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By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    It’s been more than a decade since Jo Herbert saluted the judge, but her winning drive behind Blue Chip Delight at Motukarara Raceway on Sunday showed she hasn’t lost any of her talent. Blue Chip Delight made a solid start to sit midfield before Herbert asked him to improve three-wide down the back straight to sit outside leader Eastwood Isabella. They hit the lead at the top of the straight and didn’t relinquish their advantage, holding out the fast-finishing The Kaik to win by a neck, with a further head back to Bettor Believe It in third. Herbert was delighted to get the win after such a long hiatus. “It felt really good, it’s been a long time between drinks,” she said. “I was pleased with the horse, he went well.” A pioneer for female drivers in New Zealand, Herbert won 193 races in the cart before she was forced to step away from the game 10 years ago to look after her son Brooklyn. “At the time it was in the too hard basket, he wasn’t that well,” Herbert said. “It got too hard, so I just focused on him. He is 13 now so he is quite good at self-managing.” Herbert returned to the industry last year after the urgings of trainer Stephen Boyd and she landed her ideal job with current employers Colin and Julie DeFilippi, for whom she drove Blue Chip Delight on Sunday, earlier this year. “I was initially influenced by Stephen Boyd in getting me out there, that definitely helped,” Herbert said. “I now work for Colin and Julie, you couldn’t ask for nicer people. “When I was pregnant he ended up training my trotter. I kept working him right up until I was 30 weeks pregnant and then sent him to Colin. He has always been like my father in harness racing.” When Herbert heard the DeFilippi’s were looking for another worker, she said she was quick to get on the phone, even though she was on the other side of the world at the time. “When I heard he was looking for someone I was straight on the phone from Spain. We went over there for five weeks back in February,” she said. “We were quite lucky because two days after we got home Barcelona was in lockdown. We timed perfectly.” Herbert’s win on Sunday has brought her just six wins shy of 200 driving career wins, a mark she would have tried to attain 10 years ago had she known she was so close. “At the time when I stopped I hadn’t actually looked at that (career win tally),” Herbert said. “It was more that I had to do it (give up driving) because of my son. “If I had known back then that I was that close I wouldn’t have given it up quite so soon.” Herbert said DeFilippi has been trying to get her back in the cart for some time, but she has been happy working behind the scenes. “He has been trying to, but I have been quite happy just gearing up, it hasn’t fazed me,” she said. But with three horses in the field of the Country Feasts Pace (2170m) on Sunday, DeFilippi was able to twist Herbert’s arm into taking the drive behind Blue Chip Delight, and they were both rewarded. “It was great to get the win today, but I am just happy to be working for him,” Herbert said.

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Trainer Brian O’Meara is excited to have finally drawn a handy barrier with Voodoo Priestess. The five-year-old mare has drawn the ace barrier in the Country Feasts Pace (2710m) at Motukarara Raceway on Sunday and O’Meara believes she will give a good sight from that starting position. The daughter of Auckland Reactor has placed in two of her last three starts, including a fresh-up effort at Rangiora earlier this month, and O’Meara is hoping she can add a second career win to her tally this weekend. “I thought she ran great but she pulled too hard,” he said. “I put look-backs on her and she got a wee bit uptight and pulled, but she finished extremely well. “She is usually a good beginner. I swap between stands and mobiles but we have had no luck with the draws. We have drawn 10, 10, 14, and 15. “She is not a bad filly, she has just had no luck with the draws at all. Hopefully she will get her chance on Sunday with that draw.” Meanwhile, O’Meara is looking forward to resuming stablemate Di Caprio’s preparation after his pleasing fifth-placed result in the Gr.1 New Zealand Trotting Cup (3200m) earlier this month. O’Meara was over the moon with the run, but like many others was ruing the start of the race. “I thought he went huge,” said O’Meara, whose last runner in the race was back in 1998 with race victor Christian Cullen. “It was just a shame they had the terrible start. We drew in behind Ray Green’s horse (Copy That) and he never begun at all, so that made it nearly impossible. “I thought if he had got a cosy run he would take all sorts of beating. But he ran tremendous sections. “I went to the races at Rangiora and it was amazing to hear the amount of people who said if he had just got away with the field they thought he would have won. “I have always said he is a great stayer and he would have proven it there.” Di Caprio will resume at Geraldine next week before O’Meara will start to look for loftier targets. “He will start at Geraldine next Saturday and if he goes well there he will go to the Green Mile. We will just have to work out a programme from there.