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A private workout on Monday has convinced driver Josh Dickie that Speeding Sour can defend his A$300,000 Great Southern Star title tomorrow. The five-year-old multiple group one winner has travelled to Melbourne to try and cap a remarkable comeback, as just six weeks ago Dickie and his father John had written off the summer after a six-month injury break. They changed their minds as Speeding Spur started to sharpen in his work and went to Alexandra Park last Thursday thinking if Speeding Spur performed well they would take the gamble on starting in tomorrow night’s 2760m mobile second up. Speeding Spur was a massive second off his 55m backmark and while the run sealed the trip, it was his work on Monday that boosted their confidence levels. “Because he has been away from racing for so long we found in some of his works, even last week, he was getting tired late,” admits Josh. “But Monday was different. He had that hard enough run last Thursday and it has really brought him on. “He worked like his old self on Monday and came his last 400m in times pacers don’t go on our track. “So we couldn’t be happier her and we are thrilled to have him there.” John Dickie travelled with Speeding Spur on Tuesday and was pleased with how he settled in and the three-time Derby winner has an almost perfect barrier four, from where he has a huge chance of working to the lead. In front and without insane pressure he looks incredibly hard to beat. Kiwi mares Quite A Moment and Sunny Ruby would both benefit from any early burn that turned the race into a staying test, with NSW trotter On Thunder Road the most likely to get into any sort of war with Speeding Spur. The Great Southern Star is the trotting highlight of a night where New Zealand-trained horses could start favourite in all seven races they contest, headlined by Smolda in the A$500,000 Hunter Cup. His draw of two on the second line should see him settle in front of key rival Lennytheshark and he looks a massive chance of working his way to the lead, from where it would take a special performance to beat him. His stablemate Vincent is another with a second line draw but even worse being on the inside in the A$200,000 Victoria Derby but he was so dominant in his heat last Saturday he should be able to overcome it. But the draw does raise the possibility of traffic concerns so trainer-driver Mark Purdon might need to be at his aggressive best. Purdon looks set for an effortless group one win with Lazarus in the A$100,000 Bonanza, which he is racing in because it qualifies him for the Chariots Of Fire in Sydney next week, a springboard to the Miracle Mile on February 25. And stablemate Piccadilly Princess is odd-on to win the A$100,000 Ladyship Cup, with Rocker Band’s chance dented by a poor draw, one of three on the night for trainer Barry Purdon, who also has Be Jack’s Legend (Derby) and Hug The Wind (Hunter Cup) off the second line. Chase The Dream and the unbeaten Partyon all race at Menangle tomorrow night as well, but Dream About Me has been scratched after being off peak this week, a setback not expected to damage her Ladyship Mile campaign. Closer to home New Zealand’s two best three-year-old trotters Habibi Inta and Enghien resume their rivalry in the Hambletonian at Ashburton tomorrow while tonight Cambridge cram seven races into 170 minutes tonight. Michael Guerin

Josh Dickie is hoping he can notch up his 300th career win behind the best horse he has sat behind at Alexandra Park tonight (Thursday). Speeding Spur will have his first start since April 22, when finishing second behind Monbet in the $100,000 Group Two Anzac Cup. He broke down soon after but Dickie believes he is now back to where he should be. “It would be great to win my 300th race behind him because I’ve never driven a better horse than him. He’s five now and from what we can see he is back to somewhere near his best,” 25-year-old Dickie said. “Speeding Spur is in race four. It could come earlier. I quite like Master George in the second race as well,” the Clevedon trainer/driver added. Dickie has driven 299 winners from 2,633 starters, and has placed 548 times for almost $2.9 million in stakes. His best season came in the 2014-2015 season when he saluted the judge 48 times and netted $589,125 in stakes. He has reined 17 winners from 109 starters this season. Dickie has four drives at the Auckland Trotting Club’s first meeting for 2017, including one in the non-tote event at 6.05pm.  Here’s what he had to say about the quartet: Non-tote: Paramount King (1) - “We have got three 2-year-olds from our stable in the race, and I have opted for this gelding. All three have shown a bit and to be fair it’s pretty hard to split them. They are all just there for experience. This fella has the better draw and trots okay.” Race 2: Master George (11) - “He won well when favourite at Cambridge on January 6. He felt real nice that night. I thought he trialled well at Pukekohe last Wednesday, albeit finishing three lengths in behind them. It’s a handy C1 field, but he has worked well since then.” Race 4: Speeding Spur (11 – 55m) - “It’s not going to be easy from the handicap but he won well from 40m behind at the the same Pukekohe Workouts last week. We think he’s back to where he should be and if he does perform to our expectations he will then head to Australia to defend his Great Southern Star crown he won last year. It is a tough ask first up but we wouldn’t be lining him up if we didn’t think he could win. It’s just so great to have the good horse back. I’ll drive him cold for one run and we just hope he hits the line well, like he used to. If he does that then we will be booking our tickets to Melbourne.” Race 7: Kate Black (10) - “We have ironed out a couple of her problems since she broke down the back straight at Alexandra Park on December 16. She has worked nice since and comes into this race well. I think she’s a nice chance. This is just her second run back since July and I wouldn’t be writing her off here.” Best Winning Chance: Speeding Spur. Each-Way: Master George   Duane Ranger

