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On paper tonights $145,000 Rowe Cup for elite class trotters at the harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park looked a one horse race with Stent in outstanding form and a clear favourite. Plenty of pundits were concerned about it being his first standing start for nearly five months and the 3200 metres was another query that was also regularly mentioned in the lead up to the race. As it turned out Stent trotted away brilliantly for Colin De Filippi from the stand to grab an early lead over Alley Way and Matthew Williamson. Mark Jones was away well with the defending champ Master Lavros and worked forward and took over the lead from Stent after 700 metres. There was no loitering in front as Mark Jones looked to take a bit of the speed out those in pursuit of Master Lavros and he kept the tempo up the whole way. Applying even more pressure as they went past the 400 metres mark, it was clear as they turned for home that Master Lavros only had one serious challenger and that was Stent who waited for the passing lane to lodge his challenge. These two knuckled down to fight it out and Stent got in the deciding stride to claim his first of the big 3200 metres cups To Master Lavros's credit it took Stent every inch of the straight at Alexander Park to get his head in front right on the line. Alley Way was 2 3/4 lengths back in third which was a great effort first up in the big time and there was a further four lengths back to One Over Da Moon in fourth. Stent trotted the 3200 metres from a stand in a very quick 4:03.6, a mile rate of 2:02.4 with closing setionals of 57.9 and 28. The time was a new race record, taking one point six seconds off the old record held by I Can Doosit. Colin De Filippi was very emotional on returning to scale, fighting back the tears. " My father won this race forty years ago and it really means so much to me to win this race." " It is a race I have wanted to win for a long time so its very special." " I can't say enough about what a great owner Trevor Casey has been to train for." " Even when things weren't going that well early in Stent's career, Trevor never even once questioned what I was doing" " He deserves all the success he is having," Colin said.  It has been a stellar season for the son of Dream Vacation with tonights win his 13th from just 18 starts this season with earnings of $637,216. Harnesslink Media

A lot of harness racing pundits (us included) had doubts about the ability of Sky Major to bounce back from an horrendous overland trip in the Taylor Mile last week and come from the outside of the second line to beat the great field assembled for the $100,000 New Zealand Messenger. But as horses with that touch of real class can do, Sky Major produced probably his best run at Alexandra Park to run  over the top of them late and snatch the win right on the line. As expected hot favourite Ohoka Punter with Tony Herlihy in the bike easily led from barrier one from Tiger Tara and Mossdale Conner  challenging for the lead with Beyond The Silence in the trail. Mossdale Conner settled in the parked out position while Tiger Tara and Gerard O'Reilly snuck into three back on the inner. Sky Major with Zac Butcher in the bike had settled back in the running line but when horses made their moves three wide, he progressed to be three back in the running line. The field pretty much stayed in that order until 1100 metres from home when Australian visitor Messini went round three wide but couldn't get into the parked position and was left out there for the rest of the race. As they turned for home Ohoka Punter looked all over the winner, but first Tiger Tara burst along the passing lane to claim him and he was quickly joined out wide by a flying Sky Major who had got a lovely drag into the race on the corner. At the finishing line there was only a nose in it but Sky Major had got there by half a head and in the process confirmed himself as a starter in this years Harness Jewels. Tiger Tara was very game in second having been involved in the early burn while Ohoka Punter was slightly disappointing in running third after getting his own rules in front. Sky Major paced the 2700 metres in 3:15.6, a mile rate of 1:56.5 with closing sectionals of 56.9 and 27.8. The time was a new race record, taking two tenths of a second off the old race record held by Tintin In America Zac Butcher was thrilled to have won another race for his boss Barry Purdon.   " Barry is just a master at setting horses for these Group 1 races." " This horse was all out last week but he has got him here tonight in great order." " The horse has gone super but it wasn't until the last 50 metres that I thought we may get up." " I am absolutely thrilled," Zac said.   With that win under his belt, Sky Major will now head to the Harness Jewels where he is a major chance to become the first horse to win three Harness Jewels crowns. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing royalty is the only way to describe the Scuse Me family these days as it continues to dominate a lot of the Group races in New Zealand. The latest star to hit the headlines is the unbeaten two year old filly by Bettor's Delight, Dream About Me who was a warm favourite for the $138,000 two year old Sires Stakes Final for fillies at Alexandra Park tonight. Dream About Me missed a race last week with a hoof abscess but punters hadn't forgotten her dominant win in the Young Guns Final. As expected Luisanabelle Midfrew flew the gate to lead early before handing up to Dream About Me with 1100 metres to go. The speed had been pretty torrid early but there was no let up in the tempo as second elect Arden's Choice was posted three wide in the open. With 600 metres to go Mark Purdon took Arden's Choice to the death seat but Dream About Me still seemed to be cruising as they went past the 400 metres mark. As they turned for home Dream About Me kicked clear and seemed to pretty much stroll to the line with Tim Williams hardly moving in the bike. At the line she was 1 3/4 lengths in front of  Luisanabelle Midfrew who used the passing lane to good effect to run second with a gap back to a game Arden's Choice in third. A minor highlight of the race was the run of Sophisticated Lady who came from last at the 400 metres mark to run fourth. Dream About Me paced the 1700 metres in 2:01.4, a mile rate of 1:54.9 with closing sectionals of 56.2 and 27.6. The time was a new New Zealand record, taking a tenth of a second off the time set by the champion filly Bettor Cover Lover. Tim Williams was very confident heading into the race. " She is a high class filly and she is just getting better every time she goes to the races." " I missed the early speed duel and got the lead quite easily and she was always travelling after that." " She knocked off half way up the straight and I never pulled the ear plugs so she had plenty left,"Tim said. Tonight's victory was the latest big win in a huge season for the young reinsman but he was quick to deflect any praise from himself to the stable. "Driving horses of this quality makes my job really easy and most of the credit has to go to the team at All Stars," Tim said. Charlie Roberts bred the half sister to Christen Me and races her with his family and he must pinch himself daily at how the ride justs keeps on going with the Scuse Me breed at the moment. Harnesslink Media  

