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Blair Orange finished at the All Stars stable in July after a decade associated with the best stable in the country- and he has plenty to show for it. He finished on a high breaking into the "100 club" for the first time, the latest in a string of records he has established over the years. "My target was 50 at the start of the season. I thought I was doing well when I got to 75 and then I thought, well I might as well go for the 100. I might not get a chance to get that close again" With help from the Mark Jones stable he achieved his target -well ahead of any previous season. The stimulus All Stars gave his young driving career speak for itself. He had of course helped make his own luck, making marked improvement to rein 37 winners in the 2002 season mostly for smaller trainers like Trevor Craddock, Mike Austin, Craig Buchan, Kevin Townley, Andrew Stuart, Brian Kerr, John Parsons, Michael House and Peter Cowan. It is significant that his 100th winner for this  season was for Austin and his last driving night under the All Stars banner features a drive for Buchan. But the chance to work with Mark Purdon was going to another level and Blair has always aspired to go to the next level. "Mark rang me out of the blue. I had never driven for him. We talked, he made me an offer and I accepted. " Ohoka Atom was his first winner for the stable but one of his biggest thrills came a month later when Waihemo Hanger won at the Cup meeting. "I had never driven a winner on Cup Day so that was special ." Ironically one of his earlier regular drives for Mike Austin, Ado's Invasion, was second handled by Mark Jones. Blair's career had started nearly seven years earlier when he was with Tim Butt and drove Whizza Nova to win at Reefton in 1996. He won 18 races in his first season for All Stars but by 2007 topped $1m in stakes won thanks chiefly to Ohoka Arizona, Fiery Falcon and Steve McQueen. In only one season since have his stakes won been less than seven figures. His best season for the stable in  terms of wins was 2012 when he won 46 for All Stars from a season driving  total of 81. However even in his final season with Mark and Natalie driving many of the A graders he won 39 races for the stable.  Altogether he has won $12.6m in stakes for owners over the years. His biggest month for All Stars was in March of 2009 when he drove 11 winners for the stable going close with 10 in the same month this season. So as he heads for his own training career -though with plenty of free lance driving still part of the package-what has he learned. Naturally the answer is "a lot". "Obviously the overall organisation is something you don't work with often. I have worked in other top stables such as Tim and Anthony's but there is always something different they do, something you can pick up on. The handling of the two year olds has been one of the great experiences for me. How they are brought along and managed and each one assessed for what they can handle as youngsters. Then how they are managed during their campaigns. There was a lot in that'' "But the overall routines and stable management was just as important. So much to learn and adapt when I go out on my own training. Mark is a master at planning a programme so the horses peak for the big days. Not many can do it like he and Natalie can'' " From a driving viewpoint the horses at All Stars give you confidence in what you are going. That is a hell of an advantage and it carries over to your other drives " If it was so good why leave ? "I would have been quite happy to stay to be honest if an offer like Ken's (Barron) had not come along. But I was going to have to strike out a bit more on my own sooner or later and this was a deal I thought too good to let pass. It could open the way for me to have my own training operation which is the long term aim. In the meantime I will still be doing a lot of free lance driving and some of that for Mark Jones who has been such a boost to me this season." Blair is aware there are plenty with doubts he is doing the right thing but that is of no concern to him. "While I was mulling over the offer I had a few doubts myself but once I made the decision I was confident it was the right one and what anybody else thinks is not important to me.  It would be fair to say Blair Orange came to All Stars still an apprentice and left as graduate with honours on the driving track. So what were his five most memorable experiences at the stable ? In no particular order: LENNON "I won a lot of races with Lennon in my first season with Mark and races like the Kindergarten, Welcome, Sapling and the Sires Stakes. He was a class horse and he gave me a lot of confidence that I could measure up in the big stuff" WAIHEMO HANGER  "He have me my first winner at the Cup meeting and that was a huge thrill for me at the time. You don't forget things like that" AUCKLAND REACTOR- "I won the Taylor Mile behind him. He was just a terrific horse. He had that something extra you never forget " ADORE ME -"Winning the Easter Cup gave a thrill like Auckland Reactor had. A special horse to drive" HIGHVIEW TOMMY " He might have only run second in the Cup but second in the Cup was a big thing for me. It is the race everyone wants to win and we went close. He gave me a lot of other big moments too and Tommy could be full of surprises so you never knew quite what was going to happen" (Blair set some sort of record with Highview Tommy too driving him to win in five successive seasons. Maybe not even Mark has done that with one of the team in Blair's era). Courtesy Of All Stars Racing

