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One of harness racing's most promising partnerships is on the verge of reaching two significant milestones. Ken Barron and Blair Orange's first season together has been full of highlights and Change Time's victory in Sunday's Winter Cup was another exclamation mark on a season that has shattered all expectations.  With the Barron-trained Livura a winner earlier in the day at the Rangiora Harness Racing Club's meeting, the Barron-Orange combination scored a winning double. Orange now heads into Forbury Park's meeting on Thursday with 98 wins for the season. He went past the 100 mark for the first time last season with 106 winners. With Addington on Friday night and Timaru on Sunday, Orange is a strong chance to reach the century by the end of the weekend if not sooner. Barron's two winners on Sunday have taken him to 49 training wins for the season. Despite going close on a couple of occasions, on his own and in partnership with John Lischner, Barron has never reached 50 wins in a season but the West Melton trainer is certain to break the milestone before the current one is out. Orange credits getting an economical trip as the difference for Change Time who upset the field to win the Winter Cup at a $17 quote. "Finding the trail was definitely the key," Orange said. Change Time's form line was nothing to get excited about going into the Winter Cup but she has come out of the four-year-old Diamond at the Harness Jewels and some quality fields when racing in Auckland. "Last start she had to sit parked and was found wanting a bit, but she's always been better with a sit," Orange said. Change Time's win was Orange's second Winter Cup in as many weeks after he won the Marlborough version last week with Lilac Desire. The Christian Cullen mare picked up her seventh career at Rangiora but her racing days are numbered. A four-year-old mare out of Chaangerr, Change Time will head to Australia at the end of the season to be retired to the broodmare paddock. Orange will always have fond memories of the mare that brought him his 1000th driving win with her victory at Addington back in January. Talented three-year-old Bracken Ridge is another leaving the Barron stable after being sold to Perth but Orange said there was still plenty of talent in Barron's stable. Gerard O'Reilly, Ricky May and Robbie Close also drove winning doubles at the Rangiora meeting. Woodend Beach trainers Greg and Nina Hope continued their standout season with three winners in the last three races of the day. The husband and wife partnership now have 66 winners for the season, just one shy of their best of 67 in 2013. Meanwhile, Dexter Dunn brought up his 200th win of the season at Forbury Park on Friday night. Dunn started the night on 196 winners and brought up the double century with his fourth win of the night with Give Me Strength. It is the fourth time he has gone past 200 winners in a season but in 2012 and 2013 he was finished on 199. By Mat Kermeen Reprinted with permission

Last Sunday saw the first two heats of the harness racing NZ Amateur Drivers Championships of 2015 held at the Rangiora Raceway with full fields of 12 runners in each heat. Thankfully, giving the Aucklanders taking part in the races no cause to moan about the cold, the day dawned a glorious example of Canterbury Autumn weather, and the scene was set for some competitive racing. And that is just what we saw. The first heat, over 2000 metres was a very even betting affair, with no horse standing out on the tote and some good value to be had. One of those slightly over the odds was Mark McNamara’s horse up from the Tony Barron barn, Heretic Franco. It seems that many thought that the big mares’ ‘scorched earth’ tactics that resulted in her recent Forbury win wouldn’t be repeated, but driven perfectly to instructions, Richard Sissons let the daughter of Lis Mara roll, and at the 400 metre mark, she looked home. However, Little Lion Man, under the guidance of Danny Blakemore slowly ate into her lead up the passing lane and actually hit the front short of the post. Not to be denied though, Richard extracted another ounce of energy from his charge and she fought back bravely to take the decision in an exciting finish. The second heat also provided a stirring finish with the two favourites fighting out a nose finish, well clear of the opposition. Daniel Reardon and Gavin Cook kept their favoured charges back off the pace while there was a spirited contest for the lead over the first 1000 metres, and then they swept up together and took over. Turning for home Daniel on Bandana led Gavin Cook on Take After Me, and after another exciting battle up the straight, just clung on for a narrow victory. All in all, two contests worthy of their Championship status. Thanks to the generosity of the Rangiora HRC, drivers and connections of the horses involved we were then treated to a superb lunch and refreshments in a private area to renew friendships, relive their experiences, and look forward to the second round of the Championships, to be staged at Alexandra Park on Sunday 3 May. The current standings on the New Zealand Championships Points Table is as follows: Daniel Reardon 20 Gavin Cook    19 Steve Phillips    18 John McDermott    16 Alan Edge        15 Danny Blakemore    15 Richard Sissons    15 Jeff Darby    13 Gerry Cronin    12 Sue Blake    8 John Kriechbaumer    5 James Brownlee    2 Pete Cook

