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By Jonny Turner    John Morrison will take his junior driver’s premiership quest in to his own hands at Addington on Sunday. Morrison has the chance to extend his one win lead in the national competition with six drives, including two from his own stable. The trainer-driver will attempt a repeat of Standout’s impressive win in his first start from his West Melton barn. A slow beginning was not enough to stop the 4yr-old from powering home to win over 2000m, at Addington last month. Morrison is hopeful Standout can measure up when he steps up in both distance and class on Sunday in race 6. “It was a nice win last time, but this is quite a big step up in class.” “I think he can measure up to them, but it will depend on the kind of run he gets.” “He can’t afford to do too much work, because he is more of a sprinter.” Harrison will make his debut from Morrison’s stable in race 2. The 4yr-old comes in to the 2600m standing start after running third in an Ashburton qualifying trial, last month. Harrison’s lack of ring craft leading in to his debut is Morrison’s biggest concern. “He is a bit of a big, dumb bugger – he is probably six months away from his best.” “But, he is good enough to compete and if he gets away, which he seems to do, hopefully he can hit the line.” “I would say he is a top five chance.” Morrison will reunite will Champagneandwine following her narrow second to Sagano at Addington last weekend for trainer Malcolm Shinn. The standing start specialist steps up from 2000m to 2600m, which Morrison thinks will suit her even better. “The 2600m should suit her even better because she is a stayer, she is a nice mare that is better over the longer distances.” “Hopefully she can step well, which she usually does, and she can be thereabouts.” “She has been really consistent and hopefully she just holds that form.” “We have put blinds on her this week, too, so that should sharpen her up a bit, too.” Champagneandwine clashes with impressive debut winner American Sniper in race 5. Morrison combines with Sunnivue Philleah, who treks north after producing consistent form in Southland recently. Though the junior driver has not driven the mare, he has seen plenty of her recently. “I have driven in a lot of the races she has been in and she has being going nice.” “If we get a nice run somewhere – she is more of a one run type by the looks of her – she should be right there.” Time In A Bottle in race 1 and Gottagettabeer in race 8 look outside chances for Morrison. “Time In A Bottle has been looking for a short distance and she has finally got it.” “She can trot a bit, but you just don’t know which one is going to turn up.” “Gottagettabeer is probably one to watch when the grass tracks start up, I’d say.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner     Toliman Lodge proprietors Ken Barron and Blair Orange unveiled a trotter with a good future at Addington on Friday night in impressive debut winner, Cochy Malc. The Dream Vacation 3yr-old continued his dam Cochy Bondu’s perfect record when striding to an effortless win in race 1. Barron confirmed his stable has a decent opinion of the horse. “He is a lovely horse.” Cochy Malc became the fourth winner of four foals his four-win dam has had at the races. That breeding is part of the reason Barron can see his 3yr-old putting together a good record. “If he keeps improving the way he is, with his breeding, he should go up through the grades.” Cochy Malc is a half-brother to Over The Love, who rushed through to open class when winning six of his 19 starts for Barron and Orange. The talented Love You gelding has missed this entire season after being injured ahead of his last start third in the group 3 Southern Lights Trot at Ascot Park in March of last year. “He broke a splint bone on the float on the way down for the Southern Lights Trot and he still ran third,” Barron said. “When we got him home it took us quite a while to figure out why he was sore.” “He has just started fast working again now.” Cochy Malc will try to add to his family’s record while Over The Love progresses towards the races. Barron plans to give the 3yr-old a handful of starts during the winter before freshening him. Barron and Orange completed a winning double when Bettor Grunter took out race 5. The 3yr-old Bettor’s Delight gelding had made steady progress towards the winner’s circle, running second to Arden Messi leading in to the event. According to his trainer, it has been a lack of focus, rather than a lack of ability that has stopped Bettor Grunter from winning before Friday night. “He is one of those big, dumb horses that switches on and off in his races and that has been his problem.” It is hoped that more racing will help the 3yr-old develop his race smarts. Barron was not the only trainer at Friday night’s meeting to notch a winning double. Robert Dunn notched back-to-back victories when Hayden’s Meddle took out race 6 and Kensington Bill won race 7. Hayden’s Meddle held on to win race 6 by a head over Cast No Shadow in an exciting finish to Friday night’s feature pace. The 6yr-old made a sweeping run around the field before hanging tough in the home straight for driver John Dunn. Kensington came with a big finish wide on the track to win for stable junior driver Korban Newman. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Powerful wins by three-year-olds Love On The Rocks and As Sweet As Honey at Ascot Park on Thursday came at just the right time. Love On The Rocks confirmed his status of Southland’s late season star when producing a sweeping finish to win race 10. For the second consecutive start the Terror To Love pacer made light work of stepping up from his previous win to race more seasoned opposition. Having the whole field in front of him at the 800m did not prove too much of a hindrance as co-trainer and driver Kirstin Barclay angled Love On The Rocks to the outside before the turn, where he unleashed a brilliant turn of speed. The victory gave the pacer Barclay co-trains with Paul ‘Tank’ Ellis a hat-trick of post-lockdown wins. Yesterday’s win came just days after the Southern Harness Racing organisation announced it would re-run its two and three-year-old features, which were put on hold during harness racing’s recent shut down. Though their revival has been confirmed, It has not yet been known when the Group 2 Southern Supremacy Stakes Final, Group 2 Southland Oaks and Group 3 two-year-old Classics will be held. Love On The Rocks was not the only pacer who looked like a serious challenger in those upcoming events yesterday. Canterbury filly As Sweet As Honey took her first step towards qualifying for the Southland Oaks final with her win in race 9. Driver Blair Orange took no chances with the favourite, getting her away from the inner from her barrier one on the second row draw, shortly after the start. Orange took the Mitchell Kerr trained pacer around the field with a lap to go, before she ran away from her rivals to score by two and a half lengths. Fellow Canterbury filly Savvy Bromac also put herself in Southland Oaks contention with her win in Race 5. The victory came after another three-year-old Longueval boosted his Southern Supremacy Stakes hopes with long awaited maiden victory in race 6. Arguably the most impressive victory at Ascot Park yesterday came from a trotter that could not contest one of Southland’s upcoming three-year-old feature races. Though his performance yesterday and the speed at which he burst away from his opposition suggested he would not disgrace himself if he ever lined up against pacers. Ultimate Stride produced a faultless and emphatic victory in race 11. Driver Matthew Williamson barely asked the blueblood three-year-old for an effort as he charged away from his older rivals to win race 11. Though Ultimate Stride does not have any Southern features on his radar, he has targets further north. The Phil Williamson trained three-year-old will be a serious contender in the Sales Series Final on October 9 and Sires Stakes Championship on October 23.       Both races will be held at Alexandra Park.  Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    A good problem has led to Canterbury trainer Mitchell Kerr lining up quality 3yr-olds A Taste Of Honey and Koenigsegg at Ascot Park on Thursday. Having too many smart 3yr-olds in the same grade has forced Kerr to send his pair south to avoid them clashing with The Flying Fijian, William Wallace and Storm, who will race at Addington on Friday night. It is also hoped A Taste Of Honey and Koenigsegg will return to Canterbury in even better shape than before they left. “I have got quite a few horses in the same grade, so these two are going down south so I can split them up,” Kerr said. “Neither of them has had a trip away, so it should be really good for them.” A Taste Of Honey will step out for the first time in over a year in race 9. A growth spurt and the Covid19 lockdown are the main reasons the Art Major pacer has not been seen since last year’s Harness Jewels. “She had a few wee growing pains – they hit her after the Jewels,” Kerr said. “She went through a massive growth spurt, so we decided to give her plenty of time out.” “We did have her ready to go before lockdown, but we got a bit unlucky there and had to put her out again.” A Taste Of Honey has impressed in three post-lockdown trials and workouts ahead of her return to racing. The 3yr-old ran on late in the first, before running second to her smart stablemate, Storm, in the next. A Taste Of Honey then won her latest Rangiora workout, when reeling off a 56.9sec last 800m. Those efforts signalled the lightly tried filly is ready to make another impact at the races. It is now just up to driver Blair Orange to find clear running for her from barrier 1 on the second row of the mobile. “She is a really nice filly and I am really happy with her,” Kerr said. “She has got the visitor’s draw, so she just needs a little bit of luck.” Koenigsegg will start for the first time since last October when stepping out in race 10. The 3yr-old’s recent time on the sidelines has been largely for the same reasons as his stablemate. “He is in the same boat as A Taste Of Honey – he went through a massive winter growth spurt,” Kerr said. “He had a real good break and he has come back in fine fettle.” Koenigsegg has had two Rangiora trials and workouts ahead of his return. The 3yr-old beat his stablemate William Wallace in the first, before chasing home star 2yr-old Krug when third a week later. “I didn’t really push him at the workouts either,” Kerr said. “So, he is going really well and I couldn’t really be any happier with him.” Koenigsegg meets a smart line up in what will be just his fourth career start with Orange in the sulky. The Mach Three pacer clashes with Southland up and comer Love On The Rocks and fellow Cantabrian Rocknroll King, who will be suited by the race 10’s mobile conditions. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Trainers Kirstin Barclay and Tank Ellis and owner Tom Kilkelly can dare to dream again after their star pacer U May Cullect got an important all clear this week. Dunedin Vet Peter Gillespie gave the excitement machine a tick of approval to resume fast work following a scan on the tendon injury that cut short his 2019 New Zealand Cup preparation. Barclay admitted it was hard to contain her excitement following the news. “Its hard not to be excited with news like that,” the trainer-driver said. “Peter was very happy with him and he gave us the all clear to start fast working him.” U May Cullect’s latest scan came after his troublesome tendon had been closely monitored for nine months. The winner of seven of just eight career starts started his rehabilitation process with just a five minute walk each day. Barclay and Ellis’ patience to slowly built that up in baby steps clearly paid off with the 6yr-old successful scan. “He is up to 45 minutes trotting now,” Barclay said. "We started off with five minutes walking and built that up to 10 minutes, 15 minutes over the past nine months.” Barclay gave U May Cullect some strong work ahead of this week’s crucial scan and instantly got back the magical feeling the pacer had given her in the past. “There is nothing like driving him – he just feels so balanced.” “I gave him a couple of bowls in the cart last week and he felt nice.” U May Cullect’s clean winded and athletic physique, coupled with him already being jogged up, means he is just a matter of weeks away from trial or workout fitness. But, that does not mean he will be stepping out publicly any time soon. Barclay and Ellis plan to take a patient approach to work towards their ultimate goal – making it to this year’s New Zealand Cup. “He won’t take much to come up – the only caution is that we will try to limit the amount of races he has before the cup to try to get him right." “He won’t go to every cat and dog fight.” “We will limit him to a few starts and hopefully we can qualify for the cup.” Though he is not quite in the same realm as U May Cullect just yet, the Barclay-Ellis-Kilkelly combination have produced another exciting pacer recently in Love On The Rocks. The 3yr-old Terror To Love pacer has impressed with two powerful post-lockdown wins. Both have come off the unruly, with Love On The Rocks having to circle a capacity field of older, race hardened horses in his second Ascot Park victory. “He is a pretty sharp horse,’ Barclay said. “Having to come off the unruly again a go around them – I know he got a drag in to it – but it was a big effort.” “He is a pretty sharp wee horse.” Love On The Rocks will come off the unruly in race 10 at Ascot Park on Thursday. The 3yr-old is ineligible for the upcoming Sires Stakes and Sales Series races, which could persuade his trainers to send him for a short spell soon. “He is not paid up for anything, so we might just give him this start and give him a wee spell and get him ready for the new season,” Barclay said. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner     Arden Messi kicked the first of what could be many winning goals when breaking his maiden at Addington on Friday night. The 3yr-old took his first step towards trying to emulate some of the impressive deeds of his New Zealand Cup winning full brother Arden Rooney when pouncing on the leaders to win race 2. They might have identical pedigrees, but there are some striking differences between Arden Messi and his big race winning brother, according to trainer Grant Payne. “Arden Rooney was up and running as a 2yr-old, but we ended up turning him out because he was getting on a knee.” “Arden Messi has taken a lot longer, he couldn’t even really pace when I first got him.” “But, he has just got better and better.” “He is a real nice horse, I like him.” Arden Messi’s continued improvement helped him progress from his solid fourth on debut, three weeks ago, to score on Friday night. The Bettor’s Delight pacer looked green when he was off the bit and going backward on the home turn before rallying in the straight in his first up effort. Thankfully for Payne, the pacer is rapidly improving his race smarts as well as developing his motor. “He is very green, but he is getting better.” “He just seems to improve every time I take him off the place.” Arden Messi’s West Otago breeder-owner John Stiven will soon get the chance to see his pacer close to home. An Ascot Park start is on the cards for the son of Walton Hanover mare, Tosca Hanover. “We will keep going with him through the winter,” Payne said. “John is quite keen to give him a race or two down south, so we will look at that.” Arden Messi is the first full sibling to Arden Rooney that Tosca Hanover has produced since she foaled the New Zealand Cup winner in 2009. Stiven has a 2yr-old full sister and a weanling full brother to Arden Rooney and Arden Messi. Tosca Hanover was served by superstar racehorse turned sire, Betting Line, last spring. Manners were the key to Eurokash taking out the highly anticipated clash of 2yr-old trotters at Addington on Friday night. The Greg and Nina Hope trained squaregaiter and his stablemate Franco Jorik were the only two horses not to make a mistake when filling the quinella in race 6. Eurokash was driven by national junior driver’s premiership hopeful Ben Hope, who also took out race 4 with Midnight Dash. Hope’s double took him to 27 wins for the season, two behind premiership co-leaders John Morrison and Sheree Tomlinson. Hope’s double also saw him move from $2.80 to $2.20 in the premiership market opened by the TAB on Friday. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Catching Otago’s star three-year-olds Cracker Hill and Spirit Of St Louis looks an almost impossible task for their opposition at Ascot Park on Saturday. Cracker Hill looks as closest thing to a racecourse certainty since lockdown ahead of his clash off level marks from behind the mobile in race 7. A 20m handicap looks far from enough to stop Spirit Of St Louis when he has his first run since March in race 8, the meeting’s feature handicap pace. Trainer-driver Brad Williamson has Cracker Hill ready to rumble following his epic homestraight duel with Matua Tana at Addington four weeks ago. Matua Tana has gone on to notch a hat-trick of wins making Cracker Hill’s three-wide effort look even better. “I gave him plenty of time to get over that, because it was a pretty hard run,” Williamson said. “Obviously the form has been franked with Matua Tana going on to bigger and better things.” “That was pleasing to see him do a super job after