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Champion harness racing trainer Gary Hall sen., aiming to win the $25,000 Lancaster Park Marathon Handicap for the third time at Gloucester Park on Friday night, leans towards frontmarker Lord Diego ahead of classy stablemate Bettor Reason, who will start off the back mark of 40m. However, Hall’s son Gary has a high opinion of four-year-old Bettor Reason and after driving a double at the Gloucester Park meeting on Tuesday night, said he was likely to choose that pacer ahead of Lord Diego. “It’s tough off 40m, but Bettor Reason has the ability to win off that mark,” Hall jun. said. “He should have plenty of time to get into the 3309m race.” Hall sen. said that he felt Bettor Reason faced an extremely difficult assignment off 40m. “He will go all right, but I think he will be struggling,” he said. “He can’t win on handicaps. Lord Diego is capable of running his last half in 56.5sec. or 57sec., so how can Bettor Reason beat him? “Lord Diego’s run last Friday night (when a close third to Mighty Flying Thomas) was very good and I think he can win the Marathon. I see fellow frontmarker Balleybofey as the one to beat.” Lord Diego has contested mobile events at all of his 14 Australian starts and in New Zealand, where he had 49 starts for ten wins and 11 placings, he was classified by the stewards as unruly in stands. His four starts in stands produced a 16th over 2810m, a 13th over 2700m, a third from 30m behind Five Star Anvil at Cambridge and a tenth over 2200m. Kim Prentice will drive Lord Diego if Hall jun. sticks with his initial preference for Bettor Reason. The Hall father and son combination have been successful in the Marathon Handicap with Im Themightyquinn in 20010 and Code Red last year. Im Themightyquinn started off 80m and he won by a half-length from co-backmarker Has The Answers in a small field of seven. Code Red was the solitary frontmarker last year when he started favourite at 6/4, set the pace and defeated Anvils Big Punt, who started off 10m and finished strongly. Anvils Big Punt will again start off the 10m mark this year and Pinjarra trainer Michael Brennan said that the six-year-old was poised for a strong effort. “He has been pretty unlucky at his past three runs,” he said. “He’s ready and the trip does suit.” Anvils Big Punt, a capable standing-start performer, is a grand stayer who set the pace and won the 2902m Easter Cup from Ohoka du Nord in April 2011 and was a fast-finishing second in last year’s Marathon. His usual driver Justin Prentice will handle his own nomination Braemoor, a standing-start specialist who has won in good style at his past two starts. Prentice won the Marathon two years ago when Glacier Star trailed the pacemaker Move Over before getting up in the final stride to beat that pacer by a head. Brennan has given the drive behind Anvils Big Punt to Michael George, who drove the gelding when he was unplaced behind Rockyourbaby in the 2918m Kalgoorlie Cup 12 months ago. Brennan has a splendid second string in Friday night’s race in the New Zealand-bred five-year-old Rodrigo, who finished powerfully to win a 2130m mobile event last Friday night for Prentice. “Rodrigo is a real nice staying type and will be suited by the 3309m,” Brennan said. “He’s a bit hit and miss at the stand, but if he gets away well he is sure to be prominent.” Morgan Woodley will replace Prentice and will drive Rodrigo for the first time. Woodley has been successful twice in the Marathon Handicap, causing an upset in 2007 when 52/1 tote outsider Tuanaki beat 2/1 favourite Vintage Concerto by a head, and then setting the pace and winning by just under five lengths with Morganator in 2008. PLEASE RELEASE ME GETS HIS CHANCE WITH SUPERSTAR SPELLING Speedy seven-year-year-old Please Release Me has resumed after a brief let-up in splendid form and was most