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Two of the biggest names in New Zealand harness racing face dreadful draws in the open class races at Addington tonight and that should be enough to steer punters toward their rivals.  Because while both Thefixer (Superstars) and Speeding Spur (free-for-all trot) have by far the best career records in their respective races, their trainers are both wary.  Speeding Spur returns after two months away, his last outing being a below par performance in the Great Southern Star in Victoria when he was found to have had lung issues.  He ran last of four in a workout at Pukekohe last Saturday but that is not what worries co-trainer John Dickie going into tonight’s main trot.  “He actually trialled well, he trotted his last 800m in 56.5 seconds and his 400m in under 27 seconds,” says Dickie.  “So we are happy with him but he is fresh up and has drawn the outside of the front line so more than likely he will be driven for luck.  “If he gets the right cart into it he can still win but he will improve a lot because he has three group ones coming up next month.”While he has won fresh up before employing sit-sprint tactics Speeding Spur faces a  huge test doing that over 1980m tonight, especially if fit, fast rivals like Ronald J or Valloria can lead.  The same applies to Thefixer in the Superstars for four and five-year-old pacers but he has a couple of advantages over Speeding Spur’s situation.  Not only has Thefixer raced consistently well at the highest level in the last two months, finishing second in the Miracle Mile, but he won a trial last week and comes in one spot to barrier eight after the scratching of Sherrif.  He meets a very even field full of rock hard fit horses with plenty of gate speed, which suggest he too could be going back at the start before working his way into the race.  He might simply have too much clash for his opponents but it looks a tricky race and trainer Mark Purdon admits the New Zealand Cup winner won’t be at his peak.  “He has done really well since coming home from Sydney and there will be some improvement in him,” said Purdon.  If he can get around mid race during an easy sectional then Thefixer might be good enough to sit parked and win but he might need to be clearly the best horse in the race and then some because a sub-1:54 mile rate wouldn’t surprise and that is hard for any horse three wide if they are not totally screwed down. Horses well capable of taking advantage of that include his own stablemate Eamon Maguire, A G’s White Socks, the Robert Dunn-trained pair of Henry Hubert and Alta Maestro and Jack’s Legend, who has returned to the form that saw him finish second to Lazarus in the New Zealand Cup last season.  If he could use his gate speed to blast across and lead then Jack’s Legend becomes the one to beat but after sitting parked last start he might be developing another string to his bow.  Earlier in the night the men behind Thefixer and Speeding Spur meet again in the Sires’ Stakes Trot Prelude but this time the result looks far more clear cut, with Enhance Your Calm (Purdon) expected to lead and win, giving Tricky Ric (Dickie) a great chance to trail and provide the quinella. “He is in a good place,” says Purdon of Enhance Your Calm. Michael Guerin

Trainer John Dickie is full of honesty and hope heading into the A$150,000 Inter Dominion Trotting Final with Speeding Spur. Because while the Kiwi trainer is honest enough to admit his millionaire trotter may have lost his sheer speed, he is also hopeful his stamina may snare him one of the most important races of Dickie's career. Dickie trains the now seven-year-old with his son Josh and after two wins in his three heats of the series Speeding Spur is the clear second favourite for the 2760m mobile at Melton on Saturday night. He has the advantage of the ace and at his peak of two or three years ago would be a dominant favourite but that honour instead lies with Tornado Valley, who was unbeaten in his heats. Dickie admits that is fair. "On their form in this series Tornado Valley has looked the best horse. "But that doesn't mean we can't beat him," says Dickie. "He is faster than us, which is how he beat us in the sprint heat at Ballarat last week. "Our fella doesn't have that sub-27 second quarter (400m) in him like he used to and that makes it hard to beat Tornado Valley. "But the distance and the draw helps us. "If we can hold the lead Josh (driver) will have options." The most logical of those would be making Tornado Valley work to get the lead and hope he gets fired up and leaves himself vulnerable at the end of a hard 2760m for Speeding Spur to grab him. He used those tactics against another speedier rival in Enghien in the Rowe Cup last April, handing up in the middle stages when many would have expected Speeding Spur to stay in front. After a long, brave career punctuated by at least two serious injuries Speeding