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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

Harness Racing trainer Cran Dalgety might have left last week for his Australian campaign with Christen Me, before heading off on holiday. But that won’t stop the West Melton trainer picking up a win or two at Addington Raceway tonight. Dalgety will line up talented 2yo On The Rantan, who was smashed in by punters on debut to start a short price when beating Motu Meteor at Rangiora. Since then the Bettor’s Delight gelding has impressed at the trials On The Rantan's recent trial Once again to be driven by the country’s leading reins man Dexter Dunn, On The Rantan will start from barrier 4 in race 3. Currently a $1.55 Fixed Odds favourite, he should give Dalgety his first winner for the night. Safely through that assignment, Dunn & Dalgety combine in Race 4 with first starter Rapid Flight who was seen making up good late ground in her recent trial. The 2yo Bettor’s Delight filly owned by Charlton Park Enterprises Ltd will start from barrier 6 in a handy fillies and mares mobile pace over 1950m. Rapid Flight Her main danger looks to be the Greg & Nina Hope trained Dalness Mac, who stormed home at Ashburton after being locked away on the markers. With a good trip, she certainly has the speed to boom right past them. Hope will also line up Harrysul and Phil’s Gift in the feature trot of the night. Harrysul is first up since November last year, while Phil’s Gift steps back significantly in class for tonight’s assignment. His run two starts back for 4th behind Le Reveur is great form, considering that runner came out and won at Alexandra Park last weekend. Phil's Gift, 4th behind Le Reveur Andrew Fitzgerald

The future participants of New Zealand's Harness Racing industry completed in the annual Cadet of the Year competition at Addington Raceway today. Today was the 3rd runner of the competition which is run by the Natalie Gameson and the Education department of Harness Racing New Zealand involves: A time trial (without a watch) Name the gear. Name the feed. Points of the horse. General knowledge test. Confirmation Name the face First Aid Poisonous Plants Farrier Gear The response from everyone involved was positive and there were plenty who were looking forward to finding out if they had qualified for the Grand Final to be held in Christchurch on the 6th of July. Heats have been or are to be run in Invercargill and Auckland. “It was a great afternoon and some of the events were quite challenging. It was fun to drive around Addington Raceway for the first time” said Mikayla Lewis. “I think it's a great idea and puts us out of our comfort zone which is a big plus” said Shaun McNaulty “It was a great day and I really enjoyed it. The time trial was my highlight” said Ashleigh Royal Andrew Fitzgerald

The rain kept coming and so did the winners for Kaiapoi based Harness Racing Driver/Trainer Gavin Smith. For the past few days Smith has watched his good mates Robert and John Dunn's team dominate. The Dunn's picked up trebles at Forbury on Thursday, Nelson on Friday and Auckland on Friday night. Not to be out done, Smith also picked up a double on the first day of Nelson Harness Racing Club's annual two day winter meeting with his own runner Alison Stokke and the Bruce Hutton trained Ideal Arden. And by the end on of racing on Sunday, there was only one person people on course were talking about, and that was Smith. After dominating the 9 card meeting with 4 driving win's which included 2 training wins. Alison Stokke, a 3yo Bettor's Delight filly, put the writing on the wall for Friday's maiden victory with a strong 2nd at Ashburton 5 days earlier. Making a flying from the tapes, Smith had the filly who is owned by his wife Sara and J Chin, out front and running along nicely before handing up to Sam Ottley and 2nd favourite Glenferrie Classic with 1400m to run. It all nearly turned to disaster though when Glenferrie Classic galloped in front, causing Alison Stokke to break for several strides before Smith was able to get her back down into a pace. With the galloper safely negotiated, Gavin asked his charge for a full effort and cleared out to win by 1 ½ lengths over Bobby M (Robbie Close) and Cullen's Bardon (Stephen McNally). Although it was the drives on Ideal Arden in the Nelson Winter Cup Prelude and Cup that had most people impressed. Using the American Ideal gelding's stand start speed to lead out on both occasions, Smith then handed up to the Robert Dunn trained Highview Freddy, who is well known as a front runner. From there on it was just a matter of Smith extracting the Bruce Hutton trained 6yo to either the inside or the outside of the leading and zipping away. Ideal Arden was the only runner to record a win on both days of the meeting. Smith started off his Sunday morning with a well deserved win aboard It's How You Use It who is trained by former stable employee Lawrence McCormick. The 5yo mare by Diedre Don recorded her maiden victory at start number 18 for owners, J T Morrison, A J Morrison, M J Gallagher, A Palmer, Mrs J E Lowe and Lawrence himself. Smith also recorded wins with pacer Melanie Ohara, who galloped on the first day but thanks to a change in bit was a strong maiden winner. While He's Like The Wind put up a improved performance after galloping late on day one to record win number three of his career. Andrew Fitzgerald