The North Island has won the fifth annual ‘Island Of Origin’ series at Alexandra Park. The Peter Ferguson captained team of six beat the South Island by 25 points to 11 tonight (Friday August 29th). Points were awarded on a 3-2-1 basis for first, second, and third. Ferguson was rapt with the victory. “We didn’t come here to run second. It’s a great concept and I’m rapt to have won it. We all did our bit. 3-2 sounds very nice,” Fergie said. South Island captain Ricky May, who replaced the suspended Anthony Butt as skipper, enjoyed the night. “It’s a great concept especially with owners getting penalty free wins. We were going pretty good early on and then we faded a bit," May said. The North Island paid $1.80 for their third victory. “I really enjoyed it and am always proud to represent the South Island,” he added. Zac Butcher won the Individual title and paid $4.60 on the New Zealand TAB. He amassed eight points thanks to two wins and a second. Blair Orange (six points) finished second with two wins, while Tony Herlihy (MNZM) was third with five points from two seconds and a third. ‘The Postman’ aka Orange delivered in the first heat with a win behind the Andrew and Lyn Neal trained Lucky Fortune. Butcher then won the second heat behind the Stephen Doody trained Te Kawau, while Ferguson led the way with a third heat victory behind the Richard Brosnan trained Torbjorn. The fourth heat went to Orange and the Roni Lauren trained I Got Rhythm before Butcher won the fifth heat behind the Stewart Ashworth trained Machinegun Kelly. The last heat was won by Todd Mitchell and the Peter Scaife trained Rip Roaring. The teams were: North Island: Peter Ferguson (c), Tony Herlihy (MNZM), Todd Mitchell, Philip Butcher, Zac Butcher, and Scott Phelan. South Island: Ricky May (c), Gerard O’Reilly, Dexter Dunn, Blair Orange, Jim Curtin, and Mark Jones. The Island Of Origin winners: 2014: North Island. 2013: North Island. 2012: South Island. 2011: South Island. 2010: North Island. Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand

The best harness racing drivers from the North and South Islands square off in six races at Alexandra Park on Friday night (August 29th). Named the Island Of Origin series, it has brought together the best drivers in New Zealand in a contest that decides bragging rights between the islands for the next twelve months. Points are scored on a 3 - 2 - 1 basis and judging by the fields and the spread of form horses to both camps, it should be a close and exciting contest. The South Island team is full of talent with last seasons leading driver Dexter Dunn joined by Ricky May, Mark Jones, Blair Orange, Gerald O'Reilly and Jimmy Curtin.. The North Island team is just as talented with the "Iceman" Tony Herlihy teaming up with Zac Butcher, Philip Butcher, Peter Ferguson, Todd Mitchell and Scott Phelan. Most home teams have an edge to start with and that was added to just a little bit by the fact that the Northern horsemen have 31 drives on Friday night compared to 30 for the Southern horsemen. All the races for the invited drivers are penalty free which is a nice bonus for the trainers and owners who have supported the series with their horses. The most interesting race for the invited drivers is undoubtedly race three, the C2 - C5 mobile pace over 2200 meters. Last seasons smart 3 year old Te Kawau looks hard to beat but a couple of real up and comers could prove troublesome with a run to suit. Royal Taz has won his last two for Tony Herlihy in the manner of a horse going places and from his handy draw looms as a genuine threat to the favourite. Pricillas Girl has run two slashers this time in and appeals as a value runner if the other two go to war at any stage. Six of the other runners in the field have either won or been placed at their last start so the favoured trio won't have it all their own way. The invited drivers creates real interest leading into Friday night and the Auckland Trotting Club should be applauded for bringing the concept to fruition. Harnesslink Media 