Spur may simply not be as sharp as he used to be but he looks certain to get his shot on Saturday night if he is good enough. "But to do that we have to hold the lead early, so that will be Josh's first job." The Dickie family has been involved with elite level trotters for decades so the reinstatement of the trotting Inter Dominion after a six year hiatus is a huge deal for them. "To me the two biggest races in Australasia are the New Zealand Cup and the Inter Dominions. "Sure I would like it to be worth more money but if we win on Saturday night that won't bother us because I have wanted to win the Inter since I started training." Speeding Spur is the $3.30 second favourite behind Tornado Valley while in Saturday night's A$500,000 pacing final the money has come for Cruz Bromac, who has been the shortener on both sides of the Tasman, slightly pushing out the prices of fellow Kiwi favourites Spankem and Im Pats Delight. Michael Guerin

The form guide held true with Tornado Valley and Speeding Spur reinforcing their reputations with opening night wins in the TAB Inter Dominion trotting championship. While Victorian hopes Save Our Pennys and Maori Law would have only gained admirers, the big two retained that title with the pre-series favourites, who are both stabled at Andy Gath’s Long Forrest property, amassing complete performances. Speeding Spur, for New Zealand father-and-son team Josh and John Dickie, skipped to the front and after a pedestrian 32.2-second first quarter was untroubled, his 56.2-second last half putting 8.5m between himself and second placegetter Maori Law. “He’s very good,” trainer John Dickie said post-race of Speeding Spur. Tornado Valley’s wide draw meant reinswoman Kate Gath would have to work harder to find the front and, once she did, Save Our Pennys, in trainer-driver Gavin Lang’s hands, was menacing on the leader’s back. After a 27.7-second third quarter they got home in 29.2 and stopped the clock at a 1:57.0 mile rate, only a second outside Keystone Del’s track record, with Save Our Pennys 1.4m off Tornado Valley while Tough Monarch, who did plenty of bullying work, was a further 14.7m back in third. It was a satisfied Andy Gath post-race, who said it was nice to have Tornado Valley “show a bit of a statement”. “We came here knowing that he was in good order and it’s always nice to come to the first heat and show what you can do,” Gath said. “We were pretty pleased, he had to work hard to get the lead and then he got mid-race pressure and challenged by Save Our Pennys and was still really strong on the line. He’s just got a great knack for winning.” Gath was confident the tough run did his trotter no harm. “He’s pulled up really good. I’ve already taken him home and he’s good as gold, jumping out of his skin. I don’t think it will hurt him or affect him, it will probably just make him better if anything,” Gath said. “He’s a horse we think will thrive through this series, he can cop racing, can cop work and always pulls up really good.” Speeding Spur winning his heat on night one.          - Stuart McCormick photo And so the focus turns to Tuesday night’s second lot of heats at Ballarat, when the Tornado Valley-Speeding Spur rivalry will only be magnified after they were drawn in the same heat. Both are outside the front row, with Tornado Valley (gate seven) outside his rival (gate five) and Save Our Pennys looming ominously in gate two. “We know he’s drawn wide and we have Speeding Spur and Save Our Pennys drawn inside us, and they were really good performers as well,” Gath said. “You expect both of those (Save Our Pennys and Speeding Spur) to be going forward and we’ll be going forward as well. “It’s a really strong heat. Realistically we probably can’t lead from there, but he’s a really good short-course horse. He’s going to have his work cut out but he’s a good horse. “We always try and win every race we are in and it won’t be any different Tuesday night.” Click here for Videos and results for first night of Inter Dominions   Michael Howard Trots Media  

Trainer John Dickie will talk to stipendiary stewards in an effort to be as honest as possible with punters before ID18 contender Speeding Spur returns at Alexandra Park on Friday night. The favourite for last season’s NZ Trotter of the Year title faces a 50m handicap in race three on Friday and Dickie admits it is hardly an ideal starting point for the new season. But he is just as adamant the seven-year-old stallion needs racing now, so he all but has to start, even if he will struggle to win. “He is forward and ready to race, but that might not mean he is ready to win,” Dickie said. “He has had two workouts and was good in them both but peaked on his run finishing second to Mr Good And Evil last Saturday at Pukekohe. “So he could struggle this week from the 50m and to be honest it is a less than ideal comeback race. “Because he will carry money and is a well-known horse