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New Zealand Bloodstock look to be getting into the standardbred business at the right time.  The auction house which has taken New Zealand thoroughbreds to the world hold their first yearling sales for harness horses at their famed Karaka grounds today after launching NZBS last year. That put them in direct competition with long-time standardbred sales company PGG Wrightson and the competition didn’t last long, with every major vendor in the country supporting NZBS.  They are set to be rewarded with a larger financial contribution to the Sales Series programme and a return of the Ready to Run sale in October and better financing rates for pin-hookers, which looks set to be a  popular option for young trainers in particular.  They are icing on the cake though and the real reasons for optimism heading into today’s sale and the two days in Christchurch which follow are the basic fundamentals — supply and demand and high quality stock.  The standardbred breeding industry is shrinking but the demand for the product in Australia and a return of the North American market means there are less horses but more people wanting them. Add that to increasing stakes domestically, headlined by Alexandra Park, and there will be no shortage of people wanting good horses.  With today’s catalogue full of stock by sales legend Bettors Delight, his regular support cast of stallions like Art Major, American Ideal, Somebeachsomewhere and newcomers like Sweet Lou and Captaintreacherous, the pacing stallions on show are the equal of any where in the world.  But even more importantly the drafts on offer today have won race reviews from the right people.  Champion trainer Mark Purdon told the Herald the standard of yearling he has seen in the north this summer at the best he has ever viewed while vendors, even away from powerhouses like Woodlands and Breckon Farms, say they have had more visitors and paraded their horses more often than in recent years.  NZBS boss Andrew Seabrook says while today is a launching pad for the company into the standardbred industry they have big plans, including dreams of boosting the glamour sales series races to $500,000 in years to come.  After the runaway success of the Karaka Million thoroughbred meeting, such claims will be music to the ears of harness breeders.  There will still be bargains at Karaka today, although they are usually more easily found at the larger Canterbury sale, and there will still be disappointed vendors, that is the nature of any horse sale.  But with the horses available, the interest from overseas and a pin-hooking market to help boost the lower end, NZBS’s first real day at the office should prove a success.   Michael Guerin

Champion filly Princess Tiffany has been forced into an NSW Oaks tilt by the conditions of the restricted Nevele R fillies heat at Ashburton next week. Not being eligible for that race has affected her preparation for the 2700m of the Pascoe Northern Oaks and with full support from owners Braeden and Caroline Whitelock and Phil and Margaret Creighton Mark and Natalie have opted for the Australian campaign. The heats for the Oaks (2400m) are on February 23 (next Saturday) and the $A200,000 Oaks is on March 2 the day after the Pascoe Oaks. The Sires Stakes Board have made both the Methven and Ashburton heats Restricted to R70 rating and total earnings of $50,000 “to give middle and lower class fillies more opportunities in the series”. That means the only remaining South Island heats for Princess Tiffany and Kayla Marie are at Addington March 15; Forbury Park March 28 and at Addington 20. All Stars have won three of the last four NSW Oaks through Fight for Glory, Dream About Me and Partyon but was not earlier on the horizon for this year’s fillies. Princess Tiffany leaves next week with other All Stars Sydney aspirants to be confirmed but likely to include Elle Mac and Dream About Me.   Courtesy of All Stars Website http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

