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By Joshua Smith, Harness News Desk    Michelle Wallis celebrated her birthday on Tuesday with a victory at Cambridge Raceway with Sunny Petite, but she is hoping for a belated present on New Year’s Eve when Temporale makes his northern return. The Group One-winning trotter’s southern campaign was cut short in October after becoming ill following the Group Three Ashburton Flying Mile (1609m), but he has recuperated well in the lead-up to the Group One Sims Pacific Metals 2020 National Trot (2700m) at Alexandra Park on Thursday. “He didn’t trot any good at Ashburton and then he got a bit crook, he got a bit colic and then he just didn’t come right after it,” said Wallis, who trains in partnership with Bernie Hackett. “We abandoned the trip and brought him home and just concentrated on getting him ready for this week.” While pleased with his progress, Wallis said Temporale will have his work cut out against his race fit rivals on Thursday. "Unfortunately, there were no trials last week to get a trial into him, so we have just had to work him at home,” she said. “He is as forward as we can get him, but he is not race hardened like those other ones. “If he was dead right and had had a bit of racing he would be right up towards them, but we will be going into it a little bit short. “We will be hoping for a little bit of luck to go our way. If one of them had bad luck he shouldn’t be far away.” TAB bookmakers have installed the eight-year-old gelding as a $41 fourth-favourite behind Sundees Son ($1.85), Bolt For Brilliance ($2.60), and Majestic Man ($5). All going to plan, Temporale will head to Cambridge Raceway on January 8 to contest the Group Three Cambridge Flying Stakes (1700m). “If he goes through tomorrow’s run well, we will go to Cambridge on the 8th and we will assess things from there,” Wallis said. Wallis is also looking forward to the undercard on the premier night at Auckland on Thursday. The evening will kick-off with Emma Frost, Special Way, and Mufasa Metro in the John Muirhead – Going Fishing Trot (2700m). "Emma Frost is a lovely trotter who generally trots all the way and puts herself in the race,” Wallis said.  “Special Way is a little bit inexperienced, the same with Mufasa Metro. But Mufasa Metro is probably the best of the three of them. He has had one start for one win, and he is a lovely horse in the making. “But on Thursday, Emma Frost is probably the best chance.” Wallis will also line-up Rain Mist and Muscle, and Kings Landing in the Jacobsen Headstones Handicap Trot (2700m).  “Rain Mist And Muscle has just grown another leg lately,” Wallis said. “She has stepped up and has been trotting really well. Todd (Mitchell, driver) had the choice and he opted to stick with her. She has got to be a chance in that race.  “King’s Landing is not quite up to those guys in the National and he is handicapped out of it again on 35m.  “We put Mark (Purdon) on him. He knows him and has trained him, so hopefully he can work some magic with him.” The anomaly in the predominantly trotting Hackett-Wallis barn, pacer Blitzembye, will also head to Alexandra Park to take his place in the Lincoln Farms Mobile Pace (2200m).  “He has got a good draw (4), so hopefully he can use it,” Wallis said. “He has got a bit of gate speed and he loves being handy on the pace.”

