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One of New Zealand’s most loved racehorses is set to make a shock departure after contesting the $150,000 Rowe Cup on Friday night. Because while nine-time group one winner Speeding Spur might have been expected to retire this weekend, he is instead heading to North America for a rich campaign. Managing owner Andrew Grierson says the reigning Trotter of the Year has not been sold will definitely be returning to New Zealand to stand at stud next season. Speeding Sour faces a second line draw as he tries to defend the Rowe Cup title he won last season and victory in the great trot will almost certainly guarantee him Trotter of the Year again as he is the only trotter to win two group ones already this season. Raced by a partnership put together by Woodlands Stud, Speeding Spur was expected to retire to stud there but Grierson says the opportunity to race in North America and further embellish that stud career was too good to miss. “Eventually we want to stand him at stud in either New Zealand or Australia,” says Grierson, one of the principals of Woodlands Stud. “But getting good mares and a decent book is our greatest challenge with a colonial-bred stallion, even one with his record. “So we will give him his chance up there and he has been staked for some of the major races.” His targets include the US$1million International Trot at Yonkers on October 12 for which Speeding Spur is likely to be the Down Under invite while he has been paid up for a host of other major races, victory in any of which would greatly add to his worth at stud. Even if he can’t be the best in the States, which would be a huge ask at his age, Speeding Spur could easily trot a 1:53 mile on one of the faster tracks, all of which would help secure more mares when he makes his way back home. Owned by a Woodlands syndicate as well as All Blacks Kieran Read and Andy Ellis and former Commonwealth Games gold medalist Dick Tayler, Speeding Spur’s ownership will be restructured for the next phase of his career. “He is not being sold,” says Grierson. “He is 100% owned by Woodlands. He will be leased from Woodlands Stud and raced under a new  Woodlands NZ Racing Syndicate. “The membership of that new syndicate includes some who race him now.” Speeding Spur has been a true racing warrior, winning every season from two to seven-years old. He won three Derbys, the Great Southern Star when it was two sprints races in one night at Melton and also over the short trips of a NZ Trot Free-For-All to the 3200m of the Rowe Cup. In between he has overcome two career-threatening injuries and other issues so has little left to prove in Australasia, already warning his way into the elite trotting millionaires club. He has been trained throughout his career by John and Josh Dickie, with the latter having driven him in all but one of his 27 victories, with Kate Gath having filled in for one Victorian win. Speeding Spur faces a tricky second line in his final New Zealand start on Friday night meaning he could need some early luck to get handy, the position from where he has been most potent during his career. SPEEDING SPUR Breeding: 7h Pegasus Spur- Della’s Speed. Trainers: John and Josh Dickie. Drivers: Josh Dickie (26 wins), Kate Gath (one win from one drive). Record: 55 starts, 27 wins, 20 placings, $1,092,166. Highlights: Rowe Cup, Great Southern Star, NZ Free-For-All, NZ Trot Champs (twice), NZ, Northern and Vic Derbys, Breeders Crown.   By Michael Guerin

