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He was meant to be enjoying some time on the hills in the north, but in a cruel twist of fate, Wesley Silcox has lost his life in a freak accident caused by a lightning strike. Always rated highly by the stable, Wesley Silcox, the winner of eight of his 12 race starts was in recovery mode after being troubled by a suspensory injury. The winner of his last three starts in Auckland 14 months ago, Wesley Silcox was being given every chance to return to the track after injuries had curtailed his promising career. "We thought this time that rather than bugger around we'd give him every chance to recover and that time would be his best friend," said Robert. However, some severe weather including some spectacular electrical storms hit the north late last week. "When we were coming back from the races last Friday you couldn't see a thing," said John. "It was shocking weather." Further north and it was one of these electrical storms that would seal the fate of Wesley Silcox. "He was in a paddock with a couple of other horses," said John "and it sounds like a tree in the paddock got hit by lightning." "Wesley Silcox was obviously sheltering under the tree when a massive branch fell hitting him and taking his life. They reckon he would have been dead instantly." "Its really sad," said Robert. "He had a lot of untapped potential and I was confident we would get him back and into the highest classes." "They are a great bunch of owners, but I feel really bad especially for Stu Leadley who owned a half share in the horse. Stu owns Alta Las Vegas outright and is also a part-owner in Franco Cristiano, both horses that went amiss this season suffering the same injury, a fracture of the pastern. I am just pleased for him that Franco Cristiano is getting close to being on the track again." Robert Dunn Trotting Stables

An unlucky second on the first night, The Royal Garden was simply too good for a handy C2-C6 field yesterday at the Manawatu Harness Racing Club's second day. While drawn poorly on the second line, John Dunn was able to work the Mach Three 5yr old into the clear early and eventually found the front at the 1700m. Once there he was able to set a strong tempo and as the field turned for home, he showed a decent kick finding plenty in the run to the line to hold on from the trailing Princess Kate and a late finisher in Hudy Haxwell. The 2500m trip was run in 3.11.6, the last 800m in 58 and the last 400m in 28.3. After struggling for some time in stronger Canterbury fields, John sent The Royal Garden south to Forbury last month where he was a convincing winner over smart southerner Statham. On the back of that win he was confidently backed on Thursday, but after having little luck had to settle for second. Yesterday's win was his 7th from 31 starts and takes his stakes to just under the $50,000 mark. Meanwhile in the south, Highview Freddy completed a successful comeback to racing with a good win in yesterday's feature at Timaru. His win came at his 4th start back after an extended break from the track with injuries. He had built nicely towards this win with a good second first up and then a couple of runs in stronger fields. Highview Freddy stepped like a toff from the front, over the 2600m stand and was soon in front setting his own terms. While taken on early in the race, Dexter elected to stay in front and always looked to have the Bettor's Delight 4yr old travelling nicely. He was allowed some rein from the 500m and quickly put three lengths on the opposition. At the 200m he was a clear six lengths in front and while he tired slightly over the last 100m, he held on an easy winner by four and a half lengths in a smart 3.17.5 for the 2600m stand. Owned by Ian Dobson, Highview Freddy had shown his potential at three winning the three races, but then came his time on the sideline. Based on the manner of yesterday's win, he will be easy to place over the winter months. Michael Drury - Robert Dunn Trotting Stables

On the brink of a drop-back leading into tonight's assignment, Little Rascal produced a tough winning run, after missing away and in doing so strengthened his claim for a start in this year's 4yr old Emerald for the colts and geldings. After a good run for 6th in the Taylor Mile two starts ago, the son of Panspacificflight had no luck in Field Marshall's Messenger, choking down and being pulled out of the race. John had reported pre-race that the horse had worked up well leading into tonight's assignment, but his real concern was the stand start manners. As he has done previous, he bobbled away at the start, settling at the tailend. With a strong tempo being set up front John waited until the backstraight to launch and he strode to the front entering the straight. Having done a power of work, he did look vulnerable in the run to the line, but fought resolutely to hold on by a neck from Risk in 3.23.9 for the 2700m. Tonight's winning stake see's him rise a few places on the jewels leaderboard to 9th spot and he now looks a great chance to join stablemate Robbie Burns on jewels day in three weeks time. The win tonight was Little Rascal's was his 7th from 35 starts and takes his stake-earnings to over $90,000 for his owner Ian Dobson. Courtesy of Robert Dunn Trotting Stables

