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By Jonny Turner    Trainer-driver John Morrison admits he does not know quite what to expect from his grass track specialist Smokey Mac at Gore on Sunday. The seven-year-old starts for the first time this season from the 30m mark in a 2700m feature that is packed full of winning chances. Class combined with his two wins and two placings from just six starts on grass mean the Canterbury raider is among the strongest of those hopes. But circumstances have led to Smokey Mac having just one workout to prepare for his first run since January. And though it was a scintillating winning effort, it was at almost two months ago, which has Morrison going into race 8 with a cautious approach. “He loves the grass and he doesn’t mind the speed on,” the trainer-driver said. “On his ability, he is good enough to clean that field up if he wanted to.’ “But fresh-up it is hard to know exactly where he is at because it is a while ago since he trialled.” The scenario means Morrison will be looking for an economical run for his trotter. “He wouldn’t want to do any work, he would need to get a good run because off 30m he is going to have to be good.” “If he could follow them all of the way and save it for a bit of speed at the end it will be OK.” “It is going to be one of those races, where you just don’t know.” “He is good enough to run in the money if things work out for him.” Morrison also starts Standout from his stable in the Gore Cup. The five-year-old will step up in the 2700m feature after an excellent win against lesser opposition at Orari last month. Morrison thinks Standout, who starts from the front line, can measure up in what is set to be the toughest test of his career. “I think he is up to this lot,” the trainer-driver said. “I wouldn’t say he is a deadset winning chance, but if he got a good run I would be disappointed if he didn’t run in the top five.” “If he can just get away and get in the running somewhere I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the finish.” “But he would have to be going good to win it.” Harrison was a highly impressive maiden winner on Tuapeka Cup day before running down the track in his last start at Addington on Show Day. Morrison is clearly a harsh judge of himself as he blamed the effort on his drive, when it appeared to come down to race circumstances. “He is definitely up there with them, but it is still only his sixth start and he is a bit green.” “He is in a field where he is probably going to be a pretty good chance, but you just don’t know what horse is going to turn up because he is so green.” “But he has been going well and his last few starts have been good.” “I was happy with him on Show Day, I just put that down to a bad drive.” Superfast Kiwi looks one of the strongest of Morrison’s outside drives at Gore. The five-year-old comes into race 1 after running second in a recent grass track workout behind race rival Nordic Prince. Morrison also drives Helluva Way in race 3, Jaffie J in race 6, Franco June in race 7 and Kagee VC in race 11. 

Johnny Morrison is attempting this year to be New Zealand’s leading junior driver for the third season in a row this Sunday he travels to Methven where he has already won both leading junior driver and leading open driver in previous years.(This year the junior title is currently lead by John and the title by Blair Orange at this stage). Here is how John rates his drives Sunday. Race 1 –Adhika; Probably a watch for now and perhaps pop up over Christmas racing from it’s bad draw. Race 2-Random Spur; Going a little more kindly now and if begins o.k.an each way chance. Race 3-Paul’s Verdict ; Beaut old soldier always thereabouts rough chance. Race 6-Franco Josiah; Going great guns at moment best saved for last run definite chance in even lot. Race 7-Art Collector; Improved horse, would need quick beginning and to stay handy but upset chance. Race  9-Already Gone ;Going reasonable but likely to be outclassed in feature race. Race 10-Time In A Bottle; Distance will suit and in great form but class of opposition is a worry.   By Mike Heenan for Methven Trotting Club.

