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For anyone to be a commercial breeder in the standardbred industry in New Zealand means they usually need a benevolent banker and a determination to stick it out for the long term. It is a part of the harness racing industry that sees a lot of participants come in all gung ho and leave a short time later, wiser and poorer for the experience. A small number have been able to structure their breeding operations in such a way that not only are they profitable but they produce a high quality and successful product to boot. At the forefront of this small group in New Zealand is the founder of Studholme Bloodstock, Brian West. Recently we travelled to his magnificent 300 acre property at Coes Ford in Canterbury to spend an afternoon with Brian to get an over view of his involvement to date and what the future holds. Harnesslink When did you first develop an interest in the Harness Racing Industry. Brian West  My first memories were as a thirteen year old. That interest grew to the point where in my early twenties  I  purchased my first horse. I used to go to local dispersal sales looking to pick up well bred stock with a view to trading them further down the track. Harnesslink Anyone you turned to for advice in those early days. Brian West Jim Dalgety was a great help in those early days and I still seek his advice at times today. He has a wealth of knowledge and is very generous with his time. Alec Purdon and Des Callaghan (Tara Lodge) were two others that I sought out in those early years and they both helped me immensely. I am indebted to them all for their help. Harnesslink How did Yonkers Breeding Partnership come about? Brian West In 1986, I set up Yonkers Breeding Partnership in conjunction with four close friends of mine. We floated the partnership and it ended up with 100 investors all up. The aim was to target the top end of the yearling market. The partnership purchased the bloodstock and things looked to be coming together nicely when out of the blue the government of the day completely changed the tax structure for bloodstock. That completely compromised the financial viability of Yonkers Breeding Partnership. As a result we sold down the bloodstock over a period of three years at a significant loss. The partnership was very fortunate however as the funding borrowed from Barclays Bank was secured against the bloodstock and not the investors so the money lost by the investors was minimal. In 1986, we set up Club Classics Syndicates as an outlet for some of our bloodstock. The first syndicate was made up of seven horses with seven different trainers but we were having trouble selecting the seventh horse for the package. Robert Dunn went and looked at a group of horses we owned and to our surprise chose a smallish plain looking Stampede colt as the seventh horse. Of course he turned out to be Defoe 1:53 ($423,372) and that gave the syndicates a lot of creditability going forward. We were based at the old Watties farm in Shands road at the time and we had employed Michael House to do all the pre-training of the syndicate horses which also helped in their success. Harnesslink How did Yonkers Breeding Partnership (1989) come about. Brian West After the wind up of Yonkers Breeding Partnership, a few of the investors wanted to start again. So we wrote to the 100 original investors and offered them the opportunity to be involved. About 10% took up the offer and together we formed Yonkers Breeding Partnership (1989). We purchased the ten best pedigreed mares from the original Yonkers portfolio. Harnesslink How long did Yonkers Breeding Partnership (1989) last for? Brian West A little over twelve years all up. Most of the investors were coming up to retirement and wanted to free up some cash. The Bloodstock was valued and purchased by Studholme Park (BD West) The partnership made a profit every year of its twelve years, something I and manager, Jack Hartley, were very proud of, as they were very difficult days in the standardbred industry in New Zealand. Harnesslink At what point did the bloodstock operations evolve to their present name of Studholme Bloodstock? Brian West Studholme Bloodstock was formed in January 2003. Taking ownership of the bloodstock formally owned by Studholme Park (BD West) Harnesslink Why did you move from the Shands road property as it was beautifully set up Brian West I was looking to down size our breeding operation to create more leisure time, at the same time a developer made an offer to purchase the Shands Road property. I wasn't sure where I was going to go but I ran into an old friend of mine in real estate and not long after that he convinced me to have a look at the farm we are presently on. I would have to be honest and say when I first saw the property as I drove in, I was less than impressed as the house and outbuildings looked very run down. But my friend convinced me to have a look at the farm and I am glad I did because it is an outstanding property. I purchased 70 acres at first and then further down the track I purchased an additional 230 acres of an adjoining property to give me the 300 acres we presently have. It is a beautifully set up farm with 10 acre paddocks and shelter to each paddock from the easterly and the southerly winds. The earthquakes destroyed the main house (built in 1863) and I have yet to finalise its future with the insurance company but I have restored the other buildings on the property including the fourteen box ‘mews’, a two-storey stable complex and recently refurbished a small cottage which is now my home. Harnesslink How many stocks does the farm carry? Brian West Can vary from time to time but usually we would be carrying 100 horses and we finish up to 200 cattle as well. We run the cattle behind the horses and we crop some paddocks each year. All our paddocks are sown with a grass mix that has a heavy emphasis on red clover which seems to suit our soil type here. Harnesslink Any outside clients Brian West No, I have turned down dozens of approaches over the years. I do have breeding arrangements with a few people on a 50/50 basis and race some fillies with friends. I would calculate that Studholme Bloodstock owns outright about 70% of the horses on the farm at any one time. I am in breeding and racing arrangements with long term clients and friends: Peter Smith and Winky Foley (Kahukuri Bloodstock), Neville Tilsley, Mike and Sue Grainger (Grainger Bloodstock), John Purvis (Grassy Meadows Farm), Vicky Purdon, Mike Gourdie, Gavin Chin, Graham Gimblett and Ken McDonald of Master Musician and For a Reason fame. Harnesslink You didn’t sell fillies at the sales for a period of four or five years there not long ago .Why? Brian West When I first set up Studholme Park, I sold every foal I bred as that was the only way to pay the bills and keep our heads above water. Buyers of yearlings are generally looking for a reason not to buy and unless they are faultless in conformation and pedigree they were not giving me a return on my investment. As I became more financial and aware that our fillies were being sold at a loss in most instances, I decided to retain all fillies and try them as a race horse. The result of this decision has been very positive for my farm. These days we will sell the odd filly but they have to tick every box before I enter them in the yearling sales. This year I retained nine fillies which have all been broken in. Harnesslink What trainers do you use? Brian West I stopped counting when I got to seventy. These days though I mainly use Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen while I also have some with Cran Dalgety and Robert and John Dunn and Grant Payne. Different fillies suit different trainers. Secret Lotion and Art Critic never really settled at Marks and Natalies but have been in great form since joining Robert and John’s team so I am not afraid to move them if I think it might help. One year I sent seven fillies to Nicole Molander in Sydney. They all won enough money to pay their way and came back home with smart mile rates besides their name which is always helpful when selling at the sales Harnesslink How many have you got for next years’ sales and could you give us a rundown on their programme from weaning up to sale day. Brian West I will have 12 colts and two fillies barring injuries for next years’ sale. We run them in small mobs right through from weaning. They are fed a barley based mix that I have made to our specifications which has a 16% protein component. We change the mix on the 1st of August, reducing the protein component to 13% The hard feed is supplemented with lucerne/red clover baleage and some meadow hay. We have 14 double fenced yearling paddocks which we use during the sale prep. The sales prep starts on December 1st, we bring them in from the paddocks at seven in the morning. Following breakfast, they will be put on a walker for 30 minutes. They stay in for lunch and are put back in their paddocks at two in the afternoon and they stay there overnight. We do that right up to Christmas and then give them ten days off to freshen them up. We will then start again in early January and go right through to the sale which is usually around the 20th February. A lot of trainers/buyers like to come and see the horses on farm and we fit in around them as much as we can. Also, we are part of the very successful sales bus tour. Our main marketing push comes in the form of a booklet showing a photograph of each yearling. Harnesslink Whom would you rate the best horse you have raced –bred—seen Brian West The best horse I have raced would have to be Secret Potion 1:57.5 ($285,313) who won both the Great Northern Oaks (Group1) and Nevele R Fillies Final(Group1). Close behind would be Lancome 1:54.9 ($461,278) who won 13 races including the Harness Jewels  4 year old Diamond (Group1) The best horse I have bred would have to be A Bit Of A Legend 1:54.7 ($720,710) who has won 17 to date including both the two and three year old divisions of the Austrlasian Breeders Crown (Group 1) The best horse I have seen would have to be Lord Module 1:54.9 ($251,750) At his peak he made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with his speed and power. Harnesslink What have been some of the major changes that you think have been positive for the industry in your time. Brian West Two stand out for me. 1.) The DNA testing regime was a major step forward and made those mistakes of the past impossible. 2.) The other was the introduction of shuttle stallions which allowed the breeders in the southern hemisphere access to the best stallions in the world. Jack Rice, a USA lawyer and John Curtin had to fight tooth and nail to establish shuttle stallions and yet neither has ever had their contribution recognised which is a shame as we wouldn't be where we are today without their efforts. Harnesslink How do you see the future of harness racing and breeding in New Zealand. Brian West One of the major impediments to the future of the harness racing industry in New Zealand is the archaic governance structure that we have in this industry. The ‘Clubs’ run the industry in New Zealand. Clubs were set up to run race meetings and that should be their primary focus. The industry should be governed by a board of directors elected by industry participants, licence holders, breeders and owners. Such a board would free the industry from the glacial pace of change we have under the current structure. The other major problem that needs attention and soon is the lack of any incentives for people to breed. The number of mares bred this last breeding season was the lowest for 45 years and is in a downward spiral. The focus so far has been to increase stakes and that has been successful to a point but still the numbers of mares bred continues to decline. We need to incentivise the breeders to breed. There are several ways you can do that and there are several places overseas which run breeding incentive schemes. Which one would best meet the New Zealand industries needs further evaluation but one thing is certain, the French have it right, twelve and a half percent of every dollar earned is paid to the breeder. If we don't start to reward the people who produce the product that keeps our industry alive then we may not have an industry long term. Harnesslink Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Brian. It is much appreciated. Harnesslink media  

