Course specialist Strike On Command stretched his unbeaten run to four wins in as many Forbury starts when delivering at the Tuapeka meeting on Sunday, October 26. The Mark Jones-trained McArdle gelding completed a winning double for the stable and in-form driver Blair Orange at Forbury, with Hellavahanover bouncing back to winning form in the day’s opener. Blair notched a quartet of Tuapeka wins, also scoring with Bit Of A Legend’s younger brother Lookofalegend and Change Time, both for West Melton trainer Ken Barron. Strike on Command was well-rated by Blair, settling three back on the outer, then making a move to be parked briefly with a lap to run. He had cover coming with Aidan’s Rocket working to parked at the 750m, then wore down the Nathan Williamson-trained Aidan’s Rocket in the run home, scoring by a neck. He paced the 2200m (stand) on the sticky track in 2:50.6, the leaders running their last 800m in 58.3s. Strike On Command is raced by New South Wales owner Kevin Stanley, who also raced his Bettor’s Delight half-sister Cotton Row (three wins, TT, 1:57.8), and is now breeding from the latter. Both Strike On Command and Cotton Row are from a good- winning OK Bye mare Noble Strike (1:56.8h, US), who numbered a PGG NZ Yearling Sales 2YO Fillies South Island Graduette win and a Nevele R Fillies Heat among her two NZ wins for Ian and Malcolm Shinn. Noble Strike scored another 15 wins in North America, earning the equivalent of $149,602. She (Noble Strike) is a half-sister to other big USA winners in Time Flies (1:52, US; 36 wins incl. 32 in the US for $624,230 career winnings) and Ultimate Pursuit (1:51.6, US, 44 wins incl. 38 in the US). Hellavahanover, who returned to the Mark Jones stable after a stint with Gareth Dixon in the north last term, winning first-up at Auckland in March, was also good fresh on Sunday. First-up since being pulled up at the Kurow meeting in early August, Hellavahanover didn’t put a foot wrong off the unruly mark over 2200m at Tuapeka. Blair improved with her to a one back-one out trailing spot with 1400m to run, had her out and running at the 400m and she did enough to hold favourite Springfield Eyre (who tracked her from the 1400m) by a neck. The 4YO Brylin Boyz-Malabar Hanover mare trotted 2:59.8 for the trip when the track was slushy. Hellavahanover is the first foal from her Malabar Maple dam, a half-sister to former top NZ trotter Romper Stomper (2:00.1 mile rate 2600m, 12 wins & $180,579), and the two-race trot winner Amanda’s Flash. Romper Stomper trotted a NZ mobile 2600m record, at the time, of 3:14.2 (2:00.1 mile rate) when he won the Group One 2007 $75,000 NZ Trotting Free-For-All at Addington onShow day, when beach-trained by Robbie Holmes. Now 15 and living out retirement as a hack, Romper Stomper was co-raced by Cambridge trainer John Dickie with Hamilton’s Phil Sherley, also a co-owner of Hellavahanover. Meanwhile, Classiebee, who previously won five for the Mark Jones stable, won first-up since transferring to Roxburgh trainers Geoff and Jude Knight at the Tuapeka meeting. Classiebee, largely due to a well-rated front-running drive from Rory McIlwrick, lasted to just hold fast-finishing favourite Titan Banner in a C1-2 pace. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing Stables - Check site here
One of the most progressive winners at yesterday's harness racing meeting at Ashburton would have to be the beautifully bred trotter, Eyre I Come. He gained his first win for Melbourne owners Merv and Meg Butterworth, who joined co-owner Grant Hatton in the ownership in April. The grandson of former 1987 Rowe Cup and 1988 Dominion Handicap-winning mare Landora’s Pride (34 wins & $472,842) rounded out a hat-trick of wins on Sunday-Monday of Labour weekend for Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones, and in-form driver Blair Orange. Eyre I Come was first-up since breaking at despatch point and finishing unplaced in the Group One Northern Trotting Derby on May 9. The Majestic Son gelding also mixed his gait in his other two northern campaign races before spelling, but he was foolproof in Monday’s C1-2 Anderson Photography & Design Trot victory. After settling back on the outer, improved wide turning in and lengthened stride to a nicety at the business end, scoring by half a length from late finisher Mel Gibson in a useful 3:05.4 for the stand start 2400m. The winner was timed over his last 800m in 57.6s. The Butterworths’ secured the share of the gelding’s former Woodend trainer David Gaffaney, who qualified him and prepared him for his debut win at Timaru in February. Mark Jones initially selected Eyre I Come at the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sales for Mr Hatton, who races Auckland Cup placegetter Saveapatrol from the stable. However, Mark felt the well-bred youngster would benefit from his early development with Gaffaney, who had more time to spend moulding him. Eyre I Come didn’t come cheap, being a $45,000 yearling, but is bred to win races and Mark thinks he’ll improve further. His year younger half-brother Springbank Eden (by Angus Hall), beat the only maidens in a C0 trot at Waikouaiti in March for Oamaru trainer Phil Williamson. Their dam Landora’s Special (Sundon-Landora’s Pride, by Game Pride-Landora) won four trotting and is a half-sister to Landora’s Gift, who also won four. Landora’s Gift, voted the NZ 2YO & 3YO Trotting Filly of the Year in 1995-96, famously bred on as the Chiola Hanover dam of champion NZ-bred but largely Australia-raced Sundon’s Gift (1:54.3, 41 wins & $1.2 million), who not only won the 2010 Rowe Cup at Auckland for Chris Lang but also the 2010 Interdominion Trotting Grand Final at Mooney Valley, and numerous other Australian features. Another daughter of Landora’s Pride, herself a Victoria Dullard Cup winner across the Tasman, in Invasion’s Pride (six wins, and runnerup in a Australasian Breeders Crown 3YO Trot Final) also left a topliner in the brilliant Let Them Thru (2:00, 2240m, 19 wins from 30 starts for $A453,945), the runnerup to I Can Doosit in the 2011 Interdominion Trotters Final at Auckland. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing Stable Check site here
Harness racing legend Peter Jones and his son Mark Jones have had a week they would rather forget after falling foul of the TCO2 levels in separate hearings before the JCA this week. Peter's case revolved around an elevated TCO2 reading of 37.3 returned by J C Skipper who he trains with his wife Leonne at Lavros Lodge. The race in question was at Addington on August 22nd in which J C Skipper finished second when driven by Mark Jones. It is obvious from reading the hearing transcript that there is no suggestion that Peter and Leonne administered alkalizing agents to J C Skipper before the Addington race but the TCO2 level set at the time of 35 means that they are guilty of presenting a horse with a level in excess of 35. Peter when training on his own account had over 4000 starters with no integrity issues over all that time and since training in partnership with his wife Leonne had another 550 starters and this inquiry with J C Skipper is the first and only time they have ever been before the JCA. However as the rule stands of absolute liability, they were found guilty and were fined $2500 Mark's case revolves around the testing of Remiss at Forbury Park on the 5th of June 2014. Sent south by Mark who remained at his base in Canterbury, Remiss returned a TCO2 level of 36.2 in pre race testing and Mark was charged in accordance with the absolute liability provision. Again there was no suggestion from the counsel for the prosecution that any alkalizing agents had been administered by Mark or any of his staff. The TCO2 level of 35 has a threshold variance of 1 which means that Remiss was 0.2 over the limit which triggers a prosecution. Mark argued that the time of the testing which was two hours before Remiss was due to race meant it was highly likely that at the time of racing, Remiss was under the TCO2 level of 36 which triggers a prosecution. Two other occasions when Remiss was tested on raceday saw Remiss return levels of 35.6 at Forbury on June 27th and 34.6 at Addington on July 4th. Mark has two weeks to make submissions on penalty although he is still considering an appeal at this time. While everyone in the industry wants a level playing field and supports the Racing Integrity Unit's efforts in providing the same, it does appear that innocent people are being caught by the regulations through no fault or acts of their own. View P + L Jones decision here View M Jones Article here Harnesslink Media
The aptly-named Twice The Delight passed her first step toward a potential Southland Oaks target in the autumn with a tidy front-running debut win at Gore on Saturday, October 11. The daughter of Bettor’s Delight and Trelise (Holmes Hanover-Twice As Good) was sent out a dominating $1.60 favourite on the strength of an impressive recent Rangiora trial and was always in control. Overport Lodge trainer-driver Mark Jones, who brought up his sixth training win for the term, dictated the front end from the three gate. After having former stablemate Rockahula Arden for company over the last lap, was too good in the run home, winning by 1 1/4 lengths in a 2:00.4 rate (1700m). Mark was entrusted with Twice The Delight after she failed to attract a bid at the 2013 NZ Premier Yearling Sale. A cut to a leg a week from the sales distracted potential buyers. Southland breeders, Wyndham-based Bruce and Caroline Robertson, and Bathan and Jane Muir, of Edendale, decided to leave her with Mark and restructured her ownership. The Robertsons’ and the Muirs’, along with Bathan’s parents Ken and Jill, combined under the Matai Farms Limited banner. Other shares were taken by Bill and Pauline Bain, of Roxburgh; and Peter and Caroline Clulee, of Mosgiel. Twice The Delight, who continues to strengthen, has plenty going for her on breeding. She is a sister to three-win squaregaiter Bet Online, but hails from a big “black type” winning pacing family. Their four-win dam Trelise (1:58.7, 1700m) is a daughter of five-win Butler BG mare Twice As Good (1:56.5 m.r., 1700m). Trelise is a half-sister to the smart pacers, St Barts (1:57 m.r., 1950m, 15 wins & over $150,000), Waitfornoone (1:55.7 m.r., 1700m, 11 wins & $201,805), Fight Fire With Fire (1:56.7, seven wins & $151,656), Twice As Hot (1:59.6 m.r, 2200m, five wins & $50,537) and Mark Dennis (1:54.2, 25 wins & $A177,567). Two close relatives starred across the Tasman last weekend. Mark Dennis won first-up since transferring to the New South Wales team of Shane Tritton in the $A30,000 Group Three ffa at Menangle, NSW, on Saturday