Last week was possibly the worst ever for the ring-around with just the one winner. However, that one winner, Equulei, tipped by Jay Abernethy, did pay odds of $10.70 and $2.50. Let’s see what the boys have come up with for us this week: Addington – Thursday Jonny Cox: Thinks 2-win mare Pay Me Quick, who has been in sublime form of late, will be hard to beat against non-win rivals in the first race on the card. Ricky May: Has opted for the very smart Dalton Bromac, who looks half of the quinella with Wesley Silcox – race four. Matthew Williamson: Expects Very Persuasive to prove very hard to beat in the Golden Girls Final – race eight. Ken Barron: Has a massive opinion of Bracken Ridge and expects him to be simply too classy for his rivals in the last race on the card. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Bracken Ridge – race nine. Alexandra Park - Thursday Josh Dickie: Thinks Sunny Vacation, with manners, is the one they all have to beat in race six. Scott Phelan: Thinks the inform Cyamach, who is likely to head to Australia for the Breeders Crown, can continue on his winning ways – race seven. Todd Mitchell: Is bullish about the chances of Tangos Delight, who looks a strong chance in the eighth race on the card. Simon Lawson: Thinks Shedontloveme is a very good each-way chance in the last race on the card. Kurow – Sunday Blair Orange: Thinks Quaint Glen, who had trialled up stylishly prior to her debut third, can win the first race on the card. Tim Williams: Has opted for Lovetodream, who also looks a good chance in the first race on card. Gavin Smith: Thinks Billies A Star, who has been ultra impressive at the trials, should prove too strong for what looks an average maiden line-up – race five. Mark Jones: Thinks Sunoflindenny, who has been backed and beaten in his first two runs back, can make amends in the sixth race on the card.
Last week the ring-around produced six winners with Matthew Williamson, Nathan Williamson, Scott Phelan, Ricky May, John Dunn, and I all delivering the goods. The best result was my tip Spell which romped in at odds $5.50. Let’s see what winners we have in store for you this week: Cambridge – Thursday Jay Abernethy: Thinks Equulei can kick the ring-around off in style in the first race at Cambridge. Simon Lawson: Rates Betty Boop Brogden as a good each-way chance in the fourth race on the card. Alexandra Park – Friday Todd Mitchell: Has opted for Miss Lotty, who was seen doing her best work late when second last start. She looks a good chance in the first race. Brent Mangos: expects impressive trialist Vibhuti to prove very tough to roll – race four. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Djokovic, who looks a bold chance in race five. Scott Phelan: Rates the chances of inform pacer Cyamach, who looks a strong chance despite meeting a very good field in the sixth race at Alexandra Park. Addington – Friday Ken Barron: Expects both Bracken Ridge (race two) and Quaint Glen (Rangiora race 3) to prove very hard to beat. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Bracken Ridge – race two Mark Jones: Thinks the consistent Jaccka Len can break through for another win – race five. Gavin Smith: Rates She’s Extreme as a good place chance in the sixth event on the card. John Dunn: Is expecting a big run from two-year-old filly Cullens First Meddle – race six. Tim Williams: Has opted for smart mare Here We Go Again, who downed likely favourite Fifth Edition in her last start – race eight. Matthew Williamson: Expects Ohoka Benson to be hard to beat in what looks an average C1 field – race ten. Rangiora – Sunday Terry Chmiel: Has opted for the inform That Guy Finn, who looks a good chance despite meeting a strong C1 and 2 line-up – race six. Jonny Cox: Thinks Explosive Art can continue to explode through the grades – race nine.
