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By Jonny Turner    Punters should forget Dance Time’s last start and take a line through his previous effort at the New Zealand Cup Carnival when assessing his winning chances at Palmerston North on Tuesday. The Steve and Amanda Telfer trained six-year-old heads south after a disappointing fourth in a highly competitive four-horse race at Alexandra Park late last month. Steve Telfer put the performance down to the horse ending up in his least favoured position, sitting parked. With that clear excuse for the performance, Dance Time’s prior fourth placing behind Vintage Cheddar in junior free-for-all company on Show Day at Addington is the true guide to his chances when he freefalls down in grade in race 5. “Anywhere is good for him, except parked,” Steve Telfer said. “When he gets left parked he over-races and gets a bit keen.” “He has trained on since then and his work has been strong.” “It is a bit of a drop back in class, probably the biggest problem will be negating the Palmy (Palmerston North) track from the back row.” Dance Time lines up from barrier five on the second line for driver Benjamin Butcher in Tuesday’s 2500m mobile event. Though that draw will not make race 5 a simple assignment for the pair, Dance Time gets a massive chance to bounce back to winning form considering his class. “His last run hasn’t flattened him, he has trained on strongly,” Telfer said. “He will get his chance, there look to be good races for him on both days at Palmy this week.” The Telfer barn has power in numbers in Tuesday’s feature pace with Cruzee Mach and Sarandon also starting in the event. Cruzee Mach, who starts alongside Dance Time in barrier four on the second row, was a strong winner of his last start at Palmerston North. The four-year-old does not have the same kind of class as his stablemate but is still expected to go another good race. “He is a lovely horse, he can sprint, he can stay, he can do everything, but he is not a top-liner,” Telfer said. “He will put himself in the race, but Dance Time has more speed.” “That is the thing that separates them.” Dance Time opened at a $2.40 win price when fixed odds markets opened for race 5. Bookmakers rated Warloch ($3.30) and Eagle Watch ($4.40) as the hardest horses for the six-year-old to hold out. Cruzee Mach opened at $16 odds, with Sarandon out at $31. The Telfer stable also starts Ace Strike in race 6 after he went a strong race when sitting parked throughout and running fourth behind Eagle Watch in his last start at Palmerston North. The five-year-old looks an excellent eachway chance at his $14 opening price. “He has drawn handy in three, he has got gate speed, but there is speed inside him,” Telfer said. “Especially from 1 (Peter Fosberg).” “It doesn’t really matter if he leads, just so long as he is handy.” “He can do a bit of work and kick on, so the draw certainly favours him.” “I thought his training was good on Saturday before he left.” Johnny Mac opened the equal favourite for race 6 at $3.50 odds alongside The Greatest Showman. Johnny Mac is one of five opening favourites on Tuesday’s eight-race card for trainer Michael House. The others include Midnight In Memphis in race 1 ($2.20), Sir Brigadoon in race 3 ($1.70), She’s A Dagg in race 4 ($2.30) and Boilover in race 7 ($2.60).

By Jonny Turner    Perfect is the only way to sum up the first drive and first win of junior driver Daniel Roberts’ career behind Safe Zone at Motukarara on Sunday. Roberts gave himself a perfect one-from-one strike rate in the sulky when giving the five-year-old a dream run in the one-one before launching her for her winning run on the home turn to win race 6. The victory handed trainer Angela Washington the first victory of her career and it also ended a whirlwind week for Roberts. Up until Tuesday night, the rookie reinsman was not even licenced to drive. But, by Sunday he was a race winner. “It is a big thrill, I think I was actually more nervous after the post than I was around at the start,” Roberts said. “It is all happening before my eyes, but I am just taking it as it comes.” Winning races is nothing new for Roberts. The son of leading greyhound trainer, Craig Roberts, has prepared around 70 greyhound winners in his own name. When asked to compare the thrill of training a winning greyhound to driving Safe Zone to win on Sunday, Roberts gave an answer that may surprise some of his family. “I am saying this reluctantly, but driving a winner is definitely a much bigger thrill.” “Harness might have got me hook, line and sinker after today.” “But, we will see what happens going forward.” Roberts has been working towards getting his junior driver’s licence while working for Weedons trainer Chris McDowell. McDowell also enjoyed success at Motukarara on Sunday with Judgement Bay in race 5. Like Roberts, the four-year-old also impressively won her racetrack debut. Roberts recently left McDowell’s barn when an opportunity in the greyhound code came along. That has meant the junior driver will take a wait and see approach to see how his driving career will fit around his new job. “I haven’t really got too many plans, so I will just take it as it comes.” “I was working for Chris McDowell, but I just finished there.” “I was with him for about three and a half years, he has been really good to me.” “I finished up there to take on a bit more of a full-time position with the greyhounds, which might have come at the wrong time.” “I am hoping moving forward he might give me a few drives and then just see what happens.” Roberts gave Safe Zone the kind of steer a veteran driver would be proud of. After stepping away cleanly the pair took a trail behind Key Reactor and Joseph Gray to enjoy a perfect run in the one-one until the home turn. “Leading into the race I was a bit nervous because all the ones to beat were drawn on my inside.” “I thought I could get posted outside them and not be able to get across.” “I didn’t really see Joseph’s one coming and I thought I might end up parked, which definitely wasn’t going to be an ideal run.” “When he came around and gave me some cover I thought I could be a decent chance here.” Roberts’ pinpoint drive landed Angela Washington her first winner in her 17th start. The horsewoman shares in the ownership of Safe Zone with her partner, Roberts’ father Craig.