I will speak to the stewards and alert them to the fact he will probably be driven for one run unless there is a slow tempo in the middle stages. “If he can come out and win, great. But he won’t be looking to loop them and we want people to know that.” Speeding Spur had six weeks off after winning the Rowe Cup on April 27 but has been in work a long time with no signs of the soreness that has dogged him in recent years. But Dickie said he needed to start racing for another reason. “As he is getting fit he needs a race or two to take the sting out of him because he is so well he is running around the place like a lunatic. “So this will do him the world of good then he has a mobile free-for-all in two weeks. Those two races will really bring him on.” Dickie and training partner and son Josh will then decide whether Speeding Spur heads south to prepare for Cup week or whether they can get another start in the north. He is the $6.50 second favourite behind arch rival Monbet for their major aim of the spring, the Dominion Handicap, now sponsored by stallion Used To Me, before he is almost certain, all going well, to head to the Trotting Inter Dominion in Victoria. Friday’s Alexandra Park programme not only sees the north’s best trotter return but arguably its best pacer in Star Galleria, who faces a 20m handicap in the 2200m main pace. It's a decent challenge fresh up against more race hardened rivals and his trainer, Steven Reid, is also keen to get the speed freak pacer to the Inters. Michael Guerin

Harness racing warrior Speeding Spur has won the 2018 (Gr1) $156,000 Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park this evening, beating a large field of quality trotters in the process. The John and Josh Dickie trained 6yo began well for driver Josh Dickie and found himself in the lead before trailing behind the favourite Enghien with one lap remaining. He then used the passing lane to his advantage in the straight and found the line strongly, finally winning by three quarters of a length. An emotional Josh Dickie paid tribute to the horse after his comfortable win in the gruelling 3200m race. "He's an amazing horse this bloke," he said after driving the horse to victory. "There were times we did'nt think we would get him back to this stage, and here he is winning group one races. "I take my hat off to the horse, he has got an incredible amount of guts and determination and he just does'nt know when to give up. "He felt terrific at the quarter and the gap sort of opened up at the top of the lane and he just did it so easy at the end," he said. The time for the 3200m Stand was 4-08.2 with a closing 800m run in 58.9 and the 400m in 29.8 seconds. Monty Python tracked the winner all the way and closed strongly at the finish for second, with last years Rowe Cup winner Temporale battling into third. Speeding Spur (Pegasus Spur - Della's Speed) has now won 20 races from 40 lifetime starts and taken his stake earnings to $799,000 dollars.   Speeding Spur winning the Rowe Cup tonight. Harnesslink Media

Paramount King was almost the forgotten horse of the two-year-old Ruby on Jewels day last year. That was until he put pay to the best crop of juvenile trotters in recent memory. The flashy chestnut son of Love You snuck under the guard of many punters, reflected in his tote price of $10. Co-breeder Graham Gimblett didn’t need reminding how good Paramount King was as in recent years, the progeny of his mare Paramount Star have come up trumps. Last season’s Two Year Old Trotter of the year makes his race day return tonight at Cambridge and looks well placed in his race day resumption. His co-breeder Graham Gimblett can hardly wait! Not only has Gimblett tasted success with standardbreds but can boast to have bred multiple Group One winner and Melbourne Cup placegetter Xcellent as his first thoroughbred foal! More on that later. His hobby and love of breeding has been a long road. However, the fourth-generation cattle & dairy farmer from Dannevirke concedes that for all his attempts at breeding champions, it was the breed right under his nose that has served him best. His father John was farming at a time when it was common to have a horse in the paddock. And that’s where the love affair starts. “My father had a mare dropped off to him in the 1940’s that was never picked up. It was at a time when it was common to have a horse in the paddock and being a farmer he had a bit of knowledge of horsemanship.” That mare was Lady Errol (1947 B m Robert Earl - Kaimata Daisy). She was untried as a race horse but was bred from in 1953 when served by Lucky Hanover, a pacing bred stallion who threw 2 trotting winners from his 22 race winning foals. One of which was the first foal from Lady Errol; Lassie Hanover (1953). She won twice and placed on 14 other occasions becoming the foundation for which Graham’s father John would breed and race horses with for the next twenty