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Mile racing, more than most, is about breaking records and Neville Cleaver - owner of Franco Santino which smashed the Southland three year old record at the Wairio meeting today, was over the moon about not only the win, but the record that came with it. And so too was the horse's trainer and driver Nathan Williamson.  "Thrilled to be doing that. We were humming along right from the start. We'll have to look at the Southern Supremacy now," he said after the Christian Cullen colt ran out the mile in 1-52.0. The super quick time was set up by Mach's Back who lead for driver Dexter Dunn from barrier one with Franco Santino getting the perfect run behind the leader. Turning in, Dunn pinched a break and Williamson decided not to take the passing lane and drove Franco Santino down the middle of the track to get up by half a neck.  "That other horse was really making him work to get there but my horse just kept coming and he was real genuine." Franco Santino (2) getting the better of Mach's Back          - Photo Bruce Stewart. The time of 1-52.0 broke Gentle Western's three year old colts and gelding track and Southland record of 1-55.0 set in 2013. It also bettered Fly Like An Eagle's Open Geldings and Entires record of 1-53.9. The all-comers track record of 1-51.9 is held by Delightful Memphis.  "He's still pretty physically immature. We just have to make sure we look after him all the way. We have to space his races."  The win was Williamson's 199th as a trainer.  Cleaver, who likes to look deep into a horses pedigree said that he was taken by Franco Santino's second dam's time trial record of 1-52.6 and the rich pedigree the colt had on his dam's side.   "Before I went to the sales to buy him I looked at the breeding and thought what a lovely well bred horse this is. I showed Nathan a picture of him before we went there and he said yeah buy it. I managed to get him for $55,000. The brother at the next years sale went for $190,000," he said.   Cleaver expects the phone will ring with buyer interest, but he said he loves to race them. "It's about putting a few cups on the mantlepiece."    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing  

"He's got a good motor and he keeps doing what you ask of him and that's all you can ask," said driver Nathan Williamson after Picketts Ridge won the $12,000 Gold Nuggets Final at Wyndham yesterday (Saturday). It was noticeable prior to the start, that Williamson was keeping the four year old busy warming him up away from other horses.  "He just seems to trot through that early part of the race if you keep him moving around prior to the start. I thought by keeping him warm it would help and he trotted off the mark good today." Picketts Ridge stepped well and was kept wide early before reaching the top with just over a lap to run.  "I said to the guys I didn't want to push him early just in case he had a silly gallop for no reason. He felt pretty solid and that was as good as he's trotted." At the end of the 2400 metres Picketts Ridge and favourite Pres The Belle were left to fight out the finish with Picketts Ridge getting there by half a head.  "We had to get there without galloping. It's a fine line. I had to give him a couple on the bum to make sure he got the job done and he kept digging in." Trainer John Ryan holding the head of Picketts Ridge with Tony and Phillipa Holland are either side of driver Nathan Williamson - Photo Bruce Stewart. Owned by Tony and Phillipa Holland and trained by John Ryan the gelding was bred by Macca Lodge which owns a full brother called Cuchulainn. He's three. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing   Picketts Ridge winning at Wyndham

Smart trotter Dark Horse won't race this season. The five year old mare was scratched from the Southern Lights at the Northern Southland meeting on Saturday after her trainer Nathan Williamson came back from the Winton Workouts to find her lame in the paddock. The injury was diagnosed on Friday as a hind suspensory injury.  "It's worse that it happened the day before her race. You spend three months working towards this race. It's very frustrating. She's like one of the family and I spend a lot of time with her," Williamson said when I spoke to him on Friday. Dark Horse was scanned today by local vet Brendon Bell, and a year away from racing was recommended. "She'll stay at home and be boxed for a while, re-scanned, do some hand walking and have a long slow build up. The vet sounded hopeful. I guess we'll aim at the Southern Lights next year." The Bacardi Lindy mare is raced on lease by the Griffins and Seafield Trotting Syndicate who have been eagerly awaiting her return to the racetrack as have all of the Southland Harness Racing fraternity. From her twenty race-day appearances Dark Horse has won nine races and banked $84,541. One of her attributes was her high speed and Williamson was certainly happy with her condition and buildup going into Saturday's feature. She last raced at Addington in the middle of November. Meanwhile he was very complimentary of Haras des Trotteurs for sponsoring the inaurgural Southland Trotting Oaks on Saturday. "I have a couple of nice two year old trotting fillies who will certainly be aimed at the race next season. It's good that it was supported by Northern trainers along with locals," he said.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Hopes And Dreams added to her very good record when she outstayed a game Steiger in the 2017 edition of the Wairio Cup. "When they started to come at the 800 I'd had such a good run I had to come out and get going. So I worked forward and it worked out lovely. Dexter had pinched a bit of a break down the back and around the side. I knew she was a good stayer so I thought I'd get rolling from the 400 and make it hard for the ones at the back. It was 27 flat from the quarter so it did make it hard for the horses coming from the back. She hasn't got instant speed but rolling from that quarter she was pretty good," said driver Nathan Williamson. Back to the birdcage - Photo Bruce Stewart The five year old mare by Christian Cullen out of One Dream is raced by Neville Cleaver and Kevin Strong and is trained at Westward Beach by Graeme Anderson. She has now won seven races and banked $49,400. The winning owners are Kevin Strong (third from left) and Neville Cleaver (fifth from left) - Photo Bruce Stewart. Prior to yesterday's race she was taken out on the track and warmed up by Sheree Tomlinson.  "I think she feels her joints every now and then so they warm her up the race before every time she races. It seems to have done the trick again." It's third time Williamson has won the Wairio Cup. His previous two winners were; Here Comes Soky in 2006 and Costa Del Magnifico in 2015.  Hopes And Dreams is likely to head to the broodmare paddock this season as her owners are keen to get her in foal to Bettors Delight. Cleaver is having a great season, having success with Hopes And Dreams, Sundons Wish, Franco Santino and Scarlett Lane. The cup time was 2-58.7. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Two well bred two year old trotters featured in the last heat of the Winton Workouts on Friday. Hawaiian Hula and Chinese Whisper had their first public workout over 1609 metres for Nathan Williamson's stable.  Chinese Whisper, which won by a nose from his stablemate is a gelding by Sundon out of Little Contessa. That makes him a full brother to Davey Mac, Irish Whisper and Heard the Whisper - all good winners for Nathan's father Phil Williamson.  Hawaiian Hula was a $14,000 purchase at the Sale of the Stars earlier this year. She's by Dream Vacation out of Kylie Ree. Kylie Ree won four of her eleven starts including the Harness Jewels Two Year Old Ruby, New Zealand Sires Stakes Two Year Old Trotters Championship and the Hambletonian for three year olds. Kylie Ree's only other foals of racing age are She's Allthe Craze which has won twice for Nathan and Springbank Lachie, trained by Phil, which won the New Zealand Trotting Stakes at his first start, and also ran second in the New Zealand Yearling Sales Two Year Old Trot Final and fifth in the Two Year Old Ruby on Jewels Day at the end of the season.  Another winner at the workouts was Triroyale Brigade also trained by Nathan Williamson which beat Tad Lincoln and I'mallaboutthebase in a 2400 metre mobile for M47 to M53 horses. Triroyale Brigade winning at the workouts.                -Photo Bruce Stewart In the up to M65 grade over 2400 metres from the mobile McKenzie Mara led all the way to hold out a late run from Shorty's Mate. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Quality Southland mare Shezacullengirl has been floated to Auckland in preparation for a couple of big assignments during the next fortnight. The Christian Cullen four year old mare left for Auckland last Wednesday and will be stabled at Brent Mangos's Pukekohe stable. "She does all her work on the beach and it's 20 minutes from Mango's place to the beach, so it's spot on," said trainer Paul Ellis.  Her targets are the Group Three Caduceus Club Northern Breeders on Friday, and the $100,000 Group One Rosslands Queen Of Hearts on the 15th December. Both are raced over 2200 metres from the mobile. At her last start at Invercargill Shezacullengirl was impressive when she tenaciously held on to beat Franco Tai by half a length in a smart time of 2-41.2.  "Real good. She's got a bit of a ticker. Gav Smith (driver) was worried about Franco Tai on his back. He (Franco Tai) did bugger all work. We had a go at the other one (Delishka) and still held them off so she's gone bloody good." Shezacullengirl was initially trained by Nathan Williamson who won two races with her in her three year old season. She was later transferred to Ellis's Oreti Beach barn where she's enjoyed the smaller stable and beach environment.  "She never sees a hopple. She canters and plays around then goes to the races and tries her guts out. Can't see that there's any point in changing anything."  Ellis acknowledges that the Auckland races will be a bit of a test but says his mare is in peak condition at the moment.  "Fitness isn't an issue. The trip up there won't worry her too much. The Auckland way round might be the only thing but the only way you're going to find out is to try. I'll run her that way round at Mango's on Monday and may take her into Alexandra Park for a bit of pace work on Wednesday."  Ellis will travel up to Auckland on Sunday to supervise the mare's preparation.   "We'll see what happens. We'll probably give her a spell after that. They're (owners) pretty keen to have a go at the Jewels at Cambridge. We just need to be earning money I suppose." Shezacullengirl is currently fourteenth on the leader board for the Four Year Old Diamond.  The last time Ellis was in Auckland was with trotter Idle Bones which won three races there before she was sold to clients of Brent Mangos.   Bruce Stewart Southland harness racing

Southland based driver Sheree Tomlinson became the first female driver to win the time honoured Dominion Handicap at Addington yesterday (Friday). The nineteen year old is the youngest driver to the win the race and just the second junior driver to win the Group One feature; the first being Anthony Butt who won it in 1987, driving Simon Katz. "It was so special and very emotional. As soon as they crossed the line I was pretty much in tears," she said yesterday after Amaretto Sun which is trained by her Grandfather Ken Ford won at odds of 91 to 1. Things looked promising at the start when she timed her walk up to the tape perfectly and began well to lead early, before The Foot Tapper then Great Things Happen took over leaving Amaretto Sun three back on the running line. "He just stepped so good. That's probably the best he's ever stepped in his whole career. I couldn't hand up to The Foot Tapper straight away because you have to let my horse run for that first 400 metres because he can buck. You just have to loose rein him for the first bit. I knew when The Foot Tapper got to the front he'd only hand to the best horse in the race. I saw Gavin (Gavin Smith on favourite Great Things Happen)coming and I knew he'd stay there." That's the way it remained until the field straightened for the run home at the end of the 3200 metre feature. "I had to tell myself heading up the home straight not to pull out and hope that I'd get a run inside the passing lane. It opened up, he got the run then he showed some high speed. Turning for home Dexter had Bordeaux on the bit with the plug out and he was travelling but he was tapping him up a bit. I thought that's alright. Then I thought Gavin would have put a few lengths on us but he was only half travelling. I thought if I get a run I should go close but I definitely wasn't expecting to win it."   I was in the last 50 metres that the inside run presented itself and the Sundon six year old let down nicely to beat The Foot Tapper by a length and a quarter. The win was celebrated by Tomlinson with a flourish of the whip. "There were so many things going through my head. I couldn't believe it. He's been so up and down in the last twelve months. He went super in the Ordeal Cup, he then had a couple of issues and we had to get the chiropractor to him." Although not overly confident about her chances in the Dominion there were signs that the horse was well pre-race.  "I couldn't even walk him around before the race he was that keen and full of himself. He tried to boot me out of the cart five or six times in the warm up. I think it's a habit he's got into. Once he's going and focussed on the job he's a beautiful horse to drive."  The last Southland based driver to win the Dominion was Nathan Williamson when he drove Springbank Richard to win in 2009. Before that you have to go back to Henry Skinner who drove Tobago to win in 1989.  "To us as a family the Dominion is like winning the New Zealand Trotting Cup. Grandad only really trains trotters."   