The casualty ward for what is usually the glamour race of Harness Jewels day is getting crowded. Second favourite Say My Name is in danger of missing his $150,000 division at Cambridge on June 4 after being scratched from Alexandra Park tomorrow night. Driver John Dunn says the gelding, who is unbeaten in three starts this season, is still being troubled by a hock problem. “We don’t really know how he got it,” admits Dunn. “It happened somewhere between when he left here (Canterbury) before the Taylor Mile meeting and settled in the north and we thought we were on top of it. “But he wasn’t right today so we have pulled him out of Friday night. “That isn’t ideal as a Jewels lead-up and because he is such a good horse, if he doesn’t improve soon he will probably miss the Jewels too.”
 The timing of Say My Name’s injury could hardly have been worse as the four-year-old division which looked freakish mid-season has seen Auckland Cup quinella mates Have Faith In Me and Hughie Green both pull out as well as Costa Del Magnifico, Itz Bettor To Win (exported) and Maverick. While Field Marshal has emerged as a serious open class horse there are plenty in the division looking weary after huge seasons and Say My Name, the fresh horse on the scene, is the second favourite with the TAB, although probably not for long. By Michael Guerin

The last time popular Canterbury trainer/driver Jim Curtin ventured north to the mighty Manawatu Raceway was back in February of 2015. He picked up a driving/training win with The Persuader, while he also saluted the judge with Miss Middleton for Palmerston North trainer Stephen Doody.   Curtin travels north with 1 stable runner Atchoo and while she has drawn badly she doesn’t appear the worst chance. “We had to come north to find a suitable race for her; she’s not too good from the tapes. I thought she would be a good chance but it’s a hard draw so we are hoping for some luck” said Jim. Interestingly enough, Curtin has driven 7 trebles at the Manawatu track, and he is a regular to salute the judge. “7 trebles are pretty nice but I’ve had some luck on the track and hopefully it continues” Jim also had a further 6 drives and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him salute the judge with any of them. Jim Curtin & The Persuader winning at Manawatu back in February 2015. Robert & John Dunn travel north with a strong team of 4 runners, which includes last start Forbury winner The Royal Garden and while the son of Mach Three climbs a grade for this assignment he slots in well and looks mighty tough to beat. While earlier on in the night Mr Meddle, a 5yo Live Or Die gelding comes up with the plum draw, and looks the likely leader in an even C2 field. He was only beaten 2.5l by Beyond Belief, which has since ran 2nd in a hard race. That form should make Mr Meddle a leading chance on both days of the meeting The Royal Garden's last start win Andrew Fitzgerald