A simple question could decide the $100,000 Taylor Mile at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Does a Miracle Mile winner respect an Auckland Cup winner enough to trail him, especially in a group one sprint at Alexandra Park? Because that is puzzle facing punters after Spankem drew inside stablemate Turn It Up in one of the last group ones of the northern season. The pair will dominate betting on the Mile, which actually reverts to the true mile distance of 1609m after being run over 1700m since 2007. After winning the Auckland Cup and then the Easter Cup last start, Turn It Up might be the best pacer in the country and in any normal race against even this elite level of opposition he would be expected to lead and win. But stablemate Spankem is drawn inside him at barrier two and considering he won both a prelude and then the Miracle Mile itself by leading he would seem to have every right to park out his stablemate and try for another all-the-way win if he can he reaches the front. It will be a fascinating key plot to the race, with any pre-race indications from trainers the All Stars sure to have a significant impact on the market. For all their exploits this season the pair can’t lay total claim to the four-year-old sprint with all but one of their rivals rated 90 or above, which is pretty much open class these days. While they were the big winners out of the draws in the main pacing race on a stellar premier programme at Alexandra Park, some of the other recent group one winners at the Addington carnival haven’t fared so well. NZ Trot Championships hero Speeding Spur faces the outside of the front line in the $100,000 Anzac Cup, the final lead-up to next week’s Rowe Cup. Trainers John and Josh Dickie are happy with how the veteran has come through his last-start win but with Massive Metro (barrier three) and Lemond (four) drawn inside him and Marcoola and Sundees Son certain to be moving from the second line, the race looks one of the hottest contest of the trotting season Also disadvantaged by the draw at the trifectamates from the NZ Trot Derby, with Lotamuscle, Enhance Your Calm and Tricky Ric all drawing the second line in Friday’s $60,000 Sires’ Stakes Trot. But while some of those stars face interesting nights at the office exceptional juvenile pacing filly Sweet On Me will be a long way into red odds to remain unbeaten after drawing the front line in the $100,000 Caduceus Club Final, making her everybody’s anchor in the first leg of the $40,000 Pick6. While Friday night’s meeting is one of the strongest of the season a couple of the big players will be just as focussed on Melton in Victoria on Saturday night, with northern filly Belle Of Montana opening $1,40 to win the A$150,000 Victoria Oaks. She was brilliant coming from a long way back to win her heat last Saturday and has drawn the ace in this Saturday’s classic, with her natural speeding giving driver Zac Butcher plenty of options on the Barry Purdon-trained filly. Already the winner of a group one Sires’ Stakes Championship at home if Belle Of Montana can add an Australian group one this weekend she will have gone from unknown maiden to one of the most valuable female pacers in Australasia in just nine starts. Michael Guerin

Tough staying trotter Speeding Spur went back to back in the Gr1 $90,000 NZ Trotting Championships tonight by leading all the way and proving too strong at the finish for harness racing driver Josh Dickie. In last years edition of the race Speeding Spur led and stuck his nose out at the right time to win narrowly and this year was a repeat of that with the Pegasus Spur horse lasting by a neck from a game Sundees Son who broke late when challlenging him close to the line. An emotional Josh Dickie gave credit to the horses toughness after the race, "This horses courage is unbelievable really," he said. "We have had a bit of an up and down campaign since winning the Free For All here during Cup Week. "I was quite happy to just pull back last week and let him run home, but tonight we wanted to lead up and let him dictate like he likes to do. "Dad and I had confidence in him and he has backed that up tonight," he said  Speeding Spur trotted the 2600m mobile in a slick 3-17.9 in the wet conditions with a last 800m in 58 seconds with a closing 400m in 29.6 seconds. Earlier in the night young harness racing driver Bob Butt caused a major boilover in the Gr1 $100,000 New Zealand Trotting Derby when Lotamuscle downed the hot favourite Enhance Your Calm and Mark Purdon right on the line. On a slushy track made wet by continual afternoon rain Lotamuscle settled three deep on the fence while the hotpot Enhance Your Calm rolled straight to the lead and set a solid pace with no mid race attackers. In the straight and it looked like the favourite was home until Butt wound up the Paul Nairn trained Lotamuscle and he sprouted wings in the last 50m to win by a nose. Lotamuscle trotted the mobile 2600m mobile in 3-20.8 with a closing 800m in 58.9 and final 400m in 28.2 seconds. The win gave Bob Butt his first Group One success on New Zealand soil. Lotamuscle winning the NZ Trotting Derby   Harnesslink Media

