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Don’t be put off by Walkinshaw’s terrible standing start record in the $25,000 Country Cups Final at Cambridge today. Because if the best version of the smart four-year-old turns up he can overcome his 20m handicap, even on a track where chasing can be hard work. The field brings together mainly the journeymen of the country pacing circuit, whereas Walkinshaw and Bettor Spirits are genuine Alexandra Park horses who have raced in the big time. Walkinshaw finished third to Lazarus and Chase The Dream in last season’s Northern Derby but has failed to reach those heights this campaign. “He has had some up and down runs but the grade he is racing in can be very, very tough especially at the carnivals,”says trainer-driver Tony Herlihy. Which is one reason Walkinshaw has had five standing start races without a placing. Two of his most recent stands have been behind superstars in Vincent and Heaven Rocks at Alex Park premier meeting, while another of his standing start failures was in the Sales Series Pace at Kaikoura. The last was in the Hawera Cup last start when he clearly didn’t handle the softer track so his poor stand statistics may not be relevant and with the front line for today’s 2700m stand not overly imposing he looks the one to beat. “You always need luck in this sort of race at Cambridge but he is well and he can definitely win,” said Herlihy. Bettor Spirits has similar career highlights to Walkinshaw but his manners early and luck from the 30m backmark could decide his chances. Victory with either Eldolar or Imajollywally in the Final could cap a huge season for trainer Arna Donnelly, who has been in career-best form. With a stable lacking any high-priced stars Donnelly has won a personal best 24 races this season, taking her past the 100 career training wins and she sits an impressive 14th on the national trainers premiership. One of the other highlights of today’s twilight meeting will be another northern two-year-old trot, races which have been better supported early this season than in the past. If Paramount King trots all the way he should win race one as he uses the race as his final trial before heading southern to take on baby trotters who have been racing in far bigger fields. “Our horse may not have the experience some of the southerners have but we think he is pretty good,” said trainer John Dickie, one of the best in the business with young trotters. Michael Guerin

A scan today will decide whether Speeding Spur’s season is over. But even if the results rule the north’s best trotter out of next month’s Rowe Cup, trainer John Dickie is adamant his stable star will race again. That is a vast improvement on the prognosis just two weeks ago when scans taken in Australia suggested the outstanding five-year-old may be forced to stud by recurring leg issues. Things brightened once the injury suffered on the eve of the Australian Grand Prix on March 12 settled down, with retirement talk now off the table. “Initially things didn’t look great but they are better now so I am sure he will race again,” said Dickie. “But the next scan (today) will tell us whether we have any chance of getting him to the Rowe Cup (April 28). “It is an outside chance but still a chance. But if it comes back that we can’t, then we will put him aside till next season.” The positive news about Speeding Spur comes as the emergency ward for top trotters starts to fill up. Former trotter of the year Stent hasn’t been seen all season while Horse of the Year Monbet hasn’t raced since November and won’t be seen again this season. Now Marcoola has a hoof problem which means he will miss the Rowe Cup carnival and is doubtful for the Jewels. “I have never had a horse with a quarter crack before so it is all a bit new to me,” admits driver Clint Ford. “But the northern trip is definitely out and the Jewels might be doubtful.” That leaves only Master Lavros, who has struggled to show his best this season, from the country’s top five trotters with any chance of making the Rowe Cup. “He will race at Addington next week and all going well come to Auckland,” said trainer Mark Jones. So all of a sudden, usual supporting cast members like Prime Power, Sunny Ruby and Quite A Moment have realistic shots at two of the biggest trotting races of the season at Alexandra Park next month. The carnival could be a boost from an unusual corner though, with Taranaki-owned, NSW-trained former pacer turned trotter On Thunder Road being considered for a Rowe Cup campaign. Meanwhile bookies have ignored the draws to open northern star mare The Orange Agent a $1.80 favourite for the $100,000 Breeders Stakes at Addington tomorrow night, even though she has the drawn wide whereas second favourite Piccadilly Princess ($3) has barrier two. Ultimate Machete’s inside draw will see him open an odds-on favourite over Vincent in the Flying Stakes.   Michael Guerin

