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By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    Junior driver Ellie Barron’s hoping a change of scene will equate to a chance of luck, with the Southlander moving north for a short stint at Mark Jones’ Burnham stables. “I was just keen to learn a bit more, especially for a stable that’s always supportive of junior drivers.” On Sunday at Addington she will team up with his trotter Kowhai Sundown as she tries to secure her first driving success since winning in Invercargill on March 1. That followed four winners in February. “I felt like I was on a bit of a roll before Covid ….” Barron has had the odd spell in Canterbury before, working for her uncle Ken Barron. This time she’s staying with him  - “we’re flatmates” -  and working at Jones’ Overport Lodge just down the road. Barron’s best known for her quick actions that saved fellow driver Ricky May’s life after he collapsed during the Central Otago Cup at Omakau in January.  A trained physiotherapist she performed CPR on him until paramedics arrived.   Just how long she’ll be in Canterbury is uncertain. She says it’s just “for the time being” with the likely scenario she’ll return south in the spring. “All of dad’s (Clark Barron) horses have been turned out but by the end of September/October they will be ready to rumble.” In the meantime she’s looking forward to driving some of Jones’ horses, the likes of Burnham Boy, Plutonium Lady, Lulu Le Mans and Willison. But firstly it’s Kowhai Sundown, a winner two starts back for Sam Ottley, before a seventh last Sunday.   “He was just too far off them last start, he’s back to mobile on Sunday” He has won from a mobile before, by four lengths, though it was two years ago  ( 2018 Haras des Trotteurs 2YO trot silver). And another junior driver Mikayla Lewis has also moved stables. She’s linked up with Mark Purdon, Natalie Rasmussen and the rest of the powerful All Stars team at Rolleston.  She’s driven 10 winners since her first in 2018, with the bulk of them for Ashburton trainer Brent White. “Brent got me started in the driving ranks and we did quite well but I needed to look closer to Christchurch. One night we were out socially with Mark and Natalie and Nat said that if a position became available they would be interested if I was and here I am” Lewis’ partner is Nathan Purdon (Mark’s son) who trains in partnership with Cran Dalgety at West Melton. While working at the stables and driving at the trials is her immediate priority, she could well don the stable’s famous colours for the first time on raceday in the new season.

Stylish Memphis poised for return - But for how long? As Burnham trainer Mark Jones prepares for the return of the best horse in his stable, he’s unsure exactly what the future holds for her. In January star filly Stylish Memphis linked up with the all-powerful All Stars stable for an Australian campaign that included victory in the $200,000 NSW Oaks at Menangle. It was then decided she would stay with Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen until the end of the season. That was to include such lucrative races as the Nevele R series, the Oaks and the Harness Jewels, until COVID-19 threw the schedule into turmoil. After enjoying the good life with her owner Wayne Higgs, Stylish Memphis is due to re-join Jones at Overport Lodge in the next few weeks. She has won seven from 13 starts as a two and three-year-old and nearly $250,000 in stakes. And that’s where things get a bit murky. “The plan is to get her back here and then prepare for the Brisbane Oaks. But the stakes aren’t what they were. It used to be a $100,000 race – now it could be $30,000 or so … “ said Jones. And the problems don’t end there. “There are no races here for the four-year-old mares, and her rating is getting up there so she’ll be up against the free-for-all pacers, Henry Hubert and the like.” She’s currently a rating 86, Henry Hubert 92. So Jones is looking at a number of races – some against the colts – and also the Nevele R final on New Zealand Cup day, before heading to Melbourne next year before the Ladyship Mile in Sydney. He says he could remain the trainer or she could be entrusted with the Purdons again. It all depends on timing and circumstances. As for some of Jones’ other horses Willison, Burnham Boy, Plutonium Lady and Majestic Lavros have only started jogging and a Queensland campaign could be on the cards for them. Three look likely to be at Addington when racing resumes : “Deny Everything, Sioux Princess, Queenofdance will be ready to race that first meeting on the 29th.” While racing’s ground to a halt in recent weeks Jones has still kept himself busy. “I have a few two-year-olds to qualify and hope to race June/July and I have sold a few over the lockdown period.”   Harness Racing New Zealand