Last week the ring-around produced six winners with Matthew Williamson, Nathan Williamson, Scott Phelan, Ricky May, John Dunn, and I all delivering the goods. The best result was my tip Spell which romped in at odds $5.50. Let’s see what winners we have in store for you this week: Cambridge – Thursday Jay Abernethy: Thinks Equulei can kick the ring-around off in style in the first race at Cambridge. Simon Lawson: Rates Betty Boop Brogden as a good each-way chance in the fourth race on the card. Alexandra Park – Friday Todd Mitchell: Has opted for Miss Lotty, who was seen doing her best work late when second last start. She looks a good chance in the first race. Brent Mangos: expects impressive trialist Vibhuti to prove very tough to roll – race four. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Djokovic, who looks a bold chance in race five. Scott Phelan: Rates the chances of inform pacer Cyamach, who looks a strong chance despite meeting a very good field in the sixth race at Alexandra Park. Addington – Friday Ken Barron: Expects both Bracken Ridge (race two) and Quaint Glen (Rangiora race 3) to prove very hard to beat. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Bracken Ridge – race two Mark Jones: Thinks the consistent Jaccka Len can break through for another win – race five. Gavin Smith: Rates She’s Extreme as a good place chance in the sixth event on the card. John Dunn: Is expecting a big run from two-year-old filly Cullens First Meddle – race six. Tim Williams: Has opted for smart mare Here We Go Again, who downed likely favourite Fifth Edition in her last start – race eight. Matthew Williamson: Expects Ohoka Benson to be hard to beat in what looks an average C1 field – race ten. Rangiora – Sunday Terry Chmiel: Has opted for the inform That Guy Finn, who looks a good chance despite meeting a strong C1 and 2 line-up – race six. Jonny Cox:  Thinks Explosive Art can continue to explode through the grades – race nine.  

