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1: Best horse who you have ever been associated or worked with (owned, bred, jogged, trained, driven): Stars and Stripes, phenomenal speed and unbelievable great nature. 2: Best horse you have ever seen live: Popular Alm – He could sit outside the best and beat them. Doesn’t happen anymore. 3: Best horse you have seen in any form (live, on tv, on the internet): Winx 4: If you could have any driver in history driving for you in most important race of your life, it would be?: A Butt. He could over drive them but seldom relied on luck. 5: The best trainer you have ever seen: Chris Waller 6: Your favourite racetrack: Harold Park, Sydney - You felt like you were in the middle of the crowd and the town. 7: The unluckiest or hardest to swallow defeat of your career: OK Rock. Second in the Queensland Oaks. She got sick before the race and with treatment she improved everyday but on the night went down a head, she only needed a few more days and I think it would have been different. 8: The race you have never won but would love to: NZ Cup 9: The horse we never got to see the best of: Eastburn Grant. He only won one Group One, soundness cost him winning more big races. 10: The racing win, yours or somebody elses, that gave you the most joy: NSW Derby with Stars and Stripes which gave him two Aussie and two NZ Derby wins for the season. 11: Who is the person in harness racing you haven’t seen since lockdown started you are looking forward to seeing the most when we get back to the track: Ricky May. I haven’t seen him this year and on January the 2nd I didn’t think I would ever see him again.   Harness Racing New Zealand

Art Major gelding Swamp Major repaid his group of loyal owners when he won the bMAC Sheetmetal Limited Diamonds Day Handicap Pace at Ascot Park today(Sunday). It was the gelding's first win in over two years after he went amiss.  He was good enough as a three year old to run placings behind the likes of Heaven Rocks, Lazurus, Moonrock and Buster Brady. He's been trained for most of his career by Ken Barron but has  recently been transferred to the Woodend Beach establishment of former Southlander Regan Todd.  "He's just got better with racing but that's what you'd expect after being away from the track for so long. I toyed with putting him in the Northern Southland Cup the last time we were down. In hindsight I'm glad we didn't. We were going to go to Ashburton (cancelled meeting) with him so we were real lucky," Todd said. Swamp Major beating Mighty Santana - Photo Bruce Stewart. Going into today's R60 and faster handicap he was one of three runners off the front mark and driver Samantha Ottley made the most of that advantage.  "After Thursday's work we were going into it happy. I knew the back markers would be hard to beat but it was just good that he stepped out and got to the front real early." After trailing for the first part of the race Ottley hooked the gelding out from the trail and took over the lead with two laps to run. She held on to the lead right to the finishing post beating Mighty Santana by three quarters of a length. Swamp Major is owned by breeder Trevor Ryder, along with Allan Lindsay, Scott McCrea, Sue McCrea, Cleland Murdoch and John Duff.  Cleland Murdoch, Trevor Ryder, John Duff, sponsor Brendon McIntyre and Allan Lindsay - Photo Bruce Stewart "I'm pretty lucky really. Most people would start panicking. They've just let me do my thing and the horse has paid them back today."     Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

When Southlander Ken Barron became stable driver for former Tapanui trainer John Lischner in 1994 his approach to race day driving marked a major change in the way races were run in Canterbury.  "I think Ken would tell you himself that he hated driving and being unlucky. He tried to give each horse all the luck he could get for them. That's the way they drive today and Ken started that. He was a wee bit lucky because Clark (brother Clark Barron) moved up not that long afterwards and the two drive very similarly. It did change the style of driving in Canterbury for sure," said Lischner.  Barron recently decided not to renew his race day driving licence after 31 years in the sulky, over which he reined 1050 winners. He started as a junior reinsman in the 1985-86 season. His first winner Morning Rise which was trained by his father Ron, happened at the Wairio meeting in November 1986. In fact his first five winners were trained by his father. Also in those early days, winners came from trainers like Alan Paisley, Jason Enright and Vin Devery. It was his association with Devery that lead to his first Group winner Dreamy Atom which won the Group Three 1994 Sweetheart Stakes. In those early days he also struck up a successful partnership with Southland trainer Murray Brown and drove his first winner for him in January 1992 reining Barbed Wire to win at Ascot Park. From that point Brown began to use him regularly and by the time Barron left to go to Canterbury he'd driven 19 winners for the Findley Road trainer.  "Henry Skinner and Alan Scobie were driving for me. Ken was at me all the time to get a drive. When those older guys started to wind down Ken got his opportunity," said Brown. Brown says Barron was a real student of the standardbred and could assess a horse and it's ability fairly quickly.  "He studied his horses. He was right into it and knew every horse after just one drive. Henry (Henry Skinner) and Scobes (Alan Scobie) were like that." And Lischner agrees. "Ken's a bit of a thinker. He drove once for Peter Bagrie and Peter told me after, that when he came back in  he knew exactly everything about the horse. He'd never had a driver that could sum up a horse after one drive. He was pretty good that way."  Older brother Clark, who has also driven over 1000 winners and observed his brother's early drives, agrees. "You could probably take that a step further. He knew a horse in the first four to five hundred metres. Probably in the preliminary. I was already driving and he came along and no one tried harder than him to succeed," he said. The success that Brown and Barron were having was also proving beneficial to Brown. "Everyone was wanting to put their horse here because Ken was driving for me. It went like wildfire," he said. He also says the success Barron was having didn't surprise him.  "He was a good squash player and good at golf. All those good ones (drivers) are good at other sports."  