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One of the hardest things to get right in the harness racing industry is the management of large syndicates and the issues that go with that. Most attempts at large scale syndication have faltered but one operator who seems to have got the structure right and is having success is the Go Harness group established by Noel Kennard. Run by Noel with the help of former HRNZ journalist John Robinson, the Go Harness syndicates were set up to try to make the cost of racing standardbreds more affordable to a wider cross - section of the public and they have succeeded in bringing a lot of new people into the industry. One of their first syndicates was the "Trotting For Fun" group which was established in late 2012. Initially the syndicate brought Saratoga off Wayne Feiss from Australia. Racing from the All Stars barn prior to being purchased, the son of Muscles Yankee was left with the All Stars team and has done a super job for the syndicate. Since his purchase Saratoga has had 15 starts for 5 wins and 4 placings for $38,378 in stakes. Saratoga was moved recently to the barn of Ken Barron to take advantage of the swimming pool there on the advice of Mark Purdon. When the syndicate was formed three other yearling fillies were leased from well known breeder Ivan McNicholl to round out the syndicate. One was injured as a 2 year old and retired to stud but the other two are on track to make their mark on the racetrack this season. Both remaining fillies are beautifully bred and have both qualified already. Harriet Of Mot is by Monarchy from the very talented Sundon mare Harriet Hughes who won five races from just 13 starts. Harriet Hughes ran second in the Group 2 Trotters Championship to One Over Kenny and third in the Group 1 Trotting derby as a 3 year old. The other filly Eilish Aimee is by Love You and is a half sister to Harriet Hughes as well as Earl Of Mot ($535,756)  Ella Powell ($118,495) and  is a three quarter sister to Amore Stride ($99,156). Eilish Aimee lines up for her first start tomorrow at Timaru and while it is a big ask for a 3 year old filly to do everything right first time, John Robinson knows the ability is there. "The trainers Craig and Aimee Edmonds have always had a high opinion of the filly and think long term she could go a fair way." "They have had most of this family through their hands and think Eilish Aimee has a big future," John said. A trial winner at Rangiora last Monday, Eilish Aimee impressed track watchers and driver John Dunn with a very professional display and that has given John Robinson some confidence heading into her debut run. "John was quite impressed with her on Monday and has taken the drive tomorrow." "Whatever she does tomorrow she can have a brief letup and come back in the new year after a short break," he said Harriet Of Mot is also qualified but won't be seen out just yet according to John. "She can still be a bit headstrong so we are in no hurry with her as she has the family ability," he said. John Robinson swears one of the keys to running large syndicates is the communication between the trainers and the syndicates management and he can't  praise Craig and Aimee Edmonds enough. " They are just great to deal with and keep us up to date on everything." " We don't have to ring them, they ring us which makes our job so much easier," John said  Large scale syndications are never easy to manage but the Go Harness team have obviously got the formulae just right judging by their results to date. Harnesslink Media     

Mark and Dennis Dunford have had more success as owners than most at the All Stars Racing Stables. Alleluia, Hands Christian and Have Faith in Me are just the most recent winners that the brothers have raced out of the All Stars barn. But Dennis, an Auckland real estate executive recalled after the latter's great Sires Stakes victory that it wasn't always that way when they first got into harness racing. "I think I started racing horses about 1991 or somewhere around there." "We had a bit of success early on but no headliners and it seemed to get worse as time went on instead of better." "I decided I wanted to stay in the game and that if I was going to do so I had to change my approach" Out of the blue he rang Mark Purdon. "I didn't  know him and he didn't know me." "I said I wanted to to buy a horse and race it from his stable and Mark agreed." "He would select one for us at the sales for us to race."  That first one was Steve McQueen and it has gone from there" Steve McQueen was raced by the Dunfords in partnership with some friends and he was an immediate success. It was a great start for the Dunfords in their association with the All Stars barn. Steve McQueen only won three races before his sale to Australia but they were the key races. He won two Sales races including the $195,000 the Sales Open when driven by Blair Orange and also won the Cardigan Bay Stakes which was then then a Group Three race. One of his better runs at three was when he was beaten a nose in a Sires Stakes heat by none other than Auckland Reactor. Hands Christian has been a big winner for the Dunfords on their own account even if they have need the patience of Job to keep the racing faith with him after he had twice gone amiss with a tendon problem. One aspect of Have Faith In Me's triumph on Cup Day in the Sires Stakes which must have caused much celebration for the owners was how close they had come with Hands Christian beaten half a head by Gold Ace in the same race in 2011. Hands Christian wen on to win the Easter Cup but suffered a number of close defeats. Alleluia was at one stage the most brilliant three year old in the All Stars stable though he never quite lived up to that early promise. He is now racing in Australia. Mark Dennis was one of the most promising horses of his crop winning a Sires Stakes heat in 2.20.9 in one of only four starts here, winning two  of them. In the second he beat Smolda and All Star Man, Dennis makes no secret of  how his religious beliefs play a big role in his life and reveals that Have Faith in Me was intended to be called Have Faith In God. "Then I considered that the horses from that family generally have Me at the end of their name (Adore Me;Christen Me etc) so I changed it to Have Faith In Me. And you may have noticed I got to mention Deo Gratias (Thanks Be to God) in my speech! I believe all these things are part of life" Whatever the strategy or the beliefs it works. and that Deo Gratias might well be about the day Dennis Dunford decided to ring Mark. Courtesy All Stars Racing Stables - Check site here

