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The radical rules for Saturday's A$400,000 Great Southern Star are forcing Colin De Filippi to abandon his legendary patience. De Filippi has been known for decades as the harness racing driver with soft hands and the ability to wait, both on the track and in his training decisions. That patience won him a New Zealand Cup with Kym's Girl and a drivers' premiership in 2006, when he reined 121 winners. After a Hall of Fame career, De Filippi is more relaxed about his racing ambitions these days, training just 11 horses with wife Julie and driving 30 winners last season. But the 61-year-old says there is still no thrill like training and driving a top horse which Stent, winner of last Saturday's A$100,000 Australian Trotting Grand Prix, undoubtedly is. His belief in his stable star, coupled with the conditions of the Great Southern Star in Melbourne this Saturday night, suggest you can teach an old dog new tricks. It is based on the famous Elitlopp in Sweden which has proven so expensive and elusive for Australasian trotters and that also extends to the GSS's conditions, which is where De Filippi realises he will need to be decisive.The Great Southern Star comprises two A$50,000 ($53,000) heats run at 7pm and 7.31pm Melbourne time with a A$300,000 final at 10pm. Racing twice at group one level in the same night is tough enough but the connections of the finalist get to choose their own barrier draws in the order they qualify in the heats. With sprint racing around Melton being notoriously biased toward those racing handy, the option to choose barrier one or two for the final is crucial. Stent has the huge advantage of drawing the ace in his heat and De Filippi says with a heat victory ensuring he can choose where he starts from in the final, he will be getting aggressive come Saturday night. "He has always been a horse I have looked after but I realise Saturday is a little bit different," says De Filippi. "I will be asking him to show more gate speed this week in the heat and try and lead and stay there because then we are masters of our own destiny in the final. "And I think he will be able to show it [gate speed]. He has natural speed, it is just that I haven't asked him much in the past." De Filippi admits he has never raced a horse twice in one night before, even though he cut his teeth on the rugged South Island circuits where two races in a day were not uncommon. "It has never been my style but this is a magnificent series and a A$300,000 final. "And he is coming into it on the way up. He feels good and is really fit so I think he will handle it. "But I must admit I don't know much about the whole two races in one night thing." Stent is already profiting from De Filippi's patience as he is in career-best form after being allowed to dodge Australian campaigns the last two seasons. "His owner Trevor Casey has been good enough to back my opinion and it is now paying dividends," says De Filippi. "And being the type of horse he is he could race on for another four years." That could see Stent put together a huge bankroll as the money on offer for trotters around Australasia continues to grow and Stent definitely knows how to claim a cheque. In his past 28 starts dating back two years, he has won 12, been second 12 times and third twice, with this only two unplaced runs being when he galloped away in the Rowe Cup last season and when he became tangled up with the starting tape at Alexandra Park in December. He meets much-hyped Aussie trotter Blitzthemcalder in his heat this Saturday but the other, later heat looks much stronger, including Flying Isa, Keystone Del and defending champion Vulcan. The series has been robbed of some Kiwi interest though through injuries to Peak and The Fiery Ginga and Stig going sore after racing at Addington last Friday, while the connections of Master Lavros, Irish Whisper, Habibti and Sovereignty have decided to bypass it for form reasons. Great Southern Star Where: Melton, Victoria. When: Saturday night. What: Trotting series, with two heats as races 3 and 4, with final as race 9. Who: Many of the best trotters from around Australasia. How much: A$400,000 in total stakes. Courtesy of Michael Guerin and the New Zealand Hearld  

Harness racing driver / trainer James Stormont couldn't have picked a better time to hit form. The Pukekohe horseman has long been a member of the 1000-win drivers' club but it is as a trainer that he is enjoying a resurgence, with a resulting boost in driving confidence. After struggling through the last couple of years with a lack of horsepower, Stormont's small stable has a good strike rate in recent months and that could continue with Charleston Belle and debutante Mum's Pride at Alexandra Park tonight. And the latter in particular has come along at the right time as Alexandra Park stakes reach record levels. From tonight, Friday night stakes for Auckland Trotting Club meetings rise 20 per cent as the club looks to put more money in the pockets of participants at all levels. That means Mum's Pride, a maiden trotter, races for $12,000 tonight and if he sticks to ATC meetings may never have to race for less again. "It is a great thing for the industry," says Stormont. "It means horses can pay their bills if they are competitive here and it might bring a few new owners into the game as well as bring back some of the ones we have lost." Ironically, coming a week after the Auckland Cup Carnival and with several heats of age group series tonight, the meeting is still short on numbers but that is more a matter of timing. Stormont also sees another bonus in the increased stakes - the boost ATC wins will give horses chasing a spot in the Harness Jewels, which is stakes based, on May 31. While Mum's Pride (R6, No 2) has a long way to go to get to the Jewels he looks smart, judging by a workouts win, with a 58 second last 800m. "He will go a fair way and the only thing I am really worried about is being drawn in close first time under lights," says Stormont. An inside draw is what Stormont wanted with Charleston Belle (R5, No 3) in her Fillies Series heat. A brave last-start fifth in the record run Northern Oaks, Charleston Belle looks even better suited to sprint racing and Stormont has only one plan tonight. "She has gate speed and if I get to the front I pity anybody who attacks her." Horses backing up from the best premier races are always worth following in the grades, so Aldo Rossi deserves favouritism in race nine even though he takes on tighter-assessed rivals. He was only fifth of six in the Woodlands Derby last Friday but got back in a sizzling 54.5-second last 800m and his earlier form suggests he will be hard to beat. Courtesy of Michael Guerin and The New Zealand Herald

Stig is becoming trotting’s version of the Never-ending Story. The veteran trotter, already the hero of one of the greatest comebacks in racing history, takes on rivals up to seven years younger than him at Addington tomorrow night. Remarkable as that is, if he performs up to the level trainer Paul Nairn expects, he will be on a plane to Melbourne next week for the A$350,000 Great Southern Star. Rising 12-year-olds embarking on Trans Tasman campaigns may be unheard of but Nairn says even after a disappointing season, Stig’s connections are keen for a crack at the richest prize in Southern Hemisphere trotting. “I know at times he hasn’t been as sharp as he can be this season, which you are going to get with a horse his age,” admits Nairn. “But he is trotting well now and feeling no real soreness. “I think he will improve on his last start (second) and if he races well this week he will head back to Melton.”