By Jonny Turner    A cool and calm drive from Kerryn Tomlinson helped her pay tribute to her late great-grandmother when Miss Crazed produced a brilliant effort to win at Ascot Park yesterday. Tomlinson wore a black armband during yesterday’s meeting in memory on her great grandmother, Shirley Stokes, who died in Canterbury on Tuesday. Stokes is the mother of Dianne Ford, wife of Canterbury trainer Ken Ford. Stokes was a big supporter of her great grandchildren - Tomlinson and her sister, Sheree. Tomlinson was eager to pay tribute to her great grandmother when driving for the first time since her passing at yesterday’s meeting. “She was a massive supporter of ours,” the junior driver said. “She followed all of the races and she would always watch Sheree and I on TV.” “She would yell at the TV and cheer us on.” “Her sons own a lot of granddad’s horses, too.” Miss Crazed looked to be building nicely towards delivering Tomlinson and her family a special win until she galloped 1500m from home in yesterday’s 2700m event. “She started hanging around the bend and she hit her knee,” Tomlinson said. “She is still green and she has still got a bit to learn.” The break cost the mare about eight lengths and set her a big task to get up and win with a lap to go. The four-year-old’s assignment got even bigger when she drifted further off the lead at the 800m when the leader King Of The North skipped four lengths clear of the field. Tomlinson worked Miss Crazed back into the race at the 400m and she safely negotiated the same bend she galloped on earlier. With three lengths to make up on King Of The North on the home turn, the junior driver was hopeful, rather than confident she could pull off a special win. “I was really hoping she would get there,” Tomlinson said. “She just kept coming, it was a good effort.” Tomlinson and her sister will again seek to honour their late great grandmother at Motukarara on Sunday. Ken Ford lines up four horses at the Akaroa Trotting Club meeting and his family shares in the ownership of each of them. Kerryn drives Mordecai (race 3) and That’s The Story (race 10). Sheree will drive Uno Mia (race 3) and Hope For Love (race 5). Miss Crazed’s win completed a double for trainer Phil Williamson, who prepared first starter Celebration Stride to win race 1. Miss Crazed’s victory followed another standout performance – Kagee VC’s epic effort to win race 2. The seven-year-old saved the best performance of his career for his 80th start when sitting parked for the entirety of his 2200m assignment in very blustery conditions. Trainer Doug McLachlan admitted he did not see the powerful staying effort coming. McLachlan is Kagee VC’s fifth trainer and he came to his Myross Bush stable with a reputation for being highly strung. But the longer the pacer has stayed, the better his attitude has got. McLachlan puts much of the credit down to the work of down to his partner, Sylvie Crighton, who owns Kagee VC.

By Jonny Turner    Humble Ladd went to a new level with his winning double at the New Zealand Cup Carnival and he is ready to continue that brilliant form at Ascot Park today. The Phil Williamson trained trotter was one of just two horses, alongside Southland pacer Vintage Cheddar, to win on both New Zealand Cup Day and Show Day. Those victories have seen the six-year-old continue a steady rise from smart intermediate grade trotter to one that is effectively in open class. Williamson puts Humble Ladd’s transition down to him benefitting from a combination of having hard racing under his belt and having had time to strengthen. “I would say it is a bit of both,” the trainer said. “He is just a horse that has continued to improve.” “This season he has come back really good.” “Right back in his first start back from lockdown he ran second to Ultimate Stride and it was mighty run.” “So, he has been going good for a while now.” Humble Ladd starts from the 40m mark in race 7, today’s feature 2700m trot. That gives him a 10m head start on his main rival, already established open class mare Dark Horse. Williamson thinks Humble Ladd’s handicap is within his winning range. “On paper he has got to be hard to beat.” The Williamson stable will roll out yet another smart trotter owned by Emilio and Mary Rosati in race 1 in Celebration Stride. The three-year-old brings solid trial and workout form, having sparred with his smart stablemate Love N The Port several times. Though the latest of Celebration Stride’s public appearances were back in June, Williamson has no concerns about the trotter’s fitness levels ahead of his debut. “He is probably just better than those [rivals].” “In saying that he didn’t race as a two-year-old because he just wasn’t quite up with the good two-year-olds.” “At the time Leaf Stride would have been too good for him.” “But he should be giving that field a hurry up.” Celebration Stride looks to only need to trot throughout to beat the terribly out of form group of maidens he clashes with over 2200m. And the horse’s manners suggest that should not be a problem. “He has got good manners, that is the best thing about him,” Williamson said. The Williamson barn is hoping for improved manners from Miss Crazed in race 3. The four-year-old has galloped in each of her three starts this time in. Though she could have forgiven slightly for missing away in her last start after a horse jumped in front of her, Williamson was still unimpressed. “It was just a horrific performance, but I am expecting Miss Crazed to step up and be the one to beat.” Williamson expects Miss Bamboocha to be the hardest horse for Miss Crazed to hold out in her 2200m mobile assignment. “Miss Bamboocha is not a bad horse, she is a bit in and out, but on her best day she can run a bit of a race.” “But all things being equal Miss Crazed should smash them.” “It is a mobile and I am pretty happy with the way things are progressing with her.” Kerryn Tomlinson drives Miss Crazed in today’s race for junior drivers. Matthew Williamson will drive both Humble Ladd and Celebration Stride.