When Speeding Spur and Maxim make their comebacks at Alexandra Park tonight they will both have group one winning performances in their recent formline. The problem is for Speeding Spur that form was 10 months ago, for Maxim it was over three years ago. The two best horses at the first Alexandra Park meeting of the year come with unusual comeback stories, particularly Maxim. The exciting pacer actually won three starts ago but that was the 2014 Victoria Derby at Melton, beating his stablemate Sky Major. It finished third in Tiger Tara’s Northern Derby a month later and trainer Barry Purdon was adamant he would be an open class force until he broke down soon after. Three years and plenty of patience later he returns in the last race tonight for new trainer-driver Brent Mangos. "Barry sent him here so he could be swum almost every day and apart from the two days a week he hopples that is all he does,” says Mangos. "He is a good horse and he is fit but of course he isn’t race hard after this long away. "I think we have found the right race for him to return in and I wouldn’t be stunned if he won but we all know how hard it will be for him. "But he is sound and it is great to have him back.”While Maxim wins comeback story of the night, Speeding Spur’s return is also a surprise as trainer John Dickie had originally thought the injured star would be out until the autumn. Speeding Spur won the Great Southern Star at Melton last March but damaged a leg when chasing Monbet home in the Anzac Cup last April, being sidelined since. “We were going to miss all the summer races but he is very well and has done a lot of work so we are using this as a trial for the Great Southern Star next week,” says Dickie. “If he performs how we want tonight he will be going back to Melton next week.” Driver Josh Dickie says the 55m handicap facing Speeding Spur is not insurmountable but their chances may be determined by the tempo of the race. “He can win but if they run hard in front he isn’t ready to take off and go hard all the way so I think the punters should be careful because it could be out of our hands,” says Josh. Michael Guerin

Being in foal has worked the oracle for Thursday’s Taranaki Breeders Stakes winner, Alta Valencia. The 4-year-old Mach Three mare has been in foal to a Sportswriter for a month and will have a handful more races before being retired to the broodmare’s paddock. Co-trainer John Dickie said he had liked her from day one. “She has been a bit weak but she is quite a nice pacer. Yesterday’s win was her third. The owners want to breed from her because she will be a very valuable broodmare,” Dickie said. Rosslands Stud paid $52,500 to the Alta Breeding Company for Alta Valencia at the 2014 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka. She’s now had 12 starts and won $18,356 in stakes. Her one length victory over favourite Rocknroll Princess (Andre Poutama) on the New Plymouth grass was her first since winning a junior drivers claiming race at Alexandra Park on October 7. Co-trainer Josh Dickie led early and then trailed the favourite before whipping along the passing lane to get the chocolates. He paced the 1750m mobile in 2:13.8 (mile rate 2:03 even) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 61.9 and 31 flat. Alta Valencia will not be lining up at Hawera on Sunday and neither will the Dickies’ other winner yesterday – This Excuse Is Fine. “We travelled to New Plymouth because it was a $10,000 fillies and mares race. We also wanted to support the race sponsor Woodlands Stud because they also sponsor Josh. “Both horses will return to Auckland and we will plan their schedules from there,” Dickie said. “We will stick to the grass with him. He tries hard and paces pretty well. The mare, however will probably start next on the all-weather tracks,” Dickie said.   Duane Ranger

There is no shortage of confidence from some of the north’s elite horseman heading to Alexandra Park tonight - you just won’t find it in the biggest race of the night. Because the key players in the $15,000 Mitavite Mobile know just how tricky the 1700m sprint will be, with luck and tempo almost certain to decide the winner. The preferential barrier draw conditions mean the stars of the field like Auckland Cup runner-up Hughie Green and Harness Jewels winner Rocker Band have drawn wide, from where getting handy early will be difficult. So if their rivals go even time and they are trapped back they may struggle to catch them. Or if one of them can make a lightning mid-race move to get parked, chance could favour the brave. Or one of them could blast the gate, wrest the lead and then look a good thing. The reality for punters is, it is impossible to know so you will want each odds for anything to bet with confidence. “They can be tricky races these 1700m mobiles because all these horses can run 55 second halves (800m),” says Maurice McKendry. McKendry is perfectly placed to rate the field, being the usual driver of Hughie Green but having to gift those reins to Tony Herlihy tonight so he can partner his own stable rep Shandale. “I think Hughie has been going well but so much depends on how hard they go early,” he explains. “They don’t go too hard and it suits horses like my fella or Motown. “But they go really hard then they make come back to Hughie and Rocker Band.” If that doesn’t sound very helpful rival driver Josh Dickie feels the same partnering the fresh up Motown. “He is working and trialling well enough to go close to winning but in a race like this anything can happen,” says Dickie. “We get an easy time or a good sit in the trail we can win. But he hasn’t yet raced up to horses like Hughie Green. “So it is not an easy race to predict.” While Hughie Green has the record Rocker Band was so good last start she might be able to stay in front of the big horse and be hard to beat, as she was good enough to sit parked and down several of these last start. The good news is that while Dickie and McKendry are unsure what will unfold in the pacing highlight of the night, both are happy to tip punters into some of their other drives tonight. Dickie and his father John believe they have a Trotting Derby contender in C K Spur so only his lack of standing start experience looks an issue in race three. “He is a good trotter and I think he will be fine from the stand so he has to be hard to beat,” says Dickie.  McKendry believes he can win race eight with Gotta Go Dali Queen. “She was very good winning on debut then last start she burned early but still stuck in very well for fourth,” he offers. “She will improve with that and I think she is a nice filly so she will go close. “And I think Kaitlyn has to be a good chance in race six. She went well on debut and trialled well last weekend.” On the shortened programme, which sees the $40,000 Pick6 begin on race four, one of the mini feature of the night is the opening clash between Scarrymcleary, Blackguards Corner and Idle Bones, the trotters also going over the mobile 1700m. With a wealth of mobile racing experience in Australia under her belt, the sometimes costly Idle Bones gets her chance tonight. Michael Guerin

