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By Dave Di Somma, Harness News desk     It’s taken him more than a decade and over 100 starts but Steve Harding has now trained a winner - at a racetrack that just happens to be his namesake.  The breakthrough happened at Mt Harding on Sunday when Harding’s four-year-old Manjimup took out the Methven Panel and Paint pace over 2400 metres, while in the first of the day Washdyke trainer Mike Curry landed his first winner with Kingsdown Atom.   “It’s a bit of a relief really,” says Harding after his Big Jim gelding capitalized on the perfect trip in the trail for driver Craig Thornley before taking the passing lane and winning by one and a half lengths. “I said to my wife as they were going down the back straight if he doesn’t win this one he’s never going to win one.” His confidence had been boosted by a third placing at Motukarara on September 27.  It was the 102nd time the former amateur driver had lined up a horse at the races since starting out in 2009.  He has now had one win, seven seconds and five thirds. “I’m not in to make money, for me it’s trying to get the best performance out of the horse. If they run to their potential  I’m happy.”  Harding has two horses in work at his West Melton property  - “Maurice O’Leary’s old place” – and juggles  training with his full-time work as an electrician. “Jeff Whittaker and Ian Shinn have been a massive help to me over the years and I’ve very grateful for what they have done.” For Curry his win was his first in 24 starts. Now retired, he’s only been training since 2019 though racing’s always been in the blood. “My grandfather trained in the 1950s, we’ve always had the Kingsdown horses – we’ve had about 12 of them over the years -  and they have all been winners” Mike’s father Lester also  trained from the 1960’s through to the early 90’s and, according to HRNZ records, won 32 races. Yesterday Kingsdown Atom started well in the Brown Pub Methven Punter of the Year pace  before handing up to Tyke.  He then went outside the leader just before the turn, holding on to win by half a neck for driver Colin De Filippi. Curry’s win is his first as a trainer, though he has had one as a driver too, when he piloted Kingsdown Lad home at Oamaru in 1980. Kingsdown Atom’s next start could possibly be a 1700 metre stand at Methven at the end of the month. For Steve Harding and Mike Curry the grass track season has seen success that’s been literally years in the making. 

The New Zealand Cup is approaching fast. In a little less than a month the biggest race in the country will go to the tapes and be run and won, so, at the moment, who’s the smart money on? Being a betting man myself I’ve always tried to focus my attention on the horse that’s shown an x-factor performance in the lead up races. When, engaged in a war of attrition over an extreme trip, the horse that would display that undeniable brilliance to master his or her rivals and come out on top. At the moment, you could argue a case for a number of Cup hopefuls. Self Assured is the current favourite to take Cup honors, that’s a reasonable and most probably rightful label given his win in the Maurice Holmes Vase. That win did have an x-factor about it, an early gallop followed by a late surge through the middle of it all to claim victory. He’s also shown a turn of foot that few of the open class pacers seem to possess. He’s got tactical speed. Speed full stop. His standing start manners seem to be under control too, at least off the unruly, which, to his fans, will come as welcome relief. All in all he’s done most things needed of a future NZ Cup champion. The only thing worrying about the Self Assured Cup-winning narrative now is the late race windburn he got given on Sunday at Mount Harding Methven. The horse that gave him that wake up call? A proven Cup contender in Spankem. Boy he was good Sunday.  Patiently driven by Natalie Rasmussen throughout the 3000m distance the horse attached a pair of wings to its frame 300m out and powered home from well off the speed to capture the grass track feature in emphatic style. You couldn’t help but be impressed by the effort. Was it an x-factor performance? It’s hard to tell given the grass track and relative lack of numbers off the back row. It doesn’t really matter. His performance a week before in the Canterbury Classic was very good, his performance at Methven a step up again. A major player yes. And then you have Copy That. The Northern raider who, while mixing his form, looked like he could beat them all up after showing disdain for his rivals in three consecutive wins throughout late July and August. His second in the Spring Cup added a slight haze to the Copy That picture when run down by Mach Shard but was then followed by a sound win in the Kerry Hoggard Memorial over a longer distance when off a decent 30m handicap. Can he travel to Addington, to the biggest day in harness racing in this country and teach them how to dance? As things are he currently sits on the third line of betting. He's being kept very safe in betting markets.  If he doesn’t quite bring the x-factor in the debate than he’s certainly brings the slightly unknown factor. The “just how good is he” factor.    Of course it’s not only a three horse race. Cruz Bromac is yet to hit full stride in Australian features yet and may not even get here. Barry Purdon seldom goes away from the Cup without reminding everybody of his training ability and will have his charges primed to bring about a sharp shock.    Then there’s Classie Brigade. He may not have the flashy x-factor performance in him buts he’s got the f-off factor by the bucket load. J Dunn will ensure that during cup week. He doesn’t give a toss who you are come Cup Day. He’ll back himself to throw the cat among the pigeons under all circumstances. We’re a month out. A lot can happen in a month. There will be conversations and storylines at every corner the open class pacers run around. Betting markets will flutuate and change or every snippet of stables news.  It's all building the tension towards what promises to be another great edition of the New Zealand Cup.    Ben McMillan   