By Jonny Turner   Trainer Brent Shirley heads to his home track happy with his horses and happy with the drivers he has drawn in Wednesday’s drivers’ series at Ascot Park. Shirley starts both Onesmartfella and Lala Land in the five-race competition dubbed a ‘Battle Of The Sexes’, which pits a team of leading male and female drivers against each other. In race 7, the fifth heat of the competition, Lala Land randomly drew Shirley’s number 1 stable reinsman Nathan Williamson. The four-year-old comes into the 2200m event after running second to Major Punter earlier this month. Shirley hopes the addition of sliding blinds to Lala Land’s gear can help him go one better. “He is looking really well and training really well.” “He is up on the bit and I think he has improved a bit since I gave him a bit of a let-up.” “It was a good run last time and he has got Nathan on, which is a big bonus.” “I have put the sliding blinds on him, so hopefully that will help a bit, too.” Onesmartfella comes into race 5 without being tested in his last start at Winton, when held up throughout the run home. With the success Shirley has had with Ricky May in the past, the trainer is hoping for a chance of luck on Wednesday. “I have had a great strike rate with Ricky over the years, he drove quite a few winners for my father.” “The horse has got a good draw and he has got pull down blinds on, so he should get every chance.” “He was very unlucky last time, the start before that he was disappointing, but I think he got away on us.” “He seems a lot sharper now.” Shirley will start Tac Mac in race 8, an event outside Wednesday’s drivers’ series, with Blair Orange in the sulky. The three-year-old comes into the Nugget graduation final after running down the track in a hotly contested race on Show Day at Addington. Tac Mac clashes with Ragazzo Mach, who has turned heads in his two career starts. Shirley knows what kind of challenge that is, but he is hopeful his filly can be competitive. “The trip to Christchurch did her the world of good, she seems really good since she got home.” “I have been really happy with her work.” “She probably can’t beat Ragazzo Mach, but if Blair can bit of respite during the run there is no reason she can’t go a good race.” Orange, May and Williamson are part of the ever-evolving Ascot Park drivers’ series that now pits a team of male drivers against a team of reinswomen. The trio will compete alongside John Morrison, Mark Hurrell and Brent Barclay. The women’s team is made up of Samantha Ottley, Sheree Tomlinson, Sarah O'Reilly, Kirstin Barclay, Ellie Barron and Kerryn Tomlinson.

By Jonny Turner    It was hardly a nervous wait for Waikato reinsman Peter Ferguson when his 2000th driving win approached as Milliondollarmonkey coasted up the Oamaru straight to win on Saturday. Ferguson had time to decide how to celebrate the milestone victory when the Regan Todd trained trotter went to the line untested to win race 6 by more than two lengths. The reinsman eventually settled on a raise of his whip as he crossed to join just seven other drivers in the 2000-win club. The victory came more than 34 years after Ferguson set on his journey to become one of New Zealand’s most winning reinsman. The then junior driver drove Sobriety to victory to win a 3200m maiden event at a Te Awamutu Trotting Club meeting in 1986. Ferguson wasted no time in establishing his career, he then cemented himself as a star of the future by winning the group 1 Television NZ Mile behind Cinimod Junior in 1987, while still a junior licence holder. The reinsman then went on to win four consecutive national junior drivers’ premierships between the 1988 and 1991 seasons. Ferguson solidified himself as a premier open reinsman and soon started collecting more premier trophies. Of his 19 career group 1 wins, three came in the 1997 calendar year with star mare and Auckland Cup winner, Kate’s First. Another Auckland Cup win came in 2006 with Mi Muchacho. 23 years after his first Ferguson would win yet another Auckland Cup, but not in the harness code. After taking out his greyhound trainer’s licence and developing an excellent winning strike-rate, the reinsman prepared Silenci to win the Auckland Cup for greyhounds this year. Gold Ace was another key contributor to Ferguson’s big race haul in the sulky. The now-retired stallion won a treble of group 1 victories, including his win in the 2011 New Zealand Derby. While maintaining his position as a top-class reinsman over three decades, Ferguson won the New Zealand Drivers’ Premiership in both 2003 and 2007. Ferguson’s win last win in the championship saw him represent New Zealand in the World Drivers Championships in Norway. Ferguson ventured south to Saturday’s Family Feud Drivers’ competition at Oamaru, where he competed alongside his son, Dylan. The father and son finished second behind brothers Nathan and Matthew Williamson.

