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Friday night could be the calm before the open class storm for John Dunn. But just because he has to wait until next Wednesday to see his and father Robert’s stable stars back in public, doesn’t mean he can win a race or two beforehand. John is preparing to bring trotting superstar Sundees Son back to the workouts at Rangiora on Wednesday along with big-name pacers like Henry Hubert, Classie Brigade and Heroes Square. “It will be good to get them back and they are coming up well,” says Dunn. “I am really happy with Sundees Son and next Wednesday will only be a kick off point but I think if the right races are programmed we could have them all back racing in early August.” The Dunn horses have raced well since resuming after lockdown with eight wins in June as they count down toward Robert’s first premiership. “Obviously they haven’t been the best horses in the barn but almost all the horses we have taken to the races have raced well. “And that looks the case again this Friday.” One of the issues for the Dunn horses is anything but a win can seem disappointing because punter gravitate toward them, especially with no All Stars rivals. A point in case is The Player in race four tonight, who has had two placings in three starts since coming back. “He is actually racing well, he finished third to Matua Tana last start which is good form for this type of race,” explains John. “But his problem if he can over-race when he leads and that is where he likes to be. So hopefully he can settle better with a trail and would be a good chance.” Dunn opts for Cheddar Valley in race nine as perhaps his best of the weekend even though he meets a handy last-start runner-up in J R Bromac. “He has been racing well and came home (last 800m) in 55.4 seconds last start but something came off his back to beat him.” The stable has three even chances in race seven, with Dunn reluctant to choose between Anamajor, Kensington Bill and Carlos Bromac. “They could all win with the right run cause it looks a tricky little race.”   Michael Guerin

Don’t be put off by star young trotter Ultimate Stride having never had a standing start in New Zealand just because he faces one at Invercargill today. Because trainer Phil Williamson is adamant it won’t be a problem. Ultimate Stride (Race 11, 4.35pm) takes on not only older horses but that standing start but trainer Phil Williamson says neither factor concerns him. “He has beautiful manners so I’d be stunned if he galloped from the standing start,” says Williamson. “Being a big field there is always the chance being off 20m they can have traffic problems but on the whole he should be too good for them.” The high-priced yearling purchase, Ultimate Stride dominated Australia’s best young trotters winning the Breeders Crown last season and returned with an effortless win in a mobile start race two weeks ago. Punters looking for a lunchtime bet could do worse than double down in race two on the Williamson team. “We have two trotters in the second race and I think one of the two will win,” says the trotting supremo. “The two-year-old Love N The Port might be the best of them and would probably win on raw ability but if he doesn’t then one of our others in Springbank Mason is also a good chance.” Michael Guerin

