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Breaking out on your own after a successful harness racing partnership that has lasted many years is supposed to be hard yakka, but Paul Court can be forgiven though for thinking it’s all a little too easy. The West Melton horseman, who was alongside his father Graham in training partnership for close to a decade, is making a pretty good fist of the solo training caper and yesterday, on the first day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s Winter meeting, he picked up his first training hatrick. “It’s been a pretty dream start really, better than I could have ever expected anyway,” Court said. Yesterday’s three wins came less than 24 hours after Stunin Dude won at Forbury Park on Thursday night in the hands of Blair Orange and it was the Postman who was in the sulky for two thirds of his Friday success. Orange drove both Hypervelocity and Expressive Victor to victory while Ricky May was on board Courage To Live who won the last race of the day. “I thought that they were all good chances, but for all three to win was great. “You got to the race expecting to have a good day and often it’s the opposite.” Expressive Victor’s win in the Winter Cup Prelude was impressive. The 4-year-old mare, who was second behind Rocker Band in the 4YO Ruby at the Harness Jewels three weeks ago, overcame an early bobble to sit off the speed before unwinding brilliantly down centre track to secure victory. “The gallop was a bit of a worry, she’s usually such a good beginner. “Blair said she got a bit of a fright when the tapes went, I don’t think one on the 10 metre line was a good draw for her.” The imposing mare will start a warm order favourite on Sunday to go back-to-back on what is fast becoming her favourite track. From five starts on the Waterlea Raceway surface she’s won twice and placed on as many occasions with her only failure coming when she choked down and crashed to the deck at the Summer meeting earlier this year. Both Hypervelocity and Courage To Live will both also be in action on Sunday.   The former will have to deal with the impressive Franco Cristiano who made light work of his race track return earlier in yesterday’s programme for Robert and John Dunn. Courage To Live also has a tough ask from a wider draw, but his free going racing style means he will be on the speed at some stage in the race and that’s here he seems to race best. “He probably lacks that really high speed, but he will just keep going. “I was pretty impressed with the way he won, he looked like he could have kept going at that speed too. “He’s just got better and better each time I’ve taken him to the races.” Closely related to Terror To Love, the Jereme’s Jet colt was one of two winners for Terry McDonald who also shares owns Hypervelocity. McDonald went had the perfect day on Friday with Letspendanitetogetha, who he owns with good friend Reg Storer, finishing second to Courage To Live. While Court’s three wins was impressive, Orange’s driving talents were on full display. He won three races to go with the three he picked up on Thursday night, taking him to 117 winners for the season and 16 wins clear in second position on the national premiership which is being led by Dexter Dunn. Dunn endured a winless day at the office and will have to wait until next week to get New Zealand win No. 200 as he’s on a plane to drive Christen Me in Queensland on Saturday night and isn’t returning to Blenheim for Sunday’s meeting. Matt Markham