If the second Tuesday in November is the main course, then this Friday night surely must be the entree. Eight of the leading contenders for this year’s New Zealand Trotting Cup in November will be in action at Addington this week for the New Brighton Cup - offering a real taste test of what is to come in the next month and a half as the lead up really intensifies. In a coup for Addington Raceway officials, it’s rare to see all the major contenders in action together this early in proceedings with Ashburton’s Flying Stakes late in October the more traditional shadow Cup field. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen made the shock announcement last week that all three of their stars; Lazarus, Have Faith In Me and Smolda would be in attendance, after indicating only one or two would be racing this week. “We are happy with how they are all progressing,” Purdon said last week. “It makes sense to get the first run under their belt now and then see where we are really at because you can only get so much out of trials and workouts.” The All Stars will head to the meeting some trepidations though, particularly around the stand start manners of current Cup favourite, Have Faith In Me. The Miracle Mile winner of last season stepped cleanly last Tuesday at the Ashburton workouts, but was aided by a flying walk up start which he is unlikely to get on Friday night. Natalie Rasmussen, who will drive the five-year-old, intends on giving the gelding as much time and room as he needs. “It’s got to be a case of just giving him every chance we can and hoping for the best really,” Rasmussen said. “He’ll get there eventually.” With Rasmussen doing the driving of Have Faith In Me and Purdon sticking with Lazarus, stable pinch-hitter Tim Williams will handle the duties on last year’s Cup runner-up, Smolda. In another shock driving announcement, it was confirmed early this week that North Island horseman, Josh Dickie will be the driver of Locharburn this week and going forward if Dexter Dunn elects to remain driving Christen Me, who is also in action this week. Many expected Blair Orange to handed the drive, but Dickie’s association with the stable of Kevin Chapman and also the fact he has driven Locarburn before when he campaigned in Auckland has let to his booking. Dickie will drive with the knowledge that if after this week Dunn elects to get off Christen Me that he will be given the opportunity to then drive Locharburn. Christen Me looked well forward last week when he beat the All Stars trio at Ashburton. Cran Dalgety has signalled his intention to race Christen Me this week and then give him a short spell before returning him late in the Cup build up. Hannon Memorial winner, Franco Nelson and runner-up Tiger Tara are both also in action this week while Mossdale Conner and Quick As A Trick make up the remainder of the field. Matt Markim