Kentuckiana Lodge trainer Cran Dalgety has joined Patumahoe’s Geoff Small as NZ’s most successful trainers of Group One Breeders Crown Final winners after Katy Perry’s hard fought success in last Sunday’s $A297,000 Betterthancheddar @ Alabar Australasian Breeders Crown 2YO Fillies Final at Tabcorp Park, Melton. Both have achieved five Breeders Crown Final successes in the specialised two-four age group categories, just one ahead of NZ’s premier trainer Mark Purdon. Cran Dalgety’s growing list of ABC Grand Final winners is: Sparks A Flyin (2001 3YO fillies), Smiling Shard (2009 2YO colts/geldings), Bit Of A Legend (2012-13 3YO colts/geldings) and Katy Perry (2014 2YO fillies). Former world champion driver Mark Jones partnered Sparks A Flyin. Current NZ champion Dexter Dunn has driven the stable runners since 2009. The Kentuckiana Lodge mentor is challenging as NZ’s most successful trainer at the Breeders Crown, taking into account his additional three Grand Final seconds _ Smiling Shard (2010 3YO colts/geldings), Onlyforyou (2012 2YO fillies) and Bit Of A Legend (2014 4YO entires/geldings). Northern-based, but Canterbury-raised Geoff Small, set the early pace among the Kiwis. Small’s ABC Pacing Grand Final winners are: Pullover Brown (2003 3YO Fillies), Changeover (2007 3YO Colts/geldings), Tintin In America (2009 3YO Colts/geldings), De Lovely (2010 3YO Fillies) and Cowgirls N Indians (2011 2YO Fillies). He also has a Group Two Australasian Breeders Crown Graduate FFA (open class race) to his credit, with All Tiger in 2009. Recuperating Cambridge driver David Butcher has partnered all but one of Small’s ABC winners. Templeton driver Anthony Butt partnered Pullover Brown for her ABC win after also driving her to win the NZ Oaks that season.  Anthony Butt, a close second driving Joanne’s A Delight in last Sunday’s 2YO Fillies Final, also won the 1998 ABC 3YO Fillies Final driving Under Cover Lover, Mark Purdon, who gained early ABC Final training successes with Galleons Assassin (2005 2YO trot) and Fly Like An Eagle (2012 3YO colts/geldings), doubled his quota when (My) Ayra (2YO fillies trot) and Follow The Stars (2YO colts/geldings) delivered last Sunday. His additional driving win with (Our) Twentyten (who he formerly trained) in the 3YO trot final on Sunday, makes him jointly NZ’s top driver in the 2-4YO age group catergories, with David Butcher, who besides the Small-trained winners, also reined Miami H to win the 2010 3YO trot final for trainers Derek Balle and Owen Gillies. Victorian trotting training master Chris Lang is the most successful Breeders Crown trainer with seven wins. His successes, all in ABC trot finals, are: Kyvalley Road (2002-03 2 & 3YO trot), Right Interest (2006 3YO trot), Skyvalley (2008-09 3 & 4YO trot) and Let Me Thru (2009-10 3 & 4YO trot). Lang has also added three Group Two Australasian Breeders Crown Graduate FFA wins, a race for open class trotters, with former champ, Sundons Gift (2007-08 & 2010). Lang’s brother, champion Victorian reinsman Gavin, although winless at the Breeders Crown this year, remains the most successful driver in Breeders Crown Finals, with 10 successes. Courtsey Of Cran Dalgety Racing

There was no ring-around last week however the ring-around the week prior produced five winners. Let’s see if we can top that tally this week. Forbury – Thursday Robbie Close: Thinks impressive last start winner Billies A Star will prove very tough to beat in the third race on the card. Jonny Cox:  Has found some value in the form of stable newcomer Franco Theron – race six. Ken Barron:  Has opted for Livura, who looks a strong chance in race seven, as his bet of the week. Matthew Williamson: Thinks Sage can surprise at value from her ace draw. She also competes in the seventh race on the card. Franklin@Alexandra Park – Friday Scott Phelan: Has opted for Getaway Doug as his bet of the week – race two. Steve Richardson (T.A.B):  Rates the chances of Tarn, who was a good workout winner last weekend, in the same event. Todd Mitchell: Is bullish about the chances of Tangos Delight, who has raced well lately despite receiving little luck. She looks a good chance in race six. Jay Abernethy: Has opted for Pacific Rapture, who finished a nice second in the Golden Girls Final, in the same race. Josh Dickie: Expects Tembi to prove too strong for his five rivals in the last event on the card. Rangiora – Sunday Gavin Smith: Has opted for stable newcomer Zena Mac, who looks a good chance from her ace alley in the second race. Mark Jones:  Rates JC Skipper as his best chance of the weekend – race four. Ricky May: Has selected Mighty Peruvian, who stuck on gamely for second last start. He also competes in race four. Terry Chmiel: Expects impressive trialist Parramatta to prove hard to beat in the fifth event on the card. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): New Deal – race nine.    

