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Harness racing is mourning the loss of a true champion. Westburn Grant. At the ripe old age of 34, he has entered horse heaven. In this fast moving world and society in which we live, the word ‘champion’ is often tossed around with reckless abandon, not doing justice to the true meaning of the word. But in the case of Westburn Grant, he is the epitome of a champion…..and some! Affectionately known as ‘Spot’, the Vic Frost trained and driven superstar was a game changer, a pacer that revolutionized the sport with blinding speed coupled with such fierce tenacity. He was poetry in motion. And he sustained those outstanding qualities for his entire career on the racetrack. Unbeaten at two, he won all three starts he contested. Returning the following season, Westburn Grant furnished into of the finest three-year-olds the country has ever produced, victories in both the New South Wales and Victoria Derby classics while finishing third behind Rockleigh Victory and Double Wipe in the Australian Derby. Frost campaigned his mighty colt in New Zealand; he won all three starts including the New Zealand Derby at Addington by a massive margin. Naturally, he was crowned the Australian Harness Horse of the Year. As a four-year-old, Westburn Grant would win the Miracle Mile after engaging Thorate in a titanic speed battle before backing up to win the Treuer Memorial at Bankstown. Frost and ‘Spot’ then headed west, he would capture the Golden Nugget while unplaced in the WA Pacing Cup before bouncing back in the South Australian Cup and then finished fourth in the Victoria Cup. During the Inter Dominion Series in Adelaide, he was placed in all three heats but was unplaced in the final. Returning for his five-year-old season, Westburn Grant won the Queensland Pacing Championship, the Legends at Moonee Valley rating 1.57.0 for 1940 metres and the Italian Cup at Harold Park in track record time for 2700 metres defeating Thorate before being unplaced in the Australian Pacing Championship. He then won the Miracle Mile again in a track record of 1:55.6 defeating Almeta Boy and Defoe. Heading west again, Westburn Grant won the WA Pacing Cup by 20 metres before suffering a broken pastern in a freak track work accident. He won 9 of 13 starts for the season and $606,300. Despite missing the final two grand circuit races due to injury he was still crowned Grand Circuit Champion and also awarded the honour of being named Australian Harness Horse of the Year for a second time. Westburn Grant returned from injury with a track record win at Newcastle. He was second in the QPC at Albion Park when outstayed by Franco Ice in a record 1:55.1 rate for 2100 metres and won the Australian Pacing Championship at Launceston in Tasmania. He was third in the Miracle Mile behind Christopher Vance before an emotional win in the WA Pacing Cup at Gloucester Park not long after the sudden death of trainer-driver Vic Frost’s son Gary.  At Moonee Valley he won the 1992Inter Dominion Grand Final from Franco Tiger and Blossom Lady and at seasons end, he was crowned as the Grand Circuit champion for the third straight season while also landing the title of Australian Harness Horse of the Year for the third time. He was retired after an unplaced performance behind Jack Morris in the 1993 Inter Dominion in Brisbane. And as the record proves, Westburn Grant traveled extensively and rarely missed a feature event but won more than he lost. Westburn Grant was trained throughout his career by Frost and raced for his breeders, Barney and Collen Breen, he was by the Queensland based Land Grant from the Lumber Dream mare Westburn Vue. He finished with a record of 38 wins from 67 starts and earnings in excess of $2 million. A stud career beckoned for the champion performer and he enjoyed good success over many seasons before retiring from active duty and spending the remainder of his life at the property of Vic Frost and Gail Geeson at Mooball in northern New South Wales. During his retirement, he had full access across the property and clearly loved life to the fullest. It was pure bliss for a horse that gave so much throughout a truly remarkable career. ‘Spot’ was cared for deeply by Frost and Geeson, after all, he was part of the family and as a result, they always made sure he was in the best possible condition. Rest in peace ‘Spot’. A TRUE CHAMPION.   Chris Barsby

By Jonny Turner    Quality age-group racing is set to return in emphatic style at Addington on Friday night with an epic clash of two-year-old trotters. A seven-horse field of squaregaiters will reignite New Zealand’s two-year-old racing after harness racing’s lockdown hiatus when they do battle over 1980m. The scintillating clash will give trainers Greg and Nina Hope the chance continue their brilliant late season form when they start Eurokash, Summer Lovin and Franco Jorik. Stable junior driver Ben Hope will attempt to keep his own hot form going when he drives Eurokash. Though he would not want to switch and drive any other horse in the race, he admits there is little between the trio his parents trains. “I am really happy with Eurokash, but it would be unfair to say he is better than Summer Lovin and Franco Jorik,” Hope said. “They are three lovely horses.” All three of the Hope’s runners come in to race 6 after impressing in last start wins at Addington. Eurokash took his unbeaten run on the trials track to race day when putting more than five and a half lengths on a maiden field late last month. The two-year-old fitness has been kept up to the mark by the Hope stable since and he is ready to show his best on Friday night. “He had that race a few weeks ago and his work has been really good since, so he is ready.” Franco Jorik comes in to race 6 with a similar gap between runs after beating subsequent winner, Mighty Flying Rocker, a day after Eurokash’s victory. “Franco Jorik is the most natural two-year-old of our three,” Hope said. “He always looked like he was going to run early and he is a nice horse.” Summer Lovin brings the most recent form of the Hope trio. He turned heads with huge, but far from perfect performance when galloping across the line more than ten lengths in front of his rivals at Addington last week. While he has clearly got a motor to match his stablemates, he may not quite be able to match them on manners. “Summer Lovin has got a lot of ability, he has got a good staying motor and he certainly showed that last week,” Hope said. “But he is not a natural two-year-old, I remember as a yearling we thought he would be a three-year-old before he raced.” “Eurokash and Franco Jorik would be pretty much the same on manners.” “They don’t generally put a foot wrong in work, but they are two-year-olds and it is much different at the races.” Winter star Matua Tana will attempt to make it four wins in a row in race 8, Friday night’s feature trot. The trotter sealed a hat-trick of wins by reeling off a sensational 27.6sec last 400m to seal a winning hat-trick at Addington last weekend. “Initially we were not going to back him up, but when we saw it was a small field and pretty much the same field he beat last week we thought we would line up,” Hope said. “His work has been good and there is no reason he shouldn’t go another good race again.” Midnight Dash ran second behind Matua Tana last week, which holds him in excellent stead ahead of race 8. “I thought he was really good last week running on that fast quarter,” Hope said. “Without being disrespectful to the opposition, because there are some nice ones in there like Chloe Rose and Carnegie Hall, this looks a drop in class for him and he should be hard to beat.” The Hope stable also line up Mossdale Art, who has not had much racing luck in three post-lockdown runs, in race 10. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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 Addington again tonight with a ten race program starting at 5:05pm and in this video we highlight some specials and value runners we think can give you a run for your money on a good night 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 tonight for Addington. Addington 26th June 2020 Race 1 Where’s Daddy got too far back when resuming but better placed here.Can win…..Jaffa Josh tricky draw but the small field will help. Can pick them up late…..Prospect Park he should get a good run in transit from the ace draw and is a good place chance in this field…..Hot Starff nice third here last week and can run in the money again with a similar effort. Selections:  Where’s Daddy (6),   Prospect Park (1),   Jaffa Josh (10),    Hot Starff (8)   Race 2 Beaudiene Hustler has been unlucky and has gate speed. Can run top three here with luck…….Twilight Bromac disappointing last start but good when he ran second here fresh up, include….Fast Ace he should get a good run through from the draw and is in good form. Winning claims if he can clear traffic….Reinimin Patron good finish for third last start and will be running on if the pace is on. Selections:  Beaudiene Hustler (4),   Twilight Bromac (2),   Fast Ace (10),    Reinimin Patron (12)   Race 3 Midnight Dash solid second here last week and this is arguably easier. Top selection……Carnegie Hall easy winner here last start and mobile helps again, include….Jimmy Carter up from the South and was a mistake maker last start. If he brings his manners he can place here…..Clyde he crossed them off the gate last start and beat them up the passing lane. Look for similar tactics here. Selections:  Midnight Dash (6),   Carnegie Hall (11),   Clyde (7),    Jimmy Carter (12)   Race 4 Crackasmile overdue a win and gets her chance in this field.Top selection……Neyveli Franco interrupted trip at her first start but will be better for it, can run a place at good odds……Sweet Belle she looks to have some speed but tricky draw. A chance if she gets a drag into it…..La Rosa not far away at her first start and similar draw here,include. Selections:  Crackasmile (3),   Neyveli Franco (4),   Sweet Belle (9),    La Rosa (2)   Race 5 Storm tidy win last start and should be improved. Likely winner again and will start favourite……Roll The Dice has been unlucky although slightly disappointing last start. Better draw here and one for longer odds…..Jazelle did some work but finished ok last week. Can place…..Longview Lady good run last start and weaker field to contend with here. Can get some money. Selections:  Storm (6),   Roll The Dice (2),   Jazelle (5),    Longview Lady (7)   Race 6 Summer Lovin big win last start and no reason he will not go close again here.Top selection….Time Up The Hill tidy winner in fast time at her first start and should run top three again here……Eurokash has a big reputation and will start a worthy favourite in this race……Franco Jorik getting better with racing and another good chance again here for the Hope stable. Selections:  Summer Lovin (7),   Time Up The Hill (5),   Franco Jorik (6),    Eurokash (8)   Race 7 Fabrizio back to the mobile will help after a bad gallop last start will start favourite and be hard to beat…….Franco Niven looks a danger to the favourite with a good run in transit….Lulu Le Mans she should get a cosy run from the draw and can run a place in this field……Mikey Maquire will be improved with racing and one to add some spice to multiples. Selections:  Fabrizio (4),   Franco Niven (6),   Lulu Le Mans (2),    Mikey Maquire (8)   Race 8 Madeleine Stowe tidy finish last start and only needs manners to be a good chance in this field…..Matua Tana stand start still a worry but he has a big motor. Wins again if he brings his a-game…….Overzealous ok last start but gets a favourable draw to work with. One for value……Fanny Hill well supported last start and only battled. Will be fitter and a chance at decent odds. Selections:  Madeleine Stowe (5),   Matua Tana (11),   Overzealous (2),    Fanny Hill (1)   Race 9 Rocknroll Max disappointing effort last start but his runs previous were super and leading junior in the sulky.Include….Kensington Bill unlucky last start and looks to be coming back into form. Can get some money here…..Go Davey back in the front row draw and his record here is ok. One for longer odds....Franco Texas has gate speed and good second last start. Not the worst at decent odds Selections:  Rocknroll Max (8),   Kensington Bill (5),   Go Davey (4),    Franco Texas (6)   Race 10 Soundslikeart she has been getting back in her races but finishing off ok. Winning claims with luck in the running…..Eastwood Ideal another good run to place last start and he can repeat with a similar effort in this field….A Delightful Act lands a decent draw and should be lead or trail. Can win…….Rocknroll Rod he ran them along in front to score last start and possibly similar tactics here. Chance again. Selections:  Soundslikeart (10),   A Delightful Act (1),   Eastwood Ideal (5),    Rocknroll Rod (8)   Harnesslink Media