It’s taken Robert Argue seven months to drive his fourth career winner. Prior to that you have to go back to the 2010 to have seen him salute the judge. But life has changed for Argue. He now a Dad to 3-year-old Emma and works for one of the North Island’s strongest stables. “Life is great at the moment. My partner and I live in the new sub-division at Pokeno and I travel to Clevedon every day to work. I’ve always wanted to be a driver. I’m glad I decided to return to the game,” the 24-year-old said. At Clevedon he works for John and Josh Dickie at Rosslands Stud. He is also employed by Dave Iremonger at Morrinsville to drive his six-strong team. And it was the Iremonger trained Soul Man that notched up Argue’s first winner of the season when the 6-year-old Real Desire gelding won his second race in 24 starts at Alexandra Park last Friday night.. Soul Man was the $34.30, 11th favourite in the 12-horse field. Tenth favourite Speak Up (Peter Ferguson) ensured a $124 quinella. “We just got there but he won well. It was a great feeling to finally get back in the winner’s circle again. I’m just so appreciative to Dave for believing in me. I want to pay back all his owners’ faith in me by driving well and winning as many races as I can,” said Argue. Argue was born and educated in Pukekohe High School but left at 15. His father Stephen has been a trainer since the early 1980s so it was always highly likely that Argue Junior was going to follow in his Dad’s footsteps. “I’ve been around horses all my life and used to help out Todd Macfarlane in the school holidays. That’s when I got my first taste of fast work and I’ve never looked back since. I absolutely love what I do,” Argue said. Since then he has worked for Geoff Small and Malcolm Shinn. He then returned briefly to Macfarlanes before laving the industry. “I did scaffolding for a couple of years but I always knew trotting was in my blood and it wasn’t until I was helping Dad do fast-work one day that he told me I still had it and should return to what I did best,” said Argue. “Dad got me back into it and I started with the Dickies last November. It was the best move I ever made,” he added. Argue said he would love to represent his country or Island at the New Zealand or Australasia Junior Driving Championships next year. “If I keep driving winners then the rest will sort itself out. I just want to keep improving and maybe one day train a team with my father,” Argue said. He said the highlight of his career to date came behind the Stephen Argue trained Pureora Mac at Alexandra Park on June 16, 2009. “Dad had just trained a winner and then he provided me with my first race-day winner as well. Dad has always been my mentor and inspiration. “He works part-time at Fiskens and only has two horses in work so I can get drives. I respect what he’s doing for me. In fact I am grateful to all the owners and trainers who put me on their horses. “Like all juniors out there we just need a chance to prove ourselves,” Argue said. Argue has had 157 drives since the 2008-2009 season, including four wins, eight seconds, 13 thirds and he has won $48,091 in stakes. His UDR strike rate is 0.814.   Duane Ranger

As reported by the New Zealand Herald rising harness racing driving star Josh Dickie has been handed the opportunity of a lifetime but it could just as easily be taken away from him this weekend. Auckland-based Dickie is the surprise new pilot for Locharburn, the third favourite for November's $800,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup. Trainer Kevin Chapman will hand Dickie the reins for Friday's Avon City Ford Cup at Addington, after regular reinsman Dexter Dunn opted to stick with old mate Christen Me for the crackerjack race. Dickie has been warned his association with Locharburn could be a brief. "I haven't 'bulls******' Josh. He knows if Dexter wants back on after this race, the drive is his," says Chapman. "I understand Dexter wanting to drive Christen Me this week and he has told us he will make a decision about his Cup drive after this race. "So he is still our No1 but if Dexter stays with Christen Me then Josh will be our driver for the Cup." Drives on genuine New Zealand Cup chances don't often come up for grabs at this stage of the season but Chapman says Dickie has the advantage of knowing Locharburn. "We stay with John [Dickie] and Josh when we campaign in Auckland and Josh has driven him twice at Alexandra Park," says Chapman. "He is a young guy who has come a long way and I like that he listens, so we are happy to have him on." Dickie has gone from junior star to open-class player in the past two years, thanks to the deeds of trotting hero Speeding Spur and the impressive strike rate of the family stables. He will be thrown in at the deep end this Friday though, as the 2600m standing start hosts the first seven in the New Zealand Cup market, with the All Stars trio of Have Faith In Me, Smolda and Lazarus, as well as Franco Nelson and Tiger Tara. It is one of the strongest early-season races at Addington in years but Chapman says he is not daunted. "They are all good horses and it is a mini New Zealand Cup, just worth $775,000 less. "But I aren't scared of those other horses and we have race fitness over some of them. "It's an exciting time and I am looking forward to chasing the Cup. I'm a 64-year-old Cantabrian - it doesn't get any bigger than the New Zealand Cup for me." Michael Guerin

For a man who knows the glory of group one victory, this was a different kind of satisfaction. Because trainer John Dickie knows not many trainers prepare four winners on a night at Alexandra Park. Dickie and son Josh, who is his training partner and stable driver, pulled off the rare feat on Friday night when Acceptance, Bronze Over, This Excuse Is Fine and I Am The Greatest all won. It was the first four-win night for either father or son and John says the fact it was at Alexandra Park made it all the more special. “I said to Josh afterwards, to do that at head office is really satisfying,” said Dickie. That is where we aim to race the most, with the high stakes and the bonuses and not many trainers away from really big barns get to train four winners on a night there. “Obviously it is a first for us and shows that what we are doing here at home works.” Team Dickie has been on a constant, steep improvement curve since they moved from Cambridge to the well-appointed Rosslands Farms three years ago and while John has had a wonderful group one record over the years with his trotters, they are now more consistent players on the biggest stage. “And that is the aim. We will still have horses racing at Cambridge and even down the line but predominantly we want to race here for the better stakes. “Take a little mare like Bronze Over, she has now won well over $50,000 in stakes and bonuses and she has only had 14 starts.” As good as their last three winner were, it was Acceptance’s easy win in race two which provided the most excitement. A giant, weakish three-year-old he went for a spell straight after the race, with Dickie believing a month off is his best chance of coming back a Derby horse in the second half of the season. “He has done a huge job considering he was never a two-year-old type,” he says of the brother to Can’t Refuse, Bettor Dream, Bettor Offer and Delightful Offer. “The Hoggards paid $75,000 for him at the sales because that mare just keeps leaving good horses. “So we are going to give him the chance to be a good horse by giving him a spell now.”
 The stable has just 23 horses in work so their strike rate is high and John admits they now know how to get the best out of their property. “As you know it is a lovely place and we have been here long enough now to know how fast to work this type of horse or that. “So we are more than happy with the way things are going.” Stable star Speeding Spur is back at Woodlands Stud for a few weeks but is earmarked for a return to training on October 1, with the Australian racing in the New Year still the target. The other highlights of Friday night’s programme included the 21st career success for the little trotter who could, One Over Da Moon. He worked his way to the front over 1700m and held out a game Realmein, with the winner now likely to head home to rejoin Paul Nairn. But it wasn’t all plain-sailing for open class favourites as No Doctor Needed was worried out of a win in the main pace. He worked his way to the front quickly but was kept honest by The Faithful, who stuck on gamely as Arden’s Choice finished over the top of the pair late in a 1:55.1 mile rate for the 1700m.   Michael Guerin