Trainer John Dickie is hoping doing the right thing will pay big autumn dividends with Speeding Spur. Dickie is adamant the five-year-old stallion still could have won the A$100,000 Australian Trotting Grand Prix on Saturday even with a slight leg bruise. But Dickie chose to scratch him on the morning of the race, writing off the trip to Australia without a race. “It wasn’t a major deal and nothing to do with the suspensory problems that have kept him away from the track for much of last year,” said Dickie. “It was just so bruising caused by a trotting boot and we alerted the stewards over there to it and they passed him fit to run on Friday night. “But when I wasn’t happy with him on Saturday morning we pulled the pin because you don’t muck around with horses that good. “But his old injury has scanned fine three times so most importantly there is no issue there.” Speeding Spur returns to Auckland today and Dickie will allow him to also bypass the NZ Trotting Champs at Addington to concentrate on the Anzac Cup and Rowe Cups at Alexandra Park in late April. “He still has a lot of racing ahead of him so we will target those.” The repeated interruptions Speeding Spur’s career have been made even harder to swallow since his arch rival Monbet has been sidelined since November and won’t return until next season. A fully-fit Speeding Spur would be dominating an open class trotting crop lacking true class and depth, with only Marcoola at his best looking a threat. Michael Guerin

KIWI star Speeding Spur has been cleared to take his spot in tonight's $100,000 Group 1 Grand Prix (2240m) at Melton.  Trainer John Dickie notified Harness Racing Victoria stewards his classy trotter developed some filling in a fetlock during the week and they ordered a veterinary examination yesterday morning (Friday).  He cleared about 11am (Melbourne time) this morning.  An upbeat Dickie said he has moved on from the scare and is adamant Speeding Spur is in better shape than when he ran a close second in the Group 1 Great Southern Star at Melton on February 4.  “It’s great he’s clear to run this week, but the biggest relief is he certainly doesn’t have any serious issue,” Dickie said.  “The swelling was in the same leg he went sore in a year ago, so you immediately worry it might be related.  “We had the leg scanned three times to be sure and the results have come back perfect.  “This issue stemmed back to the Great Southern Star after which he had some bruising to the fetlock. It seemed OK back home, but I think the heat over here caused it to blow up a bit.  “We’ve been treating it with a poultice and ice and he’s responded well.    “He hasn’t missed any work. He’s so fit for this.  “He’s better than he was going into the Great Southern Star because he’s had more racing and more training. “Take the little hiccup of this week out and he’s absolutely super. I can’t wait for the race.”  Despite concerns this week, Speeding Spur has firmed from $2.60 into $2.60 favourite on the Aussie TAB.    NSW trotter On Thunder Road, who is returning from a minor setback, is $3.50 second elect. The comes star Kiwi mare Sunny Ruby at $3.80.  Adam Hamiton

John Dickie thought all his Delightful Lady Classic dreams had come tumbling down early last week. His impressive debutante winner on February 10 – New York Rain was found cast and upside down in her stall. Dickie’s son and co-trainer, Josh and Canterbury trainer Paul Court assisted the promising 2-year-old and then vets were called in. “We had to scratch her from last week’s race. We got the vet in on Tuesday afternoon because she had tied up and the bloods showed that. Then we treated her throughout the week and she just kept rapidly improving,” Clevedon-based Dickie said. Remarkably the brown American Ideal filly the lined up at the Auckland Trotting Club’s Workouts at Alexandra Park last Saturday and went a quicker time than what she won on debut. New York Rain beat Alta Shangri La and Delilaah by one-and-a-quarter lengths and five lengths, pacing the 1700m mobile in 2:04.8 (mile rate 1:58.1) and came her last 800m and 400m in 57.8 and 28.5. New York Rain drew seven of eight in the fifth Young Guns heat at 'The Park' on February 10. She and Simon Lawson were last early and then three back on the outer before looming up three-wide on the turn and then proving way too strong in the straight. New York Rain was the $6.40 fourth favourite that night and paced the 1700m mobile in 2:07.2 (mile rate 2:00.4) and home in 58 even and 27.4 beating Gold Orchid (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and Purest Silk (Brent Mangos) by three quarters of a length each way. “It’s incredible to think how much she recovered in a week, and she’s trained on brilliantly since. The only thing we don’t like about her chances on Friday is the draw (13), but she’s still good enough to win it,” Dickie said. New York Rain will start from five on the second row in the Group Two $80,000 Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock Young Guns Delightful Lady Classic for the 2-year-old pacing fillies. Her dam Ohoka Moon (In The Pocket), who was trained by Steven Reid, won nine races ($112, 963), including a placing in the 2007 Northern Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. “She’s improving at just the right time. I think she has got a huge career ahead of her. She hasn’t got a lot of speed but she just keeps on truckin. She’s got a big motor and we are excited about her. “There’s plenty of 2-year-old races for her up here this season, so hopefully we can start off with a Group Two win on Friday,” Dickie said. New York Rain will be wearing the blue and white colours of Dickie’s good friend – the late Simon Pavlovich. “I requested Simon’s colours after he passed away last year. I had known Simon all of his life and we used to knock around together. He was a friend and a good horseman and someone who was very special to me. ”I got his colours as a mark of respect to him - so I can always remember him,” Dickie said. New York Rain is owned by Dickie (John) and his partner Linda German, and was bred by Cavalla Bloodstock. Speaking from Melbourne, Dickie said he rated New York Rain and Speeding Spur as his two best winning chances of the weekend. Speeding Spur has drawn the outside of the front-line in Saturday's Group One $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix at Melton's Tabcorp Park. “Just about every time we have taken the horse to Melton we have copped the visitor’s draw. It’s becoming more than coincidence. “But we’ve won from out there previously with him and I’m very confident he can do it again. He is very fit now,” said Dickie. Dickie advised Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) stewards on Thursday that Speeding Spur has suffered swelling in a hind fetlock.   The multiple Group One-winning trotter will be examined on Friday.     Duane Ranger

