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A mystery illness has left David Butt’s Jewels dream hanging by a thread after he initially feared he had a stroke last week. The Canterbury horseman will have to pass a doctor’s examination to be allowed to drive the well-fancied Wilma’s Mate at Saturday’s $1.2million meeting at Ashburton. Butt was hospitalized last Thursday after suffering from severe dizziness when he woke up. “I couldn’t get my balance and felt like I was going to fall over when I tried to walk,” said the Inter Dominion-winning reinsman. “Too be honest, I was scared I had had a stroke because I had never felt anything like that before. “For the first few days I was dizzy and couldn’t stand light or noise but the doctors tell me I have been suffering from vertigo. “They said it is relatively common and now I have had it I keep hearing from other people they have had it to. But it was a real shock.” Butt says many of the symptoms have now cleared, with the return of his balance the next and most important step. “It is getting better but I am still not driving work at home. “The stipes (stewards) know and they have told me I have to get a clearance from the doctor on Friday to be able to drive on Saturday. “The strange part is the doctors can’t tell me exactly what has gone wrong. “The two most likely reasons are a head knock or a virus of some type and I haven’t had any head knocks so the virus sounds the most likely reason. “If that has what caused it the doctors said I could have had it for a while lying dormant.”  Butt has two scheduled Jewels drives with Wilma’s Mate the second favourite for the $100,000 four-year-old trot after drawing the ace. “I’d love to drive her because I really think she can win but obviously I won’t be driving her if I’m now right. “So the doctors will tell me on Friday but it has improved quite a lot the last few days.” For all his success Butt has driven just one Jewels winner, One Over Da Moon, at Ashburton in 2013 for Wilma’s Mate’s trainers Paul Nairn. Should he not be able to take the reins on Saturday his son Bob would seem the most likely replacement as he won races on Wilma’s Mate last season. Wilma’s Mate is the $4 second favourite for her division on Saturday, with Southland  mare Dark Horse still at $2.50 with the New Zealand TAB, though she opened $4.50 with Australian bookmakers post-draw last Friday. The big shortener in the that market has been Marcoola, with last season’s champion three-year-old trotter into $4.20 after looking more aggressive at the Ashburton workouts on Saturday. Michael Guerin

Paul Nairn has stopped being surprised by Habibti Ivy. So the training genius won’t raise an eyebrow if his mare competes one of the great comebacks in trotting history in the $150,000 Canam Rowe Cup tonight. The former Oaks winner has returned from the racing wilderness --- nearly 22 months sidelined by injury --- to won all five of her races this campaign including last Friday’s Anzac Cup. So she heads to Alexandra Park tonight as favourite for Rowe, victory in which would secure her the valuable trotting mate of the year award. Nairn, whose old school and often wide-ranging training techniques have brought him amazing results, admits the Habibti Ivy comeback has shocked him. “When you bring them back after that long away you don’t know what to expect,” he says. “But I definitely didn’t expect this. Not national records and group one wins. “Especially last week. I was sure she was underdone heading into that race because she got tangled in a fence a few weeks ago and lost some skin off her legs. “So to keep going and win when she probably wasn’t at her peak was a big performance. “Really, with that in mind, you would have to think she would improve again and now I wouldn’t be surprised if she won.” Habibti Ivy may only be a five-year-old with 14 starts on her slate but she has an ideal draw tonight and the manners to use it. She should lead or be handy early and with a rival like Bordeaux able to set up a fast 3200m, being on the marker pegs not covering any extra ground could be crucial. Bordeaux was excellent with sixth after being wide in the Anzac Cup and appeals as a top each way chance tonight while one of the more proven group one trotters in the race is Quite A Moment. She was second to her champion stablemate Monbet in the national record Dominion over 3200m at Addington in November and then downed Bordeaux in the 2700m mobile National Trot here in December, so a true staying test will hold no fears for her. Quite A Moment looked down on he best when she returned from her Australian summer campaign but trainer Greg Hope believes a change of training regime will see her prominent tonight. “I have lightened her work load to keep her fresher and I think we saw some benefit of that at Addington last start when she was a big second,” says Hope. “We know she will handle the distance and she is as good as these horses when you take her formline through our other fella (Monbet) but I would have preferred a front line draw.” The absence of the big guns promotes an array of horses up to being serious chances, with the four-year-olds Lemond, Temporale and Wilma’s Mate all having the raw ability to win while even the sometimes disappointing Daryl Boko flashed home last Friday like a horse who could win tonight. The Rowe Cup is the highlight of a stunning night on which Lazarus looks certain to end his super season with a formulaic Messenger victory over stablemate Waikiki Beach. The All Stars look to dominate the $150,000 Sires’ Stakes Fillies, with Elle Mac the best of their trio but the worst drawn, bringing the likes of Shanandoah, A Lister and star trialist New York Rain into play. But Hope, who is starting to rival Nairn as one of the supremos of New Zealand trotting, expects another faultless performance from Enghien to win the Trotting Derby, with President Roydon the emerging threat in that age group. Michael Guerin