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

The last time an Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final was staged, it was 2012. It was staged in Melbourne at TABCORP Park, Melton. And the Kiwi’s got ‘Lucky” when brilliant squaregaiter I Can Doosit proved triumphant for champion horseman Mark Purdon. In fact, it was New Zealand domination with the first four placegetters all hailing from the Shaky Isles. Now, the Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final returns to the feature race calendar and again, it will be staged in the garden state. The Gr.1 $150,000 TAB Inter Dominion Trotters Grand Final is the second leg of the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters and takes place this Saturday night. While the Kiwi’s are well represented, the locals hold the whip hand through the Andy and Kate Gath prepared Tornado Valley. Bred in New Zealand and raced by Queensland based Norm Jenkin, the Skyvalley gelding has been a revelation since being under the tutelage of the Gath couple. A clean sweep of his three heats has him listed as the punters elect and he’s hoping to join I Can Doosit who swept the 2012 series. But back in 2012, there was only two heats and a final. Throughout this year’s series, Tornado Valley has looked as safe as a bank with the only concern coming last weekend in his final heat after his hind leg bandage starting to unravel with 300m left to run. As it turned out, the star trotter never missed a beat. A winner of 16 of his 20 starts on Australian soil, Tornado Valley will start from gate six in the 2760m mobile start feature while his main danger, New Zealand star Speeding Spur has drawn the ace. Having met in the second round at Ballarat, Tornado Valley took glory with his all the way victory over his Kiwi rival. Interestingly, Tornado Valley led Speeding Spur in that event despite drawing on his outside. But Speeding Spur is a high quality performer, a trotter that is no stranger to the big stage. And his record at Melton underlines his class, with four wins from eight starts including features and excellent form throughout the series, it shapes as a classic Trans-Tasman battle. The stunning looking entire won two of his three heats while placed behind Tornado Valley in the other and the John and Josh Dickie prepared gun is looking to crack the million dollar mark if successful this weekend. While Tornado Valley and Speeding Spur have hogged the limelight throughout the series, several others are looking to take centre stage including several locally trained performers. And most have strong Inter Dominion connections. Legendary father/son combination of Graeme and Gavin Lang will combine with in-form trotter Save Our Pennys, a runner-up in all three heats throughout the series. Both Graeme and Gavin know what’s required to score an Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final, they have five trophies combined. Back in 2012, they combined with Save A Sixpence who finshed 6th behind I Can Doosit. Save Our Pennys will start from gate three. Over the past 45 years, the name Lang has been synonomous with Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Finals. Astute horseman David Aiken is looking for success with the talented Big Jack Hammer, a runner-up in his past two heats. Again, the rising star will be handled by Kima Frenning and will start from gate five. While Aiken has lofted an Inter Dominion Pacing Grand Final trophy, his best finish in a Trotting Grand Final is 5th (twice) with Twebby Twotter (2002) and Im Dejazzman (2012). Richly talented young horsemen Mick Stanley and Ryan Duffy are looking for their piece of history with the talented Sky Petite, but the mare will need to overcome gate seven. Former New Zealand horseman Brent Lilley is chasing his second Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final after scoring back in 2002 at Harold Park with Game Bid. Representing his stable is the North American bred evergreen Kyvalley Blur, the 11-year-old gelding will start from gate eleven. Kyvalley Blur scored a stylish heat victory in the second round of heats at Ballarat and will again be handled by champion reinsman Chris Alford. Speedy mare Red Hot Tooth is looking to provide Kari Males and Zac Phillips with their biggest triumph but face a massive challenge after landing gate thirteen. The Yankee Paco mare was placed behind Tornado Valley and Save Our Pennys in her final heat last week at Cranbourne. Andy Gath is duly represented in the final with Kingdom Come lining-up from gate ten, young Alex Ashwood will take the drive. The state of New South Wales will have a triple threat through the deeds of Rompers Monarchy (gate four), Tough Monarch (gate nine) and Wilmas Mate (gate twelve). Husband and wife combination of Joe and Mary Rando along with driver David Morris are hoping for their biggest success through Rompers Monarchy while Rickie Alchin is also chasing the ultimate prize with his talented performer Tough Monarch for the first time. Champion trainer Tim Butt, now based at Menangle, is chasing his fourth Inter Dominion Grand Final trophy after scoring previously with Lyell Creek and Take A Moment (twice). Back in 2012, he finished second with Vulcan behind I Can Doosit. Butt is preparing the talented mare for Christchurch trainer Paul Nairn, a winner of the 1995 Inter Dominion Grand Final with Call Me Now. And New Zealand horseman Phil Williamson is hoping it’s five times a charmwhen he sends out Monty Python, the talented gelding will start from gate two. Williamson has previously qualified Allegro Agitato (2005 – 12th), One Over Kenny (2008 – 7th) and Springbank Richard (2011/12 – 8th & 7th). The locally trained Illawong Armstrong is listed as the emergency runner, he will start from gate eight if he secures a start. The Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final is steeped in great history and and now another chapter is about to be written this weekend. Chris Barsby