There’s 50,000 reasons to get involved in Sunday’s Pick6 on the second of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club’s Winter meeting. It’s a quality pot to chase on a Sunday afternoon and it has the potential to get even higher than it’s guaranteed price. As well as the big pot, $3,000 will be added to every First Four at the meeting. To help you get a slice of the Pick6 pie, we’ve done the hard work and gone through the six legs with the hope of pointing you in the right direction. We’ve produced two options for you too chase. One featuring a few more selections for a decent outlay and a second which is a bit shorter and gives you a chance at a bigger piece of the prize if we’re successful. Leg One - Race 4: The toughest leg to kick things off, without doubt. Plenty of form running through here from the first day of racing including three winners. We’d suggest taking a wee spread here to ensure you get through the first leg, or even perhaps a ticker with a spread and then a ticket with just a few. 1 Hopeful Harriet and 2 Glenferrie Classic were both impressive on Friday and are drawn up for a lead/trail scenario which should have them both in the race up to their eyeballs. 10 Sauciehall and 11 Dancing In The Dark, Friday’s other winner, following them both through and should be thereabouts again. Expect an improved effort from 4 Thisgirlisonfire as well. She could easily win. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach: 1 Hopeful Harriet, 2 Glenferrie Classic, 4 Thisgirlisonfire, 10 Sauciehall & 11 Dancing In The Dark. The Short & Sweet Ticket: 1 Hopeful Harriet & 2 Glenferrie Classic.   Leg Two - Race 5: Not a lot easier here to be honest because it’s a trot. And so much hinges on the first 100 metres of the race as opposed to the final 100 metres. 11 Kowhai Monarch was so impressive on Friday that he picks himself. Follows speed well and will be given every opportunity. 4 Blood And Whiskey was eye-catching on Friday and should have taken some benefit out of the run. He’s dangerous if close enough. 3 Redwood Invasion, 9 No Bacardi Damit and 11 Clifden Clowers were all good on Friday and with manners can figure again. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach : 3 Redwood Invasion, 4 Blood And Whiskey, 9 No Bacardi Damit & 11 Kowhai Monarch. The Short & Sweet Ticket: 4 Blood And Whiskey & 11 Kowhai Monarch   Leg Three - Race 6: He’s got to come off the second line draw, but the run of 10 Letspendanitetogetha on Friday should see him hard to beat. He’s going to have to get around them at some stage, but is good enough to do it. His biggest danger will be a free-wheeling 6 Courage To Live who was too good for most of these on Friday and should be again. 2 Recipe For Dreaming has a good draw to use so must be included. 9 Martin John the other to consider. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach: 2 Recipe For Dreaming, 6 Courage To Live & 10 Letspendanitetogetha The Short & Sweet Ticket: 6 Courage To Live & 10 Letspendanitetogetha   Leg Four - Race 7 It’s short and sweet here. 1 Franco Cristiano was that impressive on the first day that he shouldn’t really be beaten on the second day. Look no further. 4 Celestial Arden  will get close again, but not close enough. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach: 1 Franco Cristiano The Short & Sweet Ticket: 1 Franco Cristiano   Leg Five - Race 8: 4 Expressive Victor simply smashed them on Friday in the Cup Prelude and barring accidents will do the same again. Usually steps like a toff and is pretty hard to catch in front. Good luck to her opposition. 5 Highview Freddy is his only danger. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach: 4 Expressive Victor & 5 Highview Freddy The Short & Sweet Approach: 4 Expressive Victor   Leg Six - Race 9: It’s back to being a little tougher at the end of the day, just like it was at the start. Plenty of winning chances in here. 1 Mighty American looked a little unlucky on the opening day but should get a good run from a good draw. Looks hard to beat. 5 Mrs Browns Boys and 7 Gabby’s Star were just ok on Friday, but will be better here. Expect a big run from the latter. 12 Il Divo of the back row looks the other strong winning hope while there will be plenty of talk for 4 Twitter Bromac and 6 Arizona Atom after good runs on Friday. What We Suggest: The Cautious Approach: 1 Mighty American, 5 Mrs Browns Boys, 7 Gabby’s Star & 12 Il Divo The Short & Sweet Approach: 1 Mighty American, 7 Gabby’s Star   Our Suggested Bets:   The Cautious Approach: L1: 1,2,4,10,11 - L2: 3,4,9,11 - L3: 2,6,10 - L4: 1 - L5: 4,5 - L6: 1,5,7,12. $100 spend give yous $26% of the dividend.   The Short & Sweet Approach: L1: 1,2 - L2: 3,11 - L3: 6,10 - L4: 1 - L5: 4 - L6: 1,7 $32 spend gives you $2 worth of the dividend.   Super Selector - By Matt Markham Race 1: 4 The Foot Tapper, 3 Taimate Raffa, 5 Carribean Fizz, 6 Sunny Bill Race 2: 2 Art I Am, 8 Yukon Gold, 11 A Better Dancer, 4 Trixie Bromac Race 3: 9 Prada’s Ideal Dahling, 11 Donegal Carrickfin, 8 Supermoshi, 1 Ballymore Boy Race 4: 2 Glenferrie Classic, 1 Hopeful Harriet, 10 Sauciehall, 11 Dancing In The Dark Race 5: 4 Blood And Whiskey, 11 Kowhai Monarch, 9 No Bacardi Damit, 3 Redwood Invasion Race 6: 10 Letspendanitetogetha, 6 Courage To Live, 2 Recipe For Dreaming, 9 Martin John Race 7: 1 Franco Cristiano, 4 Celestial Arden, 6 Hypervelocity, 2 Molly Sims Race 8: 4 Expressive Victor, 5 Highview Freddy, 2 Graduate Under Fire, 8 Tijuana Bromac Race 9: 1 Mighty American, 7 Gabby’s Star, 5 Mrs Browns Boys, 12 Il Divo   Best Bet: Art I Am (Race 2) Value: Gabby’s Star (Race 9) Matt Markham