By Jonny Turner    Spankem called on his best weapon – his sizzling turn of speed – to nail Self Assured on the line and give his New Zealand Cup campaign another boost by winning the Methven Cup on Sunday. Giving away a race fitness edge to all of his rivals and being stuck third last before the home turn were not big enough obstacles to stop the Miracle Mile winner from taking out the 3000m group 2 feature by head and going one better than his brilliant first up effort in the Canterbury Classic. Self Assured took the lead on the home turn, after sitting parked for the last lap of the Methven Cup, leaving Spankem with around seven lengths to make up. At that stage, the winner’s part-owners, Philip and Glenys Kennard, admitted they almost gave Spankem no chance of winning. And the sometimes tricky angle of the winning post at Methven had them convinced he didn’t clinch victory. “On the turn, Glenys and I said if we get second or third we would be happy,” Philip Kennard said. “Even on the line, I walked in to one of the boxes up the top there at Methven and I thought they had called that wrong.” “I walked away thinking we had run second, quite happy, and then we got downstairs and they said you’ve won it.” Spankem looks to have joined a rocky road to the New Zealand Cup at the right time with his excellent return from injury in the Canterbury Classic and his Methven Cup win. And being just two runs in to his campaign, there is plenty more to come from the six-year-old. By the time Spankem gets to Ashburton to defend his Ashburton Flying Stakes title, he should be significantly fitter. “We are very excited,” Kennard said. “You would have seen what a good run in the Canterbury Classic – it was first up and it was a very good horse that beat him.” “Self Assured had to do a bit more work today and that probably helped us turn the tables.” “He is going to go to the Ashburton Flying Stakes now, in a fortnight.” “The best part about it, what we always like to hear, is that they have pulled up well after they have had a wash down.” “And Natalie said he was jumping around like a lunatic.” The Kennards may have tasted plenty of big race success, but their journey to their biggest of wins mean they keep their feet firmly on the ground. “Glenys and I really appreciate how hard it is to get horses to these races.” “We have had ups and downs, there have been plenty of ups, but there have been a whole lot of downs.” “It is a big achievement just to have a horse in the New Zealand Cup.” While Spankem is clearly on track to attempt to go one better than his second behind Cruz Bromac in last year’s New Zealand Cup, another of the Kennards’ horses is not. The owners are awaiting for the results of extensive blood testing done on Thefixer after the 2018 New Zealand Cup winner was pulled up out of the Canterbury Classic after suffering an atrial fibrillation. Going by the running of the Kerry Hoggard Memorial Holmes D G at Alexandra Park on Friday night, the Kennards could have had a third contender for the New Zealand Cup. South Coast Arden went a cracking race to get within half a length of the winner, Copy That. However, the Brent Mangos trained pacer is not nominated for New Zealand’s premier harness race. But, his team have the option of making a late payment to for the New Zealand Cup.

Ahead of Sunday’s Methven Cup we thought we’d share 10 fun facts about the race and the Mt Harding Raceway.   1. Arethusa was the first and only three-year-old to win the Methven Cup. Driven by Morrie (M.F.) Holmes,  Arethusa took out the two mile feature in 4:41.6 in 1930. The race started as a non-tote in 1920, with the first totalisator  race in 1927, three years before Arethusa’s win. 2. Only two female drivers have won the Methven Cup. Jo Herbert was the first in 2000 (Chloe Hanover) with Natalie Rasmussen winning three times with Cruz Bromac (2018), Messini (2015) and Vi Et Animo (2011). 3. Starting off the backmark of 30m Cruz Bromac’s winning time (over 3000m) was in a new record of 3:51.34. The horse went on to win the New Zealand Cup the next year (2019). 4. Winning the Methven – New Zealand Cup double in the same year is no mean feat. Flashing Red did it in 2006, and then defended the NZ Cup in 2007. In all three wins Flashing Red was trained by Tim Butt and Phil Anderson, and driven by Anthony Butt.  5. Jack Smolenski won three Methven Cups in a row in the early 1970s with Arapaho (1971), Blackbeard (1972) and Yankee Clipper (1973). He also won with Freightman in 1984, and Unique Blue Chip in 1991. 6. Trained and driven by George Shand,  Eastwood Jaunty produced a unique double in the early 2000s, winning the Cup twice in three years (2001 and 2003).  The son of Holmes Hanover had six of his 13 career wins as a four-year-old in 2001.   7. Colin De Filippi also had a cracking record in the big race, winning it three times in four years  with Capri (1983), Ruthless (1985), and Chipaluck (1986).  8. The crowds will be back for the 2020 edition of the Cup, with the Punter of the Year competition winner taking away a trophy and $2500. Only owners and essential staff were allowed on course at their previous meeting in September. 9. There were 256 nominations for the meeting. All races on Sunday will have a guaranteed $10,000 First Four, with the Methven Cup set to go at 3.28pm, half an hour before the All Blacks’ Bledisloe Cup test kicks off in Wellington.  10. The first stage of the new Equus Park subdivision that borders the Methven racecourse have been released for sale. Sections range from 1001 to 2062 square metres. Also under construction are the adjacent Opuke Hot Pools that are due to be opened mid 2021.   Harness Racing New Zealand

