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There were plenty of smiles in the Rangiora birdcage today when the Peter Robertson trained Bacardi N Coke captured the Fernside Handicap Trot. Driven to perfection by Craig Thornley who is well known for his big smile, the Bacardi Lindy gelding exploded through the gaps to record his second career victory. “He's getting stronger with racing and finally starting to figure out what it's all about” said part owner Maree Robertson. Away quickly from the stand, Bacardi N Coke was slotted into a trailing spot behind Sarah Palin, but with a couple of lead changes, Thornley soon found himself all dressed up with nowhere to go back on the pegs. With some jostling for positions happening up front, Thornley was able to sneak up the pegs before squeezing through between favourite Monkeys Way and Sarah Palin. “We have been getting some acupuncture for him lately and he really seems to be responding to it” The 4yo gelding is owned by Maree Robertson, Peter Robertson, Mitchell Robertson, Michelle Gason and Brad Robertson. Bacardi N Coke Meanwhile, Balcairn trainer and driver Don Burrows picked up his first driving win since 2003 when he saluted the judge with maiden trotter Lightworkofit. His last driving win was In Shot at the Kapiti Coast on the 3rd of January 2003, but since then Burrows also trained 3 winners including Stanley Bay who was successful at Hawera back in April of 2007, Robbie Holmes was the driver on the occasion. Lightworkofit Andrew Fitzgerald

Fifth Edition has wound back the clock to win his second Rangiora Harness Racing Winter Cup in three years and fourth winter cup of his career. The Cran Dalgety-trained pacer spent almost 18 months away from the races because of injury but the patience of his connections was rewarded at Rangiora on Sunday when he brought up his first win since July 2014. Fifth Edition beat home back-marker Tijuana Bromac​ by one and a quarter lengths with a further half head back to Flyin Heather in third. Fifth Edition is raced by his breeders John and Margaret Smith, Tony and Gay Moody plus Brent Smith and Case Witteman​. Sunday's win was just his fourth start since returning to the races. Dexter Dunn, who drove Fifth Edition to victory, said the win was all about repaying the patient owners. "It's great for John and Margaret Smith, they have been with Cran for a long time and they just love racing," Dunn said. After the win, Brett Smith paid credit to Dalgety for getting Fifth Edition back from his injury troubles where he needed bone chips removed from an ankle. Dunn believes his two runs in Nelson last week gave him the fitness edge for his Rangiora win. "He did it pretty easy in the end, he was under a hold at the line," Dunn said. Fifth Edition quickly caught the main pack from his 30m handicap, aided by front-marker and favourite The Manipulator being slow away. Dunn was able to find the one-one when brother John took Callenberg​ up to challenge The Manipulator for the lead. With 600m to run and Callenberg tiring, Dunn launched Fifth Edition three wide to chase down the Mark Purdon​ and Natalie Rasmussen-trained The Manipulator down. The Manipulator faded to fourth with his softening up form Callenberg clearly taking its toll. Meanwhile, unbeaten colt Our Waikiki Beach will remain in New South Wales rather than heading to Brisbane for the Queensland Derby. A trip to Queensland was being considered last week after connections missed the cut off for his nomination for the semifinals of the New South Wales Breeders' Challenge. Part-owner Trevor Casey has confirmed he will race at Menangle and in a Breeders Crown heat before heading to the Breeders Crown final to round out his season.​ Mat Kermeen

Southland Harness Racing Trainer/Driver Nathan Williamson has his eyes firmly set on a personal milestone and will look to take another step or two towards his goal tomorrow at Rangiora. Currently sitting on 85 driving victories for the season, 7 in front of his previous best of 78 wins in 2013, Williamson is looking to post his first century. With just 6 weeks of the season remaining, that means you will see Nathan traveling around more, starting with Rangiora tomorrow (Sunday). Down to drive Pyramid Mustang in the first race for father Phil, the 3yo Monarchy gelding will be well backed after a last start 2nd at Forbury Park. In an even bunch of maiden trotters, that could be win number 86. In Race 5, Nathan will drive Hannity for Timaru based trainer Colin Harrison, who was a handy 3rd on debut, although the 4yo Lis Mara gelding does meet a field full of some handy 2yo's including Time Traveller for Cran Dalgety. Bobbins will be another Phil Williamson runner in with a good chance tomorrow. Set to start of 10m, the 4yo mare has been good without being spectacular lately, but in an even field she could be the upset chance. The best chance of Nathan's day has to be his own runner Sun's Invasion, who is a clear stand out in Race 9. Her form since a spell has been outstanding and even from a tricky draw, it could be another step closer to the century for Williamson. Williamson will finish off his day with Just Ben in the last race of the day. He will need some luck in a handy field. Andrew Fitzgerald

You won’t miss John McDermott’s smile over the next few weeks, because it’s one of the largest anyone in Harness Racing has at the moment. The past few weeks have been some of the best for the Prebbleton based trainer and amateur driver. It all started with the win of She’sa Tricky Bridge, on Premier day at Addington back on the 14th of May. The 3yo Stonebridge Regal filly cracked her maiden victory and gave McDermott one of his biggest victories’s to date. A week later and McDermott was down to drive Sheza Springfield and Shantahlia Knight in the first two heats of The Dexion New Zealand Amateur Drivers Championship. That night saw John salute the judge on both occasions and head to Rangiora leading the pack on maximum points. Luck continued when John was drawn to drive Franco Exeter in the third heat. “I could never have dreamed of picking up two wins at Cambridge, I drew a couple of nice horses and the luck went our way on the night” said John Apart from a failure at Forbury Park back at the end of April, the 5yo Lis Mara gelding hasn’t missed a top two finish for Burnham trainer Mark Jones. Sent forward from a wide draw, Franco Exeter took up his customary leading role and McDermott let the Wayne Higgs owned gelding roll along at a steady tempo. “The Dominator John McDermott” as commentator Mark McNamara called him, was off and gone at the 500m and had most of the field off their feet. Franco Exeter managed to hold on and win by ½ length over a fast finishing As Kiwi As (Gavin Cook), with 2 ¼ lengths back to Going Going Gone (Sheryl Wigg). “The connections weren’t that confident after his last start failure, but his previous form had been so good” said McDermott. One punter was that confident that John would go 3/3 that they placed a whopping $3,500.00 to win on Franco Exeter. Somehow even with maximum points from the first 3 heats, there was a chance that John could be pipped at the post, but that was put to bed when he took inside runs on outsider Midfrew Tarpediem to finish strongly for 5th and secure a maiden NZ amateur title. “They told me coming into the last I had to either beat Sheryl home or if she won, it would turn into having to beat four home to win, and three home to win on a count back." "It’s been a wonderful competition; having four heats this year has been great. Last year they only managed to get the 3 heats and some drivers only got to have two drives, but thanks to all the trainers and connections at Cambridge and Canterbury, we had full fields and several of those trainers backed their horses up from Friday night which really helped.” Sheryl placed 3 times and won the last heat, usually that sort of form would win most drivers series in New Zealand but nobody could begrudge McDermott’s victory, nor the smile on his face after achieving his career highlight (to date). She’sa Tricky Bridge Sheza Springfield Shantahlia Knight Franco Exeter Andrew Fitzgerald

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

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