 A testing workout on Wednesday morning has convinced co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen her glamour mares can bounce back in the $100,000 NZ Breeders Stakes at Addington tonight. And she says while Dream About Me may still be the stable's best mare Elle Mac is the one to beat in tonight's 2600m group one. The pair cost punters plenty when they led and trailed but were beaten out of a place in a similar race two week ago. Post-race blood tests suggested a virus which was just starting to come on and, after that was treated, the open class mares have had their workload upped this week.  Rasmussen has spent much of the last month in Australia with partner Mark Purdon preparing their stars for Victorian and NSW assignments but she returned this week to put the polish on some of the stable stars set to race at tonight's big Addington meeting. "I am sure the mares will go better than last start," she explains. "It was just one of those things. The blood tests before the race were fine but the one after wasn't, so it must have been coming on that day. "They are good now and I really liked how they worked on Wednesday morning." Rasmussen drove Elle Mac in that workout as she will tonight and says she narrowly favours her as the stable's best chance because of her front line draw tonight, whereas Dream About Me has to come off the second line. "I would like to think my mare could lead and I'd most likely stay there and that makes it harder for Dream About Me, even though she might still be the better mare." Dibaba, who caused the shock beating the pair last start, looks at least a place chance again but if Elle Mac leads and races up to her national record 1700m setting form of two starts ago it will take a big performance to beat her.  Rasmussen admits to being as happy but not as confident with Ultimate Machete in tonight's Summer Cup, even though he is clearly the best horse in the race. Good enough to sit parked outside and beat Tiger Tara last season, Ultimate Machete has raced sparingly because of hoof issues this season but worked well this week. "We know he is the best horse in the race but being drawn wide and it being 1980m he could have to work very hard so I can see it being a tricky race for him," says Rasmussen. "He is the top pick of our pair in the race but I can't say he is a good thing and if Funatthebeach got the sit on him he could outsprint him." The richest stake of tonight's meeting could come north as Barry Purdon-trained filly Havtime is the hot favourite in a moderate line-up for the $150,000 Sales Series Pace. Barry also has the firepower to dominate the main pace at Alexandra Park tonight, with Jack's Legend and On The Cards a great chance to repeat their last start quinella in the open sprint. Meanwhile, heavy support has seen the Purdon-Rasmussen trained Chase Auckland tighten to favouritism for tomorrow night's A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire at Menangle. "He will be a lot better for his three starts over there and is getting fitter all the time," says Rasmussen. "I will drive him off the gate hard to use his ace draw and hopefully lead or trail and I think he will be hard to beat but it is a strong field." NZ Cup winner Thefixer makes his Menangle debut a race earlier and will be heavily supported but Kiwi horses can often be vulnerable fresh up in fast mile races at Menangle so punters should be careful. Michael Guerin

SUCH is the aura around Ultimate Sniper, you could hear the sigh of relief when Mark Purdon said his Sydney trip was off. Leading the charge was top local trainer Shane Tritton, who has the now logical NSW Derby favourite Muscle Factory. Remembering Ultimate Sniper was a $1.70 favourite for the NSW Derby in Aussie prepost markets before Purdon ruled him out today (Thursday). Instead, Purdon said the All Stars’ Victoria Derby runner-up Im Anothermasterpiece was staying in Australia to tackle the NSW Derby. He was quickly added to betting markets as equal favourite with Muscle Factory, who beat him in the Victoria Derby. “It’s certainly helps us not having Ultimate Sniper coming after what’s he done in NZ. Maybe we scared him off,” Tritton smiled. Ultimate Sniper was the second big name All Stars’ horse to defect from Sydney’s Carnival of Miracles this week. Earlier, Inter Dominion finalists Spankem, the long-time Chariots of Fire favourite, was scratched from Saturday night’s Paleface Adios owing to a virus. He’s heading home. It’s a huge weekend in NSW ahead with the $100,000 Group 1 Newcastle Mile on Friday night and the Paleface Adios at Menangle on Saturday night. Trainer Kevin Pizzuto holds the key at Newcastle with defending champion Majordan (gate three, $1.40) and exciting four-year-old Picard (gate four, $3.30). “I can’t split them. Picard is absolutely flying and Majordan is on the way up. They’re two great changes,” he said. In Picard’s case, a win would create a dilemma because the conditions of the Newcastle Mile state the winner cannot race again before the Miracle Mile. However, because Picard was already qualified for the Chariots before accepting to race at Newcastle, it’s different for him. HRNSW has told Pizzuto that Picard cannot run in both the Chariots and Miracle Mile if he wins at Newcastle. “I have to tell them by 9am Monday which race I’m going to. Even if I go to the Chariots and Picard wins that, he’s not allowed to run in the Miracle. It’s crazy,” he said. Despite Spankem’s scratching, the All Stars still holds the key to the Paleface Adios at Menangle with comeback star Chase Auckland $1.90 favourite from gate two. They also have $13 All U Need Is Faith from gate nine. Much interest centres on Tasmanian star Ignatius, who smashed the clock first-up in the Hondo Grattan last week and will be fitter. He’s a $3 shot despite a wide draw (gate 10).   Adam Hamilton

