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He knew she was better than average, but even Mark Smolenski couldn’t help but be surprised by the debut effort of Miss Ethel Sunshine last week. And the filly, who credited Auckland Reactor with his first New Zealand success as a stallion, will get the chance to show her trainer again when she steps out in the time-honoured Leonard Memorial this afternoon at Addington. It will be another step up for the rangy filly, but everything she did on debut would suggest she is more than capable of handling the challenge from the inside of the second row. “She probably doesn’t show that much at home,” Smolenski said. “But we did draw a bit of confidence from a trial run at Ashburton where she ran a bit of time and you always know you are going ok when Dexter is happy with things.” Dexter is, of course, Dexter Dunn and Smolenski has long given up on being surprised when the champion reinsman gets on one of his horses and says they are in with a show. “He’s done it a couple of times on my horses before, he’s jumped in the sulky and said that he thinks we can win this when I have been thinking we didn’t have much hope. “And he’s usually pretty right too.” Dunn will have to call on all his skills with Miss Ethel Sunshine from the barrier draw especially with her apparent strongest rival, Liberty Rose, drawn up well on the front line. The Mark Jones trained filly made up stacks of ground behind Miss Ethel Sunshine to finish second and with a little more luck this week, she’s expected to be quite hard to beat.  The Geoff Dunn trained, Rohza, who was third in the same race has the advantage of the inside barrier draw which will see her come right into contention although a lead all the way approach would leave Miss Ethel Sunshine most likely sitting on her back. Today’s other feature, the Cheviot Cup will see Locharburn back in action. The big pacer, who has been plagued by injuries all season, will reunite with Dexter Dunn for the race, starting off 35 metres. Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have a strong hand in the race with Motu Premier and Alta Ronaldo both in action while Maverick and the Robert Dunn pair of Alta Orlando and Letspendanitetogetha have all got chances as well. Super Selector – By Matt Markham Race 1: BD Khaosan, Izmok, Bonnie Highlander, Spurred By Success Race 2: Debnita Rose, Little Bad John, Sharknado, Scotlyn Harry Race 3: The Foot Tapper, Agatha Tyron, Sugar Cane, Daiquiri Race 4: Rena Bay, Algranco Albyone, Patanjali, Honour The Bet Race 5: Redwood Invasion, Brad’s Kenny, Missandei, Idle Monkey Race 6: Trailer Park Girl, RR Sand Dollar, Port Delight, Ollayntambo Race 7: Quite A Moment, Eyre I Come, Everybody Knows, Belle’s Son Race 8: Locharburn, Motu Premier, Alta Ronaldo, Alta Orlando Race 9: Miss Ethel Sunshine, Liberty Rose, Rozha, Sheeza Sport Race 10: Cable Beach, Gotta Go Ya Hu, Celestial Arden, The Honey Badger Race 11: Articulight, She’s A Flyin, Hard Day’s Night, Booming Jet Best Bet: Cable Beach (Race 10) Value: Redwood Invasion (Race 5)

The babies come out to play tonight at Addington, but who holds the strongest claims is a relative unknown. Three races on the card are for solely the two-year-olds with a race for the trotters, one for the fillies and another for the colts and geldings - and all come with the usual tag of punter beware as anything is possible. The two-year-old trot, which opens up the night, is probably the easiest of the three based on the fact that most of the field have been to the races. Sundee’s Sun, who won on debut a fortnight ago, is a back while Majestic Hurricane and BJ Lindenny who placed behind him are also there. Well Defined, who is trained by Kevin Townley, got a few things wrong on debut, but did appear to have a good motor so followers will be hoping for a clean round this evening. In the first of the pacing events for the babies, the Robert Dunn stable holds a good hand with two impressive trial and workout performers in Tuapeka Trick and Henry Hubert. Tuapeka Trick is a Bettor’s Delight colt owned by the Westview Racing No.17 syndicate and he was looked above average when winning a trial earlier in the month. Henry Hubert is unbeaten in public, but will start from the outside of the front line in an event that also includes Sapling Stakes placegetter, Cullenburn and an All Stars first starter, Ashley Locaz. The two-year-old fillies event is a little tougher to work out with 12 fillies doing battle. Mark Jones has a strong hand in the race with two fillies, Liberty Rose and Sheeza Sport with the former looking impressive when winning a trial at Ashburton in a slick last 400 metres. American Banner, who has come up with the one draw has also been in good fettle at the workouts and trials. While the two-year-olds will create plenty of interest, the three-year-old trotters will also draw attention when they race for $17,500 in the Lone Star Sires’ Stakes 3YO Trot Prelude. Enghien, who was so good at Geraldine on Sunday, is back to take on Habibi Inta in what should be an instalment in the enthralling battle of these two exciting trotters for the season. Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Majestic Hurricane Well Defined, Sundee’s Sun, BJ Lindenny Race 2: Canderdel, Ranfurly Rulz, Eastwood Cheiftain, Highland Reign Race 3: Lanikai, Bettor To Be Tricky, Bailey’s Knight, Wanted Man Race 4: Henry Hubert, Tuapeka Trick, Ashley Locaz, Cullenburn Race 5: Algranco Albyone, The Best Christian, The Director, Mt Hutt Harry Race 6: Enghien, Habibi Inta, Needle, Chevron’s Express Race 7: American Banner, Liberty Rose, Betterthansparying, Chromozone Race 8: Franco Tai, Righteous Brother, Torrid Bromac, Culley Backy Race 9: Our Quinn, She’s A Flyin, Bird Of Paradise, Crackamoa Race 10: Redwood Invasion, The Foot Tapper, Dusky Eyre, Prestine Race 11: Cleaver Green, Buldinganempire, January Jones, Nicky Anew Best Bet: Cleaver Green (Race 11) Best Value: Our Quinn (Race 9)

Art Major went within a whisker of usurping super sire, Bettor’s Delight on the second day of selling at the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sales in Christchurch yesterday. Alabar principals will have been over the moon to calculate the statistics of their marquee stallion as he went stride for stride with the seemingly untouchable Woodlands Stud resident on what was a slightly improved day two. With 30 lots on offer, Art Major’s progeny produced an aggregate of $892,000 for the day - with an average of just over $40,500 and a clearance rate of above 73 per cent. Bettor’s Delight had 37 lots in the book with three withdrawn but still managed to a total of just over $1 million in sales for the day with an average of over $41,000 and a clearance of just above 70 per cent. Four of the day’s five top lots were by Art Major - the highest of them a colt from Rocknroll Arden who fetched $155,000 when purchased by Cran Dalgety. Cheer The Lady’s first foal, a colt, went for $150,000 to clients of Brent Mangos while half-brothers to start four-year-old’s Lazarus and Chase The Dream both went for $120,000. The only Bettor’s Delight to split them was a filly from Gotta Go Harmony who was purchased by Mark Jones for a band of his owners for $120,000. Jones joined the party late in bidding for the standout filly before eventually grabbing her following some healthy bidding. For Nigel McGrath, the $120,000 he found to secure the half-brother to Lazarus, who was a rig, was breaking new ground. “It’s the highest I’ve paid for one,” McGrath said. “I was the underbidder on the brother to Partyon on Monday so this is a bit of a consolation. “McGrath was still in the process of finalising ownership for the colt.” Trevor Casey stamped his authority early when grabbing the half to Chase The Dream, who incidentally was also a rig. Cheer The Lady’s first foal will remain in New Zealand after Brent Mangos played the role of purchaser for one of his clients. “I actually drove the mare a few times, and she has left an outstanding colt. “It’s getting into big territory for us, but we decided this year to cut back on the number of horses we buy and focus on some bigger prices so to get this one is reallypleasing.” All counted there were seven lots on the second day that fetched six figure totals. Greg and Nina Hope were proactive on the trotting front, buying three lots for the day including a close relation to one of their current stars, Enghien. They paid $54,000 for a Dream Vacation colt from Another Love who herself was purchased in foal from the sale of the late Carl Middleton two years ago then they also went to $50,000 to grab a Revenue colt from Harriet Hughes, making the colt a half-brother to Harriet Of Mot. There was a slight lift in sales on the day from Tuesday’s opening day in Christchurch. The two days ended with an average of just over $27,000 and a surprising clearance rate of 77 per cent. More than $11 million was spent over the three days   Matt Markham

