A New Zealand record run by top squaregaiter Master Lavros in the $80,000 Fred Shaw Memorial NZ Trotting Championship at Addington on Friday, April 11, has earned him a Auckland Rowe Cup trip. Master Lavros adds to his Group One tally, wearing down Clover Don in the $80,000 Fred Shaw Memorial NZ Trotting Championship at Addington. Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones was considering spelling the 5YO Sundon gelding but Friday’s performance has Master Lavros in the frame to attempt a Dominion-Rowe double. “I was rapt with him. At this stage, I will head to the Rowe Cup and look at the Greenlane Cup ($30,000) the week before the Rowe ($150,000, May 9), then the paddock,” Mark said. Master Lavros was a luckless fifth as a relatively raw 4YO in last year’s Rowe Cup, won by veteran Stig from Springbank Sam and Boizel. All honours were with Master Lavros in Friday’s Group One trot free-for-all. He trotted the mobile 2600m in 3:13.1 (1:59.4 mile rate), shaving 0.2 of a second off Ima Gold Digger’s mark set when winning the daytime 2010 NZ Trotting Free-For-All at the NZ Cup meeting. The Kypros Kotzikas-owned squaregaiter, who lost his unruly tag for mobiles after the record-breaking win, came from last of the 10 runners, being timed over his last mile in 1:56.2. After moving up parked over the final lap, Mark was able to drop the big bay down to the markers behind strong front-runner Clover Don when trailer Royal Aspirations couldn’t hold his ground at the 700m. This was probably the winning of the race. Master Lavros was able to renew his energy for a final sprint lane crack at Clover Don inside the final 200m. Master Lavros did the rest, showing his toughness to win going away by three-quarters of a length, with Mark allowing himself a salute in a rare show of emotion. The Overport Lodge trainer had considered missing the Trotting Championship after Master Lavros was defeated in the $25,000 Glenferrie Farm 4 & 5YO Trotters Championship a week earlier. A late decision was made to give the horse his chance, with Master Lavros showing his class, notching his fifth win from 12 starts this term and his 13th win from only 28 career starts for $268,428 in stakes. Mark Jones racked up his 55th training win for the season in the Trotters Championship (following a Forbury double last Thursday). He is third on this season’s premiership by runaway leaders, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen (112) and second-placed Robert Dunn (75). By Jeff Scott (Courtesy of Mark Jones Racing)
Last week the ring-around produced six winners, including my bet of the week and my two each-way bets of the week. Others to tip out winners were Jonny Cox, Steve Richardson, and Ken Barron. Let’s see if some of the trainers and drivers can hold up their end of the bargain this week! Forbury – Thursday Dexter Dunn: Has surprisingly opted for Phat Freddy’s Drop, who will look to break maidens in the first race on the card. Jonny Cox: Rates Mako Banner as a very good each-way chance in race three. Quinella with Katy Perry perhaps? Craig Thornley: Was pleased with U Can I Can at the recent Motukarara workouts - race four Mark Jones: Expects Ultimate CC to prove very hard to beat in the ninth race on the card Terry Chmiel: Is expecting a bold performance from Angus T Jones in the ninth race. Alexandra Park - Friday Scott Phelan: Expects Cheers Kathy to be very hard to roll in the first race on the card. Simon Lawson: Has opted for impressive last start winner Destination Moon - race six Todd Mitchell: Is a very big fan of Mach's Gladiator, and expects him to be hard to roll in the ninth race on the card. Addington - Friday Blair Orange: Is bullish about the chances of Paramount Queen, who looks very well placed in race two. Anthony Butt: Thinks Thebestlove is a big chance in the NZ Trotting Derby - race four David Butt: Warns punters not to drop One Over Da Moon, who also competes in the NZ Trotting Derby - race four Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Expects Locharburn to prove to strong in the NZ Derby - race nine Ken Barron: Rates the chances of capable two-year-old filly Livura, who has drawn well for Friday’s assignment - race twelve Gavin Smith: Thinks Dana Duke could be well over the odds in the same event - race twelve Invercargill - Sunday Matthew Williamson: Has opted for the capable yet enigmatic Bet's Sun, who would only need to trot to win the first race on the card. Tim Williams: Thinks Just A Delight, who has finished second in her last three outings, is overdue a winning turn - race ten Andrew Armour Thinks Blanco, who has raced well since joining the barn of Tom Kilkelly, is a good each-way chance in race eleven. Motukarara – Sunday Ricky May: Believes Franco Salisbury will take all sorts of beating from his ace draw – race seven. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Best Bet: Char Do Neigh – Invercargill, race five Each-way: Dream Gal – Forbury Park, race five Emmanuel – Addington, race three Value: Ranfurly Rulz – Addington, race one
