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The outstanding Bettors Delight gelding Arden Rooney will do his summer racing at least in Australia heading to Melbourne in the New Year. Instead of racing in Canterbury as previously planned, Arden Rooney will head north and race at Cambridge in the Futurity for four and five year olds on December 24. Arden Rooney was going to head south after Xmas for the cups circuit down south but will head to Cambridge instead. "Then its off to Melbourne and he will race over there  for some time" Natalie said this week. Australian-owned by Butterworth Racing Syndicate, Arden Rooney was not originally included in the Auckland-based team because of his moderate record on right -handed tracks. He has won nearly $250,000 on his way through the grades after being purchased from the Stiven-Grant Payne partnership as a youngster. He won a series of intermediate staying races coming through the grades including the Ashburton and Rangiora Cups and the Country Cup Final and then ran third to Adore Me and Terror To Love in the Easter Cup. In his leadup to the New Zealand Cup in November he won the Kaikoura Cup and has proved himself a distinguished stayer. Courtesy of All Stars Racing Stable - Check site here

One thing Australian harness racing trainers got tired of seeing last year was the sight of Follow The Stars disappearing up the track on his way to winning their 2 year old classics. Those trainers would have hoped that the brilliant son of Art Major would concentrate on age group features in New Zealand before heading back across the Tasman but the New Zealand handicapping system has meant that Australians will get to see plenty of Follow The Stars starting with the Victorian Derby. The New Zealand handicapping system rates every win in a race with a stake of $15,000 or more as a win that attracts a penalty, even as a 2 year old. Hence going into his 3 year old year in New Zealand, Follow The Stars is classed as a C8 for handicapping purposes which means he is graded just behind our best Grand Circuit horses. So not surprisingly the All Star team have decided that  it is too tough for a early 3 year old to race those older race hardened horses and are heading back over the Tasman with their star where under the Australian handicapping system, Follow The Stars is still an M0. Being an "Aussie" by birth, Follow The Stars was always going to spend a lot of time on that side of the Tasman as he is eligible for everything but the New Zealand handicapping system has fast tracked his appearance. The All Stars team have mapped out a programme for last years champion 2 year old and everything is on track at this stage. Follow The Stars is due to head to the North Island on December 13th and trial in the north before having his season debut run in the $20,000 Waikato Guineas at Cambridge on January 9th. From there it is on the plane to Melbourne to contest the Victorian Derby heats on January 31st. Following the Derby, Follow The Stars is expected to spend most if not all of his season in Australia which while not what a lot of Australian trainers would have been hoping for, will be greeted with a sigh of relief by a lot of trainers in New Zealand. With his great 2 year old record and being from the great American maternal family that he is from, Follow The Stars has stallion potential written all over him if he can reproduce at three what he achieved as a two year old. Harnesslink Media 

Mark and Dennis Dunford have had more success as owners than most at the All Stars Racing Stables. Alleluia, Hands Christian and Have Faith in Me are just the most recent winners that the brothers have raced out of the All Stars barn. But Dennis, an Auckland real estate executive recalled after the latter's great Sires Stakes victory that it wasn't always that way when they first got into harness racing. "I think I started racing horses about 1991 or somewhere around there." "We had a bit of success early on but no headliners and it seemed to get worse as time went on instead of better." "I decided I wanted to stay in the game and that if I was going to do so I had to change my approach" Out of the blue he rang Mark Purdon. "I didn't  know him and he didn't know me." "I said I wanted to to buy a horse and race it from his stable and Mark agreed." "He would select one for us at the sales for us to race."  That first one was Steve McQueen and it has gone from there" Steve McQueen was raced by the Dunfords in partnership with some friends and he was an immediate success. It was a great start for the Dunfords in their association with the All Stars barn. Steve McQueen only won three races before his sale to Australia but they were the key races. He won two Sales races including the $195,000 the Sales Open when driven by Blair Orange and also won the Cardigan Bay Stakes which was then then a Group Three race. One of his better runs at three was when he was beaten a nose in a Sires Stakes heat by none other than Auckland Reactor. Hands Christian has been a big winner for the Dunfords on their own account even if they have need the patience of Job to keep the racing faith with him after he had twice gone amiss with a tendon problem. One aspect of Have Faith In Me's triumph on Cup Day in the Sires Stakes which must have caused much celebration for the owners was how close they had come with Hands Christian beaten half a head by Gold Ace in the same race in 2011. Hands Christian wen on to win the Easter Cup but suffered a number of close defeats. Alleluia was at one stage the most brilliant three year old in the All Stars stable though he never quite lived up to that early promise. He is now racing in Australia. Mark Dennis was one of the most promising horses of his crop winning a Sires Stakes heat in 2.20.9 in one of only four starts here, winning two  of them. In the second he beat Smolda and All Star Man, Dennis makes no secret of  how his religious beliefs play a big role in his life and reveals that Have Faith in Me was intended to be called Have Faith In God. "Then I considered that the horses from that family generally have Me at the end of their name (Adore Me;Christen Me etc) so I changed it to Have Faith In Me. And you may have noticed I got to mention Deo Gratias (Thanks Be to God) in my speech! I believe all these things are part of life" Whatever the strategy or the beliefs it works. and that Deo Gratias might well be about the day Dennis Dunford decided to ring Mark. Courtesy All Stars Racing Stables - Check site here