years. “Dad always had a horse or two, and at the time it was quite a social thing. He used to lease his horses out prior to breeding from Lassie Hanover but when he retired from the farm to a property on the outskirts of Dannevirke in 1968, he brought them back and started training them himself. The first foal from Lassie Hanover was Frosty Lass which Gimblett’s father was to train for six of her nine victories. Pretty impressive for a self-taught horseman who then gave the mare to John Dickie’s father Ivan to train where she was good enough to run second in the 1971 Rowe Cup. As history suggests later with the breed, the Dickie’s have been there almost every step of the way. “My father sold her to the States shortly after that but then along came Darky Forbes.” Darky Forbes (1966 Bl g Hi Lo's Forbes - Lassie Hanover) was to win 11 races including the 1974 National Trot with a young Mike De Fillipi in the sulky and Colin Berkett doing the training. Gimblett’s father is credited with no less than six of the victories of the trotter that had run second in a Dominion Handicap 6 weeks earlier which was taken out by Easton Light. The son of Hi Los Forbes also won a heat of the 1975 Interdominion Trotting Series before too being sold to the United States. The first two foals from Lassie Hanover were unique as like their mum, they were dual-gaited. While Lassie Hanover only qualified as a pacer, her first two foals raced in both gaits. Frosty Lass won three of her nine as a pacer with Darky Forbes winning once in the pacing gait also. They were after all by pacing stallions! Fourth foal Karen Maree won four races with two being credited to John Gimblett and the other two to Charlie Hunter NZOM. She wasn’t to split her deeds by gait racing exclusively as a pacer. She was the mare the Gimblett’s continued to breed from with Graham joining his father John in breeding his first standardbred in 1978 with the mare’s second foal, Karen’s Trowbridge (1978 Trowbridge – M). Karen’s Trowbridge paced. As did her older sister Karen’s Rainbow (1977 Adover Rainbow). Sadly, Graham’s father passed before ever seeing the foal they bred together race. “When my father died in 1981 I had a couple of horses looking across the fence at me on the farm. One of them was the third foal from Karen Maree, Karanero (1980 Bl m Lonero - Karen Maree). I’d only really helped gear a few harness horses up but I didn’t know too much about the training of them. I’d driven but as for the shoeing, feeding and the racing I had never been involved. What’s a man to do when he has a couple of horses in the paddock asking to be put in work? Get himself a trainer’s license of course! “At that time, Stephen Argue was actually based in Palmerston North and he helped me a bit getting started and there were lot of very helpful people in Palmerston.” Karanero was the first horse that Graham Gimblett took to the races as a trainer. She won five races in his care, her fifth at Auckland over two miles was achieved after master trainers Barry & Roy Purdon had lined her up for six starts managing only two second placings! “That is probably my biggest thrill in racing actually. I floated her all the way up to Auckland from Dannevirke and she can’t of enjoyed the trip as she ran dead last the first week. I decided to stay up there and train her in Auckland at Dave Jessop’s property. We came out the next week and won at Alexandra Park and I’ll never forget that.” Her last start was a 10th in the 1990 Rowe Cup where she received exactly half the stake money her dam’s sister Frosty Lass had been afforded in 1971 when running second in the same race. “That’s inflation for ya!” joked Gimblett. “Karanero was like the other foals of Karen Maree in that she was bred to pace, but she only managed one third and after about eight starts we put some trotting shoes on her. Well away she went, it was quite unbelievable. We had given up on her until we tried her as a trotter and away she went. Ever since that day when I realised she had the trotting genes I’ve only ever bred to trotting sires.” The first foal from Karanero was Jay H Gee (1992 g Gee Whizz) who won three races for Frank Phelan from only 16 starts. The second foal was the first of many ‘Paramounts’ for Gimblett. The moniker came about while brainstorming for the name of a milk station. “We were trying to come up with a name for a milking station in Masterton and the names ‘Apex’ and ‘Paramount’ were the ones being bandied about. We ended up settling on ‘Apex’ but I decided ‘Paramount’ would be a keeper for my horses.” Paramount Jack (1993 Gee Whiz II g) showed plenty of ability winning seven of his first ten starts in the care of Frank Phelan. As he started reaching a tough mark Gimblett decided his future racing was best to continue down south. “I sent him down to Paul Nairn because I worked out that while Jack was talented, we were only winning $3000 races around the Manawatu