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Buzz Aussie juvenile filly My Sweetchilliphilly made almost as many waves in NZ as she did in Australia with her stunning Bathurst Gold Tiara win last weekend. Lots of Kiwis tuned-up given Tim Butt’s filly Lady Chatto was backed into favouritism, but no matched for the juggernaut that is My Sweetchilliphilly. One of those Kiwis watching closely, but for a variety of reasons, was Harness Racing NZ’s Darrin Williams, the man who drives the Aussie invites to the Harness Jewels. Like everyone else, Williams was mightily impressed. “That’s one of the most impressives runs by a two-year-old filly you would ever see,” he said. “Of course we’d love to see her at the Jewels. I’ve already spoken to Shane (Tritton, co-trainer) and will stay in touch. “She’s tough and super quick. She looks ideal for a mile at Ashburton where, given the time she ran at Bathurst, she would clearly be capable of breaking the NZ record 1min53.3sec held by Dream About Me. “I’ve also got to say Shane and Lauren (Tritton) are terrific to deal with and always helpful with media and functions when here in NZ.” Tritton said the final call on an NZ trip would rest with the filly’s owners. “Her next run is the Pink Bonnet on Saturday week where she’ll run into Lady Chatto again,” he said. “After that we’ll have to decide whether we give her a break with a view to the Breeders Crown or go to NZ. “It’s a big call whether we do something like NZ with her because we think she’s a bit special and will be an Oaks filly next season and then a Ladyship Mile mare in future.”   Adam Hamilton

Any win is special, but for John Morrison a win for Warren Stapleton means just that little bit more. The two Mid Canterbury men have had a long association, despite Morrison’s young age, and on Sunday at Motukarara they combined for their second win as driver and trainer when Leading The Way did exactly as the name would suggest and won. Stapleton, along with guys like Mike Heenan, has been a big supporter of Morrison since he started driving and the youngster said winning races for guys like that was hugely rewarding. “They are the sort of people who have helped me get to where I am,” Morrison said. “Right from when I started driving at workouts and trials they supported me and gave me opportunities. “So to win another race for Warren was great.” A run of consistent performances had Leading The Way pegged as a serious contender in an open field yesterday and courtesy of a perfect drive from Morrison the seven-year-old gelding was able to make the most of it. “He’s a bit of a funny horse, he loves to follow the speed but often he will sprint up and knock off but he really wanted to find the line which was great. “He deserved that win because he’s been going such big races recently. “Warren has done a great job with him.” Leading The Way has had 16 starts since joining Stapleton’s stable back in July last year and has won once, three times finished second and also three times been placed third for stakes of more than $10,000. “He’s a nice wee money earner and will relish the new handicapping system because he won’t get too high up in the grades.” Stapleton and Morrison had gone close to success earlier in the day when Here We Are ran second in the maiden trot. The win gave Morrison his seventh win of the season in what is his second season of driving, taking him one win past his tally of six from last season. “The goal was to beat that and I have so I’m happy but with a wee while to go this season perhaps I’d like to get to double figures.” The former Ashburton College student is keeping himself busy working for the leading stable of Steven McRae at Spreydon Lodge in the mornings before heading out to do farrier work in the afternoon. He’s also training three horses of his own, a maiden trotter and two maiden pacers. Matt Markham

A small place bet on a horse at a low-key country meeting in the North Island led Ashburton owners, Stuart and Liz Leadley to buying boom two-year-old pacer, Alta Maestro. The Ashburton dairy farmers are dabbling more and more into the world of harness racing but haven’t had the best of luck with injuries curtailing many of their promising horses.  Owners, or part owners, in Alta Las Vegas and the very talented Franco Christiano, the Leadley’s weren’t looking to buy at the Yearling Sales when Alta Maestro was set down for sale.  “Robert Dunn had rung me and said he’d spotted a colt, who was simply stunning,” Leadley said. “He also said he was a brother to Alta Las Vegas, but I said to him that we weren’t going to be buying that year and that was that. “On the Sunday before the sale there was a race meeting in the North Island a horse called Alta Teresa was racing and I said to Liz that I was going to have a bet on the horse and if we collected off it that we would buy the colt.  “It ran third and I made a very small profit, but we rang Robert that night and said we would buy him.” The move has turned out to be one of the most fortuitous ones the Leadley’s have made since getting into horse ownership with Alta Maestro making an immediate impact when stepping out onto the track.  The Robert Dunn trained pacer has now won three of his four career starts and last Thursday night at Cambridge set a New Zealand record for a two-year-old pacer over 1700 metres when smashing his rivals by four and a half lengths.  The showy colt paced the distance in 1:59.7 and the Leadley’s were on hand to witness it.  “He was very impressive, it was great to be able to be there to watch him go. “Robert speaks very highly of the horse, he told me one day he thinks he might just be the brainiest horse he’s ever trained to which I said to Liz must mean we own Mr Ed.  “Hopefully this is just the start of it for him though.” In winning, Alta Maestro qualified himself for the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Final in May at Alexandra Park in Auckland.  The Leadley’s rarely miss one of their horses racing and Stuart said they loved the being able to go and enjoy watching their horses race.  “That’s our life at the moment, following race horse and rugby. Probably in the wrong order though.” Alta Maestro winning at Cambridge Matt Markham

Tina Sugarman, author of one of the top equine novels of 2016-2017, Horse Flesh, has agreed to share excerpts of her book with Harnesslink. Horse Flesh is a thriller mystery fiction novel based around a Standardbred racetrack in Ontario, Canada. It is the first novel ever penned by horsewoman, Tina Sugarman. Each week, Harnesslink will feature an excerpt from Horse Flesh. If you wish to purchase the book either in paperback or ereader formats, click here. Here is this week’s 4th excerpt from Horse Flesh! Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman CORNERED Theo sprinted to his car through the pouring rain. He fumbled with the key, shaking like a leaf. He knew all about those guys in dark glasses. If they thought he hadn’t done his best to win, however untrue that was, he’d be in big trouble. He’d been feeling pretty low about losing with Heart of Darkness. That now seemed insignificant. Somehow, he got out of the horsemen’s parking lot without running into anything. Then he hit the road. The rain was cascading down like Niagara Falls. It had grounded every sane driver, so he was alone out there. The windshield wipers simply couldn’t cope with the torrent, but he desperately needed to put some distance between him and the racetrack. Moose had scared the shit out of him! Things were getting way too complicated at Iroquois Downs. There was plenty to worry about driving in a horse race without all that. He took the Indian Trail. It was slow going, as the road meandered through the bush. But Theo struggled on, using the blurred, watery house lights that appeared from time to time to guide him. At length, he reached open country and a straight road. The rain was easing up. He breathed a sigh of relief. He was almost home. Ferme Victoire, his Uncle Bernie’s place, was just around the corner. His relief was short lived. A pair of headlights materialized out of thin air. He had a fleeting glimpse of a vast combine harvester