Welcome to the Harness Analyst series where we take a look at New Zealand's harness racing with free previews,tips and reviews of trials and the previous weeks racing. Harness racing hits the grass track at Methven today with a twelve race program starting at 12:15pm and in this video we highlight some specials and value runners we think can give you a run for your money on a fantastic day of racing. The content and data on this video is provided for informational purposes only Check below the video for our selections for all of the races today for Methven. Methven Sunday 11th October 2020 Race 1 Kingsdown Atom good beginner who is building up a good formline. Winning claims at nice odds…… Iron Woman good workout placing behind Harrison here two weeks ago. Place chance and over the odds ..… Mark Dunnett he failed on this track fresh up but is fitter now. Winning claims if can land handy early…….. Going For Gold  needs to bring his a-game but good enough to beat this field if he does things right early. Selections:  Kingsdown Atom (8),   Going For Gold  (15),   Iron Woman (1),    Mark Dunnett (7)   Race 2 Queen Of Strathfield is in great form at the moment and looks the top selection here. Hard to beat……. Shiffty getting fitter with racing and has had the work piled into him last few weeks. Can run top three at good odds…… Rosie's Son not much luck last start but should land close to the leaders from the draw. Could surprise at nice money…… Ilsas Son not great last start but will appreciate the grass surface, Can run top three with a good run in transit Selections:  Queen Of Strathfield (8),   Shiffty (14),   Ilsas Son (18),   Rosie's Son (2)   Race 3 Perfect Cut tricky draw but has a decent motor. Looks a good winning chance in this field if he can get a cart into the race….. Reggie Golightly a bit one paced but his workout second here was good. Can place at big odds if the pace is on all the way….. Carrera Dance trials have been ok and from a strike rate stable. Top three player in this race…. President Pat tidy inside second row draw and will be running on at the finish. Chance at good odds if he can clear traffic. Selections:   Perfect Cut (13),   Reggie Golightly (4),   President Pat (10),   Carrera Dance (8)   Race 4 Harrison looked in good nick at the workouts here and has run two tidy thirds without a lot of luck at the races. Top selection and very hard to beat….. Unchanged Memory tricky draw and manners a concern but can run in the top three if close enough on the turn….. Manjimup running ok races and drawn well. Not the worst and has winning claims with no mistakes …. Buckingham was a good second here fresh up and should be handy to the leaders from the draw. Include here. Selections:   Harrison (8),   Unchanged Memory (15),   Manjimup (2),   Buckingham (3)   Race 5 Cranbourne has competed in better fields than this. Winning claims at good odds here…… Essence Of Easton  good win last start and should get a cosy run from the draw. Has claims at big odds if the gaps open… Pay Me Visa tricky draw but has been unlucky. Likes grass and has the top junior on board. Needed..… Laver terrible draw but opened way over the odds. Good winning claims here if he can get a cart into the race Selections:  Cranbourne (12),   Essence Of Easton  (10),   Pay Me Visa (8),   Laver (9)   Race 6 Sioux Princess has raced well on the track in the past and has been beginning ok. Top selection here at nice odds.….. Sonoma Tyron good win two starts ago and will appreciate the grass. One for longer odds here…… Idle Stuartia racing well and top driver on board again. Will be hard to beat..… Riteur   likes the grass and has won here before. Winning claims if she can get a cart into the race off the 20m handicap Selections:  Sioux Princess (17),   Idle Stuartia (5),   Sonoma Tyron (1),  Riteur   (18)   Race 7 Pro Surfer easy win last start and this field not much stronger. Headed for higher honours and top selection here……. Bettor Believe It tricky draw but good win last start and should be competitive here. Include at good odds ….. Already Gone running ok races and cosy inside fence draw. Will be running on late and can win at good odds….. Terror Maria she ran some good races last campaign and drawn ok. Can win fresh up Selections:  Pro Surfer (5),   Terror Maria (6),   Already Gone  (10)    Bettor Believe It (15)   Race 8 Duastar racing ok and drawn the front. Top three player here at nice odds……. Boom good beginner who should appreciate the grass. Winning claims with a good run  in transit..… Sister's Delight has been solid in similar races and conditions suit. Place chances best here at long odds….. No Nukes Skipper good on grass in previous runs and top driver booked. Needs a quick beginning but opened at good money and can win. Selections:  No Nukes Skipper (11),   Duastar (3),   Sister's Delight (8)    Boom (9)   Race 9 Self Assured looked good winning four of his last five and 30m handicap might not stop him here. Top selection……. Tango Tara good draw and grass suits especially with a strong pace. Winning claims at nice odds in this...… Di Caprio racing well in strong fields and should be thereabouts again here. Include….. Spankem good second last start and well suited here. Trainers have had four wins and a second in this race the last four years so stats back him up. Selections:  Self Assured (12),  Tango Tara (4),   Di Caprio (9)    Spankem (11)   Race 10 Watch Me Now terrible draw but is in good form. Only needs a good beginning and to be put in the race to be a major threat here……. Fynn Frost these conditions suit and form is better than it looks on paper. Can win at long odds..… Claus has performed well in similar fields in the past and drawn front line. Good winning claims at good odds….. Iknow nice draw to play with and will be fitter for his last start third. Include Selections:  Fynn Frost (4),   Claus (9),   Iknow (3)    Watch Me Now (13)   Race 11 Global Flight easy win last start and should go on with it now. Top selection and hard to beat at good odds with manners…..        Take After Me back to the grass surface and manners the only concern. Can run in the top three if close enough on the turn….. Chief Of Staff running ok races and drawn well with change of driver. Not the worst and has winning claims with no mistakes …. Beyond The Horizon races well on the track and will be fitter. Include here. Selections:   Global Flight (18),   Chief Of Staff (7),   Take After Me (3),   Beyond The Horizon (14)   Race 12 Givemewhatineed good run for second here fresh up and will be improved. Will hard to beat if he brings his A-game….. Swap Over tricky draw and clearing traffic a worry but can run in the top three if close enough on the turn….. For Today running ok races and drawn well. Not the worst and has winning claims with a trail all the way …. Magicol Ideal was a good second on grass last start and should be handy to the leaders from the draw. Include here. Selections:   Swap Over (10),   Magicol Ideal (5),   Givemewhatineed (16),   For Today (1)   Best Bet  - R4 Harrison Best Value  - R10 Fynn Frost   Harnesslink Media

David Moran and Lochinvar Art took the best punches of Craig Cross and Luke McCarthy’s extraordinary New South Wales team and answered every challenge to claim the Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup. After being swamped early trainer-driver Moran stayed cool and allowed Plan B to play itself out, showing the patience and more than a little magic reminiscent of his driving hero the late Gavin Lang, who he paid tribute too immediately post-race. “Before Gavin passed I went and saw him in hospital and he said, 'do me one favour and drive that horse yourself',” Moran told Trots Vision. And, boy, did he. The reinsman and Lochinvar Art clawed over the top of Del-Re National A. G. Hunter Cup and Miracle Mile winner King Of Swing in the final 100 metres, saluting to the sky as he recorded a first Grand Circuit victory in a track record 1:51.4 mile rate. Lochinvar Art now holds both the 2240-metre and 1720-metre track records at Tabcorp Park Melton, following on from January’s 4YO Bonanza win in 1:48.6. “He’s a horse that amazes me still as a trainer,” Moran said. “His never-say-die attitude.” It was certainly on display tonight, when Moran had to quickly abandon Plan A and any thoughts of a lead all-the-way victory. Few speed maps would have forecast that Cross's horse Alta Orlando, driven by Mick Stanley, would spear away from the gates quickly enough to roll straight past Lochinvar Art and hem the favourite into the running line. Worse was to come for Moran, as lead rivals Cash N Flow and King Of Swing advanced forward to the breeze and lead respectively, with Cross’s other runners Balraj and Bling It On stacked along the valued peg line. It didn’t turn out quite like I would have thought,” Moran said. “They burnt the gate pretty hard. When Alta Orlando got across it got a little bit tight there, which put us into a downward position where Cash N Flow and King Of Swing had the jump on us a little bit.” Through a 42.5-second lead time and 29.5-second first quarter, team Cross had the first five runners until Moran advanced Lochinvar Art to the breeze for a season-defining final lap. And then the script flipped again, this time by an inspired Moran move, with the reinsman realising Balraj was struggling to hold the leader’s back and swooped in when the opportunity presented. “Just as I got to the breeze I heard Balraj touch his knee a couple of times,” Moran said. “I thought he was more than likely to lose a bit of ground on the turn, so the plan was just to try and hang off him and when he dropped away a little bit to try and spear to that position.” And that he did, then tracking King Of Swing through a 28.6-second third quarter and into the final bend, emerging just before the straight and advancing to the outside as the chasing pack lost touch. It became a race in two and by the 100-metre mark the Victorian nosed ahead and advanced to claim the cup by 7.1 metres, with King Of Swing a meritorious second, reigning champion Bling It On running into third and Rishi finishing fourth. “Little bit chuffed actually. Feels a bit surreal,” Moran said post-race. “To everyone that helped out back at home, I can’t thank you enough, friends, family and all the people who have said ‘good luck’ or ‘well done’ in the past, I can’t thank you enough.” Moran saved special mention for David and Colleen Aiken. “They’ve been great mentors to me and, practically, like my second mum and dad really,” he said. “I love them to bits, they’re just great people and they couldn’t be more happy than seeing someone else get a winner.” And he also thanked owners Kevin and Leonie Gordon for the faith they showed in him to select the horse, who has rewarded his connections with $885,376 in stakes and 21 victories from 42 starts. “Kevin has no input whatsoever on what I buy, he just says you go and do whatever you need to do or whatever you think’s best and if it wasn’t for Kevin and Leonie we would never have got him.” The owners parted with $29,000 on December 5, 2017, for the then two-year-old Modern Art colt out of Ponder In Paris, who caught Moran’s eye at a ready to run sale. “He just run up good. He run up in quick time, which I wasn’t too concerned about, but it was how he did it,” Moran said. “I think he ran his last quarter in 26 and a half or something like that as an early two-year-old, but the way he did it it looked like he ran the quarter in 31. That was pretty impressive. Just on type he looked like he had a bit of scope to go.” And so he did, tonight capturing his fourth Group 1 victory.   HRV - Michael Howard