The first of the Group 1 races at tonights big harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park was the $80,000 Northern Trotting Derby which looked a two horse race on paper and for once that's how it played out. Habibti Ivy and Blair Orange led early as expected before handing up to the warm favourite, Speeding Spur with co-trainer Joshua Dickie in the bike. The main danger to Speeding Spur in Monbet with Ricky May in the bike settled into the one by one early on the back of the smart Prince Fearless and that was the running order up front for the first lap. With just over a lap to go Arya and Mark Purdon worked around to the death seat, forcing Monbet back a further place to three back in the running line. Speeding Spur really upped the ante down the back and the first horse to feel the pinch was Prince Fearless who started to struggle to hold Arya's back which forced Monbet and Ricky May to come out three wide. Speeding Spur really upped the ante on the corner and straightened four lengths clear with Monbet and Arya still finishing on. Late in the piece Monbet took a lot of ground off Speeding Spur but the son of Pegasus Spur was never in any danger of being beaten. Arya never gave up and stuck on well for third in front of Prince Fearless who kept whacking away to finish fourth. Speeding Spur trotted the 2700 metres in 3:25.4, a mile rate of 2:02.4 with closing sectionals of 56.3 and 27.7  Joshua Dickie was in awe of the performance of Speeding Spur. " I knew he would better than last week but he just felt super tonight" " His work during during the week had been great and we were pretty confident tonight." "Dad has done a great job of having him peak for the Derbies and a lot of the credit must go to him," Joshua said. Trainer John Dickie was all smiles post race. " We had him a bit short last week but this week he was right on the mark. "I was really confident going into the race and he didn't let us down," John said. The plans for Speeding Spur for the rest of the season are already set. " He will go to the $75,000 sales race at Addington on May 15th and then to the Harness Jewels two weeks later, " John said. Monbet put in another huge run for second, making up a lot of ground on the leader off a 56.3 last 800 metres while the run of Arya was much more in keeping with her ability. Harnesslink Media  

With the four Group 1 races at tonight's harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park, we here at Harnesslink decided to do a runner by runner preview of all the Group races. This is our preview of this years Rowe Cup 1) Springbank Sam  -  Starts: 63    Wins: 17   Secs: 8    Thirds: 8    Life: $287,036  Back to a stand this week which he is much more comfortable with. Placed second in this two years ago and has a great record over 3200 metres. Has been in good touch in his last few starts and we like him as a first four chance. 2) Alley Way  -  Starts: 42    Wins: 11    Secs: 10    Thirds: 3    Life: $90,124 Up and comer who had no chance from the draw last week. Can really fly the standing start and looks the early leader and from there will hand up to one of the favourites which makes him a legitimate trifecta and first four player. Driver very confident he can be in it so don't discard. 3) Stent  -  Starts: 59    Wins: 27    Secs: 16    Thirds: 5    Life: $1,027,413 The best trotter in Australasia who deserves to be favourite here but there are several little question marks in this race. This will be his first standing start for nearly five months so that is a worry and of course this race is over 3200 metres which is the distance at which he is most vulnerable. Class and a great driver in Colin De Filippi will get him a long way but no past the post certainty. Include in everything. 4) King Denny  -  Starts: 21    Wins: 9     Secs: 3    Thirds: 0    Life: $202,499  Has really come of age on this campaign and his run last week after being used early was huge. The distance is right up his alley but the issue here is his poor standing start manners. He has yet to go away with the field this time in although he has got better in this respect and is not losing as much ground as he was. Needs to go away with them to be a winning chance so we only have him in as a trifecta and first four player. 5) Mum's Pride  -  Starts: 11    Wins: 8    Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $95,901 The find of the season in the trotting ranks but this is his biggest test to date by far. Has great standing start manners which is a big plus here but with only 11 starts lifetime one does worry about the ringcraft a bit. James Stormont is not afraid to be aggressive as a driver but we still think this horse is twelve months away from reaching his peak. Trifecta and first four chance for us. 6) Master Lavros  -  Starts: 39    Wins: 15   Secs: 5    Thirds: 3    Life: $379,154 Last years winner of this race who has been in the wilderness since that win. Trotting the best that we have seen him in his whole career in this campaign and looks to be enjoying his racing again. Can be a bit hit or miss from a stand but we think in his present frame of mind he is a big player here. Loves the 3200 metres and likes Alexandra Park. Include in everything.  7) Sheemon  -  Starts: 54    Wins: 16    Secs: 17    Thirds: 10    Life: $473,792 Right at the top of his game at the moment and loves Alexandra Park. Has beaten Stent at their last two meetings at Alexandra Park in Group 1 races and a game second in this race last year as a four year old. A much better horse as a five year old and with Dexter in the bike he will be given every chance to go one better this year. Include in everything. 8) Flying Isa  -  Starts: 55    Wins: 17     Secs: 5    Thirds: 4    Life: $479,192 Back from a successful stint in Australia but up against it here. Better from a mobile than a stand and we would prefer at a distance a bit shorter than 3200 metres. We find it hard to see him as a threat to the favoured trio. Outside first four player at best for us. 9) Dr Hook  -  Starts: 87    Wins: 17    Secs: 13    Thirds: 11    Life: $434,613 An outstanding trotter who is in the twilight of his career. Will appreciate the move back to a stand but it is still hard to see him being a major player here. Not for us 10) One Over Da Moon  -  Starts: 33    Wins: 11     Secs: 3    Thirds: 2    Life: $179,956  Really nice trotter who is taking on the best trotters around this campaign. Has gone a couple of good races this time in but has several question marks beside his name tonight. We have doubts that 3200 metres really suits him and at his last standing start he broke badly and took no serious part. Not for us. 11) Kincaslough  -  Starts: 30    Wins: 10     Secs: 3    Thirds: 3    Life: $122,986  Has had a very long season to date being around since September and signs of that present in her last few runs. Very capable mare and back to a stand which she much prefers. Did go her best race for some time last week, running on well late but a few here look sharper to us. Outside first four chance at best. SELECTIONS How can you go past Stent in his present form. He does have a few question marks beside his name this week but he is not a millionaire by chance. The two main dangers for us are Master Lavros and Sheemon who quinelled the race last year. Both look to be right in the zone at the moment and just need the rub of the green to threaten Stent. Behind these three are a group who are trifecta and first four players if things go their way in the running. We would  include King Denny, Mums Pride, Alley Way and Springbank Sam in combinations with the three above. Harnesslink Media

