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Grey trotting machine Idle Bones will now head home to Christchurch to compete in the upcoming Lower Grade $23,500 Super Series Handicap Trot at Addington on the 8th of August after completing a hatrick of wins at Alexandra Park. The reformed rogue mare, who won her debut before bad manners led to a 16-race losing streak, has now won five of her last six starts and looks set to continue through to open class. After settling towards the back of the field from her 10 metre handicap, driver Brent Mangos set the Monkey Bones mare a light with a lap to go, looping the field to find the front. She then trotted along boldly in front, before leaving her rivals breathless and sprinting away for a four and a half length win. “It was a great race to win as it was a $15,000 stake and her third win at Alexandra Park, so she got the money bags bonus as well,” explained owner Dave McHugh, who has enjoyed a great run as an owner in the last few weeks having also won with Ellmer Hanover and The Yaldy’s Ideal. “You have to enjoy it while it lasts but unfortunately there is only one way I can go from here and that’s back down again,” he laughed. McHugh was full of praise for trainer Paul (Tank) Ellis, who also shares in the ownership of the grey mare. “She has given 'Tank' a few headaches but he has stuck with her and now we are getting the rewards,” said McHugh. The win landed a few big bets on the talented mare including $10,000 at $1.80 and $3,000 at $1.70 Idle Bones, who had four starts at Alexandra Park during her northern sojourn for three emphatic wins and a narrow second, will head home to Christchurch on Thursday. “Provided she comes through the trip alright she will start in the Super Series Trot at Addington before heading for a well earned break,” stated McHugh. By Mitchell Robertson

Southern Cross Final day now to be held on Sunday 3rd August just got bigger with the confirmation that four  time SA Cup winner Smoken Up will make his final ever appearance in South Australia  Four $60,000 Southern Cross Finals , two for 2yo’s & two for the 3yo’s both fillies finals & colts and geldings will be the highlight of the afternoon, but no doubt the real attraction will be Smoken Up. In  six appearances in the Group 1 South Australian Pacing Cup, Smoken Up  has claimed SA’s biggest race four times - equal with another champion Gammalite - along with two placings. Harness Racing SA have come on board to help make this day one to remember, hats off to them firstly for moving Southern Cross Final to the Sunday Afternoon with full Sky 1 coverage. Then have also involved the Adelaide Crows Football Club to make the day part of the Crows Charity Foundation and now to have Australasia’s best ever pacer with “rock star” status  racing on the day is yet another feather in their cap. HRSA plan to have free commemorative posters, autographs and photos available to fans. The now 11-year-old remains the fastest horse in the Southern Hemisphere and has pocketed his owners more than $3.5m in prizemoney having won a staggering 73 of 149 starts. All roads will lead to Betezy Park Globe Derby on Sunday August 3

Southland owned pacer Scarymclearry, who won five races including the Group Two Australasian Young Drivers Stakes in Australia when trained by Menangle trainer David Thorn, is back in New Zealand and will be tried by John and Josh Dickie as a trotter. The six-year-old son of Elsu, who has won $137,456 in stakes and paced a 1:52.3 mile, qualified twice as a trotter in Australia running 2:00.2 in his first trial and 1:57.7 the second time around. However, he then had one race where he broke badly in the score-up and the stewards told Thorn he would have to trial on multiple occasions to gain clearance to race again. That’s when it all became too hard and his syndicate of owners, headed by Vin Nally, opted to bring the gelding home. Originally it was planned that he would return to Southland, however after Nally received an out of the blue phone call from Josh Dickie a 50/50 deal was struck to race the pacer come trotter in the north. Dickie, who won the Australasian Young Drivers Stakes aboard the gelding, was obviously aware of Scarymcleary’s ability to trot and offered to train the speedy type for nothing in return for a half share. Scarymclearry, who won eight races when trained in Southland by Tony Barron and has won 13 races in total, under Australian rules would have had to race as a Free-For-All trotter but by returning to his homeland he will get the opportunity to start fresh as a maiden trotter. The Dolamite Syndicate owned gelding returned to New Zealand last month and began work with the Dickie’s last week. By Mitchell Robertson

