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Harness racing is brutal on young sires who don't do a job right from the start and such has been the fate of  the recently deceased Raffaello Ambrosio who served just eight mares last season after failing to fire with small early crops. Tonight one of his twelve live two year olds showed what might have been with a very smart win in the two year old trot at Addington in Christchurch. Conon Bridge is a colt from Diedre's Girl who is a race winning half sister to  Hurricane Flyer ($143,137) and the former smart juvenile trotter Thanksgiving. Starting from the unruly position, driver Bob Butt settled Conon Bridge five back on the inner early before setting him alight after 350 metres and shot him forward to have a look for the lead. Mark Jones on the leader Arannalea was having none of it but the brief speed duel left enough room for Bob to drop Conon Bridge into the trail. Wilma's Mate ranged up to Arannalea on the corner who promptly broke leaving Wilma's Mate in front after which Bob angled Conon Bridge out into the clear and he cruised past Wilma's Mate with 100 metres to go and went to the line an easy winner. Wilma's Mate held second from All Star Angus who didn't help his chances by running about in the straight when looking a chance 200 metres out. Conon Bridge trotted the 1950 metres from the mobile in 2:32.2, a mile rate of 2:05.5 with closing sectionals of 59.4 and 28.6 Bob Butt has a high opinion of the Paul Nairn trained juvenile. " He won that really easily tonight and that was after doing plenty of work early." " When he got to the front he knocked off or else he would have won by a lot more." " He will come off the unruly at some point and should be a major player in all the big races coming up," Bob said. Raffaello Ambrosio may have battled for support since being imported but he looks to have produced one very smart trotter in Conon Bridge. Harnesslink Media

In the sport of harness racing in New Zealand, Paul Nairn has a reputation second to none when it comes to producing age group trotters. Tonight at Addington in the New Zealand Trotting Oaks for three year old fillies, Paul showed once again why he is held in such high regard by his fellow trainers when he produced Habibti Ivy at just her sixth lifetime start to win the Group 2 event. Away well from barrier one for driver Blair Orange, Habibti Ivy handed up to the favourite Arya after 400 metres and got a lovely trip on her back until the corner where she burst up the passing lane and was way too smart winning by 2 + 3/4 lengths without having to be driven out. Sunny Ruby after a lovely run three back on the inner flew home late for second in front of a very game Fiery Mountain Girl who sat parked for the entire trip with Arya fading late for a disappointing fourth. Paul Nairn was confident of a big run from the daughter of Love You. " Her work has been super and I was confident she would go close." " The secret is not to over race them leading into the big races like this." " We may look at the Derby now and safely through that we will have to have a serious look at going to the three year old races at Auckland," Paul said. Driver Gavin Smith was rapt with the run of Sunny Ruby for second. " She is a lovely filly to drive and gives you a great feel." "Fred Fletcher is great with young trotters and she is beautifully mannered"  "I got a great run following Habibti Ivy and she finished it off really well," Gavin said. John Dunn was rapt with the run of Fiery Mountain Girl. " She has gone huge tonight." " To be parked every inch of the race and still fight on for third was a great run for an inexperienced filly like her." " I'm over the moon with the run," John said. Paul Nairn is never short of a smart age group trotter and in Habibti Ivy he has another topliner. Harnesslink Media  