The last $20,000 heat of the Nevele R Fillies series at the harness racing meeting at Addington last night saw the reappearance of Fight For Glory for the first time since her outstanding win in the New South Wales Oaks at Menangle on March 1st. Not only did she give away race fitness to her opponents but she drew the outside of the gate at barrier nine in the 1950 metres mobile. When the mobile left Classical Art and Tim Williams came out quickly and grabbed an early lead with Fight For Glory and Natalie Rasmussen settling last from her wide draw. Passing the 1400 metres mark On The Town and Dexter Dunn worked around the field three wide and Fight For Glory followed her around and found the death seat outside Classical Art with 1000 metres to go.  That was still the order as they turned for home but half way up the Addington straight, Fight For Glory went clear for an emphatic victory by a length over a game Classical Art. Linda Lovegrace stormed home late on the inner to be close up in third after being held up on the corner while Supersonic Miss finished on into fourth to give the All Star barn the first four home. Fight For Glory paced the 1950 metres in the chilly conditions in 2:22.4, a mile rate of 1:57.4 with closing sectionals of 57.1 and 27.6. She was privately timed to run her last mile in a swift 1:56.8 while working three wide and sitting parked. Natalie Rasmussen was pleased with the run. " She's gone great really for a first up effort" " She is such a wee fatty and will improve a lot with that run under her belt." " In the early stages she got a bit keen but was fine after that," Natalie said. Tim Williams was really happy with the run of Classical Art. " She got a bit keen coming off the gate but relaxed when she found the front. " She is getting better that way all the time and I was really pleased how she fought on in the straight," Tim said. Ricky May was lamenting the lack of clear air early in the run home. " I got held up as we turned for home and its definitely cost her second. " Once she got clear she has really found the line and I think she has gone super," Ricky said. A minor highlight of the race was the run of Supersonic Miss to finish fourth. She was privately timed to run her last 800 metres in 56 out three and four wide and still finished on well. The Nevele R Fillies final is shaping up to be one of the races of the season with the All Star four to be joined by The Orange Agent and Democrat Party from the north which should make for an exciting final. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing pundits saw it as a good old fashioned Trans Tasman battle tonight at Addington in the New Zealand Sires Stakes heat when the Aussie raider Salty Robyn took on one of the best Kiwi two year old pacers in Chase The Dream. Lauren Panella left the gate early from barrier three and slowly worked her way to the front with Salty Robyn with Three Ways and Dexter Dunn taking the trail. Chase The Dream with Natalie Rasmussen in the bike worked her way to the death seat after 400 metres and was content to sit there on Salty Robyn's wheel.  A three wide train came around but Natalie kicked up and kept them out there and held the death seat. Down the back straight Lauren upped the tempo with Salty Robyn but couldn't shake Chase The Dream and they turned for home together. The two favourites settled down to fight it out but Chase The Dream sprinted past Salty Robyn at the 100 metres mark and went to the line a length clear of Salty Robyn who was well clear of Three Ways in third. A minor highlight of the race was the run of Wannabet who came from near last at the 800 metres mark to run fourth. Chase The Dream paced the 1950 metres in cool chilly conditions in 2:23.3, a mile rate of 1:58.2 with closing sectionals of 56.9 and 28. Natalie was thrilled with the run of the colt by Bettors Delight. " He was actually a bit fresh tonight and that caused him to over race a bit early." " After that he settled well and really found when I asked him." " He has just got such a wonderful attitude and that run will really improve him. " Mark and I think a lot of him and think that he has a big future," Natalie said. Shane Tritton, the trainer of Salty Robyn was proud of the son of Art Official after the trip over didn't go to plan. " We faced delays on the trip from Sydney to New Zealand." " We left home at one o'clock on Monday afternoon and didn't get to Mark Jones' until eight o'clock on Tuesday morning. " He has been a bit quiet since his arrival and Lauren said he wasn't himself in the preliminary." " Now that he has qualified, we have time to get him spot on so they will know we are there come the final," Shane said. Shane has had another problem since his flight to New Zealand with his property near Newcastle in New South Wales badly hit by the storm there. " There is no power or water on at the property but all the horses and staff are safe so that is the important thing." "With a bit of luck we should be able to race the team this weekend," Shane said. Race patrons in New Zealand don't get to see Australian raiders very often and the presence of Salty Robyn tonight at Addington created a fair bit of interest for a low key Thursday night meeting.  Harnesslink Media  

With the four Group 1 races at the Auckland Trotting Club's harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park tomorrow night, we thought it only proper that we here at Harnesslink did an in-depth preview of all the Group 1 races. Here is our preview of the New Zealand Sires Stakes final for two year old fillies. 1) Sophisticated Lady  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 0    Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $8,253 Huge run first up to run second to Northern Velocity but didn't handle the very wet track at Invercargill at her second start and it seems to have flattened her a touch. Sat parked in the Caduceus Club Final last week and didn't give it away so not the worst here by any means. From the draw we think she is a trifecta and first four chance. 