Horse racing has finally got the laws it needs to grow - now the search starts for the boss to implement them. The Racing Industry Bill has breezed through its second and third readings in Parliament and will become the law the industry is governed by on August 1. While the passing of the Bill was not a surprise, just how thorough the Select Committee process was, and the engagement from politicians from across the house, probably did catch a few hardened racing administrators off guard. What it has produced it a more balanced Bill than what was originally presented to the Select Committee, and a document that gives the industry the tools it needs to work together, which has rarely been horse racing's strong point. The passing of the Bill means the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) will morph into TAB NZ in August, with its responsibility to run the gambling side of the industry and pass the profits on to the three racing codes to promote the industry, pay stakes and administer racing on a day to day basis. The Bill will also see the formation of a new body named Racing New Zealand which will comprise representatives of all three codes and give them a more powerful single entity for some of the crucial negotiations that lie ahead. But with RITA winding down and who is Minister for Racing post-election dependant on whether Winston Peters is still in cabinet or even Parliament, the most important role in New Zealand racing becomes the new chief executive of TAB NZ. The Herald understands there was a shortlist for that crucial role before Covid-19 struck but the final interviews haven't been able to take place because the overseas candidates cannot get into the country because of the restrictions. RITA executive chair Dean McKenzie has stated he will not seek the chief executive role. Who becomes the chief executive will be crucial as for much of the last 20 years the TAB has been run by chief executives with limited or no experience or knowledge of either racing and/or gambling. That mistake cannot afford to be replicated as the industry enters one of the most important eras in its history. ** On the racing front the surprise package of harness racing's comeback will look to make it four wins on end at Addington tonight. Matua Tana has been sensational winning all three of his races since lockdown; even though he still has a rough gait early in his races and is a hard watch for favourite punters. But so big is his motor if he trots throughout he should win race eight tonight, with Fabrizio (race seven) looking one of the other top bets of the night.   Michael Guerin

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Andrew Neal may have unearthed another star at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday night. The Cambridge horseman, who trains in partnership with his wife Lyn, drove Alterior Motif to an emphatic six length victory in his 2200m contest and he believes there is still plenty of improvement left in the son of Sportswriter. “He is still very green, he shied at a few things, but that is only natural for a first starter,” Neal said. “We have had to trial him a few times and taken our time to let him mature, but he is a mature horse now and ready to go on with it.” Neal was confident heading into the race given the gelding’s workout and trial performances, including qualifying in a solo heat over 2200m in 2.43.1. “From the way he has qualified and trialled I thought he would be pretty hard to beat from his draw of three,” he said. Neal was keen to try for the lead from his handy gate, however, Alterior Motif’s inexperience told and Neal had to gather in the promising pacer before pressing on for an early lead. “He has got really good gate-speed, but he had a bit of stage fright,” Neal said. “He went out and just put a little bobble in, because he still doesn’t know what he is doing, so I let Ferg (Peter Ferguson, driver) go across him rather than pushing him too much and risk breaking. “I thought I would just come back out again and go around.” Neal’s tactics paid off and his charge was too classy for his opposition, running away to an effortless victory. Neal’s phone has been red-hot from interested parties after Thursday’s performance and he believes the talented gelding would suit a big, roomy track like Menangle. “The phone has been ringing tonight with people wanting to buy him,” he said. “We will just see what happens, we don’t have to sell, but we will do whatever is best for the horse. “I can just see him going out to Menangle, and on those big tracks, and rolling along. His mother was an American mare and that’s the sort of style of racing he is bred for. “When he is going slow he is not going to be that attractive in the field, but when he is just rolling he is good.” Alterior Motif is not the only quality three-year-old Neal has unearthed. In the early 2000s he had a golden run with Flight South and Where Eagles Dare. Flight South broke through for her debut victory as a three-year-old at Te Aroha in 1999 and the following year she upset a star studded field that included the likes of Yulestar, Holmes DG, and Courage Under Fire, to win the Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m). The top-class mare went on to win the Gr.2 NZ Premier Mares Championship (1950m), Gr.2 Franklin Cup (3200m), and Listed Queen of Hearts (2200m). Her half-brother Where Eagles Dare also showed immense promise in his three-year-old term, winning five races, before taking out the Gr.2 Kumeu Stakes (2700m) in the hands of Lyn Neal as a four-year-old. He went on to feature prominently in the 2003 Inter Dominions at Addington, winning Heat 5 before finishing fifth in the Grand Final to the Kim Prentice-trained Baltic Eagle. While Alterior Motif is far from those lofty heights, Neal is excited about his prospects and is hopeful the promising pacer can reach a similar level. “He has been putting in quite a few runs together like that (Thursday’s win) at the workouts and he qualified by himself. He has a lot of potential there for the future,” Neal said. It was Neal’s third driving win from just six starts this season, placing in two others, and he said back issues have forced the talented driver to be selective when he sits in the cart on race night. “I only drive one or two now, for a couple of reasons,” he said. “I have got a disc problem with my back and I couldn’t go out there every race and drive. “I had an operation and it has settled down now, but after a race it aches a bit.” While he enjoyed sitting behind Alterior Motif on Thursday, Neal is looking forward to the imminent return of nine-win trotter Credit Master. “I will drive Credit Master for the rest of the season. He will go to the workouts on Saturday and may go to Auckland next week,” he said. Neal’s night at Cambridge was further enhanced by the brave performance of Ideal Agent to finish runner-up in his 2200m race. The son of American Ideal had a tough run, sitting parked for the majority of the race, and Neal said he stuck on gamely to finish runner-up behind Pembrook Charlie, who was given a beautiful run in the trail by trainer-driver Kyle Marshall. “He had another hard run and from the draw, six, he had nowhere to get in,” Neal said. “It was a good run from the horse and Todd (Mitchell, driver) said there weren’t a lot of options when he went forward. “Then he got attacked down the back and got left three wide. All-in-all it was still a very good run.”

