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By Jonny Turner    Plans are in place for Cruz Bromac to head back to Addington to defend his New Zealand Cup crown on the second Tuesday in November. The nine-year-old, who has not been sighted at the races since December of last year, has been in work for more than two months at Amanda Greive’s Victorian stable and is nearing a racetrack return. Managing part owner Danny Zavitsanos was at centre of incredible post-race scenes when he picked up Mark Purdon and spun him around on his shoulder in jubilation after winning New Zealand’s greatest race, last year. Zavitsanos, who races Cruz Bromac with wife Joanna, Peter and Zilla O'Shea and Warren Viney, would love nothing more than to re-enact the scene after this year’s race. “If I can get back there and win it I would pick both Mark and Natalie up – one in each arm.” The COVID-19 situation in Australasia, particularly in Victoria, means Zavitsanos is unlikely to be at this year’s cup in person.  But, with horses able to fly across the Tasman without too many restrictions, there is a big chance Cruz Bromac will be back to defend his crown. “That is my goal – to bring the horse back,” Zavitsanos said. “We are basically following the same programme as last year.” “Our aim is the Victoria Cup, a similar target to what we had last year, and if all goes well and he is coming back a treat he will be coming back to defend the cup.” The Victoria Cup is down to be run at Melton on October 10. However, Harness Racing Victoria have signalled it would not go ahead unless horses from other states in Australia can compete. That looks a long way off given horses can only race in their own region within Victoria at the moment. Cruz Bromac ran third in the Victoria Cup last year before joining Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s All Stars stable. The pacer won the New Zealand Cup after a ninth in the Ashburton Flying Stakes and second in the Kaikoura Cup and was unlucky not to double up in the New Zealand Free For All when going to the line hard held after an early gallop cost him a better position. All signs look positive for Cruz Bromac to make it back to the All Stars stable given his trip relies on him being in good shape and good form. “He is in really good order – he is probably about two to three weeks off a trial,” Zavitsanos said. “He has been in work about two and a half months.” “The horse is good, everything is well and he is actually coming up a treat.” “He is nine years old, but like last year so long as the heavens open up for us we are always a chance.” “I think the 3200m suits him down to the ground.” “And he is a sprinter, too, he was probably unlucky not to win the free-for-all on the Friday if he didn’t make a mistake.” Cruz Bromac has not started since running fifth behind Ultimate Sniper in the Interdominion Grand Final for Purdon and Rasmussen. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Owner-trainer-breeder Kevin Fairbairn enjoyed a magical day on the couch watching his breed succeed at Addington on Sunday. Wins by Magical Matty and Magical Mali gave Fairbairn a breeding double, with the latter also notching a victory as a trainer and owner for the Doyleston horseman. The successful Sunday gave Fairbairn a timely boost as he recovers from hip surgery. “When you get your hip done it’s not the best thing in the world, but it is getting better,” Fairbairn said. “It’s not a bad effort with both of those horses winning because I only breed 3 or 4 every year.” Magical Mali had shown Fairbairn she was a capable horse leading in to Sunday’s event, but her form did not reflect that. The five-year-old, who was drive to victory by John Dunn, had gone some good races in her six prior starts, but had left her best performances on the workout track. “She had gone good at the workouts – she ran home in 56sec [800m] at Ashburton the other week,” Fairbairn said. “But she had been missing away.” “Once Johnny stepped her that was it.” “I always thought she would win one as a three-year-old, but she sprained an ankle and little niggling things kept going wrong.” “This is about the first time she has been really healthy.” Magical Mali made full use of the sweet trip Dunn gave her in the trail to dash along the passing lane to win race 9. Magical Matty delivered the first of Fairbairn’s wins as a breeder with a stayer’s effort over 1980m to win race 4. The Jason and Amber Lethaby looked a little flat coming off the back straight, but kept giving and wound up with a strong finish to score his third career win. Fairbairn and then wife, Pauline, sold the Shadow Play eight-year-old to clients of the Lethaby stable at the national yearling sales. Magical Moni (Shadow Play – Ally Grace) and Magical Matty (Shadow Play – Magical Minnie) are not just by the same sire. The pair are from half-sisters out of Fairburn’s grand producing Camtastic mare, Magical Monie. She is the dam of 34 race winner and million dollar earner, Magical Mach, who raced as Mysta Magical Mach in Western Australia. Fairburn is still breeding from Ally Grace and she is due to have a Downtotheseaside foal in the spring. The Mach Three mare has also left a two-year-old full sister to Magical Mali and a yearling filly by Vincent. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Team Telfer is ready to kick off what they hope proves to be a successful Canterbury raid that continues in to the spring at Addington on Sunday. Left-handed racing has led to trainers Steve and Amanda Telfer sending Major Mac and Secret Deal south from their Papakura stable. The pair are not suited to right-handed racing, so will be based in Canterbury for the foreseeable future and it is expected they will be joined by more of their stablemates. “Neither of them go right-handed, so we were thinking of sending them down there,” Steve Telfer said. “When we got locked down up here it just meant we sent them a couple of weeks earlier than we were originally going to.” “We will have more coming with the fillies heats and the Harness Millions and races like that coming up.” “And later on Triple Eight could be down there ahead of [the] Ashburton [Flying Stakes].” Major Mac will have just his second start in the 2600m mobile conditions of race 3 after battling niggling injuries. “He has shown ability all the way through, but he has had injuries that have limited his starts,” Telfer said. “He can do a little bit wrong and he needs to get better at a few things.” “But he has definitely got ability and 2600m should suit him.” Major Mac has had a strong grounding ahead of his resumption on Sunday with