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By Jonny Turner    Two junior drivers races give harness racing’s future stars the chance to take centre stage at Addington on Sunday. Among them is Korbyn Newman, who looks to have two leading chances in Prodigal Guinness and Aladdin Sane. Newman is one of several drivers who will trek north after braving the elements on an icy cold afternoon at Ascot Park on Saturday. Newman can notch a win for his new employers and be rewarded for his commitment if Prodigal Guinness can take out race 8. The junior reinsman has moved camps to Robert Dunn’s Woodend stable and is enjoying life at the beach. “I am really enjoying it – it’s great,” Newman said. Prodigal Guinness hit the line like a horse that would threaten in his next start when charging in to second behind Terror To Christian at Addington, last week. That run was the horse’s first since March following the national lockdown and he has come through it well. “He seems to have come through it pretty well,” Newman said. “His work this week was good, though we didn’t do a lot with him because he doesn’t take a lot of work.” Barrier 7 is Newman’s biggest concern ahead of Sunday’s 1980m mobile. “He should be a good chance, but the draw is a little bit tricky.” “Hopefully he can get a good run and he will be right in it.” Prodigal Guinness was rated at $9.50 (win) and $3.10 (place) odds when race 8’s fixed odds market opened. Sagano, who is drawn inside him in barrier 7, opened the $2.80 win favourite. The Jonny Cox trained 4yr-old ran into seventh, after being last throughout, behind Under Wraps at Addington last week. Sheree Tomlinson, who extended her lead in the national junior driver’s premiership when winning with Dachy at Ascot Park on Saturday, will drive Sagano. Newman drives Aladdin Sane in race 4, the first of Sunday’s two junior driver’s events. The John Howe trained squaregaiter ran sixth, after sitting parked for a lap, behind his stablemate, Pheobe Onyx, at Addington last week. The 4yr-old looks to meet an easier line up on Sunday, in which he should be a good winning chance. “I think he looks like a pretty good chance,” Newman said. “He has also got a wide draw, but I still think he can be in it.” Aladdin Sane starts from barrier 8, two spots inside the early favourite, Carnegie Hall. Carnegie Hall opened at a $4.40 fixed odds win price, ahead of Aladdin Sane, who was at $9. Cam Jones will drive Carnegie Hall, who has trialled twice ahead of her resumption, for his employer Bob Butt. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Dunedin pacer Celebrating prefers wide open spaces to the confines of the city, which will provide his biggest challenge ahead of tomorrow’s Ascot Park meeting. The 3yr-old will start on a 1000m track for the first time in his career when he returns to racing for the first time since producing a head-turning win at Wingatui in March. Celebrating showed his class when a back straight gallop costing 10 lengths was not enough to stop him going on for a huge maiden victory on grass. The pacer’s mid-race antics and his prior start at Wyndham, where he took no part after breaking soon after the start, show he is far from a complete racehorse. Anderson prepared Celebrating’s half-brother, Terrorway, to win six wins from six starts in New Zealand before the horse went on to win group 1 races in Australia. The trainer said the pair are strikingly similar. “Celebrating is just like Terrorway,” Anderson said.  “They are horses you just can’t put pressure on early.” “That is why Terrorway didn’t start racing until he was 4yrs-old on a big track like Cromwell.” “Celebrating has actually surprised me that he is racing a bit earlier.” “He has probably got a little bit more speed than Terrorway.” “On ability, he is a very nice horse.” Anderson anticipates Celebrating will stay within his gait when he starts from the unruly for driver Matthew Williamson in race 4. It is how awkward the pacer is on the tight Ascot Park turns and how much momentum they will take out of him that the trainer expects to define the 3yr-old’s winning chances. “It is just going to be how he handles the bends and how awkward he is going to be,” Anderson said.  “He gets his head around and even though he will have a murphy blind he could still be a bit awkward.” Anderson and Williamson also combine with Da Moons Mission in race 8. The trainer thinks the event’s 2200m standing start conditions are ideal for the 4yr-old. “He was going to race last week, but he had a bit of a setback with a foot problem.” “This looks his race if he does everything right.” “He is fit and well and I am pretty happy with him.” Anderson had Wolf West fit and ready to resume when the 5yr-old ran to a three and a half-length victory for Williamson at Ascot Park last weekend. The pacer faces a much different kind of challenge from barrier 1 in race 6 tomorrow. “It is a totally different kind of race this week.” “It all depends how he gets out of the gate.” “If he can hold the front from 1 that would be ideal, because he needs to be out there rolling along.” “He doesn’t have the speed to be coming from behind.” Williamson has opted to drive Wolf West ahead of his rival, Stingray Tara, who ran third at Ascot Park last weekend Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Matua Tana provided the star turn with a crushing victory as father and daughter Gerard and Sarah O’Reilly racked up wins at Addington on Friday night. The big striding trotter edged out Interdominion placegetter, Majestic Man, after a stirring home straight battle to score the first leg of a driving double for O’Reilly senior. The victory came after Gerard scored an upset win with The Falcon for trainer Geoff