region while horses of his class were racing for much more down south.” It took the son of Gee Whiz II a while to settle into the South Island but during Cup Week in 2000, he ran a third on Cup Day behind Take A Moment before winning a $15,000 race on Show Day. Before being sold to America, Paramount Jack won 12 races and ran third again behind Take A Moment, this time in the 2001 Dominion Handicap. The next two foals were also by Gee Whizz II. Zesty (1995) won five races before being sold to Phillip Iggo to breed from leaving nice types like Armori (4 wins – 21 placings.) Gee F Gee (1996) won four races in the care of John Dickie some 30 years after his father Ivan had trained a trotter from the Gimblett breed. The next foal was Paramount Star, a talented trotter of seven wins (also for John Dickie) where she also managed a third in the 2003 Greenlane Cup. Upon her race retirement, Gimblett decided a change was in order for him to continue with his hobby and passion of breeding Standardbreds. “Dannevirke was a tough placed to be involved in those times, I was involved in administration as the president of the Manawatu Trotting Club for a number of years. We were racing for poor stakes, Hutt Park was winding down and I became pretty disillusioned with it all to be honest. I had become good friends with Brian West who I instructed to take the mare down to Christchurch and see if we couldn’t breed anything that was any good!” “I had just bought a galloping broodmare and put her in foal to Pentire.” The resulting foal was one of the most freakish gallopers to come out of New Zealand since the turn of the century. He ran third in the 2005 Melbourne Cup after winning the NZ Derby, NZ, Mudgway & Kelp Capital Stakes.  “Xcellent was a great thrill and a bit of a surprise to be honest. You don’t really expect to breed a horse like that and he was running for a wee bit more money than some of my other horses had.” Xcellent broke down during the running of the Trentham Stakes in 2008, abruptly ending the career of one of the most promising horses to grace an NZ turf. Gimblett didn’t have to wait long for another champion to appear as the first foal he and Brian West bred together out of Paramount Star was sold through the yearling sales in 2009 for $28,000 to John Dickie. “He was a massive yearling and that probably counted against him a wee bit. But it was great to see him heading to the Dickies.” Paramount Gee Gee was the third foal from Paramount Star and in 2010 was named two-year-old Trotting Colt of the Year. He won the NZ Sales Series, Trotting Stakes & Breeders Crown in his juvenile season. After running second by a head to Kylie Ree in the Hambletonian he was never beaten again as a three-year-old winning both Derbies, the Sires Stake & Sales Series, Harness Jewels and Breeders Crown in 2011. Good enough for another age group Horse of the Year title. As a four year old he won the Trotters Championship but was riddled with injuries. He sadly died in 2012 having amassed a whopping $561,000 in stakes. “Brian had been over in France on holiday and came back with the idea that we needed to breed to the French Stallion, Love You. He has to take the credit for the success of the mare in that regard as she has been a wonderful producer when mated with that stallion.”   Paramount Star has been a wonderful producer whoever she is mated with as seen below; 2005: Ellevenfiftyseven (Malabar Maple) | 16 Starts, 2 wins, 3 placings. $13,228 2006: Nonippin | (Earl) | Qualified but unraced. 2007: Paramount Gee Gee (Pegasus Spur) | 30 Starts, 17 wins, 6 placings. $561,342 2009: Paramount Queen (Love You) | 27 Starts, 8 wins, 12 placings. $122,612.  (3rd 2YO Trotting Stakes, 3rd 2YO Sires Stakes, 3rd 2YO Ruby, 1st Hambletonian, 2nd NZ Oaks, 3rd 3YO Ruby, 2nd Cambridge Flying Mile) 2010: Paramount Bliss (Majestic Son) $50,000 Yearling Sales Purchase | Unraced. 2011: Paramount Dream (Pegasus Spur) $50,000 Yearling Sales Purchase | 28 Starts, 8 wins, 5 placings. $69,496. 2012: Paramount Faith (Pegasus Spur) $48,000 Yearling Sales Purchase | Unraced 2014: Paramount King (Love You) $110,000 Yearling Sales Purchase | 8 Starts, 4 wins, 1 placing. $64,982. 2015: Paramount Prince (Andover Hall) $35,000 Yearling Sales Purchase   Her progeny has combined for 39 wins and four Jewels starters from seven foals of racing age. Paramount King’s win in the two-year-old Ruby last year was particularly sweet for Gimblett who these days gets his kicks out of simply being the breeder and following his stock. “John offered me a share in Paramount King but living where I do it’s pretty hard to get to the races and it’s not the same just watching it on the TV. For me breeding horses is another facet of my farming and I’m lucky to have it as a hobby. I get just as much from following the horses Brian and I are breeding from and it’s great to have another good one like Paramount King racing. Paramount Star