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Cambridge trainer Mike Berger took three horses south to Manawatu Raceway’s meeting on Tuesday and he was rewarded with a winning double. The night was headlined by About Turn’s gutsy win in the Mad Butcher Wairarapa Cup Mobile Pace (2000m). The five-year-old entire had his work cut out for him after drawing one on the second line, but under a patient drive by stable junior driver Luke Whittaker they bided their time at the rear of the field, Whittaker then launched his charge three-wide with 600m to go and About Turn was able to run over the top of his rivals to score a half a length victory over race favourite Mogul. Berger was pleased with the win but admitted he was a bit shocked when he saw the winning dividend of $17.90. “He is such an honest horse, he never goes a bad one,” Berger said. “I don’t bet and it wasn’t until afterwards that I saw the dividends. I was astounded considering his form line and some of the horses who had beaten him.” About Turn had placed in his two previous starts at Cambridge when driven by Whittaker and Berger said it was good to finally get the win. “He certainly deserved that win and with Luke on him it was penalty free,” Berger said. “He has been driving him pretty well from bad draws and not getting much luck. “He has had a really bad run of draws the whole way through, but we were really quite concerned about drawing one on the second row today. “Luke used his head and eventually got on the three-wide train. He is pretty patient and sat there for as long as he could, it was a good drive.” Earlier in the card Group One performer Eagle Watch was backed into $1.80 favouritism for the Masterton Club Mobile Pace (2000m) and won accordingly. “He got his own way out in front,” Berger said. “They dictated the pace and just had to sprint home. He got it handed to him on a plate to be fair.” Berger was less impressed with stablemate Barbarossa’s sixth-placing in the PGG Wrightson Mobile Pace (2000m). “I was a bit disappointed in him,” Berger said. “He did come down for experience and I thought he would go alright. “I quite like him, but he’s just a bit immature. It was a bit of a headscratcher, I thought he would run on better than that.” All going to plan Berger said all three of his runners would back-up on the second day of the meeting. “They will most likely back-up on Thursday. We are down here so we might as well,” he said. Berger said it has also been good to see a lot of trainers get in behind the Manawatu Harness Racing Club after it faced a doubtful future earlier in the year. “Manawatu is a great little club and I like to support them,” he said. “They have been great to me over the years and I was a bit concerned when they were talking about not giving them any dates (earlier in the year). “I think it is good that they have got a lot of support.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Manawatu Raceway was slated for the chopping block earlier this year, but the Central Districts club was given a lifeline and retained 10 meetings this season. The first of those will take place on Tuesday and trainers from both Islands have shown their support for the club. Waikato horseman Dylan Ferguson and his employer Graeme Rogerson have thrown their support behind the meeting and will line-up five horses on the nine race card. Manawatu Raceway has been a happy hunting ground for Ferguson, who like many young northern reinsmen cut his teeth at the Palmerston North track. “Things were up in the air for a long time but a lot of work went on behind the scenes to retain some of their dates, and all credit to the club for doing so,” Ferguson said. “They have got great fields and some good numbers, so hopefully they are going to be rewarded for it. “I have had a lot of drives there in my career so far and Dad (Peter Ferguson) has had a lot of winners there. It is certainly a track that has its place in the industry.” Ferguson is looking forward to heading south on Tuesday and he believes the Rogerson barn has a number of winning prospects. “With no Cambridge for a month we thought that we would make the trek down for the two day meeting and try our luck down there,” he said. Splitting Image will kick-off proceedings in the Levin Woolbuyers Handicap Trot (2500m) and Ferguson is hoping she can replicate her last-start winning form on Tuesday. “You always get Miss Consistent with her,” Ferguson said. “She always trots all the way and tries really hard. “It’s a bit tricky off 45m. I know they are only maidens off the front but it’s still a long way to catch-up. “If she can get a drag up later in the race then she should be a good, honest chance.” Stablemate Romanee has been racing at Alexandra Park and Ferguson believes the drop back to Manawatu this week will benefit the gelding in the Masterton Club Mobile Pace (2000m). “He runs into Eagle Watch who was back in winning form last start. He should be a top-three chance,” Ferguson said. Ferguson will be looking to utilise High Point’s gate speed in the Mad Butcher Wairarapa Cup Mobile Pace (2000m) where she has drawn five. “A front-row draw aids her chances,” Ferguson said. “She gets off the gate really quick, so we will be putting her in the race this week and see how we go from there.” Stablemate Super Duper Dude heads into the PGG Wrightson Mobile Pace (2000m) off the back of a runner-up performance on debut, and Ferguson has labeled the Sir Lincoln gelding as the stable’s best chance of the day. “He went really good last start,” Ferguson said. “He got beaten by a nice horse and he seems to have improved off that run. It looks like he will be our best chance of the day.