The old saying is that blood is thicker than water. But Mark put some doubt into that running down brother in law Tony Herlihy in the Great Southern Star with Dance Craze on Saturday. The two best drivers in the race ran first and second and Mark gave the game away in his post race interview after his second G1 of the night. “I followed Tony most of the way. He usually knows where he is going so it was a good place to be” he quipped. That decision gave the richly bred Dance Craze the last crack at Temporale and her finish was irresistible. Dance Craze , trained by Anton Golino, was the best bred horse in the race being by Muscle Hill from La Coocharacha who gave the best Kiwi trotters a headache or two in her racing days winning a Rowe Cup. Patience often pays in big races and when you have that option it worked well on Saturday. Mark said before the Ladyship Cup he and the stable felt that the well performed Carlas Pixel might need the race having been off the scene for some time. He drove her accordingly 3 back on the rail but after a first 600m in 56.2 it was obvious some were going to be gasping at the end. That was when Carlas Pixel chimed in for a dashing win. It wasn’t quite as easy for Natalie. With Muscle Factor, who had run 1.49 at Menangle two starts back, wanting to hold up , Another Masterpiec e had to settle for parked and simply could not match the leader clocking a 1.54. mile rate over 2240m. Not many three year olds around could. He fought hard but once Natalie switched to the inside to challenge the writing was on the wall. Spankem had a cruel fate. The draw beat him. Simple as that. He had to work early and when Natalie knew he couldn’t win from back he had to work to get to the parked position. Which would have been fine (Pats Delight was there and not in a mood to be anywhere else) except that Poster Boy was then on Spankem’s back having a saloon passage and that told in the end as he wore down the courageous Spankem. Both horses emerged with honour. But ironically enough while the All Star duo emerged with two Group Ones on the night they were not the two many were expecting. That’s racing. Courtesy of  All Stars Racing Stables

CONNECTIONS of Australian Pacing Gold graduate Carlas Pixel are hoping for a fairytale ending to her career. In foal to Bettor's Delight, Carlas Pixel will make her swansong appearance in the Ladyship Mile in what doubles as her title defence. Australia’s premier mares’ sprint, the Ladyship Mile is scheduled to be run at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 2 as part of a phenomenal Miracle Mile card. Capturing last year’s edition in 1:49.5, Carlas Pixel earned a berth in the $200,000 event with her victory in tonight’s Ladyship Cup in Melton. “Knowing she is already in the Ladyship Mile makes it a lot easier to plan her preparation,” trainer Dean Braun said. “She has the benefit of not having to go up for the heats, which means I can find a suitable race between now and the Mile closer to home. “That said I don’t even have to race her if that turns out to be a better plan with her.” First-up from an 11 week break, Carlas Pixel was driven to perfection by Mark Purdon to add another Group One to her tally. Settled two-back along the pegs from her second row draw as Soho Burning Love led from the pole, Carlas Pixel was angled to the extreme outside on the home turn. Unleashing a strong spring, the daughter of Courage Under Fire completed a metre-and-a-half win from Makes Every Scents, with Tell Me Tales a head away third. “That was a sensational drive from Mark,” Braun said. “He had her settled in a good trail and found the opening when it presented itself. “Even though she was first-up I knew she was fit enough to win with the right run and that’s what Mark gave her.” Rating 1:51.7 over 1720 metres, the mare stretched her record to 19 wins and 17 placings from 59 starts for earnings of $475,128. APG Media

A patient Mark Purdon drive has delivered a second successive Ladyship Cup for Carlas Pixel and harness racing trainer Dean Braun, increasing the mighty mare’s stakes to almost the half-million-dollar mark. From three back on the pegs Purdon steered Carlas Pixel wide at the turn and she picked off all comers to salute by 1.4m, the 1:51.7 mile rate a race record. Purdon said he was patient in the running with Braun believing “she would be better for the run”. “It’s great to win one for Dean, he’s been a great mate for a couple of years now so nice to put the colours on,” Purdon said. The Group 1 $100,000 victory was much enjoyed by owners Mark Denyer and Shannon Nixon, who have much to look forward too with MC Rob Auber revealing the mare was in foal to Bettors Delight. “She’s a wonderful mare, great owners and they're easy to train for,” Braun said. “She’s just a beautiful horse and I’m so proud of what she’s been able to achieve.” Braun said it was the brilliant career – including $465,128 in stakes and now a second Group 1 amid 18 wins – which almost didn’t happen. “She went to a maiden three-year-old at Kilmore one night. I remember Jason Lee drove her, she sat in the trail and got beaten 70," Braun said “I backed her up four days later and said to Mark, if she doesn’t go any good I will send her to stud. “She just went from strength to strength from there and has won about ($400,000) since.” To watch the video click here. Trots Media - Michael Howard