this year produced a Muscle Hill filly after having missed in the 2016 season. “Paramount Queen should make a wonderful broodmare being by Love You and Brian and I are breeding from her also. Paramount Star is getting on a bit now so I’m hopeful her daughters will continue with the same success” Paramount Queen was served this year by Andover Hall and following on from a wonderful race career, will no doubt carry on the family line that has served the Gimblett’s (and Dickie’s!!) so well for 70 years. Co-breeder Brian West has little doubt it will touting that everything Graham Gimblett does is brushed with gold. With the Paramount mares and a full sister to Xcellent to continue breeding from, the golden run should continue a while yet.   Story from Breeding Matters, a publication of the NZ Standardbred Breeders Association - for more information on how you can join the NZSBA and get your copy email brad@thebreeders.co.nz    Brad Reid NZ Standardbred Breeders Association 

Often in racing, failure depends on your expectations. For most horses, especially trotters, three group race seconds in 16 days and $35,000 in stakes might sound like a handy December. But not when that horse is Speeding Spur, and trainer John Dickie is not hiding from the fact his comeback star may have lost his title as the best trotter racing in New Zealand. Speeding Spur returned from nine months on the sidelines with a huge second to a race-fit Temporale at Alexandra Park on December 15, suggesting that with champion Monbet sidelined, once Speeding Spur worked his way to peak fitness he would dominate the open class trotting scene. That has proven to be wrong. He was outpointed by Aussie veteran Kyvalley Blur at Cambridge nine days later and then was run down without an excuse by Temporale in the $100,000 National Trot at Alexandra Park on December. Three starts, three seconds, and a slipping crown. "To be honest, we were a bit surprised he got beaten in the National Trot," said Dickie, who trains Speeding Spur with son Josh. "But maybe, after so long away from racing and as a six-year-old, he simply needs more racing. "There is that, with the fitness and sharpness you can only get from racing, and also the fact these good young horses like Temporale are always going to be coming through. "So it is not easy when you have a horse who has broken down twice. But do I think he will can get better with more racing? Yes." Speeding Spur is having his workload increased for a shot at the $300,000 Great Southern Star at Melton on January 27. He actually won it when it was a heats-and-final sprint affair two years ago before finishing second last year, when it became a 2760m mobile. It is still clearly the richest trot in the southern hemisphere and, Dickie says, a juicy target: "That ... is a huge race, so we are definitely going. But he won't have a lead-up run over there, just a trial before we go." Speeding Spur has won half his 36 starts, and $726,891, and needs only to remain sound to become a rarity, an Australasian millionaire trotter which is also a stallion prospect. He will probably be on the same plane to Melbourne as Temporale, whose trainer Tony Herlihy has decided to also go into the Great Southern Star without another run. "I was looking at Ballarat on Jan 20 but with the heat wave they have had over there I might miss that and go straight to the Great Southern Star with the Dullard Cup a week later."   Michael Guerin

It is not often the words American diet sound very healthy. But that could see trotting superstar Speeding Spur back in the winner’s circle for the first time in over nine months at Cambridge on Sunday. To most humans a modern day American diet sounds like a fast track to buying some bigger clothes courtesy of super-sized meals and small vats of soda. But when it comes to training harness horses, in the US they believe less is more and that is the new plan for Speeding Spur.  The best trotter racing in Australasia now that his arch rival Monbet is sidelined with another injury, Speeding Spur returned from his own setbacks with a huge second to Temporale in the Lyell Creek Stakes at Alexandra Park on Friday. That showed he is right on target for his first major summer aim, the National Trot at Alexandra Park on December 31 but co-trainer John Dickie says Speeding Spur will now also head to Cambridge for the Flying Mile on Sunday. “He needs the fitness work to be spot on for the National Trot and he might as well be racing as trialling or doing it at home,” says Dickie. “So that is the way we are going to prepare him this season, less hard work at home but racing him to keep his fitness up.” That is very much the method of many US harness trainers, who because of the searing mile times there keep their horses fresh between races and let the racing do the bulk of the fitness work. Dickie was thrilled with how the now six-year-old Speeding Spur came through his comeback race, with no signs of the two injuries which have badly affected his career in the last 18 months. “He gets a lot of vet checks and so far so good and we are optimistic that will remain the case. But being an older horse now he is very big and strong and that is another reason he will race there this Sunday, to keep him going forward.” Speeding Spur is now the $2 futures favourite for the National Trot, after which Dickie wants to take him back to Victoria to try and win the Great Southern Star for the second time.  