The All Stars Harness Racing Stables juggernaut is really hitting top gear this week with horses racing in Group  races on both sides of the Tasman.   Over the course of Thursday through Sunday, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen will line up 23 horses at five race meetings from Addington to Menangle and most of those runners have a big winning chance.   Most interest will centre on Our Waikiki Beach in the A$322,000 Australian Pacing Gold Final at Menangle on Sunday where after drawing barrier one and the withdrawal through injury of his biggest danger in Goodtime Sammy, Our Waikiki Beach looks incredibly hard to beat.   On the same programme the All Stars barn has the rejuvenated pacer Our Smolda lining up in the Len Smith mile and while Beautide is a deserving favourite, Smolda will test him in his present form.   At Tabcorp Park Melton on Friday night, the All Stars barn has two runners and both are big winning chances.   The smart two year old filly MacKenzie goes round in the $30,000 semi finals of the Australian Pacing Gold while the outstanding three year old colt Follow The Stars goes around in the $25,000 Caduceus Club Cup.   On the other side of the Tasman, the All Stars barn is represented at three meetings in New Zealand with runners in all of the big races.   At Addington on Thursday night the top two year old Chase The Dream lines up in a $25,000 heat of the New Zealand Sires Stakes which is notable for the New Zealand debut of the very smart Shane Tritton trained Salty Robyn.   Later on in the evening on Thursday night the All Stars barn is lining up Fight For Glory, Classical Art, Supersonic Miss and Linda Lovegrace in a heat of the Nevele R Fillies series and with those four top fillies involved they should dominate the race.   At Alexandra Park on Friday night, the All Stars barn have ten runners involved starting with Prince Fearless and Arya in the $80,000 Great Northern Trotting Derby in which for once the All Stars duo are probably only running for place money against Speeding Spur and Monbet.   The All Stars barn has four runners in the $150,000 Sires Stakes final for two year old fillies and three of them look big winning chances.   The unbeaten half sister to Christen Me in Dream About Me looks very hard to beat but her stiffest competition is likely to come from her stablemates Arden's Choice and Northern Velocity.   In the $100,000 New Zealand Messenger, the All Stars barn has two runners who are both big winning chances in Border Control and Isaiah.   That is followed by King Denny in the $150,000 Rowe Cup in which he looks to be a good each way chance and then in the last race of the night they have Willow, who on last weeks winning run would look a good thing in this race.   On Sunday the All Star barn have four runners in Petite One, Kept Under Wraps, Light Fingered and The Manipulator in grade races and going by their last start efforts, all four would be big winning chances.   Looking at that list of starters over five meetings in two countries with a lot of the races carrying Group status is just another reminder if one was needed of what an outstanding training partnership Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen are.   Harnesslink Media  

The NZ Championship for Amateur Drivers commences on Sunday at Rangiora and a young harness racing driver that has drawn the horseflesh to be to the fore is Daniel Reardon. Describing Reardon as young may seem strange when he is thirty eight but amongst the twelve drivers seeking the title he is the baby of the pack. His relative youth by Amateur standards hides a life that has been busy with harness racing driving and training opportunities. When even more youthful he learnt his craft working for Brian Kerr and then Mark Purdon. He is now engaged in training a team of eight horses between juggling shift-work out at Christchurch airport. Originally licensed as a junior driver for seven years prior to 2002 his efforts yielded two wins from seventy nine drives in that time. Frustrated with the lack of driving opportunities he moved into the role of part-time trainer. With the advent of a more regular schedule of Amateur tote races Reardon seized the opportunity to return to what he really loved doing. In his first season back he has already snared two wins behind Franco Tyrone and is now looking forward enthusiastically to the finals series. “I’m really loving being back into the driving” stated Reardon when asked recently, “To be involved in the NZ champs is a dream come true, Amateur racing has really lifted the enjoyment I am getting out of the sport”. “As a trainer it has also helped me with the placement of horses in suitable races which is great for my owners” observed Reardon when considering his involvement in the amateur side of harness racing. With the drivers being allocated randomly a certain amount good fortune is required at the draw. Reardon is well placed after drawing last week’s impressive winner at Banks Peninsula in Bandana from the powerful Hope barn. His second drive Firebreak may lack an impressive form line but when in the right mood is capable of keeping Daniels points tally ticking over from his good draw. A couple of older drivers who are set to make the challenge of becoming the champion even harder for Reardon are Steve Phillips and Gavin Cook. Phillips has drawn two last start winners, one who was particularly impressive is the Bruce Negus trained Highland Reign. Whilst Cook has drawn one of his own team, the in-form Seelster which he backs up with the promising Take After Me in the next heat. Both drivers have vast experience in these types of competitions at both the local and international level so they present a formidable challenge for Reardon to overcome.   But it is a challenge for which the younger Reardon is well equipped for and he is clearly excited to tackle. The four race series concludes with two heats at the Thames TC meeting on 3rd May at Alexandra Park.  Gavin Cook

