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The Heaven Rocks spell has been broken. Because while the extraordinarily talented pacer is already back on the New Zealand Cup trail punters could be forgiven for thinking the big fella has already lost our greatest race. Heaven Rocks stunned his connections and burnt punters when he raced erratically and dropped out to finish last in his comeback race at Addington on Friday night. So wayward was he in the home straight and proppy when returning to the stables there were initial fears he has broken down. By Saturday morning they were allayed and it turns out a greasy heel may have been the cause of the problems that dented his aura while bullet-proof stablemate Lazarus ground his way to an unexpected victory. Driver Natalie Rasmussen, who has little tolerance for mental or physical weakness in horses, was blunt in her assessment. "Plenty of other horses wouldn't have let it bother them but he is a bit of a baby like that," says Rasmussen. "It doesn't take a lot to put him off his game but the good news is he is fine now and straight back into work. "We galloped him in work today and he will hopple again tomorrow [Tuesday]." So effectively Heaven Rocks, who had been flying at the trials before the race and was expected to be too fit and sharp for Lazarus, hasn't missed much from a New Zealand Cup point of view. He is still targeting the Flying Stakes at Ashburton on October 23 and could sneak in a race at Addington on November 3, three races pre-Cup plenty for such an athletic horse who was already advanced after two trials and some dazzling work at home. And the ever-cautious TAB bookies have hardly given up on Heaven Rocks, as he is still a warm second favourite at $3.60 for the November 14 Cup, with Lazarus in to $1.75 from as long as $2.50 on Friday. But while Heaven Rocks can still win the Cup and there could still be other twists and turns in the five weeks before the Addington thriller, does anybody really want to back Heaven Rocks any more? There is no doubting his talent and his motor might be as big as Lazarus but he has always been a hard horse to trust, particularly when things get tough. And things don't get any tougher in harness racing than a New Zealand Cup. Any mental deficiencies can be exposed by the biggest, and noisiest, crowd in New Zealand racing and clearly Heaven Rocks doesn't need much to upset him. But perhaps more importantly a New Zealand Cup paced at sub 3:55 places a premium on courage and the ability to run through the pain barrier. Lazarus proved he can master those physical threats when he won the Cup by 10 lengths last season while Dream About Me also has nothing to prove on that front after a race record in the Auckland Cup. As good as Heaven Rocks is Friday reminded us there is no room for sulking in the sulky. So until we see glaring evidence to the contrary, it is hard to make any case he can beat Lazarus or even Dream About in our most brutal pacing race. That is not to say he can't win the Cup, but all of a sudden he feels more like a 8-1 chance. ROAD TO THE NZ CUP Friday: Holmes D G at Alexandra Park. Sunday: Methven Cup. Oct 23: Flying Stakes, Ashburton. Oct 30: Kaikoura Cup. Nov 3: Potentially open class races at both Addington and Alexandra Park. By Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

The Inter Dominion is set to make a shock return to New Zealand with Alexandra Park almost certain to host the series. Harness racing's glamour event hasn't been held in New Zealand since 2011 and was thought to be lost to this country for ever after neither Addington or Alexandra Park expressed interest in holding it again when the series went up for three-year tender in 2012. Since then it has been held at Menangle for three years and completes its third year in Perth this December but the Herald understands it will return to Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland on rotation from next year. While harness racing bosses won't confirm the move, the reality is the series will either start that three-year rotation - probably Melbourne next year, then Auckland and ending in Sydney - or disappear. Tenders for the rights to hold the series closed this week and West Australia did not put in a bid. South Australia and Tasmania can't afford to hold the series and Queensland didn't join in on the joint Victoria-NSW-New Zealand bid as the state goes through some transitions. So with the tender being the only option for the Inter Dominion council, they either approve that bid or the historic series, often seen at the pinnacle of harness racing's trans-tasman rivalry, will cease to exist. The New Zealand third of the bid is being led by Harness Racing New Zealand and they have asked the Auckland Trotting Club whether they will host it at Alexandra Park, almost certainly in 2019. ATC president Bruce Carter has confirmed his club are keen as long as the funding numbers add up. Addington bosses were understood not to be keen to host the series yet as it will remain in the late November-December time slot, which would be too close to their New Zealand Cup meeting, starting two weeks after the NZ Free-For-All. The three-way joint venture has been led by Harness Racing New South Wales and would likely see two rounds of heats and a Grand Final, which in Auckland's case would probably all be on Friday nights. While exact stake levels are still a way off being finalised, it is believed the Final stake at Auckland at least could be $500,000. The return of the series to Auckland would be timely. Alexandra Park is in a vastly superior financial position to what it was when they stepped into host the series under Addington's banner just weeks after the Christchurch earthquakes in February 2011. HRNZ boss Edward Rennell says Addington haven't ruled out hosting the series again should the new three-organisation bid become the long-term future of the series. Queensland could also be keen to be involved in a future rotation. But the series coming to Auckland would set up a dream two months of harness racing in New Zealand, with Australasia's best pacers able to come for the NZ Cup carnival, Inter Dominion and stay for the Auckland Cup on December 31. By Michael Guerin Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

Ray Green has broken his Australian major race drought with the most unlikely of horses. The South Auckland trainer claimed the richest win of his career when King Of Swing led throughout in the hands of David Butcher in the A$285,000 ($310,000) Breeders Crown two-year-old pacing final. The rangy pacer capped a remarkable rise from obscurity, winning his group one just three months after he debuted and without having contested any of the feature juvenile races at home. That didn't deter Green, the trainer for Lincoln Farms, from giving him his shot at Australia's best and his improvement curve has peaked at the right time, with Butcher's perfect drive a massive help. Green is no stranger to campaigning horses in Australia, having won decent races with Badlands Bute and training Sir Lincoln to a luckless second in the Victoria Derby. "But on the whole we haven't had a lot of luck over here so to finally get a really big one is very satisfying," said the jovial 71-year-old. "He has always looked a good horse but we waited until he told us he was good enough to bring over here." The win eclipses the Auckland Cup that Sir Lincoln won as the richest race taken out by a Lincoln Farms pacer and King Of Swing has Derby horse written all over him. King Of Swing His win was the highlight of a mixed day for the Kiwi challengers, with Canterbury filly Renezmae the other to taste group one glory. She led throughout in the two-year-old fillies trot for 23-year-old trainer Jack Harrington, who must surely be one of the youngest New Zealand horsemen to prepare a group one winner. Harrington has quickly built up a 25 horses stable after getting into racing with no family background. "I got into it because my Dad liked a bet so to be here, winning a Breeders Crown, is pretty amazing," says Harrington. "I was welling up when I was being interviewed after the race, I was worried I was gonna start crying," he laughed. Renezmae Punters who backed the All Stars' three runners probably felt like crying too as they had a rare off day. While Partyon was a brave third in her final, More The Better and Sicario both finished unplaced. More The Better was the shock of the day, galloping when in front after 600m as a red hot favourite. And the Kiwi juvenile pacing fillies were a mixed bag, with Bettor Joy below her best when unplaced after leading, leaving fellow Canterbury filly Angel Of Harlem to chase home stunning winner Nostra Villa. By Michael Guerin  