Stu and Hayden Corps are living the harness racing dream with their handy 3yo filly Ultimate Desire. Based in Christchurch, the father and son duo are landscapers by day, major horse owners by night. “We have shares in plenty of horses, but Bailey (Ultimate Desire) is definitely the stable star at the moment” said Hayden Corps. “I reckon we have 5 race horses, a couple of yearlings and a few broodmare’s in foal” Brought from the Alabar Weanling Sales and originally prepared by co owner Brent Weaver, who shares in the ownership with his wife and the Corps, Ultimate Desire was the centre of a number of large offers as a 2yo. “She won at Forbury as a 2yo back in May last year (2015) and a few decent offers came in for her, and a few times since we’ve have had some more offers. But we have always said that it’s not about the money, we just want to enjoy the thrill of a handy horse” said Corps. And the thrills keep coming with the 3yo Real Desire filly who recorded her 3rd win from just the 18 starts at Ashburton Raceway last Saturday afternoon. Dragged back from a wide draw, driver John Dunn soon found himself 3 wide around the first bend before slotting in fourth last in the running line. Sent 3 wide again at the 1200m, Ultimate Desire had cover till the 800m mark; from then on it was up to the pint sized filly to display her toughness. Dunn let his charge slide around the bend and was able to put a number of lengths on the field which appeared to be the winning of the race as they were able to hold on for victory by a nose over He Can Fly (Tim Williams), with ¾ lengths back to Christopher Banner (Ricky May) in 3rd. Ultimate Desire set a new track record in 2-54.6, which is 1.6 seconds outside the NZ Record set by Nek Time back in March. With a mile rate of 1-57.0, 800m 56.8, 400m 27.7, it certainly appears like this won’t be the last time the Corps visit the winners bar thanks to their super filly, nor will it be the last time Corps thanks the Tab for offering up odds of $15 and $3.20. “I couldn’t believe the price she was paying, she went super last start and we were pretty confident” “We have one eye on a jewels start, so we will be lining up this week and then hopefully in the Oaks to try and sneak a spot. She might not level up to the All Stars fillies but just having a jewels runner would be a victory for us” “The credit has to go to Brent (Weaver) for developing her early and now Brad Mowbray for looking after her so well” said Hayden Corps. WATCH BELOW: Ultimate Desire sets a new track record and records her 3rd victory: Saturday’s victory also brought up a milestone for driver John Dunn who recorded his 800th career driving success. Dunn currently sits 3rd in the drivers Premiership on 88 wins, 5 behind Blair Orange in 2nd, while Brother Dexter Dunn is untouchable in the lead on 167 wins for the season. Andrew Fitzgerald

This Fridays Taylor Mile is one of the most even fields you will see in a while. Won by Mossdale Connor last year, other stars to win this sort after race include, Christen Me, Terror To Love, Changeover and Elsu. While this year nobody really stands out above the others. After the scratching of Say My Name this morning the Dunn barn have Robbie Burns and Little Rascal engaged. Robbie Burns made an early mistake back on the 31st March, he lost close to 50m and was seen storming home behind Bettor Spirits in a quickly run affair. “Robbie Burns was super last start, he’s a great chance from his draw, and there isn’t much between them both” said John Dunn Little Rascal was another to make an early mistake last week and cost himself plenty of ground in a tidy field. They ran home in 55.2/27.4 off the front and he finished just in behind them after being 5L off them at the 400m. “Little Rascal’s run last week was a lot better then the form line reads, he’s been going nice races and I wouldn’t rule him out of a top 4 placing with a handy trip” said Dunn. Other Canterbury visitors Maverick (Nigel McGrath) and Field Marshal (Tim Butt) look strong chances. Maverick has been a revelation since joining Nigel McGrath’s barn; Owned by A J McGrath and breeders Ken and Anne Marie Spicer, this season Maverick has won 6 from 16, including 5 seconds. "Maverick has travelled up well, his bloods weren't right a while ago and we missed a trial so I’d expect him to improve on this weeks run. The 2700m is more his go" said McGrath. The Tim Butt trained and likely favourite Field Marshal, will look to continue his picket fence line after beating Locharburn last start. Drawn awkwardly on the second line, driver Dexter Dunn will have to at his very best to get the Art Major entire over the line in first place. Hug The Wind (Barry Purdon) and Bettor Spirits (Mike Berger) look the best of the Northerners chances, both have been in super form recently but have tough barriers to work from. While Prince Of Pops (Garlick/Telfer) and Risk (Andrew & Lyn Neal) have drawn perfectly in barriers 1 and 2 respectively. Australian My Kiwi Mate arrives on a flight late this week looking to qualify for the Harness Jewels. With Tact Tate likely to receive the Harness Jewels invite, trainer Craig Demmler will be hoping to qualify his runner through the Taylor Mile and Messenger Andrew Fitzgerald