impressive last Friday night when he trailed the pacemaker Has The Answers before finishing fast to be second to champion Im Themightyquinn. Im Themightyquinn has been sent for a spell and followers of form will be keen to support Please Release Me in the 1730m Happy Birthday Henry McManus Pace at Gloucester Park on Friday night. However, reinsman Chris Brew is somewhat guarded about Please Release Me’s prospects this week, saying that the gelding was far from a good thing after twice finishing second to Im Themightyquinn at his three starts after a short respite from racing. “He has drawn out wide at barrier five and there are nine other horses who will be happy that Im Themightyquinn is not in the race,” Brew said. “Please Release Me is racing as well as ever and he felt terrific last week. With normal racing luck I’m sure he will be a good each-way chance.” Please Release Me possesses sparkling gate speed and is a wonderful frontrunner. But looming large as the horse capable of matching his early speed and holding him out is ten-year-old Sneakyn Down Under, who is favourably drawn at barrier No. 2. However, Sneakyn Down Under, trained and driven by Darren Duffy, has been unplaced at his past nine starts, including his five starts since resuming from a spell when he started at long odds on the tote --- $33.60, $38.70, $74.60, $25.20 and $51.20. His most recent victory was over 1700m at Gloucester Park last December when he started from barrier two, set a scorching pace and won at a 1.53.6 rate from Can Return Fire and Mysta Magical Mach. “It would appear, on paper, that Sneakyn Down Under would lead,” Brew said. “I haven’t decided on tactics at this stage. Usually I don’t decide on tactics until Friday when I talk to David (Collie owner- trainer David Hunter).” Whatever tactics Brew employs Please Release Me should prove hard to beat. Not only is he a smart frontrunner, but he can also unwind a powerful finishing burst. The Ross Olivieri-trained Hez The Bart Man steps up in class, but must come under serious consideration from barrier three. The seven-year-old has had little luck when placed at six of his past nine starts. He raced without cover and fought on doggedly when a close third to Lord Lombo and Leda McNally over 2130m last Friday night. IM VICTORIOUS CHERRY RIPE FOR HIS RETURN TO RACING It’s all systems go for star four-year-old Im Victorious, who will reappear after a spell when he contests the Go Quinny Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night. Pinjarra trainer Michael Brennan declared that the New Zealand-bred gelding was cherry ripe for his first-up assignment and he pointed out that he had not been beaten at his three first-up runs in his dazzling 20-start career which has produced 13 wins, two seconds and $373,420 in prizemoney. Im Victorious won at his debut at Bunbury in February 2012 and was a first-up winner at Bunbury in September 2012 and at Pinjarra last February. Im Victorious last appeared when seventh behind Im Themightyquinn in the 2700m Auckland Cup at Alexandra Park early last March and he was driven by his regular reinsman Justin Prentice when he scored an impressive victory in a 2185m trial at Pinjarra on Sunday morning when he rated 1.56.6 in defeating Lombo Navigator by five lengths. “He slotted in third behind Adda Paternal Suit and In The Perfect Storm and Justin pulled him out at the 600m,” Brennan said. “I clocked him running 27.2sec. and 27.7sec. for the final two quarters and he did it quite comfortably. Justin was very happy with him and he’s pulled up really well and is bright as a button. So I’m looking forward to seeing him back at the track. “He’s still carrying a little bit of condition, but we need that because he has a long preparation ahead of him. In saying that, his trial was as good as a trial as I have seen from him and his work is much