Last week was possibly the worst ever for the ring-around with just the one winner. However, that one winner, Equulei, tipped by Jay Abernethy, did pay odds of $10.70 and $2.50. Let’s see what the boys have come up with for us this week: Addington – Thursday Jonny Cox: Thinks 2-win mare Pay Me Quick, who has been in sublime form of late, will be hard to beat against non-win rivals in the first race on the card. Ricky May: Has opted for the very smart Dalton Bromac, who looks half of the quinella with Wesley Silcox – race four. Matthew Williamson:  Expects Very Persuasive to prove very hard to beat in the Golden Girls Final – race eight. Ken Barron: Has a massive opinion of Bracken Ridge and expects him to be simply too classy for his rivals in the last race on the card. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Bracken Ridge – race nine. Alexandra Park - Thursday Josh Dickie: Thinks Sunny Vacation, with manners, is the one they all have to beat in race six. Scott Phelan: Thinks the inform Cyamach, who is likely to head to Australia for the Breeders Crown, can continue on his winning ways – race seven. Todd Mitchell: Is bullish about the chances of Tangos Delight, who looks a strong chance in the eighth race on the card. Simon Lawson: Thinks Shedontloveme is a very good each-way chance in the last race on the card. Kurow – Sunday Blair Orange: Thinks Quaint Glen, who had trialled up stylishly prior to her debut third, can win the first race on the card. Tim Williams: Has opted for Lovetodream, who also looks a good chance in the first race on card. Gavin Smith: Thinks Billies A Star, who has been ultra impressive at the trials, should prove too strong for what looks an average maiden line-up – race five. Mark Jones: Thinks Sunoflindenny, who has been backed and beaten in his first two runs back, can make amends in the sixth race on the card.  

Last week the ring-around produced six winners with Matthew Williamson, Nathan Williamson, Scott Phelan, Ricky May, John Dunn, and I all delivering the goods. The best result was my tip Spell which romped in at odds $5.50. Let’s see what winners we have in store for you this week: Cambridge – Thursday Jay Abernethy: Thinks Equulei can kick the ring-around off in style in the first race at Cambridge. Simon Lawson: Rates Betty Boop Brogden as a good each-way chance in the fourth race on the card. Alexandra Park – Friday Todd Mitchell: Has opted for Miss Lotty, who was seen doing her best work late when second last start. She looks a good chance in the first race. Brent Mangos: expects impressive trialist Vibhuti to prove very tough to roll – race four. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Djokovic, who looks a bold chance in race five. Scott Phelan: Rates the chances of inform pacer Cyamach, who looks a strong chance despite meeting a very good field in the sixth race at Alexandra Park. Addington – Friday Ken Barron: Expects both Bracken Ridge (race two) and Quaint Glen (Rangiora race 3) to prove very hard to beat. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Bracken Ridge – race two Mark Jones: Thinks the consistent Jaccka Len can break through for another win – race five. Gavin Smith: Rates She’s Extreme as a good place chance in the sixth event on the card. John Dunn: Is expecting a big run from two-year-old filly Cullens First Meddle – race six. Tim Williams: Has opted for smart mare Here We Go Again, who downed likely favourite Fifth Edition in her last start – race eight. Matthew Williamson: Expects Ohoka Benson to be hard to beat in what looks an average C1 field – race ten. Rangiora – Sunday Terry Chmiel: Has opted for the inform That Guy Finn, who looks a good chance despite meeting a strong C1 and 2 line-up – race six. Jonny Cox:  Thinks Explosive Art can continue to explode through the grades – race nine.  

Champion harness racing driver Ricky May notched up his third season century in succession when winning aboard the Dave Anderson trained Abbey Cullen at Addington last night. The win was May’s third for the night after good mate Mark Jones put him on Zakspatrol and Sabellian in order to help him reach the milestone. Both 3YO pacers were winners of their two-horse Breeders Crown heats. However, Zakspatrol was actually a narrow second and was a promoted winner after Artismee was relegated for galloping over the line. Driven positively by May, Abbey Cullen held up from her ace alley before undergoing a mid-race attack from Smart Alex. She then kicked strongly in the straight to hold off a late bid from Smart Alex who was able to drop into the trail when the mid-race speed went on. Hikoi finished a further a one and a quarter lengths away in third. The win was the Christian Cullen mares first from fourteen starts. It was also the first time May has taken the reins behind the four-year-old. May then went on to notch up his 101st win  for the season, and fourth for the night,  when winning aboard the smart Brendon Hill trained pacer Dalton Bromac, who looked back to the horse that we saw in his South Island debut two starts back. After missing away from the standing start, May worked Dalton Bromac into the race three-wide before taking a one-one sit down the back straight. He then worked the gelding into the clear rounding the final bend, with the three-year-old letting down strongly for a comprehensive win despite not running straight. Robbie Close, who has been the caretaker trainer of the gelding during the week, said that he believes Dalton Bromac is a better horse when coming from behind, which may be the reason he was slightly disappointing when a well beaten third after leading up in his second start in the south. “He is still pretty green and I think he is a better horse when he is chasing,” revealed Close. “I also think the 2600 metre trips suit him as he is a very good stayer and can follow pace,” he added. The season century tops off what has been another tremendous innings for May. Not only did he notch up his seventh New Zealand Cup victory but he was also victorious in the Auckland Cup. His emphatic win aboard Monbet in the Harness Jewels 2YO Ruby, which gave long-time supporters Greg & Nina Hope their first Group One win in New Zealand, was another one of his highlights. Meanwhile, Robert Dunn is now just two wins shy of training 100 winners in a season for the first time after winning a heat of the Golden Girls with Westburn Warrior. His tally could have been 99 had Artismee not been relegated. By Mitchell Robertson