Even from the master this was something special. Because while Canterbury trainer Paul Nairn has had more lucrative victories than Habibti Ivy’s fighting effort in the $100,000 Anzac Cup at Alexandra Park tonight, few have been more satisfying. The former high class three-year-old was the forgotten horse of New Zealand trotting just two months ago, after issues kept her away from the track for over 18 months. But not only has she returned unbeaten in five starts, she is now a group one winner after just 14 starts, with the promise of so much more to come. “That was pretty special, to win a group one at her first real attempt at open class,” said the quietly spoken Nairn. “I knew she was good but I thought she might be a little bit below her best tonight so that was brave. And she has had those problems in the past so it is special to see her reach her potential.” Nairn has made a career out of the unusual, his old school and sometimes radical methods consistently turning out open class trotters from remarkably small numbers. Habibti Ivy is the latest and with her gate speed and the beautiful long stride so common in the stock of her champion sire Love You, she is ready to make up for lost time. Love You’s triumph for the night was complete as he also sired Anzac Cup runner-up Lemond and three-year-old Sires’ Stakes winner Enghien. The trotters went a long way to upstaging champion pacer Lazarus, who had little more than a jog in the park to beat stablemates Waikiki Beach and Golden Goddess in the Taylor Mile. He worked to the front quickly and scooted his last 800m in 54.5 seconds to win his penultimate race for the season, the last coming in next Friday's Messenger Pace. And earlier his juvenile filly stablemate Elle Mac suggested she is the most advanced of her crop coming from near last to smash her opponents in the $110,000 Caduceus Club Classic.   Michael Guerin    

He’s all but given up expecting the best from Waterloo Sunset these days, but Paul Nairn refuses to not be hopeful when he takes the massive trotter with the big motor to the races. After a quiet start to the season, the master trainer of a trotter is unleashing a four-pronged attack on Addington tonight including Waterloo Sunset who returns to the races for the first time since his eye-catching effort behind Monbet in last season’s Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park. Coming in fresh up with just one workout to prepare, Nairn isn’t too concerned about fitness but more whether or not the real version of the powerful trotter is going to show up or not. “He’s about 90 per cent I would say,” Nairn said. “I’m happy with everything he’s doing at home and he’s come up this time round nice and strong. But he has let me down before so I guess I am always a wee bit hesitant to get too confident about him. “When he’s right, he can be very good but he’s just thrown the odd bad one in too which hasn’t helped and I’ve really got no reason to think that this time in will be any different.” Bob Butt will continue his association with the entire by Sundon as they build toward the Cup Week features next month. Nairn also has Any Old Way resuming in the same race in a field that boasts the return of last year’s outstanding three-year-old trotter Marcoola who has looked super in his workouts and trials prior to tonight’s assignment. Earlier in the night he will line up both Quevert and Lothario, both of whom return without having been out in public. Quevert made big strides last season and topped it off with a big win at Alexandra Park late in his campaign, taking his record for the season to four wins and three placings from 13 starts. Butt will also do the driving on him with his father, David on board Any Old Way and also Lothario. The well bred Lothario, who is from the same family as Habibti, Habibi Inta and Ten Too disappointed at times last season and Nairn said there have been plenty of issues to iron out with the chestnut. “I thought he was a Rowe Cup horse but he’s disappointed me a few times, he just wasn’t finishing his races off all that well. “Hopefully we have some of them ironed out because he can trot and could have a good season. “Both Lothaio and Quevert are about the same in terms of fitness and while they will improve with the run, they are probably still both ready enough to go close to winning if things go their way.” After a record-breaking season, by his own standards, of 26 winners, Nairn has some ground to make up if he is to go close to that mark again this term but with some serious trotting power in front of him it would take a brave man to bet against him at least getting close. Super Selector – Addington – By Matt Markham Race 1: Don Pierre, Here We Go Again, Errol Finn, Eja Patron Race 2: Jean Sebastien, Glass Half Full, The Fox, Benchmark Race 3: You Gotta Have Faith, Ears Burning, Donegal Rundlescreek, Micky Flynn Race 4: Kayteeoh Denario, Cmeerock, Daylight Robbery, Blade Race 5: Lothario, Quevert, Santorini Sunset, Idle Monkey Race 6: Usain Colt, Dreamy Damien, Delightful Dash, Little Rascal Race 7: Runaway Star, Crackared, Lovetodream, Cullen Who Race 8: Marcoola, Sunny Ruby, Waterloo Sunset, Daryl Boko Race 9: King Solomon, The Fixer, Smiley Sophie, Spondulicks Best Bet: You Gotta Have Faith (Race 3) Value: Runaway Star (Race 7)    