Congratulations to David Butt, Josh Dickie, Mark Jones, Simon Lawson, and Tim Williams who all tipped out winners last week. Unfortunately Blair Orange came up a ½ length short of tipping six consecutive winners, with the stablemate that he did highlight as the horse to beat holding on to win narrowly. Let’s find out what the boys have sorted out for us this week: Andrew Armour: Expects Armbro Courage to break maidens at very short notice – Winton, race six. Anthony Butt: Thinks Ideal Power can make it three straight victories – Addington, race seven. Blair Orange: Has opted to go head-to-head with Anthony, tipping Rocknroll Arden in the same event - Addington, race seven. Craig Thornely: Believes Gotta Grunter can break maidens after a string of seconds to open her career. She competes in the sixth race at Rangiora on Sunday. David Butt: Has a big opinion of One Over Da Moon and expects him to win the second race at Addington on Friday. Gavin Smith: Thinks the unbeaten Karanga Red Fantasy, who trialled well behind Adore Me on Monday, will prove hard to beat in race three at Addington on Friday. Jonny Cox: Expects Goodness Gracious Me, who was a game third in the Southland Oaks, to be very hard to beat in the seventh race at Winton on Sunday. Josh Dickie: Has opted for Sunny Vacation as his bet of the week – Alexandra Park, race ten. Ken Barron: Was keen around the chances of Quality Invasion but in the end opted for Majestic Time who will take all sorts of stopping in the NZ Trotting Oaks – Addington, race four. Mark Jones: Is very happy with Master Lavros and expects him to bounce back to winning for in the race ten at Addington on Friday. Matthew Williamson: Thinks talented but enigmatic trotter Bet’s Sun can bet its best foot forward in the third race at Rangiora on Sunday. Nathan Williamson: Thinks the consistent Defy is overdue a winning turn – Winton, race six. Ricky May: Expects extremely talented two-year-old trotter Monbet to prove too good in the first race at Rangiora on Sunday. Simon Lawson: Rates the chances of Besotted in the Kumeu Stakes at Alexandra Park on Friday. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Likes the chances of speedy filly God Forbid who should be better for her fresh up run – Alexandra Park, race five. Terry Chmiel: Thinks Little Less can get some money in the seventh race at Addington on Friday. Tim Williams: Has opted for Popular, who should be just that with punters after a very good run behind Raksdeal last start – Winton, race two. Todd Mitchell: Expects his stable star Prime Power to prove very hard to beat in the eighth race at Alexandra Park on Friday. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Best Bet: Saratoga – Alexandra Park, race ten. Each-way: Hug The Wind – Addington, race eleven. Smiles For Miles – Winton, race six. Value: Pomme Roy – Addington, race six.
Talented trainer Mark Jones knows that if he is patient now he will be rewarded later. That is why he has sent his superstar four-year-old Saveapatrol to the spelling paddock, bypassing an array of features including the Easter Cup, Taylor Mile, and the New Zealand Messenger. But it does stop there either as Saveapatrol will also miss the Harness Jewels, even though he is currently the 4YO Emerald Stakes leader. “I want to give him a good break so he can have a big preparation for the New Zealand Cup next season,” says Jones. “He has had a great season and has done more than I could have ever expected of him,” he added. “I want to look after him, that is why we are not going to be greedy and go for every race,” he explained. “I’m just lucky he has such a great owner (Grant Hatton) that is allowing me to do it.” “This way he should be able to race in top company for a few years,” he enthused. Meanwhile, Purdon and Rasmussen are set to launch a three-pronged attack on the upcoming Australian Pacing Gold Series in Australia with Follow The Stars, Kept Under Wraps, and Supersonic Miss, all set to fly out on Thursday. Follow The Stars and Supersonic Miss both trialled well yesterday at Addington, while Kept Under Wraps was a stylish debut winner at Invercargill on Sunday. However, news is not so good for Gentle Western, who was injured in Sunday’s Southern Supremacy smash. “He has cut his knee badly and taken some skin of his shoulder and will need two months out,” said Purdon’s son, Nathan. By Mitchell Robertson
