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Gore trainer Tony Stratford is on a bit of a roll. Early into the new season he has four winners on the board from just sixteen starters. The latest two winners came at Invercargill yesterday when Macandrew Majic and Benio Ben won their respective races. Macandrew Majic easily won the More FM Mobile Pace by eight and a half lengths.  "I've had him since we were up at Macca Lodge. His first start was a duck egg but he galloped away from a stand and took no part. He ran third at his next start and fifth at Forbury when they ran 2-41.0. At his next start be was pulled up because he fractured a hind pastern. It was quite bad. Brendon Bell did the op and we just wanted to save him and look after him. He's got four or five screws in his leg and he was out for six months" said Stratford. This was the five year old's first start for eleven months and it was a very good training feat by Stratford who readied the gelding for yesterdays race with just two workouts.  "When we kicked off again we didn't have any problems with him. He had a good workout at Gore which he won in good time and we had a quiet run around at Winton. I was expecting a bold run." Macandrew Majic is part owned by Megan Tutty (nee Reidie) who used to work for Murray Brown. She shares in the ownership with her parents and two brothers. Meanwhile one of the early season finds in Southland, Benio Ben also trained by Stratford continued on his winning way when he won the Net Ten EOM at Macca Lodge Mobile Pace. It was the four year old's second win this season. Driven by Matty Williamson the gelding began well to lead before handing up to Rockaball. Williamson then came out of the trail to take up the running. The winning margin at the end of the 2200 metre journey was a length over Rockaball. "He went awesome. I wasn't expecting too much to be fair because it was such a step up. I said to the owners if he ran in the top four I'd be happy," said Stratford. The time was a slick 2-41.8 with the last half run in 57 seconds and the final quarter in 28.5.   "He burnt twice in the first six hundred metres and held them out easily really."  In the birdcage - Photo Emma McSoriley  The first Southland Nuggets Final at the Northern Southland Meeting at Ascot Park is Benio Ben's next target and then Stratford will look at the South of the Waitaki race on Show Day during Cup week. "I always thought he was a pretty nice horse but he was disappointing when he qualified so we biffed him out. This year he hasn't worked super at home but he's doing it when it matters (on raceday)." The Gotta Go Cullect gelding was bred by Alan Steel, Stratford's uncle and his good friend Trevor McCall.  "He's got a real high cruising speed. Most horses when they're running halves in a minute you know they are. He's doing it as though you're running a half in ten. A bit like Pulp Fiction." Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing Benio Ben winning at Ascot Park

Maiden pacer Benio Ben proved too smart for his rivals at Winton today. "It surprised me the way he won but I've always had a bit of an opinion of him. Matty (Matty Williamson) was stoked with the way he went at Gore. I was quietly confident he'd go good and could win but I was impressed with that win. They don't often win by nine or ten lengths here, " said trainer Tony Stratford.  He's by Gotta Go Cullect and was bred by Alan Steel, Stratford's uncle and his good friend Trevor McCall. He's out of the Soky's Atom mare Benio's Ella. From barrier five Williamson took him straight to the top and commentator Dave McDonald summed it up perfectly when he said "Benio Ben bashes them up big time." The four year old's winning margin was nine and three quarter lengths. The winning time for the 2400 metre mobile was 2-58.2 - last half in 58.0 and the last quarter in a smart 27.3. Benio Ben will now contest the first $12,000 Nuggets Championship Mobile Pace at the Northern Southland meeting on 7th October. "Those nice ones have to do it at both ends. He did that at Gore. He squirted off the gate and was still giving at the other end and he did that today."   Benio Nen winning by 9 lengths Bruce Stewart Southern Harness Racing

Harness racing driver Matthew Williamson was the star of the show at Forbury yesterday (Sunday) when he bagged four winners and two second placings from his eight raceday drives. Williamson started his winning run when Schnapps narrowly won the second race for trainer Tony Stratford. Schnapps (Changeover - Shining Cloud) was ignored by the punters going out the fifth favorite in a field of eight runners and paying $15.70 to win on the tote, and $18.00 on the fixed odds FF win. Schnapps settled back in the field while hot favorite Link To Collect ran along in the lead. Near last turning for home, Schnapps zoomed home wide on the track to get up and win by a nose.   The five year old gelding paced the 2200m journey in 2-46.1 with a closing 800m in 60.5 and 400m in 30.6. Outsider Schnapps winning narrowly Martin McGuinness won the next race for Williamson sneaking up the inside to narrowly beat the big TAB FFwin shortener Shards Halo. He is trained at Mataura by Lyndon Bond and won by a neck, pacing the 2200m mobile in 2-46.3. Martin McGuinness getting up the passing lane to win Matthew's other two wins came via Articulight and Stylish Duke.  Articulight (Art Official - Light Of The South) came with one run at them in a restlessly run race where there was several attacks for the lead. Articulight was one of the few horses who sat back and did no work in the running. Matthew launched the six year old gelding at the 600m to quickly grab the lead and shoot clear to win easily in a 2-01.2 mile rate for the 2200m. Williamson was confident before the race saying Articulight was his best drive of the week and the horse proved him right winning as he liked. Articulight winning easily Stylish Duke  (Monarchy - Yankee Diedree) was impressive leading all the way in the R65 to R90 trot. Williamson had him in front after 800m and he kept up a strong run to win easily from the Phil Williamson trained stablemates Pyramid Magic and Pyramid Monarch. Stylish Monarch trotted the 2700m in 3-33.3 with closing splits of 58.2 and 29.3 Stylish Duke proving too strong Blair Orange also grabbed three wins during the day to increase his lead in the national drivers championship to four over David Butcher. Harnesslink Media  