This is the third in a series of articles we are running with regards to the racing policies of the major political parties in New Zealand. This time it is the LABOUR PARTY: Our vision    Racing is a skilled, vibrant industry with a high profile in New Zealand. It contributes  significantly to the domestic economy in terms of primary production, as a gaming sport and  in entertainment. It has an extremely high value in the export of bloodstock, particularly in  new markets such as Hong Kong.    Racing offers employment directly and indirectly to many people across a wide spectrum of  society. Labour is committed to working in partnership with the industry to achieve better  outcomes in all areas of the racing industry.    When in government, we worked hard to build a good environment for the industry. The  income tax liability was removed on offshore stake money, and the GST liability due on  horses sold for export was addressed.    The Racing Act 2003 better equipped the industry to address the challenges it faces. Labour  delivered a reduction in taxation to align with other forms of gambling, enabling the industry  to have increased funds for stakes, assets and other activities.    Labour recognises the need for the industry to achieve sustainable growth through  maximising strengths and opportunities, and will continue to work closely with the sector to  facilitate this.    Value to economy    The racing industry makes a significant contribution to New Zealand‟s GDP, and creates  employment and export opportunities. A study by the Melbourne-based economic  consultancy IER Pty Ltd (IER) found that in 2008/09 the industry had a significant economic  impact on New Zealand‟s GDP, employment and exports.   They reported that, in 2008/09:    1) Racing made a direct contribution of $464 million to GDP, and generated more than  $1,635 million (0.9 per cent of GDP) if the indirect impact of expenditure in the racing  industry is taken into account.    2) Racing directly sustained 8,877 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, and when the indirect  impact of racing is taken into account, the total employment increased to 16,934 FTE  jobs. More than 52,000 people participated in the racing industry (this figure included  volunteers and owners).    3) The racing industry generated more than $167 million in export sales of thoroughbred  and standard bred horses.    A prosperous and dynamic sector with huge potential  The racing industry is currently in decline, primarily through having to compete with many  other forms of gambling. So changes are needed. When in Government, Labour will be  instrumental in allowing all parts of the industry to be involved in reviewing the current status  of the industry, and to establish what is the best way forward.    Labour is committed to building on the good partnership we had developed with the racing  industry, and will continue to work closely with the industry to strengthen racing‟s  contribution to economic growth. Labour will ensure that all additional funding to racing  contributes to real economic growth to be enjoyed by all stakeholders, through appropriate  industry strategies.    Recognising that change must come from within, Labour will convene a round-table  discussion of major stakeholders in the industry with a view to strengthening and  enhancing the economic viability of racing in New Zealand. We will ensure that a  strategic direction is developed and implemented.    Labour is concerned that some racing clubs might use revenue from pokie machines for  purposes other than for the social good. There are also proposals to establish pokie  machines on racing club premises, and we are concerned this may be done without  sufficiently-wide consultation. Labour will bring together industry stakeholders to develop  policy on these issues.    Labour will ensure the robustness of the Integrity Unit, meaning that those appointed to it are  of the highest calibre, in order to maintain the integrity of the unit and the industry.    Labour in government will assist in establishing a Code of Practice for the racing industry,  which will be drawn up and agreed upon by all major stakeholders and will link with the  current set-up of the Integrity Unit.    We will also uphold the position of the New Zealand Racing Board to hold the exclusive  rights to racing and sports betting in New Zealand, and for the net proceeds to be returned to  sustain New Zealand racing.    Labour will work with the New Zealand Racing Board, the racing code bodies, the Governments and International racing bodies to ensure that New Zealand is well placed to respond to any threats to racing's revenue and integrity.   Racing is inherently a dangerous occupation. But with the right tools, the risks can be  managed and mitigated. Labour is committed to working with the sector to ensure that  jockeys ride in the safest environment possible. A reduction of injuries and safer practices  will result in a reduction in ACC levies.   Labour will work with the industry to reduce injuries, promote safe practices and provide safe amenities.    Our thoroughbred stock is a precious resource, and in New Zealand we are lucky our  industry is free from diseases such as Equine Influenza. But the scare in Australia reinforces the need for vigilance in biosecurity measures to protect the industry. Labour will ensure the  racing sector and the government have the necessary measures and tools in place to  identify and manage biosecurity risks to protect the industry.    Labour will support appropriate biosecurity measures to protect the racing industry in  all its activities.    Skills development and training is as important in the racing sector as any other sector. We  want to see the industry continue to move towards being a high-technology, high-skilled  driver of growth. Labour will continue to work with the sector to identify areas for  improvement in industry training and education.    Labour will work with the racing sector to further its industry training and education  goals.    Labour recognises the difficulties faced by the racing industry in modernising itself for the  21st century. We will work with all major stakeholders to ensure the revitalisation of a strong  economic performer which can do even better.    The Labour Party            

