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Mark Jones is in the final stages of making a change that could take his training career to a whole new level. The Burnham horseman is going through the process of setting up a stable in Sydney in an effort to maximise returns for his owners and ensure longer, more fruitful, racing careers for their horses. After a lot of testing the water and planning Jones will look to, in the next few weeks, confirm that he will establish a stable at the same property as leading trainers, Shane and Lauren Tritton at menangle “Right now it seems to be the best thing to do by my horses and by my owners,” Jones told HRNZ on Friday night. “I’ve got a lot of horses in my barn at the moment who are close to reaching their mark here and are becoming harder and harder to place but with the systems in place over in Australia I can pretty much start fresh with most of them and we can have another go from scratch.” Jones cited horses like Kowhai Monarch and real torque who would likely travel to Australia and start low-down in the grades with races available to them each and every week for decent money. “The amount of money that they could earn is quite impressive, of course it’s not guaranteed, but it’s possible. “The costs of doing it from over there are pretty reasonable too. I think I worked out that it would be about 90 cents a kg per day for a horse’s feed and the costs of being where I am looking at going aren’t that expensive either.” While Australia would become a main focus, Jones would still look to be fully operational back in New Zealand and travel to Australia most weekends to race at Menangle on a Saturday night. “I can fly out of Christchurch in mid-afternoon and be over there well in time for the first race and then can come back home again the next day if I want to. “I’d have a stable foreman running the operation for me during the times I am not there so everything will keep ticking over as normal" It’s not just Jones’ more low-key horses that will benefit either. His current star three-year-olds, Delightful Memphis and Whittaker could both return at the start of next season over there in the maiden grades,which is quite incredible considering what they have done in their careers. Class mare Rocker Band could rejoin his stable too and thus further the lifespan of her racing career before she heads to the broodmare barn. But it doesn’t stop there either. Jones is look at his options to take on other horses from other stables for trainers who are in a similar boat to what he is. But he’s got a few stipulations. “The current trainers percentage over there is 7.5 per cent, I would probably look at making that 10 per cent and see five per cent of it go back to the original trainer so they are still getting something out of it. “I don’t want other trainers owners, but I would be happy to take a horse for someone if they thought it would suit the racing over there and maximise it's earnings and there are plenty of horses that would suit" Jones will head over to Australia to look to finalise plans and get the ball well and truly moving on the new venture and he will do so having the backing of a number of horses from his own stable, who are already being earmarked for the move as well as others from stables around the country. “I’ve got a few horses from other trainers who will probably come over with me initially which will be good because we will be able to see how it will all work and then go from there.” While many in the industry are currently airing frustrations about the new handicapping system, Jones said that while it is a part of his decision, ultimately he was doing what he thought was best for the most important people in his eyes. Harnesslink media  Courtesy of HRNZ

The combination of Mark Jones and Samantha Ottley has been one to follow in the south this season and they look to have the closest there is to an anchor in the pick six at Wyndham on Sunday, with Whittaker in the last. After sitting parked, Whittaker was dominant at Invercargill in the C0 grade. The step to C1 is unlikely to worry him and the three draw should only make it easier. A junior drivers race kicks off the six and it is hard to go past Don Domingo from the two gate. He was cut down by Raukapuka Ruler taking the passing lane to make it three in a row last week at Addington but should be harder to get past here. Don Sebastion, Bettor Enforce and Glenburn Joy are others worthy of inclusion. Race seven is the second leg and looks a bit harder but despite being unproven from a stand, Rakarover has got to go in. He has drawn three, ironically, his first front-row draw this year, and first time inside six in his career, but looks well equipped to cope. Equally as unknown from a stand is Southbound Train who looked okay when third on debut at Wyndham, although four and a half lengths behind Rakarover. Vera Mac, Navajo Art and A Smart Excuse were second third and fourth from a stand at Invercargill last week while former local Jimmy Nga is well versed from behind the tapes. Power Surge is a risk on debut but has stand-start workout form from Canterbury last year. Shezza GNP was beaten last week in her first run for the season. From one off the gate again, this time second up, she looks the one to beat in the third leg with Aidan Junior the hardest. Race nine is shaping up like a battle between Kayteeoh Denario and RR Sand Dollar with Dexter up against Blair. The one draw in the Equine Stakes didn't work out for Kayteeoh Denario who was crossed and shuffled. With a wall in front of her turning in, she waited then flew for third. Expect Dexter to make the draw work better for him. RR Sand Dollar sprinted hard from the 800 last week and just went down. Other Canterbury runners worthy of inclusion are Dancing In The Dark, Layton's Lass and Aymar. Seaswift Joy can do no wrong and looks the best in race 10 on her adopted home track. However, it is her first from a stand so for insurance look to Rakarolla from 10 metres, along with and Statham and Highview Freddy off 20. Mac Henry

The Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes is shaping up to be a real beaut this year and the Mark Jones trained Whittaker added his name to the list of candidates for the harness racing Group Two feature on Diamonds Day in late April. In the McKnight and Brown Mobile Pace driver Sam Ottley settled Whittaker five back on the outside with Lilac Flash taking the early leaders role before Manuka Valley took over. This left Whittaker parked.  "It wasn't the plan to be there. They went hard early and were playing a bit of mickey mouse up front so I thought we'd stay out of it. He's a pretty relaxed horse and it didn't worry him being there," said Ottley. With 1200 metres to run Lilac Flash was taken out of the trail to the lead again. At the 400 Ottley had Whittaker up challenging Lilac Flash with the main danger Grand Rainbow on Whittaker's back. On straightening Ottley let the Sportswriter gelding loose and he ran home too well to beat Grand Rainbow by a length and three quarters with another three quarters of a length back to Lilac Flash. The winning time was 2-40.9. Whittaker and Sam Ottley easily winning at Ascot Park today - Photo Bruce Stewart. "The mile rate surprises me because he just did it so comfortably. He knocked off at the end with nothing around him but he was doing it easily." Whittaker was purchased at the 2015 Australian Classic Yearling Sales in Auckland by Nigel McGrath for $20,000 when named Melman. He was initially trained by Mark Jones's mother Leone winning a workout and qualifying as a two year old in May 2016. He was then purchased by Greg Brodie.  "He's only had three starts and couldn't have done more in all of them. He is a lovely horse. He's exciting and hopefully he can go a wee way. He's got high speed - lightning quick really."    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

The well performed Rocker Band has joined the Clevedon stable of Barry Purdon. Rocker Band, owned by Greg Brodie, has won 10 races including the Harness Jewels for 4-year-old mares at Cambridge from the Burnham stable of Mark Jones. Rocker Band has been campaigning in the Auckland area since the end of September, compiling a win and five minor placings in seven starts. She ran second to Chase The Dream in the Futurity Stakes at Cambridge last time. Gotta Del, a dashing winner on grass at Cromwell last Sunday, has been transferred to the Rakauhauka (Southland) stable of Clark Barron. Gotta Del was previously with Ken and Tony Barron at West Melton. Rakarazor, who won a Sires’ Stakes heat for 3-year-old fillies at Forbury Park last year when trained by Barron for Brendan Fahy, has transferred to the Cobbitty (New South Wales) stable of John McCarthy. Rakarazor was a winner at Alexandra Park last month when trained at Papakura by Gareth Dixon. “She (Rakarazor) will target the Golden Guitar series,’’ said Dixon. A heat and final of that series at Tamworth was won last year by Cyclone Kate, part-owned by Dixon and trained by McCarthy. Cyclone Kate, who won six races in New Zealand, has added another 10 in Australia. She has won three feature races for mares at Menangle and taken a record of 1.50.8. Extreme Guest, a winner at Washdyke on January 6, has been sold to patrons of the Victoria stable of David Aiken. Extreme Guest was trained at Temuka by Brent White for his last win. The Extreme Three 6-year-old won two races from the Robert Dunn stable. Franco Hamilton has been bought out of the White stable by Kumeu owner-trainer Tim Vince. Franco Hamilton won at Forbury Park and Winton last month in four starts after being bought by Peter McDermott, of Christchurch. Tayler Strong

The Rowe Cup carnival in Auckland is the next major aim for returning open class trotter, Master Lavros. Despite being surprisingly beaten by Monty Python at Omakau early in the New Year, the big gelding’s trainer, Mark Jones, wasn’t phased and is pressing on with his plans as he looks towards Auckland. After his stunning fresh up win at Addington in December, Master Lavros just never quite looked as dominant when at Central Otago and Jones couldn’t quite pinpoint why. After leading throughout the majority of the event, Master Lavros was collared in the shadows of the post by Monty Python who had enjoyed the run in the trail behind him. “It was disappointing to be beaten, I thought with the run he probably should have won,” Jones said. “But it’s going to happen from time to time, the most important thing is he’s sound and healthy.” There were some thoughts to head to Australia with the two-time Dominion Handicap winner but the Omakau result put to bed any chances of that. Jones will instead focus on keeping the free-wheeling trotter ticking over through the rest of this month with some options available at Addington in the coming weeks. There are Free-For-All trots on January 27 and also February 17 as well as a host of handicap races in which Jones can target. “The main aim is to keep him happy and sound and hopefully we can get him to Auckland. “We will make that the main aim now and really push towards that.” Whether or not he can recapture his best open class form remains to be seen, but even the thought of his big hulking frame back in the feature trotting races will be a welcomed prospect considering the current state of affairs in our open class ranks. Meanwhile, Saveapatrol, another Jones trained runner on the comeback trail continues to progress nicely as he comes back from yet another injury in his disrupted career.   Matt Markham