BEING the All Stars’ second-best three-year-old could be enough to make Im Another Masterpiece the stable’s third Victoria Derby winner. Mark Purdon won his first Victoria Derby when Tony Herlihy partnered Rare Gem to win in 2001 then it wasn’t until the awesome Lazarus in 2016 when he won it again. But Im Another Masterpiece made a real statement winning by far the strongest of the three heats and doing it in style at Ballarat last Saturday night. Driver and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen was content to let Shane and Lauren Tritton’s buzz pacer Muscle Factory lead and sit on it, but things changed when Im Another Masterpiece left the trail to sit parked with a lap to run. In doing so, Rasmussen avoid being pocketed on a track without a sprint lane but also kept another key contender, Centenario, three-wide for the final lap. “You don’t come all this way to be unlucky,” Rasmussen said. “You have to run top three and I wasn’t going to to run a nice hard-held fourth on the fence. “It was a nice win and the run should tighten him up for the final.” Back home, Im Another Masterpiece has played second-fiddle to gifted stablemate Ultimate Sniper, who is being saved for the NSW Derby next month. Im Another Masterpiece simply packed too much zip for his rivals in a scorching 54.9sec last half and won by 2.9m from Muscle Factory with a gallant Lochinvar Art third after doing plenty of work outside the leader for much of the race. In the talent-crammed heat, Centenario tired for sith and missed the final, while stablemate Demon Delight was only first emergency for the final after finishing a luckless fifth. Im Another Masterpiece went a 1min55.9sec mile rate for 2200m, while the first heat winner, Breeders Crown 2YO champ Hurricane Harley, led throughout win softly in a 1min56.8sec mile rate. The third heat was a dawdle early for leader and winner Max Delight, who sprinted home in 26.5sec at the end of a slow 2min0.4sec mile rate to win by 2.8m over Perfect Major and Petes Big Jim. The Aussie TAB has Hurricane Harley a slight $2.60 pre-draw favourite ahead of Im Another Masterpiece at $2.70 then the other heat winner, Max Delight, at $4.50. Adam Hamilton

In form pacer Turn It Up has captured the Gr.2 $60,000 Waikato Flying Mile at Cambridge tonight. After being driven hard out of the gate early by co-trainer Mark Purdon, the classy Courage Under Fire gelding had to settle for the trail as Tony Herlihy and Star Galleria were intent on leading in the early war in the race. Turning for home Turn It Up soon had the measure of Star Galleria and he cruised to the line to win by three quarters of a length in 1-54.5. Star Galleria fought gamely for second and Ashley Locaz battled on well for third after sitting parked for the trip. New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer could not make any impression on the leaders after settling last in the seven horse field. Turn It Up will now be aimed at the rich Gr1 Waste Management Taylor mile at Alexandra Park on April 26 and also the Gr1 Messenger on 3rd May. Earlier in the night Temporale led all the way in the Cambridge Trotting Stakes for trainer/driver Tony Herlihy. Speeding Spur got closest to the winner after trailing but was still a neck away at the line.  Temporale trotted the mobile mile in 1-58.5 with a final 800m in 59.0 seconds. Temporale winning the mile   Harnesslink media  

Auckland Reactor gelding Chase Auckland ran a close second to the New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer at the Auckland Trotting Club workouts run at Pukekohe today. In what was his second public appearance after an injury layoff, Chase Auckland ran a narrow second to Thefixer after moving up to sit parked outside him for the last lap.  Chase Auckland was timed to run his last 800m in around 58seconds and the final 400m in a tick under 27 seconds.   "I was really pleased with his run. He is such a beautiful pacer," said trainer Mark Purdon.   "I want to look at possibly giving him another trial during next week if needed and then it will be off on the plane to Australia."   Harnesslink Media  

