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By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk    With all the attention on racing’s return post COVID-19 and Ricky May’s return to driving after his near death experience, another recent milestone concerning another legendary driver Maurice McKendry has been largely overlooked. New Zealand’s second most successful driver ever has turned 65 and has had his first winner as a superannuitant. “Yep, I’ve got my Gold card,” he chuckles, “but I feel a young 65.” McKendry had his landmark birthday on May 27 and just four days later celebrated with an all-the-way win with $10 shot Betterbebetter for Taupaki trainers Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins at Cambridge. It was his 19th victory for the season. As for turning 65 - “it’s come along pretty quick, I’m active and I don’t have too many aches and pains….. I’m dangerous.” He has four horses in work at his Pukekohe property though from a training perspective he’s yet to have a winner from the 10 he’s started in the 2020 season. “Some are showing promise, they need to take the next step.” These days he doesn’t travel as much as he once did, focusing on Alexandra Park and Cambridge. With 3269 wins since his first triumph in the mid-1970s McKendry was the second to 3000 career wins. The only driver ahead of him is Tony Herlihy on 3530. “The Magic Man” has won the drivers premiership ten times though has never won a New Zealand Cup or an Interdominion final. It’s another Maurice, Maurie Holmes who has won the most premierships . He won his 18th in 1974 but was forced to retire at aged 65 under the then Rules of Trotting. Those regulations are long gone and as long as he meets the necessary health requirements Maurice McKendry has no such plans to call it a day. “I won’t go on till I’m 80 but I’ve got a few years left in me yet.”

After 3259 wins it is still there for Maurice McKendry. Not just the talent. That was never in doubt. Never has been since the little fella left Methven nearly 40 years ago to try his luck in the big smoke. What is still there is the rush, that thrill a good horse can still give even a legend even in “the twilight of my career.” That twilight has shone a little brighter during this Inter Dominion after McKendry got the call up to partner A G’s White Socks. Just three weeks ago A G’s White Socks wasn’t coming to the series and McKendry was resigned to watching it from the driver’s room after his sole Interdom steer, trotter Lemond, was withdrawn. Now McKendry goes into Saturday’s final with two heat wins under his belt and maybe the best chance to upset hot favourite Ultimate Sniper. A G’s White Socks reminded us how good he is with his two heat wins and peeled off a sizzling last 800m in defeat last Friday. McKendry has also had an Interdom to remember, perfectly patient winning his opening night heat, aggressive enough to attack an All Stars runner and wrest control of his second round heat. So how does it feel to be one of the stories of an Inter Dominion which must have felt like it had passed McKendry by? “It has been fun,” he says with his trademark half giggle. “After Lemond got pulled out I thought I wouldn’t be part of it all and then I got the call up for this horse, which I really didn’t see coming. “I didn’t know what to expect from him but I have really enjoyed it. “Even at this stage of my career, when maybe I am getting close to winding down a bit, that feeling is still the same when you drive a good horse. “When they let down and sprint is a great feeling. It is fun, a rush, even now.” That is one reason McKendry still loves going to work at 64 years old, because the sensation is the same as four decades ago on the training tracks of Mid Canterbury. “I love the speed. I always have. And when you sit behind the good horses and they let down, it feels special. “So to be here, driving a horse trained by Barry in the final, it is a real bonus.” It is odd to think that McKendry needs to remind us of his talents. He is, after all, one of only two New Zealanders with over 3000 domestic wins. The other is his good mate Tony Herlihy, who McKendry has sat next to in the Alexandra Park driver’s room for as long as anybody remembers. Like famous Brazilian soccer players they require only one name inside the industry, say Tony or Maurice and everybody knows who you are talking about. But their Inter Dominion records are vastly different, Herlihy with 37 total career victories at the Interdoms including four trotting finals, McKendry has nine heat wins. That is not about ability, but opportunity. And those opportunities are becoming rarer. “It has always been hard to get on good horses, it is a hard game,” says McKendry. “And it is harder now because there are less horses and less trainers, and many of the bigger stables already have their drivers. “But I am still getting a few drives so I am in no hurry to retire. I think I’ll know when I have had enough or I am starting to lose it.” The last fortnight tells us that won’t be any time soon. So what does Saturday hold for McKendry and his rejuvenated Grand Final hope? From barrier seven A G’s White Socks looks best placed of the favourites to try and bustle to the lead and maybe take a sit on hot favourite Ultimate Sniper? “Hard to tell,” says the understated one. “It doesn’t look the strongest front line so he might be able to work around them and get in front of Natalie’s horse. “But if I try and it doesn’t work out that can go bad. I’ll ask Barry (Purdon) what he thinks but he will probably tell me he is fine with whatever I think,” comes the laugh again. “So you can’t have too much of a plan. Sometimes you go on your gut instinct as the gate pulls away, “And to be honest, sometimes that is completely wrong.” The good news for A G’s White Socks punters is, 3259 times the gut instinct has been right. THE MAGIC MAN Who: Maurice McKendry Career record: 3259 New Zealand driving victories. Stakes: $28,846,425 in New Zealand. Highlights: 10 New Zealand driving premierships. Next: Pilots A G’s White Socks in the $500,000 IRT Inter Dominion Pacing Final at Alexandra Park on Saturday night.   By Michael Guerin