The Mark Jones trained Glenferrie Classic proved her versatility by winning the 2600 metres Alabar Cromwell Cup today in the hands of Sam Ottley.  Nine days ago she won the Equine Stakes at Winton over the sprint distance of 1609 metres, then driven by Stevie Golding. The four year old mare is royally bred, being by Bettor's Delight out of New Zealand Cup winner Mainland Banner and is owned by Equine Investment Limited, Matai Farms Limited, G.M. Saunders, Mrs S.J. Saunders and B.R. Duffy. One of Matai Farm's directors, Bathan Muir is on the committee of the Wyndham Harness Racing Club.  Glenferrie Classic galloped away before settling third on the inside. Ottley then decided to sit parked with just over a lap to run before getting cover when stable-mate Perissa arrived. She then popped out with 650 metres to run and challenged the leaders. Glenferrie Classic led heading for home and held on to beat a late charging Statham. The winning margin was a neck. The time of 3-27.2 was over 7 seconds outside the track record held by Glencoe VC when he won the 2012 cup. "It didn't help when she didn't pace away. I probably got to the front a bit soon but I didn't want to be boxed in. To her credit she sprinted from a long way out and stuck on," said Ottley.  This was her second win from two starts on the grass. She won at Methven in early December.  "She's got stronger and has raced good on the grass and the grit. This was her biggest test today against race hardened horses. She's got stronger this season."   She has now won four races from sixteen starts and it's likely that she'll target the Southern Country Cups final on Diamonds Day at Ascot Park in April.  The winning connections - Photo Wayne Huddleston - Wild Range Photography Glenferrie Classic's dam Mainland Banner which won seventeen of her twentytwo starts has done a great job as a broodmare. All of her foals have won races - Stunin Banner (15), Return To Sender (8) Peruvian Banner (1) and Rocker Band (10). "She looks like Rocker Band but they are totally different. This mare is laid back and almost lazy whereas Rocker Band has great speed, can get on the steel and pull. Glenferrie Classic is more of a stayer."    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

It hasn’t taken long for a negative to be followed by a positive for exciting trotter Marcoola. The four-year-old cost punters plenty through no fault of his own at Alexandra Park on Friday night, finishing unplaced in the Lyell Creek Trot after his sulky tyre was flattened straight after the start. Trainer-driver Clint Ford valiantly tried to shift his weight to the other side of the sulky but to no avail and after leading into the straight Marcoola was run down by Sunny Ruby in a near record time for the 2200m mobile. There was still plenty to like about Marcoola’s effort and Ford isn’t worried heading into his main summer aim, the National Trot at Alexandra Park on December 31. And rightly so, especially when he hears the news the TAB’s second favourite for the group one trot Master Lavros isn’t coming north. Master Lavros, a two-time Dominion winner, returned with a nerve-wrecking win at Addington on Friday night, seeing some bookies even promote to the head of their markets for the National Trot. But trainer Mark Jones has confirmed Master Lavros won’t be coming north, with his early gallop on the way to victory on Friday suggesting he still has some minor issues which Jones feels more comfortable working on closer at home. So while he has been beaten, Marcoola has now also lost his main National Trot rival so is back to $2.80 at the head of the TAB market. There is slightly better news for Australian visitor Kyvalley Blur, who was expected to miss the National with a leg issue but he has recovered better than expected and could still make the race. Sunny Ruby’s win in the Lyell Creek has seen her shorten into $9 for the National and new trainer David Butcher admitted Friday night was an emotional occasion, the win his first feature race victory since his father and long-time training partner John passed away three months ago. Friday night winners Dream About Me and Titan Banner still dominate the Auckland Cup market 12 days out from Alexandra Park’s biggest race but their stablemate Chase The Dream, who is on the third line of betting, is no certainty to contest the great race. He will head to Cambridge for the $50,000 Four and Five-Year-Old Futurity, which not only looks a far easier target but is a mobile start after Chase The Dream completely blew his first standing start in the Franklin Cup on Friday night. “He could still go to the Cup but we will make our mind up on that after Cambridge,” said co-trainer Mark Purdon. The Cambridge programme on Saturday also features a group two $50,000 trotting mile which could see Sunny Ruby and Friday’s eyecatcher Bordeaux in action. Michael Guerin

There was no one more in awe of what Master Lavros managed to achieve at Addington on Friday night than the man who spends the most time with him – Regan Todd. The two-time Dominion Handicap winner produced one of the more remarkable returns to racing after almost exactly a year away from the track when he was victorious in a small, but select, field of trotters after galloping away from behind the mobile and giving his rivals at least 50 metres. To see the gelding’s massive frame still there at the finish and sticking his head out at the time when it matters most came as a welcome view considering the disarray of the open class trotting ranks currently with Monbet, Stent and Speeding Spur all on the sidelines. “It’s good to have him back,” Todd said on Saturday. “I was pretty proud of him, to do that after being away for so long was pretty impressive I thought.” While winning was nice, the major goal for the Mark Jones trained horse was to come through the run unscathed. Todd said that initially it appeared as though his battle-scarred legs had come through the race well. “His tendons were nice and tight this morning (Saturday) which is a good sign. “There were a few marks from where he galloped on himself but we will have him scanned and checked over just to be safe.” While Auckland was initially ear-marked next for Master Lavros, Todd expected a decision to be made early in the week to head to Central Otago early in the New Year instead before building up to the Rowe Cup later in the season.  “That is what I think is going to happen, we don’t want to push him too much.” Trainer Mark Jones confirmed that on Sunday night that the scans had shown up nothing. But Auckland was definitely off the table. “He scanned up great, but greed can kill a man and we have nothing to prove,” Jones said. “We will just take the patient approach with him and Omakau is a little closer to home.” Friday night’s win was the 20th in the career for Master Lavros from just 47 starts and his stake earnings are now close to $600,000. HRNZ 