Recently crowned junior drivers’ premiership winner John Morrison has the chance to kick start his title defence this week. Morrison heads to Addington on Thursday night to seek his first win of the new season and to reunite with promising pacer Only In America. The 5yr-old has impressed by winning two of his three career starts for trainer Mike de Fillipi.  “He has done everything we have asked of him so far - only three starts and he has done a really good job,” Morrison said. “He has got a great gait and great manners -  he is typical of one of Mike DeFilippi’s – he is very well mannered and great to drive.” “He is a very good judge, so it good to be pulling his colours on.” Only In America has shown versatility in his two starts by winning from the trail two starts ago and by leading all of the way in his last win. Despite the horse showing a professional attitude, Morrison is weary of the pacer stepping in up in grade to race seasoned horses in race 8. The only other thing Morrison is concerned about ahead of Thursday night’s 2600m handicap is that Only In America has not raced for over a month. “He hasn’t raced for a month, so he might need the run a wee bit.” “So far he has done everything right and there is no reason he couldn’t [step up in grade]. “He will just get better with racing, I would say.” Rollova heads Only In America’s more seasoned opposition in Thursday night’s rating 50-72 special handicap. Though the David and Catherine Butt trained 4yr-old is a relative newcomer to racing himself, with only seven starts behind him. Rollova impressed in the first run of his campaign, with hitting the line strongly for third behind Flying Mister Ideal at Addington last week. Rollova shares the 10m mark with Only In America and other leading contenders Santanna Mach and Secret Bet. Morrison has two other chances to notch his first win of the new term at Addington. He will reunite with consistent trotter Crusher Collins in race 9. The Lyndon Bond trained 6yr-old has won once and placed six times from behind the mobile. “Crusher Collins has been going really good, she went good at Oamaru on Sunday,” Morrison said. “I got to drive her in the junior championship and she went really good then.” Morrison also drives Tiger Moth, who seeks a maiden win from race 2. The Graham Bond trained 5yr-old ran last in his last start at Ashburton, but he deserved a better fate. “I was really happy with Tiger Moth until he got knocked over at about the 600m – he was going really good.” “His trial form was really good and it wasn’t his fault – I got knocked off my feet. I though he would have been in the money.” Tiger Moth has his first standing start from the unruly in race 2 on Thursday night. If he can not crack a win at Addington, he should be able to be rewarded at short notice, Morrison said. “He would win in the race in the near future, I would think.” Morrison has a strong book of drives at Gore on Sunday. It includes three good chances for trainer Paul Court in Mongolian Marshal, Storm Prince and Stick Man.   By Jonny Turner Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

“She’s a lovely wee mare who seems to go good on the wet tracks,” said trainer Brett Gray after Born To Boogie won her fifth race at Gore today. The four year old was driven by the country’s leading junior John Morrison who was filling in for a suspended Brent Barclay. Morrison took the Rock N Roll Heaven mare to the front with 2000 metres to run before handing up to Santannas Rocket. Just before the top of the straight Morrison hooked Born To Boogie off the back of Santannas Rocket and she came down the middle of the track to beat him by a length and a quarter with Delightful Deal another length and a quarter back in third. Gray says Born To Boogie’s future may now be in the North Island. The Ryal Bush trainer is slowly getting back to full mobility after Full Noise kicked him in the leg after winning at Winton last Saturday. He says he hasn’t been able to drive fast work for most of the week but is now back in the cart. Full Noise, which ran third today behind Nottingham K Two, will have to wait until tomorrow’s Oamaru meeting before his place at the Harness Jewels is confirmed. Gray said he wasn’t too disappointed with the three year old’s performance today. “It was one of those races. In the past he hasn’t gone so well on the wet tracks. He just got a wee way back today and the wet track just takes the speed out of him.” It wasn’t the fairytale ending for Santanna Rocket’s Southland career. He’s heading to Australia on a 50/50 deal with Robert Morris. The Morris stable have had success with another Santanna Blue Chip gelding James Dean, winning three races with him since December. Meanwhile Robyns Playboy which had to be scratched from the race, is on a course of antibiotics after stablemate Hans Ideal kicked him after work during the week. Stable spokesperson Chris Wilson said it’s hoped that Robyns Playboy will take his place in the Harness Jewels in a fortnight. He said the stable hope to get another run into him before the Jewels after he broke at Winton last Saturday. That misdemeanour was caused by a cut to the mouth. Wilson says Robyns Playboy’s chances of making the Jewels will be known in the next few days. The stable gained some consolation when Swift Robyn won her maiden race and Hans Ideal ran second later in the programme.   Bruce Stewart

