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Stuart Leadley was over the moon when Alta Maestro won the first Young Guns Heat at Alexandra Park last Friday night, but 2-year-olds winning on debut is something the Ashburton owner is used to. Leadley and his wife Liz have also witnessed Alta Las Vegas, Dream To Reality, and Franco Cristiano win as juveniles on debut. The Leadleys own the former two and have a fifth share in Franco Cristiano. Like Alta Maestro, the trio are trained by Robert Dunn. He also won the first 2-year-old race of the season with The Brooklyn Brawler at Alexandra Park on December 9. “It was well worth the trip last week and we will be back again on New Year’s Eve to watch hopefully him, Alta Las Vegas and Franco Cristiano run. “We knew he was pretty good and anticipated the win but nothing is certain in racing. This is the best possible way to ignite a career,” Leadley said. Leadley made the trip north to watch Alta Maestro win the $25,000 Breckon Farms Young Guns heat. He was driven by Dexter Dunn and won by one-and-three-quarter lengths from favourite Spankem (Mark Purdon). The 2-year-old Art Major colt paced the 1700m mobile in 2:02.7 (mile rate 1:56.1) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 57.2 and 27.5. She was the $3.30 second favourite. The Brooklyn Brawler finished ninth He had gone into his debut run with a first and a second at the Pukekohe and Auckland workouts and trials on November 19 and December 10. He recorded 2:06.4 and 2:06.6 mile rates on those days. “We paid $100,000 for him at this year’s (Australasian Classic) Yearling Sales at Karaka. I initially said to Robert when he saw him at the pre-sale that I wasn’t going to buy him, but he convinced me. “Robert said he was the nicest colt he had ever seen and predicted he would fetch $130,000. He made me change my mind and we paid $100,000 for him. He’s a half brother to Alta Las Vegas (by Bettor’s Delight) and that was good enough for me,” Leadley said. The Leadleys paid $77,500 for Alta Las Vegas at the 2014 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale. He was their first solo purchase and has since gone on to win three races as well as a placing in last year’s Group Three Sapling Stakes. In 2014 the Leadleys also went in on a $92,500 purchase for Franco Cristiano at the New Zealand Premier Sale at Addington. “The only reason I changed my mind and bought Alta Maestro was because his older sister, Alta Teresa (by American Ideal) won some money for me when I had a place bet on her,” Leadley said. Alta Maestro is the fifth of seven foals out of the five win ($45,320) In the Pocket mare, Alta Camilla. She was trained by Paul Kerr at Ohoka. “Hopefully Alta Maestro will give a good account of himself and do well in the Young Guns Final next year. For now we hope he goes real well on Saturday week in his second juvenile race. “We will be making the trip back to Alexandra Park,” the 70-year-old retired dairy farmer said. Leadley’s first race-day winner (October 2, 2012 - Addington) was the Elsu gelding Crackaheiny, who won seven of his 22 starts in New Zealand before being exported to Australia in July 2014. Duane Ranger

Jack MacKinnon has driven some pretty handy types in his four seasons as a junior driver, but when it comes to race-night the best of them will line up in the feature pace at Alexandra Park on Friday. The Pukekohe-based 21-year-old will drive his boss Robert Dunn’s Live Or Die gelding, Robbie Burns, from the outside of the front row in the fifth event – the $14,999 Generation Homes R67-R99 Pace. It will be the first time MacKinnon has driven him. Regular pilot John Dunn is committed to the Addington Raceway meeting, also on Friday night. Robbie Burns, who is an Auckland Cup nominee, will be attempting to win his third race from four starts this campaign. The 5-year-old bay is the highest assessed pacer lining up tonight with a R99 rating. “I’ve driven some real nice horses in training but this fella would be my best race-day drive. He’s lot more tractable than what he used to be. He now gives us options when races. “He has had his fair share of problems though and is still on the way back. He doesn’t hang so much now. I think the owners will line him up in the Auckland Cup if he goes well the next few races,” said MacKinnon who is searching his third winner of 2016-2017, and 27th overall. “A race like that will suit him down to the ground because he’s such a good stayer. The further they go the better he will like it,” he added. Trainer Dunn believed Robbie Burns would make next year’s New Zealand Cup field providing he stayed free from illness and injury. MacKinnon agreed. “He’s going to develop into a very nice racehorse. In six months I think he could be the ‘real deal’. he’s an underrated horse who is yet to show his true potential,” the former Mt Albert Grammar student said. Five of Robbie Burns’ eight career wins have been at Alexandra Park, including three over tonight’s 2200m mobile. MacKinnon said he was only too aware of the pace inside him. “It’s quite a tough race to work out. There’s a lot of speed inside me and although I’m confident I am driving the best horse in the race I’m going to have to see what happens when I leave the gate. “Jo’s dream and Killer Queen can both get away quickly and Jo’s Dream proved that with a nice win last week. “Even though it’s not an easy race to read, Robbie Burns is a tough stayer, and I’m confident the best horse will be in front when it counts,” said MacKinnon. The Franklin driver rated Robbie Burns a win chance and his other two drives at the meeting as each-way and place prospects respectively. “Steve (Telfer) and Chris (Garlick) will have Rocknroll Princess (race one) spot on for this. She’s drawn a bit wide but we got squeezed up on the final bend last start and that cost us. She’s a real good stayer and can get some of it. “Any Old Way (race six) will start from a 15m handicap and I’m driving him for Paul Nairn. He’s a very good horse when right but you can never be sure which Any Old Way will show up. He’s travelled up well and this will be his last race before he goes to Australia,” MacKinnon said. “It would be nice to send him on his way with a win but a place looks best for him in this. Five of his seven wins have been at Alexandra Park though, and he did place at odds on (NZ) Cup Day recently,” he added. The next two Fridays are the ‘Calm before the Group One storm’ at Alexandra Park next month. December is the Auckland Trotting Club's busiest and biggest month. The big races on offer are:   December 9: Group Three $30,000 Summer Cup Group Three $30,000 Caduceus Club Northern Breeders Fillies & Mares Stakes   December 16: Group Two $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial Ladyship 3yo Fillies Stakes Group Two $40,000 Lyell Creek Stakes for the open class trotters Group One $100,000 Rosslands Queen of Hearts Fillies & mares Pace Group Two $50,000 Alabar 3yo Classic Group Two $40,000 Franklin Cup   December 31: Group One $150,00 Alabar Sires Stakes 3yo Fillies Final Group One $80,000 National Trot Listed $175,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 3yo Open GROUP ONE $250,000 TRILLIAN TRUST AUCKLAND CUP   Duane Ranger