As we come up to the big night of harness racing at Addington on Friday we thought we would do an in- depth preview of some of the group races. First up is the New Zealand Trotting Oaks. 1) Natives Lasting Love -  Starts: 7    Wins: 0    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $1,562  -  (1st Emerg) A seven start maiden who has shown promise at times but has a mountain to climb here if she made it back into the field. Not for us. 2) Habibti Ivy -  Starts: 5    Wins: 2    Secs: 0    Thirds: 2    Life: $11,495 The full sister to the brilliant Habibti has inherited all the family ability and looms as a major winning chance from the draw. Showed high gate speed at her last start and was finishing over the top of Monbet and Prince Fearless late which is great form going into this. Winning chance from the draw and a must have in all combinations. 3) Alvira Hest - Starts: 3    Wins: 1    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $4,073  Outstanding win last week at Addington, coming from last at the 600 metres to loop them wide out and win easily. Huge step up here and showed no gate speed last week which negates the good draw. Could sneak into the first four with the right trip. 4) Eilish Aimee - Scratched 5) One Yankee Hall - Starts: 8    Wins: 0    Secs: 2    Thirds: 2    Life: $2,980  Promising maiden who went off the rails a couple of times recently but seems back on track now. Well beaten by Alvira Hest last week which doesn't bode well for this assignment. Not for us. 6) Fiery Mountain Girl - Starts: 5    Wins: 2    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $15,143  Very promising filly who has won a couple of races in good style. Showed gate speed when winning at Addington prior to Xmas and has come on in leaps and bounds since then. Can't see her as the winner but a serious trifecta and first four player from the draw 7) Agnes Brown - Starts: 4    Wins: 1    Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $7,153 Showed a fair bit of promise in her first two starts which were both from a stand which gave her time to balance up. Two mobiles since have seen her self destruct which is a major handicap in this race. Even with Dexter on board, we can't have her as a first four player. 8) Arya - Starts: 15    Wins: 10    Secs: 3    Thirds: 1    Life: $157,486  The half sister to Stent has been a star from day one and has only missed a placing once in 15 starts when she was disqualified from second in the Harness Jewels. Faultless manners are a big plus and she is race fit after a string of Australian wins recently. Comes into barrier six and has gate speed so will settle handy to the speed. The one to beat for us and a must have for all combinations. 9) Zsa Zara - Starts: 7    Wins: 0    Secs: 2    Thirds: 1    Life: $3,598 Nice filly in the making but this looks a bit rich at this stage of her career. Would need all favours to finish in the first half of the field and from barrier nine that is not going to happen. Not for us.                                                                      SECOND LINE 10) Sunny Ruby - Starts: 17    Wins: 2    Secs: 2    Thirds: 1    Life: $15,448 Smart front running filly who is the fastest filly off the gate in the country but all of that advantage is negated by the draw. Will be interesting to see how she goes with a sit because there is no doubting the ability. Still only an outside first four player for us. 11) Wanna Play - Starts: 15    Wins: 2    Secs: 3    Thirds: 4    Life: $58,795  Very talented filly who doesn't quite have the ringcraft of some here but has as much natural ability as any. Will really appreciate the mobile and the left hand way of going as she is better the Addington way round. Throw in the best driver going round at the moment in Natalie Rasmussen and Wanna Play is a serious winning chance and a must have for all combinations.  12) Yagunnakissmeornot - Starts: 13    Wins: 7    Secs: 2    Thirds: 4    Life: $52,820 Another high class filly who has won seven races and never missed a placing in thirteen starts. Does tend to run in on the corners left handed but trainer Sean McCaffrey confident it won't be an issue on the roomy Addington track. Really good coming off a sit recently and can get a big piece of this with a run to suit. A must have for all combinations. 13) Petite One - Starts: 7    Wins: 3    Secs: 2    Thirds: 0    Life: $28,871  Has looked very talented in her career to date, pushing Speeding Spur at Auckland and beating Al Bundy as well so no doubting the ability. Disregard last run as got taken out by breaker with a lap to go and was to far off them afterwards but did make up a lot of ground to run fifth in a field that included Monbet and Prince Fearless. Definite trifecta and first four player for us. 14) Jen Jaccka - Starts: 3    Wins: 1    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $4,238 Promising filly who ran 3:04 for 2400 metres at her second lifetime start so the ability is there. Big step up here and our concern is the lack of ringcraft against a field of this quality. Combine that with the draw and we can't find a place for her. Not for us 15) Gael Ludlow - Starts: 14    Wins: 1    Secs: 1    Thirds: 0    Life: $6,564 Very good from a stand and also has a liking for grass tracks, neither of which she gets here. This looks out of reach at this stage of her career. Not for us. 16) Cyclone Jeter - Starts: 6    Wins: 1    Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $5,904 Has won a race but last couple of starts have been very disappointing. Throw in the draw and it looks hard to see her being a player here. Not for us. SELECTIONS  Arya who comes in to barrier six looks very hard to beat. She has an all round game and is race fit for this and will have the All Star finishing touches on her preparation this week. The main danger for us is Habibti Ivy who showed real gate speed at her last start and then finished the race off strongly against the two of the best colts in the country in Monbet and Prince Fearless. Blair Orange takes the drive and with the Paul Nairn polish on her she is a big chance of rolling the favourite. Yagunnakissmeornot is hindered here by the draw and had she drawn better would have been a huge winning chance. Can still get a big piece of it but will have to do more work than any of the other favoured runners. The same applies to Wanna Play who has drawn behind Alvira Hest who is not quick off the gate. Any luck in the running brings her right into calculations.  For trifectas and first four players add in Fiery Mountain Girl and Petite One