A relatively good summer, improved track grooming and the injection of some quality Canterbury horses led to a bumper season for track records in the Southern region. Forty one track records were broken over all southern surfaces during the 2015-2016 season which wrapped up at Invercargill on Queens Birthday Monday - the highest number for many years. And twenty of those were also Southland records. The Club that hosted the most track records for the season was Invercargill where 7 pacers made the list and 6 trotters were added to the record books. The Young Quinn Raceway at Wyndham had 6 pacing and 1 trotting record broken, Central Southland Raceway at Winton had 6 pacers break records. All other southern surfaces got amongst the action, Gore all weather (2 pacers), Omakau (2 pacers and 1 trotter), Roxburgh (1 pacer and 2 trotters), Gore Grass (4 pacers and 1 trotter) and Cromwell Grass (1 pacer and 1 trotter). Heading the class of record breakers was Nek Time who broke the 2400 metre mobile record at Winton in February running 2-53.0 which was also a New Zealand record for a three year old filly. She also broke the 2700 metre mobile record at Invercargill for three year old fillies running 3-19.4.  Meanwhile a number of Southland trainers are heading towards personal best seasons. Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray is currently sitting on 24 winners which is 10 more than his previous best season of 14 in 2015. Gray trains for Australian owners Merv and Meg Butterworth who purchase horses in the province and many stay here initially before heading to Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen in Canterbury, Tony Herlihy in Auckland or to Australian trainers. Clark Barron recorded 22 training wins this season 4 more than his previous best of 18 in 2011 while Ascot Park trainer Brent Shirley who is only in his fourth season of training finished the season with 20 winners - 4 better than his old PB of 16 in 2014. Alister Black was another young trainer to improve his standing with 13 winners. His previous personal best was 8 in 2013. Driver Nathan Williamson was the only driver of note to better his driving PB. He currently has 86 wins on the board, that’s 8 better than the 78 he drove in 2013.   Bruce Stewart - Southland Harness

Hamish Hunter became the first Southland based Harness Racing trainer to join the elite 500 club when I Try won at Forbury Park last night (Thursday 23rd). I Try is owned by  Hunter and loyal clients of the stable The What Ever Syndicate. Together, they also own the stable's biggest winner, Franco Ledger. I Try is a Mach Three four year old. Tonight he raced three back on the rails and found room in the straight to get up and nab Pembrook Harry.  "It was pretty good for a middle of the road trainer as I describe myself. I was aware I was getting close as my family informed me," said Hunter.  Hamish Hunters best season was in 2014 when star pacer Franco Ledger was a leading stake earner. That season he racked up 33 wins from 339 starters and $347,376 in stakes. "He's back in work (Franco Ledger). He's a 100 percent sound and all going well we'll have one more go at the cup. It's probably be his last chance."  In 1989 he recorded his best UDR ranking when he started horses 174 times for 23 wins, 18 seconds and 14 thirds for a UDR .2165. Horses racing that season included Betonim, Benachie Lad and Admiral Luca. He's won the Southland trainers premiership 6 times; 1985, 1986, 2007 (jointly with Brendon McLellan and Kirk Larsen), 2008 (jointly with Murray Brown), 2011 and 2014. Out of his 500 training successes he's driven 374 himself. His first winner was Karen's Pride at Waikouaiti in October 1976. He won five races on the mare between October and June of that season. In the following two season's he had the services of half brothers Good Too and Model Hardcraft. Model Hardcraft won his first three races as a two year old including the 1979 New Zealand Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham. Good Too won eight races for Hunter. Hunter has trained three winners in one day three times; Forbury Park October 1984 (Heiden, Sissy Bogart and Tapado Time), Invercargill September 2001 (Catalina Dreaming, Galleons Treasure and Grenadier) and Northern Southland October 2005 (Grenadier, Rockie's Dream and Mainstay).  Of all the Southern Harness feature races it's the Wairio Cup that he's won the most: Josephine Bret (1984), Yandoon (1992), Grenadier (2004), Franco Ledger (2013) and Canardly Lover (2014).  List of major winners: Franco Ledger (25 wins) Malaz (15 wins)  Nursemaid (14 wins) Devil May Care (11 wins) Canardly Lover (10 wins) Good Too  (8 wins) Grenadier (8 wins)  Cornell (8 wins) Betonim (8 wins) Model Hardcraft (7 wins) Holmezy (7 wins) Galleons Treasure (7 wins) Southern Boy (6 wins) Christian Ruler (6 wins) Stand Asquire (6 wins) Galleons Cheer ( 5 wins from just nine starts) Nordette (5 wins) Blueberry Hill (5 wins)  Benachie Lad (5 wins)  Admiral Luca (5 wins)  Congratulations Hamish - great effort. Meanwhile, Dexter Dunn got win number 199 for the season behind Lightning Mach for trainer Cran Dalgety. Four Starzzz Shiraz won heat 4 of the Claimers series for new trainer Brian Norman & driver Blair Orange, and Run To Hide was claimed by Canterbury Junior Driver Andrew Fitzgerald. Bruce Stewart - Southland Harness.