Champion harness racing driver Ricky May notched up his third season century in succession when winning aboard the Dave Anderson trained Abbey Cullen at Addington last night. The win was May’s third for the night after good mate Mark Jones put him on Zakspatrol and Sabellian in order to help him reach the milestone. Both 3YO pacers were winners of their two-horse Breeders Crown heats. However, Zakspatrol was actually a narrow second and was a promoted winner after Artismee was relegated for galloping over the line. Driven positively by May, Abbey Cullen held up from her ace alley before undergoing a mid-race attack from Smart Alex. She then kicked strongly in the straight to hold off a late bid from Smart Alex who was able to drop into the trail when the mid-race speed went on. Hikoi finished a further a one and a quarter lengths away in third. The win was the Christian Cullen mares first from fourteen starts. It was also the first time May has taken the reins behind the four-year-old. May then went on to notch up his 101st win for the season, and fourth for the night, when winning aboard the smart Brendon Hill trained pacer Dalton Bromac, who looked back to the horse that we saw in his South Island debut two starts back. After missing away from the standing start, May worked Dalton Bromac into the race three-wide before taking a one-one sit down the back straight. He then worked the gelding into the clear rounding the final bend, with the three-year-old letting down strongly for a comprehensive win despite not running straight. Robbie Close, who has been the caretaker trainer of the gelding during the week, said that he believes Dalton Bromac is a better horse when coming from behind, which may be the reason he was slightly disappointing when a well beaten third after leading up in his second start in the south. “He is still pretty green and I think he is a better horse when he is chasing,” revealed Close. “I also think the 2600 metre trips suit him as he is a very good stayer and can follow pace,” he added. The season century tops off what has been another tremendous innings for May. Not only did he notch up his seventh New Zealand Cup victory but he was also victorious in the Auckland Cup. His emphatic win aboard Monbet in the Harness Jewels 2YO Ruby, which gave long-time supporters Greg & Nina Hope their first Group One win in New Zealand, was another one of his highlights. Meanwhile, Robert Dunn is now just two wins shy of training 100 winners in a season for the first time after winning a heat of the Golden Girls with Westburn Warrior. His tally could have been 99 had Artismee not been relegated. By Mitchell Robertson
Last week was a quiet one for the ring-around with just the two winners. However, T.A.B Bookmaker Steve Richardson did find us some value in the form of $8 and $2.50. Let’s see what good oil the boys have found for us this week. Forbury – Thursday Matthew Williamson: Has opted for Monnay, who is the class horse of the field but and looks a chance despite his huge seventy metre handicap – race six. Nathan Williamson: Rates the chances of Onedin Mach, who should have benefited off his fresh-up fourth. He looks the one to beat in race seven on the card. Jonny Cox: Rates the chances of Homeforabubbly, who looks well placed in the ninth race on the card. Alexandra Park – Friday Simon Lawson: Has selected Westwind Flyer as his best bet of the week – race one. Scott Phelan: Believes Pieces Of My Heart can go one better in the third race on the card. Josh Dickie: Has opted for Katieellen Castleton, who would only need to do things right to win the fourth race. Addington – Friday Stephen Richardson (T.A.B): Has selected Hikoi, who got too far back last start before finishing strongly for fourth. Steps up to 2600m this week which should suit – race two. David Butt: Rates the chances of Stingray, who returned to form last week with a nice win. He meets the same sort of field this week and looks a good each-way chance again - race five. Ricky May: Has opted for the impressive Dalton Bromac. He looks the one they all have to beat in the same event – race five. Craig Thornley: Has opted for Playaway, who was a fast finishing second last start. She looks a good each-way chance in the sixth race. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Spell – race eight. Ashburton – Sunday Mark Jones: Expects smart filly Goodness Gracious Me to prove very hard to beat in the sixth race. Ken Barron: Has opted for Change Time, who returns to mobile racing and has landed the plumb draw. She has produced big runs in her last two outings after missing the kick from standing starts and looks a good chance on Sunday – race eight. John Dunn: Thinks stable newcomer Wesley Silcox, who trialled up nicely on Monday, can keep his unbeaten record intact – race eight.