He’s chasing Group race success in Auckland but Mark Jones can be forgiven for all his attention being focussed on a five horse race at Addington tonight. That five horse race, worth $13,000 compared to the $220,000 his four horses in Auckland are racing for, has the potential to be one of the most important of the Burnham trainer’s season. His stable star, two-time Dominion Handicap winner, Master Lavros returns to the races from injury early on in the night at Addington and where he heads to next will very much depend on what the outstanding trotter shows both on the track and when he walks out of his box on Saturday morning. Auckland for the National Trot on New Year’s Eve is still an option, but a trip to Central Otago is a possibility too. “We will let him dictate what happens next,” Jones said. “A lot of it is going to depend on how his leg is after the run. Both options are on the table.” The return race has been marred by scratchings, leaving Master Lavros with just four opponents to face but Jones should get a good enough indication on where the gelding is at. “It’s really another glorified trial for us, of course we are there to win but there is a bigger picture too.” The stable will also be represented tonight at Addington by the ultra consistent Ruthless Success. In Auckland, Rocker Band and Delightful Memphis will tackle Group racing while The Bus and Real Torque tackle other races on the programme. Delightful Memphis has come up with barrier one in the Peter Breckon Memorial - a key result if she is to down the colours of Spanish Armada once again. “I still don’t think there is anything between the two of them, but we’ve got the draw this week so we will have to look to make the most of it.” Rocker Band, by her trainer’s admission, probably can’t beat Dream About Me. But she is a real hope of running second behind her. “She’s going great guns at the moment and from that draw we should get our chance.” The Bus was late scratched last week after jumping shadows during his warm up but a strong workout win on Saturday has Jones confident he’s got a horse who can be a player in the Young Guns series. Super Selector Addington - By Matt Markham Race 1: Ruakapuka Ruler, Myidealson, Augusta, Mighty American Race 2: My Wee Man, Belmont Jet, Webby Vanderquack, Nicky Anew Race 3: Ears Burning, Mossdale Conner, Alta Orlando, Maverick Race 4: Letsgotothehop, Vinny Gambino, Loretta Franco, Hayden’s Meddle Race 5: McLovin, Fireze, Jean Sebastien, Kingdom Come Race 6: Master Lavros, Daryl Boko, Hey Yo, Waterloo Sunset Race 7: American Tart, Crackabella, Emily Blunt, Runaway Star Race 8: Torrid Bromac, Letspendanitetogetha, Franco Saxon, Eh Ef El Race 9: Le Leivre’s Gift, Everybody Knows, Lothario, Donegal Bettorgretch Race 10: Curlimore, Gunpowder, Wozniacki, Atchoo Best Bet: Curlimore (Race 10) Value: Le Leivre’s Gift (Race 9)