After a couple of hiccups at the start of the season, last year’s top two-year-old trotting colt One Over Da Moon looks back on track as he heads towards the $80,000 New Zealand Trotting Derby on April 11. This was highlighted by the three-year-olds emphatic all of the way victory last night at Addington against older C2 & faster trotters. “He was having a few issues with a knee around Hambletonian time, but I have treated that and now only work him on soft surfaces during the week,” advised trotting maestro, Paul Nairn. “He seems right back on top of his game at the moment, and should take further improvement out of last night’s run,” he added. Nairn now plans on racing One Over Da Moon at Addington again next week, before tackling the Group One feature. “The 2600 metres will be right up his alley,” says Nairn confidently. “But there are a few nice ones who he is going to have to beat including Majestic Time, who seems to have come back really well.” “Still, I think my fella is as good as any of them,” he added Nairn also enjoyed success last night with smart trotting mare Lotalov, who will now contest next week’s $25,000 4-5YO Trotters Championship. But, while both Nairn and Mark Jones enjoyed doubles on the card, it was the Purdon and Rasmussen team that stole the show, winning five of the eleven races. Among those winners were smart types Alleluia and Linda Lovegrace, both of who look set for very big seasons. Meanwhile, the career of champion trotter Stig looks in jeopardy, with a decision to be made on his racing future on Monday. By Mitchell Robertson
The ring-around continues to gain momentum, so much so that it debuted on The Box Seat last night and will now hold a weekly spot on the show. Last week the Harnesslink ring-around produced seven winners with the best result being the Stephen Richardson tipped Djokovic who romped in by 8 & ½ lengths at odds of $6.20. Other winners included Sunhaven Express, who was victorious at a nice each-way price of $5.30 and $2.20. So, let see what the boys have come up with for us this week! Andrew Armour: Rates Armbro Courage as his best chance of the week – Invercargill, race three Blair Orange: Who is shooting for six winning tips in a row, expects Itz Bettor To Win to remain unbeaten after the first race at Invercargill on Sunday. Craig Thornely: Has opted for Smithy in the eighth race at Addington on Friday. David Butt: Rates Lotalov as a very good each-way bet in the seventh race at Addington on Friday. Dexter Dunn: Thinks the highly capable trotter Sheemon will prove very hard to beat in race seven at Addington on Friday. Gavin Smith: Has opted for Zena Mac, who was a bold second last start at Methven – Akaroa @ Motukarara, race four. Jonny Cox: Expects Smiles For Miles to be very hard to beat on Sunday – Invercargill, race three. Josh Dickie: Is bullish about the chances of Destination Moon in the last race at Cambridge tonight. Ken Barron: Expects Mighty Major to be very hard to stop from his inside barrier draw – Addington, race four. Mark Jones: Is prepared to give The Ultimate Storm one last chance - Addington, race eleven. Matthew Williamson: Rates Zhenya as his best chance of the week – Addington, race ten. Nathan Williamson: Thinks talented filly I Smart can get some money in the Southland Oaks – Invercargill, race eight. Simon Lawson: Has a high opinion of Unforgiving, and expects her to be very hard to beat in the third race at Cambridge tonight. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Thinks Robyn's Raider can make it back-to-back wins in the tenth race at Invercargill on Sunday. Terry Chmiel: Expects Swarozki to be competitive in the second race at Addington on Friday. Tim Williams: Has opted for Bobbie McArdle, who looks a good each-way chance in race five at Invercargill on Sunday. Todd Mitchell: Thinks It's All On will offer some good each-way value for punters – Cambridge, race ten. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink) Best Bets: Alleluia – Addington, race eight Tokohoka – Invercargill, race five Each-way: Blue Eyed Suzie – Invercargill, race seven Value: Holy Grail – Addington, race nine