Two years ago Fiery Ferret’s harness racing career looked to be over but the Mister Big gelding had other ideas. “We were going to retire him because he had quite sore hocks. The owner Kelvin Reed just had so many other horses. I asked him if I could I have him for my granddaughter as a riding horse and he said that was fine. I put him in the paddock and he hated it so he was back on the jogging frame two weeks later. Kelvin and I went fifty fifty in the horse. He’s won five more races since then,” said co-trainer Jude Knight who drives the gelding in all of his work. Jude trains in partnership with husband Geoff and she says the horse seems to be free of any leg problems. “His legs are better than they’ve ever been. He had weak joints as a two year old. He’s out now for a few months and will be back for the new season.” Knight says there was some confidence in the stable today, as the horse had good wet track form and his warm up indicated to her that he was ready to perform.  “When he was jigging around in the warm up and wouldn’t pace I got confident. When he does that at home it means he wants to get on with the job. Once we got to the lead I was pretty confident.” Driver John Morrison took the six year old straight to the lead and after a few cheap sectionals he went down to the line, beating Groomsman, which trailed him for most to the journey by two and three quarter lengths. “My sister and I booked a trip to Fiji next month. I said to Geoff that I feel so guilty about doing the trip on my own. Now I can pay for it and don’t feel guilty anymore (laugh).” It’s been a great month for Fiery Ferret’s dam Touch Of Rose with three of her progeny winning. The Ideal Touch (American Ideal) won at Invercargill while her older sister Ferritt’s Sister (Bettor’s Delight) won fresh up at Alexandra Park for her new trainer Nicky Chilcott. The mare’s next two foals are colts. One by Art Major, which is a yearling and the other is by He’s Watching.   Meanwhile Nottingham K Two won his second race this season on his home track. Both wins have been in the hands of Southland’s leading junior driver Ellie Barron. Trainer George Orr and Ellie Barron enjoy the win with Nottingham K Two - Photo Bruce Stewart By Bruce Stewart

It seems only a formality that Rory McIllwrick will win the McMillan Equine Feeds New Zealand Junior Drivers Championship series concluding at Forbury Park today after success in both heats at Addington last night. McIlwrick drove Bettor Chance and Gypsy’s Choice to win at Addington to give him 34 points, 13 clear of his nearest rival, John Morrison. McIlwrick has sound chances in Mr Majestic and Franco Huntington in the two heats today. McIlwrick, the leading junior driver this season with 36 wins, has gained nine of those wins at Forbury Park, his home track. Mr Majestic (race 7),  who has gained three of his six wins at Forbury Park, became eligible when dropped a point in his rating after an unplaced effort in a stronger field there last week. A change of driver is not a problem for Mr Majestic, He has been driven by five different drivers in his wins. Och Aye The Noo, one of his rivals, is on the same rating. She  won narrowly in lesser company last week with McIlwrick the driver. It was her eighth win and she was re-rated six points. Katie Cox, who drove Woodlea Legend to win the 2014 Four and Five-Year-old Championship at Forbury Park, has the drive. Franco Huntington (race 5)  finished third at Forbury Park last week. He has minor placed in six starts since joining the Myross Bush stable of Doug McLachlan in March. Sheree Tomlinson, the most successful female driver at Forbury Park this season, has drawn Uralla Sue and Midnight Fever in the junior driver championship heats. Blazing Under Fire (race 2) is in line to complete a hat-trick of wins after success at his last two starts at Forbury Park. Sweet As (race 8) is in the same situation. She was a runaway winner last week. Glenisthebettor will not be among her rivals. “There is nothing wrong with her but the transport arrangement to Dunedin was no longer available,’’ said Robert Anderson, her trainer. The points table in the NZ Junior Drivers Championship: Rory McIlwrick 34 John Morrison 21 Katie Cox 20 Kimberly Butt 17 Mark Johnson 14 Sheree Tomlinson 13 Matt Anderson 12 Ben Butcher 11 Tony Cameron 9 Jack MacKinnon 9 Dylan Ferguson 6 Robert Argue 2   Inter-Island Trophy: South Island 117 North Island 51 Tayler Strong