better than it has ever been. He’s ready. “We’re looking at the $400,000 Victoria Cup, a 2200m mobile at Melton in mid-December. He’ll race in Perth until then, and after the Victoria Cup he will be set for the WA Pacing Cup and Fremantle Cup. “ Im Victorious will start from barrier five on Friday night and should carry far too many guns for his eight rivals. The first four across the line will qualify to contest a $25,000 event at Gloucester Park on Friday fortnight. IDEAL BARRIERS FAVOUR JUNGLE GENIE AND THE LEFT ARM QUICK Favourable barriers point to Jungle Genie and The Left Arm Quick giving Forrestdale trainers Greg and Skye Bond and reinsman Colin Brown a flying start to the meeting at Gloucester Park on Friday night. The New Zealand-bred Jungle Genie looks set to lead from the No. 2 barrier in the Nepean Conveyors Pace for three-year-old fillies and she should prove hard to catch. Jungle Genie, placed once from five New Zealand starts late last year, won at her first two West Australian appearances, at Gloucester Park and Pinjarra in July before leading and finishing a neck second to Diamonds A Blaze over 2185m at Pinjarra and then sixth behind Miss Atomic over 1730m at Gloucester Park when she raced three wide for much of the way. Miss Atomic and Diamonds A Blaze (trained by Peter Tilbrook), the Ross Olivieri-trained Deluxe Edition and the Michael Brennan-trained Sonatina appeal as the chief dangers to Jungle Genie. Miss Atomic has won very easily at her past three starts, but she faces a stiff test on Friday night from the outside (No. 7) on the front line. She will be handled by Chris Lewis, who will replace her regular reinsman Shannon Suvaljko, who will drive Diamonds A Blaze. Suvaljko has driven Diamonds A Blaze to wins at three of her past five starts. Deluxe Edition (Chris Voak) has won at six of her 20 starts. She will start from the outside of the back line and should produce a strong-finishing effort. Brennan said that he was looking forward to a strong showing from the lightly-raced Sonatina at her Australian debut. Sonatina, to be driven by Justin Prentice, will start from barrier three on the back line. She was driven by Dexter Dunn at her three wins from eight starts in New Zealand. “She is a very nice filly and I’m very happy with her,” Brennan said. The Bonds will also be represented by Am Opulent, a winner at eight of her 22 starts. She is awkwardly drawn out wide at barrier six, but cannot be underestimated. The Left Arm Quick should appreciate the No. 1 barrier in the Ross North Homes Pathway Pace over 1730m. He won at his West Australian debut, at Northam four starts ago when he started from barrier two, set the pace and beat Torbrae. Then followed thirds at Narrogin and Pinjarra before he started out wide, worked hard in the breeze and faded to sixth behind Cool Johnny over 2536m at Gloucester Park last Saturday night. WOODLEY ACHIEVES 1000-WIN MILESTONE Morgan Woodley became the youngest West Australian reinsman to land one thousand winners when he drove with typical skill to score a decisive victory with 6/1 chance To Transcend in the Sony Centre Handicap at Gloucester Park on Tuesday night. The 24-year-old Woodley got the seven-year-old To Transcend away smoothly in the 2503m stand before sending him to the front after 300m. To Transcend, having his 113th start, dashed away from the opposition in the home straight and won by 8m from Bluff Knoll. It was Woodley’s eighth success behind To Transcend, who is trained at Coolup by Frank Nafranec. This gave Woodley his 122nd winner for the season. He was 16 when he won with his first drive in a race, behind Ultimate Sin in a 2410m stand at the old York track on July 23, 2005. The previous youngest WA driver to land 1000 winners was Gary Hall jun. who was 26 when he achieved the milestone at Gloucester Park in March 2009. by Ken Casellas  