Last week ring-around followers walked away with full pockets after Anthony Butt, Blair Orange, Jonny Cox, Ken Barron, Steve Richardson, Tim Williams, and Todd Mitchell, all tipped out winners. Let’s see what the boys have rustled up for us this week. Andrew Armour: Likes the chances of Dazzling Arden from her ace alley in the second race at Invercargill on Saturday. Blair Orange: Has opted for Rocknroll Arden, who was a luckless second last start. She competes in the third race at Timaru (Addington) on Friday. Craig Thornley: Thinks Gotta Grunter, who put in a couple of very tidy runs on the West Coast, is a good each-way chance in the sixth event at Timaru (Addington) on Friday. Jim Curtin: Thinks the enigmatic Sunchita will make it two wins in quick succession on Sunday at Methven. Jonny Cox: Rates Sunhaven Express as a strong each-way chance in the second race at Invercargill on Saturday. Matthew Williamson: Rates the chances of Royal Squeeze in the first race at Invercargill on Saturday. Mark Jones: Said he didn’t have an overly strong team in this week, but rated Goodness Gracious Me as the best of them. – Timaru (Addington), race five. Nathan Williamson: Has a lot of time for I Smart and expects her to be hard to beat in the sixth race at Invercargill on Saturday. Ricky May: Has opted for Pay Me Sush, who was a luckless second on debut. She competes in the sixth event at Timaru (Addington) on Friday. Simon Lawson: Is expecting a bold performance from Ton Tine, who is a newcomer to his father’s stable – Alexandra Park, race five. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Thinks Djokovic, with manners, will prove too strong in the third race at Cambridge tonight. Terry Chmiel: Is expecting a bold performance from Little Tess in the eighth race at Timaru (Addington) on Friday. Tim Williams: likes the chances of Just A Delight in the seventh race at Invercargill on Saturday. Todd Mitchell: Thinks Mach’s Gladiator can go back-to-back-to-back in the eighth race at Alexandra Park on Friday. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink) Best bets: Splendour – Cambridge, race eleven. No Doctor Needed – Invercargill, race eleven. Each-way: Royal Mach – Addington, race seven. Value: Real Life Hero – Methven, race two.
Four-time New Zealand Trotting Cup winning driver Todd “The Wizard” Mitchell will be the Methven Trotting Club’s guest drive at their annual March meeting, next week. Following on from two successful appearances by Tony Herlihy in the past two years, Mitchell was offered the opportunity to try his luck on the picturesque Mt Harding course for the first time and jumped at the opportunity. Regarded by many as the best grass track surface in New Zealand, the Methven track is also renowned as a tricky track to win a race on and was described by Herlihy as one of the toughest tracks to win a race on that he has driven on. After an unsuccessful first visit, Herlihy picked up a win on his return trip when saluting the judge with Jackaroo Bromac for trainer Mark Jones. So the challenge is well and truly set for Mitchell to try and better the effort of Herlihy when he debuts next week. Methven Trotting Club president Bruce Harper said the club was excited to have Mitchell on course this year. “Todd has a great reputation as a driver and a real rapport with horses,’’ he said. “He’s long been considered one of the best in the business and it’s a privilege to have him as a guest driver at this meeting. “Tony Herlihy’s two appearances sparked interest from North Island punters and we have no doubts that Todd will do the same.’’ Mitchell currently sits just 30 wins shy of his 1000th career driving win while his 195 wins as a trainer and many victories in the thoroughbred code only further underline his talents with racehorses. The Waikato horseman will be available for drives throughout the entire day of racing and trainers interested in utilising his services can contact Matt Markham on 0275107115. [Matt Markham | The Press [Sports & Racing Journalist]
The YOR ! Racing With Mark Jones Syndicate scored the perfect result, after only three days as lessees, when Crazy Heart won the Signprint Fillies and Mares Mobile Pace at Forbury on Thursday, March 6. The syndicate obtained the lease of the 3YO Santanna Blue Chip filly from breeders, Frances and Max Bowden, after she ran a first-up seventh at Timaru on February 23. However, Crazy Heart stepped up a gear for the syndicate, powering home from three back on the outer with a well-timed finish in the hands of Blair Orange. Crazy Heart arrived in time to wear down front-running Expressive Art, and Delightful Dash (parked), in a 1:57.4 rate for the 1700m. The 120-strong Syndicate, managed by Canterbury racecaller Mark McNamara, includes Racing Board colleague Maryanne Twentyman, who gained a pleasant surprise to see Crazy Heart win when hosting Thursday’s Trackside Radio show. Northern racecaller George Simon, and champion netballer Irene Van Dyk, are other celebrities in the syndicate. This is the third Syndicate win for the Mark Jones-based syndicate and third at Forbury Park. They first tasted success when Curve won at Forbury on June 6 last year, while Pat’s First Sun obliged for them at the December 13 Forbury meeting. Both