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Things were only ever going to get better for Ricky May yesterday at the Harness Jewels. The champion horseman had, what could best be described as, a bizarre start to the day after he was struck by a car when making his way onto the course. The Mid Canterbury local was knocked to the ground in the incident, but thankfully only suffered a tender wrist in the incident. After being checked by St John’s staff attending the meeting, May was cleared to fulfil his driving engagements for the day. “I was looking in the other direction and the car reversed back and hit me,” May said. “It wasn’t probably as bad as it sounds, but I guess you could say I was a bit lucky.” May shook off the jitters to produce a beautifully patient drive on hot-favourite, Enghien in the three-year-old Ruby and the outstanding gelding called on every inch of his brilliance to get past a game President Roydon. While the win might not have looked all that comfortable, for May it was really never in doubt. “I always felt like he was going to win the race, it was just a case of getting him past the line,” May said. “He is never going to be completely comfortable, but he trots through it. “There’s a fair motor there.” The win could see Enghien elevated to a position where he could potentially be in line for a Trotter of the Year Award at August’s Harness Racing Awards. That would make for back-to-back victories for Greg and Nina Hope with sons of Love You after they took the Award home last year with Monbet. Enghien’s victory was followed closely by the performance of Jewels day from the enigmatic Heaven Rocks. The monstrous pacer was simply stunning in his victory in the Four-Year-Old Emerald and drew his driver, and co-trainer, Natalie Rasmussen into making some pretty astounding comparisons. “He’s just so fast, like the only horse I’ve driven who is as fast as him is Black’s A Fake,” Rasmussen said. “When I asked him to run at the top of the straight, he just took off.” With only one Jewels win next to her name prior to yesterday, Rasmussen extended that tally to three with a victory on Spanish Armada also falling her way. Matt Markham  

Greg and Nina Hope wouldn’t have had too many concerns in signing off on Ricky May’s driving fee for his effort behind Enghien in the PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Series Final last night. Because while horses winning is as much about the motor they possess, success should also be attributed to, and if often not, the person sitting behind and guiding them and in May’s case last night, it was great horsemanship. It was as clear as day for all in sundry to see that Enghien wasn’t handling the Addington bends as well as he should, and it was just as clear that it was May’s patient and kind hands that helped nurse him through those rough patches which ultimately won him the race. “I think the track was a bit hard for him” May said after the race. “He just wasn’t that comfortable on them as what he should be, he never trots them that well but he was a little worse than usual tonight.” While many will see it as a major flaw heading into the Harness Jewels in two weeks time, there was very little concern if any from the Hope camp. A few gear changes and the more roomy Ashburton bend should help sort the issues. “I’m not worried,” Greg Hope said. “It’s just minor things that we can sort I think. The main thing is that the motor is there.” While May’s drive drew plenty of plaudits there was also just as many for Mark Purdon for his effort on President Roydon who set the terms from the top and went down fighting. Purdon identified that Enghien wasn’t comfortable around the bends and did everything he could to try and ensure that his rival was hitting the bends at speed by holding the running line. In the end Enghien’s class, once balanced up in the straight, showed through and he won reasonably comfortably with May rather quiet in the sulky up the straight. The two bits of horsemanship drew plenty of praise on social media with former World Champion driver, Mark Jones weighing in on twitter to say that it was “true horsemanship from two of the best.” An hour later it was Brad Williamson who was earning the praise for his handling of the exciting Majestic Man who was simply stunning winning the Sires’ Stakes Final for the baby trotters. Trained by his father, Phil the excitement machine did some work after being balanced along early by Williamson and showed his staying potential with a bold effort to run past BJ Lidenny and the brave More Shades Of Gold who set the speed from the front. “I nearly lost him a few times around the first bend,” Brad said. “But after that he was great, he’s going to be a really good three-year-old but is doing a good job now.” Owned by the well-populated, Griffins Syndicate, most of whom were on hand last night to enjoy the win, Majestic Man gives Brad a great chance to follow in the footsteps of his brothers, Nathan and Matty and become a Jewels winning driver in two weeks time. Matt Markham

From a maiden pace on a Sunday afternoon to a $200,000 event on a premier Friday night might seem like worlds apart, but Nigel McGrath is hoping his latest find, Star Commander, is up to the challenge. The imposing son of Art Major has been long touted by his trainer as being a little bit better than average and showed with a rather effortless victory on Sunday at Rangiora that he’s got the necessary to mix it with the best two-year-old’s in the land. “I’ve always liked him, he’s got all the right signs of being a good horse,” McGrath said. “The improvement in him from his first run to Sunday was quite noticeable and hopefully he can improve again for this week.” This week’s assignment is the $200,000 is the PGG Wrightson NZ Yearling Sales Open Final at Listed level where he will have to square up with the well credentialed pacers Spankem, All You Need Is Faith, The Devil’s Own, Alta Maestro, Mach Shard and his talented stablemate, Aloka. “It’s a big jump up in class, but I think he’s good enough to be competitive,” McGrath said. A $56,000 purchase at the Christchurch Yearling Sales last year, Star Commander is the fourth foal of Group One winning mare, Susie Maguire. A daughter of Presidential Ball, she won the Caduceus Club Classic and the NZ Sires’ Stakes 2YO Fillies Championship at two and then won the Ladyship Stakes as a three-year-old and ran second to Lizzie Maguire in the 2YO Emerald at the inaugural running of the Harness Jewels at Ashburton in 2007. Third on debut behind Aloka and Ashley Locaz on Diamonds Day at Invercargill 10 days ago, a much more tractable and kind Star Commander showed up to Rangiora. “He got pretty keen down South, and in the end it might have taken it out of him and cost him finishing closer. “He didn’t really lose any ground on the two good ones, but more held his own. “So we made some changes to his gear during the week and they seemed to work.” Ricky May produced a confident drive on the favourite and put him into the race before taking cover and unleashing at the top of the straight where he cleared away to win by a comfortable one and half lengths. Star Commander stopped the clock in a slick 2.26.6 for the 2000 metres. “He was knocking off a bit there at the finish, so he had a bit in store which is always a good sign.” McGrath got mixed news when the draws were released for Friday night’s $200,000 event with Aloka drawing up well on the front line and Star Commander set to start from four on the second line, but with the added advantage of speed horses in front of him in Alta Maestro and Mach Shard as well as Aloka. Matt Markham

