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By Jonny Turner    One Apollo has a crucial advantage over his main rivals going in to the group 3 D G Jones Memorial Trotting Cup, he just needs to take advantage of it. The Brent White trained trotter will clash with again with Heavyweight Hero, Pres The Belle and Woodstone after beating them home in Sundees Son’s Ordeal Trotting Cup victory at Addington a fortnight ago. Though Sundees Son and runner-up Majestic Man cleared out in front of One Apollo, White was more than happy with his horse’s effort for driver Ricky May. “When they really went down the back he got caught a little bit flat footed,” the trainer said. “So, Ricky probably nursed him a bit more, being his first time against those real good ones.” “He still hit the line and he didn’t get knocked around at all – there are a few more nice races coming up for him.” One Apollo gets a 10m headstart in his quest to try to beat the trio he downed in his last start in Sunday’s 2810m feature. But the 5yr-old must step away well or he might as well be starting on the back mark with them. “He has got to step first,” White said. “If he gets away cleanly Ricky has got to be a bit positive and then he can make his mind up about what he wants to do after that.” With a strong record of three placings from five starts on grass and confidence from White that his horse should see out a strong 2810m, Sunday’s race looks an ideal opportunity for One Apollo. The early favourite for the race and One Apollo’s main rival, Heavyweight Hero, brings an even more impressive grass track record to the D G Jones Memorial Trotting Cup. The trotter will look to quickly move on from a rare early gallop in the Ordeal Trotting Cup and add to his three wins that have come in just four starts on turf. Pres The Belle is in a similar position to Heavyweight Hero. The usually reliable mare, who has had two starts on grass for a win and a placing, will be out to turnaround the rare mistake she made when breaking late in the Ordeal Trotting Cup. White also starts Rogie Falls in race 5 Cranbourne in race 8 on Sunday. Cranbourne will step out for the first time this season with the benefit of one Ashburton trial under his belt. The 4yr-old went to the line untested by driver Stephen McNally in the heat on a slick 26.5sec last 400m. “The blinds were still in the gear bag at home and the plugs were still in,” White said. “Stephen was more than happy with him.” His trial effort may suggest Cranbourne has thrived since his last start at Invercargill in March. But it has not all been smooth sailing for the horse since then. “He came up good and then he got a wee bit crook and his bloods were out,” White said. “But, I have been really happy with him since then.” “He has got a good bunch of owners, so I hope he does a good job.” Ben Laughton drives Cranbourne in Sunday’s junior driver’s event. Rogie Falls has raced consistently in his five starts since lockdown. But the trotter would have gone even better if he had been able to show racing fans the potential he shows White at home. “He works unbelievable, but then he misses away or gets a bad runs or decides not to quite put in 100%.” “He can trot and he is one of those horses that when he wins one, he will win two or three in a row real quick.” Stephen McNally drives Rogie Falls on Sunday.

By Jonny Turner    New Zealand Cup contender Franco Santino heads a strong book of drives at Winton on Thursday for Nathan Williamson. The 6yr-old drops back in class after chasing home Classie Brigade in last weekend’s Hannon Memorial. Franco Santino blew the start of the group 3 feature and was left at the back of the field as the winner reeled off a scintillating 54sec last 800m. Williamson hopes the pacer can reproduce the kind of run that saw him set the Winton mile (1609m) track record at 1.52.0 when he starts from behind the mobile in race 8. “If he is going to go to the cup you would want to see him pretty hard to beat on Thursday,” the trainer-driver said. “Once he missed away at Oamaru he was never going to catch Classie Brigade running a 54sec half [800m].” “He had a good blow afterwards – we had a pretty tough week of weather before the race and I am not making any excuses – but should be better for the run.” Williamson needs to get a good line on his horse ahead of the New Zealand Cup and he will he should get one when he puts Franco Santino right in Thursday’s race. “He has got good gate speed, but it will depend on what the others are doing inside me are doing.” “Either way he will be going forward at some stage.” Mach Quillan looks a strong chance in race 4 for Williamson following his second placing behind smart winner R K Finn at Winton earlier this month. The 4yr-old takes on the Jonny Cox trained and driven first starter, Sportscam, who looks to be the Matt Brinsdon trained 4yr-old’s biggest threat. “I was pretty happy with the way he went first up, he just peaked on his run,” Williamson said. “I imagine he has improved off that and he should be hard to beat.” Williamson will pair with trainer Chelsea Faithful’s pairing of Tartan Roxy and Toby O’Gara on Thursday. Toby O’Gara, who starts from barrier 1 in race 9, suffered a heart fibrillation in his last start but the reports about his recovery have been good. “Chelsea has been rapt with his work and he has come up with a good marble,” Williamson said. “His form before his last start was great, so going on that he should be a good chance.” Tartan Roxy was won and run second in her two workout appearances ahead of her first start from Faithful’s stable. Williamson thinks the 6yr-old, who starts from barrier 8 in race 5, can go a cheeky race despite having been away from the races since April of last year. “Chelsea has had hers since lockdown and has really put a good base in to her.” “She won her workout pretty easy, she led them up and won nice.” “From her draw she is probably going to have to go back, but I thought if she could get on the [three-wide] train at the right time she could be a winner.” Williamson also drives a pair of horses for trainer Lyndon Bond in The Peaky Blinder (race 7) and Tweedledee (race 10). The Peaky Blinder disappointed in his last start after going agonisingly close to winning his prior run at Ascot Park. “Bondy said he has been quite happy with the horse and he has trained on good after his last run.” “He is best with one run, so we will try to hide him away.” Tweedledee was a good winner of his last start, but faces a tougher test when clashing with Chloe Rose, Rydgemont Son and Humble Ladd on Thursday. Williamson also drives outside hopes Major Menace in race 2, Bardot in race 6 and Dangerous in race 11. