Day At The Track
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Everyone involved in harness racing knows that a driver is only as good in a lot of cases as the "cattle" he is driving. Brad Williamson surely knows that after having a season that has been a struggle from go to whoa. Unquestionably one of New Zealands most talented junior drivers, Brad has just had a perfect storm this season of reduced opportunities on horses who in a lot of cases were fighting an up hill battle. Yesterday at Oamaru on his home track, Brad had just four drives all day but he showed yet again why he is so highly regarded by many astute judges when he steered home two winners and a second. The first of his drives to earn a cheque was Kylie Castleton who after been locked away three back on the inner ran on well to claim second behind the runaway winner Star Commando. Brad was all smiles after the race. " I actually own that one so to grab second was a nice wee pay day" " From where we were I was never going to beat the winner but she ran on really well and I was rapt with the run," Brad said. Brad's next drive was Boomer Bailey who handled the step up in grade after his win at Timaru with real style. " I only got the drive because Matthew had a prior commitment." " He was hitting the stays right from the start and got really fired up." " To sit parked the whole way and over race and still win was a huge effort. " He is a horse with a future," Brad said. Brad's third drive to earn a cheque was the stable runner Father Christmas who drew the outside of the second line. After circling the field with a lap to go to sit outside the leader No Potato, it took Father Christmas every inch of the straight to get his nose in front of No Potato where it counted. Brad was thrilled with the run. " That is the best he has ever gone." " To win from the outside of the second line was a huge performance." " He had to win to make it into the Jewels so I drove him a lot more aggressively than normal and he surprised me how well he stuck on after the run he had," Brad said. Those wins were a gentle reminder to trainers that Brad is one of the more talented junior drivers going around in New Zealand. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing meetings at Oamaru always seem to bring the best out of horses trained by Margo Nyhan and her partner Peter Davis. Hardly a meeting goes by at the North Otago raceway without the couple registering a win or two and yesterday was no exception with the trainer/driver duo racking up two more wins on what must be fast becoming their favourite track. First up was the maiden trotter The Zigmeister who worked to the front from barrier six for Peter Davis and after being steadied mid race had enough in reserve to hold out the late burst of Trial Separation and clear maidens at just his second lifetime start. The five year old grey son of Monkey Bones ran about in the straight a touch and there appears plenty of scope for improvement with a bit more raceday experience. Peter Davis was not surprised by yesterdays win. " He has always had a lot of ability right from the start but has had more than a few issues." " As a two year old he was going super but curbed a hock so we put him aside." "When we got him back in he was a different horse who couldn't trot a yard." " We brought him back at three but he was still all at sea so in the end we put him out for nearly fifteen months." " This time in he was close to getting the sack but has turned the corner lately and is finally getting back to what he showed us as a two year old." " He qualified at Methven just two weeks ago so he has come a long way in a very short time." " We will take him back to the trials now and try to give him some ringcraft to go with the ability," Peter said. The second winner for the day was the Oamaru track specialist Sarah Palin. The six year old daughter of Pegasus Spur has a real affinity for the North Otago track with her record after yesterday's win standing at eight starts for three wins and three seconds. As with most of the Margo Nyhan trained runners, Sarah Palin has exemplary standing start manners and was first away yesterday for Peter Davis from barrier one but quickly handed up to the free going Bet's Sun after 400 metres.  Given a lovely run in the trail albeit several lengths behind the tearaway leader for the rest of the trip, Sarah Palin used the passing lane to good effect in the straight to hold out a late challenge from Live The Dream by a length and a quarter. It was the mares sixth lifetime win and along with twenty two placings took her earnings over the $62,000 mark. Peter would love a few more as genuine as Sarah Palin. " She is a great horse to have in the stable as she is so genuine" " That was her best performance of her career yesterday as she had to drag the field up to the tearaway leader and 3000 metres has never been her favourite distance so it was a great run under the circumstances." " Every time she goes off the place she gives you 100% so you can't ask for any more than that," Peter said. Punters would be well advised to take note of any runners in the black and white silks from the Nyhan barn at future meetings at Oamaru. Harnesslink Media   