At the 2014 Annual Conference, Rules were approved to provide for the introduction of Monté racing pursuant to Regulations as approved by HRNZ. Monté racing is essentially trotting saddle races that are popular in Europe and were recently introduced in Australia. Following are Regulations that the HRNZ Board approved at its meeting on 10 November 2014. These are based on the rules adopted by Harness Racing Australia which mirror those applied in Europe. Linked to the Regulations, there will be a requirement that any horse wishing to compete in a Monté race must complete a Monté Gear Notification (MGN) form. A copy of the MGN is detailed below and is also available on HRNZ’s website. Trainers wishing to have a horse compete in a Monté race are requested to submit these forms to HRNZ. This will allow HRNZ to assess the number of horses interested and available on a regional basis and work with clubs to programme trials and eventually totalisator races. In the meantime, there is nothing stopping clubs running Monté races as exhibitions or non-tote  races prior to then. At this stage, HRNZ will not be amending its computer system to provide for this as a separate classification of racing. In the short term, Monté racing will be handled from an administration perspective outside of HRNZ’s Infohorse system. The only official link will be that Monté races will be deemed official races and will be considered penalty free trotting races within the existing database. This can be amended in time if there is ongoing demand for this form of racing. Any queries in relation to this should be directed at HRNZ to either Darrin Williams (Racing Manager) or Natalie Gameson (Education & Training Manager) Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand

The road to the 2015 Prix d’Amerique began in earnest on the weekend where 18 of the world’s best horses lined up for the running of the first of the official qualifiying “B” races, the €120,000 Prix de Bretagne, at Paris- Vincennes. The 2700m race is a Group II UET Masters Series International and it was won in convincing fashion by rising star Tiego d’Etang (7h Chaillot) superbly rated by Charles-Julien Bigeon for his father and trainer Christian Bigeon. The stellar field included last year’s PDA runner up Up And Quick and French group one winners Timoko and Texas Charm who vied for the early lead plus fellow classique winners Roxane Griff, Village Mystic and Un Mec d’Heripre plus Italian group one winner Olmo Holz. Tiego d’Etang, the winner of €1.39 million and who was placed in last year’s French triple crown Prix de France took control at the top of the straight surginj past a fading Un Mec d’Heripre (Orlando Vici) and shot clear to win by four lengths. Franck Anne’s four year-old Akim du Cap Vert (4h First de Retz) finished strongly for second ahead of Roxane Grif (9m Tenor de Baune), Timoko (7h Imoko) and Village Mystic (5h Love You) driven by Pierre Vercruysse for Louis Baudron who was driving in Sydney on Saturday night. The same card saw the group €120,000 monte Prix Edmond Henry (UET Masters Series Group II, 2700m) being won by Mathieu Mottier’s mount Ultissimo (6h Gobernador) who defeated Valse Castelets (5m Memphis du Rib) and Udayama (6m Echo). Yesterday Ready Cash colt Bold Eagle continued his domination of the French 3YO colts with a resounding win in the Group II Prix Jacques Vauloge at Vincennes, the final warm up for the Criterium des 3 Ans early next month. Franck Nivard had Sebastien Guarato’s latest star quickly to the lead in the small field of six runners, and it turned into a procession. Trailing runner Bolide de Gueron was unable to quicken as Bold Eagle made his move at the “crossroads” and he was well clear in the straight. Boccador de Simm (Reuissec), Black Avril (Oceano Nox) and an unlucky Brillantissime (Ready Cash) who was caught behind the struggling Bolide de Gueron and got out late, crossed in a line but they were no chance against the winner who recorded a leisurely 1’15”9 for the 2700m on a sloppy track. In the female equivalent Prix Annick Dreux, Biche de Clos (Rolling d’Heripre) reversed the tables on last start vanqueur Billie de Montfort (Jasmin de Flore), with a beautifully timed run in the hands of Matthue Mottier. Raffin was held up for a run on Bille de Montfort and she was closing fast and the two fillies look like continuing their fascinating rivalry for some time to come. They also recorded a time that was a second quicker than the boys. Meanwhile in Sweden Robert Bergh’s former Elitloppet winner Nahar went a sensational world record time of 1’10”5 (1.51.4MR) for 2140m when winning the Group II International UET Masters Series Gold Final (King Carl XVI Gustav's Silverhast) at Solvalla. The win was number six in 2014 for the veteran gelding and he has now won 30 in his 90 career starts and earned 11,023,098SEK. Stefan Melander's Digital Ink (5g Super Photo Kosmos) was second ahead of Chelsea Boko (5h Chocolatier). Courtesy Of Harnes Racing New Zealand    

