s the key, it’s not an ideal draw but if he can begin really quickly we should be able to negate it a little bit. “A lot depends on the first wee bit, but if we end up settling back I’m not going to be too worried.” Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, who have dominated all the Cup lead up races that Franco Nelson hasn’t won, will have a two-pronged attack in the race from Smolda and Titan Banner. Smolda missed Monday’s Ashburton Flying Stakes due to a slight issues in his bloods after his Methven Cup win but has been ticking along nicely since and is primed for a big run from the pole position on Monday. “He’s come through it all good, it was nothing serious but enough to make us say no to Ashburton,” Mark Purdon said. Titan Banner will return to the races after his Methven Cup, fresh up, third effort with a new driver. Blair Orange has been engaged to drive the gelding on Monday and then going forward to the New Zealand Trotting Cup providing things continue down the natural path. There will be interest too on Monday in the return to New Zealand of former All Stars runner, Messini. The Brent Lilley trained pacer will begin his Kiwi cup preparation in the Kaikoura Cup.   Matt Markham

Matt Brinsdon could take a bow for his conditioning skills after Captain Dolmio won the Selwyn Paul Memorial Tuapeka Cup at Forbury Park on Sunday although it was the slowest edition of the race for 21 years. The conditioning element was that Captain Dolmio won easily in his first race for five months. Brinsdon was training Captain Dolmio in person at Gore until a fortnight ago when he was injured in a training mishap. He then sent the gelding to John Dunn at Woodend Beach. Brinsdon had give Captain Dolmio three workouts and Dunn gave him another . “A horse bolted on me and I ended up in a ditch with two broken ribs so John took over. I felt he(Captain Dolmio) was ready as he had run  his last half (800m) in  54.5 in the Winton workout,’’ said Brinsdon, who races Captain Dolmio with five other persons. “It worked out well getting it easy in front today.” Captain Dolmio, driven by Dunn, set a leisurely pace and dashed clear in the closing stages after sprinting his last 800m in 55.8 and closing 400  in 26.4.  He won by three and three quarter lengths in an overall time of 4.13, the slowest since Nero’s Charger won in 4.13.1 in 1995. Captain Dolmio returned to Woodend Beach after his win. It had been  the plan for Captain Dolmio to transfer to the Dunn stable after the Tuapeka Cup. He is now assessed at C4 and there is a race to suit him at Addington on  New Zealand Cup day (November 8). The Grinfromeartoear gelding proved himself at Addington in April  when he won over 2600m (mobile) in a swift 3.07.7. The trainers of Golden Gate and The Big Boss are giving consideration to  racing at the Cup meeting after wins on Sunday. Golden Gate, owned and trained at Gore by John Ryan, overcame a 40m handicap to win the main trot over 3200m in 4.12.  She has been withdrawn from the Dominion Handicap but there  are other races for the 9yr-old mare who is assessed at C7. The Big Boss, trained at Invercargill by Ray Faithful, took his record to three wins from five starts when he won his first race since May. He sprinted  his last 800m in 56 after dawdling in front. “I will give him a couple of days off and see how he is and look at the programmes for the Cup meeting. The style of racing  at Addington should suit him,’’ said Faithful of the giant gelding. “He takes a 72 inch hopple when the normal is about 58 and I have to get them specially made.” Ken Scott, of Mataura who races The Big Boss with “Noddy” and Jane Orr, is keen to go to Addington. His last representative at a Cup meeting was Pumped Up in 2007. The 3-year-old filly Pembrook Ideal backed up from winning her first start  on Thursday when she led throughout 1700m (mobile) in a 1.56.7 mile rate, the last 800m in 56.9. She is above average. Another 3-year-old filly, Susies Desire won by three and a half lengths over 2700m (mobile) after leading for the last 1600m. She had finished second to Pembrook Ideal three days earlier. Susies Desire is trained by Graeme Anderson for Stephen Pulley, of Dunedin. Pulley was gifted the filly by a friend, John Crosbie, of Cheviot. Mr Crosbie, who has other standardbred interests, bought Susies Desire (by Real Desire) in embryo with her dam, Susie Darlin for $600 at an Auckland sale in 2013. Playboy’s Brother gave his Oamaru owner-trainer-breeder Colin McKay a change of fortunes in 24 hours with his win from a 30m handicap in a C0-1 trot.  Illustrious Queen, a half sister to Playboy’s Brother, died the previous evening from colic, leaving McKay without a broodmare from the family. “Last night I was not going to carry on with horses,” said McKay. Illustrious Queen was in  work aiming at grass track races. She won at Waikouaiti in February last year. Playboy’s Brother and Illustrious Queen are out of Illustrious Tricks, who won four races for McKay. He converted the Cam’s Trickster mare from pacing to trotting after being gifted her. She also left him the winners Final Secret and Gorilla Playboy.   Tayler Strong