The Greg and Nina Hope trained Luella smashed the New Zealand harness racing record for 2yo fillies over a mobile 2400m, yesterday at the Nelson Trotting Clubs winter meeting. Luella  2 B f Sweet Lou - Stella Franco  (Badlands Hanover) ran the mobile 2400m mobile in 2-57.7 which broke the old record by nearly 4 seconds. The old record was held by Kotare Elite who ran 3-02.6 at Ashburton in June 2017. Driver Ricky May had back to back wins when the Benny Hill trained Koromiko Eyre gained an overdue win in the following race. Koromiko Eyre 4 B g Ohoka Arizona - Hanover Eyre (Peruvian Hanover) looked likely to run another second 50m before the finishing post until the leader Stetson knocked off and Koromiko Eyre came again to get his head in front on the line. Koromiko Eyre winning for driver Ricky May _______________________________________________________________________________ Tony Herlihy notched up another amazing milestone at Alexandra Park on Friday night when he became the first New Zealand harness racing driver to get to 3500 wins. Herlihy won onboard the impressive Gambit who won his second race in a row in a quick 2-41.8  for the 2200m mobile.  Maurice McKendry is the closest to Herlihy in the all time wins leaderboard on 3248 wins. (see leaderboard below) Gambit winning on Friday night.   New Zealands leading drivers with 2000 wins or more. Driver Total Wins Tony Herlihy 3500 Maurice McKendry 3248 Ricky May 2916 David Butcher 2378 Dexter Dunn 2226 Colin DeFilippi 2021     Harnesslink Media

Champion reinsman Tony Herlihy is willing to swap one of the greatest milestones in New Zealand racing history for a Harness Jewels win this weekend. But he admits he might struggle to get either. Herlihy took his record total of domestic driving wins to 3497 when Gambit won at Alexandra Park on Friday night, meaning he is a good night at the office away from becoming the first driver or jockey in this country to 3500 wins. While 3500 is hardly a number that roles off the tongue, every winner Herlihy drives is a new record as Maurice McKendry, who sits next to Herlihy in the Alexandra Park drivers room almost every week, is the only other horseperson to partner over 3000 winners here. Ricky May is the next reinsman honing in on the number, with 2913 domestic wins in his career and with Dexter Dunn driving so successfully in North America, it could be a long time before anybody in either code threatens Herlihy's numbers. David Walsh holds the record for a jockey with 2451 victories. But Herlihy could end the weekend still stuck on 3497 as he won't drive at Alexandra Park this Friday night because he will be in Christchurch preparing stable reps Tickle Me Pink and Bolt For Brilliance for the Jewels on Saturday. Bolt For Brilliance is already in Canterbury and won well enough at the Addington trials on Saturday to suggest he is not the worst chance in the juvenile trot but Tickle Me Pink is the second favourite for the 3-year-old trot and has been one of the comeback stories of the season. Her week has not gone to plan though, as she was one of 11 horses whose flight from Auckland to Christchurch has been delayed by fog in Canterbury, but with the weather there changing, all the horses are expected to make it to Jewels day. Herlihy warns if the worst happened and the flight can't make it, Tickle Me Pink wouldn't be risked travelling down by road. "It is too late for that, so we are sticking with the plane to get her down, but it sounds like they will get them here," Herlihy said last night. While Tickle Me Pink has won three Alexandra Park races in impressive fashion since returning from a nine-month break, Herlihy doubts she can beat the best version of Enhance Your Calm should he turn up on Saturday. "He is a bit of beast and unless he galloped and lost quite a bit of ground, he might be too good for all of us," says Herlihy. "But our filly has a touch of class and is racing really well. I am very proud of what she has achieved in basically a month of racing after coming back from such a long break." As for the hitherto unreached 3500 wins, Herlihy didn't even know he was that close until informed on Friday night and knows milestones are impossible to plan. "The last time I knew one was coming up was the 3000-win one and the family came to the races a couple of weeks in a row to be there for it and I didn't drive any winners," he laughs. "So it will happen when it happens, but it will still be a nice number to get to." Now 60, Herlihy is still driving as well as ever but not as often. He rarely drives in New Zealand outside of Alexandra Park, Addington and the better Cambridge meetings, often handing the latter opportunities to stable No2 Tony Cameron. And considering it has taken him over eight years to get from 3000 to the brink of 3500, he isn't even entertaining making it to 4000 domestic career wins, which could mean driving until he was 70. "I don't think I'll be doing that, although I am a very young 60," he says with his customary giggle.   Michael Guerin