Bettor Joy will be like a three-year-old racing juveniles at Melton tomorrow - literally. The Kiwi filly is an odds-on favourite for her A$285,000 Breeders Crown Final, courtesy of an eye-catching semifinal win last weekend, drawing barrier two and champion reinsman Dexter Dunn returning from the World Drivers Champs to pilot her. She also has the advantage of having a full season of juvenile racing behind her in New Zealand, turning three on August 1 but then reverting to being a two-year-old when she crossed the Tasman as their harness racing season runs until the end of August - don't ask, the answer is ridiculous. That weird anomaly means every season Kiwi horses go into the Breeders Crown with an experience edge over their Australian rivals and while the drop back is more of a paper advantage, trainer Cran Dalgety says in the case of Bettor Joy the gap is more real. "She was a very good juvenile early in the season when she won the big race at Auckland [March] but then she weakened off like a lot of young horses do," explains Dalgety. "But she has come through that, strengthened up again and feels now like a three-year-old because she has been through her two-year-old growing phase. "In her work and the way she is racing it really is like she is a three-year-old already." Dalgety says he will leave the crucial decision on whether Bettor Joy leads or trails Canterbury filly Angel Of Harlem up to Dunn but in a race with some Aussie fillies with big reputations it wouldn't surprise to see Bettor Joy making use of the passing lane. The other richest final tomorrow sees Auckland pacer King Of Swing in a very similar situation - an impressive semi winner, drawn best of the favourites and with a gun driver in David Butcher. He has never been further back than second and hasn't had some of the hard racing of his Aussie rivals so can give trainer Ray Green his first really major Australian victory, with the All Stars-trained Sicario the danger as last week's other semi winner. Our Renezmae (two-year-old trot) and More The Better (three-year-old male pace) are the other New Zealand-trained favourites but Partyon will need to do something special to overcome a second line draw against Aussie arch-rival Petacular, who finally gets a good draw in the big time. By Michael Guerin

What looked possible a week ago now looks almost certain for champion Kiwi reinsman Dexter Dunn. The sensation of the sulky went into last weekend's racing needing 22 more wins from around 17 South Island race meetings to break his own national record of 220 wins in a season, more than any other horseperson of either code. But after a seven-win streak, Dunn would be long odds-on to set a new mark before he misses the last weekend of the season on his way to the World Drivers Champs. Before last Thursday Dunn sat on 199 wins but then reeled off four wins at Forbury Park, two at Addington the next night and one at Oamaru on Sunday. That puts him on 206 for the season, needing just 15 to break his record - just over one per meeting in the 14 he expects to drive at in the next five weeks. That starts with a bonus 12-race card at Forbury Park tomorrow night as well as the two-day Marlborough meetings on the weekend likely to provide at least a handful of wins. So setting a new record now looks near certain and if (when) Dunn does, it will come as a double achievement as that 221st win would also be his 2000th in New Zealand, joining a club with four other members. Meanwhile, one of the first really major races Dunn ever won, the Victoria Cup, has undergone a controversial change. The group one, won by Lazarus this season, will move from being the cornerstone of the Victorian summer carnival in late January to October 14, having its stake halved to A$200,000 in the process. Harness Racing Victoria rightly believe having the Victoria and Hunter Cups a week apart during the summer carnival caused them to cannibalise each other, with most of the really big names starting in only one. So the Hunter Cup will now be clearly Victoria's biggest race, expected to still be worth around A$500,000. But the Victoria Cup could struggle to attract the absolute glamour pacers from New Zealand because it will be less than a month before the New Zealand Cup. One big-time Grand Circuit player who won't be at either carnival is Bling It On, with this season's Hunter Cup winner suffering a horror fall in Brisbane on Saturday night. He was rushed to a vet clinic needing surgery after cutting both front legs and getting grit from the track in the wounds. "Hopefully he will be all right, if he doesn't get an infection, but I doubt you will see him racing again this year," driver Luke McCarthy told the Herald. Courtesy of Michael Guerin The New Zealand Herald

The best horse champion trainer Mark Purdon takes to tomorrow’s $1.2million Harness Jewels meeting is the one he is the most unsure of. Because while Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen are favoured to win two-thirds of the all-Group 1 programme, it is $1.50 chance Heaven Rocks who he doesn’t know what to expect from. The giant pacer with the small brain might be the second-best pacer in the country behind Lazarus and routinely gives away huge starts and still smashes quality opponents in races like the Easter Cup. But tomorrow he faces settling six to 10 lengths off Waikiki Beach, his stablemate with two sub-1:50 mile times to his name in the $150,000 four-year-old Emerald. And for all his admiration for Heaven Rocks’s motor, Purdon knows that sort of disadvantage could be near impossible to overcome in a sizzling mile. “We all know how good he is but he could be close to last while I think Waikiki Beach will probably lead,” said Purdon. “And logic tells you that will be a very hard advantage to overcome, especially if they run hard the whole way.”
 Purdon says he hasn’t been put off by a loose workout from Heaven Rocks at Ashburton last Saturday where he paced roughly. “He still could have won that had I asked him to go and he will improve. But it could be the tricky race of the day.” Barrier draws have been very kind to Piccadilly Princess, Elle Mac and Spankem from the All Stars stable so Purdon expects them to perform up to their optimum while he rates President Roydon a chance to upset Enghien in race five for the same reason. “He got very close to him last start and has improved since. I think we can lead and Enghien might have to sit parked so we can test him.” Sitting parked is where the All Stars flying filly Spanish Armada might find herself in the three-year-old Diamond, with her widish draw suggesting she could take a while to get alongside arch rival Delightful Memphis. She has dominated the latter most of the season and the fact she sat parked to crush her NZ Oaks opposition last start suggests Spanish Armada can do so again but it may not be a comfortable watch for punters. “She is very much in the zone and while she didn’t dominate Delightful Memphis and Partyon at trackwork on Monday, she is always a bit like that in her work. “On raceday she seems to go to another level, especially with Natalie driving her.” But Purdon saves his most definitive quote of Jewels day for his pic of his four contenders in the last on the card, for the three-year-old pacing boys. This time last year’s More The Better just held out Ultimate Machete in the two-year-old division but since then the latter has been too strong in races like the Sires’ Stakes Final and Sales Series Pace. Neither horse has had an ideal lead-up to tomorrow because their high ratings made it hard to find suitable races but Purdon was very pleased with how Ultimate Machete worked in private at Addington on Monday. “More The Better is very well and as close as he can be to ready Ultimate Machete just has a bigger motor than him these days and he is our clear best chance in that race.” KING OF THE JEWELS Mark Purdon’s top three hopes 1: Piccadilly Princess: “The draw is perfect and she will lead and she was very impressive working on Monday.” 2: Ultimate Machete: “He also worked well on Monday and I think his motor is too big for the others.” 3: Spankem: “The draw should see him lead and I could see him pacing 1:51 around Ashburton.” by Trots Media - Michael Guerin