Hellavahanover has been withdrawn from the Timaru meeting on Saturday and is leaving the Mark Jones stable to do her future racing in New South Wales. The 4YO Brylin Boyz mare is being sent to Sydney trainer Joe Rando after being pulled up for the second consecutive time with suspect stand start manners at Addington on Show day when driven by Tony Herlihy. The Rando stable has had success with a close relative in Romper’s Monarchy (5m Monarchy-Amandas Gem), who has won four from 20 starts and scored back-to-back Tabcorp Park, Menangle, wins last month. Hellavahanover did step off the unruly off 20m and proved too good in a C0-1 trot at the Tuapeka meeting at Forbury on October 26 for driver Blair Orange. She was also a maiden winner at Auckland over 2200m from a stand in March, first-up in her northern stint for Gareth Dixon. Hellavahanover, from a half-sister to Romper Stomper (2:00.1 mile rate 2600m, 12 wins & $180,579) and two-race winner Amanda’s Flash, won two of 15 NZ starts. Courtesy Of Mark Jones Racing    

Bit of the post Cup blues from last weeks tipsters with just Blair Orange, John Curtin, Tony Herlihy, Todd Macfarlane and Nathan Williamson nailing winners while the tipsters racked up seven placings as well. Jimmy Curtin went close with Juliette Bromac at Addington running second when paying $31 to win. This week there is plenty of racing in the south with four meetings and just one in the north and our tipsters have covered all the meetings. Due to the invited drivers series at Invercargill taking over the last six races there, we have no selections from our southern tipsters this week bar Nathan Williamson who is driving at Forbury Park.  Forbury Park - Thursday Night Matt Williamson - Thought Tachma was right in the zone and could win race 1 Nathan Williamson - Gives Strathmores Charm a real chance to go back to back in race 5 Tim Williams - Reckons with the big drop back in class Here We Go Again should win race 6   Alexandra Park - Friday Night John Curtin  (Harnesslink) - Reckons Hot Mach will be too good in race 1 Steven Reid - Likes Blinding Light  with a better barrier draw this week to win race 3 Todd Macfarlane - Rates Bourbon Street a big chance of clearing maidens in race 6 Scott Phelan - With Spanish Lustre scratched, his best drive is now Le Lua Invasion in race 9   Timaru - Saturday Afternoon  John Dunn - Likes Eilish Aimee to start her career on a winning note in race 1 Bob Butt - Rates Easy Rider a good chance to atone for Ashburton last week and win race 2 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Gives Major Patron a big show of turning his form around in race 3 Brad Williamson - Thought the standing start would make Goshawk an each way chance in race 7  Ricky May - Reckons Pay Me Art from the front line will be hard to beat in race 9 Terry Chmiel - Gives Stradowan a winning chance even off 10 metres , also in race 9 Gerard O'Reilly - Likes Jayceekay from the mobile to be too good and win race 10  Craig Thornley - Rates Real Life Hero a big chance to take out race 11   Banks Peninsula - Sunday Afternoon Robbie Holmes - Thinks Willie Shine is slowly turning the corner and can win race 1 Jim Curtin - Thought Franco Tyrone was a good chance to win race 12   Invercargill - Sunday Afternoon Maurice McKendry - Thought from barrier 3 Sheeza Shark would be tough to roll in race 8  Blair Orange - Rates Pepe Bromac,even from barrier 12 a chance to beat Sheeza Shark in race 8    Harnesslink Media