night, in a 1:57.4 rate over 2300m. Twice As Hot’s son Flaming Flutter (1:53.9, 15 wins & $A190,446) shone at Tabcorp Park, Melton, Victoria, on Friday night. The son of Bettor’s Delight and Twice As Hot was just outside Carribean Blaster’s Melton 2240m stand start track mark when taking out the Group Two $A50,505 City Of Melton Plate in a fast 1:57.6 rate. Twice The Delight’s third dam Princess Nandina (1:59.8) left top USA filly/mare Pacific (p2, 1:56.8 & p3, 1:53), the winner of 27 race for $871,550 including a Breeders Crown 3YO Fillies and Mistletoe Shalee Stakes Final. RUMERATION FOR LAST-PLACED GUGGENHEIM The connections of Gore maiden runnerup Rockahula Arden were ordered to pay remuneration equivalent to the third-placed stake of $475 to the connections of last-placed Guggenheim under the discretion of new judicial rules. In a first-case scenario, it was established that Rockahula Arden (Dexter Dunn) had shifted out sharply when the removeable deafeners were released, despite the driver’s efforts to keep his horse straight, checking Guggenheim (Nathan Williamson, three wide). Trailing horses, Canasta and Neat N Petite, were also inconvenienced. The connections of Guggenheim sought a JCA ruling, which empowered the Judicial committee to order part, or all, of the stake monies payable if they were satisfied the interference denied the affected runner a chance to finish in a higher place. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing - Check site here
The man behind New Zealand’s best trotter isn’t panicking, even if Master Lavros is leaving punters licking their wounds. Last season’s Dominion and Rowe Cup winner has been a money muncher this season, beaten twice at Addington as a hot favourite in a week. The first loss was simply brutal, the giant trotter galloping and losing all chance as a $1.40 favourite in his comeback race 11 days ago but the second, at Addington last Friday, was potentially more baffling for trainer Mark Jones. Master Lavros had the perfect run and loomed up to win at the 300m mark before battling into fourth, clearly outpointed by winner Habibti. That has cost him favouritism for next month’s Dominion Handicap and continues a frustrating form rollercoaster over the last year when he usually wins or runs unplaced. “It was disappointing,” admits Jones. “But there is no point panicking so I am trying to concentrate on the positives. “At least he trotted better last week so I’ll put the performance down to trainer error. “I think he blew out because he is not fit enough. That is my fault because last season I tried to look after him and worried about working him too hard. “But he is bigger and stronger this season and I have to remember he is a racehorse, not an ornament.” So Jones has entered Master Lavros in a lowly $12,000 trot at Addington on Friday to ensure his fitness levels don’t drop as the countdown to the Cup carnival begins. “I know he will improve, and he will have too because Habibti was very good the other night. “So we have our work cut out, but I am not losing faith.” Habibti wasn’t the only big shortener after last Friday as she moved into Dominion favouritism, with Terror To Love now $2.50 to win the New Zealand Cup on November 11. His sizzling win over Franco Nelson and Christen Me in the Canterbury Classic last Friday means unless Christen Me can do something dramatic in the Flying Stakes at Ashburton on October 27, Terror To Love will remain a warm favourite to win his record fourth Cup. The major Cup player missing from last Friday’s race was Smolda and he looked sharp winning at the Addington trials yesterday. He beat stablemates Messini and Fly Like An Eagle over 2600m standing start in 3:13, his last 800m in 55 seconds. Smolda, rated a $9 chance for the Cup, will start off 30m in the Methven Cup on Sunday. Another to impress at yesterday’s trials was dual Jewels winner Venus Serena, who won her first public outing for the season with a 56 second last 800m. Meanwhile, three Australian-trained pacers remain in New Zealand Cup contention, with the connection of For A Reason, Seel N Print and Abettorpunt all indicating they are keen to bring them to Addington. Courtesy Of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand
It might lack the numbers, but you just know the feature trot tonight at Addington is going to pack a punch. That’s the view Mark Jones is taking too as he approaches the race with his star trotter Master Lavros who begins his campaign for back-to-back Dominion Handicaps in the race. But Jones isn’t too concerned if things are hastened along a bit by the natural front-running, aggressive style of Alan Clark with The Fiery Ginga – in fact he’s hoping for it. “My guy goes better when he has had hard racing,’’ Jones said. “Those quiet races where you just sprint home don’t actually do a lot for his fitness. “With The Fiery Ginga there you know things are going to run along a bit so a small field helps us out there as I can probably drive him for his raw speed if I want to.’’ A three-time Group One winner last season, Master Lavros has made two public appearances in preparation for tomorrow night – one was rather uninspiring while the other was simply fantastic. “He was just a wee bit too well the first time and he had a bit of a gallop, but I was pretty happy with him afterwards. “The second time though he was much better as we changed his bit and he wasn’t quite so much on the fresh side. “It was just a walk and sprint home but he did it really nicely.’’ The trial performance alone will be enough to see Master Lavros head out tomorrow night a raging hot favourite and Jones is adamant he is taking a horse to the races who he knows can win despite a lack of race fitness. “He can win it I’ve got no doubts about that.’’ Master Lavros meets five other runners in the race including impressive fresh-up winner last week, Kincaslough. The Craig and Aimee Edmonds trained mare was sublime in victory six days ago and will be sure to give her connections a grand sight again. Group One winning mare Superbowlcheerleader also resumes in the race and has looked good and strong in her workouts and trials so will be worth keeping an eye on as well. Away from the trotting ranks, the pacing feature of tomorrow’s meeting will see the return of American import Johny Rock. The Graham and Paul Court trained pacer is being aimed a spot in the New Zealand Free-For-All on Show Day and kicks off his campaign over 1950 metre tomorrow night against a small, but select, field of pacers which comprises of Lumos, Jivin Cullen, Arden Rooney and Vice Chairman. Courtesy of Matt Markham - Harness Racing New Zealand
Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones is counting down the months for the racetrack return of stable pacing star Saveapatrol next year. Saveapatrol, last seasons’s luckless Auckland Cup placegetter, underwent a minor surgery for a leg issue after spelling in March. “I’m rapt with Saveapatrol’s recovery. His leg looks great after we took a precautionary measure to operate,” Mark said. “He’s had sixs weeks swimming already and walks one hour in surf every day. He’s set to resume jogging next month and he looks great.” Mark says he’ll be in no hurry with the lightly-raced Christian Cullen gelding. “I guess we’ll take our time and have good options after New Year, like the Northern Southland and Invercargill Cups.” Mark says the $A400,000 Hunter Cup at Melton in early February could also be an option if Saveapatrol makes a sharp return to his outstanding form of last season. Saveapatrol won six of 10 four-year-old starts. He was spelled after his Group One Auckland Cup third behind Terror To Love and Adore Me at Auckland on March 7. Saveapatrol was a brilliant winner of a C3 pace at Addington on New Zealand Cup day in a fast 3:09 (mobile 2600m), just half a second outside the NZ record. He starred on the provincial cups circuit, taking out the Geraldine, Marlborough and Invercargill Cups, the latter a precious Group Three scalp over triple New Zealand Cup winner Terror To Love, in a strong 4:03 (3200m). Saveapatrol, who also racetimed in 1:53.4 (1609m) when fourth from an impossible draw at Addington in February, has only had 16 career starts, for 10 wins, a second and a third, earning $134,868 for owner Grant Hatton. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing Stables - Check site here
NZ Trotter of the Year Master Lavros is set to have another trial this week for Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones. Master Lavros made a return to the track at the Rangiora workouts on Wednesday, September 17, but wasn’t pushed after losing ground early. “He missed away bad being so fresh,” Mark said. “But I was very happy with afterwards.” Master Lavros wasn’t asked for a serious run in the C1 and faster trot taken out by fellow 40m marker Phil’s Gift, who trotted the 2600m (stand) in 3:26.6 for driver Stevie Golding. Mark has a return to racing earmarked for the big Sundon gelding in a $12,000 C4-0C trot over 2600m at Addington on October 3. He’s had a great long slow build-up,” Mark said. Master Lavros will be a leading hope to repeat last year’s dominant Group One Dominion Handicap success at the New Zealand Cup meeting. Now six, the Kypros Kotzikas-owned trotting star is still lightly-raced, despite kicking off his career with three starts at two. He’s faced the starter only 31 times for 15 wins and five placings, banking $351,468. Last season, he won seven of 15 starts, securing his place in NZ trot history as the winner of three NZ Group One trot races in the same season. He was spelled after taking out the G1 Canam Rowe Cup at Auckland on May 9. Master Lavros also won the G1 $80,000 Fred Shaw Memorial NZ Trotting Championship at Addington in April in a NZ record for the mobile 2600m of 3:13.1 (1:59.4 rate). For good measure, he also won two Group Three trots at Addington last term, the $25,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Summer Trotting Free-For-All (mobile 1950m) and $25,000 Dr Cliff Irvine Memorial Canterbury Park Trotting Cup (2600m). Unfortunately, his only start in Australia resulted in gallop in the Glenferrie Challenge at Menangle on March 2, but will be given the chance to show his best across the Tasman this season. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing - Visit site here