beating us.” Most of Cracker Hill’s rivals will have a race fitness edge on him, but that should be no match for the three-year-olds class. Their best hope of beating him is if the favourite gallops out of contention, which looks a faint hope at best. “His manners are pretty good and they should hold him in good stead throughout his whole career,” Williamson said. “If he brings his A-game on Saturday he should be pretty hard to beat.” Spirit Of St Louis showed he had lost none of his brilliant speed when reeling off a fast last 800m in his only public appearance leading in to race 8. The Graeme Anderson trained three-year-old ran a 56.2sec split at the Oamaru trials two weeks ago. Cracker Hill is not the only winning chance among Williamson’s ten drives at Saturday’s meeting. The reinsman will reunite with the Phil Williamson trained Day Dreamin in race 4. The 4yr-old who a well beaten second behind impressive winner Miss Crazed at Ascot Park last weekend. Day Dreamin faces a similar dilemma tomorrow, clashing with another of her stablemates in Springbank Mason. “She is a winning chance – take the winner out of it last week and she has beaten the rest nicely enough,” Williamson said. “Springbank Mason is a handy looking maiden and will be hard to beat.” “There are two or three in there with good winning chances and I think Day Dreamin is one of them.” Jacks N Jazz looks a strong winning chance for Williamson after his big effort to run third behind Payment Plan at Ascot Park last weekend. The Geoff and Jude Knight trained 6yr-old fought on strongly despite sitting parked throughout. “He seems to race really well in the wet that fella, he ploughed through it so easily, sitting parked didn’t seem to worry him.” “If it is a wet day on Saturday he will be hard to beat.” Rin Tin Tin in race 2 and Longueval in race 11 are also among Williamson’s winning chances. Rin Tin Tin ran a good third behind in a chaotic race won by Braeview Kelly last weekend. Barrier four on the second row of the mobile is Williamson’s main concern ahead of Saturday’s event. Longueval has an excellent draw in barrier 2 as he looks to bounce back from a shock failure against in hot maiden field in race 11. Williamson also drives Kagee VC in race 1, Coolhand Easton in race 4, The Peaky Blinder in race 5, Whata Razzle Dazzle in race 8 and Rake in race 10. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Quality age-group racing is set to return in emphatic style at Addington on Friday night with an epic clash of two-year-old trotters. A seven-horse field of squaregaiters will reignite New Zealand’s two-year-old racing after harness racing’s lockdown hiatus when they do battle over 1980m. The scintillating clash will give trainers Greg and Nina Hope the chance continue their brilliant late season form when they start Eurokash, Summer Lovin and Franco Jorik. Stable junior driver Ben Hope will attempt to keep his own hot form going when he drives Eurokash. Though he would not want to switch and drive any other horse in the race, he admits there is little between the trio his parents trains. “I am really happy with Eurokash, but it would be unfair to say he is better than Summer Lovin and Franco Jorik,” Hope said. “They are three lovely horses.” All three of the Hope’s runners come in to race 6 after impressing in last start wins at Addington. Eurokash took his unbeaten run on the trials track to race day when putting more than five and a half lengths on a maiden field late last month. The two-year-old fitness has been kept up to the mark by the Hope stable since and he is ready to show his best on Friday night. “He had that race a few weeks ago and his work has been really good since, so he is ready.” Franco Jorik comes in to race 6 with a similar gap between runs after beating subsequent winner, Mighty Flying Rocker, a day after Eurokash’s victory. “Franco Jorik is the most natural two-year-old of our three,” Hope said. “He always looked like he was going to run early and he is a nice horse.” Summer Lovin brings the most recent form of the Hope trio. He turned heads with huge, but far from perfect performance when galloping across the line more than ten lengths in front of his rivals at Addington last week. While he has clearly got a motor to match his stablemates, he may not quite be able to match them on manners. “Summer Lovin has got a lot of ability, he has got a good staying motor and he certainly showed that last week,” Hope said. “But he is not a natural two-year-old, I remember as a yearling we thought he would be a three-year-old before he raced.” “Eurokash and Franco Jorik would be pretty much the same on manners.” “They don’t generally put a foot wrong in work, but they are two-year-olds and it is much different at the races.” Winter star Matua Tana will attempt to make it four wins in a row in race 8, Friday night’s feature trot. The trotter sealed a hat-trick of wins by reeling off a sensational 27.6sec last 400m to seal a winning hat-trick at Addington last weekend. “Initially we were not going to back him up, but when we saw it was a small field and pretty much the same field he beat last week we thought we would line up,” Hope said. “His work has been good and there is no reason he shouldn’t go another good race again.” Midnight Dash ran second behind Matua Tana last week, which holds him in excellent stead ahead of race 8. “I thought he was really good last week running on that fast quarter,” Hope said. “Without being disrespectful to the opposition, because there are some nice ones in there like Chloe Rose and Carnegie Hall, this looks a drop in class for him and he should be hard to beat.” The Hope stable also line up Mossdale Art, who has not had much racing luck in three post-lockdown runs, in race 10. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Star trotter Marcoola’s racing career could be over as his stud career beckons. While it may not be the news trotting fans wanted to hear, the New Zealand breeding industry is about to get a boost with owner Clint Ford confirming his seven-year-old will enter the breeding barn in some capacity this year. Ford and his father, Ken, who co-owns and officially trains the New Zealand record holder, are currently weighing up exactly what Marcoola’s spring will look like. And there is a possibility it will not include racing. “We are treading carefully now and deciding what is the best direction to head in,” Ford said. “We are definitely thinking about doing something with him and it might be easier to put him to a stud.” If the Sundon entire could be a success in the breeding barn it would complete a vision his owner and former driver has had for some time. “It was always in the pipeline to get a son of Sundon and try to turn him in to a champion and breed from him and try to emulate what his father did, which I am sure he can,” Ford said. Decisions about Marcoola’s breeding and racing future could be finalised in about a week, Ford said. Arguably the most exciting aspect of Marcoola’s breeding future is the access he gives breeders to two of the all-time greats of New Zealand trotting in undisputed siring king Sundon and the country’s greatest ever trotter, Lyell Creek. Marcoola is set to do battle with his longtime rival, Speeding Spur, who will also begin his breeding career in the spring. Ford said he had already fielded plenty of phone calls from breeders who were keen to send their mares to the stallion. His impending stud duties do not mean Marcoola will not be ready if spring racing is on his agenda. “We were going to aim at the Rowe Cup, but the virus put us on the backburner a bit and made us think sit down and think about what we should be doing with him.” If Marcoola has run his last race he will bow out a New Zealand record holder with three Group one wins to his name. His stunning 1.53.8 win in the 2019 Ashburton Trotter’s Flying Mile and his epic four-length win in the Dominion will head the list of Marcoola’s career highlights with many trotting fans. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Rangiora trainer Andrew Stuart has four runners at Addington on Sunday that will be out to continue his brilliant run of recent form. Stuart has scored a win with his small team in three of the four wins since harness racing resumed after lockdown with Crackabrie, Galleons Connoisseur and Ohoka Matty. Stuart will be in a unique position when Galleons Connoisseur seeks another victory in race 12. The 5yr-old will have to beat out two other horses the trainer also has a share in. Stuart races both the Ken Barron trained Plutonium and the Regan Todd trained Hells Shadow. Galleons Connoisseur goes in to the race in winning form after cleaning up a rating 40-45 feild at Addington last weekend. Stuart is hoping driver Ricky May can get his colours in to the winner’s circle. “It is a jump in class, he probably beat an average maiden field last time,” the trainer said. “But, he is definitely going well and he tries hard.” “He might just lack a bit of high speed, but he has the man on to get a bit of luck – Ricky May.” Galleons Connoisseur opened the roughest of Stuart’s trio in fixed odds betting at $21. Plutonium was rated the $4.60 equal favourite with Bossmaro, ahead of Hells Shadow ($8.50). Guido Da Sienna looks the horse to beat when he starts from Stuart’s barn in race 11. The 4yr-old ran home strongly for second behind Hidden Delight at Addington, last weekend. Guido Da Sienna may need luck from barrier 1 on the second row of the mobile, but Stuart has full confidence in driver Blair Orange finding a run for his horse. “Having Blair on makes a difference, he is a freak.” “On his run last week he should be hard to beat.” Guido Da Sienna was rated the $3.30 fixed odds win favourite for race 11 on market opening. It's A Shawthing was a beaten favourite after galloping early then failing to run on at Addington three weeks ago following an eye catching trial run. The 5yr-old has been freshened and is ready to show his best if he can bring his manners on Sunday. “He has definitely got the ability, he just hasn’t put it all together.” “He missed away in that trial, so that might have flattened him a little bit.” “But he seems all good now.” It's A Shawthing opened at a $10 price to win race 2, behind the $3.50 favourite, For Today. Cheddar Made Beta failed to fire in his first run since lockdown at Addington a fortnight ago. Though the 5yr-old may struggle to beat the favourite Tom Martin, Stuart expects an improved effort. “He trialled well before his first race back.” “He was a bit disappointing there, but then you look at the form out of the race with Team Kiwi and Ohoka Matty winning.” “He also might have needed that race a bit, he had been out for a while.” “He is definitely a place chance, but I don’t think he can beat Tom Martin.” Ohoka Matty started the weekend off well for the Stuart stable. The 7yr-old reeled off a sizzling 55.4sec last 800m to win on Friday night. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Match fitness is the only concern trainer Phil Williamson has ahead of his star trotter Ultimate Stride returning to racing at Ascot Park on Saturday. The three-year-old will start for the first time since he trounced Australia’s best two-year-olds at last year’s group 1 Breeder’s Crown Finals in August. Ultimate Stride has spent much of his time since that win recovering from a broken pedal bone. The blueblood son of Love You and champion mare, One Over Kenny, has put the injury behind him and prepared for his return in race 8 on Saturday with two trials at Oamaru. Though finishing third behind Rydgemont Son and unplaced behind Humble Ladd may not look like sparkling form on paper, Williamson has been pleased with his chestnut’s lead up effort. “He is very well and even though he has been beaten in both of his trials I have been very pleased with him.” Ultimate Stride is clearly the horse to beat in Saturday’s 2200m mobile event given many of his opponent’s form pales in comparison to his Group 1 accomplishments. But, Williamson has been training long enough to know that racing is not quite that simple. Especially when his son, Nathan, has the talented Chinese Whisper in Saturday’s race. “I would like to think he could go out there and round them up, but it is not quite that easy.” “Race fitness would be my biggest concern.” “And there are some nice horses in there, Nathan’s one is a very nice horse in his own right.” Drawing barrier 8 under the race’s preferential barrier conditions adds to Ultimate Stride’s challenge. How keen the trotter feels for driver Matthew Williamson in his first start back under the pressure of race day could decide their early tactics. “I probably wouldn’t like to see him rushing out early, but it could depend on how keen he feels behind the gate.” “But, he will be getting around them at some stage.” Chinese Whisper has had two post-lockdown workouts to prepare for his return on Saturday. The four-year-old has not started since his third placing at Ascot Park in February. Jimmy Carter gives Williamson a strong hand in race 8. The five-year-old bounced back to winning form, after being pulled up in his two prior starts, when winning at Ascot Park last weekend. “He definitely wouldn’t be the worst chance, I could see him running in the first four,” Williamson said. Davey Mac and Horse Of Course also race under 2200m mobile conditions for the Williamson stable in race 5. Davey Mac will need to bring his manners after galloping out of contention behind Jimmy Carter last week. Horse Of Course was worked home stylishly to run third in the same event. “Horse Of Course would be a good eachway chance, I think all of our team are good chances on Saturday.’’ “And if Davey Mac brings his manners he will be in it.” Williamson starts Miss Crazed and Day Dreamin in race 1, another 2200m mobile event. Miss Crazed produced a huge finish for second after galloping early in her last start behind Arc De Triomphe. “She is going to be hard to beat if she trots the whole way.” Day Dreamin broke in her only start at Addington last month, but has since show improved manners in two trials. “I was happy with her trial at Ashburton on Wednesday, she should go a good race.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Summer Lovin was brilliant, but far from perfect on a night of emphatic performances at Addington on Friday night. The Greg and Nina Hope trained two-year-old was on the way to one of the most impressive debut wins of the season before causing a stir by galloping in his final stride in race 1. Summer Lovin put in such a powerful performance he was in no danger of losing the race on protest as his rivals were 10 lengths behind him in a contest of his own. Summer Lovin’s victory, with Ben Hope in the sulky, confirmed two things. Firstly, he still has plenty to learn about racing. And secondly, that he has a seriously big motor. “He switches on and switches off and was goofing around up the straight and that was why he galloped,” Greg Hope said. “Ben had not even moved on him, but he doesn’t wear an overcheck and he got his head around a little bit.” “We might have to put one on him now.” Matua Tana produced the second impressive, but imperfect win for the Hope stable when overcoming an early gallop to outmuscle his rivals in race 9 with driver Gerard O’Reilly. “Summer Lovin was a bit like Matua Tana, he just lost concentration,” Hope said. “Gerard said it was a loss of concentration more than anything else that cause Matua Tana to gallop.” Matua Tana has put himself on a one way path towards the Dominion during the New Zealand Cup carnival with a hat-trick of post-lockdown wins. It’s hoped that kind of race will bring the best out in the big striding trotter. “I think when the pace is on in the better races it will suit him,” Hope said. “He won’t have the chance to knock off and muck around.” Matua Tana has looked like a brutish stayer in his three emphatic recent wins. But he is far from a grinding type, as his 27.6sec last 400m on Friday night would suggest. “I don’t think people realise how fast he is – he has got the speed of a pacer,” Hope said. “He could run a 26sec quarter [400m] with the pacers.” While it is clear which big races Matua Tana will have in his sights, it is not the case for Summer Lovin. The two-year-old is not eligible for the rescheduled Sires Stakes and NZB Standardbred Harness Million. That means it is also unclear when Summer Lovin will be able to test his mettle against the best 2yr-olds that have stepped out during the country’s interrupted juvenile racing season. “He is a nice horse, but Franco Jorik and Eurokash are too.” “I wouldn’t like to choose between them at this stage, they are lovely horses.” The Hopes will try to make the most of the two-year-old races that have been scheduled at Addington in the coming weeks with Summer Lovin. Midnight Dash is eligible for both the three-year-old Sires Stakes and Yearling Sales Series races in November. He showed he was firmly on track for those Alexandra Park events in October by filling a Hope stable quinella behind Matua Tana in Friday night’s feature 2600m handicap. Nandolo produced an win at least as emphatic as Summer Lovin and Matua Tana’s victories when losing valuable ground at the start on Friday night’s feature pace. Driver Jonny Cox showed lightning quick reactions behind the John Howe trained pacer to avoid Blair Orange, who was on the track after being tipped from the cart of Fabrizio, who locked wheels with Enchantee. Nandolo recovered before going on to a powerful win race 7 in a close finish with Tango Tara. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    Fabrizio will give his rivals something to chase at Addington on Friday night if he can match the confidence shown in him around the stable this week The Cran Dalgety and Nathan Purdon trained three-year-old will attempt to complete a post-lockdown hat-trick when he clashes with open class star Nandolo in the meeting’s feature pace. Fabrizio not only steps up in class after running sizzling sectionals in his two impressive victories, but the pacer will also have to negotiate his first standing start in race 7. When queried about this, Dalgety did not mince his words. “He will begin like a rocket.” The trainer then qualified that big statement by confirming that Fabrizio should begin well if he faces up to the tapes well and is not hindered by anything beyond his control. “He is a pretty sensible horse, so I am expecting him to step away pretty well if everything goes to plan.” Dalgety is just as confident about Fabrizio measuring up to the class of horses like Nandolo, Tango Tara and Cast No Shadow. “He has really come on recently.” “He is only a three-year-old, but he is almost four and four-year-olds win cups these days.” “So, I don’t think he will have too much trouble in that grade.” Fabrizio gets a head start on two of his main rivals in Friday night’s 2600m handicap. He starts on the front line alongside Tango Tara, who hit the line strongly for second when resuming behind Nandolo last week. Third placegetter, Cast No Shadow starts from the 10m mark ahead of Nandolo, who is 20m behind the front markers. Stepping up in class is not something Star Of Timpany has to conquer, despite her last start win at Addington. The two-year-old looks exceptionally well placed under the rating 45-51 conditions of race 6. “This is going to be her last start before we give her a bit of a break,” Dalgety said. “She is fit and well and should go another good race.” Dalgety gave Alta Endeavour the nod as his leading chance in race 8. The three-year-old will clash with his stablemate, El Dorado, in the 1980m event after his last start win at Addington. El Dorado comes in to the race after fading out after over-racing in his last start. “El Dorado got pulling last time, which he can do,” Dalgety said. “He has certainly got to the speed to be in it, but Alta Endeavour is probably the better chance because he can rough it a bit more.” The Dalgety and Purdon stable also have consistent maiden, Invaluable, in race 3 and Gemma Mac in race 2. Fabrizio is not the only horse seeking a post lockdown hat-trick at Addington on Friday night. Trainers Greg and Nina Hope and driver Gerard O’Reilly will try to make it three in a row with their refreshed and revitalised squaregaiter, Matua Tana, in race 9, the meeting’s 2600m feature handicap trot. The big-striding six-year-old comes into the event after producing a crushing performance in his last start to take down open class star, Majestic Man. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner    The road less travel led to driver Jonny Cox plotting the perfect path to victory for open class star Nandolo at Addington on Friday night. Cox showed a skilled and cool hand to work John ‘Coaster’ Howe trained pacer to the lead from the second row, without a three-wide move, before the pair went on for a commanding four-length free-for-all victory. Cox has not just been trying to save his horses from covering extra ground, recently. The COVID19 lockdown has led to a mini reset to his driving career, which is clearly working. “The lockdown turned out to be a good chance to slow down for a bit,” Cox said. “I was travelling up and down the South Island all the time, which was starting to take its toll.” Cox has cut out travel to Southland since harness racing restarted, though he is not ruling out going south for the right reasons. “I haven’t been ringing up for drives down South, but it’s not to say I wouldn’t go down there if I had a few drives.” “But, with Addington racing Friday and Sunday I haven’t really need to go.” “I know Blair [Orange] and Johnny Morrison are doing it, but it does take its toll, especially if you have your own team to look after.” “So, I am pretty happy to keep ticking over at Addington.” Though his travelling commitments slowed down, there no rest for Cox during lockdown. He and fiancé, Kimberly Butt, whose wedding had to be postponed due to the Covid19 pandemic, used the time to work set up a new training property. Cox was quick to point out that his form in the sulky has been made possible by Howe’s team running hot. Nandolo’s win came after the pair also combined to win with Aladdin Sane. Nandolo bounced back to his best after having his hocks treated following his first up run for third at Addington two weeks ago. “He felt like a different horse,” Cox said. “I managed to get on the back of Matt Anderson’s horse [Change Is Good] early and he got a good run through after that.” “I think having horses around him helped too because he is a much better horse on the bit.” Once he found the front Nandolo reeled off a 56.5sec last 800m to win by four and a quarter lengths over Tango Tara. Aladdin Sane scored in the opposite circumstances, powering home from off the speed to win in rating 40-55 company. “It was a good effort, coming from the unruly can be like starting off 10m,” Cox said. “He came to the end of it the last 50m, but they were all flat out.” Though he could not bag a win, Ricky May’s return to driving at Addington on Friday night could only be judged as a raging success. May went close in several races, notching three third placings and a second. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner Flying trainer Michael House hopes his southern team can sprout wings at Ascot Park on Saturday. Arguably New Zealand’s most enterprising trainer, House will start a big team of 15 horses over 10 races. Similarly to star jockeys James McDonald or Hugh Bowman before a big race, House jetted into Invercargill for trackwork on Thursday to put the finishing touches on his team before Saturday’s meeting. Many of House’s team have arrived in Invercargill after the cancellation of this season’s Central Districts circuit. That has House flying in and out of Invercargill from his base in Canterbury as he strives to make his new venture in Southland a success. "While in lockdown I found out about Invercargill’s stakes holding up, so I put two and two together and came up with 66 and got ahead of the game. "So I have a barn at the track, which is a massive asset for any trainer." "It is like American racing at the moment. The races are at the same track on the same day each week." House looks to have several strong winning chances among his Ascot Park team. But he is not expecting big results to come in the South just yet. "I am building and I have bought a couple of horses in the last couple of days and I have some better ones coming back." "It is like anything. You start an idea and then you have got to throw a bit water and a bit of fertiliser on it to make it grow." The sale of Nui Ba Den to North America will make Stinger Lindenny’s quest for back-to-back Ascot Park wins a little easier in race 9. Nui Ba Den has been scratched, allowing driver Blair Orange to reunite with Stinger Lindenny, who did not let working three-wide early stop him from winning two weeks ago. "Stinger Lindenny worked well this morning and he should back up nicely" House said yesterday. Jawbreaker did not impress racing first up from House’s new southern base, when he faded out after working hard three wide, two weeks ago. The 3yr-old has two emergencies inside him, which could mean he moves to barrier 4 from barrier 6 in race 3. "It is the first time in a while he has had a decent draw," House said. "He was overdriven for a horse that was first-up last time. He has also worked well." House has three runners in races 7 and 10. House rates My Mate Ben his best winning hope when the 5yr-old steps out alongside Absolut Russian and Ohoka Bandit in race 7. "My Mate Ben should go a good race. He went well in his last start at Addington, if you go back and analyse it." House gave Voodoo Prince the nod ahead of Rake and Superstar Legend in race 10. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Jonny Turner, Harness News Desk    Champion reinsman Ricky May is set to make arguably the biggest comeback in New Zealand harness racing history when he drives at Addington on Friday. Few would have believed it possible for the star horseman to drive in a race again when he lay lifeless on the Omakau race track in January, surrounded by paramedics and off duty medical staff, who worked to revive his heart, which stopped after he collapsed and fell from the sulky of A G’s White Socks. May’s return to race day driving after suffering from hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, which must also rate as one of New Zealand sporting’s biggest ever comeback stories, was sealed when his cardiology specialist gave the all clear for the reinsman to return to the track on Monday. Naturally, the seven-time New Zealand Cup winner was delighted to get his ticket back to the races. Though the timing of his return could have come under warmer circumstances, May joked. “It is a pity it’s winter.” “But, other than that, it will be good to get back out there.” May has one focus ahead of his return – getting back driving as well as he was before his Omakau incident. “It probably hasn’t done me any harm having a break.” “I have been doing it flat out for forty odd years.” “Hopefully I can come back as good as I was – that is the main thing.” May has been itching to get back out on the track since returning to trackwork driving three months ago. “I haven’t been allowed to drive at the trials or workouts.” “I rang the stipes a month ago and I have had to get a clearance before I could even drive at workouts and trials.” “I went to the specialist [on Monday] and it was all good and he said everything is perfect.” May admits there could be a few nervous moments to be had on Friday night. “I guess I could be a wee bit nervous when I first get out there until I get a couple [of drives] out of the way.” “I just really hope I can drive a winner, that would be great.” May attended last week’s Friday night meeting at Addington with good friend, trainer Laurence Hanrahan. It could prove to be a big help in settling back in to race driving mode this week. “I hadn’t been to Addington or any races for months and it was actually a bit overwhelming – all the people.” “It was good to catch up with everyone and I think that will help when I go back this week.” “I will be able to concentrate on getting back in to the driving.” May will hardly need to reacquaint himself with the Brendon ‘Benny’ Hill trained Skippy’s Delight in race 2 on Friday night. The reinsman has been driving the horse in trackwork ahead of his return to the sulky. “Benny has been bringing Skippy’s Delight and Ranger Bomb to Ashburton for a few runs.” “They would have to be two of my best drives.” “Even though he was disappointing last week, I think Skippy’s Delight will be hard to beat.” Though he has already caught up with many of his friends and colleagues, May still has a few more people he wants to see. At the top of the list is the young reinswoman, who was among the first to rush to his side at Omakau and who performed life-saving CPR on him – Ellie Barron. “I haven’t caught up with Ellie yet – I am looking forward to catching up with her,” May said. “We talked over Zoom, but I haven’t seen her, so that will be really good.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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