*What do Remiss, Valhalla, and Mattjestic Rebeck all have in common? well, apart from all having tested over the allowable TCO2 level they are all very nervous horses which became particularly stressed on the day the day in which the tested high. NZ Trainers and Drivers Association Secretary Peter T Cook, who has had his own personal experience with Valhalla, tells more. As you have probably read among the Remits being submitted to this years’ HRNZ Annual Conference, the Board, after a prolonged period of consideration, has finally decided to bring the allowable level of TC02 in line with pretty much every other jurisdiction in the World, i.e.36mmol/L, with a “guard band” of 1.0mmol/L. At the same time, however, they have also recommended an astonishingly large increase in the penalties involved for trainers who are found guilty for a first time. From a previously recommended $2-4000 for a first offence, the Board is proposing an automatic 2 year disqualification. The change has been likened to an increase from a ten year prison sentence to the death penalty in the real world. In other words, this would potentially be a career ending penalty for most, if not all trainers. The understanding is that most Australian states have a six month penalty for a first offence which is more realistic. Not only is this proposal totally out of “kilter’ with penalties attached to other charges, it is likely encourage someone whose career is in jeopardy and who had the financial wherewithal, to contest the matter in the Countrys’ legal system. All has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? Do we really want thousands of dollars more of Industry money keeping lawyers in the lifestyle they have become accustomed to? And while the Association is strongly supportive of measures against cheats, there is no guarantee that such legal proceedings against HRNZ would not be successful. Such a penalty offers no window for either the RIU or JCA for anyone to be found innocent. With a fine, even though it goes against natural justice, that may reluctantly be acceptable, but a two year ban is a different story. This decision has been made following long awaited, and somewhat controversial, advice from the HRNZ Veterinary Advisor Andrew Grierson. It is interesting to note that, in the press release from HRNZ, Chairman Gary Allen is quoting as saying “any positive will in almost all certainty be the result of an administration of prohibited substances.” The use of the word “almost” is interesting, considering that, in the past and currently, the RIU appear to have a policy of totally ignoring any evidence put before them suggesting a trainers’ innocence. This time last year, I had cause to have discussions with him concerning a horse in the stable I help out in, Valhalla. Andrew reeled off statistics (same as those accompanying the remit) stating categorically that the chances of a horse returning a level of 36mmol/L rises from around 15,000 to just over 2 million for a level of 37 without having TC02 administered. On the day that he was tested, Valhalla (normally a nervous horse at the races at the best of times) attempted to climb the walls of the float en route to the track, was bathed in sweat, was very agitated, and his eyes were out on storks as he was geared up. The RIU, as I could have told them, found no evidence of either Bicarbonate or anything to administer it with in the stables. The official reading was 38.2 which presumably makes him by far the rarest horse on the planet! While the requirement to present drug free horses is understandably paramount, this needs to be balanced with the rules of natural justice, and disqualifying a trainer for two years for a high level of a substance already present in every horse, doesn’t seem to match those requirements. It is quite possible that a Court of Law may take the same view, particularly when there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the trainer. Mark Jones is currently enduring the same nightmare of presenting compelling evidence that he did not administer bicarb, only to have it totally ignored by the authorities. As for performance enhancement, both Valhalla and Remiss, Marks’ horse that is currently under investigation, both finished last in their respective races! Peter T Cook (Courtesy of the Trainers and Drivers Association)