4YO Diamond Jewels first ballot A Damn Good Excuse is the best of John and Josh Dickie’s four chances at the Harness Racing Waikato meeting at Camridge Raceway tomorrow afternoon (Tuesday). It’s the ‘calm before the Saturday Harness Jewels storm’, and for the first time in a long time, Josh Dickie doesn’t have any drives on his former home track. However the 25-year-old Clevedon-based reinsman has five on Group One Saturday, possibly six, if A Damn Good Excuse makes the $150,000 Final for 4-year-old pacing mares. “She’s first emergency and has drawn well at three in the first race so we are hoping for a scratching. I think she’s definitely the best of our five pacers starting on Tuesday though,” Dickie said. The father-and-son training duo will line up Majestic John in the opening event on Tuesday – the $5,500 Harness Jewels C1-C3 pace for amateur drivers. Alan Shand will do the steering. Then the Dickies will have to wait until the last race – the $6,000 Novatel C1-C3 mares’ pace for junior drivers to see their other three starters greet judge, Colin Courtney. Ben Butcher will drive Joanednobetter (3), Tony Cameron will steer Vibe (4), while stable junior Robert Argue will get behind A Damn Good Excuse. Dickie said it would be nice to win his first Jewels crown on Saturday. He has placed behind The Fascinator in 2014 (4yo Diamond pace), and his Dad has had two Jewels training victories with Paramount Geegee (3yo Ruby trot) and Flying Isa (2yo Ruby trot) – both in 2011. His five drives on Saturday are Change The Rulz (race 1), Jewel On The Beach (Race 3), Paramount Dream (race 4), Bettor Think Quick (race 5), and Motown (race 9). Dickie said Motown was racing well and was the pick of his drives in the last event – the $150,000 Emerald for 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings. Here’s what he had to say about his five stable runners on Tuesday: Race 1: Majestic John (9) - “This is his first race for three months and he has been trialling okay. He’s a pretty sharp type but Alan is going to have to drive him for luck from one on the second draw because the one horse isn’t a guaranteed leader.” Race 9: Joanednobetter (3) - “She has a good driver and is racing consistently well at the moment. She got too far back in her amateur race last start at Cambridge last week and came home real well for fourth. She has won on the track twice before and can get some of it from the kind draw.” Race 9: Vibe (4) - “I can’t split her and Joanednobetter in this race. They are both good chances. There’s not much between them. This mare was a good second behind Shantahlia Knight at the same Cambridge meeting two Thursdays ago. She’s won three of her eight starts on the track and placed in three others, so she has to be right in it.” Race 9: A Damn Good Excuse (5) - “You would think the Jewels first emergency might go close in this and that’s why I rate her our best chance at the meeting. She comes into the race really well having won and placed from her last three starts in tougher Auckland fields. This will be her first race at Cambridge but I think Robert can do the job here. Win bet.” Duane Ranger

