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Invercargill Jeweller Kevin Schuck can thank a handful of slow gallopers for his switch to Standardbreds and hence his love of the straight out trotter. Schuck was born in Dunedin and has a mix of European blood running through his veins. His grandfather was born in Austria and he also has German and Dutch ancestry. Maybe this explains his love of trotters. His father Bill, was in the New Zealand Police force for over twenty years and the family moved to Invercargill when Kevin was about eight months old. He attended St Patricks Primary School before heading to Marist Primary and then on to Marist College. At the age of thirteen his father got him an after school job with local jeweller Russell Coats and Kevin has been in that industry ever since, even though he initially didn’t have an interest in jewellery. “Dad had a real interest in antiques, trying to make the odd dollar here and there, wheeling and dealing. I really wanted to have something to do with wildlife like being a wild life ranger. But after a few years working for Russ I thought ‘I can do this.’ Coats and Schuck eventually became partners in the jewellery business and also in a host of other ventures over the years. “We’ve had a go at a few things. Coatsy and I had a go at farming possums – that failed dismally. I’ve had goats and reared calves.” As an twenty year old Kevin Schuck bought fifteen acres at Longbush just outside of Invercargill and that lead to his involvement with horses. “I had some money put aside to put in some drainage tiles. I didn’t know the front end from the back end of a horse. Russ said ‘would you like to make a bit of money’ so we put $600 ($300 each) for a place on a galloper. It was the first bet I ever had. It paid $2.40. For the next week and a half I didn’t leave the Northern TAB thinking this was an easy lark. I was just betting on their names and form. After a week and a half I‘d earned $600 to $700 but after that, it all went pear shaped and has been ever since. ”   Kevin also worked in The Gold Room on the West Coast for seven months in the late 1980s and one horse he vividly remembers at the time was Besta Kara which won three races for Bill Cummings and a further six for Doody and Kevin Townley. The Gold Room was owned by Rhett Robinson who owned a mine in the area and turned gold nuggets into jewellery. “After I left he got into breeding in a big way.” Robinson and his daugther Fiona bred Village Green under the Aird-righ Bloodstock Limited banner. She was by Tuapeka Knight out of Totara Road and won three races. They also bred from Village Green with her best foal being Indy Village which was by In The Pocket and won seven races when trained by Robbie Holmes. The first horse Kevin owned was a galloper called Mr Jay Jay (Palatable – Miss Jumbo Jet) which was trained by Longbush trainer Kelly Thompson. Mr Jay Jay had three starts for an 8th, 6th and 15th before breaking a leg at the trials. One of his next ventures in the galloping game was through his brother Stephen who had a bit to do with local trainer Cecil Beckett (trainer of Wellington Cup winner Ed). “I ended up buying Ravensdale off Cecil. Dad and I went halves in her and we bred a couple of Codeenes. We also bred a colt called Fast Forward which Cecil wanted to buy but Dad and I hung onto it. I ended up swapping a car for Dad’s share. I gave him a Mitsubishi Tredia Turbo for his half. He drove the car for about 15 kilometres before the turbo blew up. He was very sour about that and probably still is.”    Ravensdale was by Grey Gull out of Game Girl.  Fast Forward won once, at Gore in October 1994. Trained by Lenny Casey who shared in his ownership he was sold to Macau for $25,000. “To be fair galloping was not my go. In general if you want to get to the top in galloping you have to go to the top sires which cost more. That’s why I got into trotting.” Thus Schuck switched gaits. His first Standardbred winner was pacer Barbed Wire; a Majestic Chance gelding out of Lively Air which ended up winning four races from Murray Brown’s stable. The horse’s first win was at a Southland OTB trial in December 1991 when driven by junior driver Richard Stevens. Kevin’s interest in trotters started to develop. “Because there’s less of them you’ve got a better chance of getting a winner. The game has changed now, they’re going that quick. Going back twenty years you just needed something that could just trot all the way and if it stayed down you’d generally get a cheque. That’s changed and they’ve got to have speed now. That’s the French and American influence coming through.”    The first trotter he raced was Dean’s Pride which was bred by John Lischner who initially trained the Game Pride gelding. His only win in twenty five starts was for Murray Brown at Forbury in January 1991 driven by Henry Skinner. “I remember Wattie Muir walking past and saying to Russ and I ‘there we are boys you’ve had your win.’ Schuck said he and Coats didn’t understand what he meant. However he now says “I saw what he meant. It was his only win. It’s not that easy this game.” Schuck also raced Sundon trotter Don Pauli which won two races for Brian Norman after stints with Kevin Townley and Alan Paisley. Don Pauli also raced in America trotting a mile in 1-55.2 and winning another eight races there. Schuck also raced Don Pauli’s full brother Son Of Elgin and half-brother Leonard. Leonard, a Chiola Hanover gelding and the second foal of Elgin Princess, was initially trained by Townley but won his four races for Paisley who shared in the ownership with Schuck and JF Smith. He was exported to Australia and won another four races there. Elgin Princess the winner of six races was out of Elgin Lady which won five. This family goes back to Desmond’s Pride mare Bettagain whose best two foals were Cee Ar (11 wins) and Tronso (10 wins). Tronso is the second dam of Elgin Princess. Cee Ar, trained by Roderick DeFilippi, raced in the mid to late 1970s when there were a host of very good trotters including Easton Light, Waipounamu, Screws Loose, Bachelor Tom, Frontier, Edis Nova, Dupreez, Robyn Evander, Castleton’s Pride, Petite Evander and Nigel Craig. Cee Ar’s best wins were in the 1974 Rowe Cup and the 1975 New Zealand Trotting FFA. Schuck bred from Elgin Princess from 2004. The mare left Muscle Yankee colt Leave It Alone which won once from twelve starts, Lady Eileen (Armbro Invasion) which was unraced and Mr Mayfly (Earl) which won six races here and a further eight in Australia. He’s still racing in South Australia. Mr Mayfly was Elgin Princess’s last foal but Kevin continues to breed from Lady Eileen. Her first foal was the talented De Vito which has won five races and has had stints with Southern trainers Billy Heads and Nathan Williamson. He was then trained in the north by Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett but has since returned to Southland where Robert Wilson will train him. “There’s always been something niggling at him. He’s a head tosser.” Lady Eileen has