Oamaru Raceway could have easily been mistaken for the North Pole today. Not only was it was it freezing cold but Father Christmas was there. And, like every Decemeber, he didn’t disappoint. After starting from the unruly, Father Christmas and driver Brad Williamson looped the field three wide with cover with a lap to go, before surging to the front down the back straight. He then kicked strongly in the home straight to hold off a late challenge from Foreverman. Little Bro was a further two lenghts away in third. The Phil Williamson trained three-year-old, who was greeted in the winners’ circle by a syndicate of owners wearing Santa hats, has now won three of his six starts and placed on a further two occasions. However, had it not been for a couple of mistakes his record could be even more impressive. “Phil (Williamson) has always had a big opinion of him and he seems to be getting more full-proof all the time,” said wife Bev Williamson. “We think he has a pretty big future and he should still get better as he is only three,” she added. By top French stallion Love You, Father Christmas was bred to be good and should continue to get even better. He hails from a family of smart trotters including Dependable, Jo Anne, Shirley Temple, Ima Gold Digger, and Doctor Mickey. Meanwhile, junior reinswomen Samantha Ottley and Kimberly Butt both won two races on the card today and tied for first in the Streamline Freight Drivers Challenge. Kim was successful aboard the Tim Butt trained Pantheon and the Robbie Holmes trained Lurah, who provided her with not only her first double but also her first outside win “Before today I had only ever driven winners for Tim Butt (uncle) and Mark Jones (employer-second cousin),” explained Butt. Ottley was victorious aboard Valmagne and Joe The Hunter and now has a four win lead in the Junior Drivers Premiership over northern reinsman Sailesh Abernethy. By Mitchell Robertson
Training will become a game of Russian Roulette unless harness racing officials become more proactive investigating high bicarbonate levels and allow trainers to prove their innocence, says trainer Mark Jones. Jones, one of the country's most celebrated reinsmen and now a successful trainer at Burnham, is concerned at Harness Racing New Zealand's proposal to introduce strict new penalties for breaches of the TCO2 rule. A remit that will go before the annual general meeting of clubs in Christchurch next month would see the TCO2 threshold lifted from 35 to 36 (with a margin of error of one) to bring it into line with the thoroughbred code and overseas jurisdictions. But with it would come a dramatic rise in the penalties handed out, fines of only a few thousand dollars replaced by minimum disqualifications of two years for a first offence, five years for a second breach and 10 years for a third offence. The proposal came under immediate fire from Amberley trainer Jamie Keast yesterday when he was suspended for six months for his third high bicarb, after Westburn Creed tested 36.2 at Kaikoura last November. And while Jones says the lifting of the level is long overdue, he has good reason to oppose the draconian bans given he is facing a bicarb charge of his own after Remiss returned a level of 36.2 at Forbury Park on June 5 while Jones was away in Nelson. After the mare came close to testing high again on another trip to Dunedin three weeks later, returning 35.6, Jones was forced to sack the horse, not prepared to risk a second charge. Jones has no idea why Remiss tests high but says his attempts to prove his innocence have been rebutted by the Racing Integrity Unit. ''Under the rule, you can't beat them. It's one of strict liability and they say they don't have to do or prove anything. It's an easy kill for them.'' Jones said he had invited the RIU out to his property to show them the $100,000 CCT camera security system he had in place. But his assurances that he had taken all possible precautions were met by a blunt claim that the horse should not have been left unattended, albeit briefly, when strapper Kimberley Butt was out on the track driving. ''I told them I was prepared to pay for them to take the horse for a week then transport it down to Dunedin, test if before it leaves, then again on arrival to see if it its bicarb rises. ''They told me that even if the level went over 36, it would be no defence. Jones