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The small settlement of Woodlands, about 10 minutes drive from Invercargill, is best known in the breeding world for its Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate contenders. It is the home of the Dennis brothers and rearing place of The Phantom – second in the 1990 Melbourne Cup, The Phantom Chance – winner of the 1993 Cox plate, and so on. It is also the home of low key hobby breeder Paul Mulder who hopes that in the group one Chariots of Fire at Menangle on Saturday night, Dashofluck can do him proud and get one back for the harness code. Dashofluck entered calculations for the Chariots with his success a couple of Saturdays ago in the group two Paleface Adios Stakes. He stopped the clock at 1:50.00 when beating nine others including Waikiki Beach. Mulder said the Dashofluck story began when he went to the Cullen Breeding dispersal sale in 2010 to buy a mare. “I missed the ones I wanted, they were too dear,” said Mulder who settled for Dreamy Dash, paying $5500 for the Falcon Seelster mare who had produced nothing of note but was from a family of good horses. Dreamy Dash had been served by Gotta Go Cullen and produced a filly but Mulder said it didn't show much and died relatively young in a paddock accident. For her next mate he chose local stallion Washington VC and when asked why, said “because of the Australian market”. Dreamy Dash missed the first year but produced Dashofluck the next. “I did the usual foal handling stuff and then Carl Hanna took over,” Mulder explained. An educated Dashofluck passed then to Nathan Williamson who said he was in and out for a couple of years. “He always had high speed but his gait took a while to get right,” Williamson said. “A lovely horse who needed time and Paul waited.” After a series of workouts, Williamson took Dashofluck to a qualifying trial at Wyndham in January 2016, and he won the 2400 metre mobile event in 3:03.0, zipping home the last 800 in 56.7 seconds. The run impressed not only Williamson but also a local agent and a sale to Australia was soon transacted. Mulder said Dreamy Dash hasn't held in foal since. Seven of the nine Dashofluck beat in the Paleface Adios are back for the Chariots but two are emergencies so four are fresh runners. Among them are the All Stars additions, Lazarus and Chase The Dream, and another Southland-bred in Salty Robyn. Dashofluck has drawn three, one inside Lazarus. Mac Henry

Ryal Bush harness racing trainer Nathan Williamson looks to have a nice three year old pacer in Foo Fighter which won well at Ascot Park last weekend.. The American Ideal gelding has been allowed to develop and Williamson has carefully managed the horse specifically targeting this $10,000 CO race for him.   "When we saw this race was coming up we set him for this one," he said. There was stacks of money on the debutant which was on the back of a reputation and some good workouts form. But punters must have had an element of concern when he went rough before turning into the home straight for the last time.  Foo Fighter (8) getting the better of Vera Mac (3) in the SBS Bank Pace   - Photo Bruce Stewart "It's something he's never done before. It actually cost me a good position getting around the last bend. He'd have won easily if he hadn't done that because Snow (driver Brendon McLellan driving Vera Mac) wouldn't have got out."  The gelding was bred by Ben and Karen Calder and is out of their In the Pocket mare Lucy's Way. He qualified as a two year old, under the guidance of one of his part-owners John Earl, at Wyndham in April last year when driver by Williamson. "I drove him to qualify so I knew a bit about him. He was bred on Ben and Karen's place so he used to come home to spell. So I've had a bit to do with him all the way through."    Shortly after qualifying, noting his size and speed, Williamson put a syndicate together and bought the gelding off the Calders and John and Juliette Earl.  "That's why we got a syndicate together to buy him. I thought that being such a big horse, when he gets his speed he'll be alright." He's now owned by John and Juliette Earl, Karen Calder, Katie Williamson, Neville Cleaver, Sid Slee, Kevin Strong, Robyn Jones and Alan Jones. "He's a big solid thick set horse, thick legged, and he'll be better with time. He's a nice horse but he just has to learn the ringcraft." Later in the programme Williamson trained and drove Dark Horse to win the Brendan Franks Farrier Handicap Trot.  The win made up for her expensive failure at Cromwell. "She galloped of her own accord at the start at Cromwell. After that she just shied at all the horses that were tipped out and that made her gallop," said Williamson who made a slight correction to her gear for today's race.   "I slipped the overcheck on her today. I just thought it would help her balance going into that first bend. And I just gave her a bit of space and time. Didn't want to do anything too silly."  The race panned out perfectly with Williamson slotting in to get the trail behind Monty Python. He said although he could have lead, the Bacardi Lindy mare is better saved for one run. Dark Horse beating Monty  Python                           - Photo Bruce Stewart. "He (Monty Python) was probably the one to beat so I was rapt to see that it was him I was following. Coming to the 600 I was pretty confident." Williamson says he intends to give Dark Horse a spell now. She's now won five of her eleven starts. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Riverton fisherman Neville Cleaver can't get enough of the progeny of top harness racing sire Sundon despite the stallion not being around anymore. Sundon was put down in April 2015 but still has stored semen available, and Cleaver says the champion stallion just seems to nick with the family he's breeding from. Cleaver's association with his latest winner, Sundons Wish (Sundon - Yule Ana) began when he was jogging a few horses on the north beach at Riverton over a decade ago.  "I was working horses along the Riverton beach with Bert Wohlers and Alex Jenkins and at the time they had Sun Watch. Murray Darnill (who owned Sun Watch) was there as well and he decided that he would sell the mare (Little Miss Watch dam of Sun Watch). He put her in a mixed aged sale in Christchurch but she didn't sell so I approached him and he sold her to me. She was in foal when I bought her to Continentalman and we sold the filly (Miss Continental) for $10,000 to Adrian Wohlers and Kevin Strong. I then used the money to breed a Sundon out of her which was Sunrise Delight. One thing led to another and I got the Armbro Invasion mare (Yule Ana) which was one of Little Miss Watch's daughters off Murray," said Cleaver. Sundons Wish was Yule Ana's second foal. Her first Yelande won one race for Alister Kyle and was sold to the Butterworth Racing Syndicate. She won a further two races for Tony Herlihy before heading to Australia where she won another two races. Since leaving Sundons Wish, Cleaver has lent Yule Ana to Pauline Pattullo but she hasn't had too much luck in breeding from the Armbro Invasion mare.    "One was born with a bent leg and the other had it's face ripped off. She's just foaled to Pegasus Spur and I've just served her with Sundon." Sundons Wish was until recently trained by Ian Jamieson who qualified the horse as a four year old in November 2015, but he has recently joined Nathan Williamson's barn.  Trainer driver Nathan Williamson and Neville Cleaver                           - Photo Bruce Stewart. "Ian's done a really good job. The horse's manners are impeccable but he was just having trouble rounding the horse off so he suggested that I get someone else to train him. Nathan's changed a few thing around with shoeing and diet and given him different work. He's just grown another leg. He hasn't had half hopples on but Nathan thought he wasn't using the muscles he should have been so he's put them on to make him use those muscles. He's ready to take them off but today he didn't want to change anything around."  In yesterdays race Sundons Wish trotted soundly the whole way while some of his rivals made mistakes and Cleaver is hopeful that he can develop into a good mid-grade trotter in the province.  "He's got a lot of speed. He can run a quarter in 27. I would say he'd advance a few more classes yet."  And as for the colours Williamson wears when driving horses owned by Cleaver?  "I got them off Paul Hillis about ten years ago. They're the Bonecrusher colours." Little Miss Watch which was bred by Clarrie Woodward started her racing career off with Shane Mathieson winning once. She was then bought by the Tick Tock Syndicate and send to Graham Bond before Dick Prendergast trained her to win at Forbury Park. She ended her racing career winning once for Ray Jenkins. As a broodmare she has left a stack of winners including Musgrove (16) Hardwick (22), Aleana (6), Carnley (3) and Sunrise Delight (3). Murray Darnill is still breeding from Aleana and has a yearling filly by Pegasus Spur out of the mare while Cleaver has a two year old filly out of Sunrise Delight and a colt by Love You stallion Quatre Juillet (one of nine foals born in this country by that stallion).  Later in the programme yesterday Grace O'Malley capped off her solid trotting formline with a well deserved win in the Grinaldi Lodge/Gordon Sutherland Memorial Trot. Grace O'Malley winning at Ascot Park          photo Bruce Stewart Driver Peter Hunter took the eight year old Sundon mare straight to the lead and held on easily to beat Moa Bones who ran home well after an early break. Bred by the late Bill Keast, Grace O'Malley is trained by Curly Thomas at Ascot Park. It was the mare's first win since April last year. Three of her four career wins have been at Ascot Park.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Kevin Schuck, of Myross Bush (near Invercargill) achieved a rarity in the horse racing world as the breeder of the first three horses to finish in a race at Roxburgh last Wednesday (4/1/2017). Spotlight The Valley, Overcast and De Vito, all bred by Schuck, landed the trifecta in the 2600m race for C1 to 6 trotters which was contested by 14 horses. “It is very exciting from a breeders point of view,’’ said Schuck, who has been breeding thoroughbred and standardbred horses for 29 years. He is a jeweller by profession. “I just love the trotters and love the breeding side of things,’’ he said. Spotlight The Valley, Overcast and De Vito are the first foals of different mares and each has now won four races. They are by different sires. Spotlight The Valley is raced by the Sunbeam syndicate and trained at Balfour (Southland) by Robert Wilson. Overcast is raced by Schuck and Longbush trainer Alan Paisley. De Vito, raced by the Balfour syndicate, has won twice this season from the Ryal Bush stable of Nathan Williamson after two wins for Billy Heads last season. Spotlight The Valley is a 5-year-old mare by Skyvalley from Streaming Sunbeam, who had four minor placings in 20 starts. “I bought her (Streaming Sunbeam) at the yearling sale for her bloodlines and that has worked out,” said Schuck. A $16,000 purchase in 2007, she is by Armbro Invasion from A Touch of Sun, who subsequently left Sarah Lindenny (10 wins) and King Denny (Harness Jewels races at three and four). Overcast is a 7-year-old mare by Sundon from Cochy Bondhu  who won four races for Schuck and trainer Paisley. Cochy Bondhu is by Chiola Hanover from Sylvia’s Star (Gee Whiz – Elgin Princess). De Vito is a 5-year-old gelding by Sundon from Lady Eileen, an unraced mare by Armbro Invasion and one of four foals Schuck bred from Elgin Princess. Another was Mr Mayfly, who won six races when trained by Wilson for the Balfour syndicate. Mr Mayfly was sold to Australia in 2015. “I started off with thoroughbreds and then switched to trotters,’’ said Schuck. He bred the winner Fast Forward from the thoroughbred mare, Ravensdale (Grey Gull - Game Girl) in 1988. Fast Forward (by Codeene) won a race at Gore when trained by Len Casey before being sold to Macau. Schuck had his first venture into standardbred ownership with the trotter Dean’s Pride, a Game Pride – Cathy Crockett gelding  who won a race at Forbury Park in 1991 when trained  at Invercargill by Murray Brown. Soon after Schuck won four races with the pacer Barbed Wire from the Brown stable. Both  horses were sold to Australia. Tayler Strong