Harness Racing Trainer Paul Court has a Blenheim winter double in mind to wind down Expressive Victor's stellar season on a high.  Court will start the Harness Jewels runner-up in the Winter Cup Prelude on the first day of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club's double header and she is likely to go again in Sunday's Winter Cup. Expressive Victor was given a week off following her second in the four-year-old Diamond behind Rocker Band. She has not been sighted publicly since but her West Melton-based trainer is confident she is forward enough to be competitive on both days Waterlea. "If anything she might be better for the run on Friday, but I wouldn't be coming if I didn't think she could (win)," Court said. Expressive Victor starts off 10m in Friday's Prelude but being the reliable and speedy beginner she is from the stand, the winner of seven races should be able to find the front if Blair Orange wants it. Court believes Expressive Victor is versatile and is not concerned if she does not lead. The daughter of Changeover raced by the De Novo Syndicate has chalked up five wins and six minor placings from 16 starts this season to exceed Court's expectations. "We always thought she was a pretty handy horse that could win two or three pretty quick but she just keeps stepping up." But Expressive Victor has not been the only bright point of Court's first season training on his own accord. Before Thursday night's Forbury Park meeting, he had already tallied 25 winners and could not be happier with how the season has panned out. He spent seven seasons training in partnership with his father Graham - highlighted by three consecutive New Zealand Trotting Cup victories with champion pacer-turned-sire Terror To Love. Thirty winners for the season looks possible but Court is not targeting any specific number. "I'm over the moon really. I didn't think about how many we might get beforehand, I just like to let it play out and see what happens. "I've been really happy with how many runners we have had in the Group races and how competitive we have been in them," Court said. Court also has a couple of leading hopes in c1 races over 2300m on the first day at Blenheim. Hypervelocity​ (race 6) and Courage To Live (race 9) both start from barrier two and although Court is not brimming with confidence, he rates both winning chances. The Bruce Hutton-trained Ideal Arden, who won the Nelson Winter Cup Prelude and Nelson Winter Cup will look to repeat the double in Blenheim. Highview Freddy​ ran two placings behind Ideal Arden at Nelson with stablemate Graduate Under Fire finishing just in behind with two top five finishes for the Robert Dunn stable. "Highview Freddy would have to be the pick of them just on that Nelson form," stable representative John Dunn said.      The highlight for the Dunn stable will be the return of exciting pacer Franco Cristiano​ who makes his makes his comeback from a long injury layoff in the c2-c3 pace over 2300m. The three-year-old was one of the main challengers to the All Stars colts before fracturing a pedal bone earlier this season. "He's pretty forward, he's had two nice trials," Dunn said. Mat Kermeen

