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Harness racing driver Blair Orange now holds an almost impenetrable grip on the New Zealand drivers premiership after winning another five races at Manawatu yesterday.  Orange was 31 wins clear of his nearest rival Dexter Dunn before yesterdays Manawatu domination but has now raced to 172 wins for the season, 36 wins ahead of Dunn who won last years drivers premiership for a record 10th year in a row.  Yesterdays Manawaru meeting once again proved a lucrative one for trainer Michael House, who won six races, had three seconds and also had a third on the 10 race programme. House has moved into third place on the trainers premiership with 40 wins for the season and remarkably 30 of those wins have come courtesy of wins at Manawatu Raceway. Orange and House will look to dominate again on the second day of the Manawau two day meeting with most of the House winners nominated to back up again tomorrow night. Trainers Premiership table Name Starts Wins  2nds 3rds Stakes UDR Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen 276 85 58 28 2,901,422 0.4585 Robert Dunn 425 60 55 58 849,499 0.2586 Michael House 194 40 23 23 301,015 0.3116 Steve Telfer 256 37 38 37 519,113 0.2752 Ken & Tony Barron 225 34 24 20 352,411 0.2400 Cran Dalgety 174 32 19 19 549,225 0.2810 Tony Herlihy 177 31 23 35 458,190 0.3132 Greg & Nina Hope 256 31 28 25 446,022 0.2144 Mark Jones 281 31 36 22 303,341 0.2076 Nigel McGrath 122 31 12 13 445,777 0.3443   Drivers Premiership table   Name Starts Wins  2nds 3rds Stakes UDR Blair Orange 954 172 124 100 1,704,836 0.2874 Dexter Dunn 840 136 106 95 1,595,714 0.2697 John Dunn 474 70 66 55 849,939 0.2637 David Butcher 379 62 62 39 729,612 0.2888 Matthew Williamson 658 61 63 53 631,058 0.1727 Ricky May 464 51 34 56 758,382 0.1909 Samantha Ottley 433 45 41 40 483,645 0.1873 Gavin Smith 321 42 35 30 494,523 0.2226 Brad Williamson 332 37 34 29 342,451 0.1975 Natalie Rasmussen 71 35 11 5 1,229,245 0.6025   Harnesslink Media

Champion harness racing pacer and now sire Auckland Reactor has produced another emerging talent in the impressive Jazzy Star who won his first start tonight for trainer Michael House at Addington Raceway. Jazzy Star (Auckland Reactor - Shikaka) who is nominated for the New Zealand Derby, was taken straight to the lead by driver Dexter Dunn and was never headed, winning easily in a very fast 1-55.8 mile rate. The favourite for the race Onedin Reign was no match for the winner, but chased valiantly in second after doing a lot of work parked out.  Dunn had a good night in the sulky winning four races and also running a second and three thirds.  Visiting American driver David Miller also had a night to remember when he won the second race aboard the Regan Todd trained trotter Show Gait. The win gave Miller his first win at Addington. He was looking forward to his grass track debut at Motukarara on Sunday. "I've never driven on grass and it's one of the things I have always wanted to do. I am very excited about it," he said. Jazzy Star winning his first start tonight. Harnesslink Media  