2) Nek Time  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 1   Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $9,927 This filly has always shown a bit of promise but greenness in her earlier starts has cost her. Last start win against the maidens was full of merit but it is a big step up here. The distance of 1700 metres is more her go but still only an outside first four player for us 3) Killer Queen  -   Starts: 6    Wins: 1     Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $17,335 This filly started out with a huge private reputation but to date has not really lived up to it. She did seem a lot more comfortable left handed when winning her last start at Cambridge. Back to Auckland we struggle to see her beating a few here. Outside first four player at best for us. 4) Luisanabelle Midfrew  -  Starts: 2    Wins: 0   Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $8,613 Outstanding run first up against Arden's Choice and Northern Velocity in which she split the two All Stars runners at Addington over 1950 metres after leading. Led again at Auckland at her second start but didn't cop the 2200 metres as well as people thought she would. Back to 1700 metres here and she looks the likely leader from barrier three so a definite trifecta and first four player for us. 5) Dream About Me  -  Starts: 3    Wins: 3    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $67,400  This unbeaten half sister to Christen Me looks to have inherited all the family ability if her first three starts are anything to go by. Her last win in the Young Guns Final was just outstanding and in that kind of form it is hard to see her beaten here. Slight query in that she missed last week's race with a hoof abscess but stable very confident she will be spot on. The one to beat. 6) Sem's Delight  -  Starts: 5    Wins: 1()    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $18,282 Nice filly who won her second start at Addington with a touch of class. However that win did look to take the edge off her a wee bit and her next couple of runs were disappointing. Her last start at Auckland was a lot better with her running on from well back for fifth and just over a length from third. Outside first four player for us. 7) Arden's Choice  -  Starts: 6    Wins: 2     Secs: 2    Thirds: 0    Life: $95,156 Brilliant win last week and the big danger to Dream About Me. Had some ringcraft issues in some of her earlier races but since Mark hopped into the bike she is two form two and looks top class. Has a lot of bottom to her so you can use her in a race so draw not as bad as it seems. Clear second pick for us. 8) Chevrons Champion  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 1     Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $7,920 Smart filly who beat the older horses first up at Addington before getting involved in a big battle for the lead at Invercargill and finishing fourth after a very hard run. Her last run at Addington against a top field was good without being outstanding after a cosy run throughout. Draw here makes it really difficult but Dexter on board makes her an outside first four player.                                                                     SECOND LINE 9) Poppy Maguire  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 2   Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $30,423 Filly that has tended to fly under the radar at times. Not up to Arden's Choice or Dream About Me but capable of beating the rest with a run to suit. Not sure if the draw is a help or a hindrance but on her record to date she is a trifecta and first four player for us. 10) Gamma Lady  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 1    Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $30,670 The best of the northern fillies this season with a great run for second in the Young Guns Final. Her next trial after that was terrible as was her next race start where she raced yards below her previous form. Her only outing since then was at the workouts last weekend where she ran second to the very talented Shandale and looked a lot more like her old self. If the real Gamma Lady turns up tomorrow night then she is a major trifecta and first four player. 11) Northern Velocity  -  Starts: 5    Wins: 2     Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $50,124 Lovely big filly who is probably not as sharp as some of her stablemates when sprinting but will keep running on when some of the others are stopping. From this draw she needs the speed to be on from the start to be a chance of rolling Dream About Me and Ardens Choice and we are not convinced that is going to happen here. Still a clear third pick for us on what she has shown to date.   SELECTIONS The top pick for us is without doubt Dream About Me who is all class. Just as clearly second pick for us is Arden's Choice who has come on in leaps and bounds lately And keeping the first three in the All Stars barn sees us with Northern Velocity as a clear third pick after her big wins at Addington and Invercargill. To make up those first fours we would throw in Sophisticated Lady, Luisanabelle Midfrew, Poppy Maguire and Gamma Lady. Harnesslink Media

Our harness racing tipsters are not having the best run in the world at the moment but what winners we are being tipped are well worth having. Last week we had five winners selected and the best by a margin was that of Maurice Mckendry who selected Mossdale Conner at $20 to one in the Taylor Mile. Others to select winners were Geoff Small, Tony Herlihy, Clark Barron and Brendon McLellan while we had another three placings as well. This week there are four meetings in the country and we have selections for them all.   Addington - Thursday night John Dunn - Reckons K C Monet is working great and can win race 4 Scott Phelan - Thought Mach Time was a great place bet in the Sires Stakes heat, race 5 Jim Curtin - Drives the top filly Supersonic Miss and thinks she can win race 6 Terry Chmiel - Even from unruly 4, thought Saint Michel would be a great each way chance in race 7 Brad Williamson - Based on her work lately, he thinks Jelly Bean will be hard to beat, also in race 7    Auckland - Friday night Maurice McKendry - Was impressed by I Got Rhythm last week and thinks she can win race 1 Bob Butt - Was very bullish around the chances of Waterloo Sunset in race 3 Blair Orange - Gave Eyre I Come a big chance of returning to the winners circle, also in race 3 Steve Richardson - After just missing out last week, thinks Monbet can go one better in race 5 Steven Reid - Said to forget last weeks run and that Shedontloveme can win race 7 Ricky May - Very bullish about the chances of Dalton Bromac in race 8 Gerard O'Reilly - Thought Tiger Tara from the draw could get amongst it, also in race 8 Matthew Williamson - Quietly confident that Alley Way can upset the big guns in race 9 Tony Herlihy - Reckons The Fascinator was unlucky last week and can win race 10   Rangiora - Sunday afternoon Tim Williams - Very bullish around the chances of Lovetodream in race 1 Robbie Holmes - Thought As Kiwi As was due a change of luck and could win race 6 John Curtin - Thinks the northern raider Vibhuti might upset them from barrier one in race 7   Gore - Monday afternoon Shane Walkinshaw - Rates Speechless above average and thinks he will win race 4 Brendon McLellan - Gives Starskys Dream a big chance of winning race 8 Clark Barron - In hot form at the moment and thinks Bonnie's Khaleesi can win race 10