Bruce Negus is going with the tried and true to try and get himself a Methven Cup winner, even if it was forced upon him. The Burnham horseman was kicked in the hand a few weeks back by a horse and conscious of the head strong nature of his star pacer Quick As A Trick he decided it was probably best if the horse went somewhere else while his injury healed. So Robert and John Dunn got the call up and Quick As A Trick returned to life at the beach – a scenario he has enjoyed before albeit in a slightly cooler climate. “He did a lot of work on the beach when he was down South and seemed to really thrive on it,” Negus said. “I was a bit worried about him doing something silly one day at home and with my hand not being able to keep him under full control, I’m only just starting to drive some of the nice natured horses now. “So I asked John to take him home the night after his last race. He’d also just started to develop a few corns, which he has had in the past, so I’m hoping being on the sand has helped them out too.” A Methven Green Mile winner in the past, there’s no concerns about handling the track conditions at Methven this week for Quick As A Trick and the reports from Woodend Beach have been very encouraging. “John said he’s very happy with him, his work has been good and he had a nice quiet run at the workouts at Methven last weekend. “We’ve found he actually races better when he hasn’t had a hard run the week before. “But we will need to be on top of our game because this is a very good Methven Cup field.” Headlined by the All Stars duo of Titan Banner and Smolda, the $35,000 Group Three feature has drawn a deep field. Greg and Nina Hope will be represented by two strong chances in Mossdale Conner, another former Green Mile winner, and also Seel The Deal is resuming after a minor wind operation. He was very impressive winning a heat at the Methven workouts last weekend. Cran Dalgety also has a strong hand in the race with Mighty Flying Mac and also Fifth Edition. The real talk point of the race though is the entry of trotter, Valmagne. Scotch Tar’s run in the New Zealand Trotting Cup of 1982 was the last time a trotter raced in a black type race in New Zealand so it’s been a long time in between drinks. Negus also has Arya in action tomorrow in a strong fillies and mares’ trotting feature. “It’s D-Day for her tomorrow,” he said. “Her foals are going to be worth a lot more than what she will ever make on the track so we are better off looking after that. “In saying that though I do think she’s ready to start to show some real form, there’s been a bit of improvement there.” The race features Quite A Moment, Harriet Of Mot and Habibti in what is a very strong race for the female trotters. Super Selector – Methven  Race 1: Rusty I Am, Shona Mary, Lola Leigh, Ed Wood Race 2: Beach Skipper, Maninthemirror, Scotlyn Harry, Fiery Su Race 3: Young Stranger, Dream Big, Stylish Duke, Shadow Galleon Race 4: Boults On Fire, Fire One, Ireby Meg, Smouldering Ashes Race 5: James Dean, All Star Magician, Flash Boy, Likely Jereme Race 6: Mysistersastar, Hall Of Fame, Jonty James, Motu Lightning Lass Race 7: Sparkling Delight, Yankee Tara, Rocki Warrior, Wozniacki Race 8: Harriet Of Mot, Quite A Moment, Habibti, Arya Race 9: Mossdale Conner, Smolda, Titan Banner, Seel The Deal Race 10: Mighty Empire, Mach’s Terminator, Bettor Be Smooth, Gypsy’s Choice Race 11: Smarter VC, Bank Raider, Franco Texas, Dalness Mac Best Bet: Beach Skipper (Race 2) Value: Mossdale Conner (Race 9)   Matt Markham

 Harness racing trotting star Harriet Of Mot has won a workout at Methven on Saturday by a ​wide margin and looks to have come back in great condition. The 5yo daughter of Monarchy started off a 30m handicap but began well and sat midfield on the outer before driver John Dunn surged her into the lead at the 600m and careered away winning easily by 8 lengths. Trainer Aimee Edmonds was quickly on the phone to syndicate marketing manager Johnny Robinson saying she was delighted with the run and was pleased the horse never put a foot wrong in the running. "She had the reinpricker and pacifiers back on again today," Aimee said. Driver John Dunn was more than happy with how Hattie felt too, saying she did it well within herself. "She had a good blow after the workout, and also blew up a bit over her back so she'll improve with the outing."     Aimee said that they're tossing up between two options for her next appearance.. a $13,000 C5 & Faster 2600m Trot at Addington on Friday, where she'd be off a 10m handicap, or a C1-0C 2400m Fillies & Mares Trot at Methven on Sunday carrying the same stake, where she'll give her rivals a 30m headstart. "We'll nominate her for both, keep an eye on the weather forecast, and then make our decision early next week," Aimee said.   Harriet of Mot is owned by Ivan Mc Nicholl and Pat Baker of Wellington and leased to the goHarness Trotting For Fun Syndicate.   Thanks to goHarness Syndication, hundreds of happy racing fans continue to experience the thrill of horse ownership for a fraction of the normal cost.     Harnesslink Media      