coming straight at him, as he slammed on the brakes. He put his hand down on the horn and held it there, but the headlights kept on coming. Was the maniac at the wheel deaf as well as blind? And what the hell was it doing out at this time of night, in this weather? Suddenly he knew. A split second later, another set of lights shone in his rear-view mirror, half blinding him. He was trapped! He had to get off the road! He swung left and instantly regretted his decision. An ugly looking barbed wire fence lay on top of a steep bank. He swerved to the right. His tires squealed in protest, but he put his foot down hard on the accelerator and prayed. There was a deafening crash. The air around him exploded. Theo watched, fascinated, as tiny air bubbles floated slowly across his line of vision. The car rocked violently, then landed right side up. Everything stopped. His headlights were shining on a sea of green corn. It was eerily quiet. The passenger door was pressing right up against his right arm. But by some miracle, he was still in one piece. He forced his way out and glanced up at the road. What he saw there made his heart stop. Two massive guys were silhouetted in the headlights streaming from a long black limousine that looked like a hearse. But the men looked nothing like undertakers. They were wielding powerful flashlights which, in their hands, looked like lethal weapons. But it was the sight of the long knives hanging from their belts which really scared him. He didn’t wait to find out more. He pushed his way through corn stalks, floundering on the heavy ground, ankle deep in mud. He’d heard stories about these guys, terrifying stories. He struggled on, his progress maddeningly slow, his imagination running riot. But despite his urgent need to put in as much distance as possible between him and them, he could feel that he was running out of steam. He and his cousin Lara had been in plenty of scrapes as kids, but this was no game! He hunkered down, listening intently. Smash! Bang! They were trashing his car, breaking the windows, slashing the tires. The headlights dimmed, then died. A piece of Theo died with it. Apart from his race bike, the car was the only thing he owned. Bastards, he cursed silently, afraid to make a sound. Suddenly everything went quiet again, a silence filled with menace. Now they were through with the car, they’d come after him, he guessed. He froze, peering through the rows of corn, hearing nothing, seeing even less. After what felt like an eternity, a powerful engine no hearse would ever possess roared into life, its dark outline menacing, even from a safe distance. This was no ordinary vehicle, Theo realized. Its front end was built like a battering ram. He shuddered as it rolled away down the road, its red tail lights glowing in the dark. Theo rose cautiously to his feet and looked about him, wondering what to do next. There was no sense going back to his car. It was a total write off. As he squelched through the mud to higher ground at the edge of the field, he realized the rain had stopped. He sat down and emptied the water out of his shoes. What now? he asked himself. Dave Bodinski waited for a break between cloudbursts before setting off for home, a one-bedroom walk-up on Erinsville’s east side. It didn’t bother him so much that he had to go see the judges in the morning. He and Scotty McCoy had to sing from the same hymn book, is all. But the rumour running around the Race Barn about some guys losing a big bet in the fourth, that had bothered him. Big time! He knew in his gut that Raiders Moon’s win had a lot to do with it and, thanks to the judges practically arresting him in the grandstand, there was a big fat finger pointing directly at him. Every couple of minutes he took a peek in his rear view mirror, looking out for a guy on his tail, even though he had no idea what he’d do if he was being followed. To his relief, he reached his building without incident. On his way up the stairs, the phone started ringing. He unlocked his front door in record time and ran inside, but the phone cut out, right after he picked up. Normally he’d have cared less, but he had to wonder. Who’d be calling at this time of night? And why? When no one called back, he assumed the worst. He locked all the windows and double bolted the front door. He was thankful that his apartment was on the second floor. It gave him a sporting chance. He decided to take Scotty McCoy with him to cash in the tickets. Scotty wasn’t big, but he was stronger than he looked. He was bull headed too. If anyone tried to jump them, Scotty wouldn’t take it lying down. Hoping for the best, Dave switched off his phone and barricaded himself in the bedroom. He fell into a fitful doze, listening to the sound of the rain on the window panes. The road was far too dangerous, Theo realized. He went in the opposite direction, walking along the narrow ridge of grass on the edge of the field, listening intently to every sound, trying to ignore the sinister rustling in the corn stalks. He was doing okay till an owl hooted in his ear. Eventually the corn field gave way to bush. He hesitated for a moment. Then he began fighting his way through the undergrowth, feeling very much alone. The moon, his only source of light, had disappeared behind the clouds. If he’d got it right, his uncle’s farm wasn’t far off. If not…he’d just have to hole up in the woods and wait till dawn. He’d reckoned without the coyotes. The first howl, too close for comfort, sent shivers down his spine. It was quickly joined by others. A deer came bounding towards him, nearly running him down. The pack was on the hunt. The clouds rolled back and he made out the shadowy forms of the coyotes snaking in and out of the trees, their eyes glinting. They were after something. He just hoped it wasn’t him! For the fifth time that night, Scotty McCoy left the pay phone and made his way back to his barn. He was cold, wet and worried sick. Where was Dave when he needed him? Raiders Moon wasn’t acting right. If she got any worse, he’d be forced to call the vet and that was the last thing he wanted to do right now. It was like calling the police after you’d committed a crime. Nevertheless, after looking over the mare one more time, Scotty knew he had to bite the bullet. Things had gone too far. Even Dave couldn’t help him now. Coyotes didn’t generally attack people, but they’d take a puppy or a pet cat in a heartbeat. Better safe than sorry, Theo reasoned, getting down on his hands and knees and groping around for something to throw at them. Eventually, his fingers closed on a dead branch. Pretty soon he spotted the coyotes’ intended quarry: a clutch of round eyed baby raccoons, trying to shimmy up a tree trunk, the picture of innocence. As the pack edged forward, he brandished his tree branch, yelling at the top of his lungs. To his relief, the coyotes turned tail and ran. Ousting them gave him a much-needed boost, but when he looked around for the raccoons they had disappeared. There’s gratitude for you, he thought. A hundred metres further on, the outline of his uncle’s hay barn loomed up, it’s reassuring light shining like a beacon through the mist. He was almost home! Then the barn light cut out, plunging him into darkness. Minutes ticked by. Theo was afraid to make a move. Was this an ordinary power cut, or were the Undertakers out there somewhere, waiting for him? Rain hit veterinarian Jay Winterflood smack in the face the moment he left the comfort of his truck. Getting to Scotty McCoy’s barn was like fording a swollen river, something he’d had plenty of practice at on the Cree Reserve in Quebec, where he had spent the first fifteen years of his life. Inside the barn, a man was sprawled on a rickety chair, half asleep. He jumped up when he saw Jay. “Doc!” he exclaimed. “Scotty McCoy?” Jay asked. Scotty nodded. “She’s bad, Doc, real bad,” he said hurrying over to one of the stalls and opening the door. The horse inside was obviously in distress. She’d backed herself into a corner. Her head was almost touching the floor and her flanks were heaving. There was a chill in the air which had nothing to do with the temperature. It clung to the hay bales stacked in the aisle way and lingered on the upturned jog carts and the harness bags hanging from the rafters. Involuntarily Jay shivered.  “I don’t understand it!” Scotty said, scratching his head. “She raced great tonight. She won!” “How long has she been like this?” Jay asked, gesturing at the cowpat-like manure strewn around her stall. Scotty hung his head. “Two, three hours,” he confessed. “I figured she’d come out of it, see.” “I need to know exactly what she was given today,” Jay said gravely. “Nothing!” Scotty replied indignantly. “If you want me to save your mare, you’d better tell me the truth!” “Three boxes of baking soda,” Scotty mumbled. “An’ a box o’ cake sugar.” “You know,” Jay said, “you guys think that baking soda is harmless.” “I never used it before!” Scotty cut in. “And in small doses, it is harmless,” Jay continued “But you can see now, used in excess, it can have a devastating effect.” “You take cash?” Scotty asked, evidently anxious to put a stop to the lecture. “You need to bring her into the clinic right away,” Jay said firmly. “My preliminary diagnosis is intestinal distress and extreme dehydration. I can’t treat her here.” “The clinic!” Scotty exclaimed, looking horrified. “They killed the last one I sent in there. Stuck me with a bill for three grand anyway.” “Not on my watch,” Jay replied. “I’ll meet you there in twenty minutes.” He picked up his bag. “I’m hoping we won’t have to operate,” he added, walking towards the door. “Operate!” Scotty repeated. Time was slipping away, Jay could feel it. He was blessed and cursed by an uncanny ability, a sixth sense. The gift had come to him from his mother’s people. It made most Canadians uneasy, so he’d learned to keep it to himself. “I don’t want no trouble, Doc!” Scotty said. “Load her up,” Jay replied, losing patience. “The sooner I start treatment the better her chances.” “You mean she might not make it?” Scotty asked, looking terrified. “I’m not making any promises,” Jay replied grimly, heading out into the downpour. The house was pitch black. Even the porch light was out. Clawing his way through the dark, Theo clambered up the porch steps, trying to avoid the one that creaked, a legacy from his teenage days. Uncle Bernie used to leave an emergency key in a flowerpot. He groped his way towards it and felt around. To his surprise, it was still there, buried in the earth. Gingerly, he opened the heavy front door only to be bombarded by the thud of boots and blinded by a flashlight. This time there was nowhere to run. He was cornered! “Theo?” he heard Uncle Bernie’s voice ask uncertainly. “What’s going on? It’s two o’clock in the morning! Look at you!” he exclaimed. “Marta!” he called out. “It’s alright! It’s only Theo.” A few minutes later Theo was sitting at the kitchen table wrapped in a horse blanket, drinking hot milk with a slug of brandy. Shadows cast by the candlelight were dancing on the walls. The electricity was still out. “You look very bad,” Marta pronounced. “Tell him Bernie. It is true, yes?” “You got yourself in some kind of trouble?” Bernie asked, looking worried to death. “I’ll tell you,” Theo replied shakily, finishing off the brandy. “I’ll tell you the whole sorry story. You’re not going to believe this!” André Fontainbleu was sitting in his private study watching the video he had secretly made of him and Anya making love earlier that night. He was pleased with his performance. Two females had given him pleasure tonight: Anya and the filly, Jolie Dame. Stay tuned in to Harnesslink every week for another excerpt from Horse Flesh!

Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) and the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) today announced a boost to maiden winning stakes beginning on 29 March and continuing through until the end of the current season on 31 July 2017. The initiative is a direct result of the NZRB’s Industry Enhancement Funding that was announced in January this year. The Board of HRNZ last week agreed to implement the scheme with immediate effect, to provide increased returns to owners as quickly as possible. A stakes supplement of $1500 will be paid to all first time winners of totalisator races under $15,000 between now and the end of the season. “Harness Racing NZ has clearly stated that any additional industry funding will be targeted at the grass roots of the industry, and this initiative is a great vehicle to do this,” said HRNZ Chairman, Ken Spicer. Spicer added that, “A number of initiatives were explored, but we felt this one was the most appropriate option at this point in time.” John Allen, NZRB CEO welcomed HRNZ's initiative: "We are very pleased to support HRNZ in lifting stakes for maidens; we created these enhancement funds in response to a very clear message that the industry requires increased financial support now, and it’s great to have the codes utilising this funding and working with us to address this issue.” Allen added that “through this Industry Enhancement Fund, more than $2.8 million will be made available across the three codes to tactically boost stakes over the current and next two seasons, with the aim being to provide greater returns to owners, trainers and jockeys, in turn attracting higher quality racing and improving the overall race experience for industry people and punters alike.” Mr Spicer said “HRNZ would continue to work closely with the NZRB to ascertain the best ways to boost funding next season. This will be announced in the ‘HRNZ Funding Policy’ for next season which the Board will confirm over the next two months.”    Edward Rennell Chief Executive

Auckland’s popular function centre at Alexandra Park is enjoying considerable success with its Chinese functions thanks to its attention to detail and good marketing,” says Joel Reichardt, Sales & Marketing Manager at Alexandra Park. “Chinese Aucklanders are a big part of Alexandra Park’s story and it has been a long association. In turn we know how to host wonderful Chinese occasions and our reputation is only growing in that space,” he says. It’s an association helped by the fact that Auckland’s leading Yum Char restaurant, Grand Park, has been operating from Alexandra Park for many years. Recently, Alexandra Park’s commitment to the Chinese culture was highlighted during Chinese New Year, with its dedicated race night celebrating the Year of the Rooster. “We got great reviews about the comprehensive Chinese buffet our own chefs put together for Chinese New Year. Going forward, we are only too happy to do something similar for Chinese groups who may want to hire our function facilities,” he says. He says as well as plentiful Chinese-themed hospitality, Alexandra Park is only too happy to organise the likes of traditional entertainment if required. In fact, Alexandra Park caters for all menu tastes and has tailor-made packages designed to suit any event. The staff are event professionals totally dedicated to ensuring all conferences, business meetings, private dinners or parties are successful. “What appeals to a lot of people is our flexibility. We can do big or small, catering from 20 to 700 guests and we’ve got eight function rooms. In fact, we’ve got nine if you include our spacious stables complex which is great for businesses or organisations wanting something completely different for their next function venue.” Centrally located in Epsom, Alexandra Park has ample free parking on site and is just 15 minutes to central Auckland and 20 minutes from Auckland’s airport Mr Reichardt says ongoing improvements to the function facilities and menus have been key to Alexandra Park’s success in the highly competitive sector. Each year Alexandra Park hosts nearly 1,000 functions and that excludes its Fridayrace nights. “Alexandra Park will undoubtedly get a further boost with the opening of our new ‘urban village’ development now under construction. It will see the arrival of more cafes, restaurants and bars, and will create a great buzz. What’s more having the Blues rugby team’s training centre here and watching them literally train out front is another point of difference.” He says the Alexandra Park functions team really prides itself on providing solutions, tailoring menu and beverage packages, ensuring all audio-visual requirements are easily taken care of, as well as offering expert advice and great value for money. For bookings or information phone (09) 630-5660, email events@alexandrapark.co.nz or visit www.alexandrapark.co.nz  