Last week was a quiet one for the ring-around with just the two winners. However, T.A.B Bookmaker Steve Richardson did find us some value in the form of $8 and $2.50. Let’s see what good oil the boys have found for us this week. Forbury – Thursday Matthew Williamson:  Has opted for Monnay, who is the class horse of the field but and looks a chance despite his huge seventy metre handicap – race six. Nathan Williamson:  Rates the chances of Onedin Mach, who should have benefited off his fresh-up fourth. He looks the one to beat in race seven on the card. Jonny Cox: Rates the chances of Homeforabubbly, who looks well placed in the ninth race on the card. Alexandra Park – Friday Simon Lawson: Has selected Westwind Flyer as his best bet of the week – race one. Scott Phelan: Believes Pieces Of My Heart can go one better in the third race on the card. Josh Dickie: Has opted for Katieellen Castleton, who would only need to do things right to win the fourth race. Addington – Friday Stephen Richardson (T.A.B): Has selected Hikoi, who got too far back last start before finishing strongly for fourth. Steps up to 2600m this week which should suit – race two. David Butt: Rates the chances of Stingray, who returned to form last week with a nice win. He meets the same sort of field this week and looks a good each-way chance again - race five. Ricky May: Has opted for the impressive Dalton Bromac. He looks the one they all have to beat in the same event – race five. Craig Thornley: Has opted for Playaway, who was a fast finishing second last start. She looks a good each-way chance in the sixth race. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Spell – race eight. Ashburton – Sunday Mark Jones: Expects smart filly Goodness Gracious Me to prove very hard to beat in the sixth race. Ken Barron: Has opted for Change Time, who returns to mobile racing and has landed the plumb draw. She has produced big runs in her last two outings after missing the kick from standing starts and looks a good chance on Sunday – race eight. John Dunn: Thinks stable newcomer Wesley Silcox, who trialled up nicely on Monday, can keep his unbeaten record intact – race eight.

*What do Remiss, Valhalla, and Mattjestic Rebeck all have in common? well, apart from all having tested over the allowable TCO2 level they are all very nervous horses which became particularly stressed on the day the day in which the tested high. NZ Trainers and Drivers Association Secretary Peter T Cook, who has had his own personal experience with Valhalla, tells more. As you have probably read among the Remits being submitted to this years’ HRNZ Annual Conference, the Board, after a prolonged period of consideration, has finally decided to bring the allowable level of TC02 in line with pretty much every other jurisdiction in the World, i.e.36mmol/L, with a “guard band” of 1.0mmol/L. At the same time, however, they have also recommended an astonishingly large increase in the penalties involved for trainers who are found guilty for a first time. From a previously recommended $2-4000 for a first offence, the Board is proposing an automatic 2 year disqualification. The change has been likened to an increase from a ten year prison sentence to the death penalty in the real world. In other words, this would potentially be a career ending penalty for most, if not all trainers. The understanding is that most Australian states have a six month penalty for a first offence which is more realistic. Not only is this proposal totally out of “kilter’ with penalties attached to other charges, it is likely encourage someone whose career is in jeopardy and who had the financial wherewithal, to contest the matter in the Countrys’ legal system. All has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? Do we really want thousands of dollars more of Industry money keeping lawyers in the lifestyle they have become accustomed to? And while the Association is strongly supportive of measures against cheats, there is no guarantee that such legal proceedings against HRNZ would not be successful. Such a penalty offers no window for either the RIU or JCA for anyone to be found innocent. With a fine, even though it goes against natural justice, that may reluctantly be acceptable, but a two year ban is a different story. This decision has been made following long awaited, and somewhat controversial, advice from the HRNZ Veterinary Advisor Andrew Grierson. It is interesting to note that, in the press release from HRNZ, Chairman Gary Allen is quoting as saying “any positive will in almost all certainty be the result of an administration of prohibited substances.” The use of the word “almost” is interesting, considering that, in the past and currently, the RIU appear to have a policy of totally ignoring any evidence put before them suggesting a trainers’ innocence. This time last year, I had cause to have discussions with him concerning a horse in the stable I help out in, Valhalla. Andrew reeled off statistics (same as those accompanying the remit) stating categorically that the chances of a horse returning a level of 36mmol/L rises from around 15,000 to just over 2 million for a level of 37 without having TC02 administered. On the day that he was tested, Valhalla (normally a nervous horse at the races at the best of times) attempted to climb the walls of the float en route to the track, was bathed in sweat, was very agitated, and his eyes were out on storks as he was geared up. The RIU, as I could have told them, found no evidence of either Bicarbonate or anything to administer it with in the stables. The official reading was 38.2 which presumably makes him by far the rarest horse on the planet! While the requirement to present drug free horses is understandably paramount, this needs to be balanced with the rules of natural justice, and disqualifying a trainer for two years for a high level of a substance already present in every horse, doesn’t seem to match those requirements. It is quite possible that a Court of Law may take the same view, particularly when there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the trainer. Mark Jones is currently enduring the same nightmare of presenting compelling evidence that he did not administer bicarb, only to have it totally ignored by the authorities. As for performance enhancement, both Valhalla and Remiss, Marks’ horse that is currently under investigation, both finished last in their respective races! Peter T Cook (Courtesy of the Trainers and Drivers Association)

