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Another session of harness racing trials were held at the Rangiora Raceway today (March 2nd) and as is the norm these days, they unearthed several promising horses in both the qualifiers and in the C0 and faster heats. Qualifiers 1) Lavros Jack -  4 year old by Bettor's Delight from Lavra Ruby A beautifully bred pacer but all Lavros Jack wants to do is trot. Missed his ticket a couple of weeks ago for an early scramble but no such problems today and won his qualifying trotting heat like a horse that wont be a maiden long. Straight to the front and ran them along at a good clip and never looked in danger at any stage. His time was over eight seconds under the qualifying mark and with a little bit more experience, he is going to furnish into a nice horse. 2) Claus  -  3 year old gelding by Tintin In America from B G's Chance This half brother to the very smart Fake Chance 1:56.9 ($232,328) looks to have inherited a lot of the family ability. Manners were excellent from the stand and seemed to do it all within himself. Bettered the qualifying standard by over four seconds and looks the type that won't be long registering that first win Two Year Olds 1) Mr Kalypso  -  2 year old colt by Art Major from Kalypso Another Australian import for the All Stars barn and this one has breeding to burn. He is a half brother to three $100,000 winners including the millionaire pacer Caribbean Blaster 1:52.6 ($1,113,677) and his trial performances have been top class lately. Today he settled three back on the inner before coming off at the 500 metres and despite being held back to the competition, won with a lot in hand in good time. He paced the 2000 metres in 2:32.7, a mile rate of  2:2.8 with closing sectionals of 57.1 and 27.4 and did it easily. Very competitive in any race the All Stars barn line him up in over the next few weeks. Very talented. 2) Ariadne Lavra - 2 year old filly by Art Major from Hilarous Lavra Lined up against the older horses in a maiden heat and gave them a fair old spanking. Drew wide at barrier six but just had too much speed for some handy maidens. Her overall time of 2:31.1 was smart on its own but her closing sectionals of 56.2 and 27 flat were exceptional and she did it easily. Looks a Sires Stakes filly on that run and won't be out of her depth there either going by todays effort. 3) Di'z Luck  -  2 year old filly by The Pres from Howz Lucky A full sister to the very smart two year trotter of a couple of years ago in Primz Luck, this filly is a half sister to a further five winners including Madison Luck (11 wins) and Lanez Luck (7 wins)  She settled last today in the five horse field for two year old trotters before improving from the 600 metres mark and running past them in the home straight with trainer driver Gavin Smith sitting very quietly in the bike. It was a very impressive performance and she was privately timed to run her last 800 metres in a sharp 58.5. Looks to be plenty of upside to to Di'z Luck and she is one to keep an eye out for in the upcoming two year old trotting races. C1 + Faster Pace 1) Artful  -  3 year old filly by Art Major from Ouch La Fe Fe Very impressive performance today which was following up a top third in the $150,000 PGG Wrightson Sales Race at Addington. Followed Emily Brunt around from the 500 metres when that filly improved and then went straight by her in the last 150 metres for an emphatic win over a classy filly. Her last 400 metres of 26.6 was the quickest of the whole day and she seemed to do it without too much urging from driver John Dunn. Seems to have improved even further from her Addington run and will have plenty of opportunities against her own sex in the next few weeks to further her already handy record. Harnesslink Media

