Sunday is shaping up as a definitive day for All Black halfback Andy Ellis. Ellis is part of a harness racing syndicate who race duel Group I winner Speeding Spur, a $1.30 favourite with the New Zealand TAB to win the Group I Breeders Crown final for 3-year-old trotting colts and geldings at Melton on Sunday. The John and Josh Dickie trained Speeding Spur has not been helped by a tricky second row draw for the 2240m race, but his overwhelming favouritism suggests he should be good enough to overcome that. The Speeding Spur camp will be looking for redemption after the son of Pegasus Spur made an uncharacteristic break which ended his winning chances at the Harness Jewels at Ashburton in late May. Ellis was on track to watch the disappointing result and will be looking for redemption of his own around three hours after Speeding Spur's race which starts at 3.09pm NZT. At 6.30pm the All Blacks squad for the Rugby World Cup will be announced. Fellow Speeding Spur owner Kieran Read is a certainty but Ellis' chances of playing in back-to-back World Cups appear to be dwindling. With Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara seemingly assured of their spots, Ellis also has to battle with a now fully fit Tawera Kerr-Barlow. And coach Steve Hansen has also hinted at only taking two halfbacks. If Ellis does miss out on what would be his final World Cup chance, he should hopefully be able to call himself a Breeders Crown winner. A Speeding Spur win looks a much better bet than an All Black call up on paper. Ellis and Read were invited into harness racing ownership by Woodlands Stud and have never looked back after first tasting success with Betters Delight pacer Victors Delight. Also in the Speeding Spur ownership is Crusaders forwards coach Dave Hewett and Commonwealth gold medallist Dick Tayler. A World Cup winner in 2011, Ellis makes no secret of his love of harness racing. New Zealand trained runners hold favouritism in seven of the eight Breeders Crown Group I events. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's 2-year-old trotting filly High Gait is a $1.20 favourite from the ace, as is stablemate Our Waikiki Beach who starts from the outside of the front row in the 2-year-old colts and geldings pacers final. Fellow All Stars pacers Our Dream About Me ($1.40) and Follow The Stars ($1.70) hold favouritism in the 2-year-old fillies and 3-year-old colts and geldings final. Our Dream About Me will have to come from barrier 12 but Follow The Stars has drawn four and inside main rival Menin Gate. The Bunty Hughes-trained The Orange Agent is at $1.50 to win the 3-year-old fillies pacing final from the second line and Paul Nairn's Conon Bridge is a $1.30 shot to win the 2-year-old trot for colts and geldings on the back of drawing the ace. The 3-year-old trotting final for fillies is the only race the Kiwis do not hold favouritism but Barry Purdon's Alannah Hall is a $14 chance from the outside of the front line. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ - Check site here
The big harness racing day at Maryborough today with its sole focus on the straight out trotter is akin to the holy grail for followers of the squaregaiter. The jewel in the crown today was the $75,000 Victoria Trotting Derby which drew together the best Australian three year old trotters with the undisputed New Zealand champion three year old Speeding Spur. Speeding Spur's main problem was that he drew barrier 13 which was the outside of the second line in the ten horse field. Due to scratchings there was only four runners on the front line and Josh Dickie, the driver of Speeding Spur took advantage of the small front line and sent the son of Pegasus Spur forward from the start and grabbed the lead within the first 200 metres. Blue Sky Commander settled into the trail behind Speeding Spur with My Arya facing the breeze. Second favourite Illawong Armstrong circled the field mid-race to sit outside Speeding Spur but he really latched on and as a result there was no let up in the hot speed as he pulled himself into the ground. Turning for home Speeding Spur still held the front but was being attacked on all sides. Blue Sky Commander and Kerryn Manning were issuing a challenge up the passing lane after their soft trip while Amarula and John Caldow were finishing on stoutly centre track. However as he has done all season in New Zealand, Speeding Spur kicked bigtime when he was challenged and was drawing away again at the line with Josh Dickie giving a little victory salute as he hit the line. Blue Sky Commander ran into second with Amarula battling the last bit to run third. Amarula's run was full of merit as she did have a short gallop in the score up but was with the field at dispatch. Speeding Spur trotted the 2690 metres in 3:21.8, a mile rate of 2:00.7 which was a new track record. Trained by Josh and John Dickie at Clevedon in South Auckland, todays win by Speeding Spur was his 11th from 14th starts as a three year old and took his seasonal earnings over the $250,000 mark. His win today from barrier 13 after being attacked savagely mid race in track record time is further proof if any was needed that he is a superstar in the making. New Zealand breeders would have had a big smile on their faces post race as the first three home were all bred in New Zealand and that carried on the great record that New Zealand bred trotters have in Australian age group classics. Harnesslink Media
