Day At The Track
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By Jonny Turner    Chinese Whisper has been delivering Nathan Williamson all the right messages ahead of search for his best form at at Ascot Park on Thursday. But whether that translates in to a winning performance is a total mystery for the trainer-driver. The talented 4yr-old goes in to race 9 having completely botched the start of his two post-lockdown runs. The worst part about it for Williamson is that the horse has felt tremendous when he finally settling in to a trot. “I think he is the best horse in there on Thursday by quite some way if he did things right,” he said. “This season he hasn’t raced at his best, even when he was second and third he was well down on his best form.” “But, I think I have pretty well at the moment.” “I have been really rapt with how he has felt, even though he has broken up in both of his starts he has felt tremendous.” Williamson is hoping that upping Chinese Whisper’s training regime will help the Sundon gelding get his manners back in check. “I have increased his workload, which may mean he is not as brilliant once he gets racing.” “But, I just want to see him do things right and we can easily work on the rest once he gets trotting all the way.” Williamson will also drive another problem child at Ascot Park on Thursday in Chinese Whisper’s full brother, Davey Mac. The 7yr-old older sibling has galloped in his three starts leading in to race 4. But, there is also hope he can also bring his best manners when returning to standing start racing. “I think he is a better standing start horse, because he just gets himself too fired up behind the mobile.” “So that could help him, but if he does trot 2700m might just be at the end of his range.” The Williamson trained Unsurpassable will attempt to go two better than his good debut third at Ascot Park last weekend when stepping out from barrier 2 in race 7. “He is a nice horse, he had a pretty bad draw the other day and obviously the horse that won it looked pretty smart.” “It is not something I would normally do – back them up a week after that race.” “But, he seems to have come through it really, really good.” “He has come up with a good marble, so he has to be a good chance.” Williamson combines with rising 11yr-old Tartan Trilogy in race 5 for trainer Chelsea Faithful. He warned the veteran should not be underrated. “He goes good the old boy – he has mixed it in good company.” “Everyone seems to underrate him a bit because he is getting old.” “He is certainly capable of mixing it with fields like the one he is in on Thursday.” “He has beaten everything in the race before, except for A Delightful Act, who he hasn’t raced.” Yankee Party returns to racing after running placings in strong mares races in the summer and early autumn. Drawing barrier 7 in race 10 is Williamson’s main concern with the John and Katrina Price trained 4yr-old. “She is a nice mare that will reach a tighter assessment.” “But the preferential draw does make it tricky – she is starting outside horses that have won more races than her.” “That makes it a wee bit more difficult fresh up, but she does have the class to overcome it.” Williamson will drive Dreaminsover in race 2 after the Aaron Swain trained 7yr-old stuck on well in his first post-lockdown run at Ascot Park, two weeks ago. “Aaron was quite happy with him going in to that race and he did go pretty well.” “He is a horse that has to be up there, he was as flat a lap out as he was at the finish the other day, but he just keeps going at the same speed.” Williamson will also drive Muchacha Bonita in race 1, Betterthanraza in race 3 and Toby O'Gara in race 6 on Thursday. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    The All Stars stable is back and it is ready to make an impact at Addington on Sunday. Trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will line up their first runner since March when La Reina De Sur clashes with an exciting field of 2yr-olds trotters over 1980m. Driver Tim Williams will handle the daughter of emerging trotting sire Father Patrick and former classy racemare Escapee when she attempts to repeat her debut win January. The reinsman simply can’t wait to get back in All Stars colours. Though, technically, he will have to wait a little longer as he will be wearing owner Trevor Casey’s silks on Sunday. “From Sunday onwards it will be good to have the blue and silver colours on pretty regularly,” Williams said. La Reina De Sur has made eight public appearances this season and Williams has not been behind her in any of them. That is partially because Rasmussen has been working closely with the filly. And the 2yr-old goes in to her second start with her trainer’s tick of approval. “She is one that Natalie has done a lot with and she likes her,” Williams said. “Natalie was really happy with her at the workouts earlier in the week, so it is a nice race for her to kick off in again.” La Reina De Sur was third behind her stablemates Mexicana and Wanna Play With Me in her workout at Ashburton on Tuesday. She has had one other post-lockdown workout, running second to Wanna Play With Me on the same track last week. Royal Del is the only rival La Reina De Sur clashed with in her debut win. Williams admits the filly is facing a big step up in class when clashing with Greg and Nina Hope’s trio of Franco Jorik, Summer Lovin and Eurokash and the talented Time Up A Hill. “It is going to be a bit of a step up because that first win was almost a non-tote race,” Williams said. “It is a nice field and it is probably going to be a different kind of race.” Manners are the key to any 2yr-old trot and they appears to be La Reina De Sur’s strongpoint. She was perfect in her Addington debut and has looked solid in her gait at home. “Touch wood – that has been her, really – she has been pretty reliable.” “She has had plenty of practice, being off the [home] place eight times, so that is going to stand her in good stead.” La Reina De Sur was rated the $3.30 second favourite