As reported by the NZ Herald, Tony Herlihy admits his rivals may hold the fate of One Over Da Moon in their hooves when the standout trotter returns to harness racing at Alexandra Park tonight. And that means the champion horseman wouldn’t be surprised if the best horse at the meeting won by two lengths, or finished a gallant placegetter. “It he could do either and be equally good runs,” says Herlihy. One Over Da Moon returns to Auckland, where he dominated the trot scene last winter, for a three-race programme while usual trainer Paul Nairn is campaigning a team in Australia. So Herlihy hasn’t had much time to reacquaint himself with the speedy stallion, only having driven him a handful of times since he arrived. “He hasn’t had a trial and only arrived up last week so it is hard to get an exact line on him,” explains Herlihy. “He looks great, as you would expect coming from Paul’s place, and when I spoke to Paul on Sunday he said he was trotting great at home before he left him. “But winning any race at Alexandra Park off 45m fresh up is tough. “A lot will depend on how quick they go. If a mare like Sunset Peak steps and trots 3:30 off the front then we have to trot 3:27 to win and that would be hard without a lead-up race. “But if they go a bit slower and he has to trot 3:30 to win and gets a cart into it it becomes a bit easier. “So the tempo will play a big role.”
 Sunset Peak has been the surprise package of the northern winter for John and Butcher, going from unheralded maiden to looking open class material in a handful of starts. Ben Butcher takes the drive tonight so the mare can claim a concession and start on the front line, where she seems happiest and most likely to be able to reach her favoured pacemaking role. “Ben drove her at the workouts on Saturday and if she trots away she might take some catching,” enthused co-trainer John Butcher. For a small field the race is a winter gem, also boasting Cool Cobber, who was excellent in his comeback race last start and Harrysul, who is chasing a hat-trick for Dave and Clare McGowan. Harrysul only fell into win last start after trotting roughly by McGowan says the gelding has worked much better this week and he is confident even though he is not happy to be starting off the same handicap as One Over Da Moon. “I think he has been harshly handicapped but he is going great and the owners are coming up so he will start,” says McGowan. Earlier in the night the Pukekohe stable have exciting trotter Inkyroe in race four. Inkyroe lived up to her huge reputation by bolting in on debut and has a new driver tonight, with Andre Poutama replacing Todd MacFarlane for this race as the latter has his own horse George in the race. “Andre came and drove her on Wednesday and was smiling after,” said McGowan. “It is a big jump from maidens to one-win but I think she will handle it. Her manners early will be the key.”   Michael Guerin

Wilmas Mate survived an action packed Group 1 to reward harness racing favourite followers and smash a track record at Maryborough in winning the Seelite Windows and Doors Victoria Trotters Derby Locking of wheels twice savaged the hopes of well-rated Victorian hopes Sundons Courage and Cruisin Around and while Wilmas Mate took full advantage to win by 2.5m from High Gait, a protest led to a wait before any champagne could be popped. Wilmas Mate’s connections - trainer Paul Nairn, driver David Butt and owner Richard Cornelius – were forced to dwell after High Gait’s driver Chris Alford protested the result because Wilmas Mate veered into the sprint lane from the lead. HRV Chairman of Stewards Nick Murray said Butt hadn’t explicitly complied with his obligations to prevent the horse shifting further into the sprint lane. Mr Murray said Wilmas Mate then trotted roughly under pressure and Butt restrained him, and it was only then High Gait made late ground, and owing to that and the 2.5m margin the protest was dismissed. Wilmas Mate, by Pegasus Spur out of Mybrotherwasastar, won in a 2:00.3 mile rate, taking 0.4 off Speeding Spur’s Maryborough and District Harness Racing Club track record set in the 2015 Derby. “It’s great to win a race in Australia,” Cornelius said. “I’ve been over here before with horses and gone home with my tail between my legs and for a minute or two I thought the same might happen again, but thankfully we got through it and won the race. “Obviously Paul again showed the master that he is. He had the horse in excellent condition to do what she has done today and David Butt again proved that he is a great driver.” Wilmas Mate found the front at the bell after advancing from the rear of the field, looping Sundons Courage (leader) and Cruisin Around (breeze), who then appeared to briefly lock wheels that led to Pizza Queen galloping. High Gait jumped out from the death to challenge Wilmas Mate who had made a break, with a recovering Sundons Courage and Cruisin Around locking again at the final bend to put paid to their hopes. It became a race in two and Wilmas Mate cleared away, looking all the world the winner only to veer into the sprint lane and lose gait in the dying moments, but being first past the post and surviving the protest. “She was getting pretty tired at the end,” Butt said. “She deserved to be, she put in a big run. They made her work but she came around and went really well.” Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