Dunn. The Rakaia horseman was also in the winner’s circle as a trainer when Striking Gladiator strode to a comfortable maiden victory with Sarah, who part owns the 3yr-old, in the sulky. The victory was also provided the first leg of a winning double for the junior reinswoman. Her subsequent win with Alta Endeavour not only rounded out her double, it gave her bragging rights on drive home with her father after he had to settle second with Laver in a father-daughter quinella. Matua Tana made a big statement when sitting outside star open class trotter Majestic Man to win Friday night’s feature 1980m trot. The Phil Williamson trained runner-up, who was fresh up and without the benefit of a recent race, rolled off the inside when in front at the 500m to allow Phoebe Onyx to sneak up the inside and set up a slightly bizarre, but exciting finish. Despite sitting parked for most of the race and then racing three wide before the turn, Matua Tana reeled in Majestic Man to seal a big win. “It was a really good win,” Gerard said. “He is a lovely big trotter and he is only going to get better as he gets stronger.” Matua Tana’s victory came without a hint of the rough steps he has been known to put in in the past. O’Reilly said the big Love You trotter felt brilliant in his gait. “He trotted really well – he felt great.” “The mobile is a big help for him, it is usually just the start that worries him, he can lose concentration.” “But, after than he is usually really good.” Aggressive tactics paid big dividends when The Falcon broke maidens with O’Reilly in the sulky. The 3yr-old charged around the field with a lap to go before going on to score a stylish win at $29 odds. “He is a really nice horse and Geoff has always thought a big of him, but he has lacked a little bit of top speed,” Gerard said. “I didn’t think I was going to get the front when I got around, but I did and he went super.” Striking Gladiator’s win should not be his last for the father and daughter combination of Gerard and Sarah O’Reilly. Partially because the pacer does not fit the mould of a typically headstrong son of Mach Three. The 3yr-old has quite the opposite temperament to that of many of his sire’s offspring. And that is why O’Reilly thinks the horse can handle stepping up in grade in the future. “He is just a really cool dude, he is very laidback and a really neat horse to do anything with.” The O’Reillys’ brilliant night out was capped when Sarah drove Alta Endeavour to win for her employers, Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Stepping away cleanly is the biggest challenge for Doctor Tim, a pacer in the zone ahead of Friday night’s feature pace at Addington. The Geoff Dunn trained 6yr-old showed he has emerged from lockdown in brilliant style by backing up an excellent trial win with a tough effort for second to Dadndave at the track last week. Doctor Tim only went down by a head margin to the winner after working hard three-wide in the open from the 600m. Doctor Tim starts from the front line in race 9 on Friday night, with a 20m head-start over Dadndave. Dunn’s biggest concern ahead of the 2600m event is that an early mistake could put him alongside his main rival once the tapes fly. “His only problem on Friday night is that his standing start work in not phenomenal,” the trainer said. “He can just bobble away and give himself a handicap.” “But, hopefully he steps, because he is really well.” Dunn said the break from racing due to the Covid19 lockdown was not necessarily why Doctor Tim goes in to Friday feeling so well. “You can race him twice a week, he is just in such a good spot at the moment.” “He didn’t get much of a let up, just about a couple of weeks and that was it.” “He is just one of those horses – I don’t know why he is so good now.” “We have always been rapt with him, but he seems to have gotten a little bit better.” Shadow Minister, Millwood Maizie, Spot on and Rocknroll King start in Friday night’s race after chasing home Dadndave and Doctor Tim last week. Franco Niven, Rocknroll Max, Chiller Bay and Overarm step up in grade after chasing home That Alexander Guy in rating 61-65 company the same night. Gerard O'Reilly will drive Doctor Tim and he will also steer Laver in race 4 and The Falcon in race 6 for Dunn. Laver went produced one of his usual honest performances when third behind Under Wraps last week. Punters should expect more of the same on Friday night. “I can’t see why he couldn’t do the same thing this week, if not even better,” Dunn said. “He seems better this week, it’s just what type of run he gets.” Laver clashes again with Alta Endeavour, who went a huge race after sitting parked outside of Under Wraps. The Falcon meets a strong maiden line up in race 6 for Dunn and O’Reilly. “It is a really nice field, he has been very honest for us,” Dunn said. “He is the type of horse that will get better and better.” “He can work with anything, but he just lack a bit of that top end speed.” “But, I think it will come.” The Falcon clashes with Percy, who was extremely unlucky at Addington last week. The Phil Burrows trained 3yr-old ran out of room in the home straight behind Dhaulagiri and went to the line hard held by driver Gavin Smith. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Annie Fitz made a scintillating return from the retirement paddock to the racetrack when scorching home to win at Ascot Park on Saturday. The 8yr-old set heads turning just two races in to harness racing’s post lockdown return at Southland’s headquarters when scoring at huge $40 odds for driver Craig Ferguson. Notching a seventh win in her 161st start was not something trainers Ross and Chris Wilson had in mind when Annie Fitz last stepped out in February. Then, the Bettor’s Delight mare was meant to be in foal to emerging sire Sweet Lou with the prospect of producing a blueblood from the Wilsons’ Robyn breed ahead. Instead, Annie Fitz’s breeding and racing careers were looking redundant after she both failed to get in foal and did not spark up on the race track. “She is meant to be retired,” Ross Wilson said. “She was served by Sweet Lou but she didn’t get in foal.” “After her last start Craig said she had lost interest and she didn’t want to do it [race] any more.” Annie Fitz was set for a life of leisure in Wilson’s broodmare band. But, some bad behaviour put an end to that. “Every time I would go out to feed them she would be kicking the other horses.” Having a brand new set of shoes fitted before her last start made Wilson’s decision to start working the Annie Fitz again an easy one. It paid off when the mare charged home between runners from four deep on the fence to win. Annie Fitz held out fellow outsider, To Ri Caitlin, by a length to set up a huge $253 quinella. Ferguson later made it a winning double when driving The Croupier to win race 7 for Balfour trainer Shane Matheson. Canterbury trainer Michael House started his new venture in Southland off on an excellent note when winning two races on Saturday. House had a team of 13 horses entered at Ascot Park that will stay in the province and race at upcoming meetings. Zoned Scarlett notched the first victory of House’s southern mission when winning her first start from his stable in race 6. The trainer scored his second when Stinger Lindenny took out race 11. Westwood beach trainer Graeme Anderson had Wolf West fit and ready to resume ahead of race 5. Some smart driving from Matthew Williamson saw the 4yr-old slot in to the one-one after being trapped wide in the early stages. Williamson set Wolf West alight at the 1400m, the pair charged to the front before never letting his rivals get a look in. The pacer went on to score impressively by three and a half lengths.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner, NZ Harness News Desk    Trainer Brett Gray’s team look ready to make an impact on Southland’s harness racing return at Ascot Park on Saturday, if they can overcome a run of tricky draws. New Zealand’s racing landscape and the wider world may never be the same since the Covid19 pandemic hit, but for Gray some things have stayed same. When several of the Ryal Bush trainer’s horses drew awkward spots on the inside and the outside of the second row it was hardly a surprise. “It is the story of my life, really” Gray quipped. On a more serious note, Gray said he was just happy his team could resume racing again. “It’s great to be back going again, I am really looking forward to it.” Honour Before Glory is one of several horses across the country that have emerged looking refreshed and revitalised from the national lockdown. The 4yr-old looked ready to put a patchy run of form behind her when winning nicely at last week’s Ascot Park trials. “She has just taken a wee bit to come around, but I think the lockdown has done her good,” Gray said.  “If she goes like she does at the trials the other day she would be a great chance.” In The Groove will be the first of Gray’s horses to step out on Saturday when he resumes in race 3. The 3yr-old will be out to turn the tables on race rival, Madrik, who had his measure when the pair filled the quinella at last week’s trials. “He is a pretty nice horse Madrik, so it was no disgrace running second to him.” “My fella did need that run and he has improved from it.” “But, we might be running for second behind Madrik.” Gray has a two pronged attack on Saturday’s feature trot, race 10, with Richard The Third and Full Noise. Neither horse has trialled publicly ahead of their resumption, which is of no concern to the trainer. “It’s not a worry at all really, we have taken them in to the track for runs and some of them have been better than having a trial, really,” Gray said. Richard The Third will start from the front line in the 2200m event, 25m in front of his stablemate. “Richard The Third has been coming up really nice and so has Full Noise.” “But, for Full Noise a 25m handicap over 2200m can be very tough.” Rydgemont Son looks the horse to beat in race 10 following his impressive trial win at Oamaru, last weekend. Stratofortress and Hazer’s starting spots for race 7 sum up Gray’s run with draws at Ascot Park on Saturday. Stratofartress starts from barrier one on the second row, with Hazer on the extreme outside in barrier 14. American Eyretime also starts from barrier 1 on the second line in race 8. “There are some nice maidens in that race, but if she were to get a suck along in the trail or three back she would be a chance,” Gray said. “She is a not the worst in there, the draw could work out good or really bad.” Nota Bene Denario completes Gray’s day in race 11. The 5yr-old has been brilliantly consistent this season and looks set to continue that. Like so many of his runners, Gray has concerns about where the horse, who is best driven for one late run, may settle from barrier 7. “He always goes an honest race, but he is drawn a little bit wide, he usually likes to be on the rails.