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Winton trainer Chelsea Faithful will be throwing everything at her local meeting on Sunday when she lines-up her entire team. While it may only be three runners, Faithful is hopeful of taking home a few cheques at the end of the day, particularly in the New Zealand Bloodstock Junior Drivers Mobile Pace (2400m) where she will line-up last start winners Tartan Roxy and Pay Me Speedy. Pay Me Speedy won on debut in January and Faithful said the four-year-old mare has the ability to win first-up despite drawing the outside of the front-row. “Pay Me Speedy hasn’t raced in a while,” Faithful said. “It’s not a great draw, but for her it might not be too bad. She will have to go back and have one run at them. “On her day she would be the horse to beat in that field, but I think she will need the run. “It wouldn’t surprise me if she were to run over the top of them, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if she were just to run a place.” Faithful has been pleased with her other runner, Tartan Roxy’s, two efforts this preparation, placing first-up at Winton in September before recording her maiden victory at Wairio, and she is hoping the daughter of Bettor’s Delight can continue that form this weekend. “I have been pleased with both of her runs,” Faithful said. “She had a long time off for no reason in particular and she has turned out to be quite a nice, genuine mare. “It’s a strong field on Sunday but I think she is over the odds, especially for a place chance. I expect her to go well. “I have been trying to keep her to the big track. Depending on what sort of run she gets she might back-up at Winton on Thursday.” Later on the card, four-year-old gelding Tartan Raider will make his debut in the Downbytheseaside At Woodlands Stud Mobile Pace (2400m). “Tartan Raider, he is a nice wee fella,” Faithful said. “He will go around and it will be a bit of experience for him. He is pretty sensible. “I expect him to go well. He is extremely well at home and is jumping out of this skin. “I don’t think he will be too far away.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Cambridge trainer Ross Paynter took two horses north to Alexandra Park’s meeting on Friday night and he almost went home with the perfect result. Expensive Crumpet started the night in perfect fashion when winning the Dunstan Speedfeed Summer Series Trot (2200m). The daughter of Quaker Jet made a slow but solid start and driver David Butcher was able to find a handy position four back on the fence before securing the one-one behind Tobruk. Butcher asked her to improve three-wide turning for home and Expensive Crumpet was able to run over the top of her rivals to win by 2-1/4 lengths over Tobruk, with a further 1-1/2 lengths back to Rosie in third. Paynter was pleased with the result and said he was relatively confident heading into the race despite his charge breaking last start. “It was on the cards,” Paynter said. “She had been racing really well. “David drove her perfectly. She probably should have won last start, she was getting a nice trip, that’s when she tapped a knee and had a gallop. “Her runs before that were pretty good really.” Later on the card, stablemate Anditover nearly caused an upset when going down by just over a head to Sertorius in the Hydroflow Handicap Trot (2200m). Paynter was pleased to see Anditover put it all together on Friday night after breaking at the Auckland track when first-up a fortnight ago. “It was really good because the first run back he had a little gallop out of the gates, so we didn’t really get a race under his belt at all,” Paynter said. “He was probably just short of a run tonight but he went well. He sat outside the leader for a good majority of it and only went down by just over a head (in third). “He just keeps coming. He is a real little stayer and tries his guts out. He is a pretty handy horse when he is right.” The five-win gelding will now be set for some targets over the Christmas-New Year period, while Paynter said Expensive Crumpet will likely head to the spelling paddock. “We may give Expensive Crumpet a break because there are some nice mares races coming up later in the year, so if we don’t give her a break soon she probably won’t get one,” Paynter said. “We plan to aim Anditover for Christmas racing with the better stakes. He should be coming into his own by then.