Any win is special, but for John Morrison a win for Warren Stapleton means just that little bit more. The two Mid Canterbury men have had a long association, despite Morrison’s young age, and on Sunday at Motukarara they combined for their second win as driver and trainer when Leading The Way did exactly as the name would suggest and won. Stapleton, along with guys like Mike Heenan, has been a big supporter of Morrison since he started driving and the youngster said winning races for guys like that was hugely rewarding. “They are the sort of people who have helped me get to where I am,” Morrison said. “Right from when I started driving at workouts and trials they supported me and gave me opportunities. “So to win another race for Warren was great.” A run of consistent performances had Leading The Way pegged as a serious contender in an open field yesterday and courtesy of a perfect drive from Morrison the seven-year-old gelding was able to make the most of it. “He’s a bit of a funny horse, he loves to follow the speed but often he will sprint up and knock off but he really wanted to find the line which was great. “He deserved that win because he’s been going such big races recently. “Warren has done a great job with him.” Leading The Way has had 16 starts since joining Stapleton’s stable back in July last year and has won once, three times finished second and also three times been placed third for stakes of more than $10,000. “He’s a nice wee money earner and will relish the new handicapping system because he won’t get too high up in the grades.” Stapleton and Morrison had gone close to success earlier in the day when Here We Are ran second in the maiden trot. The win gave Morrison his seventh win of the season in what is his second season of driving, taking him one win past his tally of six from last season. “The goal was to beat that and I have so I’m happy but with a wee while to go this season perhaps I’d like to get to double figures.” The former Ashburton College student is keeping himself busy working for the leading stable of Steven McRae at Spreydon Lodge in the mornings before heading out to do farrier work in the afternoon. He’s also training three horses of his own, a maiden trotter and two maiden pacers. Matt Markham

2016 Harness Racing Cadet of the Year final is just around the corner. The majority of the day will be held at Addington Raceway on Wednesday 6th July starting at 10.30am through until 3pm. Supporters and spectators are more than welcome. Click here to view the COTY Booklet with more information on our four finalists, Erin Isherwood, John Morrison, Kim Blakemore and Chelsea Faithful. Good luck to you all! HRNZ

They call him the Long shot Place Prince, but his real name is John Morrison. The young harness racing junior driver has quickly picked up a name for himself at getting home some of the roughest runners in a field into a top three spot. Morrison took over 130 drivers to get his first win, but hasn't looked back since then and has now picked up 5 winners in his first season. Along with those five winners, Morrison has also picked up 16 seconds and 8 thirds. Below is a list of some of the high priced dividends Morrison has upset punters with. Handlebar Hank - 3rd $9.40 Tactical VC - 2nd $16.70 Beaudiene Gambler - 2nd $5.40 Dreamcoat - 2nd - $5.40 Hestia Franco - 2nd $27.60 Rico Gold - 3rd $10.50 Rico Gold - 2nd $23.70 Four of John's five winner have paid over $9.50 on the tote. Tomorrow night at Forbury, Morrison has 6 drives including his first winner Motu Speedy Star, who will line up in the final of the Forbury Claimers series. The 11 year old gelding has been freshened for tomorrows assignment and he loves a dog fight, so if the early speed was on, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Morrison salute the judge on one of his favourite runners. The two highest priced runners Donegal Jimmy Dave and Four Starzzz Shiraz both look the hardest to beat on last weeks efforts. Both priced at $12,000.00 they will start from barriers 8 and 9. While Superior Desire will have his first run for the Robert Dunn barn after being claimed by Craig Parsons a couple of weeks ago. Sam Ottley will do the steering. Laughing Cavalier who has been at Gavin Smith's property lately will start from barrier 5 and is to be driven by Kimberly Butt. The 5yo Mach Three gelding was luckless in a recent amateur drivers event at Addington. Meanwhile, Run To Hide who was claimed last week will line up in race 4. Andrew Fitzgerald  