It hasn't been the best of times recently for Gore harness racing trainer Syd Breen. Five weeks ago he lost an old mate when the Flashing Red gelding Flashing On, winner of four races, had to be put down wih a twisted bowel. "It was gut wrenching. I saw him every day and he was just a big awesome horse. He was just full on nonsense around the place but as soon as you put the cart on he was just all business," said Breen. Although the whole experience is still pretty raw the win today by another stable runner Lorretta Franco would have gone some way in healing the hurt.  She's a product of Spreydon Lodge and Breen has had the Changeover mare since April when she came down for the Winton meeting. Today from barrier three driver Matty Williamson powered Lorretta Franco off the gate and took her straight to the front. Turning in for the run home Williamson still had a handful of horse. He looked over his shoulder and promptly pinched a nice break. The five year old mare held on to win easily by two and a half lengths from a fast finishing Shawami Lass. Lorretta Franco winning with Matty Williamson               - Photo Bruce Stewart.  "She's a wee tradesman who can pull a bit. We've been lucky that we've got a few good draws. We've tried a few different bits on her and I think she'll learn to relax again. She was a ready made racehorse when she got here and a great doer who loves being in work." Lorretta Franco is raced by the Organ Donations Save Lives Syndicate along with The Flashing On Syndicate who were transferred into the ownership recently along with Breen, Ross Cleland and long time stable helper Stevie Heads. Going into today's race there was a certain amount of confidence.  "I told the Organ Donation syndicate that I thought she could win. It's not very often that I label them. She can win another race and still start in the Nuggets Final in October (Northern Southland Meeting on 7th October). It's a great idea." Breen is only working a small team but two of his stable stars Santanna's Rocket and Sagwitch are progressing well.  "I'm pretty happy with Santanna's Rocket. He's thickened up through the girth and he's a strong horse now. He was a bit immature last season. Sagwitch won three races last year and not many three year olds do that. His coats taken a wee while. I've always had a bit of time for him and I think he's a horse that will just get better and better. They both really wintered well and they were only out for six weeks. Get Real is going through his paces. The money's so good for these maiden pacers now. He's only a kick in the bum away from winning a race."   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Harness racing driver Samantha Ottley managed to grab two driving wins last night at Addington and she did it by winning two of the trotting races with pacing bred mares.  Ottley drove outsider Michelle to a dominant win at long odds in the first trotting race of the night. At bolters odds of over $36.20 and $7.30 on the tote, Michelle who has been a serial breaker in her races, finally trotted all the way and cruised to an easy win over second favorite Still Eyre and driver Matthew Williamson. Michelle (Live Or Die - Eves Apple) is a pacing bred mare trained by Mark Jones and owned by Wayne Higgs. The lightly raced mare has taken a while to adapt to the trotting gait but is clearly going to win more races judging by last nights impressive performance. A few races later, Donegal Bettergretch won the R60 and Faster trot last night in a quick 3-19.7 for the 2600m stand. Donegal Bettergretch (Bettor's Delight - Donegal Gretchen) was driven to the lead early by Ottley and the pacing bred mare trotted well and proved too strong for her rivals, winning comfortably from Petite One and driver Colin DeFilippi. DeFilippi is sitting on 1999 lifetime driving wins and was a bit unlucky not to finish closer with Petite One as she was last at the 400m and was held up for most of the run home, until a late gap saw her close strongly into second. Top reinsman Blair Orange has moved to a two win lead in this seasons drivers premiership. Orange is sitting on eight wins for the season, two wins clear of David Butcher who is poised to narrow the gap with his good book of drives at Alexandra Park tonight. Amazon Lily got the ball rolling for Blair last night when she began well from the standing start and was quickly around to lead and controlling the race in front. The Ken Barron trained daughter of Bettor's Delight had too much speed for the opposition and won as she liked pacing the 2600m stand in 3.23.1. The last 800m of 57.5 was the quickest of the night until the last race when Orange adopted similar tactics on another Barron trained horse in For The Corz.  For The Corz also led early and controlled the race from the front before whipping over her last 800m in an identical 57.5 to win easily giving Blair and Barron a double for the night.    Samantha Ottley driving Michelle to victory.   Harnesslink Media  