The North Americans have been on a bit of a buying spree of New Zealand harness racing stock in the last few months and that has continued this week with the smart McArdle gelding Kippenberger under offer to New York interests. Due to be vetted on Monday, Kippenberger has been a model of consistency lately and was rewarded tonight for that consistency with a smart front running win in the Thames Cup prelude. Away well from his ten metre handicap for co-trainer Josh Dickie, Kippenberger worked his way to the front and from there he controlled the race. Josh upped the tempo from the 800 metres mark and it was evident a long way from home that Kippenberger was the horse to beat. Passing the 400 metres Josh pushed the go button a bit harder and the six year old responded in style to scoot home in the chilly conditions in 27 seconds for an easy victory. Smart intermediate grade pacer Johnny Fox got home well for second in front of Rockn Ruby who went her usual honest race for third. Co-trainer John Dickie was all smiles post race. " Kippenberger is such an under rated horse." " His record of finishing in the first three in nearly half his races says it all about him." " He always gives his best and is such an honest horse." " He has been on the market and is under offer so he won't be back for the Thames Cup in a fortnight which is a shame because I think he would have been a real chance," John said. Kippenberger is one of those Kiwi horses that looks ideally suited to North American racing and should give a good account of himself in the northern hemisphere. Harnesslink Media
The first of the Group 1 races at tonights big harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park was the $80,000 Northern Trotting Derby which looked a two horse race on paper and for once that's how it played out. Habibti Ivy and Blair Orange led early as expected before handing up to the warm favourite, Speeding Spur with co-trainer Joshua Dickie in the bike. The main danger to Speeding Spur in Monbet with Ricky May in the bike settled into the one by one early on the back of the smart Prince Fearless and that was the running order up front for the first lap. With just over a lap to go Arya and Mark Purdon worked around to the death seat, forcing Monbet back a further place to three back in the running line. Speeding Spur really upped the ante down the back and the first horse to feel the pinch was Prince Fearless who started to struggle to hold Arya's back which forced Monbet and Ricky May to come out three wide. Speeding Spur really upped the ante on the corner and straightened four lengths clear with Monbet and Arya still finishing on. Late in the piece Monbet took a lot of ground off Speeding Spur but the son of Pegasus Spur was never in any danger of being beaten. Arya never gave up and stuck on well for third in front of Prince Fearless who kept whacking away to finish fourth. Speeding Spur trotted the 2700 metres in 3:25.4, a mile rate of 2:02.4 with closing sectionals of 56.3 and 27.7 Joshua Dickie was in awe of the performance of Speeding Spur. " I knew he would better than last week but he just felt super tonight" " His work during during the week had been great and we were pretty confident tonight." "Dad has done a great job of having him peak for the Derbies and a lot of the credit must go to him," Joshua said. Trainer John Dickie was all smiles post race. " We had him a bit short last week but this week he was right on the mark. "I was really confident going into the race and he didn't let us down," John said. The plans for Speeding Spur for the rest of the season are already set. " He will go to the $75,000 sales race at Addington on May 15th and then to the Harness Jewels two weeks later, " John said. Monbet put in another huge run for second, making up a lot of ground on the leader off a 56.3 last 800 metres while the run of Arya was much more in keeping with her ability. Harnesslink Media
The old adage in harness racing of their being no such thing as a certainty in racing was reinforced yet again tonight at Addington in Christchurch when Speeding Spur overcame the hot favourite Prince Fearless to win the New Zealand Trotting Derby. Prince Fearless from barrier three was all the rage with punters with Speeding Spur was allowed to drift to six to one after he drew barrier six. Habibti Ivy flew the gate from barrier seven and grabbed an early lead before handing up to Prince Fearless after 500 metres. No sooner had he reached the front, Prince Fearless was attacked by Speeding Spur and Josh Dickie and the two star three year olds went to war for the next 300 metres before Speeding Spur finally made the front. Josh kept up a steady tempo in front before upping the speed down the back straight the last time. As they turned for home Mark sprung out of the trail with Prince Fearless but try as he might he couldn't get up to Speeding Spur who went on for a decisive 1 1/4 length victory. Habibti Ivy fought on well on the inner for third in front of an unlucky Monbet who made up a huge amount of ground to run fourth. A minor highlight of the race was the run of Sky Commander who ran on well late for a close up fifth in his first outing at this level. Speeding Spur covered the 2600 metres from the mobile in a new New Zealand record for a three year old of 3:15.7, a mile rate of 2:01.1 with closing sectionals of 57.9 and 28.7 Trainer John Dickie was confident going into tonights race. " We learnt a lot from our defeat to Prince Fearless at Ashburton." " He is much better rolling along as he is such a good stayer. ' The plan tonight was to go forward and we never going to die wondering." "Once he got to the front, I didn't think they would beat him," John said. Safely through tonight, Speeding Spur will now head home to Clevedon to prepare for a series of races at Alexandra Park. " The two big races are the Sires Stakes and the Northern Derby so there is plenty to look forward to," John said. Tonights win was one of the best performances this writer has ever seen from a three year old trotter and the son of Pegasus Spur looks to have a big future. Harnesslink Media