Just the 5 winners last week for the ring around, check back for updates as more selections come through. Nigel McGrath took 1st prize this week with his tip, Ears Burning who won the Kotare Downs 3yo Stakes on Sunday at Rangiora. A wonderful drive from N R McGrath himself saw Ears Burning salute at $4.30 $1.50 Others to select winners were, Steven Richardson, Ricky May, Gavin Smith and Bob Butt. This week’s selections are below and cover 6 meetings. Forbury Park – Thursday Night Mark Jones – sticks with Coringa Delight as his stables best chance this week, drawn well in barrier 2, she does look mighty hard to beat, Race 3.   Steven Richardson – Our bookie friend has gone for Shakey Loch, no doubt expecting some money for the new G Anderson runner, Race 4. Nathan Williamson – He’s travelling all around the country for drives at the moment, but Nathan goes for Statham as his best of the week, Race 9. Marlborough – Friday Afternoon Jay Abernethy – Thought Sunhaven Boss would go close in Race 2. Shaun Dayman - Back for one last chance, Shaun goes for Rock N Roll Delight, a possible quinella because she is also in Race 2. Alexandra Park – Friday Night Bob Butt – Thinks Le Reveur can double up and win again this week, Race 1. Joshua Dickie – Even from a tricky back row draw, Motown could win Race 2. John Curtin – Thought Miss Daisy could turn her form around in Race 4. Todd Mitchell – Goes with Glitzy Gal as his best of the week, Race 9. Addington – Friday Night Jonny Cox – Thought smart 2yo Custodian was his best chance of the week, Race 2. Gavin Smith - Says Sunny Ruby, who looks well placed off her 40m back mark, Race 4. Shane Walkinshaw – Went with New Years Jay as his best bet, with a good beginning is worthy of a each way bet, Race 9. Ashburton – Saturday Afternoon Andrew Fitzgerald – Goes for Nyree Franco, backed early by punters last week, this week appears easier and a big show to get the $$ back, Race 5. Matty Cross – Goes for Handsome Hero as his first ring around selection, also in Race 5. Ricky May - Thought Well Armed could handle the class rise and win again, Race 6. Brad Williamson – Sticks with handy 3yo Alderbeck as his best drive of the week, Race 9.   Andrew Fitzgerald

Highly talented and current Great Southern Star's Champion, Speeding Spur will miss next week's $150,000 Rowe Cup as well as the Cambridge Jewels. While on first glance, his run in last night's Anzac Cup seemed disappointing, it's the resulting swelling in his off hind leg after running 2nd behind Monbet, ringing alarm bells for co trainer Joshua Dickie. Able to find the front, Speeding Spur and Josh Dickie were able to control the race and it looked like we were in for a classic battle of 2 superstars, but when Monbet darted up the lane, Spur could offer no more. "It is impossible to tell what actually happened because he was fine before the race, but he wasn't himself in that last 150m" said Josh Dickie when spoken to by Mick Guerin. With Speeding Spur out, Monbet will start a short priced favourite in both, next week’s Rowe Cup and his 4yo section of the Jewels. Although Greg Hope, co trainer of Monbet, has floated the idea of missing this year’s jewels to allow his charge a decent spell before targeting the Group 1 Dominion Handicap in November. If that happens, then classy mares, Sunny Ruby and Harriet Of Mot come into contention for Jewels Glory   Andrew Fitzgerald

The seas parted for Speeding Spur and the brilliant trotter from across the Tasman blazed off the pegs to claim the Group 1 Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star at the harness racing meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night. Australia’s richest trotting race lived up to expectations when an outstanding 11-race card reached a thrilling crescendo for trainer John Dickie and his son and driver Joshua Dickie, who drove for luck and capitalised on every bit of it. “Every bit of belief we have had in him he has just delivered tonight,” Josh Dickie said. “He has got the whole package. He won a lot of his races last year on the front, but he can come off the speed, he has a lot of high speed." "I’m just really pleased that he is living up to what he showed us.” Short-priced favourite Keystone Del ran fifth after losing ground from the turn, but earlier set the course alight when in heat two of the Great Southern Star Brent Lilley’s eight-year-old rattled the track record in a mile rate of 1:53.7. On that occasion Speeding Spur was beaten 3.9m into second. In the first Group 1 heat Kate Gath patiently awaited the sprint lane and then shot Glenferrie Typhoon to victory ahead of Maori Time (Yannick Gingras) and Sun Of Anarchy (Dexter Dunn). The draw for the final seemed to only strengthen Keystone Del’s claims, with Speeding Spur and Glenferrie Typhoon drawing the back row. All speculation was put to rest at 10pm when the mobile released the field and it was Yannick Gingras on Maori Time who shot to the front to dictate the running, with Keystone Del taking the breeze while Quite A Moment was in the box seat for Lance Justice. A 7.2 lead time fed into a 29.4 first quarter and 31.2 second quarter as Glenferrie Typhoon made its move three-wide where it would remain through the final bend. By that stage Keystone Del had started to slip off the pace set by Maori Time and it was clear this would not be his day. Speeding Spur was locked in three back the pegs for Josh Dickie, and it looked Maori Time or Glenferrie Typhoon. Yannick Gingras kicked Maori Time clear until the sprint lane opened, enabling Quite A Moment to come off her back and challenge for the lead, while on the outside Glenferrie Typhoon was making ground. But it was further back where the real story developed. Claudys Princess faded slightly, enabling Josh Dickie to get Speeding Spur off the pegs and he drew it four-wide, outside Glenferrie Typhoon. Once straightened Speeding Spur hit the jets to win from Glenferrie Typhoon, with Quite A Moment placing third on the pegs ahead of valiant Maori Time and fifth-placed Keystone Del. “The horse drawn the outside (Claudys Princess) was slightly going back and I thought to myself he could get out here, and he did and I said here he comes,” trainer John Dickie said. “I know what a good horse he is and he proved that tonight.” Josh Dickie said luck was always going to be needed after Speeding Spur drew barrier eight. “The barrier draw probably did look a bit of a concern on paper, but we have a lot of faith in this horse and he backed up great (from the heat),” he said. “He felt that good and I felt the tempo was pretty strong and that if I could get a bit of luck he will finish over the top of them." "I was very luck at the top of the straight I was able to get out and he did the rest." "It’s a breakthrough win, it’s sort of hard to explain, it’s one of my biggest wins.” John Dickie said “it’s (Speeding Spur’s) biggest win for sure” and with the entire by Pegasus Spur out of Della’s Speed aged only four, great success still lies ahead. “Onwards and upwards, he’s only a baby but I’m sure you will see him here next year too.” Group 1 victories were also claimed by Baccardi Hurricane in the Alan Mance Holden Need For Speed Prince Final, and High Gait in the Probuild Need For Speed Princess Final. Baccardi Hurricane drew off Cruisin Around's back from the one-one and trainer/driver Jarrod Alchin let the three-year-old gelding down in the straight, where he outpointed Ball Park (second) and Big Jack Hammer (third). Flying filly High Gait again tasted Group 1 success after Chris Alford drove Nicole Molander's three-year-old to victory, getting the lead from barrier one and building a gap off the first turn that was insurmountable despite Courchevel flashing home late to take second for Anthony Butt (driver) and Anton Golino (trainer). The night also featured the Group 2 Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Gold Series Final, in which Greg Sugars took Illawong Helios three wide at the top of the straight and had the best horse in the race from there, drawing clear and holding off the swoopers. Victory for trainer Ross Sugars was scored ahead of second-placed Pretty Sunday and third-placed Barefoot Sally. Aldebaran Deebee was shot to the front by trainer-driver Matt Craven and from there the favourite controlled the Lyn McPherson Memorial Breed For Speed Silver Series Final. Sky Petite was third and Meadow Valley Road filled out the placings, as Skyvalley sired the trifecta. Michael Howard