When Southlander Ken Barron became stable driver for former Tapanui trainer John Lischner in 1994 his approach to race day driving marked a major change in the way races were run in Canterbury.  "I think Ken would tell you himself that he hated driving and being unlucky. He tried to give each horse all the luck he could get for them. That's the way they drive today and Ken started that. He was a wee bit lucky because Clark (brother Clark Barron) moved up not that long afterwards and the two drive very similarly. It did change the style of driving in Canterbury for sure," said Lischner.  Barron recently decided not to renew his race day driving licence after 31 years in the sulky, over which he reined 1050 winners. He started as a junior reinsman in the 1985-86 season. His first winner Morning Rise which was trained by his father Ron, happened at the Wairio meeting in November 1986. In fact his first five winners were trained by his father. Also in those early days, winners came from trainers like Alan Paisley, Jason Enright and Vin Devery. It was his association with Devery that lead to his first Group winner Dreamy Atom which won the Group Three 1994 Sweetheart Stakes. In those early days he also struck up a successful partnership with Southland trainer Murray Brown and drove his first winner for him in January 1992 reining Barbed Wire to win at Ascot Park. From that point Brown began to use him regularly and by the time Barron left to go to Canterbury he'd driven 19 winners for the Findley Road trainer.  "Henry Skinner and Alan Scobie were driving for me. Ken was at me all the time to get a drive. When those older guys started to wind down Ken got his opportunity," said Brown. Brown says Barron was a real student of the standardbred and could assess a horse and it's ability fairly quickly.  "He studied his horses. He was right into it and knew every horse after just one drive. Henry (Henry Skinner) and Scobes (Alan Scobie) were like that." And Lischner agrees. "Ken's a bit of a thinker. He drove once for Peter Bagrie and Peter told me after, that when he came back in  he knew exactly everything about the horse. He'd never had a driver that could sum up a horse after one drive. He was pretty good that way."  Older brother Clark, who has also driven over 1000 winners and observed his brother's early drives, agrees. "You could probably take that a step further. He knew a horse in the first four to five hundred metres. Probably in the preliminary. I was already driving and he came along and no one tried harder than him to succeed," he said. The success that Brown and Barron were having was also proving beneficial to Brown. "Everyone was wanting to put their horse here because Ken was driving for me. It went like wildfire," he said. He also says the success Barron was having didn't surprise him.  "He was a good squash player and good at golf. All those good ones (drivers) are good at other sports."  The early success Barron was having was also noted by John Lischner who was starting to build momentum with a large team in Ashburton.   "I had a yarn to Ron because I didn't want to interfere with any family plans they might have had for Ken in extending their business. Ron said 'you just fire ahead and do what ever you want to do'."  Lischner says he was in desperate need to have a permanent stable driver.   "We were sick of not getting any continuity with feedback from drivers because we'd have one driver one week and a different driver the next. We were getting mixed messages and that was disruptive. I saw Ken driving in the south and thought 'that boy doesn't drive bad'. I took a couple of horses down south and got him to drive them." So Ken Barron moved north to Mid Canterbury at the beginning of the 1994 season and soon began to make his mark. "He'd only been up here for about a fortnight and we had horses in at Blenheim so I dispatched him away in Dick Prendergast's float. We had some success on that trip and it grew from there. He was quite an adventurous driver and not afraid to attack the lead. Fortunately we had the horses that he had success with driving like that. Our horses did stay a bit better that quite a lot of others. We didn't specifically train our horses to fit Ken's style."  Clark can also remember the impact his brother was having. "I always remember when he went up there. He'd get a way out (leading in the race). All the drivers would say 'Oh, he'll come back'. He never did and after the first few months he'd won a heap of races." A few years later Clark joined his brother, working for Michael House and he took a similar approach.  "We are definitely similar but I'm probably a bit more conservative than he was," said Clark. So Ken Barron made his mark on Canterbury harness racing and it was a game changer. He drove many winners for John Lischner and when asked to pick one particular drive that summaries his style it wasn't hard for the trainer to find one.  "One that stands out was Eastburn Grant because he was a tough horse. I remember vividly when we won the Rowe Cup with him. Ken set him alight and they just never caught him."  Eastburn Grant was not the only good trotter Barron drove. Others include Jo Anne, Dependable, Majestic Time and Gee's Pride.  One of the other stable stars he drove at that time was Stars and Stripes.  "Ken drove him a treat. He wasn't much good in front but devastating from behind. We won four Derbies with him."  In 2002 Lischner took Barron onboard as a training partner.  "When he joined me he told me that he had some views (on training) and he said he'd like to tell me about them. I heard them and we came to an arrangement. I said 'If I don't like what you're doing I'll tell you'. That's the way we worked. It would be fair to say we never had a cross word. We had different opinions about some horses but we had a mutual respect for one another. Nothing really changed when he came in as a partner. It just carried on the same," Lischner said.  Clark believes a lot of credit for his brother's success goes to John Lischner.  "A lot of credit had to go to John. They had very fit horses and the combination (of them both) worked unreal."  Clark says it didn't surprise him when Ken decided not to renew his driving licence at the beginning of this season.  "We both spoke about it and thought we'd slow down in our early fifties. But we both got to our mid fifties. I'm still ticking over and he's pulled the pin altogether."  The impact that Ken Barron has had on harness racing driving has largely gone unheralded but that's probably how he would like it. However the style he took to Canterbury in 1994 proved to be a blue print to how most races pan out these days. Ken is now happy to carry on just training with his other brother Tony and observe his team being driven primarily by Blair Orange, who I'm sure has benefitted from his employer's style.  Bruce Stewart  Southland Harness Racing   Barron Bits: 8,772 drives for 1050 winners, 969 seconds, 887 thirds for $8,948,514 UDR .2148 Group One winners: New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Stakes (Lady Toddy), Great Northern Derby (Stars And Stripes), New Zealand Sires Stakes Three Year Old Final (Stars and Stripes), New Zealand Derby (Stars And Stripes),Rowe Cup (Eastburn Grant) and Easter Cup (Bradshaw). He also drove Stars And Stripes to win the $100,000 2000 Victoria Derby and the $100,000 2000 NSW Derby.    First win: Morning Rise – Ron Barron – November 1985 at Wairio. First win for John Lischner: Irish Lullaby –Invercargill 3rd September 1994 Winning drives for John Lischner: 369 Winning drives for John Lischner and Ken Barron: 88 Total winners trained by Lischner: 705 - Ken Barron drove 457 of them. Winning drive for self: 219 Drove multiple winners for: Murray Brown, Ron and Tony Barron, Vin Devery and Allan Georgeson. Note: John Lischner was the leading trainer in 1997 and 1999. Barron drove 90 winners in 1999 and was second to Tony Herlihy in the national premiership. He drove 103 winners in 1997 and was again second in the premiership - this time to Maurice McKendry (120). McKendry had 791 drives that season - Barron drove 493 times. On both occasions he was the leading South Island driver. Top Twelve winning drives in New Zealand: Lady Toddy (12) Georgetown (10) Eastburn Grant (10) Dependable (10) Bradshaw (10) Stars and Stripes (9) Major Decision (9) Luchador (8) Arctic Chief (8) Comply Or Die (8) Supreme Mach (8) Gees Pride (8)

