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Harness racing can be cruel at times as Studholme Bloodstocks Brian West well knows after he lost the services of his second open class trotting mare in the space of three months when he had to retire the outstanding trotting mare Paramount Queen recently. Brian had to pull the plug on the racing career of the outstanding trotting racemare Superbowlcheerleader earlier in the season and now he has lost the services of Paramount Queen after she had a heart fibrillation during a race at Addington on March 27th. Even though Paramount Queen won eight races and $122,612 in New Zealand racing at the highest levels it was a career littered with top performances against the best in which she was repeatedly placed in a lot of the classics At two Paramount Queen was beaten into third in both the New Zealand Trotting Stakes and the New Zealand Sires Stakes Final behind Sheemon and Habibti and then ran third to Royal Aspirations and Sheemon in the Harness Jewels. At three Paramount Queen won the $25,000 Hambletonian Trot over the boys before running second to Habibti in the New Zealand Oaks and third behind Prime Power and Sheemon in the Harness Jewels. Her best run at four was a close fourth to Sheemon in the Harness Jewels and she started her five year old season with a hiss and a roar with two outstanding wins at Auckland which was followed by a career best run for second to Stent in the Waikato Flying Mile where she was credited with a placed time of 1:54.6. Another close second at Auckland where she was only out of the money once in eight starts followed before the heart fibrillation problem raised its ugly head to stop her career just when it looked like she had come of age as a racehorse. A daughter of Love You, Paramount Queen is bred to be way above average. She is a half sister to the former outstanding age group trotter Paramount Geegee 1:57.3 ($561,342) and her dam Paramount Star (7 wins) ($54,130) was a half sister to the former open class trotter Paramount Jack 1:58.6 (12 wins) Brian West has been having a great season with his three year pacing fillies with both Start Dreaming 1:58.1 ($50,650) and On The Town 1:56.7 ($23,306) looking legitimate New Zealand Oaks chances but his luck with his high class trotting mares has been all bad. Paramount Queen has now settled in at Brian's showplace breeding establishment at Coe's Ford and we can no doubt look forward to seeing her progeny at the Premier yearling sales in years to come. Harnesslink Media

Oropuro Bar (7m Love You-Ubatuba Oaks-Armbro Goal) took Easter Sunday’s Torino featured Gr. I Premio Sociata Campo di Mira Fioro (€110,000, 1600 meters autostart), rallying from back off the last bend to victory clocked in 1.12.7kr for Roberto Andreghetti. Pocket sitting Pascia’Lest (6m Varenne-Superiors Sun-Diamond Way) escaped late to garner second for Andrea Guzzinati ahead of veteran pacestetter Mack Grace SM (9m CC’s Chuckie T-Ambro Grace SM-Armbro Goal) and Roberto Vecchione. This 55 time career winner raced gamely on the front holding off challengers until late in the lane. Today’s Lotteria Wild Card, named the Premio G. Compili (€13.200, 1600 meters autostart, two eliminations and raceoff) at Napoli, went to Rombo di Cannone (5m Varenne-Cannoniera-Diamond Way) clocked in 1.11.4kr for the raceoff victory teamed by V.P. Dell’Annunziata. This one took his elimination in 1.12.3kr. In the two-horse raceoff he defeated Miguel WF (9m Super Arnie-Dinastia OR-Lemon Dra) that won his earlier test in 1.14.6kr. Thomas H. Hicks