The harness racing champion Terror To Love’s summer of glory is underway. The three-time New Zealand Trotting Cup winner was produced at the Ashburton trials and turned in a tidy performance to finish second after a false start and a slow releasing tape the second time around. Privately timed to run post-to-post in the 2400 metres in 2.56, Terror To Love wasn’t hurried by Ricky May as he finished two and a half lengths behind Jivin Cullen in the heat. The performance received a big tick from both May and the horse’s co-trainer Graham Court. “He’ll come along nicely with that run under his belt,’’ Court said. With a massive month to six weeks of racing ahead that will see Terror To Love do battle in the Victoria and Hunter Cups along with the Inter Dominion and Auckland Cup – there is still plenty of juice left in the tank. Court and Terror To Love fly to Australia later this week – taking a direct flight to Sydney for a few days before they make the eight hour trek to Melbourne which will become home for most of February. “I think he will improve a lot off the back of the Victoria Cup – which should see him bang on for the Hunter Cup.’’ Also back in action at the trials was Comeback Kid – Stig. The wonderful old trotter is defying the odds once again and staging a comeback from a seemingly career ending injury and was very good in his fresh up performance when finishing second to the talented Harrysul. Driven by Stacy Whatuira the multiple Group One winner found the lead with 1200 metres left to run and only yielded in the final stages – pleasing trainer Paul Nairn in the process. “I thought it was a good starting point. “We are taking things day by day and not making immediate plans.’’ Stig’s career was supposed to be over – but when Whatuira began working the old boy as a hack it was soon noticed that he was showing no signs of injury and he has slowly been brought back to fitness. “The leg got the all clear from our vet and we have just been taking it slowly. “I said to Stacy that it would be nice if she could at least drive him at the trials a couple of times. “Anything else that happens is a bonus really.’’ Nairn is thinking of at least one more trial or workout before he even toys with the idea of race. But it would be safe to assume that harness racing’s never ending story is set to roll on. Meanwhile, One of the few pacers to have won New Zealand’s two greatest pacing races has died. Neroship, who held the Auckland and New Zealand Cups at the same time in 1990, passed away in Canterbury last week aged 29. Trained by John Langdon, Neroship won 17 races and over $800,000 in stakes but captured our two biggest races as well as once holding the national mile record at 1:55.8. He later stood at stud. “He had been living at Dave Shadbolt’s property since he had been retired and was looked after superbly so he had a good retirement,” said owner John Webber. Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand

The Rangiora Harness Racing Club are holding their spring meeting at Addington on Thursday night and while there is a small card of only eight races, some talented horses are involved. The smallest field of the night is the C7-OC handicap trot which has only drawn a field of five starters but all five are quality  racehorses.  The Paul Nairn trained Lotalov is having her first start for the season and has gone well in that state in the past. Throw in the fact she is good from a stand and her Addington record is 4 wins and 4 placings from 11 starts and she is not out of it at all. The Fiery Ginga is third up for the year and trainer Allan Clark is expecting a big run. "I was a bit disappointed the other night at Addington with how he drove so I changed a couple of things and his work since has been super. He gets a start from his main competition so I going to try to take advantage of that" he said. The winner of 27 races to date has a great standing start record (17 wins) and course record (10 wins) so looms as a live chance. The third of the runners off the front is the Bevan Heron trained Uncas who always seems to go good at this time of the year. All of his eight wins have been from a stand and his first up win recently was full of merit. Big show with a run  to suit. The first of the runners off ten meters is the Geoff Dunn trained King Of Starthfield who is in great nick at the moment. All of his three runs this time in have been first class and the small field will suit him down to the ground. He has won 21 races but only 2 of those at Addington so track record is a small concern. The second horse on ten meters and last of the five runners is the champion trotter Stent who was last season's Australasian Trotting Masters Champion. All his course and distance stats are outstanding and he looks hard to hold out even if  he is only 90% ready.   Trained by Colin Defilippi, Stent won fresh up last season and is on course to do the same this year. A small field but one of real class. Stent for us on class alone with the main dangers being King Of Strathfield and Uncas with The Fiery Ginga and Lotalov fighting out fourth place. Harnesslink Media