By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk    They've been at the trials in recent weeks and now the old firm of Ricky May and A G’s White Socks are about to re-unite at the races for the first time since his near death experience at the beginning of the year.     “I feel pretty fond of him,” said May, “he helped save my life… It was amazing how he pulled up that day.”  It was during the Central Otago Cup on January 2 when May’s heart stopped and he collapsed onto the Omakau track. He was revived on-course before being airlifted to Dunedin hospital.   May was later diagnosed with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy – a condition where the heart muscles thicken even though the heart itself is healthy. May has since had a cardioverter defibrillator implanted in his chest.   The seven-time New Zealand Cup-winning driver has made a remarkable recovery. He’s been back working on the family farm at Methven for months though it has been a relatively quiet time for him in the sulky with five wins since racing resumed post lockdown.  The most recent of those was Skippys Delight at Kurow on August 16.That takes his overall tally to 2954, third all-time behind Tony Herlihy (3535) and Maurice McKendry (3279).   May is not one for over-statement though as he reflects on his own experiences on January 2 and the COVID-19 pandemic he concedes “she’s been one helluva year”.  He’s rating his book of drives, including A G’sWhite Socks, on Friday - “it’s the best lot I’ve had for a while” - and is especially keen to get back in the sulky behind the seven-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven gelding, after being impressed by his form at the trials.  “He went super, he was phenomenal,” May said of A G’s White Socks’ trial at Rangiora when he started off 40 metres and finished second to Minstrel.   The Maurice Holmes Vase, a traditional lead-up to the New Zealand Cup, has attracted a top line-up including Cup favourite Self Assured, All Stars stablemate Princess Tiffany as well as the likes of Classie Brigade, Nandolo and Spirit of St Louis.  Fresh up May reckons the horse they call “Richie” is a chance, especially if the pace is on.   “He’s pretty ready…  hopefully he’ll behave himself at the start and there’s no doodling.”  As for his health May says he’s just “carrying on as normal” and that two specialists he’s seen in recent weeks are both “happy”.  With that and AG White Socks’ impending return, May can only hope that 2020 is finally looking up. 

By Jonny Turner, Harness News Desk    Champion reinsman Ricky May is set to make arguably the biggest comeback in New Zealand harness racing history when he drives at Addington on Friday. Few would have believed it possible for the star horseman to drive in a race again when he lay lifeless on the Omakau race track in January, surrounded by paramedics and off duty medical staff, who worked to revive his heart, which stopped after he collapsed and fell from the sulky of A G’s White Socks. May’s return to race day driving after suffering from hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, which must also rate as one of New Zealand sporting’s biggest ever comeback stories, was sealed when his cardiology specialist gave the all clear for the reinsman to return to the track on Monday. Naturally, the seven-time New Zealand Cup winner was delighted to get his ticket back to the races. Though the timing of his return could have come under warmer circumstances, May joked. “It is a pity it’s winter.” “But, other than that, it will be good to get back out there.” May has one focus ahead of his return – getting back driving as well as he was before his Omakau incident. “It probably hasn’t done me any harm having a break.” “I have been doing it flat out for forty odd years.” “Hopefully I can come back as good as I was – that is the main thing.” May has been itching to get back out on the track since returning to trackwork driving three months ago. “I haven’t been allowed to drive at the trials or workouts.” “I rang the stipes a month ago and I have had to get a clearance before I could even drive at workouts and trials.” “I went to the specialist [on Monday] and it was all good and he said everything is perfect.” May admits there could be a few nervous moments to be had on Friday night. “I guess I could be a wee bit nervous when I first get out there until I get a couple [of drives] out of the way.” “I just really hope I can drive a winner, that would be great.” May attended last week’s Friday night meeting at Addington with good friend, trainer Laurence Hanrahan. It could prove to be a big help in settling back in to race driving mode this week. “I hadn’t been to Addington or any races for months and it was actually a bit overwhelming – all the people.” “It was good to catch up with everyone and I think that will help when I go back this week.” “I will be able to concentrate on getting back in to the driving.” May will hardly need to reacquaint himself with the Brendon ‘Benny’ Hill trained Skippy’s Delight in race 2 on Friday night. The reinsman has been driving the horse in trackwork ahead of his return to the sulky. “Benny has been bringing Skippy’s Delight and Ranger Bomb to Ashburton for a few runs.” “They would have to be two of my best drives.” “Even though he was disappointing last week, I think Skippy’s Delight will be hard to beat.” Though he has already caught up with many of his friends and colleagues, May still has a few more people he wants to see. At the top of the list is the young reinswoman, who was among the first to rush to his side at Omakau and who performed life-saving CPR on him – Ellie Barron. “I haven’t caught up with Ellie yet – I am looking forward to catching up with her,” May said. “We talked over Zoom, but I haven’t seen her, so that will be really good.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