Robert Dunn sees a silver lining to Franco Nelson’s controversial Miracle Mile snub. Because now the New Zealand Cup runner-up can be the flagbearer for his North Island satellite stable which opens this week. Franco Nelson was passed over for a Miracle Mile invite at the expense of Terror To Love, who got the second Kiwi invite to next week’s A$750,000 race, even though Franco Nelson beat him twice last week. Dunn says while he would love to be going to Australian pacing’s richest sprint he isn’t losing much sleep over the snub. “Sure, we would love to have him there but we could also go over, draw outside horses like Beautide and have no chance,” admits Dunn. “That decision is made and we have Auckland to concentrate on with him now as well as the Hunter and Victoria Cups later in the summer.” Franco Nelson will have plenty of stable company when he comes north this weekend, with Dunn and son John, who train in what is basically an unofficial partnership, sending six horses north. They will be stabled at the new Lincoln Farms property in South Auckland after owner John Street moved his harness racing operation from West Auckland. “We are privelaged to get some room at John’s place because he does things well,” says Dunn. “And the time has come for us to have a more permanent base in Auckland. “I have a lot of Auckland-based owners who want to see their horses race up there as often as we can. “And it is getting harder to ignore the stakes at Alexandra Park and the fact they have smaller fields. “So Franco will lead our team up there with horses like No Doctor Needed and Say My Name among the six we are sending up.” The Dunns won’t be the first Canterbury trainers to set up a northern base and most fall over eventually as they struggle for horse numbers or staff who can replicate the main trainer’s success in their absence. The latest venture would seem to have a greater shot at success than most though as the horses will be in the care of Matt Bowden, who has had a wonderful strike rate looking after the stable’s horses on previous extended northern raids. “Matt will be the man up there but of course John and I will be making trips up, especially John who will drive them racenight a lot of the time. “The driving can be shared with Dexter if needs be too because he drives up there a lot of the summer. “We are really excited about it because it gives up more options with our horses. “We haven’t gone into it lightly and we want to make this a permanent thing.” Franco Nelson has come though his two Cup week placings well and is being set for a $30,000 race at Alexandra Park on December 5 before having races available to him almost every week until mid-January, especially as the Harness Jewels winner is eligible for Four and Five-Year-Old mixed racing. He is then likely to head to Victoria and on to the Inter Dominion in Sydney on March 1. The Dunns setting up shop in the north will be welcomed by Alexandra Park officials as they continue to struggle for numbers in their better pacing races. Trotting races have been of huge benefit to Alexandra Park field sizes, a huge factor in turnover figures, but pacing races stronger than mid-grade still struggle. The Dunns sit second equal on the trainer’s premiership with 20 wins for the season worth nearly $300,000 in stakes. The runaway leaders at the Purdon-Rasmussen stable, which has won 36 races from 106 starters and have already banked $994,239 for the season, with nearly 60 per cent of their starters finishing in the first three.   Courtesy of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