What happens next for yesterday’s Rangiora Classic winner, Classie Brigade, remains up in the air. The brilliant Nigel McGrath trained pacer continued a grand season on the tracks with a big win in yesterday’s feature event at Rangiora, downing some highly credentialed pacers as he continues his rise up the pacing ranks of New Zealand. And the question now for McGrath and the four-year-old’s connections is, where to next? The absence of Lazarus from the Harness Jewels makes continuing on for a few more weeks quite enticing, but there’s also Waikiki Beach and Heaven Rocks waiting for that assignment too. So heading to the paddock now and aiming towards a New Zealand Trotting Cup campaign in the spring is also on the table. “I’m not sure what way we will go,” McGrath said. “I’ll have that discussion with the owners this week and we will lock in a plan.” What McGrath does know though is that whatever decision is made, he’s going to have a very nice open class pacer next season, whether he starts fresh or remains a Harness Jewels contender or not. “He’s had a great season and has really developed into a good stayer. “I thought his Invercargill Cup win, which was run in the second fastest time ever over two miles in New Zealand was a huge performance, but maybe that run yesterday was better considering what he was up against. “When you look at the field they have all done some really good things in their careers and we had a bit of bad luck coming off the back but were still able to get home over the top of them in a really quick time, it was a great performance especially after the early burn.” Classie Brigade reunited with Ricky May for yesterday’s feature after May was the man who piloted him through most of his three-year-old season. After igniting early to get down to the markers and engaging in battle with Field Marshal, May must have been concerned when the leader stopped in his lap at the 400 metre mark and cost him valuable lengths while his rivals surged clear. “It didn’t look good at that point,” McGrath said. “You don’t expect a good horse like Field Marshal to stop on you, but Ricky never panicked and once he found clear air he really drove to the line.” Classie Brigade has now had 11 starts this season for five wins and three placings with his stake earning now more than $200,00. Chase The Dream returned to form with a bold run for second while there was plenty of merit in the performances of both Franco Nelson and Piccadilly Princess who really put the speed on at rounding the final bend. May was in action earlier in the day too winning the three-year-old feature with Mongolian Hero for Paul Court.  Matt Markham

“Enghien felt even stronger the right-handed way around than what he did back home”. That was one sentence the connections of this week’s Northern 3yo Trotting Derby hopefuls didn’t want to hear following the Love You gelding’s ninth win from 13 starts at Alexandra Park last Friday. “He’s never felt so strong. He seems to be getting tougher with each run no matter where he lines up. The Alexandra Park-way-around didn’t faze him at all. “If anything he trotted better than he ever has. If there were any slight queries it only came after the false start. He felt a bit keen and was fired up briefly, but once the race was under way he relaxed nicely,” said driver Ricky May. “He’ll be better for that run too. He’s got so much stamina and this week’s 2700m should suit him even more. It’s hard to see him being beaten this Friday if that first-up run is anything to go by,” the Methven reinsman added. If the Greg and Nina Hope trained gelding does win this Friday’s $80,000 Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby, it will be Enghien’s second Group One victory after nailing the New Zealand 3yo Trotting Derby at Addington Raceway on April 7. The stunning Canterbury squaregaiter is also the New Zealand 1950m mobile 3yo record holder as well - making May’s post-race comments even more potent. In February Enghien set the new time of 2:22.2 in the Sires Stakes Prelude at Addington. But on Friday Enghien was having his first look at Alexandra Park in the Group Two $60,000 Lone Star Riccarton Sires stakes 3yo Trotters Championship - and he come within 0.1 of a second of Royal Aspiration's May 2013 New Zealand 2200m mobile record for 3yo trotters. May settled the bay back from his second row draw and then they were three-wide with cover at the bell, and then in the one-one-down the back straight. The $2 favourite then cruised away in the home straight to win by half a length from the fast-finishing second favourite, President Roydon (Mark Purdon). Third favourite Chevron Express (Dexter Dunn) was three-and-a-quarter lengths back in third. Enghien stopped the clock in 2:43.1 (mile rate 1:59.2) and came home in 59.2 and 28.9. May knows what it’s like to win the Northern Trotting Derby behind a hot favourite. His only win in the race came in 2009 behind the Allan and Lee Georgeson trained $1.30 favourite Ima Gold Digger. “It’s a race all drivers and especially trainers of young trotters love to win, and I say I’m proud to have my name on the trophy. “This horse is going better than when Monbet was three. In saying that Monbet didn’t race or win anything big in his 3-year-old season. At the same time of their careers Enghien would be stronger,” may said. “He’s certainly no Monbet yet and has some way to get there but he just feels like a good strong horse who could be like Monbet when he is five,” he added. Monbet never won a Group race when he was three, but he and May were beaten a length by Speeding Spur and Josh Dickie in the 2015 edition of the Northern Trotting Derby. “He’s a future Dominion and Rowe Cup horse all right. Greg and Nina have a great team of trotters to call on. They are a credit to their training regime,” May said. May will drive Enghien’s stablemate and the December 31 National Trot winner, Quite A Moment in Friday’s Group One $150,000 Rowe Cup. Enghien has now had nine wins since making his debut 13 starts ago at Washdyke with a win. He has also placed once and banked $161,779 in stakes. He is owned by the Hopes and Richard Dellaca, and was bred by Heather Middleton and the estate of Carl Middleton; and Millburn Farm Ltd.   Duane Ranger  