five workouts following the national lockdown. The 4yr-old ran fourth to The Banker, who ran second in his next start at Cambridge, in the latest of them. John Dunn will drive both Major Mac and Secret Deal. The Telfer team opted to start the latter out of his grade in race 4 so that Dunn was available to steer the 5yr-old. Secret Deal has also had a strong grounding in workouts and trials recently. The pacer went on to have one start before heading south when seventh behind Captain Nemo at Cambridge a month ago. “Last start he went a bit rough, but we think we are well on top of the reason for that.” “He has had quite a few trials over the last 12 months and he has always trialled quite strongly.” Telfer took a light-hearted approach when queried about having a maiden taking on a 14 win horse in Four Starzzz Shiraz in Sunday’s 1980m mobile. “The best thing about that is he won’t know it,” Telfer quipped. Trotting master Paul Nairn steps out two first starters that have trialled well leading in Sunday’s meeting. Well related 3yr-old Bitamuscle will debut in race 2 after impressively wining two trials. Nairn confirmed that the Muscle Hill trotters has some of the family ability his brother Lotamuscle and half-brother Andoverlov have shown. “I am pretty happy with him and I was pleased with him at the trials,” the trainer said. “His manners will be a big part of it, we have given him a bit of practice at home behind the gate.” “But, ringcraft – you can’t get it in five minutes.” “In saying that his manners seem pretty good and he is trotting pretty well.” Outamyway got within a length and a quarter of Bitamuscle in his only public appearance at the Rangiora trials. In that heat, the pair beat Venus Tyron who has gone on run a second at Addington earlier this month. “He has improved since his trial and he is working as good as the other horse,” Nairn said. “At home there is not a lot between them, so it will come down to the way the race is run.” “He seems like a nice staying horse.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Trainer-driver Jonny Cox shored up his place in his family’s good books with a winning double at Winton on Thursday. Wins with In Chevron We Trust and Folklore made the long haul from Canterbury to his former home track worthwhile and it also lead to a quick return for a group of his stable owners. Folklore scored a deserved win for Cox’s aunty and uncle, Ian and Nola Wilson, when she zipped home to win race 10. And the 5yr-old showed some versatility in doing it. “The race suited her after running in to Robert Dunn’s two fillies [Spellbound and Need You Now] a couple of times at Addington,” Cox said. “I had to use her a bit to get to the front, which is not normally her go, and that was good.” “But, once she got to outside the leader she got to the top easy enough and to be honest she only really had to run a quarter [400m] to win.” Folklore dashed her last 400m in 27.6sec to score by a length and a quarter over Maximus Prost in her 2400m mobile victory. Cox used vastly different circumstances behind In Chevron We Trust over the same trip in race 4. But, it ended in the same result and also scored another win for one of the trainer-driver’s family members. There were no mid race moves and no zipping home when a hot pace set up a sizzling time for rating 40-48 pacers in 2-56.8. With a patient drive, Cox gave In Chevron We Trust a cold shot at the leaders and the 4yr-old delivered with a half-length to spare on runner-up Petrea Bromac. “There was a lot of speed on and everything worked out for him really well,” Cox said. “The last quarter [400m] was about the slowest of the race.” “But he still had to be good enough to do it and it was a nice effort.” The win came after Cox chanced his arm to buy the horse out of Ken Barron’s stable. “I was just at Addington one night and the horse had run down the track and I wandered over to Ken and asked if he was for sale.” “He was meant to be sold, but that deal fell through and we managed to get him.” In Chevron We Trust is now raced by Cox’s sister, Jo Nicholas, alongside Andrew Fitzgerald and Ollie O’Connor. Another Canterbury pacer made the trip to Winton worthwhile on Thursday. Burlington started his season in style when winning race 9 for trainer Brent White and driver Stephen McNally. McNally managed to find the trail for the 5yr-old after blasting him out of barrier 8. Burlington dashed has last 400m in 27.3sec to score over Rocknroll King, who had to settle for his fourth consecutive second placing. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Trainers Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis will roll out a big team packed with winning chances at Winton on Thursday. The training partners have nine runners spread across seven races at the first meeting Southland meeting away from Ascot Park since lockdown. Few of Barclay and Ellis’ team deserve a win more than Rocknroll King, who clashes with Burlington and Prodigal Guinness on the back of three second placings. The way the former Canterbury pacer has worked leading in to race 9 suggests there is no reason he can not put in another big effort. “He is just going good honest races, there are a couple of Canterbury ones in there, but he will go a good race again,” Barclay said. “We don’t do much with him, we just try to keep him happy.” “And whatever we are doing seems to be working, so we are not changing anything.” Barclay and Ellis have a three-pronged attack on race 10 with Betterthanbrie, Cab Calloway and Lite Percussion. Barclay said there was little between the trio, who clash with Robyns Shadow, Maximus Prost and Folklore. “To be honest I couldn’t actually split them - it depends on who gets what run.” “Betterthanbrie needs to be on the pace doing it, so [barrier] 2 should suit her.” “Lite Percussion has drawn 8, so he is going to have to go back in and look for a trip.” “And Cab Calloway – it is his first start for quite a while – but I was really happy with his run at the workouts the other day.” “So they are all very capable, but it will just come down to the kind of run they get.” Impressive first up winner Madrik will attempt to bounce back to form after doing things wrong in his last two starts. Going by his work, the horse is taking the right attitude in to race 5. “He seems really good, I was really happy with him at the workouts the other day,” Barclay said. “He is growing, so if it goes wrong we might look to give him a spell.” “I sort of get a surprise every time I take his cover off it looks like he has popped up again.” “He has got all the ability in the world, he might just need