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It’s 17 days to the New Zealand Cup. From now to November 10 we will feature some of the great races, horses and personalities with a new letter for each day. J = James Bryce In 17 years (1916-33) James Bryce trained the New Zealand Cup winner six times, and on four occasions he was the winning driver as well. After training horses in England and Scotland Bryce came out from Glasgow in 1913, and not surprisingly was known by most as “Scotty”. His impact on harness racing was immediate and profound. His first victory in 1916 was with Cathedral Chimes on a day when the Cup was delayed because of a fire that destroyed the stand overlooking the birdcage at Addington. It was the first time the Cup was run from a standing start, with Cathedral Chimes winning by six lengths. The champ also sired two of Bryce’s other Cup winners, Ahuriri and Kohara. “Scotty” won with Cathedral Chimes (1916), Ahuriri (1925 and 26), and Red Shadow (1933) while son James Junior won with Great Hope in 1923, and another son Andrew was triumphant with Kohara (1927).   HRNZ

It’s 18 days to the New Zealand Cup. From now to November 10 we will feature some of the great races, horses and personalities  with a new letter for each day. I = Il Vicolo Il Vicolo gave trainer-driver Mark Purdon the first and second of his five New Zealand Cup wins so far. The son of Vance Hanover took out the major spoils in 1995 and 1996. He’s since won with Adore Me (2014), and Lazarus (2016-17). Il Vicolo, meaning narrow street in Italian, was named after a restaurant in Melbourne.   He finished his career with 31 wins from 53 starts, and even got his face on a postage stamp for being crowned 1995 Harness Horse of the Year.     Harness Racing New Zealand

There was very minimal movement in the latest IRT NZ Trotting Cup rankings with Henry Hubert by virtue of running second to stablemate Classie Brigade at Addington last Friday night moved up a couple of places and Ashley Locaz running third in a Free For All at Menangle last Saturday moved up one place. Many of the top contenders for the NZ Cup on November 10, including Self Assured, Spankem, Copy That, Mach Shard and Thefixer will clash in the Ashburton Flying Stakes on Monday.  After his win at Addington on Friday night Muscle Mountain was the major mover coming in five places in the Rankings for the Majestic Son Dominion Handicap.  The Greg and Nina Hope-trained trotter, who’s won eight from 12 starts, is now ranked 15th. The only other movement was The Dominator and Majestic Lavros both improving by one spot after running placings at Addington also last Friday night.  Many of the top contenders for the Dominion Trot on November 13, including Habibi Inta, Winterfell, Majestic Man, Temporale and One Apollo will clash in the Ashburton Flying Mile on Monday.  Rankings HERE   HRNZ  

A - Z New Zealand Cup : G It’s 20 days to the New Zealand Cup. From now to November 10 we will feature some of the great races, horses and personalities with a new letter for each day. G = Grice Ben Grice was the breeder, owner and trainer of two time New Zealand Cup winner Haughty in 1942 and 1943. The 1943 race from a 36 yard (33m) handicap was particularly impressive, with Gold Bar clearing out to a big lead, only to be run down by Haughty who went on to win by two lengths. The crowd on the inside of the flock then surrounded the mare as she got a rousing reception. The horse finished with 18 wins from 74 from 1940-48 with Ossie Hooper driving her in both Cup triumphs. Coincidentally Haughty was later mated with Gold Bar to produce horses such as Whiz and Jaunty. Grice was part of a well known racing family. He died on New Year’s Day in 1982 aged 96 after falling from a sulky while training a young horse at Prebbleton, just outside Christchurch.   HRNZ

