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Inspired by a gap in the harness racing television schedule down under the debut season of "StandardBred" is now showing on Australian screens having completed it's New Zealand run during the spring on Trackside television.   Producer Sheldon Murtha offered an idea at a NZ Standardbred Breeders Association meeting that while thoroughbred breeding shows were flourishing on racing television channels there wasn't a standardbred equal.   "Such a programme had to be viable given the following harness racing has, especially in New Zealand" he recalls.    So with the support of The Breeders Associations across NZ, Trackside Television NZ and a stable of enthusiastic partners, the show got the go ahead for two seasons back in July this year. Heads are around the table mapping the next series following a more than encouraging response to the programmes.   "Viewer numbers across the various platforms available these days have been well beyond expectations" reveals Murtha whose dabbled successfully and otherwise with such broadcast projects.   "Making horse racing content that isn't generating some sort of quick betting turnover hike is shaky ground these days.It has been for a while now."   While television networks are interested in the marquee events, week to week coverage is the domain of racing channels like New Zealand's Trackside and Australia's Sky Racing which have become the drivers of the dollars relied on by racing through betting turnover. 'Colour' shows are queried and need to be self sustaining and popular to live long.   "There'll be an attempt to make StandardBred appeal to a wide audience that has a soft spot for rural, farming or country set stories" says Murtha."It almost hit the mark with a couple of these initial episodes but we were feeling our way a little too so it's an exciting project to be involved with. There's a global scope to it and the medium long term view is that we try and make a programme that can appeal to horse lovers in both hemispheres."   So how trotting is done in Europe or harness racing is faring in North America these days might make the schedule down the track if StandardBred can make good on it's great start.   Standard Bred | Episode 6 We caught up with Andrew Grierson of Woodlands Stud at his and Charles Roberts beautiful Clevedon based harness racing's standardbred breeding operation. We cover Bettor's Delight and his rise from the unknown to prominence. We also take a look a closer look at the 'Great White Blaze' who is hoped to be the perfect out-cross solution to New Zealand breeders before finding time to adore a foal as sweet (and valuable) as they come. StandardBred | Episode 5 This time on StandardBred, we catch up with Ken Breckon at his breeding establishment of Breckon Farms in Ohaupo for a yarn or two. Ken talks about his incredulous introduction to harness racing at the 1995 yearling sales in Karaka, where he and his late brother Peter purchased the 1996 2YO filly of the year. We also find time to look at a farm bred Australasian trotting champion and his incredible journey just to get to the races under more than just a watchful eye. We also take a deeper look into the farm operation and pedigrees of a few of the Breckon broodmare band that like anything 'Breckon' just keep on delivering. StandardBred | Episode 4 Sheldon catches up with Greg & Nina Hope to find out about what it takes to breed a NZ Horse of the year in Monbet. After yesterday's fresh up win in the Flying Mile, Monbet looks set for another HUGE season! StandardBred | Episode 3 On this episode of Standardbred, Sheldon catches up with Trent Yesberg of Dancingonmoonlight Farm to discuss what lays ahead for champion racehorse and now stallion Christian Cullen. We also take a look at the impact Direct Scooter line stallions have had in New Zealand and whether we have any heir apparent's to the colonial stallion throne. Standard Bred | Episode 2 Sheldon catches up with Graham Pearson to find out about life post breeding a harness racing superstar in the ilk of Under Cover Lover. We also take a look back at the impact of her sire, In The Pocket, and the influence of the Direct Scooter line in New Zealand harness racing!! Standard Bred | Episode 1 In this first episode of Standard Bred, Sheldon catches up with young breeder Sam Langrope and his wife Claire to hear about their pursuit of breeding their very own harness racing champion! Harness Racing New Zealand  

Last nights all age sale conducted by the Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders Association had all the ingredients for a successful sale bar one. It had a small but high quality catalogue, good auctioneers and vendors that were looking to meet the market but alas buyers were nowhere to be seen. Twenty six lots went under the hammer but only two lots drew bids and both changed hands. The other twenty four lots did not elicit one bid between them and it wasn't for lack of trying. There were only about 30 people present but mostly they were vendors or window shoppers. The second all age sale to be conducted by the Canterbury Standardbred Breeders Association, the sale is not conducted along traditional lines with the $100 entry fee the only cost to vendors. None of the stock to be auctioned are on site as this sale was designed as a low cost option for breeders to sell their stock. Year one was reasonably successful but last nights results will cause a major rethink on behalf of the promoters. Sheldon Murtha, who is one of the people behind the concept was philosophical after last night's sale. " Our members have been asking us for a cheaper way to sell their stock and this was the concept we came up with." " It worked in year one and the catalogue this year while smaller was of a much higher quality." " Our original intention was to have the auction online but we ran into difficulties there with finding a suitable partner to provide the technical expertise." " I still think that is where this sale should be and we will look to sort out the problems we had with the online sale and move to that format next year," Sheldon said. Harnesslink Media 