Young Waikato driver Kyle Marshall has started the harness racing season in fine style and has shown a real ability in the bike for such a young driver. Everyone knows how hard it is to break into the winners circle when you are starting out but Kyle is making a real habit out of it and has a lot of astute judges sitting up and taking notice. Kyle has been around horses most of his life but got keen on harness racing at a young age. " I got involved with Kidz Kartz pretty early and I have had the bug ever since." "After that I use to help out at John Dickie's after school and on weekends and that confirmed to me that this is what I wanted to do," Kyle told Harnesslink this week. Getting his junior driving licence in the 2010/2011 season, Kyle went winless in his first season before driving five winners in his second season. In the 2012/2013 season  Kyle continued to improve and racked up 10 wins but before the end of that season he made the decision to go to Australia to learn from one of the best. " I spent 18 months with Brent Lilley and I can't thank him enough for all the help and advice he gave me while I was there." "I think I came back a better driver thanks to Brent's advice and help," Kyle said. Returning to New Zealand this season Kyle has already racked up six winners and is the leading North Island based junior driver at this stage of the year. One win stands out for Kyle since his return from Australia.  "I drove Unmissuble to win for my father at Manawatu which was a big thrill." "We brought her as a weanling for $400 and have taken her right through to winning a race so it was a special day" "She was unlucky at Cambridge last Sunday and is not without a chance at Alexandra Park on Friday night," he said. Kyle knows he wouldn't be where he is today without the support of his family. "Dad took out a licence to help me early on and the whole family have become involved in the ownership side to help me get more drives. I wouldn't be having the success I"m having if it wasn't for them," he said.  Kyle, who helps his father David out with his small team at Cambridge, hopes one day to go into partnership with his father. " That would be special to train in partnership with dad," he said. With his great start to the season Kyle has his sights set on the New Zealand Junior Drivers Championships "To qualify is the first aim but like everyone else I really would love to win it," he said. To succeed in harness racing today, you usually need a deep long term family connection to the industry or be attached to one of the leading stables. Kyle has managed to succeed without either and looks to have a big future in the sport he loves. Harnesslink Media

In case you have not already signed up for Harnesslink’s great newsletter called Insider Access, then here is your chance.  Just click here and within seconds you will be on track for the latest news in harness racing that you will not see or read about anywhere else, even on our own website. Each issue includes an in-depth Stallion review not available anywhere else. All previous reviews can now be viewed atwww.stallionsphere.com This week’s Insider Access newsletter contains the following feature stories: NZ: Trackside Coverage - One of the real bugbears in watching harness racing in New Zealand is the coverage provided by Trackside. Most of the coverage is world class from pre-race interviews through to having knowledgeable commentators fronting each race meeting. NZ: The "Met Multiplier" - A lot of industry participants are only too keen to criticize the major clubs and their management over how they program and run their meetings but praise is a lot harder to find. AU: Incident at Melton - Harness Racing Victoria stewards have concluded their case into a post-race incident at Melton recently.  Heinz Wewering & Dave Palone; two class acts - When harness driver Dave Palone scored his 16,754th career victory on Friday and surpassed Germany’s Heinz Wewering as the winningest driver in the history of the sport, it also brought to light two great people in our sport. It all comes down to the Breeders Crown! - Whomever coined the phrase, “It all comes down to the Breeders Crown” never said it any better. The year-end major stakes weekend takes place this Friday and Saturday at the Meadowlands and once again many “yearend awards” in North America will be decided by the outcome of these races. Stallion Review – ART OFFICIAL - Continuing on with our stallion review series today we have produced an in depth review for the excellent racehorse and stallion Art Official 1:47 ($2,085,185) Don’t miss out on the next edition of Insider Access. The newsletter currently comes out every other Tuesday morning (North America), Tuesday afternoon (Europe) and Wednesday morning (Australasia).