The revitalisation of New Zealand racing has taken a significant step forward following the passing of the Racing Industry Bill following its third and final reading today at Parliament. Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) Executive Chair Dean McKenzie said the Bill, which transfers racing administration functions to the racing codes and establishes TAB New Zealand (NZ) with a clear mandate as a commercial betting operator, delivers the critical reform required to enable the industry reach its potential. "The changes which underpin the Racing Industry Bill require the TAB to have a resolute focus on our customers and maximising profit for the racing industry and returns for sports, while at the same time ensuring a strong commitment to responsible gambling. "Many of the changes enabled by this Bill have been mooted for decades but never progressed. It's significant to see some of these proposals finally put into action. "RITA was established by the Minister for Racing one year ago to enable the transition of the industry into a financially sustainable future. Despite the significant impact of COVID-19, the Government has been steadfast in their commitment to New Zealand's racing industry and tens of thousands of New Zealanders who depend on it for their livelihoods." In addition to the creation of TAB NZ and additional responsibilities for the Codes, the changes include a requirement for offshore bookmakers to pay for their use of New Zealand racing and sport information, a new approval authority for introducing new wagering products, changes to address unresolved, historic venue structure issues, the establishment of the Racing Integrity Board and the creation of Racing New Zealand as a collaborative forum of the the racing codes. The passing of the Bill results in the dissolving of RITA, however the current Board of RITA has been confirmed as the interim Board of TAB NZ pending future appointments under the new legislative process by the incoming Government. McKenzie added that the new Bill provided added impetus for the racing industry to work together in a positive and constructive way under a new framework. "The passing of two pieces of far-reaching racing legislation in the last 12 months has given the New Zealand racing industry all the necessary levers to enable it to deliver a financially sustainable future. What it does with those levers presents unprecedented, generational opportunity." "On behalf of the RITA Board, we want to thank the Minister for Racing - Rt Hon Winston Peters, Government officials and the Select Committee for their commitment and focus in passing this important Bill." The Racing Industry Bill will come into effect on 1 August 2020.   Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA)

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 Cambridge again tonight with a ten race program starting at 5:21pm and in this video we highlight some specials and value runners we think can give you a run for your money on a good night 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 tonight for Cambridge. Cambridge Thursday 25th June 2020   Race 1 The Last Gamble no room last start and change of driver. Opened here at good value but money coming for him now………Strength Of Heart good beginner who will likely get some money here again today….Chasing Great nice late finish last start and this field no stronger, include….Whimsical Whizard well bred filly who finished nicely at the trials last week. Can win with manners. Selections:  The Last Gamble (7),   Whimsical Whizard (3),   Chasing Great (11),    Strength Of Heart (4)   Race 2 La Bet debut last week in a strong field was ok and this is easier. Winning claims…..Miss Taken will be stronger now and a chance to add value to the exotics from the draw…..Manhattan Sunshine has been thereabouts her last couple and not the worst in this field. Can fill a placing…..Needamargarita well drawn to lead early and workout runs have been ok. Watch the tote but can win. Selections:  Needamargarita (1),   Miss Taken (2),   Manhattan Sunshine (4),    La Bet (11)   Race 3 Aldebaran Bonny good third when last here and will be right in the fight with manners….Prince Mackendon has been slightly disappointing this campaign but is getting fitter, one to spice up the multiples…..Chinski ok after clearing traffic last start and should give a sight with manners in this field…..Recycle will probably lead here and is a good chance to hold on for a place with no attackers midrace. Selections:  Aldebaran Bonny (3),   Chinski (8),   Recycle (4),    Prince Mackendon (2)   Race 4 Alterior Motif looks the winner in this field after some very strong trial runs. Top selection…..The Greenkeeper racing well and looks the main danger to the favourite even from the unruly draw….Harvey Spectre has been running on at his last couple and even though drawn wide he could lob a place at decent odds….Hezashadowplaya has been workouts placed and another who can place with luck in the running. Selections:  Alterior Motif (3),   The Greenkeeper (12),   Hezashadowplaya (5),    Harvey Spectre (7)   Race 5 Pembrook Charlie has the draw to lead or trail and has been good at workouts. Good winning chance here…..Jody Direen has not really shown her true ability since coming North but is a chance off the back of a workout win, include……Ideal Agent good run for second here last start and will probably start the race favourite, needed……Whisky Neat this filly should get a good run through from the draw and an easy winner last start, can run in the money again. Selections:  Pembrook Charlie (1),   Ideal Agent (6),   Whisky Neat (10),    Jody Direen (5)   Race 6 Xebec top win here last start and will be fitter, can win again….She Reigns strong Auckland form and even from the 30m handicap she can fill a placing here…..Fira good draw and a chance to find some form fresh over the 2200m journey, one for value….The Hulk he races well on the track and only needs to be closer to them on the turn to fill a placing in this field. Selections:  Xebec (9),   She Reigns (10),   Fira (1),    The Hulk (7)   Race 7 Peter Forsberg tricky barriers the last couple but well drawn