If there are racing gods, it appears they take multi bets. Because either that or a remarkable set of coincidences have seen many of the long-term favourites draw almost perfectly for next Saturday's Harness Jewels. And while there is often a twist in the last week heading into the Jewels, there could be as many as seven odds-on favourites at Ashburton’s $1.2million meeting. Of the six odds-on favourites before the draw, all have drawn the front row for their mobile mile assignments, with four of them to start from barrier three or inside. The two others, Enghien (barrier seven in three-year-old Ruby) and Spanish Armada (likely to start from six in the three-year-old Diamond) are not natural gate flyers so are probably better suited drawn wider on the front line. The huge winners from the draws were Piccadilly Princess, who gets the ace in the four-year-old mares’ pace while Spankem will be red hot in the juvenile boys pace from barrier two. Ultimate Machete is perfectly placed at barrier three in the three-year-old male pace while last-start disappointment Elle Mac will be odds-on again from barrier two in the juvenile female pace, especially with key rival Dizzy Miss Lizzy drawn the inside of the second line. That leaves probably two truly open punting contests in the two-year-old and four-year-old trots, where the more favoured runners have had mixed luck with the draws. The hardest horse of the entire meeting to price must have been Heaven Rocks in the four-year-old make pace even though he was always going to be starting from the unruly. While most horses conceding a start to near open class rivals around Ashburton over a mile would have no chance, he is a freakish talent and will still be first pick for many. He was as low as $1.50 in pre-draw markets and remained there but with stablemate Waikiki Beach drawn to try and lead from barrier six expect pressure to come on his $4.20 opening quote. Heaven Rocks will have his final public work at the Ashburton workouts today where he takes on nearly forgotten stablemate More The Better, who heads to the Jewels without a race start in nearly three months. But the most anticipated workout today will be the three and four-year-old trot, where Lemond and long-time Jewels favourite but dramatic last-start failure Marcoola clash in a field that also contains Habibti Inta, Chevron Express and Missandei. Wilma’s Mate will contest a handicap trot head while northern three-year-old trot entrant C K Spur will take on the pacers at tomorrow’s (Saturday) Pukekohe workouts. By Michael Guerin Here are the full fields for the Harness Jewels; Ashburton Trotting Club Inc         Saturday  3  June Radio    Meeting:   HARNESS JEWELS 2017 (Day 1) at Ashburton Raceway Chairperson of Stewards: Nick Ydgren Compressed Report TAB Minibook TAB Booklet Custom Racebook Runner Index Track Map Track Weather Radio Trackside   TAB details (Meeting 8): Doubles - Races 2 & 3; 4 & 5; 6 & 7; 8 & 9 Trebles - Races 1, 2 & 3; 4, 5 & 6; 7, 8 & 9 Terminating Pick6 - Races 4-9 inclusive guaranteed to $100,000 terminating Quaddie - Races 2-5 inclusive with a starting pool of $10,000; 6-9 inclusive First4 - Races 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9 all with a starting pool of $10,000          Race 1 [11:47am] ASHBURTON GUARDIAN 2YO DIAMOND (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 2YO FILLIES, 1609m  Race 2 [12:22pm] NEUMANNS TYRES & THE TYRE GENERAL 2YO RUBY (MOBILE TROT) (Gr1)  $100,000, 2YO, 1609m  Race 3 [12:57pm] WOODLANDS STUD 4YO DIAMOND (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 4YO MARES, 1609m  Race 4 [1:32pm] MID CANTERBURY TROTTING OWNERS ASSN 3YO DIAMOND (MOB PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 3YO FILLIES MOBILE, 1609m  Race 5 [2:07pm] CHRISTCHURCH CASINO 3YO RUBY (MOBILE TROT) (Gr1)  $100,000, 3YO, 1609m  Race 6 [2:42pm] COMMODORE AIRPORT HOTEL 2YO EMERALD (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 2YO COLTS & GELDINGS, 1609m  Race 7 [3:17pm] McMILLAN FEEDS 4YO EMERALD (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 4YO GELDINGS & ENTIRES, 1609m  Race 8 [3:52pm] McMILLAN FEEDS 4YO RUBY (MOBILE TROT) (Gr1)  $100,000, 4YO, 1609m  Race 9 [4:27pm] HANLEY FORMULA 3YO EMERALD (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 3YO COLTS & GELDINGS, 1609m   Race 1 [11:47am] ASHBURTON GUARDIAN 2YO DIAMOND (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 2YO FILLIES, 1609m    Racebook    Gear    Front Line Limit      Race History    Jewels Leader Board   For 2-year-old pacing fillies. Book Form Age Sex     Name   Rating Draw Hdcp Driver Trainer   1 610 2 f     Chevrons Reward   R53 1 Front Gavin Smith P B Burrows   2 11114 2 f     Elle Mac   R85 2 Front Natalie Rasmussen M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   3 623285 2 f     Caitlyn Clarke   MR55 3 Front Zac Butcher B Purdon   4 236558 2 f     A Lister   MR50 4 Front Mark Purdon M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   5 17732 2 f     New York Rain   R61 5 Front Joshua Dickie J W Dickie & J I Dickie   6 04641 2 f     Angel Of Harlem   R55 6 Front   R B Ward   7 210993 2 f     Bettor Joy   R59 7 Front Dexter Dunn C T Dalgety   8 314576 2 f     Purest Silk   R57 8 Front Brent Mangos B M Mangos   9 2327 2 f     Shenandoah   MR54 9 Front Tim Williams M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   ---------------------------- Second Line ---------------------------- 10 151 2 f     Dizzy Miss Lizzy   R68 10 Front Blair Orange N R McGrath   11 112F4 2 f     Lady Chatto   R63 11 Front   T G Butt   12 5331 2 f     Repartee   R54 12 Front Nathan Williamson Mrs K V Price & F J Price   13 21354 2 f     Sweet Mary   R54 13 Front Matthew Williamson B K Mowbray   14 602050 2 f     Reklaw's Gem E1 MR45 U1 Front John Dunn R J Dunn            Notifiable Gear Changes:    No Gear Changes      Horse Movements:    Caitlyn Clarke to Jeff Whittaker at Springston, New York Rain to Bob Butt at Woodend Beach         Race 2 [12:22pm] NEUMANNS TYRES & THE TYRE GENERAL 2YO RUBY (MOBILE TROT) (Gr1)  $100,000, 2YO, 1609m    Racebook    Gear    Front Line Limit      Race History    Jewels Leader Board   For 2-year-old trotters. Book Form Age Sex     Name   Rating Draw Hdcp Driver Trainer   1 323P0 2 c     Majestic Hurricane E1 MR51 1 Front Blair Orange K & T Barron   2 12 2 g     Springbank Lachie   R60 2 Front   P M Williamson   3 110360 2 g     Sundees Son   R56 3 Front John Dunn R J Dunn   4 12 2 f     Aoraki   R56 4 Front Ricky May G P & Mrs N M Hope   5 31 2 g     Majestic Connies   R54 5 Front   P M Williamson   6 450670 2 g     Imperial Whiz   MR44 6 Front Alan Clark A L Clark   7 1121D5 2 g     Paramount King   R56 7 Front Joshua Dickie J W Dickie & J I Dickie   8 722552 2 g     BJ Lindenny   MR52 8 Front   D J Bennett   9 41 2 g     Marquis De Sade   R52 9 Front David Butt P C Nairn   ---------------------------- Second Line ---------------------------- 10 143410 2 c     One Muscle Hill   R63 10 Front Mark Purdon Mrs N C Molander   11 811827 2 g     Castlereagh   R56 11 Front Samantha Ottley M P Jones   12 46314 2 f     Renezmae   R55 12 Front Dexter Dunn J D Harrington   13 321223 2 g     More Shades Of Gold   R56 13 Front Todd Mitchell D W & Mrs C McGowan   14 1011 2 g     Majestic Man   R65 U1 Front   P M Williamson            Notifiable Gear Changes:    No Gear Changes      Horse Movements:    Paramount King to Bob Butt at Woodend Beach, One Muscle Hill to Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen at Rolleston, More Shades Of Gold to Brad Mowbray at Russley         Race 3 [12:57pm] WOODLANDS STUD 4YO DIAMOND (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 4YO MARES, 1609m    Racebook    Gear    Front Line Limit      Race History    Jewels Leader Board   For 4-year-old pacing mares. Book Form Age Sex     Name   Rating Draw Hdcp Driver Trainer   1 126452 4 m     Piccadilly Princess   R120 1 Front Mark Purdon M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   2 775490 4 m     Cullen Who   R75 2 Front Ken Barron K & T Barron   3 132452 4 m     Hopes And Dreams E1 R70 3 Front   G J Anderson   4 121380 4 m     Hard Days Night   R56 4 Front Kimberly Butt(J) Mrs L M Jones   5 240088 4 m     Bronze Over   R88 5 Front Bob Butt R J Butt   6 660565 4 m     Arden's Choice   R96 6 Front Zac Butcher B Purdon   7 572352 4 m     Queen Bee Bardon   R67 7 Front Craig Thornley B A Waldron   8 136416 4 m     Ultimate Desire   R81 8 Front Dexter Dunn B K Mowbray   9 253000 4 m     Cmeerock   R68 9 Front Tim Williams R J Dunn   ---------------------------- Second Line ---------------------------- 10 911652 4 m     RR Sand Dollar   R74 10 Front Blair Orange P T Court   11 259320 4 m     Glenferrie Classic   R75 11 Front Samantha Ottley M P Jones   12 12P101 4 m     Rocknroll Princess   R73 12 Front David Butcher S G Telfer & C D Garlick   13 122177 4 m     Kayteeoh Denario   R68 13 Front   R W Todd   14 802098 4 m     Hopeful Harriet   R64 14 Front   R W Todd            Notifiable Gear Changes:    No Gear Changes      Horse Movements:    Arden's Choice to Jeff Whittaker at Springston, Rocknroll Princess to Robert Dunn at Woodend Beach         Race 4 [1:32pm] MID CANTERBURY TROTTING OWNERS ASSN 3YO DIAMOND (MOB PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 3YO FILLIES MOBILE, 1609m    Racebook    Gear    Front Line Limit      Race History    Jewels Leader Board   For 3-year-old pacing fillies. Book Form Age Sex     Name   Rating Draw Hdcp Driver Trainer   1 211222 3 f     Delightful Memphis   R101 1 Front   M P Jones   2 222116 3 f     Patanjali E1 R64 2 Front Stephen McNally T S & Mrs G S Chmiel   3 121557 3 f     Juice Brogden   R68 3 Front Nicky Chilcott Miss N A Chilcott   4 6X5302 3 f     Major Rocket   R62 4 Front   C T Dalgety   5 321611 3 f     Gotta Go Dali Queen   R84 5 Front Maurice McKendry F D Cooney & T R Hopkins   6 691149 3 f     Delishka   R71 6 Front Matthew Williamson B K Mowbray   7 131411 3 f     Spanish Armada   R110 7 Front Natalie Rasmussen M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   8 231376 3 f     Seaswift Joy   R88 8 Front Jim Curtin M I Shinn   9 35X363 3 f     Utmost Delight   R69 9 Front Zac Butcher S J Reid   ---------------------------- Second Line ---------------------------- 10 317458 3 f     Step Up   R65 10 Front David Butcher S G Telfer & C D Garlick   11 533485 3 f     American Empress   R62 11 Front Sailesh Abernethy J M Young   12 115144 3 f     Partyon   R110 12 Front Mark Purdon M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   13 111122 3 f     Bonnie Joan   R98 13 Front   C T Dalgety   14 334110 3 f     Shezza GNP   R73 14 Front   K & T Barron            Notifiable Gear Changes:    No Gear Changes      Horse Movements:    Juice Brogden to David & Catherine Butt at Woodend Beach, Utmost Delight to Paul Court at West Melton, Step Up to Robert Dunn at Woodend Beach, American Empress to Steven McRae at West Melton         Race 5 [2:07pm] CHRISTCHURCH CASINO 3YO RUBY (MOBILE TROT) (Gr1)  $100,000, 3YO, 1609m    Racebook    Gear    Front Line Limit      Race History    Jewels Leader Board   For 3-year-old trotters. Book Form Age Sex     Name   Rating Draw Hdcp Driver Trainer   1 213975 3 c     War Machine   R58 1 Front Derek Balle D M Balle   2 732242 3 g     President Roydon   R62 2 Front   M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   3 921132 3 f     Chevron Express   R82 3 Front   C T Dalgety   4 480131 3 f     Ruthless Kayla   R60 4 Front Samantha Ottley K T Fairbairn   5 121543 3 g     C K Spur   R74 5 Front Joshua Dickie J W Dickie & J I Dickie   6 218690 3 f     Regal Love   R60 6 Front   M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   7 111111 3 g     Enghien   R110 7 Front Ricky May G P & Mrs N M Hope   8 51D 3 f     Kissmeimloaded   R58 8 Front Jack MacKinnon(J) J A MacKinnon   9 284310 3 g     War Spirit   R56 9 Front   K D Townley   ---------------------------- Second Line ---------------------------- 10 153551 3 g     BD Khaosan   R58 10 Front Jonny Cox T D Bagrie   11 909272 3 c     Habibi Inta   R66 11 Front Blair Orange P C Nairn   12 354642 3 f     Needle   R70 12 Front Colin DeFilippi C J & J DeFilippi   13 528202 3 g     Muscles Galore   R52 13 Front John Dunn C D & Miss A D Edmonds   14 333201 3 f     One Bid Buys E1 R55 14 Front Megan Teaz J L & Mrs M A Teaz            Notifiable Gear Changes:    No Gear Changes      Horse Movements:    War Machine to David & Catherine Butt at Woodend Beach, Kissmeimloaded to Robert Dunn at Woodend Beach         Race 6 [2:42pm] COMMODORE AIRPORT HOTEL 2YO EMERALD (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 2YO COLTS & GELDINGS, 1609m    Racebook    Gear    Front Line Limit      Race History    Jewels Leader Board   For 2-year-old pacing colts & geldings. Book Form Age Sex     Name   Rating Draw Hdcp Driver Trainer   1 204 2 g     Bright Diamond   MR50 1 Front Gavin Smith G D Smith   2 211131 2 c     Spankem   R85 2 Front Mark Purdon M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   3 208X 2 c     Royal Tribute   MR49 3 Front   P T Court   4 8478 2 g     Bailey Major   MR48 4 Front Tim Williams M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   5 310 2 c     Star Commander   R54 5 Front   N R McGrath   6 42 2 c     Liberal Arden E1 MR51 6 Front   T S & Mrs G S Chmiel   7 13327 2 g     The Black Prince   R57 7 Front Todd Macfarlane T A Macfarlane   8 42148 2 c     Aloka   R62 8 Front Blair Orange N R McGrath   9 131124 2 c     Alta Maestro   R85 9 Front   R J Dunn   ---------------------------- Second Line ---------------------------- 10 128512 2 g     Ashley Locaz   R60 10 Front   M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   11 142362 2 c     Culpeka   R59 11 Front Brent Mangos B M Mangos   12 33633 2 c     Fizzing   MR52 12 Front   C T Dalgety   13 292355 2 c     All U Need Is Faith   R59 13 Front   M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   14 651213 2 c     The Devils Own   R75 14 Front Natalie Rasmussen M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen            Notifiable Gear Changes:    Royal Tribute: BL-Off    Legend      Horse Movements:    The Black Prince to Jamie Gameson at Burnham         Race 7 [3:17pm] McMILLAN FEEDS 4YO EMERALD (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 4YO GELDINGS & ENTIRES, 1609m    Racebook    Gear    Front Line Limit      Race History    Jewels Leader Board   For 4-year-old pacing geldings & entires. Book Form Age Sex     Name   Rating Draw Hdcp Driver Trainer   1 306630 4 g     Don Domingo   R69 1 Front Blair Orange K & T Barron   2 1015X3 4 g     Mr Mojito   R107 2 Front Kerryn Manning Ms K E Manning   3 742212 4 g     Bettor Ops   R86 3 Front Kirk Larsen K N Larsen   4 617345 4 g     Eldolar   R72 4 Front Scott Phelan Miss A M Donnelly   5 869141 4 g     Buster Brady   R105 5 Front Dexter Dunn K J Austin   6 442223 4 g     Waikiki Beach   R128 6 Front   M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   7 254157 4 h     Ears Burning   R96 7 Front Nigel McGrath N R McGrath   8 222203 4 g     Mo Casino   R69 8 Front Zac Butcher S J Reid   9 512116 4 g     Cash N Flow   R100 9 Front Tim Williams M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   ---------------------------- Second Line ---------------------------- 10 213352 4 g     Sparkling Delight   R73 10 Front Gerard O'Reilly G D O'Reilly   11 723423 4 g     Crackamoa   R67 11 Front John Dunn R J Dunn   12 414516 4 h     Max Phactor   R82 12 Front David Butcher M G Berger   13 341019 4 g     Mighty American E1 R70 13 Front   K & T Barron   14 P11211 4 g     Heaven Rocks   R120 U1 Front Natalie Rasmussen M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen            Notifiable Gear Changes:    Mr Mojito: BL-On    Legend      Horse Movements:    Buster Brady to Regan Todd at Woodend Beach         Race 8 [3:52pm] McMILLAN FEEDS 4YO RUBY (MOBILE TROT) (Gr1)  $100,000, 4YO, 1609m    Racebook    Gear    Front Line Limit      Race History    Jewels Leader Board   For 4-year-old trotters. Book Form Age Sex     Name   Rating Draw Hdcp Driver Trainer   1 420429 4 m     Wilma's Mate   R104 1 Front David Butt P C Nairn   2 901524 4 g     Trouble Giero E1 R62 2 Front Stephen McNally B J White   3 213101 4 g     Gentleman Sir   R80 3 Front David Butcher L C Driver   4 1P1011 4 m     Dark Horse   R89 4 Front Nathan Williamson N P Williamson   5 062223 4 m     Sundons Flyer   R67 5 Front Blair Orange B R Negus   6 902121 4 g     McLovin   R71 6 Front Amber Lethaby R H Jenkins   7 4157X0 4 h     Marcoola   R115 7 Front Clint Ford K B Ford   8 212416 4 g     Temporale   R102 8 Front Tony Herlihy A G Herlihy MNZM   9 015836 4 g     Justamollyarcher   R55 9 Front Sheree Tomlinson(J) R H Jenkins   ---------------------------- Second Line ---------------------------- 10 312664 4 g     Lemond   R89 10 Front Colin DeFilippi R O Paynter   11 972145 4 g     Beg Hall   R61 11 Front Kimberly Butt(J) T G Butt   12 502851 4 m     Missandei   R82 12 Front Samantha Ottley B R Negus   13 565411 4 g     Eagle Galleon   R53 13 Front Dexter Dunn R E Wilson   14 741103 4 g     Red Hot Poker   R60 14 Front John Dunn G C Telfer            Notifiable Gear Changes:    No Gear Changes      Horse Movements:    McLovin to Mark Jones at Burnham, Temporale to Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen at Rolleston, Lemond to Colin & Julie DeFilippi at Broadfield         Race 9 [4:27pm] HANLEY FORMULA 3YO EMERALD (MOBILE PACE) (Gr1)  $150,000, 3YO COLTS & GELDINGS, 1609m    Racebook    Gear    Front Line Limit      Race History    Jewels Leader Board   For 3-year-old pacing colts & geldings. Book Form Age Sex     Name   Rating Draw Hdcp Driver Trainer   1 833352 3 g     Rhythm N Blues   R71 1 Front David Butcher S G Telfer & C D Garlick   2 502236 3 c     Mongolian Storm   R76 2 Front   P T Court   3 132212 3 c     Ultimate Machete   R110 3 Front   M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   4 181X21 3 g     Thefixer   R85 4 Front   M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   5 232125 3 c     More The Better   R102 5 Front Mark Purdon M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   6 869716 3 g     Jack's Legend   R83 6 Front Barry Purdon B Purdon   7 111167 3 g     Let It Ride   R84 7 Front Craig Thornley T G Butt   8 215123 3 g     Forgotten Highway   R80 8 Front Nathan Williamson M P Kerr   9 113312 3 g     Eamon Maguire   R100 9 Front Dexter Dunn G J Anderson   ---------------------------- Second Line ---------------------------- 10 591101 3 c     Mongolian Hero   R91 10 Front   P T Court   11 622294 3 g     A G's White Socks E1 R77 11 Front Ricky May G P & Mrs N M Hope   12 121400 3 g     Tiger Thompson   R73 12 Front Jim Curtin B K Mowbray   13 809811 3 c     Stars Align   R95 13 Front   M Purdon & Ms N C Rasmussen   14 184224 3 g     Shineonucrazydiamond   R72 14 Front Nathan Purdon(J) C T Dalgety            Notifiable Gear Changes:    No Gear Changes      Horse Movements:    Jack's Legend to Jeff Whittaker at Springston