It was supposed to be the return of the big hitters, but no one bothered to tell Franco Nelson.  Then again, perhaps the born again pacer, who finished second in the 2014 edition of the New Zealand Trotting Cup is no longer a member of the chasing bunch either…his victory last night a prime example.  There was an air of confidence around the Robert Dunn team prior to the Avon City Ford New Brighton Cup despite the fact that the likes of Have Faith In Me, Christen Me, Lazarus and Smolda were all joining the fray for the first time in this Cup build up.  And the confidence proved to be right on the money.  And John Dunn, who got to view the victory from the best seat in the house, put the rejuvenation and grand run of form down to one simple formula.  “We keep the horse happy and in turn he’s happy to be out there racing,” Dunn said. “He’s really sound at the moment and is just in a good space and it’s showing with how well he is going.  “We needed to get a run like we got out there tonight to bring us into it and luckily everything fell into place.” The major asset in the weaponry of Franco Nelson so far this season has been his stand start manners.  They worked the oracle again last night after Dunn was able to lead early before handing up to an intent Christen Me – resulting in a dream run in the trail throughout.  “The manners are a big help, it means we can get in the best possible position early on.”  Raced by the estate of Sharon McKay, Clive and Rona McKay, Jenna Dunn and Mitzi Taylor, Franco Nelson will head towards the Canterbury Classic in a fortnight with the Ashburton Flying Stakes, at this stage, not on the radar.  “He’s got a horrible record at Ashburton. It’s not really his sort of track so we will probably miss there.  “Kaikoura is a possibility though.” Of the beaten brigade last night Christen Me was fantastic in his first up run after working hard.  Dexter Dunn said it was never his intention to lead but the gelding began that well he felt he had no choice.  “He’s gone great, I didn’t want to lead but it just sort of happened. He fought really strongly to the line so it’s a good start.” Cran Dalgety will make a decision in the next 48 hours on what he does next with Christen Me – but the Canterbury Classic is back on the radar.  A little further down the Addington stabling block, Mark Purdon could hardly contain his enthusiasm after the performance of Lazarus to finish third.  The four-year-old made up a stack of ground along the markers after being slow away – leaving Purdon, often the harshest of critics, suitably impressed.  “He’s gone fantastic. It really was a truly great run. I had him a little too close to the tape at the start and he just panicked but it’s something I’m confident we can get sorted.  “But as far as starting points go, I’m really happy.” TAB Bookmakers reacted to the run by installing Lazarus an incredible $2.70 favourite for the New Zealand Trotting Cup with a few decent bets coming in straight away.  Natalie Rasmussen, Purdon’s training partner was equally as happy with her drive, Have Faith In Me who finished fourth.  The Miracle Mile winner was slow away as well and then worked four wide from the 800 metre mark – fighting strongly to the line.  “He’s gone good we were four wide and I didn’t really want to push him too hard first up.” Life wasn’t quite so rosy for Locharburn who made a hash of the start and then worked hard to get outside Christen Me before tiring from the top of the straight.    Matt Markham