On the big night of harness racing at Alexandra Park tomorrow night we have four Group 1 races and we are going to do previews of them all. This is our preview of the New Zealand Messenger Championship. 1) Ohoka Punter  -  Starts: 27    Wins: 15    Secs: 5    Thirds: 5    Life: $590,033 Huge run from well back to finish third in 1:51.7 mile rate for 1700 metres last week. This weeks distance of 2700 metres is more to his liking but we would rather he hadn't drawn barrier one. We think he will hand up to Border Control who is not known to hand up to anybody so he should get the perfect run in the trail. The horse to beat but no past the post certainty. 2) Tiger Tara  -  Starts: 33    Wins: 11      Secs: 7    Thirds: 6    Life: $397,974 Smart run from a bad draw in the Taylor Mile and much better off in that regard this week. Died in the wool stayer who loves the speed on all the way and liable to get that this week. Has gate speed so may have a dig for the lead but drawn to get a good run regardless. Must include for all trifecta and first four takers. 3) Border Control  -   44    Wins: 18    Secs: 15    Thirds: 5    Life: $549,986 Another huge run last week after he was wide early and then parked out the rest of the journey in a 1:51.7 mile rate. Has taken a while to come back to his best after a long injury break but right in the zone now and this distance is right up his alley. We think he will try to lead and he is such a noted front runner that we don't think any driver here will try to hold him out. Will give a great sight and a major player from this draw. 4) No Doctor Needed  -  Scratched 5) Dalton Bromac  -  Starts: 16    Wins: 10      Secs: 3    Thirds: 1    Life: $98,728 Great run from barrier eight last week where he was wide for the first 600 metres in a race run in New Zealand record time. Ricky May felt he blew out with 100 metres to go last week and Benny Hill has admitted he made an error and the horse was less than 100% going into the race. You know that won't be the case this week and with the scratching of No Doctor Needed, Dalton Bromac comes into barrier four which makes him a major player in this. Include in everything. 6) Mossdale Conner  -  Starts: 43    Wins: 11     Secs: 11    Thirds: 4    Life: $208,161 Brilliant performance last week to destroy the New Zealand record for 1700 metres over all of these horses he faces here. Good record at the 2700 metres distance so don't discount just because of the draw as has high gate speed and can go forward from here. Great trifecta and first four chance. 7) Te Kawau  -  Starts: 28    Wins: 10   Secs: 7    Thirds: 6    Life: $96,224 Newcomer to the meeting who has a great overall record but just seems off his best in his last few starts to us. Good record on the track and over the distance but the draw is a killer for him as we think he will have to go back early which makes it very hard to get amongst it. Not for us 8) Messini  -  Starts: 37    Wins: 15    Secs: 9    Thirds: 2    Life: $296,884 Very disappointing last week from barrier one but he did have an excuse. Hit a knee and broke on the final turn last week which cost him any chance at his first start right handed. Am sure that Brent Lilley will have worked on that this week and Dexter is still on board. One to throw in to build up those first fours                                                                             SECOND LINE 9) Beyond The Silence  -  Starts: 24    Wins: 8    Secs: 7    Thirds: 2    Life: $89,985 Even though he didn't get much luck in the running last week, he didn't run on that well in the straight in our opinion. Liable to end up in the trail or three back on the back on the inner at worst but we still find it hard to see him as a major player here. Not for us. 10) Ideal Success  -  Starts: 25    Wins: 9     Secs: 2    Thirds: 2    Life: $58,180 Has been on a golden run on the Country Cups circuit but this is a completely different ballgame here. The distance won't worry him but the depth and the quality of the opposition will. Deserves his place here but in saying that we don't think he is a first four player. Not for us. 11) Isaiah  -  Starts: 36    Wins: 13     Secs: 5    Thirds: 11    Life: $582,992 Worked hard early last week and still ran on well over the last 200 metres after he got shuffled back a bit. Can do plenty of work in his races and stick on and this distance is much more to his liking than last week's mile. Draw makes it hard for him but definite trifecta and first four player for us. Don't overlook. 12) Sky Major  -  Starts: 37    Wins: 13     Secs: 7    Thirds: 5    Life: $614,869  No chance last week after he was posted three wide in the open for the last 1000 metres in a race run in record time. This is not his favourite distance and we would much prefer him the left handed way of going where he has had most of his big race wins. Class will take him a long way but we think he is a trifecta and first four chance in this field from this draw. SELECTIONS Five year olds have an obvious advantage in these mixed races and our selections reflect that. Ohoka Punter is the obvious one to beat from the draw but we see two main dangers to him winning One is the super stayer Border Control who is in great form and the other is Dalton Bromac who will be the big improver out of last weeks race. For trifecta and first four players include Tiger Tara, Mossdale Conner, Isaiah and Sky Major Harnesslink Media                                                                        

Last Sunday saw the first two heats of the harness racing NZ Amateur Drivers Championships of 2015 held at the Rangiora Raceway with full fields of 12 runners in each heat. Thankfully, giving the Aucklanders taking part in the races no cause to moan about the cold, the day dawned a glorious example of Canterbury Autumn weather, and the scene was set for some competitive racing. And that is just what we saw. The first heat, over 2000 metres was a very even betting affair, with no horse standing out on the tote and some good value to be had. One of those slightly over the odds was Mark McNamara’s horse up from the Tony Barron barn, Heretic Franco. It seems that many thought that the big mares’ ‘scorched earth’ tactics that resulted in her recent Forbury win wouldn’t be repeated, but driven perfectly to instructions, Richard Sissons let the daughter of Lis Mara roll, and at the 400 metre mark, she looked home. However, Little Lion Man, under the guidance of Danny Blakemore slowly ate into her lead up the passing lane and actually hit the front short of the post. Not to be denied though, Richard extracted another ounce of energy from his charge and she fought back bravely to take the decision in an exciting finish. The second heat also provided a stirring finish with the two favourites fighting out a nose finish, well clear of the opposition. Daniel Reardon and Gavin Cook kept their favoured charges back off the pace while there was a spirited contest for the lead over the first 1000 metres, and then they swept up together and took over. Turning for home Daniel on Bandana led Gavin Cook on Take After Me, and after another exciting battle up the straight, just clung on for a narrow victory. All in all, two contests worthy of their Championship status. Thanks to the generosity of the Rangiora HRC, drivers and connections of the horses involved we were then treated to a superb lunch and refreshments in a private area to renew friendships, relive their experiences, and look forward to the second round of the Championships, to be staged at Alexandra Park on Sunday 3 May. The current standings on the New Zealand Championships Points Table is as follows: Daniel Reardon 20 Gavin Cook    19 Steve Phillips    18 John McDermott    16 Alan Edge        15 Danny Blakemore    15 Richard Sissons    15 Jeff Darby    13 Gerry Cronin    12 Sue Blake    8 John Kriechbaumer    5 James Brownlee    2 Pete Cook