Josh Kennett heard Valmagne’s first win in 14 months at Hawera yesterday (Monday) on a scratchy old radio while he was gearing up nine-length winner, Veneto - some 750km away in Motukarara. “One of my owners had the radio and it was great to hear Valmagne win. I still haven’t seen it yet, but this mare down here won pretty easy as well, thanks to a nice Ricky May drive. “We’ve had a great Easter Monday. I’m rapt for Dad. It’s a good lead-up going into the big Group One races at Alexandra Park in the next few weeks. The horse is very fit,” Waimate-based Kennett said. Although Valmagne has placed seven times this season, yesterday's win was his first since scoring at Alexandra Park in February last year. “He’s coming into winning form at exactly the right time,” Kennett said. Valmagne, who is based at Craig and Josh Kennett’s Cambridge satellite stable, proved too good for his eight opponents in the feature trot - the Clegg's Handicap for the R50 and faster trotters. Valmagne, the sole 35m back-marker, was a pronounced $1.80 favourite because the public knew his class would take him a long way in the $7,000 event. At the end of the 2500m stand the 9-year-old and driver Scott Phelan had one-and-a-quarter lengths to spare over runner-up, Harry H (Jay Abernethy). The chestnut son of Sundon stopped the clock in 2:59.4 (mile rate 2:17.4) and he came home in 68.3 and 33.2. Valmagne has now won 13 of his 137 starts and placed in 39 others for $223,027. "He's the sort of horse who thrives on racing. If he could race every week he would. You look at his record fresh - it isn't much. He gets better with racing. He just keeps toiling away. "I thought he would be close to a win because he hasn't had too much luck go his way in recent starts. I'm just stoked for Dad (Craig) who has put all the hard yards into him," Kennett said. I really hope he enjoys those big races in Auckland and can go close again," he added. The big 'Group One' races Kennett was referring to were the $80,000 Anzac Cup and the $150,000 Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park on April 21 and 28 respectively. With the big guns like Monbet, Speeding Spur and Master Lavros missing Kennett sees no reason why Valmagne can’t at least emulate his feat of last year. “He finished second behind Monbet in last year’s Rowe Cup and that was pretty special because it was our first Rowe Cup starter. There’s no Monbet there this year, so who knows?” Kennett said. Meanwhile the Arna Donnelly trained and driven Imajollywally won the feature event at the Hawera two-day meeting - the $12,000 South Taranaki Club Hawera Cup. It was Imajollywally's 11th career win, fourth this season - and second at Hawera. He and Donnelly also won on the track on January 8. The Hawera Cup was the last of the 13-race North Island Country Cups Series. The $25,000 final will be at Cambridge Raceway on April 25 (Anzac Day). The Nicky Chilcott trained Razor Brogden and The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained Queen Lostris were the only horses to win on both days of the meeting. For the record the Dave Iremonger trained Speedy Earl raced three times in three days at Hawera. The son of trained Speedy Earl finished fifth on the first day, and then won and placed on day two. On Monday Speedy Earl was the $13.50 sixth favourite and won the first race by one-a-quarter lengths and then lined up seven races later and paid $7.50 for a third. Trent Lethaby drove the brown gelding in all three of his Hawera starts.   Duane Ranger

It’s a close race for bragging rights on who will be the most successful driver and trainer heading into the final meeting of the season on the Motukarara track this season. After five meetings for the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club and a further one for the Akaroa Trotting Club, it’s all nice and friendly at the top of the lists for winners over the season with Ricky May leading the drivers’ table and Greg and Nina Hope on top of the trainers. Taking into account only wins, May has six driving successes on the green top of Motukarara while the Hopes have four training wins next to their name. Winners this season have come from Westar Sam, Ella Abbe, Gershwin., Harrysul and English Rose for the May and Hopes’ combination while May was also successful on Novak for Laurence Hanrahan. The Hope’s only chance of adding to their tally for the day comes in the first race when they line Eastwood Cheiftain up in the amatuer drivers event with Paul Wallace in the sulky. May’s chances are limited to just six on the 11 races card with some tidy drives including that of debutant Mo Farah who hails from the stable of his father, Terry. An Ohoka Arizona three-year-old from The Tough Tart, who was bred by May’ wife Judy, Mo Farah was an impressive winner at the Ashburton trials recently. Judy will be looking for her second success of the weekend as an owner after Cullenz Diamond was successful for her at Forbury Park on Thursday night. Jessica Young (five wins), Blair Orange (five) and Dexter Dunn, Craig Thornley, Robbie Holmes and Sam Ottley are all nipping at the heels of May in the driver’s wins column while 11 trainers have trained two winners each during the season at the track behind the Hope team’s tally. All counted, 19 horses will race today who have won on the track already this season with the likes of Maganfique, Celestial Arden, Queen Bee Bardon, Momentous, Novak and Leading The Way all chances to double up in their respective races.   Matt Markham