more time.” Madrik’s older half brother, Smokin Bander, starts for Barclay and Ellis in race 1. The 5yr-old beat home his sibling in a Winton workout last week, which looks strong form going in to a maiden race. “I really love that horse, but last season he was a bugger for pacing off the mark.” “Touch wood – he trotted off the mark really well at the workouts – but race day pressure is always a little bit different.” “If he could trot away and do things right I think he is a really strong show.” Barclay must negotiate barrier 1 on the second row when she drives Ride In A Concorde in race 2 and Hampton in race 8. The usually tricky draw is not necessarily bad news for the latter. “I think that is a good draw for Hampton, because he does have a good turn of foot.” Ride In A Concorde was very unlucky in her last start at Ascot Park, going to the line hard held when seventh behind Rock Legend. “She is a funny wee thing to drive, she was a bit flat before the bend and then when she went to the line she had heaps left in the tank,” Barclay said. “She has worked well since then, but it will depend on what kind of runs she gets from the draw.” Mac Attack has one of the best draws among the Barclay and Ellis team in barrier 1 in race 4. The 4yr-old looks to have an excellent opportunity to put notch the first placing of his short career from the ace alley. “I was really happy with him at the workouts last week, he did a few things wrong but he finished off really well – probably the best he ever has,” Barclay said. “He ran a half [800m] in 57sec and still had a bit left in the tank.” “I think it is a good draw for him, hopefully he doesn’t end up too far back along the inside.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Canterbury trainer James Dunn added to the incredible mark his family has made in harness racing when scoring his first win at Oamaru yesterday. Dunn joined his father, Geoff, in a training partnership at the start of the season and took just three races to notch his maiden victory. Dunn admitted it was a thrill to complete the feat, but indicated he would have been proud of Lottie Moon whether her result was win, lose or draw. “It was a good thrill, it feels a little different,” the rookie trainer said. “But, I get pretty in to all the races we have and the horses mean a lot to me.” Dunn has been on hand at his father’s stable since he was developing his star pacers Tiger Tara and Venus Serena in 2012. That experience led to the new licence holder deciding a career in harness racing was for him. “I have been involved since I was a kid, obviously being around the horses growing up.” “Back when I was in school I was more interested in the breeding side of things.” “I left school early and then ended up working for Geoff back in 2012.” “About three or four months later we had Venus Serena and Tiger Tara at the trials and then it was just the most amazing thing - winning group 1s - and I kind of rode that.” “I always said I might have to look at doing something else, but the ride kind of didn’t end and by the time it did I was too far in.” Dunn was keen to join forces with his father earlier, but resisted that idea out of respect for him. “I was pretty keen to start a few years ago, but it didn’t really suit.”  “I just had to wait for those good horses to go because I hadn’t worked for him for very long and they were his horses.” “But basically all of the horses we have now I have worked with since they were young.” Dunn hopes to build his career on quality, rather than quantity, much like his father has. “I don’t want to train big numbers, I would rather try to have nice horses.” “We have 12 here at the moment with another 10 to come in.” Chinese Whisper completed a hat-trick of wins in what was a homecoming of sorts in the feature trot at Oamaru yesterday. Trainer-driver Nathan Williamson barely had to ask the Sundon 5yr-old for an effort as he unleashed a scintillating 56.6sec last 800m to win. Chinese Whisper was bred in Oamaru by Williamson’s mother Bev. The 5yr-old is raced by Williamson’s wife, Katie, and Southland farrier Brendan Franks. Italian Lad made it two starts at Oamaru for two brilliant performances when winning yesterday’s Kurow Cup. In September of last year the then 3yr-old drifted off a hot pace before storming home to win and smash the all-comers track record for 2000m in just his first start. Driver Tim Williams was not going to let the same scenario play out yesterday. He punched the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained 4yr-old to the lead in the middle stages, before Italian Lad held out the favourite and runner-up Minstrel to win the 2600m handicap. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Chinese Whisper seeks hat-trick By Jonny Turner    Southern speedster Chinese Whisper will be the talk of Kurow Cup day if he can keep his manners in check for the third consecutive start tomorrow.  The Nathan Williamson trained trotter has unleashed scintillating closing sectionals leading in to the feature handicap trot at Oamaru. Those wins came after two error-ridden performances, which the 5yr-old can put further behind him with another faultless display. And that looks likely if what Chinese Whisper has shown Williamson in trackwork recently is anything to go by. “He seems to be in a really good head space at the moment and I am really happy with him,” the trainer-driver said.  “Fingers crossed he can do things right again on Sunday.” That frame of mind should not be rattled by Chinese Whisper venturing out of Southland for just the second time tomorrow. “I don’t think the trip should worry him, we will go up on the morning of the race and I can’t see it being an issue at all,” Williamson said.  Chinese Whisper will start from a 10m handicap in tomorrow’s 2600m feature. That may not be the hindrance it would be to many horses given the 5yr-old’s electric speed. “I wouldn’t imagine there would be many in that race that would be as fast as him,” Nathan Williamson.  “Ideally I would sit him in and use his speed because it is his biggest asset.” “But he has can do work, I think because he went a couple of poor races earlier on in the season people might think he is weak.” “But he is definitely not.” Chinese Whisper may need to call on his toughness when meeting what looks to be the strongest line up he has faced during his short career. He takes on Midnight Dash, who has been competing well in stronger Addington company recently. Emerging talent Cochy Malc, Superfast Lad, Rydgemont Son and the seemingly born again Missalyssa add depth to an exciting clash.  