Todays running of the Amberley Cup at the harness racing meeting at Rangiora Raceway looked to be a Hug The Wind benefit race. The Bettor's Delight gelding from the all conquering All Stars barn has $300,000 on his card and looked a class above his rivals on exposed form. The only question mark surrounding Hug The Wind was how would he handle the grass track which he was racing on for the first time. Tim Williams had Hug The Wind away well from the 20 metre mark but the speed up front from the start was electric and it took Hug The Wind nearly 600 metres to join the running line , four back on the outer. When Jerry Garcia took off around the field, Tim followed him around with Hug The Wind and sat outside the tear away pacemaker Thefriendlyassassin from the 1200 metres. Mastering Thefriendlyassassin on the corner, Hug The Wind looked the winner for a second before Seel The Deal and Ricky May started to make ground quickly from three back in the running line. Half way up the straight Seel The Deal went up to Hug The Wind and went straight on past to record a very impressive victory. Hug The Wind lost no admirers in finishing a close second while a very game Thefriendlyassassin held on for third after doing all the work in front in a fast run race. The 2600 metres from a stand on grass was cut out in a smart 3:20.2 with closing sectionals of 59.6 and 28.2. It was the son of American Ideal's sixth victory at just his tenth start and took his stake earnings over the $44,000 mark. Ricky May was impressed once again by his charge. " I really have a bit of time for this horse." " I had to slot in four back on the inner early on because Gerard (Thefriendlyassassin) was flying in front." "Soon as the pace eased slightly I came out and sat parked and got a good run on Jerry Garcia's back after he looped the field." "I was spotting Hug The Wind a few lengths on the corner but he has picked him up really easily in the end." "It is not very often that you run past the blue colours with the grey stars so that made the victory even better," Ricky said. When it was suggested to Ricky that Seel The Deal had become a grass track specialist in his short career to date and that he may not be as sharp on grit, Ricky was quick to disagree. " I think he will be just as good on the all weather track to be honest." " He is a very green horse at this stage of his career and has plenty to learn still." " He has shown me enough on the all weather to suggest he will be just as effective on it as he is on grass." " I think this horse has got a big future," Ricky said. Ricky May is never one to build up a horse unless he is genuinely impressed by him so don't dismiss the chances of Seel The Deal when he next steps onto an all weather track. Harnesslink Media  

Well known Templeton harness racing trainer Trevor Grant is no stranger to having a good horse around his barn. His former stable star Adio Routine won 15 races and close to a quarter of a million dollars in the late 1990s and he has always had a handy horse in the barn ever since. Starwood In Aspen won six races trotting for Trevor and it is her Brylin Boyz son Young Stanger that is starting to put together a handy record himself. Today at the Amberley Trotting Club's annual meeting at Rangiora Raceway, Young Stranger made a one horse race of the C1 trot. Settling three back in the running line early, Trevor sent him forward at the 1200 metre to grab the lead and from that point it was just a matter of what he would win by as he cruised down to the winning virtually unchallenged. Young Stranger trotted the 1950 metres from a stand on the grass in 2:37.6 with closing sectionals of 61.5 and 30. It was the fourth lifetime win for Young Stranger and took his earnings over the $40,000 mark If was the first driving success for Trevor for over four years but to be fair he has only had a handful of drives in that time as he has used outside drivers for his horses during most of the period. However as Trevor explained to Harnesslink this afternoon, he will be driving Young Stranger for the foreseeable future. " The aim for the rest of this season is to just keep him trotting in his races and build up his confidence and because I know him so well it is easier for me to drive him like I want him driven." " He is a big gangly horse even now at six, standing over 16 1/2 hands and is not the easiest horse to drive." " He is blind in his nearside eye so he tends to run out a touch at times and can get a bit nervous at times when things are happening that he can't see." " You have to talk to him the whole time to get him to keep concentrating on the job or he can gallop on you." " I think if I just take my time with him over the next few months and build those confidence levels up, then he has the ability to go a fair way," Trevor said. Young Stranger has always looked an above average trotter and if Trevor can unlock his potential over the next few months, then the best may be yet to come. Harnesslink Media  