The world champion who barely drives says he won’t get nervous before Tuesday’s $750,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup In fact, Mark Jones won’t even be at Addington for the first half of Cup day. Jones has got the call to drive NSW pacer Our Uncle Sam in the great race even though he had never sat behind him until yesterday. Our Uncle Sam, runner-up in both the Inter Dominion Final and Hunter Cup last season, is staying at Jones property with trainer Chris Frisby, whose son Anthony has been the regular driver. But the Frisbys are part-timers, training their horses before they run their produce store in Bathurst, so they wanted somebody more experienced for the Cup. And Jones has plenty of experience, just not recently. Remarkably for a man who burst on to the scene 20 years ago, set records and won the World Driving Champs in 2003, Jones rarely drives these days. He has competed in just three races this season and won only six from 80 drives in New Zealand last year, a far cry from when he partnered 124 winners from 976 drives in 2008. It is not that Jones’s services wouldn’t be in demand, he prefers training and also prefers winning. And he thinks his best chance of winning is putting on drivers who are out there all the time. “So I was a bit surprised to get the call up,” says the now 40-year-old. “I thought that must have gone for the heavyweight option. “But it will be great to be out there because it is the Cup after all and in some ways it will be easier to drive in because all the drivers out there will be good drivers, which is how it should be for all premier races.”But even a rusty Jones won’t be getting too stirred up by a rare shot at harness racing’s holy grail. “I won’t think about it too much. It will actually be the first till I’ve been to Cup Day in a few years because I usually watch it on tv. You get to see more as well as the replays. “I will take the horses in later so I actually will still watch the start of the day on television.” Our Uncle Sam has had no luck in his two New Zealand starts at Ashburton and Kaikoura but the likely strong pace of the Cup should bring out the best in him and while he probably can’t win, his $100 fixed odds are some of the true overs in the race. “He has actually impressed me more now I have sat behind him than he does to the eye in track work and I think he is in that bunch behind the big two.” That big two are favourites Spankem and Thefixer, with Jones sure the latter is the horse to beat. “I think he has more ways he can win than Spankem and he is a very good beginner so he is the one to beat.”   By Michael Guerin

Story courtesy of Mark Jones Harness Racing. Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones was saddened by the passing of former Balcairn trainer Maurice Bailey at Burwood Hospital, Christchurch, recently. Maurice, who died aged 87, was a great supporter of Mark in his early junior driving day. The North Canterbury trainer enjoyed a top strike rate with a small team until retiring from training in 2000. He was instrumental in lifting Mark’s profile in his first year as a junior driver, putting him on a big mover in the trot ranks in Andrew Eyre. Just two months after Mark scored his first career win with Lord Phantom, trained by his father Peter, at Blenheim in November 1996, Mark was winning with Andrew Eyre at Nelson in January 1997. Andrew Eyre, who had won his Motukarara maiden with Peter Jones driving him in January 1996, came of age in 1997. After winning for Mark at Nelson, he’d won seven on end by March 29, with Mark steering him home in six of them, and Karen O’Connor saluting in another junior event. Mark went on to win a Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup in October 1998 with Andrew Eyre for Maurice, and another two Addington wins. Peter Jones trained the horse later in 1999, with Mark driving him to win the South Bay Trotters Cup at Kaikoura and run a Group One third to Lyell Creek and Sundowner Bay in the 1999 Dominion. Mark also drove Andrew Eyre in the last of the horse’s 14 wins (from 55 starts) at Addington in December 1999. “I will never forget how good Maurice was to me and without fail, there was a $200 cash sling after every win,” Mark said.  “I’ve always said I would never be where I am today without Maurice.”  Mark says drivng Andrew Eyre put him on the map. Also in May 1997, Maurice gave him drives on Sandtross, winning first-up in May. Mark scored six pacing wins between May and August, 1997, with the then in-form Macatross gelding. By 2003, Mark had become a World Driving Champion. “I’ve also been friends with Maurice’s two sons, Anthony and Phil, ever since driving for him,” Mark said. “We’ve had great nights since, as they owned night clubs. When I was  17 and winning races for Maurice, it made it easy for me to get in.” “He was an amazing trainer. He never used a stop-watch. His horses were always great-mannered and had a top strike rate.”   Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