Williamson will start what is hoped to be Franco Santino’s path to the New Zealand Cup in the Kurow Cup. From a handicapping perspective the 2600m feature looks an ideal race for the 6yr-old. With the scratching of his fellow 20m backmarker, Spirit Of St Louis, Franco Santino has at least 13 more rating points than the rest of the field. “It is a pretty good race for him – with the mark he is on he is not going to find any better races,” Williamson said.  Smart 4yr-olds Minstrel and Italian Lad, who will undoubtedly go to higher ratings, both have a major advantage over Franco Santino in starting from the front line. And Williamson knows how hard they will be to catch. “It won’t be easy chasing them from 20m.” “I have been impressed with what Minstrel has done and you have to have full respect for Italian Lad’s colours.” “But, I am happy with my horse - he went a really nice workout at Winton last week.” “He should go a good race.” Franco Santino was a nose behind race rival Lawrence, who reeled off a in 55.9sec closing 800m at the Winton workouts. Williamson lines one other runner up at Oamaru in Longueval, who starts from barrier 9 in race 9. “The draw is a real killer for him over 2000m.” “But, I didn’t think the field was that strong, so he could be in it if he could get a decent run.”   Williamson hoping for memorable homecoming By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk Southland trainer Nathan Williamson will be hoping for a memorable homecoming when he takes three stable runners north to Oamaru Racecourse on Sunday. The North Otago native is pleased with his trio of runners and he is looking forward to kicking off what could be an exciting spring for Group Three performer Franco Santino who will contest The Golden Fleece Hotel Kurow Cup (2600m). The six-year-old entire will start from the 20m back mark and Williamson is hoping for a solid first hit-out ahead of some bigger targets later on this year. “He seems well and his training has been good,” Williamson said. “He went well in a recent trial and he benefited from that run.  “He has trained on well since, so I am happy enough with him.” Williamson isn’t expecting a lot on Sunday with his sights set further on in the season. “Fresh-up we are just using it as a starting point, but he seems pretty happy,” he said. “The two off the front (Minstrel and Italian Lad) are going to be the two to beat.  “If he got a nice run I would think he would finish in the top four. Being his first-up run we would be happy with that.” A tilt at the Gr.1 New Zeaalnd Cup (3200m) in November remains firmly on the raider and Williamson said he will target a few feature races in the south prior to testing the waters in Canterbury later this spring. “He was sixth in the Hannon Memorial (Gr.3, 2600m) last year, so he has got that on his agenda,” he said. “We will take him up to a couple of races in Canterbury and see how he mixes it with a couple of the better ones. “We are going to nominate him for the Cup. We nominated him last year and just decided to give him another year. He should be ready for it now if he is up to the class. “We will see how that transpires and hopefully we make the race.” Williamson will also line-up Chinese Whisper in the Glamour Hooves Racing Stables Handicap Trot (2600m). The Sundon five-year-old will be vying to make it three wins on-end and if he continues to impress Williamson said he could join his stablemate on the trip north to Addington Raceway in November. “He has been going well,” Williamson said. “There are a couple of nice horses in there. He has been trotting well so if he brings his A game I am sure he will acquit himself well. “He will have a freshen-up after this race and then we will have a look at some races later on in the spring. “The Cup meeting is on the agenda, but what sort of races I am not quite sure. He will be in the middle grades somewhere.” Williamson is also confident of a bold showing from Longueval in the Bluff Proteins/Johnson Gluyas Tractors Mobile Pace (2000m). The Bettor’s Delight gelding ran third last start over 2200m at Invercargill and Williamson is hoping he can go two better on Sunday. “He has been racing pretty well of late. He has just got a bit of a rough alley (9),” he said. “It’s a bit of a step back in class for him so he should be hard enough to beat.” Williamson is looking forward to heading back to Oamaru where he will be able to catch-up with family and friends. “It’s good to get up to Oamaru,” he said. “We will stay up there and spend the night with Mum and Dad.  “It will be good to get back there and it’s a good change from going to just the one track mostly since lockdown. A bit of a change is always good.”

By Jonny Turner     Dunedin teacher Mike Love fulfilled his longheld ambition of training a winner when Tres Chic scored at Ascot Park on Thursday. Love took just 13 days to complete the feat after joining Westwood beach horseman Graeme Anderson in a training partnership on August 1. The relieving teacher at various Dunedin schools has previously helped Anderson prepare plenty of winners in an unofficial capacity. A change in circumstances led to Love becoming a licensed trainer and joining forces with Anderson. “Things are a bit different for Graeme now with a new born baby, so we had a chat about me taking on a bit more at the stable,” Love said. “I am still teaching – like yesterday I had class in the morning and came back to the beach and worked the horses in the afternoon.” “It works out pretty well with the tides, too.” When asked whether the children he teaches or the horses he trains are more unruly Love said it was about even. “They are about equal, some kids need a bit more rein and some need to be reined in, it is the same with the horses’” he quipped. Love’s interest in horses stems from his father, Neil, who has had success as an owner. His brother, Damien is also a trainer, and has also tasted success. Love has won races as a driver – professionally with Highview Anwell in 2015 and as an amateur reinsman with Rah De Rah in January of this year. “It is a big thrill to get the first training win.” “I have always been keen on racing and I always thought that I would get in to training one day when the time was right.” Driver Matthew Williamson took no chances with Tres Chic, pressing forward from a wide draw to find the lead early. The victory rewarded the patience of owner Stu Gillan, who races the pacer with Anderson, after the 5yr-old’s career had to be put on hold as a 2yr-old. “Graeme quite liked her as a 2yr-old, but she had a foot problem and basically lost all of one of her hooves,” Love said. “So, even though she is a 5yr-old it’s like she has just turned 4 with what she missed.” Love may not have to wait long until he notches win number two. He and Anderson start Spirit Of St Louis in the Kurow Cup and American Lightning in a minor event at Oamaru on Sunday. Anderson’s former training partner, Amber Hoffman, also tasted success at Ascot Park yesterday. Hoffman, who combined with Anderson for 99 wins over four seasons, bagged the quinella in yesterday’s feature trot. In Sequence beat out Kiwi Crusher to win in her first start from her new trainer’s Waikouaiti stable. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Would the real Robyns Playboy please stand up? That is the question trainers Ross and Chris Wilson will be ask their 5yr-old when he steps out in the feature pace at Ascot Park on Thursday. The Shadow Play pacer labelled ‘the beast from the east’ by some of his fans was scintillating first up after lockdown, before running fifth of six behind See Ya Write among a classy line up a week later. Though the result was not too inspiring, Robyns Playboy’s closing sectionals were. And if he is able to repeat them in race 7 he would be awfully hard to catch. “We timed his last mile in 1.54, home in 55sec [800m] and 26sec [400m], but he just didn’t seem as sharp as he was first up,” Chris Wilson said. “He missed away, which added to his handicap, too.” “He went sideways when the tapes went, which is not like him and it didn’t help.” The Wilson stable were rapt with Robyns Playboy’s work leading in to his resuming run, but have not been quite so enthused by his training this week. “I think he will go alright, he hasn’t quite been zipping up the straight in work this week like he was before his first run,” Wilson said. “But, he has only had two fast runs since his last start – we gave him a week off.” “There is nothing wrong with him, so he should go a good race.” Robyns Playboy blasted to the lead in his last win from the same barrier 8 draw he starts from on Thursday. Though this time there is the possibility driver Craig Ferguson could use different tactics. “We don’t quite know what to do and what the instructions for Craig will be,” Wilson said. Rocknroll King looks the hardest horse for Robyns Playboy to hold out. The Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis trained 5yr-old beat his main rival home in their last clash with See Ya Write, before he went on to run a strong second behind Tom Martin at Ascot Park last week. Another of the Wilson stable’s Shadow Play pacers looks a strong winning chance from barrier 2 in race 8. Robyns Shadow was a late scratching shortly before start time when set to make his latest outing at Ascot Park last month. The 4yr-old has recovered from the stone bruise that sidelined him and he has worked well since. “He has been working with Robyns Playboy this week and they haven’t been able to get past Shadow, so that is a good sign,” Wilson said. Annie Fitz has also worked well leading in to race 5 and it’s hoped she can get the run she likes from barrier 1. “She is just full of beans.” “Her work has been super – she only gallops, she doesn’t do pacework – and she has had a really good attitude the last couple of weeks.” “Drawn one, we can choose who we hand up to and hopefully she can have the trail all the way.” Von Art looks a solid chance for the Wilsons in race 3 despite not having the same kind of good recent form her stablemates do. If the 4yr-old can find clear air from barrier 1 on the second row, she could feature in the finish in a largely out of form line up. “It is not a bad draw, I think she could be three back on the pegs.” “She is definitely a chance, she is more of a grinder than a sprinter, so she will need to be pretty close to them turning for home.”

By Jonny Turner    Immediately after notching his 500th winner, Tim Williams quickly got to work on next half tonne when driving Zambia to victory at Addington on Sunday. The Canterbury reinsman took no chances with the Paul Kerr trained 4yr-old, spearing him to the front where he held out a late challenge from runner-up Magic Mike. The victory took Williams to 501 wins in New Zealand after he notched his 500-win milestone behind Down To The Bone at the same track on Friday night. It was appropriate that the special moment came behind a Robert Dunn trained pacer as he was the man that gave Williams his start in the sport. And it came well before the driver first saluted the judge in Dunn’s colours with Easy Armbro at Rangiora in 2007. “Even before I drove my first winner for Robert, he gave me first trial drive and my first workout drive,” Williams said. “He has been like a second father to me.” “In the school holidays, [his sons] John and Dexter and I would hang around at the stables – it was what we did.” “Obviously my partner, Aimee, is John’s wife’s sister - so, there is a really tight connection there.” Williams had a successful stint in Invercargill at Wayne Adams’ stable after completing his time as a junior driver with Dunn. Next came a crucial career move to Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s All Stars stable. That brought a serious upgrade in horse power and opportunities in big races. Williams had made the most of the chances he has worked for, racking up 14 group 1 wins. When pressed to pick a favourite, he chose his first – Have Faith In Me’s 3yr-old Sires Stakes Final in 2014. “If I had to choose one I would go with my first,” Williams said. “Being a Christchurch boy, New Zealand Cup day is our biggest day.” “To do it there in front of my family and friends was pretty special.” Williams did not stop once he get a taste of group 1 glory. By the end of the same season he had won the Northern and New Zealand Derbies and a Harness Jewels title with Have Faith In Me. And another special filly helped him round out a whirlwind 12 months with six group 1 titles. Williams had a special bond with Dream About Me, who won a 2yr-old Sires Stakes Final and Harness Jewels to set up an incredible five season career. “She was a great mare.” “And I think the best thing about her was she was able to do it right from when she was two through until her last start when she was six and ran 1.50 in her last start.” Williams clearly gets to sit behind classy horses, but he does not take it for granted and strives to improve his driving skills. “Obviously I get to drive some nice horses.” “There is a balance there and the key is not to overdrive them” “I still talk to Mark and Natalie about driving quite a bit and tap in to their knowledge, obviously because they are both masters.