By Dave Di Somma - Harness News desk    Ricky May has heard the three words he wanted to from his specialist – “everything is perfect”. And with that the seven-time New Zealand Cup winner Ricky May has been cleared for a return to the track this Friday. “He said there wasn’t one blemish there at all.” May was fitted with a defibrillator following a near death experience at Omakau on January 2. Driving AG White Socks in the Central Otago Cup he fell to the track, and needed to be resuscitated. May says “they tell me it may never happen again.” Confident that his health is now back on track he will be too, as soon as Addington’s next meeting on Friday. “It’s been a while,” he said. When asked if he had missed it, he answered “I have actually”. A winner of 2949 races he has the 3000 mark clearly in his sights. If and when he achieves it he’ll just the third New Zealander to do so, joining Tony Herlihy (3530) and Maurice McKendry (3269). He got a taste of what Friday will bring with a cameo as a “stablehand” last Friday night helping out his long-time friend Laurence Hanrahan. “It was great catching up with people,” said May. And he’s been a man in demand as news of his return to race driving has filtered through. “There’s been quite a few ringing actually” Among the trainers keen to procure his services have been Brendon Hill and Paul Court. An Addington favourite is only days away from returning to the scene of his greatest triumphs.

Ricky May is determined his career in the sulky is "not going to end like that". The "that" May doesn't want to be the final act of his storied harness racing driving career was almost also the final act of his life. Racing viewers Australasia-wide were stunned when May collapsed lifeless in the sulky when leading the Central Otago Cup driving A G's White Socks on January 2. When he fell to the track, the racing world held its breath.   May's heart stopped without warning, his official diagnosis later being hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. He lay motionless on the Omakau track, receiving CPR from junior driver Ellie Barron and was soon after treated by medics. But when the 61-year-old woke up in Dunedin Hospital two days later doctors told him he had probably been dead for 10 minutes that day. A few days later he had surgery to have a cardioverter defibrillator implanted, a device that delivers a shock through a wire which runs into a chamber of the heart and May will have it in his chest for the rest of his life in case his heart stops again. But two months on from that operation May hasn't needed the defibrillator yet and is hoping he never will. "The doctors told me if it was going to happen again it would most likely be in the first two months," May told the Herald. "So I am now going to get on with my life. "I feel good, almost back to normal. I have a few aches and pains from the fall and the operation but my energy levels are good." May is back working on his Methven farm but last week he started back at his other job. He jumped in the sulky and drove fast work. "It was good to do it again, but I was a little tentative just at the start," says the man who has won seven New Zealand Cups. "The doctors say I can go back to driving but they are a bit worried about the shaking and vibrations that can go through the body on a rougher surface. "So ideally they have said to start out slow and if possible maybe wait six months before I go back to race driving." So that is what May is planning to do. He admits he might be lured back earlier but at this stage he plans to be back driving in races next season, which starts August 1. "I want to be careful for a while and to be honest I wouldn't have too many good drives coming up in the next few months. "And I don't mind missing the winter racing," he laughs. But May will 100 per cent, as much as any of us can predict our futures, be back. "I have to go back to it because I can't let what happened be the way it ends. That wouldn't sit comfortably with me." The next great goal is obvious for a man who has driven 2949 winners in his domestic career. Joining Tony Herlihy and Maurice McKendry as the only 3000-win horsepeople (drivers or jockeys) in New Zealand is an honour May deserves. "I can go back to driving any time I want now, once I get a medical certificate which shouldn't be a problem. But I will wait and do it right. But I will be back. I am looking forward to getting back out there."   Michael Guerin