 Stig won a A$50,000 heat of the Great Southern Star at Melton last year before galloping in the final, although he never really looked happy on the Victorian track. But this year’s event, which comprises two heats and a final in the same night on Saturday, lacks a superstar in the form winner Vulcan was last season. So a fully fit and sound Stig could still out tough his younger rivals. He will need to be good to cement the trip as he meets one of the new breed of open class trotting in this country in Royal Aspirations, who has developed from a speed freak age group trotter into a genuine topliner. Nairn also expects a bold return tomorrow night from his Harness Jewels winner One Over Da Moon, who is over recent problems, but summer star Any Old Way is not and is heading for the paddock. If Stig does make it to Victoria he will join defending champion Vulcan, Stent and The Fiery Ginga in the GSS, as well as Kiwi-owned favourites Flying Isa and Keystone Del. But Vulcan’s high-profile stablemate Peak faces a long layoff after x-rays yesterday confirmed a splint bone issue, yet trainer Tim Butt says it could have been worse. “We were worried he had a suspensory issue but that scanned fine today,” says Butt. “But it looks like he has a splint bone issue, which is easier to fix. “So he will have an operation next Monday and hopefully can be back in work in three months.” Peak created a huge impression winning his first two New Zealand starts after being imported from Scandinavia last spring before being struck down by the issues. Meanwhile, tonight’s Manawatu meeting sees one of the great dropback tips of the new handicapping system in Jarcullembra. A former New Zealand Cup starter, Jewels runner-up to Terror To Love and the winner of over $200,000 in stakes, Jarcullembra hasn’t won for nearly two years so has dropped back to being assessed as a five-win horse. That sees him starting against horses who will never scale the heights he has been to in tonight’s $12,000 Palmerstonian, suggesting he will be at short odds in the 2000m mobile. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Pretend for a moment that Australia doesn’t exist. Actually that is a bit harsh, seeing now they are our closest neighbours. Dial it down a bit and pretend the Menangle track outside Sydney doesn’t exist. Ok, good. Now that is why Terror To Love is the horse you want to back in tonight’s $250,000 Trillian Trust Auckland Trotting Cup at Alexandra Park. The beautiful big stallion arrived back from another Menangle mauling this week, having finished ninth in the Inter Dominion Final on Sunday. On that form, even against easier opposition tonight, you could feel uncomfortable taking the $2.80 fixed odds for him to win tonight’s 2700m mobile classic. But while it was only five days ago and three hours in a plane away, Menangle might as well be Mars as far as Terror To Love is concerned. He has run second in a weak Miracle Mile there but on the whole he races like a sulk in a sulky in Sydney. But take Menangle out of Terror To Love’s career record and what you are left with is breathtaking. He has won three New Zealand Cup, which has only been done by two other horses in 110 years. And in New Zealand he hasn’t been unplaced in a race for one year, 10 months and three days. In that time his form, almost exclusively in our best races, reads 1-1-2-1-1-3-1-1-1-2-1-1-2-2-1-1-1-2-1. The third in that formline was sitting parked in a track record mile in the New Zealand Free-For-All won by Gold Ace. One of those seconds came in last year’s Auckland Cup behind the phenomenal Themightyquinn while another two came when closing hard on Christen Me in sizzling sectionals earlier this season. And yet another when he had to concede a race rival tonight, Saveapatrol, a 30m start. So at home, feeling big and bold, Terror To Love’s form is that of a champion. What we need to know is: is Terror To Love feeling back to his NZ best? “He is great,” says trainer Graham Court, who is getting used to picking up Terror To Love’s mental pieces after Menangle meltdowns. “He got here (Auckland) Tuesday morning and I took a blood test, which came back great. “He has lost a little weight but that will bounce back and he still paced his last mile three wide in 1:53 in the Inter final but it is not like his form is bad.”