Trainers Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan have reason to celebrate even before they head to Alexandra Park tonight look for more. The long-time friends have lodged papers this week to resume their training partnership in the new season, nine years after last training together. Phelan cut his teeth working with Hall of Famer Purdon and they trained together from 2008 to 2011 before Phelan briefly moved overseas. The 38-year-old first worked for Steve Telfer when he returned from his time in Australia but has been with Purdon for the last few years and is thrilled to be re-entering their partnership. “It is like coming home to me,” says Phelan. “It is a wonderful property which I love and Barry and Katrina have been great to me. “And we have some lovely horses here so I am looking forward to next season even more now.” Purdon may have nothing left to prove in harness racing but he has rarely trained better, with his strike rate last season the highest of his career, albeit with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity these days. “Scott and I get on really well and he is a great worker. But the quality I admire most is he cares about the horses and getting the job done well,” offered Purdon. While the partnership won’t officially resume until the new season in August, the stable could easily have two winners tonight. They have both Major Jellis (10m handicap) and On The Cards (55m) in tonight’s main pace where they clash with NZ’s best three-year-old pacer in Hard Copy (45m) and in-form mare Callie’s Delight (30m). The small field and step up to 2700m distance may partially negate the handicaps for the favourites but the tempo for the first mile of the race could dictate their chances “I think On The Cards will be better for his fresh up run but these are tricky races,” says Purdon. Rival trainer Ray Green feels the same with Hard Copy, who be believes is forward enough to win yet still at the improving stage. “I am happy with him but he has been away for a while and a lot will depend on how fast they go and where they all end up in the running,” says Green. Purdon has impressive debut runner-up Marathon Man in the first race at tonight’s race Wednesday meeting at Alexandra Park, in which he has barrier one rather than the poor barrier he had to come from last start. “He was very good behind what looked a nice maiden winner last start and should be hard to beat,” he says. One of the other highlights of the night is the return of Credit Master and Kenny’s Dream in the main trot (race five) but like Copy That they face big handicaps fresh up and may have to chase a race fit rival like Tricky Ric who won the comparable race last start but doesn’t receive a penalty for that.   Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s most in-form harness racing stable will have to overcome a new challenge this week: having their training track washed away. But co-trainer Josh Dickie says some help from his rivals should still see the stable he runs with father John arrive at Alexandra Park on Wednesday night with their horses ready to rock. The Dickies have been the punter’s pals since horse racing returned post-lockdown on May 29, winning a remarkable nine races in a month, an average of almost two every meeting they have competed at. That has been made possible by their excellent training facilities at Rosslands Farm in South Auckland, although their training track has been a victim of the recent northern storms. “When the storm hit last Thursday we had 120mils of rain in an hour and was too much for the drains, they overflowed and on to our main track,” explains Dickie. “That washed a lot of the top surface away and made the track unusable. “Luckily it had no where to run off to so a lot of the surface material is still on the edges of the track but we have had to get a grader to come in and try and repair it and then we will see if we need more top.” Rival trainers Brian and Gareth Hughes invited the Dickies to bring their horses racing tomorrow night to their property on Saturday morning so they could use their track. “It was very good of them and means our horses haven’t missed any real fast work,” said Dickie. This week's meeting is an extremely rare Wednesday night Alexandra Park meeting as harness racing bosses seek to see whether it is a night that has a future of the code. The meeting is one of the strongest since lockdown with exceptional three-year-old pacer Copy That returning to the track along with several open class trotters.   Michael Guerin

Horse racing has finally got the laws it needs to grow - now the search starts for the boss to implement them. The Racing Industry Bill has breezed through its second and third readings in Parliament and will become the law the industry is governed by on August 1. While the passing of the Bill was not a surprise, just how thorough the Select Committee process was, and the engagement from politicians from across the house, probably did catch a few hardened racing administrators off guard. What it has produced it a more balanced Bill than what was originally presented to the Select Committee, and a document that gives the industry the tools it needs to work together, which has rarely been horse racing's strong point. The passing of the Bill means the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) will morph into TAB NZ in August, with its responsibility to run the gambling side of the industry and pass the profits on to the three racing codes to promote the industry, pay stakes and administer racing on a day to day basis. The Bill will also see the formation of a new body named Racing New Zealand which will comprise representatives of all three codes and give them a more powerful single entity for some of the crucial negotiations that lie ahead. But with RITA winding down and who is Minister for Racing post-election dependant on whether Winston Peters is still in cabinet or even Parliament, the most important role in New Zealand racing becomes the new chief executive of TAB NZ. The Herald understands there was a shortlist for that crucial role before Covid-19 struck but the final interviews haven't been able to take place because the overseas candidates cannot get into the country because of the restrictions. RITA executive chair Dean McKenzie has stated he will not seek the chief executive role. Who becomes the chief executive will be crucial as for much of the last 20 years the TAB has been run by chief executives with limited or no experience or knowledge of either racing and/or gambling. That mistake cannot afford to be replicated as the industry enters one of the most important eras in its history. ** On the racing front the surprise package of harness racing's comeback will look to make it four wins on end at Addington tonight. Matua Tana has been sensational winning all three of his races since lockdown; even though he still has a rough gait early in his races and is a hard watch for favourite punters. But so big is his motor if he trots throughout he should win race eight tonight, with Fabrizio (race seven) looking one of the other top bets of the night.   Michael Guerin

