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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

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

Conon Bridge defeated Cyclone Chief by a metre to claim Group 1 glory in the Aldebaran Park Breeders Crown 2YO Colts and Geldings Trotters Final at Melton’s Super Sunday program. The Paul Nairn-trained son of Raffaello Ambrosio/Diedre’s Girl survived a protest from the second horse, with the winner veering inwards in the home straight. However, stewards couldn’t be satisfied that the interference cost Cyclone Chief the race and the first horse over the line held his position, much to the relief of the favourite punters. Bob Butt drove the winner and Todd MacFarlane was aboard the second horse. Conon Bridge started $1.40 and led throughout from the pole, his winning mile rate 2:03.9. Cruisin Around ran a mighty race for trainer Michael Hughes and driver Greg Sugars to finish third, while Sundons Courage was fourth from three back along the pegs, running on well after a slow early pace up front. Reina Danzante goes all the way in fillies' final Reina Danzante won her second Group 1 for trainer Nicole Molander and driver Chris Alford with an all-the-way triumph in today’s IMV Technologies Breeders Cown Final for 3YO trotting fillies. The daughter of Armbro Invasion out of champion mare La Coocaracha led from barrier four to score by a neck in a mile rate of 2:00.9, Glenferrie Burn running on for second and My Arya finishing third. “Nicole and Dean (Molander) have done a super job,” Alford said. “Two Group 1s has been great and she should only get better too.” Once in front Reina Danzante posted a 31.4secs first quarter before a 29.4 second split. Reina Danzante got home in 58.7secs. Reina Danzante won the Vicbred Super Series earlier this season. by Cody Winnell

Redwood Day at Maryborough this Sunday is one of most keenly anticipated dates on the Australian harness racing calendar. Two trotting only meetings are being held on Friday and Sunday this week with the two Group 1 races on the Sunday being the highlights This year there is another strong contingent of Kiwi trotters involved but to say they have received the visitors draw is an understatement. There are three Kiwi trotters involved in the $50,500 Redwood Classic for two year olds but all of them have drawn in the carpark. The outstanding Muscles Yankee filly High Gait has drawn the best of the Kiwis at barrier 6 and she will probably move into barrier five if the emergency doesn't get a start. After her recent trial at Menangle where she broke 1:56 for the mile with ease, High Gait looks the one to beat post draw. The Paul Nairn trained Conon Bridge has copped the worst possible marble for a horse who can be a touch unruly, drawing one on the second line. Up till now the son of Raffaello Ambrosia has started from the unruly position in all his mobile starts and his draw on Sunday means the Nairn camp will be crossing their fingers through the first 100 metres. The third of the Kiwi runners in the two year old Redwood Classic is Missandei and the daughter of Angus Hall is right out in the carpark at five on the second line. Missandei won her only start since crossing the Tasman but the draw makes her task to beat High Gait again very difficult. The other Group 1 on Sunday is the $75,000 Victorian Derby and the outstanding New Zealand three year old Speeding Spur is another Kiwi to be handed a horror draw. Speeding Spur will start from six on the second line and will need all favours from out there to be a winning chance. Arya will start from barrier four so she instantly becomes a great each way chance while the top local Illawong Armstrong has also drawn the second line but his last win over Arya was outstanding and with any luck early he will be a big threat.. Harnesslink Media

New Zealand's leading male two year trotter in 2014/2015 in Conon Bridge is about to head across the Tasman to tackle some late season classics in Victoria. A $7,000 purchase from last years New Zealand Premier Yearling sale at Christchurch, the son of Raffaello Ambrosio has looked well above average from the first time he stepped onto a track. The winner of three from five starts at two, Conon Bridge has looked more than capable of mixing it with High Gait and Missandei from the All Star barn with his only run where he finished out of the money being when he went off stride in the Harness Jewels. Trained by master trotting trainer Paul Nairn and driven by North Canterbury reinsman Bob Butt, Conon Bridge has two main targets on his Victorian raid as Bob Butt explained to Harnesslink this week. " The first target is the $ 50,000 Redwood Classic over 2190 metres on the second of August at Maryborough which is an open two year old race." " The distance won't hold any worries for him as he showed when winning over 2400 metres last weekend." " Safely through that, Conon Bidge will tackle the Australasian Breeders Crown series and it is a bit different this year with $84,000 finals for both Colts / geldings and fillies so we won't meet the All Stars fillies in that series which is a bonus," Bob said. Bob was really impressed with Conon Bridge's latest performance last weekend where he came off 10 metres to win a C1-C2 handicap trot. " He only did what he had to last Sunday but it is never easy for two year old trotters to beat the older horses over ground so there was a lot of merit in the run," Bob said. Conon Bridge has already earned $51,597 in his debut season and in his present form could well crack the $100,000 mark before he finishes this campaign. Harnesslink Media