A bit of luck today should see Dalness Xchange and Junior Driver Matt Purvis salute the judge in Race 6. The handy 4yo mare was seen storming home for 3rd in the Group 1 Breeders Stakes behind Luisanabelle Midfrew. “She’s the type of mare who needs to be driven for a bit of luck, but on her last run I’d like to think she would be tough to roll” said Purvis.   Robert Dunn has another chance to tighten up the premiership race when he lines up Living Legend in Race 7. Owned by the Westview Racing No 13 Syndicate, Living Legend is on the quick back up from Sunday’s Motukarara meeting where he had little luck in the running. He was well supported that day by punters and you would expect him to be tough to roll here. MILESTONE WATCH: John Dunn is on 797 career driving wins   Junior Driver Kimberley Blakemore is set to have her first two race day drives on Star Fantasy (Race 6) and Cruzy Dude (Race 9). Blakemore, Daughter of Champion Amateur Driver Danny Blakemore has worked for Swannanoa trainer Benny Hill for close to 2 years. “I love driving, and I’ve always wanted to do it from a young age” “I just want to enjoy it and learn from all the other drivers and trainers around me” When asked what her goal was before the end of the season Kimberley said “I would love to drive a winner by the end of this season”   Harnesslink wishes Kimberley the best of luck today and in the future.   Harnesslink Media.

Todays running  of the $25,000 Canterbury Country Cups Series Final at the harness racing meeting at Methven drew a great field of immediate grade pacers which made it hard to sort the runners for the betting public. Seel The Deal, Idealindiamonds and Cullect A Guinness looked the three on paper but several runners just needed an ounce of luck to become major players here. As soon as the tapes went though, the whole complexion of the Final changed. I Dealindiamonds with Matty Anderson in the bike galloped wildly and settled well back in the running while Seel The Deal and Ricky May were also slow away and also settlled well back. However Cullect A Guinness with John Dunn driving made a flyer from his 30 metre mark and had slotted into the one by one after 250 metres. Here We Go Again had made a great beginning for Craig Thornley and Craig made every post a winner as he kept up a very sharp tempo in front which resulted in no mid -race moves from those back in the field. They all started to make runs passing the 500 metres mark and the first to go was Cullect The Guinness. John Dunn sent him forward and he grabbed the lead as they turned for home and quickly put a couple of lengths on the competition which he easily held all the way up the long Methven straight. Seel The Deal was still last as they turned for home but he flashed home late  to grab second on the finishing line from Callenberg and Dexter Dunn who had sat on the back of Cullect A Guinness the whole journey. It  was a super run by Seel The Deal, who after being pushed wider on the track on the last corner, made up many lengths over the last 400 metres which was cut out off the front in a sharp 28.6. Cullect A Guinness paced the 3000 metres on the grass in 3:55.1, a mile rate of 2:06.2 with closing sectionials of 57.1 and 28.6. Today's win was the 9th from just 21 starts for Cullect A Guinness, which has now banked $85,522 for his owner Peter Higinbottom. A horse that has always struggled with soundness issues, he has rarely put in a poor run during the whole of this season. In his previous start he was a game second behind the top pacer Locharburn in that horse's New Zealand record of 3:06.5 over the 2600m. The great stayer that he is, it seems likely that Cullect A Guinness will take his place alongside stablemates Franco Nelson and Mighty Flying Mac in Saturday night's Easter Cup to be run over 3200m at Group One level. " I think we have to give him his chance against the best pacers in the Easter Cup" " His manners have improved and he is such a tough stayer that he could be a big place chance with a with a bit of luck in the running," John said. Harnesslink Media  