The old theory in harness racing of horses for courses was once again to the fore at Oamaru yesterday when the six year old Pegasus Spur mare Sarah Palin notched up another win at her favourite racetrack. Whether it is on the grass or on the grit, Sarah Palin is rarely out of the money on the North Otago racetrack having being either first or second in five of her seven starts there. Away well as usual, driver Peter Davis had Sarah Palin in front from the start of the 2000 metre stand before handing up to Martini which in turn handed up to Sunny Ruby near the 1000 metres mark. Snookered as they turned for home, Peter angled her wider on the track and she flew the last bit to win narrowly but well from another good finisher in Evander D Go. It was Sarah Palin's fifth win  and along with twenty placings took her stake earnings over the $50,000 mark. Peter Davis has a bit of a soft spot for the six year old mare. " She has got really great manners so you are always a show with her." 'She has a really nice turn of foot but just lacks that bit of toughness to win them out of turn." "You have to drive her with a sit and you need a bit of luck but she can get over the top of them with the right run," Peter said. Sarah Palin is bred to be good being from Juliana, a Sundon half sister to Ima Gold Digger 1:55 ($376,072)  Dependable 1:59.2 ($154,917) and Jo Anne 1:58.5 ($81,428) Peter Davis wouldn't another one or two from Juliana. "Juliana is doing a super job at stud." "Apart from Sarah Palin she also produced Monty Python who won his third race in a row at Addington on Friday night and Father Christmas who won his fourth race from not many starts at Northern Southland on Thursday," Peter said. Sarah Palin will now head to either Blenheim or Motukarara this weekend and how she handles the rise in grade is uncertain but there is one thing you can bank on. She is going to have a lot of followers when she next heads back to Oamaru. Harnesslink Media  

Owner-trainer Bruce Graham turned 74 yesterday and his grand old trotter Quality Invasion delivered the ultimate birthday present with a win at Oamaru. It was a timely return to winning form for the 11-year-old Quality Invasion who was having his 26th start since his previous success at Addington in October, 2013. It was an above average performance to master a 30m handicap over 2000m on grass. He got to the front 250m out and held off Pyramid Monarch by a long neck in track record time of 2.38.3. “I couldn’t want for more,’’ said Graham. Quality Invasion has now won 18 races from 82 starts for breeder Graham. The gelding has won in each of the six seasons he has raced and amassed $163,758 in stakes. It was his seventh win on grass and his first in the hands of Amber Lethaby. She has taken the reins in recent starts. Graham was forced to find a replacement driver for Grant Archer when the latter took work in Australia 10 months ago. Archer, who has driven Quality Invasion in 11 wins, is due back this month. “He has a few tricks and is not the easiest to drive,’’ said Graham. Graham said Quality Invasion had responded well to a change of training venue. “I have been working him at Hororata and I think getting away from home has helped him.’’ Quality Invasion won his first two starts at Methven and Addington as a six-year-old in October, 2009 when trained by Tim Butt. The Armbro Invasion- Quality Product gelding did not race again for 13 months and Graham was then the trainer at his Charing Cross property. Trevor Cleave, a Waimate owner-trainer, had his first win for eight and a half years when Igottastar cleared maiden ranks at Oamaru. Cleave had his other win with Attie at Forbury Park in May, 2005. He has not held a licence for three seasons in between times. Al Raza continued her fine form when she won the Oamaru Cup in style at her first start on grass yesterday. Al Raza has won seven of her 13 starts and $39,592 in stakes since she was bought as a maiden by the 30-strong Central Courage syndicate in April and transferred to the Roxburgh trainers, Geoff and Jude Knight. Al Raza had been placed in two starts for Roxburgh breeder Bill Keeler. The Gotta Go Cullect mare won four in a row at Forbury Park during the winter. Al Raza won the Equine Stakes in 1.55 for the mile at Winton last month. “She will start in the Premier Mares Championship now and if she is up to that level she will go on to the Breeders’ Stakes,’’ said Geoff Knight. The group two Mares Championship is at Addington on January 30 over 1950m (mobile) and the group one Breeders’ Stakes (2600m) there on March 20. Al Raza settled tenth in a 16-horse field on Sunday and she was still a fair way from the lead starting the run home. She finished boldly to win by two and three quarter lengths from Phoenix Warrior. Beaudiene Beaut Babe became the fifth winner produced by broodmare Beaudiene Babe when she won at Oamaru. Beaudiene Beaut Babe, a four-year-old daughter of Art Major is raced by Bayswater breeders Dave and Dawn Kennedy with the Out Of Town syndicate and trained at Westwood by Jonny Cox and Amber Hoffman. Beaudiene Babe is also the dam of Beaudiene Bad Babe (22 wins from 42 starts and $404,000), Guns N Rose (nine NZ wins and 1.52.4 in Australia), Beaudiene Boaz and Beaudiene Maja Babe. Taylor Strong - Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand  