The early success Barron was having was also noted by John Lischner who was starting to build momentum with a large team in Ashburton.   "I had a yarn to Ron because I didn't want to interfere with any family plans they might have had for Ken in extending their business. Ron said 'you just fire ahead and do what ever you want to do'."  Lischner says he was in desperate need to have a permanent stable driver.   "We were sick of not getting any continuity with feedback from drivers because we'd have one driver one week and a different driver the next. We were getting mixed messages and that was disruptive. I saw Ken driving in the south and thought 'that boy doesn't drive bad'. I took a couple of horses down south and got him to drive them." So Ken Barron moved north to Mid Canterbury at the beginning of the 1994 season and soon began to make his mark. "He'd only been up here for about a fortnight and we had horses in at Blenheim so I dispatched him away in Dick Prendergast's float. We had some success on that trip and it grew from there. He was quite an adventurous driver and not afraid to attack the lead. Fortunately we had the horses that he had success with driving like that. Our horses did stay a bit better that quite a lot of others. We didn't specifically train our horses to fit Ken's style."  Clark can also remember the impact his brother was having. "I always remember when he went up there. He'd get a way out (leading in the race). All the drivers would say 'Oh, he'll come back'. He never did and after the first few months he'd won a heap of races." A few years later Clark joined his brother, working for Michael House and he took a similar approach.  "We are definitely similar but I'm probably a bit more conservative than he was," said Clark. So Ken Barron made his mark on Canterbury harness racing and it was a game changer. He drove many winners for John Lischner and when asked to pick one particular drive that summaries his style it wasn't hard for the trainer to find one.  "One that stands out was Eastburn Grant because he was a tough horse. I remember vividly when we won the Rowe Cup with him. Ken set him alight and they just never caught him."  Eastburn Grant was not the only good trotter Barron drove. Others include Jo Anne, Dependable, Majestic Time and Gee's Pride.  One of the other stable stars he drove at that time was Stars and Stripes.  "Ken drove him a treat. He wasn't much good in front but devastating from behind. We won four Derbies with him."  In 2002 Lischner took Barron onboard as a training partner.  "When he joined me he told me that he had some views (on training) and he said he'd like to tell me about them. I heard them and we came to an arrangement. I said 'If I don't like what you're doing I'll tell you'. That's the way we worked. It would be fair to say we never had a cross word. We had different opinions about some horses but we had a mutual respect for one another. Nothing really changed when he came in as a partner. It just carried on the same," Lischner said.  Clark believes a lot of credit for his brother's success goes to John Lischner.  "A lot of credit had to go to John. They had very fit horses and the combination (of them both) worked unreal."  Clark says it didn't surprise him when Ken decided not to renew his driving licence at the beginning of this season.  "We both spoke about it and thought we'd slow down in our early fifties. But we both got to our mid fifties. I'm still ticking over and he's pulled the pin altogether."  The impact that Ken Barron has had on harness racing driving has largely gone unheralded but that's probably how he would like it. However the style he took to Canterbury in 1994 proved to be a blue print to how most races pan out these days. Ken is now happy to carry on just training with his other brother Tony and observe his team being driven primarily by Blair Orange, who I'm sure has benefitted from his employer's style.  Bruce Stewart  Southland Harness Racing   Barron Bits: 8,772 drives for 1050 winners, 969 seconds, 887 thirds for $8,948,514 UDR .2148 Group One winners: New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Stakes (Lady Toddy), Great Northern Derby (Stars And Stripes), New Zealand Sires Stakes Three Year Old Final (Stars and Stripes), New Zealand Derby (Stars And Stripes),Rowe Cup (Eastburn Grant) and Easter Cup (Bradshaw). He also drove Stars And Stripes to win the $100,000 2000 Victoria Derby and the $100,000 2000 NSW Derby.    First win: Morning Rise – Ron Barron – November 1985 at Wairio. First win for John Lischner: Irish Lullaby –Invercargill 3rd September 1994 Winning drives for John Lischner: 369 Winning drives for John Lischner and Ken Barron: 88 Total winners trained by Lischner: 705 - Ken Barron drove 457 of them. Winning drive for self: 219 Drove multiple winners for: Murray Brown, Ron and Tony Barron, Vin Devery and Allan Georgeson. Note: John Lischner was the leading trainer in 1997 and 1999. Barron drove 90 winners in 1999 and was second to Tony Herlihy in the national premiership. He drove 103 winners in 1997 and was again second in the premiership - this time to Maurice McKendry (120). McKendry had 791 drives that season - Barron drove 493 times. On both occasions he was the leading South Island driver. Top Twelve winning drives in New Zealand: Lady Toddy (12) Georgetown (10) Eastburn Grant (10) Dependable (10) Bradshaw (10) Stars and Stripes (9) Major Decision (9) Luchador (8) Arctic Chief (8) Comply Or Die (8) Supreme Mach (8) Gees Pride (8)