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    South Auckland trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett were hoping they would be cheering home stable trotter Temporale in the Group One  Majestic Son Dominion (3200m) at Addington Raceway on Friday, but instead their attention will be solely on Alexandra Park. The dual Group One winner was struck down by a bug when campaigning in Canterbury ahead of Friday’s feature trot and his trainers are now waiting for him to improve before he can travel back to their Waiuku property. “Temporale got crook down in the South Island and the vets are not letting him travel home just yet,” Wallis said. “Hopefully he will be home soon.” The eight-year-old gelding finished sixth in the Group Three Ashburton Flying Mile (1609m) last month, his only southern appearance this preparation, and Wallis wasn’t pleased with his performance. “I was disappointed with his run at Ashburton,” she said. “Even though he didn’t get around the bends, once he straightened up I thought he could at least stick with them or finish on a bit better. “But who knows, he might have been suffering from something there as well. “I worked him on the Saturday after Ashburton and I wasn’t happy with him.” Wallis is hoping Temporale can head home in the coming days and start preparing for feature northern trotting fixtures over the Christmas-New Year period. “As soon as we can get him back up here and he is right we will be pressing on with him,” Wallis said. “If he is not back by the end of this weekend we are probably flat tack getting to the Lyell Creek, but he loves Cambridge, so there is Christmas Eve, and the National. “He will go back into work as soon as he possibly can and he won’t have lost a lot of fitness.” A stablemate that could be joining him in those northern features is stable debutant King’s Landing. The regally-bred Group One performer will be one of nine runners for Wallis and Hackett at Alexandra Park on Friday and they are looking forward to seeing how King’s Landing performs fresh-up in the Hydroflow Handicap Trot (2200m). The son of Group One-winning mare Pocaro will have his work cut out for him from the 40m mark, but Wallis said if he puts in a good showing, feature races are in the offing for the six-year-old. “We have given him a couple of trials and he has trialled really nice,” Wallis said. “He has handled the right-handed way of going, but 40m over 2200m is going to be pretty tough. “I expect a nice run from him but I don’t think he is a winning chance. He shouldn’t be far away. “If he comes up good enough we will look at the Lyell Creek Stakes in a month and then the National, but he will tell us whether he is up to them or not.” King’s Landing will be joined on Friday by stablemate Invictus who Wallis believes is a good chance off the 10m mark. “Invictus is a lovely little horse,” she said. “2200m is his pet distance and he is probably more of a winning chance than King’s Landing.” Wallis and Hackett will have a three-pronged attack in the Franklin Long Roofing Trot (2200m) with Emma Frost, Rain Mist And Muscle, and Sunny Petite. “Although their form is different, there is not a lot between them,” Wallis said. “Sunny Petite trialled really well on Saturday. She led and won her trial and beat Tobruk. If she does things right she is a good chance. “Emma Frost needs luck. She is a sit and sprinter which is a bit the same with Rain Mist And Muscle, but she has gone well over 2200m. “All three of them are chances and I couldn’t really split them. It depends on who gets the best run and if Sunny Petite brings her manners.” Errol D and Special Way will make their raceday debut in the Auckland Cup & National Trot Noms Close 4 December Trot (2200m) and Wallis said it will be more of an educational outing for the pair. “They are probably just runners chances,” Wallis said. “They have been trialling okay, but they have got to step out on raceday at some stage so we decided this week would be it. “It will be a big learning curve for those two.” Wallis believes Tobruk is one of the stable’s better chances on Friday when he lines-up in the Dunstan Speedfeed Summer Series Trot (2200m). “Tobruk trialled really nicely last Saturday,” she said. “I think he should go quite close to winning, he will definitely be in the first three anyway.” Friday will also be an anomaly for Wallis and Hackett who will line-up their first pacer this season when Bliztembye makes his debut in the Christmas Drag Bingo 3 Dec At ‘The Alex’ Mobile Pace (2200m). “I love the trotters,” Wallis said. “There is a bit of skill involved in getting the shoeing right. It just panned out that way (that the stable focussed on trotters). “The pacers that we got were everyone else’s castoffs and we could get some nice, young trotters coming through so we decided to branch that way.” Wallis is looking forward to the race but said she thinks she put the mocker on him drawing the outside of the front-row for Friday. “I put the hoodoo on him because he has drawn one in every workout and qualifying trial. I said he has used up all of his luck at the workouts and sure enough he has drawn eight,” Wallis quipped. “He gets a bit keen out of the gate so it might take Todd (Mitchell, driver) a little bit to get him back and he will probably have to drive him for luck out there.