The first harness racing trials of the calendar year in the Canterbury region were held at Rangiora Raceway yesterday and while we have already covered a couple of the runners that really impressed us, several others showed above average potential and we cover those here * Regal Love  A Love You two year old trotter that impressed greatly in winning her first start off her All Stars home in a manner that suggested a bright future. She came from off the pace with a real flourish and took a while to pull up post the finishing line. A half sister to the outstanding age group trotters in Twentyten ($235,834) and High Gait ($151,451), she looks to have inherited all the family ability and is held in high regard by the All Star barn. * One Over Da Stars Another Love You two year old trotter who fought on for a close third to Regal Love after doing all the work in front. The third foal from the millionaire trotter One Over Kenny ($1,098,007), One Over The Stars is a half sister to another standout age group trotter in One Over Da Moon 1:55.5 ($274,229) Another All Stars trainee who is also held in high regard and will be seen in the big juvenile trots later in the season barring injury. * Custodian Impressed with a big late finish to run Regal Love close and adds to the considerable depth becoming apparent in the two year old trotting division in Canterbury this season. A son of the very successful North American trotting stallion Muscle Mass, Custodian also has the bloodlines to match his show of ability yesterday. He is from a race winning daughter of Armbro Invasion in Maia who is a half sister to the former Southern Star winner in Vulcan 1:55.9($1,025,331) and just adds to the confusing picture among the juvenile trotters in Canterbury. * Kiwi Bloke Like all Malcolm Shinn trainees, Kiwi Bloke has impeccable manners and is starting to wrack up some smart performances at the trials and is held in very high regard by the stable. A son of Courage Under Fire, he was purchased out of the 2015 New Zealand Premier sale at Christchurch for the tidy sum of $42,500. The first foal from the Falcon Seelster mare  A Good Kiwi Chick who won four of her nine lifetime starts before injury sent her to the broodmare barn. A Good Kiwi Chick is a half sister to the champion racemare Kiwi Ingenuity 1:52.1 ($523,200) and Kiwi Bloke looks to have inherited a lot of the family ability. * Buster Brady Showed he had trained on in great fashion after his smart debut win at Methven when he gave a nice field of C1 pacers a spanking in his trial heat. Well back early for driver Jimmy Curtin, Buster Brady got over the top of them late in fine style and looks as though he could make it two from two for trainer Kyle Austin when next lined up.  The son of Real Desire seemed to handle the closing sectionals of 56.2 and 28.2 with ease and looks a horse to follow. * Omar Sharif Put his disappointing last start run at Addington behind him with an emphatic 2 1/4 victory over some handy pacers in his heat The Brian OMeara trained son of Shark Gesture had looked very promising prior to his last start and looks to be back on track going by the effort yesterday. In the hands of Bob Butt, Omar strolled home in 56.7 and 28 and should be hard to beat where ever he next lines up. * The three star trialists class wise at Rangiora in Waikiki Beach, Dream About Me and Hug The Wind all looked very forward to resume and had a quiet run over 2000 metres for horses of there class and their runs pleased the All star barn and were a nice pipe opener for the season for the trio Dream About Me and Waikiki Beach head to Australia next Wednesday and race two days later while Hug The Wind is being aimed at next Friday's Addington meeting. Harnesslink Media

Several youngsters produced at the Rangiora Raceway trials today looked to have the ability to become nationally known before the harness racing season is out. One that took our eye is one Cran Dalgety produced,a sharp looking son of Somebeachsomewhere in the two year colts heat named Shineonucrazydiamond and although beaten a neck in his debut heat away from home, he really impressed how he dug in late and looks to have huge upside. Cran donned the silks for this heat which drew a lot of comment from horsemen nearby at the time. Leading early,Shineonucrazydiamond set a steady tempo for such an inexperienced horse and fought on well when challenged by Kiwi Bloke and Malcolm Shinn up the passing lane,only going under by a neck and under qualifying time. The closing sectionals were the best part of the heat, cut out in 57.9 and 28.6 Kiwi Bloke is held in high regard by the Shinn barn and todays run was his third at trials and workouts so he held a distinct experience advantage today. Cran brought Shineonucrazydiamond at last years Sydney leg of the APG Yearling Sales for the rather large sum of $86,000. The first foal of the first dam Bella Shine 1:55.5 ($53,890), this a pedigree full of classy performers. The second dam Bella Joy 1:55.8 ($109,849) left two standouts in Supersonic Miss 1:54.1 ($308,517) and Jukebox Music 1:53.9 ($298,591) while the third dam Intrude left the brilliant Christian Cullen mare in Make Mine Cullen 1:53 ($874,178). Cran said the colt ticked several boxes for him at the sales. "Being a Somebeachsomewhere from a Bettor's Delight mare is a big plus in my opinion for a couple of reasons." "The Bettor's Delight factor tends to help reduce them getting too hot which this sireline can and tends to help reduce the size factor that Somebeachsomewhere is known for which doesn't help when trying to craft a two year old." "Waikiki Beach was going great at the time at home and he is bred on that cross so that influenced me as well." "I really liked him as an individual and he comes from a great family so he ticked a lot of boxes for me," Cran said. Some clients who have had a great run from the Dalgety barn in the last few years such as Charlie Roberts and Vicki Purdon who raced Christen Me are in the ownership of Shineonucrazydiamond and look to have a very promising colt on their hands.   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