Harness racing driver Samantha Ottley managed to grab two driving wins last night at Addington and she did it by winning two of the trotting races with pacing bred mares.  Ottley drove outsider Michelle to a dominant win at long odds in the first trotting race of the night. At bolters odds of over $36.20 and $7.30 on the tote, Michelle who has been a serial breaker in her races, finally trotted all the way and cruised to an easy win over second favorite Still Eyre and driver Matthew Williamson. Michelle (Live Or Die - Eves Apple) is a pacing bred mare trained by Mark Jones and owned by Wayne Higgs. The lightly raced mare has taken a while to adapt to the trotting gait but is clearly going to win more races judging by last nights impressive performance. A few races later, Donegal Bettergretch won the R60 and Faster trot last night in a quick 3-19.7 for the 2600m stand. Donegal Bettergretch (Bettor's Delight - Donegal Gretchen) was driven to the lead early by Ottley and the pacing bred mare trotted well and proved too strong for her rivals, winning comfortably from Petite One and driver Colin DeFilippi. DeFilippi is sitting on 1999 lifetime driving wins and was a bit unlucky not to finish closer with Petite One as she was last at the 400m and was held up for most of the run home, until a late gap saw her close strongly into second. Top reinsman Blair Orange has moved to a two win lead in this seasons drivers premiership. Orange is sitting on eight wins for the season, two wins clear of David Butcher who is poised to narrow the gap with his good book of drives at Alexandra Park tonight. Amazon Lily got the ball rolling for Blair last night when she began well from the standing start and was quickly around to lead and controlling the race in front. The Ken Barron trained daughter of Bettor's Delight had too much speed for the opposition and won as she liked pacing the 2600m stand in 3.23.1. The last 800m of 57.5 was the quickest of the night until the last race when Orange adopted similar tactics on another Barron trained horse in For The Corz.  For The Corz also led early and controlled the race from the front before whipping over her last 800m in an identical 57.5 to win easily giving Blair and Barron a double for the night.    Samantha Ottley driving Michelle to victory.   Harnesslink Media  

There’s not too much that’s conventional about Roxburgh breeder and former stud master Bill Keeler. But that’s the way he likes it. He’s a no fuss sort of guy who seldom goes to the higher end stallions, preferring to choose sires that he feels match his mares, and are within his budget. And this has proved to be a winning formula for the former Southlander. Keeler, who has been breeding horses for thirty plus years comes from a family which had no interest in horses, but that all changed when he was at high school. “I got interested at school. We used to sit in alphabetical order. On one side of me was Ross Malcolm and the other side was John Muirhead. John ended up being a stipe and Ross’s father backed horses like Manaroa back in the day. Murray Todd was around too and his father Ian had a horse called Old Salt. We went to the gallops and the trots,” he said. So it wasn’t long before Keeler got the racing bug. His first winner was a galloper called Royal Caddon which was trained at Gore by Steve Allen. As he became more interested he gravitated to standardbreds and began to help out at the Hedgehope stable of Maurice and Val Skinner. “I was dairy farming at the time and used to fit in an hour here and an hour there. I drove Benrodden out there. One thing lead to another. I had horses at the Skinners and around at the Barrons” (Ron and Tony Barron). Benrodden by Armbro Hurricane won two races for Skinner before winning a further seven for Graeme Hale. But Keeler’s lucky break came in the mid-1980s. “One day I picked up two mares and a horse called Skipper Dale. He was three and had been broken in. He used to lie down and my job was to get him to jog around the roads without lying down, which I did after six weeks. Ken Baron got him and he qualified him but it took a long time.” Skipper Dale went on to win 18 races for owner John Howard and trainer Patrick O’Reilly. “Anyway, the mares I had were Ngahere and her sister Chatter Box. I sent them both to Vance Hanover. The deal was that I got one of the foals and the syndicate that owned Vance Hanover got the other. I had the choice of foals out of Lumber Dream mare Ngahere which had left Skipper Dale or the one out of Parlez Vous mare Chatter Box. Everyone in the world would have taken the foal out of the Lumber Dream mare. But I chose the other one (Vance Hanover – Chatter Box) which was Cath Hanover.” Incidentally the Vance Hanover – Ngahere colt named Kiwi Bomber won three races in New Zealand for Graeme Anderson before winning another two in Australia. So that’s how Bill Keeler started his marvellous association with a mare that gave him plenty of enjoyment and left him a host of winners. As a racehorse Cath Hanover had one start from Jack Stroud’s stable but broke a pedal bone. “We served her and got a foal out of her (Cordon Hops) then she came back into work after we weaned the foal. She was one week off going to the workouts at Lindsay Woodward’s place and she went amiss again.” So it was to the breeding barn that Cath Hanover went and what an amazing record she’s left. At last count of the 15 named foals she left, 10 had qualified and 8 had won a total of 179 races between them. Her biggest winner was Mister Dale which was by Knight Rainbow. He won a staggering 80 races – eight in New Zealand and the remaining 72 in America. He started an amazing 328 times for a record of 72-55-48 and $217,909 in stakes. His best mile time was 1-53.0. Erle Dale is the mare’s other big winner - winning 18 races in Australia before chalking up a further 21 in America. He’s still racing. Other winners include: Cordon Hops (Devil’s Adversary) 15, Bravo Star (Direct Flight) 9, Rocky Beau (Pacific Rocket) 15, Captain Dale (Julius Caesar) 9 and Marshal Dale (Knight Rainbow) 12. One of the mare’s progeny that didn’t make it to the races was a horse called Rapid Skipper who was by Totally Ruthless. “I had three horses in the paddock. Bravo Star, Jester Dale and Rapid Skipper. Rapid Skipper was the best by a long long way. He went to the workouts on one set of shoes and won by the length of the straight. We turned him out and he came back in and was going really good. He got a bit of swelling on the knee. He wasn’t lame and there was no mark. The swelling went down and we backed off him for a couple of weeks. He then went to the workouts again and broke down and we had to put him down. He was one that got away. ” Of all the horses Cath Hanover left Erle Dale was the one Keeler got the biggest return from. “It’s never enough (laughter). Erle Dale grossed us $210,000. We sold him out of Australia where I owned and raced him.” Erle Dale was trained by the Fitzpatricks and that’s where Keeler’s racing colour of yellow with green diagonal stripes came from. “Going around Harold Park they stood out so I thought I’d get something like that. Brad Morris said to me one day ‘are you training for Bart (Bart Cummings)? They’re similar to his colours.” So as you can see Keeler’s list of winners didn’t come from the top echelon of stallions – quite the opposite. “Flavour of the day doesn’t do much for me. I bred five by Artsplace