Blair Orange has a goal for next season --- he wants to buy Dexter Dunn more food. Like lots of food. In fact, he would be happy to buy Dunn dinner every weekend next term. Because as it turns out the two men who dominate the national harness racing driver’s premiership spend a huge amount of time together.  “I joked to my wife the other day I spend more time sleeping in the same room as Dexter than I do with her,” says Orange. Orange and Dunn have won over 400 races between them this season, Dunn setting the new national record of 221 last Friday. Largely lost in that clatter is the fact Orange has reined 183 winners, the closest any other driver has ever got to 200 wins a season. “I won’t get to the 200 for the season now, I’ve run out of time,” admits Orange. “But it gives me a goal for next season. It is a lot of travel and a lot of hard work but to be honest I’ve enjoyed it.” Orange and his racetrack nemesis Dunn are great friends off the track, which is just as well as they travel to almost all meetings outside Canterbury together.  And that is a lot of meetings. They have both had well over 1000 drives this season while Matthew Williamson with 711 is our next busiest driver.  By comparison, Samantha Collett with 846 rides has been New Zealand’s busiest jockey with only Alysha Collett and Chris Johnson also having ridden over 700 mounts.   “We do travel a lot and often that means driving six hours each way to Invercargill and lots of Forbury trips,” says Orange.  “So having Dex there, somebody to talk to and share the (car) driving with is a huge help.”  Surely it must frustrating, spending so much time with the person keeping you from the harness racing crown? “I’d love to win the premiership but Dex is like a good horse. I can get close but I can’t get past him.  “But the reality is we are happy for each other when one of us has a good day.  “The rule is the one who has the better day has to pay for dinner or a few beers. So I hope I end up buying him dinner more often next season.” The thought of the two men who so thoroughly rule the premiership traveling together will raise suspicions among the cynics but Orange says tactics are rarely discussed. “If I am driving a horse that Dex drove the previous week I’ll ask him what he made of it.  “But we don’t talk about how actual races are going to pan out and neither of us actually drive like that. “Some people might think we have an idea what is going to happen in races but when you drive as many different horses under as many different circumstances as we do you learn to take the races as they come because things rarely go to plan. “So I don’t have a plan these days.”  Orange says his workload has made him a better driver now then when he was a regular group one winner working for the All Stars.  “When you are driving as much as I am now you are always updating you knowledge base on horses because you are out there all the time.  “And I do more video analysis now than I used to. When I was working for Mark and Nat it didn’t matter as much because the horses I was on were so good.”  An official kick up the arse at the start of last year when Orange was fined and suspended for being over the alcohol limit on a race day after a social night helped refocus him. “I learned my lesson and it helped me take things more seriously. Talking to a few people after that happened made me realise I’m lucky to have the career I do.”  With key supporters like Nigel McGrath and Paul Court having good numbers for next season as well as the continued support from part-time bosses Ken and Tony Barron, he thinks cracking the 200 next season is possible.  “That is one of my aims before I look more into the training side of things in maybe five years or so,” says the 39-year-old.  “To break 200, win a premiership and even get to the World Drivers Champs would be great while I’d love to win a Rowe Cup or the Dominion, because I love the trotters.” Drives for season: 1080. Wins: 183 (53 on trotters) Stakes earned: $1,984,616. Achievements: 2nd on premiership. Group one wins:  Anzac Cup, Jewels 2-yo fillies and NZ Trotting Champs.   Michael Guerin