Samantha Ottley will be attempting to become just the second woman to win the North Island’s most prestigious female race with Rocker Band at Alexandra Park tonight, but she also realises there’s one massive hurdle to get past. Ottley (26) said it would be a dream to win the $100,000 Rosslands Queen Of Hearts Pace for New Zealand's top fillies and mares at 8.44pm, but knows only too well that next week’s $2.80 Auckland Cup favourite is the horse to beat. Last December Natalie Rasmussen steered Fight For Glory to victory to become the first female driver to win the Queen Of Hearts. Tonight she has handed over the reins on Dream About Me to Mark Purdon. “Mark and Natalie’s mare looks a class above the field, but anything can happen in racing and we have drawn two compared Dream About Me’s eight. We can win but we will be relying on Dream About Me to have an off night,” Ottley said. As well as the Group One Queen Of Hearts Pace there will also be four Group Two events competed for tonight. They are the Group Two $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial Ladyship 3yo Fillies Stakes; the Group Two $40,000 Lyell Creek Stakes for the open class trotters; the Group Two $50,000 Alabar 3yo Classic; and the Group Two $40,000 Franklin Cup. Ottley has three drives tonight but only one ‘Group’ assignment. On November 4 the Mark Jones trained Rocker Band provided Ottley with her first Alexandra Park winner when they out-sprinted their seven rivals in the $14,000 Movenpick Mobile for the R77 to R107 pacers. Rocker Band also provided Ottley with one of her career highlights at Cambridge Raceway on June 4 this year when they won the $150,000 Group One 4yo Mares’ Diamond. “I’ve driven some real nice horses like Stylish Monarch, Stent and Pure Power in the past, but Rocker band is one of the fastest horses I ever sat behind. “She’s now won and placed for me in her last three Alexandra Park starts,” Ottley said. Last Friday the royally bred 5-year-old Rocknroll Hanover - Mainland Banner mare finished a four-and-a-quarter length third behind Dream About Me and Arden’s Choice in the Group Three $25,000 Caduceus Club Northern Breeders Stakes. She trailed and then ended up three-deep when Dream About Me hit the lead at the bell. They were snookered and came late when the race was all over. Dream About Me stopped the clock in an impressive 2:40.2 (mile rate 1:57.2) and home in 57.4. and 27.2. That time was 0.5 seconds slower than Fight For Glory's triumph in last year's Queen of Hearts Pace. "She ran on well along the markers when the race was all over. She just got held up at the wrong time, but I was rapt with the way she sprinted home. “She hit the line very well. I think she can finish in the money on Friday and hopefully if things go our way and the favourite has an off night we can upset her. We certainly have the speed,” Ottley said. Ottley paid a tribute to her boss – Mark Jones. “Mark has been so good to me since I joined him just over a year ago. When I went there I thought I would get the occasional drive. “But Mark has put me on everything, and I’m so humbled by that especially when he’s a world champion driver and is watching me drive his horses from the grandstand! “I can’t thank him and all the owners and trainers who put me on enough. His belief and faith in me has been amazing,”Ottley said. In April 2014 Ottley became the first female driver to notch up 100 wins when she reined the Michael House trained appropriately named Gogirl Bromac to victory. To date she has driven 21 winners from 177 starters this season, and all-up in a career dating back to 2009, the Geraldine born and educated horsewoman has won 224 races from 2,444 starters. She’s also placed 399 times for $1.77m in career stakes. Ottley is currently seventh on the national driving premiership. She is the leading woman driver in New Zealand with 21 wins – three more than Rasmussen. The first Queen Of Hearts Pace was contested in 1996 and was won by Adio Routine and Colin De Filippi. Duane Ranger

There’s an air of confidence about the way Mark Jones is speaking of his exciting filly, Delightful Memphis, this season. And coming from a usually reserved and measured horseman such as Jones, that spells good signs for fans of the daughter of Bettor’s Delight with some hefty assignments in front of her in the next month. An impressive winner fresh up at Addington a month ago in a heat of the Sires’ Stakes Series, Delightful Memphis returns to Harness HQ again tonight for another heat - this time with just four other runners lining up against her. “Initially I didn’t think we would come back for another heat, but it’s worked out pretty well,” Jones said. “We knew we were going to draw the outside so that didn’t matter but it’s been made a lot easier by having a small field to go up against.” Jones is keeping the imposing filly’s racing spaced as much as he can as he tries to handle what could be a big season on the track and everything she’s done so far is keeping her boss impressed. “I’m really happy with her, she’s ticking along perfectly, I am definitely much happier this time around than what I was ahead of her first run.” The opposition tonight includes Spanish Armada who was, until the Jewels, the dominant filly of the crop. Partyon potentially moved ahead of her with her dominant performances, but she will provide a good yardstick for Jones when the clash horns tonight. “I think if we had picked up a few of the draws Spanish Armada had last season we might be the one with $300,000 in the bank, so I’m not concerned about her, but do respect her. “We can pick and choose our battle this week which is good. She showed she’s good coming off the speed but then last time she was just as good in front and ran away from them late.” Tonight’s meeting also sees the return of Eyre I Come from the Jones stable. The talented trotter, who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career takes on a handy field first up. “He’s a day to day proposition, so we are just taking it one step at a time, but I’m happy with him. “He’s probably only 80 per cent in terms of fitness but there are some nice races coming up for him in the next few weeks.” Two other stable stars are getting close to stepping out as well. Master Lavros will most likely make an appearance in between heats at Sunday’s Mt Hutt workouts at Methven before trialling at Rangiora while Whittaker is also progressing nicely. “We are looking at a race on the 16th for Master Lavros then up to Auckland if everything goes well. “With no Monbet it makes sense to go up and have a crack.” Whittaker is also being aimed at an Auckland appearance but his major target is the Harness 5000 early next year.   Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Delightful Memphis, Spanish Armada, Smiley Sophie, Major Rocket Race 2: Don Pierre, Eja Patron, Loose Cannon, Bettor Backim Race 3: Riccardo, Pirate Bay, Burst Out Laughing, Unice Enchantress Race 4: Kingdom Come, Debaneyre, Ruthless Success, .BK Dawn Race 5: Mighty Flying Major, American Tart, Letspendanitetogetha, Bronze Over Race 6: Tiger Thompson, Mikey Maguire, On The Rantan, The Fixer Race 7: Lavros Jack, Shona Mary, Topnotch Titan, Spots Gold N Girl Race 8: Mongolian Storm, Freedom Fighter, Bailey’s Rock, Sparkling Delight Race 9: Maninthemirror, Smouldering Ashes, Royal Jester, Eastwood Suzy Race 10: Gee Up Neddy, Twelve Monkeys, Donegal Bettorgretch, Eyre I Come Race 11: Blade, Lloydin Magic, Missinmemate, Stop Means Stop Best Bet: Riccardo (Race 3) Value: Gee Up Neddy (Race 10)