and they were all nil. They couldn’t run to save themselves. We’ve bred four or five Klondike Kids that have gone pretty good.” Cath Hanover’s last visit to a stallion was in 2011 when she was served by American Ideal. “I thought perhaps I should get a filly because you could breed fillies or colts out of her depending on what you wanted. I thought I’d better have a filly just to finish off her breeding career. Bugger me days it was upside down in her and she died foaling about two weeks early.” In the early years Keeler ran a dairy farm at Makerewa near Invercargill before selling up and working at the Freezing works. “There was a butter mountain in Europe. They complain about the prices now – the prices then were zero. They were swapping butter for Lada’s (cars) and everything else. We were paying 30% on our overdraft and the banks were killing us.” After selling the farm he decided to set up a stud farm - Kaylea Stud also at Makerewa where he initially stood Armbro Raven and Call Back. Knight Rainbow owned by Trish Dunell was also on the books and he’s still in the care of Keeler at Millers Flat. “He was at Graeme Lambs and he served a couple of mares. He rang me up one day and said I’ve sold my farm and that that horse is coming to your place so he duly arrived. He does a good job teasing up the mares and once in a blue moon he serves one.” While in Southland he also served on the Invercargill Harness Racing club’s crash crew with his old mates Lindsay Woodward and Lex Dudfield. He was also one of the first to do AI in Southland. “I was one of the first in New Zealand to serve a full commercial book of mares with a horse called Talk Show Lobell who was a total flop. We served a few with Armbro Invasion and got going from there. I got up to 100 (mares) one year.” Over the years he ran Kaylea Stud he had a good number of breeding triumphs. “My claim to fame was around two mares Victoria Foyle and Chipaluck. One was seven the other eight and they hadn’t got in foal. One actually ran with a stallion. All the experts in the world have had a look at these mares for the last few seasons. So I got them served and the first time the vets saw them was at 42 days. They were both positive. My first two positives that year.” Keeler also seemed to be able to produce foals to order. “I said in the newsletter that most of the foals next year were going to be colts. Jim Dalgety shook his head and said incredible. He said there was an old fella on the coast that did that. Anyway the upshot was that only two people (of the 74) told me they had fillies.” And when pressed to elaborate he said, “If I tell you I’ll have to kill you.” (laughter). He’s also bred from another daughter of Chatter Box - Nellie Dale. She didn’t leave a lot of foals but did leave the talented Mach Three gelding Loch Nagar which won six of his twenty starts. “It was just an absolute fluke that we got a Mach Three. He was very unsound. He just had a massive heart.” Fast forwarding to today and Keeler is still breeding from two of Cath Hanover’s unraced daughters - Gracie Dale (Make A Deal) and Rhonda Dale (Iam A Fool) as well as Makarewa Jill (CR Commando – Sherree’s Pride) and Al Zahra (Mach Three – Red Chinelle). And he’s still getting plenty of success by breeding to the cheaper stallions. Gracie Dale has left some well performed horses including Grey Steel (Island Fantasy) which won three races for Mark Shirley before winning another 17 in Australia and Justa Dale (Klondike Kid) which won once here but has won a further 6 races in Australia and has run a mile in 1-52.7. “For pedigree experts he’s (Greysteel) interesting. He’s reversed sex cross to three great stallions including No Nukes. (Abercrombie and Albatross are the other two). So she’s (Gracie Dale) had two really good ones by nondescript stallions.” Greysteel is 3x3 reverse sex to No Nukes, 3x4 reverse sex to Abercrombie and 4x4 reverse sex to Albatross. Another one of Gracie Dales foals also showed potential. “Armor Dale (Gotta Go Cullect) looked promising. He had a bit of an empty head but he could run a bit. At his first serious workout he ran past Al Raza one day but he broke his back leg.”  Renee Dale a two year old filly by Sir Lincoln out of Rhonda Dale was recently sold by Keeler to Sydney after she qualified at Wyndham. He’s also breeding from the Dream Away mare Dreamy Romance. “Her first foal by Julius Caesar won a race but wasn’t much chop. The second foal was Quatro Knight. He’d been in the cart three or four times. Alex McDonald (who bred lots of very good horses) said to me ‘I’ll trade you anything in my paddock for that horse.’ I said ‘what about your partners?’  “Ah stuff them’ he said. ‘I’ll make my own decisions thanks.’ I held onto him. He was a beautiful mover and he duly qualified as a two year old but he got crook and he was never the same again.”                                                                     Dreamy Romance’s third foal was Rainbow Romance. Keeler said “At his third start in America he was a half a head and a half a length away going 1-49. He’s a Knight Rainbow. The next foal was My Rona Gold which is by Klondike Kid which has gone quite she had an American Ideal and it’s the only one that’s no good.”  Keeler has lived in Roxburgh for five and a half years now and he says he loves the warmer climate. “It does get hot. When it rains you smile and take your clothes off and dance in it.” On the recreational front he’s part of the group that runs the swimming pool at Millers Flat and he’s still managing 20 to 30 lengths a day. He also plays a bit of squash after playing for the Makarewa Squash Club for years. When I spoke to Keeler he was recovering from breaking a hamstring which happened when he was shoeing a yearling. He says at one point he was being transported around the district lying flat on the back seat of a car. Some sight!! So Bill Keeler’s life has been full of interesting twists and turns and even in the time I spent with him there could easily have been a books worth of tales.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