Heavily-backed debutante pacer Alterior Motif is going to have to get used to something new at Cambridge tonight: rivals. But he might still find himself lonely at the business end of race four. The three-year-old pacer races for the first time tonight and is an extreme rarity in that when he qualified three weeks ago he did so completely by himself. While that is not unheard of for a trotter or the occasional maiden qualifying in a smaller harness racing area like Manawatu, northern pacers qualifying in solo trials are not only rare but running the sort of time Alterior Matif did when he qualified is almost unheard of. He paced his solo 2200m mobile on May 31 in 2:43.1, his last 800m in 57.8, the final 400m in 28.7. There were five 2200m races held that day, the northern comeback to harness meeting, and Alterior Motif’s time was quicker than them all as well as four of the six 2200m races at the next Cambridge meeting. So Alterior Motif probably won’t need to go much faster to win tonight but horses in company almost always do. “He is a runner all right,” says co-trainer Andrew Neal, who will drive Alterior Motif tonight. “He has a really good way of going and likes to get on with it. “He actually hung in up the straight that day so could have gone a second quicker.” While he qualified solo Alterior Motif actually has trialed against other horses before, winning a four-horse unqualfied trial heat as well as sticking close when not pressured behind Itsthefinalcountdown in a recent workout, with that pacer a big winning chance in the last race tonight. “In that workout and his other trial I tried to keep him back and settled because he is such a runner,” says Neal, who trains Alterior Motif with his wife Lyn. “But because he has a good draw this week (barrier three) I will let him run. I expect him to be in front and I’d be surprised if he was beaten.” That could start a great half hour for the Neals as they rate Ideal Agent a huge chance in race five, the first leg of Pick6. The talented three-year-old ran the in-form Lagertha close here last start in his first race in five months and has taken the expected improvement. “He has really come on with that run and he worked well on Tuesday morning,” says Neal. “It is a slightly tricky race but I think we have the best horse there.” The Neals had their open class trotting star Credit Master back at the workouts last weekend after his near-death experience on the eve of the Inter Dominions last November. “He got dreadfully sick back then, some sort of virus, and we thought we were going to lose him. “So it has been a long road back but he is looking a lot better now. “So he can have a workout again this weekend and then we will start looking for a race.”   By Michael Guerin

It is never easy to get Brian Hughes to look too far ahead with a horse. But Hot And Treacherous has been so impressive every time he steps out on the track the man they call Bunty admits he has to start thinking about some bigger targets. One of the north’s most hyped maidens made a winning debut at Alexandra Park on Thursday night, beating his recent workouts adversary and another horse with a maiden win just around the corner in Marathon Man. There was nothing special about their time on a cold and wet winter night and Hot And Treacherous had actually been reeling off faster sectionals in his recent Pukekohe workout wins. But there is a stamp on class about the two-year-old son of Captaintreacherous that is hard to miss, his win aptly coming on the day it was announced another of his sire’s sons, Captain Crunch is coming here to join Nevele R and Alabar. So impressive has Hot And Treacherous been the usually reserved Hughes, who trains the gelding with his son Gareth, admits he might have to steer him toward the rescheduled Sires’ Stakes and Sales Series races to be run in September and October. “That might be the aim if he keeps going well,” said Hughes as he awaited his last young prospect to return after the debut win. Gareth might have been doing the leading back but laughs and points to Dad when asked who does the majority of day to day work on this one, always a good indication of where a horse stands in the pecking order of the stable’s maidens. Hughes paid $60,000 for Hot And Treacherous at the Karaka sales last year, buying him off Breckon Farms as the second foal from lightly-raced mare Hothooves. While he has looked a natural in all his workouts the delay and then rescheduling of the key juvenile races from this season to being early next season probably aids Hot And Treacherous and like many in that situation he could have a busy spring and early summer. It is rare a maiden race provides the star turn at Alexandra Park but he was the horse who had everybody buzzing but closer to the top of the rankings system it was the Dickie team who continued their sensational form since lock down. They won two races again with Callie’s Delight and Tricky Ric taking out the night’s feature pace and trot respectively. Callie’s Delight beat On The Cards was manners and speed, working to the lead early and controlling the race and then licking home her last 800m in 55.3 seconds which meant that On The Card, sitting last in his comeback race was left an impossible mission to catch her. “She is racing so well and these wins are great for her future broodmare career,” said co-trainer John Dickie. Tricky Ric got his manners right while stablemate Kay Cee didn’t, with the latter galloping late in the race when challenging the eventual winner. Team Dickie still quinellaed the race, with Tricky Ric leading home Sertorius while Kay Cee was disqualified, a rare combination of result for any stable with three horses in a race. The win won’t be Tricky Ric’s last as it was penalty free because of driver Craig Smith’s junior exempt claim and while the former Jewels runner-up won’t rush through to open class he should well and truly be there by the end of this year if not sooner.   Michael Guerin