Oamaru harness racing trainer Phil Williamson recently notched up 500 trotting winners in New Zealand when Astral Ruler won at the Wyndham HRC meeting at Cromwell on 7thJanuary. He can proudly be known as the first New Zealand trainer to achieve such a feat and his winning record with the square gaiters is expected to last for a long time. Southland Harness Website editor Bruce Stewart caught up with Phil at a recently held Invercargill Cup meeting at Ascot Park and had a chat with him about his involvement in harness racing. You became keen on horses while at Port Molyneux School. The trainer of the great Stella Frost Len Tilson had a stable next to the school? Yes. That’s where my interest started. I used to see them in the paddock next door as they jogged past. It looked pretty exciting. Then I started to listen to the commentaries on the radio and that sounded exciting too. I understand that when you left school you had a short stint as a jockey before weight caught up with you. It all started for me on a Saturday when I was supposed to have been going back to school on the Monday for my third year at High School. Bob Beck just happened to be visiting and said he was looking for an apprentice jockey and would I be interested. I thought to myself, that would be better than going back to school for another year. I looked at my mum and asked her if I could. Bob said he’d come back the next morning and pick me up. Note: Phil’s mother aged 90 is still living at Kaka Point. You rode one winner, Frosty Light? Yes. I’ll never forget that. It was here at Ascot Park and it was the first leg of the double. In those days you could claim a 7 pound allowance as an apprentice jockey. The first ride I had I rode 3 pound over so I had a weight problem from day dot. You mentioned that Alistair Kerslake got you interested in harness horses. How did that come about? Yes. My first involvement was with Alistair and Betty. I learned a lot there for sure. He was quite a tough man but I learned a lot. When did you start work at the local Tannery in Oamaru? When I finished with Alister I came back to Oamaru and started working for Dick Prendergast. I was there for quite a while but ended up going to the Tannery and working nights. Around that time you married Bev. When I got to Oamaru I was staying with neighbours of her mother and father and I was working a couple of horses on their track so I got to know her. Did her father have any good horses? Yes. We won the Roxburgh Cup with Willow Way. Their best horse though, was Wee Willow. Henry Skinner was their main driver in those days. Then I came on the scene. Note: Willow Way was by Jack Chance out of Wee Willow. He won the 1991 Roxburgh Cup by half a length with Phil driving him to victory. Wee Willow also left Gemini Jo which won seven races. Phil drove her in all her victories. Bev Williamson’s maiden name was Mills and her father Ron was a hobby trainer. At this time you were training Role Model. The owners called in one day and I was doing the night shift. I was just pottering around with a few horses and helping the father in-law at home. These two gentlemen came in and said, would I be interested in training a horse for them. I told them I hadn’t trained any horses before. I asked them what the horse was and one of the guys said I wouldn’t have far to look to see him. Unbeknown to us it was at a neighbours place. It was on rough hilly country and the horse was just at the bottom of one of the gullies. Role Model was a very plain looking horse but I couldn’t see a lot wrong with him. I went back to Bev and said they seem like really nice guys and if ever we were going to train it’d be now. That’s how I got started. He won races pacing, but you decided to switch him to trotting? We used to take him from where we lived to the race course in the cart. I was taking him back one day and he took off trotting and I couldn’t believe it. He was quite neat at it. I asked the owners if they would mind if I worked him up on the next prep trotting. They weren’t that keen. They didn’t want a bar of him being a trotter because he’d already won five races as a pacer. Once we starting trotting him and I took him to the workouts they could see how good he was so we switched him. He won his first start at Addington as a trotter. He won eight races trotting, including your first group race, the New Zealand Trotting Free For All. How did that feel? Yeah it was a big thrill that night. So at what stage did you decide to concentrate on training trotters? The next horse I got to train was Frances Jay Bee. We’ve won some good races from the progeny of her. At that point I also realised you could get into the higher end of the trotting game because the better stallions were less of an outlay. Sundon was probably standing for around $3,000 but if you were trying to go to the leading pacing sire you’d probably need $12,000. So that made sense to us because we didn’t have a lot of money. They were also cheaper to buy as trotters were looked at as being second rate at the sales. So I was able to buy into the better end of them for a lot cheaper. What influence did Sundon have on the trotting game? To me he’s just been a super sire. He’s the Bettor’s Delight of the trotters I’m sure. He stamped his progeny. They were great looking athletic horses which were a lot different to the older Standardbreds who were big tough horses with roman noses. When the Sundons came on-line, you had two very good ones early, in One Under Kenny and Allegro Agitato. You weren’t working with them long before you knew you had something special. They had what the average horses don’t have. Sundons can be a bit hot headed though? It’s probably a fair enough comment but you know if you’ve got a V8 motor in there somethings going to happen if you have an altercation in the early days. They may pull back and break a rope because they have the power to do it. But they can do things other horses can’t do because of their motor. You’d give up a bit of the hot headedness for the motor every time.  One of your first speedy Sundon trotters was Lets Get Serious – he had a fair bit of talent? He was a very good horse. He didn’t show it in the very early days. When you take a good horse off the place they normally step up. That’s the difference between a good one and an average one. A lot of horses can work well at home but can’t take the next level. Every good horse I’ve had has always stepped up. He was like that. With trotters you have to be patient? You’ve got to have common sense. Some horses take time and you just have to understand that. As a trainer who’s been an influence on your career? Dick Prendergast was a big influence in those early days. He was a great horseman and had a lot of success and a bit of it has rubbed off on me. When I first went to Auckland I stayed with Barry Purdon and leant a lot there particularly getting the young horses going. Tony Herlihy is another that’s had an influence on me. We’ve stayed with him a lot on our recent trips. Jasmyn’s Gift was a special trotter as well? She was, because we bred her and it was good for us just starting out. When you have a horse that can race in the Dominion Handicap it’s special. Note: Jasmyn’s Gift ran third in two Dominion Handicaps in 2005 and 2006. She also provided Nathan Williamson with his first Group One winner as a driver when she won the 2006 New Zealand Trotting Free For All at Addington. As you’ve mentioned, The Dominion Handicap is a very special race for trainers of trotters. It’s such a difficult race to win and everything has to go right on that special day. Springbank Richard was able to do it for us. I’ve had numerus placings with other horses. Do you have a horse that has the potential of winning a Dominion? No. My son has. Springbank Richard was another great horse you trained? He came along and was a super good