The win of Franco Nelson in the Hannon Memorial Free-For-All at Oamaru on Sunday was tinged with sadness. Sharon McKay, a part-owner of Franco Nelson died on July 10. Her estate now shares the ownership of Franco Nelson with her parents, long time owners, Clive and Rona McKay, Mitzi Taylor and Jenna Dunn, wife of assistant trainer and driver, John Dunn. The ownership of Franco Nelson, now seven and dogged by unsoundness, was restructured in March to include Jenna Dunn and  Mitzi Taylor, wife of Sam Taylor, whose Rangiora veterinary  clinic services the Dunn stable. The McKays bought Franco Nelson as a 2yr-old from Spreydon Lodge after he had won his first start. He carried on to win a Sires’ Stakes Final at three when trained by Steven McRae. Franco Nelson was transferred  to trainer Robert Dunn at Woodend Beach late in his 3yr-old season and won the Harness Jewels at four in 1.53.1 at Cambridge in May, 2014. He was to remain winless until Sunday but the Christian Cullen entire had shown glimpses of  his ability. He finished second to Adore Me, beaten half a head in the 2014 New Zealand Cup won in a record 3.54.6 for the 3200m and fourth in the race last year when having his first start for 10 months. John Dunn is of a view that Franco Nelson is as sound as he has ever been. “ We took a bone chip of his front fetlock after the Easter Cup in March and that could have been his main problem,’’said Dunn. “I am just pleased to get him back to winning form.” A split second decision after 250m of the Hannon cost Dunn  $400 but it was crucial. He chose to ease Franco Nelson behind Tiger Tara when vying for the lead. He was fined for his action after admitting careless driving, causing a check to Pulp Fiction.  Franco Nelson followed Tiger Tara in the lead and took the passing lane after a blistering final 800m in 54.7. He downed Tiger Tara  by three quarters of a length. Cullect A Guiness, a stablemate of Franco Nelson, did well for third in a gap of two and a half lengths after racing in the open close up over the last 1200m. “I thought he (Franco Nelson) would  boom past Tiger Tara  in the straight but  the latter proved what a hard horse he is to get past,’’ said Dunn. He has no plan for Franco Nelson leading up to his third attempt  at the New Zealand Cup in eight weeks. “We have got a bit of time to think about it,” he said. Franco Nelson is due advancement on ninth in his NZ Cup  rating. The next race for the NZ Cup candidates is the New Brighton Cup ffa on September 23. It was Robert Dunn’s second Hannon Memorial win after Panky’s Pacer, driven by Ricky May, in 2002. Panky’s Pacer was pulled up in the NZ Cup that year. Franco Ledger was diagnosed by a veterinarian with a fractured pedal bone after he pulled up lame. He faltered near the 800m when racing in fifth place. “It is possibly a fracture in the lower part of his front leg. We will know more after he is X-rayed in the morning,’’ said Hamish Hunter, his Ryal Bush trainer and part-owner. “I thought he had stood on a shoe initially and  it was not until the straight that he showed up lame.’’ Franco Ledger, a nine-year-old entire, was resuming after a seven month break from racing racing. He won the Hannon Memorial  in 2012 and 13. He has won 25 races  and $682,000 in stakes for Hunter and the What Ever syndicate. The Dunn stable also won  the  main race for trotters on Sunday with Jag’s Invasion, who overcame a 40m handicap in his first race for three months. It was also a good result for Bill Bain, of Roxburgh, Andy Anderson and  Keith Stevens, both of Oamaru. They joined the ownership of the 9yr-old gelding last month. Jag’s Invasion, who had been off the winning list for just under two years, joined the Dunn stable in February after eight wins for Phil Williamson and another for Nathan Williamson. Anderson and Stevens are in the ownership of the runner up The Silver Fox. David McCormick drove his first winner for 10 years and continued a family tradition with the success of Sugar Cane in a C0 trot. McCormick is the trainer of Sugar Cane whom he races with his son, David.  David had not driven a winner since Good Charlotte at Omoto in 2006. His previous win as a trainer was with Glendaloch at Rangiora in 2012. David’s father, Doug trained and drove his first winner, Silver Wood  at Oamaru in 1953. Doug retired from training and driving in 2013 at the age of 83 Star Of Memphis won over 2000m (mobile) is 2.26, 0.7 outside the track record for his age when having his first start. He is a 3yr-old by Rock N Roll Heaven from Star Of Venus, trained by Jim Curtin for Wellington breeder, Reg Caldow. Star Of Memphis led from the 1600m and won by three and a half lengths. He is a half brother to Star Of Dionysis, who won five races in New Zealand  for Curtin and Caldow and another five from 10 starts in Australia this year. All Settled Down, who won a C1 trot in dashing style, will now be eased in work and served by  Love You. “She is unsound and has left a yearling colt by Majestic Son who is shaping nicely,” said Gavin Smith, her trainer.  All Settled Down was  served in 2013 as a 3yr-old  after one start when showing soreness in the pelvic area. Now six, she has had six starts since resuming racing on August 7 for two wins and two seconds. Tayler Strong

Harness racing speedster Franco Nelson has won the "PGG Wrightson Hannon Memorial" at Oamaru this afternoon .  Franco Nelson managed to slot into the trail after 400m, thanks to a nifty piece of driving by driver John Dunn. He then whipped home up the passing lane to beat the favorite and early leader Tiger Tara. Cullect A Guiness the stablemate of the winner made a midrace move to land outside the leader and held on for third ahead of a fresh up Quick As A Trick. Franco Nelson paced the 2600m stand in 3:17.6 with a blistering last 800m in 54.7 and 400m in 27.3. Southern pacer Costa Del Magnifico developed a minor foot problem earlier in the week and was scratched from the race. Robert Dunn had double reason to celebrate also winning with Jags Invasion later in the day. The 9yo Ambro invasion gelding was too good for the opposition in the feature trotting race on the program. Jags Invasion had a good run on the outer and and fought best in the straight to beat the Phill Williamson pairing of The Silver Fox and Monty Python. The winner came off a handicap of 40m to win and trotted the 2600m from a stand in a fast 3:18.6. PGG Wrightson Hannon Memorial Replay   Harnesslink Media