The words of a champion horseman are one of the few ghosts haunting trainer Steven Reid as he prepares Star Galleria for tomorrow night's $100,000 Taylor Mile. The speed freak pacer is the $2.60 opening favourite for the group one sprint, one of four group races as Alexandra Park kicks off its last major carnival of the season tomorrow night. Star Galleria has developed from a speedster lacking strength last season into one of the best pacers in the country behind Lazarus with a series of high-class victories over the summer, downing the likes of Heaven Rocks and Jack's Legend with ease. While he hasn't raced since his effortless win in the City of Auckland Free-For-All a month ago, the four-year-old thrilled Reid winning his Pukekohe workout last Saturday in a fast time on a soaked track. "He felt great and I have no doubt he is better than he was a month or two ago," says Reid. "He has got stronger again and I couldn't be happier with him. "The Puke track is fast at the moment but he still paced 3:2 for his 2400m on a wet track, his last 800m in 55 seconds so he is ready." The only concern Reid had after last Saturday's spectacular workout win was the words of champion driver Maurice McKendry, who drove runner-up Let It Ride. "Maurice sat on our back and never pulled out and after the workout he told me his horse was jogging," says Reid. "So maybe he has come over here in really good form, I suppose we will find out on Friday." Let It Ride is a member of Tim Butt's Menangle stable and was a close second to eventual Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu in the Chariots of Fire in February. He looked very impressive during last Saturday's workout and his gate speed and sprint prowess are honed by his Sydney racing diet so with barrier two he has emerged as a real danger in the race. A G's White Socks has the ace draw and More The Better is drawn on Let It Ride's back, suggesting all four favourites should be handy, almost always the key to Taylor Mile success. Trotting young gun Enghien has opened favourite against the older horses in the $100,000 Anzac Cup, with the aid of barrier two and the fact his connections believe he is more comfortable around Alexandra Park. But the favourite for one of tomorrow night's other group races Luby Lou goes into the $60,000 Sires' Stakes Trotters Champs with no experience right-handed, which may be why bookies are giving an appealing $2 for the superstar filly, keeping Renezmae safe at $5.80 after her impressive northern debut last Friday. The race looks one of the deeper three-year-old trot features at Alexandra Park in recent years as the breed continues to develop at the two and three-year-old levels through better breeding and more racing opportunities. That is also being reflected in the high number of two-year-old trotters racing this season compared with five years ago, the resurgence suggesting HRNZ's recent boosts of stakes for the three trotting races at the Jewels to $125,000 was the right decision. Michael Guerin

After three years as All Stars Junior driver and backup for the senior ones, Matt Anderson is moving on from All Stars at the end of the season. He has no immediate plans for his next racing experience but is preparing for his last season as a Junior and hoping to make the most of it. "I've leaned so much here it is unbelievable. I have been lucky to work in a stable  this successful and get first hand experience of how it all operates. It is not so easy to get stable drives when so many of the races are top events but I know that what I take away from here is the basis for the next stage of my career. And you wouldn't get a better basis to work on" Matt has reached a lot of his Junior Driver goals accumulating 68 wins, his UDR remaining a good .2451. Unlike most juniors Matt has turned down drives at times to protect his strike rate with a view to higher achievements and, except for the year when the rules of selection were altered for a Championship series without him being aware of the change it has worked out well. Matt has shown growing skills and maturity at All Stars and is recognised as one of the most promising Juniors in the business quite apart from success rates.   His first winner, for a mentor Robbie Holmes, was Highview Ember at Rangiora in August 2013 a season when he posted 7 wins from 57 drives to get away to a good start. He transferred to All Stars in 2014 and posted his first win for the stable in July of that year with Better With Bourbon at Rangiora.  Four of his first season winners were trotters for Ken Sefonte and he also drove a winner for Maurice McKendry a man who can recognise talent and for Lew Driver.  Most of his 2015 season wins were for All Stars including horses like Backup, Lightfingered, Full Speed Ahead and Northern Velocity . Last season he again struck up an affinity for the trotter winning three with Blackguard's Corner including the rich John Devlin Memorial at Alexandra Park for the Butterworths but posted his biggest pacing win when Costa Del Magnifico which he had earlier steered to an 11.5 len win in a Junior race, won the Invercargill Cup. He scored a notable win for Piccadilly Princess in a Nevele R heat holding out favoured stablemate Golden Goddess. This season Smiley Sophie have him his first win on NZ Cup day and Pulp Fiction was another smart performer he guided to victory,  His last win was his easiest-on Imperial Whiz in a Breeder's Crown heat at Addington. He didn't have to leave the parade ring,  One of his biggest thrills came however when he finally made the Australasian Junior Drivers Championship in Perth this season run in conjunction with the Inter Dominions It was the most memorable fortnight in the young driver's life. Using the deft hands which were advancing his reputation he overcame some ordinary prospects in pre-post odds to finish third but actually on the same points total (71) as second placed Robbie Close and just two points behind winner Todd McCarthy. Yet Matt remembers Perth for a different reason. "I think watching Smolda fight out that Inter Dominion finish was the biggest thrill I had in my stay here.  It was our stable horse, he was such a great horse to work with and Mark and Natalie had him just right. I got a real thrill out of just being there to watch that" But Matt gave his share of thrills to others don't worry. A thoughtful person he sorted out the Ronald McDonald House for children with illness as his charity of choice. His fees from Perth were part of that generosity and one of his two sponsors, McMillan Feeds added their share. His other sponsor Coupland Bakeries is also notable for its work with charities. Matt has continued to support Ronald McDonald House, which does not get the official assistance of some similar charities ,  with his driving fees a fine gesture for a youngster still making his own way. He helped organise a young cancer sufferer Isaac  Southerton come out to All Stars and introduced the little fellow to the stable stars  including Lazarus.  And so what happens next ? "I've had several offers but I am not in any hurry. I have quite a lot of leave owing from All Stars so I will be taking that up for some time.  Then I will see what develops. I don't doubt I will miss it around here especially when the good horses are out but I am looking forward to the next opportunity" There is also a rising two year old whom Matt invested in at the PGG Sales this year. But that is another chapter in the story. Harnesslink Media Courtesy of All Stars Stables