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner, Harness News Desk   Sioux Princess has emerged from lockdown with a Forrest Gump style attitude and she showed it off with a stylish win at Addington on Thursday. Like the character from the hit 1994 movie, the Mark Jones trained trotter simply wants to run. And fast. Sioux Princess came in to Thursday’s rating 40-51 event after running her rivals ragged to score at last week’s Addington trials. The 5yr-old then put in an almost identical performance to win when racing resumed at Addington on Thursday. Jones said he puts Sioux Princess’s new attitude down to her recharging during lockdown. “She has had quite a bit of hard racing, so I just think the freshen up has probably done her good.” Before her trial and race wins, strong front-running performances were never a strong point for Sioux Princess. “It is funny because in a race down south one day she got to the front and then stopped to a walk,” Jones said. There was no walking for Sioux Princess in Thursday’s 2600m event. Once driver Samantha Ottley took the mare to the front with just under two laps to go her rivals never got a look in. Sioux Princess should be a regular at Addington through the winter. Jones plans to race the mare week to week now that harness racing is back up and running. The trainer’s stable star, Stylish Memphis, is set to rejoin his Burnham barn in the coming weeks. The New South Wales Oaks winning 3yr-old is currently jogging with owner, Wayne Higgs. Stylish Memphis was to campaign in Queensland during the winter, but her trip was cancelled after changes were made to the races she was to contest. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Jonny Turner, Harness News Desk    Inter-island trainer Robert Dunn is ready to continue his quest for a maiden national trainer’s premiership victory when he lines up a team packed full of winning chances at Addington on Friday night. Dunn went in to harness racing’s Covid-19 hiatus with a 10-win lead over Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen, who have yet to be sighted publicly since the end of lockdown. Dunn’s team have not only hit the trials track, they have emerged fresh and ready to help the trainer add to his 79 wins for the season. Dunn thinks Franco Niven in race 7 has the biggest chance of helping him extend his premiership lead. “Franco Niven would be the bet of the day from our team, he is a class horse.” “He is going to keep getting better.” Franco Niven trialled well when second to Nimah Franco last week. The pacer’s progress suggests he will continue to fire up well past Friday. “We had to geld him when he was younger because he was a bit of a ratbag,” Dunn said. “He lost that real colt look he has and it has taken him a long time to start to get strong again.” “But, I think this season coming he is going to have a really good year.” Dunn also starts Kensington Bill, who trialled quietly behind at Addington before his resumption, in race 7. Carlos Bromac was a pacer on the rise before lockdown and is ready to continue his upward progression in race 12 on Friday night. The horse made an excellent start to his career in Southland, before he was spelled after being tested against some of the country’s best 3yr-olds. Carlos Bromac thrived on his summer break and now returns after the benefit of another spell during lockdown. The pacer’s excellent trial win at Addington last week was proof of that. “He wasn’t quite up to the derby horses, so we tipped him out and when he came back he really thrived,” Dunn said.  “I thought his trial win the other day was really good.” “He is a horse that is going to win races pretty quickly.” Wyatt Waller is almost certain to have gone further than any of his rivals heading in to race 3. The 3yr-old was sold and exported to Australia after running second to Italian Lad in track record breaking time at Oamaru, last September. Wyatt Waller suffered an injury after crossing the Tasman and the Dunn stable arranged the horse to be returned to New Zealand. “The buyers were good clients of ours, so we arranged to give their money back and bring the horse back,” Dunn said.  “So, we are hoping he can do a good job because he owes us a little bit.” “He is a nice horse and another good chance.” The Player went two excellent races before lockdown and looks poised build on that in race 11, despite having to take on a classy line up including star 3yr-old, Cracker Hill. The 4yr-old was given a quiet trial, tucked away on the markers before running in to sixth behind race rival Matua Tana, last week. “His two runs before lockdown for second and third were great and we were rapt with his trial the other day – just running home the last 50m,” Dunn said. Styx Kiwi in race 5, Rocknroll King in race 9 and Anamajor and Soundslikeart in race 10 Each look strong eachway chances. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Chevron Action and El Dorado have made the most of harness racing’s enforced hiatus and are ready to show that at Addington on Thursday. The handbrake that has put harness racing on hold across the country is set to be released when the first of nine races gets underway at noon. While the break has been a major headache for stables across the country and disastrous for the TAB, it has brought some small silver linings. The Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon trained pairing of Chevron Action and El Dorado provide two examples. Chevron Action looked to be have risen to the peak of her powers when second in the New Zealand Trotting Oaks before lockdown. But, the break has proven she has even more to offer. Because the 3yr-old trotter will return an even better prospect on Thursday. “She has definitely improved from the little break she has had,” Purdon said. “Her trip to Auckland really made her and then having the two weeks out during the lockdown, she has really thrived on that.” The Dalgety-Purdon barn has readied Chevron Action for her resumption with two trials. The filly was soundly beaten when third behind race rival, Sioux Princess, in the first. Chevron Action then looked much sharper when beating her smart stablemate, Chloe Rose, to win a week later. “We were pretty happy with her last trial, she found