Jubilation quickly turned to heartbreak in a pair of trotting events at Balmoral Park on Wednesday, July 9th as a pair of diamond gaiters looked to be home free only to have late miscues cost them what looked to be sure victories in these state-bred stake events.   In what looked like it was going to a replay of their last two encounters Macie Rae (Ryan Anderson) carved out splits of 28.0, 58.1 & 1:27.3 and appeared to be holding firm to the wire before going off stride with less than a sixteenth of a mile to go. That allowed the pocket sitting Bailey's Wish and driver Dave Magee to capitalize on their good fortune as they zipped right on by for the victory in the $10,000 Fox Valley Diva Stake for state-bred three-year-old trotting fillies. Macie Rae settled for the place spot while Lora Lee Breeze (Matt Krueger) was a distant third.   The three-quarter-length triumph in a career best of 1:56.1 pushed the daughter of Southwind Breeze--Jen's career record to 7-6-3 in 22 starts for owners James Bafia and Eugene White. The good looking brown filly has also banked a hefty $151,983 while under the guidance of conditioner Dirk Simpson who is zeroing in on the 1,000 victory plateau.   In the first of two $5,000 divisions of the Psychic Spirit Stake for ICF two-year-old trotting colts Southrncomfortzone (John De Long) looked to be home free after a pocket sitting journey behind Captain Greedy and driver-trainer J.D. Finn. That's when disaster struck for that colt as he "jumped it off" allowing Captain Greedy, who had put up splits of 29.3, 1:00.2 & 1:31.2 to reclaim the lead and cruise to a six-length triumph in 1:59.4. Cardinal Yankee (Mike Brink) rallied to be second while Pizzalicious (Dale Hiteman) was moved from fourth to third because of the disqualification of Southrncomfortzone.   The win was the third in four starts for the son of Yankee Valor--Tropical Trixie who now has $6,692 in career earnings.   The second division of the Psychic Spirit proved to be far less dramatic as the Herman Wheeler owned and trained Fox Valley Qatar made it three in a row to open his career posting an impressive 2 ¾ length victory in a career best of 1:58.3.   After saving ground while Allpowernoemotion (Ronnie Gillespie) put up splits of 30.1, 1:00 & 1:29.2, driver Todd Warren eased Fox Valley Qatar through the passing lane and the gelded son of Pizzazzed--Armbro Bahrain responded beautifully as he charged right by the tiring pace setter for an easy score. Allpowernoemotion held on for second while RT Habenero (Robert Taylor) rallied to be third.   Fox Valley Qatar now sports career earnings of $5,625 and looks like he'll be the one to beat heading into the State Fair Stakes at Springfield in August.   by Tom Kelley, for Balmoral Park

Some Or Lis (Lis Mara-Grabbersome) was the longest shot on the board in the $7,200 feature race at Vernon Downs on Saturday night, but that did not prevent him from storming past the entire field to score an upset harness racing win in 1:51.4.   The early stages of the race featured a speed duel between You Bet Your Glass (Frank Davis) and I Do Hanover (Chris Lems), who was parked on the outside for the majority of the mile. Those two set some fast fractions early on, covering a quarter in 25.4 and a half in 53.4. That early speed ended up being the undoing of the duo, both of whom finished out of the top three. After hitting three quarters of a mile in 1:22.4, You Bet Your Glass and I Do Hanover faded in the stretch and Some Or Lis (Claude Huckabone III) came all the way from last in the field of six at the top of the stretch to win at 20-1.   The second-longest shot in the field, The Green Knight (John Macdonald) at 14-1, finished second. The exacta ended up paying $240 with the two longshots comprising it. Buckeye Baddler (Truman Gale) sat behind the early speed battle in third position and started to rally through on the inside in the stretch as the leaders fell back, but the closers also passed him by and he had to settle for third.   The complete order of finish was: Some Or Lis, The Green Knight, Buckeye Baddler, I Do Hanover, You Bet Your Glass, and Stonebridge Master. Some Or Lis is owned by Richard Dow of Holland Patent, New York and trained by Stephen Marsh.   The driving star of the night was John Macdonald who scored three victories and three seconds on the 11-race program. He was a winner with Bandini in the 1st race, MacKenzie's Bliss in the 7th race, and That's Ideal in the 9th race. He was second with The Green Knight in the 2nd race, Beignet in the 8th race, and Tactical Attack in the 11th race.   No live racing on Thursday with a concert being held by Jerrod Niemann and Love & Theft. The concert benefits The Food Bank of Central New York. Tickets are available for $15 and the Chairman of American Racing and Entertainment, Jeff Gural, will be personally donating $10 for every ticket sold to the Food Bank of Central New York with a goal of raising $100,000 to benefit the Food Bank.   Live racing will resume at Vernon Downs on Friday, July 4 with a 6:45pm post time. The Friday program will feature the first leg of the Racing Under Saddle Series. There will be a special July 4th Fireworks Display following the conclusion of the live racing program.   by Michael Chamberlain, Vernon Downs Publicity    