Popular Canterbury harness racing trainer Robert Dunn cracked the 100 winners for the season for the first time as a trainer when a recent recruit to the stable Wesley Silcox took out the the Tinwald Tavern Mobile Pace at Ashburton today. Robert has had the stable firing on all cylinders all season and to reach the coverted 100  club is a just reward for all the hard work the stable has put in throughout the season. Wesley Silcox was recently purchased for stable clients out of the Brent White barn after two very impressive wins at the recent Nelson meeting with the original owner deciding to stay in and remain part of the ownership group. It is not the first time that Robert Dunn has bought out of the Brent White stable with Elios 1:55 ($213,676) an earlier purchase. Steadied out of the gate today from barrier two by driver John Dunn, Wesley Silcox slotted into a nice possie in the running line for the first 1400 meters. Sent forward outside the leader Change Time at the 1000 meter mark, Wesley Silcox sat there until they turned for home when he kicked away for an impressive two length victory with John Dunn hardly moving in the cart. The win made it three from three for Wesley Silcox and the good looking son of Courage Under Fire looks to have a huge future in front of him. He paced the 2400 meters from the mobile in a swift 3:00.6, a mile rate of 2:01 with impressive closing sectionals of 56.2 and 27.5. Falcon's Goddess, the dam of Wesley Silcox is a 1:58.5 daughter of the former smart Soky's Atom mare, Soky's Lass 1:58.9 ($34,754). Soky's Lass is very closely related to two of the best horses to ever set foot on a racetrack in New Zealand in Luxury Liner 1:56.9 ($1,721,984) and Christopher Vance 1:54.6 ($1,747,167). It is a family that has been a bit quiet in recent years but in Wesley Silcox it looks to have found another star. Wesley Silcox Harnesslink media