Blair Orange finished at the All Stars stable in July after a decade associated with the best stable in the country- and he has plenty to show for it. He finished on a high breaking into the "100 club" for the first time, the latest in a string of records he has established over the years. "My target was 50 at the start of the season. I thought I was doing well when I got to 75 and then I thought, well I might as well go for the 100. I might not get a chance to get that close again" With help from the Mark Jones stable he achieved his target -well ahead of any previous season. The stimulus All Stars gave his young driving career speak for itself. He had of course helped make his own luck, making marked improvement to rein 37 winners in the 2002 season mostly for smaller trainers like Trevor Craddock, Mike Austin, Craig Buchan, Kevin Townley, Andrew Stuart, Brian Kerr, John Parsons, Michael House and Peter Cowan. It is significant that his 100th winner for this season was for Austin and his last driving night under the All Stars banner features a drive for Buchan. But the chance to work with Mark Purdon was going to another level and Blair has always aspired to go to the next level. "Mark rang me out of the blue. I had never driven for him. We talked, he made me an offer and I accepted. " Ohoka Atom was his first winner for the stable but one of his biggest thrills came a month later when Waihemo Hanger won at the Cup meeting. "I had never driven a winner on Cup Day so that was special ." Ironically one of his earlier regular drives for Mike Austin, Ado's Invasion, was second handled by Mark Jones. Blair's career had started nearly seven years earlier when he was with Tim Butt and drove Whizza Nova to win at Reefton in 1996. He won 18 races in his first season for All Stars but by 2007 topped $1m in stakes won thanks chiefly to Ohoka Arizona, Fiery Falcon and Steve McQueen. In only one season since have his stakes won been less than seven figures. His best season for the stable in terms of wins was 2012 when he won 46 for All Stars from a season driving total of 81. However even in his final season with Mark and Natalie driving many of the A graders he won 39 races for the stable. Altogether he has won $12.6m in stakes for owners over the years. His biggest month for All Stars was in March of 2009 when he drove 11 winners for the stable going close with 10 in the same month this season. So as he heads for his own training career -though with plenty of free lance driving still part of the package-what has he learned. Naturally the answer is "a lot". "Obviously the overall organisation is something you don't work with often. I have worked in other top stables such as Tim and Anthony's but there is always something different they do, something you can pick up on. The handling of the two year olds has been one of the great experiences for me. How they are brought along and managed and each one assessed for what they can handle as youngsters. Then how they are managed during their campaigns. There was a lot in that'' "But the overall routines and stable management was just as important. So much to learn and adapt when I go out on my own training. Mark is a master at planning a programme so the horses peak for the big days. Not many can do it like he and Natalie can'' " From a driving viewpoint the horses at All Stars give you confidence in what you are going. That is a hell of an advantage and it carries over to your other drives " If it was so good why leave ? "I would have been quite happy to stay to be honest if an offer like Ken's (Barron) had not come along. But I was going to have to strike out a bit more on my own sooner or later and this was a deal I thought too good to let pass. It could open the way for me to have my own training operation which is the long term aim. In the meantime I will still be doing a lot of free lance driving and some of that for Mark Jones who has been such a boost to me this season." Blair is aware there are plenty with doubts he is doing the right thing but that is of no concern to him. "While I was mulling over the offer I had a few doubts myself but once I made the decision I was confident it was the right one and what anybody else thinks is not important to me. It would be fair to say Blair Orange came to All Stars still an apprentice and left as graduate with honours on the driving track. So what were his five most memorable experiences at the stable ? In no particular order: LENNON "I won a lot of races with Lennon in my first season with Mark and races like the Kindergarten, Welcome, Sapling and the Sires Stakes. He was a class horse and he gave me a lot of confidence that I could measure up in the big stuff" WAIHEMO HANGER "He have me my first winner at the Cup meeting and that was a huge thrill for me at the time. You don't forget things like that" AUCKLAND REACTOR- "I won the Taylor Mile behind him. He was just a terrific horse. He had that something extra you never forget " ADORE ME -"Winning the Easter Cup gave a thrill like Auckland Reactor had. A special horse to drive" HIGHVIEW TOMMY " He might have only run second in the Cup but second in the Cup was a big thing for me. It is the race everyone wants to win and we went close. He gave me a lot of other big moments too and Tommy could be full of surprises so you never knew quite what was going to happen" (Blair set some sort of record with Highview Tommy too driving him to win in five successive seasons. Maybe not even Mark has done that with one of the team in Blair's era). Courtesy Of All Stars Racing