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    John Dunn nearly pulled off the upset of Cup Day on Tuesday, but it was not to be. The Canterbury reinsman set a solid tempo in the Group One Nevele R Fillies Series Final (1980m) with Need You Now, making life difficult for short-priced favourite Amazing Dream to make ground out wide. Need You Now took a two length advantage over Amazing Dream turning for home, but she was run down late and denied victory by a neck. Trainer Robert Dunn was full of praise for his son’s drive on the classy mare, but said she was just beaten by a better horse. “She was beaten by a super horse,” Dunn said. “She deserved to win that race with the time she ran and it was a great drive by Johnny, but that Amazing Dream is just unreal. It was one of the best performances to see, especially with the time they went.” The Dunn’s have been pleased with the way Need You Now has come through Tuesday’s run and the seven-win mare will now back-up at Addington Raceway on Friday in a bid to add an elusive stakes victory to her record. TAB bookmakers have installed the daughter of Bettor’s Delight as a $1.85 favourite for the Listed Nevele R Sires’ Stakes Southern Mares Classic (1980m) and Dunn is only slightly concerned about drawing the outside of the front-row. “She has come through the race well and she went out to the beach this (Wednesday) morning for a paddle,” Dunn said. “The draw (9) is not ideal, but she has drawn that marble for a while now because of the preferential draws that she always cops. “She seems to handle them well. She can go back and run home, or go forward. There looks to be a bit of pace inside, so I am not too sure what Johnny (Dunn, driver) will do there.” Dunn will also line-up Spellbound and Sugar Loaf in the race, with the pair finishing fourth and sixth respectively in the Nevele R Fillies race on Tuesday. “I was happy enough with Sugar Loaf, Bob (Butt, driver) said she tried her best but was probably outclassed with the speed of the race. She will hopefully take a bit of improvement,” Dunn said. “Spellbound went huge. She made ground on the hot pace and found the line strong, so we are really happy with her.” Spellbound has drawn one on the second-row and Dunn thinks she may get the perfect trip following out Beyond Words off the gate. “Beyond Words has got a lot of gate speed, so I think that’s an ideal trip for Spellbound. She could definitely get a good run all the way,” Dunn said. “Sugar Loaf has drawn six and will just find a spot midfield and hopefully she can improve on Tuesday’s run.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Jean Feiss had one of her biggest days in racing at Addington Raceway on Tuesday but unfortunately she wasn’t able to be on track to enjoy it. The well-known owner and respected yearling selector recorded two Group One victories courtesy of Amazing Dream and Self Assured, and she also recorded a Group One placing with Aladdin. The Victorian-based harness racing enthusiast couldn’t make it to Christchurch this year as a result of COVID-19 enforced travel restrictions, but she said she still cheered home her horses with the same vigor 2400km away. “I was jumping up and down and yelling at the TV,” she said. Amazing Dream kicked off the day in perfect fashion when winning the Gr.1 Nevele R Fillies Series Final after sitting three and four wide for the majority of the 1980m trip. Feiss was elated with the victory but admitted she thought the mare had done too much work throughout to feature in the finish. “I just didn’t think she could do it,” Feiss said. “I know she is pretty good but I didn’t think she would be able to claw the other horse (Need You Now) back. “She was three wide from the start, and then four wide, and they were really motoring along. But she is a determined thing, she loves to win. “There are two things she loves in life and that is eating and racing. She does both of those very well.” Feiss purchased Amazing Dream for $77,500 as a yearling and she has so far won six Group One races and more than $650,000 in prizemoney. “She was a nice enough yearling and I did race her brother a few years before that, Chase The Dream. She wasn’t a big yearling, but a nice, tidy, little horse.” While Feiss was exuberant about the win and then placing in the Gr.1 Woodlands Stud Sires’ Stakes Final (1980m) four races later with Aladdin, her highlight of the day was yet to come. Feiss was anxious ahead of the Gr.1 IRT New Zealand Trotting Cup (3200m) with her runner Self Assured because of his erratic standing start manners, but in the end she needn’t have worried. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained gelding began well and took an early trail behind stablemate Ashley Locaz. Purdon then pushed Self Assured forward to regain the lead before once again handing up to another stablemate in Spankem. The son of Bettor’s Delight took advantage of the passing lane and ran away to a comfortable 3-1/2 length victory over stablemate Spankem, with Ashley Locaz closing out a stable trifecta for the Purdon/Rasmussen barn. “He has got so much talent and he was just letting himself down those last few starts,” Feiss said. “I am glad that he stepped and he could get in the race. Once he stepped, I thought even if he doesn’t do any good he has had every chance. “He just sailed away and was very exciting. “Mark put a lot of work into him to try and get him to go away. He gave him a few stands at home and he didn’t go away and then apparently his last two attempts he went away. “But he was a 50/50 chance of stepping away today (Tuesday).” Self Assured was another yearling purchase of Feiss’ and she said she was taken by him from the start. “He was a lovely yearling and I liked the breeding,” she said. Feiss has had a lot of success purchasing and racing standardbreds in New Zealand, and it is something she intends to continue. “The racing is great and the people are so passionate about racing in New Zealand,” she said. “There’s an atmosphere and the thrill of it. I love racing over there.