since left foals by Continentalman, The Pres, Angus Hall, Dream Vacation and Bacardi Lindy. The Bacardi Lindy colt named Napoleon Bonaparte was bred by D.R.Beckingsale. Schuck also ended up breeding from another branch of the family, Elgin Princess’s first foal Sylvia Star. “Kevin (Townley) offered me a couple of mares to breed from and I ended up taking Sylvia Star. I wanted to go to Chiola Hanover and Kevin had a service to him which he wasn’t keen on using. I leased Sylvia Star off him for one season and bred Cochy Bondhu. I went back to Kevin a few years later and ended up buying Elgin Princess. I must have had too much money back then when I was young.” Sylvia’s Star has left a host of winners including Constar (7), Mitchell (5), The Promise (6), Lenny B (4 New Zealand and 20 USA wins) War Spirit (2 New Zealand and 4 Australia including the Group One Breeders Crowns for three year old colts and geldings). During the early years he also bought into trotting royalty with the purchase of Sundon’s Sister – a half-sister by Gee Whiz II to Sundon. “When we got her home we found out she had a condition called Bog Spavin (soft swelling on the medial surface of the hock joint). Dick Prendergast trained her. She ended up winning one race but she cost a shit load of money. I thought I’d put her in foal to Call Me Now. Kevin Townley leased that foal off me but it died in a thunderstorm, snapping its neck.”              Schuck shared in the ownership of Sundon’s Sister with Russell Coats and two other jewellers Bas O’Connell and Ian Shackley. Her win was at Invercargill in October 1996. She was exported to Australia in August 1999 but never raced over there. She did leave Likeaplayboy (Dream Vacation) which won 24 of its 104 starts and banked $96,669.00 for his owners. Two of Sundon’s Sisters’ daughters have bred on. Springhasprung has left a couple of handy types in Miss Cully (Great Success) which has won four races and Aussie Beach Blonde (Bacardi Lindy) which has won six. Another daughter Sister Ra has left I’m Princess Sophie which has won 14 races and ran second in the 2017 Group Two South Australian Trotters Cup at Globe Derby. So in total Schuck is breeding from four: Lady Eileen, Streaming Sunbeam, Overcast and Cochy Bondhu. Cochy Bondhu (Chiola Hanover – Sylvia Star) won four races and has left Overcast (9 wins), Coppertone Lad (1 win) and Over The Love (3 wins from just 8 starts). Schuck says Over The Love, which is by Love You, has shown plenty of potential for Canterbury trainer Ken Barron. “Another one which I can’t take the credit for is Over The Love. Frank Marrion and I did a one for one swap. I bred Coppertone Lad and he bred Over The Love. Frank didn’t do the paperwork and left Cochy Bondhu in my name so I’m getting all the credit for it (Over The Love) which I shouldn’t be.” As an owner his most successful trotter to date has been Overcast, a Sundon mare which finished racing this season winning nine races for him and trainer Alan Paisley. She was served by Majestic Son but didn’t hold so she’ll be served by Love You this season. Other foals out of Cochy Bondhu are a colt by Dream Vacation called Cochy Malc which Ken Barron bought as a weanling and a Father Patrick colt named Father On Down. He’s also breeding from Streaming Sunbeam which he brought in 2011. “After I sold Sundon’s Sister I got a bit more money and thought bugger this I want to get back into that breed. I bought Streaming Sunbeam which was by Armbro Invasion out of A Touch Of Sun. Streaming Sunbeam was a very average horse but had very strong genetics.”   She was trained over a 20 start career by Alan Paisley and Billy Heads and her best two runs were for Paisley - a second and a third. Bred by Dennis Bennett and Linda Joyce, A Touch Of Sun won five races and is out of elite broodmare Sungait Song the dam of champion trotter and sire Sundon (27 wins), Arnsong (9 wins), Roydon Arnie (9 wins), Sungait Reb (15 wins) and Sunning (8 wins). Streaming Sunbeam’s foals to date are; Spotlight The Valley (Skyvalley), Danangus Fella (Angus Hall colt) and Steaming Live (Muscle Mass filly).  She’s just foaled to Sundon. Ross Jones with Streaming Sunbeam and her day old Sundon foal - Photo Supplied Of the four broodmares he’s breeding from he’s most excited about progeny out of Overcast. “Because there’s a chance we could breed something pretty smart. There wouldn’t be too many mares that have Sundon, Gee Whiz II and Chiola Hanover in their pedigree. Without a standout there’s some still nice racehorses in there and I think the first five or six generations are all race winners.” With a host of stallions to choose from Schuck says it’s becoming more difficult to match his mares. “Every year I have everything worked out on paper, then I listen to people and read books and then my breeding theory just goes out the back door. We are spoilt here for what we can get now. There are just so many new stallions coming through and you’ve got to weigh up the cost. You also have the same problem as all breeders have – are these stallions going to be in vogue in two years’ time? Even if you’re not breeding for the sale you still want to try and breed a commercial race horse that if it shows potential you can sell and even as a weanling there’ll be interest from trainers to buy it.” Schuck has decided to send all his mares to Love You this coming season – at this stage. “The best value for money, in my mind is Love You. If you look at the rest of the world there’s no doubt that Muscle Hill is up on a pedestal at the moment. If I had the money though Muscle Hill would perhaps be worth a punt.” Some consideration was given to what he reckons are two underrated stallions in Majestic Son and Bacardi Lindy. “The thing with my breed is that most of the progeny get better with time. With Love You you can’t beat the statistics. For eight grand you’re getting what was the best in the world. I know it’s not there now but he’s still right up there.” Although Kevin has been to the national sales as a buyer he’d love to return as a seller but is just biding his time, aware that it’s an exact science. “If we can get a Love You out of Overcast we’d consider it. They’ve got to be 100 percent correct or you’re wasting your time. Until we get something that’s 100 percent we’ll just have to keep chipping away.” As a breeder he says the Rowe Cup is the race he’d most like to win but it’s just as big a thrill seeing a horse win a maiden race. “When I was getting started the Rowe Cup at the time was the prestige race to win as a trotter but there’s so many others now.” Schuck is one of the few in the south breeding just straight trotters. He’s become a student of pedigree but remains very much hands off when it comes to horses. “I’d rather walk a cow around. Mike Brown (who was a well know Southland vet) once said ‘if you’re not confident with a horse don’t go near them because you’ll get hurt.’ No one has ever taught me and at 55 I have no desire to start learning now either. Better to stick to my jewellery.”   Bruce Stewart