Matthew Williamson allowed himself the moment most young New Zealand representatives surely take on Sunday night. He unpacked his flash new driving colours, the black ones with the silver fern, tried them on and checked out how he looked in the mirror. "It was a bit surreal to be honest, it definitely made me puff the chest out," says Williamson. On Friday, the Oamaru horseman will wear those colours for real but on the other side of the globe in harness racing's World Driver's Championships in Sweden. Harness racing drivers' championships are a curious beast because the best driver could draw the worst horses in the ballot and finish last. And vice versa. But New Zealand drivers have a disproportionately high success rate, with six individual champions in the 29 series that have been contested: Dexter Dunn, Mark Jones, Maurice McKendry, Tony Herlihy, Robert Cameron and the late Kevin Holmes. The Kiwi success rate can, at least partially, be put down to our drivers being among the most versatile in the world. After all, they drive horses on left and right-handed tracks, in stand and mobile starts, on grass, grit and clay tracks, over a wide range of distances. And of course, they drive both trotters and pacers. That would sum up 28-year-old Williamson, having cut his teeth in the sometimes rustic scene of the deep south before becoming a regular near the top of the national premiership. He leaves tomorrow for the champs which begin on Friday and continue for a week, even driving on the first day of the famous Elitlopp meeting in Stockholm on Saturday. "It is getting real now, it was after I put the colours on Sunday night," says Williamson. "I think a lot of kids grow up hoping they get to wear the silver fern so that is pretty amazing." Williamson made a sacrifice for that privilege, giving up driving at the Jewels at Addington on June 1. "It probably means missing three Jewels drives but I am thrilled to be going." And Williamson is the man for the job because Swedish harness racing is all trotting, with no pacers, and Williamson is from trotting royalty. His father Phil holds the record for the most trotting winners trained in a season in New Zealand and his brothers Nathan and Brad are also top drivers. Remarkably, the quartet drove the first four home in a trotting race at Gore on Saturday. Of Matthew's 780 career successes in New Zealand, 280 have been in trotting races, an extremely high percentage for a leading driver. So while Williamson is going to Sweden to try to win, he is also going there to learn. "It sounds like we will be going to some of the stables over there ... I can't wait to see how they do things with the trotters," he admits. "So while the driving comes first I will be asking their trainers plenty of questions to learn as much as I can and see what I can bring home." Even if he can wear the silver fern to WDC glory, Williamson has an even more important moment waiting for him upon his return. His fiancee, talented reinswoman Charlotte Purvis, is expecting the couple's first child on June 10. "So I am hoping the baby can hold on till I get back."   Michael Guerin

IT’S that time of year again. Aussie trainers are starting to cast their mind towards possible NZ Harness Jewels raids. And leading the way is Australia’s exciting three-year-old Lochinvar Art and trained Laura Crossland. “We’re very keen,” she said. “He’s had no luck with draws all season and kept running big races.” Lochinvar Art followed a third in the Victoria Derby with a third in the NSW Derby. Both from awful barriers. “We’ve spoken with Darrin Williams and said how much we’d love the Aussie invite,” Crossland added. Kiwi trainer Mark Jones and his Aussie partner, Aaron Goadsby, are just as keen to get an Aussie invite with their juvenile filly Lulu Le Mans, who followed a third against the boys in the Sapling Stakes with a second in the Pink Bonnet last Saturday night. “She’s the right sort of filly and not really paid-up for anything else,” Goadsby said. “Ideally we’d get the invite early, take her to Auckland and race her in the Aussies colours in the lead-up races.” Powerhouse trotting team Yabby Dams is considering four-year-old Amour De Frere for the Jewels. Trainer Anton Golino said she was the right sort of mare with similar speed to stablemate Dance Craze, who finished a luckless third in last year’s Jewels 4YO mares’ trot. She went on to win the Group 1 Great Southern Star a few weeks back. “Amour De Frere would be ideal if I can get her spot on, which can be a challenge. We’re definitely looking at it,” Golino said. Amour De Frere made it seven wins from just 18 starts when she led throughout to win the Group 2 Breed For Speed Silver final at Melton in a slick 1min57.5sec mile rate for 1720m last Saturday night.   Adam Hamilton