 For those who find it hard to back the $2million earner just five days after he finished ninth, consider he had the exact same turnaround before finishing a luckless second to Themightyquinn this time last year. If the speed is on throughout tonight’s race, as expected once Mah Sish fires up, then Terror To Love’s biggest concerns could be traffic and where he settles in relation to second favourite Adore Me. If he has to give her a start and come wide too early he becomes vulnerable as any horse can be at Alexandra Park. But with a three-wide cart into the race behind the right horse or even if he is able to use his tactical speed to get parked at the bell, he is the clear best chance. Adore Me may not have won many open class races but she regularly paces the same times so is the logical danger, but her good draw could become tricky if she settles in the running line and the big boys from the back start moving mid-race. Mah Sish has to be respected because leaders have a great record at Alexandra Park and Pembrook Benny is in the form of his career and could divebomb them all with a miracle Zac Butcher drive. But they are the maybes of the Cup, theory and scenarios. Terror To Love’s record in this country in the last two years is a cold hard fact. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)  

Trainer Mark Jones believes tonight’s Auckland Cup could be too soon for Saveapatrol --- but it definitely won’t be too fast. One of the new kids on the open class block, Saveapatrol has drawn the ace in tonight’s thriller, which would be perfect if Adore Me was the likely leader from barrier two. “But I don’t think anybody expects that,” shrugs Jones. “I can see both Fly Like An Eagle and Mah Sish crossing us at the start and then him having to sit three back on the markers. “That is not a bad place to be in a hard run race, which I think it will be, but a lot will depend on when he gets out and where the favourites are. “But I hope Mah Sish gets out and runs them along because this horse can follow any speed.” Jones admits though that the four-year-old may still be a year away from being a Cup winner. “He is a really good horse and can win a Cup, but I think he will need everything to go right to win this Cup.” Which means the $5.50 offered about him in opening markets is unders. Jones will also bring his stable trotting star Master Lavros to Alexandra Park tonight after he devastated his trainer by galloping at the start of his A$200,000 race at Menangle on Sunday. “I left the track gutted because I think he could have won.” Master Lavros meets young gun Prime Power tonight but while the pair are both off 30m, Master Lavros is likely to have a clearer path ahead of him at the start because all the horses off the 10m mark are unruly, so will have to stand wide on the track. With no rivals off 20m, if Master Lavros makes a good beginning he could be a lot handier than his handicap suggests and then Prime Power will have a race on his hooves. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Champion driver Dexter Dunn says Locharburn’s rivals may be in for a shock at both ends of tonight’s $250,000 Woodlands Derby. The giant Canterbury pacer is a hot favourite after leading throughout in last Friday’s prelude, a race Dunn is adamant will improve him. “He has only had two workouts since he raced two months earlier so he has to improve,” says Dunn. “In fact, I think he will be 10 or 15 per cent better this week.” While that will be crucial at the end of the 2700m classic, Dunn says the first shock might be in the opening 200m. He realises some rival drivers may think because Locharburn is a massive lump of a horse he may not have the brilliance to hold the lead from the ace, especially with fast beginners Tiger Tara and Cyclone Prince drawn alongside. “He will get out fast enough, he is pretty quick early,” says Dunn matter-of-factly. “He was quick last week without even being asked so I think if I wanted to lead I could. “And even if I got beaten off the gate I think most drivers would be happy to trail him. “He will be in front and if they are good enough to beat him from there then fair enough.”