Robbie Burns and Little Rascal will progress on to next month’s Group 1 $250,000 Auckland Cup, but the future is not so rosy for one Robert Dunn’s other stable stars. Franco Cristiano, who has won more than 57 per cent of his races, has disappointed the Canterbury and Auckland trainer. “He will go to the trials again on Saturday and hopefully he will perform a little bit better than what he has this time in. His programme will be decided after we have a look at him go around on the weekend,” Dunn said. Franco Cristiano finished fifth of six at his first Workout back since finishing eighth, fifth and third in a luckless Australian campaign in August. He was then an eight-length third, of three, behind Hug The Wind and Strike The Gold at his second Workout at Pukekohe last Saturday. “I think he has been a little foot-sore with all the wet weather we have had. I have put flip flops on and he seems a lot happier. Hopefully there will be plenty of good races for him up north, especially during the Auckland Cup Carnival,” Dunn said. “If not the beach back home beckons for him,” he added. The 4-year-old Bettor’s Delight gelding resumed from seven-and-a-half months on the sideline with a hairline fracture of the pastern in June. He then won his next four races before finishing third behind Waikiki Beach and Menin Gate in a $17,000 pace at Melton’s Tabcorp Park. Franco Cristiano has now raced 14 times for eight wins and three thirds. His stake earnings currently sit at $58,514. Meanwhile Dunn believes Friday’s favourite for the feature pace at Alexandra Park – Robbie Burns is progressing nicely towards the Auckland Cup. “It will be interesting to see how he goes in the lead-up races but he’s a very good stayer and seems to be over his problems. The two miles will suit him down to the ground. “He will be a whole new racehorse in six months. I think the way he’s progressing he will be a definite New Zealand Cup starter in just under 12 months,” Dunn said. Dunn has so far trained 21 winners ($261,270) from 147 starters this season. He is currently third on the national training premiership behind Greg & Nina Hope (27) Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen (25). His personal best season came last year when he trained 121 winners ($1.06 million) and finished second 10 wins behind the All Stars pair. All-up Dunn has now trained 1,209 winners from 8,232 starters since 1978. He’s also placed 1,865 times and netted $12.6 million in career stakes for a lifetime UDR strike-rate of 0.2399. “I’m looking forward to the Auckland Cup Carnival. We will have several horses lining up throughout December,” Dunn said. Duane Ranger

