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Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones is considering the $A200,000 New South Wales Oaks for exciting harness racing filly Rocker Band. The NSW Oaks have $A20,000 heats scheduled at Menangle on February 21, with the final on March 1. Greg Brodie (Queensland owner) is keen on her to go for it,” said trainer Mark Jones. “First, we have to see if we pay the late payment for the Nevele R Fillies Series. We’ll be guided by Ricky (May’s) thoughts but it looks like we’ll pay it,” he said. Rocker Band, the daughter of Rocknroll Hanover and 2005 New Zealand Cup winner Mainland Banner (1:55.1, 17 wins & $684,580), was surprisingly beaten into second first-up on a slushy track at Winton by Rakarolla in a 1:57.9 mile. However, she was much too good in a C0 fillies and mares pace at Invercargill on Thursday, January 15,  starting a hot $1.40 favourite, despite a tricky inside back row draw. Driver Ricky May eased her out from three back on the markers to stride clear at the 1600m and she was always in control from that point. Rocker Band lifted her work rate from the home turn to dash away by 4 1/4 lengths from Leola’s Delight (three back) and Thinking Smart (trail) to win in 2:47.5 (2:02.6 mile rate for the mobile 2200m. The winner quickened over her last 800m in 57.6s and her final 400m in 27.6s. Rocker Band is a half-sister to Peruvian Banner (1:52.1, US), Stunin Banner (11 wins, 1:59.5) and Return to Sender (four wins, 1:57.4 rate, 2400m). Her dam Mainland Banner, the only 4YO mare to have won the NZ Cup, was sold by Cullen Breeding in 2010 to Australian Glenferrie Farm owner Peter Chambers, for $135,000 at an Addington dispersal sale. Also the 2005 NZ Oaks winner and runnerup in an Auckland Cup, Mainland Banner can only leave foals by embryo transfer. Mr Chambers, who bred Rocker Band and her half-sister Glenferrie Classic (by Bettor’s Delight), before taking her to Australia two years ago, subsequently sold Rocker Band to Mark Jones. Glenferrie Classic also changed hands, being purchased by a group of NZ owners last year, including Gavin Saunders, who raced the ill-fated 1989 New Zealand Cup winner, Inky Lord. Mark Jones then passed Rocker Band on to fellow major Australian stable client, Greg Brodie, as a replacement for Ultimate CC, after the latter failed to fulfill her initial promise even though Ultimate CC did win a Nevele R Fillies Consolation. Mark qualified Rocker Band at Rangiora on April 7, winning in a smart 2:31.7 (mobile 2000m), from other smart fillies and subsequent 3YO filly winners in Storm Maguire, Whitershadeofpale (now unbeaten in four NSW starts and a 1:53.9 Menangle miler) and Maritime Arden. He then gave her time out with the prospect of developing into a classic 3YO. Meanwhile, last season’s Trotter of the Year Master Lavros will now miss the Glenferrie Challenge (also to be run on March 1) and be set for another Rowe Cup on April 24 after returning to work on Monday. By Jeff Scott - Courtesy of Mark Jones Racing Stables  

Popular harness racing trainer Paul Fitzpatrick has set his sights on the upcoming Breeders Challenge finals and is hoping to continue the success he enjoyed last year. Fitzpatrick prepared talented mare Obahma Joy to win the four year old mares' division twelve months ago and believes his leading chances come in the shape of two other well performed fillies. "The stable has been running very well this season, we just missed 100 winners last season but with more than two months of this season to go we should get to 100 this time around," Fitzpatrick said. "Sally Fletcher is probably my leading Breeders Challenge hope, she should have finished closer in the Bathurst Gold Tiara and was impressive winning a heat last week but Ocean Diva has her fair share of ability too and I have another couple ready for the semis as well." Ocean Diva finished second in the New South Wales Oaks behind the David Kennedy trained Shes A Runa and has been in great form since winning three consecutively. "Ocean Diva is eligible for the Breeders Crown as well and we were considering going to Queensland for the Oaks but she still has a lot to learn and that's my only little concern with her. When she learns what it is all about she is going to get better I think." "Lenny The Legend is another one I'm hoping will get through to the Breeders Challenge, he has only had the three starts but he is an improver and he has come a fair way in a very short time. We will probably geld him before we turn him out and I think he is going to make a nice horse." Last season was the first one in recent memory when Fitzpatrick failed to get 100 winners. "It was a very slow start for my stable this season but the winners have started to flow. I'm still working the same size team as I did so nothing much has changed, just the results have improved a little bit." By Greg Hayes - SKY Racing Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |  