here. He might fly the gate and a good chance here if he can lead early…..All Yours he won a workout in slow time and starts favourite in this field but a tricky draw to contend with, include…..Fleeting Grin last run was ok and he like the speed on all the way, one for longer odds….Nurburgring will be in the right spot from the draw if the pace is on and he can finish over the top of them late,include. Selections:  Peter Forsberg (4),   Fleeting Grin (3),   Nurburgring (10),    All Yours (8)   Race 8 Doc Holiday nice draw today and a good third last start. Good winning claims here…..J Bee might get a good run from the draw and a place chance at odds with luck in the running….Bugalugs thereabouts in strong fields and should be close to the  pace throughout, good chance……Emmber coming in fresh and big on ability, winning claims. Selections:  Doc Holiday (1),   J Bee (9),   Bugalugs (5),    Emmber (6)   Race 9 Mach Little Soky good draw for this and workouts ok. Can win fresh up….Jenora up from Canterbury and worth a second glance at the odds she is paying. Not the worst in this field….Parker in good form and he should fill a placing again today……Warloch small field will help his chances and look for him getting home late if the pace is on all the way. Selections:  Mach Little Soky (1),   Jenora (4),   Parker (5),    Warloch (8)   Race 10 The Batmobile should get a run through from the draw and is a good place hope in this field….Itsthefinalcountdown tidy workout winner last week and this field not strong. Winning claims here.....Mighty Monica should get a cosy run from the draw and a place hope if she can clear traffic....Sunset Red racing well but tricky draw will finish well and can place. Selections:  Itsthefinalcountdown (3),   The Batmobile (10),   Mighty Monica (9),    Sunset Red (7)   Best Bet (Race 4 Alterior Motif)        Best Value ( Race 7  Peter Forsberg)    Harnessink Media

Heavily-backed debutante pacer Alterior Motif is going to have to get used to something new at Cambridge tonight: rivals. But he might still find himself lonely at the business end of race four. The three-year-old pacer races for the first time tonight and is an extreme rarity in that when he qualified three weeks ago he did so completely by himself. While that is not unheard of for a trotter or the occasional maiden qualifying in a smaller harness racing area like Manawatu, northern pacers qualifying in solo trials are not only rare but running the sort of time Alterior Matif did when he qualified is almost unheard of. He paced his solo 2200m mobile on May 31 in 2:43.1, his last 800m in 57.8, the final 400m in 28.7. There were five 2200m races held that day, the northern comeback to harness meeting, and Alterior Motif’s time was quicker than them all as well as four of the six 2200m races at the next Cambridge meeting. So Alterior Motif probably won’t need to go much faster to win tonight but horses in company almost always do. “He is a runner all right,” says co-trainer Andrew Neal, who will drive Alterior Motif tonight. “He has a really good way of going and likes to get on with it. “He actually hung in up the straight that day so could have gone a second quicker.” While he qualified solo Alterior Motif actually has trialed against other horses before, winning a four-horse unqualfied trial heat as well as sticking close when not pressured behind Itsthefinalcountdown in a recent workout, with that pacer a big winning chance in the last race tonight. “In that workout and his other trial I tried to keep him back and settled because he is such a runner,” says Neal, who trains Alterior Motif with his wife Lyn. “But because he has a good draw this week (barrier three) I will let him run. I expect him to be in front and I’d be surprised if he was beaten.” That could start a great half hour for the Neals as they rate Ideal Agent a huge chance in race five, the first leg of Pick6. The talented three-year-old ran the in-form Lagertha close here last start in his first race in five months and has taken the expected improvement. “He has really come on with that run and he worked well on Tuesday morning,” says Neal. “It is a slightly tricky race but I think we have the best horse there.” The Neals had their open class trotting star Credit Master back at the workouts last weekend after his near-death experience on the eve of the Inter Dominions last November. “He got dreadfully sick back then, some sort of virus, and we thought we were going to lose him. “So it has been a long road back but he is looking a lot better now. “So he can have a workout again this weekend and then we will start looking for a race.”   By Michael Guerin

By Josh Smith - Harness News Desk    Our Sunny Whiz took trainer Ken Sefonte to the pinnacle of his career when winning the Gr.1 Rowe Cup (3200m) 12 years ago and he is hoping her daughter Whimsical Whizard has inherited some of her star quality. The three-year-old filly will make her debut in the Host Your Special Event At Cambridge Raceway Trot (2200m) on Thursday and Sefonte is confident of a solid first-up run. The daughter of Majestic Son has finished runner-up in both of her trials to date, including a 2500m hit-out at Pukekohe last Friday. Although pleased with last week’s performance, Sefonte said he has carried out some corrective shoeing on the filly as she was touching hocks. “She’s had a couple of nice trials, we just had to do a bit of corrective shoeing on her after he trial last week,” he said. “She had her chance on Friday, Brent (Mangos, driver) just said she couldn’t get around the last couple of bends, she was just touching her hocks. Once she got into the straight she was alright and picked them up again. “Hopefully we have fixed that with her shoeing, so we are all good to go. She has done a bit of mileage and the experience will do her good.” Whimsical Whizard has drawn three on the frontline where Sefonte said she will be able to utilise her impeccable manners. “She has got good manners, so she should step away. There are only four of them off the front,” he said. Whimsical Whizard is the fifth progeny of her dam and Sefonte said there are a lot of similarities between the