 The evidence in his 10-start, eight-win career would suggest if Locharburn leads and can wind up by the 800m mark he could pace a 55 second last section and take most of his rivals out of play. Tiger Tara looks the most likely trailer because he can head there from barrier two if Locharburn leads and that would make him the danger even after a disappointing Alexandra Park debut last Friday. Trainer Geoff Dunn blamed himself for having Tiger Tara underdone and the markers are usually the best place to be in pacing Derbys. That was proven with Sky Major and Maxim led and trailed to quinella the Victoria Derby last month but both face wider draws in the tricky small field tonight so will need an upset in the expected pattern to get home over the top. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Despite being beaten at Menangle trainer is confident top mare is ready for big effort. Don't bother trying to tell trainer Mark Purdon that Adore Me is too young to win tomorrow night's Auckland Trotting Cup. Because he knows 4-year-old mares can win the great race, the last time it happened he had a pretty close view. Purdon ran a head second in the 1997 Cup with Brabham, beaten on the line by 4-year-old mare Kate's First, the older sister of the following year's winner, the great Christian Cullen. And it isn't just a 17-year old memory that convinced Purdon to start Adore Me in tomorrow night's race just five days after she suffered only the third defeat of her career in Sydney on Sunday. "I think she has shown she can run open-class times," says Purdon. "So while it won't be easy I think she can win. She is a very special mare." While Adore Me finished the bravest of seconds in a star-studded Northern Derby this time last year, she has rarely raced the boys, although she did beat Franco Nelson in the junior free-for-all on New Zealand Cup Day.   And she has taken on some of the big boys at the trials and thrashed them. Last October she missed away in a 2400m trial at Ashburton yet still paced a 26.4-second last 400m to beat Auckland Cup rivals Mah Sish and Fly Like An Eagle. She should be a stronger and more well-rounded mare now and Purdon is not concerned by the quick turnaround from racing on Sunday at Menangle, where she worked hard three wide in a 1:52.1 mile and was run down into second late. "She has arrived in Auckland looking great and even after her race in Sydney on Sunday she was bouncing around that night. "And it was only a mile, whereas a horse like Terror To Love had to race over 3000m on Sunday." Purdon still respects the three-time New Zealand Cup winner as the rival to beat tomorrow night and says the key will be staying in front of him. "I expect horses like Fly Like An Eagle and Mah Sish to cross me early, so I don't think I will be burning with them," he admits. "If the speed is on I don't think there will be too many moves but if I have to come at the bell and sit parked she is good enough to do that." And Purdon has another, not so public reason, for feeling confident Adore Me can give him his fourth Auckland Cup training victory. Just 10 days ago he worked her with Smolda at Addington and the pair hit the line together at the end of a searching 2400m in 3:01. Smolda has since finished a brave fourth in the Inter Dominion Final on Sunday before returning home to Canterbury but if he was in tomorrow's Cup and drawn barrier two he would be clear favourite. "There is nothing between them," says Purdon. Adore Me is the second favourite for the Cup, opening at $3.60 behind Terror To Love at $2.80. Just to reaffirm Purdon's confidence she can beat the boys in a major staying test, after tomorrow's race he intends setting her for another clash with Terror To Love in the Easter Cup. Auckland Cup Week • What: Auckland Trotting Cup. • Where: Alexander Park. • When: Tomorrow night 8:25pm. • Who: Adore Me versus Terror To Love and the best pacers in New Zealand Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald Read more by Michael Guerin  

Kiwi trotter Flying Isa is the new Australasian mile record holder after a stunning performance at Menangle on Tuesday. Usually trained in South Auckland by John and Josh Dickie, the former star juvenile is being campaigned in Sydney by Luke McCarthy. He showed how unlucky he was to be first emergency for the Glenferrie Farm Challenge last Sunday when he trotted a 1:53.2 mile to win a $7000 race there on Tuesday by five lengths. That smashed the record set by Keystone Del when winning the Challenge two days earlier of 1:53.9. Flying Isa is likely to head to the Great Southern Star in Victoria on March 22 before returning for the Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park in May. A former Harness Jewels and Australasian Breeders Crown champion at two, Flying Isa raced below his best at three but returned to something like his peak when second in the Anzac Cup at Alexandra Park last season. He wasn’t the only Kiwi to set a record at Menangle yesterday as Canterbury filly Red Hot Toddy broke 1:52 for a mile when finishing second in her race. While she paced a faster time than the NZ record it obviously won’t count in the record but it will for her future stud career because place times are counted as official. So the Ken Barron-trained filly boosted her broodmare value enormously, even though she didn’t actually win. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Butt warns punters that southerner may finally be on song for Auckland Trotting Cup. Driver Anthony Butt has vowed to turn Friday night's Auckland Trotting Cup into a war. He says Mah Sish, the most disappointing pacer of the New Zealand season, can finally pay back punters who have stuck with him. This time last season Mah Sish was one of the most feared pacers in Australasia, having won the Ballarat and Hunter Cups as well as finishing second to I'm Themightyquinn in the Inter Dominion final. However, those efforts seemed to drain the son of Mach Three and by autumn he was a spent force, a lack of mojo that carried over into this season. After opening one of the favourites for the New Zealand Cup he couldn't run a place in the lead-up races and has shown only flashes of his old fight for much of his Australian summer campaign. Recently, Butt has noticed two changes in Mah Sish - he has developed much higher gate speed and he is racing more like a one-paced stayer.   "And that is why I now have to drive him a bit like a Flashing Red type," says Butt, referring to his dual New Zealand Cup and Auckland Cup winning hero. Mah Sish was a brave third in a supersonic A$100,000 ($107,000) race at Menangle on Sunday after leading and blazing dazzling sectionals. Butt says that is exactly what he intends doing on Friday night. "He can't outsprint Adore Me and Terror To Love; we all know that," says Butt. "But he has developed into a really good stayer and having gate speed now means I can launch him at the start. "And I will just keep going until I get the lead, I have to. Then I will run every quarter [400m] as quick as I can for that distance. "I want them all out on their feet at the 600m and if Adore Me or Terror To Love run past me so be it. "I am not saying he will win but I am quietly confident he will go close. Alexandra Park is a hard track to run good horses down on." Butt's declaration and the gate speed of New Zealand Cup runner-up Fly Like An Eagle, who has drawn directly inside him at barrier four, suggests there will be genuine speed early in Friday's Cup and while Adore Me has drawn well at barrier two it looks unlikely she will now simply run to the front and dominate. TAB bookies think so as the champion mare has surprisingly only opened second favourite at $3.60, with Terror To Love the $2.80 top pick. The horse they are keeping safe is Saveapatrol, who is a $5.50 chance even though he looks like being three deep on the markers at best. Pembrook Benny rounds out the favourites at $6.50 while those willing to back Butt's judgement can get $21 about Mah Sish turning his New Zealand run of outs around. Locharburn has opened up prohibitively short in the $250,000 Woodlands Derby at just $1.55 over Tiger Tara at $3 and Sky Major at $6. Locharburn has drawn the ace but the connections of both Tiger Tara and Cyclone Prince, drawn barriers two and three, have at least expressed interest in their drivers having an early look at the lead. That could again see more pressure in the classic than the barrier draws first indicated. Meanwhile, star West Australian I'm Victorious is slowly improving after a horror check in Sunday's Inter Dominion Final ended his career. The former Kiwi pacer was struck by Mach Beauty at the 200m mark in the final and badly cut through the tendons in a front leg. He needed surgery to save his life but has responded well to that and last night was showing no signs of infection. "We are not out of the woods yet but hopefully we can save him, although the vets say he won't race again," said trainer Michael Brennan. NSW glamour driver Lauren Panella was suspended for eight weeks for the incident. Auckland Trotting Cup What: $250,000 Auckland Trotting Cup. Where: Alexandra Park. When: Friday night, first race at 5.55pm, Cup at 8.25pm. Who: Terror To Love, Adore Me, Pembrook Benny, Mah Sish and Easy On The Eye. Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald Read more by Michael Guerin

In Sydney.--- The words of champion New Zealand driver Tony Herlihy were ringing in the ears of James Rattray when his Inter Dominion dream turned into a nightmare yesterday. And that helped what started out perfectly, then went horribly wrong, end in triumph. Rattray’s incredible pacer Beautide graduated from superstar to champion in the$A750,000 final at Menangle with one of the great staying performances in pacing history. Rattray pulled the right reins with the favourite early in the 3009m mobile classc and looked set to dominate the race when he moved at the 1800m mark to waltz to the lead. But he was stunned when the driver of leader Mach Beauty first fought him off but then even more disappointingly let Smolda run to the front at the bell, leaving Beautide parked outside his biggest danger. “About then things weren’t going well,” admitted Rattray. “I didn’t see myself sitting parked, especially not outside Smolda. But I remembered something Tony always told me and that was no matter what happens in a race never panic.” That advise was handed to the young Tasmanian horseman during his time working for Herlihy, the king of cool, at his South Auckland stables five years ago. “Those at the sort of things you don’t forget, especially from a guy like Tony, and once I ended up parked I realised I needed to relax so he would.”
 What happened next was breathtaking as Beautide, who looked to be off the bit at the 600m, changed gear at the top of the straight and exploded past Smolda before putting four lengths on his rivals. He won easing down from fellow Menangle regulars Seel N Print and For A Reason, confirming the Sydney track as the new powerhouse of Australasian harness racing. Had Beautide won in that style off a suitable tempo that favoured those on the speed it would have been dramatic --- the fact he was able to do it in the fastest staying race ever paced in this part of the world was the performance of a champion. He adds the win to his Miracle Mile triumph in November, a double not completed for 12 years and provides the ultimate dividend for Rattray’s gamble to move from his native Tasmania to Menangle to chase the mega bucks on offer there last year. “The Miracle Mile was special but this was something else.” Rattray’s time in Auckland was not the only vein of Kiwi success in the race as Beautide is by Bettors Delight, the world champion sire who stands at Woodlands Stud in South Auckland. But the Kiwi joy stopped there was Smolda could manage only fourth, perhaps a victim of only having two lead-up runs because of his late start to the season after injury last term. And Terror To Love’s hatred of Menangle was confirmed when he raced 10 lengths below his best, once again pacing roughly early. “He just hates it here but we had to have a go,” said trainer Graham Court. “But we won’t be coming back. He can stay home next season and try and win his fourth New Zealand Cup.” By Michael Guerin (Courtesy ofHarness Racing New Zealand)