said all he was asking for was a measure of common sense and the chance to prove his innocence. And that would be an absolute necessity if HRNZ introduced two-year disqualifications for first offenders. ''I don't like being accused of things I haven't done and it's my livelihood on the line,'' said Jones, fearful that his lifeline of selling horses to Australia will be cut off if his reputation is dented. Jones said RIU investigator Kylie Williams told him if he wanted to race Remiss again she would give him permission to give her a warm-up on the track earlier in the night to lower her level by one to two points. ''But I refused. I shouldn't have to do that to be able to race a horse.'' Instead he passed Remiss on to his father Peter to train and, warmed up twice before she raced at Addington last week, she tested at 34.8. ''But if he hadn't warmed her up before the tests, the level could have been close to 36 or even over.'' Ironically, Peter Jones is also training Mattjestic Rebeck, who landed Rangiora hobby trainer Neville Gorrie in strife in June 2013 when it tested 36.3, resulting in his being fined $1800. Jones said it was simply outrageous to suggest that Gorrie, along with fellow respected Ladbrooks trainer Gavin Cook, whose horse Valhalla tested high at 37 and 38.3 last year, should be disqualified for two years. Jones, who has an earlier bicarb strike against his name, when Algeepee tested 38.2 at Addington in 2010, would be looking at five years out. ''You could never come back after that long. I'd have to sell my property.'' Jones said he's had other horses with unexplained bicarb variances, such as Fair Dinkum Bromac, whose resting paddock level of 30 routinely jumped four points when he went to the races. He had been the same when trained by John Hay. ''It's all very well for their vet to say high levels can only happen with administrations but so many things can affect them. ''I need to figure out why it's happening to me. Am I over-training them, is it in my feed? ''I know the pre-mix feed I use has preservatives in it. That wouldn't be enough to put the level over by itself but put that together with dehydration, stress, lung infections and you can come up with a lethal cocktail. That's scary.'' Courtesy of Barry Lichter Reprinted with permissin of Fairfax media
Last week was a bit quieter for the ring-around with just Matthew Williamson, Ricky May, Ken Barron, David Butt, and Tony Herlihy tipping out winners. Hopefully we can top that performance this week Cambridge - Thursday Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Present Arms - race three. Josh Dickie: Rates juvenile Monterey Jack as good each-way prospect in the sixth race on the card. Alexandra Park - Friday Scott Phelan: Thinks Cyamach, who was an impressive last start winner, can repeat the dose in the fifth race on the card. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Ace Moment in the fourth event. Addington - Friday Craig Thornley: Thinks capabale type Al's Courage will measure up well in what is a very strong line-up - race seven. Samantha Ottley: Would love to win the Darren DeFilippi Memorial and thinks she can with Jayceekay - race seven. Ricky May: Has opted for Dalton Bromac who was super impressive when winning his South Island debut. - race eight. Anthony Butt: Rates Gotta Go Artelect as a good each-way chance in the same event. Blair Orange: Has opted for Franco Tevez, who finished third last start, in the ninth event at Addington. Oamaru - Sunday Matthew Williamson: Has opted for Monnay, who has been herculean when overcoming back handicaps to win his last two starts. He will attempt to do that again in race five. Mark Jones and Jonny Cox: Both think smart filly Goodness Gracious Me, who was super at the recent Motukarara workouts, will prove very hard to beat in the seventh race. Nathan Williamson: Has selected capable three-year-old Onedin Mach, who races well when in a fresh state. He will take all sorts of beating in the ninth race.