Harness racing and the Dickie family have had a long association and that looks set to continue for a long time into the future the way John and his son Josh have been churning out the winners this season. Ever since their move up to Clevedon from their former base in the Waikato, the father and son training partnership have been regularly winning races at Alexandra Park. They started tonight at Alexandra Park in the same vein, winning race one with the three year old trotting filly, Paramount Dream. The daughter of Pegasus Spur was slowly but safely away from barrier two and settled three back on the outer in the running line. Josh didn't make his move until 400 metres from home where he quickly swept up to the leaders three and four wide and ran away for an emphatic four length victory. She trotted the 2200 metres in 2:52.9, a mile rate of 2:06.4 with closing sectionals of 60.2 and 29.6. Josh had double reason to celebrate after tonights success. " Its my birthday today so it is nice to win one for the stable." " She is a lovely filly and has a really good future." "She did it really easily tonight and knocked off a bit in the straight when clear," Josh said. A $50,000 purchase at the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch, Paramont Dream is a full sister to a former Dickie trained star in Paramount Geegee 1:57.3 ($561,342) and a half sister to another talented trotter in Paramount Queen 1:59.7 ($121,691). Tonights victory was the 22nd for the season for the Dickie partnership and they are closing in quickly on lasts season mark of 25 wins which was there first season in partnership. PS: Josh and John made it two for the night when Speeding Spur took out race six Harnesslink Media
Last week was on the up for our harness racing pundits with Sam Ottley, Tony Herlihy, John Dickie, John Curtin, Scott Phelan and Blair Orange nailing winners why five other selections ran a place but just missed the winners circle. This week we cover the four meetings once again and hope our selectors can tip you into a winner or three. Cambridge - Thursday Night Sean McCaffrey - Rates Strawberry Courage a royal chance in the first, the amateur drivers race. Scott Phelan - Thinks Chosen Path can break out of maidens in race 2 Todd Macfarlane - Likes Tarn to overcome her 30 meter handicap, also in race 2 Todd Mitchell - Very bullish about the chances of Eyrewell Pegasus in race 5 Maurice McKendry - Thinks Hughie Green can continue his winning streak in race 6 Zac Butcher - Confident that Chachingchaching can win ,even from second line, also in race 6 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Bullish about Bute Mach in race 8 after unlucky run last start Peter Scaife - Is confident Mach Cullen is a big winning chance, also in race 8 Northern Southland - Friday Afternoon Clark Barron - Confident that Mass Invasion can improve on first up 4th and win race 2 Nathan Williamson - Reckons Nothingforthemedia could cause a real blowout in race 3 Brendon McLellan - Thinks Nightmarch will be hold to hold out, also in race 3 Matthew Williamson - Very keen on Smokin Bird in race 7 Shane Walkinshaw - Likes Canardly Lover having first run back to win race 8 Addington - Friday Night Sam Ottley - Thinks Ottawa can overcome the unruly mark and win race 3 Brad Williamson - Reckons The Silver Fox is overdue a winning turn, also in race 3 John Dunn - Rates Lumos a huge chance back to a stand in race 4 Steve Richardson - Likes the lightly raced mare Alexandra Leaving in race 8 Blair Orange - Very bullish about the smart Mighty Major in race 9 Banks Peninsula - Sunday Afternoon Gerard O'Reilly - Thinks Just Leave can improve on Methven 5th and win race 2 Ricky May - Urges punters to stick with Speedski in race 6 after his luckless 4th at Methven. Terry Chmiel - Likes Gyrate to go back to back in race 10 if he can get a run through from the second line. Harnesslink Media
Well known harness racing owner and breeder Basil Blackwell has never been short of a nice horse around him and in Voluntad 1:56.4 ($28,766) he has another classy racehorse. Bred and owned by Basil and raced out of the Dickie barn as are most of his horses, Voluntad is a six year old mare by Real Desire from the Road Machine mare White Nights who has already left two smart winners in Mont Ventoux 1:55.5 and Lively Nights 1:58.4. Voluntad is from the family of Miranda Star which has been so successful for so long for Robert Reid. Voluntad only started racing in December 2013 and quickly showed she was above average. Going into tonights (September 19th) race at Alexandra Park she had already won three times from just ten starts and the punters made her a warm favourite. Two fixed odds bets of $5,000 were placed on her late in the piece but the punters would have been smiling to themselves from the time she left the mobile. Sent straight to the front from barrier two