to win race 6 behind $2.80 favourite Eurokash. Eurokash impressed when beating Franco Jorik, Summer Lovin and Time Up A Hill on debut at Addington two weeks ago. Williams also drives Gotta Ticket (race 2), Missalyssa (race 5) and Donegal Carnbouy (race 7) at Addington on Sunday. Gotta Ticket ran third first up at Addington and Williams expect him to be prominent again. “From the good draw, so long as he is on the pace he should be in the mix,” Williams said. Donegal Carnbouy was just over two lengths from Allandale when fifth at Addington last week and Williams thinks he is capable of improving on that placing “He is in the right race and as long as things go his way he should be pretty competitive.” Missalyssa could feature in race 5, but it depends on whether she brings her best manners. “She is just a little bit hard to catch at the moment,” Williams said. “When she won she was really good and she warmed up really good.” “From the couple of drives on her it seems like how she warms up is how she races and you have to catch her in the right mood.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    The march towards a massive spring of harness racing will take another step forward when star 2yr-old Krug returns to racing at Addington on Friday night. The group 1 winning colt will clash with older horses when he steps out for the first time since March in race 5. Harness racing’s recent shutdown came at just the wrong time for trainers Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon after Krug cemented his spot as the country’s top 2yr-old male pacer with his win breakout win in the Cardigan Bay Stakes at Alexandra Park. Though the trainers were naturally disappointed Krug’s season came to a screeching halt over lockdown, it has not been completely bad news. “We were sort of brassed off that we missed out on the Stakes races, but the horse thought it was a good idea,” Dalgety said. “Because he did bulk up in the time he had out and so he should, too.” “So, we are on track there and hopefully we can start off with a winning note.” Krug comes in to his 1980m resumption having had just one post-lockdown workout. The 2yr-old showed he had lost none of his zip when dashing home to beat subsequent winner, William Wallace, at Rangiora. Despite his lack of public appearances, Dalgety is confident Krug’s fitness levels are where they need to be. “He is pretty close, he has had some good runs to get him ready.” “It is a bit funny starting a 2yr-old against the older horses, but that is sort of what is happening at the moment and we can’t do a lot about that.” “So, we will make a start here and move on to the Sires Stakes heats that are coming up.” Krug looks to have the gate speed to cross most of the rivals starting inside his barrier 6 draw if driver Blair Orange chooses to push forward early. Whether that is the right option for a horse having the first run of his new campaign would be left up to the leading reinsman at the start, Dalgety said. Dalgety and Purdon start another of their big guns for the first time since lockdown when Bettathanfast resumes in race 8. The 4yr-old chased Krug home in his workout win before winning at the Ashburton trials, late last month. Like Krug, Bettathanfast has thrived during his lockdown break and has emerged a better horse for it. But that does not necessarily mean the horse will instantly return a winner when he takes on race fit opposition. “He has lifted a bit, too, since his break,” Dalgety said. “But, he is racing quite a few form horses that are pretty tight and race fit.” “We are going to have to be on our game to compete with them.” “But in the weeks to come we will be on song with him.” Admirable comes in to his debut for Dalgety and Purdon after winning both of his post-lockdown trials. The 2yr-old has the class to win on debut in race 2, so long as he behaves. “He is doing good, he is a wee bit of a wild boy, he is a bit of a typical Rock N Roll Heaven.” “But, ability-wise, he shouldn’t be a maiden for too long.” Im A Gigolo also chased Krug home at the workouts ahead of his resumption in race 9. Dalgety expects the 3yr-old to be a place chance in his first run since February. “He just levelled out on us a bit, I am happy with him but just not excited with him at the moment.” “He should be a good place chance.” Arden’s Sweetheart rounds out Dalgety and Purdon’s Addington team in race 11. The 3yr-old was turned out after just one run in her last preparation after going through a growth spurt. “She won really nice in her first start as a 3yr-old and just went through a growth patch and I just wasn’t happy with her.” “She has come back nice, but there might just be some form runners ahead of her.” “She will race in to form as well, though.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Roxburgh trainers Geoff and Jude Knight will deliver on Thursday, now they just needs their horses to do the same. After completing their day jobs as a rural delivery contractors, the Knights will trek south with three big winning chances at Ascot Park. The trio is headed by stable star Deus Ex, who steps out in the meeting’s feature pace. The promising 4yr-old comes in to race 7 after being one of the few horses to race on the pace and figure in the finish when third behind Love On The Rocks at the same track last week. “I was very proud of his effort last week, because he sprinted for 1200m,” Geoff Knight said. “The run was full of merit.” Deus Ex initially showed signs of fatigue following his tough effort on a 2-43.4 speed for 2200m, before producing some pleasing track work. “He has bounced through the run really well,” Knight said. “He was tired the day after the race, but he bounced back pretty quickly and I have been very, very pleased with his work this week.” The way the Changeover pacer has shaped up this week shows he is clearly thriving leading in to what will be his fourth run in five weeks. “This race being a mobile looked a good option for him, so we decided to back him up.” “There are some nice ones in