By Jonny Turner    With grass track form on the board, trainer Brad Mowbray’s team is ready to make an impact at Oamaru on Saturday. Mowbray will start recent turf winners Spicy Girl Becqui and She’s Tough alongside maiden Bombolla. She’s Tough looks a key player in race 8, a heat of the Family Feud Drivers Series. The four-year-old comes into race 7 for driver Dylan Ferguson with three starts for two wins on grass and following an excellent last start effort at Ashburton. “She seems to pace a bit better on the grass,” Mowbray said. “She was a bit scratchy at the start as Ashburton and then before that at Oamaru she was horrible around the south corner.” “But she was really good when she won on the grass at Methven, so hopefully she can do the same at Oamaru.” “She seems fit and well within herself, so fingers crossed she should be a good chance.” In a handy middle-grade field Standout and She’s Tough’s regular driver Matthew Williamson look the toughest pair for the Ferguson and the Mowbray trained mare to hold out. The John Morrison trained pacer ran a good third in the final event on New Zealand Cup Day behind Riveered in his last start. Spicy Girl Becqui looks another strong chance for Mowbray in race 7, another heat of the Family Feud Drivers Series. Another grass track specialist, the mare should get every chance for driver Jay Abernethy from barrier 1. “I am hoping that one might get across and she might be able to trail or even if she was three-back she would be pretty hard to roll if she had a pretty sweet trip and got home.” “For some reason, she is a little bit better on the grass, she seems to let down better.” “If she is ever going to go really good, it is always on the grass.” B K Swy also comes out of Riveered’s win on New Zealand Cup and looks one of the hardest horses for Spicy Girl Bequi to beat. Jay Abernethy will combine with the Brent White trained mare. Bombolla gets an excellent chance to break his maiden with Matthew Williamson in the cart in race 3, an event outside the Family Feud series. The four-year-old went sound races in his last two starts before a short spell when slow away from the mobile and then making up good ground. Bombolla left the gate well in a recent Ashburton trial, where he ran third behind race rival Not Over. “I was really happy with his trial, he hasn’t got a lot of speed,” Mowbray said. “They ran home in 25.7sec (400m), so I was rapt.” “He is a good stayer, so he should love going up the hill at Oamaru.” “In that field, he should have a good show.” “He has been missing away and going pretty good races.” “The horse that beat him at the trials is in there, but they are not going to run home in that time on the grass at Oamaru.” “It will be a totally different kind of race.” Santeria looks the main threat to both Bombolla and Not Over on Saturday. The five-year-old has produced good thirds in much stronger fields in her last two starts. 

By Jonny Turner    Junior driver Ben Hope delivered a tribute to his late grandfather Peter with his winning treble at Rangiora on Wednesday. Hope combined with his mother and father, Greg and Nina, for his three driving wins the day after his grandfather was laid to rest in Blenheim. Scoring his first winning treble in the sulky was a fitting nod to the 89-year-old, who had been one of his biggest supporters. “We drove home today [Wednesday] from Blenheim because the funeral was up there yesterday,” Hope said. “And it was good to get those wins as a bit of a tribute to him.” “He has been a huge supporter of mine, him and my nana, Mary.” Peter Hope trained 46 winners in a 30 year span as a licence holder. Many of those victories came with his son, Greg, in the sulky. Father and son combined to win the group 2 N Z Metropolitan Three-Year-Old Championship in 1982 with Braedoon. Hope senior drove the same horse to win group 2 Cardigan Bay Stakes at Hutt Park the next year. The trainer also produced Lock Rae to win the group 2 N Z Standardbred Sires' Produce Stakes Final and the group 2 E F Mercer Mile with Peter Jones in the sulky between 1981-82. Hope also shared in the ownership of the New Zealand Cup winning free-legged pacer, Robalan. Hope passed away last Friday, coinciding with Show Day at Addington, the scene of some of Robalan’s crowning achievements. The champion pacer, who Hope raced with his trainer-driver Denis Nyhan and another fellow trainer, the late Allan Devery, won the New Zealand Free-For-All three times. The Hope family’s winning treble at Wednesday’s meeting came via wins from Loyalist, Baxter and Krystal Delight. The Hopes capped a great day when Southernly Change ran second to Krystal Delight to fill a stable quinella. Baxter was a brilliantly consistent performer through much of last season, but that form had dropped away recently. A change in his work and dropping into a winnable race meant the five-year-old bounced back on Wednesday. “He is a horse that has been disappointing lately,” Hope said. “He would try pretty hard and he would be in the money most of his starts and he had a great wee record.” “For a while there he hadn’t been going that good and he didn’t seem to be trying that hard.” “So, we changed his work up and we were pretty confident he would go a pretty good race in that field.” Hope handed a Krystal Delight a perfect run in the trail and she relished running along a rain-soaked passing lane to win. “It worked out really well, getting the trail behind a nice horse.” “I think she probably appreciated the wet track, her best form has been on the grass.” “The rain taking a bit of the sting out of the track played a bit of a part, I think.” “In saying that, we had been really happy with her training and we were expecting a good run in that field.” Hope also gave Loyalist the same perfect trip and he broke through for a deserved maiden win. “He had been knocking on the door for a while, but he kept running into one or two better.” “But he got into the right field and get a good trip and he was too good.”