Greg Hope made a scary confession in the wake of Enghien’s New Zealand Trotting Derby on Friday night. Not long after his rising star had dealt to his rivals in the $80,000 feature the Woodend Beach trainer, who trains with his wife Nina, was already pondering his next step with the dour son of Love You and that’s Auckland. A lot of trainers might feel hesitation about the prospect of heading North to race a new way around, but Hope was buoyant about the prospect. “He’s actually better trotting the Auckland way around,” Hope added. “So I’m looking forward to getting him up there, he’s going from strength to strength at the moment.” A second line draw and a sweeping move around the field weren’t enough to stop Enghien. He went to war with the pace-making Musculus and also northern raider, Heavyweight Hero from almost the 800 metre mark and although his winning margin wasn’t huge, it was authoritative. “I think he could have won by a lot more if I had asked him too,” driver Ricky May said. By winning, Enghien secured bragging rights over his high-class stable mate, Monbet. For all his subsequent success, Monbet was unable to win a Group One as a three-year-old, bowing to Speeding Spur on more than one occasion. Enghien is raced by Hope and long-time stable supporter, Richard Delleca. They purchased him as a yearling from the yearling sales from stock offered by the late Carl Middleton. Middleton’s wife, Heather, was on track to witness the success on Friday night and Hope said it was great for her to be there. “It’s a wonderful breed, Carl’s breed,” Hope said. “And Heather being here to see this horse is great, she’s actually taken a share in the yearling we purchased at the sales from Another Love which is great too.” While over the moon with his young trotting star, Hope was more than a little perplexed with the performances of his two open class trotters in the Fred Shaw Memorial New Zealand Trotting Championship. Everybody Knows finished second last in what was his worst performance of the season while Quite A Moment also disappointed despite doing mid-race work to get on the speed, finishing seventh. “Everybody Knows heads to the paddock now, he’s done a great job this time in and deserves a good break before bringing him back up for Cup time. “I’m not sure what to do about Quite A Moment, her work at home is fantastic but something isn’t quite right out on the track. “We will have a good hard think about whether we head to Auckland or not.” Meanwhile everything looks positive in regards to Monbet as he enjoys some leisure time in the paddock. “All the scans and everything are really good and he’s really bright in the paddock.” Hope plans to return the reigning Horse of the Year to work once he returns from the Rowe Cup Carnival.   Matt Markham    

Grass track three-year-old trots might not be the traditional path to Group One success, but today’s Orari meeting may prove to have a major impact on the age group for the remainder of the season. A lot of that lays with which version of exciting young trotter, Enghien turns up. If the best version arrives on the green surface, then the race should become a fait accompli - but if he doesn’t, things become a little bit like open slather. Last season’s two-year-old colt and gelding trotter of the year has produced a mixed bag so far in his three-year-old season with a stunning fresh up win at Addington late last year, undone with a late gallop when looking likely in the Hambletonian Classic at Ashburton earlier in the month. That’s put the pressure on his trainers Greg and Nina Hope to get things sorted with the well-bred gelding. “He’s come through Ashburton ok,” Greg Hope said. “I guess we just have to wait and see which one will show up, we know what he’s capable of if he does it all right.” The son of Love You has the advantage of having placed on a grass track back when he ran second at Methven last season behind Habibi Inta - so the Orari surface shouldn’t prove too much of a foil for him. With some major assignments ahead of him, gaining confidence will be a big boost for the camp. Off the second row Enghien does have to contend with a decent field in the $10,000 event including Hambletonian runner-up Muscles Galore and last season’s two-year-old filly of the year, Di’z Luck. The Gavin Smith trained filly was very good fresh up at Rangiora and with natural improvement and a good draw she may prove to be the horse to beat for Enghien.   Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Whataboyz, Moment Of Kaos, Princess Harbour, Scarlet Bromac Race 2: Sharknado, Sky City King, Master Jordy, Garry’s Legacy Race 3: Fear Rockn, Supreme Banner, Dying To See You, Enchantee Race 4: Free Bird, Tijuana Taxi, Monkey Luck, Glenis Marie Race 5: Mickey Gee, Unico Legend, It’s All Over Now, Clarendon’s Last Race 6: Shadow Galleon, Missie Castleton, Chivasion, Native’s Lasting Love Race 7: Trailer Park Girl, Jemima Franco, Crystal Slipper, Scotlyn Made Race 8: Enghien, Di’z Luck, Muscles Galore, Firenze Race 9: Tahlia Franco, Ok I’m Bad, My Cash, Star In The Future Race 10: Errol Finn, Franco Tmick, Cimarron, Wozniacki Race 11: Franco Texas, Clive, Scotty’s Image, Highview Freddy Best Bet: Mickey Gee (Race 5) Value: Sharknado (Race 2)