The Butt brothers Tim and Anthony announced today that their imported superstar trotter Peak had been retired and would now take up full time stud duties. Peak was the flagship for an attempt by the Butt brothers to strengthen the trotting breed down under. The trotting breed in Australasia has always been the poor cousin in the harness racing industry in the Southern Hemisphere. Pacing has always been in the ascendancy and with access to the best sires in the world for the last fifteen plus years has closed the gap with North America. Trotting broodmare owners have not been as well served over the same period but in the last two or three years attempts have been made on several fronts to change that. One of those attempts was the importation of three well bred and performed European trotters by the well respected Butt brothers. Having witnessed first hand on their travels to Europe the ability and gait of European sired trotters, the Butt brothers imported the three entires and syndicated them to stable clients with a view to racing them first and then standing them at stud if they proved themselves in local conditions. As most people realize, it was a very brave decision to try to bring three stallions half way around the world and attempt to get them to adjust to the different racing style in New Zealand and the different training methods. The first of the three stallions to set foot on a New Zealand track was the son of the French super sire Ganymede in Peak. Although not 100% ready,Peak made his New Zealand debut in the Group 3 trotters Flying Mile at Ashburton in October 2013 and what a debut it was. Parked early, Peak worked to the front after 400 metres for Anthony Butt but was attacked from a long way out by The Fiery Ginga which should have made him a sitting duck in the straight. The whole way up the long Ashburton straight Peak lead and come post time he was still in front after cutting out the mile in 1:57.6. It was a wonderful introduction to New Zealand racing and held the promise of better things to come. Second up was the $80,000 Group 1 New Zealand Trotting FFA on Cup Day in 2013. Parked for the first 800 metres, Anthony took Peak to the front with 1200 metres to go and in a replay of Ashburton was immediately attacked again by The Fiery Ginga. Clear as they turned for home, Peak was challenged by a wall of trotters with 100 metres to go and when seemingly beaten got off the canvas to come back and grab the win. Peak's winning time was 2:26.4, a mile rate of 1:57.7 over the 2000 metres which was just outside the New Zealand record held by I Can Doosit It was a stunning performance and one that cemented him as one of the favourites for the $250,000 Group 1 Dominion Handicap three days later. Away well, Peak was shuffled back in the running line before joining the three wide chain at the 800 metres mark. Sent four wide by Anthony at the 500 metres mark, Peak looked poised to challenge as he ranged up to the leaders with 200 to go but then uncharacteristically broke and lost all chance. Sore the next morning, Peak has fought soundness issues ever since. Given a long break, Peak was readied for the 2014 New Zealand Cup meeting but when the pressure went on the soundness problems returned. Already available to New Zealand trotting breeders as Peak combined training with stud work, Peak has already served over twenty mares this season and with the announcement today of his retirement from the track that number should swell by a lot more before the end of the breeding season. The Butt brothers have had several champion trotters through their barn over the years with the likes of Lyell Creek 1:52.4 $2,961,137 and Take A Moment 1:56.7 $1,164,356 to name just two but their is no mistaking how highly they rated Peak. Anthony was effusive in his praise of the son of Ganymede. “The most clean gaited trotter I have ever driven. He is the perfect trotter with speed, gait , heart and manners. When you ask him to go he goes, and keeps going” he said. Tim was no less impressed by the abilities of Peak. “He is such a beautiful horse with a massive heart and superb attitude. He has an unbelievable gait, far superior to any other trotter I have trained. His will to win was his biggest asset,"  he said. Standing for a fee of $2500 +GST, Peak should get his chance to make it as a sire. The two other trotters brought in from Europe with Peak have been a mixed bag to date. Kvintet Avenger had one start in New Zealand before joining the Brent Lilley stable in Victoria where he has looked a trotter on the rise. In seven starts for Lilley, Kvintet Avenger has had five wins and two placings for $41,388 in stakes and looks headed for the best grades.  The other import was Sir Lexington who has won one race from six appearances to date but has had a decent spell and bigger things are expected of him when he resumes shortly. All things considered the Butt brothers should take a lot of heart out of the fact they were able to transport a horse like Peak half way around the world and turn him out a winner at the highest level. Harnesslink Media      

Addington is thrilled to report some extraordinary results for their turnovers and attendances during  Cup Week. Combined turnover for 2014 Cup Week totalled a staggering $10,351,691 showing a huge increase  on the 2013 figures of $1,782,932 or 20.8%. Cup Day continues to head domestic racing events by some margin with combined turnover figures  coming in at over $6.88 million an increase of over 20% on last year, whilst Show Day combined  figures for 2014 were $3.47 million an increase of nearly 22% on 2013.  An astounding $1.919 million was waged on the Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup. Whist the wagering was hot on and off course; attendances were also up across both premier days  racing with nearly 28,000 attending.  Chairman at The Met Barry Dent commented “that the Club could not have wished for a better Cup Week. "Whilst the weather played its part I think we can also attribute some other key factors to the  success." "Champion pacer Terror To Love gunning for his fourth Cup and a place in history certainly  spiced up the lead in and we also received a significant increase in mainstream media coverage with  the announcement of our VIP Shane Warne." "The amount of media mentions and stories triggered by these was far greater than previous years and certainly put the event and the Cup Day brand into the limelight." "Also, the dedicated Trackside TV coverage on Cup Day was a positive.” “Having a complete and continual cell phone coverage right throughout the day also impacted  positively on Cup Day with no hick-ups this year. "The large crowd seemed to arrive early on course and stayed for most of the day which meant more spend through the tote particularly via smartphone.” “On Show Day we hosted the inaugural Kiwi Punters Championship (KPC) and this event contributed  nearly $300,000 on course; a super result. " "The winner took home $50,000 and this is a concept that we’ll look to undertake again next year.” “It is wonderful that the combined turnover for the week is the second highest recorded in the last 20  years and is a great result for the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club and the NZ harness racing industry.” Ged Mooar Marketing & Commercial Manager Addington