horse. He had a big V8 motor and a lovely gait and was just an all-round great great horse. Note: Springbank Richard has been Phil Williamson’s biggest stake earner to date (see details below) and only Dominion Handicap winner. He provided Nathan Williamson with his first Group One winner in Australia when he won the Victoria Trotter Derby in May 2007.He also won back to back Harness Jewel titles winning at three in 2007 and as a four year old in 2008. He was driven on both occasions by Nathan. How important is shoeing? Do you do your own? Malcolm Oakes has shod my team in later years and before that Bruce Wallace did a lot of the shoeing in the early days with Role Model especially. Ken Kinzett before that. It’s very important to have their feet right. It’s more important to have a good horse though. Brendon Franks looked after the shoeing while we were in Central. Most of the trotting races are from a standing start. Are trotters more difficult to get away? The thing about the good ones Bruce, is that they can miss away and still win because they’re just better. All the time they’re getting that practice in and by the time they’ve had a start or two it’ll come to them. Springbank Richard was a slow learner when Tony Barron had him. It’s just the manners and time brings that right. I was just lucky to get him at the right time. Manners with trotters just come with experience. Of the horses you have trained there must have been few that haven’t reached their potential. Do any come to mind? Leighton Hest. He was a bit of an underachiever. He won a Jewels. He was troubled with soreness. He was a very very good horse. Note: Leighton Hest provided Matty Williamson with his first Group One winner when he won the 2009 Four Year Old Ruby at Ashburton in May 2009. He won seven of his nine starts at four and ended his career with a record of 43-12-6-6 and $205,242. Are there any other horses you’d like to mention? Springbank Sam won twenty races for us and was placed second five times in Group One races. He’s now in America. Note: Springbank Sam was sold at the sales as Jack Galleon for $26,000. He went on to win $319,756 for Alister and Denise Smith. He won in every season that he started from a two year old to an eight year old. He ran second to Paramount Geegee at two and three in four Group One races. At four he was beaten only by Charlemagne in the Four Year Old Ruby at Cambridge. His last Group placing was in the 2013 Rowe Cup when he was beaten by Stig. He’s a national record holder, the only one on the Omakau track, recording 3-12.8 for the 2600 metre mobile. What’s the fastest trotter you’ve trained? It’s between Allegro Agitato and Springbank Richard. And trotter with the all round game? One Over Kenny. You don’t win a million dollars unless you’re a very good horse. Are you excited about where trotting is going? Some meetings have up to three trotting races on their card now. I think people are starting to see that’s there’s good money in trotting now. Back in the day people had the perception that trotters all galloped and who would want to have a trotter. Trotters can race consistently and earn well if they’ve got a bit of ability. A lot of people have woken up to the fact they can be good earners and in some cases earn better money than pacers. Your three boys all drive. Do you notice any differences in their driving styles? Matty’s probably the most aggressive of the three. Nathan and Brad are very similar. Nathan was always very talented from the get go. Brad’s probably had to work at it but he’s made a good fist of it of late. It’s pretty hard to come out of the shadow of two pretty successful brothers. Now I think he drives as good as his brothers do with the right opportunities. How important was it to get to 500 trotting winners for you? We’re proud of the fact that we were the first to do it. But I’ve always got my feet on the ground. Have you ever ventured to America or Scandinavia to see trotters race? I never have. It would be nice to do it someday. Tony Herlihy who goes to America and Canada a bit tried to get me to go but I haven’t got there yet. There’s been no break in the workload to do it Bruce. You have good staff with your boys, Steve Allen and Charlotte Purvis. And your wife Bev plays a major part in the operation? She does all the business side of the operation, like accounts. I don’t even turn the computer on. That’s Bev’s department. I learnt not to get involved there. In the early days Bev use to drive. She’s a capable driver around the workouts and trials. She used to beat me plenty of times. She’s got a great work ethic. Note: In these later years Phil and Bev have taken a working holiday in Central Otago and their trotters have dominated the New Year circuit. At Omakau, Springbank Eden, Royal Kenny, Springbank Sam, Brad’s Kenny and Jasmyn’s Gift all hold track records. At Roxburgh, Davey’s Gift and Pyramid Monarch are in the record book. An enjoyable interview with Phil Williamson. It’s easy to see that he identified trotters as his speciality fairly early on and has crafted out a career that’s rewarded him with 500 winners - a remarkable feat. As trotting ranks start to increase markedly we can be rest assured there are a few more winners to be added yet.   Phil Williamson’s fact sheet on 500 winners:   First trotting winner: Role Model - New Zealand Metropolitan June 1995   500th winner: Astral Ruler - Wyndham HRC at Cromwell January 2017   Leaving drivers of the 500 trotting winners: Matty Williamson drove 151, Phil 100, Nathan 94 and Brad 94.   Winning tracks: Addington 98, Forbury Park 84, Ascot Park 80 and Oamaru 41.    Biggest winners 10 wins or more: Allegro Agitato (21), Springbank Sam (20), One Over Kenny (19), Jasmyn's Gift (17), Springbank Richard (17), Lets Get Serious (10), Monnay (10), Monty Python (10) and Role Model (10).   Note: One Over Kenny won 32 races in her career including the Australasian Trotters Championship in 2007. She was trained by Tony Herlihy in the latter part of her career. She won a total of $1,098,007 in stakes.   Biggest winners by stakes: Springbank Richard ($403,567.50), One Over Kenny ($372,936.25), Allegro Agitato ($353,476.25), Jasmyn's Gift ($164,651.21) and Springbank Sam ($150,935.00).   Biggest stake won in one race by any horse: $138,220.00 (Springbank Richard 2009 Dominion Handicap).   First Group win: Role Model 1996 New Zealand Trotting Championship (Group Two).    Group One wins: 10   Group Two wins: 9   Group Three wins: 5   Multiple wins - Group races:   Four Year Trotter Championship (Group Three): Lets Get Serious (2006), Springbank Richard (2008) and Leighton Hest (2009)   Ashburton Trotter Flying Mile (Group Three): Allegro Agitato (2004 and 2005) and Springbank Richard (2009).   Cambridge Trotter Flying Mile (Group Two): Allegro Agitato (2005 and 2006) and One Over Kenny (2007).   Lyall Creek Stakes (Group Two): Allegro Agitato (2006) and One Over Kenny (2007).   National Trot (Group One): Allegro Agitato (2006) and One Over Kenny (2007)   New Zealand Trotting Championship (Group One): Role Model (1996), Allegro Agitato (2004 and 2006) and Jasmyn's Gift (2005).    Important overseas wins: 2007 Victoria Trotting Derby (Group One) Springbank Richard, Interdominion Trotting Championship Heat winner - Shepperton (Group Three) Springbank Richard and 2005 VHRC The Holmfield One Over Kenny.   Harness Jewels winners: Springbank Richard – Three Year old Ruby and Four Year Old Ruby and Leighton Hest Four Year Old Ruby.   DG Jones Memorial/Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup (Group Three): Springbank Richard (2009 and 2010)   New Zealand Trotting Free For All (Group One): Allegro Agitato (2005) and Jasmyn’s Gift (2006).   Ordeal Cup: Jasmyn’s Gift (2006) and Springbank Richard (2009).   Other Group Wins: New Zealand Trotting Oaks (Group Two) One Over Kenny (2005), Northern Trotting Derby (Group One) One Over Kenny (2005), New Zealand Sires Stakes Trotting Championship One Over Kenny (2005), Dominion Handicap (Group One) Springbank Richard (2009), Rowe Cup (Group One) One Over Kenny (2007) and Southern Lights Trot (Group Three) Springbank Sam.   