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Magic Mike can help Mitchell Robertson build on the successful start he has made to his training career at Addington on Sunday. The Templeton horseman has just completed his first season in partnership with father, Peter, racking up eight wins. Though pleased with that effort, Robertson is looking forward to building on it this season. Magic Mike could set the platform for a successful twelve months if his debut third for driver Tim Williams at Invercargill three weeks ago is anything to go by. The 4yr-old was caught three wide during a quickening of the race speed before working to the parked position and fighting on for third behind impressive debutante Maximus Prost. “We were pretty pleased with that run because we sort of thought he still might one hard run away from full fitness,” Robertson said. “And he didn't travel or settle in down there as good as we’d have hoped.” “So we're pretty pleased with the run taking those things into account.” The likely improvement from his debut they will see Magic Mike steps out from barrier 2 in race 4 has the Robertson stable hopeful of a big second up run. “We are thinking – slash hoping – that he will have improved, so that should hopefully make him pretty hard to beat.” Magic Mike goes up against his stablemate, Fomo, who was just fair when fifth for Williams at Ascot Park last week. Though the performance may not truly reflect her ability. “She has got her share of ability, but her gait is not perfect,” Robertson said. “Tim said she was travelling pretty well at Invercargill, but she ran out up the straight and didn’t want to take the passing lane.” “Hopefully the bigger track at Addington might help her.” Williams will not drive either of the Robertson team, instead he will be behind Zambia for trainer Paul Kerr. Blair Orange takes the drive behind Magic Mike and Robbie Close will steer Fomo. Williams will drive Im Jimmy James for the Robertson stable in race 9. The 7yr-old looks to have an ideal opportunity to get back to winning form after drawing barrier 2 in the 2000m standing start. Im Jimmy James was third behind American Lightning at Ascot Park before running sixth behind Ideal Rule at Addington the following week. “I am thinking the 2000m stand should suit him,” Robertson said. “His run at Invercargill was pretty good behind a smart horse.” “I was a little bit disappointed in his next run, but he was backing up for the third week in a row.” “He has had a week off race, so hopefully he should be better on Sunday. Ladbrooks trainer Dean Taylor has a key hand to play in race 2 with Jake and Spirit Of Arden. Spirit Of Arden got things horribly wrong on debut early last month, but looked much better when second in a recent Ashburton trial. “He has just got a few hang ups - he hit the footrests and he panicked completely in his first start,” Taylor said. “He has trialled up quite good and done things right since, but if things go wrong he gets very stirred up.” Spirit Of Arden is a 4yr-old half-brother to smart performers Bettor’s Strike, Southwind Arden and Rocknroll Arden. Taylor is hopeful that in time the horse could do his dam, Winter Rose, proud. “I am picking he is going to be a very good stayer one day.” Jake has featured in the thick end of most of his 11 starts. His last start fourth behind Ashes To Ashes, after sitting in the trail, may have disappointed his backers, but it did come after in a sharp step up in distance from 2000m. “His last run was his first run over 2600m,” Taylor said. “He did go hard early and it might have just caught up with him at the finish.” “But, he is very genuine.” Robbie Close will drive Spirit Of Arden and Ken Barron will steer Jake. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    All Stars filly Avana added another chapter to the massive legacy left by the late Tuapeka Lodge breeder Father Dan Cummings when she won at Ascot Park on Thursday. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained filly became yet another black-type performer for the Tuapeka Lodge Racing syndicate when she scored in a 1-57.1 mile rate in race 3. Cummings, who died in March, and his keen eye for a talented standardbred were behind the selecting of Avana, who was knocked down to Purdon and Rasmussen’s All Stars stable at NZB Standardbred’s 2019 yearling sale. After being snapped up for what now looks a bargain price of $16,000, the filly’s ownership was split between the Tuapeka Lodge syndicate, which Cummings formed with his brother, Peter, and sister Julie Davies, and Braeden and Caroline Whitelock. It is not just Cummings’ keen eye for a smart standardbred that should get credit following Avana’s win. When the filly paced professionally throughout her debut for driver Tim Williams it put the breaking in and horsemanship skills of the man known throughout New Zealand harness racing circles simply as ‘Father Dan’ on display once again. “It would be a pretty special win for the owners,” Williams said. “Father Dan and Braeden and Caroline were long-time friends and they decided to pick this filly out at the sales.” “And they didn’t pay that much for her either.” “Father Dan did the early work with her and he actually gave her a workout before she came up to Mark and Natalie’s.” Avana found herself back in the deep south as part of a four-horse team the All Stars barn sent to Ascot Park on Thursday. With two horses in each of two races, it was mission complete when Rock Legend followed up Avana’s win by taking out race 3. “They came down here to split them up from some of our other horses and also because the trip away does them a lot of good,” Williams said. “Some of them would have ended up in the race that we have eight horses in at Addington.” “So, Mark decided to send these ones down here.” The influence of the late Father Dan Cummings and his family on yesterday’s meeting did not end with Ivana. When Tom Martin powered to an impressive victory in race 9 its credited the late Cummings and his brother and sister with a breeding victory. The trio bred the towering Mach Three pacer from Life Sign mare, Raindowne, and sold him to trainer Graham Court at the 2018 national yearling sales in Christchurch. Trainer Brain Norman continued his good momentum after a shift from South Otago to Eastern Southland when Postgrad Success won race 2 on Thursday. Norman returned to the Gore area late last season, where he had trained for more than two decades, after an eight-year stint at Tahakopa. Postgrad Success continued Norman’s good form since the shift when winning her debut for driver Nathan Williamson. The trainer is hopeful that scoring first up does not take the early momentum of out the 4yr-old’s career. “Winning first up is tough for them because they just don’t have that ringcraft,” Norman said. “But she has got a bit of ability and Nathan seems to think she will handle the next grade up.” Windsor has been the flag-bearer for Norman since his move, winning twice and running fourth in three post-lockdown starts. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    A team filled with quality, rather than quantity, has trainer Brett Gray in line for a good day out at Ascot Park today. Despite running one of the biggest stables in Southland, the Ryal Bush horseman has just three horses entered. And they all look strong chances. American Eyretime looks to be dropping back in company after running a strong second behind the classy Yankee Party in her last start. The runner-up effort continued a brilliant run of form consisting of consecutive top three placings. “She would be my best chance on Thursday,” Gray said. “She has been very consistent – she has turned in to quite a nice mare.” “When I first got her I thought she was just ok, but she has kept improving.” The 4yr-old’s blazing gate speed and having a noted front-running driver behind her in Sheree Tomlinson means tactics looks straight forward from barrier 7. “She has got good gate speed, so it looks pretty simple,” Gray said.  “I probably won’t have to tell Sheree what to do.” “But, in saying that she has got a wicked sprint if she is saved up.” “The last time she won she really had no right to win it, but she smoked home along the inside.” Jannah Jaccka looks another strong chance for Gray in race 2. The 4yr-old produced a strong second behind Funky Monkey in her last start at Ascot Park. “It was a good run last time and I have been happy with her since then,” Gray said. “With every start she has learned a bit more and she should be a good chance.” Today Jannah Jaccka faces another Phil Williamson trained favourite in the Artful Dodger. Major Meister has the toughest task ahead of him of Gray’s trio. The 4yr-old takes on the most even of fields in race 9. Major Meister bounced back to his best form when sprinting best from midfield to win at Ascot Park last week Gray rates the Major Meister a decent chance to do it again if he gets a tempo to suit. “He just needs the pace on and if he gets it he can finish over the top of him.” “He came to me for a bit of a change of scenery and he can be a funny horse, but he is not the worst.” While Major Meister steps up in company following his last start win, several of his main rivals are going in the opposite direction. Tom Martin fought hard for fourth behind Koenigsegg in a stronger race at Addington in his last start. Rocknroll King beat home some very smart types when running second behind See Ya Write at Ascot Park last week. The All Stars stable’s assault on today’s meeting adds much interest the nine race card. Trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will start four horses, with two in race 3 and two in race 4. Lena Rivers has finished fourth in a trial and third in two workouts ahead of her debut in race 3. She starts alongside Avana, who has run second in two trials and won a workout in three public appearances since lockdown. Aladdin and Rock Legend, who both start in race 4, both debuted in the same 2yr-old event at Addington last week won by Darling Me. Aladdin held third after leading throughout, holding out Rock Legend, who closed well after making a mid-race move.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Lazarus has left behind rave reviews about his first crop of foals in North America after touching down in Australia last week. After landing in Sydney, the superstar New Zealand bred entered quarantine as he prepares for his second season at stud in Australasia. The two-time New Zealand Cup winner served 136 mares in his first stud season in North America and the resulting progeny have been given a big tick of approval over the past few months. “The feedback has been great,” part-owner John Curtin said. “He is leaving really strong, muscular foals that look like real athletes.” “And they are of a good size – Lazarus might have looked like a smaller horse on the track because of his head carriage but he is 16 hands.” “We have heard from a lot of breeders and they have been raving about his foals.” Lazarus - Simply Liz colt   One of the biggest compliments Lazarus’ foals have been give came after they passed muster with leading New Jersey breeding farm Concord Stud. “Concord Stud are the leading vendors at the Harrisburg sales and they have six Lazarus foals,” Curtin said. “I have spoken to David Meirs about them and they couldn’t be happier and they can’t wait to take them to the yearling sales.” Lazarus headed back Down Under after serving 112 mares at Deo Volente Farms in New Jersey in the recently completing Northern Hemisphere breeding season. The Bettor’s Delight stallion will soon be out to make amends for a less than ideal first season at stud in Australasia. The exact cause of Lazarus’ low conceptions rates in the 2019-20 breeding season has never been pinpointed despite extensive testing, Curtin said. But, given the stallion produced strong in-foal rates directly after returning to North America, which suggests the issue has been resolved. Lazarus - Daut Full colt To ensure the same problems do not arise again, facilities - including air conditioning - have been set up at Yirribee Stud to attempt to mirror the kind of conditions Lazarus lives in in North America,” Curtin said. “Breeders can send their mares to him with confidence they will get in foal.” “Despite exhaustive testing by the best vets in the southern hemisphere there was no definitive answer as to what caused the problem.” “The vets however were confident the problem would resolve, which has been proven to be correct with Lazarus finishing the 2020 northern hemisphere season with a conception rate of 85%.” “Every possible measure has been taken to mirror the conditions Lazarus has become accustomed to in the US.” The strong reports about his first crop of foals in New Jersey have added to the good interest in Lazarus ahead of the upcoming Australasian breeding season. “There has been a lot of interest in him this year and his bookings are ahead of where they were at the same time last season.” “Returning breeders can get him for $6000 which is probably the greatest deal you will ever see, considering he stands for US$10,000 in New Jersey where there are no discounts.” Breeders who send their mares to Lazarus will be put in a novel position when their foals hit the ground. By then Lazarus will have 2yr-olds that will have hit the tracks in North America. “When these foals are born he will have 2yr-olds racing in North America.” “That has never happened before for a Down Under bred stallion.” “So that is going to be pretty exciting for people who breed to him this year.” Lazarus stands at Yiribee Stud in New South Wales and is available to breeders throughout Australasia for a fee of $8000 including GST in both countries. Breeders that sent mares to the sire last year can access a fee of $6000 including GST.