Maybe there is a resistance to the All Stars New Zealand Trotting Cup stranglehold after all. Just when it looked like there was no one capable of stopping the onslaught of Lazarus, Have Faith In Me and Smolda in next Tuesday’s feature - Franco Nelson went next level on it and announced himself as more than just an outside chance of upsetting the blue and silver army in seven days time. His victory seaside at Kaikoura yesterday was nothing but encouraging with a view next week and was a continuation of the wonderful built up he’s been given by his trainer Robert Dunn and his son, John. And the best part of all? Neither Johnny nor Franco Nelson were supposed to be there yesterday. The Kaikoura Cup was never seriously on the radar until a couple of weeks ago for Franco Nelson, but a late change in plans saw him head to South Bay while Dunn was laid up on Saturday and looking very unlikely to drive. “I did something to my back up in Auckland on Friday night and it was pretty sore,” Dunn said. “Luckily I had a bit of help from some Kayla Marshall and Chris McGregor who did plenty of work on me on Saturday to try and get me right.” If there was still any discomfort, Dunn didn’t show it and when Franco Nelson put a couple of lengths on Smolda at the top of the straight, he would have been lucky to feel anything at all. “That was super, he just loved being out there and rolling along, he’s really in the zone. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the team at home for the way his going, especially Mitchell Kerr who has down a power of work with him. “We’re lucky to have good staff.” With his usual exemplary stand start manners Franco Nelson was able to find the front from his outside barrier draw and with a solid tempo being set by Dunn he ran his rivals into the dirt in a very slick 2:55.6 - just 0.1 seconds outside Sushi Sushi’s race record. Smolda was brave, albeit a little below his best, in running second after sitting parked and will improve immensely after missing some work due to his irregular bloods following his Methven win. The North Island’s sole Cup contender, No Doctor Needed, showed he’s no forlorn hope of sneaking a minor placing next week with a bold effort for third - a complete turn around on the majority of his lead up form in Auckland. “It was nice to not have to be the one who made sure the speed was true,” driver Scott Phelan said. “He’s gone great today, I’m rapt with the performance, now we just need a good draw next week.” Mossdale Conner was again solid, without being brilliant in fourth after securing a great trip in the trail throughout. All still isn’t well in the Tiger Tara camp either. He was beyond disappointing after being slow away and his performance left Gerard O’Reilly, Geoff Dunn and his owners Bob and Jennifer Sandford and John Gould shaking their heads. “We’re not sure what to make of it,” Bob Sandford said. “Physically there is nothing wrong with the horse. He has always raced better when he’s been up on the speed though. “We will press on to the Cup at this stage and hope for the best. “We’ve come too far now to back out.” Australian raider, Messini, was also on the disappointing list, finishing eighth, beaten over 11 lengths leaving his trainer Brent Lilley with a few issues to iron out in the next seven days.   Matt Markham

Harness racing has attracted another high profile sportsman but for now Marshall Suckling has more pressing matters to tend to. The 27-year-old Cantabrian, who recently played an integral role in the Canterbury Ranfurly Shield winning team this year said he wants to win the Mitre 10 Premiership Final tomorrow (Saturday) as his Canterbury team takes on Tasman in Christchurch at 7.35pm. The Cantabs are $1.28 favourites. Twenty-eight hours out from the grand final, and straight after the ‘Captain’s Run’, Suckling said he was devastated that he was injured for tomorrow’s big game. “I am Canterbury born-and-bred and I’m absolutely disappointed I broke my thumb in the Shield challenge against Waikato, so I’ve been out for the last couple of weeks. Though, winning that match was one of my career highlights, not only for the shield but combined on a personal note, receiving my blazer for Canterbury! “I’m still excited though. The boys preparation both individually and as a team, has been ideal. I have no doubt the 23 will do the job tomorrow night. We have won the last eight of nine and we’re pretty hard to beat when we play at home,” Suckling, the outside back, said. Harness racing grandstands should also be graced with Suckling’s presence in the future – hopefully the one next to the Addington Showgrounds more-so. Suckling said when he was a kid he watched his grandfather Garry breed and raise Thoroughbreds and his mother Tracy do the same with equestrian and showjumping horses. Evidently Tracy was the first female jockey to qualify a hurdler in 1974-75. “We had a stable at the back of Sumner but when my grandfather died the interest waned a bit, however I’ve always loved harness racing. I had been thinking about how I could become involved and had looked at breeding as something I would potentially be keen on also. “Anyway I took it upon myself to study pedigrees and see who was out there to breed from. When I saw that there was a Real Desire mare for lease on The Breeders website it spurred my interest, because I had been told the Real Desire broodmares had some nice blood” Suckling said. That Real Desire – Spirit Of Zeus mare was the one-win Robert Dunn trained bay, Feel Real. She had nine races and retired with a fourth at Rangiora on July 26. “I really studied the bloodlines hard and liked the Real Desire line. She is also from the Tabella Beth (grand-dam) line that Lazarus, Light and Sound & Stars and Stripes hail from among other stars.” “I leased Feel Real off Glen Scott & the Radfords and then recently put her to the Bettor’s Delight booking I secured earlier in the year when I thought I would give this a go. Her foal will be due in late September 2017 with a bit of luck. I told my mother (Tracey) about it and she backed me simply because I had done my homework,” Suckling said. He said he would potentially sell a colt if it was a sales type to get a bit more in the kitty and get a mare of his own. Racing a filly and then retaining her as a broodmare is the other option. “People who know me know that if I ever venture into something I want to go into it knowing I have prepared well and am giving myself the best chance of achieving a goal. Hopefully I am onto a nice breed here, because like every other harness racing breeder out there, I want to breed a Group One champion one day. I’m real serious about that,” Suckling said. Suckling grew up in Redcliffs and attended Christchurch Boys' High School, where he played for that school’s prestigious First XV for two years. He was then selected for the New Zealand Schools team in his final year which competed at the World Schools Championships in Japan. Suckling then moved to Australia in 2008 to play for the Gold Coast, but returned to New Zealand to study management and marketing at Otago University in 2009. He now has a degree in commerce. He played 15 games for Otago making his provincial debut for them in 2012. He has also played 12 games for Canterbury. “Luke Whitelock and his family love the trots and so does our manager Terry Williamson who owns the nice pacer, Seel The Deal who has won eight races Terry tells me.” The American ideal gelding is now on the verge of a New Zealand cup start after a slashing second in the Methven Cup behind Smolda. “So there’s a few of the lads in the Canterbury makeup who like the trots. I’ll certainly be doing my bit to tell them how great the sport is,” Suckling said. “But for now I have one major mission to achieve with the ‘Red and Blacks’ tomorrow. Hopefully that winning feeling will just keep on carrying on,” he added.   Duane Ranger