Welcome to the Harness Half Hour podcast brought to you by HRNZ marketing. Jess Smith brings the latest harness racing news and interviews with colorful and interesting industry participants from New Zealand and around the world. This week's show features Robbie Holmes, Charlotte Purvis, Carl Officer and Harness Bookie Richard Wilson.   Jess Smith

First starter Mighty Conqueror was very impressive when he won at Invercargill yesterday. The three year old gelding was bred by Mark Shirley and his best friend Malcolm Dewe and was broken in by Robbie Holmes. Shirley trains the American Ideal gelding with his wife Debbie. “He came down to me as a two year old. He’s just taken time to mature. He would have been racing before Christmas but he got kicked on the back leg so we put him aside. We’ve just been educating him at the workouts and trials. He’s a very nice horse with a big motor. He’s highly intelligent and he’s a supreme athlete - bottomless. I haven’t seen the bottom of him yet. We might have a bit of fun with this one,” he said. Shirley who's not getting too far ahead of himself, says the final of the latest Nuggets series next week at Winton will be the horse’s next start. “We’ll assess things after that,” he said when asked about starting in the Supremacy. The geldings winning time as an impressive 2-43.1 for the 2200 metre mobile. Mighty Conqueror winning on debut     - Photo Bruce Stewart. Shirley and Dewe have had horses together since they were teenagers including Dewy Boy (twenty one start maiden), Ochiltree Boy (trained by good mate Donny Morrison) and more recently Cullens Avenue (two wins). “To be fair, before we got into the Ballroom Babe family, we didn’t have a lot of luck. Malcolm does the breeding and we’re trying to get into the high end. We bought the mare off Mike O’Brien. Shane (driver Shane Walkinshaw) said he jogged it. The time was good. I don’t like to back them up that quick but I think he’ll be fine.” Mighty Conqueror is a three year old by American Ideal out of the Presidential Ball mare Ballroom Babe. She won seven races and has left Beckinsdale the winner of ten and the Brett Gray trained stayer Young Conqueror which has won five races.  Meanwhile seven year old trotter Splash Cola won her second race this season when she took out the main trotting feature of the day. She beat a game Its Elvis by a neck. It was the Sundon seven year old mares sixth win in just twenty seven starts.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing Mighty Conqueror winning his first start  

Two of the progeny of classy mare Kiwi Ingenuity won at the Winton meeting today. Kiwis Are Flying capped off his solid Canterbury form by winning the Hydroflow Three Year Old Mobile Pace. “He’s been a bit unlucky up home and he’s always struck one a bit better than him. He’s only a wee fellow and I think he’ll improve,” said trainer driver Robbie Holmes after the three year old Bettor’s Delight colt's win. From barrier two Holmes took Kiwis Are Flying straight to the lead and he won easily by two and a quarter lengths from another Canterbury visitor Franco Noah. Kiwis Are Flying is now qualified for the last $12,000 Nuggets Final on the grass at Ascot Park on Saturday 3rd March. “He hasn’t run on the grass. He’s only eaten it so far. He’s a nice enough pacer though.” Later on the programme his full-sister Kiwi On Show did the same thing – leading and holding off all challengers to win her race. “That’s her go in front. Her mum was the same. It was pretty windy down the back. We had to face it twice – once off the gate and then in the next round.” Back to the winners circle - Photo Bruce Stewart Holmes says Kiwi On Show struggles with racing at night in the damp air so that’s why he’s ventured to Southland six times for daytime racing in the warmer temperatures. Of those six visits she's won twice and been placed another three times. Both horses were bred by former Southlander Hamish Scott, his wife Dr Kim Lawson and Equine Investment Limited. “Hamish worked out that she had to race at a certain temperature.”    Holmes says Kiwi On Show is likely to be retired at the end of this season. “She’s got a good mile time 0.1 behind her mother’s Jewels time. Hamish has her booked into Art Major. If she keeps jumping up (improving) you never know,” he said, hoping that she may race for his stable for another season. Both horses are out of the Christian Cullen mare Kiwi Ingenuity which won eleven of her twenty seven starts and $523,200 in stakes. “Everythings been small out of the mare. Both the horses here are small and the Mach Three that was sold to Australia was the smallest. It’s surprising because the mother was massive. She’s got another Bettors (Bettor's Delight) on the ground that’s a two year old. We haven’t done too much with her as she’s a little bit off-set in one knee. I like her because she’s got a bit of adrenaline and is the same sort of cut as these two. They’ve got a natural spark with them. They’re not an early family. He (Kiwis Are Flying) qualified the earliest out of the whole family”.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness racing    