Invercargill harness racing trainer Brent Shirley has always had a high opinion of Live Or Die entire Fiddlethefool and yesterday at the Wairio meeting at Winton he beat a small but handy field of class two pacers. It was a nice change of luck for Shirley whose team was struck down by a bad virus at the beginning of the season; Fiddlethefool being one of the worst affected.  "He got very crook. He had swelling in the legs and nose," he said. From an inside second row draw driver Nathan Williamson settled in behind favourite Thisismylastflight which led. With just over 1900 metres to run Williamson came out of the trailing position and attempted to lead but Thisismylastflight and driver Craig Thornley said no. With a lap to run Mr Handleman and Mark Hurrell came forward giving the favourite no peace. "Nathan had a go then Mark Hurrell took over and softened the leader up for us."  Once the passing lane came up Williamson speared Fiddlethefool up the inside and he got up to beat Thisismylastflight by a neck with three lengths back to the third horse - a game Roxy Dale. Fiddlethefool gets up on the inside to beat Thisismylastflight            Photo Bruce Stewart. "He does it so easy. There's always going to be improvement there." The runnerup is part-owned by Southland farrier Brendon Franks and banter between himself and Shirley had been flowing all week. "Franksie and I had a few jugs on it actually."  Franks said afterwards that he struggles to beat Shirley in an agruement so he was hoping he could do it on the racetrack. But it wasn't to be this time.  Fiddlethefool is owned by Shirley's wife Raywyn and was bred by Bill and Karen Grice out of their Holmes Hanover mare Glowing Hanover. "When Bill went into care Mrs Grice gave me the mare. Bill and I raced all the other ones out of her. We thought she wasn't in foal. I chucked her out on a rough block at Sandy Point. I went out to get her one day and she was running around with a black colt on her. That was him." So how did team Shirley come up with the name?  "He's actually named after Norm Scott (former Racecourse Investigator). His stable name is Scotty and Fiddlethefool was a famous saying of Norm's. I think he's a very smart horse. He's still learning. Last year he was just a big dummy but he had ability." Fiddlethefool's full-brother Thrill Factor won five races when trained by Shirley between 2011 and 2013. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

The Nathan Williamson trained Dark Horse further cemented her status as one of the most exciting harnes racing trotters to come out of the province in recent times, when she easily accounted for eight rivals in the Winton Workouts Mobile Trot. The Bacardi Lindy four year old whose long term goal is the Harness Jewels at Ashburton was not rushed early by Williamson. At the 400 metre mark he peeled her off the back of Starlight Invasion and she trotted stylishly to the front and said good night nurse to the other runners. She trotted down to the finishing line untouched, winning by three and a half lengths from Overcast. Her winning time of 3-00.9 was marginally outside the mares track record and New Zealand mares record of 2-59. recorded by Ready Set in 2010.   Dark Horse winning easily                               Photo Bruce Stewart "She's progressing and felt good out there today. I'm not sure what's next for her but we'll sort something out," said Williamson who doesn't plan to race the mare too far from home for this part of the season. The win today was her fourth from just nine starts and she now carries a C3 assessment.   "She's got a lot stronger this year. Gait wise she's lovely. Manners are probably her one weakness. I don't think she can do a lot of work in her races yet but with so much speed she doesn't have to."   She was bred by the Grice brothers Bevan and Keith and raced on lease by the Griffins Syndicate and Seafield Trotting Syndicate.  Dark Horse is out of the maiden Sundon mare Juliana who is also the dam of Monty Python the winner of nine races, Father Christmas (8) and Sarah Palin (6). Bevan Grice said Juliana was a talented mare which ran second to One Over Kenny at Cambridge in the a two year trotting race in 2004 making up fifteen lengths to get within a neck of the winner. "Past the post she was in front. We found out that she had an infected uterus and that made her niggly," he said. Grice said that Nathan Williamson has the mare's next foal Pollyanna, a two year old filly by The Pres and he states that Juliana produced a colt foal by Quaker Jet this morning. She'll be returning to Bacardi Lindy. "I can't remember how Dark Horse got her name but Keith and I sit down and name all our foals. We like to have fun. We named a colt by The Pres out of Rugged Cross Donald Trump and a filly by The Pres out of Vivian Leigh Crooked Hillary. Both names have been approved."    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

The Abernethys dominated the brothers in arms drivers series at Oamaru on Saturday with Sailesh winning three of the six heats and Jay winning one.   The brothers, aged 31 (Sailesh) and Jay (33) ended the series with 19 points, three  more than nearest rivals, Nathan and Matthew Williamson with David and Philip Butcher in third place with 12 points. The Abernethys won the series on the grass track in 2014 when contesting it for the first time.    The Abernethys received a $1000 cash prize provided by Fat Sally’s Pub and Restaurant and a trophy sponsored by Ballantynes Showcase Jewellers.   The Abernethys who operate a stable at Papakura are on the move. They have bought a larger property at Hunua, 35 km away and plan to shift in before the winter.   “The new property is 70 acres against 20 at our present place. We will have straight line and oval tracks and transfer our hydro treadmill,’’ said Jay.   Last season was the most successful for the stable with 33 wins.   “We are building up a team again as most of our older horses have moved on.”   Sailesh won on Saturday with McLovin, Veneto and Nui Toc Tien. Veneto is unbeaten in three starts on grass and Nui Toc Tien has had his four wins on grass. Jay won with Soney Beatt, who made the pace and cleared out by five and three quarter lengths. Soney Beatt has gained four of his six wins on grass.   Trainer Ken Ford had left him in the care of the Williamson stable at Oamaru after he raced at Invercargill the previous Sunday.   Trainer Ray Jenkins produced the trotters McLovin and Justmollyarcher to win. McLovin has won twice from four starts. Justmollyarcher was having his fifth start when he cleared maiden ranks. Both 4-year-olds led over the last 1500m of 2000m.   McLovin is by Monarchy from Winfield Invasion, an Armbro Invasion mare who won four races. McLovin is raced by Jenkins with Terrence Kean, of Winton, Morrell Lake, of Melbourne, Shelley Jenkins (daughter of the trainer) and Neville McRae, of Hamilton. McLovin was bred by Daryl and Anne Trainor, of Sawyers Bay, who sold him in April when he was in work with Mark Jones. The Trainors have Say You Pres, a 3-year-old filly by The Pres from Winfield Invasion shaping well with Jones.   Invercargill owners Leo and Genevieve Curtin, who are attending the Interdominion in Perth, race Justamollyarcher. The Curtins  bought Justamollyarcher from Greg Payne as a 3-year-old 12 months ago.   “He has got heaps of ability but needs the ringcraft,’’ said Jenkins of the son of Angus Hall and Justa Kiwi Girl, who won nine races. The Curtins won seven races with Buddsun from the Jenkins stable.   Culley Backy made an immediate winning return for Christchurch owner Peter McDermott. He bought  5yr-old out of the stable of Michael Heenan and Culley Backy was transferred to Brent White at Temuka.   “I can’t take much of the credit I have only had him (Culley Backy) a week,’’ said White.   The Central Courage syndicate were out in force to see their 4-year-old mare Seduce Me clear maiden ranks. Members were urging her on by her stable name, Cindy, rather than attracting  strange looks by yelling her official name. Roxburgh trainer Geoff Knight bought Seduce Me (Ohoka Arizona – Lady Bo Heather) from Glenys Chmiel and Zenmach from Mark Smolenski for the syndicate about the same time in the winter of last year. Zenmach has since six races.   Tayler Strong

Eastern Southland harness racing trainer Wayne 'Sid' Breen loves the stock of dual New Zealand Cup winner Flashing Red and so do some of his owners - particularly those based in Australia where Flashing Red won most of his races. His latest runner from the sire is Flashing On who after failing in the South of the Waitaki race at Addington on Show Day redeemed himself thanks to a canny Nathan Williamson drive at Ascot Park today.  The five year old gelding broke nearing the home straight at Addington which disappointed his owners as his form heading into the race was very good.   "He travelled up good but never really ate up that well that night. He paced awful in the prelim. He saw all the big balloons the kids were running around in the paddling pools with and the eyes popped out of his head. He can throw in a bad one from time to time and it just happened to be in a thirty grand race," said Breen. He said they all took the result on the chin and regrouped.  "I brought him down last Friday and Tommy Beckett (horse chiropractor) went over him. He gave him a bit of a jolt, bang and a crack. Tommy said he was quite sore in the muscles but that could have been from the travelling too. He worked real good on Friday so we thought he'd be spot on."  Flashing On and Nathan Williamson winning         Photo Bruce Stewart The gelding has only been with Breen since April after he was leased after running sixth in a claiming race at Gore. "I had a big horse called Flashing On Empty and he ran third to Knockmanaugh and Simple Pleasure at Wairio. I quite liked him but he used to hit a knee bad. Shane Matheson got him a home on one of the big stations as a hack. Mark Gutsell said to me that this horse would suit me. The boys in Aussie are mad on Flashing Reds so we thought we'd better go with him. He's just been doing hill work since I shifted out to Billy Heads old place at Waimumu."  The gelding is raced by Breen, Paul Matheson, Ross Cleland, Peter and Shaun Kidd (Aussie connection), Shane Matheson and Lisa Barry. "I'm keen on racing him in the Country Cups races."    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Ryal Bush harness racing trainer Brett Gray produced Mighty Flying Deal to win his fourth race today. He was left down here after racing at the Winton meeting in October for Ken and Tony Barron. The four year old by American Ideal is raced locally by the MCC Syndicate and has been with Gray for his last three starts.  He was driven by Nathan Williamson. A happy Nathan Williamson - Photo Bruce Stewart.   Meanwhile Justan's Sister returned to winning form for new trainer Shane Matheson. She started her career with Gary Argyle before transferring to Paul Ellis with whom she won a race. Today's win was his second in thirty one attempts.  Justan's Sister and Maruia Parker (6) get up by a nose                   Photo Bruce Stewart.      Justan's Sister returning after winning at Ascot Park               Photo Bruce Stewart   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Matt Purvis hasn't won a race south of Forbury Park yet but has a couple of useful drives at Invercargill today (Sunday) to help him break his southern drought. Purvis has been based in the south since the start of the season and on Sunday gets his chance aboard one his employer Nathan Williamson's in-form charges, McKenzie Mara. Two starts back, at Gore last month, Purvis finished third when the mare was first-up for the season.  