The locally bred, Canterbury owned and trained trotter Over The Love looks to have a bit of a future. The Love You three year old easily won the Centrepoint and South City Liquorland Trot at Ascot Park today beating a field of twelve other maidens. Prior to today's win Over The Love had won three of his four workouts, both his trials and run second on debut at Addington in a sub two minute mile rate.   "He's done a good job and he's always given us the impression that time's going to be his friend. He's a big horse so you'll see the best of him probably next year," said driver Blair Orange. In today's 2700 metre event Over The Love settled fifth behind tearaway leader Pegasus Hanover. When Orange saw second favourite Jaccka Josh improve with 1200 metres to run he moved off the running line. That forced Jaccka Josh three wide for three hundred metres before Orange slotted the three year old into the one one behind Jaccka Josh with a lap to run. At the top of the straight Orange peeled off Jaccka Josh's back and trotted down the middle of the track cruising to the finish line, beating a game Jaccka Josh by two and a half lengths. The chestnut gelding is by Love You out of the four win Chiola Hanover mare Cochy Bondu. He was bred by Invercargill Jeweller Kevin Schuck Cochy Bondu has produced three foals of racing age and all have qualified. Her first foal Overcast has now won five races while Coppertone Lad a full-brother to Over The Love qualified at Ascot Park early this month. According to his trainer Alan Paisley he's expected to debut in a few weeks. Over The Love with Overcast          Photo by Bruce Stewart The mare's next foal a Dream Vacation colt foal has already been bought by his co-trainer Ken Barron.  Today was Over The Love's first big trip away.  "He taking it all in his stride. He's a lovely big relaxed horse who trotted good today. He was a little pacey early but once he got into his rhythm and balanced after a couple of hundred metres he was good from there on in. He's probably got a few trips away in the future."  Today's win was one of three for Orange and takes his season tally to a personal best of 124. Dexter Dunn also drove three winners today and leads the premiership with 139 winners.  Over The Love winning   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Cullen Who should provide horseman Ken Barron with compensation in the fifth heat of the invited brother drivers series at Oamaru on Saturday. Barron and Leo O’Reilly have to sit out the heat as only 10 horses accepted, but Barron is the co-trainer with brother Tony of top prospect Cullen Who. They also have Gotta Del in the race. Gotta Del is not the least of chances. Nathan Williamson has drawn Cullen Who, who heralded an early win when second to Benicio at the New Zealand Cup meeting. Cullen Who was responsible for the pace that resulted in Benicio running the 1950m (mobile) in a swift 1.54.3 mile rate. Barron, who teams with his brother Clark for the drivers series at Oamaru, is aboard  The Persuader in the sixth and final heat. The Persuader, trained at Oamaru by Eion Latimer, has won on grass at Motukarara. Clark is driving  the Barron-trained Compliant in the same race. The fourth heat marks the return to racing of Sam Galleon, winner of three of his four starts this season. Trainer Phil Williamson gave Sam Galleon a spell after his last start win at Winton on September 4 as he felt he had advanced  rapidly through the grades. Sam Galleon had experience on grass when based at Cromwell  in January. He will be driven by Gerard O’Reilly. Williamson  also has Bobbins (Nathan Williamson)  in the same heat and he has been caring for Soney Beatt (Jay Abernethy). A 20m handicap should not trouble Alta Orlando in race 6. He won decisively over 2600m from 10m at Washdyke last time out, his second start since joining the Dunn stable at Woodend Beach  and his second after two years away from racing. He was a class act at two and three  with wins in the Welcome Stakes, Yearling Sales Open and two heats of the Sires’ Stakes from the stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. He has won five of his 10 starts. Delightful Dash, a proven performer on grass, ran second to Alta Orlando at Washdyke. Boomer Bailey is back on his favourite hunting ground. Boomer Bailey has gained four of his seven wins at Oamaru, divided between the grass and all-weather tracks. He won on  both surfaces at Oamaru last season and on the grass at this meeting two years ago. The 6yr-old has not won since May but he has been placed in six of his last seven starts. He ran third on grass  to Buster Brady and Franco Texas at Orari last Saturday for owner-trainer Graeme Telfer. Graduate Under Fire, another grass track specialist, is resuming. He has won his races  from the Dunn stable but his Hilderthorpe owner (near Oamaru) Ray Beale has brought him to hand for this race. Tayler Strong

Tonight’s harness racing meeting at Addington Raceway sees Noel Kennard’s "GoHarness" syndication brand unveil a new Syndicate. The GoHarness team have been a revelation to the industry and currently have four different syndicates up and running, and pride themselves on the fact that every horse they have taken to the races has been successful on at least one occasion. That record doesn't look like disappearing anytime soon with their latest syndication horse Franco Saxon set to debut in race 2 at Addington tonight. Purchased off Spreydon Lodge several weeks ago, the 3yo Live Or Die gelding was a handy recent trial winner at Ashburton for trainer/driver Jonny Cox. "I have plenty of time for him, he's a lovely relaxed horse and he pleased me with his trial. He arrived in wonderful condition from Steven McRae (Spreydon Lodge) so we've just had to keep him ticking over" said Jonny. "The draw isn't a great help, especially over 1950m but if the luck goes our way I wouldn't be surprised if he won" Franco Saxon is owned by the "Staxofun syndicate" and there are still shares available. Astro Boy also resumes for GoHarness and Cox at Rangiora on Sunday. "He came to the end of it last time, so we spelled him and he has come back really well. He's had a couple of workouts and trials to get ready for this, he actually missed away at the trials the other day but usually he's a good beginner. From the front line he should get a nice enough trip and be thereabouts" said Cox. Astro Boy races for the “Double The Fun” Syndicate who also raced Western Art who unfortunately picked up a career ending injury. At his best Western Art was a handy winner of the Nelson Cup at the club’s early January meeting. Another recently set up was the “Buy, Race and Sell” Syndicate. Involving 50 shares with just the one lump sum payment, which the GoHarness name have become well known for, the Syndicate looks to win a few races with each horse first before hopefully flicking them on for a tidy profit. All horses for the Buy, Race and Sell syndicate are trained by Ken Barron. Barron currently has Order Online and Regal Grin in work for the GoHarness team. Order Online was a handy maiden winner at the start of the month and provided an instant return for Syndicate members after only having purchased the 3yo Washington VC gelding off Clark Barron a few weeks earlier. Regal Grin finished 2nd at the trials last week and the son of Grinfromeartoear is defiantly one to look out for over the next few weeks. Andrew Fitzgerald