Robert Dunn sees a silver lining to Franco Nelson’s controversial Miracle Mile snub. Because now the New Zealand Cup runner-up can be the flagbearer for his North Island satellite stable which opens this week. Franco Nelson was passed over for a Miracle Mile invite at the expense of Terror To Love, who got the second Kiwi invite to next week’s A$750,000 race, even though Franco Nelson beat him twice last week. Dunn says while he would love to be going to Australian pacing’s richest sprint he isn’t losing much sleep over the snub. “Sure, we would love to have him there but we could also go over, draw outside horses like Beautide and have no chance,” admits Dunn. “That decision is made and we have Auckland to concentrate on with him now as well as the Hunter and Victoria Cups later in the summer.” Franco Nelson will have plenty of stable company when he comes north this weekend, with Dunn and son John, who train in what is basically an unofficial partnership, sending six horses north. They will be stabled at the new Lincoln Farms property in South Auckland after owner John Street moved his harness racing operation from West Auckland. “We are privelaged to get some room at John’s place because he does things well,” says Dunn. “And the time has come for us to have a more permanent base in Auckland. “I have a lot of Auckland-based owners who want to see their horses race up there as often as we can. “And it is getting harder to ignore the stakes at Alexandra Park and the fact they have smaller fields. “So Franco will lead our team up there with horses like No Doctor Needed and Say My Name among the six we are sending up.” The Dunns won’t be the first Canterbury trainers to set up a northern base and most fall over eventually as they struggle for horse numbers or staff who can replicate the main trainer’s success in their absence. The latest venture would seem to have a greater shot at success than most though as the horses will be in the care of Matt Bowden, who has had a wonderful strike rate looking after the stable’s horses on previous extended northern raids. “Matt will be the man up there but of course John and I will be making trips up, especially John who will drive them racenight a lot of the time. “The driving can be shared with Dexter if needs be too because he drives up there a lot of the summer. “We are really excited about it because it gives up more options with our horses. “We haven’t gone into it lightly and we want to make this a permanent thing.” Franco Nelson has come though his two Cup week placings well and is being set for a $30,000 race at Alexandra Park on December 5 before having races available to him almost every week until mid-January, especially as the Harness Jewels winner is eligible for Four and Five-Year-Old mixed racing. He is then likely to head to Victoria and on to the Inter Dominion in Sydney on March 1. The Dunns setting up shop in the north will be welcomed by Alexandra Park officials as they continue to struggle for numbers in their better pacing races. Trotting races have been of huge benefit to Alexandra Park field sizes, a huge factor in turnover figures, but pacing races stronger than mid-grade still struggle. The Dunns sit second equal on the trainer’s premiership with 20 wins for the season worth nearly $300,000 in stakes. The runaway leaders at the Purdon-Rasmussen stable, which has won 36 races from 106 starters and have already banked $994,239 for the season, with nearly 60 per cent of their starters finishing in the first three.   Courtesy of Michael Guerin - Harness Racing New Zealand

Harness racing is one of those sports where luck plays a big part at times. Sometimes when things are going bad nothing positive happens where as when your luck is in, the world is your oyster. No one knows that better at the moment than well known owner Trevor Casey who has been riding a wave of success in the last few years. One of his many stars at the moment is the talented Majestic Son filly, Hot Pants. A $30,000 purchase at the Australasian Classic Yearling sale in Auckland in 2012, Trevor races Hot Pants in partnership with co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen and right from the start Hot Pants has shown promise. Although she didn't win as a 2 year old, Hot Pants ran second in the $82,000 Sales Trot to stablemate Dieu De L'Amour ($58,839) and fourth to another of Trevor's youngsters in Daenerys Targaryen ($106,923) in the 2 year old Trotters Championship. Hot Pants looked to have come back bigger and better at three when she won her maiden race by 10 lengths just prior to the New Zealand Trotting Oaks. But thats where things started to go wrong and Trevor didn't see it coming. "Mark was very confident of a big run in the Oaks and although she ran third, she was beaten 10 lengths and was very disappointing," Trevor told Harnesslink this week. A few days later Trevor got the call all owners dread. "Mark rang to say that Hot Pants had bled badly after the Oaks and the vet advice was that she was finished as a racehorse and should be retired,"  he said. Trevor put Hot Pants in the broodmare paddock but was toying with the idea of selling her. " I have plenty of well related and performed broodmares as it is and didn't fancy another one, he said. Trevor watched Hot Pants tearing around the broodmare paddock and wondered to himself if there was anything that might help Hot Pants get over her bleeding episode. It was at this point Trevor contacted well respected Victorian vet Alastair Maclean who is a good friend for advice. " Alastair sent me some powder to treat her with which over time seemed to pick her up and I became keen to try her again" he said. The next hurdle for Trevor was convincing Mark Purdon to try her again. "Mark was reluctant initially but came round after a couple of conversations," he said. So four months after being retired, Hot Pants returned to the All Stars training establishment at Rolleston to try to resurrect her racing career. No one involved really knew how it was going to turn out let alone Trevor. So there was some understandable nervousness in the camp when Hot Pants lined up for her first start back at the end of September at Addington. A nice fifth in the hands of part owner Natalie Rasmussen was as good as could be expected in the circumstances and it was decided to press on The first up start had qualified Hot Pants for the $24,505 final of the Alabar Super Series and with a peach of a drive from Mark Purdon she got home over Indiana Jones and Commander Paris. Next up was a junior drivers race but Trevor wasn't sure if it was the right move. "Mark was keen to put up stable driver Matt Anderson" "He had great confidence he would get the job done and as usual his judgment was spot on," he said. From there Trevor was keen to start on Cup Day but Mark had sorted out a 1950 metres mobile on Show Day and it was there Hot Pants lined up. Wide for 500 metres before finding the death seat, Hot Pant was left parked as Sunny Ruby set a scorching pace in front. Able to slot down onto the running line at the 700 metres mark when a horse broke, Mark angled her off the inner on the corner and burst through the middle late in the piece to claim a great win. Hot Pant's time of 2:25, a mile rate of 1:59.6 was a new New Zealand record for a mare 4 year old or older. Trevor was suitably impressed with Hot Pant's performance. "She has always had speed but now she has developed a staying game as well."  "To set a New Zealand record after doing so much work was a great effort,"he said Just as important was how she came through the race. "She has come through the race really well and all going well we are planning to head to Auckland now," Trevor said. It should be of little surprise that Hot Pants is going as well as she is when you look at her bloodlines. By boom trotting sire Majestic Son, Hot Pants is the first foal from the lightly raced but talented mare Dutch Annie (4 wins) ($35,719)  The second foal is last years talented 2 year old filly Yagunnakissmeornot ($26,180) who won four times in her debut season and finished fourth in the Harness Jewels. The grand-dam of Hot Pants is the brilliant racemare Miss Whiplash 1:58.6 ($151,765) who left last years 2 year old trotting filly of the year in Wanna Play 1:58.9 ($52,171)  who is also raced by Trevor. Wanna Play is also by Majestic Son making her a 3/4 sister to Hot Pants. One thing you can guarantee now is that when Hot Pant's racing career comes to an end for the second time, Trevor will manage to find a spot for her in his broodmare band. There is a fine line between success and failure in harness racing and the story of the successful return of Hot Pants to the track shows how fine that line can be at times. Harnesslink Media  