earlier winners were returned to their original owners. Crazy Heart is the third foal and first winner from the two-win In The Pocket mare Belle’s Girl. Meanwhile, the Mark Jones stable racked up its 46th win of the season when Strike On Command delivered in the final event, the C1 Next Meeting 24 March at Wingatui Mobile Pace. Strike On Command, handily placed on the outer by Blair Orange, swept to the front early in the run home and held fellow Canterbury visitor Memorable by two lengths in a 2:00 rate (2200m). The consistent 3YO McArdle-Noble Strike colt took his record to three wins and five placings in 11 starts for Australian owner Kevin Stanley. By Jeff Scott (Courtesy of MARK JONES RACING)
Trainer Mark Jones believes tonight’s Auckland Cup could be too soon for Saveapatrol --- but it definitely won’t be too fast. One of the new kids on the open class block, Saveapatrol has drawn the ace in tonight’s thriller, which would be perfect if Adore Me was the likely leader from barrier two. “But I don’t think anybody expects that,” shrugs Jones. “I can see both Fly Like An Eagle and Mah Sish crossing us at the start and then him having to sit three back on the markers. “That is not a bad place to be in a hard run race, which I think it will be, but a lot will depend on when he gets out and where the favourites are. “But I hope Mah Sish gets out and runs them along because this horse can follow any speed.” Jones admits though that the four-year-old may still be a year away from being a Cup winner. “He is a really good horse and can win a Cup, but I think he will need everything to go right to win this Cup.” Which means the $5.50 offered about him in opening markets is unders. Jones will also bring his stable trotting star Master Lavros to Alexandra Park tonight after he devastated his trainer by galloping at the start of his A$200,000 race at Menangle on Sunday. “I left the track gutted because I think he could have won.” Master Lavros meets young gun Prime Power tonight but while the pair are both off 30m, Master Lavros is likely to have a clearer path ahead of him at the start because all the horses off the 10m mark are unruly, so will have to stand wide on the track. With no rivals off 20m, if Master Lavros makes a good beginning he could be a lot handier than his handicap suggests and then Prime Power will have a race on his hooves. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)
Last week was a memorable one for the New Zealand bets of the week ring-around. Aside from my three tips which all won, Anthony Butt, Blair Orange, Gavin Smith, Jim Curtin, Ricky May, and Todd Mitchell also tipped out winners. The best result was Gavin Smith’s bet of the week in The Mighty Falcon, who got home at odds of $10, while my value bet of the week Scotlynn Jiggs ($7) wasn’t too far behind. Let’s see what good oil we can dig up this week. Andrew Armour: Thinks two-year-old First Flight In is a good each-way prospect in the fourth race at Gore on Sunday. Anthony Butt: Thinks talented two-year-old The Jazzman will be tough to beat from his inside alley in the eighth race at Forbury Park tonight. Blair Orange: Rates the chances of Strike On Command in the last race at Forbury Park tonight. Craig Thornley: Will take the reins behind Franco Harrington at Reefton where he expects him to be very hard to beat. David Butt: Thinks Georgie Mach can go back-to-back in the eighth race at Westport on Friday. Gavin Smith: Who was last week’s top tipster, has opted for True Legend in the fourth race at Westport on Friday. Jim Curtin: Thinks the talented but enigmatic Sunchita can win the tenth race at Westport on Friday. Jonny Cox: Rates the chances of Sharpenuff in the eighth race at Gore on Sunday. Ken Barron: Thinks Sapling Stakes runner-up Mighty Flying Major will be tough to beat in race eight at Forbury tonight. Mark Jones: Thinks The Ultimate Storm will take a power of beating in the third race at Forbury Park tonight. Matthew Williamson: Expects Quick As A Trick to regain top form in the 12th race at Forbury tonight. Nathan Williamson: Thinks Aidan’s Rocket will be tough to toss in the last race at Gore on Sunday. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has thrown out some value in the form of Goodboy Tiger – Forbury, race seven. Tim Williams: Thinks Waitoto Express has a good each-way chance in the seventh race at Gore on Sunday. Todd Mitchell: Expects Cyclone Kate to be thereabouts in the Delightful Lady Classic at Alexandra Park on Friday. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink) Best Bet: The Ultimate Storm – Forbury Park, race three Each-way: Linda Lovegrace – Alexandra Park, race four. Value: Whynotagrey – Gore, race two.
