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For as long as harness racing has been in existence in New Zealand, the industry has been selling its racing stock to overseas buyers. As a result, we have sold a reasonable percentage of our better racemares to Australia and North America over a long period and it has always acted as a drag on the development of the breed in New Zealand. One only has to look through any Australian Yearling catalogue and you will find a lot of the maternal families originated in New Zealand.  For a longtime now New Zealand breeders have been bringing some of our better bred and performed mares back from North America but it is only in recent times that New Zealand breeders have really turned their attention to New Zealand mares based in Australia. More and more New Zealand bred mares with good times and money besides their names are making their way home and their progeny are finding their way back into our yearling sales catalogues. One of the more recent success stories from the mares returning home is La Jaconde 1:59.2 ($153,285) who under the care of Tony Dickinson of Alta Breeding fame has already produced the smart two and three year old in Alta Orlando 1:56.2 ($173,486) One of the mares brought back from Australia who has the first of her progeny entered at this years Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka on February 22nd is Racketeers Girl 1:54.8 ($86,545) who has a Rocknroll Hanover colt selling as Lot 79 Like La Jaconde, Racketeers Girl took her time and money in Perth and was placed at Group 3 level there so was a handy racemare. A lot of this family seem to have been sold into Perth in the last ten years with her half brother Bettor Dreams 1:54.6 ($186,952) doing a great job there while other close relatives to have excelled in the west include Dartmoor 1:55.8 ($427,361) and J Walker 1:58.2 ($176,441). The buying bench from Western Australia has been getting bigger and stronger at both New Zealand sales in recent years and to have four well performed horses on the catalogue page who have performed at a high level in that state must be a big bonus for prospective buyers from Perth.  Lot 79 in Racketeers Boy has the added bonus of being an athlectic looking individual with a touch of class about him so one would expect that there will a fair bit of interest in him from Western Australia at Karaka on February 22nd. Harnesslink Media    

Todays running of the Amberley Cup at the harness racing meeting at Rangiora Raceway looked to be a Hug The Wind benefit race. The Bettor's Delight gelding from the all conquering All Stars barn has $300,000 on his card and looked a class above his rivals on exposed form. The only question mark surrounding Hug The Wind was how would he handle the grass track which he was racing on for the first time. Tim Williams had Hug The Wind away well from the 20 metre mark but the speed up front from the start was electric and it took Hug The Wind nearly 600 metres to join the running line , four back on the outer. When Jerry Garcia took off around the field, Tim followed him around with Hug The Wind and sat outside the tear away pacemaker Thefriendlyassassin from the 1200 metres. Mastering Thefriendlyassassin on the corner, Hug The Wind looked the winner for a second before Seel The Deal and Ricky May started to make ground quickly from three back in the running line. Half way up the straight Seel The Deal went up to Hug The Wind and went straight on past to record a very impressive victory. Hug The Wind lost no admirers in finishing a close second while a very game Thefriendlyassassin held on for third after doing all the work in front in a fast run race. The 2600 metres from a stand on grass was cut out in a smart 3:20.2 with closing sectionals of 59.6 and 28.2. It was the son of American Ideal's sixth victory at just his tenth start and took his stake earnings over the $44,000 mark. Ricky May was impressed once again by his charge. " I really have a bit of time for this horse." " I had to slot in four back on the inner early on because Gerard (Thefriendlyassassin) was flying in front." "Soon as the pace eased slightly I came out and sat parked and got a good run on Jerry Garcia's back after he looped the field." "I was spotting Hug The Wind a few lengths on the corner but he has picked him up really easily in the end." "It is not very often that you run past the blue colours with the grey stars so that made the victory even better," Ricky said. When it was suggested to Ricky that Seel The Deal had become a grass track specialist in his short career to date and that he may not be as sharp on grit, Ricky was quick to disagree. " I think he will be just as good on the all weather track to be honest." " He is a very green horse at this stage of his career and has plenty to learn still." " He has shown me enough on the all weather to suggest he will be just as effective on it as he is on grass." " I think this horse has got a big future," Ricky said. Ricky May is never one to build up a horse unless he is genuinely impressed by him so don't dismiss the chances of Seel The Deal when he next steps onto an all weather track. Harnesslink Media  