Pembrook Playboy showed all the qualities of a horse going places when he beat a tidy field at the Northern Southland Trotting Club Meeting at Ascot Park today. What made the win memorable was that he had to sit parked, but still had the class to win. “I was following two horses that I didn’t want to be following so I had to commit to the outside. The horse did the rest. He went great,” Williamson said. His trainer has always known the Bettor’s Delight entire has speed but today he showed great staying qualities. “He’s developing into a very good all round horse. That’s what he needed today, a nice hard run. He’s a pretty good horse.” After sitting parked outside leader Memphis Tennessee for the last 1650 metres Pembrook Playboy was brave in winning by half a length from Memphis Tennessee. The winning time was 3-21.5 with the last 800 metres cut out in 55.3. “He felt good but they were going a bit. He hadn’t raced for a while so he was busy enough out there.” Pembrook Playboy was bought by owner Chris Alcock at the 2018 National Yearling Sales. He’s out of the three win Christian Cullen mare Dudinka’s Star whose wins included the Great Northern Oaks and the Group One Ladyship Stakes. The four year old holds a nomination for the New Zealand Cup. “It’s not a goal. We’ll continue to pay up. If the field falls away and he gets a start it won’t be a bad idea as part of his growing up process. He’s probably twelve months – even two years away. He’s only four and hasn’t got the ring craft.” Meanwhile Her Majesty overcame a second line draw to lead and hang on to win the Walker Murdoch Mobile Pace. The four year old mare driven by co-trainer Kirstin Barclay got a nice run through on the back of favourite Miss Auckland and made the lead inside the first 400 metres. Her Majesty which is a sister to Dizzy Miss Lizzy and Lady Madonna was starting to get the stitch at the end of the 2200 metres but held on to beat Maya Angelou. Willangus Lad showed plenty of tenacity when after being headed by Insist The Win, he came again to win his second race in as many starts. The Angus Hall five year old trained by Northern Southland Committee man Robert Wilson took over the lead after early leader Madrik broke. The winning margin was half a length. Jabali came from three back on the inside to nab pacemaker Hazer by a neck in Race Five. It was the ten year old’s sixth win in ninety two starts for trainer Ross Hope. Jabali has now won over $66,000. Promising Sentry won the Regent Car Court/Caduceus Club Of Southland Nuggets Final for trainer Craig Laurenson. The Chelsea Faithful trained Toby O’Gara capped off a memorable day when he outfinished his rival to win the GJ Gardner Homes Mobile Pace.   by Bruce Stewart

Chinese Whisper lit up Ascot Park today, coming from a long way back to win his sixth race and in doing so breaking a track and Southland record. The excitement machine was the highlight of a days racing that saw for the first time, full public attendance at Ascot Park since Covid. “I didn’t have to pull the plugs and he sprinted up pretty good. It was pretty impressive,” trainer driver Nathan Williamson said after the win. From the back mark of thirty metres the Sundon gelding got well off the pace early. With 400 metres to run he was still eight lengths off the pace and he had to go five wide out of the last bend. Chinese Whisper came down the outside of the track and got up a beat a brave Sundons Flyer by half a length. The winning time of 3-26.2 was a new track and Southland record for entires and geldings. The previous record of 3-26.3 was held by Monty Python. The open record of 3-24.0 is held by Pres The Belle. Williamson has been very patient with Chinese Whisper who’s had only ten starts over three seasons of racing. “He’s quite temperamental and touchy. With management he’s slowing getting there. Every time he goes out there he’s learning something different. He dropped the bit completely today. I put him on the bit with a lap to go and he travelled up nice.” The plan now is to race him at Tuapeka in a fortnight. The five year old is owned by Williamson’s wife Katie and farrier Brendon Franks, and is currently ranked 30th in November’s Majestic Son Dominion Handicap. “I might base myself in Christchurch before Cup Week, take him to the Cup trial, line him up on Cup Day and see how he goes in that sort of company. Dark Horse is my Dominion horse though.”   by Bruce Stewart