Samantha Ottley’s first winning drive at Alexandra Park on Friday (November 4) never panned out like she thought it would. Driving what she described as one of the fastest horses she had ever sat behind, Rocker Band simply out-sprinted her seven rivals in the $14,000 Movenpick Mobile for the R77 to R107 pacers. “There was talk that she would just lead and win but when I came out of the gate that wasn’t the case. I knew there were a couple of pacers who could fly the gate and when that happened I had to ease back,” 26-year-old Ottley said. The Mark Jones trained Harness Jewels winner, Rocker Band, was third last early from her six-draw and remained there until Ottley made her move with 900m remaining. “I had to take luck out of the equation. She was travelling well and I just had to put her into the race. Zac (Butcher) advised me that if there’s cheap sectionals run in sprint races here you have to be handy on the turn to win. That was great advice,” Ottley said. Rocker Band then sat parked down the back straight the last time and then in the home straight was simply too strong winning by three quarters of a length and pacing the 1700m mobile in 2:01.4 (mile rate a slashing 1:54.9) and last 800m and 400m in 55.5 and 27.5. “She can be a bit of a trick at times. Even though she relaxed early she did lose an a length of so turning for home. But then wow what a feeling to go up outside a good horse like Ideal Belle and go past her. “I’ve driven some real nice horses like Stylish Monarch, Stent and Pure Power in the past, but this mare would be the fastest horse I’ve sat behind. Her sectionals were so quick yet she felt so relaxed,” Ottley said. Rocker Band has now won 10 of her 28 starts and placed in five others for just under $175,000 in stakes. Her career highlight came at Cambridge Raceway on June 4 this year when she won the $150,000 Group One 4yo Mares’ Diamond. “That was a real thrill winning the Jewels but it was also great to win my first race at Alexandra Park. I must have been there five times now. It’s a lovely track to drive on. I just hope I can retain the drive,” Ottley said. She said she would love to sit behind the royally bred 5-year-old Rocknroll Hanover - Mainland Banner mare on at ‘The Park’ on December 31.. That’s when Rocker Band will line up in the prestigious Group One Rosslands Queen of Hearts Pace for our country’s best pacing mares. “I want to keep my bum firmly on the sulky seat that she drags around. In saying that I never expect it. Mark has been so good to me since I joined him just over a year ago. “When I went there I thought I would get the occasional drive, but he’s put me on everything, and I’m so humbled by that especially when he’s a world champion driver and is watching me drive his horses from the grandstand!  “I can’t thank Mark enough. His belief and faith in me has been phenomenal,” Ottley said. “Actually I would like to thank everyone who has supported. I’ve had such a good start to the season and I’m so grateful to all the owners and trainers who have put me on their horses,” she added. Ottley has already driven 16 winners ($110,334) this season and 219 ($1.7m) since her career started in 2008. She currently sits fifth on the national driving premiership, and is New Zealand’s top female driver – 10 clear of second-placed Natalie Rasmussen. Meanwhile, other highlights from Alexandra Park onFriday included two wins each from Brent Mangos, Barry Purdon, and Steve Telfer/Chris Garlick. Mangos trained and drove Mr Good And Evil to win the first race and then just over half an hour later he steered the Purdon trained Rariza to victory in race two. Purdon's other triumph came via the Zac Butcher driven $1.60 favourite Raptor's Flight in the third race, while Telfer and Garlick trained Rhythm N Blues (Scott Phelan) and Ideal Roman (Jack MacKinnon) to win races six and eight respectively. Morrinsville conditioner Daniel Erickson also trained his first winner when Todd Mitchell got Turbulent Flow up in the last stride to win the 10th event. Story on Erickson follows this week.   Duane Ranger