Southland’s claiming King and Queen, Geoff and Jude Knight, were the deserving winners of tonight’s $10,000 Claimers’ Final at Forbury Park. The Roxburgh couple, who have kept the Southern Claimers’ Series alive this season, were victorious in the race with 10yo come-back pacer Hi Gun, who returned to the winners circle for the first time in just under a year. Hi Gun was also sucessful in the 2013 Claimers' Series Final. Given a beautiful run in the trail by driver Dexter Dunn, Hi Gun pounced on the pacemaking Tagataese in the home straight to dive up the passing lane and win by a neck to the roar of the Who’s Driving Syndicate and the Turners. Hi Gun, who was retired after his run for 10th at Forbury Park on the 29th of August 2013, was originally brought back into training to work by his co-owner Jonny Turner before returning to fo full work with Geoff and Jude Knight. The Knight's use alternative training methods to keep Hi Gun fit and on top of his game. Those methods include riding, and sometimes, jumping. Hi Gun was placed in all six of the claimers’ heats leading up to tonight’s final. The son of Washington VC has now won 10 of his 68 starts and placed on a further 23 occasions. Runner-up Tagataese was claimed out of the event for $8,000 by, yes, you guessed it, Geoff and Jude Knight. However, while the Knight’s do specialise in turning around older and sometimes sore horses, they do have the odd smart young horse and one of them is Al Raza. The talented three-year-old filly, which is owned by the Central Courage Syndicate, made it four wins on end when winning a race her owners sponsored – the Central Courage Syndicate C1-2 Mobile Pace. Meanwhile, junior Trackside Presenter/Commentator Matthew Cross enjoyed his first win as an owner when combining with Mark Jones and his fiancée Kimberly Butt, to win the first race on the card with Lady Mackendon. Cross is set to make his commentating debut at Rangiora on Sunday. By Mitchell Robertson

LATHAM, N.Y. A seminar for new and prospective harness racing owners sponsored by the Agriculture and New York State Horse Breeding Development Fund and hosted by Harness Horse Breeders of New York State will be held at Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs, New York. This seminar will provide valuable information for prospective or rookie owners and focus on all aspects of horse ownership. The seminar is scheduled for Saturday July 12th, 2014 at Saratoga Casino and Raceway The seminar will start at 1:30 p.m. and include a meal and live racing. It will cover the rewards and risks of horse ownership, actual costs, choosing young horses or claimers and how to choose a trainer. Participants will have the opportunity to tour the racing facility and meet the Race Secretary and the Presiding Judge. They will also visit a trainer's stable and talk with owners. Tuition is $20 per person or $30 per couple and includes the seminar, materials, dinner, live racing, a pathways certificate, membership to HHBNYS and follow-up services. The seminar requires advance registration no later than July 9th. For more information or to register for the seminar, please call Harness Horse Breeders at 518-785-5858 or e-mail info@hhbnys.com. by Betty Holt, for the NYSS

There’s some real opportunity not to be missed over the Winter for owners and trainers to cash in at Addington with the staging of the Winter Super Series. If you own or train a horse that satisfies some simple criteria you could well be competing for substantial stakes on Finals Day – Friday 8 August. There’ll be over $100,000 up for grabs over six races. All you have to do is start twice at a New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club (NZMTC) meeting from 10 May to 31 July and have a horse that satisfies the following:  C0 pacer at 3 May  C1 to C2 pacer at 3 May  C0 to C2 Trotter at 3 May The three Finals for the above classes are staked at $23,500 and Consolations (should numbers warrant) are staked at $12,500. All starters in the Final receive a minimum stake of $500 and starters in the Consolation will receive a minimum stake of $250. There’s no enrolment fee payable. This Series is the fourth of its type held at Addington this season and provides both owners and trainers with some exceptional options for their charges to grab considerable stakes at minimum costs. Full details can be viewed at www.addington.co.nz under Racing – Promotions and Incentives. Alternatively, please phone Brian Rabbitt or Richard Bromley of Addington’s Racing Department on 03 338-9094. Ged Mooar Marketing & Commercial Manager Addington