By Jonny Turner Invercargill horsewoman Ellie Barron is being hailed a hero after coming to the aid of fellow harness racing driver Ricky May when the champion reinsman collapsed during a race. May was revived after suffering a medical event, slumping in his sulky and falling to the track when driving A G's White Socks at a Central Otago meeting. He was in a serious but stable condition yesterday in the intensive care unit at Dunedin Hospital. Barron was among the first to May's side after he fell. She began giving CPR on the reinsman with the help of another driver, Lawrence McCormick. Barron is being hailed a hero by many who witnessed the incident. She was quick to deflect any praise and said her concern was for May's recovery. "I am just hoping for the best for Ricky, it is sounding positive from all accounts. I just hope he improves, really." Barron is a trained physiotherapist who has worked with the Southland rugby team. She credited her training for providing her with the skills to help revive May. "He was breathing when I got there, so I was worried about his neck and head. Then we had to change plan a wee bit." Barron also credited the paramedics and off duty medical staff that rushed out of the Omakau crowd to assist May. "It all happened so fast – there were two doctors there in what felt like a minute, then the paramedics came." "Everyone that could help did – it was good – but terrifying at the same time." Ricky May is in intensive care after collapsing during a race. Photo / file An intensive care paramedic played a crucial role in stabilising May, Barron said. "She waltzed in and she was so calm and she sort of just took over. I feel like he was so lucky to have been where he was when it happened. He could have been at home on the tractor." May's horse, A G's White Socks, has drawn praise following Thursday's incident. The 6yr-old is known to be a slightly moody type on race days. That was evident when the horse bolted frantically back to the stables after winning a race at Oamaru in 2016. But the horse did not panic without the control of his driver and angled wide on the track before May fell from his sulky. The remaining horses and drivers were able to easily manoeuvre past May when the race was called off. Canterbury driver John Dunn was driving the horse following A G's White Socks when May collapsed. He showed quick reactions to slow his horse, Heisenberg, when it was apparent May was unwell. Courtesy of The New Zealand Herald

3 January 2020   Craig Wiggins, on behalf of the May family has expressed their thanks for the outpouring of concern from the harness racing community regarding Ricky May’s condition after the incident at the Omakau meeting yesterday. “Ricky remains in Dunedin hospital and at this stage there is no confirmation regarding what caused Ricky to collapse. Speculation regarding the cause is unhelpful and we respectfully ask that this ceases until more is known. The May family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to all of those people who assisted Ricky yesterday. We will provide a further update when we are in a position to do so and would appreciate the family now being given space and privacy to focus on Ricky’s recovery”.       Ken Spicer, HRNZ Chair, who was on course at Omakau yesterday said, “We wish to sincerely thank all of those who provided assistance to Ricky yesterday. The reaction from all concerned was tremendous, starting with the actions of the other drivers in the race in averting any further incidents, through to all of those who were so quickly on hand to provide medical assistance to Ricky before he was transported to hospital by the Air Rescue service. Our thoughts are with Ricky’s family and friends at this difficult time and I am sure all racing fans will join me in wishing Ricky well as he recovers”. For more information, please contact: Ken Spicer, Chair, HRNZ 021 320 106  Peter Jensen, CEO, HRNZ 021 998 982

Well-known harness racing driver Ricky May has suffered a "medical event" and been transported by air to Dunedin Hospital, the chairman of the stewards in the New Zealand Racing Integrity Unit has confirmed. May was driving the race favourite A G's White Socks in the Central Otago Cup at 4.11pm before about 5000 people. Racing journalist Michael Guerin says May appears to have collapsed in the sulky while leading the main race at Omakau this afternoon. Guerin says that a helicopter landed on the track to take May to hospital. The chairman of the stewards in the Racing Integrity Unit, Vinny Munro, has confirmed May suffered a medical event. He said all races at Omakau have been abandoned. Munro said he is not able to confirm any further information at this stage. Racegoers at the meet say that there was an announcement that May was in a critical but stable condition. Witnesses say he appeared to fall back in the sulky while the horse continued to race, then fall onto the track. A witness at the track said race officials rushed to his aid. Afterwards, many people who went to cash in their tickets stayed to donate the money to St John's Ambulance or May's family. May has driven almost 3000 race winners in New Zealand - making him the third most successful driver in New Zealand trotting history. He is a seven-time winner of the NZ Trotting Cup, New Zealand's biggest annual harness race. Radio New Zealand