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    

It never takes long in harness racing for a horse to be forgotten when its not racing every week. People move on quickly and focus on what is racing. Habibti 1:56.5T ($283,007) falls squarely into that group as the forgotten superstar of trotting in Australasia. The daughter of Love You had an amazing 3 year old season last year in which she won The New Zealand Trotting Stakes (Group 1), New South Wales Derby (Group 1), New South Oaks (Group 1) and the Victorian Oaks (Group 1) amongst her nine wins. She accounted for Blitzthemcalder, Sheemon, Spidergirl and Royal Aspirations amonst others during the season. Coming back early as a 4 year old, Habibti jumped straight in the deep end and took on Australia's best trotters in Melbourne. The best win was undoubtedly in the Dullard Cup (Group One) where she accounted for Keystone Del, My High Expectations and Aleppo Midas amongst others. Returning to New Zealand, Habibti just started to show signs that all the racing and traveling was taking its toll on her. Trainer/ driver David Butt convinced the owners to miss all the rich plums on offer and give the mare a well deserved break with a view to her coming back bigger and better at five. Prior to that Habibti was served and conceived to top trotting sire Majestic Son and the embryo was transferred to a surrogate mare who is due to foal later in the year. After a lengthy spell Habibti returned to the Butt barn in early May and she is on track to return to the trials in September with a view to being ready for Cup week at Addington. Thought is being given to another embryo transfer early in the new season with Angus Hall and Andover Hall the main sires in consideration. To add further to Habibti's value as a future broodmare is the emergence of her full sister Habibti Ivy who was 11 seconds under the previous New Zealand record for 2400 meters from a stand when she qualified for trainer Paul Nairn in 3:09.5 at Ashburton on Tuesday 29th July. On that run, Habibti Ivy will be a serious player in the 3 year old classics next season. Meanwhile Habibti only needs to reproduce her early 4 year old form to once again become a serious contender in all the major trotting races next season. After looking after Habibti's welfare so well in the last twelve months, David Butt and the ownership group deserve to reap the rewards of their patience over the next twelve months with this outstanding mare. Harnesslink media      

Lex and Heather Williams now have two Homfield trophies sitting side-by-side in their living room. One of them was won by One Over Kenny in 2005 and the other by her son One Over Da Moon at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night. “It’s pretty cool that he managed to win the same race his mother did,” said co-owner and breeder, Lex Williams, who travelled over to Australia to watch him race on Friday. “It definitely was a huge thrill,” he added. One Over Da Moon is being trained by Chris Lang during his Australian Campaign. Lang also did the driving on the three-year-old Majestic Son colt on Friday. “He is on a round trip and will return to Paul Nairn after the Australasian Breeders Crown,” advised Williams. One Over Da Moon was given a nice run in the one-one by Chris Lang, before coming three-wide around the final bend and powering away to win by 2.4 metres over Guiltless and Daenerys Targaryen , who also found the line well. Favourite Twentyten faded to finish last after racing parked outside the leader. “Chris Lang said he may be small but he doesn’t feel it when you are sitting behind him,” said Williams. Although Williams and wife Heather were at Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday to soak up the atmosphere, he was extremely disappointed that the race wasn’t televised back in New Zealand. “There were three horses with Kiwi connections in the race, so I think it is absolutely disgraceful that the race wasn’t shown live,” he concluded. By Mitchell Robertson