It is quickly coming around to that point of the New Zealand harness racing season where we start to hand out the gongs for best performed in each age group and gait divisions. Harnesslink thought we would do a review of each of the categories with our view on where the contenders sit. This is a review of the 2 year old trotters colts / geldings division.   1) Conon Bridge - 2015 Season:    4 starts,    2 wins,    0 seconds,    1 thirds,    Lt $47,071   From just four starts the son of Raffaello Ambrosio showed enough to suggest he has a huge future in front of him. Started off the unruly in all four starts which put him at a major disadvantage compared to his rivals but still very competitive with the very best. Races without an overcheck which led to his down fall in the Harness Jewels when he dipped his head down and galloped. His recovery to run sixth was an outstanding effort in the circumstances. Looks a certainty for this award. 2) Royal Willie - 2015 Season:    7 starts,    2 wins,    2 seconds,    0 thirds,    Lt $10,986 Very smart son of Majestic Son but manners let him down big time late in the season. Good enough to sit parked at Auckland and win against the maidens and very smart in the two year old trots in the north before heading south for the Harness Jewels. Ashburton can't have agreed with him as he galloped at both the workouts prior to the Harness Jewels and on the big day itself. Expect him to be a major player as a three year old. 3) Gershwin - 2015 Season:    7 starts,    2 wins,    1 seconds,    1 thirds,    Lt $7,053 Another smart Muscles Yankee trotter but again his manners deserted him when it counted late in the season. Galloped in the Harness Jewels for no reason but staged a big recovery to run seventh. Ran High Gait to a nose in 2:00 at Cambridge which is a good indication of his ability and thereabouts in all his starts in the north prior to heading south to the Harness Jewels. Another one to watch out for as a three year old. Selection Only one horse in the running really and that is Conon Bridge and hard to make a case for any of the others ahead of him. Harnesslink Media

The first big race on today's premier harness racing meeting at Addington was the $65,000 PGG Wrightson Open Trot for the 2 year olds and the small but select field was further testament to how far our two year old trotters have come in recent years. Conon Bridge from the Paul Nairn barn was a warm favourite in front of Wilma's Mate from the David and Catherine Butt barn. He's Like The Wind with Gavin Smith in the bike flew the gate from barrier five to lead and was followed through from the unruly mark by Conon Bridge with Bob Butt in the bike who pressed on to the front. Bob kept up a steady tempo in front until the 600 metres mark where he was joined in front by Wilma's mate and David Butt and the two favourites drew clear of the field. Passing the 450 metres mark,Wilma's Mate went off stride leaving Conon Bridge ten lengths clear as they turned for home and although Gunners Coin and Dexter Dunn and He's Like The Wind closed late, Conon Bidge always looked to have the race in safe keeping. Conon Bridge trotted the 1950 metres in 2:27.9, a mile rate of 2:02 with the last 800 metres in 59.8. Conon Bridge is a son of the deceased stallion Raffaello Ambrosio. Paul Nairn purchased the colt from last years New Zealand Premier sale on behalf of stable clients for the princely sum of $7,000. Bob Butt was confident once he found the front. " With a race like this one you have to take luck out of play" " I knew He's Like The Wind would fly the gate so I followed him through and found the front." "When he got left in front by that much I knew he would knock off but he still had plenty to offer," Bob said.  With one eye on the Harness Jewels, Paul Nairn has yet to make his mind up about weather he will take Conon Bridge off the unruly. " I will have a talk to Bob about it before we make any decisions but with the Jewels so close it may not pay to change too much." " He can get keen in his work at home so putting him on the gate may just light him up and we don't want to do that,"Paul said. Currently fifth on the Harness Jewels leaderboard, Conon Bridge now looms as the horse they have to beat at Ashburton on May 30th. Harnesslink Media