The autumn weather has been superb but even better for our Owners of the Month for May, namely Bradley Hewitt, Lester and Linda Hewitt and Peter Trevor-Jones. Brad Hewitt has had a purple patch of late, winning 7 races with 4 horses; She’s All Magic, Spare Me Days, the exciting He’s A  Dude, and the ever improving I’m Jay Tee. An impressive aspect of this success is the consistency shown by the stable runners. The Western Districts husband and wife team of Lester and Linda Hewitt won 5 races with 3 horses; Casino Chimes and She’s So Foxy at Bathurst and Armbro Chimes at Penrith and Menangle. The latter horse will figure prominently in the upcoming 4 year old division of the Breeders Challenge. The last recipient for May is the very successful Peter Trevor-Jones with 5 wins with 3 horses including the highly rated Ominous Warning. This 2 year old has gone from strength to strength and will no doubt start a warm favourite in the upcoming Breeders Challenge final for Colts and Geldings. He has speed and stamina and is rewarding his owner for many years of involvement in Harness Racing. This Association would urge all participants to be aware of the proposed changes to Handicapping and Programming that are proposed to be introduced from the 1st of September 2014. Harness Racing NSW have been conducting road shows to explain the changes which they intend to implement and these changes will have far reaching impact on all participants. Further information can be obtained by contacting HRNSW. HRNSW

ANDERSON, Ind.-June 11, 2014 - Sam Widger notched the 5,000th win of his career after he piloted Brooklyn's Z Tam to victory in a condition pace at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino on Wednesday, June 11. The 1:56.2 victory marked a lifetime best performance for the four-year-old daughter of Electric Yankee-Slick Fit and a career milestone for the 50-year-old reinsman. Trained by Mike Murphy, Brooklyn's Z Tam was able to take advantage of a perfect second-over trip to record the first win of her 4-year-old campaign. Owned by Connie Blakeman, Brooklyn's Z Tam now sports a career bankroll of $24,870. Hoosier Park's Vice President and General Manager, Rick Moore, along with Widger's friends and fellow drivers were in the winner's circle to congratulate and acknowledge his accomplishment. "On behalf of Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, I'd like to congratulate Sam on win number 5,000," Moore noted. "Through his professionalism and attitude, Sam is a great ambassador for our sport. We wish Sam continued success for the remainder of this season and throughout his career. We look forward to watching him win many more races at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino." Now in his 28th season as a driver, Widger completed his ninth season with purse earnings surpassing the $2.5 million mark in 2013. The veteran reinsman has gone over the $3 million mark in purse earnings four times in the last eight years and has finished among the top ten drivers at Hoosier Park every season he has competed. Widger also received a spot in the Hoosier Park history books when he guided Bolt The Duer to victory in the 2013 installment of Hoosier Park's most prestigious race, the $250,000 Dan Patch Invitational. Widger, who has a farm in Beecher, IL that he shares with his wife, Nancy, and his five children, loves to hunt, fish and also enjoys helping out on the family farm in his spare time. Widger remains humble when considering his career and accredits much of his success to hard work, determination and perseverance. "God willing, trainers willing, and owners willing, we'll just keep on going," Widger said after his win. "I count my blessings every day, not only with the harness racing, but with family as well. I'm as rich as anybody could be when it comes to family." Widger is currently third on the 2014 leading driver standings at Hoosier Park with 65 trips to the winner's circle and over $640,000 in purse earnings. Trace Tetrick leads all drivers with 97 victories while Tyler Smith is just behind him in second with 92 wins. Live racing at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino will continue on Thursday, June 12 with a 14-race card highlighted by the $17,500 Fillies and Mares Preferred trot. With a daily post time of 5:15 p.m., live racing will follow a Tuesday through Saturday schedule through November 15. by Emily Gaskin, for Hoosier Park

Following a hiatus of several years, the Canterbury Branches of the Standardbred Breeders Association, Owners Association, and the Trainers & Drivers Association, are combining to resurrect an Awards dinner to recognise the achievements of local harness racing participants. The event will be staged in the Silks Lounge at Addington Raceway on Saturday 27 September and will comprise of a buffet dinner interspersed with the presentation of the awards by Master of Ceremonies, Mark McNamara. Guests should arrive from 6:30pm onwards with the function itself commencing at 7:15. Numbers are limited to 300 and the ticket price is $50 per person, which includes an introductory drink and antipasto platter. The criteria for the winners will differ from those presented at the National Awards function, in that they will not necessarily be given to the Season leaders. More information on this aspect of the evening will be forthcoming in the near future. Should you wish to book tickets or require more information, please contact the following: OWNERS Assn: Barry Dent 021 653 499 bcdent@ihug.co.nz Greg Crawford 027 778 9493 gregc.doublee@xtra.co.nz HORSEMANS Assn: Ken Barron 027 4372532 kenbarron@xtra.co.nz Peter Cook 3433 713 petecee@clear.net.nz BREEDERS Assn: Robyn Boyle 027 2173643 boyles4@xtra.co.nz Noel Kennard 3479699 noel@goharness.co.nz By Peter Cook                            