Chris Lang's standing as king of the trotters remains well and truly intact after victory in last night’s Group 2 VHRSC Holmfield at Tabcorp Park Melton. The Nagambie trainer-driver guided his newest stable gun One Over Da Moon to a 2.4m win in the 1720m race for three-year-old trotters, the winning mile rate of 1:59.4 the fastest of the colt’s career so far. Formerly trained in New Zealand by Paul Nairn, One Over Da Moon – a New Zealand Harness Jewels champion as a two-year-old who galloped out of contention in the three-year-old Jewels ranks last month – was back to his best last night. The winner started at $3.70 on the tote after the majority of punters sided with last-start New South Wales Trotters Derby winner Our Twentyten as their top Holmfield pick, backing him into $1.70. Off the back straight, favourite punters might have been forgiven for heading to the queue early as Our Twentyten whizzed past early pacemaker Asdenro, which had given a bold sight. But just 200m later things had changed dramatically. Turning for home Our Twentyten was gone, dropping back through the field dramatically in the home straight to wind up last. Guiltless rattled home to run second for Daryl Douglas, while Our Twentyten’s stablemate Daenerys Targaryen, driven by Greg Sugars, used the sprint lane to finish third, ahead of a bold Asdenro, which kept on kicking to run fourth for Haydon Gray. Another trotter it might pay to keep an eye on out of the race is Spidergrace, which lost considerable ground when it galloped approaching the home turn before balancing up once more and making up many lengths in the straight to beat two home. By Cody Winnell (Harness Racing Australia)

Masterful trainer Paul Nairn says two things need to happen for One Over Da Moon to overcome his tricky one on the second-line barrier draw and win the 3YO Ruby at Cambridge on Saturday. “We are probably going to need some breakers so we can clear a pocket,” said Nairn. “And we can’t be one of them,” he quipped. If One Over Da Moon and David Butt can work away from the fence Nairn says that it is ‘game on.’ “He showed how good he is in the Northern Derby and I was very pleased with his run at Addington last week,” he added. But, One Over Da Moon’s two main rivals were both very impressive on Saturday when trialling at two different venues, meaning the son of Majestic Son and champion mare One Over Kenny is going to have to be at his brilliant best if he is to be crowned a Jewels king for the second year running. Mum’s Pride smashed his rivals by 11 and a half lenghts at Cambridge on Saturday, while dual Derby winner King Denny downed a field of maiden pacers at Alexandra Park. But, perhaps the most noted miler in the field is start trotting filly Majestic Time, who finished second in the Jewels last season before winning the Hambletonian over the sprint trip in February. She is somewhat the forgotten runner in Saturday’s 3YO Ruby, but she clearly didn’t handle the Alexandra Park way of going last start, and has tactical speed. Which could prove crucial come Saturday. To view the market for the 3YO Ruby click here. By Mitchell Robertson

Champion trotter Stig has been retired for approximately the third time but this time his trainer Paul Nairn is all but certain there will be no fairytale comeback story. “He is more likely to be seen at the Ellesmere show in October competing in the hack class than back on a racetrack,” says the eleven year-old gelding’s legendary trainer, Paul Nairn. “He has been offloading which has caused him to go in a hind suspensory,” advised Nairn. “He is still relatively sound but he would definitely need a spell and it is not easy to bring back an eleven-year-old gelding,” he added. “And I think he has earned his retirement, don’t you?” The war horse who stole the hearts of harness racing fans across Australasia will now live out his days as a riding hack for Stacy Whatuira, who works for Nairn at his Leeston base. When asked what Stig’s greatest attributes were, Nairn was quick to highlight his toughness and huge will to win. “When he was right he was just such a tremendous stayer,” said Nairn. “He simply had no bottom to him.” “The race that will always stand out for me is his Dominion Handicap win in 2008. I think Darren Tyquin called the race that day and it was a tremendous call. He was last and looped the field four wide and was simply too good. For those of you who can’t remember that day, Darren Tyquin’s words were: “Super Stig. Have a look at a real champion go. He is the best trotter in New Zealand and his name is Stig!” Sadly, just four months after this, Stig went amiss and after the gelding went sore again while being jogged up by co-owner Tim Butt, the son of Armbro Invasion was officially retired. But, somehow, through the deeds of a champion horse and a champion trainer, Stig made it back to the races in February of 2012 to start a campaign which saw him win the Rowe Cup in December in what was one of the most emotional victories ever seen at Alexandra Park. “He was doing the dual sulkies out at Lindsay Kerslake’s place and he seemed sound so I decided to give him another go,” recalls Nairn. “I’m certainly glad I did now,” he laughed. “His Rowe Cup win was an absolute fairytale and is definitely the race that stands out alongside his Dominion victory.” “If he had have had a sound career he could have been absolutely anything,” Nairn concluded. Nairn said he would like to pay thanks to his vet Lindsay Colwell, who has been an instrumental part of the second half of Stig’s career, as well as David Butt, who did a wonderful job of driving the gelding throughout his career. Nairn also thanked co-owner Jim Boyd, who became famous for his post-race songs, which included the hit single ‘Stigey boy’. “I think I need to thank Jim as he annoyed Tim (Butt) so much that Tim got sick of him and decided to offload him, as well as Stig, on to me,” Nairn quipped. Stig fact file: lifetime starts: 63 wins: 23 seconds: 12 thirds: 6 Stakes: $855,096 Sire: Armbro Invasion Dam: Naraya (Gekoj) Owners:  T G Butt, Mrs Andrea Butt, J S Boyd, Mrs R I Boyd, R G Thomas, Ms J A Gordon Group One wins: New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All, Dominion Handicap, National Trot, Rowe Cup, Great Southern Star heat. By Mitchell Robertson    