Dexter Dunn is ready to declare war on the All Stars in the two richest races at Addington tonight - but only one of them by choice. Dunn pilots both Alta Maestro in the $170,000 Sires' Stakes Final and Bonnie Joan in the $150,000 NZ Oaks and is adamant he will be leading and not handing up to his favoured Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained rivals. And if that means he goes down fighting, so be it says Dunn. "I think if I hand up to either Spankem [Sires' Stakes] or Spanish Armada [Oaks] I am probably conceding defeat," Dunn told the Herald. "They are both good front runners with gate speed so I might as well use that advantage. "So the plan is definitely to stay in front of both and I think they can both win, even though the All Stars are very hard to beat at the premiers," he said. Dunn says his tactics on Bonnie Joan are borne out of confidence gained in recent weeks, whereas with Alta Maestro the big colt probably gets the final say. "I am not sure I could hand up on him," admits Dunn. "He is a hard-charging horse and I don't really see him as a horse I could hand up on. He will get to the front and keep rolling and he rated 1:52.4 for the 1950m last week so I don't think he will need to go a lot quicker. "It probably just depends what sort of run Spankem gets whether he can beat us or not." Spankem has looked the best of the juvenile crop but not by much and if he has to come from further back than the one-one to run down Alta Maestro it will be a huge challenge. The Devil's Own looks the only other serious winning chance. The Oaks has a two-horse war look to it after the scratching of Delightful Memphis, with Spanish Armada clearly superior in the Nevele R Final last Friday but Bonnie Joan outstanding in second. Tonight Bonnie Joan looks a certain leader which suggests Spanish Armada will have to sit parked outside her to win, a place very few Oaks are won from. With NSW and Northern Oaks winner Partyon underperforming last Friday, punters could easily make a small percentage profit by backing both Spanish Armada (book) and Bonnie Joan (tote) as it's hard to imagine that one of the two won't win. On a stellar night of harness racing, Enghien looks the best multi anchor, albeit adding only 20 per cent to your dividend. One Muscle Hill is starting to get his manners right so appeals in the juvenile trot where the value comes in the form of the little pro Renezmae and talented but erratic Majestic Man. Even a bad draw shouldn't stop Elle Mac in the $150,000 Fillies Sales Series while the race of the night might be the main trot, with four serious four-year-old Jewels contenders up against the find of the season in Habibti Ivy. The All Stars favour Cash N Flow over Waikiki Beach in the Winter Cup, while Let It Ride is the one to beat in the Sires' Stakes Sophomore. Michael Guerin Friday night fancies • Multi Anchor: Enghien (Addington, R3) Manners are spot on and should add 20 per cent to your multi bet. • Going places: Cash N Flow (Addington, R6): Beat The Orange Agent two starts ago so can down open classers again. • Manners: Majestic Man (Addington, R5): Can do things wrong but might have the biggest motor in this field. - NZ Herald Read more by Michael Guerin  Email Michael Guerin