Well known Templeton harness racing trainer Trevor Grant is no stranger to having a good horse around his barn. His former stable star Adio Routine won 15 races and close to a quarter of a million dollars in the late 1990s and he has always had a handy horse in the barn ever since. Starwood In Aspen won six races trotting for Trevor and it is her Brylin Boyz son Young Stanger that is starting to put together a handy record himself. Today at the Amberley Trotting Club's annual meeting at Rangiora Raceway, Young Stranger made a one horse race of the C1 trot. Settling three back in the running line early, Trevor sent him forward at the 1200 metre to grab the lead and from that point it was just a matter of what he would win by as he cruised down to the winning virtually unchallenged. Young Stranger trotted the 1950 metres from a stand on the grass in 2:37.6 with closing sectionals of 61.5 and 30. It was the fourth lifetime win for Young Stranger and took his earnings over the $40,000 mark If was the first driving success for Trevor for over four years but to be fair he has only had a handful of drives in that time as he has used outside drivers for his horses during most of the period. However as Trevor explained to Harnesslink this afternoon, he will be driving Young Stranger for the foreseeable future. " The aim for the rest of this season is to just keep him trotting in his races and build up his confidence and because I know him so well it is easier for me to drive him like I want him driven." " He is a big gangly horse even now at six, standing over 16 1/2 hands and is not the easiest horse to drive." " He is blind in his nearside eye so he tends to run out a touch at times and can get a bit nervous at times when things are happening that he can't see." " You have to talk to him the whole time to get him to keep concentrating on the job or he can gallop on you." " I think if I just take my time with him over the next few months and build those confidence levels up, then he has the ability to go a fair way," Trevor said. Young Stranger has always looked an above average trotter and if Trevor can unlock his potential over the next few months, then the best may be yet to come. Harnesslink Media  

Talking to a few of the senior drivers in Canterbury at the start of this season and the name of a young junior driver just starting out cropped up more than once. John Morrison, son of well known Mid -Canterbury saddler Chris Morrison had created a favouable impression on the senior drivers and by all accounts was seen as a driver of considerable promise. Starting as a weekend helper at Mike Heenan's establishment when he was an eleven year old, John has been there ever since. " I still work up at Michaels every weekend and at any time I can get up there from school." " I am at my last year at school and they have been very accommodating with letting me drive at trials and workouts during school hours," John told Harnesslink today. John lined up for the first time on raceday at Oamaru on August 2nd on a horse trained by his father Chris called Dreamcoat and almost pulled off a victory at drive number one with a close second after not having much luck in the running. If anyone had suggested at that point that John would still be winless over 130 starts later they would have been laughed at but that was the situation John found himself in heading to Waikouaiti yesterday. Come race four and John and Dreamcoat picked up another second placing to add to the other seven second placings John had accumulated in the last six months. Two races later John took the drive behind the 11 year old Motu Speedy Star and after sitting parked for the last lap, the old timer still had enough in reserve to keep the opposition at bay by a neck and credit John with his first lifetime win. " I had been unlucky on him at Geraldine when he ran fourth so I decided to take luck out of play yesterday and came out and sat parked with him as he felt great during the running." " I can't tell you what a relief it is to get that first victory under my belt." " You start to have a few doubts about how you are driving and it has been weighing on my mind a bit lately," John said. John was quick to thank Ricky May for all his help over the last six months. " Ricky has been great offering me advice and showing me things I needed to work on and improve on." " I can't thank him enough for his help," John said. When John leaves school at the end of this year, he aims to get work in a stable full time and to continue to learn the art of being a farrier. " I have been helping out Kerry O"Reilly with shoeing and it is something I am really keen to further my knowledge of." "It is something I would like to do alongside my driving as I really enjoy both," John said. John is also pretty confident his second winner won't take as long as his first. " Several of my regular drives have been knocking on the door like Rico Gold and I think dads trotter Majestic De Fence is slowly getting the ringcraft to go with the ability and won't be that long winning a race either. At just seventeen years of age John has been through a tough first six months in the driving ranks but the way he has hung in there and come out the other end a winner is testament to a determination to succeed that will take John a long way in harness racing. Harnesslink Media    