A profitable start to the summer got a whole let better for Cullect A Guinness on Sunday afternoon at Rangiora Raceway as he dominated a very good field to win the Summer Cup by an impressive five and a half lengths. Backed into favourite for today's cup over the 2600m on the grass, Cullect A Guinness made a great beginning from his 10m handicap and was soon up disputing the pace as they headed down the straight for the first time. After a brief tussle for the lead with Jerry Garcia he was able to take the front with just under a lap to go and then dominated the race from the top as he had done at Oamaru a fortnight ago. Going down the back straight he faced some fresh challenges from first Royal Counsel and then Star Of Dionysis, but he always looked to be travelling well within himself. Turning for home, all chasers appeared flat and when driver John Dunn asked him for the supreme effort at the 200m, the response was instant. The further he went, the bigger the gap became. Star Of Dionysis for tenaciously for his second placing, as too did Royal Counsel for third. Stablemates The Royal Garden (5th) and Mach Cruiser (8th), were both seen running home with purpose in the straight. Today's win was the 6th from just 13 starts for the Gotta Go Cullect 5yr old. With a further five placings also, he is doing a tremendous job for his owner/breeder, Peter Higinbottom, having banked just under $40,000. There are few more genuine pacers going around in the Canterbury region at the moment than this fellow, which has graduated to C5 with today's win, meaning that a coast campaign would seem unlikely, but will be something that Robert and John will be discussing. Well done to Peter, John and Robert on a great win, which tops off a very good weekend for the Robert Dunn stable with the four wins overall. Robert Dunn Racing Stables  -  Check site here

John Dunn is hoping the return of two potential open class pacers will offset the loss of No Doctor Needed. No Doctor Needed, who ran ninth in the New Zealand Trotting Cup for Dunn's father Robert earlier this month, has been switched to the Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick barn in Papakura for his future racing. But providing they can stay sound, two replacements are waiting in the wings for the Dunn stable. Elios made a long awaited return at the North Canterbury workouts at Rangiora  Raceway on Wednesday in his first outing since failing badly in last season's Auckland Cup. A Group I winner in the 2014 Messenger when he beat the likes of Arden Rooney, Franco Nelson, Mossdale Conner and Besotted, Elios got so ill from a virus late last season there were no guarantees of him making it back to the races. Additional issues along the way have not helped his cause. Elios' first outing was more than satisfactory and the Dunns will be hopefully of a similar performance when Wesley Silcox makes his comeback from injury at Saturday's workouts at Pukekohe. A winner of 10 from 28 and more than $220,000 in stakes, Elios ran second to Bay Emerald by half a length in a 2:00.1 mile rate for the 2000m but made up late ground sharply from the back of the six horse field. In context, Bay Emerald has only won one from 36 but Dunn was happy to see the lightly raced 6-year-old get through the run safely. He said they would be looking after Elios in the short term and will let him guide them when he is ready to step back up. "I've said to the owners that we are not making any strong plans at this stage, we will just get through another couple of trials and see where we are at then." A winner of eight from 12, Wesley Silcox won his last three starts on the trot before pulling up lame with a tendon injury back in March. "He might not have been a horse that attracted a lot of hype but he always seemed to step up and get the job done," Dunn said. At this stage there are no plans for a race day return with Wesley Silcox. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ    -    Check site here

