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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

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

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