two. “She is a bit like Our Sunny Whiz, but a different colour,” he said. “She is the most forward of all of her progeny as a three-year-old. “She is a nice, big filly and I think she will go on a wee bit.” While Sefonte is looking forward to Whimsical Whizard’s debut, he is also excited about the prospects of stablemate Strength Of Heart in the same race. The three-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight has drawn just outside his stablemate and Sefonte is hoping he can break through for his maiden victory on Thursday. Sefonte was pleased with his first-up runner-up effort behind Kristofferson at Cambridge Raceway a fortnight ago and he believes he has the ability to go one better this week. “He is going alright, he just gets beaten by a better horse all the time,” Sefonte said. “Whether he will find a better one on Thursday in the filly (Whimsical Whizard) I don’t know. “I think Strength of Heart will beat her out, but she is equal to what he has been doing in his races and he has gone six seconds so far with me.” Sefonte said he is enjoying training his small team of five at Strength Of Heart’s owner Lew Driver’s Kumeu property, but is doubtful he will uncover another star like Our Sunny Whiz. “I am the track manager here and I am a pensioner, so the days of bigger teams are gone now,” he said. “It wouldn’t matter if I went for another 40 years training I don’t think I would get another one half as good, but we still hope.”

Funding to the codes for next season’s race stakes will be known on Friday and it could be up to 25% down on this year. The revelation yesterday, from Harness Racing New Zealand’s interim chief executive Phil Holden, confirmed fears that the industry is on the verge of severe stakes reductions. The Racing Industry Transition Agency board is meeting today and Holden says it will reveal its budget to the codes on Friday. “We’ve had some broad conversations with them and it’s fair to say it’s going to be significantly less. It could be anywhere up to 25% less.”   Read the full story here! Reprinted with permission of Barry Lichter Lincoln Farms

Today we continue our series on horse ownership – how did it all start? And what are your favourite memories? We’ve already heard from Trevor Casey, Elizabeth McCormick, Pauline Pattullo, Pip Gerard, and Ross Cleland. Today it’s Melissa Whyte’s turn. By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk Melissa Whyte’s racing dreams may seem common enough – she desperately wants to breed and race a winner. But what sets her apart is that the horse can’t be just bay, black or grey - it has to be multi-coloured. Put simply, she is obsessed with anything piebald or skewbald. She has had winners before. Many of her horses have carried the “Native” name, with Natives Lasting Love her most successful. The Love You – Arnoy’s Pride mare was bred by Melissa Eden as she was then, and then leased to North Canterbury trainer Austin Thornton. She went on to have seven wins from 99 starts. With her dad John Eden being a hobby trainer she was brought up with horses and had her first pony, a Standardbred, at seven. She later had a specially shortened sulky made “for my short legs, as I’m only 5’1” (1.55 metres). “ “I was doing fast work when I was 13.” The 42-year-old works in the family business, Burwood Produce, and when not there she spends most of her time with her horses. Right now she has 15 – “they are all sorts”. The first horses she bred to hoping to get a skewbald or piebald offspring was Wilkie’s Wonder in 1996. His sole win (from 17 starts) was in 1982 in Wellington. “I got a grey mare and put her in foal and got a plain bay – no white markings. “Wilkie’s Wonder had eight foals on the ground and none were coloured that season!” But it seems her persistence is paying off. She finally now has a breeding combination that will produce coloured horses. Cullermein is a three win pacing mare that is a now 17-year-old mare by Christian Cullen out of one time cult hero Splashed. In 2000 she won her two races (42 career starts 1999-2001) and her distinctive colouring made her a crowd favourite wherever he went. Cullermein is in foal to Natives Royal Affair, a 10-year-old skewbald that Whyte owns and bred. Native’s Royal Affair is homozygous (has identical pairs of genes). That means his progeny are going to be 100 per cent coloured. For Whyte it’s a dream result : “Never in a million years would I think this would happen.” She can’t wait to see what she gets. The foal is due at the start of November. “If I get a win I can retire happy” And her breeding interests don’t stop there. Also due in September is a foal out of Memphis Miss (Christian Cullen – Memphis Melody) by Art Major. “So it’s going to be a very exciting next few years.”   Harness Racing New Zealand

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News Desk     It’s taken a while but Logan Darby says his breakthrough victory with Rainbow Wiri was worth the wait. It was his first win in 15 drives in what was the first amateur drivers race at Alexandra Park since July 2015.   “It was my first drive under the lights at Alexandra Park,” he said, “I was quite surprised at how well he went.” In the last at the Park on Thursday night Rainbow Wiri, trained by his father Ray Darby, was 9/10 in the betting and had to do it tough,  racing three wide and then parked before proving too strong. “I half expected him to stop… I thought Edamfast was going to swamp him.” But the six year old just kept trucking to the line to give Rainbow Wiri his third win from 54 starts. Ray Darby hasn’t had the horse long, it was only transferred to him in March. “Dad is 80 in January,” said Logan, “he still trains the horse and me and my brother (Jeff) work him, Dad just tells us what to do. But if we are not around he’ll still jump in the cart.” After the early morning duties at the stables in Patumahoe Logan Darby’s day job  is all about ice cream. He works as a purchasing and supply manager for Emerald Foods, the makers of NZ Natural and Killinchy Gold. “I’ve been there for 20 years.” And he won’t have to wait long to get another go – another amateur drivers race is scheduled for July 1.