And then were two. Seven short days ago, five Australian runners were confirmed to contest the 2016 Harness Jewels at Cambridge Raceway but following a dire week for Harness Racing New Zealand's (HRNZ) marquee event of the season, that number has shrunk to two. Reina Danzante's​ withdrawal from the four-year-old Ruby over the weekend further compounds the misery following Illawong Byron (two-year-old Ruby) and Arms Of An Angel (four-year-old Diamond) both being withdrawn last week. Reina Danzante, trained by ex-pat Kiwi Nicole Molander​, broke soon after leaving the mobile gate in a race at Ballarat on Friday night and refused to settle. Following the disappointing showing, connections made the decision to stay home and skip the Jewels. Arms Of An Angel was taken out because of a suspected virus and connections of Illawong Byron chose to stay home when the trotter was placed on the unruly. HRNZ racing manager Darrin Williams said only having two Australian invites was frustrating but it was only bad luck that saw the other three withdraw. The only Australian invites to wear the green Jewels colours will be My Kiwi Mate, who is  a $12 chance in the four-year-old Emerald, and Heza Bromac, who is a $26 chance in the three-year-old Emerald. Nominations for the top 20 in each of the nine categories went up on the HRNZ website on Sunday evening and trainers have been sent acceptance notices. Final withdrawals close on Friday with fields, including barrier draws to be out on Friday afternoon. The top 13 stake earners in the seven divisions without an Australian invite will make the cut but only the top 12 qualify in the four and three year-old Emerald races to make way for the Australian invite. Better B Chevron's maiden win at Oamaru on Sunday is enough to lift the Ken Barron-trained runner into the top 12 for the two-year-old Diamond. Another two-year-old to win at Oamaru, James Dean, still sits just outside the main field for the two-year-old Emerald in 16th spot. Sunday's Oamaru meeting was the final opportunity to qualify for the Jewels. Destiny Jones, a race winner at Addington on Saturday, has forced her way into the top 12 of the four-year-old Ruby for Waterlea trainer Dean Hunter. The horse she beat, Great Things Happen, has been withdrawn. Last year's two-year-old Ruby winner Missandei​ has just managed to sneak into the three-year-old Ruby field in 13th position. Missandei blew her chances of a win at Forbury Park​ on Thursday night when she galloped away from the start as a $1.40 favourite. A win would have made her spot in the Jewels much more comfortable. Better B Chevron James Dean Mat Kermeen

For the 3rd time in a row, one of the leading Harness Racing drivers in the country has managed to break the 100 win mark for a season. Canterbury based Blair Orange bought up his century at Forbury Park tonight, aboard the Ken Barron trained Illegal Immigrant. The 3yo American Ideal gelding was a dominant 3 ½ length winner and was crunched into a $2.50 favourite by punters. Barron/Orange and owners Prospero No 1 Syndicate also picked up another victory on the night when 3yo Real Desire gelding Brunello won Race 6. The Prospero No 1 Syndicate will also have Amazon Lily in the New Zealand Oaks on Saturday. The Bettor's Delight 3yo has drawn barrier 1 and is set to receive a beautiful trip with Golden Goddess drawn beside her in barrier 2. While many were stunned with Orange’s decision to shift from the powerful All Star’s stable at the end of the 2014/15 season, to join forces with West Melton trainer Ken Barron. The move paid dividends, with Barron recording a personal season record of 51 wins in the 15/16 season. Those wins came from just the 241 starters and included 42 seconds and 27 thirds. This season the Barron/Orange combination has picked up 34 wins and 44 minor places from just the 179 starts. Burnello Illegal Immigrant Andrew Fitzgerald

Weedon’s based trainer Nigel McGrath has set his sights on the Harness Jewels with smart 3yo Ears Burning. Well supported by punters at Addington today, the 3yo Grinfromeartoear colt didn’t disappoint his followers with a dominate win in the 7th race of the afternoon. “He’s won really nicely; we had to burn around to find the front but he was strong after that. There is a super series race for him next week and then hopefully a jewels start” said McGrath. Currently 12th on the Jewels leader board , Ears Burning will drop back to 13th with the return of the All Stars runner Chase The Dream who is making his way back to New Zealand after competing in the WA Derby. The Super Series race Nigel refers to is the C0 and Faster Mobile pace which Ears Burning sneaks into, while it is a preferential barrier draw meaning he will pick up an average draw, there wouldn’t be many, if any horses to fall into those conditions that are going as good as he is. Meanwhile, McGraths star colt and Jewels leader Classie Brigade has had a wee freshen up and is preparing well for his Jewels challenge. “He will have one trial and go to the Jewels” said McGrath. Ears Burning Great Things Happen put pay to a handy trot field today when he boomed up the passing lane for trainer/driver Gavin Smith. Today’s victory was the Love You geldings 5th in a row and 7th career win, and pushed him up to 18th in the Jewels standings, just under $3,000.00 shy of the 12th placed, Greg/Nina Hope trained Everybody Knows. Owned by E J Edwards and Sara Smith, Great Things Happens was the first foal out of 7 win S J’s Photo mare Calamity Gal, who was trained by Gavin for her last two career starts. Today’s winning time of 3.17.4 was impressive, but so was the run of runner up Harriet Of Mot, who’s amended time from her 30m back mark was 3.16.4 and put the writing on the wall for the 4yo mare to be very competitive at the Harness Jewels. Her performance capped off a great day for Noel Kennard’s GoHarness Syndication’s brand when recent purchase Order Online won for trainer Ken Barron and the GoHarness Buy Race & Sell Syndicate. The 3yo Washington VC gelding was purchased out of the Clark Barron stable earlier last month and delivered a great mothers day victory for some owners. GoHarness always have shares available so don’t hesitate to get in contact with them, their details can be found at www.goharness.co.nz. Great Things Happen Order Online Andrew Fitzgerald