it – like Mongolian Cavalry – we respect them, but we don’t fear them.” Mongolian Cavalry heads south to find form for trainer Paul Court. The 4yr-old, who is the highest rated runner in Thursday’s 2200m event, has been unable to make ground when back in the field on fast last 800m splits in his two post-lockdown runs at Addington. Jacks N Jazz looks a strong winning chance for the Knight stable in race 8. The 6yr-old comes in to the 2200m event after running on well in to fifth placing behind Franco Huntington for driver Brad Williamson, two weeks ago. “Brad was a bit disappointed that he wasn’t a bit handier at the start last time.” “Hopefully he can come out a bit better and stay one the pace.” Jacks N Jazz will start from barrier 1 with Williamson in the sulky on Thursday after pleasing his trainers in work this week. “He worked well this week – he is a funny horse because he never shows us anything spectacular at home.” “But he sparks up at the races.” 17-time placegetter Star Ruler will attempt to finally break his maiden from barrier two on the second row of the mobile in race 6. “He has been going really well,” Knight said. “He gets a bit rough in his gait late in his races when he is getting tired, so that could be why he hasn’t won one yet.” “He should be up there handy on Thursday and be thereabouts at the finish again.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    At 82-years-old, Omakau horseman Lionel Sinnamon’s training career just keeps getting better. Sinnamon enjoyed one of the biggest trills of his more than 60-year career when completing a long held ambition to win a race at Addington with Allandale on Sunday. The 5yr-old, owned by Sinnamon’s son, Graham, and his wife Dianne, is just the second horse the trainer has send to unofficial home of New Zealand harness racing during his journey of producing winners in 1959. “It something you aspire to – to be able to get up to headquarters and come home with the goods,” Sinnamon said. “I have only had one before – Idaten – we had him up there chasing Glide Time and Lord Module many years ago in the late seventies.” “Timaru is usually as far away as we get.” Allandale came in to Sunday’s race having already handed Sinnamon a training milestone. The pacer’s victory at Ascot Park three starts prior gave was the trainer his fourth for the season. That set a personal best tally eclipsing his efforts in the six decades since Lyric Lady produced Sinnamon’s first win at a Vincent Jockey Club meeting in 1959. “To win five is unbelievable when you think you spent plenty of years wishing you could win one.” “You have sort of got to pinch yourself to realise it is happening, we have been very lucky.” Though Allandale’s victory ranks near the top of Sinnamon’s fondest harness racing victories, another of the horse’s victory ranks ahead of it. “Our biggest thrill, no doubt, would be Allandale winning with Graham driving him at Omakau about 18 months ago.” “They don’t come any better than that, on our home track with the whole family there.” Allandale was sent north to stay with Robbie Holmes, who drove him to win on Sunday, so Graham could again drive him in amateur driver’s races. The 5yr-old ran last in his first run in Canterbury and was to run in another this week. Last week’s victory came in what was essentially a bonus outing between the two amateur events. “Graham was keen to get a couple of amateur drives in to him and he has had one,” Sinnamon said. “So, that was the plan [on Sunday], to keep him warmed up with a middle step.” “Now he is not eligible for the next amateur race, but I think he will settle for the win. ”Allandale’s victory came in a heat of a regional racing series the Addington club is currently holding. The pacer will stay in Canterbury and could contest further heats of the series while based with Holmes. “We have had to rethink things, he was meant to come home after the second amateur race.” “But, when he is racing as well he is you have to go with the flow.” Allandale is one of three horses Sinnamon has in his stable alongside Gabby’s Star and Fortywives, who is currently spelling. The trio are about the perfect number to Sinnamon busy as he approaches 83. “That is enough to keep me ticking over.” “I am bloody lucky to still be able to do it, really.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    John Morrison will take his junior driver’s premiership quest in to his own hands at Addington on Sunday. Morrison has the chance to extend his one win lead in the national competition with six drives, including two from his own stable. The trainer-driver will attempt a repeat of Standout’s impressive win in his first start from his West Melton barn. A slow beginning was not enough to stop the 4yr-old from powering home to win over 2000m, at Addington last month. Morrison is hopeful Standout can measure up when he steps up in both distance and class on Sunday in race 6. “It was a nice win last time, but this is quite a big step up in class.” “I think he can measure up to them, but it will depend on the kind of run he gets.” “He can’t afford to do too much work, because he is more of a sprinter.” Harrison will make his debut from Morrison’s stable in race 2. The 4yr-old comes in to the 2600m standing start after running third in an Ashburton qualifying trial, last month. Harrison’s lack of ring craft leading in to his debut is Morrison’s biggest concern. “He is a bit of a big, dumb bugger – he is probably six months away from his best.” “But, he is good enough to compete and if he gets away, which he seems to do, hopefully he can hit the line.” “I would say he is a top five chance.” Morrison will reunite will Champagneandwine following her narrow second to Sagano at Addington last weekend for trainer Malcolm Shinn. The standing start specialist steps up from 2000m to 2600m, which Morrison thinks will suit her even better. “The 2600m should suit her even better because she is a stayer, she is a nice mare that is better over the longer distances.” “Hopefully she can step