Boom pacer Turn It Up only solidified his place as the most exciting pacer in the southern hemisphere following his clinical yet dominant victory in the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park tonight (Monday). Facing the starter for only the 9th time in his career, the Courage Under Fire gelding was confidently backed to win the 3200m stand-start feature and safely held Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz to claim his maiden feature. But it looks the first of many more to come. And he’s another star off the production line of All Stars – Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. The victory provided the Purdon family with their 15th Auckland Cup, the premier pacing event in the North Island. It’s also the fourth straight success for the All Stars following on from Vincent, Dream About Me and Have Faith In Me in the previous years. Overall, Mark Purdon has been directly involved with seven (7) Cup winners – Turn It Up, Vincent, Dream About Me, Have Faith In Me, Auckland Reactor, Young Rufus plus his inaugural winner Sharp And Telford. The All Stars stable had the bulk of the runners in this year’s version with five runners engaged in the 12 horse field, they managed to finish 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th plus a failed to finish. But the focus is clearly on the winner; the four-year-old oozes class coupled with great staying prowess and looks a certain future star of the Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit. A last start winner of the Franklin Cup, Purdon got him away safely and made his early move to find the lead with approximately 2400m left to run while Dream About Me sat behind him followed by Jacks Legend. The lead time was covered in 2:04.5. Star Galleria made an early move and raced outside Turn It Up with 1400m left to run before he gained cover on the back of Ashley Locaz as the field swung into the home straight to reach the judge and the bell. The first half of the final mile was posted in 31.5 and 32.6 seconds. Those sectionals spelt disaster for his rivals and Purdon allowed him to stride freely down the back straight while his rivals attempted to make a race of it with him. The third split was timed in 28.2 seconds. In the straight, Turn It Up safely held Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz who chased determinedly. The final section was covered in a spine tingling 26.1 seconds. And the winning time was 4:03.0 – a mile rate of 2:02.1 – well outside of the race record held by Dream About Me (2016) at 3:55.4. “He’s an exciting horse and we’ve always held him in high regard, I was confident he would handle this way of going and he hasn’t disappointed.” Mark Purdon said. When assessing the achievement of Turn It Up, Mainland Banner quickly springs to mind when she won the 2005 New Zealand Cup at her 12th race start….it’s truly extraordinary! Looking ahead, connections have so many options to consider including the upcoming Victorian summer carnival features, Chariots of Fire, Taylor Mile & Messenger in Auckland, Jewels and the Vicbred series among others. The next leg of the 2018/19 APG Grand Circuit heads to Perth for the running of the $450,000 WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park on January 18. Chris Barsby

Two legends of New Zealand racing shared a remarkable Auckland Trotting Cup victory with Turn It Up at Alexandra Park last night. But sadly only one of them was there to see it. Turn It Up did what no pacer had ever done before, winning Auckland’s richest harness race at just his ninth start. Still just a baby he led almost throughout for champion trainer-driver Mark Purdon and unleashed a 54.3 second last 800m to beat a brave Star Galleria and Ashley Locaz, leaving harness insiders wondering just how far Turn It Up can go. But with every step he takes on that path there will be an air of sadness as one of the men who he was purchased for as a yearling won’t be there to enjoy it. His former co-owner Neil Pilcher was one of the best known and popular owners in New Zealand racing, having shook the hands of probably half the horsepeople in the country during his decades transporting horses. He was a major owner for the All Stars Stable until he passed away just a few months ago before he could see Turn It Up win what would have been the first Auckland Cup for the man affectionately known as Pilch. “Neil loved the stock of Courage Under Fire and this was the one we bought that particular year for him so obviously we are sad he is not here to enjoy it,” said Purdon. Pilcher’s brother Lee has taken a small share to keep the family connection there but one of the other owners of Turn It Up might have created a unique piece of New Zealand racing history all of his own last night. Jim Gibbs is a thoroughbred training Hall of Famer and universally respected after a wonderful career as a galloping trainer and has now owned an Auckland Cup winning pacer 30 years after training Spyglass to win the thoroughbred racing equivalent.  I won an Auckland Cup with her and was beaten a narrow margin a couple of times but this is a lot of fun,” said Gibbs, whose wife Ann also shares in the ownership of Turn It Up. Joining them in the winner’s circle was Gibbs’s son Chris, who five days earlier co-trained Danzdanzdance to win the Zabeel Classic at Ellerslie, continuing the impressive family doubles. While Turn It Up’s win was expected the shock of the night came in the group one National Trot when Massive Metro outsprinted hot favourite Marcoola up the passing lane. He was beautifully handled by Todd Mitchell to give trainers Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett one of the most satisfying wins of their careers. “This means a lot to me because this horse’s dam, Paris Metro, gave me my first group in this race 14 years ago,” said Wallis. Marcoola did himself no favours galloping in the score up but driver Clint Ford was making no excuses. He would have settled back anyway and didn’t lose that much so we were beaten by the better horse on the night.” There were no such dramas with Ultimate Sniper as he led throughout to win the $200,000 Sales Series Pace while Belle Of Montana divebombed Wainui Creek in the last stride to win the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Championships. Earlier in the day favourite punters were left with a black eye and then a bleeding nose when first $1.10 chance Smooth Deal galloped and tailed off in the two-year-old race while Oscar Bonevena was a costly failure after an early gallop in race three.   Michael Guerin