Last week was a quiet one for the ring-around with just the two winners. However, T.A.B Bookmaker Steve Richardson did find us some value in the form of $8 and $2.50. Let’s see what good oil the boys have found for us this week. Forbury – Thursday Matthew Williamson:  Has opted for Monnay, who is the class horse of the field but and looks a chance despite his huge seventy metre handicap – race six. Nathan Williamson:  Rates the chances of Onedin Mach, who should have benefited off his fresh-up fourth. He looks the one to beat in race seven on the card. Jonny Cox: Rates the chances of Homeforabubbly, who looks well placed in the ninth race on the card. Alexandra Park – Friday Simon Lawson: Has selected Westwind Flyer as his best bet of the week – race one. Scott Phelan: Believes Pieces Of My Heart can go one better in the third race on the card. Josh Dickie: Has opted for Katieellen Castleton, who would only need to do things right to win the fourth race. Addington – Friday Stephen Richardson (T.A.B): Has selected Hikoi, who got too far back last start before finishing strongly for fourth. Steps up to 2600m this week which should suit – race two. David Butt: Rates the chances of Stingray, who returned to form last week with a nice win. He meets the same sort of field this week and looks a good each-way chance again - race five. Ricky May: Has opted for the impressive Dalton Bromac. He looks the one they all have to beat in the same event – race five. Craig Thornley: Has opted for Playaway, who was a fast finishing second last start. She looks a good each-way chance in the sixth race. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Spell – race eight. Ashburton – Sunday Mark Jones: Expects smart filly Goodness Gracious Me to prove very hard to beat in the sixth race. Ken Barron: Has opted for Change Time, who returns to mobile racing and has landed the plumb draw. She has produced big runs in her last two outings after missing the kick from standing starts and looks a good chance on Sunday – race eight. John Dunn: Thinks stable newcomer Wesley Silcox, who trialled up nicely on Monday, can keep his unbeaten record intact – race eight.

Harness racing can be a great leveler at times. All week the word has been out for Big Lucy, who made her raceday debut at Timaru today (Sunday 6th July) in a 2000 meter mobile for fillies and mares. Another one of the string of youngsters purchased out of the Australian sales by Mark Purdon, Big Lucy has been burning up the trialing track recently with a recent win at Ashburton her best effort. Even though she only paced the mile in 2:02.5, her closing sectionals of 57.8 and 26.9 without being seriously asked suggested she would take all sorts of beating today. Running home strongly for second in that trial was the Cran Dalgety trained Storm Maguire with Margarita a close up third and when Margarita easily won her debut on Thursday night at Forbury Park one realised that Storm Maguire was a chance with a run to suit to upset the hot favourite. And as is so often the case in racing, that is exactly what happened today. Big Lucy ended up in the trail behind Media Queen and when she handed up to Storm Maguire it put the favourite in a very difficult position, three back on the inside and needing plenty of luck which never came. By the time Big Lucy cleared the pocket the race was over with Storm Maguire with John Dunn driving just holding on from a fast finishing Sicilian Secret and She's Extreme with Big Lucy finishing an unlucky sixth. Storm Maguire paced the 2000 meters in 2:31.7 with closing sectionals of 57.8 and 28.8 A two year daughter of Bettor's Delight, Storm Maguire is from the In The Pocket mare, Lethal Mee who has already the dam of the former top filly, Susie Maguire 1:57.7 ($290,784) and the capable Dougie Maguire 1:57.3 ($61,314). It was an encouraging debut run and held the promise of plenty more to come. Harnesslink media

Sam Ottley just keeps breaking records and now the Canterbury driver has her sights set on a couple of other milestones before this season comes to a close. The brilliant young horsewoman’s tally of 42 wins for the season makes her the most successful female junior driver in terms of races won – beating off the old mark held by Jo Herbert of 39 which she set in 1998. And now the 23-year-old is determined to win what she terms the “coveted” junior driving premiership. “That is the main goal now, I’ll drive anywhere to win that,” Ottley said. “I’m also proud of the most-female-wins-in-a-season record as well. “I didn’t realise I had achieved it, this all means so much to me. I love driving and I want to be successful.’’ The female junior driver record for wins in a season came just two months after Ottley created more junior driving history at Forbury Park. The Geraldine-born and educated horse woman became the first ever female junior driver to notch up 100 wins when she reined the Michael House trained appropriately named Gogirl Bromac in race one – the Dunedin City Ford maiden trot on April 17. Ottley is one win clear of the her closest junior driver rival in Sailesh Abernethy, who applied a little more pressure with a winning double at Cambridge last night. She is also three wins clear of Natalie Rasmussen – the country’s second best reinswoman in terms of wins. “It would be great to beat them both, especially Sailesh because I’m getting near the end of my junior driving days and I would love to go out a champion. “The Junior Driving Premiership would be the ultimate way to end the season.’’ Kirsten Barclay was the last female to win the junior driving premiership. That was in in the 2004-2005 season when she won 32 races from 315 drives. Ottley has now driven 112 winners from 1,317 drives since first taking out her licence in 2008-2009. She’s also placed 212 times for $815,799. “It’s been a memorable year. It’[s hard to believe I’ve created a couple of firsts this year. I’m so happy because they can never the achievements away from me.’’ She said other career highlights included winning her first race-day drive behind her mother Denise’s horse Nigel Paul; winning the Geraldine Cup on Just Rose for Colin and Julie (De Filippi) and representing New Zealand at the Australasian Junior Driving Champs (third by a point). Ottley paid a tribute to her mother, Timaru trainer Murray Tapper, the De Filippi’s, and all the owners and trainers who put her on their horses. In an effort to enhance her chances of winning the junior drivers premiership, Ottley is currently on loan to the Woodend Beach stable of Robert and John Dunn with De Filippi low on racing numbers currently. She heads to Forbury Park tonight in search of adding to her season tally with a promising book of five drives. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