Two northern stables went on an emotional rollercoaster ride at Alexandra Park last Friday. Training partners John and Josh Dickie and emerging horseman Jeremy Young both started the day losing the services of the stable stars for the meantime, but finished it with Alexandra Park wins. And in Young’s case he completed a double, capping a great start to summer on the track. Off the track things weren’t so perfect for Young, with stable star Brydon Ideal forced out out of a five-horse race on Friday night with a leg problem on the morning of the race. To make matters worse, the way leader Strike The Gold spread the field out in the feature pace, if Brydon Ideal had sat in the trail as expected he would have been hugely hard to beat. Young, who only has six racehorses in work, got two helpings of compensation though as first American Empress and then Circus Boy won. “Things are going well and to get a double at The Park is great,” says Young. The Dickie stable won one of the better races on the night with Motown, who was odds-on after the withdrawal with injury of Star Galleria. That enabled Motown to the find the front and while he didn’t look razor sharp, he was still too good for Killer Queen by a head. Earlier though Josh Dickie revealed that Great Southern Star trotting hero Speeding Spur won’t be back to defend that title in February. “He has come up well but Dad has decided he doesn’t want to rush him,” explained Dickie. “He is still only five and we could rush him back to have him ready for Melbourne but that may not be the best thing for him. “So he will be aimed at the NZ Trotting Champs in April and then the Anzac Cup and the Rowe Cup. “He is a horse of a lifetime for us so we are taking the attitude if we look after him, he will look after us.” Michael Guerin

For a man who knows the glory of group one victory, this was a different kind of satisfaction. Because trainer John Dickie knows not many trainers prepare four winners on a night at Alexandra Park. Dickie and son Josh, who is his training partner and stable driver, pulled off the rare feat on Friday night when Acceptance, Bronze Over, This Excuse Is Fine and I Am The Greatest all won. It was the first four-win night for either father or son and John says the fact it was at Alexandra Park made it all the more special. “I said to Josh afterwards, to do that at head office is really satisfying,” said Dickie. That is where we aim to race the most, with the high stakes and the bonuses and not many trainers away from really big barns get to train four winners on a night there. “Obviously it is a first for us and shows that what we are doing here at home works.” Team Dickie has been on a constant, steep improvement curve since they moved from Cambridge to the well-appointed Rosslands Farms three years ago and while John has had a wonderful group one record over the years with his trotters, they are now more consistent players on the biggest stage. “And that is the aim. We will still have horses racing at Cambridge and even down the line but predominantly we want to race here for the better stakes. “Take a little mare like Bronze Over, she has now won well over $50,000 in stakes and bonuses and she has only had 14 starts.” As good as their last three winner were, it was Acceptance’s easy win in race two which provided the most excitement. A giant, weakish three-year-old he went for a spell straight after the race, with Dickie believing a month off is his best chance of coming back a Derby horse in the second half of the season. “He has done a huge job considering he was never a two-year-old type,” he says of the brother to Can’t Refuse, Bettor Dream, Bettor Offer and Delightful Offer. “The Hoggards paid $75,000 for him at the sales because that mare just keeps leaving good horses. “So we are going to give him the chance to be a good horse by giving him a spell now.”
 The stable has just 23 horses in work so their strike rate is high and John admits they now know how to get the best out of their property. “As you know it is a lovely place and we have been here long enough now to know how fast to work this type of horse or that. “So we are more than happy with the way things are going.” Stable star Speeding Spur is back at Woodlands Stud for a few weeks but is earmarked for a return to training on October 1, with the Australian racing in the New Year still the target. The other highlights of Friday night’s programme included the 21st career success for the little trotter who could, One Over Da Moon. He worked his way to the front over 1700m and held out a game Realmein, with the winner now likely to head home to rejoin Paul Nairn. But it wasn’t all plain-sailing for open class favourites as No Doctor Needed was worried out of a win in the main pace. He worked his way to the front quickly but was kept honest by The Faithful, who stuck on gamely as Arden’s Choice finished over the top of the pair late in a 1:55.1 mile rate for the 1700m.   Michael Guerin