well, which she usually does, and she can be thereabouts.” “She has been really consistent and hopefully she just holds that form.” “We have put blinds on her this week, too, so that should sharpen her up a bit, too.” Champagneandwine clashes with impressive debut winner American Sniper in race 5. Morrison combines with Sunnivue Philleah, who treks north after producing consistent form in Southland recently. Though the junior driver has not driven the mare, he has seen plenty of her recently. “I have driven in a lot of the races she has been in and she has being going nice.” “If we get a nice run somewhere – she is more of a one run type by the looks of her – she should be right there.” Time In A Bottle in race 1 and Gottagettabeer in race 8 look outside chances for Morrison. “Time In A Bottle has been looking for a short distance and she has finally got it.” “She can trot a bit, but you just don’t know which one is going to turn up.” “Gottagettabeer is probably one to watch when the grass tracks start up, I’d say.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner     Toliman Lodge proprietors Ken Barron and Blair Orange unveiled a trotter with a good future at Addington on Friday night in impressive debut winner, Cochy Malc. The Dream Vacation 3yr-old continued his dam Cochy Bondu’s perfect record when striding to an effortless win in race 1. Barron confirmed his stable has a decent opinion of the horse. “He is a lovely horse.” Cochy Malc became the fourth winner of four foals his four-win dam has had at the races. That breeding is part of the reason Barron can see his 3yr-old putting together a good record. “If he keeps improving the way he is, with his breeding, he should go up through the grades.” Cochy Malc is a half-brother to Over The Love, who rushed through to open class when winning six of his 19 starts for Barron and Orange. The talented Love You gelding has missed this entire season after being injured ahead of his last start third in the group 3 Southern Lights Trot at Ascot Park in March of last year. “He broke a splint bone on the float on the way down for the Southern Lights Trot and he still ran third,” Barron said. “When we got him home it took us quite a while to figure out why he was sore.” “He has just started fast working again now.” Cochy Malc will try to add to his family’s record while Over The Love progresses towards the races. Barron plans to give the 3yr-old a handful of starts during the winter before freshening him. Barron and Orange completed a winning double when Bettor Grunter took out race 5. The 3yr-old Bettor’s Delight gelding had made steady progress towards the winner’s circle, running second to Arden Messi leading in to the event. According to his trainer, it has been a lack of focus, rather than a lack of ability that has stopped Bettor Grunter from winning before Friday night. “He is one of those big, dumb horses that switches on and off in his races and that has been his problem.” It is hoped that more racing will help the 3yr-old develop his race smarts. Barron was not the only trainer at Friday night’s meeting to notch a winning double. Robert Dunn notched back-to-back victories when Hayden’s Meddle took out race 6 and Kensington Bill won race 7. Hayden’s Meddle held on to win race 6 by a head over Cast No Shadow in an exciting finish to Friday night’s feature pace. The 6yr-old made a sweeping run around the field before hanging tough in the home straight for driver John Dunn. Kensington came with a big finish wide on the track to win for stable junior driver Korban Newman. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Powerful wins by three-year-olds Love On The Rocks and As Sweet As Honey at Ascot Park on Thursday came at just the right time. Love On The Rocks confirmed his status of Southland’s late season star when producing a sweeping finish to win race 10. For the second consecutive start the Terror To Love pacer made light work of stepping up from his previous win to race more seasoned opposition. Having the whole field in front of him at the 800m did not prove too much of a hindrance as co-trainer and driver Kirstin Barclay angled Love On The Rocks to the outside before the turn, where he unleashed a brilliant turn of speed. The victory gave the pacer Barclay co-trains with Paul ‘Tank’ Ellis a hat-trick of post-lockdown wins. Yesterday’s win came just days after the Southern Harness Racing organisation announced it would re-run its two and three-year-old features, which were put on hold during harness racing’s recent shut down. Though their revival has been confirmed, It has not yet been known when the Group 2 Southern Supremacy Stakes Final, Group 2 Southland Oaks and Group 3 two-year-old Classics will be held. Love On The Rocks was not the only pacer who looked like a serious challenger in those upcoming events yesterday. Canterbury filly As Sweet As Honey took her first step towards qualifying for the Southland Oaks final with her win in race 9. Driver Blair Orange took no chances with the favourite, getting her away from the inner from her barrier one on the second row draw, shortly after the start. Orange took the Mitchell Kerr trained pacer around the field with a lap to go, before she ran away from her rivals to score by two and a half lengths. Fellow Canterbury filly Savvy Bromac also put herself in Southland Oaks contention with her win in Race 5. The victory came after another three-year-old Longueval boosted his Southern Supremacy Stakes hopes with long awaited maiden victory in race 6. Arguably the most impressive victory at Ascot Park yesterday came from a trotter that could not contest one of Southland’s upcoming three-year-old feature races. Though his performance yesterday and the speed at which he burst away from his opposition suggested he would not disgrace himself if he ever lined up against pacers. Ultimate Stride produced a faultless and emphatic victory in race 11. Driver Matthew Williamson barely asked the blueblood three-year-old for an effort as he charged away from his older rivals to win race 11. Though Ultimate Stride does not have any Southern features on his radar, he has targets further north. The Phil Williamson trained three-year-old will be a serious contender in the Sales Series Final on October 9 and Sires Stakes Championship on October 23.       