Harness racing is one of those sports where luck plays a big part at times. Sometimes when things are going bad nothing positive happens where as when your luck is in, the world is your oyster. No one knows that better at the moment than well known owner Trevor Casey who has been riding a wave of success in the last few years. One of his many stars at the moment is the talented Majestic Son filly, Hot Pants. A $30,000 purchase at the Australasian Classic Yearling sale in Auckland in 2012, Trevor races Hot Pants in partnership with co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen and right from the start Hot Pants has shown promise. Although she didn't win as a 2 year old, Hot Pants ran second in the $82,000 Sales Trot to stablemate Dieu De L'Amour ($58,839) and fourth to another of Trevor's youngsters in Daenerys Targaryen ($106,923) in the 2 year old Trotters Championship. Hot Pants looked to have come back bigger and better at three when she won her maiden race by 10 lengths just prior to the New Zealand Trotting Oaks. But thats where things started to go wrong and Trevor didn't see it coming. "Mark was very confident of a big run in the Oaks and although she ran third, she was beaten 10 lengths and was very disappointing," Trevor told Harnesslink this week. A few days later Trevor got the call all owners dread. "Mark rang to say that Hot Pants had bled badly after the Oaks and the vet advice was that she was finished as a racehorse and should be retired,"  he said. Trevor put Hot Pants in the broodmare paddock but was toying with the idea of selling her. " I have plenty of well related and performed broodmares as it is and didn't fancy another one, he said. Trevor watched Hot Pants tearing around the broodmare paddock and wondered to himself if there was anything that might help Hot Pants get over her bleeding episode. It was at this point Trevor contacted well respected Victorian vet Alastair Maclean who is a good friend for advice. " Alastair sent me some powder to treat her with which over time seemed to pick her up and I became keen to try her again" he said. The next hurdle for Trevor was convincing Mark Purdon to try her again. "Mark was reluctant initially but came round after a couple of conversations," he said. So four months after being retired, Hot Pants returned to the All Stars training establishment at Rolleston to try to resurrect her racing career. No one involved really knew how it was going to turn out let alone Trevor. So there was some understandable nervousness in the camp when Hot Pants lined up for her first start back at the end of September at Addington. A nice fifth in the hands of part owner Natalie Rasmussen was as good as could be expected in the circumstances and it was decided to press on The first up start had qualified Hot Pants for the $24,505 final of the Alabar Super Series and with a peach of a drive from Mark Purdon she got home over Indiana Jones and Commander Paris. Next up was a junior drivers race but Trevor wasn't sure if it was the right move. "Mark was keen to put up stable driver Matt Anderson" "He had great confidence he would get the job done and as usual his judgment was spot on," he said. From there Trevor was keen to start on Cup Day but Mark had sorted out a 1950 metres mobile on Show Day and it was there Hot Pants lined up. Wide for 500 metres before finding the death seat, Hot Pant was left parked as Sunny Ruby set a scorching pace in front. Able to slot down onto the running line at the 700 metres mark when a horse broke, Mark angled her off the inner on the corner and burst through the middle late in the piece to claim a great win. Hot Pant's time of 2:25, a mile rate of 1:59.6 was a new New Zealand record for a mare 4 year old or older. Trevor was suitably impressed with Hot Pant's performance. "She has always had speed but now she has developed a staying game as well."  "To set a New Zealand record after doing so much work was a great effort,"he said Just as important was how she came through the race. "She has come through the race really well and all going well we are planning to head to Auckland now," Trevor said. It should be of little surprise that Hot Pants is going as well as she is when you look at her bloodlines. By boom trotting sire Majestic Son, Hot Pants is the first foal from the lightly raced but talented mare Dutch Annie (4 wins) ($35,719)  The second foal is last years talented 2 year old filly Yagunnakissmeornot ($26,180) who won four times in her debut season and finished fourth in the Harness Jewels. The grand-dam of Hot Pants is the brilliant racemare Miss Whiplash 1:58.6 ($151,765) who left last years 2 year old trotting filly of the year in Wanna Play 1:58.9 ($52,171)  who is also raced by Trevor. Wanna Play is also by Majestic Son making her a 3/4 sister to Hot Pants. One thing you can guarantee now is that when Hot Pant's racing career comes to an end for the second time, Trevor will manage to find a spot for her in his broodmare band. There is a fine line between success and failure in harness racing and the story of the successful return of Hot Pants to the track shows how fine that line can be at times. Harnesslink Media  

Gallant Hands Christian who survived one of the more unusual New Zealand Cup preparations only to falter during the big race, has been officially  retired and Mark and Natalie are confident he will find a good home. Hands Christian had 13 wins from just 34 starts winning over $330,000 the best being the Easter Cup for owners Mark and Dennis Dunford for whom Mark selected him as a yearling. He missed both his five year old and six year old seasons because of two separate tendon injuries but battled back this year running a close second to Adore Me at only his second start in two and a half years. A winner first up at two, Hands Christian had the first of his "near misses" when beaten half a head by Gold Ace in the Sires Stakes Final in 2010. Four November's later both were racing on Tuesday but Hands Christian had spent a lot of his time in boxes and paddocks in the interim. He was a close up third in the $250,000 Sales Pace, broke and retired from the Northern Derby, won a Derby heat in Australia and then had another heartbreak second to Gold Ace, beaten a nose,  in the Harness Jewels running 1.54.4. Third in that race was Terror To Love three years before the pair met in the Cup. After a win in the Geraldine Cup following a disappointing NZ Cup meeting, Hands Christian beat Easy On The Eye and Gold Ace in the Waikato Futurity. He then beat boomers Franco Emirate and Mah Sish in the Free For All leading into the Easter Cup and beat Terror To Love and Gold Ace in the Easter Cup. He then went to Australia and beat the Northern Derby winner Sushi Sushi in the Paleface Adios. Not long after that he went amiss in the Messenger and it was a long road back as we know. But his second placing in the Flying Stakes in his first start in 27 months was a reminder of his class. For her part Natalie was already a big fan and even after the disappointment of Tuesday she was full of admiration. "I think something happened fairly early on because he just didn't have the dash he had at Ashburton. "But he never turned it in." "He tried his heart out." "He is a very gallant horse and I was pleased to be able to drive him in the Cup." "It was a big ask but he had done his part to make it happen" It was also a massive training achievement just to get the brother ot Christen Me to the post. He never saw a beach or a swimming pool yet survived a searching preparation skilfully managed. Mark thinks Hands Christian will have no trouble finding a good home. "He would be ideally suited to something like a trail horse. "It wouldn't put the pressure on his leg a racing prep does and he would handle it fine." "He is a lovely horse with a great temperament too so he would enjoy that" Farewell Hands Christian -never a lucky horse, never a star but big on ability with a heart to match, Courtesy Of All Stars Racing - Check site here