Young West Melton trainer Jason Lethaby geared up three horses at the Riverton meeting yesterday and all three won. Ideal Rule and Richard Le Fort, both trained by him won, while Ariadne Lavros trained by Mark Jones won the Southland Standardbred Breeders Fillies and Mares Mobile Pace. All three were driven by Samantha Ottley. Ideal Rule started the roll when she won the Net Ten EOM at Macca Lodge Fillies and Mares Mobile Pace beating Trendy's Bad Girl by one and quarter lengths.  "Running in a race for fillies and mares (Ideal Rule) was the main reason we came down. There hasn't been too many races like that at home and the other race for the big horse (Richard Le Fort) suited him being a non-preferencial race," said Lethaby. From barrier five Ideal Rule was posted without cover early before being covered up by Manuka Valley. Ottley got out when she wanted to and drove out the American Ideal filly to win by a length and a quarter.  Ideal Rule and Samantha Ottley winning                     Photo Bruce Stewart. "I was very confident with her. She'd been working and trialling real good so I knew if she got a good run she'd be pretty hard to beat and that's what happened," Lethaby purchased the filly at the 2015 Sale of the Stars for $6,000. She's was breed by David Jones of Rakaia and is out of the unraced Christian Cullen mare Cullens Rule.  "She qualified nice behind a few of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen's nice ones. We were going to race her as a two year old but we decided to give her time. I think she'll do a real good job and we plan to qualify her for the Southland Oaks."  His second winner came two races later with Jereme's Jet gelding Richard Le Fort. Ottley blasted the five year old out of the gate and lead at the winning post for the first time. With 400 metres to run she pinched a break and that proved to be the winning of the race. He held on to beat Longevity by a neck.  Richard Le Fort (7) beating Longevity (white helmet) on the inside - Photo Bruce Stewart "We've had him for a year. We bought him off Mark Jones for a group of guys. It was their first race horse. He trialled up real good. He was such a big lanky horse we thought we're give him a month off and let him strengthen but he never came back any good. We had a couple of starts with him and he only went average so we sent him onto a hill block for eight months. We brought him back in in the middle of May and worked him up nice and quietly through the winter, and it's seems to have worked with him."    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Delightful Memphis will have the luxury of seven-10 days off to freshen after winning the opening $22,000 Alabar Sires Stakes 3YO Fillies Heat in a harness racing jog at Addington on Friday, October 21. The smart daughter of champion sire Bettor’s Delight and Memphis Melody will be back for the third heat at Addington on November 25, then head to Auckland to fine tune for the final on December 31. There is also another heat of the series at Alexandra Park on December 9. Last season’s experience of racing well right-handed at Auckland will stand to her for the Sires Stakes Final. She was the runnerup in three stakes races in four Auckland starts behind Spanish Armada last autumn, and wound up her two-year-old season with a second to Partyon in the $150,000 Harness Jewels 2YO Diamond at Cambridge on June 4. Trainer Mark Jones had Delightful Memphis on song for the opening Alabar Sires Heat despite a week ago blowing out near the end of her Rangiora workout. She was untroubled to lead throughout from the ace draw for regular driver Blair Orange, who didn’t have to release the deafeners in the run to the line. Delightful Memphis came clear of Major Rocket (parked) by 2 1/2 lengths in a solid 2:22.8 for the 1950m (1:57.8 mile rate), with Blair letting her quicken over the last 800m in 56s and final 400m in a slick 26.6s. Major Rocket held out the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained stablemates, Smiley Sophie and Tachyon, for the minors. Delightful Memphis was recording her second win, after earlier winning her 2YO debut in the Group Three $25,000 Sweet Lou Leonard Memorial at the Cheviot meeting on February 28. She edged past the $100,000 mark with Friday’s win in her eighth career start for owners, Wayne Higgs, Simon Doull, Sir Loins Limted, Debra and Pete Smith, Kaysan Farming Ltd and BM & JH Holdings Ltd. By Jeff Scott Reprinted with permission of the Mark Jones site