Harness racing superstar Chase Auckland has arrived in Auckland for a short two week stopover before making his way to Australia for some rich pickings at Menangle during February.   The Auckland Reactor gelding will leave New Zealand shores on the first available flight after January 11th and will be stabled at Luke McCarthy's property close to the Menangle track.   The challenge for trainer Mark Purdon is finding suitable trials for Chase around Auckland prior to the 11th so Mark is instead looking at the option of trials and a 'soft' lead up race or races in Australia prior to his first big race on February 2nd in the $50,000 Hondo Grattan Stakes.    "I don't want to hurt him first up and it will be better to have him settle in over there and possibly have a couple of trials and a soft race or races before February 2nd,"    "He seems well and worked nicely at home on Saturday."   Chase Auckland 'pulling' Michelle along keen to get to his new paddock in Auckland.   Other feature 4yo races on the radar for Chase Auckland at Menangle are the $50,000 Paleface Adios Sprint on the 9th February and also the $200,000 Chariots of Fire a week later on February 16th.   Safely through those races the one million dollar Miracle Mile is also a possibility for the classy four year old.     Harnesslink Media

There’s a certain something with the name Purdon and the Auckland Cup. The famed North Island feature was first staged back in 1890 when Commodore proved triumphant and since then, so many great champions have won the event. Names like Cardigan Bay, Delightful Lady, Gammalite, Master Musician, Christian Cullen, Monkey King, Im Themightyquinn and Terror To Love  have all proved victorious while many more have all etched their name into the record books. But it’s the name Purdon that is synonymous with the Alexandra Park feature. Whether it is Roy, Barry or Mark – they have all made the race their own! Their haul of winners includes Sole Command, Comedy Lad, Luxury Liner (x 2), Christopher Vance, Chokin (x 2), Sharp And Telford, Holmes DG, Young Rufus and Auckland Reactor. And more recently, they have won it with Have Faith In Me, Dream About Me and Vincent. What’s even more remarkable, the Purdon name has contested the Auckland Cup every year since 1985. Most times with multiple entries. And the 2018 edition is no different. Again, the Gr.1 $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Cup will be staged over the 3200m and the Purdon stables have 8 of the 12 runners. The All Stars (Mark & Natalie Rasmussen) have 5 entrants while Barry has three runners engaged. Sporting the blue and silver livery is classy four-year-old’s All U Need Is Faith, Turn It Up, Sicario and Ashley Locaz while 2016 winner Dream About Me also represents the powerful stable. Mark Purdon All five pacers are racing in super form headlined by millionaire mare Dream About Me and emerging superstar Turn It Up, a last start winner of the Franklin Cup. Big brother Barry has Raptors Flight, Jacks Legend and Mach Shard lining up. Jacks Legend finished 6th behind Vincent last year. Astute mentor Steve Reid has a pair of challengers with the highly regarded Star Galleria and Utmost Delight both engaged. Dream About Me and Utmost Delight are the only mares tackling the famed feature this year. Veteran performer Lets Elope is starting in the Cup for the second time after finishing 5th behind Terror To Love back in 2014. After spending several seasons in Australia, the Real Desire gelding has recently returned to original trainers Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins. Promising four-year-old Triple Eight takes his place for trainer Steve Telfer but faces his biggest challenge to date. Six of the 12 runners are four-year-olds. As it stands, Sydney based pacer Tiger Tara is a clear leader in the 2018/19 Australian Pacing Gold Grand Circuit and while connections have elected to bypass this feature, maximum points are up for grabs which will be crucial as the series hits the halfway mark. Chris Barsby