A 40m handicap coupled with a junior driver might usually be a recipe that makes punters nervous but trainer Robert Dunn is comfortable with both at Alexandra Park tonight. Dunn trains rejuvenated mare Yagunnakissmeornot who faces that often prohibitive back mark with young Jack MacKinnon in the sulky tonight, taking over from her recent winning driver Maurice McKendry. MacKinnon is no novice, his 16 wins for the season placing him sixth on the national junior driver’s premiership and second equal among the North Island junior and boss Dunn has no concerns by the driver change. “Jack knows her well and a very good young driver as well as being very mature,” said Dunn. “She can be a funny horse to drive and took us a long time to work out because she is vastly better when you drive her with a sit, which Maurice has done brilliantly lately. “But Jack knows that and in many ways that and her handicap takes any pressure off him because he already knows where he is likely to be and what he needs to do.” Backing favourites off 40m handicaps in feature trots at Alexandra Park is not a sound long-term financial plan but Yagunnakissmeornot has been racing like an open class trotter, beating many of her rivals tonight by six lengths under similar circumstances two starts ago. “And the make up of the field helps us,” says Dunn. “Most of the really good horses in the race are back on 30m so she should be with them straight after the start and I don’t see a tearaway leader to run them really hard off the front line.  “So I think she can win, even though they don’t often off 40m.” Dunn, who trains the northern arm of his team while son John takes care of the Canterbury horses, sits second on the national premiership with 87 wins and thinks he can end the season with at least two, maybe three tonight.  “Cmeerock has a good chance in race two because it is her sort of field, although we have worked out she is also best when driven with a sit. “And the horse who has really improved for us has been Johnny White (race six).  “He has always had ability but developed a few problems and took us ages to get right. “But he won well last Friday and has the draw to be handy again this week. If he leads or trails, which I think he will, then he has to be hard to beat.” The pacing highlight of the night will be Butcher dominated, with drivers David (Vasari), Zac (Northview Hustler) and Ben (Max Phactor) on the three favourites. Max Phactor was a very brave second when the tempo of his comeback race was against him last Friday and might have an experience/class edge over his three-year-old rivals but tonight is his first standing start so punters will want $3.50 to take the chance, even though as a very clean pacer who should handle the stand.  Michael Guerin

Pukekohe trainer Jeremy Young bought two American Ideal fillies at the 2014 Autumn Weanling in Auckland . American Empress went on to become the fifth highest Jewels qualifier in 2016-2017 ($56,796) and quickly became Young's flagship horse. Lynbar Rose suffered from stifle joint problems early on and her only healer has been time. But Young's patience with the now well-developed bay is starting to pay dividends if Saturday’s qualifying trial at Pukekohe is anything to go by. The Charles Roberts-bred filly won by one-and-a-quarter lengths going 4.7 seconds under the required time. Maurice McKendry (MNZM) trailed with Lynbar Rose throughout the 2050m mobile and then in the lane they bolted through to easily win under a hold. She stopped the clock in 2:37.5 pacing a 2:03.6 mile rate and coming home in 60.2 and 29.8. "I've always had a bit of time for her and now that she appears to be over her leg problem hopefully she can now develop into a nice race-horse. "I'm not saying she will be as good as American Empress, but she felt like a good race-horse in the making early on, and Maurice was delighted with her trial on Saturday. This is her second preparation back after my vet Ivan Bridge discovered a problem with her stifle joint shortly after her first prep," Young said. "She will probably have another trial before she makes her race-day debut in three to four weeks," he added. He said American Empress, who finished eighth in Spanish Armada’s recent 3yo Diamond Final, would have six weeks off before being brought back into work. Young put his personal best season earnings of $92,309 down to his loyal band of owners. The same owners - Hazel van Opzeeland, Paul Curran, Kenneth Moore, and the Zinnycef Syndicate - own both American Empress and Lynbar Rose. Young paid $8,500 for American Empress and $2,200 for Lynbar Rose. “The owners, which also includes me ole Lincoln High School mates, have been awesome and given me a leg up as a trainer starting out. I’ve only had my licence for a few years now and in that time I have been up to build up a promising team of yearlings and two-year-olds, as well as my race horses. “When you play a sport you want to play it to the best of your ability, and as a trainer I have only ever wanted a horse to race and compete well in Group One company. “I got a taste of it at the Jewels and now my goal is to not only line uip against the best but also beat them one day. I am intent on doing that. If you don’t set goals in this game you just go through the motions,” said Young. He's the first to admit he rode on the coat tails of Mark Purdon for many years when he worked for him and was Auckland Reactor’s strapper. "It's funny to think I've got four Auckland Reactors running around at the moment and they are just like their Dad - laid back gentle giants. "I've also got a Highview Tommy who is the splitting image of his father, not just in looks but in many of his traits and ways as well," 44-year-old Young said. “I’m really enjoying what I do – and you can put a lot of it down to my loyal band of owners and supporters,” he added. Duane Ranger

Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis have been left scratching their heads after Princess Mackendon’s third win in four starts in the feature trot at Alexandra Park last Friday night. “I think she’s met her mark and I have no idea where she will go from here. Michelle and I will speak to her owners, but she will be handicapped out of it now. The ratings system just doesn’t work for filly and mare trotters. We have four or five in the same boat. Makarewa Jake is another fine example of a trotter continually racing out of his grade. “I've always been an advocate of more mares and fillies races for the squaregaiters but the idea has always fallen on deaf ears," Hackett said. He said Friday’s result in the feature trot – the $14,999 Sextor Handicap for the R63 to R90 trotters, proved his point. “The first three home (Princess Mackendon, Yagunnakissmeornot, Tereskova) were all mares. In fact half the field were mares,” he said. The 56-year-old Waiuku horseman hoped Princess Mackendon wouldn’t follow in the hoof steps of her former stablemates – Charming Lavra, Rock Tonight, and Gin. “They are all racing with success in Australia now. They are in their right grades. Charming Lavra won four races in New Zealand and has gone on to win 14 all-up in Australia. She's also won more than $100,000 and recorded a 1:56 mile (1:55.7). "Over here she’d be hard pressed winning three or four. We exported her in 2015, Rock Tonight the following year, and Gin in March. It means the mares can get black type when they hit the broodmares paddock," Hackett said. "Trotting broodmares don't get that opportunity here. The ratings system is crucifying them," he added. However Hackett said he was grateful for the junior claim in Friday's 2700m standing start. “That’s what made her competitive. Putting Tony (Cameron) on her proved to be the difference. He’s driving really well at the moment, and again he got the best out of the horse. I don’t think she deserved to pay $22.30 to win,” said Hackett. Cameron got Princess Mackendon away smoothly from her 20m handicap and they were fourth around the first corner. With two laps remaining they were still fourth on the markers and then three-seep turning for home. Then in the lane the Skyvalley mare showed exceptional acceleration to get past firstly get past Tereskova and Dr Luk Chin, and then hold out the fast-finishing Yagunnakissmeornot (Maurice McKendry MNZM). It was Princess Mackendon’s eighth career win, and fifth this season. She held on by a nose, stopping the clock in 3:29.1 (mile rate 2:04.6) and came home in 60.1 and 30.3. "She's a lovely mare, who is very underrated. I have won three races on her now. Bernie and Michelle have got her going along really well at present," said Cameron. Wallis and Hackett also won the second event on Friday - the $10,000 Mitavite Maiden with the Tony Herlihy (MNZM) driven with Billy At Salsa. Then the following day their daughter Tyler rode Blood And Whisky to win the Monte Saddle Trot at the Pukekohe Workouts the following day. "At least we have Monte Trots to fall back on with a couple of our horses. They are proving very popular and Michelle and I really want to get it off the ground here in New Zealand. "It is also a good way to give a horse a light workout before race-day. That's exactly why I lined up Blood And Whisky before his race at Alexandra Park next Friday," Hackett said. “When we held the exhibition Monte trot at Alexandra Park recently I was in the stand and could hardly get a seat. There were so many people lined up across the rail watching the race. Hopefully that’s one option for our trotters one day. The sport needs a breath of fresh air,” he added. Herlihy was the most successful horseman at the meeting driving three winners – Billy At Salsa (race 2); the Steven Reid trained $1.40 favourite Star Galleria in the feature pace (race 7); and the Tim Vince trained Franco Hamilton (race 8). Duane Ranger  

Look for a form reversal from the Matthew Pemberton trained Realmein in the feature trot at Alexandra Park tonight. The Patumahoe horseman said the 8-year-old Real Desire – Cullermein gelding took an extra week to recover from a hard Rowe Cup run on April 28, where he copped the awkward nine draw. “It’s just going to be nice for once to race the opposition on even terms. It can be a bit demoralising having to start him week in and week out from long marks,” Pemberton said. In fact his Rowe Cup run aside (14th), Realmein has started from 40m, 30m and 30m in his last three starts. “The week before the Rowe Cup he looked and felt a million dollars, but the run took it out of him and he’s needed till now to recover. “He’s back to where I want him to be now. Back to his old self. He’s ready to run a race in conditions that finally suit him,” Pemberton said. Regular pilot, Philip Butcher will drive Realmein from gate six (of six) in the $14,999 Riordan & West Mobile for the R75 to R95 trotters. Realmein is the highest ranked trotter in the field with a R95 rating - seven more than K D Hall (5). Realmein has won 13 of his 81 starts ($196,451) - 10 of which have been at Alexandra Park, including one from behind the mobile arm. "The small field will help, but in saying that he is the fastest horse from his previous back marks in the field. "You can never be too confident in racing, but he's ready for this," Pemberton said. Toughest for Realmein to beat will be the Robert Dunn trained and Maurice McKendry driven Yagunnakissmeornot. The 5-year-old brown Love You mare recorded a nice second behind Gentleman Sir on the same track a fortnight. Meanwhile the pacing feature - the $14,999 Marlin Transport Mobile for the R67 to R76 pacers should see the Logan Hollis & Shane Robertson trained and Philip Butcher driven Big Mach make it three wins in a row. The 3-year-old Mach Three gelding, who has drawn five (of eight) tonight, was stylish when winning from gate nine here a fortnight ago. That victory came a month after scoring from gate three. Don't discount the Robbie Hughes trained and Ben Butcher (j) driven Red Magic from the luxury one draw. Duane Ranger