They won the Cup- But they thought they had run second! Mary and Paul Kenny are two of the most enthusiastic owners you will find in harness racing. It is not unusual for them to fly down from Auckland to watch "Ruby" run a trial. But at their greatest moment in harness racing, Adore Me winning the New Zealand Cup, they thought they had run second. "We were on quite an angle" Mary said. "When they got to the line we thought we were second. "I thought, well that's quite good for a mare in a race like this. "It took some time before we realised we had won" she said. Paul has been a major player in thoroughbred racing for many years and has had Sydney Cup contenders among others. But he was in no doubt about what it meant yesterday. "This would take a lot of equalling" The Kenny's were not alone. Mark confessed he wasn't entirely sure Adore Me had won either. "My view of John Dunn's horse (Franco Nelson) was obscured by the horse between us. "So I wasn't really sure and probably would have accepted had we been beaten" Arden Rooney didn't quite make it on the day but when you look at the time he ran it was a terrific performance. Hands Christian did not turn out to be a fairytale but as far as Natalie is concerned he won the most important tribute from a horseman of all - to his character and heart. "It wasn't good. "I felt he propped soon after the start and that was where his leg  felt the strain. "But he never wanted to give up. "He ran his heart out. "When you look at where he finished it was a great effort. " He is just such a amazing horse" Courtesy Of All Stars Racing Stable - Check site here

It was a gem of a moment. Away from the crowd, out of sight of most on course. But it was the most memorable scene of a day where just about every superlative had been used.  Natalie Rasmussen gave Mark Purdon a big hug and whispered in his ear: "Well done darling, I'm so proud of you, so happy for you.'' And then, hand in hand, the couple stood there reflecting on what they'd just achieved. For it wasn't just the New Zealand Trotting Cup they'd won. The partners had just completed what would have to rate as the most dominant display ever seen on a racecourse anywhere in the world. Adore Me's win was their sixth of the day - they'd won all but one of the races they'd contested, and run second in the other. Backup, Rare Opportunity and Messini were entrees to the prestigeous Sires Stakes Final when Have Faith In Me led home a stable trifecta, then Vice Consul, Adore Me and one race later Prince Fearless made it seven wins. And four of those winners were in New Zealand record time.  The blue colours with the silver stars seemed to be everywhere, and in every finish. It was a feat which wasn't going unnoticed by the man in the hat, helping gear up their next runner. It was brother Barry Purdon, lending a hand in what was a massive operation for the stable with 20 runners on the day. He'd been through this in the early 90s, when he had a large stable, he said, and knew how much hard work it was. "Mark's a champion trainer and his success is due in part because he's so hands-on," he said. "But you're still only as good as the people behind you and he has that with his staff and owners. And he's instilled that much confidence in them that they keep coming back. "I'd like to have 10 great horses in my team too but you have to go through the numbers to do that and I doubt I could get the right people to help these days. "We used to have horses racing at Addington, Sydney and Melbourne at any one time and if you haven't got the right people helping you just can't send them away. "It's a very stressful lifestyle. You have to plan every day and that's what this stable is good at, they know exactly where they're heading.'' It's in the planning that Rasmussen has really helped the All Stars team since she and Purdon joined together two years ago. But she could praise only her own team last night when the gear bags were being packed up. "I'm so proud of the horses. And we have an amazing team of owners and staff. We'd have the best group of track drivers we've ever had. "But achieveing this sort of thing takes a lot of work. It's all day. every day on Sundays, but it all comes down to days like today and they give you a kick along and keep you going a bit longer.'' Purdon admits, however, that only this last week he and Natalie had been questioning their lifestyle. "Natalie has done a big team all her life in Brisbane, like me, and she knows how demanding it is,'' Purdon said. "We were asking ourselves the other day just how much longer we wanted to be doing this. "I'm up at 4am every day doing the work lists, feed up is at 5.30am and we start work at 6.30am. "We've got 12 staff but it's still a big job with 55 horses in the stable.'' The crowd of more than 20,000 who cheered their runners home race after race will be hoping it doesn't end any time soon. Courtesy Of Barry Lichter