Another feature race on the big night of harness racing at Addington on Friday night is the New Zealand Trotting Derby and it has thankfully at least drawn a field with double figure runners. Here is our preview of the New Zealand Trotting Derby. 1) Starlight Starbright - Starts: 22    Wins: 2   Secs: 0    Thirds: 5    Life: $14,907 Has shown a lot of ability at times but not consistently and not at this level. Several outside him can really leave the gate and he could end up four or five deep from barrier one which negates any advantage the draw gave him. We can't see him in four. Not for us 2) Springbank Eden - Starts: 15    Wins: 2   Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $12,621 Another one plagued by inconsistency throughout his career but has been slowly getting better and has something to offer here. Can get off the gate good so we think he will look to lead and then trail the favourite Prince Fearless. Still have doubts he can run in four even from the trail but draw and mobile give him an outside chance of running in the first four. 3) Prince Fearless - Starts: 10    Wins: 3    Secs: 3    Thirds: 0    Life: $89,144 We think the extra distance this week in the Derby is what this horse has been crying out for. He is a dead set stayer and as he showed on Cup day the 2600 metres will hold no fears for him. Privately timed to run his last 2400 metres that day in 2:58.6 and still won without being driven out. Should lead and hard to see how they run him down from there. Top pick for us. 4) Wanna Play - Starts: 16    Wins: 2   Secs: 3    Thirds: 4    Life: $59,795 Has had a few issues since going to Auckland but went a lot more like her old self last week Very good stayer so 2600 metres will suit down to the ground. Really good run last week where she came from last at the 400 metres to run fifth after having absolutely no luck in the running. Trifecta and first four player with run to suit. 5) BD Love - Starts: 6    Wins: 3    Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $27,504 Talented son of Love You who is a dead set stayer like most of the Love You's so the 2600 metres is right up his alley. Can do work in his races and still keep going so can be put in the race when ever Ken Barron wants. A couple here may have the wood on him ability wise but won't be far away. First four player for us. 6) Speeding Spur - Starts: 12    Wins: 6    Secs: 2    Thirds: 2    Life: $61,946  Has been in great form all season with his only defeat in six starts coming in the Hambletonian at Ashburton to Prince Fearless. Smart win over 2700 metres last time at Alexandra Park so the distance is no worry for him. If he had drawn inside of Prince Fearless he would have had a great chance of rolling the favourite but being out at six makes it tough. Huge chance regardless so include in everything. 7) Habibti Ivy - Starts: 6    Wins: 3    Secs: 0    Thirds: 2    Life: $33,495  Easy win in the Trotting Oaks last week and extra distance here won't worry her at all. Ran on very strongly at the start before that to finish right with Prince Fearless and Monbet and is still on the improve so a live chance here. Appeals as a real out and out stayer so she is a must include for all combination takers. Include in everything. 8) Soney Beatt - Starts: 18    Wins: 2   Secs: 2    Thirds: 2    Life: $14,965 Not the worst in this field and he is one that will appreciate the extra distance. However the draw of barrier eight coupled with the quality of the field makes this mission impossible in our view. Not for us. 9) Fiery Mountain Girl - Scratched                                                                            SECOND LINE 10) Monbet - Starts: 11    Wins: 6    Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $86,807 This is one horse that needed a draw and one on the second line behind an average beginner is the last thing the Hopes would have been looking for. Outstanding talent who with any luck can still play a big part here. Driver Ricky May will be hoping that Prince Fearless and Speeding Spur go to war a long way out because if that happens then it will bring Monbet right into the contest late in the piece. Include in everything. 11) Sky Commander - Starts: 8    Wins: 2   Secs: 1    Thirds: 5    Life: $10,320 Nice horse in the making who has great manners and a big motor. A recent addition to the huge Merv and Meg Butterworth racing team, this race may have come to early for him in our view. Handled the gate really well at his only start behind it so could get a cosy run through behind Springbank Eden. A few here would look to have the wood on him at this stage but one to take notes on for the future. SELECTIONS From the draw it is hard to go past Prince Fearless. He has gate speed and should lead and from there he is very very hard to beat. Speeding Spur is going great  but is going to have lift even further to win here. Still a clear second pick from the draw. But for his bad draw Monbet would be vying for favouritism here and should he get a run to suit is still a major player. Throw in Wanna Play, BD Love and Habibti Ivy for trifectas and first fours. Harnesslink Media

In the sport of harness racing in New Zealand, Paul Nairn has a reputation second to none when it comes to producing age group trotters. Tonight at Addington in the New Zealand Trotting Oaks for three year old fillies, Paul showed once again why he is held in such high regard by his fellow trainers when he produced Habibti Ivy at just her sixth lifetime start to win the Group 2 event. Away well from barrier one for driver Blair Orange, Habibti Ivy handed up to the favourite Arya after 400 metres and got a lovely trip on her back until the corner where she burst up the passing lane and was way too smart winning by 2 + 3/4 lengths without having to be driven out. Sunny Ruby after a lovely run three back on the inner flew home late for second in front of a very game Fiery Mountain Girl who sat parked for the entire trip with Arya fading late for a disappointing fourth. Paul Nairn was confident of a big run from the daughter of Love You. " Her work has been super and I was confident she would go close." " The secret is not to over race them leading into the big races like this." " We may look at the Derby now and safely through that we will have to have a serious look at going to the three year old races at Auckland," Paul said. Driver Gavin Smith was rapt with the run of Sunny Ruby for second. " She is a lovely filly to drive and gives you a great feel." "Fred Fletcher is great with young trotters and she is beautifully mannered"  "I got a great run following Habibti Ivy and she finished it off really well," Gavin said. John Dunn was rapt with the run of Fiery Mountain Girl. " She has gone huge tonight." " To be parked every inch of the race and still fight on for third was a great run for an inexperienced filly like her." " I'm over the moon with the run," John said. Paul Nairn is never short of a smart age group trotter and in Habibti Ivy he has another topliner. Harnesslink Media  

With five group races at the harness racing meeting at Addington on Friday night, punters are spoilt for choice with so many great races in prospect. One of the most even is the $40,000 Group 2 Trotting Oaks which has drawn together a quality field of three year old trotting fillies and picking a winner is fraught with difficulties. Several of the favoured runners have drawn poorly which has tended to even the playing field a bit. One of those who has been disadvantaged by the draw is the very smart daughter of Love You in Yagunnakissmeornot who will start from three on the second line. Yagunnakissmeornot is the winner of seven races and has never been out of the first three in thirteen lifetime starts. Trainer Sean McCaffrey was philosphocial about the draw when he spoke to Harnesslink today. " Yeah she has got the visitors draw but i couldn't be happier with her going into the race." " She is actually a lot better with a sit so the draw may work out well for us." " She can run in a bit on the corners left handed but I don't think it will be an issue on the bigger Addington track."  " I have done my bit so now it is up to Maurice," Sean said with a laugh. Yagunnakissmeornot is a noted front runner but Sean says that is more to do with keeping the young filly out of trouble more than anything else. " With young trotters it pays to keep them out of the wars so we have led in a lot of our races with her." " The last couple of starts we have taken a sit and and she has really sprinted when she has got clear, Sean said. When quizzed about who he saw as the major danger on Friday night, Sean was quick with the answer. " Any runner in blue with the grey stars is a runner to be wary of" Sean said. Sean McCaffrey and Maurice McKendry are a combination that has had a lot of success over the years in age group trotting classics and in Yagunnakissmeornot they have another filly capable of adding to that great record. Harnesslink Media