Top squaregaiter Master Lavros will be sent to Matamata for further extensive tests after mixing his gait in the Dominion Handicap at Addington on Friday. Last year’s Dominion winner and the reigning Trotter of the Year hasn’t been 100 percent this spring. Despite the efforts of trainer Mark Jones to turn him round for Show day, the huge Sundon gelding gave further evidence of a hidden issue troubling him. “We’ll send him to Matamata and get them to run the dye through him,” Mark said. “We’re getting nothing the way we’re going so we’ll find out exactly what it is and let mother nature take its course ,” he said. The Overport trainer is prepared to give Master Lavros as much time as he needs to regain full health. Master Lavros, only six and young for a trotter, is the veteran of only 36 starts for 15 wins and earnings of $358,646. He stepped well from the inside of the back row on Friday, settling third, but broke when moving up in the open with 2450m left. He was out of contention thereafter, finishing 11th to runaway winner Jaccka Justy, for Westwood Beach (south Dunedin) co-trainer and driver Jonny Cox. The winner backed up was  backing up from a fast late finish for fifth in Tuesday’s NZ Trotting Free-For-All. Settling five back on the outer after beginning off the unruly, Jaccka Justy improved with three-wide cover behind Doctor Hook from the 700m to the turn and unleashed an undeniable run turning for home. Jonny Cox, who trains with partner Amber Hoffman, couldn’t hide his delight, saluting as he crossed the line, the winner clocking a strong 4:05.2 for the 3200m. The successful strike-rate trainer emulated a great family tradition with squaregaiters. Jonny was just nine when former family hero David Moss won the first of his two back-to-back Dominion Handicaps at Addington in 1993. Jonny’s father John Cox prepared the giant-sized Gekoj gelding David Moss at Winton for the first 15 of 31 wins. David Moss went on to win just over $490,000 in stakes. Due to southern commitments, John Cox sent David Moss to Canterbury trainer Robert Cameron for both Dominion wins, and for feature north racing to former Papakura trainer Clive Herbert. Jonny’s late grand-father, Harry Cox, a successful Winton trainer, prepared and drove Poupette for an upset win in the 1965 Interdominion Trotting Grand Final at Forbury Park. This was Jonny and Amber’s first Group One training success in the $255,000 feature, securing the $137,500 winning bankroll for owner, Charlie and Ailsa Small. Last season, they gained a Group Three win with the same horse in the Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup. Jaccka Justy has now raced 49 times for 13 wins and five placings for $224,718 in stakes. The Westwood Beach trainers and Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones have built up a good rapport during their training careers. They have been able to utilise each others facilities when their respective horses travel around the South Island for racing opportunities. Courtesy Mark Jones Racing Stables - Check site here  