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

Updated 8am Friday Morning Todd Macfarlane produced the top tip for last week with his winning tip, Mr Natural winning at Alexandra Park, paying a nice $5.10 & $2.00. John Dunn deserves a honorably mention with his tip Katgotstyle who raced twice last week and was successful on Sunday at Rangiora paying $9.10. Others to tip winners were Andrew Fitzgerald, Kyle Marshall and Matt Cross. This week we have a few additions to the ring around - "Short priced special" will hopefully be one you can anchor in all bets. While a new mystery tipster will try to bump up our winning %. This week we cover 3 meetings, including Blenheim which is a dual meeting so make sure to follow the tips through to the second day. Forbury Park Thursday Night Brad Williamson – Madison Jane, Race 1. (2nd, $3.40 tote) Nathan Williamson – Gangnam Style, Race 2. (1st, $1.70, 1.40 tote) Rory Mcllwrick – Golden Gate, Race 6 (1st, $4.70 $2.30 tote) Craig Ferguson – Van Eva, Race 7. (2nd, $2.80 tote) Mystery Tipster - Hudson Sally, Race 8.  (7th) Matt Cross - Highview Illusion, Race 8. (2nd, $1.60 tote) John Dunn - Donegal Jimmy Dave, Race 11. (2nd, $1.50 tote) Blenheim - Friday Afternoon/Sunday Afternoon Blair Orange - Wot Up, Race 1. John Curtin - Glenferrie Classic, Race 2. Andrew Fitzgerald - Dancing In The Dark, Race 3. Ricky May - Pradas Ideal Dahling, Race 3. Jonny Cox - Thisgirlisonfire, Race 5. Peter Scaife - Also likes - Thisgirlisonfire, Race 5. Robbie Holmes - Gabby's Star, Race 7. Short priced special - Franco Cristiano, Race 7. Alexandra Park - Friday Night Todd Macfarlance - Stunning Shadow, Race 2. Mark Jones - Aymar, Race 4. Kyle Marshall - No Way Else, Race 6. Jay Abernethy - Elliot Daniel, Race 6. Dylan Ferguson - On The Razzle, Race 6. Scott Phelan - Rocknroll Princess, Race 9. Andre Poutama - Norvic Ruby, Race 10. Gavin Smith - Di'z Luck, Race 11. Andrew Fitzgerald

The Nelson Harness Racing Club is adamant it will continue its 125-year legacy for many more to come despite a difficult climate for the industry. Club president John McKenzie was quick to dismiss any speculation that the future of harness racing at Richmond Park was in any jeopardy. He said the recent Winter Cup meet as one of the best attended for some time. The club has had a difficult year as it faces an estimated $140,000 tax bill after discovering late last year that it had over-claimed on GST for the past four years. A junior auditor uncovered the accounting error after finding the club had claimed for GST on stakes payments to all winning owners and trainers instead of claiming only for those that were already GST-registered. At the time, McKenzie said the potential bill was "concerning" but that Inland Revenue was informed of the error immediately Speaking last week, he said the matter was now before the IRD and declined to comment further.  However, McKenzie said the club was still in a good position. "It's certainly hard for all racing clubs to make ends meet at the moment and our committee has undergone a significant restructuring period over the last six months. "We will, however, keep holding our two race meets each year. As long as I'm here there will still be a club." The club had received great support from the Canterbury harness fraternity in attending the Nelson races, McKenzie said. He pointed to a sharp drop in horse breeding numbers and fewer drivers on the harness circuit as reasons for any perceived dip in field numbers. Unlike Australia where the racing industry was big enough to support weekly meetings at a variety of venues, he said provincial locations like Nelson struggled to get the corporate backing to support them. "There's not the big money in it right now and you're seeing more horses that do have the talent heading (overseas) for that very reason," he said. The summer and winter trots have been a popular fixture on the Nelson events calendar for generations. In recent years, the family-friendly aspect had been extended to include kids entertainment and on course activities. While having such facilities came at a cost to the club, McKenzie said it was seen as an investment in introducing harness racing to a wider audience. The club leases the Richmond Park facilities from the Nelson A & P association on a right to use basis. Along with McKenzie an eight-strong committee works behind the scenes throughout the year to ensure the four race days run as smoothly as possible. Club membership sits at about fifty. Attracting larger numbers to race meetings is the main focus of the club - which in turn would bring in greater revenue. McKenzie said one of the challenges faced was educating people on the betting process, therefore enabling more first time punters to try their luck. As it stands, clubs receive 16 cents for every betting dollar placed on site but only 10 cents to the dollar on every bet made off the track. The latter figure includes those using their mobile device to access TAB accounts, which often means punters in the Richmond Park grandstands are choosing the convenience of an online transaction over waiting in line. The next Nelson Harness Club meet is the summer meet scheduled for January 13 and 15. Tim O'Connell Nelson Mail Reprinted with premission