The trots' newly-crowned 'Mr 6000' says Kiwi mare The Orange Agent can test Aussie pacing superstar Lennytheshark given the chance. But first Victorian horseman Chris Alford and The Orange Agent will need to justify red hot favouritism in the final leg of the Triple Mares Crown at Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday. The Orange Agent has bolted away with the first two legs of the Victorian crown and will be red hot for the final, the $100,000 Queen Of The Pacific, even after drawing the second line. She remained unbeaten in Australia at Melton last Friday night and Alford says the ease of the win was almost embarrassing. “She just cruised up to them down the back straight and at the 400m she actually got in a bad mood with me and threw her head in the air because I wouldn’t let her run past them,” says Alford. “She is a very, very good mare and over 2760m this week she should be even better.” Alford became the first Australasian trots driver to record 6000 career wins at Melton on Monday night, capping a remarkable last 18 months in which he has won the Inter Dominion, Victoria Cup and Miracle Mile, all with Lennytheshark. That last win, over a Kiwi trio of Smolda, Lazarus and Our Waikiki Beach, had many Australians suggesting Lennytheshark is the actual king of Australasian pacing, even though Lazarus’s body of work this season is clearly stronger. But his recent drives on The Orange Agent put Alford in a unique position to judge the mare against Lenny and he says a potential clash in the Len Smith Mile in Sydney next month would be interesting. “Lenny is a champion and I’d have to say the best horse I have driven now,” says Alford, who turns 50 this week. “But this mare is flying and if she sat on Lenny’s back she would run him close. I am not saying she would run past him because not many horses can do that.” Managing owner John Green says the Len Smith Mile clash is definitely on should The Orange Agent come through this Saturday well. “That is the plan. A $30,000 mares lead-up race at Menangle then the Len Smith Mile, with Tony (Herlihy) being offered the drive since Chris will be driving Lenny,” says Green. And The Orange Agent has already proven she can beat pacing’s big boys, having downed Smolda and Have Faith In Me at Alexandra Park in March as part of a stellar comeback after 14 months on the sidelines with injury. While The Orange Agent appears to have the triple crown at her mercy the Australian campaign for fellow Kiwi mare Our Golden Goddess has proved a disaster. Not only did she drop out behind The Orange Agent last Friday but she was found to be off colour after the race and will now miss this Saturday as well as the Harness Jewels for which she was second favourite for the four-year-old Diamond. Also missing from the Jewels will be northern Group 1 winner Mach Shard, who trainer Barry Purdon has put aside for the season after a dull performance at Addington last Friday. “I think a spell is the best thing for him so he will come back an be aimed at the Sires’ Stakes,” said Purdon. Many Jewels contenders will have their final warm ups at Addington on Friday, with the track’s second strongest meeting of the year after Cup week. Bonnie Joan has been the big winner in the draw for the NZ Oaks, looking the likely leader while Spanish Armada faces a second line marble and Partyon the outside of the front line. Alta Maestro and Spankem draw alongside each other in the Sires’ Stakes two-year-old final while many of the country’s best young trotters meet in two and three-year-old features and the Winter Cup gives Jewels favourite Piccadilly Princess her last chance to qualify for the June 3 extravaganza. And the main trot sees Marcoola return against fellow four-year-olds Lemond, Wilma’s Mate and Rowe Cup winner Temporale. by Michael Guerin Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 20 May 2017 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 20 May 2017