Abbey Holdaway says she owes her first training victory to her boss and partner, Todd Mitchell. The 26-year-old Waikato horseman had her green, white, and black colours in the winner’s circle for the first time when Celeris won the Cambridge Primary Mobile Trot at Cambridge Raceway on Tuesday. “It was a huge thrill," she said. "Actually I was excited just getting my trainer’s licence, but now after six starts this happens....I’m still buzzing.” After stints with Geoff Small and Dale Cameron, Holdaway was actually looking for employment in the administration sector when Mitchell offered her part-time work. “I used to manage the Royal Oak Tab for a couple of years but always loved working with horses. "I didn’t think I could earn an income in the harness racing industry again until Todd offered me work." And then when Gene Robb left Mitchell’s early this year, Holdaway was offered full-time employment working alongside the four-time New Zealand Cup winning reinsman. She helps Mitchell work his team of about 13 in Tauwhare, as well as her only horse in training – Celeris. “I paid $2,000 for him off Adrienne Matthews in March last year. "Chris Gillies then trained him for me before I got my licence. "I had my first start with him in March. His previous best finish for me was sixth,” Holdaway said. Celeris drew 10 of 10 at Cambridge on Tuesday and was characteristically slow away. Mitchell had the Pegasus Spur gelding in sixth place (three-back on the outer) at the bell and then took lead at the 400m. They hung on to win by three quarters of a length, trotting the 2200m mobile in 2:48.8 (mile rate: 2:03.4) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 61.5 and 30.5. He was rank outsider and paid a whopping $83.40 to win. “He’s such a slow starter especially from stands, and I thought he might have gone a bit better from the mobile - and he did. "He was slow away again but it was a nice confident drive by Todd. “I won’t forget this win in a very long time,” Holdaway said. Holdaway was born in Auckland and educated at Pukekohe High School. “I wasn’t born into a harness racing family but soon learnt all about it when I was working for Geoff and then Dale. “Todd has also taught me heaps and I'm grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to train. "I am really enjoying it, I have no desire to drive – I’ll leave that to the professionals. “I would like to sell Celeris now and then perhaps lease another one. “I’m totally hooked,” she said. Holdaway shares in the ownership of Celeris with Neill and Aaron Bowrey. The 6-year-old was bred by Matthews, Johnnie Butcher and Philippa. Butcher. He is the 12th of 13 foals out of Game Pride mare, Game Robinson. Trained and driven by the late Max Robinson, Game Robinson won five races between 1989 and 1992. Her last foal – The Fat Controller (by Britewell) – was her most successful in New Zealand, winning 11 races and just over $150,000. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Nick Surick, the leading harness racing trainer at Freehold Raceway, did not have a racing background when he became a horseman. All Nick knew was he wanted to be a part of harness racing industry any way possible. As of the 22nd of May, Nick leads as the top trainer at Freehold Raceway with 26 wins out of 118 starts resulting in $86,000 in total purse winnings for 2014. "I have no horse racing background whatsoever" says Nick. "I actually grew up in Freehold, NJ and I lived about five minutes away from Freehold Raceway which was a ten minute bike ride. I used ride my bike to the track to watch the races as a kid." Nick credits his mom, Debbie, for always supporting him. "Through the bad times she helped me, good or bad she always stood behind me. She always wanted me to be happy" says Nick. His parents divorced right around the time Nick was getting into the harness racing industry and it must have been difficult for him, for anyone in that position. What originally drew Nick to the track was the gambling component. Nick's father, Kevin, helped introduce Nick to this unhealthy lifestyle due to the fact that Nick's father had substance abuse issues and was a known gambler. "I was a gambler; I was actually thrown out of a lot of tracks for underage gambling. My father was an alcoholic and a degenerate gambler." Nick admits. "I was more hooked that way more than anything. Aside from the gambling back then, I think the horse itself intrigued me and I liked the animal so much that it was good for me. " "I really wasn't the best student when it came to school." Nick explains, "I really couldn't care less about school. I dropped out of my second year in college so I could train full time