The second of pacing’s glamour girls is out of the New Zealand Trotting Cup, raising the very real possibility there may be no mares in the great race this season. Trainer Barry Purdon has pulled multiple group one winner Belle Of Montana out of the $540,000 Cup at Addington three weeks today and will instead aim her at mares races. “I have actually given her a week off and will set her for the mares races at Alexandra Park in December,” said Purdon. “With the the good mares races she has coming up over the summer I decided she doesn’t need to be going down the NZ Cup path. “I takes a very good mare to win a race like that and she has plenty of good group one options remaining where she doesn’t have take on the boys over 3200m.” Belle Of Montana’s arch rival Princess Tiffany was pulled out of the Cup last month and has since headed to Victoria where she was stunning winning a major mare’s race on Saturday night, now finding herself favourite to win Melton’s Triple Crown. That leaves just one mare in New Zealand Cup reckoning, the much-improved Wild Excuse, who after her third in the Methven Cup last week sits 17th in the rankings. With doubts over a couple of those ranked above her she may make the final 15. One horse guaranteed to be in the race should his connections want is Ashley Locaz, who returned from an Australian campaign yesterday to bolster the All Stars numbers for the Cup. Alexandra Park hosts the next Cup lead-up this Friday night with the 2200m mobile there featuring On The Cards, who has snuck into the Cup field for now with Belle Of Montana’s withdrawal Two of the north’s leading Cup hopes will be missing though with both Copy That and Mach Shard heading to the Flying Stakes at Ashburton on Monday to take on Self Assured and Spankem. The Alexandra Park meeting is highlighted by the return clash of this exceptional four-year-old trotting crop, with Bolt For Brilliance trying to add the Sires’ Stakes to his Sales Series win from two starts ago but has again drawn outside key rival Cracker Hill.   by Michael Guerin

It’s 22 days to the New Zealand Cup. From now to November 10 we will feature some of the great races, horses and personalities  with a new letter for each day. Steve Edge was a colourful and forthright long-time harness racing administrator who also won the New Zealand Cup as a trainer-driver. His victory came in 1961 with Invicta, a horse raced by his father-in-law Les Duff. At 11 Invicta was the veteran of the field  and this was his third attempt at the big race, after being unplaced in 1959 and then fourth in 1960. The combo was fourth on the home turn and hung on to beat a strong finish from Patchwork.  At 76 Steve Edge died in a house fire on his property on Banks Peninsula in 2007. The commentary of his 1961 triumph was played at his funeral.   HRNZ

It’s 23 days to the New Zealand Cup. From now to November 10 we will feature some of the great races, horses and personalities  with a new letter for each day. Robert Dunn had to be patient before he snared his first New Zealand Cup win. As a trainer-driver he got close with Master Musician, second in both 1994 and 1995 . He finally broke through with then four-year-old mare Mainland Banner who won  in 2005, one of seven new Zealand Cup winning drives for Ricky May. Last season he also won his first training premiership, after first starting out in the late 1970s.   HRNZ

It’s 24 days to the New Zealand Cup. From now to November 10 we will feature some of the great races, horses and personalities  with a new letter for each day. C = Christian Cullen  At the time Christian Cullen was the shortest priced New Zealand Cup favourite in the modern era. And he duly won in 1998  ahead of defending champion Iraklis in a time of 4:00.4.   Cullen paid   $1.90 and $1.40. Now 26 Christian Cullen finished racing in 2000 with 22 wins from 31 starts ($1.249,150) before embarking on a stellar career at stud.     HRNZ

It’s 25 days to the New Zealand Cup. From now to November 10 we will feature some of the great races, horses and personalities  with a new letter for each day. B = Blossom Lady Blossom Lady was Addington’s queen even before her New Zealand Cup  victory . Initially trained by Stephen Doody in Palmerston North the Farm Timer mare moved to Derek Jones’ Templeton stable in 1990 going on to win 36 times. She raced in six New Zealand Cups, her defining moment coming with her victory in 1992 that had her massive fan base in raptures. The Bloss died in 2004.   Harness Racing New Zealand

Defending champion Cruz Bromac is a notable withdrawal from the New Zealand Cup. The Australian-based pacer has been a tad below his best form across the Tasman, prompting owner Danny Zavitsanos not to pursue a Cup campaign with him this year. That leaves Self Assured as the number one horse in the latest IRT New Zealand Cup rankings and a $2.25 favourite on the TAB futures market.    He's one of eight withdrawals for both the IRT NZ Trotting Cup and Majestic Son Dominion Trot Copy That's win in Friday's Holmes DG Handicap Pace at Alexandra Park has seen him climb two places in the latest IRT New Zealand Cup rankings. The rankings for the Majestic Son Dominion Trot on Show Day are largely unchanged from last week though Dark Horse, Matua Tana, Overzealous and Cracker Hill have all gone up the leaderboard. There will be a maximum of 15 starters in both the New Zealand Cup and Dominion Trot.  Rankings available here