The 'CSBA Summer of Speed' is another push from the association representing and promoting interests of standardbred breeders in Canterbury.  Scheduled to start the first week of December it's a race series that gives good class mares an opportunity to upgrade their 'CV' with an eye on a post racing life at stud explains CSBA deputy chairman Martin Pierson.  “We have to be urgent in the breeding sector of the sport. Incentives to keep good mares in New Zealand producing the foals that'll  'put on the show' in the future is a priority right now.”   Pierson is part of a sub-committee formed by the association targeting areas it sees as helping turn a tide of decreasing harness horse numbers caused by a financially strapped breeding sector.  “The absolute top tier mares can look after themselves, it's those chasing we're losing too quickly to keep a sustainable population of quality horses coming on. Those 2nd tier mares are being exported to Australia mainly, filling up race fields and stud farms in Victoria and New South Wales instead of Canterbury and New Zealand.”  A tighter summer race schedule and new supporting stallion group are two fresh starts this season for the races recently known as the Christian Cullen Mares Series.  The 'Prodigal Seelster Summer of Speed' starts at Methven on December 7th then moves to Addington just under a fortnight later on the 19th.   The C2 and faster pacing mares then stretch their legs at Ashburton's renowned speedway on Boxing Day before heading back to Addington on January 16 and a last bid at qualifying for the $16 000 final at Ashburton, February 7th.  All races will be over a mile which immediately brings the controversial start point at Addington for such events into question again. Pierson says the series sub-committee debated more than one issue strongly and mile racing at New Zealands premier track came back frequently.  “We've opened the class eligibility a little wider this summer with a total stakes won cap of $65k which will help keep about half a dozen C5, 6 and 7 mares in the mix. Addington's mile start provides a natural barrier draw handicap which, as we've seen already this spring, keeps the C2 mares very competitive with the more tightly assessed girls who'll get their shot matching motors at Methven and Ashburton.”  Methven's grass track venue also came under review says Pierson but while it scored down on the 'fast track fast times' objective, the prospect of 14 runners in front of the club's typically big crowd on a summers day was deemed a great start for the series.  In addition to backing the $9000 heats and $16 000 final, stallion owner Noel Kennard has proposed a package of free services to 'Prodigal Seelster'.  Prodigal Seelster winning the “Battle of Waterloo”  Not only for the winner of the 'Summer of Speed' final but the fastest mare through the series and in fact all competitors will be in a draw for a 'free date' with the stallion.  “He's locked in for 3 years” Pierson enthuses. “That gives the CSBA confidence to develop the series and the stallion is exposed to quality, fast mares coming through the series”.  Canterbury Standardbred Breeders Association  

“That's about twice as many entries as we expected to be honest”.  Canterbury Standardbred Breeders Association chair Noel Kennard is pleasantly surprised by the more than 60 broodmares that make the bulk of the web based catalogue for the organisations horse sale on September 11th. The group took on the spring sale of in foal or ready to be bred pacing and trotting mares after requests and demand from it's 270 strong membership wanting a platform to buy and sell stock at the start of the harness racing breeding season. “While nobody's expecting much above bargain prices many of the mares have the potential to engage a bidding duel before they find a new breeding barn”. A sale co-coordinator Sheldon Murtha, is quietly enthusing over the quality that's surfaced during the final days of accepting entries. “The two mares from Tuapeka Lodge will get plenty of views through the website and the prospect of having a spring foal by Art Major or Mach Three should spin some wheels on several other lots”. Fans of the square gaiter should enjoy researching some of the trotting mares listed. If half sisters to 'Sundon' and 'Sky Valley' don't grab, those in foal to current hot stallion 'Monkey Bones' and french bleu blood 'Repeat Love' should have computer mouses clicking through to pedigree pages. Noel Kennard says the convenience of combining the new sale with the associations popular Stud and Stallion promo night may turn out to be a welcome strategic bonus. “Anyone buying a mare at the sale during the first part of the night will have the stallion service offer right there in front of them during the second half” he suggests. “We're assured the stud farms will be ready to make a deal with any new owners that night”. The CSBA Broodmare and Mixed stock horse sale begins at 5pm on Thursday September 11th in the 'Blossom Lady' lounge at Addington Raceway. The horses for sale are now listed on the highlighted web pages at Canterbury Standardbred Breeders Association  