Most harness racing enthusiasts in New Zealand headed to the sales this week at both Auckland and Christchurch and a lot took home a yearling or two. With the dust just settling on the two days at the Premier Sale in Christchurch, we thought it a good time to assess the performance of our leading sires at that sale along with a few of the other sires who aspire to reach that level. All the numbers used are correct at the present time but may vary slightly as more of the passed in horses are sold post sale The elephant in the room in any review such as this is of course Bettor's Delight. He just completely dominated both days at Christchurch both in numbers sold and the average over the two days. Bettor's Delight  Number sold - 49 Overall average - $51,091 Colt average - $56,645 Filly average - $34,291 The surprising thing from those statistics is the big gap between his colts and his fillies. Bettor's Delight is renowned for leaving great fillies so to us the gap was surprising. Apart from that what can you say. A great sire who continues to dominate the sales and nothing happened in the two days at Christchurch to suggest that any change to the status quo is coming anytime soon. The next most successful sire with big numbers was the stallion that Bettor's Delight dethroned from the top spot in the yearling sales averages in Christian Cullen. His numbers held up well considering all the challengers he is facing on the siring front. Christian Cullen Numbers sold - 18 Overall average - $37,611 Colt average - $40,133 Filly average - $25,000 Considering where his service fee presently sits, Christian Cullen represents great value on yesterdays results and that is not something we were able to say just a few years ago. Every year the pundits predict his demise as a sire of significance but every year the buyers continue to put their hand up for the Christian Cullens and for big money to boot. Another elite sire who had a good sale was Mach Three. Mach Three Numbers sold - 20 Overall average - $30,700 Colt average - $32,062 Filly average - $29,791 This was one sire who had little difference in the average between his fillies and his colts. The top price of $71,000 was the same for both his best filly and colt and most of the leading trainers brought one or two by him. Has been doing a great job over the last few years but is probably overdue another high class colt in the next twelve months or else the so called experts will be suggesting his best days are behind him. American Ideal Numbers sold - 22 Overall average - $15,681 Colt average - $19,166 Filly average - $11,500  Considering the great last twelve months that his stock have had on the racetracks of Australasia, it was a real surprise to us and no doubt to vendors as well that he struggled as much as he did. Even more confusing was the lack of interest in his fillies when they have been his flag bearers in New Zealand over the last twelve months. Sometimes there is a lag in racetrack performance being converted into sales success and to us that is the most logical explanation here. Courage Under Fire Numbers sold - 8 Overall average - $32,375 Colt average - $34,857 Filly average - $16,000 Just continues to fly under the radar of most of the breeders in New Zealand but not the buyers thats for sure. Only sold one filly so that average is misleading but his colts were highly sought after throughout the two days. Has shown repeatedly that he can compete with any sire in the sales ring but his number of mares served in New Zealand continue to decline. He only served nineteen mares in 2014 so some vendors who have a foal by him may be in for a good return at next years sales. Art Major Numbers sold - 14 Overall average - $29,600 Colt average - $28,833 Filly average - $30,187  Considering the run that Art Major is having on both sides of the Tasman, the lack of big money for most of his yearlings took us by surprise. He did have one six figure filly but his second best yearling price wise only made $45,000. Didn't appear to us to be anything amiss with the yearlings in question and the only answer we could come up with was they weren't Bettor's Delights. Amazing result really when you look at the super season his three year olds are having in New Zealand Somebeachsomewhere Numbers sold - 5 Overall average - $48,000 Colt average - $55,000 Filly average - $20,000 First crop of any size in New Zealand and these yearlings were conceived via fresh semen. Without exception they were good looking types and were keenly sought after. Going by the type of yearling produced by Somebeachsomewhere at this years sales,  we could be about to see why the North Americans hold the son of Mach Three in such high esteem. Rock N Roll Heaven Numbers sold - 4 Overall average - $30,250 Colt average - $40,000 Filly average - $20,500 They all were nice types but what surprised us was his only filly made just $20,500. The fillies have been the ones flying the flag for Rock N Roll Heaven in North America and in Australasia so the emphasis on the colts was a surprise. Look very much like clones of their grand sire Rock N Roll Hanover which is a good thing in our book though attitude did seem an issue at times with a couple of them. Sportswriter Numbers sold - 5 Overall average - $26,300 Colt average - $27,625 Filly average - $21,000 The whole five of them were lovely types and we thought they under sold when you looked at the pedigrees and the individuals at the sale. All of them made at least $20,000 but only one kicked on from that to make $46,000. There are question marks over whether he can leave that elite level colt or filly but you couldn't fault the yearlings in Christchurch and we were a touch disappointed with the prices they made. Changeover Numbers sold - 10 Overall average - $11,550 Colt average - $12,333 Filly average - $10,375 Not the kind of sale he would have been looking for. He had his moments but his lack of classic winning horses from his first crop is starting to hurt him. All he needs is one or two top liners to appear and his stock will double in value over night. His overall numbers are great and everything else is on track but he does need those couple of stars and sooner rather than later. Love You Numbers sold - 4 Overall average - $28,875 Colt average - $28,875 A great result for a trotting sire to have four average over $28,000. They were keenly sought after when ever a Love You entered the ring. The only issue now is he only served 13 mares in 2014 and was unavailable this season so there will few of them at the sales in the next year or two. Muscle Mass Numbers sold - 13 Overall average - $16,923 Colt average - $16,625 Filly average - $17,400 A great return to New Zealand for the son of Muscles Yankee and he had a big sale considering his numbers and the fact some of the maternal families were ok but not sensational. A sire who is really on the up in North America but the only downside is this is his only crop in New Zealand to go through the sales and at this stage it will be his last as he hasn't shuttled for the last two years. Overview All the sires we have reviewed would in the main be satisfied with what they achieved at this years Premier sale in Christchurch. Some probably hoped to do a bit better and some probably did a bit better than they thought they would but the numbers for the sires we have covered are commendable. Some sires at this years Christchurch sales that we haven't reviewed here didn't help the overall sale on any level and you would have to question the value of continuing to present stock by them at what is meant to be a "Premier" sale. Harnesslink Media