This time twelve months ago, Swamp Major looked a two year old that was capable of competing for harness racing divisional honours amongst the juveniles.   Two outstanding seconds behind Lazarus in the Young Gun Series had signalled that the son of Art Major was good enough to challenge in most of the major races to follow.   However on returning to Christchurch, Swamp Major was bedeviled by minor issues to the point that trainer Ken Barron tipped him out in the end for a long spell.    Fast forward twelve months and after a long and slow build up, Swamp Major made his long awaited racetrack resumption at Ascot Park today at their Invercargill Cup day meeting.   Even though Swamp Major had drawn barrier eight at the 2200 metres, punters made him a $1:40 shot on the strength of his two great runs at two.   Sent straight to the front by driver Blair Orange, Swamp Major always looked in total control throughout the race and when Blair gave him his head on the corner, he scooted clear and held them at bay without being seriously threatened.   Swamp Major paced the 2200metres in 2:42.1, a mile rate of 1:58.5 with closing sectionals of 56.7 and 28.   Blair Orange was happy to have got the show back on the road.   “That was just the kind of race he needed first up.”   “It has been a long slow build up after all those little niggles at two and he is going to need a few runs to get back to full race fitness.”   “He is entered in the Futurity in which you have to start twice down here so the plans are for him to stay down and race again next week.”   “As to future plans, we will have to see how he progresses over the next few weeks.”   “He does hold a nomination for the New Zealand Derby but we will just see how things progress before making any firm plans,” Blair said.   The big upstanding son of Art Major has already shown he can mix it with the very best at two and he would certainly add plenty of interest to the upcoming three year old classics if he can get back to that form.   Swamp Major     Harnesslink Media

Tony Barron doesn't mind getting hand me downs from his brother Ken.   He's been a source of regular winners and the latest Might Flying Deal now raced by the MCC Syndicate (Makerewa Country Cup) is a good example of Southland trainers getting good results from horses that may struggle in the top league in Canterbury.   "Steve Thompson and Grant Dickey bought him at the yearling sales paying $46,000 for this one." "They get to a stage as three year olds that if they're not going to measure up to the Sire Stakes and Derby type horses they flick them on," said trainer Tony Barron.   The American Ideal three year old was bred by Heather and Lex Williams. He's out of the In The Pocket mare Fleet's Pocket whose winners have been Flying Pocketland (7 NZ wins and 14 Australian wins), Mighty Flying Thomas (6 NZ wins and 12 Australian wins), Flying McPocket (6 Australian wins), Flying Mrs Williams (2 wins), Mighty Flying Mac (12 wins), Mighty Flying Major (6 wins) and Mighty Pocketlands (4 Australian wins).    As far as Mighty Flying Deal is concerned Tony says he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.   "I was up at Ken's and in the right place at the right time." "He went average at Ashburton." "They went quick but he didn't go that good. Ken said to me the boys will flick this fella on so we came to an arrangement and got him straight down here." He had his first run at Invercargill (6th behind Galactic Star) and I wasn't too disappointed." "He probably should have run second but he did get a fair old check up the straight. " "We put the pull downs on him today and it made all the difference."   Both Fleet's Pocket and her daughter Flying Mrs Williams have yearlings in next years Sale of the Stars. Fleet's Pocket has Mighty Flying Pocket (Rocknroll Hanover - Black colt) while Flying Mrs Williams has Flying Mister Deal (American Ideal - Black colt). Lex Williams and Gina Tomlinson are preparing both.   Barron says Mighty Flying Deal is easy to get on with and has settled in well to his Southland environment.    "He's a lovely horse to have around. The only thing I did with him was to lead the two year old around in the middle of the week."   The win was the result of a positive drive by Dexter Dunn. The margin was two and a half lengths.    Meanwhile the most tightly accessed horse in the stable Regal Ideal was also bought from the same source. He is also by American Ideal and was owned by Thompson and Dickey.   He was bought by a group of primarly based Southland owners in March 2015 after having three starts for Ken Barron.   He has gone on to win six races from just seventeen starts. His last start was not a success though. Finishing thirteenth was a bit of a mystery to Barron but he puts it down to running with an undercheck.    "We were having trouble getting him away (from the stand)." "I was talking to Robert Dunn a few years ago when we were having trouble getting Phoenix Warrior away and he suggested an undercheck." "I put an undercheck on Regal Ideal and he just resented it the whole way round." "Just hated it. He's going the The Tin Shed Cup (at Balfour trials) on Sunday." If he doesn't step away he'll be restricted to mobiles. If he does we'll tick away in the Country Cups series."     Barron also won the main handicap race of the day when McCovey Cove, helped by a great start, won the Steve Gooding Mariner Handicap Pace.  Bruce Stewart Reproduced with permission of Southland Harness Racing   --   Check site here    