Entries for New Zealand Bloodstock’s 2021 National Standardbred Yearling Sale are now open with the Sale taking place next summer at Karaka and Christchurch from Sunday 14 February to Wednesday 17 February. The performances of the New Zealand-bred standardbred on a world stage are enviable with kiwis showing immense courage, durability and strength. With the oldest NZB graduates just two years of age and with limited racing opportunities, they have already claimed three Group One features across Australasia. The 2020 Sale continued the successful trend from the inaugural sale, with a strong median and increasing average delivering a turnover of $12.3 million, with 22 yearlings selling for $100,000 or more at the close of selling. With the development of online technology, vendors and consignors now have the luxury of entering their yearlings through the online NZB portal, an efficient and straightforward format popular among the thoroughbred participants. And while buyers flock from around the world to Karaka and Christchurch for this iconic event, online bidding technology will be available for those who may be unable to attend due to travel restrictions. NZB Director & Operations Manager, James Jennings, is hopeful that the Australians will be here in force should a trans-Tasman bubble be opened by the end of this year.   “The results of this year’s Sale confirmed the strong demand for our quality New Zealand-bred horses,” commented Jennings.   “While our local buying bench is significant, it is extremely important to have the presence of their Australian counterparts at the sales. So to have travel resume across the Tasman as soon as possible will be encouraging for the sales. “The success of the recent All Age Sale online has shown that buyers see the digital platform as a viable forum of trading horses, yet the desire to conduct onsite auctions has not diminished with buyers still wanting the opportunity to inspect horses in the flesh.  “We see the live auction supported by the online bidding platform as being the best solution, offering options to buyers depending on their circumstances. “Thanks must go to the vendors for their continued support of the Sale and we are pleased to have the online portal available for the entry process this year, an outstanding tool for our thoroughbred clients that I expect will be well received by our standardbred clients too.” Sale dates and venues as follows: Auckland Parade at Karaka: Sunday 14 February 2021 Auckland Sale of Pacers & Trotters: Monday 15 February 2021 Christchurch Parade & Sale of Trotters: Tuesday 16 February 2021 Christchurch Sale of Pacers: Wednesday 17 February 2021 The Sale will also see the third yearling intake of NZB Standardbred Harness Million Sales Race Series to go through the ring, making them eligible for the Series nomination. The Series one-off payment structure is popular amongst owners and trainers with many looking forward to the first raceday for Series 1 horses this September. To nominate your yearlings for the Sale, please visit NZB’s online portal at standardbred.portal.nzb.co.nz. For full instructions on how to use the online entry portal, click here or contact Grant Inglis (+64 6 260 3424 or email grant.inglis@nzb.co.nz). Entries close 5pm Friday 31 July 2020.    

Down Under harness racing horses score a first four home in race 13 at The Meadowlands. Saturday night harness racing saw the huge impact of what Down Under racehorses are having on North American tracks in 2020. Saturday nights racing at the Meadowlands saw five races won by former Down Under horses. The highlight being in race 13 which was taken out by The Devils Own N in 1:49. In behind him was Franco Totem N in second, Jacks Shadow N third and Saying Grace N coming in fourth making it a Down Under First four. But that wasn’t the only Down Under factor in the race. The trainers of the first and second finished runners are the New Zealand born, Kelvin Harrison (Big Red) and Nifty Norman. Plus Dexter Dunn driving Franco Totem N showing that Down Under harness racing people are also the real deal. The Devils Own N is continuing on his successful race career (three wins and a second from just the four starts) that was formerly in New Zealand where he was the winner of four races, nine seconds and six thirds for over $240,000 in stake earnings. A highlight was when he set a New Zealand record as a 2yo, running 2.16.3 (1:52.4 Mile rate) over 1950m at Addington Raceway.  The Devils Own N Down Under mare smashes the clock. Soho Burning Love A turned heads on Friday night at The Meadowlands with her blistering mile win. The 6yo daughter of Auckland Reactor paced a winning mile in 1:48.4. This made her the fastest ever mare bred in Australia. Tim Tetrick bought the mare up to the parked position approaching three quarters and then put pay to Apple Bottom Jeans (30 wins & $968,000) to run away with the victory. Jim King Jr trains the mare and this continues the huge success with Down Under mares. He is the trainer of the fastest mare in history Shartin N, and Bettor Joy N just to name a couple. Before heading to North America, Soho Burning Love A had a successful racing career in Australia, winning 13 races for over $250,000 in stake earnings. Most importantly winning at Group 3 level, and placing at Group level on 5 occasions, three