As someone who has spent a big part of every year for the last 35 years travelling between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres on business revolving around harness racing, I get to witness first hand trends and developments in the harness racing industry worldwide. The Northern Hemishere in the past has always been in front of their Southern Hemisphere counterparts when it comes to the development of the standardbred breed along with track surfaces, equipment and race carts to name just a few things. The industry in the Southern Hemisphere has always followed the lead on industry developments in the north to the point that in 2016 that we look like a carbon copy in many respects of our northern counterparts.  There use to be a time lag between developments in the north being adopted in the south but that gap is virtually non existent today with our industry in the south using a lot of the equipment and technology in use in the north. Tracks in the Australasia are constantly closing the gap with North America while I believe some of our premier tracks such as Tabcorp Park Menangle, Tabcorp Park Melton in Australia and Ashburton and Addington in New Zealand are condition wise the equal of anything I have seen in North America. The race bikes in use in Australasia are cutting edge these days and have certainly contributed to the dramatic fall in overall times we have witnessed in the south in the last few years. So the harness racing industry in the Southern Hemisphere now operates on a par with our Northern Hemisphere counterparts on so many levels and that development is allowing our bloodstock to show that the gap between them and their Northern Hemisphere cousins is shrinking by the day. Since the advent of shuttle stallions in the 1990s, breeders in the Southern Hemisphere have obtained access over the next 20 years to most of the best stallions stallions standing in North America. What started as a small trickle at first is now a torrent with the result that the leading sires in North America in 2016 are the leading sires in Australasia in 2016. Somebeachsomewhere, Art Major, Bettor's Delight, American Ideal, Mach Three and Rock N Roll Heaven dominate the Southern Hemisphere siring charts. Champion racehorses entering the stallion ranks such as A Rocknroll Dance, Sweet Lou and He's Watching are immediately available down under to the point that some stallions cover their first lifetime book of mares in Australasia. The impact of Southern Hemisphere breeders having access to the best stallions in the world has been to raise the standard of the standardbred breed in Australasia at a rate that is unparalled in the history of the industry down under. When you add the vast improvement in technology used in our industry alongside the bloodstock bred these days in Australasia, the end result is the speed explosion we are witnessing on a weekly basis these days. Times are being run on a regular basis now that would have been unheard of as little as three to five years ago. On Saturday night at Menangle, the three year old son of Somebeachsomewhere in Waikiki Beach posted a 1:50.6 mile in winning a race in his build up to the New South Wales Derby. It was a brilliant performance that he achieved without any real pressure from his rivals and he gave the distinct impression he had more to offer late in the straight. What made the effort even more impressive was he ran that time at night. North Americans have long reconized that there is an atmospheric advantage time wise when racing during the day. As a result most of their major classics such as Hambletonian Day or Little Brown Jug Day are staged during the day to maxmise the speed factor involved. Last years astonishing Ladyship Mile win by Adore Me in 1:47.7 was just another example of how daytime races do have an advantage over races staged at night. Both the New Zealand Cup meeting and the Harness Jewels meeting are renowned for producing times close to or better than existing New Zealand records and it is no coincidence that they are both daytime meetings. I have to admit I am really looking forward to the big day at Menagle on February 28th The Miracle Mile and Ladyship Mile being run during the daytime for me raises the anticipation of sub 1:50 races. In my opinion that is the last piece of the jigsaw needed in our classics run over a mile if we want to see our Southern Hemishere bred horses start to breach that 1:50 mark on a regular basis. JC

The first round of this years harness racing Australian Pacing Gold sales was held at the Inglis Sales complex at Oaklands Junction in Melbourne yesterday. The catalogue this year didn't look as strong on paper as the upcoming Sydney round but there was still plenty of 'blue bloods' sprinkled throughout the offerings yesterday.  As has become the norm in the last few years, Mark Purdon and several of his long standing clients were in attendance and once again they purchased several well bred yearlings by a variety of stallions over the course of the sale. Trevor Casey led the charge with his one purchase of Lot 55. A son of Art Major, he is the first foal of Pembrook Caesar, a 1:53 winning daughter of Julius Caesar who won 10 from 22 in a brief career and $77,432 in stakes. Pembrooke Caesar is a half sister to Barry's former champion pacer Pembrooke Benny 1:53.7 ($907,890). Neil Pilcher was active, purchasing three lots on the day. Neil outlaid $70,000 for a filly by Somebeachsomewhere from the brilliant Courage Under Fire mare Arctic Fire who took a record of 1:51.6 on her way to way to winning $394,262. Arctic Filly is a three quarter sister to the former brilliant New Zealand three year old, Classy Filly 1:57 ($200,890) and the Somebeachsomewhere filly offered yesterday was her first live foal. Neil also bought Lot 38, a colt by Somebeachsomewhere from the imported Camluck mare Mitzi M Hanover for $50,000. The second foal from the mare, Mitzi M Hanover had already produced Fast Flyer 1:57.8 who won a heat of the Australian Pacing Gold before dying from a snake bite. Mitzi M Hanover is a half sister to 5 in 1:55 including the champion pacer Noble Ability 1:49.1 ($1,748,890) so lacks nothing on the pedigree page As Neil is prone to do at a lot of sales, he also bought a son of Courage Under Fire which sold as Lot 48 He is the first colt from his dam who is the imported Western Ideal mare O Narutac Bella 1:51.2 ($154,536) and cost Neil $28,000 There are no out and out champions in the pedigree up close but there are countless $100,000 winners who are closely related to this colt. Kennard Bloodstock brought Lot 143 for $40,000 which was a colt by Bettor's Delight from the former smart juvenile Bendall Rose 1:59.4 (51,095) who won 10 from 22 on the track. The dam is a half sister to Roses For Tash 1:59.4 ($115,188) and the colt is bred on the same cross as Arden Rooney so he ticks a few boxes. Mark Purdon bought two on the day and as is his custom they were not related to previous stars he had brought in Australia. Full brothers to All Stars champions such as Waikiki Beach and Border Control  were on offer but were not on his radar yesterday. The first colt Mark bought was Lot 46, a colt by Mach Three from the 1:54.4 Artsplace mare National Gallery ($90,600) for which he paid $52,000. Crossing Somebeachsomewhere with Artsplace mares in North America has been very successful in taking a bit of heat out of the progeny by Mach Three and his sons. This is a strong branch of  the Armalight family and he looked a lovely type on the live stream yesterday. The second colt Mark bought was Lot 92, a colt by Art Major from the Armbro Operative mare Spitfire Shadow who has already produced three winners in 1:58 including Christian Shadow 1:53.7 ($119,676), Art Shadow 1:57.5 ($114,488) and Lis  Mara Shadow 1:56.3 ($39,355) No stars up close but plenty of depth to the pedigree and again the colt looked a lovely type in the ring yesterday and cost Mark $46,000 Several Australian based clients of the All Stars barn such as Merv and Meg Butterworth and Kevin Riseley were active yesterday and no doubt some of those will also make their way to Rolleston as well. The only other Kiwi to sign a docket sheet yesterday was Barry Purdon who outlaid $53,000 for a Art Major colt from the 1:58.6 McArdle mare in She's Got It All. She's Got It All is a daughter of the New Zealand mare Gliding By 1:57.4 ($48,093) which belongs to a branch of the Black Watch family which the Purdons have had a lot of sucess with over the years. Overall yesterday the sale would have to be rated a big success with the average up 12.5% to $28,733 and the clearance rate a very healthy 83% on the day. The second round of the APG sales will be held at the Newmarket Sales Comples at Randwick in Sydney on Saturday, February 27th. Harnesslink Media