Petite One is a good chance tonight at Addington to give Colin DeFilippi the win he needs to notch up his 2000 harness racing winning drives.  The Greg and Nina Hope trained trotting mare goes around in the fifth leg of pick six against some handy opposition and starts from the back mark of 30m along with last start winner Zachary Binx.  It is not easy to win at Addington from a long handicap but the small field will aid her chances and she looks to be one of the leading hopes in that leg of pick six. Colin has several other chances to get to his 2000 wins tonight as he has a drive in most of the races on the nine race card. Trainer Michael House has a big team in tonight and Colin is driving the majority of them. Cuddly Jess would be the best of his drives on paper, as she is a five race winner and the highest rated trotter in the second leg of pick six. Three of her five wins have been from behind the mobile and the seven year old Sundon mare will appreciate the mobile start tonight. Tonight the pick six is on Races 4-9 inclusive guaranteed to $25,000 if struck.   Leg 1     Race 5 [6:44pm] Upset winner Leigh Major has drawn badly again in tonights race but has the class to overcome the draw. TAB favourite Hayley Nicole is in good form and is also a great winning chance. Missinmemate was good last start and is another worth including in the first leg. Leg 2     Race 6 [7:16pm] There look to be four clear winning chances in the second leg of pick six.  Cuddly Jess is the top chance along with Medusa who was good running home late last start. Idle Moose has been freshened for this and is also needed and Rum In The Sun is also racing well.   Leg 3     Race 7 [7:45pm] Amazon Lily does not have a great record from a stand but looks to be almost an anchor if she can step away and get handy.    Leg 4     Race 8 [8:15pm] The first starters hold the key in this race, with all three first starters showing good form at the trials and workouts. Zion Bromac has drawn wide but comes out of the powerful Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stable so has to the top chance here. Karmic Way was also good at his last workout runing home well. Rockaball is the other first starter that has shown promise at the trials.   Leg 5     Race 9 [8:44pm] A tricky field of rated 60 and faster trotters. The two back markers Petite One and Zachary Binx look to be the main chances along with Sundons Flyer and Donegal Bettergretch   Leg 6     Race 10 [9:14pm]  The final leg is an even go and there are many chances. Gunpowder has been racing well and has drawn to race handy. Others needed are smart 3yo Alta Shelby, Franco Saxon, For The Corz, Martin John and Admiral.   Suggested Pick Six   ($28.80 for 10%) Leg 1     8,9,11 Leg 2     7,8,9,10 Leg 3     10 Leg 4     3,9 Leg 5     4,6,7,8 Leg 6     1,2,3,4,12,13   Harnesslink Media