The man behind Kiwi trotting star Speeding Spur says he is as interested as everybody else to find out how the first mega clash of the series unfolds at Ballarat tonight.  Because trainer-driver Josh Dickie admits he doesn’t know whether he can beat leading Aussie hope Tornado Valley as the series moves into the second round of heats.  New Zealand-trained horses won three of the Inter Dominion heats on the opening night at Melton on Saturday, with Cruz Bromac and Spankem impressive in their pacing events and Speeding Spur dominant in his trotting one.  But while the Kiwi pacers will be favoured in two of the three pacing heats over the 1710m mobile at Ballarat tonight, the second trotting heat could be the clash of the night.   Speeding Spur and Tornado Valley were so impressive winning their first night heats it is hard to envisage one of the pair not winning the A$150,000 Trotting Final on Saturday week and punters get a sneak preview of that tonight.  While some would like to see the pair, who completely dominate the market for the final, kept apart until then to create suspense, that wouldn’t be fair on their rivals.  So they clash in the second trotting heat at 10.02pm (NZ time) tonight, with Speeding Spur having a potentially big advantage drawing barrier five while Tornado Valley will start from the outside of the front line at seven.  Both have gate speed, Tornado Valley’s probably slightly higher after his steady diet of Australian racing, but co-trainer Dickie knows what he has to do to beat his key rival.  “Obviously I want to stay in front of him from the draw,” admits Dickie.  “I think I can because my horse has good gate speed and we couldn’t have been happier with how he won on Saturday.  “He has been working really well, felt great in the race and I think his below par effort in the Dominion (two starts ago) was just an off day. “He has always loved it over here and seems happy to be back so we are confident.”The Dickies, Josh and his father John, are getting to see plenty of Tornado Valley as he is trained by Andy Gath, with who Speeding Spur is always stabled when he races in Victoria.  “He (Tornado Valley) is a lovely horse and we are no good thing to beat him,” says Dickie.  “So I suppose we are a bit like everybody else, keen to see how they match up against each other.  “But we have the advantage at the start and we will be doing our best to use it.”  Every Inter Dominion needs a wow race to set up the rest of the carnival and the early battle of the trotting series favourites could be just that, even though it will be hardly definitive as a Grand Final guide, with that group one next week over 2760m and the final’s draw probably just as important.  After tonight’s sprint heats it looks likely all three New Zealanders in the pacing series would have won at least one heat with It’s Pats Delight, who finished a brave second to Spankem on Saturday, drawn to get maximum points in his heat at 11pm. His task has been aided further by one-time series favourite Shadow Sax, who was drawn in the same heat as I’m Pats Delight, being scratched from tonight and the remainder of the series after pulling up sore after Saturday.  Cruz Bromac is a hot favourite in his heat, the final one tonight, but his $1.45 fixed odds price seems awfully short considering his second line draw.  “It is never easy to win sprint races off the second line because you really need them to slow up in the middle stages to get into the race otherwise you have to come wide late,” said trainer-driver Natalie Rasmussen.  So while he is vying for final favouritism, Cruz Bromac is too short to be betting big on tonight with luck such a factor.  Spankem races in the toughest heat of the night at 10.32pm (NZ time) and he would need to produce something special to win as he not only faces a second line draw but high class opponents in Wrappers Delight, San Carlo and Tiger Tara. Michael Guerin