Every week we ring over 20 of the leading drivers and trainers in New Zealand for their best drive or starter over the weekend. This week has already been very profitable for followers of the ringaround with Brendon McLellan already nailing Repeat After Me at odds of nearly 14 to 1 at Winton yesterday. Todays selections were a bit more conservative except for North Canterbury trainer Robbie Holmes who was very keen on the chances of Bridget Blue Chip in race 5 today at  the Amberley Trotting Clubs meeting at Rangiora. Punters couldn't have her after three unplaced runs and sent her out the eighth favourite in the fourteen horse field. Away well from barrier two today in the 1950 metres mobile, Robbie settled Bridget Blue Chip three back in the running line and she remained there until 900 metres from home where she hopped on to the three wide train on the back of Mighty Empire. Caught three wide in the open from the 700 metres mark, Bridget Blue Chip looked to be battling on the corner but just kept finding in the straight and grabbed a game Mighty Empire right on the line for a great win. The three year old daughter of Santana Blue Chip paced the 1950 metres on the grass in a smart 2:29, a mile rate of 2:02.9. Robbie was all smiles as he ungeared Bridget Blue Chip after the race. " This filly had been unlucky a couple of times and I knew she was a lot better than her form suggested." " She was pretty flat on the corner but just kept finding in the straight. " It was a pretty gutsy performance," Robbie said. Robbie has liked the filly for a while and wasn't  surprised by her run today. "She is such a lovely gaited filly and a pleasure to do anything with. " She is from an In The Pocket daughter of Kates First 1:54.4 ($624,023) so she lacks nothing on the score of breeding." " I don't want to get carried away so I think we will just stick to grade racing at present and not rush her at this point," Robbie said. Followers of the Harnesslink ringaround would have been smiling to themselves today when the win dividend of $23.20 was posted and those same followers would have known that Robbie has been on a roll recently with todays winner his third winning tip in a row. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing is all about timing in a lot of cases with a lot of young drivers getting their big break by being in the right place at the right time. Loren Lester has being wondering for the last few months weather she had got her timing right with her move to the Colin and Julie Defilippi barn last June. It was more of a swap as Sam Ottley moved from the Defilippi barn to Robert Dunn's as she attempted to win the junior driver title and Loren went from the Dunn barn to the Defilippi barn to cover her move. That temporary move has now become permanent for both of the lady drivers and Sam has been on a real roll at Robert Dunn's winning 22 races prior to today. Loren on the other hand has struggled for drives with Colin and Julie running a much smaller stable, having only faced the starter six times prior to today but snared the drive on Millicent with Colin in Melbourne with Stent. The daughter of Monkey Bones was away well today and  Loren took her to an early lead before handing up to Nigel McGrath on the well supported Cyclone Jeter after 500 metres and getting a lovely trail from there.  Cyclone Jeter was still in front as they turned for home where Loren took full advantage of the passing lane with Millicent to dash away for an easy 2 1/4 length victory. Loren has certainly done the hard yards having been working in the harness racing industry since she left school. " I spent three years at Gavin Smiths when I left school and then moved around a bit before settling at Robert Dunn's." " The move to Colin and Julies has been good for me and they are great to work for." " It has been a real learning experience" "I'm glad I made the move and am really enjoying it," Loren said. In her third year as a junior, todays win was the second for Loren. " It was about time to be honest." " It has taken a bit longer than I thought it would." "The other winner I drove, Macy Supreme was here at Rangiora as well," Loren said. In her only other drive today Loren finished a close up fourth on Ygritte in the maiden trot  All a lot of the young junior drivers need is the opportunity to show their skills and Loren certainly took her opportunity today with a very polished display behind Millicent. Harnesslink Media  