While there are plenty of stars at Addington on Cup day, the All Stars Racing Stables must surely be at the head of the queue on harness racings big day. The Junior FFA drew a great field today with the All Stars having two runners both drawn awkwardly in Messini and Fly Like An Eagle. Flt Like An Eagle raced like a horse who didn't want to be there as a stallion can do at times but Messini with the help of a peach of a drive from Natalie Rasmussen proved too tough for the star studded field. Settled back early from the second row, Messini joined the three wide line with a lap to go and then landed the one by one when Gold Ace ended up in the death seat after following Messini forward. Off the back when the leader Venus Serena started to tire, Natalie switched Messini down to the inside to save ground and grabbed the lead half way up the straight and held on for a comfortable win from smart finishers in  Fifth Edition and Mighty Flying Mac.  Messini paced the 2600 metres from the mobile in a new New Zealand record of 3:07.2, a mile rate of 1:55.8 with closing sectionals of 56.9 and 29.1 It was the 13th win from just 28 starts for the son of Art Major and reaffirmed that good looks ain't everything as Messini is quite plain in appearance. Messini does stand out from the crowd when racing with his low head carriage due to not wearing an overcheck and Natalie thinks it helps with some horses. We don't work a lot of them at home with overchecks so we take that through to race day with some of them and it definitely suits him. "Messini was jogging at the 400 metres today and most of the others had done plenty of work so I was pretty confident turning in" she said. While not a standout to look at Messini is all horse according to Natalie. "There is not that much to him but what there is, is all class," she said.  The All Stars team always shine on the big occasion and today is just another example of the professionalism they bring to the industry.  Harnesslink Media  

Champion trainer Mark Purdon says bookies and punters have read tomorrow’s $700,000 New Zealand Trotting Cup wrong. Because he believes Hands Christian, the $11 chance he trains with partner Natalie Rasmussen, is a better chance than their Cup third favourite Adore Me. In fact, Purdon and Rasmussen have both thought that for the last month and are even more convinced after events of the last week. The love bookies and punters have had for Adore Me since the Cup market opened is understandable --- she beat Terror To Lover over 3200m on this track in the Easter Cup in April, is a glamour mare with an imposing strike rate and won the Flying Stakes at Ashburton last start, beating all of today’s major NZ players. So why isn’t she the stable’s top pick? Because they believe Hands Christian has a better draw, more consistent manners and more improvement in him. Hands Christian has only had two starts back from an injury-enforced break that saw him not race for 28 months but both that runs have been brave. He was fourth fresh up behind Terror To Love and then led and was caught late by Adore Me at Ashburton. “And you would think he will improve with those runs,” says Purdon. “We are thrilled with how he has come back up after so long off and he has been strong to the line in both his races. “His manners are good too and I can see him being handy to the speed, maybe even leading if Christen Me doesn’t. “And that would make him hard to beat because Nat was thrilled with him in the Cup trial last Wednesday. She thinks she could have won that had she got serious.” Hands Christian has always been a serious horse and also boasts an Easter Cup win over Terror To Love, beating him, Gold Ace and subsequent Hunter Cup winner Mah Sish in the 2012 Easter Cup, after settling behind all three. So all of those factors add up for Purdon to rate him ahead of Adore Me, even though she is one of our great modern day mares. Her Ashburton win was comprehensive but came courtesy of a brilliant standing start beginning which gave her a huge tactical advantage. But her chances of settling handy tomorrow diminished enormously after two separate events last Wednesday -- she drew the second line and then galloped way in the Cup trial. “We are hoping being off the second line helps her begin better and concentrate because she went great in the Cup trial after that,” says Purdon. “But even if she begins well it is hard to see her getting in front of the other favourites and that means she could need a lot of luck, whereas they might need as much. “So while she can win Hands Christian has to be our best chance. I’ll be honest, her gallop in the Cup trial did knock my confidence just a touch.” Purdon, who also has Arden Rooney as an outside place hope tomorrow, is looking for his first New Zealand Cup win since Il Vicolo defended his title in 1996, an incredible drought considering how many headline pacers he has trained since. He has had a placegetter in the last four Cups, with Fly Like An Eagle, Highview Tommy (twice), Sushi Sushi and Sleepy Tripp, with his two big names tomorrow better horses than any of that quartet. The Purdon-Rasmussen stable also have a five starters in tomorrow’s $170,000 Sires’ Stakes and rate Alta Orlando as their best chance, even though the gawky pacer starts from the unruly. “I think there is a chance they will go hard early and then he can come into the race so being unruly might not be a bad thing,” said Purdon. “But Hughie Green will be hard to beat. He is staying at our place and has settled in well and is a lovely horse so we know what we are up against with him.” While the leading stable has huge representation tomorrow, their best winning hopes come in the support races. Purdon opts for Backup (race two) and Rare Opportunity (race three) as two of their better chances and perhaps surprisingly Messini over last season’s Cup runner-up Fly Like An Eagle in the free-for-all. Courtesy Of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand  