This weeks harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park is one of the best of the season in New Zealand with four Group 1 races on the card. We thought we would do a runner by runner preview of each of the Group 1 races. First up is the $80,000 Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby 1) Paramount Dream  -  Starts: 8    Wins: 3     Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $13,138 Very nice filly who has won three from just eight starts so ability is there. The draw and Tony Herlihy in the bike are a plus but this race while small in number has huge depth. Outside first four chance for us in this field. 2) Habibti Ivy  -  Starts: 8    Wins: 3     Secs: 0    Thirds: 4    Life: $44,484 This filly just continues to get better with every run. Has used plenty of petrol off the gate to lead in her last two starts but this week from barrier two it will be a lot easier for her to grab the early lead before handing up to either Speeding Spur or Monbet. A couple here may be half a metre better but it is a fine line and from the draw she is a big chance. Include in everything. 3) Speeding Spur  -  Starts: 14    Wins: 8    Secs: 2    Thirds: 2    Life: $141,623  Without a doubt the horse to beat in this race. Left a touch fresh last week but still had enough in the tank to hold out a game Monbet. Will be much improved this week and at a distance much more to his liking. Drawn inside his main danger and has gate speed so the one they have to beat. 4) Monbet  -  Starts: 13    Wins: 6     Secs: 2    Thirds: 1    Life: $99,041 Outstanding young trotter who started the season in great fashion but an injury prior to the Southern Derby meant he went into that race underdone so that run full of merit. Great performance last week to sit parked the whole journey and run Speeding Spur to a nose but yet again he has drawn outside that horse. We think the only way Monbet can beat Speeding Spur over 2700 metres is to beat him out of the gate. He does have high gate speed but debatable weather he has enough to cross Speeding Spur. The main danger to the favourite and a definite winning chance. 5) Prince Fearless  -  Starts: 12    Wins: 3     Secs: 4    Thirds: 0    Life: $102,974 The enigma of this years field for sure and hard to know what to expect. More than capable of matching it with Speeding Spur and Monbet but his first start right handed last week was not flash with an early gallop. The funny thing is after the early gallop, Prince Fearless trotted beautifully the Auckland way round and made up a huge amount of ground on a hot pace. From barrier five Natalie can let him settle early over the 2700 metres and then work into the race and for us he is a must have for quinella,trifecta and first four players.  6) Arya   -  Starts: 17    Wins: 10     Secs: 3    Thirds: 1    Life: $161,336 After a handful of starts in Australia this season in which she was unbeaten, Arya disappointed first up back in New Zealand in the Trotting Oaks with an average run for fourth. Much improved last week in the Sires Stakes final where she again ran fourth but in a much stronger field. Did get a lovely run in the one by one the whole way so hard to see her winning this but a trifecta and first four chance for us. 7) Yagunnakissmeornot  -  Starts: 15    Wins: 7  Secs: 2    Thirds: 4    Life: $55,458  Never out of the money in her first thirteen starts but her last two have been a touch disappointing. Should have finished closer than fifth from a soft run on the inner from barrier one last week and hard to see from this weeks draw how she can turn the tables on a few here. Rough first four player for us at best. 8) Rock Tonight  -  14    Wins: 2      Secs: 1    Thirds: 1    Life: $20,666 The ability is not the question here, it is the manners and ringcraft. Broke twice in the score up last week and then once during the race which at this level is terminal. Already handicapped by being on the unruly so hard to see him here as a major player here. Not for us. SELECTIONS Top pick from the draw has to be Speeding Spur who over a distance he loves will be very hard to beat. The clear second pick for us is Monbet who has the all round game to threaten Speeding Spur but needs a touch of luck having drawn outside his main rival. After that Habibti Ivy and Prince Fearless look the main challengers but hard to see either beating both Speeding Spur and Monbet Arya as cover for first four players. Harnesslink Media  

Noel and Wendy Kennard are use to the ups and the downs you suffer being involved with the harness racing industry but nothing could prepare them for what they had to do today. Monkey Bones, the distinctive grey son of Andover Hall who had really started to make a name for himself in the trotting ranks in New Zealand had to be humanely destroyed after his long running battle with ligament and tendon injuries suffered a few seasons back eventually caught up with the stallion. Noel and Wendy have known for some time that this day would come at some point but that still doesn't prepare you for the day when you have to give the vet the go ahead. It is presumed that Monkey Bones has done the splits in the paddock and tore all the ligaments and tendons in his knee. As a result Monkey Bones has gradually become more and more immobile as time passed. " We gave him everything possible down his throat and by injection to help him. " We x-rayed him before and after every season to check his status and condition. " The vet told us that last season would most likely be his last and that's how it has worked out," Noel told Harnesslink this afternoon. Noel and Wendy went to great lengths to make Monkey Bones as comfortable over the last few seasons as possible and their affection for the horse is evident when talking to them. " He had such a lovely nature and was great to do anything with." " Even when he was in pain, it never changed his nature, he was such a kind horse," Noel said Monkey Bones served a quality book of 66 mares in his last season and will still be available for many seasons to come via frozen semen. " We have enough frozen semen barring accidents to see us through a few seasons so the last hasn't been seen of Monkey Bones by any means," Noel said. We at Harnesslink would like to express our condolences to Noel and Wendy on the loss of a horse that they were obviously very close to. Harnesslink Media