By Jonny Turner    Wild Excuse will not simply step quietly in to the big leagues when she starts in the Group 3 Methven Cup on Sunday. The tough running five-year-old will take on top class open class pacers for the first time when she clashes with New Zealand Cup favourites and 30m backmarkers, Self Assured and Spankem, in the 3000m grass track staying test. The toughness Wild Excuse is known for was on full display in her last start victory at Addington when she dug deep to fight off Belmont Major and score in a smart time. On that effort and so many of her prior runs, Sunday’s 3000m grass track test of stamina looks made to order for the mare. And her driver, Gavin Smith, agrees. “I think the 3000m will definitely suit and you would imagine the grass would suit,” the reinsman said. “She won her maiden on the grass, but she was a bit disappointing another time.” “Whether it was the grass or just that day I am not sure, but you would imagine it would be tailor-made for her.” “It is not going to be easy with the backmarkers in there, they are class acts.” “And there are going to be plenty of snipers off the front that are going to close to us, with that big straight at Methven to run you down.” “But, she will give it her best shot.” Smith has no plans to change his tactics as Wild Excuse steps up to race top class horses like Self Assured and Spankem. He will be driving to his mare’s strength – her big staying motor. “We will make it a war and see who comes out still fighting at the finish.” A two time winner at the New Zealand Cup Carnival last year, Wild Excuse is a rated on the fringes of open class. Smith has no doubts the Phil Burrows trained mare will handle the top grade when her rating puts her there permanently in the future. “She is still pretty inexperienced, but with the times she has run and the work she has done in premier fields that she will measure up when she gets there.” Wild Excuse starts off the front line, with the third placegetter in last week’s Canterbury Classic, Tango Tara, alongside her. The pair look to biggest threats to Self Assured and Spankem, who filled the Canterbury Classic quinella. Smith has a quality book of nine drives at Methven on Sunday, including Terror Maria in race 7. The Paul Kerr trained four-year-old disappointed in her last two starts in July before being freshened. Terror Maria showed she was ready to make an impact on her return on Sunday when running second to Matt Damon at the Rangiora workouts on Wednesday. “I thought her workout was pretty good and that she would be one of my best chances,” Smith said. Smith is expecting better from Shiffty, when he steps out in his colours in race 2. “I was a bit disappointed last time, but I blame myself for that.” “I thought he was a lot readier than he was, he missed a bit of work with a couple of wee issues.” “I have chucked a bit more work in to him in the last fortnight and he will be a lot better on Sunday and he will be a lot better after another run, too.” Smith is expecting better from Take After Me, who galloped in his last start at Addington after producing excellent grass track form prior. “He doesn’t trot as good on the surface at Addington and around the bends.” “Back on the grass he will be fine, he is always in the money and he is a lovely horse to drive.” Kusanova (race 8), Just Holla (race 10) and Missy Moo (race 6) each look strong eachway chances for Smith on Sunday, as well.

The local is counting the hours to Methven‘s biggest day of the year when all the locals get to see some of harness racing’s best horseflesh live at the Mt. Harding course on Sunday, with the features being the Alabar Methven Cup and the What The Hill Mares Trot. So here’s the way he sees it on Methven’s big day. Race 1 -A roughie in Art Collector who is steadily improving for Warren Stapleton to overcome a second line draw to beat stablemate Iron Woman with Caballe Beach to round off a big trifecta. Multiples - consistent Kingston Atom and Rocknroll Mama. Race 2 - Another attempting to overcome a second line draw in Ilsa’s Son to beat likely favourite Queen of Strathfield and honest Inherent Royal. Multiples Bryan Boru (must be an Irish connection here) and beautifully bred Monaro Mako. Race 3 - King Arthur deserves a win should be here over Cheap Cheap and Perfect Cut from a stable that always goes well here. Multiples boilover chance in local President Pat and first upper Jimmy Paul.  Race 4 - Harrison good last time then spelled, very hard to head from Manjimup has speed with soft run and Unchanged Memory quaddie chances Doctor Steve and Talisin. Race 5 - Good race many chances Playa La Vista who will be improving with every run over promising local in Cranbourne and likely favourite in Better Fly. Multiples - Laver and Dhauligiri. Race 6 - Best idea here would be to ring a good spiritual medium and make contact with Nostradamus because almost every horse in the race is a chance which suggest the handicaps are spot on. But we must find one so local Sonoma Tyron to beat Idle Stuartia and Fanny Hill  for multiples Sioux Princess and Medusa. Race 7 - Going rough here with Bettor Beintoit  who was o.k. last time from likely favourite in Pro Surfer and Hell’s Shadow. Multiples Ava Adore and Geoff’s Legacy. Race 8 - Another even lot we like grass specialist Classy Kid to beat promising type in Buckskin and tiny local in Sisters Delight chances do not stop there and we add Standout and Boom for multiples. Race 9 - Gee what a race will Wild Excuse try and run the favourites off their feet and who will be sitting on the mares back? Tempo will decide everything and again the handicapper has done a good job as will not be a jog in the park for the All Stars pair again though we have to make a decision and we believe Nandolo can upset Spankem and Self Assured with Di Caprio and Tango Tara for multiples. Race 10 - Yet another tough race with many chances Koenigsegg deserves a winning turn from Fynn Frost and brilliant Southern mare in Watch Me Now. Multiples IKnow and Nemera Franco. Race 11 - Tough old Beyond The Horizon loves it here to have the nose in front of Mighty Flying Rocker and Franco Josiah who is all heart. Extras - Mikemaro and probable favourite in Navara. Race 12 - Givemewhatineed who was sensational last time here to beat Magical Ideal and Mr Asia for multiples, free going Paul’s Verdict and Highland Reign. So the local says happy punting and then better attack that video of the All Blacks and the ancient enemy in Australia. Kyle Cameron is a young North Canterbury trainer who is doing a solid job with generally modest bred stock Kyle travels to Methven Sunday so we caught up with him about his chances. Kyle’s first drive is Unchanged Memory for dad Ian in race 4, Kyle assessed his chances as generally a safe but slowish beginner from the stand and if in striking distance will find the line. His next outing is in race 6,  is with one he trains good intermediate trotter Medusa, Kyle feels she is racing well  from tough marks at Addington and her chances will depend on whether she can get handy without spending too much petrol, again a rough chance. Next up is Been To Jenny’s , an honest mare drawn badly who would need a lot of luck here. In race 10  Fynn Frost another he trains is well drawn and his trainer gives him a chance with the right run in what he correctly assesses as a very even field. In race 11 he drives Prince Teka which he says  ‘has been racing well and must be accorded some chance’. He rates his last two drives as his best chances on the day. When asked his view on the big race the Methven Cup Kyle believes he has to plump for likely favourite Self Assured.   By Mike Heenan