After a couple of hiccups at the start of the season, last year’s top two-year-old trotting colt One Over Da Moon looks back on track as he heads towards the $80,000 New Zealand Trotting Derby on April 11. This was highlighted by the three-year-olds emphatic all of the way victory last night at Addington against older C2 & faster trotters. “He was having a few issues with a knee around Hambletonian time, but I have treated that and now only work him on soft surfaces during the week,” advised trotting maestro, Paul Nairn. “He seems right back on top of his game at the moment, and should take further improvement out of last night’s run,” he added. Nairn now plans on racing One Over Da Moon at Addington again next week, before tackling the Group One feature. “The 2600 metres will be right up his alley,” says Nairn confidently. “But there are a few nice ones who he is going to have to beat including Majestic Time, who seems to have come back really well.” “Still, I think my fella is as good as any of them,” he added Nairn also enjoyed success last night with smart trotting mare Lotalov, who will now contest next week’s $25,000 4-5YO Trotters Championship. But, while both Nairn and Mark Jones enjoyed doubles on the card, it was the Purdon and Rasmussen team that stole the show, winning five of the eleven races. Among those winners were smart types Alleluia and Linda Lovegrace, both of who look set for very big seasons. Meanwhile, the career of champion trotter Stig looks in jeopardy, with a decision to be made on his racing future on Monday. By Mitchell Robertson

Waterloo Sunset, who is the first foal from Rowe Cup winning mare Inspire, was victorious in his debut at Methven on Sunday some 18 months after qualifying at the same venue. The win came courtesy of what was yet another remarkable training performance by Paul Nairn, who trained and drove Waterloo Sunset’s mother to win the 2006 Rowe Cup in what was just her 11th start. And while this big four-year-old son of Sundon might never reach those great heights, he is definitely going to work his way through the grades. “He just looped the field and absolutely jogged it,” said driver Bob Butt. “Paul (Nairn – trainer) asked me to drive him without a stick and I never looked like needing one.” “That certainly won’t be his last win, I think he will be a very good stayer,” he added. Interestingly, the horse that beat Waterloo Sunset in his trial some 18 months ago, Thanksforplaying, was also a winner on the card. Meanwhile, Brian Norman who owned the winner of the feature race at Methven, Arising Easton, trained a double at Wingatui today, where harness racing was run for the first time in around 60 years. By Mitchell Robertson