Art Union should not be lining up for career start number two in the Resource Recycling Technologies NZ $8,000 Pace for 2-year-olds at Addington Raceway on Saturday. In fact he should have been retired long before his racing career started. Trainer Cran Dalgety said the well-bred Art Major colt could easily have been wandering around in a paddock now retired from what he termed a “one in a million” injury. “He could have been racing for us three months ago, but we lost valuable ground with him. If you raced a thousand times you wouldn’t see what happened to the poor buggar in a trial at Ashburton back in December. “He was in the one-one and the parked horse came back on him and he got his foot stuck up in the cart and fractured his hock,” Dalgety said. Vets then told the West Melton horseman there was little or no chance of Art Union ever racing again. They did toy with operating and putting a screw in his leg but Dalgety opted against it. “I told the vets if he was out in the wild he wouldn’t be able to get operated on, so we just swum him. It’s a bit of a miracle but time, swimming, and Mother Nature have cured it,” Dalgety said. “Well fingers crossed it’s cured. He’s shown no signs of distress and has bounced back well from his win the other night,” he added. Art Union won his Motukarara Workout on April 5 and then his Rangiora Trial two days later before making a winning debut at Addington Raceway last Friday (April 11). The brown colt was backed into a $3.20 favourite and never looked like losing the $8,000 Spectators Bar & Bistro Open ‘Til Late Mobile Pace. He won the 1950m mobile by 1-1/4 lengths in 2:24.2. Mile rate: 1:58.9. last 800m: 57.2. Last 400m: 27.4. Art Union was eased back early, improved to be parked at the 900m and then drew clear inside the closing 100m proving too strong for Dana Duke (Gavin Smith) and Abbey Cullen (Stephen McNally). “His dam Sparks A Flyin (21 wins and $627,218) was a very good horse winning several big races here and was a New South Wales Oaks winner. She also went 1:51 in America. She was also 3yo Filly-Of-The-Year and just keeps popping them out for the Wakefields (owners and breeders),” Dalgety said. Art Union is a half-brother to earlier classy performers, Diomedes (1:57.5), Empyrean (1:56.2), Bettor’s Fire (1:57.4) and Safedra (1:56.3). Last Friday he became the fifth sub 2:00 winner from Sparks A Flyin (1:52). Dalgety said he would race him in the Sires Stakes heat at Addington after this weekend’s mission, and if he still didn’t have enough money in the bank he could possibly head north to qualify for the 2yo Emerald Final at the Harness Jewels meeting at Cambridge Raceway on May 31. “He’d be right up there with some of the best colts I’ve trained. He has really bulked up since coming back from his injury. He now looks like a 3-year-old. “He’s a tall and long legged creature. Almost thoroughbred like. He’s certainly no flash in the pan,” Dalgety said. By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of HRNZ)

Riverina filly Shes A Runa caused a massive upset when taking out the Form 700 New South Wales $200,000 Oaks at Tabcorp Park Menangle today. The daughter of Jeremes Jet was given a gun run by local reinsman Jarrod Alchin behind the leader, the highly-fancied My Willow, and obtained an inside run to take out the Group One in 1:59.1. At odds of $25.50, Shes A Runa held out the fast-finishing Ocean Diva ($55.70), who was a half-head away in second with early leader My Willow a little over a metre away in third. The second favourite Nike Franco struck trouble in the home straight when locked between runners and driver Chris Alford did his best to control the filly and not let her fall. Subsequently the pair finished last. High-priced winners seem to be the order of the day with Little Red Cloud taking out the first at $18.70 and stablemate Essbee Doubleyou winning the second at juicy odds of $19.60 with the NSW TAB. Harness Racing NSW

The Form 700 NSW Oaks is shaping as a showdown between New Zealand and Victoria after their two hotshots drew perfectly for tomorrow week’s $200,000 final at Tabcorp Park Menangle. Victorian Nike Franco (Chris Alford) and My Willow (Natalie Rasmussen) staged a two-horse donnybrook over the concluding stages before Nike Franco hung on to win heat two of the NSW Oaks preludes at Tabcorp Park Menangle tonight. But Chris Alford had to drive desperately on the daughter of McArdle to hold off My Willow, although stewards entered a protest for possible interference to the runner-up over the concluding stages, which was dismissed after a half-hour hearing. Alford was also successful in heat one of the Oaks when Quick Draft ran down Mindarie Priddy in the shadows of the post to score an exciting win, leaving Alford with the perfect problem – which filly to drive in the final. Final field for the Form 700 NSW Oaks is: Nike Franco My Willow Mindarie Priddy Shes A Runa  Whereibylong Red Hot Toddy Quick Draft Joys A Babe (EM2) Spicy Stride Distant Memory Bettors Package (EM1) Ocean Diva Harness Racing New South Wales ARGENT STAKES FORM 700 NSW OAKS HEAT ONE FRITH FORM 700 NSW OAKS HEAT TWO