The first siring winner by three-time New Zealand Cup champion, Terror To Love, will contest the Paleface Adios 2yo Wayne Wilson Pace at Albion Park on July 6. The Mark Jones trained Millwood Tilly was Terror To Love's first triumph in a $6,000 two-year-old pace at Newcastle on February 23. That was the bay filly's debut run. She then finished fourth in the Group Two $50,000 Sapling Stakes at Tabcorp Menangle last Saturday (March 2). Millwood Tilly is owned by Tony and Karen Turpin of Haigslea, their daughter Chantal, and Denis Golinski. The same owners also own the closely related Rob Roy Mattgregor gelding, Mattgregor, who has won 16 of his 38 starts and $141,374. In human terms they are cousins. Millwood Tilly's dam (Miss Sunshine) and Mattgregor's dam (Albuquerque) are both out of the 2000 Albert Albert six-win New Zealand mare, Princess Alberta. Princess Alberta also left Alberto Contador (1:49.8) who won 44 races and $664,218. “Millwood Tilly will have one more start on Saturday in Sydney with ‘Jonesy’ in the Group Two race ($50,000 Pink Bonnet), and then she will be spelled for the Winter Carnival here in Brisbane,” Turpin (Tony) said. “I’ve never seen her, other than in a photo, but we were looking through the Sales catalogue and I wanted her because she was closely related to Mattgregor,” he added. Jones paid $13,000 for the filly, on behalf of his clients, to Canterbury breeder Katie Carville at last year’s Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka (South Auckland). On debut Millwood Tilly drew five (of six) and Jones shot the $1.45 favourite to the lead soon after the start. That was the winning of the race. She bolted in by 6.2 and 28.6 metres, pacing the mobile mile (1609m) in 2:00.8. Her sectionals were 30.3, 33.3, 28.9, and 28.3. “I’ve never had a starter in the ‘Paleface’ before so that will be quite a thrill. In fact I haven’t had too many smart 2-year-olds over the years. She’s certainly one of the better juveniles I’ve had – and I've never laid a finger on her. “Mark tells me she is a progressive type and that the ‘Terror To Loves’  go okay early. I’m looking forward to seeing her in the flesh,” Turpin said. He said the bay would be trained by Peter and Chantal McMullen (daughter) when she gets to Queensland. “There’s a real ‘Mattgregor’ connection here. It all started through my mate Chris Barsby one day when we were chatting. He told me ‘Jonesy’ had an unraced 3-year-old pacer named Mattgregor. “He never raced in New Zealand, but we bought him on the trainer’s word. That was more than good enough because Mattgregor has won a lot of races and more than $100,000. he even ran fifth in the Chariots Of Fire. “It’s quite ironic really because I’ve never been to New Zealand. I don’t even have a passport. I’ve bought a few off Mark now. He’s a quality horseman, a good friend, and a great judge,” he said. Turpin said he had also purchased Mattgregor's little 2-year-old half sister (by Sunshine Beach) named Miss Ruby Sunshine from Jones. "She finished second in her only start for Mark in New Zealand last Sunday. That was a Group Three race. That filly will end up here too. "According to Mark, he believed Peter would be suited by ‘Tilly' and Chantal - 'Ruby'. Who knows what horse they will drive. They will have to argue over that one," Turpin joked. Queensland’s two-year-old racing program now features six Group 1 races. Millwood Tilly’s winning debut run at Newcastle last month: https://www.hrnsw.com.au/trotstv/replays/39842   Duane Ranger for Racing Queensland