Kiwi On Show broke a Southland and course record for 1609 metres when she won today. Her time of 1-52.2 smashed the mares and all comers course record of 1-54.0 recorded in 2013 by Seabreeze Star. The previous Southland record of 1-53.3 was recorded at Winton in 2015 by Rocker Band. The New Zealand record for mares over 1609 metres is 1-51.1 and is held by The Orange Agent.  The record was set up by Betta Go Fernco which speared through from the second row. She was caught wide early before sitting outside the leader Kiwi On Show for a part of the fast run race. Betta Go Fernco eventually got to the lead with 700 metres to run. She only went down by three quarters of a length.  Kiwi On Show is royally bred being by Bettor's Delight out of Kiwi Ingenuity. Kiwi Ingenuity held the New Zealand mares record of 1-52.1 for five years from 2009 until 2014. Both horses look capable of performing well in the rest of the Empire Stallions Southern Belle Speed series and look promising for the $20,000 Final in April at Winton. Later on the programme Steiger broke the track record for 2400 metre stand when he won The Hunter Family Handicap Pace. His time of 2-57.2 was nearly two seconds faster that the previous record of 2-59.0 run by Char Do Neigh in 2016. By Bettors Delight out of a Holmes Hanover mare he was well suited by the fast pace of the race. For driver Kirk Larsen it was the third time he has won this race. His first winner was in 1988 when he reined Shapiro while in 2000 he trained and drove Lisa O to win.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

Harness racing amateur driver Peter Cook had his first driving success when reining home Bettor Backim at long odds in the first race at Rangiora today(Sunday). Peter the secretary of the New Zealand Trainers and Drivers Association, gave eight year old gelding Bettor Backim (Bettor's Delight - Exotic Soky) a cozy run midfield on the fence before exploding up the inner and running away form the opposition in the run home.  Bettor Backim won by more than three lengths and paced the 2600m journey in a slick 3:15.8 with a closing 800m in 58.9.  Trainer Sue Blake trained the $239.00 quinella when Red Under Fire held on for second from the trail for driver Warren Frost who was also seeking his first amatuer winner. Driver Jim Curtin reined a double when he was successful with both Coral Beach and She'sa Tricky Bridge.  Coral Beach (Tintin In America - Beach Guest) was having her second start and was too strong for the opposition when leading all the way in quick time in Race 4. She'sa Tricky Bridge (Stonebridge Regal - Itsa Trick), trained at Prebbleton by John McDermott, adopted front running tactics again for Jimmy and held on to beat the trailing horse Articulight by half a length. Trainer Robbie Holmes also trained a double when he won the last two races with Redwood Invasion and The Kiwi Way. Redwood Invasion (Sundon - Annsmenan) was confidently driven by Gerard O'Reilly, who thought Redwood Invasion was his best drive of the day.  Gerard had the seven year old son of Sundon in front after 800m and he never faltered, winning easily from the trailing Belmonts Greatest. The Kiwi Way was another to lead all the way when holding off the fast finish from English Rose in the last race of the day. Out of the great mare and eleven race winner Kiwi Ingenuity, The Kiwi Way was driven to the lead early by driver Robbie Holmes and won in a time of 3:17.0 for the 2600m with a closing 800m in 58.9. Earlier in the day Speedy Mach led all the way in the hands of Sheree Tomlinson to win his fourth race in the space of six starts. Harnesslink Media    

Leithfield harness racing trainer Robbie Holmes has a big team engaged at the Rangiora races on Sunday. The Holmes stable is racing in good form with several of the team in with winning chances in their prospective races. Possibly their best chance of gaining a win is with a two pronged attack in Race 9 which is the “PHIL & BEV WILLIAMSON OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TROT”. Robbie has both Dragon Boy and Redwood Invasion in the race and has chosen to drive Dragon Boy. Dragon Boy (Thanksgiving – Sun Dragon) is on the up after winning his last race comfortably at Ashburton and would only need good manners to be a major chance again in the race. Stablemate Redwood Invasion is another in with a good chance if he does everything right. He is a bit of a flighty horse who can gallop when you least expect it but does have ability. Redwood Invasion (Sundon – Annsmenan) is a full brother to 5 race winner Donsmedad who is trained by Greg and Nina Hope. Driver Gerard O'Reilly thought Redwood Invasion was his best drive of the day if he trotted all the way. In the last race of the day, Robbie has last start winner The Kiwi Way (Mach Three – Kiwi Ingenuity) entered. Out of top mare Kiwi Ingenuity, The Kiwi Way has the draw to either lead or trail and he ran a good third at the Rangiora workouts on Tuesday. Other winning chances for the Holmes stable include Gabby’s Star in Race 3 and both Markim and As Kiwi As in Race 1 which is an Amateur Drivers race.   Harnesslink Media