Amaretto Sun has only ever been driven in his thirty six starts be either Sheree or her mother Amanda. Amanda drove him to win at his first start at Banks Peninsula in September 2015. The mother and daughter have each driven the gelding five times to win. Tomlinson, who works for Invercargill trainer Murray Brown, currently sits second behind Matt Anderson in the Junior Drivers Premiership and has been racking up the travel miles this season, venturing to Canterbury most weekends.   "Murray has been very good to me. I come up most weeks to Addington to drive on Friday night. If it wasn't for my Mum and Dad and Nana and Grandad helping me I wouldn't be able to do it. I really do appreciate it."  Tomlinson says the Green Mile at Methven on December 3rd is the horse's next target before he heads to Auckland with the main target The Rowe Cup. "I'm heading over for the Australiasian Drivers Championship in December and I think one of his races is when I'm over in Aussie. I'll have to sweet talk Grandad and miss that one. Mum may have to put on the colours and drive him." Sheree Tomlinson has driven forty six winners in the three seasons she's been driving. Her first winner was Little Mo at Oamaru in January 2016.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

"He's pretty green as you can see but he's got a motor," were Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray's words in describing Mr Kiwi who won on debut at Wyndham today. Gray says win loss or draw, today the horse was always going to be turned out and he'll go to part-owner Ben Calder's Grinaldi Lodge tomorrow morning. "He taken a bit to click onto the racing game. We'll give him a good month off and we'll go again. I think he's six months away so we'll attack later in the season. We've got some nice races like the Supremacy but we'll just play the cautious game and hopefully it'll reward us." Prior to today's debut Mr Kiwi had been to seven workouts - all at Winton, winning five including his last two. Gray and regular driver Brent Barclay have played the patience card all the way through knowing that the half  brother to the talented Mr Mojito was worth waiting for.  Mr Kiwi after winning at Wyndham                        Photo Bruce Stewart "I think in time he could be quite a nice horse. I think you just have to wait for the American Ideals. In today's race Mr Kiwi settled in the rear division in a strung out field. When he got in to the three wide running line with just under a lap to run driver Nathan Williamson had to give him a reminder with the whip to keep his mind on the job.  "He also got a bit of a check so he did pretty well on debut. He's come from last down the back so he's gone bloody good. Nathan had never driven him before and we told him he was a trick to drive. Brent gave him instructions on how to drive the horse. Nathan thought that was a bit weird,but Brent was right on the money. Brent told him (Williamson) that you've always got to be on his case because you might think that he's flat as a biscuit but there's always something left."  Mr Kiwi (12) beating Matai Will (1) and James Butt (10)                  - Photo Bruce Stewart. The winning margin was a length from rank outsider Matai Will.  Gray's wife Gina has a share in Mr Kiwi along with breeders Ben and Karen Calder and Earl Shannon and his partner Mrs J Banjnoczi - Shannon.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

She showed potential at three, winning impressively at Roxburgh but since then She's Allthe Craze hasn't shown a consistent formline. However when it counted in the first $12,000 Gold Chip Trotters Final at Wyndham today she showed her true worth.  "She's been racing well below her best. She's had numerous health issues but today she showed she's starting to get on top of them. She's been training fine but racing poorly. It's just been in the last two or three starts that she's started to get on top of things. In the last month or so she has really put condition on," said trainer driver Nathan Williamson.  The five year old Crazed mare is owned by Brian McCully, (who bred her, Hugh Catto, Ian Pitches from Oamaru and Bill Johnson who owns the Waimate Hotel.   "They've been great. They've stepped back realising that we've been having problems. I'm glad they were able to win that nice race today because they've been so loyal." She's Allthe Craze is out of the Monarchy mare Kylie Ree which won four of her eleven starts. She was trained primarily by Mark Purdon and Grant Payne. As a two year old she won the Group Two Two Year Old Trotters Championship beating Paramount Geegee and also won the Group One Two Year Old Ruby at Cambridge. At three she won the Hambletonian at Ashburton. She's Allthe Craze is Kylie Ree's first foal while the talented Springbank Lachie is her second. Williamson bought her next foal Hawaiian Hula (two year old filly by Dream Vacation) and then last year he purchased the mare. He also owns a Trixton yearling colt which is due to foal to Father Patrick in the next few weeks. "The owners have an option of taking a share in every foal she has."  