Singleton's Aaron Goadsby says The Bus will now target the NSW Breeders Challenge series and Brisbane harness racing winter carnival after claiming the opening race of Saturday night's Miracle Mile meeting at Menangle.  The four-year-old horse won the $25,000 listed Lady Drivers Invitational (1609 metres) in a career-best, mile-rate of one minute and 51 seconds.  Goadsby, who prepares runners for New Zealand-based trainer Mark Jones, was again impressed with the Golden Guitar runner-up. "He has been going good and that was a good result," he said. Since arriving in Australia around four months ago The Bus has started nine times - six wins, two seconds and a third. The group 1 Miracle Mile was won by four-year-old gelding Spankem. By Josh Callinan Repprinted with permission of The Newcastle Herald

The Bus still has his wheels spinning and is set to commence from barrier 11 in the running of the $25,000 Hygain Golden Guitar Final at the Tamworth harness racing meeting on Thursday night. With impeccable form going into the final, The Bus, a four-year-old Art Major-Rondel Franco horse will look the early race favourite. After winning The Pub Group Gold Nugget last Thursday night and setting a new track record of 1.56.10 for the 1980 metres, The Bus then contested the Furney’s Stock Feeds Tamworth Golden Guitar Heat 4 with success last Sunday night. Trained by Mark Jones The Bus has been carefully looked after by Singleton Heights caretaker trainer Aaron Goadsby, who is looking for the “golden double” - The $10,000 Pub Group Gold Nugget plus the $25,000 Hygain Golden Guitar Final. If The Bus wins on Thursday night that will make it three wins in eight days with the horse’s owners Grant and Kathy Hatton being trackside in Tamworth, after travelling from their home in Christchurch NZ to witness all their horses runs. “He is a very strong horse and he can be driven with the speed on or he can take the sit, but we will have to wait and see how the Final pans out,” stated reinsman Guy Chapple who will once again take the reins behind The Bus. Chapple is no stranger to winning Golden Guitar Finals himself and is knocking on the door of his third win in the Listed Classic race. The 2013 running saw Chapple take the win with the Shane Tritton trained Mach Beauty with his first success coming behind Neil Shannon in 2006. “I would like to look up the heats to see how many of those I have won over the years,” joked Chapple. In his heat from the seven barrier, Chapple let The Bus settle into stride racing three back on the outside running line before making a three-wide run around the field as they turned into the home straight on the first occasion. The Bus placed race pressure on Maitland pacer Ashark for the majority of the 1980 metre journey before achieving a half neck win over the Melanie Elder trained and Brad Elder driven Ashark who was the race favourite. Tamworth pacer Pure Laughter (Danny Mackney) was 16 metres away third. “He is a strong little horse- strong as a bull - if I had of let him rip at the half, he would have broken their hearts but we wanted to try and get him into the final,” Chapple said. Quarters were covered in 31.2sec; 29.9sec;28.7sec; 29.1 seconds and the mile rate of 1.57.9 recorded. By Julie Maughan Reprinted with permission of the Northern Daily Leader      

Kiwi horseman Mark Jones is returning to Brisbane. The former World Driving champion campaigned for the first time in the Sunshine State last year and although went winless in the major events, he’s keen to right that wrong. His major drawcard last season was the now North American based Delightful Memphis who chased home Shartin in the Queensland Oaks. This year, Jones is sending a pair of talented three-year-olds in The Bus and Tres Vite. Both will target the Derby and Oaks features in the coming weeks. “They’re only three once and these race make strong appeal, both horses are fit and well and deserve an opportunity to land a big race result. I had a great time in Brisbane last year and keen to head back again.” Jones declared. The Bus will start on Sunday in the Gr.1 $150,000 Breeders Challenge Final at TABCORP Park, Menangle but has drawn poorly and takes on the most exciting pacer in the country in Ignatius. Young reinsman Chris Geary has the job of navigating a path from gate 11 while Ignatius has drawn ideally in gate 3. Last start in the semi-final, The Bus finished a tidy second behind Ignatius in a time of 1:53.1. The Bus will start in both the Gr.3 $$30,540 South East Derby on July 14 before tackling the Gr.2 $75,540 Queensland Derby the following week. Tres Vite will accompany The Bus to Queensland and the talented filly will be set for the Gr.3 $30,540 South East Oaks next week before starting in the Gr.2 $75,540 Queensland Oaks the following week. Unbeaten in both starts to date while in Sydney, the Bettors Delight filly scored an impressive victory via the passing lane at Bathurst last night (Wednesday) when handled by Ellen Rixon. Tres Vite rated 1:55.8 after scoring at Penrith the start prior in a time of 1:57.4. Earlier this season, Tres Vite finished second behind Dibaba in the Gr.2 $45,000 Southland Oaks at Ascot Park in Ivercargill. “Both horses are above average and will acquit themselves well in whatever they contest. Given their current form, I’m keen to see if we get some black type against their names before seasons end. “The Bus has always been held in high regard and it’s just a shame he’s got such a bad draw this weekend, I thought he went really well in the semi-final. He’ll need plenty of luck this weekend but he can feature in the Queensland features. “We were undecided about Tres Vite and the Queensland trip but when she won again last night, we decided to go for it and I think she’ll race well. Hopefully we can get some luck with draws and then we won’t be far away, I think Sociable looks the filly to beat this season.” Jones operates from Christchurch while also having a satellite stable at Menangle in Sydney. Chris Barsby