After looking back at the results from last month’s Yearling Sales, it’s not surprising to see that Mark Purdon and Robert Dunn are the country’s leading trainers. Purdon, along with his formidable band of owners, purchased approximately 22 yearlings for costs of around $1,066,000 at the New Zealand Sales, while Dunn and clients acquired roughly 12 yearlings spending around $500,000. Purdon and Dalgety were also active at the Australian APG Sales. Which raises the question, how can the small compete? Don’t get me wrong, Purdon, Dunn, and all of their brilliant owners are great for this industry and deserve and earn all the success that they get. But in a few years is it going to be Purdon, Dunn, and Dalgety racing each other? Now that is something that wouldn’t be good for the industry at all. Mark Jones, who is in no way, shape, or form, a “small trainer” says that if he wasn’t a ‘seller’ he would struggle to survive, which makes you think. How does everyone else fear? “I don’t have the numbers of Purdon or Dunn so I survive by selling, but I am worried that the majority of the people in the game won’t be able to survive as it is simply getting too tough,” said Jones. “I’m one of the lucky ones, but it’s becoming increasingly hard for young and small trainers to compete and unless stakes go up their chances of staying in this industry are very grim which is very bad for the future of the sport.” “I believe it is up to clubs, especially Addington, to up stakes as owners need to race for more money.” Jones also believes that HRNZ could cut a lot of costs and direct that money into the stakes. “And we need more races for the poorer horses, so they have a chance to earn,” he added. “I also think we need training centres to give young enthusiast somewhere to start from as no young trainer can afford their own property,” Jones suggested. “It’s very hard for young people to get backers, as owners are a dying breed, especially in the Auckland region.” “The way things are going it won’t be long before the big stables are racing each other,” he concluded. So, “How can the small compete?” – It’s something worth pondering over anyway. Perhaps it could be ‘The Big Question’ on The Box Seat? Or would that mean that they were just trying to ‘Keep Up With The Joneses’? By Mitchell Robertson
Another Bulls Eye If anyone can remember as far back as 2010, discussion was raging among Clubs and trainers over the situation where, on a number of occasions, there were more horses on the second row of a mobile start than on the front. This scenario was unacceptable for a number of reasons, not the least safety, and the National Council voted for a change to what was known as either the Scratching Substitute System, or Bulls-Eye System. Basically the idea was that emergencies in a race were not allocated a barrier draw, and if they gained a start, they took the draw of the horse that they replaced, similar to the way the greyhounds do it. Unfortunately the powers that be didn't share our enthusiasm for the idea, apparently because the Racing Board (TAB) ‘boffins' reckoned the punters would be confused. Apparently greyhound punters are more clued up than harness ones! Anyway, following the introduction of the scratching penalty, emergencies rarely regained entry, so the idea went into recess....until this week, when the following appeared on a press release announcing the Interdominion Grand Final field: ‘Note that the Emergencies are not drawn into the field and take the place vacated by a scratching.' For a while now, the Racing Board has been telling us that we need to change certain ways of doing things to accommodate and appease overseas punters. It's a well-known fact that Australian punters tend to place far more importance on barrier draws that their Kiwi equivalents, however with far more emphasis on fixed-odds betting here, the landscape is changing somewhat, particularly where major events are concerned and the fixed-odds markets open days, or even weeks before the race itself. Under the current scenario what this means is that, if you place a bet on, say a horse drawn two on the second row because it is supposed to follow out a fast beginner and that front rower is scratched, you can find that your chances are reduced by having now drawn behind the slowest beginner in the race. Thus one of the main reasons that you backed your horse has been taken away and you have no recourse. On the other hand, if you ignore a horse that is drawn too wide off the front and back another, only to find on race-day that, due to scratchings, that ignored horse is drawn one or even two places further in, once again you have no recourse. The ideal place to trial this idea is the Harness Jewels, where it is almost unknown for a horse to be scratched, and hopefully will attract the interest of Australian punters. Imagine the introduction to the meeting where it is announced that number 14 (the emergency) is scratched from every event. How simple is that? Surely, even if there are one or two withdrawals there is ample opportunity to advise where the emergencies will draw. The Association will be pushing for this to be trialled at the Jewels, so that everyone on either side of the Tasman can see the advantages and accept the concept for future events. The Big Question Promising signs from the first couple of programmes