Last nights harness racing meeting at Addington Raceway saw the reappearance of one of the forgotten stars from the Robert Dunn barn in Say My Name. The now four year old son of Art Major was a high class two year old for the Dunn barn and looked as though he would be a major player in all the three year old classics last season. However injury followed Say My Name wherever he went and in two campaigns at three, he managed just four starts for not much return. It was at that point that it was discovered that Say My Name had a hairline fracture in his hock and he was put away for the season. Now halfway through his four year old season, Say My Name finally made his long awaited resumption in a junior drivers race at Addington last night and didn't disappoint with a performance right out of the top draw. Say My Name was allowed to settle back early  from his second row draw by driver Matt Purvis as Star Fantasy and Craig Ferguson set a hot tempo in front. Matt eased Say My Name into the running line at the 1800 metres mark and slowly worked his way around to the death seat by the 900 metres when Booster appeared out three wide and injected some real speed into the race. Star Fantasy and Say My Name eyeballed each other down the back in a quick 27.6 and just before they straightened for home Say My Name went to the front and never really looked like being run down. Nui Toc Tien who had trailed the whole way made a late dab at Say My Name but second was his lot and Usain Colt went his usual honest race in finishing third. Say My Name paced the 2600 metres in a swift 3:13.8, a mile rate of 1:59.9 with closing sectionals of 56.4 and 29 which was a great effort in the windy conditions. Back in the stable complex,John Dunn had a smile a mile wide. " I am just so relieved that he has got around in one piece." " He is such a good horse but he has had such a shocking run with injuries and setbacks." " He only had the one workout leading into tonight and that was after having twelve months on the sidelines so to win like that was just a reminder of how good he is." " I will line him up in the next two Premier nights at Addington and if he was to win those, he would be knocking on the door of entry to the Harness Jewels," John said.  Junior driver Matt Purvis was another impressed by last night's effort. " To do what he did tonight in those windy conditions was a top effort." " I just let him mooch around to the death seat in his own time but they were running along in front." " I was pretty confident going past the 800 metres that I was on the winner and he found plenty in the home straight when I asked him." "He is no where near his peak yet after twelve months off but he still gave me a great feel tonight," Matt said. The Robert Dunn barn have always held Say My Name in the highest regard and one can only hope that all their hard work in getting Say My Name back to the track is rewarded in the next few months. Harnesslink Media  

If all goes to plan, this Friday will herald the resumption in the Robert Dunn stable of the proven Group One star Franco Nelson at the harness racing meeting at Addington Raceway. Franco Nelson has been back with the stable for about a month and has pleased John Dunn with his progress since returning. With the fact that he had been racing against the best in Australasia before returning home - Victoria Cup and Hunter Cup - he hasn't taken a lot of work to get back to racing trim.  Friday's planned resumption is a C5-OC handicap over the 2600m. However, with only the five nominations at present, the race may struggle to get off the ground. This reflects again the dearth of opportunities for the open class horses and as a planned dress rehearsal for next week's Easter Cup is far from ideal.  Friday's race is also planned as the first start from the stable for Mighty Flying Mac that has joined the stable in the last few weeks. Formerly trained at West Melton by Cran Dalgety, it was felt that a change of scenery may be what the horse needed to return to his very best form that included a win in the Hannon Memorial back in September. John has been very happy with his progress and expects a big run this week. He too is on target for next week's Easter Cup. Courtesy of Robert Dunn Racing Stables   -   Check site here