Trainer Adrienne Matthews is in for a record night at Alexandra Park this evening. And why that doesn’t mean she will train a winner the fact she has seven starters at the second Auckland meeting of harness racing’s comeback is a huge feat in its self. “I have had seven starters at a Manawatu meeting once but never at Alexandra Park,” says the Glenbrook horsewoman. “That is a lot of starters at a meeting up here for us so I am looking forward to it. But to be honest I am just enjoying being back at the races after the lockdown.” It is still some effort from a smaller stable to have seven starters at an Alexandra Park meeting, including winning chances like The Blue Beat (race eight). “We were kind of lucky that we have our own track at home so could be up and running quickly after lockdown and some of them are racing really well.” Matthews is a popular member of the northern harness racing community, having cut her teeth in harness racing with the likes of Ray Norton and Geoff Small. “I actually got into racing a bit later than a lot of people do because I played rep netball and that was my main focus out of school. “I played for the North Shore and West Auckland at the level just below what was then the Coca Cola Cup but started to get more involved with the horses around 21,” said the now 38-year-old. She starts tonight with two chances in race two, the in-form Letherhairdown and Fortune Smile, who is fresh up. “Letherhairdown is racing well but this is a nice enough field so she might be a better place chance while Fortune Smile was all but retired. “She had soreness issues in her hind legs and we were going to break her in for a saddle horse but then an abscess burst out and she was sound enough to put back into work. “She lacks a bit of speed but tries hard.” Maiden trotter Cepheus (race three) has the ability to win races but Matthews says a second-start scare has dented his confidence. “He ran fourth on debut but in his second start the horse next to him came across at the start and pushed him into another horse and and since then he has been worried every start that the other horses are coming to get him at the start. “He is getting slowly better but it might take a few more starts yet to get his confidence back.” Johnson Step (race four) was attacked in front at Cambridge last week but still faded more than he should have late and steps into a stronger maiden field tonight. “I think he might be back on the inside and this looks like a tough race for him to win.” Matthews is hoping the stable’s trotting star The Hulk can make a better beginning in race seven tonight to help him navigate the final bend smoothly. “Getting in and trotting roughly on that last bend has been his weakness and to overcome that it is better if he is on the markers near the lead so hopefully he can be there. “But he is still better left-handed.” The other problem for The Hulk is the depth of the field, with plenty of potential future open class trotters in what will be the highlight of the night, headlined by brilliant last start winner Kay Cee. The Blue Beat meets some handy opposition in race eight but Matthews says the lockdown was a blessing for the four-year-old mare. “She is a very big mare and has been a bit awkward growing into herself but that break during lockdown really aided her and she paces a lot smoother now she has strengthened up,” says Matthews. “So I think she will be a better mare this campaign but she isn’t a sit sprint horse so I am hoping Jay (Abernethy, driver) can get her off the inside and sit in the running line this week.” The last on the card tonight for the amateur drivers gives Matthews the chance to repay loyal stable supporter Bruce Hadley with another drive on Edamfast. “Bruce has been great to us, always willing to help out when we short staffed on the weekends,” she explains. “I think he can win a race on this horse but he is a funny horse to drive in that you have to make him do it and last week he got a bit lazy. “Because of that I don’t think one on the second line suits him on Thursday, especially following out a horse who might not have enough gate speed to lead.”   Michael Guerin