Best season (wins): 2015 and 2016 (58 winners)   Best season (stakes): (2007) $693,861    Total trotting stakes won (500 winners): $3,486,646.91    Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Harness racing fixed odds early movers for Banks Peninsular today as at 11:35am Race 1 - Highland Reign $2.70 is easily the best backed runner in win & multi betting. Outside the favourite in win betting Living Legend at $14 has attracted some interest.   Race 2 - Mr Fahrenheit $3.30 is best backed in win & multi betting.   Race 3 - Junkyard Mase $9.00 is best backed on the win book over Chloe $3.10 but that runner is racing away in multi betting.   Race 4 - Spurred By Success $5.00 is best backed over Greenanwhite $7.50.   Race 5 - Corena Lea $5.50 & Light Year Franco $7.80 are the only runners wanted early here.   Race 6 - The longshot Fortune Tiller $35 - $21 is best backed on the win book.   Race 7 - The big mover here is Sweet As $4.50 - $3.80 & also just leads multi betting over Leading The Way $6.50.    Race 8 - Chivasion $12 - $7.00 is best backed over We'll Meet Again $2.90 who leads multi betting easily.   Race 9 - Volatile Lavra $8.50 - $7.00 is best backed over Tutoko Kid $11.   Race 10 - A huge go here on Clasina Maria has seen her odds crunch into $3.00 from the $3.90 opening price.   Race 11 - Menewa $2.90 leads multi betting over Momentous $11 with Xmas Joyella $10.50 leading win betting.    Race 12 - English Rose $4.80 leads win betting over All About Henry $6.50 leads win & multi betting & these two runners are the only ones wanted early.    Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

There are $100,000 reasons to get involved in the Pick6 this afternoon at Motukarara.   Known affectionately as the Bermuda Triangle of harness punting, nothing is ever easy at The Mot and this Pick6 will test even the most astute of punters. To help with your selections, we’ve come up with three horses in each leg you might want to consider. Leg One: Race 7 You Will Need: #8 Blingiton - Not a great deal of form to follow up until a good second last start - that catches the attention in what is a wide open field. Especially with Dexter Dunn sitting in the bike. You Should Need: #11 Leading The Way - Consistent pacer who finds a race well within range. Will be running home stronger than most and there’s not much here that should scare them today. You Might Need: #3 Shelly Ann - Two not bad runs on the Coast and there’s a good draw to work with here which will aid the chances too. Doesn’t win races out of turn, but is capable in a field like this.   Leg Two: Race 8 You Will Need: #7 Redwood Invasion - Purely based on the fact that if he trots her, he will just about win. But it’s a cross everything and hope for the best job with him. You Should Need: #1 We’ll Meet Again - The Justin and Lyn Smith team is low-flying at the moment and this horse was very good last time out. Generally has good manners and from a good draw he should get a nice trip and be finishing off strongly. You Might Need: #2 Native’s Lasting Love - Smart wee trotter when things go her way and with good manners that might happen today, well worth more than just a cursory glance that’s for sure.   Leg Three: Race 9 You Will Need: #13 Volatile Lavra - Loves a race meeting at The Mot she does and this isn’t a strong field which brings her right into contention. Will settle back and look to get over the top of them which she is more than capable of. You Should Need: #1 Bontz - A good draw with a good trip almost worked the oracle last time out and gets the chance to do the same here. Has gate speed to use which is another bonus and in an even line up is a leading contender. You Might Need: #2 Supreme Blue Chip - Another who loves the track and has gone some cracking races here. From a good draw things might play out nicely and the opportunity will present itself to get home over top of them late.   Leg Four: Race 10 You Will Need: #7 Clasina Maria - But of a handicapping special when you have a look at what she has been racing compared to this field. Mobile start will have her on even terms as well. An explosive turn of foot will see her booming home late. You Should Need: #5 Thomas De Louis - Big maiden win at Geraldine which backed up some strong opinions. As green as grass but so very talented and good enough to go back-to-back with confident Ricky May drive. You Might Need: #12 Curlimore - Another who loves the green surfaces and also one who won’t shirk from doing a bit of work in the running. Will look to get up near them and make them work hard during the middle stages.   Leg Five: Race 11 You Will Need: #5 Menewa - Two really good runs since resuming see this one ready to get another win on the board on the big grass track. Manners seem pretty reasonable which are a big plus and this isn’t a deep field. You Should Need: #8 Momentous - Might sneak under the guard a wee bit here. A return to the form of the summer months would see him winning this without a doubt. Take plenty of stock out of the fact Sam Ottley is in the bike, that’s always worth a few lengths on this track. You Might Need: #6 Time For Diamonds - Talented trotter who has been getting it all wrong on race day lately. With a clean round here there will be plenty surprised at just how well she goes.   Leg Six: Race 12 You Will Need: #5 English Rose - A Greg and Nina Hope trained pacer returning to the grass track after a good second last time out. Do we need to say much more? Oh, she’s got a good draw and Ricky May in the bike. You Should Need: #1 Buckeye - On speed horse with a good barrier draw and some gate speed to use. May end up getting the run of the race just off the speed and will be running on if that’s the case. You Might Need: #14 Ice Crusher - A good horse, with a bad draw but a good driver. That’s pretty much the puzzle, it’s up to you to figure it out. Should be good enough to make his own luck in this sort of the field. And should be good enough to win.

Changeover gelding My Georgie Boy backed up his consistent form by winning at the Wairio harness racing meeting yesterday at the Central Southland Raceway. The three year old gelding is owned by Brendon McIntyre, Bill Moffatt, Paddy Cullen, Malcolm Pennack and Denis Mullally who are all good stable clients of trainer Peter Hunter. Hunter took My Georgie Boy straight to the lead and was able to dictate the pace from the top.  "We got it easy down the back and it worked out pretty good really," he said after the win. The horse was bred by Mandy Davis and was owned by her when he qualified at Wyndham last April.  "Mandy sold the farmlet at Mossburn so we decided to get a syndicate together and buy this one. He qualified behind Foo Fighter as a two year old but he's taken a wee while to come up." My Georgie Boy with winning connections      -Photo Bruce Stewart The winning margin was two lengths and the time was 1-57.0.  My Georgie Boy is out of the Holmes Hanover mare Mystic Maiden which has left a mixture of trotting and pacing stock. Mystic Sun by Sundon and bred by Colin McLean won ten races trotting while Southern Sun which was by Thunder N Lightning won nine races pacing, including The Robin Dundee Crown.  Southern Light, a one win daughter of Southern Sun, is also trained by Hunter.  Second to My Georgie Boy today was Maidonthebeach trained by Peter Hunter's brother Hamish. Hamish later won with Tiziano which continues the great run that stable client and breeder Graham Cooney is having at the moment. He co-bred Tiziano and also bred and owns two of the Hamish Hunter winners at Oamaru last weekend in Acolyte and Groomsman. My Georgie Boy winning at Winton Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