By Jonny Turner    Roxburgh trainers Geoff and Jude Knight’s pairing of Deus Ex and Ferritts Sister head to Winton on Thursday ready to overcome wide draws. Both pacers bring excellent form to the meeting have looked ready strike in their recent outings. Whether they can convert their run of recent placings into victories on Thursday will largely rely on how they and driver Matthew Williamson will handle starting from the outside of the mobile arm in barrier 8. Deus Ex has returned south after running a creditable third, when rushing home from last before the turn, in Watch Me Now’s South Of The Waitaki event at Addington on Show Day. “It was a huge run at Addington, if you go and look at his sectionals he went super,” Geoff Knight said. “I wouldn’t usually back him up so soon after a trip like that, but he is bouncing around the paddock and he has come through it really well.” “In that field on Thursday, he has to be a big winning chance.” How Deus Ex will negotiate barrier 8 will be completely left up to Williamson. The five-year-old has versatility, giving the reinsman plenty of options. “We will just leave it up to Matt, what he wants to do at the start,” Knight said. “He has got options, whether he wants to go forward or back, he will have to make a decision at the start.” Santanna Mach looks the hardest horse for Deus Ex to hold out. The Michael House trained pacer has produced two good efforts in his last two starts in stronger races, won by Memphis Tennessee and Franco Santino. Ferritts Sister faces the same challenge as Deus Ex, starting from barrier 8 behind the mobile over 2400m in race 9. The six-year-old has been handed her second tricky alley in a row after running into third behind Swell Time at the same track on Sunday when starting from barrier 1 on the second row. “It was a good run, she was held up a little bit, but she ran on really nicely,” Knight said. “And 20m after the post she was really powering through the line.” “The preferential barrier draw makes it tricky, but she can still win from the outside in that field.” Making up ground on a fast 27.5sec last 400m again showed how much Ferritts Sister is enjoying being back in the South Island. After notching her first two wins for the Knight stable, the mare scored three more wins when campaigning from Nicky Chilcott’s Cambridge stable. “It was probably a little bit easier for her up north and Nicky did a great job with her.” “But we decided to bring her home and she has gone three great races since she has been back.” Fireball, who has a slight advantage of starting from barrier 6, looks the toughest horse for Ferritts Sister to beat. The four-year-old was second in smart time behind Sheeza Sport in his last start at Forbury Park. The Knight stable also line up Jack N Jazz, with Williamson in the sulky, in race 5. The seven-year-old has had adjustments made to gear in an attempt at getting him more interested when he returns to Winton after a lacklustre sixth there on Sunday. “We have made some gear changes and put pull down blinds on him to try to get him on the bit,” Knight said. “Matt said on Sunday he pricked his ears down the straight and he wasn’t that interested.” “I can’t say strongly that he will run in three, but if he was at his best he would be a chance."

By Jonny Turner    The mood at Northern Southland stud Macca Lodge was sombre on Sunday, despite the win of Maya Angelou at Winton. The Brent McIntyre trained five-year-old broke through for her maiden victory just hours after the death of former racetrack star Franco Ledger. A heart attack claimed the life of the Macca Lodge stallion in the midst of his fourth season at stud. The loss of the former group 1 winner and two-time Southland Horse Of The Year came as a shock to Macca Lodge staff. “It was totally unexpected because he was such in such great shape and looking really good,” McIntyre said. “He was a lovely horse to have around and it is a big loss for his owners.” Franco Ledger retired to stud a 25-time race winner with over $600,000 in earnings for the Whatever Syndicate and his part-owner and former trainer and driver Hamish Hunter. The Falcon Seelster stallion had left 25 foals ahead of the current breeding season. He served 10 mares last season, who were due to foal this spring. Franco Seelster had also served a small number of mares this season before his death. Maya Angelo raced out of the pack to win yesterday’s opener, the Fear The Dragon at Macca Lodge Mobile Pace, handing McIntyre his race sponsorship back. Fear The Dragon has left his first New Zealand born foals this spring. The stallion has already made an impression in North America where his oldest crop have produced outstanding yearling sales results this season. McIntyre credited a good draw and a smart drive from junior reinsman Oliver Kite as they keys to Maya Angelo’s win. “She has been going good enough races, but just needed a decent draw and a bit of luck.” “She got that today, it was a really good drive from Ollie.” A successful day at Winton continued in race 7 when Macandrew Aviator, a son of Macca Lodge stallion Panspacificflight broke his maiden for trainers Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis and driver Brent Barclay. Kite works at Nathan Williamson’s Branxholme stable alongside Chelsea Faithful, who also tasted success at yesterday’s meeting. Despite giving away a race fitness advantage, starting for the first time since January, the Faithful trained Pay Me Speedy produced an impressive win in race 4. Faithful has recently halved her race team from six to three following the retirements of Tartan Trilogy and Imperial Trump and the sale of Toby O’Gara to Australia. It means the Winton horsewoman does not want to let Pay Me Speedy out of her sight. “I think she is quite a nice mare, she is quite green to it all and I haven’t ever really screwed her down.” “I would love to keep her, no doubt the phone will be ringing again, but for now I would like to say she is not for sale.” “She is my baby.” Pay Me Speedy’s winning time is certain to have caught the eye of bloodstock agents and potential buyers. The Mach Three pacer stopped the clock in her 2400m win in a slick 2.56.8. Faithful has a connection to the late Franco Ledger, having worked with the horse while employed by the Hunter stable. “It is sad, he was a lovely horse.” Pay Me Speedy’s win came in the race after Faithful’s friend and fellow Winton trainer Tracie McGrannachan produced Lock It Eddie to win race 3. The towering pacer scored his second career win when sprinting out of the one-one for driver Nathan Williamson.