The harness racing workouts at Rangiora today (January 28th) featured 20 heats but most interest was centred around the six two year old heats. There were plenty of well bred youngsters on display and some budding stars put their hands up today. We thought we would comment on all the juveniles that impressed us in their heats and as has become common in the last few seasons, most of those were runners belonging to the All Stars Stable. Chase The Dream - Straight to the front and gave nothing a look in in taking out his 2000 metres heat in 2:30.5, a mile rate of 2:01 with closing sectionals of 57.9 and 28.5 Seemed to do it with a fair bit in reserve and backed up his impressive trial win at Ashburton last week. Obvious contender for feature races coming up in the next few weeks. Waikiki Beach - Settled well back in the running,but made ground impressively late to run second to Chase The Dream, beaten two lengths. Ran through the line and seems to have a fair bit of bottom to him. One or two look better at the moment but he is the type to keep getting better with trials/racing. Major Ben - Settled midfield on the inner before breezing from the 600 and was holding his stablemate Motu Premier the last 50 metres after giving him the drag home. He cut the 2000 metres out in 2:29.5, the fastest time of the day, a mile rate of 2:00.2 with closing sectionals of 57.7 and 28.6. It was another impressive display after his 1:57.6 mile at the Ashburton trials last week. A big son of Art Major, Major Ben has all the attributes you look for in a top two year old and he looks to have a big future.  Linton Shard - Nice run for third this week after a handy workout win last week and the Changeover half brother to Smiling Shard 1:53.7 ($1,178,793) and Pemberton Shard 1:55.8 ($187,997) continues to impress. The addition of Dexter in the bike should make him competitive. Motu Premier - Ran his stablemate Major Ben to a head but did have the drag home on his back. Showed real improvement on his third at last weeks Ashburton trials and further improvement on today's effort will make him competitive where ever he starts. Mastercraftsman - Having his first run away from home, the son of Bettors Delight was very impressive storming home late to grab Ice Crusher. Cut out the 2000 metres in 2:30.9, a mile rate of 2:01.3 with closing sectionals of 58.1 and 29.3. Will definitely improve of his first run which makes him a major player anywhere he goes. Ice Crusher - Went good last week at the workouts but better again this week and has all the ringcraft to make a two year old. Looks a touch off a few mentioned here but manners and ringcraft will take him a long way. Dream About Me - The three quarter sister to champion mare Adore Me was very impressive finishing quickly late for the win. She paced the 2000 metres in 2:33..2, a mile rate of 2:03.2 with closing sectionals of 58.6 and 28.3 This was her first run back after a couple of unplaced trial runs in November and there is a lot of upside in this filly. Emeli Maguire - This daughter of Rocknroll Hanover is a half sister to the brilliant Lizzie Maguire 1:55.1 ($477,366). A winner and placed at her two previous trials last October/November, Emeli Maguire has come back  really well and looks a filly with a big future. Northern Velocity - Didn't run time today but very impressive performance. Last at the 800 metres, she worked forward from there and was too strong in the straight.   Has had plenty of practice to date and looks to have plenty of upside. Arden's Choice - Again she didn't run time but very impressive closing 800 metres of 57.2 shows she is a two year old of real potential A half sister to such standouts as Bettors Strike 1:55.7 ($890,201) Rocknroll Arden 1:54.8 ($172,154) and  Southwind Arden 1:58.4 ($150,127) means she has the breeding to match her ability. Also has the ringcraft to go with her ability Mackenzie - Big powerful filly who really made ground stylishly the last bit to push Arden's Choice. Coming off the back of a very impressive win last week at Ashburton, Mackenzie looks like a filly that can do a lot of work and still finish off her races. Mackenzie is by Rocknroll Heaven from the champion Australian racemare Kept For Pleasure 1:56 ($542,343) so she lacks nothing in the breeding department. The best Rocknroll Heavens to date have all been fillies so she ticks all the boxes. Harnesslink Media

Every now and again when you are out and about at the harness racing trials around Canterbury you come across a horse with " potential star" written all over them. So it was yesterday at the Rangiora workouts when Robbie Holmes produced a very smart three year old in Kiwi Legend who gave his opposition windburn as he went past them in his maiden heat. Held in very high regard by Robbie, Kiwi Legend has all the hallmarks of a top class horse with breeding to match his ability. He is a son of the champion sire Art Major from the very smart racemare Kiwi's Can Fly who recorded four wins and two placings from just seven starts in a career restricted by injury. Kiwis Can Fly was a half sister to the champion racemare Kiwi Ingenuity 1:52.1 ($491,821) who was also raced by Kiwi Legend's breeders Put through the yearling sales at Christchurch, Kiwi Legend was brought home by his breeder Hamish Scott when he only made $25,000 and syndicated which has turned out to be a very astute decision. Given time to fill out into his generous frame,  Kiwi Legend is now ready to let the rest of us see what Robbie has known for a while as he builds towards his career debut on Saturday week. " He is a lovely horse to do anything with and he has such a great attitude" "We have waited for him to fill out and mature but I think we will rewarded in the long term for our patience," Robbie told Harnesslink last night. Yesterday was the first time that Robbie had asked Kiwi Legend to seriously stretch out in his workouts and trials to date. " His race debut is fast approaching so he needed to do a bit more yesterday with a view to Saturday week." "He has really high speed and can sustain that speed from a long way out," Robbie  said. The immediate aim for Kiwi Legend is to qualify for the Southern Supremacy Final in April but Robbie has not given up hope of  a Derby start. " We nominated him for the Derby and he will tell us over the next few weeks if we are being realistic or not." " I am pretty confident that he will measure up," Robbie said. This season's crop of three year olds has been notable for the number of talented horses racing and Kiwi Legend looks set to add to that depth in the next few weeks.  Harnesslink Media