the line pretty good,” Purdon said. That latest effort and her progress through lockdown should combine to make Chevron Action hard to beat in race 7 on Thursday Afternoon. “She should go close, really,” Purdon said. “She is generally pretty safe in her gait now, so she should be hard to beat.” Sioux Princess’s tearaway Addington trial win suggests she will be the hardest horse for Chevron Action to beat. El Dorado will step out in Dalgety and Purdon’s colours for the second time in race 6 on Thursday. Like his stablemate, the 3yr-old thrived during lockdown. “When we first got him he was quite green and he hadn’t quite hit his hopples, really.” Purdon said. “He was quite ill-gaited for a while, but he seems to have come out of it, just with time more than anything.” El Dorado has had one trial ahead of his resumption, finishing fifth behind race rival Ohoka Matty when not fully extended in the straight. The Dalgety-Purdon camp feel they have found the right race for El Dorado to make a stylish resumption on Thursday. “He seems well and he is in the right race to suit him.” Purdon said. “He should probably go pretty close.” Chevron Action and El Dorado will provide something of an entre for Dalgety and Purdon stable followers before the Kentuckiana Lodge trainers line up a big 12-strong team at the same track on Friday night. Like many horsepeople across the country, the pair simply can not wait to get back to the races. “We have been waiting a long time for it, it sort of feels like the start of the new season,” Purdon said.  “We will be looking forward to it and we have got a big day on Friday, as well.”  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Woodend Beach trainer Bob Butt has his team tuned up and ready to make a mark when harness racing returns next week. By then, the wait will finally be over for the trainer-driver and the patient owners of blueblood 5yr-old Mighty Flying Rocker. The son of Rocknroll Hanover and epic 100-win producing mare, Fleet’s Pocket, looked ready to strike when bolting in at the Addington trials on Wednesday. Mighty Flying Rocker’s eight length romp not only confirmed Butt’s decision to try the 5yr-old as a trotter after two unflattering starts as a pacers. It also put two pedal bone injuries firmly behind him. “I gave him two starts pacing, but he just didn’t have the speed,” Butt said. “He had a really high action and he was basically going up and down on the one spot.” “As a last resort I was going to start galloping him in his work, but when I took him out on the beach he trotted like a stag.” Mighty Flying Rocker had two workouts as a trotter, last year, before his pedal bone gave way. Butt had the horse ready to be tried again, but the break did not heal properly and had to be screwed. “Now that the bone is screwed up he is as good as gold,” Butt said. Mighty Flying Rocker had his rivals strung out all around Addington raceway during his eye-catching 2600m standing start win. “Hopefully he can do a decent job.” “He trotted 3.25.5 on Wednesday, so you would think he would be able to pick up a maiden win soon enough.” Butt produced another trotting winner on Wednesday in Carnegie Hall. The 4yr-old looked smart when winning one of her three starts earlier this season. “She is a nice horse, but she has definitely still got a bit to learn.” “In saying that, it wasn’t her fault when she galloped in her last start at Invercargill and she won real nice the start before that for Brent Barclay.” Butt was winning again at the Addington trials when Katchalight scored in rating 40-55 company over 1980m. The 4yr-old had three starts for the Woodend Beach trainer after transferring from John Howe’s stable and was unlucky in two of them. Katchalight joined Butt to be beach trained and she seems to be relishing her new regime. “She was good at the trials and she seems to be enjoying the beach.” “She will go to the first Addington meeting and she should be pretty competitive.” “She is at the right rating to be.” Mandoza, qualified impressively when bolting in by more than four lengths at Wednesday’s trials for Butt. The victory caught the eye of Perth buyers, which means the 3yr-old Washington VC pacer will not be seen at Addington when racing returns. A gallop at the winning post stopped Bitamuscle also impressively qualifying with Butt in the sulky. Despite the mistake, the 2yr-old won impressively for trainer Paul Nairn. The brother to New Zealand Trotting Derby winner, Lotamuscle, looks a horse to follow after he returns to the trials to attempt to qualify again. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner     A last start group 1 winner and rising trotting star is set to give Southland harness racing a big boost when it returns next week. Master trotting trainer Phil Williamson is eyeing the first post-lockdown meeting at Ascot Park for Ultimate Stride’s long awaited return to the track. The blueblood son of Love You and millionaire mare, One Over Kenny, will have been through two lockdowns when he steps out at Invercargill. The first came when the 3yr-old had to be boxed after suffering a peddle bone injury after bolting in at the Breeders Crown Finals at Melton in August of last year. The injury came as a surprise to Williamson, ­­after the horse initially came through his maiden group 1 victory in good style. “After he won at the Breeders Crown we got him back here and put him in the paddock,” the Oamaru trainer said. “Then, two weeks later, he was lame and the x-rays showed he had broken a peddle bone.” Ultimate Stride’s peddle bone has healed well and he has progressed well through his current campaign. “The peddle bone has healed well and there are no problems with it,” Williamson said. “Horses