Last week was a great one for the Harnesslink ring-around with Matthew Williamson, Ken Barron, Scott Phelan, Josh Dickie, Jonny Cox, Craig Thornley, Ricky May, Anthony Butt, and Blair Orange all tipping out winners. Here are this week’s selections: Cambridge - Thursday Simon Lawson:  Expects Ton Tine to win again – race five. Alexandra Park – Friday Steve Richardson (Harnesslink): Thinks Russley Haste will prove very hard to beat in the fourth race on the card.  Scott Phelan: Has opted for the in form Cyamach in the Winter Cup - race seven.   Forbury – Friday   Mark Jones: Has declared Lady Mackendon as the biggest cert he has ever taken to the races. “It’s like Master Lavros in a maiden trot. Only a bad drive will get it beat.” Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Rip Roaring  - race two. John Dunn: Expects smart juvenile Robbie Burns to make it two wins from as many starts – race four. Josh Dickie: Has just an average book of drives this week, but rates Russet Norkotah, who will be at any old odds, as the best of them - race five. Matthew Williamson: Thinks Al Razza will prove very hard to beat again – race ten. Nathan Williamson: Will go head-to-head with brother Matthew, with the talented Sheeza Shark in the same event. Rangiora – Sunday Blair Orange: Rates Zakspatrol as his best chance of the week – race seven. Terry Chmiel: Has opted for That Guy Finn, who will shoot for three wins in a row in the same event – race seven. Ricky May: Has opted for smart three-year-old Explosive Art, who has been coming along in leaps and bounds in recent starts – race eight. Ken Barron: Thinks Livura will prove hard to beat in the ninth race on the card. Jonny Cox: Has a decent book of drives, but rates Galleon’s Triumph as the best of them – race eleven. Anthony Butt: Is bullish about the chances of smart 2yo Field Marshal in the last event on the card.      

Last week the ring-around produced four winners, all at relatively good value. This week we have a smaller ring-around than usual due to some technical problems, however I am sure it is still chock-a-block with winners. Forbury – Thursday  Nathan Williamson: Thinks Nickelson can give Father Christmas a run for his money in the fifth event tonight. John Dunn: Expects Alta Jerome to be hard to bowl from his handy barrier draw in race number six on the card. Tim Williams: Rates the chances of Queen Of The Crop in race eight. Matthew Williamson: Is very bullish about the chances of Lionel’s Meddle in the claimers’ event – race eleven. Alexandra Park – Friday Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Te Amo Bromac – race one. Josh Dickie: Rates the chances of Stellar Kamwood in the fourth event. Todd Mitchell: Rates the chances of Cyclone Prince, who finished sixth in the 3YO Emerald. He looks the one to beat in race number six. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Norvic Nightowl, who finished a creditable fourth in the 4YO Emerald. – race eight. Ashburton@Addington – Friday Ken Barron: Expects Mighty Major to prove very hard to beat in race one on the card. Blair Orange: Thinks he can bring up his 100th winner for the season aboard Someardensomewhere – race four. Cambridge – Sunday Scott Phelan: Thinks Megs First is a strong each-way chance in race eight. Simon Lawson: Rates the chances of Ton Tine in the same event. Ashburton – Sunday Ricky May:  Has opted for The Emperor Robyn, who looks well placed in the first event on Sunday. Mark Jones: who found some good place value in Eastburn Mara, has opted for Kowhai Whiz in the fourth event.              