In her only start since,Williamson drove the daughter of Lis Mara and McKenzie Jaccka into second place behind Ariadne Lavra at the Riverton meeting on the track about three weeks ago. She had another second line draw and ended up trapped on the inner but a run presented itself in the lane and a stout finish followed. She goes from eight on Sunday and has the blinds on. “I'll have to play it by ear from the draw,” Purvis said, “the harder they go the better, she's got a bit of pep if saved for one run. She's been going super and should be a great each way chance.” A couple of races earlier, in the Invercargill Workouts Committee Handicap Trot, Purvis gets back aboard I've Got This. In 2014, he drove I've Got This in his first two wins when the son of Love You was trained by Robert Dunn. The half brother to Moment Of Truth and Dr Hook won another couple before being sidelined last year.  He is now with Phil Williamson and after an 18 month break from racing, I've Got This resumed at Wyndham a fortnight ago with Purvis in the sulky. The result was a mid-race break and the same happened again at Ashburton during Cup Week. “My father owns him,” Purvis said, “he's a really nice trotter, I was stoked with the way he was going when he broke. He's trained on well and Phil is putting spreaders on this week.”  Kirk Larsen is another with a couple of good chances on Sunday. First up in the Invercargill Licencing Trust Mobile is the Ross Hope trained Jabali, a winner at Gore in the first month of the season. A C2 pacer, Jabali last raced in the Riverton Cup and trailled the leader for the majority of the race until Pulp Fiction went round to quickly put the result beyond doubt. “He just battled a bit last time but it was a high quality field,” Larsen said, “he's been racing well enough and has a nice draw.”  Honey Cullen is Larsen's drive in the American Ideal Trans Tasman Challenge 27 November Pace, and he also trains the three year old. He won on debut as a two year old in May and again fresh-up in August but has disappointed in two starts since. At the Riverton meeting, Honey Cullen drew wide, worked early to get handy, was shuffled back and couldn't get close again. From the four draw at Wyndham Honey Cullen had a good trip in the one-one and then three back, but couldn't improve when brought wide on the turn. “He did a bit early at Riverton and they went 2:42,” Larsen said, “at Wyndham he was forced wide when they ran a 27 last quarter. The horse is well, the draw is a worry and it is a big second line but it's an easier field. I've put pull down blinds on and he'll have go-straights on one leg, he had them on when he won at Gore.” Brent Barclay is another driver to follow with last week's C1 winner at Wyndham Highland Girl drawn three in the C1 Wild Range Photography Mobile Pace. She is a top prospect. Angel In White goes from the outside of the front line in the McKnight & Brown Fillies and Mares 2200. She worked a bit early but stuck well when a fresh-up fourth at Wyndham.  Reciprocity will appreciate the ace draw in the Regent Car Court Fillies & Mares 2200 and looms as a winning chance. Vincenzo Denario hasn't fared as well with marble 12 in the Woodlands Stud Mobile but rates a chance with a reasonable run. After a good trip at Wyndham when fresh-up for the season, he lost his place on the turn but battled back to finish within five lengths of the winner.   Mac Henry

There aren't a lot of stars in the opening trot at Wyndham and its 18 months since The Badger gained his one and only win. However, the six year old showed enough in a workout win last Sunday to suggest he should be considered a hope on Sunday. The Badger is now with Lindsay Veint, his fourth trainer, and has recently been leased by Southland Times scribe Jamie Searle. Races two to five make up the day's first quaddie and race five is also the beginning of pick six. First starters never make good anchors but a spot should be found for Ideal Legs in the second. Two and a half weeks ago the Murray Little co-owned filly dominated her qualifying trial at Gore and scored by four in 2:50.0. She was driven by trainer Nathan Williamson who is charge again on Sunday.  Matt Saunders would appear to have a strong hand in the second and third legs with Longevity and Sketching. The pair contested the same race at Ascot Park last week, Longevity enjoying the one-one. She found clear air on straightening and closed strongly. Sketching sat parked throughout and could have been forgiven for retreating. Instead, he kept fighting for fourth. There is another first starter in race three who deserves a second look. Jimmy Nga is trained on the course by Colin and Gordon Lee and qualified there in September. Driven by Colin Lee, also a co-owner, he trailed the leader on a solid pace and finished along the lane to stop the watch at 3:04.6. Although Colin doesn't do a lot of raceday driving, his CV includes group-race success and he'll be in the sulky on Sunday. The final leg of the first quaddie and first of pick six has a number of realistic chances with Terracotta perhaps the best of them. A leader and then parked early last week, the filly was carted back and even when brought wide on the turn, was denied clear air until too late. Justasip needs to be considered in race six. At long odds last week, she secured a nice trip three back on the poles but struggled to get the gaps when needed.  The second quaddie opens on race seven which is the third of pick six. Once again there are a few chances with Jayedgar one of them. During the week, the Art Official three year old was transferred from Murray Swain to his son Arron but Blair Orange retains the drive. From the outside of the front line last week, Jayedgar had no sooner gone back than he got a cart up to sit parked for the final 1200. Entitled to quit, the gelding did the opposite at the end of 2200 metres run in a two minute mile rate and wound up second. Mention should also be made of Tour Director, beaten favourite when racing for the first time in 20 months. With only two behind him on settling the son of Art Major got carted forward three wide and was four wide across the top. The effort told but his close fifth was full of merit. Four year old mare Alderbeck is fresh-up for the season and faces some battle-hardened performers in the second trot. She looks though to have the upside and be worth more than a second glance. In a 2600 metre trial at Oamaru mid-October containing five Williamson trotters and one other, Alderbeck was second to Blazing Under Fire, the trial run in a 3:27.2, home from the 800 in 58.7. Craig Ferguson on Robs Ideal will be looking for a return to form in the penultimate pick six and quaddie leg. The combination contested the stand-start Riverton Cup last week and a couple of checks within the first 500 metres put paid to their chances. Back to a mobile and drawn one, they will not be the worst. Mighty Flying Deal is a must for the last of the day. After doing work from the outside of the second row last week to get handy, the four year old was shuffled to midfield. Four wide on the turn, his finish was huge and he came up just a head short.   Mac Henry