The 2015/16 Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters continued in Melbourne with the running of the Great Southern Star, a true harness racing test for all involved with the heat/final concept staged on the same night. And star New Zealand trotter Speeding Spur underlined his class with an emphatic victory in tonight’s (Saturday) Gr.1 $300,000 Pryde’s Easifeed Great Southern Star Final at Tabcorp Park Melton. Prepared by father/son combination of John and Josh Dickie, Speeding Spur ($5.40) produced a stunning sprint over the concluding stages to defeat a game Glenferrie Typhoon ($10.20) and Quite A Moment ($26.90) in a time of 1:55.5 for the 1720m event. The star four-year-old started from the inside of the second-line and raced three back on the marker line behind Maori Time and Quite A Moment while race favourite Keystone Del ($1.60) was left without cover. The first half was covered in sectionals of 29.4 and 31.2 seconds. Visiting North American based driver Yannick Gingras continued to control the speed with Maori Time while Keystone Del raced on her outside, as the field headed down the back straight for the final time, Glenferrie Typhoon loomed three-wide and forced the action. Heading by the 400m marker, Maori Time led narrowly from Keystone Del who was put to immediate pressure while Glenferrie Typhoon still loomed deeper off the track. The third quarter was covered in 28 seconds. In the straight, Glenferrie Typhoon raced to a slender lead while Maori Time tried to rally on the inside but Speeding Spur was being angled to the outside and unleashed his finishing burst wider on the track. At the line, Speeding Spur quickly raced clear to score 3.3 metres from Glenferrie Typhoon with a further half neck away to Quite A Moment who came through via the passing lane late. The final quarter clocking was 27.7 seconds. Keystone Del finished fifth. “He raced so well tonight, heat and final and I’m just so proud with the way he’s handled everything this campaign. We’ve got a lot of faith in him and he didn’t disappoint us, he’s such a great horse.” Winning driver Josh Dickie said. The Pegasus Spur – Della’s Speed entire will now return to his Auckland base in readiness for the remaining legs of the Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters, the $80,000 ANZAC Cup on April 22 followed by the $150,000 Canam Rowe Cup the following week, both events will be staged at Alexandra Park. Speeding Spur Heat 1; The first $50,000 qualifying heat was dominated from classy Australian trotter Glenferrie Typhoon ($1.60 Fav) who sprintlaned to defeat Maori Time ($13.40) and Sun Of Anarchy ($68.90) in a time of 1:55.7. Big striding mare Maori Time was able to lead comfortably despite her wide draw while Glenferrie Typhoon sat comfortably in the trail throughout. Sectionals were covered in 29.4, 30.1 28.5 and 28.6 seconds. Prepared by Andy and Kate Gath, Glenferrie Typhoon sprinted stylishly over the concluding stages to score by 1.8 metres. Also qualifying for the final from this heat was Claudys Princess, Quite A Moment and Super Zeck. Heat 2; In the second $50,000 qualifying heat, star trotter Keystone Del proved why he was the series favourite with his sensational front-running victory in track record time. Keystone Del ($1.30 Fav) led from his inside draw and proved too strong for Kiwi raider Speeding Spur ($4.10) who sat without cover throughout while Kyvalley Blur ($20.70) filled third place after sitting in the trail. Prepared by Brent Lilley and handled by Anthony Butt, Keystone Del recorded sectionals of 29.3, 29.2, 27.6 and 27.8 seconds. The mile rate was a staggering 1:53.7 – shaving almost a full second off his previous track record at 1:54.5. Also advancing to the final from this heat was former European trotter Daryl Boko. by Chris Barsby