Frustrated with the current farming life, champion harness racing driver Ricky May might find driving high-priced racehorses today at Ashburton somewhat of a stress relief from the battles he’s facing on the farm.  The Methven horseman is currently juggling harvest work with driving horses, but as the unpredictable weather continues to wreak havoc on his yields, May, has the luxury of being able to focus on the job at hand on the racetrack a little more than what he usually does at this time of the year. “It’s been a bit of a weird old season,” May said of the cropping life.  “We are getting a couple of really good days and then some wet ones which is meaning the crops aren’t drying and it keeps pushing things back.”  Today though the focus will be solely on the track as he looks forward to two of the Ashburton Trotting Club’s most prestigious juvenile races – the Hambletonian Classic and the Sapling Stakes.  His Hambletonian drive – Enghien, is a beauty.  The Greg and Nina Hope trained three-year-old hasn’t been to the races since a stunning fresh victory back prior to Christmas.  He did trial at Ashburton last week, galloping late in the piece when beaten by race-rival today, Habibi Inta.  “It’s always a concern when they do that, but I think we can forgive it, I’m not worried about it.”  “They have made some changes to his shoes since then and knowing Greg and Nina he should be sorted.” May used the trial as a chance to push Enghien out of the gate and he responded beautifully looking powerful as he surged forward.  “That’s the best he has felt out of the gate, I was really happy with it.  “We are going to have to go forward from our draw, so I’m pleased we did it.” Enghien will start from barrier eight. His biggest rival, Habibi Inta, will start from the second row for Blair Orange.  Never far from the action at Ashburton, which is just a 20 minute drive from home base, May is closing in on 200 driving wins on the track over his career. He’s got 182 wins on the grit track and one sole victory on the grass track from when he drove Liz Winter to success for David Isherwood in 1979 – the first of his wins at the Ashburton Racecourse.  In the Sapling Stakes, which he won back in 2000 with Thank U John, May will take the reins on Cullenburn for Benny Hill. The big-figure purchase at last year’s yearling sales is a brother to open class pacing star, Locharburn and has had two public appearances ahead of his debut in the two-year-old feature.  “He’s got all the makings of a really nice horse, he’s going to be pretty tough when it all clicks together.  “I don’t know about this week though, he might just need the experience, I think he’s good enough but we will have to see.” Gerard O’Reilly will drive the likely favourite in the event, Cole Porter – a son of former top racemare, De Lovely by Bettor’s Delight.  May’s other chances today include Mossdale Rose and Bella Jones for the Hope stable while he made Diamond Life his best of the day.  “I thought he’d be pretty hard to beat. It’s not a super field.” Diamond Life is trained by Hill and part-owned by popular rodeo identity, Craig Wiggins along with May’s wife Judy who bred the foal from her broodmare, Ruby Wax.    Ashburton Selections – By Matt Markham  Race 1: Say Your Pres, Kai Time, Louis Moss, Paradise Spur Race 2: Sky City King, Cleaver Green, Loretta Franco, Locked Out Of Heaven  Race 3: Diamond Life, Waimac Attack, Glenferrie Duster, Kotare Mist Race 4: Woosh Factor, Burn Off, Living Legend, Elusive Flight Race 5: Matrika, Tahlia Franco, Supreme Banner, Happy Styx Race 6: Mossdale Rose, Bonnie Joan, Ariadne Lavra, Ask Again Race 7: Mighty American, Cruzy Dude, Gumpowder, Crackamoa Race 8: The Brooklyn Brawler, Cullenburn, Cole Porter, John The Plumber Race 9: Enghien, Habibi Inta, Chevron Express, Firenze Race 10: Habibti Ivy, Arannalea, Sugar Cane, Agatha Tyron Race 11: Ultimate Desire, Glenferrie Classic, Cmeerock, Bella Jones Best Bet: Ultimate Desire (Race 11) Value: Sugar Cane (Race 10)

A day in the sun at Nelson on Friday quickly became a day belonging to Johnny Dunn. The North Canterbury horseman, who wears two hats as an unofficial trainer and as a driver, stole the show on the first day of the Nelson Harness Racing Club’s two day meeting winning five in the sulky with four coming from the stable of his father, Robert. In a display of aggressive driving, making full use of a notable front runners bias yesterday, Dunn took the bull by the horns and set about dominating from the outset. He won early in the day with Muscles Galore in the maiden trot for his father-in-law and sister-in-law Craig and Aimee Edmonds. A Muscle Mass three-year-old gelding out of the former smart trotting filly, Harriet Hughes who hailed from the same stable, Muscle Mass went to war with BD Khaosan a long way out from home but kept finding and drew clear inside the final 100 metres to claim victory. Dunn the saluted on maiden pacers, Kotare Mist and Returntorocknroll - the latter finally breaking the maiden status after 19 starts for owners, Trent and Wendy Yesberg. Returntorocknroll is the sixth foal to the races from Jingle Belle Rock and now all six have won at least one race with noted performers, Bettor Rock On, J D Fortune and Great Balls A Flyin also hailing from the mare. Kotare Mist is also well bred being a Christian Cullen out of Kotare Yangtze who has left Bella Star, Kotare Mahdi and Kotare Mahal - she is raced by prominent owners and breeders, Tony and Gay Abell. Dunn’s remaining two winners come from consistent trotter, Foreverman and then he won the last with handy three-year-old pacer, Billy Badger who was levels ahead of his opposition in the last of the day. Greg and Nina Hope picked up a few of the scraps following the Dunn demoltion. They won the Nelson Cup Prelude with Usain Colt who continued a great run of luck for his owners, Wayne and Connie Stewart and then A G’s White Socks lived up to his reputation by remaining unbeaten with a big win later in the day after doing a power of work inside the final lap. Ricky May was on board both of the Hope winners. While it was Dunn’s day, Ladbrooks trainer, Dean Taylor achieved a notable milestone when he notched up his 500th training success when Jessica Young produced a peach of a drive on Go Davey to get him home against a handy field of pacers. Taylor has held a licence since 1989 - 1990 season, training his first winner at Westport when Lumber Scott won with Jeff Whittaker in the sulky. He’s prepared top open class pacer, Waipawa Lad to win a New Zealand Free-For-All and Captain Peacock won a New Zealand Derby. In recent years Taylor has formed a strong association with Young and he is currently enjoying a good season with eight winners on the board already.   Nelson Second Day selections - By Matt Markham   Race 1: Unico Enchantress, Out Of Aces, Living Glory, Jersey joe Wilcott Race 2: BD Khaosan, Gold Sovereign, Scarlet Bromac, Geena’s Girl Race 3: The New Man, Jimmy Nga, Lolita Franco, Idealagain Race 4: Johnny White, Black Art, Spooky, Clarendon Falcon Race 5: Tattinger Rose, Franco Lamar, JJ’s Delight, Red Ranger Race 6: Destiny Jones, Forverman, Prestine, Alvira Hest Race 7: Gotta Go Ya Hu, Bella Jones, Mac Toddy, Handlebar Hank Race 8: Unico Legend, One Off, Smooth N Easy, Born Again Delight Race 9: Mighty Flying Major, Usain Colt, Alta Orlando, Smithy Race 10: A G’s White Socks, Waimac Attack, Mrs Browns Boys, Gunpowder Race 11: Cmeerock, Torrid Bromac, Emily Blunt, Go Davey   Best Bet: A G’s White Socks (Race 10) Longshot: Geena’s Girl (Race 2)