Harness racing is very competitive at the best of times but add a bit of Trans Tasman rivalry to the mix and it becomes ultra competitive. That is the best way to describe the Australasian Young Guns Challenge which has been played out at Ashburton Raceway on Thursday and Alexandra Park last night. With funding help from long time Queensland harness racing supporter Kevin Seymour, seven drivers from the sunshine state have spent Cup Week in New Zealand. While here they have competed against the leading South Island drivers in a race on Thursday at Ashburton and against the leading North Island drivers in a race at Alexandra Park last night. One of the Queenslanders to impress a few of the local judges is young Hayden Barnes who incidentally celebrated his 19th birthday on New Zealand Cup day. That must have been a good omen as Hayden was a close second on Ranfurly Rulz at Ashburton and drove Millie Sampson to a convincing win at Alexandra Park last night. Hayden’s passion for the sport of harness racing came from his father, Al Barnes. As time went by and with his love and interest of the horses continuing to grow, school became more of a distraction. Deciding to leave school in grade 10, Hayden managed to secure a position with the Darrel Graham stable. After three and a half years of working for Darrel, Hayden had gained a great start in his career and his education continued.  Last season Hayden was offered a job working with the newly established Turpin McMullen racing team, led by Chantal Turpin and Pete McMullen, which he accepted. On the last night of the 2013 racing season, Hayden’s biggest win thus far came when partnering My Jellignite who scored in a brisk 1.53.3 rate in an Open class event at Albion Park. Hayden has already chalked up eight winners so far this season in Queensland from just fifty drives and looks to be a young driver with a big future in the sport. Harnesslink Media    

If you listened to all the harness racing pundits leading into todays $200,000 New Zealand FFA, you would have thought that Christen Me had lost his mojo. Not that you would hear such comments from Cran Dalgety or Dexter Dunn who are the central support crew behind the outstanding gelding.   After missing away badly in Tuesday's New Zealand Cup and then staging a huge recovery to finish fifth, the son of Christian Cullen was set today to show his supporters the magic was still there.   Drawing inside his main rivals at barrier four, Dexter let him find his feet early as Seel In Print and A Bit Of A legend went to war.   Sent forward after 600 metres by Dexter, Christen Me reached the front with a lap to go and was joined first by Franco Nelson and then Adore Me as Dexter kept the throttle to the floor.   Down the back in 27.5, Dexter said go at the quarter pole and put a length on Adore Me as they straightened up for home.   The battle went the length of the straight but at the finish Christen Me was still 3/4 length to the good of Adore Me with Franco Nelson finishing on for third, just in front of Terror To Love who was late clearing a pocket.   Christen Me paced the 1950 metres in a blistering 2:18.4, a mile rate of 1:54.2 with closing sectionals of 54.9 and 27.4.   Dexter was confident a long way from home that Christen Me would be hard to beat.   " After they burned early and I was able to get the front, I knew he would be hard to beat."   "At the quarter Adore Me was still going great but so was I and when I asked him he put a length on her."   "I knew it would be a hard battle in the straight but I knew he was up for it," he said.   Dexter has never lost the faith in his champion despite the critics.   " He has got so much ability and his work at home has been super .   "When we broke at the start on Tuesday we were all disappointed but you can't change that now so you have to put it aside and move on," Dexter said.   Dexter was hopeful the win would bring forth a invitation to the $750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle in a fortnight.   " He ran second in it last year and I think he is going better this campaign and would be a real chance he said.   Christen Me silenced the doubters today in real style and one can only hope he is on track at Menangle in a fortnight.   Footnote - Christen Me was the fourth horse to receive an  invite to the Miracle Mile 30 minutes after his win today and he is a confirmed starter.     Harnesslink Media

The big question on most harness racing enthusiasts minds today prior to the C4-C5 pace over 2600 metres was could Dalton Bromac make the step up to do battle with the likes of Isaiah and Te Kawau. Well that was answered well and truly by a display that confirmed what we all thought. Dalton Bromac is a star on the rise.   Away well from barrier five for driver Ricky May, Dalton Bromac was allowed to work his way to the front after 400 metres and set a moderate pace into the strong wind.   Joined in front by Isaiah with a lap to go, Dalton Bromac started to really up the tempo with 800 metres to go when Te Kawau ranged up three wide.   Running down the back in 27.3, Ricky asked for more at 300 metres mark and the response was immediate as he shot away for an easy win with Ricky hardly moving in the cart.   He went 3:12.5 for the distance a mile rate of 1-59.1 Last 800m: 54.8 Last 400m: 27.2.   Te Kawau stuck on gamely for second with Isaiah fighting on for third but both were dealt to by Dalton Bromac.   A $60,000 purchase out of the Butcher barn at Cambridge, Dalton Bromac is raced in partnership by his trainer Brendon Hill and Noel Bowden.   Brendon was confident that Dalton Bromac would measure up.   "He is real up and comer."   "He came through Tuesday super and a couple of gear adjustments helped today," he said.   Long term Brendon thinks he will be doing a bit of travelling if Dalton Bromac keeps on in his present form.   "We will set him for all the 4 year old classics and I am sure he will measure up," Brendon said.       Harnesslink Media

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