Top junior horsewoman Samantha Ottley crept within one win of Sailesh Abernethy in the Junior Drivers’ premiership when guiding Secret Lotion to victory at Nelson yesterday. In doing so, she also notched up her first win for Robert and John Dunn, after recently joining forces with the powerful Woodened Beach stable. “Colin (DeFilippi) is pretty quiet at the moment so he had a chat to John Dunn and suggested that I go and work for them for a while to increase my chances of winning the Junior Drivers’ premiership,” said Ottley. ”I am very grateful to Colin and Julie and of course the Dunns for giving me this opportunity,” said Ottley. “It’s my last season as a junior so it’s now or never as far as winning the premiership goes,” she added. Ottley now sits on 38 wins for the season with North Island reinsman Saliesh Abernethy on 39. Brad Williamson currently sits in third with 29 wins to date. “I really wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of Colin (DeFillipi),”advised Ottley. “He has been my mentor and continues to help me achieve the best results possible,” she enthused. The Dunns have done a bit of a swap with the DeFilippi stable and have sent junior horsewoman Loren Lester to work for DeFilippi stable during Ottley’s absence. “I just hope it works out well for everyone in the finish,” concluded Ottley. Meanwhile, the Nelson Winter Cup Prelude, was taken out by Beckinsale, who clung on win over the fast-finish Fifth Edition at odds of $38.30 and $7.40. Other impressive winners on the day included debut maiden winners Wesley Silcox and Robbie Burns, both whom should have no problems measuring up in C1 company on Sunday. By Mitchell Robertson

Last week the ring-around produced six winners including Jewels champions Monbet, Venus Serena, and Supersonic Miss. Let’s see what good oil some of harness racing’s leading lads have come up with for us this week. Forbury Park – Thursday Jonny Cox: who has been enjoying a purple patch of form, has opted for Expressive Art in the third race on the card. Sam Ottley: Thinks Smoken Roman will prove very hard to beat in the fifth race on the card. Matthew Williamson: Rates Al Raza as a very good each-way chance on the seventh race on the card. Nathan Williamson: Thinks the very consistent Nickelson is a good each-way chance again – race eleven. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for the Phil Williamson trained Monnay in the same event. Alexandra Park – Friday Todd Mitchell: Thinks Princess Sophia, who is dropping back from Harness Jewels Company, can give a sight in race four. Ken Barron: Rates the chances of Pacquiao, who was a luckless fifth in the 4YO Emerald – race five. Jay Abernethy: Thinks Equulei can get herself into the finish of the last race on the card. Nelson – Friday Mark Jones: admits he doesn’t have a great team in this week, but rates Eastburn Mara as the best of them – race two. Anthony Butt: Has a tidy book of drives at Nelson but rates capable trotter Gregory R as the best of them – race five. Blair Orange: Has opted for smart mare Sunchita in the same event. John Dunn: Rates stable newcomer Cindi Arma the best of what is a very good book of drives on Friday – race six. Tim Williams: Think Here We Go Again is a very good chance in race nine provided she steps away. Craig Thornely: Has opted for Al’s Courage, who was huge in fifth last start after missing away. He looks the one to beat in the last race of the card. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Madiba Magic – race twelve.  

New South Wales horsewoman Cynthia Bourke notched up her first New Zealand driving success when guiding Fleet’s Classy Jet to an all of the way win at Ashburton on Sunday. “It’s a big thrill and relief to get that first one out of the way,” said the young reinswoman. Bourke sent Fleet’s Classy Jet forward to the front from the gate, before making a bold call and leaving Analeigh (John Dunn), who was a $1.30 favourite parked out. As it turns out, that was the winning of the race, with Fleet’s Classy Jet kicking strongly in a 27.7 last quarter to win by a length. Cynthia, who is the daughter of Bathurst trainer Phil Bourke, came to New Zealand to work at Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s All Stars Stables, before recently shifting to Burnham trainer Jamie Gameson, who provided her with her first winner on Sunday. “Mark and Natalie were great to me and they taught me a lot, but I was seeking more driving opportunities and Jamie said he was prepared to give me a go if I came and worked for him,” advised Bourke. Bourke, who has had four drives in New Zealand for one win and a luckless fifth, had driven five winners before moving across the ditch. Three of those winners were for her father, Phil. “I’ve had many people that have influenced me but he has definitely been my biggest supporter,” said Bourke. Bourke said she could have very well won her second drive in New Zealand aboard capable four-year-old Al’s Courage had he not got his head over the gate and galloped at the start. “It was driver error but I’d like to think I have learnt from it and won’t make the same mistake again. He is a nice horse who would be worth following,” she concluded. By Mitchell Robertson  