Two confident John Dunn drives netted perfect results in two of the big races at Addington on Friday night. Dunn grabbed the Premier Mares Championship with Better Be Amazed and also took home the Summer Cup with Captain Dolmio. North Island visitor, Better Be Amazed - who is trained by Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick - picked up a much deserved big race win after producing so many great efforts in similar races during her career. “She deserves it,” Dunn said. “She just keeps going.” Dunn worked around the field during the mid stages and held too many guns for C A Penny and the pace-making, Ultimate Desire who filled the minor placings. Earlier in the night though Captain Dolmio announced himself as a future open class star with his front-running effort to win the Summer Cup. The Southland owned pacer ran a hot field into the dirt and will now be pointed at the Easter Cup. “He’s got a great heart, and he did that all tonight with a bandage hanging round his legs. “The two miles of the Easter Cup should really suit him too.” Dunn was also over the moon with the effort of Alta Orlando who flew home late for fourth. The stable also picked up a win with Letspendanitetogetha who helped extend the Robert Dunn lead on the trainers’ premiership. Mark Jones had double the reason to smile following the night’s feature trot. Jones trained the winner, Eyre I Come, but also took great satisfaction out of the performance of Master Lavros, who was mighty in defeat with his effort for third. The Burnham horseman refused to let the performance of his star trotter stand in the way of Eyre I Come’s effort though. “I’m rapt for Grant Hatton, he’s just in love with the horse,” Jones said. “And it’s been a testing one for him, because we’ve been told by more than one person that he would never race again. “The ability has always been there, he’s just had some bad luck with injuries, both of his knees are buggered.” Eyre I Come looked the goods a few years back when he produced a stunning performance to win on Cup Day but that’s when the bad luck started. He will now head towards Auckland and a shot at the Group One double of the ANZAC Cup and the Rowe Cup. Master Lavros will be there too. “He will probably have 10 days off now and then come back for Auckland, I was very happy with him tonight.” Master Lavros was attacked throughout the race by Marcoola, but kept fighting strongly, going down for second narrowly to Everybody Knows who split the Jones pair. Spanish Armada made light work of her $146,000 assignment in the opening race of the night - NZ Yearling Sales 3YO Fillies Final. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained filly, who was driven by Rasmussen, led from arch-rival Delightful Memphis and showed all her class to win comfortably. “She’ll be on a plane to Auckland this week,” Rasmussen said. “I’m really happy with her at the moment.” Spanish Armada has now won 10 of her 13 career starts and picked up more than $540,000 in stakes.   Matt Markham  

A $15 chance for tonight’s Premier Mares’ Championship at Addington, Hopeful Harriet isn’t being given much hope of success. But that’s not stopping the dour mare’s trainer, Regan Todd, from thinking she can get herself in on the action if things happen to fall in the right places for her during the Group 2 $40,000 event. A brilliant winner of the Marlborough Cup two starts back, the diminutive mare has shown a real liking for a dog fight and may get conditions to suit tonight from a good barrier draw. “Her win at Blenheim showed she is capable of doing it,” Todd said. “I wouldn’t read too much into her last start, in fact I think we will forget it, and just base it on what she did when she won. “I’ve been really happy with her work this week so hopefully we are on the right track.” Drawn barrier three, Hopeful Harriet has the slight disadvantage of having two speedy mares drawn inside her in Bronze Over and C A Penny, but there’s some confidence she can hold her own out of the gate if she needs to. “I’ll be leaving it to Robbie (Close), he can judge things once they are out there. But if we had to ask her to run a bit early I think she would. “Ideally it’s a case of getting ourselves into the best possible spot and seeing what happens from there. “But I’d like to think she’s a bit of a chance, it’s not a field of stars, just some nice honest mares.” Todd has just one other runner engaged at the meeting in Righteous Brother who, despite some strong recent efforts was opened at $33 last night due to the fact he takes on an incredibly