Robert Dunn received one of the most satisfying phone calls of his career last week. It was from the famous father of the man who Dunn will beat to win his first New Zealand trainer’s premiership next month. Dunn’s 83 wins for the season will be enough to win him the title even if he doesn’t add to the number as while Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen sit in 69 wins, they are effectively done for the season. Michael House sits third in 63 and as busy as he is it is hard to imagine him training 20 winners in six weeks so Dunn is the heir apparent to the title of premier trainer. And while he admits that feels a little strange because of the enormous interruption to the season, a phone call last week made it all feel so real. “Roy Purdon rang me to congratulate me on winning the premiership,” smiles Dunn. “It was a bit awkward because of the way the season has been and I told Roy I was lucky that Mark and Nat didn’t get more of a chance to beat me. “But he said not to worry about that, it didn’t matter and that I deserved it and had been a good trainer for a long time. “That was when it hit hone to me and to be honest that phone call from a man like Roy was one of the highlights of my career.” While Dunn’s southern stable is already back and racing and is certain to be good for a few wins to add to his ultimate premiership tally, his northern team starts rolling out in public at the trials this Friday. And that is a conscious decision he made not to rush them back to the races once the Covid restriction eased. “Obviously the Pukekohe track was closed so all the horses from there were on the back foot a bit but we made the decision to bring them up a bit slower. “Once these horses get up and running they have the potential to do a lot of racing and particularly for the better ones who could be involved in premier racing, you don’t want to have them all peaking too early. “So some of them, like Passion And Power (this season’s star juvenile filly), could have been back racing but they are group one horses. So we eased off her because she has a lot of top class racing she can come back for in September, October and then for months afterwards. “It requires a bit of thinking and working out.” The first pair back from the northern team will be Mighty Looee and You Really Got Me who will trial this Friday, the week after and then race in two weeks. “We have Woodstone, who has come up a treat again and Resonate trialling in two weeks and they can race next month and then Pretty Majestic, who has been given more time.” That former Australian trotting mare has been one of the finds of the season after being sent to Dunn because she apparently preferred right-handed racing. “That is what we thought but she won so well at Cambridge one night and is such a good mare we see her as a horse who could go down to Cup week to contest the best races down there.” That gives Dunn and his inter-island stable, the southern one run by son John, plenty of open class firepower in both gaits for next season. “We have Sundees Son and Pres The Belle down south and both Woodstone and Pretty Majestic could join them in good open class trots. “And then we have horses like Henry Hubert, Classie Brigade and Sheriff for the better pacing races. “So we have some really good horses to aim at the carnivals and that is why we can give some of them time to come up.” Spoken like a true premiership winning trainer.   Michael Guerin

Paul Nairn knew when David Butt sent him a horse to train it must have been pretty good. “Davey wouldn’t bother otherwise,” says the master trainer. Judging by the form of Maria Tsarina the last two Fridays at Addington both Nairn and Butt were right. The five-year-old daughter of Muscle Hill has made it two wins from as many starts in Nairn’s stable and he says she isn’t finished yet. “I think she can win her way through to close to the top grade,” says Nairn. “I knew she must be all right when Davey sent her here. She had won two for him but she had just being trotting a bit rough while he was bringing her up this time in. “But I didn’t change much when I got her. I just mucked around with her shoes in front and she was good to go.” When she remained unbeaten for Nairn at Addington last Friday, Maria Tsarina trotted her last 800m in 58 seconds in holding out The Player, both indicating she can keep winning in the intermediate grade. But Nairn says there is still work to do. “She still trots a bit rough, she strikes herself high on her shin near the hock. You could see it affecting her the other night on the home bend last Friday. “So I will have to try and find a way to work on that. “But if we can sort that out she has a big future.” That trait means Maria Tsarina won’t be back at Addington this Friday as that home bend striking of her leg has left it a touch swollen, meaning she can have the week off. In a different vein of form in the same race was last season’s NZ Trotting Derby winner Lotamuscle, who Nairn admits is puzzling him with his form. “He is obviously better than that but he isn’t showing it at the moment.” His little two-year-old brother Bitofmuscle is shaping up well for Nairn though and could race against the older horses next month as Nairn prepares him for the two-year-old trots that were missed because of Covid-19 this season and will be run belatedly in September or October next season. “I have him and another two-year-old coming up well enough they could be factors for races like that.” Further away than racing than them is this season’s stunning Dominion winner Habibi Inta, who has been sidelined since missing the Interdom Final at Alexandra Park in December. “He had a suspensory injury them which sounds like it will be ok,” says Nairn. “It is actually his second one, he had a problem with the suspensory in his other leg and it hasn’t been a problem since he resumed on it so I am hoping we get the same result with this one. “But I wouldn’t see him being back at the races till probably Labour Weekend at Ashburton. “That would still give him a shot at defending his Dominion title though.” That will leave stable newcomer Lemond as Nairn’s early season open class rep and he is coming to hand well, speeding up to faster work after six weeks with his new trainer. “The way he is coming up some of those traditional races like the Canterbury Park or Banks Peninsula Cups could be in the right time slot for him.” As for this week Nairn will have last season’s Jewels placegetter Gil Favor back at Addington on Friday. “He is a good honest horse and a handy stayer so he will always be a chance.”   By Michael Guerin