Locharburn may be the most talented three-year-old pacer in the country but that won’t stop him being vulnerable at Alexandra Park tomorrow night. The Canterbury pacer with the big motor and even bigger chassis meets only five opponents in the Northern Derby prelude but four of them are group one winners, including last-start Victoria Derby quinellamates Maxim and Sky Major. Add in Sires’ Stakes winner Tiger Tara and their clashes over the next eight days will go a long way to determining three-year-old of the year honours. After beating most of his opponents tomorrow in the Alabar Classic in December, Locharburn looks a rare talent, if somewhat untapped. But having not raced since December 31, trainer Kevin Chapman admits tomorrow night’s race is tricky. “He had a small setback which put me behind the eight ball a touch otherwise he would have had a lead-up race,” said Chapman. “But he has had a workout and a trial and paced his last 800m in the first of those in 54.8 seconds. “So he is close enough but of course the Derby next week is the main aim.” The race looms as the highlight of the opening night of Auckland Cup week but a nightmare for punters and bookies, with the order the field settles in crucial. Meanwhile, record-breaking filly Venus Serena has opened the $1.70 favourite for the first group one of Cup week, the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks tomorrow night. She heads the market over Snooki at $5.500, while Pembrook Benny is the $2.80 favourite for the City Of Auckland Free-For-All, the final lead-up to the Auckland Trotting Cup. The New Zealand TAB bookies have also taken a stand against Beautide, the favourite for the A$750,000 Inter Dominion Final in Sydney on Sunday. They had him as long as $4.60 yesterday, the best price in Australasia and huge overs compared with SuperTab’s $3.60. The New Zealand TAB has Kiwi pacer Smolda as the $4 favourite for the Interdom. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing NZ)

Terror To Love’s Menangle nightmare continues even before he gets on the plane to Sydney for Sunday’s A$750,000 Inter Dominion Final. And while the men behind the $2million earner are trying to put on a brave face after drawing the outside of the second line, the great Kiwi pacer could need a miracle come Sunday. Terror To Love drew barrier 14, meaning he will start from four on the second line in the 3009m thriller, with fellow Kiwi pacers Smolda (8) and The Gold Ace (10) rounding out a horror draw for the New Zealanders in the race. That saw all three drift in betting for the final, with Terror To Love now $15 in Australia, amazing odds for a three-time New Zealand Cup winner. The lack of love from Aussie bookies in understandable though as Terror To Love was dreadful when finishing last in the Miracle Mile at Menangle last November and has yet to win in six starts at the Sydney track. His connections openly admit they lack confidence with the stallion in Sydney and now face settling a lot closer to last than first in the giant field. “At first glance it is not ideal,” said co-trainer Paul Court. “But at least the other favourites Beautide and For A Reason as well as Smolda will probably settle back there too. “So if they go hard then we will all end up moving into the race later and that could work out well. “But sure, after how he went in the Miracle Mile there it is hard to be confident.” One excuse given for Terror To Love’s poor Menangle record is the track surface, which is soft on top of a hard base but Court says the big pacer will be re-shod to try and gain more grip. Smolda drifted to third favouritism of $5 in Australia and will start longer as he is unlikely to be asked to run the gate hard so looks certain to settle rearward. Beautide remains the favourite with his draw of two on the second line suggesting he will end up midfield in the running line without doing any work. “To be honest, the draw is perfect,” says trainer-driver James Rattray. Smolda’s trainer-driver Mark Purdon also had no luck in the draw for the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile, one of the seven group one at Sunday’s amazing meeting, with his champion mare Adore Me to start from the outside of the front line. But she is so highly regarded in Australia, where she has never raced, that she is still the $1.30 favourite for the race. Stablemates Isaiah (NSW Derby) and Willow (NSW Oaks) has both drawn perfectly though while Border Control heads a super-strong Kiwi team in the Chariots of Fire. The big winner in the draws for that race was trainer Robert Dunn, who has Franco Nelson drawn the ace and Elios barrier three in a powerful field. Meanwhile, Smolda has opened the $3.50 favourite in a confused market for the Auckland Trotting Cup on Friday week. He is one of six Interdom finalists who will only be confirmed to make the trip back to Auckland depending on how they perform on Sunday and would be 50-50 at best to start in the Cup. Terror To Love is more likely to back up and is the $4.50 Cup second favourite while Adore Me is $5. The field for the A$750,000 Inter Dominion final at Menangle on Sunday.---- I’m Victorious (1), Livingontheinterest (2), Seel N Print (3), Keayang Cullen (4), Forever Gold (5), Mach Beauty (6), Wartime Sweetheart (7), Smolda (8), Caribbean Blaster (9), The Gold Ace (10), Restrepo (11), Beautide (12), For A Reason (13), Terror To Love (14). Emergencies: Pub Blitz and Ardghal not draw in field and would take barrier of any scratched runner. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Harness racing trainer / driver Mark Purdon could be excused for having a bit on his mind this week. There were the yearling sales, where he secured about 15 new babies to join the country's most powerful stable. And there's the small matter of planning a five group-one race assault on next week's Inter Dominion carnival in Sydney, headlined by Smolda and Adore Me. But for a few hours tonight Purdon will allow himself to become a spectator watching his early raiders at Alexandra Park in the countdown to Auckland Cup week. Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen have three runners there tonight, all to be handled by Blair Orange as the boss has chosen to stay home and drive at Methven. But he expects all three to be highly competitive and hopefully kickstart a successful weekend.   Rocknroll Arden starts the night in the Oaks trial and even allowing for the class of her northern opponents she will be close to favourite after finishing second to Venus Serena in a national record 1:52.2 mile at Ashburton last start. "She is a good filly and races well at Alex Park so she will go close, even though Snooki is a good filly and there is a bit of depth there," said Purdon. He sends debut-winning juvenile Jay Dub north for the last heat of the Young Gun series, with the youngster having some historical pressure on his back. He was bred by, and named in honour of, the late Jack Smolenski, one of harness racing's great trainers who had a spectacular record at Alexandra Park. "He is a lovely horse, although probably not as advanced as my best juvenile Follow The Stars at this stage," says Purdon. "But it looks like we have got him into a good heat for him and he can win providing he has some luck from that wide draw." While both horses will have strong support, Purdon rates Bonechip in the last race his best chance of the night. "He is actually better right-handed which is one reason he is up there," says Purdon. "And with the small field he is going to be hard to beat." Purdon will then turn his attention to Menangle tomorrow night where Willow and Isaiah need only to finish top five in their heats to qualify for the New South Wales Oaks and Derby respectively. Willow is unbeaten but meets exciting Victorian filly Nike Franco so faces a big test, while Isaiah has drawn the weaker of the two Derby heats. "He needed his run at Addington last week and is ready for a good hit out this week before the Derby," Purdon says. Purdon will take champion mare Adore Me to Addington for a private workout on Monday before she heads to Sydney with Smolda on Tuesday, where they will join up with tomorrow night's starters as well as Border Control. That should see the stable with five fancied runners in group one races worth A$1,550,000 on Sunday week. Both Smolda and Adore Me have been nominated for the Auckland Cup so could return to Alexandra Park for the great race five days later. "I will wait to see what happens on that Sunday before making that decision." Smolda is shortened to be joint favourite for the A$750,000 Inter Dominion Final, for which the barrier draw will be held on Monday morning. Courtesy of Michael Guerin and the New Zealand Herald  

Fears the new Inter Dominion date will savage the Auckland Trotting Cup look set to be wide of the mark for the second year running. Nominations for Alexandra Park's iconic race on March 7 close tomorrow and will contain many harness racing superstars set to compete at Menangle five days earlier. When the Interdoms and its giant support card were moved to Sydney last year to clash with Auckland Cup week some critics thought it would ruin the Auckland Trotting Cup. That could hardly have been more wrong last year though as I'm Themightyquinn beat Terror To Love and Bettor Cover Lover in the Cup, with all three having raced at Menangle five days earlier. Plenty of trainers are keeping that option open again, with Mark Purdon having nominated both Adore Me and Smolda, who race in Sydney on Sunday week, for the Cup. WA pacers I'm Victorious and Livingontheinterest have also been nominated while Luke McCarthy is likely to nominate The Gold Ace and possibly even For A Reason for Auckland, all four being in the Inter Final.   Most of those trainers will wait to see how their charges come through their March 2 races before deciding on the Auckland Cup, the barrier draw for which has now been pushed back to Monday night to accommodate them. While ATC officials have every reason to be beaming about the Cup nominations, the sheer strength of entries for the Woodlands Northern Derby the same night is keeping numbers down. It already contains group one winners Maxim, Sky Major, Cyclone Prince and Tiger Tara as well the much-hyped Locharburn and Aldo Rossi. "We are thrilled with the quality but would like some more horses because it is $250,000 and last season we saw a lower-grade horse finish fourth against a similarly hot field," said ATC racing manager Kevin Smith. Meanwhile, super sire Bettors Delight produced the top lot for the third day running at yesterday's yearling sales in Christchurch. Australian owner Merv Butterworth paid $100,000 for a Bettors Delight colt out of four-race winner Motu Pocket O'Jewels, narrowly topping a $95,000 colt by Rock N Roll Heaven from Lucinda Midfrew for Sydney owner Emilio Rosati to be trained by Tony Herlihy. Courtesy of Michael Guerin and the New Zealand Herald