Oamaru Raceway could have easily been mistaken for the North Pole today. Not only was it was it freezing cold but Father Christmas was there. And, like every Decemeber, he didn’t disappoint. After starting from the unruly, Father Christmas and driver Brad Williamson looped the field three wide with cover with a lap to go, before surging to the front down the back straight. He then kicked strongly in the home straight to hold off a late challenge from Foreverman. Little Bro was a further two lenghts away in third. The Phil Williamson trained three-year-old, who was greeted in the winners’ circle by a syndicate of owners wearing Santa hats, has now won three of his six starts and placed on a further two occasions. However, had it not been for a couple of mistakes his record could be even more impressive. “Phil (Williamson) has always had a big opinion of him and he seems to be getting more full-proof all the time,” said wife Bev Williamson. “We think he has a pretty big future and he should still get better as he is only three,” she added. By top French stallion Love You, Father Christmas was bred to be good and should continue to get even better. He hails from a family of smart trotters including Dependable, Jo Anne, Shirley Temple, Ima Gold Digger, and Doctor Mickey. Meanwhile, junior reinswomen Samantha Ottley and Kimberly Butt both won two races on the card today and tied for first in the Streamline Freight Drivers Challenge. Kim was successful aboard the Tim Butt trained Pantheon and the Robbie Holmes trained Lurah, who provided her with not only her first double but also her first outside win “Before today I had only ever driven winners for Tim Butt (uncle) and Mark Jones (employer-second cousin),” explained Butt. Ottley was victorious aboard Valmagne and Joe The Hunter and now has a four win lead in the Junior Drivers Premiership over northern reinsman Sailesh Abernethy. By Mitchell Robertson