Alexandra Park is delighted to announce the continuation of their relationship with Alabar NZ for a further two seasons. Alabar NZ’s Sponsorship with Alexandra Park is part of their on-going involvement and support of the Harness Racing Industry in New Zealand. Alabar will be actively involved at Alexandra Park with the continued sponsorship of the Alabar Mobile Barrier and the Alabar Classic. Previously known as the ‘Alabar Elsu Classic’, from the 2013/14 racing season this race will be renamed the ‘Alabar Classic’. This prestigious Group 2 race has carried the sponsorship of Alabar since its inception in 2005 and is a race that continues to be targeted by trainers of top 3 year old pacing colts and geldings. 2012 winner Ohoka Punter went on to win both the Victoria Derby and Northern Derby in his 3year old season. The 2013 version of this race will be held on the 13th of December for a stake of $50,000. Alabar NZ has an exciting book of Stallions for the upcoming breeding season including new sire Auckland Reactor. For more information click here.  

Few salutes have lasted as long as Graeme Anderson's at Oamaru yesterday, but the statuesque pose in the sulky was hiding some nerves.

Imagine having 80 winners from 35 horses with Geoff Small since 2005 - and at the age of 82 remembering almost every one of them. Laurie Henwood isn’t only a successful standardbred owner, but the Wattle Downs retirement village resident has a memory that would make people half of his age envious.

At its meeting on 11 July, the Board of Harness Racing New Zealand reviewed the Harness Jewels and the future conditions of this event. The Board was tremendously encouraged by the Ashburton Trotting Club’s successful staging of the 2013 Harness Jewels and believe that the event has become a fundamental part of the harness racing calendar each year.   In terms of 2014, the Board has confirmed that that Harness Jewels will be conducted in line with its traditional format - with nine races for 2yo, 3yo and 4yo’s. The 2014 Harness Jewels will be conducted by Harness Racing Waikato for the same stakes of $150,000 for pacers and $100,000 for trotters. The 2014 Harness Jewels will be held at Cambridge Raceway on 31 May 2014, with all races over a mile as with previous years.    While the 2013 event included races for 5yo’s, due to financial constraints the Board was not in a position to provide for 5yo and over events in 2014. This will be reviewed on an annual basis, however the current belief is that horses in these categories are adequately catered for with existing feature open races.    The Board also confirmed a roster for the conduct of the next four Harness Jewels events. This is as follows:   • 2014 Cambridge • 2015 Ashburton • 2016 Cambridge • 2017 Ashburton   The Board considers the current policy of rotating the series between the North and South Islands is the best structure to foster national interest in the event. By confirming the roster for the next four years certainty is given to Harness Racing Waikato and the Ashburton TC so they can further develop their venues with the knowledge they will be hosting the Jewels in these years. The early confirmation of the roster will enable the clubs to better plan for  the future and develop their venues conscious of the requirements of staging the Harness Jewels.   For further enquiries please contact: Edward Rennell Chief Executive Phone 03 964 1200 or 021 407 596 Email edward@hrnz.co.nz   

Racing stewards praised the heroic efforts of top reinsman Todd Mitchell after he chased and caught a horse whose unconscious driver was being dragged after a sickening crash.

West Melton harness racing trainer Cran Dalgety started yesterday nine wins behind Mark Purdon in the Trainers' Premiership , but after wins with Bit Of A Legend and Mac Bubbles on different islands of New Zealand, he has closed that gap to eight, with Purdon also picking up a win at Addington.

As expected the hawks are circling and they want a piece of Bandana meat.

That first training success can often be quite elusive, just ask Templeton harness racing horsewoman Fiona Baigent. She waited almost six seasons and 135 starts before finally landing her first training success at Addington Raceway tonight (Friday July 12).

Congratulations to John Dunn, Nathan Williamson and Simon Lawson who tipped out winners. It is a small but select ring-around this week, so with any luck the strike rate should be pretty good.

A new bar and bistro at Christchurch's Addington Raceway and Events Centre, located within the new hub of Christchurch will be open for business soon to the general public.

The Auckland Trotting Club will remain just that after its members voted against a name change at a special general meeting last night. A majority of around 200 members who attended the meeting voted against changing the name of the club to Alexandra Park Incorporated.

It hasn't had the same media attention as the Michael Pitman and Lisa Latta premiership battle in the thoroughbred code, but the harness racing trainers’ premiership is also about to heat up in a big way.

Host Alexandra Park tenant sure to vote for unification but other harness racing clubs' feelings are unknown. The historic and potentially crucial first step to changing the way harness racing is run in the north will be put to a vote tonight.

Highly talented three-year-old filly Helena Jet made it three straight wins when taking out today’s 2-4 win Coupland’s Bakeries Timaru Winter Cup in emphatic style.

After winning the Junior Drivers’ Championship at Addington in his first season as a Junior Driver some four seasons ago, North Island reinsman Simon Lawson repeated the dose tonight (Thursday July 4th) at Addington Raceway.

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