The first Road to the Cup video with Jim Curtin on Tango Tara   HRNZ

Close enough is not good enough for Steven Reid so Star Galleria is out of the IRT New Zealand Cup. Reid has decided his stable star will not head south even though he was okay on the clock running sixth in the Holmes D G at Alexandra Park last Friday. Starting off a 30m handicap, Star Galleria broke 3:20 for the 2700m standing start but while that is good enough to be in a New Zealand Cup, Reid says it is not good enough to be competitive in one. “I don’t think he can go down there and beat horses like Self Assured and Spankem, or Copy That who beat him last week,” admits Reid. “The other owners weren’t keen to go after his run last week and to be honest I didn’t try too hard to talk them into it. “His times have been really good, as they have to be in his grade, but not good enough to win a Cup. “So I think we will stay up here and he can have plenty of racing over the summer he is eligible for and ultimately I’d like to see him head to Sydney for a campaign.” Reid will also be keeping his other leading lights closer to home as Mr Fantastic, who was aptly-named beating the older horses at Alexandra Park last Friday, is not eligible for the Sires’ Stakes so won’t be at Addington. “He will have one more start then a week in the paddock and get ready for Christmas.” And two-year-old filly of the year Shes No Lady has the good fillies races at Alexandra Park over coming months. “She got back on the inside last week but hit the line well,” said Reid.   by Michael Guerin

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   

Tango Tara has been the biggest mover in this week's IRT New Zealand Cup rankings after the five-year-old's third placing in the Canterbury Classic at Addington last Friday that guaranteed him a start in the race. The Jim Curtin-trained pacer has climbed from 21st to 5th place in the rankings. In the rankings for the Majestic Son Dominion Trot Overzealous made a significant move up the rankings list from 22nd to 16th with her meritorious third placing behind Sundees Son and Majestic Man in the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup. Please click here to view the updated Rankings for the IRT New Zealand Cup and the Majestic Son Dominion Trot.   HRNZ

Don’t be put off by Belle Of Montana’s chances of contesting the IRT New Zealand Cup just because she isn’t heading to Alexandra Park this Friday. Because champion trainer Barry Purdon says the glamour mare is still on target for Addington even though she will bypass the Holmes D G this week. Purdon elected to leave the five-year-old mare out of the 2700m standing start feature on Friday even though she is thriving. “I just don’t think she needs a gut buster off a 30m handicap,” says Purdon. “I could be a really hard race and she is going to wait for the mobile here on October 23. “After that she will likely go to the Cup trial at Addington but at this stage the Cup is still definitely the aim.” Belle Of Montana was a close up third behind stablemate Mach Shard in the Spring Cup 10 days ago but that was a 2200m free-for-all as opposed to this week’s tougher trip. “She is not a dour staying mare like Blossom Lady or even an Adore Me so I don’t think she needs to be lining up in every race. “But the Cup is the aim where she can be driven for speed and she has the right driver for that.” Mach Shard and On The Cards will contest the Holmes D G and Purdon says they have both come on well since the Spring Cup but after this week Mach Shard may sneak south. “Originally I was going to keep them all up here to race before the Cup but now I think Mach Shard will go to Ashburton for the Flying Stakes. “I think he is a horse who is best kept to standing start races before the Cup and the lead-up races here (at Alexandra Park) is a mobile. “So he will likely head south earlier while Belle Of Montana and On The Cards can stay here.” While Belle Of Montana is missing from this Friday’s race it still has not only Purdon’s other pair but Copy That, Star Galleria and three from the Telfer barn so as well as impressive last start winner South Coast Arden. Purdon is also aiming three-year-old General Montana at the next Sires’ Stakes series and he will contest a northern heat on October 23 to try and earn his ticket to Addington for the Cup Day group one.   Michael Guerin

Please see here for the updated Rankings for the IRT New Zealand Cup and the Majestic Son Dominion Trot. Mach Shard’s upset win in last Friday night’s Spring Cup at Alexandra Park has seen him climb up one spot in the latest IRT New Zealand Cup rankings.  Paying $33.50 Mach Shard beat gun pacer and early Cup favouirte Copy That by a head.  The six-year-old son of Mach Three  is now sixth in the rankings (7th last week) for the IRT New Zealand Cup at Addington on November 10. In the rankings for the Majestic Son Dominion Trot on Show Day, One Apollo and Heavyweight Hero have been both been big movers after finishing  one-two in Sunday’s D.G. Jones Memorial Trotting Cup at Motukarara.  One Apollo is now seventh, up three places on a week ago, while Heavyweight Hero is eighth (up six places).    HRNZ

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