Roxburgh breeder Bill Bain has been involved in animal genetics most of his life. It just happens that he’s gone from breeding award winning sheep, to breeding and racing Standardbreds. Bill is a fourth generation farmer in the Roxburgh district, and prior to retirement farmed five miles south of Roxburgh on a 1500 acre block. He also had a runoff block which backed onto the Old Man Range. For years he successfully bred Corriedales continuing on with the breed that had been started by his late father Arnold. “It’s a New Zealand breed that started in the 1890s. Dad started a stud in the early 1940s. When I left school at the end of 1960 I wanted to get into them a bit more. Dad had sixty ewes. I’ve been share farming for the last ten years with the Wilsons in West Melton and we got up to five to six hundred ewes,” he said. Bain started showing his stock at A & P Shows in the Central Otago area in the early days before heading to the Christchurch shows in 1970. “In 1971 I took two sheep there and blow me down I ended up getting two red tickets (first prizes). In 1974 there was a World Conference in Christchurch and I took out first woolly sheep at the show and he ended up scooping the pool. And it was also named champion.” Sheep bred by Bain still go to the shows but are now under his breeding partner’s name of GR and RW Wilson.   In the 1970s Bain also started a Dorset Downs Stud and for fifteen years he held a one day sale on his farm, selling up to 120 rams at each sale. “I think we were averaging seven to eight hundred dollars. That was really good money for sheep then.” The high point of those sales was receiving nine thousand dollars for one ram selling a half share in another for ten thousand dollars. Always in amongst the sheep there were horses which were mainly ridden as hacks on the farm. “My father had gallopers with Hec Anderton. We always used to make good lucerne hay. I tried to keep it for my rams but he always kept the best for his horses. His best galloper was Harkaway. It only won one race but he thought he’d won the Melbourne Cup I think. He started to breed off her but she had twins and that was the finish of her.”  Arnold Bain was also the first Clerk of the Course for the Roxburgh Trotting Club so there was an early connection to the local Standardbred community. Bill’s brother-in-law Norman Sinclair who lived at Lincoln, got Bill and his wife Pauline interested in racing. “He got Pauline and I a horse called Reklaw’s Girl in the early 2000s. She was bred by Merv Walker. We gave it to Alan Parker to train. We took her to her first race meeting and she came home in the middle of the field. At her second start she came flying home and got third. Someone wanted to buy her but I said ‘no way.’ It took 26 starts before she won (laughter).”   In 2001 Bill and Pauline decided to retire from the farm handing it over to their son David. Tragically he was killed in a car accident shortly after. The following year they sold the farm. In amongst the racing of horses Bill Bain progressed his interest in the breeding side and in 2006 he bought into Presidential Ball mare Onedin Dancer. “Geoff and Jude Knight had been given this filly to break in by Lynley Stockdale. After she qualified they wanted to put her on the market, so I approached them to see whether they would sell a half share. I finished up buying Lynley out. She (Onedin Dancer) had a lot more ability than she showed.” She won twice as a three year old before being retired at four at which point they started breeding from her. Onedin Dancer was well enough bred being a half -sister to Onedin Crusader (the winner of seven here and a further 15 in Western Australia) and Onedin Legacy who’s nine wins included an Invercargill Cup. Of the foals she (Onedin Dancer) has left, Changeover gelding Onedin Onyx has been the best of her foals, winning six races. In the years that followed, Bain bought more of the Stockdale’s Onedin line including Washington VC mare Ashanna who had won three races in the North Island for Mike Stormont. “We won two more races at Forbury that winter then I put her to stud. I also bought the last of the Onedin line Stylish Onedin. She’s been the best mare for me at the sales. Her foals have sold for reasonable money. Her best has been Onedin Mach who won ten here and was sold to America. She’s got a full brother foal to Onedin Mach at foot.” Stylish Onedin a Stand Together mare won twice. She’s also left a couple of very good race horses in Onedin Hustler which won seven races for Peter Hunter and has gone on to do a good job in Australia winning another seventeen. After taking horses to the sales and getting moderate returns Bain realised that he had to look at buying into more modern families and in 2009 he sorted out five well-bred fillies at the Christchurch sale and headed north with a $30,000 budget. At the end of the second day of the sale he got what he finally wanted. “I was looking at buying a filly that was well bred with a mother that had won races with a good time. I was told not to spend too much so we bought Pembrook’s Delight.” Friend Judy Campbell was bought into the partnership and the Bettor’s Delight filly began her racing career as a three year old. As a four year old she was in her prime winning five races that season including the $150,000 Group One 2012 Four Year Old Mares Diamond at Cambridge. “We were rapt just to have one in the race. Pauline and I had just come back from South America. Geoff (co-trainer Geoff Knight) had rung me a couple of weeks before, after she had a run at Addington where she went terrible. They found out she was dehydrated. I rang him when we got into Auckland and he said ‘she’s just worked super.’ Matty was told to go to the front and hand up to one horse (Bettor Cover Lover). It worked out perfectly. I didn’t realise she’d won because we were back a bit from the winning post. Just to get a place for us was good enough. To win we were over the moon. I’m not a big bettor but I got her at fixed odds of 51 to 1. I got enough to shout for the locals when we got home. We took the cup and cover down to the pub. It was a good night for the district.” Pembrook’s Delight ended up winning nine races before heading to stud. Her first foal by Somebeachsomewhere (named Beach Boy) was sold to Michael House who reoffered him last year at his Ready to Run sale. He remains unsold. “I spoke to Michael and he said he was going well. He got a bit crook. It took him a long time to get over the sales. He said he’s turned down $50,000 for him. He said they’ll have to pay more than that for him now.” Her next foal, a filly by Art Major, was bought by Robert Dunn at this year’s sale. “Although we only got $35,000 for her I don’t think she was too dear at all.” Her latest foal is another filly by Art Major. Although he still has a handful of young progeny from his older mares Bain freely admits that the Onedin horses have probably served their purpose and it’s time to move on and head in a more commercial direction. “It’s probably an old fashioned breed. But if you want to sell at the sales you’ve got to have a bit more background.” To that end he has recently bought two very well bred mares. Heart Stealer was bought at the 2013 Australian Classic Yearling Sale for $95,000. He now shares in the ownership with his wife Pauline and friend Doug Gollan. She’s a five year old mare by Bettor’s Delight out of Fight Fire With Fire. Fight Fire With Fire was trained throughout her career by Mark Purdon and Grant Payne winning seven times in forty four starts banking $151,657. Heart Stealer is unraced and has a yearling filly by Sir Lincoln. “She (Heart Stealer) looked good on the sale day but she never grew from the day we bought her. She could have qualified but we decided to put her in foal.” In 2015 he also bought Change Time which had won seven races when trained by Ken Barron. She’s by Christian Cullen out of Chaanger and as a yearling was bought by Thompson Bloodstock for $45,000. Bain has bred an Art Major filly from the mare. “We bought her (Change Time) after we sold the Corriedale stud. I gave my grandson Ryan a half share. He’s a qualified mechanic.” Chaanger which was by Vance Hanover won six races in a limited career. Her claim to fame though was leaving Changeover the winner of 29 races and nearly two and a half million dollars. Bain has also recently purchased a weanling off Vin Devery which is by Bettor’s Delight out the 14 win Badland’s Hanover mare Western Dream. “Paul Davies did the deal. He also found Change Time for me. My nick name round here is Bunter so I’ve called this young one Bunter’s Dream. He’s being broken in at the moment.”  Bain has also been a part of the strong group of racing syndicates that Geoff and Jude Knight have set up in the Central Otago area. As well as being part of the successful Central Courage Syndicate he’s also in the Yshearasheep Syndicate which raced six win pacer Christian Ruler and the Gottashearasheep Syndicate which had success with Memphis Mafia. That syndicate’s latest race horse, a two year old by Mach Three colt out of Cap Off called Unloaded, qualified recently. “I said to somebody that you’re better off having a tenth share in ten horses than having one by yourself.” Bain was also a handy rugby player in his day playing halfback for Otago Country. He played in the same era as All Black halfback Chris Laidlaw. “I never played against him. He was too good for Town versus Country games.” He’s played golf over the years and has won local junior bowls titles. He also recently received a special contribution award for Harness Racing in Otago and is in his last year as President of the Roxburgh Trotting Club During his sheep breeding days he was President of the New Zealand Corriedale Society and the New Zealand Sheep Breeders Association. After he ceased breeding he was named a Life Member of both Associations as well as the Dorset Downs Association. After a lifetime involvement in matching rams with ewes, Bill Bain is more than ever carrying that knowledge and experience into breeding racehorses. He’s getting a lot of enjoyment from it and with his recent investment in modern bloodlines, I’m sure there’ll be more success to come. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