This week, and more specifically today October 10, signals a landmark day for the harness racing team at Harnesslink. It was 18 years ago, on October 10, 2002, that what has grown to become the number one international harness racing online news service started from humble beginnings. Centralising international harness racing news and information in a user-friendly standardbred web experience has been the one goal of Harnesslink from the very beginning. The IT Team works around the clock to develop and maintain all website features while our news team work on a near 24-hour rotating cycle to continue bringing you the latest news worldwide, every hour. The popularity of Harnesslink is a proven testing ground for harness racing affiliates that want that extra scope and bang for their buck. Most importantly, we are completely independent and receive absolutely no funding from any of the main racing bodies around the world, though we are thoroughly appreciative of the great working association we have with them all. Tell your friends and tell them to tell their friends, but most importantly, keep coming back each and every day as we continue to grow and develop. Harnesslink is the brainchild of international agent, John Curtin (J.C. International), who 20 years ago saw a need for a world-wide harness racing website that put online the latest harness racing news from around the globe. John says, "Our policy is to keep improving every single day - 365 days of the year. We have staff working every day of the year to bring you all the latest harness racing news from every corner of the world. When Harnesslink launched in 2002 there were only four harness racing websites on the internet, so we've been in a unique position to have watched the harness racing community embrace the technological world during this time. One of the latest innovations for Harnesslink is a partnership with Roberts Communications Network, the leading communications services provider to the pari-mutuel industry in North America.  This partnership enables Harnesslink the ability to embed videos of race replays for most North American tracks into articles posted on the website. We are still looking for ways to improve and provide you, our customers, with better coverage throughout the world, we continuously strive to do this! We currently have more than 200,000 photos in our library and over 300,000 articles. We'd like to thank all of you for coming back regularly to read Harnesslink, if you're reading this you're obviously one of our faithful followers and we thank you. Harnesslink Media

By Jonny Turner    New Zealand Cup contender Robyns Playboy’s standing start manners will be key to his chances of winning the ‘Battle Of The Playboys’ at Ascot Park on Saturday. The Hannon Memorial runner-up will clash with Pembrook Playboy as the pair take another step towards the second Tuesday in November in the Northern Southland Trotting Club’s 2700m feature handicap pace. Robyns Playboy must give his main rival a 10m headstart, with Pembrook Playboy starting in front of him on the 20m mark. The way the 5yr-old has been beginning in his recent starts has driver Craig Ferguson hopeful Robyns Playboy can negate his 30m mark early in Saturday’s race. “He has been beginning super his last couple, if he can get away pretty quick and tack on the back of them he is probably going to have to make a midrace move at some stage,” the reinsman said. “But as long as he begins good he shouldn’t be too far off them.” Robyns Playboy appears to have a race fitness edge, with tomorrow’s event being the fifth run of his campaign. Pembrook Playboy has just had one start back from a spell, missing a clash with Robyns Playboy when scratched from the Hannon Memorial. While his rival was sidelined, Robyns Playboy gave his New Zealand Cup hopes a massive boost with an excellent second placing behind Classie Brigade. “I was real happy with him up there,” Ferguson said. “It was just sort of a walk and a sprint home, but he stuck to the task pretty well.” “Hopefully that has brought him on a wee bit – that first run against those good ones.” Pembrook Playboy was withdrawn after being slightly off his game in his training leading up to the group 3 feature. Trainer-driver Nathan Williamson has been happy with his 4yr-old since then and thinks Pembrook Playboy is fit enough to be highly competitive on Saturday. “I am really happy with where he is at,” Williamson said. “He is forward, he is every bit as forward as he was when he won at Winton and he has probably had the benefit of that run.” The two ‘Playboys’ take on six other runners, including fellow New Zealand Cup aspirant, Vintage Cheddar, who starts from the 40m back mark. How R K Finn handles the tight turns of the Ascot Park track will be key to his chances from barrier 7 in Saturday’s graduation final. The 4yr-old switches to the smaller circuit after impressively winning his first and only start from Ferguson’s stable at Winton last month. “I really like him, he seems to be quite a nice horse and he seems to have come on well since his first up win,” Ferguson said. “With the preferential barrier draw he is drawn wide and it is his first time around the tight track, that is going to be his only concern, I would say.” Ferguson also starts Sherwood Maggie from his stable in race 6. Robyns Playboy is one of four horses Ferguson drives for trainers Ross and Chris Wilson at tomorrow’s meeting. Ferguson also pairs with Annie Fitz (race 2), Von Art (race 3) and Robyns Shadow (race 5).

Even The Iceman gets excited talking about Bolt For Brilliance now. Which is no small feat as Tony Herlihy has driven so many great horses in his record-setting career that it takes a lot these days for him to put his stamp on approval on one. Bolt For Brilliance gets that stamp. The four-year-old trotter added the national 2200m mobile record to the standing start record he set two weeks earlier with a dazzling win in the $85,000 PGG Wrightson Sales Series Trot at Alexandra Park on Friday, the race delayed from the autumn. Bolt For Brilliance played the stalker as first Cracker Hill and then Ultimate Stride led and kept the foot down but when the northern favourite moved up to challenge he didn’t get things all his own way. When Herlihy, after being patient early, did finally launch Brad Williamson came off the trail to keep him three wide from the 600m, but the favourite never flinched and hit the lead at the top of the straight before holding out the very brave Cracker Hill. The winner became the first trotter to break 2:40 for 2200m in New Zealand, his 2:39.6 clipping 0.8 of a second off the old mark set by Paramount King in an Inter Dominion heat last November. “I must admit I never thought I’d see the day they broke 2:40 for trotters here,” said Herlihy. “And he really did it easily, he almost shut off when he got to the front. “He has all the attributes of a really good horse and would be right up there with the best young trotters I have driven. “He has speed and stamina and his manners are really good now, he relaxed beautifully out there three wide tonight.” Herlihy has mulled over a series of ideas and even thought of the Breeders Crown in Australia, for which Bolt For Brilliance would revert to being a three-year-old. But with the restrictions around Covid and another good race at Alexandra Park in two weeks he is going to have an easier time next month, with the Cup carnival definitely out. “He has gone two big 2200m races in a row in very fast times so I think I’ll ease up on him after the Sires’ Stakes and he can look at stepping into open class at the Christmas meeting.” Further down the track Herlihy will target the Rowe Cup, a race he won with Temporale as a four-year-old four years ago and as good as Temporale is, you already get the feeling Bolt For Brilliance is going to be better. He has the look of a very, very good horse who is still improving, with gate speed one weapon he will need to add to his arsenal to be the complete package. But he already looks an outstanding stayer and is he stays sound he could develop into something special. If he does Herlihy will have only one regret with the $30,000 yearling who was bred by Standardbred Breeders boss Brad Reid. “It is a real shame one of his owners Stan Mathews isn’t here to see him win these races. “He passed away about a month ago and was a hell of a good fella so that is the sad part of tonight’s win.” While beaten Brad Williamson was thrilled with Cracker Hill and says he will be even more competitive with Bolt For Brilliance left-handed at this stage, not that they will be expecting to see each other under those circumstances for a while.   by Michael Guerin