John Dunn can’t wait for another crack at Our Waikiki Beach with his exciting pacer Franco Cristiano. That looks likely in the Breeders Crown final on Sunday week, but first Franco Cristiano has to book his spot through a semi-final at Bendigo on Saturday night. And he doesn’t have Our Waikiki Beach to contend with this time. It’s fair to say Dunn was buzzing despite Franco Cristiano having to be content with third spot to Our Waikiki Beach and Menin Gate at Melton last Saturday night. “I was thrilled with the run. He really needed the hitout, so to do the work he did and still finish so close (5.3m from the winner) was really pleasing,” Dunn said. “I’m not afraid of Our Waikiki Beach. I respect him, but I’m really looking forward to racing him again. “I do think we can beat him. I know how much improvement this is to come from our guy.” Dunn moved Franco Cristiano from Melton to Bruce Morgan’s Bendigo stables last Sunday so the gelding could do his trackwork around the circuit he will race on this weekend. “Just like I took him to the Melton trials and then gave him the run last week, I’m big on giving a horse who is still learning some experience around tracks which are new to him,” he said. Franco Cristiano will dominate betting from an ideal draw (gate four) in what looks the weaker of the two Crown semis at Bendigo on Saturday night. He will come into three if the emergency (Nickys Idol, gate one) doesn’t gain a start. The barrier has added plenty of interest to the other semi with Our Waikiki Beach drawn inside the back row (gate eight). Main danger and impressive heat winner Iceenothink has thee pole, while the other major hopes look to be Kingofthestars (gate nine) and I Will Rock You (13). Tactics will be fascinating with Iceenothink a probable leader and Our Waikiki Beach drawn to trail him through. Two of Mark Purdon’s other stars – Partyon (race two, gate 11) and Pacing Major (race six, gate nine) – also drew the back row. While his talented three-year-old filly My Mackenzie landed the pole in the opening race, but does have Heavens Trend (four), Dancingwithsierra (two) and Whirily School (three).   Adam Hamilton

Caretaker harness racing trainer John Dunn was gobsmacked when he saw the field for Franco Cristiano’s  Breeders Crown “warm-up” race at Melton on Saturday night. And it’s no wonder when you consider the city “maiden” race (M0) boasts last season’s triple Derby winner Menin Gate (gate four) and this season’s superstar three-year-old Our Waikiki Beach (gate nine). Franco Cristiano has gate 10. “It’s going to be a good indicator of where we are at, that’s for sure,” Dunn said. “I don’t expect to beat Waikiki Beach or Menin Gate, but I’d love to be hitting the line strongly behind them.” Franco Cristiano arrived at Andy Gath’s stables near Melton last week, has settled in well and had a low-key trial around the Melton track yesterday (Tuesday). “He did what I wanted and he’s got a few wee tricks still, so getting a look around the track in the trial and again in a race this week will help,” Dunn said. “In the trial he drew five, drifted back then I went to the death, but sat back off the leader (Highview Ruler) and got within a length or so of the winner at the finish (running second).” Highview Ruler won by the 2240m trial in a 2min1.5sec mile rate and finished off in 56.3 and 27.6sec with Franco Cristiano. “He badly needed the run so the trial and this week’s race will bring him on nicely ahead of the semi-final (of the Breeders Crown),” Dunn said. Dunn said Franco Cristiano had always displayed enormous talent and was still maturing. “He’s a horse we’ve always liked a lot and he’s getting better all the time,” he said. “I’m sure he’ll be competitive in the Crown and it’s great for his owners, a good group of people from Ashburton, to be have him across here being a part of it.” Dunn will take the reins himself this week in what will be just his second drive in a race at Melton. “The only other one was Franco Nelson in the Hunter Cup (running sixth) in 2014,” he said. Although (Our) Waikiki Beach will be a warm favourite, he will face a big challenge to beat former Victoria Derby winner Menin Gate if the finds the lead from gate four over the 1720m sprint trip around Melton. The other highlight of the Melton meeting is Hectorjayjay’s return from a freshen-up in the Minuteman free-for-all (2240m). He will be a clear favourite despite a wide draw (gate six) and quality rivals like: Chilli Palmer (one), Messini (two), Flaming Flutter (seven) and Major Crocker (10).   Adam Hamilton

Invercargill based harness racing junior driver Sheree Tomlinson achieved her 8th career win and first at Addington Raceway tonight when she was successful on Amaretto Sun who is trained by her grandfather Ken Ford. In her first season as a Junior Driver, Tomlinson has thrived in the deep south after teaming up with Murray Brown and all roads lead to her being the no 1 junior in the deep south with current premiership leader Brad Williamson and Craig Ferguson in their last season of driving. It also adds to a wonderful season for the West Melton based Ford who thanks to top trotter Marcoola has surpassed his previous best of 14 (2004) to post 19 wins this season. Sent around the field to sit parked, Amaretto Sun proved too strong for Monnay(Brad Williamson) and Kowhai Monarch(Sam Ottley). Amaretto Sun In the Junior Drivers event, Matt Anderson and the All Stars trained Superfecta absolutely destroyed their opponents. After swinging sideways at the start and adding at least 40 metres on to their task, Anderson will quick to tack on the bunch. Thanks to a hot speed up front, Anderson was happy to sit back before launching at the 700m and looping the field to run away and win by 2 ½ lengths. Mr Handleman(Craig Ferguson) and Jewelz(Nicole Harris) were seen storming home from well back to run 2nd and 3rd. Superfecta Meanwhile, Smart 3yo Franco Cristiano beat a brave G I Joe to record his 6th career victory for trainer Robert Dunn and driver John Dunn. Sitting back and letting it all unfold in front of him, Dunn let his charge down powerfully in the home straight to grab the All Stars trained G I Joe just before the post. That win made it 3 for the night for Robert Dunn after Freedom Fighter made a dominate return to the racetrack and Letspendthenighttogether saluted. That will help Robert on his mission towards the premiership as he now sits 12 wins behind and is hoping for a big Forbury Park meeting tomorrow. Franco Cristiano Andrew Fitzgerald