The locally trained Likethelook caused a major harness racing boilover when at odds of 84-1 he won the Alabar NZ/Caduceus Club of Southland Autumn Futurity Mobile Pace at Ascot Park on Saturday. The rank outsider was tucked away nicely by regular reinsman Shane Walkinshaw while second favourite Rakarover and Dexter Dunn set a torrid pace with favourite Young Conqueror sitting on the outside in close attendance. Just when it looked like the two hot shots would dominate the finish Likethelook who had used up little energy, shot up the inside to nab Young Conqueror by a neck. Rakarover was a further three quarters of a length back in third. Likethelook getting up on the inside to beat the two favourites - Photo Bruce Stewart. Likethelook's winning time of 3-21.5 was just outside the race record of 3-20.2 held by last year's winner Moonrock.  "In that sort of field I thought he was going to be well covered but I just buried him away back on the fence and the gaps just opened when they needed to. I thought the first two were off and gone but he did really well to drag them back in," said Walkinshaw. It was a great result for Invercargill trainer Brian Nichol who is helped out by follow trainer Sam Balloch. Nicol nominated both of his team, Likethelook and half brother Cast A Shadow for the Futurity. Walkinshaw says if he's on his game Likethelook has more wins in him.  "He's definitely got the ability but it's often the case of whether he shows it. Tucked away and saved for one last run he's usually pretty good. It's great for Brian to pick a race like this up. He deserves it."  Meanwhile Trendy Bromac continued on her winning way when she easily beat a field of C1 fillies and mares yesterday. Easy as - Trendy Bromac and Dexter Dunn                       - Photo Bruce Stewart After being wide early driver Dexter Dunn took the three year old filly to the top with a mile to run. She proved too good, winning by two and three quarter lengths. Trained by Michael House she looks like a strong chance in the Southland Oaks next month.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing Likethelook upsetting the favorites  

The win of Waihemo Art at Waikouaiti on Tuesday belonged to 16-year-old Alana Cameron.   Waihemo Art, a 7-year-old gelding was bought for $700 as riding horse for Alana 18 months ago when retired out of the stable of Gavin Smith. Waihemo Art had failed to win a race in 18 starts.   “He(Waihemo Art) wouldn’t go fast enough when Alana rode him so we put him back into work,’’ said her father, Paul.   Waihemo Art is raced in the name of Alana’s mother, Vicki as Alana is two years too young to race a horse. Alana and friend junior driver John Morrison were still able to stand alongside Waihemo Art for a photo opportunity after the race.   Waihemo Art joined the West Melton stable of Michael House,  when it was decided to return him to work. House has trained other horses in the ownership of the Camerons. Waihemo Art has now won four races and he repeated his success of 12 months ago in the race for amateur driver at Waikouaiti with Alan Edge in the sulky, who drove Zimfandel to win the $10,000 Sir Lincoln Graduation Final on Tuesday summed up the performance: “He did it easy.” Dexter Dunn   Dunn allowed the 3-year-old to settle back in the field and angled him wide in the closing stages for the best part of a rain affected track. Zimfandel came on to win by two and a half lengths. Master Jordy did well for second after racing handy from the 1200m from a second line draw.   The win was penalty free for the Bruce Negus-trained Zimfandel. The owners Murray and Jo Clay also won a service to Sir Lincoln.   Matai Katie, who was switched from pacing to trotting, made the grade at her ninth start. “She is the only trotter in the family,’’ said her Edendale owner-trainer-driver Alex Milne who races the 6-year-old Elsu – Matai Princess mare with his wife, Karen. Matai Katie was placed in four of her 18 starts as a pacer before she qualified as a trotter two years ago.   Alex Milne, the late father of Alex began an association with the family 50 years ago when Matai Song (Flying Song – Trout Stream) won him one race from 44 starts. Matai Song left Matai Dreamer, who won 17 in New Zealand including the 1979  Great Northern Derby. Alex jun drove Wai Matai, another of the progeny of Matai Song in a race at Waikouaiti in 1973.   The $40,000 Northern Southland Cup on March 11 is a target for Titan Banner, who  is back in the Westwood stable of Graeme Anderson. Titan Banner, who has not raced since finishing eighth in the Auckland Trotting Cup on December 31, had a lucrative seven month campaign from the stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen for three wins including the Franklin Cup and third placings in the NZ Cup and Harness Jewels.   Anderson disclosed  the plan for Titan Banner after producing Hopes and Dreams to win on Tuesday. The 4-year-old mare led for most of the way.   Invercargill owner Tom Kilkelly and trainer Kirstin Barclay combined to win C0 races with Don’t Pass I’m Fast and Grace Burns, both driven by Andrew Suddaby. Don’t Pass I’m Fast, a 4-year-old Art Official – Fast Winger mare was a $16,000 purchase at the 2014 premier yearling sale. Kilkelly bred Grace Burns, a 4-year-old by Grinfromeartoear from Gracie May. Don’t Pass I’m Fast, bred by Ray and Maureen Beale, is the ninth individual winner left by Fast Winger, the dam of Armbro Winger and Still Laughin, each the winner of seven races.Gracie May has also left the winner Riverboat Grace.     Tayler Strong