Well known Selwyn pig farmers Pete Molloy and Ray Seebeck have had a succession of nice horses around them over the years and their latest harness racing winner at Timaru today (Sunday 6th July) in Gotta Grunter is no exception. It is never hard to spot their horses at the races as most have a reference to pigs in their name. Ever since their smart racehorse Three Little Pigs 1:59.7 ($55,135) in the nineties, the two pig farmers have had a succession of horses with a "piggish" name. By the son of Christian Cullen, Gotta Go Cullen 1:58.3 ($1,127,567), Gotta Grunter is from the speedy Badlands Hanover mare Sheza Grunter 1:59.8 ($21,482) Starting his career with Spreydon Lodge trainer Steve McRae, Gotta Grunter looked very promising early on, running second at his first three lifetime starts. But from there Gotta Grunter had a few issues and his form fell away. A transfer to the Mark Jones Woodend beach stable followed and he was having his first start for his new trainer when he won today with regular pilot Craig Thornley in the bike. Sent straight to the front from his inside draw, Gotta Grunter was attacked a couple of times mid race but still had enough in reserve to hold on for a deserved success. He paced the 2600 meters mobile in 3:19.6, a mile rate of 2:03.5 with closing sectionals of 58.7 and 29.5. One thing you can be sure of is that this latest win by these two well known characters of harness racing in Canterbury will be celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm at one of the local watering holes tonight. Gotta Grunter Harnesslink media
The ring-around once again delivered for punters last week, with five winners and four placegetters. Among them was Lady Mackendon ($6), who was labelled a ‘good thing’ by Mark Jones, Galleon’s Triumph ($6.60, and Russet Norkotah, who was tipped out by Josh Dickie and paid a phenomenal $20 for a place ($31FF). Let’s hope for a repeat performance this week: Forbury – Thursday Nathan Williamson: Rates Hope And Pray as a good each-way prospect at odds – race one. Jonny Cox: Believes that King Louie only has to run up to his best to be a serious contender in the fourth race on the card. Tim Williams: Thinks impressive last start winner Scottish Duchess can figure in the finish again – race five. Matthew Williamson: Has opted for last start winner Monnay despite her huge 60 metre handicap – race six. Ricky May: Expects Riga Doon to prove very hard to beat from his ace alley in the last race on the card. Addington – Friday Stephen McNally: Has opted for Hikoi in the first race on the card. She looks a strong chance on the back of a good trial performance. Craig Thornely: Thinks Playaway, who is drawn to get a nice trip, can figure in the finish at nice odds. Ken Barron: Couldn’t spit Mighty Major – race four & Mighty Flying Major – Alexandra Park race seven. Both look to have very good chances. Terry Chmiel: Thinks stable newcomer Trips On Me can bob up at odds in the fifth race on the card. David Butt: Rates the chances of Stingray, who drops back to a C1 and will seek a penalty free win – race six. Anthony Butt: Has opted for Prestine, who looked to be travelling well before galloping last start – race eight. Alexandra Park – Friday Tony Herlihy: Rates Whisper Jet, who has been racing well and looks extremely well placed as his bet of the week – race one. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Crocket’s Cullen, who has trialled up stylishly and looks the winner of the eighth race on the card. Josh Dickie: Is keen on three-year-old trotting filly Katieellen Castleton, who was a good second last start and has worked on well during the week – race nine. Timaru – Sunday Mark Jones: Isn’t labelling anything a ‘good thing’ this week. However, he does like the chances of Kowhai Sunrise – race three. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Big Lucy – race seven
Four-year-old trotting mare Lady Mackendon gave her driver and co-owner Kimberley Butt an early birthday present when overhauling her 12 rivals in the first race at Forbury Park last night. Butt, who turns 20 today, owns the mare in partnership with her not-so-better half Matthew Cross, who enjoyed his first taste of success as an owner. The win spearheads what is going to be a big weekend for Cross, who is a broadcasting cadet for Trackside. Cross is set to make his commentating debut at Rangiora on Sunday. “I was hoping I would get to call a race by the end of the year, but I never expect the opportunity to come along this early,” said Cross. Cross was full of praise for his mentors, commentator Mark McNamara and presenter Greg O’Connor. “They have both been a huge help and I definitely wouldn’t be calling on Sunday if it wasn’t for their guidance.” Lady Mackendon, who is trained by Butt’s employer Mark Jones, had three unplaced runs for Terry O’Sullivan before being leased by Butt and Cross. She had indicated that she would go close in her debut for the Jones stable with an impressive win at the Rangiora workouts on the 21st of June. Lady Mackendon, who was bred by Butt’s Grandmother Jenny along with Don McKenzie, hails from the family of smart trotters Genius, Dream Machine, and Vulcan. By Mitchell Robertson
