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By Jonny Turner    Junior driver Ben Hope will be out to do his family proud in their home region of Marlborough today. Hope will drive first starter Awapuni for his parents, Greg and Nina, in the Four Generations Of Hopes Trot. The 2400m maiden event is dedicated to Hope family’s contribution to harness racing in Blenheim. And it is one the fourth generation of the family to contribute to the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s history would love to win. “My Dad’s side are all from Blenheim, my granddad and my great granddad have all been involved with the club,” Ben Hope said.  “It would be great to win it.” “The horse goes pretty good, she is only a maiden trotter, so she has to trot.” “But, if she did she would be more than capable of taking it out.” Awapuni is by Andover Hall from strong producing mare Lough Neagh, who is from the family of champion trotter Lyell Creek. The 3yr-old looked like she had enough ability to live up to her breeding when winning a Methven workout by three lengths, earlier this month. Greg, Nina and Ben Hope will step out another trotter with a strong pedigree when Baxter starts in today’s feature handicap trot. The half-brother to star trotter Monbet comes in to the 2400m event after producing two wins and a second from three starts on the West Coast Christmas circuit.  Baxter steps up in grade to face his toughest test when taking on open class performers Amaretto Sun and Heavyweight Hero today. “We will get a bit of a line of him to see where he sits with the better trotters,” Hope said. “He has done a great job and he is always in the money.” “Heavyweight Hero, Medusa and Amaretto Sun all go nice.” Baxter will start from a 10m handicap, getting a head start on Amaretto Sun (45m) and Heavyweight Hero (35m).  The feeling in the Hope stable is that Baxter could eventually progress to join his main rivals in open class. “He is the sort of horse that could get to open class, through the back door,” Hope said.  “I like the horse because he definitely wants to be a part of it and he tries.” “He is not going to be a genuine open class horse, I don’t think.” “But he could be one of those horses that gets there through the back door, like a horse like Everybody Knows.” The Hope team have Homebush Lad in today’s feature handicap pace. The 6yr-old bounced back to his best form ahead of the 2400m event with a strong win at Motukarara late last month. “That win wasn’t a fluke, his starts before that were good, he is a pretty nice wee horse,” Hope said.  “There are a couple of smart ones in there, like Stars Tonight and Rocknroll Rod and a couple of others.” “But if he can step away he is as good of a chance as any, I think.” Homebush Lad will start from barrier one on the front line, alongside his main rivals Stars Tonight and Rocknroll Rod.  The Hope stable eight horses at today’s Marlborough meeting and each of their team looks to have genuine winning claims.  “There wouldn’t be one that is without a show.” Greg and Nina Hope will start A G’s White Socks in tomorrow night’s Ballarat Cup. The two time Interdominion heat winner will clash with fellow New Zealand pacer Self Assured.  Victorian reinsman Greg Sugars will drive A G’s White Socks in the group 1 feature.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Much has changed for the re-running of the group 3 Central Otago Trotting Cup at Wyndham today. The Central Otago Trotting Club feature at Omakau on January 2 was called off when leading driver Ricky May collapsed after suffering a medical event in its early stages. May was revived after the falling to the track from his sulky and then airlifted to Dunedin Hospital. He was subsequently transferred to Christchurch Hospital. The race has undergone significant changes with withdrawals and additions to the field that will compete over 2400m at its temporary venue. But those changes pale into insignificance when compared with the change May has gone through since the incident on January 2. The champion driver has made excellent progress and has returned to his Methven home. Canterbury driver Jonny Cox gets the chance to reunite with Nandolo, who he could not drive earlier this month because of suspension. Though Cox is glad to get back behind the John Howe-trained pacer, he wishes it was under different circumstances. “You never like to see anything like that happen to anyone. The main thing is Ricky is doing well.” Cox was behind Nandolo when he was beaten by his main rival, Heisenberg, in last month’s Ashburton Cup. Howe said after the race Nandolo may not have been at his best for the 3200m race and Cox agrees. “The horse had raced right through New Zealand Cup week and ‘‘Coaster’’ [Howe] was trying to look after him after he had had a lot of hard racing. “He was probably not quite ready for Ashburton and he did have quite a good blow after it. ‘‘He should be right up to the mark now.” Heisenberg looks the toughest horse for Nandolo to beat. Nandolo’s task to win looks easier now as A G’s White Socks, Vintage Cheddar and Jazzy Star are not starting in the re-run. Swamp Major and Franco Santino return alongside Nandolo and Heisenberg. Mach’s Back, Lawrence, Kilowatt Kid and Robyns Play have joined the field. The withdrawal of several high-class opponents does not mean Cox will look to dominate the race with Nandolo. “He is not that great in front. He knocks off a bit and you have to keep tapping him along. “He has got a lot of speed and if we were able to slot him in somewhere that could be his best chance.” Heisenberg was the early leader of the race at Omakau before he handed the front to A G’s White Socks. The 4yr-old led in his strong Ashburton Cup win and he looks the likely leader again today. Bookmakers opened Nandolo the $2.90 favourite for the Central Otago Cup when the fixed-odds market opened yesterday. The pacer was quickly backed in to $2.20. Heisenberg also received support, moving from $3.20 to $2.70. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    West Melton mare Miss Mucho can help continue the mid season momentum of her trainer Tony Barron at Timaru today. Miss Mucho and Sheree Tomlinson will attempt to repeat the impressive win they combined for at Omakau in a competitive junior driver’s event. The 4yr-old fired up her trainer’s season when powering away from her maiden rivals to win by nearly five lengths at Omakau. The victory was Barron’s first for the season and came with just his 11th starter. The West Melton trainer has had a quiet start to this term, but it has clearly about to heat up. “We haven’t lined up many, mostly because we have been working on quite a few young ones,” Barron said. “It’ll be good to line a few of them up, but I am looking forward to next season even more, to be honest.” Tomlinson gave Miss Mucho a brilliant steer at Omakau, keeping her out of a hectic early pace before letting her charge home to win. Barron is hoping the reinswoman can produce more of the same in today’s 2600m mobile. “It was a great drive by Sheree at Omakau, the way she stayed out of the early speed.” “If they go hard she will be able to do the same at Timaru, but she is a pretty adaptable mare.” “So, if she needs to she will be able to get around them.” Barron hopes Miss Mucho can score a penalty free win in today’s race to help the mare’s progress. “It would be great to pick up a free one, it would just make it a bit easier on her.” “I might look at bringing her down south after this for a crack at the Robin Dundee Crown.” Miss Mucho will need to work to notch a penalty free win, judging by the quality of today’s field. Talented pacers Burlington, Kensington Bill and Firenze Amore are among the line up. Barron also lines up Matau Meg in race 2 and Glassy Web in race 5. Both have their share of ability, but must overcome horror second row draws. Matau Meg, who starts from barrier 13, went a sound race for third behind Lucys Delight in her last start at Omakau from barrier 1. Glassy Web will be worse off when he starts from barrier 14 following his seventh behind Itz All Down To Luck at Omakau. Talented 4yr-old Pressed For Time must overcome a 30m handicap to win race 6, today’s feature pace. The Tom Bagrie trained mare bolted in in her first start since winning last season’s Southland Oaks final at Rangiora, earlier this month. Pressed For Time’s task in today’s race has been made a little easier with the scratching of her main rival, Just Holla. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Some brilliant home straight maneuvering from Robbie Close helped Bringitonhome head a track record breaking quinella for trainer Regan Todd at Nelson on Sunday. The 6yr-old unleashed a powerful finish after Close negotiated a passage out of a horror spot on the home bend to help Bringitonhome run down his stablemate Taxman and win in a sizzling mile (1609m) time of 1-52.2. Todd was full of praise for Close’s home straight handywork that guided Bringitonhome through the tightest of gaps. “It was a great drive by Robbie to get him through those gaps,” Todd said. Though he was beaten by more than a length, Todd rated Taxman’s effort to run second in the race’s hot time just as good as the winner. “They both went great – Taxman went just as good as the winner after doing a lot of work in the race.” “I was rapt with both of them.” The chance to race middle grade pacers off level marks in Sunday’s mile feature was a key to Bringitonhome scoring his first win since April of last year. “It was a really good opportunity to race those kind of horses off level marks,” Todd said. “He had raced in some pretty good fields through the cup carnival and that race was probably a bit easier than them.” “If there were more of those kind of races people might be able to keep more of the horses in that grade.” Bringitonhome and Taxman are likely to take different paths out of Sunday’s feature. Neither will return to the top of the South Island for this weekend’s Marlborough meeting. Bringitonhome could contest the Invercargill Cup later this month. Taxman will stick to mobile racing and head to the upcoming premier night at Addington. “I will discuss it with the owners, but Bringitonhome could go to the Invercargill Cup.” “It might just depend on what handicap he will be off.” The track record Bringitonhome broke lasted just two races. Earlier on Sunday, Marlborough battler Sonic Reign seriously upgraded his resume with a booming 1-53.9 mile (1609m) win in rating 40-45 company. Driver Tim Williams sat the Kevin Musso trained 5yr-old off a strong speed set up by Barkley and All Nuts N Bolts, before launching his winning run before the home turn. Todd will have two runners in his form hometown of Wyndham on Thursday. Seamark will attempt to go one better than his second on debut at Omakau. Swamp Major will contest the rerunning of the Central Otago Cup.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Course specialist My Eyre will be out to continue his brilliant form at Nelson today after rocking punters there on Friday.  The Margo Nyhan trained squaregaiter took his record to a win and three placings at Richmond Racecourse when capitalising on a nice run handed to him by driver Bob Butt to win at 40 to one odds.  The victory might have caught punters off guard, but it did not come as a total surprise to Nyhan or her partner, driver Peter Davis. “He has always raced good here, he ran second on both days in the summer last year,” Davis said. “He raced good at Reefton in his last start, he usually has a couple of gallops in his first couple of runs back and once he gets that out of his system he is pretty reliable.” “I couldn’t believe the price to be honest.” Overzealous went a good race when fourth behind her stablemate, My Eyre, on Friday after giving him a 30m head start in their 2400m feature handicap. The pair meet again on the same marks, which makes My Eyre the top pick of Nyhan’s pair today.  “Overzealous went super on Friday - she was a bit unlucky - she got held up early in the run home,” Davis said.  “Off 30m you have to drive her for luck again and realistically he is going to get a nice trip again.” “Obviously My Eyre is not going have to go back in the handicaps either.” “Overzealous better than him, but it is just hard enough off 30m for her.” Great Things Happen and One Majic Kenny looks to of hardest horses for My Eyre and Overzealous to beat. Though he only finished 10th on Friday, One Majic Kenny went a huge race after losing a big chunk of ground when galloping at the start. Great Things Happen did well to run sixth after starting from the same 60m handicap he faces today.  Givemewhatineed bounced back to form for Nyhan and Davis when second behind Soundslikeart on Friday. Davis rates the horse the best winning chance of the team he and Nyhan combine with today when he steps out in race 6.  “He has been really frustrating – he went great when John Dunn had him when we were laid up and we were a little weary about how he would be when we got him back.” “He went huge first up for us and we were thrilled.” “But then he has been pretty dismal in between times.” “But his run at Reefton was good and he went pretty good on Friday and I think the horse that beat him does go pretty good.” Nyhan and Davis also combine with Prodigal Pete (race 4) and Bobby’s My Girl (race 9), who will both need to lift from the Friday runs to feature today. Davis has three outside drives at today’s meeting with Speciale Uno looking the strongest winning chance of them when she lines up from barrier 3 in race 1. “She had no show the first way from where she was drawn and it was a pretty nice maiden field.”  “She raced super on the West Coast and the draw will help her.” Fernleigh Colleen also brought good West Coast for to Nelson before going fairly on Friday. The 4yr-old could test her rivals if she bounces back to her prior form in race 3. Scelta Uno went a sound race on Friday and looks a solid each way hope in race 10 for Davis.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    A classy field will give punters plenty to ponder ahead of today’s Nelson Cup. The in-form line up means reigning winner Dadndave will need to be on his game to defend 2019 title. The Tim Trathen trained pacer showed toughness to conquer the 3000m feature as a 3yr-old last season. That victory left no doubt about 4yr-old’s staying credentials, which Trathen thinks will be the horse’s biggest asset when he takes on today’s smart line up.    “He is a tough wee bugger – he loves a bit of distance.” “The further, the better.” The timing appears right for Dadndave to defend his cup title. The 4yr-old has returned to peak form after a scratchy start to his season. “He had an abscess in a foot, then he had a bit of a snotty nose and things went wrong there for a while,” Trathen said. “He is definitely a bit perkier now and I think we are on the right track.” “He seems back to his best.” Dadndave went two from two at last year’s two day nelson meeting before ending a respectable 3yr-old run with creditable sixth behind Jesse Duke at the Harness Jewels. The pacer was not able to carry on that momentum with two below opening runs as a 4yr-old, which were followed by two slightly improved performances in strong company. “He drew back every time and we were back all of the way and it is hard to make a bit of a move in that company,” Trathen said. “I wasn’t disappointed, it is tough racing those good ones.” “I always thought he was good enough to be in them.” Backmarker Change Is Good is set to start race favourite following her brilliant run of spring and summer form. The adaptable Mitchell Kerr trained pacer starts alongside Bringitonhome, Hayden’s Meddle and Memphis Tennessee on the 20m mark. Dadndave, Stars Tonight, Yorkshire and Rah De Rah get a head start on them from the 10m mark . Kendra, Rocknroll Rod and recent grass track flop Taxman start off the front alongside Doctor Tim. Group 1 winning trotter Great Things Happen must overcome a huge 60m handicap to win today’s feature trot at Nelson. The Gavin Smith trained and driven will have 30m between him and Overzealous, who has the second biggest handicap in the 2400m event. Great Things Happens goes in to today’s race after producing a solid effort to run fifth behind Pres The Belle in a significantly stronger race at Addington. The 8yr-old travelled south to the recently abandoned Omakau meeting after that run. Great Things Happens has placed in both of his starts at Nelson. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Southland pacer Stingray Tara will attempt to fly his family’s flag at the Northern Southland Trotting Club meeting at Ascot Park today. It has been left to the Hamish Hunter trained pacer to keep his family name up in lights following the retirement of his star full brother Tiger Tara, last month.  Stingray Tara goes in to race 1 after producing a win his brother would be proud of in his last start at Winton. Sitting parked throughout a mile (1609m) event was not enough to stop the 4yr-old from producing a tough win for junior driver Kerryn Tomlinson. Driver Matthew Williamson is looking forward to getting back in the sulky behind Stingray Tara after watching that effort from the side lines.  “It was a pretty big effort at Winton, if he could produce a run like that he would have to be hard to beat.” Williamson will drive the first two favourites at today’s twilight meeting. Slainte will start at short odds in race 2 after impressing in his trials for trainer Phil Williamson. The horse started at Cromwell on Sunday, but was deemed a late scratching after suffering interference at the start. “He has got the ability, but he is going to have to do things right to win,” Williamson said.  “We have made a couple of changes after Cromwell, so hopefully that will help him.” The father and son combination of Phil and Matthew Williamson also start Only One Way in race 7. The 4yr-old produced an emphatic win in his last start at Omakau and there looks little reason he can not continue his hot form in today’s 2700m feature handicap trot. “He is going really well, but his is getting back in the handicaps,” Williamson said.  “He should still be a pretty good chance.”  