The North Island has won the fifth annual ‘Island Of Origin’ series at Alexandra Park. The Peter Ferguson captained team of six beat the South Island by 25 points to 11 tonight (Friday August 29th). Points were awarded on a 3-2-1 basis for first, second, and third. Ferguson was rapt with the victory. “We didn’t come here to run second. It’s a great concept and I’m rapt to have won it. We all did our bit. 3-2 sounds very nice,” Fergie said. South Island captain Ricky May, who replaced the suspended Anthony Butt as skipper, enjoyed the night. “It’s a great concept especially with owners getting penalty free wins. We were going pretty good early on and then we faded a bit," May said. The North Island paid $1.80 for their third victory. “I really enjoyed it and am always proud to represent the South Island,” he added. Zac Butcher won the Individual title and paid $4.60 on the New Zealand TAB. He amassed eight points thanks to two wins and a second. Blair Orange (six points) finished second with two wins, while Tony Herlihy (MNZM) was third with five points from two seconds and a third. ‘The Postman’ aka Orange delivered in the first heat with a win behind the Andrew and Lyn Neal trained Lucky Fortune. Butcher then won the second heat behind the Stephen Doody trained Te Kawau, while Ferguson led the way with a third heat victory behind the Richard Brosnan trained Torbjorn. The fourth heat went to Orange and the Roni Lauren trained I Got Rhythm before Butcher won the fifth heat behind the Stewart Ashworth trained Machinegun Kelly. The last heat was won by Todd Mitchell and the Peter Scaife trained Rip Roaring. The teams were: North Island: Peter Ferguson (c), Tony Herlihy (MNZM), Todd Mitchell, Philip Butcher, Zac Butcher, and Scott Phelan. South Island: Ricky May (c), Gerard O’Reilly, Dexter Dunn, Blair Orange, Jim Curtin, and Mark Jones. The Island Of Origin winners: 2014: North Island. 2013: North Island. 2012: South Island. 2011: South Island. 2010: North Island. Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand
The best harness racing drivers from the North and South Islands square off in six races at Alexandra Park on Friday night (August 29th). Named the Island Of Origin series, it has brought together the best drivers in New Zealand in a contest that decides bragging rights between the islands for the next twelve months. Points are scored on a 3 - 2 - 1 basis and judging by the fields and the spread of form horses to both camps, it should be a close and exciting contest. The South Island team is full of talent with last seasons leading driver Dexter Dunn joined by Ricky May, Mark Jones, Blair Orange, Gerald O'Reilly and Jimmy Curtin.. The North Island team is just as talented with the "Iceman" Tony Herlihy teaming up with Zac Butcher, Philip Butcher, Peter Ferguson, Todd Mitchell and Scott Phelan. Most home teams have an edge to start with and that was added to just a little bit by the fact that the Northern horsemen have 31 drives on Friday night compared to 30 for the Southern horsemen. All the races for the invited drivers are penalty free which is a nice bonus for the trainers and owners who have supported the series with their horses. The most interesting race for the invited drivers is undoubtedly race three, the C2 - C5 mobile pace over 2200 meters. Last seasons smart 3 year old Te Kawau looks hard to beat but a couple of real up and comers could prove troublesome with a run to suit. Royal Taz has won his last two for Tony Herlihy in the manner of a horse going places and from his handy draw looms as a genuine threat to the favourite. Pricillas Girl has run two slashers this time in and appeals as a value runner if the other two go to war at any stage. Six of the other runners in the field have either won or been placed at their last start so the favoured trio won't have it all their own way. The invited drivers creates real interest leading into Friday night and the Auckland Trotting Club should be applauded for bringing the concept to fruition. Harnesslink Media
Kentuckiana Lodge trainer Cran Dalgety has joined Patumahoe’s Geoff Small as NZ’s most successful trainers of Group One Breeders Crown Final winners after Katy Perry’s hard fought success in last Sunday’s $A297,000 Betterthancheddar @ Alabar Australasian Breeders Crown 2YO Fillies Final at Tabcorp Park, Melton. Both have achieved five Breeders Crown Final successes in the specialised two-four age group categories, just one ahead of NZ’s premier trainer Mark Purdon. Cran Dalgety’s growing list of ABC Grand Final winners is: Sparks A Flyin (2001 3YO fillies), Smiling Shard (2009 2YO colts/geldings), Bit Of A Legend (2012-13 3YO colts/geldings) and Katy Perry (2014 2YO fillies). Former world champion driver Mark Jones partnered Sparks A Flyin. Current NZ champion Dexter Dunn has driven the stable runners since 2009. The Kentuckiana Lodge mentor is challenging as NZ’s most successful trainer at the Breeders Crown, taking into account his additional three Grand Final seconds _ Smiling Shard (2010 3YO colts/geldings), Onlyforyou (2012 2YO fillies) and Bit Of A Legend (2014 4YO entires/geldings). Northern-based, but Canterbury-raised Geoff Small, set the early pace among the Kiwis. Small’s ABC Pacing Grand Final winners are: Pullover Brown (2003 3YO Fillies), Changeover (2007 3YO Colts/geldings), Tintin In America (2009 3YO Colts/geldings), De Lovely (2010 3YO Fillies) and Cowgirls N Indians (2011 2YO Fillies). He also