Charlotte Purvis has qualified to apply for a junior drivers licence but she will delay her application until the beginning of next season on August 1. Purvis (23) works alongside her partner, Matthew Williamson and his brother, Brad at the Oamaru stable of father Phil Williamson. She has qualified for her licence after 28 drives at trials in the past eight months. “I will wait until the next season to apply for a licence to ensure I can have the full five seasons as a junior,” she said. She has been with the stable full time for 12 months after meeting Matt and visiting at weekends from Christchurch. “I got addicted to working with the horses and gave up my job as a beauty therapist,” she said. Her father, John Purvis raced horses and her brother Matt is a junior driver with 33 wins on the board. He has been employed by trainer Nathan Williamson at Ryal Bush the past eight months after four years with Robert and John Dunn and two years each with Paul Nairn and Greg and Nina Hope. Charlotte has had success as an owner with Elusive Flight, whom she bought last year from Steve Allen, also an employee of the Oamaru stable. Elusive Flight won two races when sent for beach training with Graeme Anderson. The 8-year-old won at Forbury Park in March when back at Oamaru. “I bought him (Elusive Flight) for a bit of fun and Matt has taught me the finer points of training a pacer in a stable of trotters,” said Charlotte. Her favourites in the stable are Pyramid Magic and Springbank Eden whom she has driven in trials. “The locals have been right behind me giving me drives as well,” she said. Matthew Williamson reached 600 wins as a reinsman on Dream Big at Forbury Park on April 20. He is first driver for the stable of Roxburgh trainers Geoff and Jude Knight and drove four winners for the stable at an Oamaru meeting in March. He and Charlotte and the Knights leased the broodmare VC Windermere this season. Charlotte is also breeding from Jasmyn Rules with her father. Jasmyn Rules, who is in foal to Muscle Mass, is an unraced daughter of Monarchy and Jasmyn’s Gift, winner of a New Zealand Free-For-All and NZ Trotting Championship when trained by Phil Williamson. She is the dam of Zoey’s Gift, winner of two races and third in the NZ Trotting Oaks this season. Charlotte is in accomplished company with the Williamson clan. Matthew was the leading junior driver in 2012-13 with 113 wins and Brad led that premiership last season with 70 wins. Brother Nathan, a prominent junior, recorded 100 wins as open horseman last season and he has driven the winners of 666 races in NZ and trained 172. Phil Williamson is the all-time great NZ trainer of trotters with 513 wins in this country.   Tayler Strong

Although trotter Zoey's Gift won impressively at Winton today her harness racing trainer Phil Williamson knows her next task is going to be harder. The talented daughter of Muscle Yankee and Jasmyn's Gift has the Group Two $40,000 New Zealand Trotting Oaks next Friday at Addington on her radar.  "It'll be difficult because they're good horses. She's definitely got the fire power there. If it was a mile and five (2600 metres) I'd be going there more confident but she's still not without a chance," he said.  In today's race driver Matty Williamson didn't panic early when Zoey's Gift was posted wide. With 900 metres to run he took her to the lead and when the ear plugs came out halfway down the straight she won easily by two and a half lengths.     "I was pretty confident that if she trotted she would win but it's never that simple. She's just got a wee bit of that class that stands her out from the rest."  Williamson said the filly is relatively inexperienced but he wasn't too concerned about starting her against hardened older trotters.  "I wasn't concerned at all. The Oaks is next week over 1950 (metres) and we wanted to have a wee crack at something short and sharp to get her ready. She's only had four races so she's still learning. She's a nice horse and will do a good job before she's finished," he added. Zoey's Gift was bred by Phil's wife Bev and was bought by Emilio Rosati after she qualified. Her dam Jasmyn's Gift won seventeen races including the Group One New Zealand Trotting Free For All and New Zealand Trotting Championship. "She's (Zoey's Gift) got that same good motor as her mother. It's been a good family. Directorship is from the same family and he was a very good horse."   Williamson said although the filly is owned in Australia there are no plans at this stage to venture across the Tasman.   "We'll have to be rock solid and beat the best here."   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing    

Muscle Moment, a half brother to Quite A Moment, won at his first start at Wingatui on Monday. The Muscle Mass - Juverna gelding is trained by Phil Williamson for Jayne Davies, the Cranbourne trainer. Muscle Moment was a $17,000 purchase at the 2015 premier yearling sale when offered by G D and D R Beckett, of Cheviot. Muscle Moment is the ninth individual winner from as many foals to race out of Juverna, a Gee Whiz mare who had a second placing in six starts. She is a half sister to Take A Moment, the winner of 38 races and $1.1 million. Quite A Moment won the Breeders Crown at Melton as a 3-year-old and the National Trot at Alexandra Park in December. Muscle Moment  was driven by Matthew Williamson, who won later in the day with Idealistic Lass, following his five wins at Oamaru on Sunday. Idealistic Lass is trained by Geoff and Jude Knight, who won four at Oamaru. Muscle Moment is the fourth individual 3-year-old trotting winner for the Williamson stable this season, joining Zoey’s Gift, Madison Jane and Jeddy R Ya Ready.  The 3-year-old filly Zoey’s Gift has been entered for Southland mile day at Winton on Saturday with a view to contesting the New Zealand Trotting Oaks. She set a track record for filly of 3.03.5 for 2400m (mobile) at Winton in her last start win. Balius, another entrant for mile day, backed up after finishing third at Invercargill on Saturday when he led for most of the way over 2200m on Monday. He gave his Riversdale trainer and part-owner Shane Matheson compensation for the scratching of First Son, who is recovering from a stone bruise. Matheson races Balius with his partner Lisa Barrie. Trainer Nathan Williamson said Delestic would be ineligible for mile day after her win on Monday. She was quickly in front after starting from the unruly position. Change It, who joined the Tahakopa stable of Brian Norman nine days earlier, won easily after leading. Bakari did not race kindly but he still won easily after leading for the last 1400m of 2200m from a stand. Acolyte is the only the second Southland-trained winner of the Waimate Cup. The other was Stylish George, trained at Invercargill by Jim Flynn and driven by Dave Todd, in 1956. Tayler Strong    