When most of the age group harness racing classics come around each season, leading reinsman Dexter Dunn is use to having to face the numerous runners that the all powerful All Star barn usually line up in such races. In todays Sapling Stakes at Ashburton Raceway, Dexter was in the unusual position of handling the All Star runner Pacing Major and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands with a lovely display of front running driving to take out the Group 3 feature race for juveniles. Pacing Major drew widest at barrier six over the mile but Dexter sent the Art Major colt forward out of the gate and grabbed the lead after 300 meters from the stablemate More The Better in the hands of Tim Williams who settled in the trail. Dexter kept the tempo even down the back straight but as they turned for home Dexter pushed the go button and sprinted away with a sharp turn of foot. More The Better tried to rally up the passing lane but Pacing Major was comfortably holding him at the finish,1 1/2 lengths to the good. The debutante Mongolian Storm ran on well late for a good third just in front of the other All Star runner You Gotta Have Faith. Dexter was full of praise for Pacing Major post race. "He is such a lovely horse to drive that he didn't need much help from me." "He did that really easily to be honest and felt great the whole trip," Dexter said. Dexter was struggling to remember the last time he drove for the All Stars barn. "I don't think i would have driven ten times all up in my career for the All Star barn so it was nice to put the colours on for a smart colt like him." "With Mark and Natalie in Australia I may get the chance to drive him again with a bit of luck," Dexter said. Tim Williams was more than happy with the run of More The Better in the circumstances. "You are hard pressed to make ground when they are running home off the front in 26.7 so my fella has gone great to finish so close," Tim said. Paul Court was rapt with the run of Mongolian Storm on debut. "He has run home really well and will derive so much benefit from the run." "That run will bring him on in leaps and bounds and I'm already looking forward to his next start," Paul said. Matt Anderson was also happy with the effort of You Gotta Have Faith on debut. "That was a big effort on debut. "I took all the shortcuts on the way home but he found the line really well," Matt said. The All Star barn is a formidable outfit to race against at the best of times but when you add in a driver of Dexter's class with an All Star juvenile, the combination becomes nigh on unbeatable. Harnesslink Media