Less than a week after joining Tony Herlihy in the MNZM ranks, Maurice McKendry believes he can go close to training his first winner of the season at Cambridge Raceway tonight. McKendry (62) was bestowed with the Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit at the annual Queen’s Birthday Awards last weekend. The Methven born and raised horseman, who has won 3,185 races since 1975, is second only to Tony Herlihy (3,417) on the list of all-time winners in New Zealand harness racing history. McKendry has trained 115 winners since 1982 and has had one second and a third from 13 starters in 2016-2017, but feels he can go close to breaking his duck tonight. “Both Shanocon (race 2) and Shandance (race 4) are capable of winning. They have both worked well, and of the five I have in work, they would be my best two," McKendry said. McKendry will steer Shanocon from gate five in the $6,000 Ooby Ryn Cambridge Mobile for the maiden for the up to R49 pacers. "He's a nice enough colt who was a little bit disappointing last start at Alexandra Park. He's better than what he showed that night and from the handy draw I think we will push forward. “I’m happy with the way he has progressed since that run and if he doesn’t win he can certainly place,” McKendry said. The 3-year-old Bettor's Delight - Veste colt has had one start at Cambridge for an encouraging second behind Father Frank on February 16. Although Shandance had drawn the outside of the front row, McKendry believed the 2-year-old Art Major filly could go also close in the $6,000 C N Taylor Consulting Mobile for the maiden pacers. "She's lightly raced but goes okay. She's a nice little filly who only needs time, but in saying that she can win first-up at Cambridge. "She went nice on debut at Auckland last month (fourth - May 12) and then was ordinary next start. She's in the same boat as her stablemate - good enough to win and certainly good enough to place," the Pukekohe horseman said. Shandance is the full sister to the former McKendry trained Shandale, who won eight races here, and is now plying his trade in Australia. Their dam is Delightful Dale, a 9-year-old Bettor's Delight mare who qualified for Gareth Dixon in 2010, but never raced. Meanwhile, McKendry has five drives at Cambridge Raceway tonight. He said the stablemates were his best winning chances, but also be wary of the Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett trained Donna May in race three; the Scott Dickson trained Ralph Elliott in race six; and the Eddy Clarke trained Will Desire in the last event (race eight). Donna May looks the pick of the rest but she will have to get past the likely favourite, Majestic One, who has drawn seven compared to Donna May’s eight. Duane Ranger

Maurice McKendry believes his recognition in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours is more a reflection on the people who have helped him achieve all the success he has had in his career more so than of his own accomplishments.  The Methven born and raised horseman, who is second only to Tony Herlihy on the list of all-time winners in the history of harness racing in New Zealand, was made a a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in today’s honour’s list - an achievement the humble and quietly spoken star of the sulky was rather chuffed about.  “It’s a huge honour and something I’m quite proud of,” McKendry said.  “But it’s also a great thing for the harness racing industry to be recognised as well.  “I think something like this is more for all the people who have helped me out along the way too and I’ve been very lucky.” McKendry relocated from Methven as a youngster and based himself in the North Island with his first winner coming at Cambridge in 1975 when he drove Pleasant Command to success.  In the following 42 years he’s saluted 3,184 more times in New Zealand, 33 of those coming at the Group One level.  Race Ruler, Dillon Dean, David Moss, Classical, Sovereignty, Sir Lincoln and in more recent years The Orange Agent have been top-liners to have enjoyed the services of McKendry in the sulky.  “I’ve been able to drive some wonderful horses which helps the cause a lot, you need good horses.  “I still really enjoying being out there, I just probably don’t chase it as much as what I used to, but you are always on the lookout for that next one.” McKendry keeps himself busy with a small team of his own that he trains and with 115 winners next to his name that number will increase in the coming years.  Matt Markham

The North Island’s leading reinsman, David Butcher, who is also fourth of the national driving premiership,drove half the card at Alexandra Park on Friday night. And in doing so the Cambridge driver also shot five wins clear at the top of the ‘Alexandra Park Driving Premiership’. His 31 wins are five more than his son, Zac, who has 26 wins with Maurice McKendry – and six more than Tony Herlihy (MNZM) 20, who is followed by Brent Mangos with 19. “It’s been a good season and it was a good night tonight. I just want to keep chippin' away and clocking up the winners – it doesn’t matter where it is. “The Alexandra Park premiership is far from parceled up, but I’d like to keep that young fella of mine at bay and win it so I can have the bragging rights. That would mean a lot because I cant him thinking he’s better than me just yet,” Butcher joked. The man they call ‘The Chief’, who has been victorious 66 times and amassed just under $700,000 in 2016-2017, drove the winners of four of the eight races at northern headquarters. They were behind the Ross Paynter trained Royal Willie in race two; the Geoff Small trained Zadaka in race three; the Ray Green trained Royal Lincoln in the fifth event; and the Peter and Vaughan Blanchard trained Lovely Bundy in race seven. Butcher thought the latter mare won nicely. “It’s the first time I’ve driven her and she felt real nice throughout - though she did switch off a bit when she hit the front. She seems to do things right and Peter and Vaughan appear to have her manners sorted out. “The other three were goodwins too also, but I thought that mare felt nice in winning,” Butcher said. Butcher sat parked with the Love You - Kelly Bundy mare for the final 1100m of the 2200m stand. In the lane they had too much sprint for place-getters, Torbjorn (Richard Brosnan) and Tereskova (Dr Luk Chin). The 5-year-old bay got home by one-and-three-quarter lengths and a nose, trotting the $14,999 Fresher Foods Handicap for the R61 to R89 squaregaiters in 2:50.8 (mile rate 2:04.9), and came home in 61.3 and 30.5. Lovely Bundy was the $2.60 favourite and it was her third win in 14 starts for owners Garrick Knight, Susan Grant, Dan Magill, Revel Knight, Wendy Robinson, and the Hoof It Racing Syndicate. She was bred by Magill and Trevor Hansen.   Duane Ranger