has a Group Two Australasian Breeders Crown Graduate FFA (open class race) to his credit, with All Tiger in 2009. Recuperating Cambridge driver David Butcher has partnered all but one of Small’s ABC winners. Templeton driver Anthony Butt partnered Pullover Brown for her ABC win after also driving her to win the NZ Oaks that season. Anthony Butt, a close second driving Joanne’s A Delight in last Sunday’s 2YO Fillies Final, also won the 1998 ABC 3YO Fillies Final driving Under Cover Lover, Mark Purdon, who gained early ABC Final training successes with Galleons Assassin (2005 2YO trot) and Fly Like An Eagle (2012 3YO colts/geldings), doubled his quota when (My) Ayra (2YO fillies trot) and Follow The Stars (2YO colts/geldings) delivered last Sunday. His additional driving win with (Our) Twentyten (who he formerly trained) in the 3YO trot final on Sunday, makes him jointly NZ’s top driver in the 2-4YO age group catergories, with David Butcher, who besides the Small-trained winners, also reined Miami H to win the 2010 3YO trot final for trainers Derek Balle and Owen Gillies. Victorian trotting training master Chris Lang is the most successful Breeders Crown trainer with seven wins. His successes, all in ABC trot finals, are: Kyvalley Road (2002-03 2 & 3YO trot), Right Interest (2006 3YO trot), Skyvalley (2008-09 3 & 4YO trot) and Let Me Thru (2009-10 3 & 4YO trot). Lang has also added three Group Two Australasian Breeders Crown Graduate FFA wins, a race for open class trotters, with former champ, Sundons Gift (2007-08 & 2010). Lang’s brother, champion Victorian reinsman Gavin, although winless at the Breeders Crown this year, remains the most successful driver in Breeders Crown Finals, with 10 successes. Courtsey Of Cran Dalgety Racing
There was no ring-around last week however the ring-around the week prior produced five winners. Let’s see if we can top that tally this week. Forbury – Thursday Robbie Close: Thinks impressive last start winner Billies A Star will prove very tough to beat in the third race on the card. Jonny Cox: Has found some value in the form of stable newcomer Franco Theron – race six. Ken Barron: Has opted for Livura, who looks a strong chance in race seven, as his bet of the week. Matthew Williamson: Thinks Sage can surprise at value from her ace draw. She also competes in the seventh race on the card. Franklin@Alexandra Park – Friday Scott Phelan: Has opted for Getaway Doug as his bet of the week – race two. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Rates the chances of Tarn, who was a good workout winner last weekend, in the same event. Todd Mitchell: Is bullish about the chances of Tangos Delight, who has raced well lately despite receiving little luck. She looks a good chance in race six. Jay Abernethy: Has opted for Pacific Rapture, who finished a nice second in the Golden Girls Final, in the same race. Josh Dickie: Expects Tembi to prove too strong for his five rivals in the last event on the card. Rangiora – Sunday Gavin Smith: Has opted for stable newcomer Zena Mac, who looks a good chance from her ace alley in the second race. Mark Jones: Rates JC Skipper as his best chance of the weekend – race four. Ricky May: Has selected Mighty Peruvian, who stuck on gamely for second last start. He also competes in race four. Terry Chmiel: Expects impressive trialist Parramatta to prove hard to beat in the fifth event on the card. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): New Deal – race nine.
Last week was possibly the worst ever for the ring-around with just the one winner. However, that one winner, Equulei, tipped by Jay Abernethy, did pay odds of $10.70 and $2.50. Let’s see what the boys have come up with for us this week: Addington – Thursday Jonny Cox: Thinks 2-win mare Pay Me Quick, who has been in sublime form of late, will be hard to beat against non-win rivals in the first race on the card. Ricky May: Has opted for the very smart Dalton Bromac, who looks half of the quinella with Wesley Silcox – race four. Matthew Williamson: Expects Very Persuasive to prove very hard to beat in the Golden Girls Final – race eight. Ken Barron: Has a massive opinion of Bracken Ridge and expects him to be simply too classy for his rivals in the last race on the card. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Bracken Ridge – race nine. Alexandra Park - Thursday Josh Dickie: Thinks Sunny Vacation, with manners, is the one they all have to beat in race six. Scott Phelan: Thinks the inform Cyamach, who is likely to head to Australia for the Breeders Crown, can continue on his winning ways – race seven. Todd Mitchell: Is bullish about the chances of Tangos Delight, who looks a strong chance in the eighth race on the card. Simon Lawson: Thinks Shedontloveme is a very good each-way chance in the last race on the card. Kurow – Sunday Blair Orange: Thinks Quaint Glen, who had trialled up stylishly prior to her debut third, can win the first race on the card. Tim Williams: Has opted for Lovetodream, who also looks a good chance in the first race on card. Gavin Smith: Thinks Billies A Star, who has been ultra impressive at the trials, should prove too strong for what looks an average maiden line-up – race five. Mark Jones: Thinks Sunoflindenny, who has been backed and beaten in his first two runs back, can make amends in the sixth race on the card.