What Makes News? For some time now I have given up watching mainstream television, mainly because I can't handle the countless mind-numbing reality shows, and the news is full of petty bickering and points scoring between politicians who should know better (Election year hasn't helped that!). My spies tell me that the potentially horrific smash at Westport last week was shown on the News (not sure which channel) making it obvious that the general media is only interested in harness racing when there is a crash, or some form of drug related sensation. Thankfully that doesn't happen very often so that coverage is minimal. The only other recent positive coverage was Zac Butchers' wonderful display of showmanship on beating his dad in the Drivers' premiership eighteen months ago. Got me thinking though, if the mainstream channels want sensationalism, why not give it to them. A reality show featuring nasty harness racing crashes? Obviously permission would need to be granted by the people involved in the incidents, but it would surely rate higher than "Outer Mongolias' Ugliest Bodies" or "What I found In My Great Uncles Garage", or some of the other drivel currently on offer! You know the old saying, any publicity etc., etc. Maybe sponsorship could be gained from a manufacturer of safety gear? While on the subject of Westport, it is slightly sad to see that the Club, renowned for being both forward thinking and extremely hospitable, refuses to acknowledge the need for a passing lane at Patterson Park. Using the Stipes' Report from last Friday as a guide, there were a total of 26 horses who were ‘denied clear racing room' in the straight. When I broached this with a Club official, I received a similar response that I probably would have given myself about 10 years ago - that there is still (usually) only one winner in each race. While that is difficult to argue with, one of the suggestions put forward was that punters needed to back drivers who didn't drive for luck, and moaned when they were unlucky. That argument tends to collapse when the drivers on some of those denied a run the other day included Jim Curtin, Robbie Holmes, Pete Davis and Gavin Smith, all of whom are virtual stalwarts of West Coast harness racing. The problem is that for every one of those 26 horses denied a run, there are dozens of disgruntled punters (aka customers) with a nasty taste in their mouth. Yes I admit, I had that taste four times during the day! Come on Westport, move with the times on this one, and move a few marker pegs. Northern Branch February 2014 The Associations' Northern Branch recently met to discuss the latest issues facing that area, and began by giving a vote of support to Northern starter Frank Phelan. Those present acknowledged, however, that all starters should come under scrutiny as part of the job and, on occasions could do things better. (As an aside to this topic, the Association received a communication from Mr Brian Macey, the owner of Prime Power, who was singled out for criticism in a recent article on standing starts. Brian agreed with Paul Nairns' comments concerning poorly behaved horses from standing starts, and reported that his horse had recently been given intensive standing start practice. The happy outcome was Prime Power stood perfectly last week, began beautifully, and duly won. Congratulations to the connections on making the effort - it goes to prove that it can be done for most horses) Matters arising from the Canterbury minutes were covered, including online nominations, the bulls-eye barrier draw, and the introduction of photo licences, all of which were supported. Concern was expressed at inconsistencies shown by the RIU in penalising the connections of horses that were late scratched due to being sold. Some received no penalty, while fines tended to vary from $200 to $350, and no bearing seemed to be given to whether or not another horse on the ballot had been denied a start. A letter has been drafted, and the matter was to be referred to the National Council for consideration. The state of Northern all-weather tracks was discussed, with the Cambridge and Manawatu surfaces being praised thanks to the use of conditioners etc., however there was concern over the consistency of Alexandra Park, partly due to the material containing a large amount of shell. It was decided to invite ATC officials to the next Branch meeting to discuss this and other matters. Chairman Peter Ferguson reported that horses that are claimed are still not being swabbed as a matter of course. The Committee felt that this should take place to ensure the integrity and safety of all concerned. (This opinion was subsequently supported at National Council level and a letter has been forward to the RIU). The matter of the payment of driving fees for those engaged for horses that are subsequently scratched was discussed. It is understood that jockeys receive half of their fee if this occurs, and the feeling is that drivers should receive the same, instead of the full amount being retained by the Club. The main point to this argument is that for most drivers, it does not take many of these to mean breaking even or losing money after expenses on a nights racing. Also, after drivers are declared, the chances of gaining another drive after a scratching were virtually non-existent. This matter will be referred to the up-coming National Council meeting for consideration. By Dave Neal/Peter Cook (NZ Trainers and Drivers Association)