He’s ticking things off the bucket list left, right and centre and this weekend Greg Hope has a chance to cross another milestone off when he heads to the top of the South Island and to Richmond Park in Nelson. Hope heads to the meeting having trained 48 winners at Richmond Park during his career, five of them coming while training on his own account and a further 43 coming since he joined in partnership with his wife Nina. And with a particularly ominous looking line up of horses from the stable in action this weekend, there’s every chance that he will achieve the required two wins before the weekend is out. The stable has dominated Nelson over the past few years with a number of winners coming from their trips up the Coast from Woodend Beach including a six win haul up at the same two-day meeting last season. Today’s team of runners totals eight with the little known pacer, A G’s White Socks the stable’s leading chance for the day. He finished a strong second behind Usain Colt, who contests the Nelson Summer Cup Prelude earlier in the day, at the Mt Hutt Workouts at Methven last Saturday - showing his readiness for this week’s assignment. “He’s a pretty nice horse, we’ve got a fair bit of time for him,” Greg Hope said. “He won first up at Oamaru, after being unbeaten off the place. That workout is the only time he’s actually been beaten in public.” A Rock N Roll Heaven three-year-old gelding, A G’s White Socks is a half-brother to former open class pacer, Power Of Tara. “I don’t know what to expect from him this season, but we will see what happens at Nelson and then go from there. “I’d like to think he’s got a decent future in front of him.” The Hope’s took a large team to Methven last weekend to have their final hit out before today’s meeting and A G’s White Socks was just one of a number of impressive performers. Usain Colt showed a very good turn of foot to win the feature heat of the day with young Ben Hope in the sulky. “He’s going really good against good fields, he’d be a chance this week with a bit of luck.” Mares Bella Jones and Emily Blunt won’t get many better chances to get another win than their respective races while there are also big chances from Unico Legend, Gold Sovereign and Franco Lamar. The entire team with be driven today by regular stable driver, Ricky May. Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: Hayden’s Meddle, Calendar Girls, Mac Toddy, Black Art Race 2: BD Khaosan, Gold Sovereign, Muscles Galore, Fira Sunset Race 3: Jimmy Nga, Kotare Mist, Wall Street Wolf, The New Man Race 4: JJ’S Delight, Spooky, Out Of Aces, Johnny White Race 5: Unico Legend, Returntorocknroll, Smooth N Easy, One Off Race 6: The Govenor, Mighty Empire, Franco Lamar, Go Davey Race 7: Prestine, Alvia Hest, Little Mo, Lady Beatrix Bourbon Race 8: Usain Colt, Franco Texas, Linton Shard, Miss Daisy Race 9: Bella Jones, Living Legend, Rum Delight, Nova Time Race 10: A G’s White Socks, Waimac Attack, Mrs Browns Boys, Gunpowder Race 11: Billy Badger, Franco Saxon, Emily Blunt, Torrid Bromac Best Bet: Bella Jones (Race 9) Value: JJ’s Delight (Race 4)  