Harness Racing Trainer Cran Dalgety has a big chance to pick up another Nelson Pine Industries Nelson Winter Cup with his runner Fifth Edition. The 6yo Mach Three gelding won the 2014 edition and is having just his 3rd run back from close to 18 months off the race track. Starting off the back mark of 40m in the prelude on Friday, Fifth Edition made a quick beginning for driver Dexter Dunn and had soon caught up with the pack. Dunn made a smart move to sneak up the pegs with a lap to run, finding himself four back coming to the 800, he was able to push his way out to a spot 3 wide with cover. angled to the outside of the track at the top of the straight, Fifth Edition only went down by ½ a neck to eventual winner Ideal Arden. The 3000m trip today wouldn't hold any concerns for the Dalgety trained gelding, and even off his 40m back mark, he looks a massive chance to go one better. Dalgety rates his runners on this website each week and said the following about Fifth Edition. “I was rapt with him the first day. It was a big run off 40m behind over 2400m and he's backed up good in the past. He won his race a couple of years ago so we're looking to fulfill again” First day winner Joey Maguire is a new edition to the cup field and has drawn well in barrier 2 for co owner and driver Ross Houghton. He was a dominate winner of a C2 event on Friday and also finished 2nd in last year's cup, so the distance won't affect the Robert Dunn trained gelding. While the Greg & Nina Hope trained Bettor Buy It, who started a short price in the prelude will be better for his first up run. Andrew Fitzgerald

Harness Racing Driver Sam Ottley is enjoying the best week of her career at the moment. After her win with Rocker Band in the 4yo Diamond on Jewels day last Saturday, Ottley hasn't looked back and went on to record a treble at today's Nelson Harness Racing Club's meeting. It was three wins in the space of four races for the Woodend based reins women, which included a double for her employer Mark Jones. Although it all started with the upset of the day in Race 4, when Ottley reined home Feel Real for Kaiapoi trainer Glenn Scott paying a whopping $44.40 and $7.00. With the favourite galloping early, Sam had the 3yo Real Desire filly straight into the trail, behind the Jones driven, Southbrook. From there on it was just a small matter of having to get past Southbrook and first starter Regal Grin, who was ultra brave on debut for Ken Barron and the goHarness Buy, Race and Sell Syndicate. In the next it was Kowhai Monarch who got the chocolates for Ottley and Jones. The 4yo gelding by Monarchy is owned by J G & Mrs D J Hartnell and recorded his 3rd career victory when winning by 1 ¾ lengths over Clifden Clowers (John Morrison) and ¾ lengths to Yankee Commando (Murray Edmonds) in 3rd. Ottley left the best for last with her drive on Croft Bay, who was drawn awkwardly on the back row. Sitting near last with a lap to run, Ottley was off and gone to sit parked before being able to out toughen the rest of the field and recording a neck victory over Ardent Lustre (Blair Orange). All three runners will back up tomorrow for the 2nd day of the meeting, with Kowhai Monarch looking Sam's best chance to double up. Andrew Fitzgerald

It was business as usual for Team Dunn at the Nelson Harness Racing Meeting today. Backing up from a treble at last nights Forbury Park Trotting Meeting, the Dunn team started their late season charge towards closing the premiership gap between themselves and the All Stars team. Sitting on 97 wins coming into todays meeting, that was soon 98 when maiden trotter Bourbon And Dry won the first of the day. Purchased at the late Carl Middleton's dispersal sale by the Neumann family, Bourbon And Dry was having his 2nd run from a spell when he beat 40 start maiden South Coaster, trained by Brad Mowbray at Yaldhurst, was will be forced to come back on Sunday to try and break his maiden status. Fast forward to race 6 and smart 3yo pacer Letspendanighttogetha was a dominate winner and brought up win number 99 for the season for trainer Robert Dunn and also win 99 for driver John Dunn. Away well from barrier one, the Washington VC gelding was shuffled back along the fence, before storming up the passing lane to win by ½ length to a super brave Ultimate Fella in 2nd. It took until the last race in the day for Team Dunn to bring up season win 100 and what a way to do it. Driver Ross Houghton, who is John Dunn's right hand man at their Woodend operation, was successful on Joey Maguire who he also part owns. It was a masterful drive by Houghton, who also brought up his 50th Career driving win, to find the front early on after drawing badly on the second row. After being allowed to dictate the race in front, Ross was off and gone at the top of the straight with 29.2 final quarter on a slushy Nelson track. Houghton was obviously stoked with the win, shown by his large salute to the crowd as he went over the line. Todays treble closed the gap in the premiership down to just 20 wins with a little over 6 weeks left to go in the season. John will look to pick up his 100th Season driving win on Sunday. Bourban And Dry Letspendanighttogetha Joey Maguire Andrew Fitzgerald