Oamaru reinsman Matthew Williamson drove a personal best five winners and Roxburgh trainers Geoff and Jude Knight had their most successful day with four winners at the Waimate meeting at Oamaru on Sunday. Williamson (26) had previously driven four winners on a programme. The Knight stable had twice previously had three wins. Williamson set the ball rolling with Whatasista and followed up with Silver Dale, Fiery Ferret and Skylla at his first four drives. Silver Dale, Fiery Ferret and Skylla are trained by the Knights. The same combination won later with Seduce Me. Skylla, a 3-year-old filly having her fourth start, is raced by Jude Knight, the breeder. Skylla is the first foal of Undue Risk, who won two races from the Knight stable when raced by Robin and Geraldine Wilson, of Rangiora. The Wilsons gifted Undue Risk to Mrs Knight when the half sister by Badlands Hanover to good winner Raglan had finished racing. The Wilsons were on hand to share the win on Sunday. Silver Dale, who cleared maiden ranks, had previously posted 10 placings in 20 starts for the Corner Boys syndicate, the Hunter Boys syndicate and Shane Carroll, of Perth. Silver Dale is a 4-year-old gelding by Klondike Kid from Ginny Dale, an unraced half sister by Make A Deal to Erle Dale (1.49.1), Marshal Dale, Mister Dale and Cordon Hops (15 wins in New Zealand). Whatasista, a half sister to  Armbro Demon, cleared  the ranks of maiden trotters at her sixth start. She is trained at Oamaru by Colin McLeod, who races her with Brian Minty. Ambro Demon won five of her 10 starts and the Armbro Invasion mare won over 3200m in  4.05.4 at Addington. She produced a colt by Majestic Son this season. Whatasista (by Sundon) is a sister to Sunny Demon, a winner and the only other registered foal of Hold Fast. “I have played a lot of sport but there is nothing like this. What a feeling,” said Blair Wilmott after driving his first winner, Jackalack Sue in the race for amateur drivers. Wilmott  began race driving 19 months ago and he was having his 24th drive. Wilmott (39) is a key account manager who assists Balcairn trainer Robbie Holmes. “I have  to thank Robbie  and Brent Weaver (trainer) a lot and trainer Mark Fuller for giving me the drive,” said Wilmott. Acolyte led for most of the way to win the Nevele R Stud Waimate Cup. He was in front early then gave way to Culley Backy before regaining the lead at the 2600m in the 3000m event. He lasted by a head from Highland Reign, who came fast along the inner. Johnny Eyre ran on well for third. The favourite Motu Premier was a battling fourth from a 40m handicap after improving from the rear to fourth at the 800m.  “He likes the grass tracks,’’ said trainer-driver Hamish Hunter, who prepares Acolyte for breeder Graham Cooney, of Tauranga. Cooney was raised in Waimate. Hunter drove at Invercargill the previous day and transported Acolyte and Groomsman from Ryal Bush to Oamaru on raceday, a trip of some five hours. Groomsman won the final race on the card in the ownership of Graham and Jill Cooney, Graham’s brother, Brendan and Vin Nally. The Waimate Trotting Club are confident of racing on their home track next season. “A tower has been erected for the judge and commentator and an administration building is in place at Waimate,” said Gareth Murfitt, the secretary of the club.  The course and facilities suffered damage in a storm and the WTC has raced at Oamaru for the past three years. Murfitt said the Waimate Racing Club was planning to race  at Waimate on June 11.   Tayler Strong