can injure them again, but at this stage there has been nothing to worry about.” Williamson plans to start Ultimate Stride at next week’s meeting if the horse trials up to the trainer’s satisfaction on his home track on Saturday. The 3yr-old currently has 65 rating points to his name, which means he will effectively have to race hardened all-comers in his return. That has Williamson slightly weary ahead of next week’s meeting. “He is a very nice horse and I have got a good opinion of him, but it won’t be easy for him.” “He will be first up for a long time and there are some nice trotters around.” “I know Nathan [Williamson] has his good trotter, Chinese Whisper, ready to go.” The draft rescheduling of the Harness Million and NZ Sires Stakes Championships give Williamson and his owners, Emilio and Mary Rosati, plenty to work towards with Ultimate Stride. A return trip to Victoria for the Love You trotter to the Breeders Crown and Victorian Trotters Derby is unlikely at this stage. The Rosatis are not keen on setting up a clash between Ultimate Stride and their leading Australian based 3yr-old, Elite Stride, Williamson said. The powerhouse owners do not just have their pair of smart 3yr-olds to look forward to. Williamson is set to trial another of their NZB Standardbred Yearling Sales purchases in Leaf Stride, soon. The 2yr-old colt, by Love You from Sun Mist, who was the second highest priced trotting yearling at last year’s Christchurch sale, is progressing well and could race at short notice. Williamson has just brought this year’s trotting sales topper, a Love You colt from Queen Kenny, back in to work. The yearling will be put through another preparation ahead of next season. The colt has impressed the trainer with what he has done so far, he said. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    If recent trials are anything to go by, the Hope stable is set to make a mark when winter racing resumes next week. Husband and wife trainers Greg and Nina Hope, who work their team with the aid of son and junior driver, Ben, had a field day at Wednesday’s trials at Addington racking up four wins and two quinellas. The effort came nearly a week after three of the Hope team scored at the first post-lockdown trial meeting. Talented, but frustrating trotter Matua Tana looked set for victory last week before rolling in to an all too familiar late gallop. The big, free striding square-gaiter was back to the kind of form that saw him sent out a New Zealand Cup day favourite when scoring in Wednesday’s fast 2600m class trot for driver Gerard O’Reilly. The turnaround was put down to a key gear change that is hoped will help the six-year-old deliver on his potential. “Last week led all of the way, but had a gallop again,” Ben Hope said. “Gerard suggested we put an undercheck on him, so we did.” “And when he came back in he said he was a different horse, so we were rapt.” Midnight Dash showed he was on target for the upcoming rescheduled three-year-old trotting features when running in to second, three quarters of a length behind his stablemate. “Midnight Dash went really good, he was held up by a tiring horse on the home bend and ran home really nice,” Hope said. It is possible both Matua Tana and Midnight Dash could race at next week’s first post-lockdown meeting at Addington, but no firm race returns have been set for either horse. The Hope stable also notched a quinella when unveiling two smart two-year-olds in yesterday’s 2600m qualifying trot. Just a half-head margin separated Tedesco and Summer Lovin, who were both bred by the Hope family. “Summer Lovin will probably press on a hopefully aim towards the good two-year-old races that are going to be run.” “Tedesco is a nice horse, but I feel like he is probably six months away.” “The plan was to qualify him and then then give him a couple of workouts before giving him a spell.” Franco Jorik is another of the Hope team’s two-year-old trotters is also on a path towards races like the NZ Sires Stakes Championship. Though the Muscle Mass trotter was well beaten by impressive winner, Mighty Flying Rocker, Hope was pleased with his horse’s effort. “Even though he was beaten by eight lengths I was pretty stoked with how he went considering he is just a wee two-year-old against older horses over 2600m.” “He is probably not going to be one of the favourites when the big races come around, but if he got the right trip he could definitely feature in them.” Makura was another of the Hope team that showed she was on track for a good return to racing on Wednesday when winning a non-winners’ trot over 2600m. The Andover Hall three-year-old failed to flatter in three starts earlier than this season, but is better than those performances suggest. “We took her to Westport at Christmas time and she didn’t handle the track, then she ran off the track in her next start and nearly touched the outside running rail,” Hope said. “She stepped really well in her trial and showed great manners to lead the whole way.” Mossdale Mac showed his promise when winning at Wednesday’s trials. The two-year-old is likely to need more practice at trials and workouts before heading to the races. Mossdale Mac’s  half-sister, Mossdale Art won at last week’s trials for the Hope stable. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    The COVID-19 pandemic has set up an old school New Zealand Cup preparation for last year’s seventh placegetter, Nandolo. The 5yr-old showed he was ready to rumble when racing resumes at Addington next week with a comfortable trial win on the same track, last week. Trainer John Howe had Nandolo ready for a run at the South Island’s late season open class features before the COVID-19 pandemic put racing on hold. The current situation has led to Nandolo now working towards a New Zealand Cup preparation that adheres to the previously long held notion that a cup contender must be racing by the National Meeting (in August) to be fit enough to win in November. “We had him ready for the good races at the end of the season, like the Rangiora Classic, before everything stopped,” Howe said. “He had three weeks off and we thought we would carry on and just see what races they would have for horses like him.” “I spoke to the handicappers and he will get five points for every win.” “So, we will try to win a couple of races and that would have him rated 95 [points].” “He races those top horses anyway, so it should work out pretty good for him.” Nandolo emerged with one of the several hard luck stories in last year’s New Zealand Cup when badly held up on the home turn. Howe is hopeful the pacer will return a better prospect after a season of clashing with some of the country’s best horses. “He should be a little bit better this year.” “He is a big horse and he has been getting better every season.” Clearly, modern training techniques and the refinement of today’s standardbred mean Nandolo will not be as busy as the cup horses of the 1970s and 1980s, who raced through winter. One of the limited number of starts the pacer will have before the spring is set to come when racing resumes next week. “He is very well and he will be ready for the first meeting,” Howe said. “We had eight at the trials last week and most of the team are about 80-90% at the moment.” “We will have eight at the trials again this week to get them ready.” Howe, stable reinsman Jonny Cox and breeder-owners, Phil and Christine Smith, doubled up at last week’s Addington trials when winning both the fast class 2600m trot and pace. Aladdin Sane showed he was also on track to resume next week for the quartet when beating a talented field. The 4yr-old won first up in December after a year away from the track. That meant the Aladdin Sane found himself in the intermediate grades with just four starts behind him. The trotter is now refreshed, recharged and ready to measure up to his rating. “He is quite a nice horse and I think he can go on with it,” Howe said. “He and Phoebe Onyx should both do good jobs.” Phoebe Onyx ran second to Sioux Princess over 2600m in rating 46-55 company at last week’s Addington trials. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner   Rocknroll King will attempt to take his game to the mainland in today’s Waimate Cup. The Robert Dunn trained pacer headed west to show off his staying prowess to win the 3200m Inangahua-Grey Valley Cup in his last start at Reefton. The 4yr-old will step back in distance and head south in an attempt to make it back to back cup wins in today’s 2600m handicap. Driver Gavin Smith can not see why Rocknroll King can not go another great race. “He went really good on the coast, this race is a wee bit harder, but not a lot harder.” “He won with a wee bit in reserve over there [Reefton], so if he got a reasonable run he would be right in it again.” Rocknroll King starts on the 10m mark alongside fellow recent grass track winners One Direction and Shadow Minister. Both Vulcan Star and Gilligan’s Island will attempt to complete hat-tricks of wins from the front line. The favourite, Bettathanfast, will start from the 30m following his big performance to run second to Stars Tonight in his last start at Addington after sitting parked throughout. Bettathanfast was the $5.50 favourite, ahead of Rocknroll King ($6), when the Waimate Cup fixed odds market opened last night. Smith lines up two trial winning first starters from his stable at today’s meeting. Kiwi X Factor comes in to his 2000m standing start assignment after stretching out to win his by four lengths at the Rangiora trials. The 3yr-old has the motor to make an impact on race 4, but is yet to fully develop his racing game. “He is going to be a nice horse, but he can’t be hustled up too much yet, he needs to be looked after,” Smith said. “But he is going to be a lot better than a maiden.” “He is not one of mine that will just jump to the front, he will have to be handled a little bit quieter.” Kiwi X Factor has been rated the $5.50 third favourite by bookmakers behind equal favourites, Lizzie Richter and Uber Express ($4.80). Smith will start his 2yr-old, Helluva, against older horses over 1700m in race 5. The trainer-driver has high hopes for the pacer later this season. “He goes really good and if he keeps improving he could be up with the better 2yr-olds later.” “But, he is still a bit soft, mentally.” “That is why we have gone with an easy option first up.” “He can do a bit wrong, he is not hardened and he is not a racehorse yet, either.” Helluva has been rated a $7 chance by bookmakers. Mossman, who galloped in tight quarters and was pulled up in his last start at Addington, headed the market for race 5 at $4. Smith also starts Amulet from his stable in race 6. The trotter has the ability to win the race, but needs to show it today. “She has the ability, but has been very frustrating.” Smith also drives Atarah in race 3 and Don’t Look Back in race 11. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Winton trainer Des Baynes will step out a small team packed with winning chances on his home track at today’s Wairio mile day.   Baynes has produced brilliantly consistent results this season with a win and ten placings from just 21 starts. Naturally, Baynes would have liked to have converted more of his run of placings in to wins. “I joked with some of the boys that I might have to start training a Kidz Kartz pony so that I can get a win,” the trainer said.  “But, I am not too worried about it, so long as the horses all go good honest races I will be happy.” The trainer’s highly talented two pronged attack on race 8 with smart pacers Slate and See Ya Write looks best chances of upping his winning strike rate today.  Baynes has Slate just ahead of his stablemate as his leading chance in the race. “Slate is a 5yr-old and a little bit older and tougher, so I would lean towards him.” “See Ya Write is a nice little horse and he has been going some good races.” “I am just not sure where he might end up from his draw. See Ya Write starts from barrier 5, with Slate inside him in barrier 4. Slainte and See Ya Write are two of several smart types that will do battle in race 8. Pocket Watch steps up in class after dealing to inferior opposition in his last start at Forbury Park. The 3yr-old and Stringray Tara, who has produced consistent form in strong fields recently, will both give away a draw advantage to the Baynes pair when they start on the outside of the front line. Baynes had thrown his maiden mare, Might Be Me, in the deep end in one of today’s features. The runner-up in her last three starts will take on seasoned, race winning mares in a Southern Belle Speed Series heat. “This is the last heat of this series, so I was keen to get her in to get some points,” Baynes said.  “This is probably the weakest heat and without wanting to disrespect the opposition, she should be up to them.” Amore Lancôme looks the toughest horse for Might Be Me to beat. The 4yr-old was third in a stronger mares event behind Cheezel and Yankee Party, at Winton two starts ago. Baynes will also step out Dress Code for her debut in race 6. The 3yr-old comes in to her mile (1609m) assignment after finishing in the first two in her last five trials and workouts. “She is a nice filly – she is Slate’s half brother – she  has gone well at the workouts and trials,” Baynes said.  “It’s her first start, so you don’t know what might happen, but she should go a good race.” A patchy form line and a tricky draw make Saint Tropez in race 10 the roughie among the Baynes team.  The 3yr-old will start from barrier one on the second row of the mobile in a capacity field. “He didn’t go too bad in his last start at Wyndham,” Baynes said.  “From where he is drawn it will depend how many times the lead changes in front of him.” Today’s Winton meetings is the first in Southland to be run under new rules excluding spectators and owners in response to the covid19 pandemic.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Exciting 3yr-old Heroes Square will face his toughest test after drawing wide in tonight’s group 2 Flying Stakes at Addington. The Robert Dunn trained pacer has announced himself a serious New Zealand Derby contender with three highly impressive wins in his first three starts. Heroes Square will almost certainly have to call on all of his class if he is to keep his unbeaten record intact in tonight’S 1980m feature. Drawing the outside of the front line in barrier 9 means the 3yr-old and driver Tim Williams have a huge task in front of them. “It is going to be very tough for him from that draw,” Dunn said. “Tim will have to go back with him and try to get in to it.” Williams will fill in for Dunn’s son John, who was among a number of leading drivers stood down yesterday as a precautionary measure in response to the COVID19 pandemic. The group, which includes Mark Purdon and Zac Butcher, have been excluded from racing until Tuesday because they have returned from Australia recently. Heroes Square will be in good company on the outside of the mobile arm, with leading 3yr-old Copy That starting alongside him. The Ray Green trained pacer will start from barrier 8 for new driver Blair Orange. While there are some doubts over whether Heroes Square can give his main rivals a head start from his wide draw, there is no doubting the horse’s ability. And though the Art Major pacer has only burst on to the 3yr-old pacing scene recently, his trainer has know of his class for some time. “We have always thought a lot of him, but he had joint problem as a 2yr-old.” “We sent up to Matamata for a scintigraphy test and they found a wee problem in a fetlock.” “He is a very nice horse and I think he will measure up with the best 3yr-olds.” “Especially on his last win, it was very impressive.” Heroes Square beat Flying Stakes rivals Minstrel, Skippys Delight and Burnham Boy in his brilliant last start win in the Johnny Globe Classic at Addington last week. The pacer steps up to race more proven 3yr-olds when clashing with both Copy That and One Change, who has the massive advantage of drawing barrier 1. The Dunn stable also start Tyron’s Bit Of Lemon from barrier 2 with Gavin Smith in the sulky. The pacer should get every opportunity is his first test against the country’s top 3yr-olds from his handy draw. “It was a good win last time at Invercargill and he is working really well,” Dunn said. “He is a horse that loves getting out there and running those really strong sectionals.” Dunn and Williams will also combine with Henry Hubert in tonight’s Superstars Championship. The 5yr-old’s brilliant fresh up win in the Northern Southland Cup shows he has back at the top of his game following a short spell. However, Henry Hubert may not get the chance to show that tonight’s 1980m feature as he starts from barrier 1 on the second line. “He is really well and working really well, but it is a disastrous draw for him, really,” Dunn said. The conditions for the Superstars Championship also put leading contenders Another Masterpiece and Triple Eight in tricky starting spots in barriers 8 and 9, respectively. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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