in Group 1 races. Soho Burning Love A Monday 15th June Harrington Raceway DE Texas Terror N – Time: 1:52.3, Stake: $7,500 Northfield Park OH Our Corelli N – Time: 1:51.4, Stake: $8,000 Tioga Downs NY Kotare Yael N – Time: 1:53.1, Stake: $4,500   Tuesday 16th June Harrington Raceway DE Betterthanamisus N – Time: 1:58.0, Stake: $3,000 Scioto Downs OH Celestial Arden N – Time: 1:53.0, Stake: $4,500 Georgian Downs CA Smooth Mara N – Time: 1:55.1, Stake: $8,500   Wednesday 17th June Northfield Park OH I Am Erik N – Time: 1:53.1, Stake: $5,000 Grand River Raceway CA Better Decision N  – Time: 1:55.3, Stake: $8,500   Thursday 18th June Harrahs Hoosier Park IN The Empiressister N – Time: 1:53.0, Stake: $7,200 Saratoga Harness NY Onspeed N – Time: 1:57.1, Stake: $4,250 Pasultimatedelite N – Time: 1:56.2, Stake: $3,500 Vernon Downs NY Mister Livan N – Time: 1:56.0, Stake: $2,400   Friday 19th June Harrahs Hoosier Park IN Tulhurstsantanna A – Time: 1:49.4, Stake: $15,000 Meadowlands NJ My Ruebe Star N – Time: 1:50.1, Stake: $9,600 Soho Burning Love A – Time: 1:48.4, Stake: $15,000 Scioto Downs OH Shecandance N – Time: 1:51.1, Stake: $12,000   Saturday 20th June Harrahs Hoosier Park IN Majestic Player A – Time: 1:53.0, Stake: $15,000 Meadowlands NJ Anthem N – Time: 1:51.1, Stake: $12,000 Letschasethedream N – Time: 1:50.2, Stake: $6,000 Letspendthenitetogether N – Time: 1:51.0, Stake: $9,600 Flamming Flutter N – Time: 1:49.1, Stake: $8,000 Down Under First 4 The Devils Own N – Time: 1:49.0, Stake: $15,000  – 2nd Franco Totem N, 3rd Jacks Shadow N, 4th Saying Grace N    Scioto Downs OH Our Corelli N – Time: 1:51.1, Stake: $15,000 Messi N – Time: 1:52.0, Stake: $10,000 Picard A – Time: 1:51.0, Stake: $7,500 The Downs At Mohegan Sun Pocono PA Soho Wallstreet A – Time: 1:53.0, Stake: $8,800 Redbank Blaze A – Time: 1:51.2, Stake: $11,200 The Moonshadow N – Time: 1:51.1, Stake: $13,600 Kawartha Downs CA Kiwi Focus N – Time: 1:55.3, Stake: $4,000   Sunday 21st June Harrahs Hoosier Park IN Alluneedisfaith N – Time: 1:50.2, Stake: $14,400 Alotbettor N – Time: 1:51.4, Stake: $11,600 The Downs At Mohegan Sun Pocono PA Lovin Miss Daisy N – Time: 1:54.0, Stake: $6,800 Dresden Raceway CA Cullens Kefe N – Time: 1:57.3, Stake: $5,000 Rideau Carleton Raceway CA Flying Isa N – Time: 1:56.2, Stake: $9,200   Carter Dalgety  

Decisions on venues and dates for next season should be known in the next couple of weeks. A revised draft calendar for the 2020-21 season was released mid May, and then opened to a consultation process.    Harness Racing New Zealand forwarded its submission yesterday to the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) who will have the final say. HRNZ Interim Chief Executive Phil Holden says it's been a complex and drawn-out process as they considered  hundreds of pages of submissions from clubs and other interested parties.   In next week's "Chat" we will try to answer your questions that have been submitted already and any new ones you may have.        Harness Racing New Zealand

By Jonny Turner    Star trotter Marcoola’s racing career could be over as his stud career beckons. While it may not be the news trotting fans wanted to hear, the New Zealand breeding industry is about to get a boost with owner Clint Ford confirming his seven-year-old will enter the breeding barn in some capacity this year. Ford and his father, Ken, who co-owns and officially trains the New Zealand record holder, are currently weighing up exactly what Marcoola’s spring will look like. And there is a possibility it will not include racing. “We are treading carefully now and deciding what is the best direction to head in,” Ford said. “We are definitely thinking about doing something with him and it might be easier to put him to a stud.” If the Sundon entire could be a success in the breeding barn it would complete a vision his owner and former driver has had for some time. “It was always in the pipeline to get a son of Sundon and try to turn him in to a champion and breed from him and try to emulate what his father did, which I am sure he can,” Ford said. Decisions about Marcoola’s breeding and racing future could be finalised in about a week, Ford said. Arguably the most exciting aspect of Marcoola’s breeding future is the access he gives breeders to two of the all-time greats of New Zealand trotting in undisputed siring king Sundon and the country’s greatest ever trotter, Lyell Creek. Marcoola is set to do battle with his longtime rival, Speeding Spur, who will also begin his breeding career in the spring. Ford said he had already fielded plenty of phone calls from breeders who were keen to send their mares to the stallion. His impending stud duties do not mean Marcoola will not be ready if spring racing is on his agenda. “We were going to aim at the Rowe Cup, but the virus put us on the backburner a bit and made us think sit down and think about what we should be doing with him.” If Marcoola has run his last race he will bow out a New Zealand record holder with three Group one wins to his name. His stunning 1.53.8 win in the 2019 Ashburton Trotter’s Flying Mile and his epic four-length win in the Dominion will head the list of Marcoola’s career highlights with many trotting fans. Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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