Leading into todays harness racing meeting at Addington, Ryal Bush trainer Nathan Williamson had some sleepless nights worrying about Statham and how he would perform on his first trip to Addington Raceway. Surprisingly beaten first up for the season at Rangiora last Thursday, Nathan immediately had a blood taken and the news was all bad. Not only was he tying up but he had an issue with stress. The Vet's prognosis was Statham could start today but only if he had a very quiet week with no hoppled work. Nathan was worried about what the vet told him. “He said he was stressed and I put that down to it being his first time away from home on his own.” “The tying up I can deal with easily but having to back off his training regime put me under stress as well,” Nathan said. Being a big gross type of horse, Statham needs plenty of work to keep him up to the mark and Nathan was unsure how he would go today off the back of such a soft week. Nathan didn't need to worry as Statham gave a sublime performance to reinforce his reputation as one of the most promising pacers in Southland. Three wide for the first 600 metres, Statham took the lead with 2000 metres to go and proceeded to run them off their feet. Come the finish Statham still had 1 ½ lengths to spare. What gave the performance more merit was Statham cut out the 2600 metres in 3:12.5, a mile rate of 1:59.1 with closing sectionals of 57.7 and 28.1. Nathan was a relieved man speaking to Harnesslink after the race. “ I thought he would be terribly short but his class got him through.” “He blew the house down after the race so it was a super effort to win like he did.” “ He would have only been 80% today so it was a great effort,” Nathan said. Statham is only lightly raced todate but he has shown enough already to suggest he has a very big future. Harnesslink Media  

The harness racing meeting at Rangiora on Thursday saw the debut of the four year gelding Star Fantasy for the old team of Benny Hill and Ricky May. The son of Gotta Go Cullect drew badly on the second line but was very well supported by the betting public off the back of a series of impressive trial runs in Canterbury. Three wide with cover for most of the last lap, Star Fantasy burst down the outside late to win narrowly without being knocked about by driver Ricky May. Developed in Southland by Nathan Williamson, Star Fantasy qualified for Nathan at Gore at the end of August. " I owned a part of him and I am in the process of developing new stables so he was for sale right from the start." "I always thought a bit of him and it doesn't surprise me he won first up" Nathan said. Ricky May was bullish about the chances of Star Fantasy before the race and predicted a bright future for him post race. " He is very green and has lots to learn so there is a lot of upside to him." " I didn't really ask him for too much in the straight as he was always going to win anyway." " Once he gets a bit of ringcraft, he could go a fair way," Ricky said. Trainer Benny Hill  was more than happy with Star Fantasy's first up effort " He has got a lot to learn but there is plenty to like about him." " He just needs to be taken quietly at this stage or you could undo all the good work." " Ricky is the perfect driver for a horse like this" " We will just see how he comes through this race first but we may head to Ashburton next week,"Benny said. In the process of rebuilding his team at the moment, Benny has several promising young horses in the pipeline that will be seen out at workouts and trials in the next few weeks. Harnesslink Media  