The Cardrona Distillery/MLT Three Year Old Harness Racing Stakes at Gore last Friday was the most talked about race of the day.  The field, albeit small in numbers, was packed with possibilities and proved to be an early indication of how exciting the Southern Supremacy Stakes could be later in the season. From a wide draw Matty Williamson used plenty of gas early with second favourite Spirit Of St Louis and out of the first bend he was in front with favourite Minstrel and Ricky May dropping in to trail. “I used him up a bit early. I would have been quite keen to stay in front but it was just the way it worked out,” said May referring to the early rush. Spirit Of St Louis stayed in front and sprinted hard with 400 metres to run. But Minstrel proved too powerful at the finish getting up to beat a gallant Spirit Of St Louis by three quarters of a length. “He does give me the feel of being a good horse. He’s only going to get better because it’s only his fourth start today,” May said in summarising his drive on Minstrel. The three year old gelding by Rocknroll Hanover is trained at Woodend Beach by David and Catherine Butt. The winning time was 2-45.7 with the last 800 metres run in 56.1 and the 400 metres in 26.6 which was outstanding considering the rain and hail which was falling at the time. It was Minstrel’s second win in the province and he’s now fully qualified for the Supremacy Final in April which the Butts won with Ohoka Texas in 2011. Minstrel has been staying with local trainer Brett Gray at Ryal Bush for the last two weeks and impressively won his previous start at Winton seven days ago. “It was a better field today than last time. Brett thought he’d improved a bit. I think he might be right.” Of the beaten brigade Spirit Of St Louis, after leading in trying conditions, was very brave when running second and the run by Pembrook Playboy for third just two lengths from the winner would encourage his connections to look at travelling north for some the bigger three year old races in Canterbury. By Bruce Stewart  

The Greg and Nina Hope trained Luella smashed the New Zealand harness racing record for 2yo fillies over a mobile 2400m, yesterday at the Nelson Trotting Clubs winter meeting. Luella  2 B f Sweet Lou - Stella Franco  (Badlands Hanover) ran the mobile 2400m mobile in 2-57.7 which broke the old record by nearly 4 seconds. The old record was held by Kotare Elite who ran 3-02.6 at Ashburton in June 2017. Driver Ricky May had back to back wins when the Benny Hill trained Koromiko Eyre gained an overdue win in the following race. Koromiko Eyre 4 B g Ohoka Arizona - Hanover Eyre (Peruvian Hanover) looked likely to run another second 50m before the finishing post until the leader Stetson knocked off and Koromiko Eyre came again to get his head in front on the line. Koromiko Eyre winning for driver Ricky May _______________________________________________________________________________ Tony Herlihy notched up another amazing milestone at Alexandra Park on Friday night when he became the first New Zealand harness racing driver to get to 3500 wins. Herlihy won onboard the impressive Gambit who won his second race in a row in a quick 2-41.8  for the 2200m mobile.  Maurice McKendry is the closest to Herlihy in the all time wins leaderboard on 3248 wins. (see leaderboard below) Gambit winning on Friday night.   New Zealands leading drivers with 2000 wins or more. Driver Total Wins Tony Herlihy 3500 Maurice McKendry 3248 Ricky May 2916 David Butcher 2378 Dexter Dunn 2226 Colin DeFilippi 2021     Harnesslink Media