Champions overcome logic. And that’s exactly what Venus Serena did when overcoming her second-line draw  to win the $150,000 3YO Diamond at Cambridge today in a sensational time of 1:52.1. “She is the best filly I’ve ever driven and I don’t think I’ll drive another one as good as long as I live,” said driver John Dunn. Venus Serena moved into the race three-wide with cover on the back of Charleston Belle (James Stormont) before landing the parked position and locking horns with hot favourite Ideal Belle. The pair then engaged in a titanic battle but it was Venus Serena who pulled out more in the home stretch to win narrowly over Ideal Belle. Raksdeal finished third, while Lancewood Lizzie rounded out the First4. “She never saw the fence the whole race but she just kept giving,” said Dunn. The win is yet another feather in the cap for West Melton trainer Geoff Dunn, who did a phenomenal job to freshen the Mach Three filly after she performed below par in the NZ Oaks. Venus Serena, who has now won back-to-back Harness Jewels, is owned by her breeders Bob and Jenny Sandford while Dunn also has a share. By Mitchell Robertson

Congratulations to Matthew Williamson, Ricky May, Todd Mitchell, Joshua Dickie, Jonny Cox, and Nathan Williamson who all produced ‘the goods’ last week. The best result was Katieellen Castleton, who was backed into a closing price of $6.50. Let’s see what good oil the boys have come up with on this massive week of harness racing. Addington - Thursday Colin DeFilippi: Has opted for Strathfield Sun, who recovered well to finish fourth after an early gallop last start - race one. Gavin Smith: Was impressed with Karanga Red Fantasy’s fresh-up second behind Anton Oliver, and think she can go one better in race six tonight. Mark Jones: Has opted for Rock Till You Drop on the back of a couple of impressive workout performances. - race six. Ricky May: Is bullish about the chances of Nevertheless, who has been very good in his last two starts - race seven. Franklin - Friday Jay Abernethy: Likes the chances of Pacific Rapture, who produced a big performance after breaking behind the mobile last start- race six. Simon Lawson: Has opted for the consistent Gold Elite - race eight. Josh Dickie: Rates Kippenberger as a good each-way chance- race nine Forbury Park - Friday Nathan Williamson: Thinks Mr Majestic can break his maiden status in the first race on Friday. Tim Williams: Believes it won’t be long before Mordecai cracks maidens. Probably Friday night- race three. Cambridge Harness Jewels - Saturday Greg Hope: Thinks he has Monbet right back on top of his game and expects him to prove very hard to beat in the 2YO Ruby - race two. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has also opted for Monbet on the back of an impressive workout at Cambridge. - race two. John Dunn: Thinks Venus Serena has a cracking winning chance despite her tricky second-line - race three. David Butt: Thinks One Over Da Moon only needs a touch of luck to be a major player in the 3YO Ruby - race four. Ken Barron: Thinks that if Majestic Time is at her best come Saturday she will be a force to be reckoned with - race four. Anthony Butt: Has opted for smart filly Joannes A Delight, who should strip a better horse this week after missing work last week due to a foot abscess - race five. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Supersonic Miss - race five Todd Mitchell: Is very happy with Prime Power, who will attempt to defend his Jewels title on Saturday - race seven. Matt Markham (HRNZ): Rates Prime Power as the bet of the day on Harness Jewels Day - race seven. Ashburton - Sunday Dexter Dunn: Has a good book of drives on Jewels Day, but has instead opted for Artismee in race two on Sunday Stephen McNally: Thinks Hikoi is closing in rapidly on his maiden win- race five. Terry Chmiel: Thinks last start winner That Guy Finn, can repeat the dose on Sunday - race seven. Sam Ottley: Rates the chances of Mattjestic Rebeck - race nine. Invercargill - Monday Jonny Cox: Is bullish about the chances of King Louie - race five. Clark Barron:  Rates Royal Taz as his best chance of the weekend - race eleven.  

Last week the Harnesslink ring-around produced four winners as well as a string of minor placegetters. Let’s see if we can add to that tally this week: Cambridge - Thursday Simon Lawson: Thinks handy two-year-old Blinding Light will prove hard to in the first race on the card. Todd Mitchell: Rates the chances of Jovani, who was a good fresh up second - race one. Manawatu - Friday Stephen Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Kilkeel Lady as his bet of the week - race three. Addington - Friday Terry Chmiel: Thinks that That Guy Finn will give him his best chance of greeting the judge this weekend - race three. Blair Orange: Has opted for Jayceekay, who backed up his dazzling debut win with a cracking third last start. He looks the one to beat in race five. Ken Barron: Likes the chances of smart two-year-old trotter B D Love in the same event - race five. Colin DeFilippi:  Thinks the consistent Rise And Shine can break through for a maiden win - race nine. John Dunn: Is bullish about the chances of smart two-year-old Say My Name in the Sires Stakes Final - race ten. Jonny Cox:  Thinks Jaccka Justy will prove hard to beat despite his 40 metre handicap - race eleven. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Messini - race twelve. Invercargill - Saturday Tim Williams: Will be Popular if he can rein the filly with that exact name home in the first race on the card. Nathan Williamson:  Thinks handy trialist Splash Cola can kick her career of with a win - race four. Andrew Armour: Is bullish about the chances of the very capable B D Windermere - race nine. Matthew Williamson: Rates capable trotter Zhenya as his bet of the week - race twelve. Oamaru - Sunday Ricky May:  Has opted for Mach Winger on the back of a dazzling performance at the Ashburton trials - race five. Mark Jones: Thinks Juneamy Castleton looks well placed in race six on the card. Anthony Butt: Thinks smart two-year-old Field Marshal can make it back-to-back wins despite his wide barrier draw - race nine.  