You don’t often see Tim Williams completely lost for words but after Cheerful’s ignominious display when she resumed at Addington last week was a time when it was pretty close. Cheerful is known for having ability but one thing she has never done according to Tim is to gallop. In a race or at home. But last week as an odds on favourite she did just that and more than once. It was “all over red rover” in no time so punters are entitled to be a little wary at Addington tomorrow when she sets out to put the record straight. “She never breaks” was Tim’s stunned reaction last week and he still feels the same way about her reliability. “I had a talk to Mark about it. He thought she might just have been a touch fresh and to just put it behind us rather than take any drastic measures. You often find too that a horse so well gaited like that often gets a bigger shock than you do when it goes wrong on raceday and finds it that much harder to recover” So nothing has been changed for this week. And nobody is thinking that it might happen again even though punters may have their suspicions. Cheerful, who is raced by Braeden and Caroline Whitelock who are expecting news on the progress of Princess Tiffany which they co-own, certainly wouldn’t mind a lift in the luck department, especially after Kayla Marie also met trouble last week. She is also out to atone on Friday. Encouraging in a way is that One Over Da Stars who is the likely favourite is far more unpredictable than Cheerful and has been disqualified in its last two after outstanding performances. There are some other useful trotters in the field but Cheerful doing things right should put a smile on your face. The other southern stable runner on show this weekend is FUNATTHEBEACH in the Ashburton Cup on Sunday, Whatever you judge his chances on don’t make it his last race at Addington. The stable was quietly confident of a big run based on his work but the result looks dismal as he finished last. Looks can be deceiving. Tim makes a strong case for the defense. “The thing was they ran home in 55. Going into that half he was a few lengths off them and then he had to improve wide to try and get into the race in the straight. Then they closed in 26 for the 400m so it was no surprise that he felt the pinch in the last 100. His work had been very good leading into that race it just didn’t work out for him” However Tim did have one reservation about Sunday’s race. The weather. “He is down to have a good hitout tomorrow (Friday) but it is looking doubtful at the moment. The track at home is slushy with the rain and the challenge will be getting on it for fast work” As it was the stable had to hopple Thefixer at home midweek because the surface was not much better at Rangiora for the trials from which he was withdrawn. Courtesy of All Stars Stables http://www.allstarsracingstables.com/

The connections of last season’s champion juvenile pacing filly Princess Tiffany are leaving no stone unturned to try and get to the bottom of her underwhelming start to the season.  Unbeaten last season when she won the Jewels and Breeders Crown, Princess Tiffany has finished third and fourth at Alexandra Park the last two Fridays, costing punters a fortune and confusing her trainers.  So she has been sent to Matamata’s Veterinary Services clinic for scintigraphy, a process in which dye is injected into a horse before scanning to pinpoint areas of possible soreness.  While it used to be relatively rarely used on racehorses it has become more commonplace and the All Stars, who train Princess Tiffany, will sometimes send their horses for the scanning process at the end of long campaigns.  But Princess Tiffany is just beginning her campaign and has a $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Championship, for which she could still be favourite, at Alexandra Park on December 31.  So her scintigraphy is to try and work out why she is racing below her best. “Mark (Purdon, trainer) thinks something might be annoying her but we can’t work out what, which is where the scintigraphy is so good,” says stable traveling foreman Matt Bowden.  “We are not thinking it is anything serious but at least this way we will know and we are still confident of getting her to the Sires’ Stakes Final.” Princess Tiffany’s expensive failure last Friday and the horrible mid-race smash in her event somewhat detracted from the emergence of unheralded filly Belle Of Montana.  She is now a group two winner after just four starts for trainer Barry Purdon and paced the 2200m mobile in a very slick 3:28.3, quicker than both her stablemates Dream About Me (Queen Of Hearts) and Ultimate Sniper (Alabar Classic) as they won the other major 2200m mobiles on the night.  While the fields for the December 31 meeting won’t be out until December 27, there has already been a big shortener in the markets for the group ones with Marcoola now into $1.75 to win the National Trot.  He moved into a $1.90 after destroying his opposition in the Lyell Creek last Friday and is even shorter now as second favourite Speeding Spur has been ruled out of the race. “He has had a really busy time obviously with the Inter Dominion so we will freshen him up now and then all going well head back to Australia for the Great Southern Star,” says co-trainer Josh Dickie.  There must also be doubts after Luby Lou, who sits on the fourth line of betting, making it to the National Trot as she has yet to race this season and her only chance of a lead-up race would be $50,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge on Christmas Eve.   Michael Guerin

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