It was no surprise when Oamaru harness racing trainer Phil Williamson won both trotting races yesterday at the Northern Southland Trotting Club's meeting at Ascot Park. With bigger stakes carded New Zealand's leading trainer of squaregaiters always has his team primed for meetings like these. Monty Python added to Williamson's outstanding record in the Group Three Southern Lights when he easily beat Golden Gate by four lengths in track record time for colts and geldings.  Monty Python winning easily for driver Matthew Williamson   - Photo Bruce Stewart The 4-06.6 for the 3200 metres betters the old record of 4-07.1 held by another Williamson trotter Springbank Sam which won the race in 2015. The race record of 4-05.3 is held by last year's winner Harriot Of Mot.  This is the fourth time Williamson has trained the winner of this race. He won in 2009 with Mystic Sun and 2013 and 2015 with Springbank Sam. He also drove Raymauwarrhen Sun to win the Southern Lights in 2010.  "He's always been a nice horse. But without wanting to put him down from such a high today he's just a wee bit below the stars. He's a very nice horse all the same," he said after Monty Python's win. He also praised his son Matty's drive on the seven year old which is owned by DR Beckindale and the Griffins Syndicate.  Members of the syndicate with trainer Phil Williamson - Photo Bruce Stewart "Syndicates can get into horses without too much cost compared to taking one on your own. They've been very lucky to get the foals out of Juliana who's proved to be a gem. They've had a super run." It was Matty Williamson's 224th trotting winner - 156 of those have been for his father. It was the eleventh win for Monty Python, and the seven year old is now assessed as a C7 trotter. "Every race now in this grade they're running times and he's against very good horses so it's definitely difficult to keep winning. He's proven he can match them though on his best days. He gave Master Lavros a good run in Central."   In the previous race yesterday quality four year old Washington VC trotter Blazing Under Fire won his sixth race in just twenty seven starts when he beat favourite Musculus by half a length.  Blazing Under Fire too strong on the outside                       - Photo Bruce Stewart "A nice little progressive horse coming through. It won't be his last win as he's got the all round game to go further. He's got a little bit of speed, good gait and great stamina so you (he) can be put into races."     Driver Matty Williamson sat back, letting the favourite Musculus in the hands of Dexter Dunn roll along in front. With 1400 metres to run he shot the gelding around to sit parked beside Musculus and that proved to be the winning of the race. Back to scale                                                               - Photo Bruce Stewart. "He had to get him into the race with the favourite up the front end. If you sit back it's pretty hard to pull back Dexter if you let him get his own way up front. So Matt thought he'd go up and match him a see whether he could come out on top or not."   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

 - Zoey's Gift confirmed her spot in the group two New Zealand Trotting Oaks at Addington on 31 March with a New Zealand record winning performance at Winton on Saturday. Third daughter of the group one winning mare Jasmyn's Gift, Zoey trotted the 2400 metres from behind the mobile in 3:03.5, best ever for a three year old filly. The previous record had also been set on the track, by Jen Jaccka two years earlier. She was driven by Matthew Williamson and trained by his father Phil who has reservations about running in the Oaks but knows she is only eligible for it once. “I hope she will be competitive but I'm not getting too carried away,” he said. “She's a fair sort of horse but the 1950 mobile start is a bit draw-dependent. Her mother was outpaced in the Oaks and this filly might be too.” Jasmyn's Gift was having her third start when only eighth in the 2003 Oaks, but went on to win 17 of her 48 goes. Williamson said Zoey's Gift was too big to race as a juvenile and the family is better with time. “She should have a big future,” he said. - Matthew Williamson gained a second win on Saturday when he guided Gotta Del to victory in the C3 to C5 mobile 2400. They led all the way and cleared out to score by five and three quarter lengths in 2:58.2. Gotta Del is trained by Clark Barron for his breeder and owner Ian Hunter who won with his trotter Delestic last Sunday. The horses share the same third dam in the trotting winner Delalee. She left the group two winner Aron Del who finished fourth in the 1989 Rowe Cup. - Trainer Kirstin Barclay gained her first bag of three winners when My Rona Gold, Grace Burns and Magical Marn were successful. Grace Burns, a winner at Waikouaiti 11 days earlier, is raced by her breeder Tom Kilkelly. The mare is named after a sister of Kilkelly's father in law, long time southern harness administrator Peter Burns. Kilkelly also races the three year old Magical Marn, a $15,000 purchase at the 2015 premier sale. “Tom picked him but didn't go to the sales, I had to do the bidding and was a bit nervous, I went slightly over his limit,” Barclay said. Five year old grey mare Rona Gold is raced by Barclay's husband, Nick, Kilkelly's wife Julie, and Julie's daughter Holly Brown. Barclay was the successful driver of Magical Marn while Andrew Suddaby won on My Rona Gold and Grace Burns. - Earlier in the day, Suddaby had won the C0 claimers on Pegasus Merrily to give him three for the day. He'd previously achieved the feat at Invercargill in January 2002, and Forbury Park in November of both 2004 and 2005, but his best was Copper Belt, Jaccka Turbo, Boulder Bay and Elvis Rocks at Forbury Park in May 2005. Pegasus Merrily was trainer Matt Saunders' third win since his move to Tapanui on 6 January. He has taken over the seven-days-a week Four Square store there and trains on the old Tapanui race-course, sharing the facilities with galloping trainers Nikki and Barrie Blatch. “I can have three there, I paddock train them,” said Saunders. His first two wins were with Marshal Star, on the grass at Cromwell and Waikouaiti. Saunders said he sold the six year old to the Central Districts during the week and had only just replenished his team to three and it is back to two again. Pegasus Merrily, who won the mobile mile in 1:56.7, was claimed for $4500 by Rowena Mackintosh after spending about six weeks with Saunders. - Nathan Williamson kicked off a trainer-driver double with the unbeaten Shezacullengirl in a C0 mile. The daughter of Chloe Hanover had won her sole start as a juvenile in April and was getting ready to kick off in October when she strained a muscle in her back end. She paced the mile in 1:57.3 and pleased Williamson. “She doesn't thrill you at home but turned it on on raceday,” he said. Talented trotter Sundons Wish made it two from three and Williamson reckons he is back on track after failing at Ascot Park in January. “He was tying up and is trained out of the paddock now,” Williamson said, “he's got a good motor and trotted nice and square today.” - Rain had soaked the track before the C1 and C2 mares and fillies mile but Break Dance still managed to clock 1:55.9, fastest of the three mobile miles on the day. Break Dance is trained at Waikouaiti by Amber Hoffman and one of two winners for Blair Orange whose drives this season are about to crack the million dollars in earnings. In the final race of the day, fellow Cantabrian visitor, the Cran Dalgety-trained Baileys Rock gave Orange his second win. - Operative Asset, dam of the good performers Citylight and Belkmyster, struck again when I'm Jimmy James won at just his second time to the races. The three year old by Big Jim was bred and is owned and trained by Steve Baucke at Woodlands who said he had I'm Jimmy James running at two, he showed ability but he turned him out to grow. A half brother by Mach Three was picked up by Mark Jones for $12,000 and last week's sales. Baucke has an American Ideal two year old filly from operative Asset, she has a foal at foot by A Rocknroll Dance, and is in foal to Sportswriter. Mac Henry