Leading trotting trainer Paul Nairn is never one to do things by the book. He likes to do things his way and his outstanding record of success over the last twenty plus years would suggest that his methods work. Today Paul lined up last season's two year old trotter of the year in Conon Bridge in the Group 3 Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton Raceway but the surprising thing for a lot of the pundits was that Conon Bridge had been unsighted at workouts or trials since before Christmas. That lead some people to surmise that maybe Conon Bridge may be vulnerable in a fast run race but Paul was confident that his star youngster was ready to rumble. Bob Butt shot Conon Bridge to the front from barrier three with ease and kept up a steady enough tempo through the first half in even time. Gershwin and Stevie Golding went up and had a look at Conon Bridge passing the half and the two went together to the top of the lane. Conon Bridge looking to be jogging on the corner and when Bob let him go he sprinted away with ease, holding a two length advantage at the finishing line. Gunners Coin fought on well for second after trailing the whole way for Colin de Filippi while Donegal Bettorgretch and Dexter Dunn made ground late out wide for third. Conon Bridge could not have been more impressive in running the mile in 1:57.9 with smart closing sectionals of 56.7 and 27.9 Bob Butt was all smiles post race. " He did that really easily to be honest." " Last season at two he use to half pull up if left in front but today he ran through the line so that is a big plus going forward." " He gave me a great feel today and he should be even better with that run under his belt," Bob said. Paul Nairn was already contemplating his immediate racing program as he ungeared the son of Raffaello Ambrosio. " I am thinking I might take him to Melbourne for the Need For Speed Series." " He is such a great gaited horse and the sprint racing would really suit him," Paul said.   The series has prize money of $12,500 at the semi final stage with the final for $60,000 being staged on the same night as the Great Southern Star Final is run. The way Conon Bridge won over the mile today suggests that the Need For Speed Series would suit the colt down to the ground. Harnesslink Media

Noel Kennards Prodigal Seelster Summer Of Speed Final for older mares today at Ashburton Raceway only drew a field of eight runners but there were plenty of chances in an open field. The southern visitor Sheeza Shark was sent out a warm favourite on the strength of a win at Ashburton in a heat of the series but drew barrier eight due to the preferential system in place for the final. Tintinara led early for Dexter Dunn before handing up to Valor Lustre and Blair Orange who continued to roll once he found the front with New Years Jay and John Dunn sitting on his wheel.. Blair kept the tempo going from the half which made it really hard for those back in the field to make any ground. Turning for home New Years Jay went up to Valor Lustre but the big strong McArdle mare kept finding and was comfortably holding her at bay over the last 200 metres. New Years Jay fought on gamely for second after being parked the whole trip while Tintinara nabbed third up the passing lane after a lovely run in the trail the whole way. Sheeza Shark made little headway from the back,finishing a disappointing seventh. Valor Lustre cut the mile out in a sharp 1:54.3 with closing sectionals of 55.3 and 27.2 Trainer/owner Ivan Court was all smiles post race. " Once she got to the front I thought she was a big chance." " She is very tough and I thought they would have their work cut out getting past her." Ivan is now seriously thinking about lining Valor Lustre up in the New Zealand Premier Mares Championship at Addington next Friday night. " We will see how she comes through today's run first but I am leaning towards lining her up." " She is a bit under rated in some quarters but I think she will measure up," Ivan said. Ivan bred Valor Lustre from his former smart racemare Regal Lustre who won five but he thinks Valor Lustre is a lot better mare. " I think Valor Lustre is a very smart mare and think she has a few more wins in front of her yet," Ivan said. Harnesslink Media

At the recent harness racing trials and workouts in Canterbury we have had reasonable sized fields in the two year old trotting heats but as is becoming the norm,when we head to raceday the numbers drop away dramatically. The two year non tote trot at Ashburton Raceway today only had three runners but why it may have lacked numbers, it certainly didn't lack for quality. The Phil Williamson trained Winnie McGoogan lead out early for part owner / driver Matthew Williamson and kept up a steady tempo in front. Regal Love from the All Star barn with Tim Williams in the bike settled into the trail and these two juveniles stayed in the same order until the passing lane presented itself for Regal Love. It looked likely for most of the last 200 metres that Regal Love would wear down Winnie McGoogan but the daughter of Muscle Mass refused to lie down and still held a nose advantage at the finishing line. Regal Love lost no admirers making ground on a 28 second last quarter and both these young trotters look to have the ringcraft necessary to be competitive in the stakes races that are looming in the next couple of months  The mile was cut out in a respectable 2:4.6 with the last quarter in a sharp 28. Matthew Williamson was more than happy with his young charge. " She was a bit short today so I thought she may be vunerable but she is very honest and stuck it out well." " Her manners are excellent and that will stand her in good stead further down the track." " We will head to the next two year old trot at Timaru now," Matthew said. The colours that Matthew wore today on Winnie McGoogan belonged for many years to Dick Prendergast who had a great run over a long period with the straight out trotter. Matthew is in the process of getting his trainers license after which those familiar colours of Red,Black and Gold chequered sash  will once again be seen on a regular basis on raceday. Harnesslink Media