It was supposed to be the return of the big hitters, but no one bothered to tell Franco Nelson.  Then again, perhaps the born again pacer, who finished second in the 2014 edition of the New Zealand Trotting Cup is no longer a member of the chasing bunch either…his victory last night a prime example.  There was an air of confidence around the Robert Dunn team prior to the Avon City Ford New Brighton Cup despite the fact that the likes of Have Faith In Me, Christen Me, Lazarus and Smolda were all joining the fray for the first time in this Cup build up.  And the confidence proved to be right on the money.  And John Dunn, who got to view the victory from the best seat in the house, put the rejuvenation and grand run of form down to one simple formula.  “We keep the horse happy and in turn he’s happy to be out there racing,” Dunn said. “He’s really sound at the moment and is just in a good space and it’s showing with how well he is going.  “We needed to get a run like we got out there tonight to bring us into it and luckily everything fell into place.” The major asset in the weaponry of Franco Nelson so far this season has been his stand start manners.  They worked the oracle again last night after Dunn was able to lead early before handing up to an intent Christen Me – resulting in a dream run in the trail throughout.  “The manners are a big help, it means we can get in the best possible position early on.”  Raced by the estate of Sharon McKay, Clive and Rona McKay, Jenna Dunn and Mitzi Taylor, Franco Nelson will head towards the Canterbury Classic in a fortnight with the Ashburton Flying Stakes, at this stage, not on the radar.  “He’s got a horrible record at Ashburton. It’s not really his sort of track so we will probably miss there.  “Kaikoura is a possibility though.” Of the beaten brigade last night Christen Me was fantastic in his first up run after working hard.  Dexter Dunn said it was never his intention to lead but the gelding began that well he felt he had no choice.  “He’s gone great, I didn’t want to lead but it just sort of happened. He fought really strongly to the line so it’s a good start.” Cran Dalgety will make a decision in the next 48 hours on what he does next with Christen Me – but the Canterbury Classic is back on the radar.  A little further down the Addington stabling block, Mark Purdon could hardly contain his enthusiasm after the performance of Lazarus to finish third.  The four-year-old made up a stack of ground along the markers after being slow away – leaving Purdon, often the harshest of critics, suitably impressed.  “He’s gone fantastic. It really was a truly great run. I had him a little too close to the tape at the start and he just panicked but it’s something I’m confident we can get sorted.  “But as far as starting points go, I’m really happy.” TAB Bookmakers reacted to the run by installing Lazarus an incredible $2.70 favourite for the New Zealand Trotting Cup with a few decent bets coming in straight away.  Natalie Rasmussen, Purdon’s training partner was equally as happy with her drive, Have Faith In Me who finished fourth.  The Miracle Mile winner was slow away as well and then worked four wide from the 800 metre mark – fighting strongly to the line.  “He’s gone good we were four wide and I didn’t really want to push him too hard first up.” Life wasn’t quite so rosy for Locharburn who made a hash of the start and then worked hard to get outside Christen Me before tiring from the top of the straight.    Matt Markham