A brief look at some of the happenings from the past week in the world of harness racing. POUTAMA CLOSES IN ON 100 Popular North Island junior driver, Andre Poutama moved to within striking distance of his 100th career winning drive with a victory on Reine Des Gitans on Friday night at Alexandra Park. The Pukekohe based junior took his season tally to 29, a personal best, in the process. Currently fourth on the national junior drivers’ premiership, Poutama is just two wins behind his closest rival, Craig Ferguson with less than a month of racing remaining in the season. MUSCLE MASS AVAILABLE DOWN UNDER Nevele R Stud were pleased to announce that they have secured the rights to provide frozen semen from outstanding trotting sire, Muscle Mass to New Zealand breeders this breeding season. The sire of the 2YO Ruby quinella last month in Custodian and Heavyweight Hero, Muscle Mass is expected to be in high demand and already Nevele R has insisted breeders book early as only a limited amount of semen is being made available to both New Zealand and Australia. LIVE TO TELL LEADING IRON HORSE Burnham pacer, Live To Tell, has one hand on the title of the 2015-2016 season’s Iron Horse. The Bruce Negus trained pacer, who raced twice at Forbury on Friday night, has lined up on 40 occasions so far this season - has won twice and placed on four occasions. She will race again on Thursday night at Addington as will her closest rivals, Hudson Sally who has had 38 starts. Hudson Sally is also nominated for the Oamaru meeting on Sunday. DUAL ROLE FOR ONE OVER DA MOON Brilliantly bred trotter, One Over Da Moon will be available to breeders this season. The highly talented square gaiter who won the Ashburton Trotters’ Flying Mile earlier this season will serve a dual role for his owners Lex and Heather Williams. As well as spending time in the breeding barn, he will also continue to race - initially with Paul Nairn before returning to the the North Island and into the care of Tony Herlihy. A son of brilliant mare, One Over Kenny, One Over Da Moon lacks for nothing in the breeding department and will hold strong appeal for breeders across Australasia. DJOKOVIC CHASING FOUR IN A ROW While his namesake might have bowed out of Wimbledon earlier this week, it’s full steam ahead for Djokovic on Friday night. The Luk Chin trained trotter will be looking to go one step further than the usual game, set and match when he shoots for his fourth consecutive win against a handy field of trotters at Alexandra Park. The son of Sundon will have his 80th start on Friday night. MILESTONE WATCH A number of horseman around the country are currently sitting close to notable milestones in their careers. Jimmy Curtin is just two wins shy of 1500 driving wins in New Zealand, Phil Williamson is four wins short of 500 while Dean Taylor is currently on 492 training wins. In the North Island, Steven Reid is on 990 career wins. On Friday night at at Forbury Park, popular Southland horseman, Brent Barclay reached 600 driving wins for his career with a double. He reached the target when he won the Forbury Sprint Series with Risk Factor before Bettor Go Hurry took him to 601 wins. SOUTH OF THE WAITAKI SERIES KICKS OFF Nominations for the first heat of the Macca Lodge Trained South of the Waitaki Series which is this Friday night at Addington are strong. 14 horses have been nominated for the event, which is open to horses who are three-year-old and older and handicapped at C1 and below prior to nominations closing for the first heat provided they were trained south of the Waitaki river prior to May 1 this year. There are three rounds of heats held over the month of July with an $11,000 final at the end of the month. The first ever series, held last season, was won by Tact Tate.   HRNZ MEDIA

Freak Harness Racing Trainer Paul Nairn will take two runners to Addington Raceway tomorrow. But don't bother jumping in the car and heading to the local Tab to back them, because his runners Conon Bridge and Wilma's Mate are only there to contest heats of the non tote Australasian Breeders Crown. 3yo Raffaello Ambrosio colt Conon Bridge is up against Blood n Whiskey (Robert Dunn) and My Amour (Greg & Nina Hope) in the first of the non tote events. If the Tab opened up a market you would expect to see Conon Bridge a short priced favourite on the back of his jewels placing. His stable man, Wilma's Mate, a 3yo Pegasus Spur filly owned by Richard Cornelius only has to compete against the Gavin Smith trained Oona. Again she should be winning after her jewels placing. Both runners are to be driven by Bob Butt who looks to have a massive show of picking up a treble when he lines up his own runner Matatoki in race four. A talented 3yo by Swedish stallion Revenue, Matatoki is on the look out for a penalty free win before the end of the season. While his last start was in January a handy recent trial at Ashburton has him well in commission for a winning resumption. With those three races out of the way, Butt will drive Gee Up Neddy in race eight for Yaldhurst trainer Leonne Jones. His recent form has been in top class races and before that the 5yo gelding was a super winner at Rangiora. Butt will also drive Race 1 - Aunty Jan - Phil Burrows Race 10 - Junior - David & Catherine Butt Andrew Fitzgerald