The weird twilight zone Terror To Love inhabits is best summed up by his price for the Inter Dominion final in Sydney --- $13. He is the eighth favourite for the A$750,000 classic at Menangle on March 2, even though he won his heat at Addington on Saturday night with the fastest last 400m ever recorded on the iconic track. This is Terror To Love, who looked one of the all-time greats when he overcame losing 30m in an early gallop to win his third straight New Zealand Cup in November, on a day when he looked unbeatable. But so ingrained in punters and bookmakers minds is the notion that Terror To Love hates Menangle that he is rated a $13 chance for the race by the Aussie TAB, while fellow Kiwi pacer Smolda, who he beat on Saturday, is the $4.20 second favourite. In fact, six of the seven horses who are tighter in the market than Terror To Love got beaten in their Interdom heats on Saturday, the only winner being I’m Victorious and that was in a very weak Perth heat. The lack of respect for Terror To Love is almost understandable as he has regularly performed lengths below his best in Sydney, even though he finished second in last season’s weak rescheduled Miracle Mile. His connections are playing their part too. Driver Ricky May is openly critical of the Menangle track surface and trainer Graham Court calls the Sydney track “the graveyard.” But after topping $2million in career earnings on Saturday, Terror To Love will still return to Sydney, seeking respect and broodmare bookings for his future stud career. Saturday night’s six heats spread across five tracks provided plenty of drama, none more so than in Sydney where the two series favourites Beautide and For A Reason were both beaten after leading. Beautide’s defeat was blamed on the wet track being too soft on the inside, but when Mach Beauty won the second heat from the trail and the main mares race was won along the inside, the track bias excuse started to look a little ragged. Keayang Cullen set a track record in the Melton heat running down Restrepo after he looked home while I’m Victorious was very good in Perth and Forever Gold will add a female flavour to the final after winning the Brisbane heat. Auckland-owned pacer The Gold Ace secured one of the two wild cards in to the final, with Caribbean Blaster, who was brave in the Melton heat getting the other. So the field of 14 looks set, only to be confirmed at noon today after trainers accept for the race content their charges have come through their heats well. Canterbury pacer Franco Nelson is listed as the first emergency but is more likely to contest the A$200,000 Chariots Of Fire the same day. The 14 invited pacers for the Inter Dominion final, plus six emergencies who will be reduced to two today, are: Terror To Love, Smolda, Seel N Print, Beautide, The Gold Ace, Keayang Cullen, Restrepo, Wartime Sweetheart, Caribbean Blaster, Mach Beauty, For A Reason, Forever Gold, I’m Victorious, Livingontheinterest. Emergencies: Franco Nelson, Pub Blitz, Im Corzin Terror, Ardghal, Mah Sish, Abettorpunt. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)

  Terror To Love disappointed last start but loves Addington and has regularly paced sub 55-second last 800m there so Smolda will need to be equine-sonic to beat him. Photo / NZ Herald The demise of the Saturday gallops Pick6 will provide harness racing punters with a rare bonus for tonight's frenetic programme of Inter Dominion heats. The TAB is guaranteeing a $50,000 terminating Pick6 on the six heats to be run around Australasia in the space of just 80 minutes tonight, starting at Addington at 10.15pm. "It is a unique night and with no gallops Pick6 any more on Saturday because of the Triple Trio it gives us the perfect chance to showcase the Interdom heats," said TAB spokesman Michael Dore. The heats are largely dominated by a hot favourite with only one or two threats, with the exception being the strong Melton heat, which is why the first three home there are guaranteed spots in the A$750,000 Inter Final in Sydney on March 2. With punter fatigue always a factor after a long Saturday, tonight's pool is certain to contain plenty of dead money, with each heat also boosted by a $5000 bonus in the First4, courtesy of the Victorian TAB but available to New Zealand punters through co-mingling.   So what is going to happen in the heats? Maybe something like this: Heat one, Addington, 10.15pm: Two-horse race between Terror To Love (1) and Smolda (2) who are set to lead and trail in that order. Terror To Love disappointed last start but loves Addington and has regularly paced sub 55-second last 800m there so Smolda will need to be equine-sonic to beat him. Pick six: Take them both, 1-2. Heat two, Menangle, 10.30pm: Miracle Mile hero Beautide (8) has been crushing this season and his trainer-driver wants to make a statement so should win. Genuine speed outside him from Suave Stuey Lombo (11) and The Gold Ace (12) sets up an early burn which suggests over 2400m a late closer can qualify, which suits Gaius Caesar (2). Pick6: Beautide an anchor. Heat three, Melton, 10.45pm: If the Restrepo (1) who won the Ballarat Cup two starts ago turns up he should lead throughout. That gives Keayang Cullen (8) a great tow into a place and therefore the final while Caribbean Blaster (11) is flying but may be driven to qualify first, win as a bonus. Abettorpunt (9) and Bitobliss (3) and I'm Corzin Terror (4) could upset if the speed map gets screwed up, but it probably won't. Pick6: Split your spend, one ticket anchor Restrepo, saver ticket with 3, 4, 8, 9, 11. Heat four, Menangle, 11pm: Time for Victoria Cup winner For A Reason (6) to stand up and stake his Inter claim. He has the draw to do it. Does face the tricky proposition of having to come from behind Mach Beauty (8) to do so after the latter's 1:51 mile win last week, but the 2400m suits the favourite more. Kiwi pacer Franco Nelson will love the distance but Menangle is a tough track to master fresh up and tempo is against him. Pick6: For A Reason all but an anchor, maybe small second ticket Mach Beauty. Heat five, Albion Park, 11.15pm: Weakest heat with tempo crucial. If Avonnova (2) can lead very hard to run down, with Forever Gold (1) a danger from trail. If they go hard, then Field Officer (9) should blow over the top. Pick6: Don't like the race so take 1, 2 and 9. Heat six, Gloucester Park, 11.30pm: I'm Victorious (5) the top gun but doesn't like it too tough and could have to sit parked outside Livingontheinterest (2), for whom this might be a Grand Final. David Hercules (8) the only winning threat and might be worth the risk. Pick6: 2-5-8. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of the New Zealand Herald)

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