February 15, 2015 - Today’s harness racing action in Italy was led by the Prix Locatelli (Gr. II, €45,100, 1600 meters autostart) at Torino with the 1.13.7kr victory by the lanky sorel Oneghin del Ronco (7m Love You - Talia del Ronco - Park Avenue Joe), his 21st in 67 career starts. He defeated Rodeo Drive OK (5f Conway Hall - Georgia Pines - Pine Chip) with Andrea Guzzinati aboard with third to Owen CR (7m Cantab Hall - Boemia CD - Lemon Dra) with Pietro Gubellini. Favored Mack Grace SM (9m CC’s Chuckie T - Ambro Gace SM - Armbro Goal) was fourth after a front end trip for Roberto Andreghetti, a 55 time winner in 105 starts for eanings esceeding €1.59 million. He faded late after strong pressure in the final quarter by the winner. At Napoli, their Prix www.Gaet.it Invitational (€13,200, 1600 meters autostart) went to Skyline Dany (4m Varenne - Celeste PL - Lemon Dra) with G.P Minnucci up. The winner now of 9 races in 22 starts was clocked in 1.12.1kr. Style by Lions (4m Southwind Vernon - Web Fish-Self Confident) was second. Thomas H. Hicks  

February 13, 2015 - Germany’s Chapeau (6m Love You - Crown Tess-Crowntron) won this evenings Quinte+ Prix de Barcelone (€55,000 purse, 17 European starters, 2925 meters distance handicap) at Cagnes sur mer. Christophe Martens handled the Victor Martens trainee for owner Renato Bruni, timed in 1.14.7kr, as the team overcame a 25 meter handicap to score easily at 1.6/1 odds. Chapeau secured career win 14 now for earnings of €266,806. 8/1 Tamarro (8g Opus Viervil-Kality Street) was second for trainer/driver David Bekaert, and owner Christophe Gallier, ahead of Ubine (7f Podosis-Ehrine) and trainer/driver/owner Yannick A. Briand at 5/1. Replay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ERw-g-9uZE  Rapports (pour 2€) Tirelire 10.000.000 € - Numéro plus : 1897   Ordre :       740,00€   Désordre :       14,80€   Bonus 4 :       7,20€   Bonus 4sur5 :       3,60€   Bonus 3 :       2,40€   The evening’s Prix de Seville (€28,000, 14 male starters, 2700 meters autostart) went to 1.6/1 favorite Andover Jet (5g Prodigious - Delmonica Jet-Tarass Boulba) and trainer/driver Romain Derieux. Antonio De Sousa owns the winner of €81,620 and four career scores that was clocked in 1.16.1kr over the sloppy surface. Amigo de la Vallee (5g Look de Star - Joie de le Vallee) was second at 4/1 for the team of Christophe and Victor Martens. 27/1 Avenier (5m Kiwi - Musique de Mai) was third for reinsman David Bekaert and trainer Jerome Huguet. The co-featured Gr. III Prix de Jerez de la Frontera (€42,000, 2925 meters, nine starters) went to 10/1 Best Perle (4f So Lovely Girl - Perle Magique) and trainer/driver Romain Derieux, who scored a double this night. Timed in 1.17.9kr the winner defeated 4/5 favorite Buvetier (4m Goetmals Wood - Rapide Aventure) with Jean-Pierre Dubois up. Buvetier is trained by Yves Boireau for Dubois’ Ecurie D. 16/1 Brutus la Mesange (4m Lilium Madrik - Infante du Buisson) was next for trainer/driver David Bekaert. The Prix de Madrid (€30,000, 2925 meters, seven three year-olds) went to hard-charging 3.1/1 odds Chateauous (3m Sam Bourbon - Only Way) with owner Jean-Pierre Dubois aboard, timed in 1.19.6kr. He recorded career win number three for €42,950 earned. Jean Baudron is the trainer of this one and second finishing 3.3/1 stablemate Cristal Wood (3m Goetmals Wood - Topaze Bourbon-Love You) with David Bekaert up for Dubois’ Scuderia Bolgheri . Cash For Ever (3m Sam Bourbon - Salome-Love You) was third at 5/1 for Christophe Martens and trainer Victor Martens. Thomas H. Hicks