There was icing on the cake for Mark and Natalie when final hoppled work was completed at All Stars on Sunday morning with their 21 strong team for harness racing's big day on Tuesday. Firstly Adore Me and Hands Christian completed their work  in grand style. They ran two heats over 2400m the first in 3.40 and the second in 3.20 with the closing 400m in 28.8. That was really good news but there was better. When the pair were given two standing starts, both began safely and quickly. The start is going to be crucial on Cup Day and if Hands Christian begins quickly that will probably mean Adore Me who is drawn nearly behind him will have clear air too. Arden Rooney who has been mixing hoppled work with galloping will have a gallop on Monday morning as his final workout. Prince Fearless and Wanna Play worked over 2400m well in 3.20 home in 1:01 before having some barrier practice also. Alta Orlando and Hug The Wind  bettered their blackboard assignment running 3.16 but home in even time. Hug The Wind produced some of his best work of recent times. Change Stride and Have Faith In Me worked on the straight track as did Someardensomewhere ( 4 relays over 800m) and Willow and Vice Consul worked nicely over 2400m in 3.16 coming their last 800m in even time which was good work. A change to usual sights was the pairing of Smolda as a galloping pacemaker for Hughie Green. They weren't chasing time but the three year old was almost equal in size to the six year old and looks a picture. Some of the team had worked on Saturday among them Messini. "When he is trimmed up he doesn't take a lot so to work him Saturday keeps him that little bit fresh for Tuesday" Mark said Courtesy Of All Stars Racing Stables - Check site here

The once a year harness racing meeting at Kaikoura has always been able to throw up some pointers to Cup Week. Last year the Kaikoura Cup for the open class pacers was won by Fly Like An Eagle who then ran a neck second in the New Zealand Cup eight days later. While most of the big guns like Terror To Love and Christen Me miss the race, it does let the horses below them sort themselves out in the pecking order below the superstars. This years race drew a smart field of horses who were still eligible for the New Zealand Cup headed by the likes of Franco Ledger and Arden Rooney. Run over 2400 metres from a stand, the Kaikoura Cup is a race were being in front or handy on the tight and unbanked 1100 metres track is crucial. Yesterday's race was no exception with the first two away being the first two home.  Arden Rooney stepped beautifully from barrier three and grabbed the early lead from Franco Ledger who bobbled for a stride or two before settling in the trail behind the leader. Natalie Rasmussen set a really strong pace in front with Arden Rooney and it wasn't until the 700 metres that he had company when eyeballed by Jimmy Johnstone with John Hay in the bike. At the 400 metres Natalie pushed the go button and Arden Rooney put a couple of lengths on Franco Ledger and Jimmy Johnson and was still a couple of lengths clear half way up the straight before Franco Ledger closed late but was still half a length in arrears at the finish. Jimmy Johnson was six lengths away in third and a further six lengths back to Helena Jet who provided a minor highlight of the race to finish fourth after galloping at the start and settling five lengths last. Arden Rooney, who is owned by big spending Australian owners Meg and Merv Butterworth, paced the 2400 metres from a stand in 2:57.9, a mile rate of 1:59.2 with closing sectionals of 55.7 and 27.7. Natalie said the key to the win was the great start that Arden Rooney made. "It's crucial to make a good start on this track as it is really hard to make up ground here. "He will be fitter for todays run and the two miles for the Cup will really suit" she said. The disappointment of the race was last years winner Fly Like An Eagle who finished 11th. Even though he was badly checked on the last bend and went into a gallop, he looked to be struggling at the time. Mark Purdon was not happy with the run and a Cup start looks unlikely. "I will recommend that we miss the Cup with him. "He is just not going good enough. "He got into trouble in the Cup but if he was going as well as he should be he wouldn't have been where he was anyway. "It is up to the owners but that is where we are with him at the moment" he said One of the intriguing questions to come out of yesterday is which horse Natalie will drive in the Cup as she has also partnered Hands Christen throughout the spring. Harnesslink Media  