Recently appointed South Island Harness Racing New Zealand board member Murray Swain has hit out at the new funding structure, that is to be introduced by HRNZ.   He will sit down with other HRNZ representatives and a host of Southland owners, trainers and drivers at a meeting on Wednesday 22nd June 6.15pm at the Ascot Park Racecourse Dining Room.    Have a read of Murray's view on the new funding structure:   My personal view in relation to the new funding structure to pay all starters as announced by HRNZ is that I was extremely disappointed that we (Southern region) had no knowledge of what was being proposed by the HRNZ board. With the lack of consultation given to this region it begs to differ – is the south of the Waitaki not important with 25% of racehorses and 30% broodmares being served.   In this day & age it wouldn’t have been hard to use Survey Monkey or similar to email all owners & trainers on the HRNZ database to get an overall NZ view. We have been asked by the HRNZ board to review the way we operate down here and we have come up with a new bulk funding model which has been agreed to by the clubs and HRNZ. When this funding decision was made the model which we are about to start with this upcoming season was obviously not taken into consideration.   The disappointing scenario I can see with regards to paying all starters is that the funds come from the stakes being paid to the first 4 home. I have seen the statistics which means those trainers who have high UDR’s are at a considerable disadvantage e.g. Nathan Williamson and Brent Shirley stables stakes would decrease between $10,000 - $12,000 to their owners when comparing this season’s stakes using the new model. This would also affect the driver and trainer percentages as well. I would have thought those who achieve good results should be rewarded, not the other way around. Talking to the participants in my area they all say the same thing – we need the 1 st 4 stakes payments to increase – that is what we are trying to achieve with the new model in Southland.   There was a very good article in the Harness Express from Mark Hanover & Gordon Banks from America on their idea’s on the way NZ harness racing should be going - great read in particular #5 is Purse Structure with the following a quote from this:   “In North America all harness purses are split 50/25/12/8/5%....if you finish worse than fifth you either get nothing or a small amount equal to the minimum driver payment. From a practical perspective it is impossible to sustain an owner’s bench in these difficult economic times by offering ridiculously small percentages to third and fourth place finishers. The 1-2% that you now provide all finishers cannot long keep them going. Unless there horses are good enough to reasonably often finish top four, those horses and owners will not long remain in racing.”   A lot of lesser performing maiden & C1 horses can, and hopefully will be, catered for in the Southern Region so they get an opportunity to race like against like e.g. horses with no form last 4 starts, working from the bottom up, will be in a field and racing for a reasonable stake.   With breeding numbers falling from around 4,500 20yrs ago to 2,000 now and still declining and costs rising the stakes return is very important. Not everyone can breed to the elite stallions. If you breed a mare to a cheaper sire there should be the opportunity to get a reasonable return through racing. The new HRNZ stakes schedule being introduced does not reflect what we are trying to achieve in the Southern region.   Murray Swain Chairman Southern Harness Board     Harnesslink Media

Canterbury Junior Driver Jessica Young should have won the South Island section of the Australasian Young Drivers Championships and should be representing her country this year. She was leading at the normal cut off time and thought she had won the chance to compete, but due to confusion from Perth officials she has lost that chance. The Australasia Young Drivers Championship is one of two serious targets for all junior drivers in New Zealand each season, with the NZ Junior Drivers Championships being the most sort after. Thanks to a outstanding season which has so far seen Young salute 23 times, she is now a leading chance to qualify and in with a chance to win this years edition of the NZ Junior Drivers Championships. But it's missing out on the Australasian Champs that really has Young upset. With qualifying usually running from the start of the season to around March, the points system was simply and easy to follow thanks to weekly updates on the HRNZ website. First there was talk it might be held in conjunction with the Tabtouch Perth Inter Dominions in December 2015. Then it was March 2016. That date came and went with little communication from Perth Officials. Now it looks like December 2016 will be the confirmed date. While it is great that the series will finally be held, it doesn't help Young out at all. Thanks to the new points system in place she currently sits in 4th place in the South Island ladder, 141 points behind leader Brad Williamson. Even if Young somehow made a unlikely come back to topple Brad, she would be unable to compete due to age restrictions. This throws up some questions, such as: Why is the date not a fixed? - We suggest March/April each year, to allow a good time of qualifying for New Zealand & Australian young drivers. Where is the communication from the Perth officials?  Did they hope to push it under the rug and hope nothing became of it? ​Major issues were raised after a disappointed owner sent in this letter While plenty of the anger in that letter was directed at HRNZ, we would like to direct the attention away from them and their staff. They are the middle man, and have been given little information to work with by the Perth officials. The issue is clearly with Perth, and a lack of communication that has resulted in them letting down young drivers all around Australasia. Something needs to be done to clear up these issues. A Junior Driver in New Zealand only gets 5 season as a junior. And usually it is only in the last two seasons that a young driver really hits their straps and starts to get a larger amount of drives which sets them up to qualify for series such as these. The last thing they need is uncertainties on dates they can collect points and when the competition will be held. Harnesslink Media