Champion reinsman Tony Herlihy is willing to swap one of the greatest milestones in New Zealand racing history for a Harness Jewels win this weekend. But he admits he might struggle to get either. Herlihy took his record total of domestic driving wins to 3497 when Gambit won at Alexandra Park on Friday night, meaning he is a good night at the office away from becoming the first driver or jockey in this country to 3500 wins. While 3500 is hardly a number that roles off the tongue, every winner Herlihy drives is a new record as Maurice McKendry, who sits next to Herlihy in the Alexandra Park drivers room almost every week, is the only other horseperson to partner over 3000 winners here. Ricky May is the next reinsman honing in on the number, with 2913 domestic wins in his career and with Dexter Dunn driving so successfully in North America, it could be a long time before anybody in either code threatens Herlihy's numbers. David Walsh holds the record for a jockey with 2451 victories. But Herlihy could end the weekend still stuck on 3497 as he won't drive at Alexandra Park this Friday night because he will be in Christchurch preparing stable reps Tickle Me Pink and Bolt For Brilliance for the Jewels on Saturday. Bolt For Brilliance is already in Canterbury and won well enough at the Addington trials on Saturday to suggest he is not the worst chance in the juvenile trot but Tickle Me Pink is the second favourite for the 3-year-old trot and has been one of the comeback stories of the season. Her week has not gone to plan though, as she was one of 11 horses whose flight from Auckland to Christchurch has been delayed by fog in Canterbury, but with the weather there changing, all the horses are expected to make it to Jewels day. Herlihy warns if the worst happened and the flight can't make it, Tickle Me Pink wouldn't be risked travelling down by road. "It is too late for that, so we are sticking with the plane to get her down, but it sounds like they will get them here," Herlihy said last night. While Tickle Me Pink has won three Alexandra Park races in impressive fashion since returning from a nine-month break, Herlihy doubts she can beat the best version of Enhance Your Calm should he turn up on Saturday. "He is a bit of beast and unless he galloped and lost quite a bit of ground, he might be too good for all of us," says Herlihy. "But our filly has a touch of class and is racing really well. I am very proud of what she has achieved in basically a month of racing after coming back from such a long break." As for the hitherto unreached 3500 wins, Herlihy didn't even know he was that close until informed on Friday night and knows milestones are impossible to plan. "The last time I knew one was coming up was the 3000-win one and the family came to the races a couple of weeks in a row to be there for it and I didn't drive any winners," he laughs. "So it will happen when it happens, but it will still be a nice number to get to." Now 60, Herlihy is still driving as well as ever but not as often. He rarely drives in New Zealand outside of Alexandra Park, Addington and the better Cambridge meetings, often handing the latter opportunities to stable No2 Tony Cameron. And considering it has taken him over eight years to get from 3000 to the brink of 3500, he isn't even entertaining making it to 4000 domestic career wins, which could mean driving until he was 70. "I don't think I'll be doing that, although I am a very young 60," he says with his customary giggle.   Michael Guerin

The Greg and Nina Hope trained A G's White Socks got a desreved harness racing win in the Airpark Canterbury Gr3 Rangiora Classic yesterday, when he fired home late down the centre of the track to upset a brave Thefixer right on the line. Driven by Ricky May the underrated pacer had been the bridemaid in Group races on several occasions this season but yesterday his usual fast finishing burst was enough to see him home by a nose in the $27,000 race. The son of Rock N Roll Heaven will now be put out for a spell before preparing for a New Zealand Cup tilt in November. Thefixer was tough in second for Natalie Rasmussen after working around to lead with 1400m to go and then fighting hard and only getting beaten right on the line. He too is headed for a six week break while his third and fourth placed stablemates Chase Auckland and Ashley Locaz who both performed well fresh, are being aimed for the rich 4yo feature races the Taylor Mile and NZ Messenger in Auckland at the end of the month. A G's White Socks winning the Airpark Canterbury Gr3 Rangiora Classic   Harnesslink Media