New Zealand's leading junior driver Brad Williamson is having one of those seasons that just keeps getting better and better. Week in, week out, Brad is churning out the winners at a great rate and the run he is experiencing is showing no signs of abating. Today at Winton Racetrack Brad added another three winners to this season's tally and showed why he is so highly rated by a lot of his contemporaries on the track. "That is the first time I have driven three winners in one day so it was a big thrill especially because I only had four drives on the program," Brad explained when talking to Harnesslink this afternoon His first winner came in the form of the three year old trotter Sam Galleon who after missing away and settling a long way from the leaders, got over the top of them late in the piece for an impressive victory. The son of The Pres looked pretty green throughout the run and looks to have plenty of upside going forward. "He has got a lot to learn but there is no doubting the ability is there." "He is a half brother to three open class trotters so he is bred to be above average." "There is a lot of improvement there yet when he learns a bit more ringcraft," Brad said. Brad's second winner today was the smart Monarchy mare Pyramid Monarch who backed up her impressive second at Addington last Friday night to Harriet Of Mot with an impressive front running victory. Away brilliantly from her 30 metre handicap to grab the lead after just 400 metres, Pyramid Monarch was never in danger afterwards, coasting down to the line for an easy victory. It was win number eight for the mare and her fourth this season and took her earnings over the $70,000 mark. "She is such a lovely mare to drive." "Her manners are great and she tries so hard every time she goes to the races." "She is just a little money making machine at the moment and I don't think she is finished yet," Brad said. Brad's third winner was the four year old Real Desire gelding Dissolution who surprised everybody by sitting parked out the whole journey and still having enough petrol in the tank to scoot away and win easily in the end. "He is really starting to come into his own this horse." "Not long ago he wouldn't have been able to do that but he has been a big improver recently and that was a good effort today," Brad said. Todays wins took Brad's tally for the season to an impressive 41 victories which is 23 ahead of the chasing pack and barring injury he looks to have the New Zealand Junior Driving premiership in the bag with six months of the season still to go. Harnesslink Media      

One of the great differences that exist between the Thoroughbred Racing industry and the Harness Racing industry in New Zealand is the reluctance by the harness racing industry to use high profile New Zealanders who are heavily involved in harness racing in its promotion. With the recently completed Thoroughbred yearling sales still fresh in the memory, one couldn't help but notice the amount of main stream TV and newspaper coverage throughout the sales that was centered around the involvement of high profile sporting celebrities. Brendon McCullum and Richie McCaw were popping up all the time in coverage of the sales but they were just two of the many high profile people that the thoroughbred industry used to get that all important media coverage at their biggest time of the year. Harness racing on the other hand seems almost reluctant to use high profile sports people in the same way and it is something that we should really address as in the view of Harnesslink, we are missing a great promotional opportunity here. Mainstream media will cover our upcoming yearling sales but the amount of coverage will be guided in a lot of ways by how many human interest stories that have a wider public appeal they can report on. Brendon McCullum has been involved in harness racing for a long time now and is one obvious route we could go down but to us the involvement of the Whitelock brothers in harness racing presents a great opportunity to present harness racing to a wider mainstream audience. The family have been heavily involved in harness racing for generations and All Blacks such as Sam have helped out at the All Stars barn when learning about the game. The fact that the Whitlocks are seen as such great role models for aspiring rugby players in New Zealand is a big plus in the wider community. Braeside Lodge at Palmerston North, the boutique breeding establishment run by Braeden Whitelock and his wife Caroline is one of New Zealands most successful and they have had a presence at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale for several years now. This year is no exception where they have four yearlings entered and all from quality mares and all by leading sires. We found it hard to select one above the others but we took a real liking to Lot 61, Hicori after watching the video of him parading. A son of Mach Three, Hicori is typical of that stallions progeny and you would struggle to get a better maternal pedigree page than his one. The dam Paddy Brown 1:57.7 ($46,726) is a daughter of leading broodmare sire Christian Cullen and Hicori is just her second foal. The second dam Braeside Star 1:59.8 $(67,225) has left six winners from eight foals including such smart horses as Braeside Derby 1:54.2 ($160,784) and Ohoka's Artsplace 1:57.9 ($94,313) while her unraced Artsplace daughter Braeside Lady has already produced the champion three year old filly O Baby 1:54.8 ($391,273) The third dam is the champion broodmare Tuapeka Star so the pedigree page is as good as you will find in this years catalogue. Promotion of harness racing through people like Sam Whitelock and his wider rugby family is essential for the industry if harness racing is going to attract more widespread coverage in the main stream media. Harnesslink Media  