The emerging star of New Zealand harness racing has had a change of plans after an ordinary trial at Rangiora on Monday, Dalton Bromac has been in stunning form over the last few months with several outstanding wins against quality opposition. His win over 2200 metres at Auckland on December 19th in a 1:54.2 mile rate which broke the New Zealand record for the distance by 2.1 seconds had a lot of experienced pundits labeling Dalton Bromac as the most promising horse in the country. Trainer Benny Hill was aiming Dalton Bromac at the Pelorus Classic next weekend in an attempt to secure the invite to the Chariots Of Fire which goes to the winner of the race. Taken to the Rangiora trials in preparation for that race, Dalton Bromac won but not in a style that pleased his trainer. Even though he cut out the 2000 metres in a 1:58.8 mile rate, Benny was not impressed " I wasn't happy at all with how he trialed on Monday." " He wasn't himself and I think he was trying to tell me he needs a wee break, " Benny said. Dalton Bromac was being aimed at the Chariots Of Fire but all that went by the way after Monday's trial and after a brief letup Benny has mapped out a new programme for the son of Major In Art. " Now that we are not going to Australia I am going to set him for the Taylor Mile and the Messenger at Auckland in late April," Benny said. Dalton Bromac has come a long way in a very short time and being looked after at this stage of his career should ensure that he fulfills his huge potential. Harnesslink Media  

Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones kept the wins ticking over for owner Kypros Kotzikas with a winning double earlier this week to end the 2014 racing year. He scored narrow wins behind close relatives, Charming Lavra, at Motukarara on Monday, December 29, and with Astrapi, at Rangiora on New Year’s Eve. Charming Lavra, first-up since last racing in June, stepped well from the outside of the front row and trailed up three back on the outer in the Phil Murfitt Orthodontist Trot. Mark switched her three wide with cover behind Native’s Brite Gem at the 600m and she unwound well wide out to just head off Tehoro Ruby (trail) and front-runner Need Success. She trotted the 2180m from a stand in 2:57.6, a mile rate of 2:11.6, with the leaders last 800m in 62.8s. Charming Lavra, a 3YO daughter of CR Commando, is the first foal from Lavra Miriam (1:57.4, four wins), an Earl half-sister to 2006 Melbourne Interdominion Trot Final winner Delft (1:53, US), Top Notch Lavros (five wins), Lavros The Great (one), Honky Tonk Hero (one) and Astrapi (now four wins from 27 starts). She only raced four times at two, picking up a third and a fourth against the older maiden trotters, before being spelled. Charming Lavra is raced by Kypros Kotzikas with partner Jane Campbell. Mr Kotzikas’s white and blue Lavros Lodge colours were to the fore again a couple of days later at Rangiora when Astrapi held Kowhai Whiz by a nose in the Bob Butt Sponsored by ‘The Yaldy’ Mobile Trot. Mark found a good trailing spot on the outer for Astrapi, with Kowhai Whiz (Glenys Chmiel) tracking their every move. The pair knuckled down to it over the final 30m with Astrapi, the 5YO gelded son of Sundon and Miriam, just lasting in a useful 2:32.3 for the mobile 2000m. His time, however, didn’t threaten Just A Cracker’s Rangiora track mark for trotters over the trip of 2:29.2, set four years ago. Courtesy of Jeff Scott - Mark Jones Racing Stables  -  Check site here  

A minor training setback didn’t stop the strong summer form of Perissa, who came up with a career best run time-wise, to win a C1 pace at Rangiora on December 31, 2014, in the hands of trainer-driver Mark Jones. The 5YO Art Major-Riwaka Star mare made the most of the conditions at Rangiora to take out the Stevie Golding Sponsored by ‘The Yaldy’ Mobile Pace in a smart 2:24.8 (1:56.4 mile rate) for the mobile 2000m. Her time was the fastest recorded of any winner at the Rangiora Raceway. She lowered the mares mark, formerly held by Lulli Midfrew, at 2:25.2, set in 2013, and was also 0.1 of a second inside the 3YO fillies mark set by Spirit Of Art (also a NZ age group mark for a filly) at Rangiora on April 28, 2013. Perissa has been a model of consistency in four starts since joining the Overport Lodge stables of Mark Jones, now racking up two wins and two seconds. She pressed forward from the six gate to the front at the 1300m and kept going strongly to hold by three-quarters of a length from Flying Heather, Donegal Jimmy Dave and favourite Cullen Keefe. Her overall record now stands at three wins and six placings from 31 starts for $26,646 for breeder-owners, Steve and Maureen O’Brien. Steve O’Brien had good success himself as a trainer in the late 1980s with a Smooth Fella mare in Cool Charm Girl, who won 11 in NZ and took a 1:53.6 mile mark in North America. Now retired, he also trained useful mares in recent times in Lets Talk Art  (six wins) and her dam Natural Talker (five wins), while he drove Perissa to her maiden win (30-to-one) at Addington in June 2013. Perissa is the last foal from Riwaka Star, an In The Pocket mare from Tabella Ace, a Splapstick mare who won three from 19 starts for Roy and Barry Purdon in the late 1980s. Riwaka Star, who recorded five placings from just 10 starts, including a third to Happy Golucky and Impish in the 1999 G2 Nevele R Stud Stakes, is a half-sister to a Group One winning filly in Slaps (2:00.2, Aust, 22 wins & $A142,344 including the 1993 South Australian Oaks). She is also a sister to Riwaka Rocket (1:56, Aust, 28 wins & $119,227), and a half-sister to another useful Australian winner in Riwaka Vance (1:57.6, Aust, 15 wins & $A114,499), and the NZ winner Kaipara Rocket (four wins). Courtesy Of Jeff Scott - Mark Jones Harness Racing Stables   Check site here  