when I got the opportunity from one of my big owners, Howard Schneidler. It all came together at the right time. "Once I learned the backside to horse racing, that's when I lost the itch for gambling. It was about growing up, maturing and getting smarter." Nick says. "Now that I was physically with the horse, gambling was not an issue anymore." The fact Nick was able to break away and cut the cord, so to speak, speaks volumes. Once Nick established himself as a horseman, it came to the point where Nick's father was constantly causing Nick problems at the Raceway and in life as a whole. "He caused me a lot of headaches at the track" Nick says about his father. "With me training horses, it wasn't good for him. He started making things up, telling people to bet horses (based) on what I said which are things I never said. If I talk to him a couple times a year, that's a lot. He was hurting my livelihood. "I had to take a step back, even though he's my dad I had to cut him out." Nick admits. "I had to think about my future and hopefully I have a lot of years ahead of me. "Drug and alcohol abuse made him a person he wasn't." Nick continues, "He was nasty to people... when you're under the influence you become a different person." The best piece of advice Nick ever received was from Richard Annunziata and it was about Nick ensuring he surrounds himself with good people. "He told me this when I was 16 and I am 26 now but I still remember it" says Nick. "Surround yourself with successful people; surround yourself with people that are better than you.... If you surround yourself with bad apples, that's who you're going to be. "That's what I did" says Nick. "I cut out all of the bad people from my life. The people who were bringing me down." Once Nick graduated from high school, he admits he changed lives. Nick did a 180 degree turn to better his life and to develop into a better person. Was it easy? That's tough to say as everyone deals with changes in their own manner but knowing that change is needed and working towards that is a task in itself. What Nick did is commendable, not many people can switch 'tracks' in life and to do so at a young and impressionable age is astounding. When Nick got started, he first worked for fellow trainer Eric Abbatiello. "I never had anyone behind me to push me, I did it all on my own." After working with Eric Abbatiello, Nick and his (now former) partner Anna Glide joined forces. "We worked together for four or five years and the business grew together between us" Nick explains. "We went from two horses to thirty five horses almost overnight. "When it comes to owners, I am happy with who I have," Nick says. Once Nick finds people he is comfortable with and who he believes has a good heart, Nick is content and doesn't go looking for more. It's about quality, not quantity for Nick. "I've learned a lot from Erv Miller... like who to accept in your barn." Nick states. "My girlfriend Hannah is his daughter." Working with Erv, Nick says "I've learned to individualize each horse. Treating each horse as their own... treat each horse as a separate entity." "Anytime I need any advice, I can pick up the phone and call Erv," says Nick. "He has one of the best managed barns I've ever seen. His memory is unbelievable!" Nick is open when he admits he doesn't like change, right now he's very happy residing near Freehold Raceway and all the major tracks are within driving distance. "Right now I take it one day at a time" says Nick when asked about what the future may hold for him. "I'm comfortable with my 30 to 40 horse barn." When it comes to Pacers or Trotters, hands down Nick prefers the Pacers. "I just haven't had any luck with the Trotters" laughs Nick. Nick pulls double duty at Freehold Raceway where he drives as well. Nick only plans on driving at Freehold Raceway and admits it's a lot of fun. Nick considers driving more of a hobby compared to training which is his passion. Nick believes the harness racing industry is headed in the proper direction by pushing to have the major races showcased on National TV. "We need a lot more one on one interaction with the drivers, trainers and the public." Nick says. Nick credits the success of his barn to his employees, the second trainers, the grooms and most importantly his owners. "I'm nothing without them and their financial backing" Nick states. "I've got great people behind me; I've got to give them credit. Nick Surick can't take care of 35- 40 horses, it takes a team. There's no magic, its teamwork." Roderick Balgobin's column will appear weekly on Harnesslink. You can contact him at rod.balgobin @supernovasportsclub.com or Twitter: ScSupernova        