in the new series of The Box Seat, which is basically harness racings' one and only purpose-built television outlet. One section that will hopefully become a talking point is the "Big Question" where a topical subject is discussed in depth. This basically replaces "Keeping up with the Jones'" which became too personal, causing some backlash for both Mark Jones and the Trainers & Drivers Assn. The signs are promising, and it is to be hoped that the presenters will canvas the opinions of industry participants as well as pushing their own ‘barrows'. This weeks' topic was the mile start at Addington, and there are a couple of items that need comment and clarification. First of all, at a meeting with Addington CEO late last year, the Greater Canterbury Branch were unanimous in requesting that the New Zealand Free-for-All not be run over a mile in future seasons. A couple of apparent arguments that were put forward on the Box Seat by Club representative Brian Rabbitt seemed a little questionable, to say the least. Firstly, he maintained that the last race the other night, when Vice Chairman led all the way and went a phenomenal time, was a far more interesting spectacle, and drew more comment than the Interdominion heat won by Terror To Love. First of all, I'm not sure how interesting it is that one horse led all the way, and once the draw came out in the ID heat and the two best horses drew 1 & 2, it became virtually irrelevant. Perhaps that says more about the failure of the new Interdominion concept than the success of the mile race. I wonder if Addington officials enquired how many disgruntled punters there were after the mile, when, because of their draw, the favourites were unable to be put into the race at any point? Another argument for the retention of the mile start was that the turnover on the Free-for-All has risen since the change. That's great, but I wonder how the turnover would have looked if the best horse in the race (and subsequent good thing beaten) Christen Me, had drawn 1 or 2 on the gate? I would suggest he would have been a $1.50 shot and betting would have gone through the floor! As for the idea that mile racing would help with shorter times between races, I have grave doubts that the extra 350 metres difference between the two distances (about 20 seconds) is going to have a huge effect on that! The main issue with the mile start is not the distance, it is the fact that the race starts on a bend. I was never any good at physics or the like, but anyone with eyes can see that there is a massive advantage to be gained by drawing an inside alley over a short distance. Has anyone not seen an athletics short distance race involving a bend? They have staggered starting points, scientifically measured so that every contestant covers the same distance. Why should that not apply to horses? Please Addington, it was worth a try, but listen to your supporters and customers, and go back to a realistic starting point. Innovations Isn't it great that there are always people in our Industry who are able to think outside the square, and have the enthusiasm and energy to make their ideas happen. In the past (and currently) we've had Interprovincial Drivers Championships, various Invited Drivers series, lady drivers events, Brothers In Arms, and now the Waikouaiti Club have come up with a "Youth versus Experience" series to be staged at their upcoming meeting on Tuesday 18 March. This involves reinspersons aged over 50 pitted against a team of under 25's, with invitations issued not only to drivers in the North Island, but also a couple from across the ‘deetch'. Congratulations to Bruce Negus and the Waikouaiti team for making what would have been just another mundane Tuesday meeting into something special and unique. I presume they've covered the concept off with the Human Rights Commission! With names such as Herlihy, McKendry, Ferguson, May and Beck for the ‘wrinklies', and Dunn, Ottley, Butcher and Williamson for the ‘babies' looking likely to front up for five penalty-free races, it promises to be a fascinating event which can only benefit both the drivers and owners involved. Hopefully the public will get behind the concept and make it an annual celebration. What such a series does highlight is the enormous progress that has been made by our younger industry participants in the past couple of decades. Can you imagine a series like this going ahead say, twenty years ago? Back then, a Junior Driver (or was it Probationary) would be very lucky to get five drives a month, let alone that many in one day. Fifty years ago, it was probably more like five drives in a season! Say what you like about HRNZ (and we often do), but a huge amount of credit has to go to that bodies' foresight in nurturing our younger generation and giving the opportunities to compete (and sometimes beat) their older, more experienced peers. After all, our code doesn't have the advantages that galloping can offer its' youngsters like weight allowances. It is good to see that, under the current guidance of people such as Natalie Gameson and Trevor Beaton, there is no resting on laurels either. Another pleasing move, even though it seems it was forced on them, is the decision to move the Hororata Clubs' meeting next Friday to the Mt Harding racecourse. Arguably one of the most picturesque tracks on the World, the Methven track, which is solely harness racing, is sadly under-utilised and provides a superb surface (weather permitting of course) for horses to perform on. A country Club returning to the country - what a novel idea! I note, with some astonishment, criticism of grass track racing in the NZ Harness Weekly, and a suggestion that it is on the way out. Obviously no-one has informed the connections of the hundreds of horses that are entered for these meetings, or the public, who turn up to such venues in their droves! By Peter T Cook (Courtesy of the NZ Harness Racing Trainers & Drivers Association)