Star Ruler is one of two strong chances Williamson drives for trainers Geoff And Jude Knight. The 6yr-old went close at Cromwell on Sunday and looks well placed to win race 5, today. “He seems to have lifted a bit lately, so he has to be a good chance,” Williamson said. “He is a horse that will need the right run, though.” Jacks N Jazz may have been an even stronger winning chance than his stablemate had he drawn the front line of the mobile. Drawing barrier 1 on its second line means he will luck in race 8. If he gets it, the 6yr-old can figure in the finish, Williamson said. I’m Watching You is Williamson’s drive in race 6, a graduation final filled with talented types. If the 3yr-old can not win today he will be a horse to follow when he returns to maiden grade, Williamson said. Canterbury raiders Yossi, Folklore and Moonlite Drive look the horses to beat in the 2200m event. Williamson drives Kingmaker, who takes on another talented line up in race 10, today’s fast class pace. The Brad Mowbray trained pacer clashes with leading contenders Franco Santino, Bettathanfast and Cast No Shadow in the 2200m mobile. Williamson also drives A Rocknroll Maid in race 3 and I Had A Dream in race 4 today. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Interdominion star A G’s White Socks could book a ticket to Australia if he continues his form resurgence in Thursday’s Central Otago Trotting Cup. Like many holiday makers, the Canterbury pacer has gotten out of the city and headed to the more relaxing surrounds of Central Otago for today’s popular meeting. The Greg and Nina Hope trained pacer would have been a leading contender in Tuesday night’s Auckland Cup had he stayed north after his Interdominion campaign. Avoiding standing start racing and the possibility of an Australian trip mean Omakau racegoers get to see A G’s White Socks in Thursday’s 2000m group 3 feature. “The reason we brought him down was to have a go with him at Omakau and then make our mind up about him going to Australia,” Greg Hope said. “We also didn’t really want to put the horse through standing starts again.” “They are not his forte and we just felt we could undo things if he went in the Auckland Cup.” The Hunter Cup at Melton would be A G’s White Socks’ main aim if he books his Australian trip with a good run on Thursday. Reverting to mobile racing and a change of A G’s White Socks’ feeding regime saw the 6yr-old bounce back to his best form with two Interdominion heat wins before his commendable fifth in the series final. The pacer has not started since that effort behind Ultimate Sniper. Pleasing work since then means A G’s White Socks is fit and ready for Thursday. “He had about five days off after the final and then he flew back down and I have been pretty pleased with him since,” Hope said. “He has worked nice.” Most of A G’s White Socks’ rivals’ form leading in to Thursday’s feature comes through two races. Heisenberg beat home Jazzy Star and Nandolo when winning last week’s Ashburton Cup. Vintage Cheddar sprinted past Franco Santino and Swamp Major to win the Wairio Cup days prior. The Hopes have a team to follow at today’s Omakau meeting. Luella looks a strong chance in race 11 following her third behind talented fillies Sugar Loaf and Pearl Harbour at Winton on Tuesday. Mossdale Art was a brave mile (1609m) winner in the smart time of 1.53.7 at the same meeting. The 4yr-old will take on a talented field in race 9. Bev’s K One starts for the Hope stable in race 2 after producing two solid trial performances recently.   Didjabringthebeers happy to be home Canterbury trotter Didjabringthebeers has been back in his happy place ahead of today’s feature trot at Omakau. The 6yr-old brings a patchy form line in to the 2000m mobile event thanks to a less than impressive Interdominion campaign. The Monarchy squaregaiter was clearly off his game during the Alexandra Park series, producing two uncharacteristic breaks in its last two heats. Exactly why the horse was not happy in Auckland remains a mystery to trainer John Howe. But what is clear to the West Melton horseman is that his trotter is happy to be home. “I am not exactly sure what went on in Auckland to be honest,” Howe said. “I don’t think it was the right-handed way of going because he has worked really well that way down here.” “Something wasn’t right, he just wasn’t happy up there.” Didjabringthebeers has not started since he was pulled up on night three of the Interdominions, nearly a month ago. Howe has no concerns about his 6yr-old’s fitness going in to today’s race with that gap between races. “He seems to have bounced back well,” Howe said. “I gave him a good hit out at home this week and he seems pretty right.” The last time Didjabringthebeers faced conditions similar to today’s race – racing left handed over a sprint distance – he produced a career best effort for third behind Tough Monarch in the group 1 New Zealand Free For All at Addington. Fellow Interdominion campaigner Pres The Belle looks one of the horses to beat in today’s feature trot. The Robert Dunn trained trotter relished a drop in class from the Auckland series when showing brilliant gate speed to lead an win her last start at Addington. Heavyweight Hero, who is another leading contender for today’s race, was left in Pres The Belle’s wake when six length behind her in second. Howe also starts Nandolo in today’s Central Otago Trotting Cup. The trainer expects the pacer to be fitter for his last start fourth in the Ashburton Cup. Nandolo was run down by three horses rated at longer odds than him, including Central Otago Trotting Cup rival Heisenberg, in the Christmas Eve event. Howe suspects the horse’s fitness was not quite up to the mark and he should strip in better condition on Thursday. “He got away on me a bit, he had a really good blow after the race, he might have been a run short.” “To my eye he had Heisenberg beaten at the top of the straight and next thing he got tired in the last 150m.” “But, he was the first horse home off 30m.” Nandolo and Heisenberg will start from level marks from behind the mobile on Thursday. Howe’s day starts in race 7 when Aladdin Sane lines up after winning his first start for the season at Ashburton. The 4yr-old will clash with highly talented Southland trotter Chinese Whisper and the consistent Only One Way.