Kiwi-bred two-year-old filly Platinum Revolution has been the latest Australian raider added to the list for the 2018 Harness Jewels to be held at Cambridge Raceway on Saturday 2 June. A Group Three Pink Bonnet winner, Platinum Revolution has accepted an invitation into the 2YO Diamond with a record of three starts, two wins and a third. The win in the Pink Bonnet in early March was over the distance of one mile, in which she recorded a time of 1.54.7. Trained by Shane and Lauren Tritton of Sydney and owned by Rob Jones, Shane was thrilled to receive the invitation and did not hold back on his opinion of the filly. “I’m very happy with Gucci (Platinum Revolution). She has come back better this preparation and is undoubted the best two-year-old filly I have trained,” he stated. “She is versatile and tough and we are very excited to be bringing her to the Jewels.” The daughter of Changeover has a unique to connection to another Australian, now claimed as an honorary Kiwi by the New Zealand racing industry. She was co-bred by commentator Mark McNamara, along with his wife Katie, her father Steve and their good friend Aaron Goadsby. Her dam, Champagne Franco, was lightly raced having just two career starts but won on debut at Rangiora in 2011 for then trainer/driver Mark Jones. Platinum Revolution is her second live foal and first to race, and her career has been keenly followed by her breeders. “I’m really happy for the horse more than anything,” said Mark.  “She was the most beautiful natured yearling an absolute pleasure to have around.” “All the credit has to go to Matt Cross, he broke her in. And to the team at Mark Jones stable who did the early work with her.” “I knew when Shane bought her she was going get her chance but to know now she’s coming for the Jewels is extremely exciting. Her Mum got some extra hay this morning.” Whilst Mark cannot make the Jewels this year, his wife Katie will be present at the meeting to cheer Platinum Revolution home for her breeders. Which is fitting given she gifted the filly her name. “Katie named her. The ‘Platinum’ came from the dam’s ‘Champagne’ factor, and ‘Revolution’ is from the sire ‘Changeover,’” explained Mark. “Katie was away when the horse left, so she is looking forward to seeing her again.” Platinum Revolution joins an impressive Australian assualt on the Jewels in 2018, with invitations already accepted by Custodian, Wobelee, Carla’s Pixel, Shez All Rock and Jilliby Kung Fu. 2018 could potentially see the first year the Australians take a Jewels victory. Jess Smith