February 8, 2015 - The Gr. I Prix des Centaures (€240,000, 2200 meters distance handicap, monte, nine starters) resulted in a decisive win clocked in 1.12.5kr for Booster Winner (4m Love You - Quille Viretaute) with Eric Raffin up for harness racing trainer Sebastien Guarato. The 2/1 favorite handled, by four lengths, 3.9/1 Bali du Leard (4f Gazouillis-Irman Williams) with Franck Nivard in the irons for Franck Leblanc. Beauty Turgot (4m Hand du Vivier-Quouragane) ended third for Anthony Barrier and trainer Fabrice Souloy. The Gr. III Prix de Luneville (€78,000, 2700 meters, seven starters, monte) went to 1.7/1 odds Biscuit Delavera (4m Ludo de Castelle - Neva du Rosier) in an easy score clocked in 1.16kr after slow fractions (1.17.9kr at 1500; 1.17kr at 1000; 1.16.2kr at 500). Clement Frecelle reined the winner for trainer Jean Luc Bigeon. 11/1 Buckingham Park (4m Coktail Jet - North American) was second for Mathieu Abrivard and trainer Nicolas Raimbeaux ahead of Bilooka du Boscail (4f Look de Star  -Mirza du Vivier) with Nathalie Henry in the irons. Yves Hurel trains this one. In other upper class races Agrippine (5f Hasting - Moquevse) took today’s Prix Salam (€95,000 purse, monte, 10 five year-old starters, 2850 meters) with Alexandre Abrivard in the irons for trainer L.Cl. Abrivard at 3.8/1. The winner was clocked in 1.14kr in defeat of Attentionally (5m Jasmin de Flore - Intentionally) at 7/1 for David Thomain with third to Astre Blanc (5m Memphis du Rib - Java Blanche) at 11.1 for Mathieu Mottier and conditioner Sebastien Guarato. Norway’s Lionel (5m Look de Star - Aurora Sign) captured the Prix Application Parieurs (€75,000, 18 European five year-old males) for Franck Nivard. The 7/2 odds winner is trained by Fabrice Souloy and owned by Goran Antonsen. Aubrion du Gers (5g Memphis du Rib - J’Arrive du Gers) was second at 2.7/1 for owner, trainer, pilot J-M Bazire ahead of Italy’s third place Raul Breed (5m Yankee Slide - Flamma d’Asolo) at 124/1 for reinsman Mario Minopoli Jr. and trainer Salvatore Minopoli. The Prix Janval (€60,000, 2700 meters, nine three year-old starters) produced a win by Cirrus du Chene (3m Milford du Chene - Oasis du Chene) teamed by Franck Nivard. The 2.7/1 odds winner scored in 1.16.6kr as he defeated Cobra (3m The Best Madrik - Phuket Island) at 8/1 for trainer/driver J-M Bazire and third finisher Christo (3m Rieussec - Panacee) at 32/1 for Michel Lenoir, trainer/driver. Today at Le Bouscat the Grand Prix Dynavena Maisagri Duren (€35,000 purse, 2650 meters, 17 European starters) went to Jean-Pierre Dubois driven and owned Tast Of Bourbon (5f Donato Hanover - Qualita Bourbon). Jean Baudron trains this winner that was the 2/1 favorite.  Second was 2.8/1 Berry’s Boy (7g Love You - Realy Furniture) trained by Sebastien Guarto and driven by Glenny Delaune. Third was 16/1 Twist des Pleignes (8g Gazouillis - Ibiza des Plaignes) for owner/driver Denis Broussard. The earlier reported Prix de France summary is shown below with the winner Timoko. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjejaDIwSvk What a racing day this was, in this second leg of the French Triple Crown. Two weeks from now will be the Grand Prix de Paris over the marathon distance of 4150 meters. The Gr. I UET Masters Series event for €400,000 was won a year ago by Up And Quick with J-M Bazire up as he defeated Tiego d’Etang and Roxane Griff. Thomas H. Hicks

One of the feature harness racing meetings of the season away from Addington and Alexandra Park comes up on Saturday when the age group pacers and trotters strut their stuff at Ashburton. The pacers have the time honoured Sapling Stakes for two year olds which was first run in 1919 while the three year old trotters have their first group race of the season with the Hambletonian Classic. Only established in 1986, the Hambletonian Classic is always a sought after race and it is no different this year with a field of real quality. The All Star barn have three of the favoured runners with the best of them Prince Fearless drawing nicely at one and looking hard to roll while Speeding Star, the winner of his last four from the Dickie barn gives the North Island a strong hand. However we think the one they all have to beat this weekend is last seasons two year of the year in Monbet. Monbet was so dominant on Harness Jewels day at Cambridge and looks to have come back even better at three barring a last start hiccup. Bred by Greg and Nina Hope and raced by them with long time stable client Michael Molloy, Monbet was on track until his recent run at Marlborough. " The track at Marlborough is really quite hard and he just didn't handle it at all" "He is not the first horse I have taken there who didn't handle the track so just turn the page and move on," Greg told Harnesslink today. Taken back to their Woodend base by the Hopes, Monbet was produced at the workouts last Wednesday just to give him a run after Marlborough. " We were thrilled with the run at Rangiora as we weren't there for a serious hitout." We ran second by half a length to Prince Fearless in a 1:59.8 mile rate without  knocking him about."  "He has trained on good since then so we are on track for Saturday," Greg said. The wide draw of seven is not the best but Greg thinks it could work out in their favour in the long run. " There is a lot of speed inside of us with Sunny Ruby, Prince Fearless and Speeding Star so I think there could be real fireworks early." "Monbet has got high speed so he can get over them late if they go hard early," Greg said. Greg is quite taken by the stock of Love You. " A lot of people reckon they are as tough as but lack a bit of high speed but Monbet has speed to burn" " I have a two year old in the non tote on Saturday as well by Love You and he has got plenty of speed as well," Greg said. If the Monbet that won the Harness Jewels turns up on Saturday, then he is going to be mighty hard to beat. Harnesslink Media  