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Canterbury horseman Bob Butt continued his family’s legacy in the Gr.1 Livamol NZ Trotting Free-For-All Mobile Trot (1980m) at Addington Raceway on Tuesday when winning the feature trot with Heavyweight Hero. Butt became the third generation of his family to win the race after his father David Butt drove Call Me Now to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995, and again in 2008 with Stig. While Butt’s grandfather, Robin Butt, won the race in 1971 with Tony Bear. Fittingly Butt, who also trains Heavyweight Hero, carried his grandfather’s green and white colours to victory on Friday, and he was duly rapt with the win. “It is great,” he said. “If you can’t be happy with that I don’t know what is wrong with you.” After an initial false start in which The Dominator broke from the ace barrier, he galloped once again on take two, which allowed Butt to find the perfect running position three back on the markers. Heavyweight Hero did no work when trailing race favourite Majestic Man and Cracker Hill throughout and Butt was able to utilise the passing lane to slingshot the leaders and win by three-quarters of a length over Cracker Hill with a further three-quarters of a length back to Muscle Mountain in third. “When The Dominator galloped early I thought I would try and get Nathan’s (Williamson, driver) back (on Majestic Man) but Cracker Hill was punting through and with those two in front of me, three back on the fence was the place to be because I wouldn’t have to go around one and it worked out well,” Butt said. “I got a slingshot through (when Brad Williamson elected not to take the passing lane with Cracker Hill) and he is a great old horse and is so genuine.” Heavyweight Hero shaved almost one second off the 1980m national record to go alongside his other national record over 2600m. Heavyweight Hero headed into Tuesday off the back of four consecutive runner-up results and Butt was delighted to get that elusive Group One victory with his consistent trotter. “He hasn’t gone a bad race so he deserves it,” Butt said. “He seemed as good as ever ahead of today, he just needed a run. He is thereabouts always so we just needed a bit of luck and we got it.

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Cambridge conditioners Andrew and Lyn Neal have taken a few horses south to compete over New Zealand Cup week over the years, including Group One winner, Flight South and Group Two winner Where Eagles Dare, and this year they are particularly excited about the prospects of talented pacer Alterior Motif. The four-year-old son of Sportswriter is undefeated in his two starts to date and his trainers are looking forward to testing him on the sport’s biggest day when he lines-up in the Avon City Ford Mobile Pace (1980m) on Cup Day. Alterior Motif won comfortably at Cambridge Raceway on debut by 6-1/4 lengths and then made it back-to-back wins at the Waikato track last month when winning by a head, and his trainers believe Addington will be a good testing ground for their charge. “He has only had the two starts and he has won reasonably easy both starts,” Andrew Neal said. “We will just see how far he goes before he meets the mountain. He has a lot of ability.” Neal said the trip south was a logical one as Alterior Motif refuses to race left-handed. “The horse went down on Wednesday morning and he is down at Jim and Sandy Curtin’s. He has settled in well,” Neal said. “We had him at Cambridge because we couldn’t get him going the Auckland way around, otherwise he would have been racing at Auckland for better money. “We are not sure where to place him after this, but with Addington there and two $25,000 races, and going left-handed, it made sense to have a look at it. “It can help us make up our mind of what we might do afterwards as well.” Neal is pleased with Alterior Motif leading into Tuesday after his hit-out at the Cambridge workouts last week. “We are very happy with his progress heading into the race,” he said. “He trialled last Saturday. David Butcher drove him and he is going to drive him on Tuesday and Friday.” Neal said he has fielded a lot of calls from interested parties about purchasing the horse and he said Alterior Motif would be ideally suited to a track like Menangle. “The Sportswriters seem to go better in America and Australia than they do in New Zealand, but I guess a lot of them get sold off early on,” Neal said. “There is someone ringing every week about him, but no one has followed through with anything as yet. “He likes to roll so a track like Menangle will suit him.” Meanwhile, the Neals have been pleased with the way 11-win trotter Credit Master has returned from his freshen-up. The talented but erratic trotter was slated to target Cup week spoils a couple of months ago, however, behavioural issues put paid to those plans. He instead went for a freshen-up and has returned in fine form, winning two of his three starts this preparation and finished runner-up at Alexandra Park last start. The son of Muscle Mass is now being set to target feature Northern trotting races in the coming months. “He is finally maturing,” Neal said. “He will ease his way into December racing and then there are some races for him at Cambridge as well.