“We canvassed standardbred breeders around the country and agreed the harness racing market to sell a broodmare in foal or ready to foal would be greatest in the early spring”.  CSBA Chairman Noel Kennard articulating the main reason for the association's just confirmed 'Broodmare and Mixed Stock Sale' this spring. There are several points of difference with the September 11th event. The first early vendors have been encouraged by is a 0% commission on any transaction. “We aren't a business,we're just providing a platform for breeders to present and sell their product” says Sheldon Murtha, one of six Sales Sub Committee members charged with shaping the new sale. “Any associated costs will be covered by the $125 per entry fee.” Previous mid-winter mixed stock horse sales have often proved uneconomical for most concerned. The racing and yearling sales seasons are over when they're scheduled with no real demand from investors to buy and then carry an animal through the cold months. “The one taking the hit in the pocket,year after year lately,is the breeder. This spring sale will at least give them an opportunity to sell when there is more demand at the start of a breeding season.” says Kennard. Another cost being circumnavigated is that of transporting and parading a horse at the venue. Prior sales knowledge and inspection will be paramount for potential buyers to get comfortable bidding on a broodmare not necessarily being shown in front of them on auction night at Addington Raceway. “In this economic climate it's a dead loss tripping a nice mare from say, Southland, only to have to transport her home again if a buyer hasn't been found on the day” expands Murtha. “This way the only real cost to the vendor is the entry fee, the rest is fielding and answering inquiries about their horses for the month leading to the sales night. By then any buyer or agent will have matched a type with what they want to pay as with any auction really”. The CSBA is confident the sale will appeal to breeders and buyers across New Zealand and even Australia given the quality of stock already nominated. All final entries accepted from across New Zealand will be published by August 17th.A website based catalogue will be available on the NZSBA web pages at followed quickly by an industry wide media campaign. Harnesslink media

The final installment of HRTV's Spring Feature suggests it's a longshot that New Zealand Harness Racing will be a viable industry 10 years from now,. Unless it learns from the international contraction underway in the northern hemisphere.   "New Zealand's in danger of ending up where Canada is now if it doesn't get a business structure going quickly" says John Curtin.   "No one said it was easy out there but the breeders are doing their bit as best we can" according to Alabar NZ's Graeme Henley.   How does New Zealand Harness Racing start 'meeting the market' in time to stop it going bust?   Sheldon Murtha

If I'm a 'player' in the standardbred breeding 'game', I'm up for a small fortune at high risk before there's any prospect of financial return.   That's been the 'equation' for years,but in these testing times for harness racing worldwide. HRTV asks does that have to change for the contraction of the sport to start easing?   Is harness racing at a point where relying on long term market strategy and forces isn't going to save it but tip it over the edge?   Is there a 'save' strategy and does it start with breeding costs and keeping close to home?   John Curtin and Alabar NZ's Graeme Henley in Part two of HRTV's 'Meeting the Market' spring feature.

"I 've said to dad a few times,.It'd be great just to have a runner on NZ Cup day,.and now here we are with a horse in the big one!?..Awesome!"   New Zealand's HRTV talks to the guy who bred and loves racing 'Four Starzz Flash',.who also happens to be one of the sexiest standardbreds you'll see!   It's the home of 'Steam Punk' and the historic NZ Cup lead up race the 'Hannon Memorial'!  A year ago this week,. Oamaru was the venue for the next bonafide Southlander to launch an ssault on New Zealand's iconic horse race,..with the backing of half the province to boot!   An exceptional line up of Europe's finest gather for the French Summer's finale in Paris. Ready Cash,Timoko,Commander Crowe and more sre the 'Masters du Trot'..   Sheldon Murtha  

New Zealand based HRTV is outta the blocks this down under spring!   Can New Zealand breeders 'Meet The Market' this season?   HRTV's September Feature canvasses opinion from arguably Australasia's leading  standardbred stud and the manager of champion racehorse 'Auckland Reactor' as he hits the stallion barn.   How long's it been since a bonafide Southlander won it?   Back Up the truck on the 'Road to the NZ Cup' to this week last year and remember New Zealand's greatest ever reinsman as well.   An Australian NZ Cup contender was quickest out of the blocks as nominations and early betting markets are opened on down under's greatest harness race.

The 2012 Franklin Cup won't be run at this Friday's Franklin meeting owing to the disappointing nominations.The club has replaced the race this Friday (November 23) with a Special Handicap over 2700m, putting the Franklin Cup back to December 7 should ensure a fuller field and race worthy of its Group 2 status.

When Kiwis think of harness racing's prestigious Meadowlands Pace the names Brett Pelling and Mark Harder quickly spring to mind.

Harness Racing TV's Sheldon Murtha spoke to Addington Raceway CEO Dean McKenzie recently and asks the difficult question, where are we all going to sit during the New Zealand Cup come November?

Sir Lincoln has now developed into one of New Zealand's best open class pacers from behind the mobile arm. In this video harness racing owner, Graeme Blackburn, of Lincoln Farms, is speechless after his Mach Three colt provided the career highlight on New Zealand Cup Day 2009.

Sheldon Murtha was once the face of New Zealand racing but on Saturday night (November 26) he will do something he rarely bothers to any more - watch a race live. He has plenty of motivation, though, having reached the mountaintop of harness racing as an owner with Franco Jamar running in the A$500,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle.

Harness racing and media personality Sheldon Murtha executed the perfect drive behind the Dave Gaffaney trained UK Connection to win the final race of the day at the Ashburton Trotting Club's meeting held yesterday (Tuesday) at Addington Raceway.

She was the darling of Alexandra Park last month and the big crowd went wild when Swedish harness racing mare Annicka won the Inter Dominion Trotter's Consolation. Now some three weeks later can she win the coveted Rowe Cup at the same venue this Friday night (May 6)?

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