Southland’s claiming King and Queen, Geoff and Jude Knight, were the deserving winners of tonight’s $10,000 Claimers’ Final at Forbury Park. The Roxburgh couple, who have kept the Southern Claimers’ Series alive this season, were victorious in the race with 10yo come-back pacer Hi Gun, who returned to the winners circle for the first time in just under a year. Hi Gun was also sucessful in the 2013 Claimers' Series Final. Given a beautiful run in the trail by driver Dexter Dunn, Hi Gun pounced on the pacemaking Tagataese in the home straight to dive up the passing lane and win by a neck to the roar of the Who’s Driving Syndicate and the Turners. Hi Gun, who was retired after his run for 10th at Forbury Park on the 29th of August 2013, was originally brought back into training to work by his co-owner Jonny Turner before returning to fo full work with Geoff and Jude Knight. The Knight's use alternative training methods to keep Hi Gun fit and on top of his game. Those methods include riding, and sometimes, jumping. Hi Gun was placed in all six of the claimers’ heats leading up to tonight’s final. The son of Washington VC has now won 10 of his 68 starts and placed on a further 23 occasions. Runner-up Tagataese was claimed out of the event for $8,000 by, yes, you guessed it, Geoff and Jude Knight. However, while the Knight’s do specialise in turning around older and sometimes sore horses, they do have the odd smart young horse and one of them is Al Raza. The talented three-year-old filly, which is owned by the Central Courage Syndicate, made it four wins on end when winning a race her owners sponsored – the Central Courage Syndicate C1-2 Mobile Pace. Meanwhile, junior Trackside Presenter/Commentator Matthew Cross enjoyed his first win as an owner when combining with Mark Jones and his fiancée Kimberly Butt, to win the first race on the card with Lady Mackendon. Cross is set to make his commentating debut at Rangiora on Sunday. By Mitchell Robertson
Last week was a great one for the Harnesslink ring-around with Matthew Williamson, Ken Barron, Scott Phelan, Josh Dickie, Jonny Cox, Craig Thornley, Ricky May, Anthony Butt, and Blair Orange all tipping out winners. Here are this week’s selections: Cambridge - Thursday Simon Lawson: Expects Ton Tine to win again – race five. Alexandra Park – Friday Steve Richardson (Harnesslink): Thinks Russley Haste will prove very hard to beat in the fourth race on the card. Scott Phelan: Has opted for the in form Cyamach in the Winter Cup - race seven. Forbury – Friday Mark Jones: Has declared Lady Mackendon as the biggest cert he has ever taken to the races. “It’s like Master Lavros in a maiden trot. Only a bad drive will get it beat.” Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Rip Roaring - race two. John Dunn: Expects smart juvenile Robbie Burns to make it two wins from as many starts – race four. Josh Dickie: Has just an average book of drives this week, but rates Russet Norkotah, who will be at any old odds, as the best of them - race five. Matthew Williamson: Thinks Al Razza will prove very hard to beat again – race ten. Nathan Williamson: Will go head-to-head with brother Matthew, with the talented Sheeza Shark in the same event. Rangiora – Sunday Blair Orange: Rates Zakspatrol as his best chance of the week – race seven. Terry Chmiel: Has opted for That Guy Finn, who will shoot for three wins in a row in the same event – race seven. Ricky May: Has opted for smart three-year-old Explosive Art, who has been coming along in leaps and bounds in recent starts – race eight. Ken Barron: Thinks Livura will prove hard to beat in the ninth race on the card. Jonny Cox: Has a decent book of drives, but rates Galleon’s Triumph as the best of them – race eleven. Anthony Butt: Is bullish about the chances of smart 2yo Field Marshal in the last event on the card.