For once it is good to see an Australian raider here on New Zealand soil for this Thursdays heat of the New Zealand Sires Stakes at Addington. Add in the fact that for one of the few times this season in a two year old race we have a full field of thirteen runners and that immediately makes the race a much more intriguing proposition. Here is our runner by runner preview of the Sires Stakes heat. 1) Arden's Legacy  -  Starts: 3    Wins: 0    Secs: 0    Thirds: 2    Life: $3,286 Has shown a bit of potential in his short career to date. Ran a really good race in the Kindergarten Stakes where he used a lot of petrol early and stuck on well for third. A few here look to have a class edge but draw makes him a rough first four chance. 2) Three Ways  -  Starts: 3    Wins: 0    Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $3,973 Has a bit of a reputation but was dehydrated first up so discount that run. Went super last start when second to Lazarus and if that Three Ways turns up he is a big place chance. With Dexter in the bike Three Ways becomes a must have for trifecta and first four players. 3) Salty Robyn  -  Starts: 5    Wins: 4   Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $51,217 The Aussie raider is a big danger in this field and his win last Friday night at Newcastle was the perfect run first up from a short break. He does have one hole in his makeup in that he can try to go too quick early and has been known to go rough and break if pushed. Lauren let him find his feet early the other night at Newcastle and she has that option from this draw here. Big winning chance and include in everything. 4) Formula One  -  Starts: 2    Wins: 0   Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $331   (2nd Emerg) Six figure purchase out of the Hamish Hunter barn by Greg Brodie who has a huge reputation but has yet to show anything on raceday. Has won a trial in 1:58 so obviously very talented but appears at sea at the moment Not for us. 5) Chase The Dream  -  Starts: 5    Wins: 4    Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $102,670 As good as any two year old in New Zealand as his record shows. Beaten last time by the muddling pace which turned the race into a sprint home. He is a real tradesman who has speed and can do plenty  of work as well. We think he will come out humming early alongside Salty Robyn and press the issue to see how he copes. The one to beat due to his manners and versatility. 6) First Class Arden  -  Starts: 1    Wins: 0   Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $1,140 Nice first up run but this field is a different matter altogether. Several runners here look to have a class edge on him and combine that with the draw and we find it hard to see him in four. Not for us 7) Alta Las Vegas  -  Starts: 3    Wins: 1    Secs: 2    Thirds: 0    Life: $15,028 Has not put a foot wrong all season and is more than capable of winning this. Went under to Chase The Dream in the Sapling Stakes by half a length after doing plenty of work and then ran second to Chase The Dream again, this time by a neck after he parked that horse for the entire race. You would expect him to have improved since then and he comes in to barrier six so draw not as bad as it seems. Threat to the favourites with the right run and a must have for trifecta and first four players. 8) Vanquished  -   Starts: 2    Wins: 0    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $2,080   (1st Emerg) Has yet to show anything at his trials, workouts or his two race starts to suggest he is a major player here. Looks like he will make a nice three year old next season but hard to see him being a part of this. Not for us. 9) Wannabet  -  Starts: 1    Wins: 0   Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $2,280 Trialed up really well prior to his first and only start and not disgraced finishing third after doing plenty of work. However even if  Arden's Legacy holds up early and he gets a cosy trip three deep on the inner it still only makes  him a rough first four chance at best in this field in our opinion. 10) Art Form  -  Starts: 1    Wins: 1    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $3,927 Could not have been more impressive winning his first start against maidens after some very strong trial form at Auckland. Big step up here from maidens to face some of these but Steven Reid rates him up there with the best young horses he has trained. Our only concern is ringcraft in such a big field but ability not in question. A winning chance and a must have for all combination bets. 11) Mach Time  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 2 Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $12,050 Smart colt who has got better with every run this season. Draw is a big concern in that he is going to have to use plenty of petrol however the races pans out. You may want to throw him in to first fours to boost up the divy from this draw. 12) Code Black  -  Starts: 5    Wins: 1    Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $28,000 Kept improving throughout his five start campaign at Alexandra Park with his last start third to Chase The Dream in the Young Guns Final a top effort. Another horse whose chances have been seriously affected by the draw and will need a bit of luck from out there but will be running on better than most. Throw into first fours even from the draw  13) Sparkling Delight  -  Starts: 4    Wins: 1   Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $5,654 Trialed up really well prior to racing but had been a bit disappointing until last week when he looked more like the horse we had seen at the trials. Was driven cold last week for the first time and came from last to win in style. Even from the draw Sparkling Delight is the smokey for us to get amongst them and bump up those trifectas and first fours. 14) Harry Hoo  -  Starts: 3    Wins: 0    Secs: 2    Thirds: 0    Life: $4,566  Made a promising debut against Lazarus from a good barrier draw but has been a bit disappointing in his next two starts. This is by far the hardest field he has faced and we struggle to see him in four from his poor second line draw. Not for us. 15) Franco Rayner  -  Starts: 1    Wins: 0   Secs: 0    Thirds: 1    Life: $1,900  Trialed up very nicely against some of the big hitters from the All Stars barn prior to his debut at Invercargill but disappointed us a bit when running third in that race, ten lengths from Lazarus. This looks a bit soon for him in our opinion and coupled with the draw we can't see being a major player here. Not for us. SELECTIONS The nice front row draw for Chase The Dream means he gets the nod for us but only just from the Aussie raider Salty Robyn. Art Form, Three Ways and Alta Las Vegas  should all go in all combinations around the first two. Code Black and Sparkling Delight to spice up those first fours. Harnesslink Media

The All Stars Harness Racing Stables juggernaut is really hitting top gear this week with horses racing in Group  races on both sides of the Tasman.   Over the course of Thursday through Sunday, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will line up 23 horses at five race meetings from Addington to Menangle and most of those runners have a big winning chance.   Most interest will centre on Our Waikiki Beach in the A$322,000 Australian Pacing Gold Final at Menangle on Sunday where after drawing barrier one and the withdrawal through injury of his biggest danger in Goodtime Sammy, Our Waikiki Beach looks incredibly hard to beat.   On the same programme the All Stars barn has the rejuvenated pacer Our Smolda lining up in the Len Smith mile and while Beautide is a deserving favourite, Smolda will test him in his present form.   At Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night, the All Stars barn has two runners and both are big winning chances.   The smart two year old filly MacKenzie goes round in the $30,000 semi finals of the Australian Pacing Gold while the outstanding three year old colt Follow The Stars goes around in the $25,000 Caduceus Club Cup.   On the other side of the Tasman, the All Stars barn is represented at three meetings in New Zealand with runners in all of the big races.   