The Paul Court-trained harness racing mare Expressive Victor has been withdrawn from the New Zealand Cup next Tuesday preferring to start in the Group 3 2600m mobile Free for all on the same day. Moonrock, a winner at Kaikoura on Monday, will now join the field and become one of the more lower assesed horses in recent years able to get a New Zealand Cup start. At the the start of the this years New Zealand Cup campaign the Michael House trained pacer was graded as a C2 pacer and was paying more than $500 on the TAB fixed odds market for the New Zealand Cup. Michael House knows there are people out there thinking that what he is doing is bizarre, but thinks the horse will not be out of his depth in the big race. “It was a well thought out gamble nominating him for the Cup as I was hoping it would be a smaller field with not as much depth as usual.“ Michael has said and "he still needed a few thinks to go his way to be certain of a start." The withdrawal of Expressive Victor was the final piece of the puzzle to fall into place for Moonrock and give the horse and connections their chance in the great race. Moonrock will be driven by Tony Herlihy as regular driver dexter Dunn has elected to stick with Christen Me in the cup. The Mark Purdon/Natalie Rasmussen trained Lazarus is the TAB favorite in the New Zealand Cup paying 1.80 to win on the fixed odds market.   Harnesslink Media

Michael House has elected not to make the trip this year to Sydney to offer his nine 2yo colt’s in the NSW Ready to Run Sale. Instead they are going to be auctioned live on the web from Addington Raceway prior to the November 25th racenight. A number of factors changed our plans, we have just had so much on (which is nothing new for House’s, ‘Mentally Stable’) with the race team as well as the youngster’s. Secondly the cost of transporting them all to Australia and a steep passing commission of 7.5% if we didn’t sell was a deterrent and you are left a long way from home. But probably the change of heart by NSW on allowing us to officially trial the horse’s here two weeks before the sale was the major stumbling block. Trialling in the morning and selling that afternoon doesn’t really allow people to pick up on the horse, effectively cutting everyone out who isn’t  there on the day. PGGWrightson have agreed to auction the horse’s for us prior to the races at Addington on the 25th and the key will be they will have all the video footage of the trials up for two weeks prior on plus we are happy to provide private trialling, vet examination,  xray’s and scoping etc. for all interested purchaser’s. Broadcasting of the sale live on the web with registered phone bidding allows anybody from Australia or NZ to be a part of the auction without having to be there.  The colts to be offered are two Rocknroll Hanover’s, plus an Art Major, Artsplace, Auckland Reactor, Bettor’s Delight, Christian Cullen, Mach Three and a Somebeachsomewhere. All the horse’s will have bloods taken on trial day.   HRNZ

The New Zealand Trotting Cup dream is very much still alive for Moonrock.  Despite being the lowest graded pacer in the Cup nominations as just a C3, Michael House still intends on pushing toward the November feature should his exciting pacer do enough to work his way into the final line-up.  The first step toward that came at Addington on Friday night when the four-year-old made light work of his resumption with an effortless victory against a handy field of intermediate grade pacers.  But the real test will come next Monday when House heads to Kaikoura to tackle the New Zealand Yearling Sales Aged Pace.  “I reckon we might be about emergency two for the Cup after that win,” House said.  “But if we can win at Kaikoura next week, which I’m sure he is good enough to do then we may just work our way into the field.” House is fully aware that there has been more than the one raised eyebrow in his direction with his intention to start in the Cup, but at the end of the day he doesn’t really care what other people think.  And he’s always been one for doing something a little bit outside of the square.  He was the man who 12 months ago started Franco Nelson in the Cup off the back of a solitary Ashburton workout - only for the horse to run a cracking fourth.  And now there’s Moonrock.  “It’s the New Zealand Trotting Cup, our best race, why wouldn’t I want to have my best horse racing in it?” House said.  “Sure he’s not as qualified as some of those that he’s racing, but the Cup isn’t what it used to be.  “It’s just another race on another day at Addington and if you’ve got a horse who you think is good enough to be competitive, why not have a crack.  “I looked at the potential nominations and decided that I didn’t think it was going to be a full field come Cup Day so we chucked him in.”  A $40,000 purchase at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale in 2014, Moonrock is a half-brother to Miss Moonlite and also Major Change and he caught House’s eye very early on.  “I thought he was one of the standout Rocknroll Hanover’s of that sale and I was very keen to get my hands on him.  “Then right from day one he impressed me and has just kept improving.  “He raced well last season as a three-year-old against the good ones and wasn’t that far behind Lazarus in the Derby.  “You would think that in time he would develop into a nice horse. But I’m living for the now and not the future.  “Anything could happen to me or to the horse so I’m grabbing the bull by the horns and running with it.  “It might come back to bite me in the bum, but I’d rather try than not try at all.”  Dexter Dunn handled the driving duties of Moonrock last night and will also reunite with him on the second of two day’s racing at Kaikoura next Monday.   Matt Markham