The two leading candidates for the two harness racing age group features on Diamonds Day in April, Whittaker (Supremacy Stakes Final) and Seaswift Joy both recorded wins at Wyndham yesterday (Sunday). Both were racing older horses and in Seaswift Joy's case having her first start from a stand. She began well before handing up to Gotta Del driven by Matty Williamson. "I was quite happy to lead but Matty was pretty keen to get to the front. She's still only a three year old filly so it's difficult to get up and punch against this grade of horse. I'd like to give her a bit of a freshener. There's some big races coming up for her. There's no sense in racing silly at the moment," said co - trainer and driver Gordon Lee. Seaswift Joy and Gordon Lee too strong for Gotta Del   -  Photo by Bruce Stewart Seaswift Joys winning time was 3-00.1 for the 2400 metre stand - a new track record for three year old fillies. The previous record has held by Bonnie Lass. Her 3-01.4 was recorded in 1999. The time is also a Southland track record. Class three year old Sportswriter colt Whittaker received an identical trip trailing Royal Bengal for most of his race. He sped up the passing lane and won easily untouched by four and a quarter lengths.   Bruce Stewart Southland harness Racing

Breaking droughts quickly became the modus operandi for grass track racing at Rangiora on Sunday. A number of winners throughout the day’s racing action were putting behind them long sequences without success and, in some cases, tasting success for the first time after numerous attempts. There was no more deserving winner on the programme however than maiden trotter, Native’s Brite Gem. Having start 46 for her career the daughter of Britewell finally dispersed off her maiden status when she led all the way to win the opening race of the day for Austin Thornton and Robbie Close. On seven previous occasions she’d finished second. Often looking the winner 100 metres from the post only to be run down in the dying stages, but there was none of that on Saturday as the free-wheeling mare began to clear away from her rivals inside the final 50 metres. Rusty I Am, a five-year-old son of Sundon and Awesome I Am was the next cab off the rank when he broke through for his first win in the second maiden trot of the day for co-trainer and driver, Pip Wakelin Wakelin, who trains in partnership with Steven Noble, put her charge into the race at the right time and he staved off the challenge of hot favourite, Ace Commander, to win at start 26 after looking more than likely on a number of occasions. Justin and Lynn Smith also found themselves in the winners’ circle when All Lit Up picked up the sixth win of his 54 start career later in the day having not saluted the judge for 24 starts. The wonderfully bred son of Sundon last won a race in August of 2015. The run of drought breaking continued when Caesar’s Quest, who had been side-lined with injury, caused the upset of the day when sneaking home ahead of Augusta at massive odds grabbing his first win since September of 2014. The John McDermott trained pacer had finished fifth in his previous start behind Kardesler at Motukarara but was never given a hope by punters on Sunday paying a massive $63.50 for the win. Another injury casualty, Nolan Sackett was the other returnee to the winners’ circle. The talented Roger Winter trained pacer put together an impressive record in his maiden season, winning twice and placing on four occasions from seven starts with his only miss a fourth at Addington at the end of his last campaign. The Badlands Hanover six-year-old ran a solid fourth behind Cable Beach at Ashburton but wasn’t to be denied on Sunday, finishing stylishly near the outside fence to win in the hands of Matty Williamson.    Matt Markham