4YO Diamond Jewels first ballot A Damn Good Excuse is the best of John and Josh Dickie’s four chances at the Harness Racing Waikato meeting at Camridge Raceway tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday). It’s the ‘calm before the Saturday Harness Jewels storm’, and for the first time in a long time, Josh Dickie doesn’t have any drives on his former home track. However the 25-year-old Clevedon-based reinsman has five on Group One Saturday, possibly six, if A Damn Good Excuse makes the $150,000 Final for 4-year-old pacing mares. “She’s first emergency and has drawn well at three in the first race so we are hoping for a scratching. I think she’s definitely the best of our five pacers starting on Tuesday though,” Dickie said. The father-and-son training duo will line up Majestic John in the opening event on Tuesday – the $5,500 Harness Jewels C1-C3 pace for amateur drivers. Alan Shand will do the steering. Then the Dickies will have to wait until the last race – the $6,000 Novatel C1-C3 mares’ pace for junior drivers to see their other three starters greet judge, Colin Courtney. Ben Butcher will drive Joanednobetter (3), Tony Cameron will steer Vibe (4), while stable junior Robert Argue will get behind A Damn Good Excuse. Dickie said it would be nice to win his first Jewels crown on Saturday. He has placed behind The Fascinator in 2014 (4yo Diamond pace), and his Dad has had two Jewels training victories with Paramount Geegee (3yo Ruby trot) and Flying Isa (2yo Ruby trot) – both in 2011. His five drives on Saturday are Change The Rulz (race 1), Jewel On The Beach (Race 3), Paramount Dream (race 4), Bettor Think Quick (race 5), and Motown (race 9). Dickie said Motown was racing well and was the pick of his drives in the last event – the $150,000 Emerald for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Here’s what he had to say about his five stable runners on Tuesday: Race 1: Majestic John (9) - “This is his first race for three months and he has been trialling okay. He’s a pretty sharp type but Alan is going to have to drive him for luck from one on the second draw because the one horse isn’t a guaranteed leader.” Race 9: Joanednobetter (3) - “She has a good driver and is racing consistently well at the moment. She got too far back in her amateur race last start at Cambridge last week and came home real well for fourth. She has won on the track twice before and can get some of it from the kind draw.” Race 9: Vibe (4) - “I can’t split her and Joanednobetter in this race. They are both good chances. There’s not much between them. This mare was a good second behind Shantahlia Knight at the same Cambridge meeting two Thursdays ago. She’s won three of her eight starts on the track and placed in three others, so she has to be right in it.” Race 9: A Damn Good Excuse (5) - “You would think the Jewels first emergency might go close in this and that’s why I rate her our best chance at the meeting. She comes into the race really well having won and placed from her last three starts in tougher Auckland fields. This will be her first race at Cambridge but I think Robert can do the job here. Win bet.” Duane Ranger