Templeton harness racing trainer Jim Curtin was very confident going into the C1 pace at Rangiora yesterday that his smart three year old Hickstead would be hard to beat. And so it proved with Hickstead going away well from the stand and working to the front after 200 metres. From there Jim controlled the tempo and when he asked the son of Mach Three to go as they turned for home, he quickly put daylight between him and the competition and cruised down to the line for an effortless victory. Jim has always had an opinion of Hickstead and with every subsequent run, Hickstead is showing why. " He is just getting better with each run." " His manners are super which is always a big plus and as he learns the racing game he just keeps improving," Jim said. Bought for $26,000 at the 2014 yearling sales, Hickstead impressed in a handful of starts at two and has stepped up again at three. " He is  a bit unusual for a Mach Three in that he is very laid back." " Most of the Mach Three's can get a bit hot but he is the exact opposite. " Nothing gets him too excited, he is so laid back" " I would rather have a horse that way than one who gets all stirred up," Jim said. Immediate plans for the horse have yet to be settled but he won't be joining the Curtin team on their annual pilgrimage to the West Coast at Christmas. " He would handle the grass as good as gold but he is a bit too smart to be taking to the Coast." " We will just look around for races closer to home for him," Jim said. With his great standing start manners and his continual improvement there are plenty of opportunities around Canterbury for Hickstead to build on his impressive record. Harnesslink Media 

It may have been a smallish crowd at today's harness racing meeting at Rangiora but you wouldn't have thought so by the noise generated on course during the last 200 metres of race 7, the C1-C3 trot over 2000 metres. Kowhai Whiz in the hands of Laura McKay had hit the front not long after straightening for home and Laura's support crew certainly cheered her home over the last bit. Laura, who works for Mark Jones was having only her third lifetime drive and showed real maturity for such a young and inexperienced driver to work forward over the last 800 metres and time her run to perfection. You couldn't get the smile off Laura's face post race. " I can't believe it has happened so quickly." " It is just such a great feeling to win a race, its hard to explain what it feels like." Laura has had a great grounding in harness racing having spent three years at Cran Dalgetys before spending eight months with Kerry Ann Turner in Sydney. On returning to New Zealand she hooked up with the Mark Jones barn. "I have been there for six or seven months and I can't thank Mark enough for having the confidence in me to put me up for the two drives today." "Hopefully I might get a few more drives after today," Laura said. One thing Laura will never be short of is advice. " My grandparents are Clive and Rona McKay and Justin Le Lievre is my step father so their is always plenty of advice on offer," Laura said. The patience and timing Laura showed today would suggest she has a lot more winners in front of her. Harnesslink Media

Injury plagued pacer Didjamakem Bolt has made a significant step towards a race day comeback after a workout at the harness racing workouts at Rangiora yesterday. The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained pacer was charging through the grades in 2013, seemingly assured of making open class company, until a cannon bone fracture halted his rapid progress. No date has been set for a race day return yet, but his second in a heat at the Rangiora workouts on Wednesday is encouraging. The now 7-year-old Tinted Cloud gelding, who has a record of nine starts for six wins and a second, was devastating when sound. In seven starts in New Zealand Didjamakem Bolt won six and ran second in the other. In two starts across the Tasman he ran fourth and fifth. There was a brief comeback back in January when he won a trial over Border Control and Christen Me at Ashburton but he did not get back to the races as planned. Purdon was pleased with the opening hit out and said all going well Didjamakem Bolt would be back to the trials or workouts next week. All Stars stablemate Lazarus won the heat over 2000m by half a length. Lazarus is heading for the for the fifth and final heat of the Sires Stakes 3-year-old colts and geldings at Addington on October 23. The Bettor's Delight colt has not been to the races since winning the Harness Jewels as a 2-year-old but looks like he will be more than competitive in his 3-year-old campaign. There were no records broken when he paced the 2000m in 2-38.1, with a mile rate of 2-07.1 and closing sectionals of 58.4 and 27.9, but he lead off the mobile to the winning post easily enough. Last season's 3-year-old of the year Have Faith In Me had a quiet run in behind the field in his first public run since winning the Jewels. The four time Group I winner settled at the rear of the five strong field and jogged home in behind them under a tight hold. Trotting mare Petite One and 3-year-old pacing filly MacKenzie were also workout winners for the All Stars stable. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ     -     Check site here