Harness racing meetings at Oamaru are not really a place where you would normally find a real up and comer racing. They have their quality races such as the Hannon Memorial for the open class horses which was run today (September 14th) but in the main its a racetrack for the nice horses who are just finding Addington a touch too hard. Today's C1-C2 trot at Oamaru drew a big field of 15 with some really nice trotters amongst them who were in good form. The public made the Paul Nairn trained Waterloo Sunset the favourite from the 10 meter mark even though he was having his first run in nearly four months and he had been unsighted at trials and workouts. Driven by in form reinsman Bob Butt, Waterloo Sunset missed away from the standing start and settled five lengths behind the field in the early stages. Monty Python had found the front and was setting a steady pace while Waterloo Sunset was still last with a lap to run. Passing the 800 meters Waterloo Sunset was still two lengths last and at least 15 lengths from the leader and was still amongst the tailenders as the field turned for home. Monty Python was claimed half way up the straight by Ottawa before he in turn was claimed by a withering late burst from Waterloo Sunset which saw him get home by a neck with Bob Butt hardly moving in the bike. Waterloo Sunset trotted the 2600 meters in 3:22.8, with closing sectionals off the front of 58.9 and 30.1  Coming from last and at least 15 lengths off the lead at the 800 meters mark to win was a good indication of how good the run of Waterloo Sunset was. A 5 year old entire by the legendary sire Sundon, Waterloo Sunset is the first of the former outstanding trotting mare Inspire ($147,468) who won the 2006 Rowe Cup (Group One) Inspire is a full sister to the former brilliant age group trotter Enthusiast ($90,585) who won 11 races as a two and three year old and a half sister to the smart Call You Later ($73,174) The grand-dam Enthuse is a half sister to the former outstanding trotter Sundowner Bay ($259,856) who won 18 races. It is a family that master trotting trainer Paul Nairn has had a lot of success with over the years. Going by todays  effort, Waterloo Sunset looks poised to add to that record and appears headed to open class in a hurry. Harnesslink Media    

The recently established harness racing team of Ken Barron and Blair Orange served notice today (Sunday 3rd August) at the Kurow Trotting Clubs meeting at Oamaru of what a powerful force they will be this season when they combined to win two races today from two starters. First up was the Ken Barron trained son of Falcon Seelster, No Excuse Maravu who with Blair Orange in the sulky was very impressive taking out the Rural Transport Pace over 2000 meters from a stand. Three back on the outer early on, No Excuse Maravu was pushed back to second last at the 800 meters mark before Blair Orange sent him around the field three wide from the 600 meters. Pushed four wide at the top of the straight, No Excuse Maravu quickly went to the front and comfortably held out the challenge of the warm favourite Idolise. It was the 3 year olds first win at just his third start and the manner of the win suggested a big future. No Excuse Maravu paced the 2000 meters from a stand in 2:31.9, a mile rate of 2:02.2 with closing sectionals of 58.4 and 28.3. The combination were at it again in the very next race with the talented Live Or Die 3 year old Livura captialising on a lovely drive from Blair Orange to win the Twizel Combined Services Club mobile pace over 2000 meters. Back early from a second row draw, Blair Orange sent Livura forward three wide with 1400 to go before ending up in the one by one with a lap to go. From there he got a lovely run until the corner where Blair angled Livura for an inside run. He burst between runners half way up the straight to grab the hotpot Western Art for an impressive win. The first foal from the talented Union Guy mare Zitura 1:57.7 ($114,990), Livura paced the 2000 meters from the mobile in 2:30.6, a mile rate of 2:01.1 with closing sectionals of 57.5 and 28. Ken Barron and Blair Orange have sent a clear message with their wins today that their newly established combination is one to be feared this season.  No Excuse Maravu Livura Harnesslink media