Breaking out on your own after a successful harness racing partnership that has lasted many years is supposed to be hard yakka, but Paul Court can be forgiven though for thinking it’s all a little too easy. The West Melton horseman, who was alongside his father Graham in training partnership for close to a decade, is making a pretty good fist of the solo training caper and yesterday, on the first day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s Winter meeting, he picked up his first training hatrick. “It’s been a pretty dream start really, better than I could have ever expected anyway,” Court said. Yesterday’s three wins came less than 24 hours after Stunin Dude won at Forbury Park on Thursday night in the hands of Blair Orange and it was the Postman who was in the sulky for two thirds of his Friday success. Orange drove both Hypervelocity and Expressive Victor to victory while Ricky May was on board Courage To Live who won the last race of the day. “I thought that they were all good chances, but for all three to win was great. “You got to the race expecting to have a good day and often it’s the opposite.” Expressive Victor’s win in the Winter Cup Prelude was impressive. The 4-year-old mare, who was second behind Rocker Band in the 4YO Ruby at the Harness Jewels three weeks ago, overcame an early bobble to sit off the speed before unwinding brilliantly down centre track to secure victory. “The gallop was a bit of a worry, she’s usually such a good beginner. “Blair said she got a bit of a fright when the tapes went, I don’t think one on the 10 metre line was a good draw for her.” The imposing mare will start a warm order favourite on Sunday to go back-to-back on what is fast becoming her favourite track. From five starts on the Waterlea Raceway surface she’s won twice and placed on as many occasions with her only failure coming when she choked down and crashed to the deck at the Summer meeting earlier this year. Both Hypervelocity and Courage To Live will both also be in action on Sunday.   The former will have to deal with the impressive Franco Cristiano who made light work of his race track return earlier in yesterday’s programme for Robert and John Dunn. Courage To Live also has a tough ask from a wider draw, but his free going racing style means he will be on the speed at some stage in the race and that’s here he seems to race best. “He probably lacks that really high speed, but he will just keep going. “I was pretty impressed with the way he won, he looked like he could have kept going at that speed too. “He’s just got better and better each time I’ve taken him to the races.” Closely related to Terror To Love, the Jereme’s Jet colt was one of two winners for Terry McDonald who also shares owns Hypervelocity. McDonald went had the perfect day on Friday with Letspendanitetogetha, who he owns with good friend Reg Storer, finishing second to Courage To Live. While Court’s three wins was impressive, Orange’s driving talents were on full display. He won three races to go with the three he picked up on Thursday night, taking him to 117 winners for the season and 16 wins clear in second position on the national premiership which is being led by Dexter Dunn. Dunn endured a winless day at the office and will have to wait until next week to get New Zealand win No. 200 as he’s on a plane to drive Christen Me in Queensland on Saturday night and isn’t returning to Blenheim for Sunday’s meeting. Matt Markham