In today's race she settled four back on the inside. She got off the running line with 500 metres to run. After getting a check with 400 metres to run, she came wide but was still five lengths away from the leader at the top of the straight. She let down nicely in the middle of the track to beat Southern Alps by a neck. She's Allthe Craze (8) beating Southern Alps (11)                   - Photo Bruce Stewart.  "We were left parked early. I thought 'I won't overdrive her.' I knew she was good with one sprint." Williamson said the mare was checked at the 400. And stated it would have been a travesty to have been beaten. "She was too good on the day." Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing    

Hurricane Banner provided Gore trainer Shane Matheson and stable helper Jane Orr with a big thrill on Sunday when he easily won the Ryder Plumbing and Roofing Mobile Pace by three and a quarter lengths in the hands of Brad Williamson. Orr, who is married to Northern Southland trotting identity Noddy Orr, has rekindled her love of horses by helping Matheson out in his stables.  "I had a lovely standardbred when I was a teenager called Patanga Park but it wasn't until I got involved with Noddy that I got involved again," she said. The five year old by Real Desire started his career with Gavin Smith before stints with Nathan Williamson and Ray Faithful. Matheson has had him since July this year.  "He's paddock trained. He loves the life in Northern Southland and is happy out on the grass. He loves tearing around the paddock after he's done his training." Hurricane Banner is raced by the Bluff Bowling Club Syndicate which includes Noddy Orr. Meanwhile young junior driver Chelsea Faithful won her third race as a driver when Maidonthebeach got up to beat Ellnbac by three quarters of a length in the junior drivers race at Ascot Park on Sunday. "At her first run she needed a bit of a blow out. In her second run she ran on well and at home she's been working better than ever so we were reasonably confident," said Faithful. Maidonthebeach was positioned nicely by Faithful in the outside running line. At the top of the straight the pair had collared leader Foo Fighter and had to ward off a late challenge from Ellnbac who came up the passing lane.  Maidonthebeach and Chelsea Faithful winning at Riverton on Sunday - Photo Bruce Stewart. "She was getting a bit woobly with about 70 metres to run. I was hoping she'd keep going and I was hoping I didn't go over the ten (whips). The whole one eye thing (Maidonthebeach only has one eye) probably doesn't help." Faithful says like her dam Nursemaid, Maidonthebeach is getting better with age. "She's better this season than she was last season."  The royally bred mare by Somebeachsomewhere is raced by Graham and Jill Cooney, Vin Nally and the Centaurus Syndicate.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Quality Art Major mare Fight For Glory has had her first foal - a filly by Bettor's Delight. The foal was born last week at Ross and Robyn Jones Poppymalda Acres at Branxholmes in Southland.  "Ross says Fight For Glory is a great mum and both are doing well," said part owner of Fight For Glory Diane Cournane.  Cournane raced the filly with Dean Illingworth, Anne Gibbs, Lyn Tucker and John and Gay Tait.  From thirty three starts she won fourteen races and banked her connections $674,842. Her biggest season was at three when she won four Oaks races across Australasia. Her biggest wins in New Zealand that season were The New Zealand Yearling Sales Series for Three Year Old Fillies and the New Zealand Oaks over 2600 metres when she beat another Southland bred filly Democrat Party who coincidently is also at Poppymalda Acres.  Fight For Glory won the 2015 $200,000 Group One New South Wales Oaks in what was then a world record of 2-50.3 for 2400 metres mobile. Other Australian wins included the Group Three Gold Coast Oaks and the Group One Queensland Oaks. She also ran third in the Queensland Derby.  At the end of that season she was named Australian Three Year Old Filly of the Year.  