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Junior driver Olivia Thornley is keeping a cool head as her drive in one of the country’s richest age-group races of the season looms. The twenty-year-old has been entrusted with the drive behind Aladdin, a genuine contender in the inaugural running of the listed $200,000 Harness Million Two-Year-Old Colts And Geldings Final at Alexandra Park on Friday night. Thornley took the drive behind Aladdin when he caught the eye when flashing home for fifth placing behind American Dealer in last week’s Group 1 Sires Stakes Final at the same track. With even more cash on the line this week, trainer Mark Purdon is more than happy having the rookie reinswoman in the sulky behind his pacer. “Olivia has really stepped up for us over the last six months and she is worthy of the opportunity.” Thornley is naturally thrilled to get the opportunity to drive Aladdin in two on the country’s biggest age group races in the space of a week. The reinswoman said her Sires Stakes Final outing has eased her nerves leading in to the Harness Million. “I probably got rid of the nerves last week because that was a group 1, so now I am focussing on the race.” Aladdin was second last on the home turn before unleashing a powerful finish in last week’s race. Thornley admitted she did not think her pacer would flash home quite as well as he did. “He went very good.” “When we were turning for home I thought we could run in the top six, but I didn’t expect him to finish off the way he did.” Aladdin has not drawn ideally again this week, but is slightly better off in the Harness Million with barrier 2 on the second row. “As long as we get a little bit of luck we should get a good run and hopefully we should be there abouts at the finish,” Thornley said. Thornley drives Aladdin with the support of Purdon and Rasmussen, as well as the horse’s owner Jean Feiss. The prominent owner has backed the reinswoman in the past by giving her the drive on her former classy racemare, Elle Mac. Repaying that faith would make victory in the Harness Million a extra special, Thornley said. “It would be a huge thrill, especially to do it for Jean, she has been such a great supporter of mine throughout my All Stars career.” “To get a win like that for Mark and Nat would be great, too.” Aladdin disappointed in his first look at Alexandra Park in Krug’s win in the last heat of the Sires Stakes Series. But now that the horse has a better feel for the track Purdon can not see why the pacer will not go a big race in Friday night’s history making race. “I think his first up run helped him a bit – it sometimes does going the Auckland way for the first time,” the trainer said. “His run last week showed more of the ability I thought he had.” “He is going to be handy in the run given the horse he follows out [B D Joe].” “With a better run than he got last week you would think he could feature in the finish.” Aladdin opened the equal fourth favourite for the Harness Million Two-Year-Old Colts And Geldings with his stablemate Bettor Call Me at $34 odds. Krug headed the market at $1.55 ahead of It’s All About Faith ($3.10) and American Dealer ($18). Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Missing a plane to North America continued to pay dividends for Classie Brigade as he continued his brilliant run in to the New Zealand Cup by winning yesterday’s Hannon Memorial. The Robert Dunn trained pacer made it back to back wins in New Zealand Cup lead up races by powering away from placegetters Robyns Playboy and Tango Tara to win the group 3 Oamaru feature. While question marks hang over the campaigns of several of the leading contenders for the New Zealand’s biggest harness race, Classie Brigade sits alongside North Island hope Copy That as one of the most in form horses amongst the contenders for the 3200m event. Classie Brigade has landed in that prime position just weeks after he should have been touching down in North America. Owner Grant Eynon, with his father, Colin Eynon, and long-time friend Mark McKinnon, signed off on selling last year’s New Zealand Cup third placegetter subject to a vet report. Thankfully for the trio of owners, their 8yr-old never got the necessary tick needed to step on the flight he was booked on to. “We have actually sold this horse three times, but we have still got him,” owner Grant Eynon said. “He never quite gets there, but now I am very pleased we haven’t.” “It was during lockdown – he was meant to be going to the [United] States.” Classie Brigade produced one of his customary safe beginnings in yesterday’s feature as U May Cullect, drawn to his inside, went away in a wild gallop. Though he did not shoot straight to the lead as he has in nearly all of his races this season, Classie Brigade took the front off eventual runner-up Robyns Playboy shortly after the start. The 2020 edition of the Hannon Memorial was effectively over at that point as driver John Dunn controlled the event, before Classie Brigade unleashed a scintillating 54sec last 800m to win. The kind of trouble-free run their horse enjoyed yesterday is exactly what the 8yr-old’s owners are hoping he gets in the New Zealand Cup, following Classie Brigade’s effort to flash in to third after being held up in the home straight in Cruz Bromac’s win in last year’s edition. “He had to come around them with a horse stopping in front of them – he hasn’t had a lot of luck – but he has won his share,” Grant Eynon said. Yesterday’s win was Classie Brigade’s seventh group 2 or group 3 race victory. A group 1 win is just about all that is missing from the four-time group 1 placegetter’s resume. A New Zealand Cup win be a perfect way to bring it up, according to the horse’s owners. “It would be great if he could top it off and win the cup, that would be fantastic,” Eynon said. “He has gone close, but he kept on running in to that horse called Lazarus.” “If he keeps his standing start manners and keeps rattling home fast last quarters [400m] he will be a hard horse to beat.” Robyns Playboy boosted his New Zealand Cup hopes with his strong second placing, two lengths behind Classie Brigade. Tango Tara was solid in third, ahead of A G’s White Socks, who was forced to sit parked for the final lap of yesterday’s feature. Though U May Cullect ran last of seven runners and made a poor beginning, the popular pacer looked to have improved from the very slow start he made to his season at Winton last week. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    A G’s White Socks will be out to buck a growing trend when he steps out in the Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday. Mystery sounds several of the top contenders for the New Zealand Cup and it hit fever pitch this week when stablemates Self Assured and Spankem were withdrawn from the 2600m standing start. Though trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have reported both horses’ setbacks - relating to hoof soreness - are not major issues, their scratchings have added mystery to an already tricky New Zealand Cup puzzle. Self Assured and Spankem join Belle Of Montana, Mach Shard, U May Cullect and Nandolo, who have question marks next to the status of their New Zealand Cup campaigns. Each of the latter quartet have made the waters surrounding New Zealand’s biggest race murkier by disappointing in their most recent lead up races. The withdrawal this week of Another Masterpiece and Princess Tiffany has further complicated the New Zealand Cup puzzle. A massive question mark has hung over A G’s White Socks campaign since he suffered an atrial fibrillation and was pulled up in his first start for the season in last month’s Maurice Holmes Vase. Trainers Greg and Nina Hope then scratched then 7yr-old from the New Brighton Cup two weeks later. The reason for that was not because the horse hit yet another obstacle on what is proving to a bumpy road to the New Zealand Cup and they hope their pacer can get his campaign back on a better footing at Oamaru tomorrow. “After his heart problem he had some treatment and it had a 14-day withholding period, so he had to be scratched out of the New Brighton Cup,” stable representative Ben Hope said. “He was working good enough going in to that race and we thought he would have been a pretty good chance.” A G’s White Socks has been left as one of two proven big race performers left in the Hannon Memorial, alongside Classie Brigade, following the scratchings of Self Assured and Spankem. Classie Brigade’s brilliant standing start manners and excellent recent form, including his last start win in the New Brighton Cup, have seen him installed the hot $2 favourite for the feature. While A G’s White Socks can match the Robert Dunn trained pacer on class, taking his rival on effectively in a fresh state, after his first up run turned in to a non-event, sets him a big task. Though the Hope camp could not be any happier with A G’s White Socks’ fitness levels given the horse’s recent circumstances. “He didn’t miss much work – maybe four or five days – after his fibrillation and we have been quite happy with his work since then,” Ben Hope said. “Obviously there are a lot of nice horses in there, but it does look like a two horse race.” “Classie Brigade is going to be hard to beat because he steps so well.” “It is not going to be easy for A G’s White Socks, but he should still be in the top three you would think.” A G’s White Socks will combine with driver Ricky May in Otago for the first time since May’s recovery from a heart problem that saw him fall from the horse’s sulky in the Central Otago Cup in January after he became unconscious. The current New Zealand Cup climate offers up and coming horses and excellent chance to boost their hopes of being a factor on the second Tuesday in November in the Hannon Memorial. Robyns Playboy, who has started the season in excellent form and broke the Ascot Park track record in his last start, looks a serious contender. Highly popular pacer U May Cullect also gets the chance to bolster his New Zealand Cup claims after disappointing when clearly lacking race fitness first up at Winton last week.  

By Jonny Turner    A trip to the deep south several months ago led to junior driver Max Hill winning his first race with Watch Me Now at Ascot Park on Wednesday. The son of Canterbury trainer Brendon Hill rated the Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis trained mare perfectly in front to help her beat a smart field in her first start since February. Hill has established himself as a junior driver and gone on to notch his first win after what was meant to be a routine trip to Southland. “I left school was fifteen and started working for Dad and I worked for Mark Jones for a while when they were training together.” “I took a couple of horses down south one time and I never went home.” “I love it down here working for Tank and Kirstin.” Watch Me Now led throughout with Hill deciding not to hand the lead to rival Maximus Prost in the early stages. When the attackers came at to put pressure on the pair before the home turn the four-year-old found plenty under Hill’s urgings. “When the other horses came at her she really got going.” “That is her really – she lifted when they came up to her.” Hill praised his employers for trusting him to drive such a smart mare, who took her record to four wins from six starts on Wednesday. “I am getting looked after really well down here.” “It’s really good of Tank and Kirstin to let me drive that horse, she is a really smart mare.” Hill credits Ricky May for giving him early guidance with the finer points of race driving. The junior driver had 11 drives before landing his first win with Watch Me Now. Since starting out Hill has had plenty of support and encouragement from the Southland driving ranks. “Ricky is like family to us, so I talk to him a lot.” “Kirstin helps a lot and I talk to Nathan [Williamson] and Brent [Barclay].” “Matty Williamson is another really good one that you can talk to about stuff.” “All of the drivers down here are really good.” Like any young reinsman, Hill is eager to rack up more wins. He has driven almost exclusively for the Barclay-Ellis stable during his short career and hopes to build on that. “It would be good to get some outside drives and get a few wins.” The Barclay and Ellis team enjoyed a good day out despite the cold and wet conditions at Ascot Park on Wednesday. The trainers produced the quinella in race 1 when Ride In A Concorde beat Her Majesty. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    The road to the winner’s circle has been a long and challenging one for trainer Paul Andrews, but he finally made it when Tad Lincoln won on Wednesday. It was cold, wet and windy at Ascot Park, but that could not dampen Andrews’ mood after his six-year-old made light work of the testing conditions to run away from his rivals for driver Mark Hurrell. Andrews was first licenced in 1993, but health battles and other circumstances have lead to him lining horses up sporadically since then. At the time, the trainer was introduced to hands on work with harness horses through his brother-in-law Ben Ward, who has since become the starter at Southland meetings. “Ben was mucking around with some himself and I just had a bit of spare time and got involved,” Andrews said. “But then I got quite sick and I wasn’t able to do anything with them for a few years - for about five years or so I stepped out of it.” “I had heart attacks and skin complaints – I couldn’t be out in the sun – trying to get horses going doesn’t work so well.” When Tad Lincoln cleared out from his opposition by two lengths in race 3 Andrews ticked off his long held ambition a training a winner. “It is good to be able to tick it off.” Andrews has had previous success in the harness racing industry outside of training. The Tiwai Aluminium Smelter worker bred, prepared and sold Lord Kennington, who went on to win seven races and run second to Holmes DG in the Waikato Flying Mile in 2002. Andrews also bred and sold Kiwi Kennington, who won three races from Murray Faul’s Ascot Park stable. Andrews went outside his own breed to acquired Tad Lincoln, who he got from friend and fellow trainer Adrian Wohlers. “I got him off Adrian, he thought he still had a bit left in him, so I gave him a go.” “He has been going reasonably honest races.” Andrews added sliding blinds to Tad Lincoln’s gear ahead of yesterday’s race and got instant success when the pacer scored his second career win. “He has been going OK and when he has got a gap he sometimes wasn’t wanting to go there.” “Something wasn’t right and the sliding blinds seem to have woken him up.” Tad Lincoln scored his first career win almost 21 months before yesterday’s victory when winning for trainers Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis in January of 2019. Mark Hurrell drove the first leg of a winning double and helped produce a stable quinella in race 2. Hurrell drove the Craig Laurenson trained Sage Trouble to beat out her stablemate Miss Bamboocha. Sage Trouble ran a good second when she and Jaguar Bay cleared out from the rest of the field in their last starts at Winton last week. “She has done a good job this mare, she is pretty competitive in this grade,” Laurenson said. “She can run around 2.52 [for 2200m] but when they better ones go 2.50 it is harder for her.” “But she is improving.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Junior driver Mark Hurrell’s chances in the squaregaiting events at Ascot Park on Wednesday look hot to trot. The Waikouaiti reinsman will drive last start runners-up Count Eyre and Sage Trouble, who bring excellent formlines to their assignments. There is hardly any better form in New Zealand’s lower trotting grades at the moment than running second to rising star Bitamuscle. If Count Eyre can repeat his last start effort of getting within two and a half lengths of the promising Paul Nairn trained colt he should be very hard to beat in race 6. “I thought if he could step and run along a wee bit, on his form he should be pretty hard to beat,” Hurrell said. “I haven’t driven him before, so stepping him is going to be the biggest thing.” “But I would say if I could step him away he will be a great chance.” Count Eyre will have a 10m advantage over his main rival, Rydgemont Milly when he starts from the front row in Wednesday’s 2200m event. Rydgemont Milly comes in to the race after overcoming a 10m handicap to beat a similar field at Ascot Park two weeks ago. Hurrell will drive Sage Trouble following her excellent second behind Jaguar Bay at Winton last week. The first two finished more than seven lengths in front of the third placed South Park, who starts alongside Sage Trouble in race 3. Hurrell is hopeful with a quicker getaway this week, Sage Trouble can go one better. “It was quite a good run last week, I thought.” “She didn’t have much luck early in the race and the first two streeted the rest.” “I would say if we could step and keep handy and stay in front of the main ones she would be tough to beat.” Sage Trouble starts from the 30m mark in race 3, with only two horses in front of her on the front line. Hurrell also drives Bettathanraza in race 4 following her last start fourth behind Wattlebank Lass at Ascot Park two weeks ago. “It wasn’t a bad effort last time, but she is pretty green and still has a bit to learn.” “She is a place chance in that race.” Tad Lincoln looks a outside hope for Hurrell in race 3 as does Sagwitch in race 8. If he is on his game, the latter has the ability feature in what is set to be a hotly contested 2200m event. Race 8 sees an exciting clash between up and comers Watch Me Now and Maximus Prost and established middle grade horses Burnham Boy and Nota Bene Denario. Maximus Prost and Nota Bene Denario both come in to the event after producing excellent last start wins on the track. Burnham Boy brings a last start fifth in a good field at Addington to the race after running third behind Robyns Playboy in track record time in his previous run. Watch Me Now will start for the first time on Wednesday since putting together back to back wins at Wyndham in February. The 4yr-old, who ran a 1.53.5 mile (1609m) in the first of those victories, has had three post-lockdown workouts to prepare for her return to racing. She won the first before running third behind Bridesdale Robyn in her next. Watch Me Now was second behind Pearl Harbour in her latest public appearance at the Winton workouts two weeks ago. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Sundees Son shot back to the top of New Zealand’s trotting ranks on a big night for trainer Robert Dunn when bolting in to win his second consecutive Ordeal Trotting Cup on Friday. The multiple group 1 winner unleashed sensational closing sectionals to leave a top class line up strung out all around the Addington track when taking out the group 3 feature for driver John Dunn. Sundees Son’s five and a half-length demolition job ended a frustrating year for the Dunns and owners Colin and Nancy Hair. After establishing himself as the country’s top trotter two seasons ago with a hat-trick of group 1 wins in the Anzac Cup, Rowe Cup and Harness Jewels, things went pear shaped for Sundees Son after his win in last season’s Ordeal Cup. “He has always had a few niggling problems and we have always had to give him small breaks here and there,” Robert Dunn said. “But last season he just wasn’t himself and we put him in the paddock.” “He is a horse that tells us when he really is right.” “When you drive him you can tell he is in the zone and when he is, he is just unreal.” After making a mistake in his first run back this season, the 6yr-old trotter showed he was feeling somewhere near his best with a brilliant Rangiora trial win last week. Robert Dunn said the credit for resurrecting Sundees Son career should go to his son and South Island stable manager, John, together with his father in law Craig Edmonds. “Craig loves the horse and he drives him a lot in his work.” The challenge for the Dunn team now is to keep Sundees Son at his mental and physical best while getting him fit enough for his big target – the Dominion. “We just have to space his races now so he doesn’t have any niggling problems,” Robert Dunn said. “And it will take some work.” “We will have to keep racing him, we can’t wrap him up in cotton wool, the Dominion is over two miles [3200m].” “So, we will put a plan in place to get him 100% right on November the 13th.” Sundees Son scorched his last 800m in 55.9sec, which was the fastest last 800m of all of Friday night’s races bar one. The fastest came when the Dunn trained Classie Brigade reeled off a scintillating 54.6sec split when holding out a late bid from runner-up Di Caprio to win the New Brighton Cup. The 8yr-old’s victory in the 2600m group 3 feature was reward for his three excellent placings behind Self Assured this season. Though he was hardly in doubt of missing a start, the win guaranteed Classie Brigade entry in to New Zealand’s most famed race on the second Tuesday in November. And with that will come a chance for redemption. “It was a great win, he has got great manners and he is a genuine New Zealand Cup chance,” Dunn said. “He could have won it last year, he ran in to a dead end behind Spankem, he had check off his wheels and come back around Cruz Bromac again.” “But, that is the way racing is and he is a cup winning chance this year, for sure.” While Classie Brigade, who led easily after just 100m, has clearly got his standing start manners in check, the New Zealand Cup favourite Self Assured has not. The red hot New Brighton Cup favourite took no part in Friday night’s pacing feature when galloping wildly at the start. Trainer-driver Mark Purdon requested the 5yr-old be put on the unruly for future standing starts after his wayward display. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Drawing barrier 1 has thrown a curveball at Sundees Sun ahead of the classy squaregaiter attempting to defend his Ordeal Trotting Cup crown at Addington on Friday night. The Robert Dunn trained trotter is clearly feeling fit and ready enough to win the 2600m group 3 feature if his excellent recent trial win at Rangiora is anything to go by. The 6yr-old powered to an impressive victory from a 40m handicap in a faultless display for driver John Dunn. That effort came after the Sundees Son galloped in his first run since last year’s New Zealand Cup Carnival in late July. The task to get things right on Friday night got a little more tricky when the group 1 winner drew the ace barrier. However there is confidence in that Sundees Son can rise to that challenge and finally show how good he really is. “He is generally pretty good from a stand, it could be tricky, but lately he has been really good,” Robert Dunn said. “It can be a tricky draw, it could be good for him or it could go against him big time.” “I have seen trotters that never go away in their lives step really nicely from one, so it is just one of those things.” Aside from any queries about that draw, the Dunn camp could not be happier with Sundees Son. “Johnny is really pleased with him, he thinks he is back to his best,” Dunn said. “He has trialled good and since he has had the time off he has been trotting like he was when he was going good.” Sundees Son will have to beat out two of his stablemates to defend his Ordeal Trotting Cup title in Woodstone and Pres The Belle. Pres The Belle has gone three reasonable races this time in and has upped her fitness levels with each one. “She is getting better all the time, a couple of her first runs were not as good as usual, but I think she is getting fitter all the time,” Dunn said. “And as the season goes on I think she will get back to where she was last campaign when she was very, very good.” Woodstone had to give classy 4yr-old Ultimate Stride a 20m head-start last week when fourth. The 7yr-old has improved from that run after recently relocating from Dunn’s North Island stable. “He has only just got down to the beach – he should improve with his last run and he has come through it very well.” The Dunn trained Classie Brigade was the winner of last month’s Maurice Holmes Vase until Self Assured put up stunning performance to snatch victory short of the post. The 7yr-old has placed in all three of his clashes with his main rival this seasons after his brilliant standing start manners have put him on the speed. Classie Brigade starts on front line in barrier 10 in Friday night’s New Brighton Cup which should give him another opportunity to test Self Assured. “He would have to be the best standing start horse in the country, as far as the open class horses go,” Dunn said. “10 can be a tricky draw, he will have to go away fast enough to cross them, but we think he can.” “And if he can do that it would be ideal because he loves being up on the pace.” Self Assured’s heroics were set up by his blundering start in the Maurice Holmes Vase. Like Sundees Son, drawing an inside barrier (2) has the potential to make stepping away a tricky task. Trainer-driver Mark Purdon has reported that his camp have been giving the New Zealand Cup favourite standing start practice since his big last start win. Self Assured starts alongside his stablemates Princess Tiffany and Another Masterpiece in Friday night’s pacing feature. The Dunn stable also start Henry Hubert in the race. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Southland junior driver Ollie Kite gave Barika a perfect run in the trail to secure his first win in the sulky at Winton on Thursday. The victory was made all the more special as it came in the colours of his employer and mentor, Nathan Williamson. Though Kite was sitting pretty with a handful of horse at the 400m, he had a few nervous moments when rival horses started to make swooping runs while he waited to take the passing lane. “It was great – we were travelling pretty good at the 400m.” “But then there were a couple getting in to it and I thought they might get away on me.” “But we came back and got them.” Kite is not from a harness racing background, but soon got hooked on the sport when landing a full time job with Williamson after leaving high school. “I started off working for Tony Barron and when he moved up to Canterbury I more or less left school a year early and went to work for Nathan full time.” “And once you have got the bug you can’t get rid of it.” “Nathan has done a lot for me and it is great to finally get a win for him.” With more than 800 career wins, there are few better mentors around for Kite to learn his trade from than Williamson. “He gives me instructions and tips all the time, it never stops.” “But that is the way I want it to be because he is great to learn off.” Kite had a good grounding at trials and workouts before beginning his driving career at the start of the new season. The reinsman had 12 drives and notched two placings before breaking through for his first win on Thursday. “I had about sixty drives between the workouts and trials and that gives you a lot more confidence when you go to the races.” “And the more race day drives you have the more confidence you have.” Kite also drove Get Lucky in to second placing in Thursday’s feature trot. Another first was notched at Winton when Bardot registered Maria Murrell’s first training win. Bardot’s shift south from Brendon ‘Benny’ Hill’s Canterbury stable prompted the horsewoman to get her harness racing licence. “She’s had problems with ulcers, was a bit nervy and lost a lot of condition so Benny thought the Southland grass would be good for her,” Murrell said. Murrell has a strong background in thoroughbred racing having previously worked for former prominent Southland trainer, the late Kelly Thompson. Murrell just has Bardot in work and said she has no plans to extend her team despite the successful start she has made to training harness horses. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    The wait is finally over, southern sensation U May Cullect is back. The freak from Oreti beach will start at Winton on Thursday for the first time since a tendon injury forced him in to a lengthy rehabilitation following his only defeat race day defeat over a year ago. U May Cullect’s resumption culminates a long road back to the races which started with his owner Tom Kilkelly giving the horse more than eight months walking to strengthen the troublesome tendon. The seven-yhear-old’s rise from obscurity to win his first eight starts made U May Cullect a pin up horse known across Australasia and something of an equine cult hero. Kilkelly admitted the interest in the horse’s progress back to the races has been incredible and almost overwhelming. “You take a maiden to the races and it goes alright – who cares – it’s no big deal,” the owner said. “But with this horse it is more for other people than just me.” “There are so many people across Southland and New Zealand looking forward to the horse going, and going good, that you feel like you are letting people down if he doesn’t go good.” U May Cullect will not be at peak fitness when he steps away from the 20m back mark in race 10 on Thursday. The pacer has not had a trial or a workout to prepare him for his return with Barclay and Ellis wanting to limit the stress on the horse’s body ahead of his ultimate goal, the New Zealand Cup. “The plan is – Kirstin and Tank are doing it – is to just give the horse a few starts and get him ready for the cup,” Kilkelly said. “He is such a natural athlete that you don’t have to go out and grind and go to all the race meetings to get him fit.” “You are better off not having all those starts.” It has been a case of so far, so good with U May Cullect’s tendon injury leading in to his new campaign. “The tendons are all good, we were a wee bit concerned, so we took him to [vet] Brendon Bell and he scanned him, as well as x-rayed him.” “And he said if I was having to sign this horse off for export overseas I would be happy to sign the docket.” U May Cullect tasted his only career defeat in the corresponding race at the same Winton meeting last year when getting well back on a good speed. The pacer is likely to be back in the running again on Thursday as Kilkelly said Barclay has advised stewards she intends to drive the horse with one late run in the 2400m handicap. That gives U May Cullect’s rivals an opportunity to pinch a break and set him an almost impossible task to win, as they did last year. Punters should expect the seven-year-old’s main rival, Spirit Of St Louis, to be trying to do exactly that and turn the 2400m handicap into a test of stamina. The Graeme Anderson and Mike Love trained pacer goes in to the event with the benefit of three post-lockdown starts, including a creditable sixth placing behind Self Assured in the Maurice Holmes Vase at Addington. U May Cullect’s resumption is set to be a scintillating contest as he also clashes with Pembrook Playboy, Franco Santino, Jazzy Star and Memphis Tennessee. Franco Santino won last year’s edition of the race, handing U May Cullet his first defeat. His stablemate, Pembrook Playboy, was brilliant in Southland last season before lockdown ended his New Zealand Derby tilt. Jazzy Star ran on strongly in his first up assignment at Addington and should thrive on the roomy Winton track. Memphis Tennessee has trialled strongly in Canterbury and looks back to his best after a troubled last campaign. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Covid19 and a brilliant Sires Stakes heat effort at Addington on Friday night have classy filly Bettor Twist in line to follow in her mum’s footsteps. The Bettor’s Delight daughter of former classy race mare Twist And Twirl unleashed powerful sectionals to leave her rivals in her wake in heat two of last season’s rescheduled Sires Stakes Championship for 2yr-old fillies. Driver Tim Williams took no chances with Bettor Twist, surging her to the lead with a lap to go to put a desperately unlucky prior run behind her, as well as turn the tables on her stablemate Darling Me. Though his charge never looked like getting beaten, she is not the complete racehorse yet which meant the kept the reinsman on his toes in the run to the line. “She was really good,” Williams said. “She is pretty casual yet still so it is hard to say nothing was going to get past.” “But once something got next to her she really dug her toes in.” “She has only had four starts, she is still very much a baby, but she is getting better.” Bettor Twist added to the already impressive record of her dam, Twist And Twirl, with her maiden win in Friday night’s 1980m heat.   The Breckon Farms owned mare looks in for another big season following her triumphs last term through her Miracle Mile and Hunter Cup winning son, King Of Swing. Though the Covid19 lockdown is partially responsible, Bettor Twist is following in her dam’s footsteps by firing up as an early 3yr-old, rather than as an early running 2yr-old. “Twist And Twirl was a little bit the same, she took a while to get the hang of it, then she went whoosh,” Breckon Farms principal Ken Breckon said. “It is an incredibly tough family - the Impish family - the harder they go, the better.” “She was an exceptional mare and she probably didn’t get the accolades she deserved, but she has gone on and has left good horses, which is great.” With the pedigree of a future star broodmare, Bettor Twist was never a chance of being in Breckon Farms’ annual yearling sales draft. Instead, the filly was consigned to race by the latest in a string of successful Breckon Farm syndicate ventures – the Breckon Farms-Take Ten Syndicate. “She was a bit goofy when she was young, it has taken her a while to come to it,” Breckon said. “She was just sort of a funny little young filly.” “It took her a while to get there, but she is like her mother, she is just so tough.” Bettor Twist has the chance to follow in her dam’s footsteps, in a roundabout way, following her win on Friday night. Twist And Twirl won the Sires Stakes Championship as a 3yr-old filly and her daughter could also win a championship at 3yrs-old/ Bettor Twist will contest what was to be last season’s 2yr-old fillies championship as a 3yr-old filly at Alexandra Park on October 30. She will get another shot at following in her mother’s footsteps when the Sires Stakes calendar gets back to its normal rhythm when this season’s 3yr-old fillies championship is held at Alexandra Park on December 31. Though she was well held by the winner, runner-up Darling Me was sound in defeat, finishing a length and three quarters from Bettor Twist. They headed an All Stars stable first four with What’s Your Secret third and Avana fourth.

By Jonny Turner    The thrill of winning his first race hit junior driver Tom Nally head on after the judge called in I’m Watching You at the head of the field at Ascot Park on Thursday. Nally had to endure a nervous wait after his Hamish Hunter trained drive charged late to put himself in a photo finish to race 7. The junior driver admitted when his charge was declared the winner by a nose margin over Matrika and Kirstin Barclay he felt nothing but pure excitement. “When I heard we had won it I was shaking, to be honest,” Nally said. “It was a huge thrill.” Nally built up his interest in harness racing educating young horses with his grandfather, breeder and owner, Vin Nally. “We used to break in horses and take them around to Hamish’s place.” “One day Hamish offered me a job and it has sort of gone from there.” Nally had a solid grounding driving at trials and workouts before starting his career at the start of the new season. “Hamish brought me along quietly, I had two years at the trials and workouts just building up.” Nally now has his sights on a career in harness racing, concentrating firstly on establishing himself as a reinsman. The junior driver admits he is hooked on working with horses and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. “I bloody love it.” Nally’s grounding has clearly paid off with his first win coming in just his fifth drive. He was cool and calm under pressure when I’m Watching You was full of running at the 400m and his first winning drive looked in jeopardy. Nally gave the four-year-old a cosy run three back on the markers before angling him off the inner in the final lap. When another runner started stopping quickly in front on him, Nally was left with a big handful of horse, but nowhere to go. Some expert ducking and diving a senior driver would be proud of got I’m Watching You in to the clear in the straight where the horse charged late to win. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Star 4yr-old Ultimate Stride will attempt to continue his brilliant return from injury when he heads to Addington for the first time in over a year on Friday night. The Phil Williamson trained trotter will step up in class to take on proven open class horses after two brilliant wins against lower grade horses in Southland. It has been more than a year since Ultimate Stride faced then same kind of challenge he does on Friday, when he won back to back group 1 events in Australia. With two runs under his belt, the timing is right for the royally bred trotter to again test himself against better opposition. “We definitely think he is up to it and he should be hard to beat,” driver Matthew Williamson said. “He isn’t fully screwed down yet, he has a big campaign coming up with a few big races, but he is fit enough to win.” Staying appears to be the son of Love You and million dollar One Over Kenny’s forte. So, his rivals should expect to do plenty of chasing if Ultimate Stride can step cleanly from the front line Friday night’s 2600m handicap. “Staying is definitely his go,” Williamson said. “If we could step and run that would be ideal, especially with the ones to beat starting behind us.” Ultimate Stride has displayed perfect standing start manners in three attempts from behind the tapes. That should help him maintain his early advantage over his key rivals from the Robert Dunn stable in Pretty Majestic and Woodstone. Both have headed south from Dunn’s Auckland barn with a good amount of fitness under their belts. Pretty Majestic has had three workouts to ready her for her resumption, while Woodstone was third first up behind Daisy Hill at Alexandra Park last month after also having three workouts. The Dunn pair start beside the talented One Apollo on the back mark. Eye-catching last start runner-up Overzealous starts on the front line with Ultimate Stride and her stablemate and roughie, Madeline Stowe. Williamson will team with his brother, Brad, when driving Rydgemont Son in Friday night’s intermediate grade trot. The 6yr-old reverts to mobile racing after galloping from behind the tapes in his last start at Invercargill. Midnight Dash looks the horse to beat in the 2600m event, but Williamson is not ready to concede the race to the Greg and Nina Hope trained 4yr-old just yet. “Midnight Dash has been going great, but I though Rydgemont Son could give him a fright if he did things right.” “He beat him when they raced against Cracker Hill a few starts ago, even though Midnight Dash did sit parked that night.” With star trotter Oscar Bonavena side-lined through injury, it is up to his little (half) sister, My Moment’s Now, to fly their family’s flag. Williamson will drive the Matt Purvis trained 4yr-old in her return over 2600m on Friday night. “She should be a good chance if she brings her manners,” the reinsman said. “She ran a nice quarter (400m) at the workouts last week and she looked to do it quite nice.” Purvis was in the sulky when My Moment’s Now ran her last 400m in 28.3sec to win at the Rangiora workouts. The trotter was second behind Insist The Win in the first of her two public appearances ahead of her return. Williamson also drives Cool Phelan, The Governor, and Swell Time on Friday night. The reinsman rated Swell Time a decent place chance from barrier 1 following her last start win in good time at Ascot Park. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    A big last start effort showed Tom Martin is ready to produce a repeat of his last impressive outing at Ascot Park when he returns there on Thursday. The southern bred 4yr-old powered to an effortless victory on his last trip south from Graham Court’s Canterbury stable early last month. A wide draw and a tough trip parked outside the leader in his last start at Addington stopped Tom Martin from making it two in a row. But his brave effort, just tiring in the last 150m of a quickly run affair, shows the pacer just needs a little bit of luck to bounce straight back to winning form. “I was really pleased with his run at Addington, he was just a victim of circumstance,” Court said. Sheree Tomlinson, who now works for the Court stable, drives Tom Martin again on Thursday in the hope that she can secure a penalty-free junior driver’s win for the 4yr-old. “He has won four and he has only had fourteen starts, so if I don’t look after him he will be up in the grades too far.” “So, hopefully he can get a win with the junior driver’s concession.” “He should be hard to beat – he has trained on well since his last run, so I am expecting a good run.” Tom Martin will not have things all his own way when he takes on a handy line up in race 9. Trainer Alister Black starts Lawrence, following his good fourth behind Robyns Playboy, alongside impressive last-start winner Wecandream. Talented mares Bridesdale Robyn and Born To Boogie add to depth to an intriguing race. The Court trained Endless Dreams comes south for race 5 after running a creditable fifth behind Aladdin when debuting in a strong maiden field at Addington. Her trainer has a decent opinion of the 3yr-old and expects her to improve on that showing on Thursday. “She is a very nice filly,” Court said.  “She has had a good few trials, she trialled pretty good as a 2yr-old and then we had the lockdown.” “She had got a bit of talent and I think she will be pretty hard to beat.” Endless Dreams clashes with arguably one of the horses most unlucky not to have won a maiden race in Wattlebank Lass. The Peter Hunter trained 4yr-old has produced excellent form in her recent starts when having to face off with smart maiden winners Dont Lie To Me, Sweet Lizzie and Avana. Magic Sign will be in a similar position to the Southlander when he debuts for the Court stable in race 4. The Terror To Love 3yr-old takes a smart qualifier in The High Ruler in what looks to be a smart maiden field. Magic Sign should give the Southerner plenty to think about going by his own trial efforts. “He trialled good at Rangiora the other day,” Court said. “He is only a novice at this stages of things, but I expect him to go a good race.” Magic Sign ran second behind Hattie, who went on to run second at Addington on Sunday, in his Rangiora trial. Court is hoping the 3yr-old can help continue the good momentum his three time New Zealand Cup winning stallion Terror To Love. “He is showing he can do the job, he is leaving some nice horses and they not out of great mares.” Magic Sign’s main rival is clearly The High Ruler. The Brett Gray trained 3yr-old unleashed scorching 55.5sec (800m) and 27.6 (400m) closing splits when qualifying at Winton last month. The High Ruler, who is unbeaten in four public appearances, returned to the same track a fortnight later to win a workout in the latest outing ahead of his debut. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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