The injury plagued elite grade pacer Franco Nelson is to have a change of scenery once again as he heads over to join the Victorian barn of former Kiwi driver Anthony Butt Anthony and his new partner are in the process of setting up a small boutique stable on Gavin Lang's old property and there wouldn't be a better horse to get things under way with The six year old son of Christian Cullen is lightly raced considering he was mixing it with the best at two and Anthony will be his fourth trainer to date in his stop start career. Franco Nelson had his last start for his present trainer Michael House in the $57,500 Waikato Flying Mile at Cambridge Raceway on Friday night where he ran a very creditable third after leading easily off the gate in the hands of his soon to be regular pilot Anthony Butt who made the trip from Melbourne to drive the entire. Anthony is thrilled to have been given the opportunity to be involved with a horse of the class of Franco Nelson. " He went great in the New Zealand Cup in his first run for such a long time and Dexter had no luck in the Auckland Cup, being shoved out wide at the 800 metres mark so I think you can disregard that run". " There are so many opportunities for a horse like him in Australia" " With his proven class, he shouldn't be a hard horse to place," Anthony said. Anthony is not getting ahead of himself, fully aware of all the issues that have troubled the star pacer in recent times. " I have been really lucky in having such a quality horse sent to me to train but I have a pool there which he needs so I can do a lot of the day to day work with him." " If we can get him back to his best, it could be very exciting." " I can't wait to get him home and and sort out a programme for him," said Anthony. Franco Nelson is not the only horse that has Anthony excited heading into the major cup races and series in Victoria. " I have driven Keystone Del to his last two wins since he joined Brent's barn and he has gone super both times." " I think he will be very competitive when all the big trotting races come around," Anthony said. Anthony is also hopeful of attracting some more New Zealand owned horses to his new training establishment. " It would work out great if a few more horses came over from home." " There are great opportunities here for a promising horse and I more than happy to look after any visitors as well," Anthony said. Harnesslink Media   This is a corrected version of a article Harnesslink first published on Friday 8th January 2016.

New Zealand horseman Michael House is planning on a return to next year's Ready2Run Sale at Tabcorp Park Menangle after enjoying success at this year's event. House sold his entire draft and is now confident that a market for such a harness racing sale exists in Australia. "When you have never been part of a sale, it is always natural to be concerned about its transparency and integrity but after being a part of it this year I'm excited by the prospects and I plan to be back with a bigger draft next year," House said. "The market has shown there are buyers for the right two-year-olds, there was real money in the ring and while it was hard to sell some really nice horses from my perspective it is what I do." House will continue his arduous method of selecting and purchasing yearlings at sales around Australasia before preparing them for next year's sale. "I think the results have shown buyers want well bred stock and while there was depth this year I think the standard of the catalogue will improve, the Alchin brothers had a large number of horses in the sale and they did a great job, you need quality and there was plenty available this year. "I'll go back to New Zealand and follow my plan, I go to the sales and find medium sized colts for between $15,000 and $20,000 take them home and prepare them, I'll sell a two year old of the year in Australia one day, I'm sure of it." It is no surprise House keeps a keen eye on the horses he has prepared as they hit the racetrack and hopes for instant success. "A lot of people ask the question why are you selling these horses when they look so promising and sometimes when I do sell some of these colts I could break down and cry but you have to detach yourself from the emotion - it is a business. "I'm looking to expand as well by purchasing more yearlings but for that to happen I need a partner so hopefully my success in Australia might encourage someone to contact me about becoming an equity partner in the process, there is definitely money to be made." House believes the number of horses offered at this year's sale was ideal. "I thought the organisers got it right, you don't want too many horses, I would love to see the sale combined in Australia and New Zealand and maybe that's a decision for the people running the sale in the future. "Next year I'm going to concentrate on having horses for sale that are eligible for more of the Australian feature races like the Australian Pacing Gold, the Breeders Crown and the Breeders Challenge." Greg Hayes  

This years version of the Ready 2 Run sale was held at Menangle yesterday and overall the promoters would have to have been happy with the results. New Zealander Michael House brought seven yearlings to the sale and would have been thrilled with the results on the day. His aggregate for the seven yearlings was $336,500, an average of $48,071 with the best result being the top price of the day of $80,000 for Fundamental, the son of Rocknroll Hanover and the former star New Zealand two year old filly in Kamwood Cully. House also had the second highest price on the day of $60,000 which he received for a son of Mach Three from the Life Sign mare Mayhappen who has already produced the smart Whirily School 1:58.4 ($69,270) The colt was purchased out of last years Australian Pacing Gold sale at Melbourne for the princely sum of $12,000. It was a big exercise for Michael House to bring the seven horses to Menangle but he would be encouraged by the results and he helped the sale immensely overall. Check results and videos here Harnesslink Media