The Christchurch earthquakes and rebuild have thrown up a lot of characters in the last few years and none are any bigger than the owner of Southern Demolition, Alan Edge. This larger than life character, who has earned a reputation for being brusque and tough talking in the teak tough demolition game, is one of the major players in the massive demolition industry that has sprung up since the Christchurch earthquakes. The Edge name has also been around in Canterbury harness racing circles since the involvement of Alan's father Noel nearly fifty years ago. Today Alan's brother Neil trains a handy team from Maddisons Road in Weedons just south of Christchurch and its here that Alan has honed his driving skills in recent years on members of Neil's team. Always highly competitive throughout a very successful sporting career, Alan has become a regular in the amateur driving events. At last Sunday's Oamaru meeting Alan took the drive behind the well tried Edge stable runner Alta Capone. Drawn wide at nine, Alan dropped Alta Capone out to last early in the 2600 meters  mobile event and thats where he stayed until joining the three wide train at the 1100 meters mark. Getting a lovely drag into the race from there, Alta Capone finished stoutly in the straight to just get his nose in front at the right time. This was the fifth win lifetime for the son of The Big Dog who is owned by Alan and Neil and took his stake earnings to $28,973. Alta Capone paced the 2600 meters in 3:19.6, a mile rate of 2:03.5 with closing sectionals of 58.2 and 29 in the bitter winter conditions. This was Alan's third win in an Amateur drivers race along with seven placings from just 25 drives. If Sundays inch perfect drive is anything to go by, it certainly wont be Alans last winning drive. Hrnesslink Media

Oamaru Raceway could have easily been mistaken for the North Pole today. Not only was it was it freezing cold but Father Christmas was there. And, like every Decemeber, he didn’t disappoint. After starting from the unruly, Father Christmas and driver Brad Williamson looped the field three wide with cover with a lap to go, before surging to the front down the back straight. He then kicked strongly in the home straight to hold off a late challenge from Foreverman. Little Bro was a further two lenghts away in third. The Phil Williamson trained three-year-old, who was greeted in the winners’ circle by a syndicate of owners wearing Santa hats, has now won three of his six starts and placed on a further two occasions. However, had it not been for a couple of mistakes his record could be even more impressive. “Phil (Williamson) has always had a big opinion of him and he seems to be getting more full-proof all the time,” said wife Bev Williamson. “We think he has a pretty big future and he should still get better as he is only three,” she added. By top French stallion Love You, Father Christmas was bred to be good and should continue to get even better. He hails from a family of smart trotters including Dependable, Jo Anne, Shirley Temple, Ima Gold Digger, and Doctor Mickey. Meanwhile, junior reinswomen Samantha Ottley and Kimberly Butt both won two races on the card today and tied for first in the Streamline Freight Drivers Challenge. Kim was successful aboard the Tim Butt trained Pantheon and the Robbie Holmes trained Lurah, who provided her with not only her first double but also her first outside win “Before today I had only ever driven winners for Tim Butt (uncle) and Mark Jones (employer-second cousin),” explained Butt. Ottley was victorious aboard Valmagne and Joe The Hunter and now has a four win lead in the Junior Drivers Premiership over northern reinsman Sailesh Abernethy. By Mitchell Robertson