Cournane has entered three yearlings in next years sales in Christchurch: a colt by Art Major out of Breath Of Life which is a full brother to Fight For Glory, a lovely black filly by Better's Delight out of  Nitouche Franco which is a half sister to All Star Man and an Art Major filly out the Christian Cullen mare Lady Of The Dawn. Meanwhile quality trotting mare Poppymalda has been retired. Poppymalda at home at Poppymalda Acres                            - Photo Ross Jones In a limited career of just twenty five starts she recorded eight wins and banked $58,045 for her owners Barry and Pearl Dent, Nathan Williamson her trainer, and his parents in-law Ross and Robyn Jones. The Armbro Invasion mare's biggest season was as a four year old when she won four of her ten starts. She ran third in the $100,000 Group One McMillan Feed Four Year Old Diamond at Ashburton that season. Her connections haven't decided which stallion to send the seven year old mare to this season. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Quality trotter Sundons Wish won his fifth race at Ascot Park today when he ground down Mass Invasion to win by a half a length. The six year old Sundon gelding now has Cup Day on his radar and according to trainer Ian Jamieson he won't start in the south, he'll head for Canterbury.  "I'd like to keep his rating down for that two mile race at Addington on Cup Day. He won't start at the races (in Southland) again but we'll probably still go to the workouts. I might try and have a private hit out with Nathan (trainer Nathan Williamson)," he said. Like a lot of the progeny by Sundon, Sundons Wish has high speed and this is matched with good manners.  "He's always been a high speed horse but we've finally got him going. His manners are impeccable - he doesn't have any tricks." The gelding was driven today for the first time by junior driver Sheree Tomlinson.  Sundon's Wish and Sheree Tomlinson beating Mass Invasion and Elle Barron - Photo Bruce Stewart "I told her to take it easy over the first bit and said after that the rest is up to you. She just sat and waited for them to do something. She's a good wee driver - that's why I put her on. She's driven lots of trotters. She said he was a lovely drive but didn't think he was a 100% in his gait. He's got a bit of a sore foot but we're working on that. I'll just work on his shoeing and work it out that way."  The win was one of two for Riverton fisherman Neville Cleaver. He also owns Franco Santino which impressively won the last race on the card. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

The Pegasus Spur mare Bonny Reece won the qualifying heat for trotters over 2200 metres at Ascot Park today. The winning margin was a nose from Make My Day. Bonny Reece, trained and driven by Clark Barron,is out of the Sundon mare Pure Thrill which is a full sister to Makarewa Jake the winner of seven races. The winning time of 2-57.1 was 7.6 seconds inside the required qualifying time. The well bred filly Delightful Deal show a bit of class in winning her qualifying mobile heat by six lengths. She's out of the five win Julius Caesar mare Deal On The Day.  Delightful Deal winning by six lengths at Ascot Park today - Photo Bruce Stewart Deal On The Day is a half sister to Best Deal Yet (9 New Zealand wins) and Awesum Teddy (10 wins). Delightful Deal is owned by Marty Fairbairn and is trained by Nathan Williamson. Her winning time for the 2200 metre mobile was 2-47.7 - over 7 seconds inside the required qualifying time. Harrydahorse (Panspacificflight - Millwood Salli) was second in 2-48.5. Please Shuddup by Auckland Reactor looked promising when he won his 2200 metre mobile qualifying heat by a length and a half. He ran the distance in 2-47.5 - last 800 metres in 57.2 and 400 metres in 28.2. Franco Santino made ground late to run second with another seven and a half lengths back to High Line. "He's still got a bit to learn but he can run. He's got a lovely nature and is a good eater - just what makes a good horse. He's above average," said trainer Murray Brown about Please Shuddup.   Please Shuddup on the inside beating a fast finishing Franco Santino  - Photo Bruce Stewart. Thatswhatisaid trained by Kirk Larsen won the non-winners mobile heat by a length and a half from Wokalup. His time for the 2200 metres was 2-48.7. He started once last season as a two year old in the Sapling Stakes at Ashburton running fifth in 1-56.4. "We'll probably go to the Northern Southland meeting. He a pretty laid-back horse and he's hard to get a line on but he goes better when you take him off the place. He paid up for the sires (Sires Stakes Series). Whether he's good enough I don't know. We'll let him do the talking," said Thatswhatisaid's trainer Kirk Larsen.  In the final heat of the day a new addition to Nathan Williamson's barn Lady Of The Moment beat stablemate Pegarose by half a length. Lady Of The Moment, which had a big lead for most of the heat, is by Majestic Son and is closely related to Take A Moment (39 wins). Pegarose which has won two of her three starts hasn't been to the races since May 2016. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Southland driver Nathan Williamson won't be driving at Oamaru on Sunday. He was suspended for four racedays from Friday 8th September until Thursday 28th September after Stipendary Stewards charged him with excessive use of the whip on Tas Man Bromac when he won at Winton earlier this month. Williamson says he was surprised to be called into the Stipendary Stewards room two races later to hear the charge. He flew to Christchurch on Tuesday to appeal the ruling and was told today that the penalty stood. When spoken to he hadn't read the full transcript of the appeal decision. Williamson says he's extremely disappointed with the decision. The suspension has certain been hotly debated in harness racing circles, and he says he's been overwhelmed by the number of texts and calls he's had in support. "I've had hundreds of calls about it. I've spoken to Rob Lawson who is the head of the New Zealand Drivers Association and had an email from Gordon Lee the local head of the Association. He (Lee) thought that I should appeal it. He's also written to the stipes." Williamson who operates the largest racing team in Southland says the suspension has been costly.   "It cost me $600 to fly to Christchurch, $250 for the appeal and the cost of getting additional staff in while I was away. Something like this is a $4,000 hit for me. It's extremely frustrating but at the end of the day they're (Stipes) doing their job. The general feeling is that a suspension is harder than a fine because people just pay the fine and move on."  He says that after yesterday's hearing he has a better understanding of what the Stewards want. But he says the appeal was more about the length of the suspension. "They want you to break your actions up. Use the whip, then run the whip through the tails, flick the horse's backend, hit the dust sheet or shaft. I understand that. I was appealing the penalty only, not the decision." When this story was going on-line he hadn't decided on a replacement driver. "I'm a Southland man so I'd like to use a Southland driver if I could but I'll have to speak to the owners. I'll probably get the same driver for both of them (Tas Man Bromac and Poppymalda)." Williamson had thoughts of taking Poppymalda to Addington for the Ordeal Cup and Tas Man Bromac was a possibility to start up there as well. "If I hadn't been suspended I would have taken them both through to Addington. Then I thought, if I appeal the penalty I could just take her (Poppymalda) to Oamaru and drive her there. That's why she didn't go to the Ordeal Cup and she is in (at Oamaru) on Sunday." Williamson says the suspension has put both horses behind in their schedules but he knows he just has to move on from today's decision and continue to direct his training operation.    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Trainer driver Nathan Williamson says Tas Man Bromac is likely to start in the Group Three Hannon Memorial at Oamaru on Sunday 24th September. "I don't think the class will worry him. The better the company the better he goes. In the likes of todays company you have to make your own luck but in a race like the Hannon if he began good and settled handy he can follow speed," said Williamson.    The six year old starting from the 35 metre mark held off a late challenge from 10 metre marker Crime Scene to win by a neck. Tas Man Bromac ran the 2400 metre stand post to post in 3-03.3 with the last 800 metres run in 57.7. He's now won ten races from his thirty one starts.   "He felt great out there today. He still can improve. Now that he's an older horse he's going to take a wee bit more racing." Tas Man Bromac after winning at Winton                Photo Bruce Stewart Williamson also trained and drove Splash Cola to win the Majestic Son at Alabar Handicap Trot. She took over the lead early in the running after a good beginning from the unruly position and always had the back markers chasing.  "Happy with her and I just hope she progresses. Her coat's come on since that first run and I just hope it improves as much next time." Splash Cola beating Mass Invasion at Winton         Photo by Bruce Stewart The seven year old Sundon mare owned by Ian Hunter has now won seven races in a limited career of nineteen starts over four seasons.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing      