Its been a seven month absence from the track, but talented three year old Franco Cristiano looks set to make a winning return on day one at Blenheim tomorrow for Harness Racing Trainer Robert Dunn. Good enough to win a Sires Stakes heat in the spring, Franco Cristiano was well supported in the final on Cup Day. However, after blowing to bits soon after the start, he would take no part in the Group One feature, won outstandingly by Lazarus. Shortly after this, Franco Cristiano headed north to Pukekohe under Robert's tutelage. However, very soon things began to unravel for the talented Bettor's Delight 3yr old. He had been a bit off in his work and Robert's worst fears were realised when after a scan, a hairline fracture of the pastern was revealed. After a successful surgery, he returned to the beach nearly three months ago and has been given plenty of time as he makes his progress back to the track. It was a winning turn at last week's Ashburton trials that told John that all was well and that it was time to get back to the track. "He was pretty impressive alright and just jogged it in some pretty quick sectionals." The news gets even better for his very patient connections. "He does seem a very different racehorse this time in and is definitely a lot more settled. Of course you never know until you get to the races though," said John. While the TAB have him installed the shortest of favourites in the early markets at $1.10, John said that first up, he must be some sort of risk. "Celestial Arden is in good form and is race fit, so we will need to be near enough to get the win." Win or lose, plans are a bit up in the air past tomorrow. "We are no certainty to go around again on Sunday. We will see how he is after the race, how he eats up and that sort of thing, but we won't be taking any risks with him." When assessing the rest of the team's chances tomorrow, John was a little frustrated by some of the draws and felt that perhaps their chances will be better on day two. "I really liked Mr Preston, but we have had to pull him out after he pulled up sore yesterday. Blood And Whisky is probably one of the best chances after Franco Cristiano. While he broke at the trials last week, I have made a couple of gear adjustments since then. He seems a nice type and should get one pretty quickly. Then later in the day, Highview Freddy and Graduate Under Fire should both go good races. They have both been near enough."Ex And when asked where things sit in terms of the much talked about premiership race, John was quite philosophical about things. "Realistically we will need to get a few wins this weekend if we are any chance. We will just keep on doing what we are doing and either way it has been a great season." Robert Dunn Trotting Stables

Harness Racing Trainer Robert Dunn, who trains in an unofficial partnership with his son John, had 103 wins for the season going into last night’s Forbury Park meeting, 17 behind the Mark Purdon-Natalie Rasmussen stable. Just a week ago the gap was much bigger, but the Dunns had a nine-win week and now Robert says the premiership is still possible. “We basically have three bases going,” he told the Herald. “We have six horses based near Forbury Park, where they race almost every week until the end of the season. “We have a nice team up here in Auckland and a good Canterbury team, which is about to be boosted by the return of Franco Christiano, who we think is the bee’s knees. “Before last week I thought we couldn’t catch them but if we can have another big week before the end of the month we have a shot going into July.”
 Dunn’s hopes of a first premiership win should be boosted by the Purdon-Rasmussen stable powering down to virtually only their Breeders Crown horses after Addington tonight. “We will have the Breeders Crown horses and maybe two others going over the winter,” Purdon confirmed. So Dunn is doing his math. “Mark and Nat will probably win most of the Breeders Crown heats here they contest, although we have Franco Christiano against Heaven Rocks so that will be no gimme for them,” says Dunn. “So they could easily end up on 125 or 126 for the season. That would mean we need to train at least 22 more, maybe even 25 but it is not impossible.”
 Ironically, Dunn’s best winning chance at Alexandra Park tonight is Bevan’s Cullen, who was trained by the All Stars until two starts ago. “He can definitely win again, while Natural and Cherry Bay are racing well and will win again over the winter. “But the one who has really improved is Formula One, who won’t start race this week but can win again soon.”
 Any success at Alexandra Park tonight for Dunn could be cancelled out by G I Joe (race six) and Augusta (race nine) for Purdon-Rasmussen at Addington tonight. While the premiership battle heats up of more immediate interest to punters is the $75,000 jackpot at Alexandra Park tonight. It starts early on race four and brings together three trot races, two paces for grass track performers and a form-packed 2200m for the fillies and mares. There aren’t many, if any, anchors so percentage betting looks the way to go as a small divvy is unlikely. Meanwhile, unbeaten New Zealand pacer Our Waikiki Beach is looking increasingly unlikely to get a start in his Breeders Challenge semi final at Menangle tomorrow night, meaning he will miss the A$150,000 final on Sunday week. Our Waikiki Beach’s connections missed the nomination time by six minutes on Tuesday, forcing him to last in the rankings and being an emergency in the semis. No rivals have been scratched yet. Purdon said no decision will be made on where the glamour colt goes next until Sunday at the earliest. Michael Guerin