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    The Butcher clan will head to Addington Raceway on Tuesday with potentially three family members vying to take out the Gr.1 IRT New Zealand Trotting Cup (3200m). David Butcher has already tasted victory in the great race, winning the 2008 edition behind Changeover, while son Zachary Butcher finished runner-up to Lazarus in 2017 with Jack’s Legend. Benjamin Butcher will try and replicate his father and brother’s success in the race when he competes in The Cup for the first time on Tuesday. He will take the reins behind the Steve and Amanda Telfer-trained Check In and he said he is looking forward to realising a childhood dream of driving in the New Zealand Trotting Cup. “It’s awesome to even have a drive in the race,” he said. “It is always a race you want to win. Hopefully we can get a bit of luck. There are a few horses in there that are probably a bit better but if everything goes right we won’t be too far away.” Butcher was pleased to see Check In return to form when runner-up in the Gr.2 Kaikoura Cup (2400m) last week after a series of unplaced runs at Alexandra Park. “Check In had been racing for a while and the freshen-up might have helped him,” Butcher said. “He had a good trip and went well at Kaikoura. He has always been one of those horses that have suited when they have gone hard and he has had a good trip. He can keep coming at the end and that’s what we will be looking to get on Tuesday.” Butcher is particularly looking forward to competing against his family in the big race, with father David set to drive stablemate Triple Eight, while brother Zachary will need a bit of luck to gain a start, with his charge On The Cards the second emergency for the race. “It adds a bit more competitiveness to it,” Butcher said. “We will all be looking at beating each other home. If we can’t win it, it will be down to who beat who home. “It always makes it a bit more fun and it will be a big crowd there on Tuesday, so it will be great fun.” Butcher will have another shot at Group One glory when he contests the Gr.1 Woodlands Stud Sires’ Stakes Final (1980m) with B D Joe. The gelding took out Heat 2 of the series at Cambridge Raceway last start, beating home Group One winner American Dealer, and Butcher is optimistic with his charge’s chances in a quality field on Tuesday. “He is a nice horse,” Butcher said. “There are a few horses in there that are pretty close to each other and we have got a good draw (4) and hopefully we will be able to use it. “I think that he is a good chance, he would be one of my better chances of the day.” Butcher will have two further drives on Tuesday, behind Dance Time in the Hornby Liquor Central Mobile Pace (1980m), and Down The Hatch in the Avon City Ford Mobile Pace (1980m). “Dance Time has been racing well up in Auckland,” Butcher said. “It is always tough in those smaller fields up in Auckland when there are not a lot of moves and you only sprint home. “He is a bit better with a bit more speed on, but he has got a bit of a drop back in class so it could be a bit easier for him (on Tuesday). He is going really well, so it will be just what happens on the day. “Down The Hatch has been racing really well this whole prep. It will be a step up in grade on Cup Day, but with the right run I can’t see why she wouldn’t go a good race.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    A refreshed Presidential Jewel made an impressive return to Cambridge Raceway on Friday night when taking out the Loveridge Enterprise Builders Handicap Trot (2700m). The Roger Villiger-trained seven-year-old began well from the 20m mark and driver Joshua Dickie sent the mare forward off a sedate pace to take an early lead before handing up to Horace Horse. Horace Horse began to tire with two furlongs to go and Dickie was able to extricate Presidential Jewel from the trail and chase down race favourite Delson to win by 1-3/4 lengths. Villiger was in awe of the win and said he wasn’t expecting to witness such a dominant victory fresh-up from the mare. “It was impressive that’s for sure,” he said. “Fresh up you never quite know but she has always raced well in that state before. You always go in hoping, but I didn’t quite expect that.” Villger was also full of praise for Dickie’s performance in the cart. “It was aided by a perfect drive,” Villiger said. “He popped around to the front when there wasn’t a huge amount of pace on and handed up. “Things got a bit ugly there at the quarter but he got around that horse (Horace Horse). I thought if she ran second to the other guy (Delson) it would be a good run first-up, but she just proved to be too good on the night.” While pleased with the win, Villiger had admiration for Delson’s effort from the 45m mark. “To be fair, Delson did do a fair bit of work in the race and he was off 45m. He ran a great race, you can take nothing away from his effort.” Villiger said he elected to send Presidential Jewel for a break two months ago after sub-par performances in a couple of junior driver races. “Things just went a little bit awry,” he said. “She won really well at Auckland with a similar run (as Friday night) and then she went to a couple of boys races and we tried to get a free win and things just didn’t go to plan. “We gave her a let-up and she appears to have come back really well.” After Friday’s win Villiger was quick to deflect praise to his off-sider Barry Cullen. “Barry Cullen helps me and he does all the work with her,” Villiger said. “She was a real handful to break-in and there were a few good judges that said they wouldn’t have persevered. “She has just ended up a beautifully mannered mare and it was his perseverance and good horsemanship that has made her what she is.