Some of New Zealand’s top harness racing trainers have always believed in Jack MacKinnon and now the recently turned 21-year-old is starting to repay their faith in them. When MacKinnon was 17 master Canterbury trainer Paul Nairn entrusted the then Ponsonby teenager with some of his team in the North Island. Since then MacKinnon has also worked for several horsemen and women including Tim Vince, Michelle Wallis & Bernie Hackett, but in 2015 he started to impress top New Zealand trainer, Robert Dunn. “Jack worked part-time for me for about a year while he worked for his father (Jamie) in his Auckland ‘Olympic Swiss Watches’ business. “He came to me very experienced considering he was just 19 or 20. Then in February we took him on full-time in Pukekohe. He gets on well with a lot of my horses and he is a very capable horseman who came to me with a very impressive CV,” Dunn said. “If Paul Nairn can put his faith in him as a teenager, then that’s good enough for me,” Dunn said. Nairn also had high praise for MacKinnon. "Jack has helped me out when I come north and he is a smart young guy and very conscientious. I’ve always believed in his horsemanship, he has a bright future in the game," Nairn said. Going into Friday’s (June 17) meeting at Alexandra Park, MacKinnon was the leading junior driver at ‘Northern Headquarters’. He put that down to experience and a better quality of horse he is now driving. “I really want to win the Alexandra Park premiership. It was my goal last year and I finished in the top five. Coming to Robert’s was one of the best decision’s I’ve ever made. “My driving has improved I think because Robert has a large team and therefore I can get better quality drives. I’m learning all the time. Robert is one of New Zealand’s best trainers. The statistics will tell you that,” MacKinnon said. This was clearly evident last Friday night when MacKinnon drove the Dunn trained Cherry Bay to her first win in four starts. “He gets on very good with that filly and got the best out of her last week. He also had a good rapport with Whitney. He’s a very good wee driver and we have yet to see the best of him. “I’m just happy we are able to provide him with the next stepping stone in his driving career,” Dunn said. Both of MacKinnon’s parents were delighted with the way a city boy was making it in a predominantly rural sport. “It’s not easy for him because he wasn’t born into a prominent harness racing family. But now he’s working for Robert Dunn and he’s a very good friend of mine and he is an exceptional trainer. That can only be good for his career,” said Dad, Jamie. MacKinnon’s mother was equally proud. “I am one of Jacks biggest supporters. He has the whole family backing him and we are absolutely thrilled with his success. His dedication and hard work is paying off and it's great to see his name out there amongst the best of the best,” his Mum, Gayleen said. Auckland-born and Mt Albert Grammar educated MacKinnon is currently experiencing his most successful season in the sulky with nine wins – six of them at Alexandra Park. All up he’s saluted the judge 21 times since 2013. He’s also trained three winners since 2014, including two this season – Kneed The Dough at Thames in January and Any Old Way at Alexandra Park in August. “I just want to keep turning over the winners so other owners and trainers realise I can drive a bit. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I am living the dream and am delighted to be working in one of New Zealand’s biggest and most successful stables,” the Northern 2014 Primary ITO Cadet of the Year said. MacKinnon trained his first winner when Ruby Castleton won at Tauranga on January 26, 2014. That came 19 months after MacKinnon won his first race in the sulky behind his mate David Branch’s then 6-year-old pacer, All About Speed (June 11, 2012). MacKinnon, a former star in the Kidz Kartz ranks, paid a tribute to those who taught him during those mini-pony days. "If it wasn't for Kidz Kartz and the people who educated me on how to drive I wouldn't be where I am today. I have always wanted to be a driver and Kidz Kartz made my dream come true," MacKinnon said. “I also want to thank every owner and trainer who has put their faith in me since then,” he added. There have been 19 junior drivers who have lined up at ‘The Park’ this season. The TOP FIVE Junior Drivers at Alexandra Park (as at June 16) are: Junior Driver Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR Jack MacKinnon 84 6 14 7 0.1918 Tony Cameron  27 5 1 2 0.2305 Sean Grayling  26 5 1 5 0.2778 Kyle Marshall  53 5 2 7 0.1593 Andre Poutama  39 4 2 1 0.1396 Last season's TOP 5 Juniors at Alexandra Park Junior Driver Starts Wins Seconds Thirds UDR Tony Cameron 41 6 7 6 0.29 Michael Blakemore  27 4 5 4 0.3004 Kim Butt  9 4 0 2 0.5185 Robbie Close  11 4 2 2 0.5253 Jack MacKinnon  59 4 8 5 0.1714