The rain kept coming and so did the winners for Kaiapoi based Harness Racing Driver/Trainer Gavin Smith. For the past few days Smith has watched his good mates Robert and John Dunn's team dominate. The Dunn's picked up trebles at Forbury on Thursday, Nelson on Friday and Auckland on Friday night. Not to be out done, Smith also picked up a double on the first day of Nelson Harness Racing Club's annual two day winter meeting with his own runner Alison Stokke and the Bruce Hutton trained Ideal Arden. And by the end on of racing on Sunday, there was only one person people on course were talking about, and that was Smith. After dominating the 9 card meeting with 4 driving win's which included 2 training wins. Alison Stokke, a 3yo Bettor's Delight filly, put the writing on the wall for Friday's maiden victory with a strong 2nd at Ashburton 5 days earlier. Making a flying from the tapes, Smith had the filly who is owned by his wife Sara and J Chin, out front and running along nicely before handing up to Sam Ottley and 2nd favourite Glenferrie Classic with 1400m to run. It all nearly turned to disaster though when Glenferrie Classic galloped in front, causing Alison Stokke to break for several strides before Smith was able to get her back down into a pace. With the galloper safely negotiated, Gavin asked his charge for a full effort and cleared out to win by 1 ½ lengths over Bobby M (Robbie Close) and Cullen's Bardon (Stephen McNally). Although it was the drives on Ideal Arden in the Nelson Winter Cup Prelude and Cup that had most people impressed. Using the American Ideal gelding's stand start speed to lead out on both occasions, Smith then handed up to the Robert Dunn trained Highview Freddy, who is well known as a front runner. From there on it was just a matter of Smith extracting the Bruce Hutton trained 6yo to either the inside or the outside of the leading and zipping away. Ideal Arden was the only runner to record a win on both days of the meeting. Smith started off his Sunday morning with a well deserved win aboard It's How You Use It who is trained by former stable employee Lawrence McCormick. The 5yo mare by Diedre Don recorded her maiden victory at start number 18 for owners, J T Morrison, A J Morrison, M J Gallagher, A Palmer, Mrs J E Lowe and Lawrence himself. Smith also recorded wins with pacer Melanie Ohara, who galloped on the first day but thanks to a change in bit was a strong maiden winner. While He's Like The Wind put up a improved performance after galloping late on day one to record win number three of his career. Andrew Fitzgerald

It was business as usual for Team Dunn at the Nelson Harness Racing Meeting today. Backing up from a treble at last nights Forbury Park Trotting Meeting, the Dunn team started their late season charge towards closing the premiership gap between themselves and the All Stars team. Sitting on 97 wins coming into todays meeting, that was soon 98 when maiden trotter Bourbon And Dry won the first of the day. Purchased at the late Carl Middleton's dispersal sale by the Neumann family, Bourbon And Dry was having his 2nd run from a spell when he beat 40 start maiden South Coaster, trained by Brad Mowbray at Yaldhurst, was will be forced to come back on Sunday to try and break his maiden status. Fast forward to race 6 and smart 3yo pacer Letspendanighttogetha was a dominate winner and brought up win number 99 for the season for trainer Robert Dunn and also win 99 for driver John Dunn. Away well from barrier one, the Washington VC gelding was shuffled back along the fence, before storming up the passing lane to win by ½ length to a super brave Ultimate Fella in 2nd. It took until the last race in the day for Team Dunn to bring up season win 100 and what a way to do it. Driver Ross Houghton, who is John Dunn's right hand man at their Woodend operation, was successful on Joey Maguire who he also part owns. It was a masterful drive by Houghton, who also brought up his 50th Career driving win, to find the front early on after drawing badly on the second row. After being allowed to dictate the race in front, Ross was off and gone at the top of the straight with 29.2 final quarter on a slushy Nelson track. Houghton was obviously stoked with the win, shown by his large salute to the crowd as he went over the line. Todays treble closed the gap in the premiership down to just 20 wins with a little over 6 weeks left to go in the season. John will look to pick up his 100th Season driving win on Sunday. Bourban And Dry Letspendanighttogetha Joey Maguire Andrew Fitzgerald

Maybe there is one last plot twist in the harness racing national trainers’ premiership after all. A hat-trick of wins at Forbury Park on Thursday night set the ball rolling for the weekend that could make or break Robert Dunn’s chances of winning the national title. Still 23 wins behind the Purdon/Rasmussen stable, Dunn has a bit of ground to make up - but has the luxury of a strong and plentiful winter racing team which will take him deep into July. The All Stars on the other hand are expected to start to slow their operation down, but with a number of Breeders Crown heats to be contested as well as the odd winter racing proposition they will still be out and about. Dunn made the call to push for the premiership earlier in the year when things were close. He’s had to watch as his stable ran a string of unlucky placings over the last month while the All Stars have kicked right into gear. But last night’s treble, including the first driving win for Craig Smith, might have been the boost needed to get things moving and with 14 more chances over the course of the weekend - especially considering one venue is Nelson could really set things alight. The stable has eight runners engaged on the opening day of the Nelson Harness Racing Club’s Winter meeting and there are a number of strong winning chances amongst them. Those who race today at Nelson will also race there again on Sunday giving the stable two bites of the cherry. Leading the charge is promising 3-year-old, Letspendanitetogetha. The Washington VC gelding, who has placed behind; GI Joe, Major Ben and Mr Mojito in his last three starts gets the coveted ace barrier draw against a tidy field of pacers and will give his owners; Reg Storer and Terry McDonald a great shot at the second win of his career. Yukon Cloud, who was a very handy runner-up behind Anny Ivy when last produced also has the one marble and will be hard to beat from there for Ross Houghton. An in-form Highview Freddy and the consistent Joey Maguire look like other leading chances of success for the barn at Richmond Park. In Auckland, five runners will do business - spearheaded by talented trotter, Natural and Bevan’s Cullen was very good last week at Alexandra Park. Matt Markham

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