Monbet’s road back to the top of New Zealand trotting just took another detour.  But driver Ricky May is hoping his latest setback doesn’t cost the former Horse of the Year a shot at the Rowe Cup in a few weeks.  The great trotter has only had one start back after a nearly two and a half year layoff during which he has battled a range of leg problems and general unsoundness.  With a race under his belt last month he won at the trials on March 13 and was all set for his return to group one action in the $100,000 NZ Trot Championships at Addington on Friday.  Except Monbet won’t be there after developing a splint in one of his hind legs.  “It shouldn’t be that big a deal and Greg (Hope, trainer) wasn’t that worried about it when I spoke to him yesterday,” said regular driver Ricky May.  “He was about 70 per cent on starting him this week so it wasn’t that bad but he has obviously decided against it.  “It is a real shame because he trialed so well and Greg thought he was ready to go after giving him a proper workout the other day. “But obviously it is still annoying him so it looks like he will miss this Friday.”  Hope could not be contacted last night.  Friday’s 2600m mobile was to be the first clash of trotting’s big three in Monbet, Speeding Spur and Marcoola.  The latter two are in the nominations for Friday’s group one and Monbet could theoretically join them still has nominations have been extended until this morning.  But if he doesn’t then May hopes Monbet can be back on track for the Anzac Cup (April 26) and Rowe Cup (May 3) both at Alexandra Park. The Trotting Champs won’t be without real depth though as rising stars Winterfell, King’s Landing and Sundees Son step up to the open class group one level for the first time. Friday night’s meeting is one of the strongest of the year with the $200,000 New Zealand Derby for the pacer and the $100,000 equivalent for the trotters as well as the Easter Cup.  Ultimate Sniper retains favouritism for the pacing Derby even after an expensive last-start gallop, rated a $1.70 by the TAB ahead of stablemate Jesse Duke at $4. Letterkenny Boy, who is third favourite in the futures market for the Derby has not been nominated and is instead entered for a lower grade race on Friday night so is very much a case of punter’s beware.  Enhance Your Calm will be unbackable in the Trotting Derby while the Easter Cup is likely to bring together New Zealand Cup winner Thefixer, Auckland Cup winner Turn It Up and Miracle Mile hero Spankem. But the shock of that race is the entry of superstar three-year-old filly Princess Tiffany, because her high rating means there are no other races on Friday, outside the Derby, she is eligible for. But she won’t be starting it was just trainers Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen making a point about how poorly off the best three-year-olds, especially fillies, can be treated by the rating and programming systems when the country’s best filly can’t find a suitable race. Michael Guerin

The two most important drives of Ricky May’s weekend could hardly be more different.  But that doesn’t mean the result will be.  May treks north to Alexandra Park tomorrow night to try and lead throughout the $125,000 Pascoes Northern Oaks with Wainui Creek.  That is not giving away any pre-race secrets as May, who can sometimes lean toward the conservative, is open about what he intends to do in the classic. “She hasn’t had a lot of good draws and she has finally got one so I will be trying to use it,” says May.  “So she will attempting to stay in front and if they are good enough to come from behind her and beat her, then so be it.” Wainui Creek returned to racing with a storming late third at Alexandra Park last Friday and after drawing the ace she and arch rival Belle Of Montana (two) completely dominate the market for the Oaks, the feature at Alexandra Park’s premier meeting to start their Derby week.   Wainui Creek has been able to get in front of Belle Of Montana the last two times they have met and been run down by the northern speed machine both times but this time she could be on the markers while the latter could be covering extra ground in the running line, so often the kiss of death in Alexandra Park staying races.  “That other filly (Belle Of Montana) is very fast but I think you will see the best of Wainui Creek up to the 2700m,” says May. While May has only one plan in the Oaks he is going to let the horse do the talking when champion trotter Monbet returns on Sunday.  The incredible trotter hasn’t raced for over 27 months and at times during that period it felt like his injuries would rob us of ever seeing him again. But after a bold trial at Rangiora last week he has accepted to start in a 1980m mobile trot at Addington on Sunday afternoon in which he has drawn the outside of the front line.  “Greg (Hope, trainer) thought it was easier to go back to the races than chase them off a log mark at the trials,” explains May.  “But after such a long break from racing it is a big, big ask to expect him to win.  “He felt great at the trials last week and most importantly very sound but winning might be another thing.”  So how does a driver approach driving the best trotter, and maybe even the best harness horse in the country, fresh up after such a gigantic break?  “I can’t go out there with a plan. I will have to just drive him how he feels but I really don’t think he will win.”   Michael Guerin