It was the standout harness racing performance of the day and certainly the talk of Ascot Park yesterday when Dark Horse overcame what many thought was a race ending break only two hundred metres into the event and losing a  hundred metres. "When I galloped I thought it was curtains. She was just being eased down to the inside and she galloped," said trainer driver Nathan Williamson. With 1400 metres to run Williamson had the Bacardi Lindy mare latched onto the back of the main bunch.  "After the first lap I was letting her tell me (whether to carry on or not) and we caught up fairly quickly. She was racing keener than you would have liked and once we caught the field I settled her at the back and from there it was up to her."   With 500 metres to run leader Karlie Montana and driver Shane Walkinshaw speared away by two lengths and at that point Dark Horse was still nine lengths off the lead.  "Once she came out and extended like she can, I knew that we were going to pick them up." She ran her last 800 metres in 56.9, and 28.6 for her last 400 metres, and she won without Williamson having to 'turn the stick.'   "I didn't pulled the plugs either."  Despite the brilliant performance Williamson says he's going to keep the four year old mare ticking over within the region and not venture to far a field.  "She's got tons of gas but it's just about keeping everything else right. We've got to get her manners right before she can go north. The jewels at the end of the season is her main aim. We'll keep her manners in check and get her trotting solid then we can work it out from there."  Dark Horse is raced on lease by the Griffins and Seafield Trotting Syndicates many of whom were on course yesterday to witness the big win. Members of the Griffins and Seafield Trotting Syndicate - Photo Bruce Stewart She's out of Juliana and was breed by the Grice brothers. The Griffins Syndicate also races Monty Python (9 wins) while the Seafield Trotting Syndicate races Father Christmas; both half brothers to Dark Horse. Dark Horse's second dam Janetta's Pride has left a host of very good trotters including Dependable (14 wins), Jo Anne (12 wins) and Ima Gold Digger (15 wins).  Enjoying a drink in the President's room after the race the syndicate members and friends had time to relive Dark Horses amazing run on replay. I'm picking the race will be watched a lot more times once the dust settles. It's certainly one for the highlights tape.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Nathan Williamson is associated a collection of winning chances at Ascot Park on Saturday and looks the trainer and driver to follow when the Riverton Club stages its one meeting of the year. In the first, the Beachhouse Cafe Bar Maiden Trot, Williamson takes the reins of Eagle Galleon, a trotter he developed before passing on to Robert Wilson at Balfour. Eagle Galleon qualified for Williamson in May last year, running second beaten five and a half lengths by Art Bloxham's Eton Dorney. The pair meet again today with Eton Dorney, bred by Williamson's mother Bev, on debut. Williamson drove Eagle Galleon on debut at Invercargill in September and the pair finished second, beaten a length. Subsequent starts have yielded close-up thirds at Gore and Forbury Park. “He's a nice enough horse, all his runs have been pretty good, he'll be more than competitive.” Williamson said. Dark Horse was well supported when resuming at Gore but let the side down by failing to trot away. The four year old represents the stable in race three, the W R Keast Memorial for C1 trotters, Williamson takes the reins himself, and is confident there will be no repeat. “She's bombproof at home, off the unruly in a small field, I've got no worries about her manners,” he said. “She is a nice horse and has been working well.” Race four is the Carrier Arms Hotel / Todd & Co Realty Mobile 2200 and the five year old Tour Director, co-owned by Williamson's wife Katie, will race for the first time since January 2015. The Art Major gelding's only win was as a two year old at Forbury Park in March 2014 but Williamson is not about to dismiss his chances. Tour Director, he said, was sidelined by leg injuries and had about 16 months out on the hills, but has been in work since May and is coming to hand nicely. About a fortnight ago, he made a winning reappearance at the Invercargill Workouts, clocking 2:46.7 and getting the decision by a nose. At last week's Winton Workouts, Tour Director pleased Williamson again when third behind the well-performed stablemate Tas Man Bromac, and Mighty Flying Deal. “He's a nice horse and has ability, I think he'll be hard to beat,” Williamson said. Tour Director has drawn 11 of 11 and Williamson's next drive, McKenzie Mara has drawn11 of 13. She contests race five, the Southland Standardbred Breeders Mares and Fillies 1700 metre mobile and her trainer/driver concedes the draw will make it tough in a field that includes the likes of dynamic Gore winner Ariadne Lavra. McKenzie Mara also raced at Gore. She drew 12, went back early, sat parked for the last lap and stuck well for third. “I was pleased with her first up at Gore, she did work and fought on,” Williamson said. “She's on the way up and if she keeps improving will have a good season. She'll need luck from the draw