Talking to a few of the senior drivers in Canterbury at the start of this season and the name of a young junior driver just starting out cropped up more than once. John Morrison, son of well known Mid -Canterbury saddler Chris Morrison had created a favouable impression on the senior drivers and by all accounts was seen as a driver of considerable promise. Starting as a weekend helper at Mike Heenan's establishment when he was an eleven year old, John has been there ever since. " I still work up at Michaels every weekend and at any time I can get up there from school." " I am at my last year at school and they have been very accommodating with letting me drive at trials and workouts during school hours," John told Harnesslink today. John lined up for the first time on raceday at Oamaru on August 2nd on a horse trained by his father Chris called Dreamcoat and almost pulled off a victory at drive number one with a close second after not having much luck in the running. If anyone had suggested at that point that John would still be winless over 130 starts later they would have been laughed at but that was the situation John found himself in heading to Waikouaiti yesterday. Come race four and John and Dreamcoat picked up another second placing to add to the other seven second placings John had accumulated in the last six months. Two races later John took the drive behind the 11 year old Motu Speedy Star and after sitting parked for the last lap, the old timer still had enough in reserve to keep the opposition at bay by a neck and credit John with his first lifetime win. " I had been unlucky on him at Geraldine when he ran fourth so I decided to take luck out of play yesterday and came out and sat parked with him as he felt great during the running." " I can't tell you what a relief it is to get that first victory under my belt." " You start to have a few doubts about how you are driving and it has been weighing on my mind a bit lately," John said. John was quick to thank Ricky May for all his help over the last six months. " Ricky has been great offering me advice and showing me things I needed to work on and improve on." " I can't thank him enough for his help," John said. When John leaves school at the end of this year, he aims to get work in a stable full time and to continue to learn the art of being a farrier. " I have been helping out Kerry O"Reilly with shoeing and it is something I am really keen to further my knowledge of." "It is something I would like to do alongside my driving as I really enjoy both," John said. John is also pretty confident his second winner won't take as long as his first. " Several of my regular drives have been knocking on the door like Rico Gold and I think dads trotter Majestic De Fence is slowly getting the ringcraft to go with the ability and won't be that long winning a race either. At just seventeen years of age John has been through a tough first six months in the driving ranks but the way he has hung in there and come out the other end a winner is testament to a determination to succeed that will take John a long way in harness racing. Harnesslink Media    

The new harness racing season gets underway tomorrow with the running of the Kurow meeting at Oamaru and it is the race meeting that sees the first appearance on raceday of the Mid Canterbury junior driver John Morrison. The seventeen year old is well known in harness racing circles in Canterbury as he has helped his father Chris Morrison of Morrisons Saddlery out at race meetings throughout Canterbury over a number of years. John has been around horses since he was a wee kid and has always had his heart set on being a driver. " I helped dad out with the horses when I was really young and from about the age of nine I started going up to Mike Heenan's on the weekend." "Mike has been great to work for and taught me a lot over the years." " I owe him a lot," John said when talking to Harnesslink this week. John has been driving at workouts and trials  around Mid Canterbury for several months and has created a favourable impression with senior drivers like Ricky May and Gerald O'Reilly who both spoke very positively about John when talking to Harnesslink this week. John has three drives on his first day as a driver, two of which are for his father Chris and it is one of these which has the local trackwatchers buzzing.  Dreamcoat is having his first start for Chris Morrison after previously having spells with both Kerry and Leo O'Reilly. " His work at home has been super" "We took him to the trials at Timaru last weekend and he went really well, winning in good time." " If he can bring that kind of form to the races tomorrow, he has to be a chance," John said. Regardless of the results tomorrow on his first day of driving, John Morrison is a name that we are going to hear a lot more about in the future. Harnesslink Media

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