When you've got a pedigree and you're from the All Stars stables, the expectations are always high, and that was the case today when harness racing debutant All U Need Is Faith raced at Winton. The full brother to last year's Kindergarten Stakes winner Pacing Major had been solid at trials, winning once and being placed twice before today's race, so that form made him favourite in the Western Electrical Two Year Old Mobile Pace. Driver Matt Anderson didn't push the go button from barrier fiv, preferring to let the horses inside do the scrapping. With I'mallaboutthebase working hard to take the lead Anderson slotted All U Need Is Faith into the one one behind the parked horse Triroyale Brigade. With 900 metres to run he popped out of the sit and progressed forward to sit parked beside the leader. At the 400 metres All U Need Is Faith was up challenging the leader with his stablemate Speech Is Silver sweeping around the outside to add to the mix. The two All Star colts knuckled down early in the run home with All U Need Is Faith proving too game for Speech Is Silver winning by a neck with Triroyale Brigade four and a half lengths back in third.  All U Need Is Faith (5) beating stablemate Speech Is Silver (9)      Photo Bruce Stewart. "He wasn't foolproof. We've still got a few things to iron out. He's not the real deal yet but if he keeps going the way he's going he'll be a nice horse," said Anderson. He said this race was one the stable had targeted and the trip away would also help the Art Major colt.  "He's quite casual at this stage and doesn't know what it's all about. A couple of days away from home will do him good." All U Need Is Faith is owned by Dennis and Mark Dunford who've owned a handful of very good horses including Have Faith In Me and Hands Christian.  All U Need Is Faith was bred by Woodlands Stud and was sold as Phenomenon at the 2016 Australasian Classic Yearling Sales. He was the second top lot of the sale selling for $180,000. In fact the first three horses home in today's race were all sold out of the Auckland sale. Speech Is Silver, a close relative to Auckland Reactor, sold for $17,500 while Triroyale Brigade sold for $50,000. The time of 1-55.9 was a new track record for two year old colts and geldings. The previous record of 1-56.5 was hold by Courage Tells and was recorded in 2010.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Although trotter Zoey's Gift won impressively at Winton today her harness racing trainer Phil Williamson knows her next task is going to be harder. The talented daughter of Muscle Yankee and Jasmyn's Gift has the Group Two $40,000 New Zealand Trotting Oaks next Friday at Addington on her radar.  "It'll be difficult because they're good horses. She's definitely got the fire power there. If it was a mile and five (2600 metres) I'd be going there more confident but she's still not without a chance," he said.  In today's race driver Matty Williamson didn't panic early when Zoey's Gift was posted wide. With 900 metres to run he took her to the lead and when the ear plugs came out halfway down the straight she won easily by two and a half lengths.     "I was pretty confident that if she trotted she would win but it's never that simple. She's just got a wee bit of that class that stands her out from the rest."  Williamson said the filly is relatively inexperienced but he wasn't too concerned about starting her against hardened older trotters.  "I wasn't concerned at all. The Oaks is next week over 1950 (metres) and we wanted to have a wee crack at something short and sharp to get her ready. She's only had four races so she's still learning. She's a nice horse and will do a good job before she's finished," he added. Zoey's Gift was bred by Phil's wife Bev and was bought by Emilio Rosati after she qualified. Her dam Jasmyn's Gift won seventeen races including the Group One New Zealand Trotting Free For All and New Zealand Trotting Championship. "She's (Zoey's Gift) got that same good motor as her mother. It's been a good family. Directorship is from the same family and he was a very good horse."   Williamson said although the filly is owned in Australia there are no plans at this stage to venture across the Tasman.   "We'll have to be rock solid and beat the best here."   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing    

Not many trainers win a galloping, pacing and trotting race all within the space of three days but that’s what Todd Mitchell achieved on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week. On Wednesday afternoon his galloper My Pride And Joy and jockey Mark Du Plessis paid $9.10 when winning the seventh event at Pukekohe Park. The following night, he drove pacer Raschker to victory at odds of $6.20 athis beloved Cambridge Raceway, and then last night (Friday) Mitchell achieved his most satisfying victory when he steered Prime Power to win the feature trot at Alexandra Park. “It’s been a week to remember all right. The hard work is paying off. They were all very rewarding, but Prime Power is my ‘pride and joy’. He’s the horse I trained and drove my first Group One winner back in 2013 (Jewels 3yo Ruby Trot). “It hasn’t been easy for him racing off long marks this season. He hasn’t had much luck because of it, but he felt extra tonight and got a nice sit and sprint at them. I couldn’t be happier with him going into some of the big Group Ones in the next couple of months,” Mitchell said. Prime Power notched up his 16th career win from his 51st start when proving too good for The Almighty Johnson, Lemond and company in the $16,000 Dawson Harford Handicap for the R66 to R 109 trotters.  The 7-year-old Monarchy - Mega Belle gelding was rated 109 and started from the 40m back-mark. He was the $6.90 third favourite. “He went super. I’ve been making mid-race moves in his previous starts and it’s just been too tough for him off these long marks because he can’t sprint three times. “The race panned out beautifully. He was so fluent in his gait and he hit the line well. Hopefully he will get some front-line relief when the Anzac Cup and Rowe Cup roll around in late April,” Mitchell said. Prime Power flew away from his back-mark and Mitchell settled him back in the field, but two back in the running line. Then at the 600m he made his move before looming up on turn and winning by one-and-a-quarter lengths. He trotted the 2700m stand in 3:24.7 (mile rate 2:01.9) and home in 59 even and 29.2. “I’ve changed his feed and he looks much more powerful and stronger this time in. I don’t think he’s ever been healthier. He’s so fit and athletic looking that he looks like one of my thoroughbreds. Putting him out for four months in March last year has been the making of him,” Mitchell said. The Waikato horseman thought he would be a real show in the Anzac Cup on April 21. “He badly needs a front-line draw and then we will see the best of him. I’m not saying he can win the Anzac Cup or Rowe Cup, but off the front I think we will see a different horse and the others will know they are in a race. “Thereafter who knows where he will line up. I will talk to Bryan and Marilyn (Macey – owner/breeders) and see what they think. But I reckon he could win another $200,000 in free-for-all races in Australia,” Mitchell said. “His big handicaps here might ensure that. It’s something I will have to sit down with Bryan and have a serious talk about his future,” he added. Mitchell works a team of 20 at Tauwhare, including six thoroughbreds. He had no hesitation saying Prime Power was his stable star. Thirteen of Prime Power's 16 wins have come at Alexandra Park - 12 of them over last night's distance. Mitchell is experiencing one of his best seasons and is the leading trainer at Cambridge Raceway this season with 83 points – eight clear of Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick. In 2016-2017 he has conditioned 16 winners from 111 starters and also placed 33 times. His $125,174 in stakes earnings this season has ensured he's cracked the $100,000 mark for the last five seasons. In a training career spanning back to 2000 Mitchell has conditioned 241 winners from 1,992 starters. He's also placed on 489 occasions and banked $1.9 million in career stakes. The four-time New Zealand Cup winning driver is also having a good year in the sulky. In 2016-2017 he's reined home 17 winners from 203 starters, placed 48 times and netted $181, 024 in stakes. Since 1988 his career stats read 1,072 winners from 10,502 starters; 2,079 placings and $11.3 million in stake earnings. No wonder they call him ‘The Wizard!’ Duane Ranger