If she wasn’t there already, Venus Serena rocketed herself into the status of superstar today at Addington. The brilliant three-year-old filly notched up the fifth Group One of her career this afternoon (Saturday) at Addington when winning the $140,000 Nevele R Fillies final in New Zealand record time – the fourth of its kind in her career. And the fun hasn’t stopped yet. Such is the domination of the Geoff Dunn-trained filly that she will go out a red-hot favourite in the remaining two Group One battles for her age group and sex this season. The first of those will come as soon as next week when Venus Serena returns to Addington to tackle the New Zealand Oaks. Then it is on to Cambridge for a tilt at becoming a dual Jewels winner on May 31. And Dunn had a warning for those who will take their place in the Oaks next week. “She has only had a workout in between her last run and today, so you would like to think she will get better,’’ he said. Venus Serena lowered the NZ record held by champion three-year-old filly Carabella when stopping the clock at a blistering 2.19.1 – 0.6 seconds inside Carabella’s time. After burning out of the gate from her handy draw, Venus Serena was given little respite throughout the 1950 metre event but still had the audacity to run away from her opponents at the top of the straight. Things might have got a little interesting had North Island filly, Ideal Belle not galloped rounding the final bend when in the trail though. The Barry Purdon-trained runner managed to pick herself up off the canvas and put the issue to Venus Serena, but John Dunn who was sitting in the bike of the winner quickly eliminated any concerns she might have been beaten had the incident occurred. “She fights like a tiger when another horse comes up to her,'' he said. “When she got clear she pretty much knocked off but when Zac came up on my inside she grabbed the bit again. “It was a pretty impressive performance considering she pulled the whole way. “She was very keen today.’’ The win gave John Dunn his second Group One victory in less than 24 hours following the victory of Elios in the New Zealand Messenger at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Owned by Bob and Jenny Sandford along with Geoff Dunn – Venus Serena has now won 13 of her 18 career starts and is closing in on $600,000 in stakes and with $225,000 left to race for this season that figure should improve noticeably over the next month. Ideal Belle lost no admirers with her second placing while Rocknroll Arden emerged out of the pack to finish in third position. By Matt Markham (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Top harness racing trainer Robert Dunn pulled off one of the biggest training feats of his illustrious career when Quinellering the Group One NZ Messenger with Elios and Franco Nelson at Alexandra Park tonight. Dunn’s two sons also produced the quinella in the $100,000 event with John Dunn and Elios diving along the passing lane to nab Franco Nelson in the shadows of the post, denying his brother Dexter three consecutive wins in the prestigious pacing event. Norvic Nightowl (James Stormont) was 4-1/2 lengths back in third with a neck back to Mossdale Connor (Ricky May) in fourth. “He was a good three-year-old but he has continued to get better as he has got older which is very pleasing,” said John Dunn. Elios led early before handing up to his stablemate Franco Nelson, who showed a dazzling turn of foot to leave his free-rolling stablemate flat footed at the 1100 metres. “In hindsight it probably worked out perfectly,” advised Dunn. “Last week he had to burn hard the whole way and got on the nickel a bit, but this time he was able to sneak a breather when in the trail down the back straight. “A lot of the credit must go to Matt Bowden, our travelling foreman. He has done a fantastic job with these two horses up here. He also did a great job with them in Australia.” Both pacers will now target the Harness Jewels, however afterwards they may be heading in different directions. “Elios will probably head to Australia for the Breeders Crown, while Franco Nelson, who is very good from a stand, will spell before being set for the NZ Cup,” advised Dunn. Elios’s win tonight was a reward for his risk-taking owners who purchased him for big money as a three-year-old despite the fact that he failed the veterinary examination. By Mitchell Robertson  

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