New Zealand’s greatest trotter will try to emulate Australia’s champion galloper Winx. Which means you might see less of Monbet than you expect next season, but he will be around for a lot longer. Monbet hasn’t raced since setting a national record winning the Dominion at Addington in November, with an operation to remove bone chips soon after ruining his season. Remarkably those three starts alone will almost certainly see him win NZ Trotter of the Year again at the national awards come July, especially as two of his wins were at group one level and the other at group three. Monbet’s record in the last two season is jaw-dropping, having won 14 of his last 15 starts, 12 of those at group level, with his sole defeat coming when he galloped in a race at Melton. The winner of $770,714 he only has to stay sound to become a rarity in this part of the world -- a trotting millionaire. And trainer Greg Hope has a plan how he is going to achieve that. Hope and wife Nina welcomed Monbet back into work last week and couldn’t be happier with the sleek son of French stallion Love You. “He looks great and all the vet reports are telling us the right things,” said Hope. “He ended up having two chips taken out of his knee but the joints are really healthy and we have had x-rays and a lot of tests on that area done. “He looks big and strong so it is back to work now.” But back to work won’t mean a huge workload as the Hopes are thinking quality, not quantity, with the rising six-year-old. “I’d like to think we could have him for another two, maybe three seasons at least,” he says of the gelding. “But I don’t want to over-race him and he doesn’t need to be in every dogfight. “So he might only have six or eight starts a season from now on. “You see that with a lot of the really good gallopers, like Winx, they are set for the best races and don’t have long campaigns. “And he is the sort of horse who could do that too because he comes to hand quite quickly. “So he might not even race until the Cup carnival at Addington, have two runs there and then head to Auckland at Christmas.” That would suggest four races, five at most, for Monbet this year all going well while the second half of next season could be restricted to focussing on the NZ Trot Champs, Anzac Cup and Rowe Cup. The question would be whether the Hopes wanted to add in a one-race Australian campaign aimed at the revamped Great Southern Star, which is now a one-off race at Melton. That would be a far easier work rate then the usual open class trotter, who are often the ironhorses of racing and can easily top 20 starts for the season. This season alone Monbet’s group one-winning stablemate Quite A Moment had 16 starts, while another group one winning mare Sunny Ruby had 22. And open class journeyman Valmagne has had 31 starts this term with more to come. The return of Monbet and his also injured arch rival Speeding Spur up against a talented four-year-old crop headed by Marcoola, Temporale, Lemond and Wilma’s Mate would see some real depth to the elite trotting ranks next season. Meanwhile, the Hopes are thrilled with how three-year-old Enghien has returned from his Northern Derby winning campaign and say he is thriving as he aims at four more major races this season. “The trip away has been great for him and he will go to the Sales Series at Addington next week before the Jewels. “And he will keep going for the Victoria Derby and Breeders Crown in Australia". by Michael Guerin in NZ