By Jonny Turner    Spankem’s dished up a powerful reminder of his status as the country’s leading short-course pacer when calling on his sensational speed to win the New Zealand Free-For-All at Addington on Friday. The first 100m of the 1980m group 1 feature proved as vital as its last furlong after driver Natalie Rasmussen made Spankem’s rivals pay when controlling the race in front. Rasmussen used the All Stars’ pacer’s speed to cross to the lead early, which proved the key to her six-year-old getting a deserved victory after having to settle for second behind his stablemate Self Assured in Tuesday’s New Zealand Cup. Though his early burn was important Rasmussen said it was what happened immediately after Spankem crossed to the lead that set up his front-running win. “He just dropped the bit, he is one that can get up on the chewy a bit,” the trainer-driver said. “It was nice that he was able to drop the bit and relax and do his own thing and then starting picking up from the 1000m and start rolling.” Though Rasmussen was clearly able to give Spankem a comfortable middle section of the New Zealand Free-For-All there was little respite for his rivals. The six-year-old stopped the clock in 2-19.2 equating to a 1.53.1 milerate for 1980m “He is fast, I think the 3200m just sees him out, but over the short trips he is pretty lethal.” Self Assured clearly had Spankem’s measure over the 3200m of the New Zealand Cup, but there was no chance to compare the pair over 1980m under group 1 conditions after the former was scratched from yesterday’s race. Rasmussen expects it to be a mighty clash when the pair meet in a similar race in the future. “They are both so fast.” “I do think Self Assured has everything, he is just so quick and he is so strong.” “Spankem is quick and I would hate to see Self Assured try to sit outside him and beat him over a short trip.” Spankem scored by three-lengths over Thefixer, who went the best race of his spring campaign when running into second from near the rear. Ashley Locaz backed up his third in the New Zealand Cup with a strong third after sitting parked in Friday’s feature. Rasmussen also used front-running tactics to win the listed Southern Mares’ Classic with Beyond Words. In just her sixth start, the four-year-old handed a field of more experienced rivals defeat in the smart time of 2.21.6 for 1980m. “She is really lightly raced, but she has got a bit of class, we actually quite like her,” Rasmussen said Niggling problems prevented Beyond Words from getting to the track sooner than her debut in August. The All Stars stable eventually got on top of what was troubling the mare in her work after she underwent a bone scan. “She is a funny one, we could never work out what was worrying her,” Rasmussen said “So we sent her up to get a bone scintigraphy [scan] because we always thought it was her knees.” “And it turned out to be edima – bone bruising in her knees -  from her maturing late.” “So we just kept putting her out [for a spell] and putting her out.” “This is actually her first actual go at being fit, so she has done a huge job to go from nothing to this.” Beyond Words scored by a length over Spellbound, who followed her everywhere in Friday’s race. Outsider Sagano again showed her competitiveness in mares’ races when running third. 

By Jonny Turner    Sundees Son shone brightly at Addington on Friday, leaving his rivals chasing his shadow when he won the fastest ever running of the Dominion with perfect poise. The Robert Dunn trained trotter produced one of the most polished performances of his career to show New Zealand Cup week fans exactly how good he is when bolting away with the 3200m feature by nearly four lengths. The scare Sundees Son put into his legion of backers and that camp that prepares when galloping in his last start at Kaikoura him looked a distant memory when the six-year-old trotted off the mark to take up a handy early position. From there, driver John Dunn’s intentions looked clear – to keep his horse relaxed and out of trouble – and the reinsman was rewarded with New Zealand Trotting’s ultimate trophy. “After Kaikoura Johnny and I had a talk and we decided we had to take bad luck out of the equation,” Robert Dun said.  “Pres The Belle was keen and had to come off the fence, but it wasn’t long until Johnny decided to get around to sit parked.” “He is just such a beautifully relaxed horse outside the leader, he goes to sleep.” Sundees Son’s Dominion win was made possible by a family effort led by the Dunn’s father and son combination. John Dunn’s father-in-law Craig Edmonds also played a huge role in the horse’s record-breaking victory with his dedication. “Craig does all the shoeing with him and he takes him down to the beach all the time,” Dunn said. “We can show up at 5.30 in the morning and Craig is already gone with him, taking him down for a paddle in the water on his jog days.” “He loves the horse and Johnny obviously has a wonderful combination with him, too.” Sundees Son will now head to Auckland where he is set to take part in one of the biggest clashes in open class trotting in recent history. Trotting purists are set to be treated to a clash of two trotters with raw ability like few others in the past decade when Sundees Son will almost certainly take on speed machine Bolt For Brilliance in the Lyell Creek Stakes and National Trot at Alexandra Park. “He will go to Auckland next, he handles the Auckland way of going as good as he does going the Addington way,” Dunn said. Sundees Son’s Dominion victory topped an outstanding past 12 months for Robert Dunn and his team. The trainer notched both his 1500th career win in New Zealand and his first national premiership in the past year. During that time, Sundees Son has provided a few headaches for the Dunn camp and his breeder-owners, Colin and Nancy Hair. The squaregaiter went 12 months without trotting throughout an entire race and his tilt at last year’s Dominion had to be abandoned. “He tells us when he is not right and though he made a break at Kaikoura, it was because he had to take a slight bit of evasive action,” Dunn said. “And it doesn’t take much with him.” “The key to him is his soundness and when he is sound he is such a pleasure to have around the place.” Clearly, nothing was bothering Sundees Son on Friday as he trotted to victory in 4-00.5, taking 0.2sec off Monbet’s national 3200m record, set in his 2016 Dominion win. Sundees Son’s performance meant runner-up Majestic Man had to settle for yet another big race placing. Despite that trainer Phil Williamson was proud of his six-year-old “He gave it all he could, the winner is just a great, great horse.” “I am proud of him.” “He would have to be the best one I have had that hasn’t won a group 1.” Aussie raider Tough Monarch turned around two disappointing efforts in New Zealand when running into third, half a length behind Majestic Man. 