Speeding Spur taking on Temporale, Lemond and southerner Bordeaux will be one half of a huge Cambridge highlights package this Sunday as Vincent and Star Galleria are set to clash in the $50,000 Four and Five-Year-Old Futurity. The race doubles as an automatic qualifier for the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire in Sydney in February, a race for which fellow Kiwi stars Ultimate Machete and Jack’s Legend are also chasing invites via other lead-up races. Michael Guerin

John Dickie admits it was hard leaving his home-town of Cambridge four years ago, but he said if he hadn’t made the move north he would never have been anywhere near his 500 career winners. The 56-year-old Clevedon trainer notched up his 500thcareer win at Alexandra Park tonight (Friday). He said coming to Rosslands Stud in 2013 had been the making of his career. “I had my fair share of knockers when I came north. It’s virtually four years to the day. Sure I had some supporters too, but it was a big move. It was early-to-mid July 2013 - almost four years to the day. I’d never trained anywhere else since taking out my trainer’s licence in 1984. “Training horses is something I’ve done every day and sure it’s nice to have achieved 500 wins. I was quite proud actually, especially with Josh in the bike,” Dickie said. Dickie (Josh), who co-trains and drove Bronze Over, shot the $11 fifth favourite along the passing lane to win the feature event – the $14,999 Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock Handicap for the R66 to R94 pacers.  Bronze Over was one of two mares in the eight-horse 2700m stand. She started from 20m behind and won by a head from favourite Vasari (David Butcher). She stopped the clock in 3:28 even (mile rate 2:03.8) and came home in 57 flat and 29 even. Dickie wasn’t on track to witness his 500th victory. Instead he watched it from his South Auckland home. “Linda (partner) and I were actually going to go to the Warriors (rugby league) match but Linda got the flu and I decided to stay home and be with her. “It was a lovely drive because she is a bit of a ‘one-trick pony’ and needs a run like that to win. It panned out beautifully for her. I’m rapt for the owners,” Dickie said. Bronze Over was bred by Kevin and Sharlaine Marshall of Te Awamutu, and is owned by Dickie Jr and Larry Fischer of New York. In fact the 4-year-old Changeover mare could end up racing in the United States one day. “It is a possibility but that’s up to Josh and Larry. She wouldn’t be out of place in the (Group One) Queen Of Hearts field (at Alexandra Park) in December. She has won nine races now ($82,422), but for now she’ll just keep racing up here until they come up with a decision on her future,” Dickie said. Dickie has visited Fischer and his wife in New York and have built up a closerapport over the years. The American used to race Change The Rulz with Dickie. She won five races for Dickie and was a 2016 Jewels finalist.  She was exported to the United States in July last year. She has since gone on to win several races in the USA and recorded a 1:50 mile. “Larry has been a wonderful owner. He’ loves the internet and would have watched tonight’s win. I’ve had so many good owners over the years and it would be remiss of me not to mention Basil and Gail Blackwell. They have been my most loyal owners having been with me since day one. “It would have been nice to have won for them last week because this 500th would never have happened had they not been there for me,” Dickie said. “In fact the 500 wins is a dedication to all my owners who have supported me over the years,” he added. He also paid a big tribute to the late Kerry Hoggard and his wife Marilyn of Rosslands Stud.. “It has been an absolute pleasure to train for them both. We love it up here and if it wasn’t for them I would have nowhere near 500 wins. This is also their achievement too,” Dickie said. The Clevedon horseman has qualified for entry into the ‘New Zealand Trotting Hall of Fame. The criteria is 500 training wins or 1,000 driving successes. Dickie trained 364 winners ($2.7m) solo from 1984 to 2013 including four Group One winners in New Zealand and four in Australia. Then in 2013-2014 he joined forces with his son, Joshua, and together they have trained another 146 winners ($1.6m). They have jointly trained three Group One winners in New Zealand and three in Australia. Dickie Senior’s total