There are not many trotting races that go by these days that Motukarara harness racing trainer Craig Edmonds doesn't have a runner in and more often than nor, a serious contender.   The opening trot at the Northern Southland meeting today looked a bit of a benefit for the two pronged attack from the All Star barn but at the end of the race, neither were involved after mistakes during the running.    Blazing Under Fire grabbed an early lead for Brad Williamson and set a very steady tempo in front.   De Vito and Nathan Williamson looped the field with a lap to go to sit parked leaving Blackguard's Corner and Mark Purdon who had followed De Vito around out on a limb three wide for the rest of the race.   As they turned for home De Vito headed Blazing Under Fire and the same point Blackguard's Corner trotted roughly and broke leaving De Vito clear and looking a likely winner.   Half way up the straight the three year old Angus Hall filly Lady Angus with John Dunn in the bike trotted out of the pack at speed and went straight on past De Vito like she had just joined in and and went on for an impressive victory by a length over a game De Vito with Abraham Jones making ground late for third.   Lady Angus trotted the 2700 metres in a very smart 3:29.08 which took 3:3 seconds off the old track record for a threee year old held by Juneamy Castleton.   The closing sectionals were run in 59.6 and 29.1     Driver John Dunn was suitably impressed with the fillies run.   “She is a pretty inexperienced filly having just her fourth lifetime start today, and several runners here are pretty promising sorts so to win like she did was very encouraging.”   “She has broken 3:30 for the 2700 metres so that just makes the run even better.”   “She is such a big immature filly, that in another six months when she strengthens up she has the potential to be a very smart mare next season,” John said.   Trainer Craig Edmonds was pleasantly surprised by the win.   “She is six months away from filling out into her big frame and all I really wanted today was to see her get round safely.”   “To win the race against a field of that quality was a real bonus and bodes well for her future.”   “Pat Driscoll owns her and as a half sister to The Fiery Ginga she has a lot of residual value later on,” Craig said.   Craig Edmonds has continued to produce quality trotters over a long period now and todays winner Lady Angus looks like another one to keep his name to the fore in the trotting trainers ranks in New Zealand.   Harnesslink Media

If there has been one nagging question about the winning streak of Harriet Of Mot, it was how would the latest queen of trotting handle the rough and tumble of open class harness racing when she met the best around on equal terms.   We got the answer in no uncertain terms today during the Northern Southland Meeting at Ascot Park in Invercargill when Harriet of Mot showed real toughness to go with her trademark speed to put a field of in-form talented  trotters away with ease and in doing so she stamped herself as the big mover in the trotting ranks for next season.   Bordeaux with Ricky May in the bike had won his last five in a row and he worked to the front soon after the start and stayed there until attacked by Jag's Invasion and Nathan Williamson who grabbed the front with just over a lap to go.   Not long after that John Dunn sent Harriet Of Mot forward from back in the running line and she landed on Jag's Invasion wheel with 600 metres to go.   Nathan and Jag's Invasion seemed to put half a length on Harriet Of Mot as they straightened but once she had balanced up, Harriet Of Mot strode to the front with ease and went to the line with plenty left in the tank for another impressive victory.   Jag's Invasion stuck on gamely for second, continuing his recent return to form after shifting to the beach with Golden Gate making ground late well for third.   Harriet Of Mot trotted the 3200 metres today in 4:05.3 which broke the track record held by Springbank Sam by 1:8 seconds and the mares record held by Bonspiel Tui by 7:6 seconds.     John Dunn was more than happy with the progress Harriet Of Mot is making.   “That was another step up in class today and she handled it really well.”   “It is a big learning curve for them when they have to face those open class horses on level terms so to come through it that and still win is another big step forward.”   “We are hoping that in the spring she will have learnt the ring-craft to take on the best and so far everything is on track.”   “I would love to get a trip one day with her where she could come off the back of a horse after a soft trip as she has blinding speed if driven like that and it would be hard for any trotter going around, to beat her in those circumstances,” John said.   Today was Harriet Of Mot's fifth win in a row and her tenth from just 16 starts and took her earnings past the $77,000 mark for the Go Harness Trotting For Fun Syndicate.   The Monarchy mare is shaping up as one of the big movers on the trotting scene in New Zealand and the rising five year old seems to have all the attributes to make it to the very top.   Harnesslink Media