strong field including the likes of; The Honey Badger, Rakapuka Ruler, Don Domingo, A G’s Whitesocks and Cash N Flow. “He’s probably a place chance at best in a field like that, but he’ll begin quick and put himself in the race.” Todd will be able to get his most high-pressure moment of the night out of the way early too when Master Lavros steps out in the Summer Trotting Free-For-All. As the pseudo trainer of the two-time Dominion winner, Todd knows better than anyone how the big trotter is progressing. And he’s been pretty happy this week. “I’ve noticed he’s stepped up a bit since that last run, his work yesterday (Wednesday) was very good I thought. “But it won’t be easy from out wide over 1950 so we will just be happy if he does everything right and gets around safely and pulls up sound.” Life won’t be easy for Master Lavros though with Marcoola returning to the mix for the event while other good performers like Harriet Of Mot and Everybody Knows are also engaged in the race. Super Selector - Addington - By Matt Markham Race 1: Spanish Armada, Delightful Memphis, Trendy Bromac, Pick My Pocket Race 2: Bailey’s Knight, Let It Ride, Hilarious Magic, Articulight Race 3: Le Reveur, Hey Yo, Habibti Ivy, Gershwin Race 4: Mrs Browns Boys, The Valiant, Culley Backy, Our Quinn Race 5: Marcoola, Master Lavros, Everybody Knows, Harriet Of Mot Race 6: Tiger Thompson, Gotta Go Ya Hu, Real Obsession, Wanted Man Race 7: Classie Brigade, Captain Dolmio, Christen Me, Locharburn Race 8: Rakapuka Ruler, Don Domingo, A G’s Whitesocks, Cash N Flow Race 9: Heaven Rocks, Ears Burning, Cable Beach, Buster Brady Race 10: Queen Bee Bardon, Better B Amazed, CA Penny, Hopeful Harriet Race 11: Chevron Express, All Settled Down, Lavros Jack, Redwood Invasion Race 12: Franco Hampton, Bettor To Be Tricky, Molly Sims, Makers Mark Best Bet: Tiger Thompson (Race 6) Value: Hey Yo (Race 3)

What’s in a name? For the 3-year-old pacer Whittaker third time lucky. Whittaker who posted his third win in four starts when successful at Wyndham last Sunday has had three registered names. The Sportswriter – Anarchy colt was named Melman by Taupaki breeder Ann Cooney and sold for $20,000 at the 2015 Australiasian Classic sale to Weedons trainer Nigel McGrath. Melman joined the stable of Leonne Jones at Templeton and his new owner Todd Halliday, of Rangiora changed the colt’s name to Tadpole’s Legacy at the end of April. The colt won his first public outing under that name in a trial at Ashburton in May, qualifying in 1.58.3. He won a workout at Rangiora the following month. He was then bought by Greg Brodie, of the Gold Coast who was granted permission by Harness Racing New Zealand to change the name of the colt to Whittaker. The new name memorialised Bill Whittaker, the long-time racing writer of the Sydney Morning Herald. He died in 2009. The third change of name coincided with the switch of the colt to the Burnham stable of Mark Jones. “It is most unusual to have a name change after a horse has trialled for the obvious reason that punters could be misled but the new owner (Brodie) was insistent with his application to the board (HRNZ) that Tadpole’s Legacy was inappropriate,” said John French, who is in charge of registrations at HRNZ. Whittaker won first up at Addington in July, and then finished second there the same month. He then resumed racing with a win at Invercargill three weeks ago. Mr Brodie raced Rocker Band from the Jones stable. She won a Harness Jewels race for 4-year-old mares at Cambridge in June, Rocker Band was recently transferred to Barry Purdon and won the Group 1 Ladyship Cup at Melton last Saturday in her second Australian start, after a win the week prior. Brodie raced Courage Under Fire, winner of his first 24 races including the New Zealand, Great Northern, New South Wales, Victoria, Australia and Queensland Derbies when trained by Bruce Negus. Sly Flyin, winner of 29 races and $911,000 was another big winner in his white and light blue colours. I can recall a name change for a horse raced in the late 1970s by the then Prime Minister Rob Muldoon and Transport Minister Colin McLachlan. The gelding was registered as Rastus when they bought him but his name was changed to Johnny Lincoln. A gelding by Jersey Hanover from Valerie Globe, he won two races when trained by Graham Holmes and another for Jack Carmichael before being sold to the United States. Tayler Strong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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