The first of the classics for the two year old trotters this season is the $25,000 New Zealand Two Year old Trotting Stakes which was run at the harness racing meeting at Addington Raceway tonight. The unbeaten Love You colt Habibi Inta from the Paul Nairn barn looked the horse to beat after two effortless wins in his leadup races even though he had drawn a bit wide at barrier seven. Enghien was expected to test the favourite after a bold second to him at Methven while Miracle Rising and Di'z Luck were others to have shown up on raceday. Habibi Inta came out trucking for Blair Orange  from barrier seven and grabbed the lead from Custodian and David Butt. At this point Enghien and Ricky May went for a gallop, losing all chance. Habibi Inta kept up a solid tempo in front with Miracle Rising in the death and her stablemate Di'z Luck in the one by one. With the good tempo up front there was no mid race moves and on the last corner Habibi Inta looking to be travelling the best. The only danger appeared to be Custodian in the trail who slowly closed the gap on Habibi Inta the whole way up the straight but was still a nose in arrears at the finish. The two did get close in the last 50 metres and the siren went post race but the protest was not progressed with. Di'z Luck finished on well for third in front of her stablemate Miracle Rising. Habibi Inta ran the 1950 metres in 2:30.3, a mile rate of 2:04 with closing sectionals of 59.3 and 29.4 Before tonight Habibi Inta looked a class above above his rivals on the two year old trotters scene but Custodian showed tonight that the gap is not as big as some thought and that should make the upcoming races amongst the juveniles really worth waiting for. Harnesslink Media 

The first of the tote races for the 2015-2106 season for the two year old trotters was held at Addington Raceway this evening and provided a great spectacle as the first four home all showed enough on the night to suggest that we are in for some great contests as the harness racing season progresses. Custodian from barrier eight left the gate with the mobile for driver David Butt and was in front after 200 metres and proceeded to set a hectic pace in front. The well supported Habibi Inta with Blair Orange in the cart was slow off the gate and settled sixth in the running early while Regal Love and Tim Williams ended up in the open in the running line when things settled down after the start. David Butt kept Custodian rolling in front, putting half a dozen lengths between himself and the field as they went past the 800 metres mark. Tim Williams and Regal Love were the first to make a move to close the gap on the tearaway leader and Habibi Inta quickly got onto Regal Love's back as they passed the 400 metres. These three were joined on the point of the turn by Miracle Rising with trainer / driver Gavin Smith in the bike who had been four back on the inner and these four drew away from the rest. Custodian was still in front 100 metres out but his earlier exertions started to catch up with him and he was claimed by both Habibi Inta and Miracle Rising with 50 metres to go with Habibi Inta holding a neck advantage over Miracle Rising at  the finishing line with a game Custodian a close up third just in front of an equally game Regal Love who had dragged the field up to the leader. The winners time for the 1950 metres from the mobile was a smart 2:26.6, a mile rate of 2:00.9 with closing sectionals of 60.2 and 30.7 Trainer Paul Nairn was happy that his charge did everything right at his first race start. " I told Blair he had never been behind the mobile before and to not rush him early which is why he was so far behind them early on." " I knew he was good enough to win the race but I was more concerned that he did everything right at his first start to help build up his confidence." " I think I will give him his next start in the two year old trot at Methven on the grass as a lead into the 2 year old Trotting Stakes at the end of March at Addington as he handles the grass really well," Paul told Harnesslink this evening. Gavin Smith had a huge smile on his face after the run of Miracle Rising to grab second on debut. " I couldn't have been happier with my horse's run." " He is not switched on as yet to what racings all about but he has got an awful lot of natural ability. " I thought he was too big to make a two year old but he is proving me wrong." " He is beautifully gaited and has great manners and going forward there is so much improvement in him that it is scary," Gavin said. Throw in Custodian and Regal Love who lost no admirers with their game runs tonight and the two year old trotting ranks look to be especially strong this year. Harnesslink Media  