Zenmach may find the all-weather surface more to his liking at Forbury Park on Fridaynight than the grass at Oamaru last Saturday. Zenmach wilted to eighth at Oamaru after being given little respite in the lead. The Mach Three gelding returned to winning at Ascot Park at his previous start. His six wins have been on all-weather tracks and he has been successful at Forbury Park. His regular driver Matthew Williamson is back in the sulky in race 7. Geoff and Jude Knight, the Roxburgh trainers of Zenmach, also have Atom Hanover and Jerry Fitz in the race. Atom Hanover was a last start fourth at Forbury Park in his first race for five weeks. Jerry Fitz, who has been bought by the Gabriels Gold syndicate from Ross Wilson, tuned up on the grass at Balfour on Sunday. The 8yr-old has not raced 11 weeks. Jerry Fitz has gained three of his 11 wins at Forbury Park, the most recent in a claiming race in May. Brent Barclay is the new driver for Martin McGuinness with Williamson opting for Zenmach. Martin McGuinness capped off minor placings in his previous two starts with a win at Oamaru, The Knights and owners of Zenmach, the Central Courage syndicate, have Seduce Me in race 5. A winner at Oamaru, she could make the most of her one barrier position in the race for junior drivers. Stablemate Silver Dale, a trial winner at Balfour, has also drawn the ace in race 3. “Our maidens Silver Dale and Idealistic Lass look our best prospects. Idealistic Lass is a nice mare who has had her share of problems,’' said Geoff Knight. Idealistic Lass, also owned by the Central Courage syndicate, ran fourth in her lone start at Invercargill in April. The Knight stable has Longevity in a claiming race at Winton on Sunday. Placed in her last two starts for Matt Saunders, the Mach Three mare, has been bought by the Corner Shop and Have Fun syndicates. Rory McIlwrick, the leading junior driver, has been assisting the Williamson stable at Oamaru during the week in the absence of Brad Williamson in Perth. McIlwrick will drive the Williamson-trained Danielle Amore in race 4. Tayler Strong

Harness racing star Matty Williamson has no doubts drivers like him are the ones punters should be following over coming months. And by drivers like him, he means skinny drivers. Williamson had a huge weekend in the sulky, reining four grass track winners, three at Oamaru on Saturday and one at Methven yesterday. But even his three at Oamaru were not enough to win the Brothers In Arms series with brother Nathan, that honour going to northern siblings Sailesh and Jay Abernethy. They won four of the six series races, Sailesh bagging three and Jay one, while only one of Williamson’s three winners of the day came in a heat of the series. But the 26-year-old Oamaru horseman says Saturday’s results are a blueprint for the busy grass track racing circuit over the summer. “I have do doubt the lighter drivers have an advantage on the grass tracks,” says Williamson. “Look at Saturday. I won three races and I weight about 65kgs, while I reckon Sailesh would be closer to 55kgs than 60kgs. Same with Jay. “I am sure on the grass tracks, because they aren’t as smooth, us lighter guys and the a lot of the girls have an advantage over some of the bigger boys. “You even see it with the sulkies a lot of trainers use on the grass tracks now. A lot of trainers, especially in the bigger stables where they have the resources, use their older carts on the grass rather than the new, heavier ones you use at Addington. “So maybe that is something for punters to watch out for.”Williamson says his father Phil qualified a couple of nice trotters over the weekend and the stable expect to have their usual strong summer on the Southland circuit. The lighter drivers theory also shone through in Saturday’s feature when Samantha Ottley lead almost throughout on Perissa to win the Changeover Handicap. The Mark Jones-trained mare recorded her ninth career win and her third for the season, matching her best return for an entire term two years ago.With her manners and love of the grass she shouldn’t be hard to place on the Country Cups circuit in coming months. The expensive failure of the race was hot favourite Alta Orlando, who never gave punters reason for confidence after taking an age to circle the field in the middle stages before being beaten before the turn, finishing fifth. Michael Guerin

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