After being dislodged from the sulky and tasting the grit in the ninth race on the card at Oamaru yesterday, junior reinswoman Jessica Young bounced back to win the following race aboard the Paul Young trained Mixed Emotions. “He has been knocking on the door for a while now,” said Young. “He put up a big run to finish in third last start after being attacked in front, so he really was overdue a win,” she added. Young took luck out of the equation, holding the lead on Mixed Emotions from his ace alley, before kicking strongly in the home stretch to hold off a late bid from Vanilla Rose. Mixed Emotions, a five-year-old son of Grinfromeartoear, showed plenty of ability as a 3 & 4YO before being sidelined with a paddock injury. He has now won two races and had nine placings from 25 raceday starts. “The win certainly helped make up for what happened in the race before,” laughed Young. Meanwhile, the feature C3 & faster pace was taken out by the inform Jeans Mattjesty, who produced some slick sectionals to burst up the passing lane and win impressively by 1 & ¼ lengths over Roo Star. By Mitchell Robertson Stipes Report Race 9 MONARCHY TROT. DANNY COOL and GOODBOY TIGER broke at the start. Also at the start FRENCH DESIRE backed away whilst SURE SIGN reared up with both runners inconveniencing BREENY’S SMILE which spun round. BREENY’S SMILE when turning around sharply to face the right direction dislodged driver J Young from the sulky which left Miss Young positioned on the track for some time. The driverless BREENY’S SMILE galloped to rejoin the field near 2100 metres. FRENCH DESIRE broke briefly shortly after the start FACE VALUE broke passing the 2300 metres inconveniencing WISHES STAR this resulted in an easing of the pace in the one out line with FRENCH DESIRE breaking. Stewards elected to stop the race near the 1400 metres for safety reasons. In accordance with Rule 211A (1) (2) and the Stopped Race Policy the race was abandoned. Driver J Young was examined by the on-course ambulance officers and cleared to fulfil her remaining engagement.

Congratulations to Blair Orange, Mark Jones, Nathan Williamson, Scott Phelan and Todd Mitchell who all tipped out winners last week. Here are this week’s selections: Andrew Armour & Nathan Williamson: Are both very bullish about the chances of Onedin Mach, who looks very well placed in the fourth race at Oamaru on Sunday. Anthony Butt: Thinks Cam Before The Storm can bounce back from his first-up flop and win the sixth race at Oamaru on Sunday. Blair Orange:  Has opted for Classiebee as his bet of the week. The consistant type goes around in the ninth race at Oamaru. Craig Thornley: Thinks that with manners, U Dream will be very hard to stop. She will compete in the third race at Addington on Friday. David Butt: Rates Georgie Mach as his best of the weekend. She was highly impressive when qualifying 10 seconds under the required time and looks very hard to beat from the ace draw – Oamaru, race one. Dexter Dunn: Has been very brave this week and tipped out potential star Locharburn who will probably start at odds of about $1.10 – Addington, race four. Gavin Smith:  Has opted for the well bred Incredible Anvil, who also goes around in the first race at Oamaru on Sunday. John Dunn: Has gone for the very inform Kotare Mahal, who should make it five wins from his last six starts in the ninth race at Addington on Friday. Jim Curtin: Thinks the consistent Damon Runyon is a strong each-way chance in the first race at Addington on Friday night. Matthew Williamson: Has opted for Idle Bones, who recently joined his father’s barn. The capable type competes in the eighth race at Oamaru on Sunday. Maurice McKendry: Thinks talented three-year-old Machtu should be winning the third race at Cambridge tonight. Scott Phelan: Who has been in tremendous form of late, has gone for Secret Desire as his bet of the week – Cambridge, race six. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has gone for Threestones as his bet of the week. He was good at a recent workout but does meet a handy maiden line-up that includes Ohoka Cooper (the Whales best bet) and Hawkeye Bromac – Cambridge, race four. Simon Lawson: Rates the chances of Betty Boop Brogden. She and Saharazona should make up the quinella in race five at Cambridge tonight. Terry Chmiel: Thinks Betabcool is the best of his runners this week – Oamaru, race one. Todd Mitchell: Thinks Ace Of Delight will take some serious catching in the second race at Cambridge tonight. by Mitchell Robertson