Harness racing trainer David Butt is in no hurry to get Habibti back to the races. Butt, who co-trains the classy trotter with wife Catherine, has a tentative date of early October for a race day return but no specific target race and the duo are taking a patient approach.  A 6-year-old daughter of Love You, Habibti was out of action for seven months with a ligament injury suffered after her last race day start in the Group III Ashburton Trotters Flying Mile in October 2014. Habibti, a winner of 15 races from 35 starts, showed enough to suggest she would be challenging the likes of Stent, Sheemon and Master Lavros last season before her injury and, if she stays sound, Butt cannot see any reason why she would not be just as competitive this season. "I'm really happy with where she is at the moment," Butt said. Habibti ran second to Kincaslough, another Love You mare, in the feature trot at the Rangiora trials on Wednesday. Driven by co-trainer Aimee Edmonds, Kincaslough lead for all but the first couple of hundred metres to win by one and a half lengths, with a further length back to Harrysul. Butt was patient with Habibti, sitting three back on the pegs behind Xmas Joyella as Kincaslough extended to a two and a half length lead as the field rounded the final bend. Around the 200m mark, Butt asked Habibti to go and she did not disappoint. The horse never looked like catching Kincaslough but definitely made ground with a strong finishing burst. Kincaslough trotted the 2600m in 3:24.7 with a mile rate of 2:06.6 and closing sectionals of 59.3 and 29.5. Butt confirmed Habibti will return to Rangiora for the workouts next Wednesday as the husband and wife team will continue to monitor her progress. Habibti holds a nomination for the Group I Dominion Handicap but there will plenty of options later in the season. The former Derby winner already has more than $300,000 in the bank and with a recorded of five wins from seven starts in Australia, another trip across the Tasman looks to be a viable option. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with the permission of Stuff NZ  -  Check site here

Michael House is optimistic Franco Nelson is on right on track for November 10. The Christian Cullen 6-year-old made his first public appearance for House at the Rangiora trials on Wednesday since being transferred from the Robert Dunn stable. Franco Nelson is injury free after having surgery three months ago to remove a bone chip from a back leg and House is hoping he can go one better than his second behind Adore Me in the New Zealand Trotting Cup last year. After his heroics during Cup Week, when he also ran third in the Group I New Zealand free-for-all, Franco Nelson was plagued by issues. He has not won a race since using his blinding sprint to win the 4-year-old Emerald back in May 2014. Franco Nelson pinged away from the tapes at Rangiora and House was leading heading into the first bend despite his 30m handicap. "He's a very fast horse saved for one run, he's not a leader, but he started that good I didn't have a choice," House said. House kept him under a strong hold in the final 150m to finish fourth in a more than satisfactory return. "It's not ideal to have other horses run past you, but I wasn't going to knock him around in his first run back," he said. House was happy with the hit out and said Franco Nelson would return to the trials at Addington on Monday, but a comeback race had not yet been decided. "He's only about 80 per cent fit but there is plenty of time and I think we're in a good place," House said. Anthony Butt will return home from Victoria to drive Franco Nelson in the cup. Saveapatrol came up the passing lane after trailing Franco Nelson to beat a gutsy No Doctor Needed by a nose, with Tiger Tara flying home late for third a further length back. No Doctor Needed sat parked for most of the last half mile and was still making ground on Saveapatrol at the post. Saveapatrol paced the 2600m in 3-24.9 with a mile rate of 2-06.8 and closing sectionals of 55.5 and 26.9. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with the permission of Stuff NZ - Check site here  

The harness racing  meetings set down for Rangiora HRC on Sunday 4 October and Timaru HRC on 11 October have been swapped. The grandstand at Rangiora Racecourse is having maintenance undertaken to get it up to fire code standard. There is doubt that the maintenance will be completed by 4 October, in time for its scheduled meeting. It is certain however to be completed by the following Sunday (11th). To avoid any potential problems the two country meetings mentioned above are swapping. The programmes for each meeting will stay with the respective dates as they are designed to complement the Friday night Addington meetings of that week. For up-to-date and revised Programme information visit Stacey Markham

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