Gentleman Sir enhanced his chances of a 2017 Jewels crown with a courageous win at Alexandra Park last Friday night. But his Kumeu 65-year-old trainer, Lew Driver, like most of us watching, thought the 4-year-old had blown his chances soon after the start of the $14,999 Garrards Horse & Hound R60 to R97 Trot. "I thought, ‘oh no I've booked his tickets and he’s going no good’. What am I doing am I taking him south? But those thoughts went in and out of my head very quickly. When David (Butcher) got him down after a few bobbles I thought ‘yes he can get around them and win this’. "I think the horse just suffered from a 'momentary lapse of reason'. That's the third time he has broken in his career, but David said he's really coming to it nicely. He said he was peaking at just the right time and he hadn’t seen him trot so fluent, once his mistake was behind him," Driver said. "If Saturday's Jewels Final was a stand I'd have my reservations, but after Friday's run, and now that he's drawn three in a mobile mile, he can give that even field a real shake," he added. Gentleman Sir opened up as a $13 favourite to win this Saturday's Group One $150,000 McMillan Feeds 4-year-old Ruby Trot. The Love You-Tip Your Hat Loui (by Continentalman) gelding is now the $14-sixth favourite behind Dark Horse ($2.50), Wilma's Mate ($4), Marcoola ($4.50), and Temporale and Lemond who are both at $7.20. Driver believed one of six or seven horses could win the race, with the trip to suit. "I can see why Dark Horse is favourite because he has got a lot of speed, but you can't discount Lemond, Temporale or Paul Nairn’s one either (Wilma’s Mate). “Actually they have all qualified for the final and any one of them, with the run, can win it. That includes us. My fella has got a bit of ability and we have yet to see the best of him. “His win on Friday impressed me. He's the best horse, and certainly the best drawn horse I've had in a Jewels Final," said Driver. "David might have said he’s trotting in career-best form, but he has still got a wee way to go to be the best trotter I have trained. Triffid (eight wins) finished fourth in a Rowe Cup and was an open class trotter. "Sadly he died of a heart attack when he was leading by six lengths at the Cambridge Trials (October 2001). He was special.” Gentleman Sir was startled by the starting tapes and added another 15 metres to his 10m handicap on Friday. Butcher settled him at the back of the field and they were second last (three-back on the outer) at the bell. Then just prior to the home turn Butcher followed eventual runner-up Yagunnakissmeornot and Jack MacKinnon out of the one-one. Then in the lane they wound down Yagunnakissmeornot in the last 25 metres to win by half a length. The Love You gelding trotted the 2700m stand in 3:29.2 (mile rate 2:04.5) and came home in 59.4 and 28.9. It was the bay's fourth win in 10 starts. He's also placed four times since winning on debut at Cambridge Raceway on January 13. Gentleman Sir was the $2.60 favourite. Driver said his horse had come through Friday's race in good fashion. "He's pulled up real well and his legs are nice and cool and he's eaten up everything. He will fly out early on Tuesday morning and Mark Smolenski will house both of us. "I'm grateful for that and Mark said he was delighted to have the horse back at his property again after he spent his early prep there. “Mark qualified him in early November and then he came up here. After the Jewels he will be spelled at Rosie Trevaris' agistment farm in Burnham," Driver said. Six horses will board that 4am Tuesday flight - one of which will be fellow Alexandra Park winner from Friday - Gotta Go Dali Queen. The Dali - Gotta Go Harmony filly was the only stater from The Frank Cooney and Tate Hopkins stable and she obliged as a $9.40 fourth favourite in the seventh event. Maurice McKendry sat patiently with the 3-year-old in the trail and then in the passing lane the bay out-sprinted favourite Alta Intrigue (Zac Butcher) by three-quarters-of-a length in 2:01.5 for the 1700m mobile. Gotta Go Dali Queen has drawn two in Saturday's 3-year-old Diamond Pace and with a last half of 55 seconds even on Friday she must rate at least a place chance against Spanish Armada and company. Zac Butcher might have finished second in that$14,999 R76 to R97 trot, but he did provide the individual highlight of the night. The gifted 25-year-old drove four winners one the 10-race card. They were: The Ray Green trained $3 favourite - King Of Swing (race 2); the Peter and Vaughan Blanchard trained $4.40 second favourite - Lovely Bundy (race 3); the Steven Reid trained $4.50 second favourite - Pleasurable (race 5); and the Barry Purdon trained $9.10 third favourite - Maheer Magic (race 9). Meanwhile, Waikato reinswoman, Megan Teaz, notched up her first driving success of the season when sitting parked and winning behind One Bid Buys in the first event – the $8,000 Reharvest Mobile for the Up to R47 maiden trotters.. It was 364 days since her last win when In Full Flight won for Teaz and her husband Jason at Alexandra Park on May 27 last year. The Ohaupo reinswoman, and Mum, has now driven 18 winners from 363 starters since getting her driver’s licence in 2008. The Teaz husband and wife training duo have now conditioned 21 winners from 220 starters since 2011.   Duane Ranger