Welcome to the Harness Analyst series where we take a look at New Zealand's harness racing with free previews,tips and reviews of trials and the previous weeks racing. Harness racing hits Invercargill today with a ten race program starting at 2:20pm and in this video we highlight some specials and value runners we think can give you a run for your money on a good day of racing. The content and data on this video is provided for informational purposes only Check below the video for our selections for all of the races today for Ascot Park. Ascot Park Saturday 10th October 2020 Race 1 Prince Envy has a decent motor and trials and workouts quite good Will start favourite and hard to beat…… Sacred Mountain getting fitter with racing and top driver booked. Can win if close enough on the turn ..… Emdeegee forget last start as he galloped and lost his chance . Can atone with no mistakes…….. Zealous Spur needs to bring his a-game but good enough to place in this field if he does things right early. Selections:  Prince Envy (12),   Emdeegee (5),   Sacred Mountain (2),    Zealous Spur (9)   Race 2 Mighty George has been unlucky in quite a few of his races. Over the odds here and hard to beat……. Opawa Mach getting fitter with racing and good driver booked. Chances increase with any rain…… Kagee VC no luck last start but has gate speed and should land close to the lead. Could surprise at nice money…… Annie Fitz always a place chance in races like this and can run top three with a good run in transit Selections:  Mighty George (12),   Opawa Mach (6),   Kagee VC (2),   Annie Fitz (5)   Race 3 Alexis Rocket tricky draw but has a decent motor. Looks a good winning chance in this field if he can get a cart into the race….. Old Luke a bit one paced but field not strong. Can place at big odds if the pace is on all the way….. Von Art nearing peak fitness and has been racing well in strong fields. Top three player in this race…. Miss Auckland tidy draw and looks the leader in the race. Must be included. Selections:   Alexis Rocket (8),   Old Luke (11),   Von Art (4),   Miss Auckland (3)   Race 4 The Peaky Blinder got a deserved win last start and could double up here. Include….. Kiwitrix tricky draw and manners a concern but can win if close enough on the turn….. Insist The Win running ok races but manners not great. Not the worst and has winning claims with no mistakes …. Madrik manners have been terrible. Has the ability and can win if he can get around with no mistakes. Selections:   Insist The Win (5),   The Peaky Blinder (11),   Kiwitrix (7),   Madrik (13)   Race 5 Franco Huntington has competed in better fields than this. Winning claims at good odds here…… Call Me Keith racing well against strong fields and coming in fresh. Might go back from the draw but can win if he goes forward early… Ohoka Bandit tricky draw but has been unlucky. One for longer odds if he can clear traffic..… Black Ops likely leader from the draw. Hard to beat if no attackers midrace Selections:  Franco Huntington (11),   Black Ops (4),   Call Me Keith (7),   Ohoka Bandit (9)   Race 6 Ragazzo Mach workout form and reputation suggests he will just win them in a row. Top selection here.….. Insarchatwist good third last start but place chances best here…… Sherwood Maggie working well and could, surprise fresh but place hopes are best here..… Tac Mac going ok at workouts and top driver booked. Place chance behind the favourite Selections:  Ragazzo Mach (7),   Insarchatwist (6),   Sherwood Maggie (4),  Tac Mac (9)   Race 7 Pembrook Playboy crushing win last start and freshened since. Headed for higher honours and top selection here……. Robyns Playboy tricky handicap but heading for the New Zealand Cup so will need to be competitive here. Include ….. Memphis Tennessee running ok races but probably running for place money only here….. I'm Trouble getting better with racing and front row draw here. Place chances best at long odds Selections:  Pembrook Playboy (7),   Robyns Playboy (8),   Memphis Tennessee (3)    I'm Trouble (1)   Race 8 In Chevron We Trust racing ok and drawn the front. Top three player here at nice odds……. R K Finn easy win fresh but this is harder. Can win with luck..… Glenledi Captain has been solid in similar races and conditions suit. Place chances best here….. Don Coyote good win last start but up in grade here. Place chances best from the outside draw. Selections:  In Chevron We Trust (5),   Glenledi Captain (3),   R K Finn (7)    Don Coyote (8)   Race 9 Chinese Whisper good wins his last couple and 30m handicap might not stop him here. Needed……. She's Allthe Craze good draw and might get a cosy run on the fence. Place hopes at nice odds in this...… Tweedledee racing well in strong fields and should be thereabouts again here….. Sundons Flyer form is fair but well suited here. Can place at good money Selections:  Chinese Whisper (11),  Tweedledee (6),   She's Allthe Craze (1)    Sundons Flyer (9)   Race 10 Toby O'Gara terrible draw but is in good form. Top three player in this field……. Onesmartfella these conditions suit and working well. Can win and might start favourtie here..… Wolfenstein has performed well in similar fields in the past and drawn well. Good winning claims at good odds….. Allaboutdreams nice draw to play with and she should get a good run in transit. Include Selections:  Onesmartfella (3),   Wolfenstein (2),   Toby O'Gara (8)    Allaboutdreams (1)   Harnesslink Media