Harness racing can be trying at times as anyone who has been in the industry for any length of time will be able to tell you. One who knows this better than most at the moment is owner of the year, Trevor Casey For all his recent success Trevor is experiencing a few bumps in the road trying to keep Escapee's new campaign on track The plan had as its immediate aim the Dominion Handicap in November. The plan is up in the air at the moment but that doesn't mean that she won't be racing this season Its just that she won't be racing from the All Stars barn. Mark and Duane Marfisi knew that Escapee would need special handling during her comeback but with the big spring team getting ready for racing, the extra time required to put into Escapee was just not available at the All Stars barn. As a result, Escapee is to be tried in in a different environment. Never an easy horse to train, Escapee has had a long absence after having a foal but after a very promising start this time in at the All Stars barn, she has caused problems for Duane. "When she gets upset she just takes off and one day when we had a gear problem I had trouble pulling her up on the straight track." "She just never came back to me" Duane said. Mark trialled her a few days later but she pulled very hard and he recommended a different approach to owner, Trevor Casey. " Mark thought that since he wouldn't be home at Rolleston for several weeks yet, that a move away from All Stars might help, " Trevor told Harnnesslink today. "After consulting with Mark, I have moved Escapee to Ken Barron's barn." " Blair (Orange) is there and he handled Escapee a lot when he worked at All Stars. " He has driven her and knows her so it seemed a logical move." " She is off to the trials at Ashburton on Tuesday so we will all be a lot wiser after that," Trevor said. Escapee has always been a high class race mare and would certainly add another dimension to the trotting features in New Zealand if she made a successful comeback to the track. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing reinsman Blair Orange has done what a lot of industry people thought might be out of reach this season and chalked up 100 driving wins. Last season Blair notched up 100 driving wins for the first time in his career but that was when he was working for the all conquering All Star barn. For this season Blair moved camps and took up a position as the stable foreman for the Ken Barron barn. While Ken always has a very strong team around him, it is not on the same scale as the All Star barn and many thought Blair would battle to hit the hundred mark this season. However right from the beginning of the season Blair has been driving in dynamic form and has chalked up some notable milestones this year. Blair joined the 1000 wins club when successful with Change Time at Addington at the end of January and it is no coincidence that the Ken Barron stable has had its most successful season since Ken went solo in 2005 and just needs one more winner to crack the fifty wins for the season for the first time. Blair went to Forbury Park tonight with ninety eight driving wins in the bag  for the season and while he had a useful book, it was hard to label one as a likely winner. That all changed pretty quickly with a couple of Blair Orange " specials" that saw him reach the 100 mark by race 4. The first of the two winners was Cerato who Blair took straight to the front and  then rated  to perfection to get him home for a comfortable victory at odds of twelve to one. Blair followed that up in the very next race with another lovely front running drive on Nova Time who lead all the way and held on gamely at odds of seven to one. To hit the 100 mark this season, Blair has had to travel and it has not been uncommon to see him at Ascot Park, Addington and Alexandra Park in the space of three days. Forbury Park is another track that has seen a lot of Blair this season and it is good to see all the hard work pay off for one of the industry's star reinsman. Harnesslink Media      

One of harness racing's most promising partnerships is on the verge of reaching two significant milestones. Ken Barron and Blair Orange's first season together has been full of highlights and Change Time's victory in Sunday's Winter Cup was another exclamation mark on a season that has shattered all expectations.  With the Barron-trained Livura a winner earlier in the day at the Rangiora Harness Racing Club's meeting, the Barron-Orange combination scored a winning double. Orange now heads into Forbury Park's meeting on Thursday with 98 wins for the season. He went past the 100 mark for the first time last season with 106 winners. With Addington on Friday night and Timaru on Sunday, Orange is a strong chance to reach the century by the end of the weekend if not sooner. Barron's two winners on Sunday have taken him to 49 training wins for the season. Despite going close on a couple of occasions, on his own and in partnership with John Lischner, Barron has never reached 50 wins in a season but the West Melton trainer is certain to break the milestone before the current one is out. Orange credits getting an economical trip as the difference for Change Time who upset the field to win the Winter Cup at a $17 quote. "Finding the trail was definitely the key," Orange said. Change Time's form line was nothing to get excited about going into the Winter Cup but she has come out of the four-year-old Diamond at the Harness Jewels and some quality fields when racing in Auckland. "Last start she had to sit parked and was found wanting a bit, but she's always been better with a sit," Orange said. Change Time's win was Orange's second Winter Cup in as many weeks after he won the Marlborough version last week with Lilac Desire. The Christian Cullen mare picked up her seventh career at Rangiora but her racing days are numbered. A four-year-old mare out of Chaangerr, Change Time will head to Australia at the end of the season to be retired to the broodmare paddock. Orange will always have fond memories of the mare that brought him his 1000th driving win with her victory at Addington back in January. Talented three-year-old Bracken Ridge is another leaving the Barron stable after being sold to Perth but Orange said there was still plenty of talent in Barron's stable. Gerard O'Reilly, Ricky May and Robbie Close also drove winning doubles at the Rangiora meeting. Woodend Beach trainers Greg and Nina Hope continued their standout season with three winners in the last three races of the day. The husband and wife partnership now have 66 winners for the season, just one shy of their best of 67 in 2013. Meanwhile, Dexter Dunn brought up his 200th win of the season at Forbury Park on Friday night. Dunn started the night on 196 winners and brought up the double century with his fourth win of the night with Give Me Strength. It is the fourth time he has gone past 200 winners in a season but in 2012 and 2013 he was finished on 199. By Mat Kermeen Reprinted with permission

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