Stig is becoming trotting’s version of the Never-ending Story. The veteran trotter, already the hero of one of the greatest comebacks in racing history, takes on rivals up to seven years younger than him at Addington tomorrow night. Remarkable as that is, if he performs up to the level trainer Paul Nairn expects, he will be on a plane to Melbourne next week for the A$350,000 Great Southern Star. Rising 12-year-olds embarking on Trans Tasman campaigns may be unheard of but Nairn says even after a disappointing season, Stig’s connections are keen for a crack at the richest prize in Southern Hemisphere trotting. “I know at times he hasn’t been as sharp as he can be this season, which you are going to get with a horse his age,” admits Nairn. “But he is trotting well now and feeling no real soreness. “I think he will improve on his last start (second) and if he races well this week he will head back to Melton.”
 Stig won a A$50,000 heat of the Great Southern Star at Melton last year before galloping in the final, although he never really looked happy on the Victorian track. But this year’s event, which comprises two heats and a final in the same night on Saturday, lacks a superstar in the form winner Vulcan was last season. So a fully fit and sound Stig could still out tough his younger rivals. He will need to be good to cement the trip as he meets one of the new breed of open class trotting in this country in Royal Aspirations, who has developed from a speed freak age group trotter into a genuine topliner. Nairn also expects a bold return tomorrow night from his Harness Jewels winner One Over Da Moon, who is over recent problems, but summer star Any Old Way is not and is heading for the paddock. If Stig does make it to Victoria he will join defending champion Vulcan, Stent and The Fiery Ginga in the GSS, as well as Kiwi-owned favourites Flying Isa and Keystone Del. But Vulcan’s high-profile stablemate Peak faces a long layoff after x-rays yesterday confirmed a splint bone issue, yet trainer Tim Butt says it could have been worse. “We were worried he had a suspensory issue but that scanned fine today,” says Butt. “But it looks like he has a splint bone issue, which is easier to fix. “So he will have an operation next Monday and hopefully can be back in work in three months.” Peak created a huge impression winning his first two New Zealand starts after being imported from Scandinavia last spring before being struck down by the issues. Meanwhile, tonight’s Manawatu meeting sees one of the great dropback tips of the new handicapping system in Jarcullembra. A former New Zealand Cup starter, Jewels runner-up to Terror To Love and the winner of over $200,000 in stakes, Jarcullembra hasn’t won for nearly two years so has dropped back to being assessed as a five-win horse. That sees him starting against horses who will never scale the heights he has been to in tonight’s $12,000 Palmerstonian, suggesting he will be at short odds in the 2000m mobile. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Mike Ward won the Group One New Zealand Messenger Championship in 1996, but Saturday’s victory by Majestic Time in the Group Three $25,000 Neumann’s Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton was his career highlight. Ward owned and bred Decision Time but Mark Purdon trained him for 10 days before that Messenger triumph. “I think this win is even sweeter because even although we also bred this filly, and our family also owns her, I did the training this time round,” the West Melton horseman said. Majestic Time was the fourth favourite in Saturday’s 1609 metre mobile trot and paid $9 to win. She and driver Ken Barron had 1-1/2 lengths and a length to spare over place-getters, Any Old way (Paul Nairn) and Thebestlove (Anthony Butt). Winner’s time: 1:58.6. Last 800m: 58.4. 27.8. Majestic Time is owned by Ward, his wife Pauline, daughter Susan, and son Craig. “I’ve always had a bit of time for her. That’s why I gave my kids a share in her. I didn’t want to give them a dud,” Ward said. The bay filly is by Majestic Son out of the Ward owned and trained five-win ($54,939) Sundon mare, Time To Shine. She left four foals but died last year while foaling to a Muscles Yankee filly. “It’s a real honour to win a big race like the Hambletonian. It’s a prestigious race, especially here in Canterbury. She will make a good broodmare one day,” 63-year-old Ward said. He said there was still one win he would now dearly love to win – the Group Three New Zealand Trotting Oaks at Addington on April 4. “It’s the only major race on the calendar where she will get to take on her on sex. She beat the boys and girls on Saturday and should be tough to roll against the fillies. “But this is racing and you can never take anything for granted because you just don’t know who is going to come out of the woodwork, especially from the North Island,” said Ward who is a builder by trade and works three horses at West Melton. Mark Purdon won the last three Hambletonian Classics with Paramount Queen (2013 in 1:59.7), Escapee (2012 in 1:59.5), and Kylie Ree (2011 in 1:59.9). Purdon might not have won yesterday’s big trot but he and co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen did claim their own Group Three prize on Saturday when he drove Follow The Stars to win the $25,000 Teltrack Sapling Stakes for 2-year-old pacers. Isaiah also won the same race from him in 1:57.2 last year, but Follow The Stars beat that time recording a blistering a 1:53.2. The Geoff Dunn trained Venus Serena was again brilliant in the third heat of the $15,000 Nevele R Fillies heat, recording the fastest mile of the day in a lightning 1:52.2. Driver John Dunn late last month told HRNZ the 3-year-old Mach Three filly was the best horse he had driven. She further endorsed that reputation on Saturday with her quickest career mile win, and 10th in 15 starts. Venus Serena has now banked $434,152 in stakes. Ashburton again proved to be one of the fastest tracks in New Zealand on Saturday when the 10 races carded all produced sub two-win miles. In fact Majestic Time’s 1:58.6 triumph was the slowest of the day. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

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