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Clevedon trainers Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan are hoping promising trotter Horace Horse will bring his manners to Cambridge Raceway on Friday. The son of Quaker Jet broke twice in his last start at the Waikato track and his connections have their fingers-crossed that was an anomaly. “It was a bit unfortunate last time, he just threw his toys out of the cot. Hopefully it’s just the one start, he is usually pretty good with his manners,” Phelan said. “We will just forget about last time.” Horace Horse will return to Cambridge on Friday to contest the Loveridge Enterprise Builders Handicap Trot (2700m). He has already won two of his eight starts and Phelan said he is starting to realise his potential. “I think he is a reasonable chance on Friday,” Phelan said. “He has taken a while to come to this time, but he has got at least two or three more wins in him. “He is going to end up in the grades a little bit but just how far we don’t know.” Junior driver Nathan Delany will take the reins behind stablemate Jemma in the Agrowquip I John Deere Cambridge Mobile Pace (2200m). The four-year-old mare has placed in her last two starts and Phelan is hoping she can add another win to her tally from barrier five. “It will be a tricky little race for Jemma but it will be up to Nathan how he drives her. Her work has been good, so I can’t complain there,” Phelan said. Last start winner Little Miss Perfect has drawn three in the Fuji Xerox Mobile Pace (2700m) and Phelan will be looking to adopt similar tactics when he hops in the cart on Friday. “Little Miss Perfect seemed a lot happier in front,” Phelan said. “She has got a good draw and has got good gate speed which she showed last time. I expect her to run a really good race.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Patience is a virtue and one which driver Sarah O’Reilly had in spades at the picturesque but tight-turning Kaikoura track on Sunday. The talented junior driver was thrown a curve ball in the Road Metals/Kiwi Concrete Junior Drivers Mobile Pace (1900m) starting from the outside of the front-row with Laver. But she followed trainer Geoff and James Dunn’s instructions to a T, taking the four-year-old gelding back to bide their time at the rear of the field before looming wide turning for home where Laver was able to gobble up his opposition and run away to a five-length victory. Geoff Dunn was particularly pleased to get the victory with the son of his former eight-time Group One winner Venus Serena. “I was rapt with it,” Dunn said. “It had to be run the right way because he was drawn so bad. I was hoping they would go really fast today because he is really tough. “I thought he could run over the top of them, it just had to play the right way and it did.” Dunn admitted to being a bit frustrated with the rating system when it came to Lavec and he has been a bit disheartened by his numerous wide draws. “He is very tough and loves a hot pace, but because of his grading at the moment he keeps drawing terrible and because he is consistent he never drops down a point,” Dunn said. “We had to hope the race was run like it was, and it was perfect.” Dunn will be hoping for more success at Kaikoura on Monday when he lines-up Maurice in The Joiner Shop Pace (2400m). The son of Sir Lincoln has just had the two start’s for Dunn for a win and a placing, and he is hoping that form will continue on Monday. “He is really well and is working good,” Dunn said. “The only thing is the draw again. He has drawn 13 which around Kaikoura you are going to need a bit of luck. “He seems like a good beginner, I haven’t had him very long but he has got a good standing start record and he has done it well at home, so fingers-crossed he begins well and gets a nice run.”

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Tango Tara will have his final hit-out at Kaikoura on Monday ahead of the Gr.1 IRT New Zealand Trotting Cup (3200m) at Addington Raceway on November 10. Trainer and driver Jim Curtin is pleased with the five-year-old ahead of Monday’s assignment, but drawing nine on the tight-turning Kaikoura track is his biggest concern. “He’s nice and bright, he has just got a tricky draw,” the Templeton horseman said. “He has drawn one on the second line, so that’s the tricky thing, especially at Kaikoura where you have to be pretty handy early.” Tango Tara has placed in three of his last four starts, including the Gr.2 Canterbury Classic (2600m) and Gr.3 Hannon Memorial (2600m) and Curtin is hoping for a similar result on Monday. “He went a good race last start, the winner was just a bit too good for him,” Curtin said. “When we scoped him he had a little bit of mucus, but everything seems to be good there now. “He has been pretty consistent and has been running some good times.” Tango Tara is currently fourth in order of entry for the New Zealand Cup and Curtin is delighted to have a runner in the time-honoured race. “It’s always good to be in there that’s for sure, it’s pretty hard to have one good enough to be in there,” he said. On Monday, Curtin will also line-up Kerala Star in the Kaikoura Waste Services Mobile Pace (1900m). “Karela Star has been racing quite well with not much luck,” Curtin said. “He has got a good draw, and has had one workout and went alright, so he should go alright.” Curtin will also take the reins behind Kruizr in the Listed PGG Wrightson Sales Series Aged Classic (2400m) for trainer Michael House. “He has been racing alright,” Curtin said. “He has got a good draw (2) so needs to step well and get a good run.”

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