Leading trotting trainer Paul Nairn is never one to do things by the book. He likes to do things his way and his outstanding record of success over the last twenty plus years would suggest that his methods work. Today Paul lined up last season's two year old trotter of the year in Conon Bridge in the Group 3 Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton Raceway but the surprising thing for a lot of the pundits was that Conon Bridge had been unsighted at workouts or trials since before Christmas. That lead some people to surmise that maybe Conon Bridge may be vulnerable in a fast run race but Paul was confident that his star youngster was ready to rumble. Bob Butt shot Conon Bridge to the front from barrier three with ease and kept up a steady enough tempo through the first half in even time. Gershwin and Stevie Golding went up and had a look at Conon Bridge passing the half and the two went together to the top of the lane. Conon Bridge looking to be jogging on the corner and when Bob let him go he sprinted away with ease, holding a two length advantage at the finishing line. Gunners Coin fought on well for second after trailing the whole way for Colin de Filippi while Donegal Bettorgretch and Dexter Dunn made ground late out wide for third. Conon Bridge could not have been more impressive in running the mile in 1:57.9 with smart closing sectionals of 56.7 and 27.9 Bob Butt was all smiles post race. " He did that really easily to be honest." " Last season at two he use to half pull up if left in front but today he ran through the line so that is a big plus going forward." " He gave me a great feel today and he should be even better with that run under his belt," Bob said. Paul Nairn was already contemplating his immediate racing program as he ungeared the son of Raffaello Ambrosio. " I am thinking I might take him to Melbourne for the Need For Speed Series." " He is such a great gaited horse and the sprint racing would really suit him," Paul said.   The series has prize money of $12,500 at the semi final stage with the final for $60,000 being staged on the same night as the Great Southern Star Final is run. The way Conon Bridge won over the mile today suggests that the Need For Speed Series would suit the colt down to the ground. Harnesslink Media

The first set of harness racing trials in the Canterbury area for 2016 were held at Rangiora Raceway today and several new faces impressed as they prepare for race debuts. One who took our eye was Habibi Inta. Whenever Paul Nairn lines up a two year old trotter, it pays to sit up and take notice and today was no different. Paul entered Habibi Inta in the standing start qualifying trot over 2600 metres and drove the two year old colt himself and it was the manner of the win that really impressed. Away second early, the trotter in front of him broke soon after but Habibi Inta never missed a beat avoiding the galloper . Taking a trail soon after behind Helen Shapiro, Habibi Inta was dropped by a couple of lengths on turning in by Helen Sharipo but dug deep and grabbed the leader 70 metres out and went on to win by a head. Habibi Inta trotted the 2600 metres in 3:32.7, nearly seven seconds inside the required time and the beautifully bred son of Love You has laid down a marker so early in the season with today's run. Being a full brother to the champion age group trotter Habibti and to last years New Zealand Trotters Oaks winner in Habibti Ivy, Habibi Inta has the breeding to go with the ability he showed today. Paul Nairn was still undecided where he would go from here. "I might just give him a start or two in maidens and then turn him out for a brief spell as the big races for juvenile trotters are not until late April- early May. "I like to give my two year olds a few standing starts before they see a mobile which was why he was in the stand today." "His dam is doing a huge job and he has all the attributes of a top horse." "Being a colt, he was a bit of a handful early on but as we upped his workload he came to it pretty quickly," Paul said. Like a lot of the Love You's, Habibi Inta is a big lump of a two year old but looks to have the manners and ability to make his mark at two. And with Paul Nairn in his corner, Habibi Inta has a big advantage over most of his competitors. Harnesslink Media

After their six winners on New Zealand Cup Day, a lot of pundits were predicting that the all conquering All Star barn could have an even bigger day on Show Day yesterday. Prince Fearless was the most impressive of the Cup Day winners from the All Star barn, bolting in by over 13 lengths in very quick time and he was a very short priced favourite in the first race yesterday. However as all racegoers know there are no certainties in racing and that's how it played out. Waterloo Sunset and Bob Butt made a flyer from the 10 metre mark and were in front after 200 metres. Bob kept the huge son of Sundon up to the mark in front until Prince Fearless and Mark Purdon looped the field with 800 metres to go and assumed control. Just when everybody thought Prince Fearless would cruise clear for an easy win in the straight, Waterloo Sunset and Bob flew up the passing lane and went straight on past Prince Fearless for an emphatic victory.  Bob thought he was a chance to roll the favourite. " Waterloo Sunset had been going super prior to Tuesday's run having run second to Stent the start before." " He wasn't a happy horse Tuesday, missing away and not trotting any good at all." " Paul (Nairn) thought a splint was troubling him and treated it after Tuesday" " Today he trotted the best he has ever trotted and I was confident a fair way out I would be tough to beat," Bob said. Trainer Paul Nairn was just happy to have his huge trotting star back on track. " He is such a big horse that he has a few niggles off and on so I am happy to have him back on track after Tuesday's effort." "We will look at the big trot at Geraldine at the end of the month with him next but Auckland in December is on the radar as well," Paul said. Waterloo Sunset has always looked a top trotter in the making and it is a credit to Paul Nairn that his patience is now starting to pay off. Harnesslink Media