Canterbury trainer Nigel McGrath is just 10 wins away from reaching the notable milestone of 500 career training wins and will soon launch an impressive spring racing team. Classie Brigade, the winner of 11 from 35 starts, is being aimed at the New Zealand Cup (3200m) on the second Tuesday of November at Addington. “He’s back in work and looking toward the New Zealand Cup,” McGrath said of the five-year-old Bettor’s Delight stallion, who has not raced since May.  He won six from 13 last season, including the 3200m Invercargill Cup in January in 3:53.5, after starting from 30m behind. Lazarus clocked 3:51.3 in winning the NZ Cup by 10 lengths. “Ears Burning [seven wins] will head in the same direction. It won’t be easy but both deserve the shot.” Also waiting in the wings until the weather turns are Aloka, Sherriff, Star Commander and Dizzy Miss Lizzy - all capable of doing very good things this season. “On what they all showed in their previous campaigns you would like to think that one or two of them will take the next step up. “Aloka showed how good he can be early on, while Sherriff and Star Commander both have a heap of potential. “Dizzy Miss Lizzy will be aimed towards the filly races which will see her come in a bit later on in the season. “They’ll all target the classic races.” But before the big guns start firing, McGrath has some useful firepower to help him edge towards the 500-win mark, after starting training in the year 2000. Two of them will step out at Sunday’s Rangiora meeting, with Turkish Trousers and My Wee Man both flying the stable flag. Both horses are fresh-up and will derive benefit from their races, but both are strong chances after trialling well. Turkish Trousers, second at Rangiora in January, was tidy at a recent workout and McGrath is expecting a good showing from the one draw on Sunday in race four, the first leg of a $25,000 Pick6. “She’s a nice enough mare who is more than capable of going close fresh-up. I wouldn’t say she’s a world beater, but she should do a nice enough job this time in. With her good gate speed I would expect her to settle handy to the speed. “I thought her workout last week was pretty good. She’ll improve with the run, but gets a good chance fresh-up.” My Wee Man is a horse who McGrath has always had plenty of time for. “We had issues with his gait last time, but the motor has always been there. I think he will do a good job this time in and gelding him really seems to have worked the oracle. Hopefully, he lives up to what I think he is capable off.” A four-year-old entire by Changeover, My Wee Man’s sole win in nine starts was at Rangiora. He takes on impressive Ashburton winner The Kiwi Way in race nine, who has drawn the ace for trainer-driver Robbie Holmes. NZ Harness News

After three years as All Stars Junior driver and backup for the senior ones, Matt Anderson is moving on from All Stars at the end of the season. He has no immediate plans for his next racing experience but is preparing for his last season as a Junior and hoping to make the most of it. "I've leaned so much here it is unbelievable. I have been lucky to work in a stable  this successful and get first hand experience of how it all operates. It is not so easy to get stable drives when so many of the races are top events but I know that what I take away from here is the basis for the next stage of my career. And you wouldn't get a better basis to work on" Matt has reached a lot of his Junior Driver goals accumulating 68 wins, his UDR remaining a good .2451. Unlike most juniors Matt has turned down drives at times to protect his strike rate with a view to higher achievements and, except for the year when the rules of selection were altered for a Championship series without him being aware of the change it has worked out well. Matt has shown growing skills and maturity at All Stars and is recognised as one of the most promising Juniors in the business quite apart from success rates.   His first winner, for a mentor Robbie Holmes, was Highview Ember at Rangiora in August 2013 a season when he posted 7 wins from 57 drives to get away to a good start. He transferred to All Stars in 2014 and posted his first win for the stable in July of that year with Better With Bourbon at Rangiora.  Four of his first season winners were trotters for Ken Sefonte and he also drove a winner for Maurice McKendry a man who can recognise talent and for Lew Driver.  Most of his 2015 season wins were for All Stars including horses like Backup, Lightfingered, Full Speed Ahead and Northern Velocity . Last season he again struck up an affinity for the trotter winning three with Blackguard's Corner including the rich John Devlin Memorial at Alexandra Park for the Butterworths but posted his biggest pacing win when Costa Del Magnifico which he had earlier steered to an 11.5 len win in a Junior race, won the Invercargill Cup. He scored a notable win for Piccadilly Princess in a Nevele R heat holding out favoured stablemate Golden Goddess. This season Smiley Sophie have him his first win on NZ Cup day and Pulp Fiction was another smart performer he guided to victory,  His last win was his easiest-on Imperial Whiz in a Breeder's Crown heat at Addington. He didn't have to leave the parade ring,  One of his biggest thrills came however when he finally made the Australasian Junior Drivers Championship in Perth this season run in conjunction with the Inter Dominions It was the most memorable fortnight in the young driver's life. Using the deft hands which were advancing his reputation he overcame some ordinary prospects in pre-post odds to finish third but actually on the same points total (71) as second placed Robbie Close and just two points behind winner Todd McCarthy. Yet Matt remembers Perth for a different reason. "I think watching Smolda fight out that Inter Dominion finish was the biggest thrill I had in my stay here.  It was our stable horse, he was such a great horse to work with and Mark and Natalie had him just right. I got a real thrill out of just being there to watch that" But Matt gave his share of thrills to others don't worry. A thoughtful person he sorted out the Ronald McDonald House for children with illness as his charity of choice. His fees from Perth were part of that generosity and one of his two sponsors, McMillan Feeds added their share. His other sponsor Coupland Bakeries is also notable for its work with charities. Matt has continued to support Ronald McDonald House, which does not get the official assistance of some similar charities ,  with his driving fees a fine gesture for a youngster still making his own way. He helped organise a young cancer sufferer Isaac  Southerton come out to All Stars and introduced the little fellow to the stable stars  including Lazarus.  And so what happens next ? "I've had several offers but I am not in any hurry. I have quite a lot of leave owing from All Stars so I will be taking that up for some time.  Then I will see what develops. I don't doubt I will miss it around here especially when the good horses are out but I am looking forward to the next opportunity" There is also a rising two year old whom Matt invested in at the PGG Sales this year. But that is another chapter in the story. Harnesslink Media Courtesy of All Stars Stables