Training will become a game of Russian Roulette unless harness racing officials become more proactive investigating high bicarbonate levels and allow trainers to prove their innocence, says trainer Mark Jones. Jones, one of the country's most celebrated reinsmen and now a successful trainer at Burnham, is concerned at Harness Racing New Zealand's proposal to introduce strict new penalties for breaches of the TCO2 rule. A remit that will go before the annual general meeting of clubs in Christchurch next month would see the TCO2 threshold lifted from 35 to 36 (with a margin of error of one) to bring it into line with the thoroughbred code and overseas jurisdictions. But with it would come a dramatic rise in the penalties handed out, fines of only a few thousand dollars replaced by minimum disqualifications of two years for a first offence, five years for a second breach and 10 years for a third offence. The proposal came under immediate fire from Amberley trainer Jamie Keast yesterday when he was suspended for six months for his third high bicarb, after Westburn Creed tested 36.2 at Kaikoura last November. And while Jones says the lifting of the level is long overdue, he has good reason to oppose the draconian bans given he is facing a bicarb charge of his own after Remiss returned a level of 36.2 at Forbury Park on June 5 while Jones was away in Nelson. After the mare came close to testing high again on another trip to Dunedin three weeks later, returning 35.6, Jones was forced to sack the horse, not prepared to risk a second charge. Jones has no idea why Remiss tests high but says his attempts to prove his innocence have been rebutted by the Racing Integrity Unit. ''Under the rule, you can't beat them. It's one of strict liability and they say they don't have to do or prove anything. It's an easy kill for them.'' Jones said he had invited the RIU out to his property to show them the $100,000 CCT camera security system he had in place. But his assurances that he had taken all possible precautions were met by a blunt claim that the horse should not have been left unattended, albeit briefly, when strapper Kimberley Butt was out on the track driving. ''I told them I was prepared to pay for them to take the horse for a week then transport it down to Dunedin, test if before it leaves, then again on arrival to see if it its bicarb rises. ''They told me that even if the level went over 36, it would be no defence. Jones said all he was asking for was a measure of common sense and the chance to prove his innocence. And that would be an absolute necessity if HRNZ introduced two-year disqualifications for first offenders. ''I don't like being accused of things I haven't done and it's my livelihood on the line,'' said Jones, fearful that his lifeline of selling horses to Australia will be cut off if his reputation is dented. Jones said RIU investigator Kylie Williams told him if he wanted to race Remiss again she would give him permission to give her a warm-up on the track earlier in the night to lower her level by one to two points. ''But I refused. I shouldn't have to do that to be able to race a horse.'' Instead he passed Remiss on to his father Peter to train and, warmed up twice before she raced at Addington last week, she tested at 34.8. ''But if he hadn't warmed her up before the tests, the level could have been close to 36 or even over.'' Ironically, Peter Jones is also training Mattjestic Rebeck, who landed Rangiora hobby trainer Neville Gorrie in strife in June 2013 when it tested 36.3, resulting in his being fined $1800. Jones said it was simply outrageous to suggest that Gorrie, along with fellow respected Ladbrooks trainer Gavin Cook, whose horse Valhalla tested high at 37 and 38.3 last year, should be disqualified for two years. Jones, who has an earlier bicarb strike against his name, when Algeepee tested 38.2 at Addington in 2010, would be looking at five years out. ''You could never come back after that long. I'd have to sell my property.'' Jones said he's had other horses with unexplained bicarb variances, such as Fair Dinkum Bromac, whose resting paddock level of 30 routinely jumped four points when he went to the races. He had been the same when trained by John Hay. ''It's all very well for their vet to say high levels can only happen with administrations but so many things can affect them. ''I need to figure out why it's happening to me. Am I over-training them, is it in my feed? ''I know the pre-mix feed I use has preservatives in it. That wouldn't be enough to put the level over by itself but put that together with dehydration, stress, lung infections and you can come up with a lethal cocktail. That's scary.'' Courtesy of Barry Lichter Reprinted with permissin of Fairfax media  

Last week was a bit quieter for the ring-around with just Matthew Williamson, Ricky May, Ken Barron, David Butt, and Tony Herlihy tipping out winners. Hopefully we can top that performance this week Cambridge - Thursday Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Present Arms - race three. Josh Dickie: Rates juvenile Monterey Jack as good each-way prospect in the sixth race on the card. Alexandra Park - Friday Scott Phelan: Thinks Cyamach, who was an impressive last start winner, can repeat the dose in the fifth race on the card. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Ace Moment in the fourth event. Addington - Friday Craig Thornley: Thinks capabale type Al's Courage will measure up well in what is a very strong line-up - race seven. Samantha Ottley: Would love to win the Darren DeFilippi Memorial and thinks she can with Jayceekay - race seven. Ricky May: Has opted for Dalton Bromac who was super impressive when winning his South Island debut. - race eight. Anthony Butt:  Rates Gotta Go Artelect as a good each-way chance in the same event. Blair Orange: Has opted for Franco Tevez, who finished third last start, in the ninth event at Addington. Oamaru - Sunday Matthew Williamson: Has opted for Monnay, who has been herculean when overcoming back handicaps to win his last two starts. He will attempt to do that again in race five. Mark Jones and Jonny Cox: Both think smart filly Goodness Gracious Me, who was super at the recent Motukarara workouts, will prove very hard to beat in the seventh race. Nathan Williamson: Has selected capable three-year-old Onedin Mach, who races well when in a fresh state. He will take all sorts of beating in the ninth race.        