Brendon Hill wants to provide his little mate with THAT moment at Addington tonight. The moment everybody in New Zealand harness racing thought we might never see again, champion driver Ricky May winning a race. When May slumped unconscious in the sulky and nearly died mid-race at Omakau in January his close friend Hill feared the worst. He wasn’t far from being right. “I think all of us feared we might not see Ricky again that day,” says the astute Canterbury trainer. “So to have him coming back to the races this week is something I am definitely not taking for granted. “It is going to be a special occasion and I’ll be honest, I am both nervous and excited.” Hill and May have been to racing’s mountain top together, having combined to win two New Zealand Cups and a Miracle Mile with Monkey King. But this is different. Those moments were racing fairytales. Ricky May, the driver back from the dead, is movie of the week stuff. May has nine drives on the 12-race card and Hill hopes he can provide him with his first winner of his comeback night with Skippy’s Delight (race three, 5.16pm). The big pacer slightly disappointed when run down into second last start but Hill partially blames himself, thinking a pre-race workout at Ashburton a week before may have sapped the gelding. “He is rising four but still growing and he raced tired that night,” says Hill. “So I am confident he will be better this time and he has the ace draw so I think he will lead or trail. “If he doesn’t win or go very close in this race I will be scratching my head.” Hill and May also combine with Ranger Bomb in race 11 and he has the same draw but in a slightly harder race. “He is an under-rated horse and he can win too. So I have two good hopes for Ricky.” Race meetings are rarely about one person and tonight also sees the return of the public to Addington post lock down, so the meeting hosts two remarkable comebacks. But if May wins a race and his famous gold sulky cap returns again to the Addington winner’s circle he has visited more than any other driver it will be one of the most special moments in the famous racetrack’s storied history.   By Michael Guerin

If Dylan Ferguson trains a winner at Cambridge tonight he won’t get the official credit. But that is a small price to pay for the education he is getting studying at the University of Rogey. That is because day in, day out 23-year-old Ferguson gets to learn from training legend Graeme Rogerson, who has done almost everything a horseman can do in Australasian racing. Rogerson is of course better known in the thoroughbred world but since trying his hand at harness racing a decade ago he has had continued success, success shared these days with Ferguson. The son of top driver Peter Ferguson, Dylan does the daily training of Rogerson’s 22 harness horses but the boss still provides direction and advice. And a rev up when needed. “It is an amazing education for a young guy like myself,” acknowledges Ferguson. “I have been here almost since I left school and you learn so much from Graeme. “These days he leaves me to do much of the actual training because they are so busy with the gallopers but we still meet to discuss what he wants me to do.” The stable take three reps to Cambridge tonight for the first horse racing meeting in New Zealand with the public allowed back in post-Covid. And Ferguson says they can pull off a handicap win rarely seen. Delson opened the $3.50 favourite for race six tonight even though he starts off a 45m handicap, a disadvantage not often overcome in northern harness racing. “I think he can still win from there because he would have won the similar race last start off 40m if he hadn’t galloped,” says Ferguson. “That was over 2200m so the step up to 2700m this week will help him even more. “He is fit enough to win and if he behaves then he is the one to beat.” Ferguson expects South Island import Sunset Red (race two) to trail and be competitive but she may be short of peak fitness while juvenile Super Duper Dude will be better for his debut in race four. The John and Joshua Dickie stable has been the form barn in the north at the two comeback harness meetings so far and they looks certain to add to that again tonight, with Callie’s Delight and Bar Room Brawl two of their better hopes. Callie’s Delight was an effortless winner here 11 days ago but had to overcome a 20m handicap in a bigger field tonight and the 2700m distance of the main pace looks less suitable than her last-start 2200m. Bar Room Brawl meets Delson in the night’s big trot and gets a 30m start but Josh Dickie has chosen not to drive him, instead utilising the stable’s junior drive Craig Smith because a win tonight could be rating penalty-free if driven by a claiming junior.   Michael Guerin

TAB operators will be a part of most New Zealand racing for at least another year after something resembling common sense prevailed in the great Kiwi betting debate. The TAB has partially backed down on a plan that could have been human betting operators for all but the biggest meetings replaced by self service terminals, machines that allows punters to place bets but that many do not know how to use. The migration of on-course punters to betting either of their phones or using the machines will still continue but will be slowed to ensure a longer transition period. That will come as a relief to racing clubs who originally thought that may not have to confront the problems for months but will do so tomorrow as the first horse racing meeting with crowds allowed with be held by Cambridge harness. “We are relieved to hear we will be allowed operators on track so our customers can bet that way is that is what they want,” says Cambridge boss David Branch. The plan to move away from having human betting staff on track makes economic sense as the TAB goes through drastic and much-needed cost cutting measures but it will still be jarring for many older or infrequent racegoers. So the agreement to allow betting operators on track for the rest of this season and next year, apart from smaller mid-week industry meetings, is a fair compromise. The smaller mid-week meetings that will be without betting operators from next season tend to attract mainly regular horse racing participants so won’t have the same walk-up crowds who are less likely to have the TAB app on their phone. The TAB has agreed to work with clubs hosting larger meetings, like some of Ellerslie and Addington's glamour days, on bigger temporary totes to cater for casual racegoers.   Michael Guerin