By Jonny Turner    Oamaru trotter Cracker Hill has raised more questions than he has answered leading in his final lead up event into Friday’s group 1 Dominion at Addington. Trainer-driver Brad Williamson handed his four-year-old a perfect run in the trial in Tuesday’s New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All, which had his backers waiting eagerly for him to let down with a winning finish. But Cracker Hill’s finish peaked well short of expectations and he was caught and easily passed by Heavyweight Hero. Williamson does not want to take anything away from the winner’s effort but has been left disappointed in his stable star. “I was a little bit disappointed in him, but in saying that he did run second in a group 1 race.” “He was bolting in the trail and then when I came out at the top of the straight he just didn’t fire like he does.” “He ran past the other horses then he just didn’t change up his gear like he can.” “And I am not sure why that was.” “But in saying that the winner won well and was the best horse on the day.” Williamson has been left scratching his head as to exactly why Cracker Hill had an off day on Tuesday. Having such a fit and healthy horse in front of him has meant the trainer-driver has not found anything concrete. So, he is pressing on to the Dominion in the hope trotting fans can see the real Cracker Hill on Friday. “He potentially could have blown out the last bit, but I am not sure, to be honest.” “He is so healthy and well.” “So, we are heading into Friday hoping for an improved performance.” “He has got a good draw, so if he gets a good run hopefully he performs a little bit better.” Cracker Hill’s speed has never been questioned and he showed his explosiveness when reeling off brilliant sectionals in his two recent second placings behind Bolt For Brilliance. However, the four-year-old has not had much of a chance to display his staying qualities. Cracker Hill has had just one start past 2600m, finishing second to Matua Tana, who was in red hot form at the time. Williamson will go into the Dominion confident his horse can handle 3200m. “He is quite a laid back horse, he is obviously very fast.” “But he doesn’t let too much worry him, so I think he will settle and get the distance.” Williamson will compete against his father Phil and brothers Matthew and Nathan in the Dominion. Nathan trains and drives Dark Horse, while Phil and Matthew combine with Majestic Man. Like Cracker Hill, the favourite Sundees Son comes into the Dominion after disappointing in his last start. But for entirely different and much more obvious reasons. After stringing together two breath-taking wins at Addington, the Robert Dunn trained trotter again galloped in the South Bay Trotters Cup at Kaikoura. Sundees Son’s driver John Dunn told HRNZ it was not a case of his horse simply rolling into a gallop like he has done in the past. Dunn put the incident to a combination of factors, including having to check off the back of a galloping Matua Tana. “We will turn the page and move on, he has come through that great.” “He worked really good [on Wednesday] – no ill-effect from it – so that is good.” The Dunn stable also start Woodstone and Pres The Belle in Friday’s $270,000 event.

By Jonny Turner    Trainer Mark Jones goes into the first heat of the Sires Stakes Fillies Series at Ashburton on Thursday with two classy and evenly matched fillies in La Rosa and Braeview Kelly. La Rosa will step out for the first time start since her emphatic victory in the listed Harness Million Fillies Final at Addington last month in one mile (1609m) event. The three-year-old has not been sighted publicly since her breakout win, which means her fitness levels still have improvement to come. However, her trackwork suggests to Jones she is going to be highly competitive. “It was a last-minute decision to start her in this race, it wasn’t the plan.” “She had a break after her last run and she will definitely improve.” “But in saying that, her work this week has been pretty good.” “So, I am going in with a bit of confidence.” La Rosa has raced up on the pace in her last two wins and driver Samantha Ottley could press forward again from barrier 3 on Thursday. However, Jones knows she has a gate-flyer inside her in Braeview Kelly in barrier 2. “She is a great stayer, but in saying that but there is a bit of gate speed inside her.” “And if she sat three-fence or somewhere like that, I don’t think that would be the worse place for her.” “I don’t think she would get across Braeview Kelly, she looks like the leader.” The talented but sometimes wayward Braeview Kelly comes into Thursday’s race bolting in by five lengths in a slick 1-54.8 for 1700m in her last start at Forbury Park. With her race fitness and draw advantage, Jones expects the filly to give La Rosa and the rest of the field plenty of cheek. “I would probably lean towards Braeview Kelly over La Rosa, just with the fitness under her belt.” “But in saying that they are both by Bettor’s Delight and they are both pretty smart fillies.” “I wouldn’t want to split them, but if I had to go for one it would be Braeview Kelly.” Jones’ pair start outside All Stars filly What’s Your Secret (1), who has returned south after running fourth in her last start in the Sires Stake Fillies Championship at Alexandra Park. Her stablemate and fifth placegetter, Avana, starts on the outside of the front line in barrier 7. Jones also starts Mahia in race 2 at Ashburton on Thursday. “2400m suits, he gets in the right race and he can do a bit of work.” “So, he is a winning hope.” Captain Confetti will be out to go one better than his last start second for Jones in race 3 “He needs the right run, he is racing good, so with the right run he will be a chance.” Major Wilson also steps out for the Jones stable in race 4. “It is actually a good field, but he has worked good this week, so he is a definite upset place chance.”