Canterbury harness racing trainer Steve Dolan has been going through a bit of a quiet patch lately by his own high standards but a couple of recent acquisitions to the stable look capable of turning that around. The Badlands Hanover gelding Cimarron had his first start for the stable yesterday at Motukarara and didn't disappoint with a nice run for a close up second to the smart Big Texas and it was a run that suggested that he won't be a maiden for long. Steve brought the horse for a syndicate of a dozen people as a low cost entry into harness racing for the group. " He was a cheapie I brought for a syndicate of new owners to let them experience the thrill of racing a horse." "He is no star but he will pick up a race or two and hopefully convert a few of the new owners into long term owners," Steve told Harnesslink today. Cimarron is from the Astreos mare Samantha B who is a half sister to the smart Blackjacky ($54,104) while the grand dam Rare Vintage is a half sister to the former outstanding pacer Impressionist 1:57.9 ($427,005)  The other recent purchase for stable clients was the 4 year old Man Around Town gelding Nui Toc Tien who after an unlucky third at Addington first up for the stable had won his next start with a fair degree of authority at Rangiora last week. That win qualified Nui Toc Tien for the $12,000 Wakefield and Williams Grass Track Championship final at Motukarara yesterday but he had the misfortune to draw the outside of the second row for the mobile 2000 metres race. Driver Dexter Dunn sent him forward early and he worked to the front at the 1200 metres mark. Although hotly challenged early in the run home, Nui Toc Tien really dug deep  when Dexter asked him and he went strongly to the line for another authorative victory. Purchased off breeder/trainer Neil Ure after a smart run for second at Ashburton during Cup Week, Steve thinks that Nui Toc Tien has a bright future. " He was recommended to one of my owners Mark Wooton by Mitchell Kerr as a horse with a future." "We purchased him off Neil Ure and he had done a great job with him and it was a pleasure to buy such a well educated and conditioned horse." "He is a lovely type with both a great gait and speed and has a super attitude as well" "Dexter really likes him and said his win yesterday was a lot easier than it looked," Steve said. Steve has decided a short break of three weeks is in order now and then he will map out a programme for Nui Toc Tien. "I think he has a big future and could go a wee way," Steve said. Although you wouldn't call Nui Toc Tien a "blue blood" being by Man Around Town from a Falcon's Icon mare, his maternal family is littered with outstanding horses. Champion racemares in Arania and Hurrania are close up in his maternal line and his dam Nui Thi Vai is closely related to such smart types as Smooth Trickster 1:54.3 ($156,874), Pulse 1:50 ($196,551) and Glenroydon 1:51.3 ($119,791) to mention just a few. Steve Dolan has developed a reputation as an astute trainer with an eye for a promising horse and his two recent purchases have only further built on that reputation. Harnesslink Media   

Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones has capable mare Goodness Gracious Me warming up for the summer circuit. Goodness Gracious Me, first-up since July, ran Willow close at the Rangiora workouts on Wednesday, December 3. The 4YO Christian Cullen mare is the winner of four from 23 starts, but reverts to the C2 grade with dropback age group concessions. She trailed three back for Mark behind the Allstars stablemates Willow and Linda Lovegrace in the C2-4 mobile heat on Wednesday. Goodness Gracious Me may have headed Willow in the run home before the latter kicked back for a half a head win. “She (Goodness Gracious Me) blew out the last little bit,” Mark said. “I’ll look for a junior drivers race, then she can go to to Winton for (Southern Belle) Speed Series heat on December 29th,” he said. Willow ran the mobile 2000m in 2:30.2 (2:00.8 mile rate) in the hands of Tim Williams, the winner pacing her last 800m in 57.2s and final 400m in 27.4s. Strike On Command, a catch drive for Wayne Higgs, tailed the five horse field and wasn’t asked for a serious effort in the run home. Rocker Band, the qualified but unraced 3YO filly by Rocknroll Hanover from 2005 New Zealand Cup winner Mainland Banner (1:55.1), shaped well winning a C0 mobile pace. She backed up a good finish at the workouts a week earlier by coming from back and wide to run down raceplaced Nui Toc Tien, the latter a newcomer to the Steve Dolan team. Rocker Band won the mobile 2000m heat in 2:34.9, the leaders running their last 800m in 58.8s and final 400m in 28.8s. The Greg Brodie-owned Rocker Band could make her race debut at Winton on December 20. “She’s not paid up for anything, but we could make the $14,000 late payment for the Nevele R with her,” Mark said. Rocker Band was put aside after she beat Storm Maguire, Whitershadeofpale and Maritime Arden, in a 2000m qualifier (2:02 rate) at Rangiora in April. Qualified but unraced Bettor Luck (4g Bettor’s Delight-Pocket Conquest, by In The Pocket-Victor Supreme), battled away for third behind Danielle Van De Camp and As Kiwi As in his C0 heat in 3:29.9 (2600m). Bettor Luck trailed up for Michelle Neilson. He has taken time after running fifth of seven in his qualifier at Ashburton in November last year. Kowhai Sunrise, resuming, led up in the C1-3 trot but broke and failed to settle in the run home, allowing Clifden Clowers to beat Sunrise Invasion in 3:30 (2600m). Courtesy of Mark Jones Racing Stables - Check site here

One of the hardest things to get right in the harness racing industry is the management of large syndicates and the issues that go with that. Most attempts at large scale syndication have faltered but one operator who seems to have got the structure right and is having success is the Go Harness group established by Noel Kennard. Run by Noel with the help of former HRNZ journalist John Robinson, the Go Harness syndicates were set up to try to make the cost of racing standardbreds more affordable to a wider cross - section of the public and they have succeeded in bringing a lot of new people into the industry. One of their first syndicates was the "Trotting For Fun" group which was established in late 2012. Initially the syndicate brought Saratoga off Wayne Feiss from Australia. Racing from the All Stars barn prior to being purchased, the son of Muscles Yankee was left with the All Stars team and has done a super job for the syndicate. Since his purchase Saratoga has had 15 starts for 5 wins and 4 placings for $38,378 in stakes. Saratoga was moved recently to the barn of Ken Barron to take advantage of the swimming pool there on the advice of Mark Purdon. When the syndicate was formed three other yearling fillies were leased from well known breeder Ivan McNicholl to round out the syndicate. One was injured as a 2 year old and retired to stud but the other two are on track to make their mark on the racetrack this season. Both remaining fillies are beautifully bred and have both qualified already. Harriet Of Mot is by Monarchy from the very talented Sundon mare Harriet Hughes who won five races from just 13 starts. Harriet Hughes ran second in the Group 2 Trotters Championship to One Over Kenny and third in the Group 1 Trotting derby as a 3 year old. The other filly Eilish Aimee is by Love You and is a half sister to Harriet Hughes as well as Earl Of Mot ($535,756)  Ella Powell ($118,495) and  is a three quarter sister to Amore Stride ($99,156). Eilish Aimee lines up for her first start tomorrow at Timaru and while it is a big ask for a 3 year old filly to do everything right first time, John Robinson knows the ability is there. "The trainers Craig and Aimee Edmonds have always had a high opinion of the filly and think long term she could go a fair way." "They have had most of this family through their hands and think Eilish Aimee has a big future," John said. A trial winner at Rangiora last Monday, Eilish Aimee impressed track watchers and driver John Dunn with a very professional display and that has given John Robinson some confidence heading into her debut run. "John was quite impressed with her on Monday and has taken the drive tomorrow." "Whatever she does tomorrow she can have a brief letup and come back in the new year after a short break," he said Harriet Of Mot is also qualified but won't be seen out just yet according to John. "She can still be a bit headstrong so we are in no hurry with her as she has the family ability," he said. John Robinson swears one of the keys to running large syndicates is the communication between the trainers and the syndicates management and he can't  praise Craig and Aimee Edmonds enough. " They are just great to deal with and keep us up to date on everything." " We don't have to ring them, they ring us which makes our job so much easier," John said  Large scale syndications are never easy to manage but the Go Harness team have obviously got the formulae just right judging by their results to date. Harnesslink Media     