It is not uncommon for North Canterbury harness racing trainer Robbie Holmes to have a wry smile on his face these days as his racing team have hit a real purple patch in the last few weeks. He has changed nothing at home or on raceday but the wins continue to come at a regular rate in recent weeks and Robbie is just enjoying the change of luck he is experiencing at the moment. Last night at Addington Raceway he lined up the handy C1 pacer Gabby's Star and like most of the Holmes runners lately he didn't disappoint. A touch slow away, Robbie sent him forward to try to grab the lead but Royal Caroline and Colin De Filippi was having none of it and these two went head to head for the opening 800 metres before Gabby's Star made it to the front. Robbie kept the tempo up with Gabby's Star in front and had most of the field off the bit and chasing on the home turn but a couple of swoopers started to fly home late but Gabby's Star had enough in reserve to just hold out Happy As Larry and Jonny Cox. Gabby's Star paced the 2600 metres from a stand in a smart 3:18 with tidy closing sectionals of 58 and 27.9 Robbie was impressed with the run of the Elsu four year old. " He has had to work really hard for that first 800 metres to get to the front and that made him a bit of a sitting duck really." " But he has dug deep in the straight and held on well so plenty to like about the run." " This horse has had absolutely no luck lately, what with shocking draws or being held up at a crucial time so I decided to take luck out of play tonight and go to the front and press on." "He definitely deserved that victory on how he has been going lately," Robbie said. While last nights victory was on the all weather surface at Addington, Robbie was keen for Gabby's Star to concentrate on grass track racing when ever possible. " He loves the grass this fella, it just suits him down to the ground and overall he is better on that surface." " I think there is a few more wins in him yet the way he has been racing his last few starts," Robbie said. Postscript - Robbie made it two wins for the night when Clean Break won the C1 and faster trot later on the programe. Robbie also indicated to Harnesslink in the ringaround earlier in the week that Markim at Methven was his best winning chance for the weekend. Harnesslink Media  

North Canterbury harness racing trainer Robbie Holmes went into last nights Summer Cup for trotters at Addington Raceway with Aile Rouge with one aim and that was to get a line on where he fitted in amongst the best trotters in Canterbury at the moment. Robbie thought if he could finish in the first five with Aile Rouge in such a strong field at just his second start back from a spell he would be a happy man. Two minutes and twenty four seconds later he was saluting the judge as he came back to the winners circle and still getting over the shock of winning the $27,000 race. Away well from barrier two, Robbie quickly settled Aile Rouge into the trail behind Sunny Ruby and then he was posted three back on the inner when Monty Python went to the front at the 1400 metres mark. Bottled up three back on the inner as they turned for home, Aile Rouge got a lovely gap on the outside of Sunny Ruby and flew the last bit to win by half a length going away. Aile Rouge trotted the 1950 metres in a smart 2:24.3, a mile rate of 1:59 with closing sectionals of 58 and 29.1 Robbie was thrilled with the performance. " We only started Aile Rouge in this race and not in race 3 to let Clean Break who was on the ballot in race 3 get into the other Alabar Final for trotters as we thought he was a real chance in that race." "The aim with Aile Rouge in the Summer Cup was just to get a line on where he stood in the pecking order amongst the good trotters and we were hoping for a first five result at best. " He has really sprinted when the gap opened up and was going away at the finish," Robbie said. The son of Love You had been a star during winter racing at Addington but this was a big step up in class to what he had been racing. Robbie thought a couple of things were in his favour tonight. " He is really quick off the mobile and the distance was right up his alley." " The 2600 metres is a bit far for him most of the time but he loves those 1950 races and his record shows that. " I am thrilled for Jenny (owner) as she has had horses with me since I started training and she deserves a good horse," Robbie said. Aile Rouge Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing driver Natalie Rasmussen has got up off the canvas like a prizefighter to win the Methven Cup. All looked rosy when Messini and Rasmussen won the Group III event, in the Art Major entire's first start back in New Zealand after campaigning in Australia with former Canterbury trainer Brent Lilley. But earlier in the day Rasmussen was smashed onto the track in race six after her drive Emmanuel appeared to slip just after the field he rounded the home bend. In a nasty crash, Gabby's Star, Maximus Prime, Stoney Eyre were all brought down. Drivers Robbie Holmes, Bob Butt and Rasmussen all escaped serious injury but Sam Ottley was airlifted to hospital after suffering moderate spinal injuries. She was to have x-rays on Sunday night. All horses involved are understood to have escaped serious injury. Rasmussen, who co-trains Australasia's leading harness racing stable with Mark Purdon, said she was a bit "battered and bruised" but it was going to take more than a few scrapes and cuts to keep the gritty Australian out of the sulky. The win does not give Messini automatic entry to the New Zealand Trotting Cup but it almost certainly assures his spot and Rasmussen said that takes some pressure off. "If he didn't go any good today we might have had to go to Ashburton just to try and get him a start and I think that would have been a bit soon for him to back up," Rasmussen said. Messini went into the race ranked 18th for the cup and although he did not upset any super stars he did beat four runners ranked ahead of him and with further defections from the top 15 likely he should be joining All Stars stablemate Smolda in the cup. Messini's next start will likely be the Kaikoura Cup Rasmussen and Purdon were expecting a bold run given Messini's quality horse but his driver puts the win down to getting such a good trip. It was a typically patient and calculated drive from Rasmussen who was happy to settle well back in the running line after starting from the 30m tape. But everything fell into place when Ideal Success made a three wide move with around 1000m to run and Rasmussen was able to jump on board the train behind Te Kawau. "It really helped that we didn't have to come out until very late, he hasn't had to do any work in the running," she said. Messini tired in the final stages to shrink his winning margin to half a length but he can be forgiven in his fresh up run over 3000m on the grass. "I think he'll definitely improve off the run," Rasmussen said. Methven was Messini's first run since the Breeders Crown on August 30. Messini paced the trip in 3-51.7 with a mile rate of  2-04.2 and closing sectionals of 58.0 and 29.5. Quick As A Trick put in a super run for second after being slow away from the tapes with No Doctor Needed, Mighty Flying Mac and Te Kawau filling out the top five. Cup hopefuls Belkmyster, Mach's Gladiator, Ideal Success and Lewy Risk did their chances more harm than good when finishing back in the field. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ   -  Check site here 