Of course he must be otherwise Mark and Natalie wouldn't be starting him ! But seriously will a lack of racing find Hands Christian out at the end of a hard 3200metres? Its possible. Before his great run in the Canterbury Classic he had not raced for two years and five months since breaking down in the Messenger (4th) at Alexandra Park. In the previous month he had won the Easter Cup in 4.04 beating Terror To Love -only his third win at Addington after a heartbreak loss to Gold Ace in the Sires Stakes Final at three.  But he had a lot of racing leading up to that Easter Cup including a win in the Paleface Adios in Australia. To be honest few male pacers in modern times have won the race with two races in two years -actually none-and Mark concedes that he would have had more racing but for the tendon issues. His previous tendon injuries have restricted the race pressure Mark and Natalie have been prepared to put Hands Christian under. But he has been in work a long time and his actual fitness levels will equal most in this field. And he pulled up so well in the Flying Stakes he might not even need to go to the Cup Trial. Hands Christian's being able to resume after such a long break and match up with the best has caught the eye of canny punters. When the Cup book opened he was at $61 but he is a lot shorter now. Even before the drive on Smolda or Adore Me was going for the Cup Natalie said she was more than happy to drive Hands Christian. The lady is a fine judge. The record book is against the gallant Hands. But then record books have surrendered to Cup winners in the past and he is on track for a truly remarkable comeback-one of the biggest in cup history. It won't be easy. You couldn't say it was probable. But it can happen. Courtesy Of All Stars Racing Stables - Check site here

Kentuckiana Lodge filly Delightful Lana tried hard but wasn’t quite good enough to hold out the short-priced Allstars favourite in Fight For Glory in the $25,000 Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies Heat at Addington on Friday October 31. The two leading stables reps went head to head over the final lap. They had lengths on their rivals as the top two duelled it out in a 1:55.8 mile rate (1950m), showing no respite over their last 800m in 55s and final 400m in 27s. The winning time of 2:20.4 was fast but outside the NZ 3YO fillies mark of 2:19.1 (1:54.7) rate, set by last season’s age group champ Venus Serena in the G1 Nevele R Fillies Final on May 10. Delightful Lana held the inside running from the ace barrier, with Fight For Glory, after having no luck getting into the running line from the four gate into the first turn, forced to move up parked. The honours in this round went to Fight For Glory, the daughter of Art Major and the first foal from seven-win NZ mares record-holder Breath Of Life (2:39.8, 2200m), who did just enough to score by a head in the hands of co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen. She was first-up since her top 2YO filly season, but had trialled strongly for the Allstars barn in recent weeks. Fight For Glory won two of seven juvenile starts but was also placed four times and her worst run was a fourth in the Harness Jewels.. She was very good running a nose second from the second row to Joanne’s A Delight in the G1 $138,000 Magness Benrow Sires Stakes Fillies Championship (1:55.4 rate, 1700m), and also a length second to Katy Perry in the Listed $146,250 PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales 2YO Fillies Final (1:56.7 rate, 1700m, both at Auckland in May. Fight For Glory wrapped up her 2YO racing with a close-up strong-finishing fourth behind stablemates Supersonic Miss and Linda Lovegrace, and the Nigel McGrath-trained Joanne’s A Delight, in the G1 Harness Jewels 2YO Fillies Diamond (1:54.1 mile) at Cambridge on May 31. Delighful Lana was a sound but luckless seventh in the Jewels (racetimed in 1:55.2), making ground after settling back on the inner. Fight For Glory and Delightful Lana drew out by 4 1/4 lengths in their Addington clash, with lightly-raced Mark Jones-trained Bettor’s Delight filly Twice The Delight, finishing on late from four back on the markers to grab third. The marker line was the place to be in such a fast run. BB’s Inspiration, three back on the inner, fought solidly for fourth, with Lightning Mach, having her first run in a feature fillies race, peaking inside the last 100m after having every chance in the trail behind Delightful Lana, to wind up fifth. Margarita, given the run of the race on outer behind Fight For Glory by Jeremy Markham, was unable to quicken on the fast speed in the run home, battling away to finish next. Bettor Think Twice, after being eased from her wide gate early, made a dab three wide down the back at the 600m, but couldn’t progress further over the fast final 800m. Courtesy Of Cran Dalgety Racing Stables - Check site here  