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

It was cool and it was very calculated. That’s the best summation of Speeding Spur following his harness racing victory in tonight’s (Friday) Gr.1 $150,000 Reharvest Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park, Auckland – the 100th edition. The father/son combination of John and Josh Dickie timed their run at the North Island trotting feature with pinpoint accuracy with their much lauded six-year-old entire. Already a winner of six Gr.1 events prior to tonight, this is the race that the Clevedon based duo desperately cherished and he delivered a comfortable victory defeating Monty Python and Temporale in the 3200m stand-start feature. Stepping safely and swiftly, young Josh Dickie applied immediate pressure to Monty Python and gained an easy lead soon after the start although outsider The Almighty Johnson briefly challenged within the first 600m of the event. Race favourite Enghien also began safely but drifted back before settling in the second half of the big field. The lead time was covered in 2:00.8. As the field worked inside the final mile, Speeding Spur led the way from Monty Python in the trail but the moves from back in the field were coming with Destiny Jones peeling three-wide which was followed by last week’s Anzac Cup winner Lemond. The first quarter of the final mile was covered in 32 seconds. Entering the home straight to reach the bell lap, Ricky May set Enghien alight three-wide while defending champion Temporale tracked up behind him. Passing the winning post with a circuit left to run, Dickie made the call to allow Enghien to stride clear in front which left Temporale providing cover for Lemond while Monty Python was pushed a spot further back against the pegs. The second quarter was covered in 29.2 seconds. With the major players occupying the key front-end positions, the pressure only intensified. Enghien led the way down the back straight and traveled strongly but his rivals were starting to close the gap. The third quarter was posted in 29.1 seconds. Approaching the home straight, Enghien drifted slightly up the track which presented a great passage for Speeding Spur. With Dickie driving aggressively, Speeding Spur raced clear from a game Temporale who gave strong chase while Monty Python and Lemond started to wind up. At the finish, Speeding Spur scored by a margin of ¾ length from Monty Python with a further 2 lengths back to Temporale in third placing. Enghien finished 7th. The final section was covered in 29.8 seconds. The overall time was 4:08.2 with the winning mile rate covered in 2:04.8 – well outside of the race record set by Stent three years ago at 4:03.6 (2:02.4). “This victory is very special and deeply satisfying given what this horse has gone through over the past couple of seasons. He’s incredibly talented and possesses a deep desire to win every time he starts, this is a team effort and many have played a huge role to achieve this dream.” Winning driver Josh Dickie said. Overall, Speeding Spur has won 20 of his 40 starts with earning close to $800,000. The victory catapulted Speeding Spur into second place on the Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters leaderboard with 108 points while the Victorian trained Sparkling Success gripped to victory with 160 points. Chris Barsby

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

Just because the Dickie stable has one of the more powerful hands at tonight's Alexandra Park meeting doesn't mean stable driver Josh Dickie is in for a big night. Because the young gun driver says there are some question marks over three of his key drives, not so much their talent but their readiness. Josh and father John take seven horses to the tote races tonight (and two to a non-tote) and they have dual acceptors in three of those. But while Josh gets his pick of the drives he admits they may not be the best winning chances, starting with Somethingaboutmary in the Nevele R Fillies heat (race three). "She can definitely win but is no better chance than our other one, New York Rain," says Dickie. "A lot will depend on the run they get over 1700m because it could end up being a tricky race for them both. If New York Rain can get handy she might be hard to beat." With plenty of speed drawn inside the pair, either could win but equally they could both get beaten and go good races. Dickie is on the likely favourite Sertorius in race four and the big horse looks headed to open class but his stablemate C K Spur is rated at least as good a chance tonight. "It is 2200m and Sertorius can be a bit slow away, which would be a real disadvantage in this grade with some experienced older trotters drawn behind him. "I think Sertorius is an open class horse in the making but if he is slow and C K Spur pings the tapes then he could beat him. So it is a tricky one." The same applies in race six where Sex On Fire is having only her second start after beating older horses as a juvenile by eight lengths. "She obviously has the ability but she has taken a while to come up this time and our other filly (Star Of Olesya) is race fit and also won easily last start. "So while there will be plenty of people keen on Sex On Fire, if you add in a handy filly like Aoraki it is another race I could easily get beaten in. "So I'm hoping to have a good night but if I went away with two wins or none I wouldn't be totally surprised," Dickie mused. Another man set to star tonight is Steve Telfer, who sits third on the national trainers premiership and has two huge hopes in American Brave (race seven) and Parker (race five) with a pretty strong support cast too. Barry Purdon looks the dominant trainer in the two-year-old race, with Star Of Montana and Supreme Dominator both looking youngsters with good seasons ahead of them. Michael Guerin