Big Fish, Little Fish is the brand new Whale Watch brought to you by Michael Guerin and Craig Thompson. Today they look over the Addington meeting tonight

Kay Cee’s win at Alexandra Park on Thursday night summed up his life. Because it didn’t start well but turned out perfectly. The five-year-old produced the performance of the night at Alexandra Park’s return to racing meeting, having to overcome a rare early gallop to loop the field late and win like a horse with a future. It wasn’t the first time Kay Cee has shown open class ability, trotting a super fast 2200m stand time when winning two starts ago just before Covid-19 closed racing down. But as good as he was winning back then his performance on Thursday night was at a different level because he beat some talented rivals, including stablemates Sertorius and Tricky Ric to give John and Josh Dickie the trifecta. “He actually got a check early which is why he broke cause that is very unlike him,” said John Dickie. “But it was a big win under those circumstances.” His fourth win from 14 starts mirrored the start to his career, which was anything but ideal. “He spent about 18 months on a farm down at Raglan as a young horse and he didn’t even start breaking into until he was three. “And he could be a real bugger. He had a real streak in him which some of that family can do. “But he can trot and he will follow any speed so I think he will end up in open class.” Later in the programme the Dickie’s completed a double in the night’s feature trot races when Daisy Hill bolted away with the R48-61 trot, continuing their great start to harness racing’s comeback. Kay Cee wasn’t the only winner on Thursday night who had to overcome a setback with Warloch coming from a wide draw and without an ideal preparation to win the feature pace. Like so many of the Pukekohe-trained horses Warloch has had less miles in his legs that trainer Michael House would want because their training track was close. “But I wanted to support the racing up there so I told the guys to line the horses up,” said House. “I realised they couldn’t be at their peak but they could also race into form.” Warloch was still good enough to record the eighth win of his career in the hands of Peter Ferguson as he edged his way toward $100,000 in stakes, making him one of the best performed stock of sire Well Said in this country.   Michael Guerin

One of New Zealand's leading trotting trainers thinks the post-Covid racing world may force a change to the way fellow trainers think. It could mean more horses having busier careers if trainer Michelle Wallis is right. Wallis and husband-training partner Bernie Hackett return to their beloved Alexandra Park tonight for the first horse racing meeting in Auckland since lockdown in late March. The meeting hosts just six races as many trainers are still getting horses back to peak fitness while others who raced at Cambridge's comeback meeting last Sunday are reluctant to back their horses up. Wallis, who has won the NZ trainer's premiership for trotters, will back up two horses on the four-day turnaround and says with reduced racing options and lower stakes post-Covid, that could become the norm. "It wouldn't suit all horses but a lot of horses who are sound and fit could race more often," says Wallis. That would be music to the ears of northern harness administrators who often struggle for full fields, particularly at Alexandra Park where there has been something of a bias that the racing is too hard for many lower grade horses and they instead head to Cambridge. With Cambridge and Alexandra Park set to race for similar stakes for most grades of races for the foreseeable future, that could address the imbalance. Wallis and Hackett bring 12 horses to Alexandra Park tonight, all in trotting races and punters won't have to wait too long for their best bet. "We think Asteria Lavra is our best chance of the six we have in race one," offers Wallis. "She missed away at the workouts last week but that is not like her and if she trots all the way she will be too fast for most of these." Vatican Hill (race three) has been trialing well but it is a competitive field with last season's Jewels runner-up Tricky Ric well placed off the front line. "One horse we have who really enjoyed the lockdown break is Magnafique (race five). She has been working well and I think she is a good each way chance." The night's main pacing feature sees Major Jellis (race two) the $1.80 favourite but that looks skinny for a two-race winner against some rivals with plenty more victories. "He should be ok from barrier one but he is not a guaranteed leader," said trainer Barry Purdon. If he can lead or trail Major Jellis becomes the one to beat.   Michael Guerin

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