The $125,000 Northern Oaks at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park tonight looked a two horse race on paper between the All Stars duo of Golden Goddess and Piccadilly Princess and that is exactly how it worked out. Golden Goddess had been flying in her races and was unbeaten in her races this season until a last start defeat by Piccadilly Princess on the grass at Methven. Most pundits were prepared to forgive her that defeat as she didn't look 100% comfortable on the grass and Piccadilly Princess is a high class filly in her own right. The draw for the Oaks looked to have evened up the race again with Piccadilly Princess drawing beautifully at barrier two while Golden Goddess had drawn awkwardly at one on the second line. When the gates folded, Tim Williams sent Piccadilly Princess forward from her handy draw and grabbed the early lead but was immediately put under pressure by Bettor Think Quick and Josh Dickie and they battled for the front for over 250 metres before Josh eased Bettor Think Quick and sat in the death seat. Golden Goddess with Natalie Rasmussen in the bike had been sitting back beyond midfield watching the early battle and as soon as the pace eased, Natalie sent Golden Goddess around the field in search of the lead. Josh Dickie and Bettor Think Quick kicked up for 100 metres to make Golden Goddess work that bit harder as she went forward and Golden Goddess eventually made the front over Piccadilly Princess  with 1400 metres to go. Passing the 500 metres Golden Goddess opened the throttle up and the only filly who could go with her was Piccadilly Princess and these two cleared out from the rest of the field as they turned for home. Slowly but surely Piccadilly Princess leveled up and eased past by half a length late in the race to claim her first Group 1 victory. Golden Goddess was game in defeat in second while the next filly home in Arden's Choice was nine and three quarters lengths away in third. The daughter of Bettor's Delight from the Holmes Hanover mare Hyde Park Royal paced the 2700 metres in a very quick 3:17.9, a mile rate of 1:57.9 with closing sectionals of 57 and 27.9. Piccadilly Princess takes her record to 11 starts for 5 wins and 4 seconds with $129,143 in the bank. It was a new New Zealand record for a three year old filly over 2700 metres, taking nine tenths of a second off the previous record set by by The Orange Agent in last years Northern Oaks. Tim Williams was his usual modest self on returning to the winners circle. " The feeling in the stable was she had closed the gap on Golden Goddess and I am glad she picked tonight to prove it." " We had a good draw and took advantage of it." "I didn't think I would be put under so much pressure for the early lead by Josh and Bettor Think Quick but once Golden Goddess came around and found the front , my filly relaxed beautifully in the trail." " I really want to thank the connections for putting me on tonight" " When I was suspended in December they kept the drive open for me and when I drove the stablemate at Methven instead of Piccadilly Princess they still kept the drive for me tonight." " I can't thank them enough," Tim said. Tim Williams has had a great last 18 months since joining the All Stars team but he has repaid the faith that Natalie and Mark showed in him with some outstanding drives, especially in the Group 1 events. Harnesslink Media   

As we really started to get into the Group 1 races today at the harness racing meeting at Tabcorp Park Melton, the Kiwis were off to a great start, winning the first two with a bit in reserve. Speeding Spur was a warm favourite in the $56,000 Woodlands Stud Colts/Geldings final on the back of his outstanding Victoria Derby win, even though he had drawn out in the carpark at barrier 13.   Driver Josh Dickie was lucky to duck a couple of early breakers in front of him with Speeding Spur but as soon as the speed buttoned off near the mile, Josh was off on Speeding Spur, circling the field to lead with just under 1400 metres to run.   Josh held Speeding Spur back to the field down the back straight until Illawong Armstrong who had broke badly early looped the field and took the race to the Kiwi star going past the 500 metres mark.   These two star three year olds drew clear on the corner and settled down to fight it out but Speeding Spur held Illawong Armstrong by a length.   Cold Crusher ran on well for third ahead of Kyvalley Boomerang but the first two were a class above their rivals.   Speeding Spur trotted the 2240 metres in a smart 2:48.4, a mile rate of 2:1 with closing sectionals of 58.8 and 30.   It was the son of Pegasus Spur's 14 win at start 22 and took his earnings to $331,031.   Josh Dickie was relieved more than anything post race.   " He was a bit off today and I think he is feeling the effects of a long season."   " But he is great trier and thats what got him home today.   " Dad said to me that he was looking for the paddock and that is where he is heading now."   " It is great to come over here and win a Group 1 on their big day so I am rapt, Josh said.   Speeding Spur     Harnesslink Media

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