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    A busy Christmas and New Year racing period kicks off for trainers Greg and Nina Hope at Rangiora on Sunday. The husband and wife training partners line up eight horses, before stepping out two more at Ashburton on Tuesday and a further eight at Westport on Boxing Day. The Hope stable have a two pronged attack on Sunday’s feature race, the Rangiora Summer Cup. Both Kendra and Homebush Lad are both strong chances, but will need more luck than they have received in their recent racing to win.  Kendra was knocked over in the Pacers Green Mile at Methven, before being caught parked throughout her last start at Addington. Homebush Lad was unlucky in his last start when running out of room at the finish of Matt Damon’s Akaroa Cup.  Kendra is likely to be more favoured of the pair, but Homebush Lad should not be underrated, stable reinsman Ben Hope said. “I think Kendra is the better horse, but I was pretty impressed with Homebush Lad last time.” “Last week he felt like he was coming back to his best – like when he was second in the Kurow Cup – he feels like he is back to that form.” “Kendra is a better chance and if she gets as good of a run she will probably beat him, but I thought Homebush Lad might have a bit of a chance.” Hope drives Homebush Lad with Ricky May to steer Kendra. Hope drove one of the of the leading chances in the race, Franco Niven, to win two starts ago. Mossdale Rose resumes for the Hope stable alongside Spicy Girl Bequi in race 10.  The 4yr-old has a class edge over her rivals as a Southland Oaks placegetter. However, she will need to step up from her efforts in recent trials to win.  “Her trials have been nice enough, I have been happy with them, but she probably needs to improve a little bit,” Hope said. “But in saying that she has probably needed them.” “If she brings her top for she is definitely as good as anything in that field.” Hope drives Mossdale Art, with May to drive outside chance Spicy Girl Becqui. The Hope stable also have a two-pronged attack on race 7 with Southerly Change and Alyssa Delight.  Southerly Change has produced two head-scratching starts since her impressive debut at Kaikoura. The mare was caught wide at Ashburton and then battled after sitting parked at Addington. “We thought at Addington she probably over raced after she tried to go to the lead,” Hope said. “She is the type of filly that she goes nice, but she probably needs to get things her own way a little bit.” “She has definitely got ability.” May will drive Southerly Change from the 10m mark in Sunday’s standing start, with Hope to drive Alyssa Delight from the same mark.  Alyssa Delight has her first start since running fifth behind Yorkshire at Methven in October.  “She has got a bit of speed, hopefully we can step well enough to be handy and she will definitely be a chance,” Hope said.  Hope drives Krystal Delight, who starts from barrier 1 on the second row in race 4. “If she drew the front line I would have said she would have been one of my best drives.” “But, she is going to be relying on a bit of luck from the second row.” The junior reinsman also drives Ever So Bettor, who has trialled well in the lead up to race 2. The 5yr-old faces a big task to come from wide on the second row over 1950m.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Junior driver Kerryn Tomlinson’s move to Oamaru has provided her with a highlight just weeks after her shift from Canterbury. Tomlinson will drive star 3yr-old trotter Cracker Hill when he has his second start for the season for her employer, Brad Williamson, at Winton on Saturday. Cracker Hill impressed when setting a track record for 3yr-old trotting colts and geldings in his first start of the season at Winton last weekend. The trotter has progressed well following that win and Tomlinson cannot wait to get in the sulky. "I am very excited to drive him; it is a very good opportunity," Tomlinson said. Cracker Hill is not the first group 1-quality trotter Tomlinson has driven. She got to steer former Dominion winner Amaretto Sun, trained by her grandfather, Ken Ford. "I was lucky enough to drive Amaretto Sun after he had already won a group 1 in the bog at Geraldine in my first season of driving," Tomlinson said. "Cracker Hill is a really nice horse that will probably end up in the open class too." Tomlinson has 13 wins to her name and headed to Oamaru in the hope of furthering her career. "I worked for Brad Mowbray and Steve Dolan in Canterbury and I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot. "When Brad [Williamson] offered me a job I thought there could be good opportunities and I could learn a lot from the Williamsons with their trotting knowledge." "I am hoping to get established as a junior driver people can use in Otago and Southland — I am looking to pick up as many drives as I can." Cracker Hill is clearly the horse to beat when starting from a 30m handicap in race 9 following his impressive first up win at Winton last weekend. "He has come through that run pretty well and Brad is really happy with him," Tomlinson said. Tomlinson drives Humble Ladd for trainer Phil Williamson in race 4 on Saturday. The trotter steps up in class after scoring at Forbury Park to clash with the exciting Chinese Whisper. Trainer-driver Nathan Williamson has given Chinese Whisper five trials and workouts before his return after the horse thrived during an extended winter spell. Williamson said the trotter was likely to be driven to suit his high speed as he built back to peak fitness. "The manners are not foolproof yet, but he has got a lot of speed. "I think his best asset is his speed and if he can be driven for that, that is what will suit him best." Williamson also starts Franco Santino in the Wairio Cup. The 5yr-old clashes with the strong team trainer Alister Black has in the 2400m feature. Black will start leading contenders Vintage Cheddar, Lawrence and Kilowatt Kid. Vintage Cheddar will start for the first time since being handed a very tough run when forced to race wide throughout behind Turn It Up at last season’s Harness Jewels. The 5yr-old, who has had two workouts at Central Southland Raceway, was not pushed when running fourth to Paddyproudfoot in his first outing and then beat a moderate line-up in his next workout. Lawrence and Kilowatt Kid both bring winning form and the benefit of recent racing to Saturday’s handicap event. Both pacers have produced wins at Ascot Park after filling the trifecta behind Spirit Of St Louis in last month’s South Of The Waitaki event on Show Day at Addington. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Organisers are hailing Friday’s inaugural Fast10 meeting at Addington a success. The concept saw fields of ten horses run in mobile races in quickfire success under the Fast10 model designed by Canterbury owners Glenn Hames and Tony Russell. The pair spent two years refining the concept which they branded as harness racing’s version of Twenty20 cricket. Hames declared the first running of the event as a raging success. Addington Raceway general manager Brian Thompson also gave the meeting a tick of approval. Thompson said turnover figures from the inaugural Fast10 race day were positive. “Turnover was positive and it was what we were hoping for.” A healthy crowd enjoying an array of on-track entertainment and promotion developed as part of the Fast 10 concept. Attendance numbers were another plus Addington took out of Friday’s meeting. “I think the people that were there enjoyed it and I think it brought a few people that hadn’t been here before to Addington because of the reduced time,” Thompson said. “I would put it down as a success, for sure.” “We will definitely support Fast10 and we will support other clubs looking at it as well.” Seeing trainers, drivers and officials work together to ensure the meeting ran smoothly under its shorter than usual 18 minute gaps between races was especially pleasing, Thompson said. “It was especially pleasing seeing all the trainers and drivers – and even the track guys too – there was a sense of urgency with everyone working together to get the best result.” Hames was in the stable throughout the meeting and got to see first-hand how trainers and drivers pitched in to make the quickfire meeting work. “I was in the stables and the feedback I got from the trainers and drivers was great.” “We were tested, there were two false starts and an enquiry and we still ran to time.” Hames said he received strong feedback from across the harness racing industry yesterday. “I couldn’t have been happier,” Hames said. “It was a real vibrant feel and I was really happy with how it went.” “Everyone across the industry was so positive and I had people ringing me up and saying well done.” The quickfire meeting’s early running, between 11.52am and 2.34pm, meant it was able to be shown on Australia’s prime racing channel, Sky1. The expanded audience was another reason for the meeting’s success, Hames said. Hames and Russell are eager to try the Fast10 concept again soon. “We can’t wait,” Hames said. “We have had some clubs approach us about the idea.” “We don’t want to take over traditional racing, we just was to make it a bit more exciting on the odd occasion.” The pair have taken elements of the Fast10 idea to work on and refine. Working on marketing a meeting with New Zealand’s top drivers was one idea that came out of yesterday’s event. “We wouldn’t mind having ten horses, ten races and ten top drivers just for a day.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Champion reinsman Ricky May is a driver to follow when the new Fast10 harness racing concept is unveiled at Addington today. Two Canterbury trots enthusiasts are behind the drive to add excitement and interest in the sport by offering quickfire racing in what is being branded as harness racing’s take on Twenty20 cricket. Glen Hames and Tony Russell have worked on the Fast10 concept for two years and believe it will “reignite passion and interest in the industry while creating a fun and exciting event to appeal to new customers”. 10 horse fields, all mobile starts, 18 minute gaps between races and a stream of on-course entertainment and innovations await Addington racegoers at the inaugural running of the Fast10 meeting. May is a reinsman that has witnessed all manner of changes to harness racing during his career of more than four decades. The winner of 2,941 races in New Zealand looks well placed to enjoy success at Friday’s meeting with his strong book of nine drives. May rates impressive recent winner Ranger Bomb, who lines up in race 9, the best of his chances. The Mark Jones and Brendon Hill trained 3yr-old bolted in by more than five lengths after leading in his last start at Addington. May hopes Ranger Bomb can do the same again from barrier 1. “He was pretty good last time, he got attacked early and still won pretty impressively,” the driver said. “And he ran good time.” “From [barrier] 1 we will probably have to try to hold up and lead again.” May combines with another smart 3yr-old in Luella in race 6. The filly gave the reinsman the feel of a horse that would win more races when making a successful start to her career at Nelson, last season. “She did pretty well up at Nelson and she felt like a pretty smart filly that would go on with it.” May was not in the sulky when Luella trialled solidly behind her main rival, Delma Craze, at Rangiora recently. May has driven Oaxacan Dream in her recent trials and he has been impressed by the filly. Under normal circumstances she would be a big winning hope on debut, but today she runs in to a very strong maiden line up. “She is a really nice filly and I have been happy with her trials, but it is a very strong race.” “So, she might be more of a place chance.” Oaxacan Dream clashes with William Wallace, who has his first start since running fifth behind One Change at last season’s Harness Jewels in the event. May’s skill will be put to the test when he drives three talented, but inconsistent trotters at today’s Fast10 meeting. The reinsman will drive the Jones and Hill trained Simone De Beauvoir and Michelle for the first time in races 1 and 3, respectively. Both have the talent to win, but must markedly improve their manners after galloping out of their last starts. Missie Castleton, who starts in race 5, looks biggest chance of trotting throughout among May’s tricky trio. “She got it badly wrong last time, but if she trots all the way she can definitely be in it.” Missie Castleton clashes with highly impressive debut winner The Last Love. May also drives Mrs Washington (race 2), Mrs Washington (race 7) and Three Ideas (race 10) at Friday’s meeting. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Early starts and late finishes paid off for Invercargill trainer-driver Tim Robertson when Miss Jessica won at Forbury Park on Wednesday night. The 4yr-old registered her sire Master Glide’s first victory in New Zealand when producing a tough maiden victory over 2200m. Sitting parked throughout and getting in to a three-way battle for the lead for much of the race’s last lap proved no obstacle for Miss Jessica, who produced a gritty win at massive $48 odds. The victory helped to put a spring in Robertson’s step on Thursday morning. The horseman had a 4.30am start on Wednesday before his win and had to be up again at the same time after travelling back to Invercargill from Dunedin after the Forbury Park meeting. Robertson juggles work as both a truck driver and a chef with working his team of seven horses. Victories like Wednesday night’s made all that work worth it, Robertson said. “I am a chef at night, doing a couple of nights, but mostly I am a truck driver in the mornings.” “I was up at 4.30am this morning trying to get all the jobs done so we could get to the races.” “This makes it worth it - especially because I have had her since she was a baby.” Robertson leased Miss Jessica when she was a yearling. The mare’s career hung in the balance after she had a float mishap on the way to qualify at Forbury Park, earlier this year. Robertson spelled the mare and worked her back up to full fitness and she has not looked back. Miss Jessica hinted she was capable of a winning performance in her debut at Ascot Park behind Dream Of Pat, earlier this month. The 4yr-old galloped early, before making up good ground to run fifth. Robertson said adjustments to the horse’s tongue tie were key to her improving on her debut on Wednesday night. “She is quite a heavy breather, so just getting her used to the tongue tie did the trick, really.” Miss Jessica qualified on grass at Balfour earlier this month and Robertson plans to try her on grass again at next month’s Cromwell meeting. Miss Jessica is from the first of Master Glide’s five New Zealand crops. The Yankee Glide stallion has left an Australian winner from his first book in New Zealand in Doug, the winner of five of his 15 starts in Victoria.   Master Glide, who has left 52 live foals in New Zealand, stands at Wai Eyre Farm for a fee of $2500.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Canterbury reinsman Robbie Close will be out to keep his winning form going at Motukarara on Sunday after notching a winning treble at Addington on Friday night. Close has seven drives at the Akaroa Trotting Club meeting that could add to his tally of 17 in the sulky, so far this season. The driver has racked up those victories at a strong strike rate and if he continues his form he will be on track for one of his best seasons of driving. “I’m pretty happy with the way things are going, I have got a good boss to work for in Regan Todd,” Close said.  “He puts a lot of trust in the way I drive, so I can’t complain.” Close notched wins 15, 16 and 17 for the season when scoring with Unico Veloce, Sam’s Town and Cheezel at Addington. Todd has had Cheezel in fine form since the mare joined his barn this season. The 5yr-old has not missed a top three placing for her new trainer and Close ensured she would get a cheque again when giving her a perfect run in the trail. “She had copped a little bit of luck in her last two starts, running on in quick last halfs [800m].” “But, sitting in the trail she did herself pretty well.” Close won out when a battle of tactics played out in Friday night’s Show Day Futurity Consolation. The race saw plenty of lead changes and mid race moves, which the driver largely kept Sam’s Town out of. Close elected to save ground on the home turn, which may have caused the horse’s backers a few nervous moments, before the Gavin Burgess trained pacer cleared out to win. “He is not a bad horse – as long as he gets the run to suit – then he is quite a nice horse.” “It was a bit of a cat and mouse affair, but with the way things worked out it suited him really well.” Close also found himself in a tight spot in the home turn behind Unico Veloce. Once the reinsman worked the Mark Fuller trained 3yr-old in to the clear in the straight he let down with a sharp finish to reel in the leader, Prospect Park. “Mark said he got lost a bit lost in front last time at Geraldine, so he said to drive him with one run if you can,” Close said. “He got a bit lost again on the last bend when a few of them got a bit tired, but he showed a really good turn of foot to win.” Close’s best drives appear to be saved until last at Motukarara on Sunday. He combines with impressive first up winner Elo Louise in the last of 11 races. The 3yr-old produced a powerful finish to win on the track earlier this month and will attempt to do it again against a tougher field when starting from barrier 14 on Sunday. “She has just got a bad draw, she is not a bad wee filly, but that is going to make it harder.” “It’s a step up in grade, but with one run she can finish over top of them.” Close also drives consistent trotter Cabella Noir in race 10. The 6yr-old will be out to go one better than her last start second to BK Dawn at Methven, earlier this month. “She is a horse that if she hits the front too early she knocks off, she has only got a short wee sprint.” “If she gets the right run with a sit, she won’t be far away.” Close will also drive Goodthingstaketime in race 3 following his good last start third at Oamaru. “He has drawn handy and been racing well without much luck.” Close also drives Black Jacket in race 2, Smooth Debate in race 5, Nui Ba Den in race 8 and Doitson in race 9. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    If the team from Kirstin Barclay and Paul Ellis’ stable go as well on the track at Winton on Sunday as U May Cullect has been going off the track, they will be in for a big day. The training partners will line up five strong chances on the Winton Harness Racing Club’s innovative programme, including former All Stars pacer Freddiesam. The former All Stars 3yr-old has been sent south in the hope he will find suitable races and break his maiden after being competitive in good fields in Canterbury, recently. “The owners just wanted find an easier spot for him,” Barclay said. “With his Canterbury form, you think he would be a good show.” Freddiesam headed south after producing a sound fourth behind the talented Navagio at Kaikoura last month. The pacer showed good gate speed to lead, which he gets to show off again from barrier 1 in Sunday’s 1609m event. The ace draw gives Freddiesam an edge over his stablemate, Cab Calloway, who is drawn out in barrier 5. “From the draw Freddiesam is just a little bit sharper at the moment, I would say,” Barclay said. Cab Calloway goes in to Sunday’s race after going sound races behind smart pacers, Cassius Bromac and Silent Major, in strong maiden fields. “He is actually a really nice horse, he is a good chance as well,” Barclay said. “He just lacks a little bit of top end speed, but he tries hard.” The Barclay-Ellis team start another talented maiden in race 8 in Watch Me Now. The 3yr-old finished off strongly, but a little roughly, behind Renegade Rose at Wyndham last month. “She is definitely a nice filly in the making – she is still a bit green and learning it all,” Barclay said. “But, she is not far away from putting her hand up.” Betterthenbrie represents Barclay and Ellis in race 6 — Sunday’s feature — the Equine Stakes for mares. The 5yr-old, who starts from barrier 2 on the second row, went a reasonable race when fighting on for a last-start fifth, after running in to smart types, Rockabilly Blues and Lawrence, in her previous two runs. “Its not a bad draw for her – she should lob a nice possie and she is always there abouts,” Barclay said. “She has been going some great races this season and popping up and running some nice placings.” Lite Percussion also ran in to Lawrence recently – in his last start at Ascot Park The 6yr-old drops significantly in class when he starts in race 3 on Sunday. “I thought he definitely had a good chance,” Barclay said. U May Cullect has continued to please his trainers during his rehabilitation from the tendon injury that ruled him out of the New Zealand Cup Carnival. Barclay and Ellis have been walking the southern sensation along Oreti Beach to help build up strength in his affected leg. “He is doing amazing – we are absolutley rapt with him,” Barclay said. “He is up to walking 20 minutes and his leg looks really good.” “He is going up to Dunedin for another scan after Christmas, but it is unbeleivable how good it looks.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Co-owner Meg Butterworth perfectly summed up the feelings of those watching Copy That’s win in the Alabar 3yr-old Classic at Alexandra Park on Saturday night when she said she “nearly died three times” during the heart-stopping event. The Ray Green trained pacer set the hearts fluttering among punters who backed him in to $2.10 win odds in the group 2 feature when galloping at the 1800m before again setting pulses racing in a nail-biting finish with runner-up One Change. His trainer, owner and backers admitted Copy That gave them a fright, but one man who remained unmoved by the 3yr-old’s antics was his driver. David Butcher was at his cool and calculating best when getting Copy That back down and pacing before after his gallop an then nursing him to the finish. Copy That looked more like a $50 shot when he flew out of his gear when Butcher handed the lead away the horse’s stablemate, Line Up, and driver Anthony Butt. Butcher said it was then that his horse, raced by Butterworth and her husband, Merv,  reverted to some old tricks.  “He used to do it as a young horse - what I am thinking is when Ants has come around he has relaxed and then he has just popped out a bit.” “It is a little habit that we thought that we got him out of, but he brought it back tonight.” Though he may not have shown it during the 2200m feature, Butcher said Copy That has been pacing better since running second behind One Change in the Sires Stakes Series Final. “He is a pretty nice horse, it has taken a little bit to get him there.” “Ray has done a few little things with his gait that have really helped, because he was really rough down in Christchurch.” “When he ran second he ran in on a couple of the corners, and he is actually a little bit better left handed.” Butcher did not look to panic when One Change surged at Copy That late in the home straight. The reinsman said Copy That was already doing his absolute best at in the final 100m. “When you’re running a 55sec half (800m) and a 27sec quarter (400m) and they have run 2.37 you can’t go much better.” “I am a great believer that most horses do try – some of them have had enough – but most of them will try.” Copy That officially stopped the clock in 2-37.3 for 2200m, running home in 55.9 (800m) and 27.5 (400m). The pacer will not clash with many of the rivals he beat on Saturday night in the next 3yr-old male pacing feature of the season - he is ineligible for the upcoming Yearling Sales Series Final. Green said he and the Butterworths would need to plan where Copy That will go next. The Victoria Derby at Melton is a possible target for the pacer.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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