There's a good buzz around the Nathan Williamson stable as he prepares a large team for the new season from his Branxholme headquarters. There's a mixture of new blood and an established line-up in the stable for the coming season and part of his 'early' team will be out at workouts, trials and races in the next few weeks.  The first horse to appear will be Williamson's most highly assessed pacer Tas Man Bromac. He only raced three times last season and his progress was hindered by a number of issues.  "He's wintered well. I gave him a break after the Bluff Cup and he's freshened nicely. He got dehydrated going up to Kaikoura. I was getting him ready for the Cup races like the Roxburgh Cup and he pulled a muscle in his hind quarter and that sidelined him for a large part of the season. He'll go to Gore (Sunday) without a workout or trial so he's bound to improve from the run. In the grade he's in, he should be pretty competitive," Williamson said. The six year old American Ideal gelding comes back with a R90 rating. From twenty nine starts he's won nine races. Another pacer that had limited track time last season was Statham. He only lined up five times with his best performance being at his first start of the season when he finished second to Glenferrie Classic in the Cromwell Cup.  "He won't race at Gore but will trial next week. He had a bit of a viral infection which curtailed his season. The infection was a hard one to track down. He's had plenty of work." He too has been lightly raced, only lining up twenty one times in three seasons - winning six races.  Another promising gelding by American Ideal, Foo Fighter, is also in work. He's currently being jogged by part-owner John Earl at his Oporo Flat farm.  "He'll be back here in the first week of September. He was the same as Statham. He had something deep down in his lungs which we couldn't see with a scope. We've given him a good break and treated him and hopefully he'll bounce back this season."  Promising filly Excellent hasn't returned to the stable yet but she's not too far away. The Somebeachsomewhere three year old did most of her racing in Auckland last season, running second in a heat of the Sires Stakes Two Year Old Fillies Series.  "She ran a real good second first time up there and then she got crook. She's come back home and she's back jogging at the beach with Murray Little (owner)." As you'd expect there's a good number of trotters in the barn, including recently named 'Southland Horse of the Year' Dark Horse (Bacardi Lindy), and also Poppymalda. Both have been nominated for the Hara's Des Trotteurs Dominion Handicap.  "She (Poppymalda by Armbro Invasion) didn't really get a break. We've freshened her after her Forbury win and she'll be back at the races in September whereas Dark Horse won't be back until October."  Another former stable runner De Vito is also nominated for the Dominion.   "We had him nominated for the Rowe Cup but he ended up getting an abcess in his foot which must have been brewing for some time. He's still spelling in Auckland because we haven't been able to transport him home. He'll probably do his training in Auckland."  Another trotter back on the active list is Grey Power. The eight year old by Monkey Bones was last sighted at Gore nearly eighteen months ago. Ash, a four year old half brother to Larix, Given and Larch by The Pres hasn't returned to the stable yet. He's owned by Williamson's wife Katie along with Ben and Karen Calder.   "He's still spelling. We took him up to Christchurch for a bit of a trip, we hope that'll be the making of him next year. He's a wee bit physically immature (but) he's quite a talented trotter so we're happy with him." Some of the jog team at the Williamson stable                  Photo Bruce Stewart.  The stable also appears to have a handful of handy three year olds. Triroyale Brigade which started three times as a two year old last season is back in work. He was placed behind the likes of Ashley Lopez, Sicario and All U Need Is Faith. That form stacks up pretty well when you look at the races and stakes those three Purdon/Rassmussen horses have since won. Another three year old colt Williamson has some time for is Franco Santino. He's a three year old by Christian Cullen out of the ten win mare San Rafaella (Western Ideal). He was purchased for $55,000 by stable client Neville Cleaver at the 2016 Sale of the Stars  "We'll qualify him in the next month to six weeks and work out a plan for him." One to watch out for down the track is an unregistered two year old colt.   "I bred a Sundon out of Little Contessa. Dad lent her to me (the mare) for the season. He's a two year old now and Dad was in love with him so I think he was wishing he bred from her that year."    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

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