Woodend Beach trainers Greg and Nina Hope had a memorable first time racing horses at Roxburgh on Wednesday when Mossdale Conner won the Roxburgh Cup  and Cindy Bromac was successful. The wins continued a great holiday innings for the Hope stable after the group one National Trot in Auckland with Quite A Moment; six wins at the Westport and Reefton meetings and another at Omakau on Monday with Mossdale Rose, a sister to Mossdale Conner. Ricky May has been the winning driver. Mossdale Conner overcame a 40m handicap and powered down the outer to win by half a length from Better Enforce. Mossdale Conner and Mossdale Rose are both raced by their Riversdale (Southland) breeder Archie Affleck. Mossdale Rose chased home the up and coming Royal Bengal at Roxburgh. The weather was fine for the Cup but conditions were marginal for reinsmen in races four and five when heavy showers and wind lashed the course and turned the track to slush. Reinsmen were almost driving blind. “I was struggling to see,’’ said Ricky May, who drove Gracey Lacey in race 5. Murray Brown, the trainer of Ben Washington (race 4) said his driver Brent Barclay told him he was unable to see properly and also that the horse did not handle the conditions. Mitchell Kerr, who drove Supreme Banner in that race said  the conditions were “shocking”. “It is pretty bad,” said Dexter Dunn, who has driven in races throughout the world. Doug Gordon, a Roxburgh horseman who has been attending race meetings on the course since he was a three-year-old in 1935, said it  was the “worst it has been here, apart from  the first meeting of the Tuapeka Trotting Club when it snowed.” Graeme Rowland, the judge for the club, said the conditions for race 4 were the third worst he had experienced in 39 years in the role. “The only worse conditions were snow one day at Oamaru and heavy fog at Timaru,’’ he said. The stipendiary stewards ordered mudguards be worn on the sulkies of horses after race 3. The use of the mobile gate was abandoned for race 4 after the motor vehicle was unable to get traction to accelerate clear of horses. The race and subsequent  mobile start listed races were dispatched from a moving start with the clerk of the course, Graeme Mee assembling horses. Abandonment of the meeting was not considered. “We downgraded the track to slushy after race 4 but no safety concerns were expressed by the drivers,” said Liam Tidmarsh, the chairman of stewards. Some races turned into processions, a reflection of horses not suited by the track condition. The last horse was 149 lengths from the winner in the Cup. Madison Jane justified her hot favouritism for the C0 trot with a seven and a half length win when the weather was fine. “She is only a wee thing but she has a great attitude,’’ said Phil Williamson, the trainer of the 3yr-old filly who was having her first race since July. She led over the last 1200m. Spotlight The Valley won the other trot by four lengths after starting from 20m and leading for the last 1500m. Gavin Cook repeated his win of two years in the race for amateur drivers. He drove the longshot Redmaro, owned by his wife, Marie Keith and Robyn Gibson, of Upper Hutt and Wanaka were on hand to see their 4yr-old Late Mail regain winning form. “He (Late Mail) showed a lot early but was no good at three and Chris McDowell has done a good job getting him back on track,’’ said Keith.   Tayler Strong

Classie Brigade is the one to beat in the $30,000 McLarens Transport/RD Petroleum Central Otago Trotting Cup at Omakau on Monday on the strength of a record win in the Ashburton Cup last Monday.   Classie Brigade only won the Ashburton Cup narrowly from his stablemates Maverick and Ears Burning but his time of 3.58.3 for the 3200m was 1.2sec inside the race record set by Four Starzzz Flash in 2012.   Another pointer to Classie Brigade at Omakau is that Four Starzzz Flash won the CO Cup a week later. Ears Burning is again in the field, giving Weedons trainer Nigel McGrath a strong hand. McGrath and Blair Orange, who drove Classie Brigade, combined to win another two races at Motukarara on Thursday.   McGrath had to scratch Maverick at Omakau.   “He (Maverick) has a bit of a cough,’’ said McGrath.“The other two are both really well.”   McGrath has replaced the blinds on Classie Brigade with sliding blinds in the hope that the 4-year-old will finish the race off better.   “I was just not happy with the way he came off the back of Maverick at Ashburton.”   Dexter Dunn, who drove Four Starzzz Flash in his Ashburton and C0 Cup wins, is aboard Captain Dolmio on Monday. Captain Dolmio was far from disgraced when second to Acolyte in the Gore Trotting Cup on Tuesday.   He was given little respite when attempting to lead for the last 1000m of 2700m in blustery conditions after starting from 30m. The 2600m (mobile) of the CO Cup is ideal for Captain Dolmio, who won over the distance in 3.07.7 at Addington in April. He won there in 3.11.5 in November.   The track record at Omakau is 3.10 set by Quick As a Trick (now in Australia) in the C0 Cup last year.   Woodend Beach trainers Greg and Nina Hope, who have won two of the last three CO Cups with Jason Rulz, have Mossdale Conner in contention. Ricky May, who drove Jason Rulz, is back on Mossdale Conner, who worked hard early when sixth in the Ashburton Cup. The Hope stable have won the group one National Trot with Quite A Moment and six races at the Westport and Reefton meetings in the past week.   Costa Del Magnifco and Robyn’s Bad Boy are chances for longer odds. Costa Del Magnifico  was having his first race for three and a half months when he finished sixth the Wairio Cup from a 40m handicap on December 17.   Robyn’s Bad Boy, who won in 2.54.7 for 2400m (mobile) at Winton last month was disappointed for a run at his last start.   The star trotter Master Lavros is a standout in free-for-all on Monday. Master Lavros resumed racing after a 12 month lay-off with a superb win in a ffa at Addington on December 23 after going off stride and losing some 50m at the start. The winner of two Dominion Handicaps, a Rowe Cup and New Zealand Trotting Championship, Master Lavros looks a class above his five rivals.   Phil’s Gift, the other open class acceptor and last start winner, has been scratched when showing soreness, leaving trainer Phil Williamson with Father Christmas, Monty Python and Springbank Eden in the field.   Bet of the day: Master Lavros. Longshot: Costa Del Magnifico (race 10).   Tayler Strong