By Jonny Turner     In my time in harness racing there has simply never been a season like the just completed 2019-20 edition. And quite frankly, I hope there will never be another one like it. And though I have clearly started this look back at the past 12 months from a negative viewpoint, I do not intend to continue that way. Because no matter the challenges facing harness racing in New Zealand, there is always the good, the excitement, the passion, the great people and of course, the fast horses. The challenges came right across the season, but obviously the biggest have just recently hit the industry. The recent Covid19 lockdown, the shake-up of RITA that reduced its media and promotional services, some industry controversies and the closure of several tracks are all included. Those pale in comparison to the biggest challenge of the season – Ricky May’s fight for his life. While at the time it was clearly a low point and the most emotionally devastating incident I have witnessed on a race track, it brought out the absolute best in the industry. It started with Ellie Barron and Lawrence McCormick leaping the outside running rail at Omakau. It went on to include dozens of paramedics, off duty doctors, horse people and officials. And it ended up including thousands upon thousands of well-wishers, fans and supporters sending their support to the May family. Thankfully, Ricky’s scare ended in the best possible result. A fighting fit Ricky May returning to full health and returning to the racetrack is the best result of the season as far as I am concerned. There was simply no better victory in the sport. Last season was clearly packed with the extraordinary, and as always, that included the action on the track. Ultimate Sniper’s Interdominion performances were breath-taking, Krug has emerged as a genuine star in the making and Amazing Dream beat the boys in an action-packed derby. Two of my personal favourites stories during the season included the rise of Cracker Hill, who can reel off a 400m split as fast as any trotter in the country. And Spirit Of St Louis, who thrilled with a win that had to be seen to be believed late in the season at Ascot Park. For every star horse and big race, there is a little-known horse in an insignificant race. Some of the things that drive our sport and make it great – the search for the pin up horse, the star trainer and driver and the hotshot in the next race – can overshadow what each horse means to the people that race them. And what impact that horse can have on people’s lives. One of my favourite stories of the past season came in two low-key races at Forbury Park and Ascot Park. Within 48 hours of each other, two octogenarians, who train side by side at Omakau racecourse scored wins that meant the world to them. Firstly, it was Allandale rattling along the inside in the hands of Rory McIlwrick to win for Lionel Sinammon. Then Dream Of Pat fighting tenaciously up the straight under the urgings of Brad Williamson to win for Ginger Woodhouse. Not bad for a couple of trainers in their 80s and due reward for their burning passion for harness racing. Bring on next season, just without quite so many headwinds. But we will happily take the fast horses, exciting races, the superstars and the wins for the little guys that mean so much. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Most 11-year-old boys get an Xbox game, a new bike or something similar for their birthdays. Not Alexy – but, he is no ordinary 11-year-old. Instead, he got oats, chaff, a big drink of water and a cheque for $4,125. And the veteran, trained by Denis O’Connell, deserved all of them. Just a day after his official birthday the Waikouaiti iron horse showed there was still plenty of zip in his legs and will in his heart when scoring his 10th win in his 282nd start. “He is sound and happy and when I have been jogging him lately he has been running around like a 2yr-old,” O’Connell said. “He was driven well and he finished strong, I was just so proud of him.” Alexy was forced to sit parked for the first lap of the 1980m of race 9, before driver Jessica Young-Grant found cover in the one-one. His rivals had their chance to run Alexy down, but the 11-year had too much pep for them as he went on to win comfortably by two lengths. The veteran was the toast of Waikouaiti and the pride of the O’Connell family following his victory. Alexy is raced by his trainer alongside his siblings - brothers Daniel, Gerald, Eugene and his wife Pru, as well as O’Connell’s sister, Joan Braam. “It is wonderful for the family, they are just so proud of the old horse.” Sunday’s win took the veteran past $100,000 in career stakes. Alexy has racked up those dollars by racing in each season since his career began as a 2yr-old in 2012. Alexy’s formline was patchy before he went a sound race for fourth for Kerryn Tomlinson in his previous start in a heat of the New Zealand Junior Driver’s Championship. “You would normally write a horse off like that, but not him,” O’Connell said. “But, strangely he seems to go well at this time of the year – coming out of winter and leading in to spring.” “He seems to get a bit of a spring in his step, himself.” Alexy comes in to the new season after having a quieter than usual past 12 months. The Courage Under Fire gelding had 26 starts last term, compared with 41, 48 and 44 in the three season prior. The pacer, who was bred by his star sire’s Sydney owner Greg Brodie, sits second behind Danke on the list of most all-time starts since records have been collated. Alexy started his racing career when stepping out at Reefton in 2012 for trainer Mark Jones and driver Regan Todd. The pacer had stints with Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, Bruce Negus, Nora Bishop before rejoining Negus. O’Connell took over the training of Alexy in 2016. The 11yr-old spent time with Darryn Simpson and Nigel Chalmers before heading back to O’Connell late last year. Seven of Alexy’s ten wins have come for the Waikouaiti trainer. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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