The Kiwi master and his apprentice descend on Australasia's richest trotting race on Saturday and in an odd twist the apprentice has an experience edge. New Zealand's most successful ever reinsman Tony Herlihy makes his first trip to Victoria in a couple of years when he takes Rowe Cup winner Temporale to the $300,000 Great Southern Star at Melton on Saturday night. On the same plane last night was Speeding Spur, who is co-trained and driven by Herlihy's long-time employee Josh Dickie. Dickie these days trains in partnership with his father John but learned to drive under Herlihy, for whom he worked for years before developing into one of the bright young lights of New Zealand harness racing. Herlihy knows all about winning major races in Victoria, having won a Hunter Cup, two Victoria Cups, an Australasian Trotting Champs, Interdom Trot Final, Breeders Crown and trained and drove Ohoka Punter to win the Victoria Derby five years ago. "I haven't been back there much since even though I'd love to because if you don't have a horse good enough those carnivals can fly by without having a runner," says Herlihy. But the last time he did campaign a horse in Victoria it was Temporale two years ago and the ultimately unsuccessful trip has paved the way for his return. "He didn't win a race over there as a 3-year-old but I think he learned a lot and it has made him a better horse since," says Herlihy. "So I am hoping it will help on this trip." Temporale has drawn the inside of the second line in the 2760m mobile and Herlihy is hoping for a searing pace to break the field open late. While his old boss hasn't been chalking up the airpoints to Melbourne lately, Dickie and Speeding Spur have campaigned there four times, winning the Great Southern Star when it was a mile two years ago and finishing second last season. He has looked shy of his best this summer when Temporale has beaten him fair and square twice but Dickie says watch out for an improved performance on Saturday night. "He needed the racing last month after being off the scene for a long time but in saying that Temporale has obviously improved," he says. "But we have gone back to working him how we used to before his leg problems and he has really sharpened up and I think you will see a different horse this week." New Zealand also has Spankem (4) and The Devils Own (13) in the Victoria Derby and Partyon (2), Delishka (4) and Piccadilly Princess (10) in the Ladyship Cup. Michael Guerin

Better B Amazed might have found the right race to kick off the final leg of her career tonight. The national-record-holding mare is getting close to retirement, with the group one Breeders Stakes at Addington in a few months her last shot at the highest honour before she retires for what will be a very commercial broodmare career. After a difficult summer during which she missed her main aim, the Queen Of Hearts, Better B Amazed has pleased trainer Steve Telfer in her recent work and finds herself back over her favourite distance at Alexandra Park tonight. She has won five of her seven attempts over 1700m, twice beating open class stablemate No Doctor Needed under those conditions in the spring. Tonight she meets a mixed bag of horses assessed well below her, an out of sorts Motown and Northview Hustler, who ran out of his skin to finish fifth in the Auckland Cup last start. Sprint races at Alex Park are often tricky, particularly from wide draws, but if they go hard Better B Amazed can start her final campaign with a win. Telfer holds a big hand at tonight's first Alex Park meeting of the year with winning hopes in three other races, not bad considering there are only six pacing races on tonight's eight-race card and Telfer doesn't train trotters. The markets for trotting races are often dominated by trainers John and Josh Dickie and they will have a huge hand to play in the two trots tonight with Sertorius (race two) and Girls On Film (race four). Sertorius meets some in-form rivals but is far better than his current assessment while Girls On Film is living up to her huge sales price and looks the early Trotting Oaks favourite. Later in the night the first juvenile fillies race of the season will see Miss Streisand start a warm favourite after she smashed most of her opponents at workouts recently. Meanwhile, Auckland Cup winner Vincent has been scratched from tomorrow night's A$100,000 Ballarat Cup after bumping a leg yesterday. "At this stage it is only as a precaution and we will have an ultrasound taken to see how serious it is," said co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen. "But we are hoping to still get him to the Chariots of Fire in Sydney next month." New Zealand still has Heaven Rocks in the Ballarat Cup and Spankem and The Devil's Own in strong Victoria Derby heats tomorrow night. Michael Guerin