Two of New Zealand’s leading harness racing stables have cast their nets far and wide this Boxing Day - nearly 373 kilometres to be exact. Woodend Beach trainers, who currently sit second and third on the national trainers’ premiership, have a big number of horses racing today across both the harness meetings on offer at Ashburton and Westport. There’s 12 horses in total wearing the distinctive double blue colours of Greg and Nina Hope while their neighbours, Robert Dunn beat them by one with a team of 13 across the two meetings. Incidentally both stables have chances in the two features of the day, the Ashburton and Westport Cups. Mossdale Conner flies the flag for Team Hope on the eastern side of the Island as he continues to look win his second race in almost two years. An improved third behind the in-form Ears Burning last time out showed we might not be too far away from seeing the best version of the former New Zealand Trotting Cup placegetter. With Ricky May heading to Westport to handle the team over there, the Hopes have tried to keep things as familiar as possible for their Ashburton time by engaging the services of another gold capped driver in Matty Williamson to drive their three chances. Williamson drove Mossdale Conner last time out and will also pick up the drive on Emily Blunt who he won on at Addington at her last start and also debutant, Gold Sovereign - a full brother to outstanding open class trotter, Sovereignty. On the Coast, the Hope stable looks particularly strong. They have two chances in the Westport Cup in Ranfurly Rulz and Burn Off. The former has local ownership connections, so a win would be a popular result. The Dunn stable have a leading contender in the race in Say My Name who returns from an enforced layoff after showing plenty of promise in his last campaign. He also meets the talented Buster Brady who returns off the back of his strong Geraldine victory fresh up. Dexter Dunn will drive the four-year-old with Blair Orange staying to drive in Ashburton. Alta Orlando will fly the stable flag at Ashburton in the small, but select Ashburton Cup field with Ross Houghton doing the driving. There is currently one win separating the two stables with the Hope stable on 34 wins for the season to the Dunn’s 33 winners. Super Selector - Ashburton - By Matt Markham Race 1: Ace Commander, Beg For Chevron, Gold Sovereign, Izmok Race 2: Chloe, Pay Me Interest, Patanjali, Nicky Anew Race 3: Boults On Fire, Playingintheshadows, I Am Yours, Nearis Green Race 4: Bailey’s Rock, Culley Backy, Pradas Ideal Dahling, The Valiant Race 5: Runaway Three, Hilarious Magic, Cullenz Diamond, Lets Rock N Roll Race 6: Franco Saxon, Christopher Banner, Eh Ef El, Torrid Bromac Race 7: Maverick, Mossdale Conner, Classie Brigade, Ears Burning Race 8: American Tart, Miss Daisy, Emily Blunt, RR Sand Dollar Race 9: Beg Hall, Jean Sebastien, All Lit Up, Don’t Look Back Race 10: Stars Align, Cable Beach, Nolan Sackett, Pay Me Way Best Bet: Chloe (Race 2) Value: Maverick (Race 7)   Super Selector - Westport - By Matt Markham Race 1  Returntorocknroll, Dali’s Masterpeice, Indie, Supreme Harmony Race 2: Lord Roydon, War Spirit, Ronald J, Michelle Race 3: Warloch, Smooth Mara, Shark Attack, Samarias Falcon Race 4: Franco Tmick, Franco Lamar, Dream To Reality, JJ’s Delight Race 5: Helena Ideal, Garry’s Legacy, Li Na, Master Jordy Race 6: Jonty James, Precious Sara, Midfrew Tarpediem, Monet Grace Race 7: Buster Brady, Say My Name, Johnny Eyre, Ranfurly Rulz Race 8: Sarah Palin, Medusa, Royal Shine, My Armour Race 9: Earthquake, Wobbegong, Young Mister Grace, Danse Macabre Race 10: Sails, Knockmanaugh, Extreme Spark, Lottie Franco   Best Bet: Lord Roydon (Best Bet) Value: Sails (Race 10)

Monbet might be out for potentially the rest of the season, but Greg and Nina Hope will tonight unleash another up and coming trotting star when Enghien makes his three-year-old debut. Reigning Horse of the Year, Monbet, underwent an operation on Tuesday to have a bone chip removed from a knee – a procedure that curtailed plans of an Australian raid late in the summer and also leaves his Rowe Cup defence up in the air. Quite A Moment, who ran a bold second to her stablemate in the Dominion last month is the natural replacement at the top of the trotting pile you would think, but then again, there’s a fair bit of x-factor about Enghien. A stand out at two, things got a little too much for him late in the season as he threw a Harness Jewels victory away with a couple of gallops – but there was always the belief from the Hope team that what he was doing then he was doing on raw ability with time set to be his best friend. A decent spell to strengthen up and a solid build up toward tonight has been undertaken and a quiet run in behind Marcoola last week at the Methven workouts should see the well-bred trotter ready to rock and roll when he steps out late in the night tonight at Addington. “He’s good, progressing along nice,” Greg Hope said. “It’s always an interesting one when they come back from being a two-year-old to see just where they measure up. “But we have always had a lot of time for him and he’s maturing into quite a nice horse.” Drawn out wide tonight with Ricky May in the bike, the task won’t be easy – especially with Donegal Bettorgretch, a Jewels winner herself, out for redemption after some poor manners last time out. Another young star is set to return to the Addington track tonight with Nathan Purdon back in Canterbury. The son of champion trainer, Mark, has been on an extended working trip to Australia during which time he enjoyed Group One success with Ohoka Punter as well as making quite the name for himself among the Australian circles. Purdon is set to team up with West Melton trainer, Cran Dalgety in the coming months and will take the reins on Donegal Bettorgretch tonight. He will also drive Bettor To Be Tricky for Grant Payne in the final event of the night. Super Selector  - By Matt Markham Race 1: Mekong Princess, Louis Moss, Shona Mary, Zsa Ziva Race 2: Eja Patron, Nui Toc Tien, Handlebar Hank, Bettor Backim Race 3: Franco Tai, Billy Badger, Ranfurly Rulz, Runaway Star Race 4: No More Change, Glenferrie Classic, Vai Star, Wozniacki Race 5: Bailey’s Rock, Aymar, Fire One, Illegal Immigrant Race 6: Blade, Cmeerock, Stop Means Stop, Missinmemate Race 7: Enghien, Donegal Bettorgretch, Idle Monkey, All Lit Up Race 8: Hilarious Magic, Kitura, Titanium, Bettor To Be Tricky Best Bet: No More Change (Race 4) Value: Franco Tai (Race 3)

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