but is a smart horse.” Wide draws continue for Williamson in the sixth, the Ryder Plumbing Ltd Mobile. He drives the Makarewa Country Club Syndicate runner Mighty Flying Deal, previously trained by Tony Barron but now with Brett Gray. Williamson has never driven Mighty Flying Deal but was in close proximity when it split Tas Man Bromac and Tour Director at last week's Winton Workouts. Surprisingly, he hasn't got a drive in the day's feature $15,000 Sir Lincoln Riverton Cup but names the 40 metres back marker, Pulp Fiction, as the horse to beat. “I'll go with the class, I've got a lot of respect for that horse,” he said. His final drive is in race eight, the $10,000 Neville Cleaver Fishing Aparima Trot, aboard new runner to the stable, De Vito. Raced by the Balfour Syndicate and previously with Billy Heads, De Vito won a workout at Invercargill in 3:30.7 last weekend. “He went quite well, I'd expect a good run and he will improve,” Williamson said. De Vito is off the front and goes from the unruly while stablemate Sun's Invasion has drawn one and starts from 10 metres behind. The mare has disappointed at times since winning first up for the season but Williamson won't discount her chances. “Brent Barclay is driving her, she has worked well this week and should be a good place chance,” he said.   Mac Henry

There are few Southlanders more passionate about their horses than Ben and Karen Calder. They breed from a small band of broodmares, and often top up their harness racing stock by purchasing at the national sales. And it’s one of their homebred pacers, Mr Mojito that’s providing them with much satisfaction at the moment. Ben Calder is a no fuss sort of guy who shies away from the limelight and just goes about breeding and purchasing horses whilst enjoying racing them either with his wife Karen and good friends and family. The first horse the Calders raced of any note was Grinaldi the winner of ten races, and $162,712. He also owned Sunning which won eight races including the Group One Victorian Trotters Oaks, Bought In The Pub, New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes winner, and The Oyster Man which won five races. And there have been a host of others. Ben and Karen live at Ryal Bush 10 minutes north of Invercargill where they’ve set up their show piece property Grinaldi Lodge. Southland’s leading trainer Nathan Williamson currently works out of their stable. The latest Grinaldi Lodge horse to emerge from the same bloodlines as Grinaldi is Mr Mojito; a rising star in the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen stable. Mr Mojito was always highly rated by Ben and original trainer Brett Gray. He won a workout then qualified at Young Quinn Raceway in January 2015 as a two year winning by four lengths and running a mile in 1-59.5. He was purchased that day by Butterworth Racing Syndicate. He was put aside to mature, and his much anticipated debut came later in the year on the same course in November. Sent out third favourite, he settled last and never improved, to finish over 200 lengths from the winner. Stewards ordered a post-race veterinary examination which confirmed the gelding had suffered an atrial fibrillation. He returned to racing in April this year, winning easily at Central Southland Raceway. Shortly afterwards he was transferred to the Purdon-Rasmussen’s Rolleston stable. Since joining that stable he’s been in hot form running second behind the highly talented Heaven’s Rock before putting a picket form line together of four impressive wins. “He appears to have the X factor. He’s looked super and going forward in richer company he says to me that he can do it,” said Ben. He was bred by the Calders out of their In The Pocket mare Wanaka Bay. “All of the In the Pocket mares had a bad attitude. Wanaka Bay was trained by Becky (Alan Beck). She lay down on the track after one of her early workouts but won her first race.” The Calders also have a two year old half-brother to Mr Mojito by American Ideal but had the misfortune to lose a Bettor’s Delight foal recently. “It was slipped in the paddock and was about seven week premature.” Sunning has also been a good broodmare for the Calder with only one of her seven live foals of racing age not winning races. She’s left Burano (10 wins), Medora (3 wins), Sunny Vacation (5 wins), No Potato (5 wins), Santorini Sunset (5 wins) and Agnes Brown (2 wins). Her two year old Breaking Bad (by Angus Hall) is about to come back into work with Kevin Townley. As well as breeding from a handful of mares Ben was active at the last round of yearling sales purchasing six yearlings, all with rich pedigrees. Paramount King (Love You – Paramount Star) is with northern training partnership John and Josh Dickie who share in the ownership of the colt. Paramount King           His dam won seven races and is the mother of Paramount Geegee the winner of fourteen races including the Harness Jewels Thee Year Old Trotting Ruby, Great Northern Trotting Derby and New Zealand Trotting Derby and $357,236, and Paramount Queen which won eight races and $122,612. It’s a family that the Dickie’s have had a huge amount of success with. They also have a Betterthancheddar – Baptism of Fire colt which is a half-brother to Highview Tommy the winner of fifteen races and $885,062. “He’s broken in nicely and shows a bit. They like him.” Other stock in the north for the Calders includes a two year old Art Major – Gretna’s Best colt who’s with Brent Mangos. Named Bronco Banner he’s closely related to Smooth Gretna the winner of fifteen races.  “He also broke in nice.” Another sales purchase is Nuburgring (Bettor’s Delight – Cullen’s Creation) “He’s trained by Kevin Townley and is related to Courage Under Fire. He got an infection in his tendon sheath and is coming home to heal.” Townley a long time trainer and friend of the Calders also trains another yearling purchase Swoon (Monarchy – Hot Vacation). “His second dam is the mother of Sheemon and Karen and I have a half share in him with Kevin and Margaret Townley. We may have to change his name.” Robinson Crusoe (Somebeachsomewhere – Asabella) was also bought by Grinaldi Lodge at the sales. This is the mare’s seventh foal and she’s the dam of four winners including Ohoka’s Bondy (22 West Australian wins), Dancing Diamonds (9 wins and $343,276) and Code Red (12 wins). “He’s trained by Brad Mowbray who shares in the ownership with his wife Mel and was strong minded and difficult to break in. He was big but so was Brad. He was put out for a spell and he’s come back as a true gentleman. I’ve tried to breed a Somebeachsomewhere a couple of times but didn’t have much luck so it’s nice to have one.” Outside of their sales purchases this year the Calders have plenty of other horses ready to hit the racetracks. Ash is a three year old Ben is looking forward to getting to the races. He’s by The Pres out of Tamarix and is a half-brother to Larix, Given and Larch. His four dam Haakondahl is the mother of Sapling (22 wins including the Great Northern Pacing Derby). “We’ve had to wait on him as he’s gone through a growing spurt.” Another trotter on the books is a Muscles Yankee colt out of Classic Armbro - a daughter of the great Merinai. Named Sertorius he’s also on the books of John and Josh Dickie. Tour Director an Art Major gelding out of Bremner Bay who won once from five starts is also back on the active list. “He’s stranded a tendon and is being worked up at Nathan’s.” Foo Fighter an American Ideal gelding out of Lucy’s Way which is a full sister to Wanaka Bay (dam of Mr Mojito) qualified at Wyndham as a two year old. He’s owned by Juliette Earl, Karen Calder, Katie Williamson, Neville Cleaver, Kevin Strong, Sid Slee, Robyn Jones and Alan Jones. His first start is eagerly awaited as he qualified well. He’s a half-brother to Treble Cone which won impressively at her first start when trained by John Earl. She had two other starts before heading to the broodmares paddock. She has a nice American Ideal colt called You Too which is owned by the Calders and Earls. So between homebred stock and young horses purchased at the sales Ben and Karen Calder have plenty to watch this season. And hopefully plenty more pleasurable moments to share with friends and family without too much fuss, which is just the way they like it.   Bruce Stewart Southland harness racing      

A relatively good summer, improved track grooming and the injection of some quality Canterbury horses led to a bumper season for track records in the Southern region. Forty one track records were broken over all southern surfaces during the 2015-2016 season which wrapped up at Invercargill on Queens Birthday Monday - the highest number for many years. And twenty of those were also Southland records. The Club that hosted the most track records for the season was Invercargill where 7 pacers made the list and 6 trotters were added to the record books. The Young Quinn Raceway at Wyndham had 6 pacing and 1 trotting record broken, Central Southland Raceway at Winton had 6 pacers break records. All other southern surfaces got amongst the action, Gore all weather (2 pacers), Omakau (2 pacers and 1 trotter), Roxburgh (1 pacer and 2 trotters), Gore Grass (4 pacers and 1 trotter) and Cromwell Grass (1 pacer and 1 trotter). Heading the class of record breakers was Nek Time who broke the 2400 metre mobile record at Winton in February running 2-53.0 which was also a New Zealand record for a three year old filly. She also broke the 2700 metre mobile record at Invercargill for three year old fillies running 3-19.4.  Meanwhile a number of Southland trainers are heading towards personal best seasons. Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray is currently sitting on 24 winners which is 10 more than his previous best season of 14 in 2015. Gray trains for Australian owners Merv and Meg Butterworth who purchase horses in the province and many stay here initially before heading to Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen in Canterbury, Tony Herlihy in Auckland or to Australian trainers. Clark Barron recorded 22 training wins this season 4 more than his previous best of 18 in 2011 while Ascot Park trainer Brent Shirley who is only in his fourth season of training finished the season with 20 winners - 4 better than his old PB of 16 in 2014. Alister Black was another young trainer to improve his standing with 13 winners. His previous personal best was 8 in 2013. Driver Nathan Williamson was the only driver of note to better his driving PB. He currently has 86 wins on the board, that’s 8 better than the 78 he drove in 2013.   Bruce Stewart - Southland Harness

Southland Harness Racing Trainer/Driver Nathan Williamson has his eyes firmly set on a personal milestone and will look to take another step or two towards his goal tomorrow at Rangiora. Currently sitting on 85 driving victories for the season, 7 in front of his previous best of 78 wins in 2013, Williamson is looking to post his first century. With just 6 weeks of the season remaining, that means you will see Nathan traveling around more, starting with Rangiora tomorrow (Sunday). Down to drive Pyramid Mustang in the first race for father Phil, the 3yo Monarchy gelding will be well backed after a last start 2nd at Forbury Park. In an even bunch of maiden trotters, that could be win number 86. In Race 5, Nathan will drive Hannity for Timaru based trainer Colin Harrison, who was a handy 3rd on debut, although the 4yo Lis Mara gelding does meet a field full of some handy 2yo's including Time Traveller for Cran Dalgety. Bobbins will be another Phil Williamson runner in with a good chance tomorrow. Set to start of 10m, the 4yo mare has been good without being spectacular lately, but in an even field she could be the upset chance. The best chance of Nathan's day has to be his own runner Sun's Invasion, who is a clear stand out in Race 9. Her form since a spell has been outstanding and even from a tricky draw, it could be another step closer to the century for Williamson. Williamson will finish off his day with Just Ben in the last race of the day. He will need some luck in a handy field. Andrew Fitzgerald

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