career wins would be more like 520 if you counted his Australian victories as well, but it’s been a long road since he nailed his first winner when Meadow Man (Sean McCaffrey) dead-heated with the Ian Hilliard trained and driven Guy Adios at Hawera on May 29, 1984. All up the Dickies have trained 37 winners ($419,498) in 2016-2017 - seven less than their personal best recorded in 2014-2015. Dickies 14 Group One wins have been: NZ: 2011: Paramount Geegee in the Northern Trotting Derby; the New Zealand Trotting Derby; the Ruby 3yo trot; and Flying Isa in the Ruby 2yo Trot. With Josh in NZ: 2017: Paramount King in this year's 2yo Ruby Trot. 2015: Speeding Spur in the New Zealand Trotting Derby; and the Northern Derby. Australia: 2016: Speeding Spur (with Josh) won the Great Southern Star. 2015: Speeding Spur (with Josh) won the Victoria Trotters Derby and the 3yo Breeders Crown title. 2014: Flying Isa won the 2yo Breeders Crown final and the Australian Trotters Final. 2010 & 2011: Paramount Geegee won the 2yo and 3yo Breeders Crown. The other highlight on the eight-race card tonight (Friday) was Zac Butcher's four wins.  They came via the Stephen Reid trained Utmost Delight in the 3yo Fillies Breeder's Crown heat; the Ray Green trained Alta Shangri La (race one); the Barry Purdon trained Opoutama (race 5); and the Ray Green trained Royal Lincoln (race 6). Duane Ranger  

The man who has trained 14 Group One winners, could find himself nominated for the New Zealand Trotting Hall Of Fame, following this Friday’s meeting at Alexandra Park. The Clevedon horseman has currently trained 499 winners, and only needs one more to qualify for the ‘Hall of Fame’s’ criteria of 500 training wins or 1,000 driving successes. Dickie and his son John only have two trotters nominated for this Friday’s Auckland Trotting Club’s meeting – C K Spur in race five and Arethusa Spur in race seven. “They are both each way chances without labeling them. Both by Pegasus Spur and that stallion has been very good to me over the years, so it would be appropriate if one of them did win. If either of them does get up it will be a feat I’ll be proud of, especially because the 500th will be with Josh. He’s a good kid and good listener. I really enjoy working with my son. I think most fathers would. We go alright together,” 56-year-old Dickie said. Dickie said it would be special if either horse won because both sets of owners had been long-time supporters of Dickie. "Basil Blackwell owns Arethusa Spur with me, and he has been an owner of mine since day one. He has been a long-time committee member (30-plus years) of the Cambridge Club and it would be great to win the 500th for him. "Kevin Foley and Karen De Jongh-Kennedy have also been loyal supporters so if either horse won on Friday I'd be rapt for the owners," Clevedon-based Dickie said. "Without owners we are nothing," he added. Dickie trained 364 winners ($2.7m) solo from 1984 to 2013 including four Group One winners in New Zealand and four in Australia. In 2013-2014 he joined forces with his son, Joshua, and together they have trained another 144 winners ($1.6m). They have jointly trained three Group One winners in New Zealand and three in Australia. His total career wins would be more like 520 if you counted his Australian victories as well, but it’s been a long road since he nailed his first winner when Meadow Man (Sean McCaffrey) dead-heated with the Ian Hilliard trained and driven Guy Adios at Hawera on May 29, 1984. “I remember that day very clearly. I bought Meadow Man for a couple of thousand dollars with Sean and he proved to be an okay horse.” Dickie had to wait eight months for his next victory. That was when he trained and drove Classic Dee to a three-length victory at New Plymouth on January 11, 1985. The Dickies also have a grand chance of winning the Alexandra Park training premiership if one or both can win on Friday. They currently have 24 winners at "The Park' this season - two less than the pace-setting Hall of Famer, Barry Purdon. All up the Dickies have trained 36 winners ($410,054) in 2016-2017 - eight less than their personal best recorded in 2014-2015. Dickies 14 Group One wins have been New Zealand 2011: Paramount Geegee in the Northern Trotting Derby; the New Zealand Trotting Derby; the Ruby 3YO Trot; and Flying Isa in the Ruby 2YO Trot. With Josh in NZ: 2017: Paramount King in this year's 2YO Ruby Trot. 2015: Speeding Spur in the New Zealand Trotting Derby; and the Northern Derby. Australia: 2016: Speeding Spur (with Josh) won the Great Southern Star. 2015: Speeding Spur (with Josh) won the Victoria Trotters Derby and the 3YO Breeders Crown title. 2014: Flying Isa won the 2YO Breeders Crown Final and the Australian Trotters Final. 2010 & 2011: Paramount Geegee won the 2YO and 3YO Breeders Crown. Duane Ranger

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

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