There were plenty of smiles in the Rangiora birdcage today when the Peter Robertson trained Bacardi N Coke captured the Fernside Handicap Trot. Driven to perfection by Craig Thornley who is well known for his big smile, the Bacardi Lindy gelding exploded through the gaps to record his second career victory. “He's getting stronger with racing and finally starting to figure out what it's all about” said part owner Maree Robertson. Away quickly from the stand, Bacardi N Coke was slotted into a trailing spot behind Sarah Palin, but with a couple of lead changes, Thornley soon found himself all dressed up with nowhere to go back on the pegs. With some jostling for positions happening up front, Thornley was able to sneak up the pegs before squeezing through between favourite Monkeys Way and Sarah Palin. “We have been getting some acupuncture for him lately and he really seems to be responding to it” The 4yo gelding is owned by Maree Robertson, Peter Robertson, Mitchell Robertson, Michelle Gason and Brad Robertson. Bacardi N Coke Meanwhile, Balcairn trainer and driver Don Burrows picked up his first driving win since 2003 when he saluted the judge with maiden trotter Lightworkofit. His last driving win was In Shot at the Kapiti Coast on the 3rd of January 2003, but since then Burrows also trained 3 winners including Stanley Bay who was successful at Hawera back in April of 2007, Robbie Holmes was the driver on the occasion. Lightworkofit Andrew Fitzgerald

Fifth Edition has wound back the clock to win his second Rangiora Harness Racing Winter Cup in three years and fourth winter cup of his career. The Cran Dalgety-trained pacer spent almost 18 months away from the races because of injury but the patience of his connections was rewarded at Rangiora on Sunday when he brought up his first win since July 2014. Fifth Edition beat home back-marker Tijuana Bromac​ by one and a quarter lengths with a further half head back to Flyin Heather in third. Fifth Edition is raced by his breeders John and Margaret Smith, Tony and Gay Moody plus Brent Smith and Case Witteman​. Sunday's win was just his fourth start since returning to the races. Dexter Dunn, who drove Fifth Edition to victory, said the win was all about repaying the patient owners. "It's great for John and Margaret Smith, they have been with Cran for a long time and they just love racing," Dunn said. After the win, Brett Smith paid credit to Dalgety for getting Fifth Edition back from his injury troubles where he needed bone chips removed from an ankle. Dunn believes his two runs in Nelson last week gave him the fitness edge for his Rangiora win. "He did it pretty easy in the end, he was under a hold at the line," Dunn said. Fifth Edition quickly caught the main pack from his 30m handicap, aided by front-marker and favourite The Manipulator being slow away. Dunn was able to find the one-one when brother John took Callenberg​ up to challenge The Manipulator for the lead. With 600m to run and Callenberg tiring, Dunn launched Fifth Edition three wide to chase down the Mark Purdon​ and Natalie Rasmussen-trained The Manipulator down. The Manipulator faded to fourth with his softening up form Callenberg clearly taking its toll. Meanwhile, unbeaten colt Our Waikiki Beach will remain in New South Wales rather than heading to Brisbane for the Queensland Derby. A trip to Queensland was being considered last week after connections missed the cut off for his nomination for the semifinals of the New South Wales Breeders' Challenge. Part-owner Trevor Casey has confirmed he will race at Menangle and in a Breeders Crown heat before heading to the Breeders Crown final to round out his season.​ Mat Kermeen