There have been times in the last twelve months when leading harness racing trainer Robert Dunn has began to wonder if the smart three three year old Alta Las Vegas is cursed with bad luck. The son of Bettor's Delight has always looked an elite level racehorse from the time he ran a close second in last seasons Sapling Stakes to Chase The Dream but a series of setbacks have stopped the talented three year old from building the race record that he is so obviously capable of. Robert is hoping the bad luck is now firmly behind him. " We just about lost him as a two year old." " John had to rush him to the vets in the middle of the night when he became really ill."  " We never really got to the bottom of what the problem was but it completely curtailed his two year old season." " This season he was building nicely heading into the Auckland Christmas carnival when he slipped coming off the float and struck himself." "It needed quite a few stitches and meant he missed the $200,000 yearling sale pace so his luck has been all bad todate,"  Robert told Harnesslink this morning. Given time to get over his latest setback, Alta Las Vegas impressed trackwatchers at the Franklin workouts last Saturday, cutting out the 2050 metres event in a 2:01 mile rate with closing sectionals of 56 and 27 and still looked to have more to offer. " He went super at the workouts last weekend and has improved off that so I think he will be very hard to beat tonight at Alexandra Park." " The only query I have is there is a bit of virus going around Pukekohe and I have had to scratch a couple but he has had the okay from the vet so we should be fine," Robert said. Safely through tonight, Robert has some big plans for Alta Las Vegas. "We have always thought that he was good enough to beat the best ones around so  we have an ambitious program mapped out for him." " There is a $30,000 race for him at the end of the month at Alexandra Park and then we are targeting the Northern Derby, New Zealand Derby, and the Harness Jewels so we are hoping his bad luck is behind him and we get to see the real Alta Las Vegas, " Robert said. Robert in our experience is never one to build up a horse unless he deserves it so Alta Las Vegas is a horse to keep safe in all the big three year old classics coming up Harnesslink Media

This Saturday's Sapling Stakes at Ashburton Raceway may have only drawn a field of six runners but there is plenty of harness racing talent on show and labelling a winner is not that straight forward. The All Star barn have three runners engaged including the horse many consider the one to beat in More The Better. More The Better was super impressive last week in working during the running and still having too much in the tank in the straight. Driver Tim Williams was thrilled with the effort as he thought the son of Bettor's Delight was a run short going into last weeks race and would be a better horse this week. " He needed that run last week and should strip a much fitter horse this week." " His work this week has been excellent and I think he will be very hard to beat," Tim told Harnesslink today. The stablemate Pacing Major who has only been beaten by a head in both his first two starts has drawn out at six which makes things difficult but Dexter Dunn takes the drive so he has to be a major player here. The third of the All Stars runners is the $200,000 yearling sales purchase in You Gotta Have Faith who has drawn barrier one and will have the services of stable reinsman, Matt Anderson. On his trial efforts to date he has shown enough to be a serious place chance but both the other stablemates look more forward at this stage. So the All Stars barn looks very capable of winning another Sapling Stakes but we think that the Paul Court trained Mongolian Storm can upset the All Stars trio on debut. A $16,000 purchase at last years New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch, Mongolian Storm has had a thorough grounding leading into the Sapling Stakes, winning his last four trials and workouts in some style. The son of Courage Under Fire was super impressive in his latest trial win at Addington last Monday, swooping past the competition in a few strides when driver Blair Orange asked him for an effort at the top of the straight. Mongolian Storm has drawn beautifully at barrier two and with that speed he displayed on Monday, he becomes the horse to beat in our opinion. Trainer Paul Court is really looking forward to Saturday and seeing how his charge measures up. " He is a lovely horse and I think he will go a big race on Saturday." " I am just not sure he is ready to run 1:55 at this stage which they may go on Saturday but he is capable of winning the Sapling Stakes with a run to suit." " I haven't really asked him to run time as yet but I think this race will really bring him on in that respect with a view to the future," Paul said. Paul has been having a dream debut season training on his own account with his barn having two high class two year olds to represent him. Mongolian Hero put in a huge effort for a close third behind More The Better and Pacing Major at Addington last Friday and looms as a major player in all the major two year old races later in the season. He will head back to Auckland for the Young Gun Series early next week while after Saturday, Mongolian Storm will remain in the South Island to target the Kindergarten Stakes and Sires Stakes heats. " I want to keep them apart at this stage for their own benefit," " I am really excited by having two juveniles as good as these two in the barn in my first year training on my own account." " I know how hard it is to get one two year old of this quality so to have  two in the barn is a big thrill," Paul told Harnesslink this afternoon. Whatever the outcome of the Sapling Stakes this weekend, one thing you can be sure of going forward is that Mongolian Storm and Mongolian Hero are are going to be serious players when the juvenile classics are decided over the next four months. Harnesslink Media