Noel Kennards Prodigal Seelster Summer Of Speed Final for older mares today at Ashburton Raceway only drew a field of eight runners but there were plenty of chances in an open field. The southern visitor Sheeza Shark was sent out a warm favourite on the strength of a win at Ashburton in a heat of the series but drew barrier eight due to the preferential system in place for the final. Tintinara led early for Dexter Dunn before handing up to Valor Lustre and Blair Orange who continued to roll once he found the front with New Years Jay and John Dunn sitting on his wheel.. Blair kept the tempo going from the half which made it really hard for those back in the field to make any ground. Turning for home New Years Jay went up to Valor Lustre but the big strong McArdle mare kept finding and was comfortably holding her at bay over the last 200 metres. New Years Jay fought on gamely for second after being parked the whole trip while Tintinara nabbed third up the passing lane after a lovely run in the trail the whole way. Sheeza Shark made little headway from the back,finishing a disappointing seventh. Valor Lustre cut the mile out in a sharp 1:54.3 with closing sectionals of 55.3 and 27.2 Trainer/owner Ivan Court was all smiles post race. " Once she got to the front I thought she was a big chance." " She is very tough and I thought they would have their work cut out getting past her." Ivan is now seriously thinking about lining Valor Lustre up in the New Zealand Premier Mares Championship at Addington next Friday night. " We will see how she comes through today's run first but I am leaning towards lining her up." " She is a bit under rated in some quarters but I think she will measure up," Ivan said. Ivan bred Valor Lustre from his former smart racemare Regal Lustre who won five but he thinks Valor Lustre is a lot better mare. " I think Valor Lustre is a very smart mare and think she has a few more wins in front of her yet," Ivan said. Harnesslink Media

The PGG Wrightson 3 year old Pace at Ascot Park Invercargill today only drew a field of nine second season pacers but it was choke of harness racing talent.   Every runner had won in their short careers and several had looked as they wouldn't be out of place in listed or group action.   Warm public elect American Tart had drawn beautifully at barrier one for the 2200 metres event and driver John Dunn wasted no time in shooting the filly to a clear lead.   John allowed the filly to bowl along at a really good clip throughout the race and it was obvious a long way out that she had them all in trouble.   John gave her head as they turned in and she ran away and hid, coasting down to the line 2 ¾ lengths to the good of a game Ultimate Desire with Scarlett Falcon battling on well for third after trailing American Tart the whole way.   American Tart paced the 2200 metres in a brilliant 2:39.9, a  mile rate of 1:56.9 with closing sectionals of 55.5 and 27.4   John Dunn couldn't hide his delight when talking to Harnesslink post race.   “That is only her fifth time off the place in her life and to do that to a smart field like the one today is a great effort.”   “We qualified her first up at two and then turned her out and she only had a couple of trials before winning at Marlborough last weekend.”   “To travel all the way down here and not miss a beat is a big plus going forward.”   “She hasn't left an oat with all the travelling,” John said.   Plans for the big free going filly are firming up short term but the longer term is still less clear.   “She is eligible for the Futurity but needed to have a couple of starts down here to remain eligible so that was part of the reason for her being here today.”   “She is just such a laid back big filly and has a great attitude.”   “I think she will measure up to the very best fillies later on but we won't rush her at this stage, “ John said.   It is not very often that the three year fillies break 2:40 for 2200 metres and to do so at just your second lifetime start and with plenty in reserve stamps American Tart as a filly of the highest class.   American Tart     Harnesslink Media