Debbie Larkins gained her first win as an owner/trainer/driver when Rydgemont Milly downed visiting favourite Trouble Giero to win the Zilco/Carpet Plus Willy's Flooring Trot at Gore on Sunday. Larkins races the mare on lease and shares the training with her partner Mark Shirley. They'd previously had success with Strategic Miss (twice) and Another Windermere. Conrock, in April 2013 when trained by Shirley alone, provided Larkins with her first driving success. Rydgemont Milly is the first foal of the Sundon mare Domination, winner of 10 races when trained by Murray Tapper. It was Tapper who recommended Rydgemont Milly to Larkins and Shirley. “Murray broke her in, he said she would take time,” Shirley said, “she has high speed and that will carry her when she strengthens. She is a solid trotter.” The Gore win made up for the Monarchy mare's bad luck at the Northern Southland meeting where she enjoyed a good trip in the one-one on the back of favourite Sky Tower, until the 400. At that point the eventual winner Explosive Star arrived on Rydgemont Milly's outer to lock her in and then Sky Tower broke and carted her out the back. Dan Wilson gained his first win as a breeder/owner/trainer when Lucas capitalised on a perfect Brad Williamson drive in the Dwain's Service Centre/MLT Forest Lodge Tapanui Pace. From four off the gate, Lucas enjoyed the one-one until the 600. From there, he was pushed forward, took control before the turn and ran clear in the straight. “He's always had speed, he just needed the right run,” said Wilson whose only previous wins were as the owner-trainer of Hadrian, twice successful early in 2014. Wilson said he grew up with horses, his parents raced horses, his father Lindsay and Uncle Ian train and his sister is the partner of trainer Tony Stratford. Lucas is the only horse he has in work. The gelding is out of Village Kiwi, a mare Wilson acquired from her previous trainer the late Alan Scobie. Prior to breeding form her, Wilson raced Village Kiwi for a time from his father's stable and gained a third at Ascot Park. Earlier in the day Williamson had won the SBS Claimers Mobile on The Charging Moa and was the only driver to land two winners on Sunday. The Charging Moa, by 2008 New Zealand Cup winner Changeover from the 2008 New Zealand Cup fourth placegetter Specials Ops, had a claiming price of $10,000 and wasn't claimed. In fact, no claims were lodged for any of the runners. Ariadne Lavra, the only representative at Gore of Burnham trainer Mark Jones, did the business impressively in the Otamita Servicing Ltd stand-start pace. She was racing in Southland for just the second time, having contested the group three Caduceus Club Two Year Old Fillies Classic at Ascot Park in March. Brent Barclay was aboard that day when she finished third behind stablemate Delightful Memphis and the Purdon/Rasmussen rep Renske B. Barclay took the reins again on Sunday and had the daughter of Art Major in front after 350 metres. They were never seriously tested from then on and careered away in the straight to win by four and three quarter lengths. Other Canterbury trainers to taste success were Steve McRae from West Melton and Brent White of Temuka. McRae had three at the meeting and won the Colin Baynes Memorial Fillies and Mares Pace with Narelle Franco. She is the first foal of National Franco who a few years earlier won races at Ascot Park with Craig Thornley in the sulky. He was also the winning driver of Narelle Franco who is now four and was having just her second start, after finishing third on debut at Washdyke last week. “She was a bit weak last season but has strengthened up,” Thornley said. The stable also picked up a placing in the Gore Windscreens N Glass Mobile with Franco Tristan. The four year old looked the winner when he loomed up on the turn but had to settle for third. “He hit the front and pulled up,” commented Thornley. Victory went to Ultimate Fella, White's sixth starter on the day. Earlier, he'd gained a placings with Trouble Giero who finished runner-up to Rydgemont Milly, plus Dark Ops and Run To Hide who both finished third. The third of Dark Ops was behind Blazing Under Fire in the Jaccka Lodge Handicap. Blazing Under Fire, a C2 entire trained by Phil Williamson, was driven by junior Rory McIlwrick and recorded the day's biggest winning margin of six and a quarter lengths. The win was penalty free under the conditions of the race because Blazing Under Fire was driven by a junior. The win helped McIlwrick retain a margin of four wins over Sheree Tomlinson at the top of the national premiership.   Mac Henry

Mark Jones put his near perfect day at Methven yesterday down to one mitigating factor – Sam Ottley. The Burnham horseman enjoyed a gold letter day at the first grass track meeting for season, winning three races and picking up a second placing as well from his five runners for the day. And Ottley was on board all of them, continuing her golden start to the season as the combination between her and Jones continues to prosper. “I’ve got to give a lot of the credit to Sam,” Jones said. “She summed each one up perfectly and had them all in the right places at the right times, she really is driving as good as anyone going around at the moment in my opinion.” The Jones/Ottley combo kicked things off with Rocknroll Nevin, who despite running up the track down the back straight, was too good for her opposition – surprising her trainer slightly. “She was pretty good last week at the trials, but I probably didn’t expect her to win the way she did. “She’s always been a nice horse, and everything fell into place for her which helps.” The run continued in the very next race when Ammisaduqa backed up a very good trial at Methven eight days earlier with a strong victory over the 3000 metres. After a handy enough run on debut the Gotta Go Cullect gelding was driven confidently by Ottley and he won impressively by a length to break the maiden status. “He was the one I was most confident with I think, his trial last week really impressed me. “I didn’t give Sam any instructions, but she drove him perfectly.” When Perrisa led the feature pacing event of the day and was too tough for her opponents, things started to look even better than Jones could have dreamed of at the start of the day. The former claiming mare, who could have been picked up for a fair price a few weeks back, got her own way in front and ran away at the top of the straight. “We’ve had a few problems with her but the grass is her real go in life and when she gets her own way she’s pretty hard to peg back. “We’ll keep targeting grass track racing for her over the next few months before she heads to stud later in the season.” The three win haul was nearly four when Zena Mac was very good when finishing second behind Shadow Rider in the last. Jones has made a grand start to the season winning seven races from just 30 starters – and he’s pretty surprised about it. “It’s the smallest racing team I’ve ever had I think, but there’s some really nice young ones. “I’m looking forward to next season.” Ottley’s start to the season has been just impressive, she’s won eight races from 30 drives and continues to kick goals when given the chance. Jones reported yesterday that his star mare Rocker Band would be heading North this week for her immediate racing. “She’ll go to Barry Purdon and we will target the Spring Cup in a couple of weeks and then the Holmes DG a fortnight after that. “Alexandra Park have been great and really looked after us and the best part is she should get a race every week up there without having to take on the best of them.” Stable trotting star, Master Lavros, is progressing nicely towards resuming later in the year. The Dominion is off the table and Jones is looking at a first up run in the Green Mile at Methven in December.    Matt Markham

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