When caught in the shadows of greatness, it can be quite easy to slip under the radar. So while we once again marvel in the driving supremo that is Dexter Dunn, there’s another who is sitting just back behind him, doing incredible things without much of the same recognition. And it probably won’t be until August 1, when we take a bit more time to sit back and look at the current season that we release just what Blair Orange has achieved this season as being exceptional. With 155 winners on the board, Orange is low-flying. He’s just 20 wins behind Dunn on the national premiership and is showing no signs of slowing down from what has been a remarkable season in the sulky. To put his efforts into context, his current tally would see him win every driver’s premiership bar one if Dexter wasn’t around and come the end of this month that statistic will have improved again to being every premiership in the history of harness racing. Only Maurice McKendry’s once record breaking effort of 161 winners back in 1989 is better that Orange’s current figure - just six wins shy of McKendry’s mark. For the past 10 years, where Dunn has dominated, he’s never really been pushed. His first premiership was won by a mere eight wins over Peter Ferguson, but the rest have been pretty much plain sailing. But this year Orange has pushed Dunn to new levels and despite the 20 win gap heading into racing today, he looks set to continue to nip at the heels of the current world driving champion until deep into the season. After a good day at Gore yesterday and a tidy night at Addington on Friday, Orange will be looking to add to the tally when he steps out at Rangiora today for a small book of drives which feature some really strong winning chances. A brace of drives for good mate Paul Court appear to be his leading chances, including the consistent RR Sand Dollar who drops into a very winnable race for her. Last raced in the Southern Belle Final where she finished fifth behind Break Dance, RR Sand Dollar returns to the stand start today for just the second time in 33 start career but has the ability to overcome that slight hurdle and be a serious player. Orange also drives Christian Cullen debutant, Artistic Jewel for Court. The three-year-old filly, who is a half-sister to Classical Art has shown enough at trials to suggest she could be a major player on debut, especially from the one barrier draw. Maiden trotter, Paradise Spur also gives Orange a good chance of making it three maiden trotting wins for the weekend after Celtic Thunder’s victory on Friday night and then Clover Lady’s yesterday at Gore. On each of those two occasions Orange showed extreme skill to nurse both horses around and get the best possible result and he’ll need to the same with Paradise Spur who has shown a liking for doing the odd thing wrong in her career.   Rangiora Selections - By Matt Markham Race 1: 12 -Eja Patron, 14 - Leading The Way, 13- Sweet As, 9- Waihemo Art Race 2: 12- Woodstone, 11- Jerry Garcia, 1- Sea Rover, 10- Gambling On Race 3: 15- Hashtag, 2- Green Fingers, 4- Don’t Tell Ange, 10- Spooky Race 4: 7- I Am Yours, 6- Rocknroll Magic, 1- Handsome Hero, 9- Take After Me Race 5: 7- Sundees Son, 11- Majestic Man, 4- BJ Lindenny, 9- BD Son Race 6: 12- Star Commander, 15- Blue Blazer, 16- Spondulicks, 1- Artistic Jewels Race 7: 5- Just Ben, 7- Magical Mitch, 11- Bella Jones, 9- Midfrew Tarpediem Race 8: 6- Pirate Bay, 7- Bailey’s Knight, 3- Sky City King, 12- Classie Margaret Race 9: 4- Redwood Invasion, 1- Sarah Palin, 9 Xmas Joyella, 11- Cuddly Jess Race 10: 10- Smithy, 5- RR Sand Dollar, 8- Franco Tai, 4- Ceemerock Race 11: 7- Novak, 12- Bontz, 5- Bird Of Paradise, 4- That’s Bettor Best Bet: I Am Yours (Race 4) Value: Hashtag (Race 3)

This season’s Parawai Thames Grass Cup winner, Sir Richie, is now the 2017 North Island Country Cups champion. The 5-year-old Christian Cullen - Wicklow Express gelding won last night's (Tuesday) $25,000 Revital Fertilisers sponsored event at Cambridge Raceway by two lengths. It was Sir Richie’s seventh career win in 35 starts and he was the $23.40, 10th favourite of the 11 starters. He was the seventh highest qualifier for the Final. For his trainers Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick, it was their first North Island Country Cups title. “It’s really satisfying winning a race that you have set a horse for several months ago. He’s been a bit unlucky in recent starts and Maurice (McKendry) has got on well with the horse for most of his career. “He might have paid more than $20 but going into the Final I thought he was an each-way chance because it was a fairly even field and any horse with a good trip could have won,” Telfer said. After a nice start from gate two McKendry settled Sir Richie third and then nabbed the one-one position at the bell. In the lane Sir Richie had too much stamina and held out second favourite Mo Casino (Zac Butcher) and the pace-making, Beyond The Silence (Lyn Neal). Sir Richie paced the 2700m stand in 3:23.1 (mile rate 2:01 even) and came home in 60.9 and 30.5. Telfer said Sir Richie’s owners could be looking to sell him but he would know more when they had returned from overseas. “He’s found Alexandra Park a bit tough in recent starts and I know there was talk about selling him. Tim and Jane Fleming from Taranaki own him and we will be talking to them when they return from Canada. “Apparently they are delighted with his win. They watched the race on the internet,” said Telfer who is working about 25 standardbreds with Garlick at Ardmore. “He’s a good honest horse who would do a good job in Australia, but I think there’s still a win or two left in him here. Maurice drove the horse a treat last night. “He gave him the good trip and then got him home without over-using him. We are rapt. That was a lovely drive,” Telfer said. Sir Richie was bred by Brian Fleming. Meanwhile, the Peter and Vaughan Blanchard trained Tact Ollie (Peter Ferguson) was the only horse to record a sub-two minute mile-rate at yesterday's twilight meeting. The 5-year-old Badlands Hanover gelding notched up his second career win in the second event - $10,000 Lizzie Of Rosslands Kidz Kartz Pace. The most impressive winner of the evening came in the third event when the Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson trained Three Kisses (Hollis), won the $8,000 WF Feeds Maiden Pace by a whopping 10 lengths. It was the 3-year-old Mach Three filly's first win in 11 starts.   Duane Ranger    

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