Overport Lodge harness trainer Mark Jones brought up his 300th training win when Strike On Command responded to a clever drive from good mate Blair Orange at Marlborough on Sunday, June 22. Strike On Command and driver Blair Orange. They delivered the 300th training win for trainer Mark Jones at Blenheim on Sunday. The milestone caps Mark’s sixth and most successful season as a professional trainer. This was his 68th win for the season, taking the stable earnings to $738,993, with mutliple Group One winning trotter Master Lavros the big breadwinner. “Its been a good season. We’ll be a bit down next season as a lot have been sold and we’re a bit light on numbers,” Mark said. Strike On Command, nutted out of first by Motu Prince Of Peru in the dying stages on the first day, was able to be saved a shade longer for his final sprint on the second day in the C2-3 A1 Drycleaning and Laundry Mobile Pace. Pacemaking favourite Al’s Courage had dashed clear inside the final 200m and looked to have the result in safe keeping but Blair had other ideas after giving his charge a good run on the outer. He lifted Strike On Command over the final 100m to win going away by half a length in a useful 2:00.1 mile rate for the mobile 2300m, the leaders last 800m in 57.5s. Strike On Command, a consistent 3YO McArdle colt, has now raced 22 times for five wins and eight placings (including six seconds) for $31,382 in stakes. Raced by Australian owner Kevin Stanley, Strike On Command is the first foal from 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. The OK Bye-TK Swift mare proved a consistent winner in North America, notching another 15 wins, earning the equivalent of $149,602. She 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). Time Flies is the dam of former Overport Lodge 2YO winner Glenferrie Magic (1:59.1, 1700m), who showed much potential winning once from three starts before having her race career cut short. Strike On Command is bred to be above average. He belongs to the same family as other big winners _ Slybye (1:52.4, US, 31 wins in NZ, Aust & US), El Cabalero (1:54.4, US, 17 wins incl. 12 in the US), Algranco Alive (1:56.2 mile rate, 1650m, 10 Aust. wins) and Flak Jacket (1:54, US, a former NZ Kindergarten Stakes winner at two, 12 wins in NZ, Aust. and the US). By Jeff Scott (Courtesy of MARK JONES RACING)
Last week the ring-around produced five winners including Kowhai Sunrise (Mark Jones), who romped in at odds of $6.10. Let’s see what racings leading lads have got for us this week. Forbury Park – Thursday Gavin Smith & David Butt: Have both opted for Eagles Nest, who is a lot better than his form suggests. However, he does run into a couple of smart types in Media Queen and Smokin Bird – race three. Stephen McNally: Has opted for Bonora Boy who will also attempt to break maidens in the third event. Nathan Williamson: Thinks the consistent Nickelson will get some money again tonight – race four. Matthew Williamson: Has a good book of drives, but rates Al Razza as the best of them – race nine. Tim Williams: Thinks Memorable can get a slice of the pie in the last race of the card. Alexandra Park – Friday Ken Barron: Has opted for last start winner Real Intentions as his bet of the week. She also competes in the first event. Scott Phelan: Thinks Prince Of Pops, who was an impressive last start winner, can double the dose on Friday. – race one. Josh Dickie: Has opted for debutant Connoisseur, who has been impressive at the trials. He competes in the third race on the card. Blenheim– Friday Jonny Cox: Thinks capable trotter Free Dreams can win his stable debut – race five. Craig Thornley: Rates the chances of Al’s Courage, who was very good on both days of the Nelson circuit. Ricky May: Rates Franco Salisbury as his best drive of the week – race eight. Terry Chmiel: Thinks Swarovski will prove very hard to beat in the eighth race on the card. Anthony Butt: Is very bullish about the chances of Motu Prince Of Peru – race eleven. Blenheim - Sunday Blair Orange: Has opted for Vice Consul, who will come into the meeting fresh on the second day. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Vice Consul
Usually the milestone victory takes the longest to get, but super reinsman Blair Orange made light work of his first season century when guiding Donsmedad to victory in the second race at Addington last night. “Mike Austin is actually the trainer that I have been driving for, for the longest, so it was probably pretty fitting that I brought up my 100th winner for the season is his colours,” said Orange, who heads off on holiday to Singapore in a fortnight. “I finish at All Stars before I go to Singapore and then when I get back I have a wee break before starting at Ken (Barron’s) at the start of the new season,” he advised. Orange’s previous best driving tally was 81 winners in a season, which he achieved in 2012. “It’s been a great season all-round with a couple of Group One victories amongst the 100,” said Orange, who produced a rare victory salute after Donsmedad had crossed the finishing line. “I think I have only saluted on three or four occasions before so it definitely was pretty important to me,” he added. Orange then went on to thank all the trainers that have supported him this season, paying special thanks to his good mate Mark Jones, and Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. Blair Orange then notched up his 101st winners for the season in race four aboard Someardensomewhere for his soon-to-be former bosses Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. “It is definitely going to be the end of an era when I hang up my boots at All Stars but I am looking forward to what lies ahead,” he concluded. By Mitchell Robertson