The New Zealand Trotting Cup field is starting to take shape. Just 25 of the original 40 nominations remain after Wednesday's payment deadline, but one surprise is 2014 runner-up Franco Nelson remaining in the mix. Late last week the Michael House trained son of Christian Cullen pulled up lame after working at home and there were fears he may have suffered a fractured pastern. But scans earlier this week have not found any breaks. "We can't find any fracture so why he went lame we don't know," House said. A winner of 14 races and more than half a million dollars in stakes, Franco Nelson was given a week off and House said he seems to be bright in himself. Although still a chance to start in the cup, Franco Nelson will not be risked unless he is 100 per cent, House said. Time is now his enemy but House is trying to stay relaxed and is not yet worrying about the options of Ashburton or Kaikoura should he be ready in time for either. "At the moment we are in no man's land and we are just taking it each day as it comes." "We're keeping our options open, if he's not quite up to it we could even go straight to the free-for-all on show day." If the camp feels he is up to racing he would go through a gruelling veterinary process before he lined up, he said. With no Adore Me or Terror To Love in the 2015 cup, Franco Nelson's chances of starting in the race have been a polarising topic and House quipped he currently spends more time on the phone to reporters than with the horse. There is no pressure from either House or Franco Nelson's owners Clive, Rona and Sharon McKay for the horse to contest the cup. After discussing Wednesday's payment with the McKays, a decision was made to give the horse a chance to start. Franco Nelson has not started on race day since January when trained by Robert Dunn but House was happy with the way he was progressing after his last trial before he pulled up lame.  Southland owned but now Australian based pacer Franco Ledger and Venus Serena were the only runners inside the top 15 to come out on Wednesday. Venus Serena will be targeting the major mares races later in the season and Franco Ledger will focus on the Inter Dominion series in Perth. The top three in last Friday's Canterbury Classic are guaranteed a start which moves Tiger Tara up to second in the rankings and Smolda to third, with Christen Me holding the number one spot. Those moves see the Australian-based Arden Rooney move back to fourth with Franco Nelson holding firm in fifth. Australians Corzin Terror (8th), Forever Gold (11th) and Alleluia (16th) remain in the nominations. Mighty Flying Mac (12th), Belkmyster (14th), Te Kawau (15th), Messini (18th) No Doctor Needed (20th), Mach's Gladiator (21st), Lewy Risk (22nd), Delightful Dash (23rd), Quick As A Trick (24th) and Ideal Success (25th) will have a chance to press their cup start claims on Sunday in the Group III Methven Cup. Brilliant Strike (19th) races in an C4-C6 pace at Addington on Friday night. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ    Check site here

It was announced last  night on Trackside that the runner up in last years New Zealand Cup, Franco Nelson had suffered a pedal bone injury which has brought his tilt at this years New Zealand Cup to a halt. Details were sketchy but it appears he will have several months on the sideline while he recuperates under the care of his trainer Michael House. His NZ Cup heroics last year when he was caught in the last stride by Adore Me which he followed with an outstanding run in the New Zealand Free For All displayed the high class racehorse that he is. Nursed through that campaign by his then trainer Robert Dunn, Franco Nelson looked to have it all in front of him but sadly his form fell away on a northern campaign due to recurring foot issues . Franco Nelson has always been troubled by foot issues throughout his career which is why he had been moved to the Dunn barn on the beach in the first place. Then to everybody's surprise in the industry, the owners Clive and Rona McKay moved Franco Nelson from  the Dunn stable to the Michael House barn. Reappearing at the trials from the House barn in September, Franco Nelson ran an okay fourth first up at the Addington trials  but his two follow up trials were very poor, finishing last on both occasions. Time was already running out to have Franco Nelson ready for a grueling two miles in the New Zealand Cup and his withdrawal now due to an injury is a shame as he would have added something to the New Zealand Cup which is down a bit on quality this year. Lets hope Franco Nelson can come through this latest problem and make it back to the racetrack in the future. Harnesslink Media    

Michael House is optimistic Franco Nelson is on right on track for November 10. The Christian Cullen 6-year-old made his first public appearance for House at the Rangiora trials on Wednesday since being transferred from the Robert Dunn stable. Franco Nelson is injury free after having surgery three months ago to remove a bone chip from a back leg and House is hoping he can go one better than his second behind Adore Me in the New Zealand Trotting Cup last year. After his heroics during Cup Week, when he also ran third in the Group I New Zealand free-for-all, Franco Nelson was plagued by issues. He has not won a race since using his blinding sprint to win the 4-year-old Emerald back in May 2014. Franco Nelson pinged away from the tapes at Rangiora and House was leading heading into the first bend despite his 30m handicap. "He's a very fast horse saved for one run, he's not a leader, but he started that good I didn't have a choice," House said. House kept him under a strong hold in the final 150m to finish fourth in a more than satisfactory return. "It's not ideal to have other horses run past you, but I wasn't going to knock him around in his first run back," he said. House was happy with the hit out and said Franco Nelson would return to the trials at Addington on Monday, but a comeback race had not yet been decided. "He's only about 80 per cent fit but there is plenty of time and I think we're in a good place," House said. Anthony Butt will return home from Victoria to drive Franco Nelson in the cup. Saveapatrol came up the passing lane after trailing Franco Nelson to beat a gutsy No Doctor Needed by a nose, with Tiger Tara flying home late for third a further length back. No Doctor Needed sat parked for most of the last half mile and was still making ground on Saveapatrol at the post. Saveapatrol paced the 2600m in 3-24.9 with a mile rate of 2-06.8 and closing sectionals of 55.5 and 26.9. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with the permission of Stuff NZ - Check site here  

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