If the followers of the Harnesslink weekly ringaround didn't full the pockets up last week, then they never will. It was our most successful week since we started the ringaround with twelve winners and the bonus was that a lot of the dividends were worth collecting. Robbie Holmes took the honours with Many Options ($8:00) while Sean McCaffrey ($7:20) and Steve Richardson ($7:20) also had a good result.  Others to select winners included Scott Phelan, Tony Herlihy, John Dunn, Blair Orange, Matthew Williamson, Geoff Small, Maurice McKendry, Jim Curtin and Gerard O'Reilly. We also had five placegetters headed by the Mark Jones selection Sonoflindenny who paid $7:80 for third at Addington. This week we have selections for seven meetings over the long weekend. Manawatu - Thursday night Peter Scaife - Rates Moment Of Love a chance to upset them in race 1 Geoff Small - Thinks Cordelia can go one better this week and win race 2 Kyle Marshall - Very bullish about the chances of Stagger Lee in race 7    Winton - Friday afternoon Craig Ferguson - Thinks Hot Chilli has had no luck lately and can win race 1 Clark Barron - Rates Mass Invasion as the one they all have to beat in race 5 Shane Walkinshaw - Thought Tact Rousey was a good each way chance in race 6 Brendon McLellan - Thinks Wick just needs a little bit of luck to turn his form around in race 8   Auckland - Friday night Maurice McKendry - Thinks Royal Willie will be very hard to beat in race 1 Scott Phelan - Thought Il Pirata could make it two in a row by winning race 4 Steven Reid - Gives Arizona Eyre a big chance of going one better this week and winning race 5 John Curtin - Very bullish on the chances of Ideal Eagle, also in race 5 Tony Herlihy - Quite keen on the chances of Its Oscar in race 6   Ashburton - Saturday afternoon Terry Chmiel - Gives Martin John a big chance of breaking his duck in race 1 Jim Curtin - Reckons Le Lievre's Gift is a winning chance with good manners in race 2 Gerard O'Reilly - Thinks Volatile Lavra is a great each way bet in race 3 Blair Orange - Gives Mongolian Storm a big push to win the Sapling Stakes, race 5 Tim Williams - Just as confident that More The Better will win the Sapling Stakes ,race 5 Bob Butt - Very bullish about the chances of Conon Bridge in race 7 Mark Jones - Bullish about the chances of Northern Velocity in race 11   Waikouaiti - Sunday afternoon Steve Richardson (TAB) - Going for four winners in a row with Aveross Ferrari in race 2 Nathan Williamson - Thought Tas Man Bromac could bounce back quickly and win race 9 Matthew Williamson - Thinks Boomer Bailey can lead and will be hard to catch in race 10 John Dunn - Rates Music from his handy draw as hard to beat in race 11   Amberley - Monday afternoon Ricky May - Rates Novak from barrier one as the horse to beat in race 7 Gavin Smith - Very keen on the chances of Sunny Ruby in race 9   Wyndham - Monday afternoon Brad Williamson - Even from 70 metres behind, Springbank Sam just wins race 2 Harnesslink Media

Father Dan Cummings would be the last person in the industry in New Zealand to promote himself and his boutique breeding operation as something special but after 35 years of continuous success, he doesn't have to. Since the early 1980s, stock bred at the famous Tuapeka Lodge in Lawrence breeding operation have always commanded a premium at yearling sales in New Zealand. Like Sandy Yarndley in the North Island, Dan lifted the whole preparation and presentation of yearlings to the next level in the South Island from the time he entered the marketplace. Buyers know that yearlings prepared at Tuapeka Lodge have wanted for nothing from day one and when combined with maternal families that have continued to produce age group stars with monotonous regularity, the Tuapeka brand is stronger today than ever. This year Tuapeka Lodge has ten yearlings entered at the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch on the 23rd and 24th of February and after perusing the videos they would appear to us to have an outstanding group of yearlings this year. In an attempt to narrow down what we think is the pick of the draft, we have watched the videos of each of the yearlings several times and one horse jumped out at us every time. We are not sure Father Dan will appreciate us singling out one lot but we were so taken with him that we thought he deserved the attention. Lot 456 on the second day at Christchurch is named Culpeka and he is a son of Mach Three from the 1:56.9 Christian Cullen mare in Tuapeka Maddy. Tuapeka Maddy was lightly raced due to ongoing issues with tying up and retired after only a handful of starts but was held in high regard by the stud. The second dam Letatalk has produced that special youngster already in the form of the Mach Three colt, Machtu 1:55.2 ($208,007) who has 16 wins on his card to date. A daughter of Letatalk in Raconteur is the dam of the unbeaten Changeover filly, Talkerup 1:58.2 who is the early favourite for the $150,000 PGG Yearling Sales final for three year old fillies at Addington next week. It is a pedigree full of black print which is very current through the deeds of Machtu and Talkerup so ticks all the boxes pedigree wise. The individual himself is as classy as the pedigree. To us he looked more like a two year old with a real touch of class rather than a yearling heading for the sale ring and the video only convinced us even more that this colt was the pick of the Tuapeka Lodge draft. Tuapeka Lodge have set the standard at the yearling sales in the South Island since their inception and this years batch of yearlings is right up to their usual high standard. To view the Premier Sale catalogue click here. To visit Tuapeka Lodge online for all the Yearlings click on this link. Harnesslink Media  

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