Last week the ring-around produced six winners with Matthew Williamson, Nathan Williamson, Scott Phelan, Ricky May, John Dunn, and I all delivering the goods. The best result was my tip Spell which romped in at odds $5.50. Let’s see what winners we have in store for you this week: Cambridge – Thursday Jay Abernethy: Thinks Equulei can kick the ring-around off in style in the first race at Cambridge. Simon Lawson: Rates Betty Boop Brogden as a good each-way chance in the fourth race on the card. Alexandra Park – Friday Todd Mitchell: Has opted for Miss Lotty, who was seen doing her best work late when second last start. She looks a good chance in the first race. Brent Mangos: expects impressive trialist Vibhuti to prove very tough to roll – race four. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Djokovic, who looks a bold chance in race five. Scott Phelan: Rates the chances of inform pacer Cyamach, who looks a strong chance despite meeting a very good field in the sixth race at Alexandra Park. Addington – Friday Ken Barron: Expects both Bracken Ridge (race two) and Quaint Glen (Rangiora race 3) to prove very hard to beat. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Bracken Ridge – race two Mark Jones: Thinks the consistent Jaccka Len can break through for another win – race five. Gavin Smith: Rates She’s Extreme as a good place chance in the sixth event on the card. John Dunn: Is expecting a big run from two-year-old filly Cullens First Meddle – race six. Tim Williams: Has opted for smart mare Here We Go Again, who downed likely favourite Fifth Edition in her last start – race eight. Matthew Williamson: Expects Ohoka Benson to be hard to beat in what looks an average C1 field – race ten. Rangiora – Sunday Terry Chmiel: Has opted for the inform That Guy Finn, who looks a good chance despite meeting a strong C1 and 2 line-up – race six. Jonny Cox: Thinks Explosive Art can continue to explode through the grades – race nine.
Champion harness racing driver Ricky May notched up his third season century in succession when winning aboard the Dave Anderson trained Abbey Cullen at Addington last night. The win was May’s third for the night after good mate Mark Jones put him on Zakspatrol and Sabellian in order to help him reach the milestone. Both 3YO pacers were winners of their two-horse Breeders Crown heats. However, Zakspatrol was actually a narrow second and was a promoted winner after Artismee was relegated for galloping over the line. Driven positively by May, Abbey Cullen held up from her ace alley before undergoing a mid-race attack from Smart Alex. She then kicked strongly in the straight to hold off a late bid from Smart Alex who was able to drop into the trail when the mid-race speed went on. Hikoi finished a further a one and a quarter lengths away in third. The win was the Christian Cullen mares first from fourteen starts. It was also the first time May has taken the reins behind the four-year-old. May then went on to notch up his 101st win for the season, and fourth for the night, when winning aboard the smart Brendon Hill trained pacer Dalton Bromac, who looked back to the horse that we saw in his South Island debut two starts back. After missing away from the standing start, May worked Dalton Bromac into the race three-wide before taking a one-one sit down the back straight. He then worked the gelding into the clear rounding the final bend, with the three-year-old letting down strongly for a comprehensive win despite not running straight. Robbie Close, who has been the caretaker trainer of the gelding during the week, said that he believes Dalton Bromac is a better horse when coming from behind, which may be the reason he was slightly disappointing when a well beaten third after leading up in his second start in the south. “He is still pretty green and I think he is a better horse when he is chasing,” revealed Close. “I also think the 2600 metre trips suit him as he is a very good stayer and can follow pace,” he added. The season century tops off what has been another tremendous innings for May. Not only did he notch up his seventh New Zealand Cup victory but he was also victorious in the Auckland Cup. His emphatic win aboard Monbet in the Harness Jewels 2YO Ruby, which gave long-time supporters Greg & Nina Hope their first Group One win in New Zealand, was another one of his highlights. Meanwhile, Robert Dunn is now just two wins shy of training 100 winners in a season for the first time after winning a heat of the Golden Girls with Westburn Warrior. His tally could have been 99 had Artismee not been relegated. By Mitchell Robertson