Trainer Mark Jones is happy with how Master Lavros has settled in Sydney in preparation for Sunday’s $A200,000 Glenferrie Farm Challenge, but what has really pleased him is how the giant five-year-old trotter trialled at Menangle on Tuesday. After settling on the leaders back, Master Lavros trotted a tick over 1-54.0 for the mile with his earplugs still in, finishing a five metre second to seven-win pacer Eternal Glory. Keystone Del, who won the Glenferrie Farms Challenge last year and will attempt to defend his title on Sunday, finished a further 8.5 metres away in third. “He came through the trial really well, so I couldn’t be happier,” said Jones. “He seems to be getting better and better behind the gate as well which is also very pleasing,” he added. Master Lavros, who is one of five Kiwis that will represent New Zealand in Sunday’s Group One Trans-Tasman Challenge, has drawn well in barrier one, however Jones is not 100% sure if he will be able to hold the lead. “I’m not really sure how quickly some of the trotters over here get out,” said Jones. “But if he can’t lead I am confident he will atleast hold a forward position.” Meanwhile, Colin DeFilippi, who is the trainer-driver of another top chance for New Zealand in Stent, is also happy with how his stable star has settled in. “He travelled over really well so I am hopeful of a big run,” said DeFilippi. DeFilippi is also happy enough with Stent’s barrier draw (4), and is hopeful he might be able to slot into a nice position. “The draw could be a lot worse anyway,” added DeFilippi. The other three New Zealand representatives are Vulcan, The Fiery Ginga, and Irish Whisper, while My High Expectations, who is shooting for his seventh straight win, heads the five-strong Australian team. By Mitchell Robertson
Eyre I Come, who was an impressive debut winner at Timaru on Sunday, will now eye the $100,000 NZ Yearling Sales Series Trotters Final at Addington on Thursday. “David Gaffaney (trainer) and Greg Hope have always had a very big opinion of the horse, but he has had a few problems along the way,” said owner Grant Hatton. Hatton purchased Eyre I Come, a son of Majestic Son and well bred mare Landoras Special, for $45,000 at the 2012 NZ Premier Yearling Sales on the advice of Mark Jones. “Mark and I actually liked him better than the Landoras Special colt the next year which sold for $127, 500,” said Hatton, who is also the owner of top pacer Saveapatrol. Eyre I Come, who was backed in from $31 on the fixed odds on Sunday, came with a strong finishing burst to beat smart trotter Trouble Rieu. He was driven by Ricky May who will once again partner him in Thursday’s feature. “We were probably a bit lucky with Lothario galloping in the home straight, but it was still a good effort to pick the second horse up,” said Hatton. Hatton said that talented trotter Thebestlove definitely looks the one that they all have to beat on Thursday, however he believes his gelding has the game to be highly competitive if he was to do things right. By Mitchell Robertson
The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained Itz Bettor To Win was an emphatic debut winner in Saturday’s $25,000 Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham. With the aid of the ace barrier draw, driver Blair Orange positioned the brown colt in the trail behind early leader Pulp Fiction. He then burst up the passing lane in the home stretch to down Say My Name, who was game in defeat after sitting parked, and stablemate Alta Ronaldo, who finished a close-up third. Itz Bettor To Win, who is by Bettor’s Delight out of a full-sister to top filly Itz Cherry Ripe, paced the mile in a stunning 1-54.3, which equalled the race, track, and Southland record, held by Le Sol, winner of the Kindergarten in 2010. Itz Bettor To Win was purchased for a six figure sum by prolific Australian harness racing owners Merv & Meg Butterworth after winning a trial impressively for trainer-driver Mark Jones, who then recommended the colt to the Butterworths. Itz Bettor To Win is the second horse that the Butterworths have purchased off Rob and Norma McMeeking, who also bred the colt. The first one is Itz Dreamin Jonesy who has won six of his ten starts in Australia to date. Purdon has now trained the winner of six Kindergarten Stakes while Blair Orange has driven three. Messini, who won the race last year for Purdon, was an impressive winner of race eight, the following event on the 11-race card. Merv & Meg Butterworth, who also own Arden Rooney who finished second in the Wyndham Cup, were own track to enjoy the winning spoils on Saturday. Meanwhile, Franco Ledger who won the Wyndham Cup in a track record time of 3-57.0, will now be given a three month spell. By Mitchell Robertson