NZB Standardbred has announced a revised schedule for their National Standardbred Yearling Sale held in Auckland and Christchurch from Saturday 13 to Wednesday 17 February 2021. The refreshed schedule will allow international buyers to actively participate at a local time that is beneficial for them, and accommodate the bumper catalogue of entries received. “Our main focus is to ensure that our schedule fits in with our international buying bench and provide them with the optimum time to purchase,” said NZB Director and Operations Manager James Jennings. “Our domestic buying bench will also be just as important as ever and we will be working with them in the preceding months to ensure they are able to inspect as many horses as possible.” “We believe a number of them will be called upon by their Australian counterparts to act on their behalf.” “We have been extremely pleased by the support we have received from vendors and owners with the catalogue this year and look forward to hosting another successful Sale in January,” Jennings said. NZB Standardbred has taken into account the unlikely prospects of the borders opening in the first half of next year. “While both New Zealand and Australia are working hard to get on top of COVID-19, the landscape has changed significantly in the last six months,” said NZB Standardbred’s Cam Bray. “Although it is everyone’s hope that trans-Tasman travel becomes a reality, we have to plan for the situation to remain unchanged,” he said. Parent company New Zealand Bloodstock’s recent announcement regarding the build of their new online bidding platform, adapted from their proven online auction subsidiary, describes the access buyers will have to a real-time stream of the sale broadcast and ability to bid with ease from laptops, tablets or mobile phone devices. “The market is now much more receptive to online bidding as the results of the All Age Sale attested,” Jennings said.    “Technology will play a large role in the Sale next year and we are looking forwarded to the completion of our online bidding system which will be thoroughly tested in operation at preceding sales.” “We will have of course the advantage of having all of our domestic buying bench at the sales, so it is another level up from an online sale.” NZB Standardbred’s National Yearling Sale revised the sales format as follows: Auckland Sale to be held at Karaka: Parade Day on Saturday 13 February from 1pm to 4pm (NZT).  The Sale of both Trotters and Pacers on Sunday 14 February commencing at 12pm (NZT). Christchurch Sale to be held at Canterbury Agricultural Park: Parade & Sale of Trotters on Monday 15 February. Parade at 1pm (NZT) with the Sale starting at 3pm (NZT).  The sale of the Pacers will be conducted on Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 February commencing at 1pm (NZT) each day. Parades will be held from 10am (NZT) of the horses to be offered on each prospective day. For more information about the 2021 National Standardbred Yearling Sale dates and format, contact the NZB Standardbred team here. The 2021 National Standardbred Yearling Sale catalogue will be online and arrive in letterboxes late November.   NZB Standardbred

By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Trainer Joshua Dickie’s Clevedon Barn has been a popular northern base for a number of southern raiders of late and two of them will be hoping to take home some northern riches on Friday night. The Brad Williamson-trained Cracker Hill and Phil Williamson-trained Ultimate Stride have settled in well at Dickie’s and will contest the Listed PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Final Mobile Trot (2200m) at Alexandra Park. “They have settled in like they have been here before,” Dickie said. “They are good doing horses and they trialled really well at Pukekohe last week. They both seem really well.” Dickie will take the reins behind four-year-old entire Ultimate Stride who takes a picket fence form line into Friday’s contest. “He has won his last seven, with a couple of them being Group One races,” Dickie said. “He is pretty tough. I got a good feel of him last Friday at the workouts. He is a horse Phil thinks a lot of and he has given him a big rap which gives you a lot of confidence.” While Dickie is looking forward to getting in the cart behind the southern raider on Friday, he is excited about the prospects of a couple of his own runners at Alexandra Park. In form trotter Mexicana will be vying to make it back-to-back wins when she lines-up in the Happy Birthday Trevor Casey Lone Star Handicap Trot (2200m). The daughter of Muscle Mass had four prior placings from as many starts and Dickie expects another bold showing from the filly after drawing the one marble. “She has trained on well,” he said. “I expect a good run. It’s only her second look at the tape, but she is pretty sensible. If she trots away she should be hard to beat. “It is a bit tricky when you do draw one, being the first to turn in, but she has got a good head on her shoulders.” It will be Mexicana’s final hit-out before joining Luke McCarthy’s stable ahead of a Breeders Crown campaign. “She is quite a nice trotter who is off to Melbourne next week to take on some races over there,” Dickie said. “She has got the Redwood Classic on November 1 and then a Breeders Crown heat and all going well the Breeders Crown Final later in November.” With COVID-19 travel restrictions in place Dickie is unable to head to Australia, but he believes she will suit McCarthy’s barn. “It’s disappointing, but you can’t do a lot about it with the current circumstances,” Dickie said. “I would have loved to be taking her over and driving her over there, but it’s not going to happen this year unfortunately.” Later on the Alexandra Park card, Dickie will line-up Kay Cee and Daisy Hill in the Majestic Son at Alabar Handicap Trot (2200m). “Kay Cee is going really well,” Dickie said. “He is just genuine and ran third to Bolt For Brilliance last start. He was last turning for home and was the only one to make ground to run third. “He trotted a great post-to-post time and the race suits him. Starting off 30m and Temporale has got to give him an extra 25m, so that should make it a bit better for us. “He is a real trier that horse, he never goes a bad race. He will give another good sight.” Dickie holds more reserved expectations with Daisy Hill who finished unplaced last start after a couple of victories. “Daisy Hill was disappointing last start,” he said. “We have treated her for a few things since then, but she hasn’t line-up for over a month now. Her form prior to that was really good. “She is a trotter that if you catch her on the right night she has got a lot of ability, but she just has a few issues. “She is good enough to trot away and make it hard for the rest of them. She is really tough. I am pretty happy with her progress since that last run.” Meanwhile, Dickie is hoping maiden trotter Cyber Attack brings his manners on Friday when he lines-up in the Peak At Alabar Trot (2200m) after galloping away at Cambridge last weekend. “Cyber Attack let me down on Saturday night,” Dickie said. “He blew the start to bits. He is just learning and will take a few runs I think. “He trotted really well at Auckland when he ran second. He is a horse to keep following. Once he works it out he should do a nice job. “There is another maiden in there that goes really well (Mountain Mass), one of Tony Cameron’s, it should be the one to beat. “But if Cyber Attack trots away he should get some money.”

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