The seas parted for Speeding Spur and the brilliant trotter from across the Tasman blazed off the pegs to claim the Group 1 Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star at the harness racing meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Australia’s richest trotting race lived up to expectations when an outstanding 11-race card reached a thrilling crescendo for trainer John Dickie and his son and driver Joshua Dickie, who drove for luck and capitalised on every bit of it. “Every bit of belief we have had in him he has just delivered tonight,” Josh Dickie said. “He has got the whole package. He won a lot of his races last year on the front, but he can come off the speed, he has a lot of high speed." "I’m just really pleased that he is living up to what he showed us.” Short-priced favourite Keystone Del ran fifth after losing ground from the turn, but earlier set the course alight when in heat two of the Great Southern Star Brent Lilley’s eight-year-old rattled the track record in a mile rate of 1:53.7. On that occasion Speeding Spur was beaten 3.9m into second. In the first Group 1 heat Kate Gath patiently awaited the sprint lane and then shot Glenferrie Typhoon to victory ahead of Maori Time (Yannick Gingras) and Sun Of Anarchy (Dexter Dunn). The draw for the final seemed to only strengthen Keystone Del’s claims, with Speeding Spur and Glenferrie Typhoon drawing the back row. All speculation was put to rest at 10pm when the mobile released the field and it was Yannick Gingras on Maori Time who shot to the front to dictate the running, with Keystone Del taking the breeze while Quite A Moment was in the box seat for Lance Justice. A 7.2 lead time fed into a 29.4 first quarter and 31.2 second quarter as Glenferrie Typhoon made its move three-wide where it would remain through the final bend. By that stage Keystone Del had started to slip off the pace set by Maori Time and it was clear this would not be his day. Speeding Spur was locked in three back the pegs for Josh Dickie, and it looked Maori Time or Glenferrie Typhoon. Yannick Gingras kicked Maori Time clear until the sprint lane opened, enabling Quite A Moment to come off her back and challenge for the lead, while on the outside Glenferrie Typhoon was making ground. But it was further back where the real story developed. Claudys Princess faded slightly, enabling Josh Dickie to get Speeding Spur off the pegs and he drew it four-wide, outside Glenferrie Typhoon. Once straightened Speeding Spur hit the jets to win from Glenferrie Typhoon, with Quite A Moment placing third on the pegs ahead of valiant Maori Time and fifth-placed Keystone Del. “The horse drawn the outside (Claudys Princess) was slightly going back and I thought to myself he could get out here, and he did and I said here he comes,” trainer John Dickie said. “I know what a good horse he is and he proved that tonight.” Josh Dickie said luck was always going to be needed after Speeding Spur drew barrier eight. “The barrier draw probably did look a bit of a concern on paper, but we have a lot of faith in this horse and he backed up great (from the heat),” he said. “He felt that good and I felt the tempo was pretty strong and that if I could get a bit of luck he will finish over the top of them." "I was very luck at the top of the straight I was able to get out and he did the rest." "It’s a breakthrough win, it’s sort of hard to explain, it’s one of my biggest wins.” John Dickie said “it’s (Speeding Spur’s) biggest win for sure” and with the entire by Pegasus Spur out of Della’s Speed aged only four, great success still lies ahead. “Onwards and upwards, he’s only a baby but I’m sure you will see him here next year too.” Group 1 victories were also claimed by Baccardi Hurricane in the Alan Mance Holden Need For Speed Prince Final, and High Gait in the Probuild Need For Speed Princess Final. Baccardi Hurricane drew off Cruisin Around's back from the one-one and trainer/driver Jarrod Alchin let the three-year-old gelding down in the straight, where he outpointed Ball Park (second) and Big Jack Hammer (third). Flying filly High Gait again tasted Group 1 success after Chris Alford drove Nicole Molander's three-year-old to victory, getting the lead from barrier one and building a gap off the first turn that was insurmountable despite Courchevel flashing home late to take second for Anthony Butt (driver) and Anton Golino (trainer). The night also featured the Group 2 Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Gold Series Final, in which Greg Sugars took Illawong Helios three wide at the top of the straight and had the best horse in the race from there, drawing clear and holding off the swoopers. Victory for trainer Ross Sugars was scored ahead of second-placed Pretty Sunday and third-placed Barefoot Sally. Aldebaran Deebee was shot to the front by trainer-driver Matt Craven and from there the favourite controlled the Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Silver Series Final. Sky Petite was third and Meadow Valley Road filled out the placings, as Skyvalley sired the trifecta. Michael Howard

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

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