Harness racing fixed odds early movers for Wairio today as at 12:00pm Race 1 - Galleons Glory $1.90 leads multi betting over Jaccka Josh $2.40 and these are the only runners wanted. Both of the favourites currently hold the same amount of money on the win book.   Race 2 - Clockwork Orange $15 - $13 is best backed on the win book over Celebrity Easton $8.50.    Race 3 - All You Need Is faith $1.70 is racing away in multi betting and is also best backed on the win book.   Race 4 - Bring Back Buck $12 - $10 leads win betting over My Georgie Boy $4.50 with Dali Bread $3.20 leading multi betting.   Race 5 - Caballo Blanco $15 - $13 leads in betting with the $7.20 chance Rocking Robyn leading multi betting.   Race 6 - Manuka Valley $3.40 is best backed in both win & multi betting.   Race 7 - Zoey's Gift $2.00 easily leads win & multi betting.    Race 8 - Leah Mac $13 leads win betting with Betta Go Fernco $3.10 leading multi betting.   Race 9 - Eamon Maguire $2.00 easily leads multi betting but Seaswift Joy $3.30 is best backed in win betting early.    Race 10 - Melina Lowe $9.20 - $7.00 is best backed in win betting over Magicol Delight $3.80 who easily leads multi betting.     Harnesslink Media Courtesy of Stephen Richardson (TAB)

Three three-year-olds dominate pre-race discussions for the Southland Standardbred Breeders Mobile Mile at Winton on Saturday and one of them is Seaswift Joy, but her co-trainer Gordon Lee doesn't see it is as that simple. The scratching of Gotta Del will reduce the field size to six and Lee sees them all as threats, including Seaswift Joy's stablemate Royal Counsel who hasn't raced for 11 months.. “She was retired but didn't get in foal, we've had her back a bit over a month, she is shaping up very very well, we're very pleased with her, she's not out it,” said Lee, who trains the former Southland Oaks winner with his brother Colin, Royal Counsel's driver on Saturday. Gordon Lee will be in the sulky of Seaswift Joy and is also pleased with her. “She is going from strength to strength, has raced against most of the best three year old fillies and proven herself.” Seaswift Joy has the four draw with Eamon Macguire and Delightful Memphis outside of her. An added bonus for the two fillies, Seaswift Joy and Delightful Memphis is the $2000 attached to the stake for the first of them to finish. On a day known in the south as Wairio Mile day and previously staged in the spring, all 10 races on the programme are mobile miles. The Lees have Art Exhibit in the Southern Vet Centre Southern Belle Speed Series heat and her chances will be improved by having drawn two. “She's a frustrating horse but if she is handy in the running and doesn't have to be used up, she is a chance,” Lee said. Their other rep is Jeremy Jones, drawn one in the Morris Contracting Ltd Mobile Mile. “He was a surprise favourite at Wyndham, especially being a first starter, and was a bit disappointing,” Lee said of the three year old who broke early and galloped out of contention. “He's got the draw and not the ringcraft but if he did everything right he could run in the money.” Clark Barron has two in the same race and from the draw favours A Smart Excuse who tries a mile for the first time. “He's been knocking on the door, got a good draw, I hope the mile suits, I think it will,” he said. First starter Dali Bread represents Barron in the same race and the three year old goes from three on the second line. A son of Dali, he qualified in 2:45.7 a fortnight ago and won by 10 lengths. Barron said there is an element of risk with a first starter but as an introduction to racing he favours the distance. “Sometimes they are run off their feet but generally a mile is okay first up for a young horse.” The Rakauhauka trainer also has two in the Otautau Vets Ltd Fillies and Mares Mobile Mile and once again favours the one with the best draw, Manuka Valley over first starter Final Excuse. “It makes a big difference,” he said of the draw. “Manuka Valley is as honest as they come, (driver) Blair (Orange) has had a good run on her. Final Excuse has a lot of ability, she can run but is a bit highly strung, not sure of her manners and the draw is against her.” Rakarolla is the sole Barron rep left in the Southland Standardbred Breeders Mobile Mile. The five year old was on debut when he gained the first of his four wins, beating Rocker Band over a mile at Winton, and has won twice on the track since. “He'll give an honest account of himself but is against some very good three year olds,” Barron said. One of them, Eamon Macguire, relegated Rakarolla to runner up at Invercargill a fortnight ago in a 1:56.9 mile. Tayler Strong

Alta Maestro saved his best career performance for Cambridge Raceway last night (Thursday) when smashing the New Zealand 1700m mobile record for 2-year-old pacers. The Art Major - Alta Camilla colt lowered More The Better's record set at Alexandra Park by 0.3 of a second. His time of 1:59.7 even beat Better B Amazed’s national mares' record of 1:59.9 that she set at Alexandra Park last April. Trained by Robert Dunn, Alta Maestro went into the race having won two of his three races. His only blemish came last start at Alexandra Park when he finished third behind Mach Shard and Spankem in the Group One $100,000 Young Guns Cardigan Bay Stakes. He sat parked that throughout that night when he was one-one in the betting. He was again the warm $1.60 favourite last night. Driver Dexter Dunn praised the colt’s performance in last night’s first heat of the $20,000 Garrards New Zealand Sires Stakes heat. . “He’s back on track now. We were attacked early on but he felt awesome throughout the race. It was only in the final 50m I had to keep him up to his work. He couldn’t have been more impressive. “He was travelling so fluently throughout. The New Zealand record was a bonus,” Dunn said. Alta Maestro set a sizzling mile rate of 1:53.3 and sprinted his final sectionals in 56.6 and 28.3. He had four-and-a-half lengths to spare over the second placed second favourite, Culpeka and Brent Mangos. Dunn said he had driven some nice 2-year-olds in his career including Smiling Shard and Bit Of A legend and rated this fella not too inferior to them at the same time early in their careers. “He’s only had four races but what he’s shown us so far, he’s going to be a very handy 2-year-old. He just felt so fluent tonight. He wasn’t quite himself last start,” said Dunn. Alta Maestro is now ranked second behind Mach Shard for the Group One $200,000 Emerald 2yo Jewels Final at Ashburton on June 3. All his major 2-year-old races will now all be in the South Island. There's the Group Two $40,000 Welcome Stakes at Addington Raceway on April 7; the Listed $175,000 PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Final at Addington on May 12; and the Group One $170,000 Garrards Sires Stakes Final, also at Addington Raceway on May 19. “He’s got an exciting schedule ahead and tonight’s race has put him in good stead for those big races down south. Dad has always had a lot of time for this fella and I can see why. “He relaxed really well in front and just felt like a good horse. He seemed to really enjoy tonight’s race. We will find out in the next couple of months as to where he sits in the 2-year-old pecking order, but from my opinion he’s right up there,” Dunn said. Alta Maestro is owned by Tinwald couple Stuart and Elizabeth Leadley and was bred by the Alta Breeding Company Limited at Waiau Pa. They paid $100,000 for him at last year’s Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka. Meanwhile local trainer Arna Donnelly notched up her 100th career training victory when the Andre Poutama driven Bet Out Of El won at $14.60 odds in the 10th race. Donnelly was aboard stablemate, No Way Else, who finished eighth. Bet Out Of El paced the 2200m mobile in 2:40.2 (mile rate 1:57.2) and came home in 57.2 and 28.7. It was the 4-year-old Bettor's Delight gelding's fourth win in nine starts. All up Donnelly has now trained 100 winners from 946 starters since 2003. She's also placed 184 times and banked $681,640 in career stakes. It was her 20th win from 115 starters this season. Donnelly has also driven 158 winners since 1998. Duane Ranger  

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