Driving freak Dexter Dunn has three glaring omissions from his New Zealand trophy cabinet - he is hoping by Saturday that is down to two. Dunn's emergence in the harness racing world has been the most remarkable in the history of the sport in Australasia. Just 10 years ago he was the skinny son of trainer Robert Dunn who had driven seven winners in his first season in the sulky. In the nine seasons since, he has won the national premiership every year and is closing in on becoming only the fifth New Zealand reinsman to drive 2000 domestic winners, as he sits on 1942 career wins. Add to that a hugely successful Australian career including Miracle Mile, Victoria and Hunter Cups and Dunn is nearing $25 million in career stakes, with every record in the book his to own one day. The icing on the cake: he won the World Drivers' Championship in Australia two years ago. And while they are a bit of a novelty, he won it with embarrassing domination. But as special as Dunn is, being a great driver alone isn't enough to secure you wins in the domestic big four - the New Zealand and Auckland Cups of pacing and the Dominion and Rowe Cups of trotting. For all the glamour of derbies (Dunn added the Northern classic last month) the big four are still our hardest races to win and Dunn has a sole Auckland Cup on Christen Me to his credit, with placings in the other three. "Those big races are hard to win because a lot of those drivers stick with those horses for years," said Dunn. "And they are hard to get on. Especially with the trotters." Dunn believes Bordeaux can change that in tomorrow's Rowe Cup, the $150,000 highlight of a stacked Alexandra Park premier meeting. He was a gigantic sixth in the Anzac Cup last Friday after sitting three wide for the last 1400m in his first start in four months. "Philip [Iggo, trainer] had a few problems with him which meant he hasn't been able to get the racing into him," explains Dunn. "He went all the way to Invercargill for a race but was tied up badly when he got there and had to be scratched. "And then he had problems with greasy heal so to come out and go as big as he did last week without any lead up races tells me he can win this Friday. "Obviously it won't be easy and Habibti Ivy looks like she has taken the next step and there are some tough trotters in there but he gets his chance with no Monbet or Speeding Spur around." Bordeaux free-rolling in front set up Monbet's national record Dominion win last November and Dunn says he will look to go forward from his front line draw tomorrow and make those back in the field work - the ideal Alexandra Park premier night recipe. The TAB bookies have opened Bordeaux, who was second to Quite A Moment in the group one National Trot on the track in December, as the $6 second favourite behind $4.20 top elect Habibti Ivy. But if the $6 sounds short, it is a windfall compared with Lazarus, who has opened at what must surely be a New Zealand group one record lowest quote, a $1.02 favourite for tomorrow's Messenger Pace. After drawing the ace, he looks certain to lead throughout in his final race of the season. Enghien is long odds on to win the Trotting Derby but the group one juvenile fillies pace has been evened up by unbeaten favourite Elle Mac drawing the second line. Alexandra Park's group one races tomorrow night: ●$150,000 Canam Rowe Cup (open trotters). ●$100,000 Dawson Harford Messenger Pace (4-y-o pacers). ●$150,000 Magness Benrow Sires' Final (2-y-o pacing fillies). ●$80,000 Breckon Farms Derby (3-y-o trotters). - NZ Herald Read more by Michael Guerin 

Absence, we are reliably informed, makes the heart go fonder. Unfortunately, it can also make you irrelevant, which is what many of harness racing’s best horses are going to be for the next six to eight months. Just days after a blistering Miracle Mile at Menangle saw Lennytheshark down Smolda and Lazarus in front of over 10,000 people, the party is over. At a time when punters may have watched and thought the gladiators of pacing were a competitive antidote to the amazing but rather repetitive domination of galloping great Winx, we now won’t see them all together again until next season. For those who haven’t been paying attention, the harness racing season reached its crescendo in the $750,000 Miracle Mile on the outskirts of Sydney on February 25. The race lived up to its 50th birthday party, with a dazzling early section followed by home straight drama, with four different horses looking the winner. It was racing at his best and even those who look down the noses at harness racing, the laid-back cousin to the hyperbole of the galloping industry, had to admit it was pretty special. But the problem is after their first real meeting for the season, the big guns of harness racing now all get aimed at different targets. Or nothing at all. Harness horses are stronger and more durable than their galloping relatives and should race more often. But it seems they don’t these days. Well, not against each other any way. Changes in the racing calendar mean what used to be the season-ending finale of the Inter Dominions now starts in November, when younger superstars like Lazarus aren’t mature enough to race four times in a fortnight. And it also comes straight after the iconic New Zealand Cup. Being in Perth, it attracts half the pacing elite, maybe a few more. Then the big-time horses get set for the Summer of Glory carnival in Victoria, where we should see them go to war in the Ballarat, Victoria and Hunter Cups. But we don’t. Their trainers pick and choose, with the difference in stake money not overly great, and we never got to see the best clash with each other because they don’t have to, the incentive is not there. So by the time we got to the season’s zenith at Menangle, the absolute stars of the game – Lazarus, Lennytheshark, Smolda, Hectorjayjay, Waikiki Beach and Bling It On – had never been in the same race. In fact, there hadn’t been one race all season in which more than three of them started. So as wonderful as the Miracle Mile was, it was like round one of the footy finals being followed by no more footy. Some of the big names will press on deeper into the season but they will only rarely race each other, instead picking off the low-hanging fruit on the country cups circuit or in age group racing. And harness racing loses a golden opportunity. Because the horses are tougher and handle travel better, they should be racing each other at least five, maybe even eight times a year. That would give the industry some momentum, some name recognition for the media, and a point of difference from the sometimes-protected world of big-galloping action, where stud careers can outweigh racetrack value. Ironically, because Winx is a mare and arch rival Hartnell a gelding, we get to see them clash up to six times a season. Australian harness racing actually has a thing called the Grand Circuit, which is supposed to bring these horses together all over the country but it simply doesn’t work. The main reason is money. The Inter Dominion is $1.1 million, the Miracle Mile $750,000 and the New Zealand Cup $NZ800,000. So they are the be-all, end-all targets to the point where the $500,000 of the Hunter Cup can sometimes be canablised by the $400,000 Victoria Cup a week earlier. They are simply too interchangeable. And Australian officials fear the AFL and NRL so much, they try and squeeze their entire feature-race season into just over four months, meaning the elite horses can’t and don’t fit it all in. This, sadly, leaves eight months in which the stars never come out at the same time. In the modern world, where attention spans are measured in download speeds, harness racing’s elite needs to race each other more often and for longer. Because absence makes the heart grow fonder for a while. Then people, particularly punters, just move on. By Michael Guerin    