At Mons Ghlin (Belgium) the top European trotter Univers de Pan (7m Kenya du Pont - Gypsilore) made his harness racing comeback with a win in the Prix Ministre de L’Agriculture (€8,400 purse, 2300 meters autostart, 9 International starters). Trainer Philippe Daugeard reined the winner, clocked in 1.14.3kr, off at 3/5 odds. Univers de Plan left the mobile alertly and tucked third after which he was shuffled toward the rear. With a lap to go Daugeard got loose, quickly moved to second and followed the leader until the stretch drive when he rallied for a neck victory without the ear plus being pulled. Onyx d’Em (13g Urene Soutonne - Becilia) raced superbly and held second for driver Rik Depuydt and trainer Carine De Soete. Varina (6f Norginio-Jalencia) was third for reinsman Nico D’Haenens at 25/1 with fourth to Quentin Rose (11g Carpe Diem - Gigi Rose) and Jo Corbanie at the lines at 12/1. Univers de Plan last raced June 28, 2014 when third in the Prix de Washington. Before he won the Oslo Grand Prix, Finlandio AJO and Grand Criterium de Vitesse and was second in the Prix de France.  Jean-Pierre Dubois teamed Cristal Wood (3m Goetmals Wood-Topaze Bourbon) to victory at 9/1 in the Prix de la Bruyere (€28,000 purse, 2925 meters, 10 starters) clocked in 1.17.6kr with a front-end journey. Jean Baudron owns the winner bred by Scuderia Bolgheri SRL and owned by J-P Dubois. Favored even-money Colibri du Vivier (3m Oiseau de Feux-Iguine du Vivier) was second for trainer/driver Yannick A. Briand ahead of Creck du Vautour (3m Rio du Rib-Saeva du Vautour) with trainer Stephane Cingland up at 18/1. Dubois’ entrymate Cupidon Love (3m Coktail Jet-Guilty of Love) was fourth with Nicolas Ensch up for trainer Patrick Chevrier. J-P Dubois was back with another winner in the Prix Henri Callier (€28,000 purse, 2925 meters distance handicap, 12 starters) as he piloted the Ecurie D bred, J-P Dubois owned Buvetier (4m Goetmals Wood-Rapide Aventure) to victory clocked in 1.16.9kr. The 4.3/1 odds winner is trained by Patrick Chevrier and he overcame a 25 meter penalty. Broardo (4g Niky-Proadauna) also overcame a 25 meter handicap to be second at 3/1 for Christophe Martens and trainer Vincent Martens. 9/1 odds Brutus La Mesange (4m Lilium Madrik-Infante du Buisson) landed third for trainer/driver David Bekaert. Today’s Prix Grace Ducal (€58,000 purse, 2925 meter s distance handicap, 14 European starters, Quinte+ race of the day with jackpot €5.15 million) went to Twenty (8g Love You-Grive de Vire) at 9/2 odds. Christophe Martens drove the winner for trainer Vincent Martens, clocked in 1.14.5kr. Favorite Tagada Castelets (8f Jag de Bellouet-Gitane Castelets) was second for driver Arnaud-Albert Chavette and trainer Alain Chavette. Third was 5.5/1 Sophie du Vif (9f Jenko-Lavalliere du Vif) for trainer/driver Aymeric Thomas that overcame a 25 meter handicap. Thomas H. Hicks

January 23, 2015 - Friday night concluded the three-session harness racing Arqana Trot Prix d’Amerique Sale.  In the final program 150 catalogued resulted in 61 sold for gross proceeds of €1,870,000. The total sale saw 221 sold from 347 offered (after outs) for gross of €3,514,000, an average of €15,900. Prior year 165 sold from 286 offered, totaling €3,316,200 for an average of €20,098. Friday session included some high-class racehorses and prospects, many of which worked out Friday morning and their efforts were filmed for night session playback. The leading horse sold are listed below: Hip    Horse     Buyer    Price 302 Radieux (m, Love You - Dordogne), Campus RPF, €180,000 315 Armstrong Jet (m, Love You - Jenny Jet), Ecurie du Graal, €175,000 336 A Nous Trois (m, Orlando Vici - Quallis), Neuilly Bloodstock, €150,000 290 Conga (f, Goetmals Wood - See You Soon), Sylvain Vidal, €115,000 Tom Hicks