Junior reinsman, Matt Purvis, waited longer than he would have liked to drive his first winner. But, when he finally did at Oamaru today, he did it in grand style. “It is good to get that first one out of the way. Driving a good horse definitely makes it a bit easier,” laughed Purvis, who was having his 36th drive today. That good horse Purvis speaks of is Elios, who recorded his fifth career win today at just start number 14. After going forward from the gate, Purvis dictated terms in front, before Elios did the rest, dashing away for an emphatic five and a half length victory. El Fuego and Nicole Harris, who was also looking for her first win, finished in second, with Uncle Trevor a further 1 & ¼ lengths away in third. “I’ve been pretty unlucky not to pick one up before now, but you can’t help bad luck. I’m absolutely stoked. We are actually about to stop of in Temuka now to stock up and have a few celebrational drinks.” Purvis got his initial groundings with Phillip Vermulean and Greg & Nina Hope, before working for trotting legend Paul Nairn. “Everyone has been great. I worked for Greg & Nina for three years, and they gave me a great grounding. I also learnt a lot from Paul and he helped me with my driving. Purvis now works for the Woodend barn of Robert Dunn, who prepared today’s winner Elios. “I really enjoy working them at the beach and Johnny (Dunn) has also been very helpful with my driving,” concluded Purvis. Purvis has always had a keen interest in the harness racing game. His dad has raced a few horses as a owner and his granddad Les Purvis was a stipe for many years. by Mitchell Robertson  

Not the best week last week, with the only winners coming from John Dunn and Ricky May. Let’s hope with the addition of T.A.B Bookmaker Steve Richardson we can step it up a notch. Anthony Butt: Rates the chances of Thanesan in the ninth race at Kurow (Oamaru) on Sunday. Blair Orange: Likes Electric Ollie in the eighth race at Addington tonight. Craig Thornley: Has opted for U Dream as his bet of the week – Oamaru, race two. David Butt: Thinks provided he does think right, One Over Da Moon will be winning at Addington tonight – race four. Gavin Smith: Thinks Regal Light can shed some light on his weekend – Oamaru, race two. Jonny Cox:  Rates Mackenzie Jacob as his best chance of the week – Oamaru, race six. Ken Barron: Thinks Upanatom will take all sorts of stopping in the fourth race at Oamaru on Sunday. Matthew Williamson:  Has opted for Xmas In Newyork as his best bet – Addington, race eight. Simon Lawson: Likes Howzat in the first race at Alexandra Park on Friday Stephen McNally: Has been reunited with his old mate Mullingar Mac – Addington, race eight. (T.A.B) Steve Richardson: Has gone for Jasinsky as his bet of the week – Alexandra Park, race seven. Terry Chmiel: Rates the chances of Thrill in the last race at Oamaru on Sunday. Todd Mitchell: Will look to get his winning record back on track with Rodger Ramjet – Alexandra Park, race eleven. Zac Butcher: Is making an early predication – Maxim in the Breeders Crown. By Mitchell Robertson  

Few salutes have lasted as long as Graeme Anderson's at Oamaru yesterday, but the statuesque pose in the sulky was hiding some nerves.

It hasn't had the same media attention as the Michael Pitman and Lisa Latta premiership battle in the thoroughbred code, but the harness racing trainers’ premiership is also about to heat up in a big way.

There was no ring-around last week, so we will try to make up for it with double the winners this week.

Today's (Sunday May 19) New Zealand harness racing meetings at Manawatu and Oamaru were the last chance for horses to accumulate stakes in order to qualify for the coveted Harness Jewels, and why some were grinning at the end of the day, others were not quite so fortunate.

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