Harness racing trainer / driver Mark Purdon could be excused for having a bit on his mind this week. There were the yearling sales, where he secured about 15 new babies to join the country's most powerful stable. And there's the small matter of planning a five group-one race assault on next week's Inter Dominion carnival in Sydney, headlined by Smolda and Adore Me. But for a few hours tonight Purdon will allow himself to become a spectator watching his early raiders at Alexandra Park in the countdown to Auckland Cup week. Purdon and partner Natalie Rasmussen have three runners there tonight, all to be handled by Blair Orange as the boss has chosen to stay home and drive at Methven. But he expects all three to be highly competitive and hopefully kickstart a successful weekend.   Rocknroll Arden starts the night in the Oaks trial and even allowing for the class of her northern opponents she will be close to favourite after finishing second to Venus Serena in a national record 1:52.2 mile at Ashburton last start. "She is a good filly and races well at Alex Park so she will go close, even though Snooki is a good filly and there is a bit of depth there," said Purdon. He sends debut-winning juvenile Jay Dub north for the last heat of the Young Gun series, with the youngster having some historical pressure on his back. He was bred by, and named in honour of, the late Jack Smolenski, one of harness racing's great trainers who had a spectacular record at Alexandra Park. "He is a lovely horse, although probably not as advanced as my best juvenile Follow The Stars at this stage," says Purdon. "But it looks like we have got him into a good heat for him and he can win providing he has some luck from that wide draw." While both horses will have strong support, Purdon rates Bonechip in the last race his best chance of the night. "He is actually better right-handed which is one reason he is up there," says Purdon. "And with the small field he is going to be hard to beat." Purdon will then turn his attention to Menangle tomorrow night where Willow and Isaiah need only to finish top five in their heats to qualify for the New South Wales Oaks and Derby respectively. Willow is unbeaten but meets exciting Victorian filly Nike Franco so faces a big test, while Isaiah has drawn the weaker of the two Derby heats. "He needed his run at Addington last week and is ready for a good hit out this week before the Derby," Purdon says. Purdon will take champion mare Adore Me to Addington for a private workout on Monday before she heads to Sydney with Smolda on Tuesday, where they will join up with tomorrow night's starters as well as Border Control. That should see the stable with five fancied runners in group one races worth A$1,550,000 on Sunday week. Both Smolda and Adore Me have been nominated for the Auckland Cup so could return to Alexandra Park for the great race five days later. "I will wait to see what happens on that Sunday before making that decision." Smolda is shortened to be joint favourite for the A$750,000 Inter Dominion Final, for which the barrier draw will be held on Monday morning. Courtesy of Michael Guerin and the New Zealand Herald  

After a stunning Victoria Derby heat win on Saturday night by his star pacer Bling It On, owner Harvey Kaplan was left speechless and is now counting down the hours to Saturday night's Gr. 1 final. It will be the first time Kaplan has had a starter in a Derby and in his current form Bling It On will be incredibly hard to beat. "His performance on Saturday in the heat was breathtaking, he is simply a once in a lifetime horse, what other horses find impossible to do he makes look easy," Kaplan said. "I'm pretty sure it is the fastest last half ever run at Melton, he did it with the plugs in and while it isn't a major factor, a lot of people forget that he is a late December foal." Kaplan has a very strong band of broodmares and normally concentrates on racing fillies but Bling It On may change all of that. "It would be a dream to have a horse of mine go onto be a successful stallion and I am mindful of not over racing at this stage of his career, it's hard not to get excited by him." While Kaplan will be at Melton to watch Bling It On on Saturday night he admits he will be keeping a close eye on Sky Racing with his talented filly Nike Franco competing in the Raith Memorial. "Team Purple will be out in full force at Melton to support Bling It On in the Victoria Derby but Nike Franco will race at Menangle and she is a pretty good filly, she is very green plus her mum didn't race until she was four so this weekend is by far the toughest test of her career." "On raw ability alone I think she is more talented than Baby Bling was at the same age but she still needs to learn to be a racehorse." Nike Franco is being set for the New South Wales Oaks on Inter Dominion Grand Final day. Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |    

Champion harness racing driver Luke McCarthy made it back-to-back Group Ones when six-year-old mare Our Sixpence led all the way to win the Cordina Chicken Farms Ladyship Mile at Tabcorp Park's Grand Final today (Sunday March 3)

A brilliant tactical drive by harness racing driver Luke McCarthy and a perfectly-timed preparation allowed former New Zealand filly Itz Nosurprisesthere to score a decisive win in the $200,000 Form 700 NSW Oaks at Tabcorp Park Menangle today.

After discussing the major races with many of the protanganists, local experts and analysing the form himself, Mick Guerin offers us his thoughts on the features for Sunday's bumper harness racing card at Menangle.

Harness racing doesn't get any better than what we will witness at Tabcorp Park Menangle on Sunday afternoon with the running of seven Gr. 1 races including the TAB.COM.AU Inter Dominion on a ten race card and more than two million dollars to be won.

It is not often that a horse who is coming off back-to-back Inter Dominion wins, and who was a dominant winner of his final lead-up, doesn't create a dominant impression with bookmakers.

Star New Zealand harness racing filly Rozelski won the fourth and final $25,000 heat of the Form 700 New South Wales Oaks at Tabcorp Park Menangle tonight Saturday the 23rd of February..

Glenferrie Shuffle looked the main harness racing player in the Craig Demmler yard following her almost 15-metre win in last year's Breeders Crown for two-year-old fillies, however, there is a new Glenferrie on the block this season.

The New South Wales Harness Racing Club has extended this Saturday night's Allied Express programme to eleven races by increasing the number of Form 700 NSW Oaks Heats to four.

Champion New Zealand harness racing trainer Tim Butt is expecting more from his runners this Saturday night at Tabcorp Park Menangle despite training a winner last weekend.

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