Harness racing in New Zealand lost one of its racetrack stars this week when the outstanding trotting racemare Superbowlcheerleader was retired due to injury. Since joining the All Stars team last year, she had gone ahead in leaps and bounds and looked to be in for a huge season. Originally with the Wallis/Hackett barn for whom she won six races, Superbowlcheerleader was purchased last year by Brian West and Sue Grainger first and foremost as a future broodmare. The daughter of Sundon had won six races and close to $40,000 and after being purchased,she was transferred to the All Stars barn at Rolleston for a few more starts before becoming a broodmare. However it soon became apparent that Superbowlcheerleader was far from finished an the racetrack. Always known to be a touch headstrong like a lot of the Sundon's, Superbowlcheerleader showed the All Star team enough to suggest that they should press on with a race career. It took half a dozen starts for the All Stars team to get her to the winners circle but she kept on improving and a 3rd in the $80,000 Group 1 New Zealand Trotting Championship to Master Lavros in a 1:59.4 mile rate for the 2600 metres had everyone sitting up and taking notice. At her next start Superbowlcheerleader won the $95,845 Group 1 Anzac Cup over Zedalite after sitting parked for the majority of the journey in what was undoubtedly her best win. She started this season with a neck second to Kinscaslough in New Zealand record time and looked to be peaking nicely for all the big trotting races around Cup week. Since being purchased and transferred to the All Stars barn, Superbowlcheerleader had faced the starter 19 times for 4 wins and 5 placings for stakes of $99,337. She goes to stud with an overall record of 47 starts for 10 wins, 5 seconds and 8 thirds for stakes totaling $139,782 When spoken to this morning Brian West while disappointed with how it ended, has loved the ride with the mare. " We purchased her really as a broodmare and to have her turn around and race like that has been a huge thrill"  he said. " Mark and Natalie have done such a great job with her and I feel for them a bit as they thought she was shaping up to have her best season yet. "We haven't decided on a stallion for her yet but there is no shortage of world class sires available,"  he said. Superbowlcheerleader is the 3rd foal from the Britewell mare Brite Paula. The first two are both winners in Going Commando - 6 wins ($37,477) and Hot Holiday -17 wins ($159,404) while Brite Paula herself is a full sister to the former age group star Super Command -11 wins ($185,803) The third dam is the brilliant trotting mare Paula Scott who raced in North America in the 1970s, taking a record then of 2:00 and earning $123,198. and she was a half sister to the great trotting mare Paulette who won the 1971 Group One Rowe Cup. It has been a great trotting family for over 40 years and Superbowlcheerleader will get her chance at stud to further enhance its standing. Harnesslink Media

The harness racing action moved to the trials at Rangiora yesterday after the huge day at Ashburton on Monday and saw a large batch of 2 year olds strut their stuff for the first time. The first of the 2 year old heats was for the fillies and all six runners were from the all conquering All Stars team. Arden's Choice by Panspacificflight did enough to grab the pacemaking Sophisticated Lady (Mach Three) in the last few metres but the whole six finished within a couple of lengths of each other in their first serious hitout. The overall time of 2:42.7 in the very windy conditions was what you would expect from a first up run and it should be upwards and onwards from here. The second of the 2 year old heats for colts and geldings saw a 3 year old added to the 5 runners in the form of Bettor Be Smooth and as you would expect he was too strong for the juveniles. Two All Stars runners in Chase The Dream (Bettor's Delight)  and Waikiki Beach (Somebeachsomewhere) closed in the straight but were still 1 1/4 and 2 1/2 lengths in arrears at the finish. However as the last 800 metres was cut out in a blistering 56.6 and 400 metres in 28.6, in less than ideal conditions, then both 2 year olds look to be very promising. In the third 2 year old heat which was also for colts and geldings, another of the All Stars team in Major Ben was very impressive. Slow to begin from the outside alley, Major Ben (Art Major) looped the field after 300 metres and was too strong afterwards winning by two lengths in the fastest time of the three heats of 2:37.2. with closing sectionals of 58.6 and 28.5 Stablemate Lazarus (Bettor's Delight) made ground late to grab second from Audi Hare (Mach Three) from the Michael House barn. Major Ben was easily the biggest of the 2 year olds on display yesterday but seems to have speed to match his size. There was plenty of talented horseflesh in some of the other heats yesterday and this is how we saw them. Isaiah looked very forward as he nabbed a game Venus Serena in his heat which was cut out in a 1:59.8 mile rate with smart sectionals in the conditions of 56.8 and 28.1 Both look ready to rumble come Cup week Itz Bettor To Win made ground well behind the first two for third and can't be far away from making his 3 year old debut. Ancient Moonlight and Cut Loose were very impressive in a C0 heat, clearing out a long way from home with only half a head separating them at the finish. The overall time of 2:30.7 was excellent in the conditions and both horses look to be early winners on that run. Ranfurly Rulz looked forward to resume when winning his heat in a 1:59.8 mile rate when the wind was at its worst and after he had done all the work in front. Princess Galleon trialed again like a trotter who is going to win one at short notice when she cleared out by five lengths in her heat. Webb Ellis and Highview Freddy were only separated by a half head in their heat and both look ready to win a maiden at short notice. Overall apart from the wind, it was a day that threw up several smart horses for racing around New Zealand Cup week Harnesslink Media

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