Four colts and four geldings will compete in the first $22,000 NRM Sires Stakes heat at Cambridge Raceway tonight, and leading trainer Robert Dunn believes it will be an even contest. “My fella can win. It’s an even field and there are some nice horses who should make their presence felt. It will be an intriguing race,” the Canterbury and Auckland trainer said. His ‘fella’ is Art Major colt Billy Badger – the winner of one of his 10 starts and place-getter in four others. And although he has yet to run in the money in two starts at Cambridge, Dunn believes that could change tonight. “He’s a handy horse and we are pleased with the way he has worked towards his second start back since his unlucky run in the Jewels Final. “He’s the sort of horse who does everything right and from gate five he should get some cover in the running line. He resumed with a nice third at Alexandra Park last week. I think he and Johnny (Dunn) should go good again,” Dunn said. “He’s a real tradesman. Honest as they come,” he added. Last start winners Spring Campaign, Runrunjimmydunn, Neighlor, and Jack’s Legend will be the toughest for Billy Badger to beat. Three of the four were impressive winners at Alexandra Park, while Runrunjimmydunn came from back in the field to win well at Cambridge a fortniught ago. Spring Campaign (1) was the most impressive of the quartet with a 1:57.1 winning mile rate and has drawn closer to the markers than Runrunjimmydunn (4) – who won with a 2:02.3 mile rate; Neighlor (6) - 1:59.6; and Jack’s Legend – 1:59.4, has drawn the widest at eight. Here’s what five of the eight starters fetched at last year’s yearling sales: 2015 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka: Accumulator (Bettor’s Delight – Splendid Dreams) - $120,000; Runrunjimmydunn ( American Ideal - Delightful Paula) - $40,000; Neighlor (Bettor’s Delight - Braeside Star) - $52,500. 2015 New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale at Christchurch: Spring Campaign (Courage Under Fire – Spring Thaw) - $90,000; Jack’s Legend (Bettor’s Delight – Larissa Rose) - $80,000. The five totalled a collective price of $382,500 averaging $76,500 each. Meanwhile Dunn believed he had an even better winning chance in the night’s other feature event – the $12,000 Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre Te Awamutu Cup for R70 and faster pacers. The Barry Purdon trained Aliante (100) will be toughest for Robbie Burns (R85) to get past, but Dunn believed his 5-year-old Live Or Die gelding is primed to go a big one. “He beat Aliante and Jo’s Dream at the Workouts on Saturday (mile rate 2:07.7) and has come back real nice this time in. This will be his first run back since he ran sixth behind Field Marshall in the Jewels Final. “He’s only had 23 starts and won six of them (one at Cambridge). He’s the sort of horse we have had to wait for. We have had to be patient with him and now that he’s five we are expecting good things from him,” said Dunn who works a team of 35 in Canterbury and 15 at Pukekohe. Harness Racing Waikato, who hosts tonight’s meeting, will stage a punter’s competition with a difference at the meeting. Harness Racing Waikato’s Business Development Manager, David Branch, said Aaron White (race 4), Mark McNamara (race 5) and Mick Guerin (race 6) would have $1,000 to bet on their respective races. "Punting is better in a group and this week we are giving three harness racing identities $1,000 each to play with in races 3, 4, and 5 - and you can join the fun for only $10,” Branch said   Duane Ranger

Harness racing speedster Franco Nelson has won the "PGG Wrightson Hannon Memorial" at Oamaru this afternoon .  Franco Nelson managed to slot into the trail after 400m, thanks to a nifty piece of driving by driver John Dunn. He then whipped home up the passing lane to beat the favorite and early leader Tiger Tara. Cullect A Guiness the stablemate of the winner made a midrace move to land outside the leader and held on for third ahead of a fresh up Quick As A Trick. Franco Nelson paced the 2600m stand in 3:17.6 with a blistering last 800m in 54.7 and 400m in 27.3. Southern pacer Costa Del Magnifico developed a minor foot problem earlier in the week and was scratched from the race. Robert Dunn had double reason to celebrate also winning with Jags Invasion later in the day. The 9yo Ambro invasion gelding was too good for the opposition in the feature trotting race on the program. Jags Invasion had a good run on the outer and and fought best in the straight to beat the Phill Williamson pairing of The Silver Fox and Monty Python. The winner came off a handicap of 40m to win and trotted the 2600m from a stand in a fast 3:18.6. PGG Wrightson Hannon Memorial Replay   Harnesslink Media

Gotta Go Ya Hu a 2yo Big Jim gelding set the Motukarara harness racing workout tongues wagging on Saturday 23rd May when clearing out to win his heat by a wide margin. Trained by Robert Dunn and driven by Ross Houghton he settled in midfield for most of the race but started a quick move with half a lap remaining and whipped over his last 800m in a very quick 55.4 seconds (hand timed). His Motukarara workout suggests he is nearing peak fitness and he could quickly provide another win for successful owners Clive and Rhona Mckay who were on track to see his winning workout on Saturday. Gotta Go Ya Hu's next official race will be in race 10 at Addington on Friday night where he will do battle with another good two year old from the Purdon/Rasmussen stable in Stars Align.  Harnesslink Media