The Tuesday Vincennes card featured the Prix de Mirande (€90,000 purse, 2700 meters, 16 starters) went to the consistent Altesse du Mirel (5f Ready Cash-Ina de Mirel) with trainer/driver Pierre Vercruysse up. She was able to get loose from the pegs late and rallied for a three-wide nose victory in 1.14.6kr (fractions 1.15.7kr at 1500; 1.14.9kr at 1000; 1.15.1kr at 500). Florence Allera owns the winning mare as the 1/1 favorite defeated Aloa des la Mortrie (5f Drag-Queen d’Acanthe) for Anthony Barrier and trainer Sylvain-Gerard Dupont at 13/1. Ave Avis (5m Kesaco Phedo-Magna Avis) was third for Alexandre Abrivard and J-M Bazire, conditioner. Well-bred Bahama Island (4f Love You-Island Flower) took the Prix de Montiers (€36,000 purse, 2700 meters, 15 starters) for Ecurie Victoria Dreams, trainer Philippe Moulin and Etienne Dubois at the lines. The 7/1 winner scored in 1.17kr over Bambolina (4f Kaiser Soze-Sima Thai) at 15/1 for David Thomain and trainer Alain Roussel. The Prix de Pont-Audemer (€58.000 purse, 2100 meters autostart, 13 European starters) ended in victory for Franck Anne, Ecurie Podium and their Barjal (4m Memphis du Rib-Jaidemosa) at 2.8/1. 21/1 Italian outsider Shiraz Roc (4m Gigant Neo-Bufera Roc) with Igor Guosti up for trainer Giorgio Ceuini). Sir Robert (4m Adrian Chip-Lindes de Gloria) was third for Santo Mollo at 3.6/1.  On January 19 at Vincennes Pierre Vercruysse won a pair (with Brosnan Jet and Argentina Dream) and Italy’s Sharon Gar was an impressive winner for Pietro Gubellini. The Prix de Cantin Gr. B (€36,000 purse, 2700 meters, 14 starters) produced a victory for the Jean-Etienne Dubois trained and owned Brosnan Jet (4m Sam Bourbon-Rosemary Jet) in 1.16.5kr. The 5/1 good gaited winner was teamed by Pierre Vercruysse and enjoyed a patient pocket sitting journey. Bolido Bello was second at 12/1 for Alexandre Abrivard. The January 19th Prix de Lambelle (€36,000 purse, 2700 meters, 18 starters) went to the Stephane Bourlier trained Argentina Dream (5f Offshore Dream-Miss de la Merite) as 1.4/1 favorite for reinsman Pierre Vercruysse. Timed in 1.15.6kr the winner defeated Astria Noblu (5f Jasmin de Flore-Norman Jean Noble) was second at 7/1 for Alexandre Abrivard up for trainer Sylvain Lelievre. The Prix de Cavaillon (€58,000 purse, 14 european starters, 2100 meters autostart) was a win for  the Pietro Gubellini reined Sharon Gar (4m Varenne-Geneve Gar) at 5.7/1 for trainer Battista Congui. Bliss Nevele (4f Ready Cash-Quick Nevele) was second at 1.7/1 with Pierre Vercruysse teaming for trainer/owner Philippe Allaire. Mathieu Abrivard reined third finisher Beline d’Urzy (4f Otello Pierji-Querida d’Urzy) at 10/1 in the market. by Thomas H. Hicks, for Harnesslink.com

Harness racings pin up driver Dexter Dunn gets plenty of plaudits for his skills in the bike and after the Group 1 National Trot at Alexandra Park you can see why. Drawing barrier one with perennial placegetter Sheemon in the 2700 metre mobile, Dexter had the misfortune to have his main race rival Stent drawn on his back on the second line. Leading from the gate, Dexter kept a couple of early challenges at bay before handing up after 700 metres to the smart Love You mare Kincaslough which put Stent three back on the inner. Kincaslough did the rest by staying in front and getting Sheemon and Dexter to the passing lane from where Sheemon slowly wore down Kincaslough close to home for a well deserved victory with the unlucky Stent flashing home for third. Sheemon trotted the 2700 metres from the mobile in 3:21.8, a mile rate of 2:00.2 with closing sectionals of 58.2 and 28.2 It was win number fourteen from start forty six for the son of Monarchy from the former outstanding trotting mare Solar Fire. Apart from winning fourteen races Sheemon has also been placed in twenty four of those forty six starts and todays victory took his earnings to $369,878. Trainer Kevin Townley was quick to heap praise on Dexter post race. " Dexter is such a big plus in races like this." "You just know he is going to get a run like that," Kevin said. Kevin thought drawing one helped Sheemon after a series of poor draws. " It is a hell of a lot easier drawing one and not having to go around them for a change." " He is such a wee tradesman and deserves a big race like today," Kevin said. Sheemon is now about to get his passport stamped as Kevin prepares to take him to Australia for the Glenferrie Challenge and the Southern Star. "I wouldn't say he would win one of the big ones  but he is right up with the very best and will more than pay his way." "They will know he is there, thats for sure," Kevin said. Sheemon has proven a thorn in the side of the elite trotters in New Zealand as he is so reliable and never goes a bad race and he is just the type to snare a big win in Australia if Keystone Del or Stent were to be unlucky. Harnesslink Media   