It was a night for the young guns of the Canterbury Harness Racing Industry last night at Addington Raceway. It all started with Harrysul's win in the feature trot of the night, driven by Junior Driver Stevie Golding for his employers Greg and Nine Hope. While it's not uncommon to see Golding saluting in the Hope's blue colours, it was a significant win for Stevie, who is set to leave the Hope's Woodend Beach operation to start a career in Real Estate. It's been a quite season for Golding with just the 18 wins this season after his premiership equaling total of 42 wins last season. Golding shared the New Zealand Junior Drivers Premiership with Robbie Close after both finished on the same amount of winners. The lose of Golding leaves a gap at Greg and Nina Hopes Woodend stables. Another trainer to be on the search for a Junior Driver is Southland based Nathan Williamson. Junior Driver Sheree Tomlinson finished 2nd to Harrysul with her drive Amaretto Sun for grandfather Ken Ford. Harrysul Darren Keast, employed by West Melton Trainer Cran Dalgety continued on his stunning recent form picking up his 3rd winner in the last 2 weeks. Keast was successful on the Leonne Jones trained runner, Going To California, who has been going super of late without much luck. Involved in the early burn, Keast was able to slot into the trail behind the favourite Gotta Del. Able to push off the pegs down the back, the 5yo Art Major mare was dressed up with nowhere to go at the 500m mark, before Keast was able to sneak through a gap and chase down Flashing On (Brad Williamson) and Martin John (Victoria Atherton). The 2600m trip was cut out in a slick 3.13.7 with a mile rate of 1.59.8. The margins were a Nose, 2 ½ lengths and ¾ lengths back to Bird Of Paradise in 4th for Katie Cox and Barry Ward. Going To California One of the upsets of the night belonged to Rangiora based Trainer/Driver Jack Harrington, when he produced Hey Yo to win the C1 trot. Owned by D S Harrington (Jack's Father), Ashley McKay (Jack's Partner) and Gold Star Racing No 1 Syndicate, Hey Yo gave Harrington his first driving win on his own team as well as his 2nd career training victory. With McKay also having a share in the second favourite He's Like The Wind (Gavin Smith), who faded to finish at the rear of the bunch after working hard from a bad draw, Jack will now have bragging rights over Smith. The 4yo mare was successful back in October 2015 at Addington Raceway for Blair Orange. Hey Yo Andrew Fitzgerald  

Southland Harness Racing Trainer/Driver Nathan Williamson has his eyes firmly set on a personal milestone and will look to take another step or two towards his goal tomorrow at Rangiora. Currently sitting on 85 driving victories for the season, 7 in front of his previous best of 78 wins in 2013, Williamson is looking to post his first century. With just 6 weeks of the season remaining, that means you will see Nathan traveling around more, starting with Rangiora tomorrow (Sunday). Down to drive Pyramid Mustang in the first race for father Phil, the 3yo Monarchy gelding will be well backed after a last start 2nd at Forbury Park. In an even bunch of maiden trotters, that could be win number 86. In Race 5, Nathan will drive Hannity for Timaru based trainer Colin Harrison, who was a handy 3rd on debut, although the 4yo Lis Mara gelding does meet a field full of some handy 2yo's including Time Traveller for Cran Dalgety. Bobbins will be another Phil Williamson runner in with a good chance tomorrow. Set to start of 10m, the 4yo mare has been good without being spectacular lately, but in an even field she could be the upset chance. The best chance of Nathan's day has to be his own runner Sun's Invasion, who is a clear stand out in Race 9. Her form since a spell has been outstanding and even from a tricky draw, it could be another step closer to the century for Williamson. Williamson will finish off his day with Just Ben in the last race of the day. He will need some luck in a handy field. Andrew Fitzgerald

Tim William's Tips GI JOE  looks hard to beat again at Addington. He has had a good week and lets face it he was good enough to run in the classic races earlier so he should be up to this class all going well.  He won fairly easily at Ashburton and should have another start or two before the end of the season.  He is my only drive on Friday. We had a couple of expensive yearlings come back from Diane's down south, relations to Pacing Major and Fight for Glory. They didn't go cheap so it will be interesting to see how they go. We have had a busy week but a good one overall with a lot of the yearlings now getting schooled up. Our racing team will be fairly light as usual and I think Augusta might go into the spelling paddock after Friday. That has yet to be decided. The Manipulator is back on Sunday and Mr Mojito has resumed work with us and will be ready for a race or two before the end of the season, Matt Anderson's Message AUGUSTA  looks a real good chance on paper though I wouldn't describe him as any special at this stage of his career. He is quite a big horse who is going to benefit a lot with a spell and he will probably have one after Friday. He is a good chance but if he were to be beaten it wouldn't affect my opinion of him. I am giving a push to CELESTIAL ARDEN even though I can't see GI Joe beaten really I think my drive might be the quinella. I am quite bullish about its chances really and he could be a bit of value too.  GOTTA DEL is my other drive. One start for one win is hard to beat but there is a step up in class here. We won't die wondering. The plan is to use the draw so we will be going forward and we will see what happens. Reprinted with premission

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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