Both races will be held at Alexandra Park.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    A good problem has led to Canterbury trainer Mitchell Kerr lining up quality 3yr-olds A Taste Of Honey and Koenigsegg at Ascot Park on Thursday. Having too many smart 3yr-olds in the same grade has forced Kerr to send his pair south to avoid them clashing with The Flying Fijian, William Wallace and Storm, who will race at Addington on Friday night. It is also hoped A Taste Of Honey and Koenigsegg will return to Canterbury in even better shape than before they left. “I have got quite a few horses in the same grade, so these two are going down south so I can split them up,” Kerr said. “Neither of them has had a trip away, so it should be really good for them.” A Taste Of Honey will step out for the first time in over a year in race 9. A growth spurt and the Covid19 lockdown are the main reasons the Art Major pacer has not been seen since last year’s Harness Jewels. “She had a few wee growing pains – they hit her after the Jewels,” Kerr said. “She went through a massive growth spurt, so we decided to give her plenty of time out.” “We did have her ready to go before lockdown, but we got a bit unlucky there and had to put her out again.” A Taste Of Honey has impressed in three post-lockdown trials and workouts ahead of her return to racing. The 3yr-old ran on late in the first, before running second to her smart stablemate, Storm, in the next. A Taste Of Honey then won her latest Rangiora workout, when reeling off a 56.9sec last 800m. Those efforts signalled the lightly tried filly is ready to make another impact at the races. It is now just up to driver Blair Orange to find clear running for her from barrier 1 on the second row of the mobile. “She is a really nice filly and I am really happy with her,” Kerr said. “She has got the visitor’s draw, so she just needs a little bit of luck.” Koenigsegg will start for the first time since last October when stepping out in race 10. The 3yr-old’s recent time on the sidelines has been largely for the same reasons as his stablemate. “He is in the same boat as A Taste Of Honey – he went through a massive winter growth spurt,” Kerr said. “He had a real good break and he has come back in fine fettle.” Koenigsegg has had two Rangiora trials and workouts ahead of his return. The 3yr-old beat his stablemate William Wallace in the first, before chasing home star 2yr-old Krug when third a week later. “I didn’t really push him at the workouts either,” Kerr said. “So, he is going really well and I couldn’t really be any happier with him.” Koenigsegg meets a smart line up in what will be just his fourth career start with Orange in the sulky. The Mach Three pacer clashes with Southland up and comer Love On The Rocks and fellow Cantabrian Rocknroll King, who will be suited by the race 10’s mobile conditions. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Trainers Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis and owner Tom Kilkelly can dare to dream again after their star pacer U May Cullect got an important all clear this week. Dunedin Vet Peter Gillespie gave the excitement machine a tick of approval to resume fast work following a scan on the tendon injury that cut short his 2019 New Zealand Cup preparation. Barclay admitted it was hard to contain her excitement following the news. “Its hard not to be excited with news like that,” the trainer-driver said. “Peter was very happy with him and he gave us the all clear to start fast working him.” U May Cullect’s latest scan came after his troublesome tendon had been closely monitored for nine months. The winner of seven of just eight career starts started his rehabilitation process with just a five minute walk each day. Barclay and Ellis’ patience to slowly built that up in baby steps clearly paid off with the 6yr-old successful scan. “He is up to 45 minutes trotting now,” Barclay said. "We started off with five minutes walking and built that up to 10 minutes, 15 minutes over the past nine months.” Barclay gave U May Cullect some strong work ahead of this week’s crucial scan and instantly got back the magical feeling the pacer had given her in the past. “There is nothing like driving him – he just feels so balanced.” “I gave him a couple of bowls in the cart last week and he felt nice.” U May Cullect’s clean winded and athletic physique, coupled with him already being jogged up, means he is just a matter of weeks away from trial or workout fitness. But, that does not mean he will be stepping out publicly any time soon. Barclay and Ellis plan to take a patient approach to work towards their ultimate goal – making it to this year’s New Zealand Cup. “He won’t take much to come up – the only caution is that we will try to limit the amount of races he has before the cup to try to get him right." “He won’t go to every cat and dog fight.” “We will limit him to a few starts and hopefully we can qualify for the cup.” Though he is not quite in the same realm as U May Cullect just yet, the Barclay-Ellis-Kilkelly combination have produced another exciting pacer recently in Love On The Rocks. The 3yr-old Terror To Love pacer has impressed with two powerful post-lockdown wins. Both have come off the unruly, with Love On The Rocks having to circle a capacity field of older, race hardened horses in his second Ascot Park victory. “He is a pretty sharp horse,’ Barclay said. “Having to come off the unruly again a go around them – I know he got a drag in to it – but it was a big effort.” “He is a pretty sharp wee horse.” Love On The Rocks will come off the unruly in race 10 at Ascot Park on Thursday. The 3yr-old is ineligible for the upcoming Sires Stakes and Sales Series races, which could persuade his trainers to send him for a short spell soon. “He is not paid up for anything, so we might just give him this start and give him a wee spell and get him ready for the new season,” Barclay said. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner     Arden Messi kicked the first of what could be many winning goals when breaking his maiden at Addington on Friday night. The 3yr-old took his first step towards trying to emulate some of the impressive deeds of his New Zealand Cup winning full brother Arden Rooney when pouncing on the leaders to win race 2. They might have identical pedigrees, but there are some striking differences between Arden Messi and his big race winning brother, according to trainer Grant Payne. “Arden Rooney was up and running as a 2yr-old, but we ended up turning him out because he was getting on a knee.” “Arden Messi has taken a lot longer, he couldn’t even really pace when I first got him.” “But, he has just got better and better.” “He is a real nice horse, I like him.” Arden Messi’s continued improvement helped him progress from his solid fourth on debut, three weeks ago, to score on Friday night. The Bettor’s Delight pacer looked green when he was off the bit and going backward on the home turn before rallying in the straight in his first up effort. Thankfully for Payne, the pacer is rapidly improving his race smarts as well as developing his motor. “He is very green, but he is getting better.” “He just seems to improve every time I take him off the place.” Arden Messi’s West Otago breeder-owner John Stiven will soon get the chance to see his pacer close to home. An Ascot Park start is on the cards for the son of Walton Hanover mare, Tosca Hanover. “We will keep going with him through the winter,” Payne said. “John is quite keen to give him a race or two down south, so we will look at that.” Arden Messi is the first full sibling to Arden Rooney that Tosca Hanover has produced since she foaled the New Zealand Cup winner in 2009. Stiven has a 2yr-old full sister and a weanling full brother to Arden Rooney and Arden Messi. Tosca Hanover was served by superstar racehorse turned sire, Betting Line, last spring. Manners were the key to Eurokash taking out the highly anticipated clash of 2yr-old trotters at Addington on Friday night. The Greg and Nina Hope trained squaregaiter and his stablemate Franco Jorik were the only two horses not to make a mistake when filling the quinella in race 6. Eurokash was driven by national junior driver’s premiership hopeful Ben Hope, who also took out race 4 with Midnight Dash. Hope’s double took him to 27 wins for the season, two behind premiership co-leaders John Morrison and Sheree Tomlinson. Hope’s double also saw him move from $2.80 to $2.20 in the premiership market opened by the TAB on Friday. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Catching Otago’s star three-year-olds Cracker Hill and Spirit Of St Louis looks an almost impossible task for their opposition at Ascot Park on Saturday. Cracker Hill looks as closest thing to a racecourse certainty since lockdown ahead of his clash off level marks from behind the mobile in race 7. A 20m handicap looks far from enough to stop Spirit Of St Louis when he has his first run since March in race 8, the meeting’s feature handicap pace. Trainer-driver Brad Williamson has Cracker Hill ready to rumble following his epic homestraight duel with Matua Tana at Addington four weeks ago. Matua Tana has gone on to notch a hat-trick of wins making Cracker Hill’s three-wide effort look even better. “I gave him plenty of time to get over that, because it was a pretty hard run,” Williamson said. “Obviously the form has been franked with Matua Tana going on to bigger and better things.” “That was pleasing to see him do a super job after beating us.” Most of Cracker Hill’s rivals will have a race fitness edge on him, but that should be no match for the three-year-olds class. Their best hope of beating him is if the favourite gallops out of contention, which looks a faint hope at best. “His manners are pretty good and they should hold him in good stead throughout his whole career,” Williamson said. “If he brings his A-game on Saturday he should be pretty hard to beat.” Spirit Of St Louis showed he had lost none of his brilliant speed when reeling off a fast last 800m in his only public appearance leading in to race 8. The Graeme Anderson trained three-year-old ran a 56.2sec split at the Oamaru trials two weeks ago. Cracker Hill is not the only winning chance among Williamson’s ten drives at Saturday’s meeting. The reinsman will reunite with the Phil Williamson trained Day Dreamin in race 4. The 4yr-old who a well beaten second behind impressive winner Miss Crazed at Ascot Park last weekend. Day Dreamin faces a similar dilemma tomorrow, clashing with another of her stablemates in Springbank Mason. “She is a winning chance – take the winner out of it last week and she has beaten the rest nicely enough,” Williamson said. “Springbank Mason is a handy looking maiden and will be hard to beat.” “There are two or three in there with good winning chances and I think Day Dreamin is one of them.” Jacks N Jazz looks a strong winning chance for Williamson after his big effort to run third behind Payment Plan at Ascot Park last weekend. The Geoff and Jude Knight trained 6yr-old fought on strongly despite sitting parked throughout. “He seems to race really well in the wet that fella, he ploughed through it so easily, sitting parked didn’t seem to worry him.” “If it is a wet day on Saturday he will be hard to beat.” Rin Tin Tin in race 2 and Longueval in race 11 are also among Williamson’s winning chances. Rin Tin Tin ran a good third behind in a chaotic race won by Braeview Kelly last weekend. Barrier four on the second row of the mobile is Williamson’s main concern ahead of Saturday’s event. Longueval has an excellent draw in barrier 2 as he looks to bounce back from a shock failure against in hot maiden field in race 11. Williamson also drives Kagee VC in race 1, Coolhand Easton in race 4, The Peaky Blinder in race 5, Whata Razzle Dazzle in race 8 and Rake in race 10. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Quality age-group racing is set to return in emphatic style at Addington on Friday night with an epic clash of two-year-old trotters. A seven-horse field of squaregaiters will reignite New Zealand’s two-year-old racing after harness racing’s lockdown hiatus when they do battle over 1980m. The scintillating clash will give trainers Greg and Nina Hope the chance continue their brilliant late season form when they start Eurokash, Summer Lovin and Franco Jorik. Stable junior driver Ben Hope will attempt to keep his own hot form going when he drives Eurokash. Though he would not want to switch and drive any other horse in the race, he admits there is little between the trio his parents trains. “I am really happy with Eurokash, but it would be unfair to say he is better than Summer Lovin and Franco Jorik,” Hope said. “They are three lovely horses.” All three of the Hope’s runners come in to race 6 after impressing in last start wins at Addington. Eurokash took his unbeaten run on the trials track to race day when putting more than five and a half lengths on a maiden field late last month. The two-year-old fitness has been kept up to the mark by the Hope stable since and he is ready to show his best on Friday night. “He had that race a few weeks ago and his work has been really good since, so he is ready.” Franco Jorik comes in to race 6 with a similar gap between runs after beating subsequent winner, Mighty Flying Rocker, a day after Eurokash’s victory. “Franco Jorik is the most natural two-year-old of our three,” Hope said. “He always looked like he was going to run early and he is a nice horse.” Summer Lovin brings the most recent form of the Hope trio. He turned heads with huge, but far from perfect performance when galloping across the line more than ten lengths in front of his rivals at Addington last week. While he has clearly got a motor to match his stablemates, he may not quite be able to match them on manners. “Summer Lovin has got a lot of ability, he has got a good staying motor and he certainly showed that last week,” Hope said. “But he is not a natural two-year-old, I remember as a yearling we thought he would be a three-year-old before he raced.” “Eurokash and Franco Jorik would be pretty much the same on manners.” “They don’t generally put a foot wrong in work, but they are two-year-olds and it is much different at the races.” Winter star Matua Tana will attempt to make it four wins in a row in race 8, Friday night’s feature trot. The trotter sealed a hat-trick of wins by reeling off a sensational 27.6sec last 400m to seal a winning hat-trick at Addington last weekend. “Initially we were not going to back him up, but when we saw it was a small field and pretty much the same field he beat last week we thought we would line up,” Hope said. “His work has been good and there is no reason he shouldn’t go another good race again.” Midnight Dash ran second behind Matua Tana last week, which holds him in excellent stead ahead of race 8. “I thought he was really good last week running on that fast quarter,” Hope said. “Without being disrespectful to the opposition, because there are some nice ones in there like Chloe Rose and Carnegie Hall, this looks a drop in class for him and he should be hard to beat.” The Hope stable also line up Mossdale Art, who has not had much racing luck in three post-lockdown runs, in race 10. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Star trotter Marcoola’s racing career could be over as his stud career beckons. While it may not be the news trotting fans wanted to hear, the New Zealand breeding industry is about to get a boost with owner Clint Ford confirming his seven-year-old will enter the breeding barn in some capacity this year. Ford and his father, Ken, who co-owns and officially trains the New Zealand record holder, are currently weighing up exactly what Marcoola’s spring will look like. And there is a possibility it will not include racing. “We are treading carefully now and deciding what is the best direction to head in,” Ford said. “We are definitely thinking about doing something with him and it might be easier to put him to a stud.” If the Sundon entire could be a success in the breeding barn it would complete a vision his owner and former driver has had for some time. “It was always in the pipeline to get a son of Sundon and try to turn him in to a champion and breed from him and try to emulate what his father did, which I am sure he can,” Ford said. Decisions about Marcoola’s breeding and racing future could be finalised in about a week, Ford said. Arguably the most exciting aspect of Marcoola’s breeding future is the access he gives breeders to two of the all-time greats of New Zealand trotting in undisputed siring king Sundon and the country’s greatest ever trotter, Lyell Creek. Marcoola is set to do battle with his longtime rival, Speeding Spur, who will also begin his breeding career in the spring. Ford said he had already fielded plenty of phone calls from breeders who were keen to send their mares to the stallion. His impending stud duties do not mean Marcoola will not be ready if spring racing is on his agenda. “We were going to aim at the Rowe Cup, but the virus put us on the backburner a bit and made us think sit down and think about what we should be doing with him.” If Marcoola has run his last race he will bow out a New Zealand record holder with three Group one wins to his name. His stunning 1.53.8 win in the 2019 Ashburton Trotter’s Flying Mile and his epic four-length win in the Dominion will head the list of Marcoola’s career highlights with many trotting fans. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Rangiora trainer Andrew Stuart has four runners at Addington on Sunday that will be out to continue his brilliant run of recent form. Stuart has scored a win with his small team in three of the four wins since harness racing resumed after lockdown with Crackabrie, Galleons Connoisseur and Ohoka Matty. Stuart will be in a unique position when Galleons Connoisseur seeks another victory in race 12. The 5yr-old will have to beat out two other horses the trainer also has a share in. Stuart races both the Ken Barron trained Plutonium and the Regan Todd trained Hells Shadow. Galleons Connoisseur goes in to the race in winning form after cleaning up a rating 40-45 feild at Addington last weekend. Stuart is hoping driver Ricky May can get his colours in to the winner’s circle. “It is a jump in class, he probably beat an average maiden field last time,” the trainer said. “But, he is definitely going well and he tries hard.” “He might just lack a bit of high speed, but he has the man on to get a bit of luck – Ricky May.” Galleons Connoisseur opened the roughest of Stuart’s trio in fixed odds betting at $21. Plutonium was rated the $4.60 equal favourite with Bossmaro, ahead of Hells Shadow ($8.50). Guido Da Sienna looks the horse to beat when he starts from Stuart’s barn in race 11. The 4yr-old ran home strongly for second behind Hidden Delight at Addington, last weekend. Guido Da Sienna may need luck from barrier 1 on the second row of the mobile, but Stuart has full confidence in driver Blair Orange finding a run for his horse. “Having Blair on makes a difference, he is a freak.” “On his run last week he should be hard to beat.” Guido Da Sienna was rated the $3.30 fixed odds win favourite for race 11 on market opening. It's A Shawthing was a beaten favourite after galloping early then failing to run on at Addington three weeks ago following an eye catching trial run. The 5yr-old has been freshened and is ready to show his best if he can bring his manners on Sunday. “He has definitely got the ability, he just hasn’t put it all together.” “He missed away in that trial, so that might have flattened him a little bit.” “But he seems all good now.” It's A Shawthing opened at a $10 price to win race 2, behind the $3.50 favourite, For Today. Cheddar Made Beta failed to fire in his first run since lockdown at Addington a fortnight ago. Though the 5yr-old may struggle to beat the favourite Tom Martin, Stuart expects an improved effort. “He trialled well before his first race back.” “He was a bit disappointing there, but then you look at the form out of the race with Team Kiwi and Ohoka Matty winning.” “He also might have needed that race a bit, he had been out for a while.” “He is definitely a place chance, but I don’t think he can beat Tom Martin.” Ohoka Matty started the weekend off well for the Stuart stable. The 7yr-old reeled off a sizzling 55.4sec last 800m to win on Friday night. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Match fitness is the only concern trainer Phil Williamson has ahead of his star trotter Ultimate Stride returning to racing at Ascot Park on Saturday. The three-year-old will start for the first time since he trounced Australia’s best two-year-olds at last year’s group 1 Breeder’s Crown Finals in August. Ultimate Stride has spent much of his time since that win recovering from a broken pedal bone. The blueblood son of Love You and champion mare, One Over Kenny, has put the injury behind him and prepared for his return in race 8 on Saturday with two trials at Oamaru. Though finishing third behind Rydgemont Son and unplaced behind Humble Ladd may not look like sparkling form on paper, Williamson has been pleased with his chestnut’s lead up effort. “He is very well and even though he has been beaten in both of his trials I have been very pleased with him.” Ultimate Stride is clearly the horse to beat in Saturday’s 2200m mobile event given many of his opponent’s form pales in comparison to his Group 1 accomplishments. But, Williamson has been training long enough to know that racing is not quite that simple. Especially when his son, Nathan, has the talented Chinese Whisper in Saturday’s race. “I would like to think he could go out there and round them up, but it is not quite that easy.” “Race fitness would be my biggest concern.” “And there are some nice horses in there, Nathan’s one is a very nice horse in his own right.” Drawing barrier 8 under the race’s preferential barrier conditions adds to Ultimate Stride’s challenge. How keen the trotter feels for driver Matthew Williamson in his first start back under the pressure of race day could decide their early tactics. “I probably wouldn’t like to see him rushing out early, but it could depend on how keen he feels behind the gate.” “But, he will be getting around them at some stage.” Chinese Whisper has had two post-lockdown workouts to prepare for his return on Saturday. The four-year-old has not started since his third placing at Ascot Park in February. Jimmy Carter gives Williamson a strong hand in race 8. The five-year-old bounced back to winning form, after being pulled up in his two prior starts, when winning at Ascot Park last weekend. “He definitely wouldn’t be the worst chance, I could see him running in the first four,” Williamson said. Davey Mac and Horse Of Course also race under 2200m mobile conditions for the Williamson stable in race 5. Davey Mac will need to bring his manners after galloping out of contention behind Jimmy Carter last week. Horse Of Course was worked home stylishly to run third in the same event. “Horse Of Course would be a good eachway chance, I think all of our team are good chances on Saturday.’’ “And if Davey Mac brings his manners he will be in it.” Williamson starts Miss Crazed and Day Dreamin in race 1, another 2200m mobile event. Miss Crazed produced a huge finish for second after galloping early in her last start behind Arc De Triomphe. “She is going to be hard to beat if she trots the whole way.” Day Dreamin broke in her only start at Addington last month, but has since show improved manners in two trials. “I was happy with her trial at Ashburton on Wednesday, she should go a good race.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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