Invercargill based harness racing junior driver Sheree Tomlinson achieved her 8th career win and first at Addington Raceway tonight when she was successful on Amaretto Sun who is trained by her grandfather Ken Ford. In her first season as a Junior Driver, Tomlinson has thrived in the deep south after teaming up with Murray Brown and all roads lead to her being the no 1 junior in the deep south with current premiership leader Brad Williamson and Craig Ferguson in their last season of driving. It also adds to a wonderful season for the West Melton based Ford who thanks to top trotter Marcoola has surpassed his previous best of 14 (2004) to post 19 wins this season. Sent around the field to sit parked, Amaretto Sun proved too strong for Monnay(Brad Williamson) and Kowhai Monarch(Sam Ottley). Amaretto Sun In the Junior Drivers event, Matt Anderson and the All Stars trained Superfecta absolutely destroyed their opponents. After swinging sideways at the start and adding at least 40 metres on to their task, Anderson will quick to tack on the bunch. Thanks to a hot speed up front, Anderson was happy to sit back before launching at the 700m and looping the field to run away and win by 2 ½ lengths. Mr Handleman(Craig Ferguson) and Jewelz(Nicole Harris) were seen storming home from well back to run 2nd and 3rd. Superfecta Meanwhile, Smart 3yo Franco Cristiano beat a brave G I Joe to record his 6th career victory for trainer Robert Dunn and driver John Dunn. Sitting back and letting it all unfold in front of him, Dunn let his charge down powerfully in the home straight to grab the All Stars trained G I Joe just before the post. That win made it 3 for the night for Robert Dunn after Freedom Fighter made a dominate return to the racetrack and Letspendthenighttogether saluted. That will help Robert on his mission towards the premiership as he now sits 12 wins behind and is hoping for a big Forbury Park meeting tomorrow. Franco Cristiano Andrew Fitzgerald

They call him the Long shot Place Prince, but his real name is John Morrison. The young harness racing junior driver has quickly picked up a name for himself at getting home some of the roughest runners in a field into a top three spot. Morrison took over 130 drivers to get his first win, but hasn't looked back since then and has now picked up 5 winners in his first season. Along with those five winners, Morrison has also picked up 16 seconds and 8 thirds. Below is a list of some of the high priced dividends Morrison has upset punters with. Handlebar Hank - 3rd $9.40 Tactical VC - 2nd $16.70 Beaudiene Gambler - 2nd $5.40 Dreamcoat - 2nd - $5.40 Hestia Franco - 2nd $27.60 Rico Gold - 3rd $10.50 Rico Gold - 2nd $23.70 Four of John's five winner have paid over $9.50 on the tote. Tomorrow night at Forbury, Morrison has 6 drives including his first winner Motu Speedy Star, who will line up in the final of the Forbury Claimers series. The 11 year old gelding has been freshened for tomorrows assignment and he loves a dog fight, so if the early speed was on, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Morrison salute the judge on one of his favourite runners. The two highest priced runners Donegal Jimmy Dave and Four Starzzz Shiraz both look the hardest to beat on last weeks efforts. Both priced at $12,000.00 they will start from barriers 8 and 9. While Superior Desire will have his first run for the Robert Dunn barn after being claimed by Craig Parsons a couple of weeks ago. Sam Ottley will do the steering. Laughing Cavalier who has been at Gavin Smith's property lately will start from barrier 5 and is to be driven by Kimberly Butt. The 5yo Mach Three gelding was luckless in a recent amateur drivers event at Addington. Meanwhile, Run To Hide who was claimed last week will line up in race 4. Andrew Fitzgerald  

Dexter's Harness Racing Digits Career NZ wins: 1764. Record: 220 wins in the 2011 season. Highlights: World Driving Champ; Auckland Cup, Miracle Mile, Hunter Cup, Victoria Cup (twice), NZ Free-For-All. Dexter Dunn hates the number 199. The champion reinsman is not superstitious and has few other bugbears when in the sulky but he admits he will be disappointed if he doesn’t leave Addington tonight with 200 wins,hopefully more for the season. Dunn reined winner 199 for the term at Forbury Park last Thursday so has hardly been stranded on his bogey number but even a week is too long. “I realise I’ll almost certainly get the 200 for the season and probably a few more but I hate being on 199. “I finished on 199 for the season two years in a row (2012,13) and it was really annoying. “I’d rather only drive 190 winners in a season than get that close and miss. “But I’ve got a good book this week and really I should get there.”
 Dunn says while he has a handy book early tonight, it is On The Rantan in race nine who is his best winning chance. “I know he is only a two-year-old taking on older horses but he is pretty good,” says Dunn. “I worked him on Tuesday and he worked like a winner. “And he has very good manners for a young horse so if they go hard early, which I think they will, he might have too much speed.”
 On The Rantan is being aimed as a Breeders Crown campaign in Victoria and would want to go very close to winning tonight to warrant the expense of an Australian campaign. Dunn also rates Rapid Flight in race two a top chance tonight while he suggests punters follow Time Traveller (race three) even though he thinks he might have to settle for second tonight. “He is up against a horse of Dad’s (Robert Dunn) called Freedom Fighter who they think a lot of and it probably should win.”
 Robert Dunn also provides one of the star attractions of tonight’s meeting in Franco Christiano, who is held in huge regard by his trainer.  Franco Christiano resumed with a win at Blenheim last Friday and is also being set for the Breeders Crown but he faces a tricky assignment tonight from a wide draw against the in-form G I Joe among others. Meanwhile, Dexter says while he hopes to get to 200 in a season for the fifth time in his career tonight, he doesn’t expect to challenge his New Zealand record 220 from 2011. “I am driving in Brisbane the next three Saturdays, which means missing three Sunday meetings back here,” he said. “And then I am away for the last two meetings of the season as I am going to drive in Wales and Ireland then have a short holiday. “But getting 200 plus wins is more than enough. As long as it isn’t 199 again.
 Michael Guerin