Well known Selwyn pig farmers Pete Molloy and Ray Seebeck have had a succession of nice horses around them over the years and their latest harness racing winner at Timaru today (Sunday 6th July) in Gotta Grunter is no exception. It is never hard to spot their horses at the races as most have a reference to pigs in their name. Ever since their smart racehorse Three Little Pigs 1:59.7 ($55,135) in the nineties, the two pig farmers have had a succession of horses with a "piggish" name. By the son of Christian Cullen, Gotta Go Cullen 1:58.3 ($1,127,567), Gotta Grunter is from the speedy Badlands Hanover mare Sheza Grunter 1:59.8 ($21,482) Starting his career with Spreydon Lodge trainer Steve McRae, Gotta Grunter looked very promising early on, running second at his first three lifetime starts. But from there Gotta Grunter had a few issues and his form fell away. A transfer to the Mark Jones Woodend beach stable followed and he was having his first start for his new trainer when he won today with regular pilot Craig Thornley in the bike. Sent straight to the front from his inside draw, Gotta Grunter was attacked a couple of times mid race but still had enough in reserve to hold on for a deserved success. He paced the 2600 meters mobile in 3:19.6, a mile rate of 2:03.5 with closing sectionals of 58.7 and 29.5. One thing you can be sure of is that this latest win by these two well known characters of harness racing in Canterbury will be celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm at one of the local watering holes tonight. Gotta Grunter Harnesslink media

The ring-around once again delivered for punters last week, with five winners and four placegetters. Among them was Lady Mackendon ($6), who was labelled a ‘good thing’ by Mark Jones, Galleon’s Triumph ($6.60, and Russet Norkotah, who was tipped out by Josh Dickie and paid a phenomenal $20 for a place ($31FF). Let’s hope for a repeat performance this week: Forbury – Thursday Nathan Williamson: Rates Hope And Pray as a good each-way prospect at odds – race one. Jonny Cox: Believes that King Louie only has to run up to his best to be a serious contender in the fourth race on the card. Tim Williams: Thinks impressive last start winner Scottish Duchess can figure in the finish again – race five. Matthew Williamson: Has opted for last start winner Monnay despite her huge 60 metre handicap – race six. Ricky May: Expects Riga Doon to prove very hard to beat from his ace alley in the last race on the card. Addington – Friday Stephen McNally: Has opted for Hikoi in the first race on the card. She looks a strong chance on the back of a good trial performance. Craig Thornely: Thinks Playaway, who is drawn to get a nice trip, can figure in the finish at nice odds. Ken Barron:  Couldn’t spit Mighty Major – race four & Mighty Flying Major – Alexandra Park race seven. Both look to have very good chances. Terry Chmiel: Thinks stable newcomer Trips On Me can bob up at odds in the fifth race on the card. David Butt: Rates the chances of Stingray, who drops back to a C1 and will seek a penalty free win – race six. Anthony Butt: Has opted for Prestine, who looked to be travelling well before galloping last start – race eight. Alexandra Park – Friday Tony Herlihy: Rates Whisper Jet, who has been racing well and looks extremely well placed as his bet of the week – race one. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Crocket’s Cullen, who has trialled up stylishly and looks the winner of the eighth race on the card. Josh Dickie: Is keen on three-year-old trotting filly Katieellen Castleton, who was a good second last start and has worked on well during the week – race nine. Timaru – Sunday Mark Jones: Isn’t labelling anything a ‘good thing’ this week. However, he does like the chances of Kowhai Sunrise – race three. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Big Lucy – race seven  

Four-year-old trotting mare Lady Mackendon gave her driver and co-owner Kimberley Butt an early birthday present when overhauling her 12 rivals in the first race at Forbury Park last night. Butt, who turns 20 today, owns the mare in partnership with her not-so-better half Matthew Cross, who enjoyed his first taste of success as an owner. The win spearheads what is going to be a big weekend for Cross, who is a broadcasting cadet for Trackside. Cross is set to make his commentating debut at Rangiora on Sunday. “I was hoping I would get to call a race by the end of the year, but I never expect the opportunity to come along this early,” said Cross. Cross was full of praise for his mentors, commentator Mark McNamara and presenter Greg O’Connor. “They have both been a huge help and I definitely wouldn’t be calling on Sunday if it wasn’t for their guidance.” Lady Mackendon, who is trained by Butt’s employer Mark Jones, had three unplaced runs for Terry O’Sullivan before being leased by Butt and Cross. She had indicated that she would go close in her debut for the Jones stable with an impressive win at the Rangiora workouts on the 21st of June. Lady Mackendon, who was bred by Butt’s Grandmother Jenny along with Don McKenzie, hails from the family of smart trotters Genius, Dream Machine, and Vulcan. By Mitchell Robertson

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