Many are saying Saturday's Northern Southland Trotting Club harness racing fields are the best seen in the south for a long time and they're not wrong. The sight of a fresh crop of two year olds; split into fillies and colts and geldings races, is in itself great to see and that's just the start of the story here. The inaugural Haras des Trotteurs Southland Trotting Oaks has carded a field full of depth and is proof of the emergence of Majestic Son as a sire of quality squaregaiters. Six of the eleven starters in Saturday's feature for trotting fillies are by Majestic Son. And there's no doubting that Wintonian Michelle Caig will be on-course just to see Renezmae, a horse she bred and raised. Renezmae, the likely favourite, won the Group One Breeders Crown for two year old fillies in Australia last season. After racing tough at Ashburton in the Hambletonian Classic last month she ran a brave fourth. The trip away and the race at Ascot Park will improve her chances for the New Zealand Trotting Oaks in a fortnight. But a win on Saturday won't surprise either. There is no doubting that trotting is on the climb in this country and this inititive is one of the many good things to come out of the Southland region this season. The New Zealand Standardbred Breeders, led by John Mooney and Brad Reid, have been to the forefront in getting this $20,000 race off the ground and the Australian based Hara des Trotteurs have been quick to support the fillies feature. Another inititive this season in the south has been the Nuggets Series. Starting in August, all heats have been worth $12,000 and all winners and second placegetters have become eligible to race in the $20,000 final at Ascot Park on Saturday. All winners, with the exception of Ardtoo, have fronted up and it a race that looks like a preview for the Southern Supremacy Stakes Final on Diamonds Day at the end of next month. The highest rated horse by a mile is the Mark Jones trained The Bus at R81. He's won six races this season with the next best rated horse being Zealand Star (R70) the winner of three. This for me is the race of the day with favourite horses like Franco Santino drawing wide and The Bus and the highly rated Lawrence having to content with second line draws.  Then we get to the three; Group Three races, on a day where there seems to be no undercard. The Yaldhurst Hotel Northern Southland Trotting Cup has had many great winners over the years including Mossdale Connor, Isaiah, Terror To Love (twice), Stunin Cullen and Bondy. More The Better will probably be the favourite for Saturday distance feature. As a three year old, he really came on late in the season and put together a winning sequence of four while campaigning in Australia. His wins there included the Group Two Queensland Derby. He comes into this 2700 metre race fresh but having won two trials. He's won his only standing start in Australia last season.  The Group Three Southern Lights, sponsored by Pryde's Easifeeds, is another mouth watering affair. The return of Dark Horse, who has been fitted for her return to racing at the Winton Workouts, will bring many to the track.   Harriot Of Mot, who has a few ex- Southlanders as owners, looks to be her main rival. She won this race in 2016. Smokey Mac, who currently leads the four year old ranking for the Harness Jewels also lines up in this feature. Trainer Brett Gray will get a good idea as to where he's at by racing against the better class trotters.  The Caduceus Club of Southland, who sponsor The Super Nuggets Final, also sponsor the two year old fillies feature with Alabar Stud. It also carries Group Three status. This race has been around for sixteen years and some of the early winners were Western Dream and Beaudiene Bad Babe. More recently Joanne's A Delight, Delightful Memphis and Dizzy Miss Lizzy have won. There are some other intriguing battles as well on the day with Hail Christian up against Swamp Major in the last race and quality up-and-coming trotters BD Love, Zoey's Gift and Jaw D Nancy squaring off. The weather forecast looks good so all roads lead to Ascot Park on Saturday for what should be a bumper day of harness racing. See ya there.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing  

Mark Jones has joined an elite group of harness racing trainers by training the winners of 500 races. Jones was sitting on 497 wins before the Nelson two day meeting kicked off on Friday.  He won with Saveapatrol, and the The Bus on Friday and then again with The Bus in the Nelson Cup yesterday to bring up his milestone. The Bus (Art Major - Rondel Franco) was impressive on Friday for driver Samantha Ottley, running a 1-59.0 mile rate to easily account for a rating 54 to 69 field. He was even better yesterday rating a 2.00.5 mile rate from a stand over the staying test of 3000m. Cable Beach was just as impressive in second after leading for driver Dexter Dunn but he could not withstand the late burst from The Bus who beat him by a neck at the line. Saveapatrol (Christian Cullen - Rondel Franco) a converted pacer who easily won his first trotting the first day at Nelson is a half brother to The Bus. Both horses are out of the good mare Rondel Franco who won 2 races in New Zealand before being exported overseas and winning another 35 races in the USA and Canada. The Bus winning the Nelson Cup yesterday. Harnesslink Media