by regular pilot Josh Dickie, Voluntad kept up a steady pace before being attacked by Rykaard with 1200 meters to go. The next 400 meters was cut out in 29.4 before Voluntad regained control as they went to the 800 meters mark. She then ran down the back straight in 28.9 before scooting home in 28.1 for an effortless victory with Josh hardly moving in the bike all the way up the straight. Voluntad hit the finishing line nearly three lengths clear without being extended which bodes well for her as she works her way through the grades. She paced the 2200 meters in 2:43.3, a mile rate of 1:59.4 with closing sectionals of 57 and 28.1 Voluntad looks capable of mixing it with the better mares later in the season in races such as the Queen Of Hearts if she can keep improving at her present rate of progress. Harnesslink Media
Classy freshman Connoisseur made one of the most impressive debut victories seen at Alexandra Park in recent times when making a mess of his maiden rivals last night. The John and Josh Dickie trained juvenile was backed into $1.30 favouritism on the back of couple of impressive trial wins, and didn’t let punters down, opening up from the 500 metre mark to race away for an emphatic 10 & ½ length victory. Connoisseur, who is a son of Bettor’s Delight and Falcon Seelster mare Cyclone Annie, paced the 2200 metre journey in a slick 2-43.9, with closing sectionals of 58.7 and 28.2. So, although the opposition Connoisseur beat were average, his time wasn’t and neither was the fashion in which he did it. “It took a bit to get him up and running but we always knew he had a huge motor,” said co-trainer John Dickie when interviewed after the race. Dickie said Connoisseur would now be spelled before returning for what could be a very big three-year-old season. Meanwhile, smart age group trotters Arya and Primz Luck are both set for Australian campaigns after breezing through their respective Breeders Crown heats at Alexandra Park last night. Arya had a walkover win as she was the only horse nominated in her heat, while Primz Luck may as well have been the only one in his, smashing his lone rival by some 50 lengths. By Mitchell Robertson
The two year old Ruby at this years Harness Jewels was won in brilliant fashion by the Love You gelding Monbet after a great display of trotting that was as good as anything produced by a juvenile in this country. The rest of the field were left to fight out the minors with Arya getting up on the inside of Prince Fearless to grab second with Yougunnakissmeornot just nabbing Wanna Play for fourth. No sooner had the horses pulled up, the siren went with two protests being lodged over an incident as they passed the 400 meter mark. First up Josh Dickie, the driver of Speeding Spur who was struggling to keep up in the one by one on the hot pace, lodged a protest against Yougunnakissmeornot who on leaving her position three back on the inner at the 400 meters appeared to check Speeding Spur into a break. It looked a 50/50 call and could have gone either way so it was no surprise when it was dismissed. Josh Dickie made no allegation of interference against Ayra driven by Mark Purdon who was three wide outside Speeding Spur at the time but the stewards saw fit to file a protest on exactly those grounds. They claimed Ayra had shifted down at the same time that Yougunnakissmeornot had eased off the inner and that was the primary reason Speeding Spur had broken. It was not an allegation supported by the horses driver or the video evidence but one the JCA found in favour of none the less. Mark Purdon is known for keeping his views to himself and has never been one to lose his cool but was so appalled by the decision that he labeled the chairman of the panel that heard the inquiry, Brian Scott incompetent and the whole process a travesty. And if one watches the replay enough, one tends to come to the conclusion that Mark Purdon has a point. Everybody in this industry is accountable and on the surface the JCA panel in this matter have some serious questions to answer. Harnesslink media
Ardmore-based junior harness racing driver, Josh Dickie drove his second Group winner for his training father John tonight when successful with Great Getaway in the Group Three $25,300 New Zealand Northern Trotting Breeders Stakes.
On a A$500,000 afternoon last August the world seemed full of promise with three of New Zealand racing's brightest young harness racing stars.
Tragedy has struck celebrated Cambridge trotter Paramount Geegee, the champion age-group harness racing performer was found dead in his paddock on Monday morning (May 28).
If you wanted to witness quality harness racing tonight (Friday March 23) then all you had to do was cross to Addington Raceway in Christchurch for a couple of hours between 7.35pm and 9.30pm. Wow the standard of racing was impressive and all the big names were to the fore. If this is the start of what's to come in 2011-12, then it's going to be a bumper season.
French harness racing sire Love You produced another quality winner when his royally bred daughter - Paramount Queen - beat the boys in tonight's (Friday March 16) $4,000 trot for the 2-year-old trotters at Addington Raceway.
Champion young trotter Flying Isa is suffering from a virus and will miss tomorrow's (Saturday February 11) $25,000 Hambletonian Trot at Ashburton. But his Cambridge-based trainer John Dickie is confident the superstar three-year-old will be ready for the rich Sales Series Trot in three weeks.