Freak Harness Racing Trainer Paul Nairn will take two runners to Addington Raceway tomorrow. But don't bother jumping in the car and heading to the local Tab to back them, because his runners Conon Bridge and Wilma's Mate are only there to contest heats of the non tote Australasian Breeders Crown. 3yo Raffaello Ambrosio colt Conon Bridge is up against Blood n Whiskey (Robert Dunn) and My Amour (Greg & Nina Hope) in the first of the non tote events. If the Tab opened up a market you would expect to see Conon Bridge a short priced favourite on the back of his jewels placing. His stable man, Wilma's Mate, a 3yo Pegasus Spur filly owned by Richard Cornelius only has to compete against the Gavin Smith trained Oona. Again she should be winning after her jewels placing. Both runners are to be driven by Bob Butt who looks to have a massive show of picking up a treble when he lines up his own runner Matatoki in race four. A talented 3yo by Swedish stallion Revenue, Matatoki is on the look out for a penalty free win before the end of the season. While his last start was in January a handy recent trial at Ashburton has him well in commission for a winning resumption. With those three races out of the way, Butt will drive Gee Up Neddy in race eight for Yaldhurst trainer Leonne Jones. His recent form has been in top class races and before that the 5yo gelding was a super winner at Rangiora. Butt will also drive Race 1 - Aunty Jan - Phil Burrows Race 10 - Junior - David & Catherine Butt Andrew Fitzgerald

It’s a case of so far, so good for exciting 3-year-old pacer Franco Cristiano. Everything has gone to plan since the Robert Dunn trained son of Bettor’s Delight impressed in his first race day appearance in over seven months when winning at Blenheim Harness Racing Club on Friday. The only fly in the ointment came on Sunday when the meeting was abandoned due to surface flooding on the track taking the opportunity for two quick wins away from his connections. Dunn’s stable vet, Sam Taylor gave the gelding a pass with flying colours after a full examination yesterday upon his return to Woodend Beach and it’s now all systems go as they push toward a race at Addington on Thursday night. “It’s certainly great to have him back,” Robert said from Auckland yesterday. “You always worry about horses who have had injuries like he has but it would appear that the time off might have helped him. “That’s the best I think he’s raced on Friday. He’s never going to be perfect, but it’s a lot better than what he was like. “I still wonder if a lot of his problems were because of the injury, something wasn’t right with him and we can maybe now pinpoint it to the hairline fracture in his pastern.” The plan going forward very much depends on the outcome of Thursday night where Franco Cristiano takes on a stronger field than he raced on Friday. The line up includes Hypervelocity, GI Joe and Innocent Artist so he will need to be on top of his game. “We won’t make any firm plans until after Thursday probably, but it’s pretty likely he will head to the Breeders Crown heat after that. “And that in itself will be a good measuring stick for where we are at because Heaven Rocks will be there as well and from what I have seen of him, he’s a pretty special horse.” That heat for the 3-year-old colts and geldings is set down July 15. The abandonment of Sunday’s meeting won’t have helped Dunn’s chances of pegging back Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen in the trainers’ premiership. They are now 14 wins behind and were expecting a couple more to be added on Sunday. “We needed a real good day on Sunday to bring us right back into it I think. “And we could have had one of those days but that’s racing. “It’s going to take something special now I think, but we aren’t out of it. Mark and Natalie will race horses over the next few weeks with Breeders Crown heats and the like, but we’ve got numbers around the place and the plan is to keep pushing toward them and see what happens.” Dunn has 19 horses engaged at meetings between Addington, Forbury and Auckland early on in this week’s racing with a further nine nominated for the Timaru meeting on Sunday. The All Stars in contrast have two runners; GI Joe and Superfecta at Addington and then The Manipulator at Timaru. Matt Markham