The outstanding Love You trotting mare Habibti will be missing from all the trotting features over the New Zealand Cup harness racing carnival after sustaining an injury to a suspensory ligament. A scan at trainer David and Catherine Butt's property this morning confirmed their worst fears and Habibti will have six months off now before being rescaned. A winner of 15 races and over $307K to date, Habibti will be given every chance to overcome the problem with her suspensory. Owner Rob Paterson was very phisophical when contacted by Harnesslink this afternoon. " You have to take the good with the bad in this game and we have had a great run with this mare. " We will scan her in six months and take it from there" he said.  Habibti won't be completely idle during that six months as she is due to again have a embryo transfer this season after being served by Majestic Son last year and then having the embryo transfered to a surrogate mare. Rob Paterson is looking to follow the same path this season. "Habibti is going to be served by Angus Hall and then we will look to do another embryo transfer" he said. Habibti became a mum recently when the surrogate mare foaled a Majestic Son filly three weeks ago and then the filly promptly had issues with who her mother was. " The Majestic Son filly swapped mothers again so she has had three mothers and she is only three weeks old", Rob said today. Just when it looked like the open class trotting ranks were overflowing with talent leading into this season, injuries to Habibti and issues with Master Lavros have thrown the feature trots at the New Zealand Cup carnival wide open. Harnesslink Media

Rising Swedish star On Track Piraten (Kool du Caux) won the CL Mullers Memorial for the second year in a row at the Jagersro, Sweden on the weekend. The race over 2650m theUET Masters Series Group II international brought together the likes of last year’s Elitloppet winner Nahar (Love You) and Mosaique Face (Classic Photo), who was runner up in the recent Trotting Masters Final. Lutfi Kolgjini, who is renouned for his aggressive tactics won the battle for the lead with Mosaique Face from Danish champion O’Grady and took early control of the race. The Stig Johansson-trained Claes Boko (Varenne) was driven in the trail by Eric Adielsson, while On Track Piraten in the hands of Johnny Takter faced the wind in the second row, tapping into his impressive reserves. With a lap to go Nahar poured on the pressure in an attempt to outflank the leader while Takter moved On Track Piraten ever closer. Nahar had broken Mosaique Face’s resolve as the field entered the straight and took the lead, as On Track Piraten loomed up on the outside, and the pair went clear. Takter’s patience paid dividends in the two-horse war that ensued and by the finishing wire On Track Piraten had the better of Nahar recording a slick 1’13’’1 km rate for the journey. Claes Boko and O’Grady were third and fourth. The Tour Europeen du Trotteur Francais is a series of five major races in four countries which promotes the French breed in second-tier trotting countries and had its traditional finale at Mons in Belgium on the weekend after stop offs in Switzerland, Spain and Germany during the year. The Grand Prix de la Toussaint is worth 100,000 euros and was won narrowly by ex-pat Belgian Vincent Marten’s Sometime (Blue Dream) from Jean Paul Marmion’s grand warhorse Roi du Lupin (9g Flueron Perrine) – who has earned 1.9 million euros in a stellar career. In France itself, the four month long Winter Meeting kicked off this week with with 11 group ones worth between 240,000 to 1 million euros, 52 group twos all worth in excess of 120,000 and around 100 group threes worth between 80,000 to 120,000 to be decided. Super mare Roxane Griff was attempting to defend her Prix Reynolds monte title the traditional opener to the fabulous French four-month long celebration of trotting. Sebastien Guarato’s star is equally at home under saddle or in a bike, having earned 2.479m euros and with group one wins in both, including the greatest monte race, the Prix de Cornullier and a runner-up in the Prix d’Amerique to go along with her win in the marathon leg of the French triple crown, the Prix de Paris (4150m). But in the opener she had to bow to Uppercut de Manche (Neutron de Manche), from the emerging U generation of six-year-olds which have really stepped over the past few months to challenge the established stars of the brilliant R and T crops, regarded by some as two of the best generations of all time. Franck Leblanc’s Sourire de Voutre from the comparatively disappointing S generation of 8-year-olds, was second with Roxane Griff third. Monte racing is treated as of equal status sulky racing in France, with three of the eleven group ones over the Winter Meeting being under saddle – and each of the French age-group classics in the bike having an under saddle equivalent. There are no monte races nor group one races in France for 2YOs, but that does not mean that there is little activity for the babies, the year being spent as education and for preparation for the well-spaced series of group races the generation will face over the next four years as the French system clearly identifies its most outstanding breeding prospects. The whole system in France is based on money earned, and at this time of the year the stakes have been raised for the better of the juveniles as they accumulate the necessary earnings to get a start in the first pair of group two races, the Prix Emannuel Magouty for colts, and the Prix Une de Mai for fillies, preparatory races for their first group one, the Criterium des Jeunes in February. The Group III Prix Marcel Dejean for 2YO fillies went to the beautifully bred Classica du Ruel, who is out of a sister to champion mare Vanika du Ruel, who also races from Franck Anne’s stable. The male equivalent, The Prix Louis Cauchois was run on the weekend and was taken out by Caid Griff (Password) who although in the same Sebastian Guarato stable as Roxane Griff is no relation. Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand       

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