More than 50 prominent breeders and industry officials from around the country attended this year’s Annual Breeders’ Conference which was held at the Hornby Workingmens Club in Christchurch on May 16. Sponsored once again by Noel Kennard’s unique website Harnessworld.org, this was the third edition of an annual conference for breeders and it continues to mould itself into an enjoyable and informative few hours for those who attend. NZSBA Chairman John Mooney touched on this in his opening address, “the aim was to make this year’s Conference more generalised and about the industry,” Mooney said. HRNZ’s General Manager Edward Rennell provided a list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) during his presentation of an industry overview of the season to date, with all figures quoted being as at May 12. Consistent with the same period last year were the number of totalisator races staged so far (2276 compared to 2262); total domestic turnover ($193.3m/$193m) and domestic market share (static at 29.7 percent). Marginal positives were recorded in the areas of horses’ total number of starts (24,300/23,697); average field size (10.7/10.5); average starts per horse (8.04/7.58); the amount of races with less than eight starters (244/269); total stakes paid ($24.25m/$23.07m) and total net stakes ($23.78m/$22.76m), while fixed odds turnover showed a substantial increase of nearly 23 percent to $50.5m (from $41.1m as at the same time last season). Rennell reported that the areas of decline included the total number of individual starters (3022/3127); off-course turnover ($127.6m/$135.4m); on-course turnover ($15.2m/$16.5m), and betting on our exported telecasts ($101.9m/$125.3m). He said that the key issues facing the industry at present included participation numbers; Funding; Internationalisation; the export of NZ harness racing; the Business/Strategic Plans; Dates; an Age Group/Premier Racing Review, and Gaming. HRNZ’s Commercial Development Manager Pete Ydgren outlined their Communications Review and gave an insight into their immediate plans. The Harness Racing Weekly and HRNZ Marketing Departments are to merge, and the current magazine that gets mailed out every seven days will now change to a monthly publication focussing on the industry – but at the same time an electronic version of the weekly magazine will still be available online and be “racing focussed”. Monique Cairns, the NZRB’s Executive General Manager – Strategy & Transformation, said during her presentation that the NZ Racing Board was now “moving into Year Two of our five-year strategy”. “We’ve got a portfolio of 20 key initiatives to support our strategy,” she said, “seven of which were prioritised for implementation during the current season.” These included digitising the business; strategic retail growth; product innovation; broadcasting; their VIPs, and Government relations. She went on to say that the industry has avoided making the hard decisions, and that increased funding has shielded it. “Historically, industry initiatives have not delivered and we have an ageing infrastructure. Change is inevitable,” she added. Next behind the rostrum was well-known trainer/driver Ken Barron, who was very entertaining and didn’t pull any punches during a Q&A session with ‘MC’ Mick Guerin. As a major buyer at the Yearling Sales, Barron was quizzed about the sort of things he looks for in a horse and what advice he’d give breeders in that respect. “Thanks to artificial insemination, these days you can virtually breed to any stallion in the world,” he said. “But if your yearling isn’t by one of the top four or five sires, you’re not in the race.” However, Barron was quick to say that he still likes to assess an individual on its merits before considering its bloodlines. “My owners look at the page in the catalogue – I look at the horse,” he said, adding that some of his and former training partner John Lischner’s best horses over the years were by nondescript and ‘unfashionable’ stallions. Barron believes that “slowly but surely, we’re becoming Americanised”. “Our handicapping, our stakes, and the structure of our industry – they’re all geared towards two and 3-year-old racing,” he said. “And it’s a fact: a horse’s earning ability reduces dramatically once it turns four on August 1, so people are always trying to buy early-maturers. “If a breeder’s got a family that tends to take time – go to a stallion that leaves them early and it’ll speed up the process.” From an industry point of view, Barron said it was “crucial” that a couple of things are changed as soon as possible. “Like handicapping – we’re underutilising the conditions,” he said. “We know there’s too many racetracks, and too much leakage of horses overseas. Well, how about categorising horses? There’s no reason why we couldn’t have A, B and C grades within each class. “Stakes is not the ‘magic bullet’ answer that everyone thinks it is. “In Australasia, the two venues that pay the most stakes are Auckland and Menangle – yet they’ve got the least amount of horses racing there.” Barron addressed the issue of falling broodmare numbers, but sees it as positive, saying the spinoff is better mares being used, better stallions getting chosen and a better product as a result. “I’d be surprised if the five hundred or so that we’ve lost are from the top end,” he offered. “Figures show that there’s more horses getting to the track, even though there’s less mares being bred from.” Following a panel of open discussion where the guest speakers answered questions from the floor, this year’s Breeders’ Conference was concluded with Addington Raceway’s Dean McKenzie having a sit-down discussion with Guerin as to what his organisation was doing for owners and the industry. “Considering that we hold 20 percent of racing at our venue, plus the biggest race of any Code in the country, if racing at Addington is strong then it’s got to be dragging harness racing in the right direction,” he said. “In 1999, 80 percent of our income came from racing and 20 percent of it came from other business ventures; these days, it’s 49 percent and 51 percent. “The only intention of our Club is to generate more revenue to put back into the game.” One common view of all the guest speakers was that the governance of harness racing at an HRNZ Board Level needs to be looked at. By John Robinson

Monday afternoon saw the return of live racing in the province of New Brunswick and Todd Trites notched three wins on opening day at Fredericton Raceway.   With the wins, the popular driver stands just four-wins shy of 2000 career victories. Included in his wins was the Victoria Day pace with the Eric Wilson trainee Joseph Michael in 2:01.   He paced his final half in a sizzling :58.3 for owners Andrea Dolan and Valerie Phelan. Trites other winners came with Wave That Banner and Dusty Lane Oscar.   Other winners on the card were American Terror ( Ed Harvey ) in 2:04 for owner Kathy McLean and co-owner Harvey. A son of American Ideal, the four-year-old was very impressive in his first start on N.B soil.   Rounding out the opening day winners were Victory George ( Jeff Lewis ), Pinch Of Paradise ( Phil Reid ) and Lucky In Love ( Mike Downey ). Next live card goes this Saturday on May 24th, post time scheduled for 1:00 P.M.   by Scott Waddell, for HRNB    

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