Its been a seven month absence from the track, but talented three year old Franco Cristiano looks set to make a winning return on day one at Blenheim tomorrow for Harness Racing Trainer Robert Dunn. Good enough to win a Sires Stakes heat in the spring, Franco Cristiano was well supported in the final on Cup Day. However, after blowing to bits soon after the start, he would take no part in the Group One feature, won outstandingly by Lazarus. Shortly after this, Franco Cristiano headed north to Pukekohe under Robert's tutelage. However, very soon things began to unravel for the talented Bettor's Delight 3yr old. He had been a bit off in his work and Robert's worst fears were realised when after a scan, a hairline fracture of the pastern was revealed. After a successful surgery, he returned to the beach nearly three months ago and has been given plenty of time as he makes his progress back to the track. It was a winning turn at last week's Ashburton trials that told John that all was well and that it was time to get back to the track. "He was pretty impressive alright and just jogged it in some pretty quick sectionals." The news gets even better for his very patient connections. "He does seem a very different racehorse this time in and is definitely a lot more settled. Of course you never know until you get to the races though," said John. While the TAB have him installed the shortest of favourites in the early markets at $1.10, John said that first up, he must be some sort of risk. "Celestial Arden is in good form and is race fit, so we will need to be near enough to get the win." Win or lose, plans are a bit up in the air past tomorrow. "We are no certainty to go around again on Sunday. We will see how he is after the race, how he eats up and that sort of thing, but we won't be taking any risks with him." When assessing the rest of the team's chances tomorrow, John was a little frustrated by some of the draws and felt that perhaps their chances will be better on day two. "I really liked Mr Preston, but we have had to pull him out after he pulled up sore yesterday. Blood And Whisky is probably one of the best chances after Franco Cristiano. While he broke at the trials last week, I have made a couple of gear adjustments since then. He seems a nice type and should get one pretty quickly. Then later in the day, Highview Freddy and Graduate Under Fire should both go good races. They have both been near enough."Ex And when asked where things sit in terms of the much talked about premiership race, John was quite philosophical about things. "Realistically we will need to get a few wins this weekend if we are any chance. We will just keep on doing what we are doing and either way it has been a great season." Robert Dunn Trotting Stables

Harness Racing Trainer Robert Dunn, who trains in an unofficial partnership with his son John, had 103 wins for the season going into last night’s Forbury Park meeting, 17 behind the Mark Purdon-Natalie Rasmussen stable. Just a week ago the gap was much bigger, but the Dunns had a nine-win week and now Robert says the premiership is still possible. “We basically have three bases going,” he told the Herald. “We have six horses based near Forbury Park, where they race almost every week until the end of the season. “We have a nice team up here in Auckland and a good Canterbury team, which is about to be boosted by the return of Franco Christiano, who we think is the bee’s knees. “Before last week I thought we couldn’t catch them but if we can have another big week before the end of the month we have a shot going into July.”
 Dunn’s hopes of a first premiership win should be boosted by the Purdon-Rasmussen stable powering down to virtually only their Breeders Crown horses after Addington tonight. “We will have the Breeders Crown horses and maybe two others going over the winter,” Purdon confirmed. So Dunn is doing his math. “Mark and Nat will probably win most of the Breeders Crown heats here they contest, although we have Franco Christiano against Heaven Rocks so that will be no gimme for them,” says Dunn. “So they could easily end up on 125 or 126 for the season. That would mean we need to train at least 22 more, maybe even 25 but it is not impossible.”
 Ironically, Dunn’s best winning chance at Alexandra Park tonight is Bevan’s Cullen, who was trained by the All Stars until two starts ago. “He can definitely win again, while Natural and Cherry Bay are racing well and will win again over the winter. “But the one who has really improved is Formula One, who won’t start race this week but can win again soon.”
 Any success at Alexandra Park tonight for Dunn could be cancelled out by G I Joe (race six) and Augusta (race nine) for Purdon-Rasmussen at Addington tonight. While the premiership battle heats up of more immediate interest to punters is the $75,000 jackpot at Alexandra Park tonight. It starts early on race four and brings together three trot races, two paces for grass track performers and a form-packed 2200m for the fillies and mares. There aren’t many, if any, anchors so percentage betting looks the way to go as a small divvy is unlikely. Meanwhile, unbeaten New Zealand pacer Our Waikiki Beach is looking increasingly unlikely to get a start in his Breeders Challenge semi final at Menangle tomorrow night, meaning he will miss the A$150,000 final on Sunday week. Our Waikiki Beach’s connections missed the nomination time by six minutes on Tuesday, forcing him to last in the rankings and being an emergency in the semis. No rivals have been scratched yet. Purdon said no decision will be made on where the glamour colt goes next until Sunday at the earliest. Michael Guerin

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