Yesterdays Hannon Memorial at Oamaru Raceway was meant to be a walk in the park for harness racings pin up boy,Christen Me. After all here was a two time Australasian Grand Circuit champion with $2.3 million in the bank starting off level marks against a field several notches below what he faces on the Grand Circuit. However right from the start of the race things didn't pan out for the champion pacer. Christen Me with usual pilot Dexter Dunn in the bike went away okay but not quick enough to cross the field early and as a result he was forced to settle second last in the eleven horse field. Mossdale Conner, having his first run back this season bounced straight to the front for driver Gerard O"Reilly and kept up a steady tempo in front. With a lap to go Dexter sent Christen Me forward three wide and that is where he was posted for the remainder of the race. Christen Me looked to be still travelling like a winner as they turned for home and he quickly mastered Mossdale Conner and looked to be the winner half way up the straight. However Mighty Flying Mac and Robbie Holmes had eased out of the one by one as they turned for home and started to descend on Christen Me late and to everybodys surprise sailed on pass for a decisive win. Christen Me held second while Mossdale Conner stuck on gamely for third. Mighty Flying Mac cut out the 2600 metres in a smart 3:14.8 in the windy conditions, a mile rate of 2:00.5 with sharp closing sectionals of 55.6 and 27.4. It was the twelfth career victory for the son of Mach Three and took his earnings over the $170,000 mark Robbie Holmes was all smiles post race. " The secret this week is he stepped away so well." " I was pretty confident on the corner that I would be in it as he was travelling really well and I hadn't pulled the plugs yet." " He did it fairly easily in the end," Robbie said. Cran Dalgety, the trainer of both Christen Me and Mighty Flying Mac was scratching his head a bit after the race. " I thought Mighty Flying Mac would go a big race as he has been working the house down at home but I didn't think he would beat Christen Me." "Robbie drove him a treat though but it is still a bit of a surprise." " I really thought Christen Me would just win the race but considering he was out three wide for a lap in that wind and they ran home in a touch over 55 for the last half, I can't be too disappointed with the run." " There is certainly no need to panic at this stage," Cran said. Being a seven year old, Christen Me will take an extra run or two to hit top gear this season and he looks on track for the second week in November. Harnesslink Media  

Every week, Harnesslink produces the harness racing ringaround where a group of twenty odd of our leading drivers give us their best tips for the weekend racing. Results in the main have been good with the odd shocker thrown in but last night at Addington Raceway the tipsters had a night to remember. The drivers selected horses in seven races last night at Addington and bagged five winners which is a great strike rate. In started in the first when Gavin Smith selected Paris Princess who led form go to whoa and returned a healthy dividend of $6:60 Blair Orange was the next tipster to see the winners circle with the very talented Southern GNP who was backed in very short but never gave his supporters any cause for concern with an effortless victory. Onto race 6 and Mark Jones was very bullish around the chances of Franco Harrington and the way he cruised to the front and ran away and hid in the home straight showed that his confidence was not misplaced. In race 8, North Canterbury trainer/driver Robbie Holmes had two horses involved in the race and he was very keen on the chances of Clean Break with Gavin Smith in the bike even from the outside of the gate, with Robbie taking the reins on the stablemate Tehoro Holly. The win dividend of $8:70 for Clean Break was a great return for the inform trotter. As happens, the best was saved for last. Three of our tipsters chose their best drives of the week in race 9 last night. Ricky May, John Dunn and Bob Butt were all keen on the chances of their runners and as it turned out none of them were far off the mark. John Dunn worked to the lead on Mr Meddle with Bob Butt settling in the trail with Justalittlebettor and Ricky May and Change The Rulz snookered away four back on the inner. John got away with a couple of cheap quarters in front with Mr Meddle which left enough in the tank to fight off all the challengers in the home straight. Ricky May and Change The Rulz flashed late for an unlucky second just in front of Justalittlebettor and Bob Butt who held third. Mr Meddle paid $10:90 for the win with the quinella paying $15:30 and the trifecta a healthy $185:20 Throw in the double result of Clean Break and Mr Meddle of $49:50 and followers of the ringaround should have made plenty last night. Harnesslink Media