Two disasters from last Friday night should redeem themselves tonight and kickstart a huge weekend for father and son training team John and Josh Dickie. The pair have a host of winning chances at the two northern meetings, with Speeding Spur set to start a red hot favourite in the $50,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge on Sunday. But before then the South Auckland trainers head to Alexandra Park tonight looking for redemption with Motown (race six) and Sertorius (race five), who both failed in stronger fields last Friday. On that occasion Motown was poorly handicapped against Vincent and Heaven Rocks but still hung when under pressure. "There was no reason he should hang like that but he has been good as gold this week and we are still aiming him at the Auckland Cup next week," says Josh Dickie, who drives the team.   "So he really should win this week even though he is off 30m because the small field helps." Sertorius was trialling well before pacing early in the minor trot last Friday but meets an easier field tonight, giving Dickie confidence he can settle the four-year-old early before putting him into the race. "I think against this grade of horse he can give them a bit of a start and still win because we rate him highly enough to go through the grades." One of the horses Sertorius beat at the trials recently is the highly-rated Heavyweight Hero, who returns from some national record performances last term in race eight tonight. Trainer-driver Todd MacFarlane has been ironing out a few minor issues with the four-year-old but at his peak he has an open class motor. One of the better races tonight is the fourth, where talented three-year-olds Sheriff and Triple Eight clash, with the latter's experience at Alexandra Park potentially a deciding factor. Meanwhile, the Dickie camp are stunned with how Speeding Spur came through his comeback last week as they eye up an ideal target at Cambridge on Sunday. "He has actually put on weight since last Friday and seems like he is just thrilled to be back racing," says Josh. He will dominate betting on the main trot but Star Galleria will ensure there are at least some punters willing to bet against Vincent in Sunday's other group race, the $50,000 Futurity.   Michael Guerin

The men behind stunning  New Zealand debut winner Sex On Fire were getting excited about her late tilt at the Breeders Crown. But that didn’t last long. Because when trainers John and Josh Dickie delved deeper into taking the daughter of Crazed to Melbourne for a hit-and-run mission on the series later this month they struck a rather significant snag. “It wasn’t until we looked into it we found out she was ineligible,” said Josh Dickie, who drove Sex On Fire to her huge win last Friday. To be fair to the Dickie they hadn’t even considered the Crown until Sex On Fire smashed her older rivals by eight lengths in a 2200m maiden last Friday, a rare debut win for a two-year-old against older rivals in this country. Even rarer is a juvenile beating older opponents by such a huge margin, showing Sex Of Fire has inherited some of the ability of her dam Miss Whiplash, a 13-race winner. “We hadn’t even thought about the Breeders Crown because she has come to things so late,” said Dickie. “But when she won that well we started to think about it, especially because the trotting divisions are now split into male and female too. “But as it turns out she isn’t eligible, which is a real shame because it would have been a great series for her.” Sex On Fire isn’t the only Kiwi filly to miss the series with the All Stars opting to bypass it with Luby Lou, even though she won her Breeders Crown heat at Addington last month. That leaves speedster Renezmae, who finished second in that Addington heat, as the New Zealand rep for the fillies juvenile trotting division and she makes her Australian debut against the colts in the Redwood at Maryborough on Sunday. It won’t be easy taking on Jewels runner-up One Muscle Hill and Victorian excitement machine Wobelee but young trainer Jack Harrington is confident his filly is ready. “I think we can run with One Muscle Hill because she has shown that before, but maybe Wobelee is a different kettle of fish. “But whatever she does this week she will improve on and obviously she doesn’t have to take on the boys in the Breeders Crown. “It is cool to have a horse in Australia in my colours and Ants (Butt) and Sonya (Smith) have really helped me negotiate all the things I have to do differently over here.” With Butt committed to Smashthemcalder, who is trained by partner Smith on Sunday, and Renezmae’s regular reinsman Dexter Dunn overseas, John Caldow will take the reins in the Redwood. “But Dexter will be back for Breeders Crown day and she will contest a heat over here on August 17,” said Harrington. Also on Sunday’s trotting only card NZ Oaks winner Chevron Express faces a second line draw in the A$75,000 Victoria Trotting Derby. Michael Guerin Trots Media  

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

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

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