One of two runners on Sunday at Wyndham could propel one of the nice guys in New Zealand harness racing in Cran Dalgety into that elite group who have trained 1000 winners. Two winners on Thursday at Rangiora took him to 999 winners and both his winners look to have a big future. Bettor Think Twice appreciated the drop back in class from Sires Stakes racing to a C0 fillies and mares race and won the race at the start when Dexter Dunn sent her forward and she missed all the mayhem when Quaint Glen broke after 200 metres. Taken to the front with 1300 metres to run by Dexter, Bettor Think Twice scooted over her last 400 metres in 28.2 for a comfortable 2 and1/2 length victory over the very unlucky Tintinara who was involved in the early skirmish. Bettor Think Twice is bred to be good as she is the first foal from the former smart 2 year old Rona Lorraine ($133,270) who is a half sister to none other than last years champion 3 year old filly, Venus Serena 1:52.1 ($664,886) A $78,000 dollar yearling purchase, yesterday's win took Bettor Think Twice's earnings to $24,461 with the promise of plenty more to come. The second winner that Cran produced yesterday was Bungalow Bill and he produced an outstanding performance to come from last at the 900 metres mark to get up and beat the smart 3 year old Smithy in a very quick 2:26.9 for the 2000 metres mobile. Dexter was at his very best as he saved ground on the corner by switching back to the inner after sweeping up wide down the back and that enabled Bungalow Bill to get up in the shadows of the post for a breathtaking win. Bungalow Bill also lacks nothing on the score of breeding being by Bettor's Delight from the smart racemare Strawberry Fields ($48,430) who is a half sister to the former outstanding juvenile Lennon 1:52 ($349,539). That was the second win for Bungalow Bill from just two starts and he looks very hard to roll in the $20,000 Graduation Final on Cup Day where he has drawn barrier two. Cran has two chances to crack the 1000 barrier at Wyndham on Sunday in Supriya and Margarita and both look huge winning chances. It is a shame in a way if it does happen at Wyndham as the man who has driven a big chunk of those winners in Dexter Dunn  will not be driving the Dalgety horses on Sunday. However one thing is a given. Cran's feat in training 1000 winners whenever it happens will be warmly received by his peers who hold the West Melton trainer in high regard.  Harnesslink Media    

The harness racing action moved to the trials at Rangiora yesterday after the huge day at Ashburton on Monday and saw a large batch of 2 year olds strut their stuff for the first time. The first of the 2 year old heats was for the fillies and all six runners were from the all conquering All Stars team. Arden's Choice by Panspacificflight did enough to grab the pacemaking Sophisticated Lady (Mach Three) in the last few metres but the whole six finished within a couple of lengths of each other in their first serious hitout. The overall time of 2:42.7 in the very windy conditions was what you would expect from a first up run and it should be upwards and onwards from here. The second of the 2 year old heats for colts and geldings saw a 3 year old added to the 5 runners in the form of Bettor Be Smooth and as you would expect he was too strong for the juveniles. Two All Stars runners in Chase The Dream (Bettor's Delight)  and Waikiki Beach (Somebeachsomewhere) closed in the straight but were still 1 1/4 and 2 1/2 lengths in arrears at the finish. However as the last 800 metres was cut out in a blistering 56.6 and 400 metres in 28.6, in less than ideal conditions, then both 2 year olds look to be very promising. In the third 2 year old heat which was also for colts and geldings, another of the All Stars team in Major Ben was very impressive. Slow to begin from the outside alley, Major Ben (Art Major) looped the field after 300 metres and was too strong afterwards winning by two lengths in the fastest time of the three heats of 2:37.2. with closing sectionals of 58.6 and 28.5 Stablemate Lazarus (Bettor's Delight) made ground late to grab second from Audi Hare (Mach Three) from the Michael House barn. Major Ben was easily the biggest of the 2 year olds on display yesterday but seems to have speed to match his size. There was plenty of talented horseflesh in some of the other heats yesterday and this is how we saw them. Isaiah looked very forward as he nabbed a game Venus Serena in his heat which was cut out in a 1:59.8 mile rate with smart sectionals in the conditions of 56.8 and 28.1 Both look ready to rumble come Cup week Itz Bettor To Win made ground well behind the first two for third and can't be far away from making his 3 year old debut. Ancient Moonlight and Cut Loose were very impressive in a C0 heat, clearing out a long way from home with only half a head separating them at the finish. The overall time of 2:30.7 was excellent in the conditions and both horses look to be early winners on that run. Ranfurly Rulz looked forward to resume when winning his heat in a 1:59.8 mile rate when the wind was at its worst and after he had done all the work in front. Princess Galleon trialed again like a trotter who is going to win one at short notice when she cleared out by five lengths in her heat. Webb Ellis and Highview Freddy were only separated by a half head in their heat and both look ready to win a maiden at short notice. Overall apart from the wind, it was a day that threw up several smart horses for racing around New Zealand Cup week Harnesslink Media

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