At Addington on Thursday night the top two year old Chase The Dream lines up in a $25,000 heat of the New Zealand Sires Stakes which is notable for the New Zealand debut of the very smart Shane Tritton trained Salty Robyn.   Later on in the evening on Thursday night the All Stars barn is lining up Fight For Glory, Classical Art, Supersonic Miss and Linda Lovegrace in a heat of the Nevele R Fillies series and with those four top fillies involved they should dominate the race.   At Alexandra Park on Friday night, the All Stars barn have ten runners involved starting with Prince Fearless and Arya in the $80,000 Great Northern Trotting Derby in which for once the All Stars duo are probably only running for place money against Speeding Spur and Monbet.   The All Stars barn has four runners in the $150,000 Sires Stakes final for two year old fillies and three of them look big winning chances.   The unbeaten half sister to Christen Me in Dream About Me looks very hard to beat but her stiffest competition is likely to come from her stablemates Arden's Choice and Northern Velocity.   In the $100,000 New Zealand Messenger, the All Stars barn has two runners who are both big winning chances in Border Control and Isaiah.   That is followed by King Denny in the $150,000 Rowe Cup in which he looks to be a good each way chance and then in the last race of the night they have Willow, who on last weeks winning run would look a good thing in this race.   On Sunday the All Star barn have four runners in Petite One, Kept Under Wraps, Light Fingered and The Manipulator in grade races and going by their last start efforts, all four would be big winning chances.   Looking at that list of starters over five meetings in two countries with a lot of the races carrying Group status is just another reminder if one was needed of what an outstanding training partnership Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen are.   Harnesslink Media  

Alabar, in association with Blue Chip Farms and the Sunshine Beach Syndicate, are thrilled to announce that they have entered into a long term agreement to stand the world champion son of the great Somebeachsomewhere – Sunshine Beach at their New Zealand farm. Broodmare owners will surely agree that the timing couldn’t be better for the arrival at stud down under of a glamour son of Somebeachsomewhere. That Somebeachsomewhere is the most commercial pacing sire in North America is a given. However, it is the momentum swing with his progeny in Australia and New Zealand that is making breeders sit up and take note. It started with Menin Gate’s victory in the Victoria Derby and has just kept building. However, it was on Saturday night that Somebeachsomewhere made his biggest statement to date in this part of the world. His two star two-year-old sons - the unbeaten Waikiki Beach and Goodtime Sammy oozed class and were simply in a different league to their rivals in the APG Semi-Finals at Menangle. Breeders will be especially interested that Waikiki Beach is from a daughter of Bettor’s Delight. Intriguingly, there are only 6 foals of racing age in North America by Somebeachsomewhere out of mares by Bettor’s Delight – all 6 have won in sub-1:55 and 4 have already won over $100,000. The sires that can cross well with the burgeoning number of quality daughters of Bettor’s Delight going to stud are the sires that will have a huge head start for success.  The early indicators point to a son of Somebeachsomewhere being a very worthy candidate for this role.   Next to the $3 million winner Captaintreacherous, Sunshine Beach is the greatest son to date of Somebeachsomewhere. In fact his crowning glory is that he is the first horse ever to defeat the great Captaintreacherous. He did so as a three-year old in the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine where he led with Captaintreacherous sitting outside him. At the end of a titanic stretch duel Sunshine Beach had his nose in front in a world record equalling 1:47.8. Two months later in the $500,000 Breeders Crown Final at the same Pocono Downs venue the two outstanding sons of Somebeachsomewhere met again. This time, after starting from barrier eight it was Sunshine Beach’s turn to sit outside Captaintreacherous. Another stirring stretch duel ensued, both pacers were accorded the same time but it was Captaintreacherous that got the decision. In what was an outstanding three-year-old season, Sunshine Beach also won an elimination of the Meadowlands Pace in 1:48 (third in the Final), a division of the Bluegrass at The Red Mile in 1:48.4, an elimination of the Matron Stakes in 1:50.2 (second in the Final) and, in his final start of the season, the Progress Pace in 1:50.6. Remarkably, less than 48 hours after winning the Progress Pace, Sunshine Beach went into surgery to have a four and a half centimetre stone removed from his bladder. Following this surgery he was, however, still left with a kidney stone that continued to trouble him through, and ultimately ended, his four-year-old campaign. After having been allowed time to strengthen and only lightly raced as a two-year-old (although he did win in 1:52.2 at this age), Sunshine Beach won over $900,000 as a three-year-old with fourteen sub-1:50 performances. Trainer Mark Steacy described Sunshine Beach as “a tough, gutsy horse with a big heart". He added that "Most people don't realize that Sunshine Beach raced through an extremely painful bladder stone. Even with this he was a world champion. He narrowly missed winning the Breeders Crown after being parked with no cover from the eight hole for the whole mile. Two days after winning the Progress Pace he had major surgery to remove the bladder stone. Unfortunately he was still left with a kidney stone which he was forced to race with as a four-year-old." There is a nice symmetry in Sunshine Beach coming to stand at Alabar NZ – as the champion trotter Majestic Son was also trained by Mark Steacy. So the greatest trotter and the greatest pacer he has trained will now stand alongside each other. A spectacular individual, Sunshine Beach is the best performer from the prolific Artsplace mare Light Up – the dam of five in 1:53 and four $350,000+ winners that also include Warrawee Flare (1:50.6, $609,019), Safe Harbor (1:50.2, $502,688) and Western Moonlight (p, 2, 1:52.6, $366,091). This is the incredible Golden Miss family that has already produced many successful sires including Rocknroll Hanover, Panorama, Safely Kept, Real Desire and Grinfromeartoear. Blue Chip Farm bought into Sunshine Beach at the start of his four-year-old season. He was a horse that met all their requirements as a sire and they were excited about Sunshine Beach continuing to prove himself “against any and all competition." It wasn’t to be though, luck and health deserted Sunshine Beach as a four-year-old. Even so, he did still win in 1:49 and was timed in sub 1:50 in eight of his ten starts (he also won a qualifier by 23 lengths with a 25.4 last quarter) – but if you’ve ever had a kidney stone you’ll appreciate what he had to endure and just how tough this horse must have been. However, as we all know, sometimes adversity creates opportunity. Sunshine Beach will stand at Alabar NZ for NZ$4,000 (plus GST) and will also be available in Australia for A$4,000 (incl GST).   

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