Harness Racing New Zealand is thrilled to announce that two of our industry participants have made the finals for this year’s Norwood Rural Games Awards. For the first time Harness Racing was included in the awards, which are held to celebrate sports with animal and rural backgrounds. Held in conjunction with the Hilux New Zealand Rural Games in Palmerston North on March 9 and 10, the Norwood Awards are to be held on Friday 8 March at Awapuni Racecourse. Sheree Tomlinson has made the final three for the Fonterra New Zealand Rural Youth of the Year, with last year’s Australasian Young Drivers Championship victory and her history making Dominion Handicap win propelling her into the final. Whilst Ricky May made the final cut for the prestigious Toyota Lifetime Legacy category. The award is for sportspeople who have consistently delivered at the elite level in their sport – fitting for a seven time New Zealand Cup winning driver, with strong rural roots through his ‘other’ career in agriculture. Harness Racing New Zealand congratulates Sheree and Ricky on this huge achievement to just make the finals, given that this has been the most competitive year for the judges to decide on just three finalists. We wish them all the very best for the Awards on March 8. Full information on the Rural Games can be found at 2019 Norwood Rural Games Awards Finalists Norwood NZ Rural Sportsman Of The Year: • Tony Bouskill – Fencing – Napier • Kieran Fowler – Gumboot Throwing – Dunedin • James Kilpatrick – Tree Climbing - Tauranga Skellerup NZ Rural Sportswoman Of The Year: • Nicky Ward-Allen – Tree Climbing – Eltham • Pagan Karauria - Wool Handling – Alexandra • Bex Baynes – Sheep Dog Trials - Wairoa Fonterra NZ Rural Youth Of the Year: • Briar Burnett-Grant – Equestrian - Taupo • Bradley McDowell – Cowboy Action Shooting - Wanganui • Sheree Tomlinson – Harness Racing - Canterbury Levno Contribution To Rural Sport: • David James – NZ Arb – Blenheim • Neil Sidwell – Shearing – Waiwera • Nick Liefting – Fencing – Pukekohe Toyota Lifetime Legacy: • Ricky May – Harness Racing – Ashburton • Hugh McCarrol – Shearing – Whangamata • Maurice Beatson – Equestrian – Dannevirke   HRNZ Marketing

Border rivalry will be to the fore when the What The Hill Drivers Challenge takes place at Ascot Park Raceway in Invercargill on Friday (23 November). The challenge repeats last year’s successful format where a team of six from North of the Waitaki took on a team from South of the Waitaki. The North of the Waitaki team took the team honours on that occasion spearheaded by a former Southlander now domiciled in Canterbury, Gavin Smith, who took the Individual honours. However both teams were tied on points going into the final heat so it was a close run thing. As the defending champion Smith returns as part of the north team this year joined by Ricky May, Blair Orange, Samantha Ottley, Tim Williams and Jim Curtin. Attempting to wrest the silverware back onto this side of the Waitaki is the South of the Waitaki team led by the Williamson brothers – Nathan, Matthew and Brad along with Brent Barclay, Craig Ferguson and Allan Beck. The invited drivers compete in four heats with points allocated to the first five home on each occasion with 10 points for a win, 7 for second, 5 for third, 3 for fourth and 1 for fifth. Each driver receives the points they accumulate towards finding an individual champion while their points also go into their teams score to find the champion team. The event is a twilight meeting with the first race timed to start at 3.38pm. It is a perfect night to come out and enjoy some top class racing. Admission to the course will be free. One punter will take home a meal voucher from Level One Restaurant & Bar in Invercargill when a draw of all losing on course tote tickets is made after Race 6 while also after race 6 all children on course receive a free bag of lollies.   HRNZ Marketing

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