From the time he stepped onto a racetrack as a four year old, Waterloo Sunset has always looked a horse headed to the best grades. An entire by Sundon from the Rowe Cup winning mare Inspire, Waterloo Sunset is a blue blood in anyones language and he has the ability to go with the bloodlines. Last night at Addington Raceway he comfortably won his fifth race from just twenty starts and in doing so edged closer to being a genuine open class contender. Paul Nairn is a master trainer of squaregaiters and he has always thought that with time Waterloo Sunset would make it to the elite level in New Zealand. " I have always thought a lot of him from day one and I still think he will get better yet" " We have come a long way with him but I think the best is yet to come." "One thing I do know is that he is the biggest horse I have ever trained," Paul said. When you see Waterloo Sunset in the flesh you can understand Paul's sentiments as he is one huge piece of horseflesh. That in itself has meant waiting for Waterloo Sunset to fill out into his massive frame but as a six year old he now looks ready to kick on. Never afraid to back his horses up, Paul intends to keep Waterloo Sunset active over the next few weeks. " He can go to the big trot at Kaikoura on Monday and then race during Cup week," Paul said. Regular driver Bob Butt is confident that Waterloo Sunset has what it takes to be competitive in the top grade. " He is such a different horse this time in to what he use to be." " He use to get really fired up before the start and even during his races but the trips to Auckland have help turn him into a different horse" "He is much more relaxed these days and his manners are really good now"  " He gives you such a great feel when you are driving him and he is the best horse I have driven," Bob said. Paul Nairn has such a big opinion of Waterloo Sunset that he covered some of his own mares with the stallion last season. " I served three mares with him last season and the first of them is due shortly so he about to become a dad for the first time." " He has all the attributes of a top horse and I can't see why he won't leave them," Paul said. Waterloo Sunset has been very patiently handled to date and that patience looks like it is about to pay off. Harnesslink Media

Sunday's $84,000 Aldebaran Park Australasian Breeders Crown final for two year old colt and gelding trotters at Tabcorp Park Melton  looked a two horse war on paper and that's how it turned out but it wasn't the two horses everybody thought would fight out the finish. Conon Bridge from the Paul Nairn barn was a warm favourite after drawing barrier one and his main danger was expected to be Sundons Courage from the Chris Angove barn who was drawn on Conon Bridge's back at one on the second line. One driver who thought he might be able to upset those predictions was Todd MacFarlane, the trainer driver of Cyclone Chief who had drawn in close at barrier four. Speaking to Harnesslink pre race, Todd thought that Sundons Courage lack of early speed presented an opportunity for him to get across and trail Conon Bridge. And that is exactly how it turned out. After a false start at the first attempt, Conon Bridge burned off the gate at the second attempt leaving a big gap for Cyclone Chief to slot into with Sundons Courage settling three back on the inner. Conon Bridge's driver Bob Butt was in no great hurry in front and with no mid race pressure he had a pretty soft run in front. Passing the 800 metres Bob upped the tempo with a quarter down the back in 29,8 which had most of the field battling before the turn. Cyclone Chief had dropped off a length or two but was still close enough on the corner to be a threat. Half way up the straight Conon Bridge looked home but late in the piece Cyclone Chief surged up on the inner and injected real excitement into the finish. At which point Conon Bridge ducked sideways and inconveniced Cyclone Chief. No sooner had Conon Bridge being declared the winner, than the siren went with Todd alleging the interference had cost him the win. Sitting in on the enquiry, the point the stewards returned to several times was the fact that Todd, even though he had been checked, had not stopped driving Cyclone Chief over the final stages. After a short adjournment, the stewards came back with a finding that while Cyclone Chief had been checked, Todd hadn't stopped driving the horse over the final stages and the close proximity to the finish line led them to dismiss the objection. They did however fine Bob Butt $250 for failing to correct Conon Bridge immediately when he ducked in. Bob Butt was relieved but confident the right decision had been made. " Conon Bridge did shift down the track but I didn't believe he had done enough to lose the race." " I think the fact Todd never stopped driving his horse helped my case," Bob said. Todd Macfarlane was dumbfounded by the decision. " I am in no doubt that if I hadn't been checked I would have won the race."' " Bob's horse has gone super and I have no complaints with anything he said in the room. " The stewards on the other hand seem to have pre-determined the outcome before the hearing had even been held." "Their performance has left a real sour taste in my mouth" Todd said. In the wash up Bob Butt should be congratulated for adding a Group 1 winning drive to his resume and kudos to Todd MacFarlane for taking the decision so professionally in the room. Harnesslink Media  

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