By Jonny Turner    Champion trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen took a chance with Self Assured and it paid off when the star pacer exploded away from his opposition to seal their fifth consecutive win in New Zealand Cup at Addington. The All Stars stable duo went into the country’s biggest harness race knowing they had the most talented of horses, but one they rated just a 50-50 chance of stepping away safely when the starting tapes flew. Those concerns evaporated in the first few strides when Self Assured effectively sealed his victory with a brilliant beginning. The faultless display came after Purdon and Rasmussen took a calculated gamble by taking the five-year-old off the unruly starting position and then putting their masterful training skills to work. “The Cup is about winning and I took him off the unruly because I didn’t think he could win it from there,” Purdon said. “He was going to have to go around the field.” “It was a risk, if he had drawn on the inside you would say I have done the wrong thing.” “I was disappointed when he missed away in the Cup trial, but we did a lot of practice between then and today and he got it right.” Purdon and Rasmussen not only cemented their place in New Zealand Cup history with Self Assured’s three and a half-length win for his Victorian owner Jean Feiss. Spankem and Rasmussen held down second, ahead third placed Ashley Locaz and Tim Williams, to seal a race trifecta for the superstar trainers. Yesterday may have appeared like just another day at the office for Purdon and Rasmussen as they collected three group 1 wins and the trifecta in New Zealand’s most sought after race. But that is far from how Purdon sees it. “Having horses like this is what you do it for.” “And you have got to count yourself lucky.” “Most trainers have only got one of these type of horses and we have just filled the first three placings in the New Zealand Cup.” Self Assured’s victory was Purdon’s sixth win in the New Zealand Cup as a driver, equalling the late Cecil Devine. The master horseman has now trained winner eight times, six of them in partnership with Rasmussen. The thrill of winning the country’s biggest harness race is yet to fade as Purdon keeps etching his name into its history books. “You do get the same thrill from each win in the Cup, especially when you do it for different connections each time.” “It is lovely to do it for Jean, she has been such a great supporter of ours.” “She is so passionate.” “We have had horses in the past where I have suggested they have a better earning capacity in Australia after they’ve climbed the ladder here.” “But she wouldn’t take them off us.” Feiss enjoyed more success yesterday with her star mare Amazing Dream, who delivered an incredibly tough victory in the group 1 Nevele R Fillies Series Final. Purdon indicated the Melbourne owner’s two stars could clash in next year’s New Zealand Cup. Purdon and Rasmussen also took out the Group One the Sires Stakes Final with It’s All About Faith. The beginning that handed Self Assured a huge early advantage over his stablemate Spankem and the favourite Copy That was the biggest talking point following the running of this year’s New Zealand Cup. As Self Assured was settling into his handy spot in the trail behind his stablemate Ashley Locaz, Copy That was drifting back through the field. The North Island pacer was among several runners drawn on the inner that appeared to be disadvantaged when the starting tapes were released. After his slow start from barrier 1, Copy That eventually settled last with a huge task in front of him to catch Self Assured and Spankem. The effort the Ray Green trained pacer put in to try to get into the race told and Copy That faded into eight placing. Green labelled the start of the New Zealand Cup a disgrace, after the race.

By Jonny Turner    It’s All About Faith took a crucial step forward when nabbing a game B D Joe in a thrilling finish to the Sires Stakes Final on New Zealand Cup Day. The towering three-year-old continued trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s domination of the 1980m Group 1 feature by nailing his northern rival on the passing lane inside the last 50m. Though he has been clearly established as a star of his age group since first hitting the track, It’s All About Faith has been a constant work in progress for his master trainers. The colt’s tendency to over-race has seen him having owners Dennis and Mark Dunford having to settle with Group 1 second placings and another runner-up finish in the recent Harness Million final. It’s All About Faith rewarded his camp for their fine tuning and patience courtesy of some quick thinking from Purdon after B D Joe blasted out of the gate to cross to the lead. Rather than do the expected – zip around to the front with his $2.40 favourite – the champion reinsman took a gamble and slotted into the trail. “I could have pushed the issue for another 100m, but I thought it could have been our undoing too,” Purdon said.  “At the Cup Trials I let him come to me, I am trying to teach him to take a trail.” “And today he settled and just drifted a length or a length and a half off the leader’s back.” It’s All About Faith not only bagged a deserved group 1 victory,  he gave Purdon confidence he could again have the measure of his key rivals B D Joe, Krug (fourth) and American Dealer (sixth) when stepping up to the 2600m and 2700m of this year’s derbies. “Today I was just so pleased with him because he has worried me going over distance – whether he can do it.” “But the way he was today I wouldn’t be worried at all.” It’s All About Faith showed he still has a trick or two up his sleeve when putting his head on his side as he clinched his group 1 win. The victory was the sixth consecutive win in the race for the All Stars stable following on from One Change, Ultimate Sniper, Chase Auckland, Ultimate Machete, Lazarus and Have Faith In Me. B D Joe was brave in second for trainers Steve and Amanda Telfer and driver Benjamin Butcher. The runner-up just succumbing to the winner in the last few strides of the race. “We were thrilled,” Steve Telfer said. “We were pleased he was able to take advantage of his good draw and he fought all of the way up the straight.” B D Joe’s fighting effort came in just his sixth start, suggesting he has as much upside as any horse going forward from today’s group 1 feature. The Telfer barn plan to look after the pacer as best they can to help him snare a group 1. “That is what we are hoping – but they have still got to step up and do it,” Telfer said.  “He has been on a very steep curve so far and he has handled everything that we have thrown at him.” “So long as we look after him and place him right he should continue to develop.” B D Joe held second by over a tenacious Aladdin, who sat parked for the entirety of the Sires Stakes Final. 

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