Top pacing mare Nek Time has been retired after suffering another leg injury early this week. Nek Time was being aimed at this weeks Nelson harness racing meeting, but instead will head to the paddock to recover from the injury and then be put in foal next season.  The speedy mare was trained by Glenys and Terry Chmiel and finished her racing career with 8 wins from 25 lifetime starts.  Nek Time (Gotta Go Cullect - Braithwaite) won several group races including the Queensland Oaks in Australia and had stake earnings of close to $160,000.   ________________________________________________________________________________ Former 11 win pacer Saveapatrol will have his first start as a trotter at Nelson on Friday. The brilliant but unsound son of Christian Cullen qualified as a trotter a month ago winning a Rangiora trial by 19 lengths, going some nine seconds under the qualifying time. Saveapatrol qualifying as a trotter   Harnesslink Media  

Champion harness racing pacer Auckland Reactor has had a hot couple of days as a sire, with his progeny winning several races over the last week including the PGG Wrightson yearling sales final at Alexandra Park on Sunday night with the unbeaten Chase Auckland (Auckland Reactor - Delicata - Falcon Seelster).  Soho Burning Love( 3f Auckland Reactor-Soho Bordeaux - Western Terror) was another big winner for Auckland Reactor on Saturday night at Melton when she blitzed a 3yo fillies field by 30 meters in a stunning 1-52.6 mile rate.  Soho Burning Love is trained and was driven by Michael Stanley. Smoke N Reactor was impressive for Mark Jones at Winton on Sunday when she was attacked for most of the race but was still too good winning in a 1-58.8 mile rate on a slushy track. Smoke N Reactor is out of Smoke N Mirrors a Pacific Rocket mare who won ten races between 2007 and 2009. Ardtoo (Auckland Reactor - Tobetoo - Dream Away) also won at Winton on Sunday and was an easy winner of the Nugget Final. The ease of the win did not reflect the price as Ardtoo paid a whopping $62.60 and $10.30 on the tote. Chase Auckland is clearly the best performed son on the racetrack for Auckland Reactor and has followed in his fathers footsteps so far by winning his first seven races in a row. Auckland Reactor won his first seventeen starts before being tripped up by a standing start race at Cambridge in 2009 where he was beaten by three quarters of a length by the Geoff Small trained All Tiger after breaking badly at the start. Auckland Reactor currently is a clear second on the three-year-old sire's list for money won in New Zealand to none other than Champion sire Bettor's Delight. Ardtoo winning easily at Winton   Smoke N Reactor Soho Burning Love Chase Auckland Harnesslink Media  

Ultimate Fighting Championship star Robert Whittaker is a man who knows how to win and so too it seems is the four-year-old harness racing horse named after him. Ashlee Grives drove impressive Kiwi Whittaker to his second win in as many weeks. A week after Whittaker won his heat of the Bathurst Harness Racing Club’s Star Trek series with a flat tyre, he showed his toughness once more in taking out his 1,730 metres semi-final. The son of Sportswriter trained in Christchurch by Mark Jones had to do plenty of work three wide to get in a position to challenge for the win, but over the last 200m when Whittaker accelerated, no-one could match him. Whittaker ($2.20) went on to win by 6½m over Amanda Turnbull's talented mare Eliza Dushku ($2.10 favourite) and now shapes as the runner to beat in the November 9 final. “He’s a very nice horse and the beauty of him is he can do that bit of work and still have that speed at the end,” Ashlee Grives, who has driven Whittaker over the past fortnight, said. “Hopefully he pulls up okay after this because he’ll take a bit of beating in the final. “He’s a very nice horse and it’s a pleasure to drive him … it’s a pleasure to drive him in a good series like this.” Chasing four consecutive wins, Eliza Dushku began quickly from her inside draw and held out Our Chittybangbang from the stable of 2016 Star Trek series victor Chris Frisby. Grives, who had to contend with a barrier seven draw, guided Whittaker three wide in search of a sit. As the bell sounded he was 3m off the pace, and from that spot he struck down the home straight. By Anya Whitelaw Reprinted with permission of The Western Advocate

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