If Lazarus is to cap one of the great summers in New Zealand harness racing history, he is going to have to do it the hard way. That is the reality of tonight's A$750,000 Miracle Mile, the centrepiece of a stunning night at Menangle where Kiwi horses are favoured to win five group ones inside 140 minutes. The meeting is the strongest held at Menangle since it opened in 2008 but good as the support card is, the Miracle Mile is the race people will remember, especially if Lazarus wins. After his New Zealand Cup demolition job, a similar display in the Victoria Cup and bullying wins in the NZ Free-For-All, Chariots of Fire and Ashburton Flying Stakes, if Lazarus wins tonight his body of work sits alongside the golden summers of Christian Cullen, Christopher Vance and Chokin. But first he has to win and to do that he may need to add a new string to his bow. Lazarus is at his most crushing when able to lead and run consistently searing sectionals which deter challengers before rolling into a quick last 800m. But there is next to no chance of him leading tonight and trainer-driver Mark Purdon admits that if a fast tempo allows him to drive the champ sit-sprint something special could unfold. "I have never really had the chance to drive him cold before and I think he might love it," said Purdon. "I am pretty sure Hectorjayjay will lead and if he tries to go slow then I might have to come sit parked. "But if the pressure is on and we follow the right horse into the race, then he might come out and really sprint." With Lazarus likely to settle midfield at best in a race where swooping victories are rare, those who take the short odds tonight could be in for some uncomfortable times. But he is still the best horse in the race and Purdon believes having a week off from racing has helped bring both him and stablemate Our Waikiki Beach on. "They sprinted up together well on Thursday morning and I am sure they will both be better than in the Chariots two week ago." Purdon has already had one win going into tonight's meeting, where he trains all five New Zealand favourites. Auckland Cup winner Our Dream About Me, who has struggled with corns, passed a NSW stewards-ordered vet check yesterday and is almost certain to start in the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile. "She had a small corns issue and we have been working hard to get her to the race. "She hasn't missed any real work but it is going to be tough for her without a lead-up race and while she is a great mare, Piccadilly Princess has to be at least as good a chance now." Purdon favours Vincent from the ace draw over stablemates Ultimate Machete and Motu Meteor in tonight's NSW Derby, while Partyon's inside second line draw in the NSW Oaks may not be as bad as it looks. She follows out a fast beginner in Takara Truffle and may be able to get a tactical advantage over arch-rival Petacular. The night's other Group One pace looks the trickiest for the Kiwis, with Have Faith In Me and Chase The Dream both coming off hard summers into an even free-for-all tonight. - NZ Herald Read more by Michael Guerin  Email Michael Guerin

Hopes of finding missing harness racing horseman Shane Hayes alive are sadly fading. The popular 53-year-old who spent much of his adult life training and driving out of Kumeu, NZ, has been missing at sea since February 10. Family friend and spokesman Peter Smith said Hayes took his boat out over the Mangawhai Heads, north of Auckland, to test it for an upcoming fishing competition and has not been seen since. “There are a lot of people searching for him and we even have helicopters and a crop dusting plane from a local farmer involved,” said Smith. “But the family are realistic now. They are holding on to hope but everybody realises we may not see Shane again. “It is terribly sad but it may be a case of searching for a body now.” Hayes, who is married to Laureen and has two children, Harry and Jackie, is best known for his association with talented trotter Chiola Cola in the late 1990s. Along with his father Don they trained the giant trotter to win 17 races and he even campaigned in Scandinavia alongside champion mare Pride Of Petite. The Hayes were rarely without a good horse and had their share of success with pacers but were best known for their trotters through their association at stud with Great Evander. Shane moved out of harness racing full-time when the family moved from Kumeu a decade ago but still dabbled. He is an immensely popular figure in northern harness racing, a big man with a big smile and engaging conversationist. A Givealittle page has been set up to help fund the search for Shane and support the family through this tough time. by Michael Guerin

Lost: The real Have Faith In Me.  If found, please return to Menangle in time for next week’s $750,000 Miracle Mile. That is the strange story of the defending Miracle Mile champion and Australasian mile record holder as he returns tomorrow night to Menangle, where he is unbeaten. If last year’s version of Have Faith In Me turned up in the $100,000 Canadian Club Sprint tomorrow night there would be plenty of punters willing to bet he could down Lennytheshark and Bling It On. After all, he came from behind Lennytheshark to down him in last season’s Miracle Mile in 1:47.5, still the fastest mile ever paced in the Southern Hemisphere. Bizarrely he has only won one moderate race since, struggling to find his best form in New Zealand and Victoria and more often than not racing erratically. Exhaustive vet tests have found a kidney abnormality which nobody knows how to fix, leaving trainer Mark Purdon with little option but to keep racing him. "It has been a strange season with him,” says Purdon. “He wasn’t himself at the start of the season and even though we now know why he hasn’t come right back to his best. “He is good enough to still be racing but can he make it back to what he was this time last season in time for the Miracle Mile? I doubt it, to be honest.” The other problem facing Have Faith In Me is his poor manners in recent starts have seen him placed out of the draw behind the mobile, meaning he will have to give the Hunter Cup trifecta of Bling It On, Yayas Hot Spot and Lennytheshark a start over the mile. “It is not going to be easy because he has to be put in the race. “He has to run top two to be guaranteed his Miracle Mile spot but as the defending champion we are hoping he can sneak in even if he only finishes third or fourth.” Purdon is more confident with Inter Dominion champion Smolda in tomorrow night’s other Miracle Mile prelude, but says it will be hard to catch Hectorjayjay. “He was a bit tired after his below par run in the Hunter Cup but his work on Tuesday morning was better. “But it stacks up as a tricky race and if he can finished top two or three and qualify then I’ll be happy.” Purdon does have four hot favourites and a second favourite at tomorrow night’s meeting, with the TAB opening a market on how may races he will win, up to three wins being the favoured option at $2.40. MICHAEL GUERIN | @GuerinSports 

Just days after one of the richest wins of his harness racing career Luke McCarthy has been handed a surprise Chariots Of Fire drive. The master of Menangle will pilot New Zealand pacer Chase The Dream in the $200,000 Group 1 on Saturday night for trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. The Kiwi pair have three in the race, with Purdon obviously sticking with $1.45 TAB favourite Lazarus and Rasmussen choosing to drive Our Waikiki Beach, even after his slower than expected start to the season. That means McCarthy, who reined Bling It On to win the $500,000 Hunter Cup at Melton last Saturday, gets the bonus drive on Chase The Dream. The muscly little pacer has been impressive winning both his Menangle starts but has drifted to $21 in the markets after drawing wide. But McCarthy is a boost to his chances as Menangle’s pre-eminent drivers of group one since the track’s opening almost a decade ago. “Luke has driven a lot for us in the past so to get him on Chase The Dream is a real bonus,” said Purdon. Purdon was also pleased with Lazarus’s barrier of four but warned punters it may not be the fancied scenario of a hot favourite jumping to the lead. “There looks to be a lot of speed there but from the draw we have options,” said Purdon. “He has gate speed, as we saw in the Victoria Cup, but we don’t need to make any firm plans yet. “I can see it being a 1:50 mile, even quicker so even our other two being drawn out wide doesn’t bother me too much.” Purdon was still pleased with Lazarus’s win in the $100,000 Bonanza at Melton on Saturday even though it wasn’t as dramatic as his Victoria Cup demolition job a week earlier. “They ran a fast last half (800m) and his class came to the fore but he isn’t going to win by a big margin every time. Meanwhile, the stable has taken a cautious approach with champion mare Dream About Me, nominal favourite for the $200,000 Ladyship Mile on February 25. Last season’s NSW Oaks winner was scratched from the Brian Hancock Cup last Friday with a minor virus and is not entered for Menangle on Saturday. “I didn’t want to enter and then not be entirely happy with her later in the week so she can have her lead-up race to the Ladyship next week instead.” MICHAEL GUERIN | @GuerinSports

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