The annual summer meets at both Nelson and Marlborough have often proved happy hunting grounds for the Robert Dunn harness racing stable. A four win bag to Robert Dunn as a trainer and John Dunn as a driver has definitely started the two day Marlborough Harness Racing Club meeting on a superb note. There was a lot of confidence about 3yr old American Ideal filly American Tart's chances today on debut and she never looked out of second gear, despatching a handy field of maidens with ease. The winner of a trial and a workout recently, John rated American Tart as his best of the day and he drove her accordingly. Beaten for the early lead, she was given rein to go to the front at the 1900m. Once having assumed the front she was allowed to roll along, setting a strong tempo. At the 1400m, brother Dexter driving Runaway Star headed forward to find the breeze and thereafter, there were no further moves in the race. At the 400m, those two runners drew about three lengths clear of the field and at the 200m were locked together in battle. However, John was just kidding on the long striding filly and as soon as he went for her the response was instant, and at the line they were going away by an ever increasing two and a half lengths in a smart 2.49.2 for the 2300m journey. The final sectionals cut out in 800m 56.6 and 400m 28.1 suggest that this is a filly with a fair bit of class. American Tart is the first foal to race out of Redheadedwildflower, a one win mare raced out of the stable previously. She is raced by her breeder Rob Courtney, along with John and Peter McAlister. She will miss the second day of the meeting, instead being reserved for Invercargill Cup Day next Saturday. For a horse that took until his 7th start to win a race, Kotare Yael has now well and truly hit his straps, completing a hatrick of wins today at start nine of his career and taking his earnings to over the $17,000 mark. Raced by his breeders Tony and Gay Abell and Kotare Downs, he showed some real ticker to get home today after being obliged to race parked for the last 1300m of the race, outside the pacemaker Bella Jones. While vulnerable to those coming off his back John never panicked sitting one out and his charge appeared to relax beautifully and was on a tight rein turning for home. He immediately mastered Bella Jones once in the straight and after putting a two length buffer on the field at the 200m fought tenaciously to win by a neck over Nek Time, with a further half neck back to Chip Ganassi in third. The full journey was run in 2.50.9 and with the final sectionals cut out in 800m 57.2 and 400m 27.9, it was hard for those coming from the back to make an impression. Kotare Yael will now tackle a C2 - C2 assignment on the second day and while he is fast climbing the classes, he is sure to give a good account again from a favourable draw. Dalness Xchange was big on both days at Nelson and again put in a top effort today against C2 - C3 company. After settling midfield early on from her second line draw, she was awakwardly placed four back on the markers at the 1300m. However, with a strong pace set up front by Expressive Victor, that was strongly attended down the back by favourite Innocent Artist, the gaps always looked likely to come. At the 400m John was able to extricate from a tight spot and peeled four wide coming into the straight. While he still had a bit of work to reel in the leaders, once she flattened out, the Changeover 4yr old stormed home over the top of her opposition and at the line was a comfortable winner by one and a quarter lengths in a smart 2.48.2 for the 2300m.   Today's win was the third in an eight start career and she is doing a superb job for Dave and Mrs Heather King. She will now deservedly take her place in the cup on Sunday and while this is a huge step up in company, she does appear the type of mare that can make the necessary improvement. The final of the four stable winners for the day was good three year old Bite The Bullet. After a nice win at Nelson and then a hard fought second on day two he was confidently expected to deliver today. However, the bad luck that he has with the draws continued and he had to be good to come from the back to deliver win two of his career. John allowed the Mach Three 3yr old the chance to settle early and he was well back with a lap to go as second favourite Crackabella dominated up top. He made his move down the back straight with about 800m to go and was level pegging with Crackabella from the 400m. Turning in and the two settled down for a good fight. It was only from the 100m that Bite The Bullet gained the ascendancy and went to the line a good winner by three quarters of a length in 2.51.5 for the 2300m over Crackabella, with Coringa Delight a fast finishing third. Bite The Bullet will line up in C1 company again on day two, after a free win today. The bad luck with the draw continues after drawing eight. Other top efforts by stable runners today included: Angel Of Destiny - a nice third on debut  Graduate Under Fire and Joey Maguire - 3rd and 4th in the day's feature the cup prelude Meanwhile Dexter also got a big piece of the action today with three wins - Alpha Rock and Kompressor for the Cran Dalgety stable and Santorini Sunset for Kevin Townley in the day's feature trot. Dexter now goes to 97 in the drivers' premiership, with John a clear second on 54 wins. The Purdon/Rasmussen team hold a seven win lead in the trainers premiership over Robert Robert Dunn Racing Stables  -  Check site here

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