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

It was a momentous occasion today for Classic Equine NZ, the owners of Raffaello Ambrosio, as his first raceday starter took to the track at Motukarara and despite the poor track conditions, won well. Gee Up Neddy, a 3 year old gelding owned and bred by Canterbury trotting stalwarts Keith and Bevan Grice by Raffaello Ambrosio out of the good mare Marie (by Sundon) and trained by Peter and Leone Jones, started favourite in a C0 field. Driven by Colin de Fillipi, Gee Up Neddy handled the testing conditions, sitting parked for most of the journey, running home well in the straight to score a convincing one length win. Raffaello Ambrosio is standing his fifth full season at Eyreton Lodge in North Canterbury. A top class racehorse in the USA, Raffaello Ambrosio won $US810,614 in his 49 start career which saw him win a Titan Cup and place in many of the top USA feature races, including a fourth in the Hambletonian. He also deemed good enough to be invited to the Italian classic, the Gran Premio della Lotteria - where he made the final against the mighty Varenne - and the Forus Open in Norway. "He had the privilege to race with distinction in a golden era that pitted him against horses like Varenne, Moni Maker, Fan Idole, Self Possessed, Fern, Magician, Angus Hall and CR Renegade," said John Munro, director of Classic Equine. Classic Equine NZ identified his potential for the NZ market based on his maternal breeding, being maternally bred on an Arndon/BF Coaltown cross, a cross the same as Sundon. "BF Coaltown, being a sire of the 70's, probably did not garner much interest from the American market, but the incredible nick that the maternal side of BF Coaltown with New Zealand mares with the likes of Sundon, and as it subsequently proved Dream Vacation, was the magnet to pursue Raffaello Ambrosio." As well as being from the very strong family of Minnehaha, Raffaello Ambrosio is the second highest earning son of Victory Dream (after Self Possessed) who from only 89 foals, produced 71 starters for 50 winners and stakes of over $US7.7 million, with 19 earning over $US100,000. He is a very close relation to Dream Vacation on both his sire and dam's side, and racing in similar length careers actually earned more money on the track (including a prestigious Titan Cup win) than the now Swedish-based sire who was taken New Zealand and Australia by storm. While not being of great interest to the breeders in the USA, Raffaello Ambrosio produced 22 foals for 11 starters and 9 winners, with 1 earning over $US200,000 and 3 over $US100,000 and stake wins in excess of $US650,000. As a broodmare sire he produced the 2 time Kentucky Sires Stakes Winner, Victors Future, to bring his overall earnings to over $US 1 million - a very good effort for such a small number of progeny. Imported into New Zealand late in the 2009 breeding season, Raffaello Ambrosio served 6 mares, getting 4 in foal. His Achilles heel, however, proved to be transported semen, and despite being sent for a season to a recognized breeding establishment and being deemed suitable for a frozen semen programme, his performance on transported semen did not improve enough to warrant its continuation. Raffaello Ambrosio now serves on farm only from Eyreton Lodge. He has received good support from a number of prominent broodmare owners and is being bred to a selection of mares from the top trotting families in NZ. While it is disappointing to the owners that he can not serve a larger number of mares, they are prepared to accept quality over quantity and are confident that not only will he produce good horses now, but that he will prove himself in the future as a valuable broodmare sire. Along with Gee Up Neddy, several of his foals from the 2010 crop are set to make their appearances at the trials in the New Year - Mediodito (qualified), Belle Gambe (a half Miss Boomschukaluka, T 1.58.9. $94,851), Montelupo (a half to Foray, 4 wins), and Here We Are, along with Raffs Folly, a late Feb 2009 foal.          

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