Our harness racing tipsters are having a bit of the winter blues at the moment with less than inspiring results some weeks. Last week saw only two of our tipsters pick winners with Sean McCaffrey and Nathan Williamson doing the honours but we did have eight placegetters and some of those such as Shane Walkinshaw's pick, Takitimu Express paid good money ($4:20) This week we have four meetings in the country and we have picks for them all. Forbury - Thursday night Nathan Williamson - Thought Spinyback was overdue and could win race 2 Shane Walkinshaw - Thinks on his work this week, Jetsdream will win race 4 Craig Ferguson - Gives Mordecai a good chance of going back to back in race 6   Auckland  - Friday night Steven Reid - Reckons Concorde even from barrier 8 will be hard to beat in race 2 Scott Phelan - If Superimposed has any luck from his bad draw,he thinks he can win race 2  Todd Mitchell - Thinks the millionaire Vulcan can add to the bankroll in race 6 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Thought Vice Consul from the front line could win race 7 Tony Herlihy -  Gives The Almighty Johnson a big chance of winning race 8 John Dunn - Rates Return To Sender as hard to roll in race 9 Mark Jones - Thought Rocker Band would be very hard to beat, also in race 9   Addington - Friday night Bob Butt - Quite bullish about the chances of the two year old Matatoki in race 1 Terry Chmiel - Thinks Maddison Hill can upset them in race 2 Tim Williams - Gives Bird Of Paradise a big show even from the second line in race 6 Gerard O'Reilly - Reckons Zin Zan must win one shortly and thinks it will be in race 7 Ricky May - Thought the southern raider Tetrick would be hard to beat in race 8 Brendon McLellan - Agrees with Ricky that Tetrick will be hard to beat in race 8 Matthew Williamson - Reckons Springbank Eden can get the chocolates in race 9   Timaru - Sunday afternoon  Blair Orange - Thought the first starter My Cash would be hard to beat in race 3 Gavin Smith - Very bullish about the chances of Great Things Happen in race 4 Brad Williamson - Reckons Kylie Castleton can bounce back and win race 6 Jim Curtin - Gives Insignificant a chance to upset them at odds, also in race 6  John Curtin - Thought Naughty Maravu only needed some luck for a change to win race 8 Robbie Holmes - Thinks Contractual Issues will be hard to hold out in race 10   Harnesslink Media

Our harness racing tipsters had another so so week although to be fair they did have a lot of close second placings over the four meetings. There were five winners selected with Clark Barron continuing his hot run at the moment along with Bob Butt, Tony Herlihy, Shane Walkinshaw and Tim Williams and they also had seven placings as well, a lot of them at good odds. This week we have five meetings but none in the deep south which has affected our number of tipsters a bit. Forbury - Thursday night Nathan Williamson - Thought Chantrey back to his favourite track could upset them in race 3 Brendon McLellan - Gives new stable runner Continental Boy a good chance of winning race 5 Shane Walkinshaw - Likes the chances of smart 3 year old Robyn's Bad Boy winning race 6 Matthew Williamson - Rates Hezabluechipboy a big winning chance in race 8  Steve Richardson - Thought The Edge Of Reason could upset them at good odds in race 9   Auckland - Friday night  Maurice McKendry - Really quite keen on the chances of the out of form Sir Richie in race 1 Todd MacFarlane - Gives the 2 year old Cyclone Chief a good chance of winning race 2 Sean McCaffrey - Thinks Yagunnakissmeornot can bounce back to winning form in race 4 Todd Mitchell - Rates Charming Lavra a big chance of winning again, also in race 4 Steven Reid - Confident that Shedontloveme will go one better this week and win 6 John Dunn - Thought Barry was due a change of luck and could win race 8   Addington - Friday night Terry Chmiel - Reckons Saint Michel with the help of the mobile will win race 2 Bob Butt - With two runs under his belt, thought Any Old Way was ready to win, also in race 2  Brad Williamson - Looks like a trifecta as Brad thinks The Silver Fox will win race 2 Tim Williams - Rates the debutante Cash N Flow as very hard to beat in race 5 Jim Curtin - Thought One Over Da Moon on his Rowe Cup run would win race 6 Gerard O'Reilly - Thinks King Of Strathfield has been going great and could win, also in race 6 Scott Phelan - Rates Bettor B Amazed a big winning chance even from barrier 9 in race 7 Blair Orange - Gives Bracken Ridge a big show of turning his form around and winning race 9   Thames - Sunday afternoon Tony Herlihy - Very bullish about the chances of Mighty Regal in race 4   Ashburton - Sunday afternoon Ricky May - Rates the first starter Cable Beach very highly and thinks he will win race 4 John Curtin - Thought Gracious Star and Michelle Neilson would make it two in a row and win race 6   Harnesslink Media

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