Maybe there is one last plot twist in the harness racing national trainers’ premiership after all. A hat-trick of wins at Forbury Park on Thursday night set the ball rolling for the weekend that could make or break Robert Dunn’s chances of winning the national title. Still 23 wins behind the Purdon/Rasmussen stable, Dunn has a bit of ground to make up - but has the luxury of a strong and plentiful winter racing team which will take him deep into July. The All Stars on the other hand are expected to start to slow their operation down, but with a number of Breeders Crown heats to be contested as well as the odd winter racing proposition they will still be out and about. Dunn made the call to push for the premiership earlier in the year when things were close. He’s had to watch as his stable ran a string of unlucky placings over the last month while the All Stars have kicked right into gear. But last night’s treble, including the first driving win for Craig Smith, might have been the boost needed to get things moving and with 14 more chances over the course of the weekend - especially considering one venue is Nelson could really set things alight. The stable has eight runners engaged on the opening day of the Nelson Harness Racing Club’s Winter meeting and there are a number of strong winning chances amongst them. Those who race today at Nelson will also race there again on Sunday giving the stable two bites of the cherry. Leading the charge is promising 3-year-old, Letspendanitetogetha. The Washington VC gelding, who has placed behind; GI Joe, Major Ben and Mr Mojito in his last three starts gets the coveted ace barrier draw against a tidy field of pacers and will give his owners; Reg Storer and Terry McDonald a great shot at the second win of his career. Yukon Cloud, who was a very handy runner-up behind Anny Ivy when last produced also has the one marble and will be hard to beat from there for Ross Houghton. An in-form Highview Freddy and the consistent Joey Maguire look like other leading chances of success for the barn at Richmond Park. In Auckland, five runners will do business - spearheaded by talented trotter, Natural and Bevan’s Cullen was very good last week at Alexandra Park. Matt Markham

Canterbury based Harness Racing Junior Driver Craig Smith's past month in the sport have involved one of the worst days, and now the best day of his career so far. 3 weeks ago, Ohoka Benson who was part owned by Smith, sustained a life ended injury at Timaru. The loss of his good mate 'Ben' hit him hard but the stable rallied around Craig, and soon he was back to the smiling and laughing Craig Smith everyone knows. "The support from everyone after losing Ben was awesome and Nigel Armstrong gifted me a 50% share in Vanhalem, so that's the reason I'm driving him. I owe this win to him and the rest of the Syndicate members" said Smith. Smith picked up his first driving success from just the 29 career drives aboard the Robert Dunn trained Vanhalem at Forbury Park tonight. Shuffled back early after the start from barrier 1, Smith soon had the 5yo Santanna Blue Chip gelding off the pegs and into the 1x1 position before again being shuffled back. Down the back Craig was able to push out and get a lovely drag into the race behind Blair Orange and Really Desirable, before just being able to hold on from a fast finishing Jessica Young and Real Raider. Vanhalem is owned by the Westview Racing No 15 Syndicate, which is run by Nigel Armstrong, who is a large supporter of the Robert Dunn barn and Craig. From just the 4 drives behind Vanhalem, Smith has recorded a 3rd, a 10th, a 2nd and now a win. Not having any family involved in Harness Racing didn't stop Craig getting involved in the industry. “I went along to the races one day with a bunch of school mates and liked what I saw, so I looked up some stables and asked around.  Most people told me Robert & John were some of the best, so I rang up and asked for a job” said Smith. "I wasn't too worried about how long it took to get my first win, being out there and gaining experience was what I was after" "I'd love to thank everyone over the last few years who have given me advice, especially John. Being able to learn off John and Dexter each day has been a huge help to my driving". Craig has been employed by Dunn for approximately 3 years and has had stints with the satellite stable up in Auckland, but is currently in charge of a team of 7-8 runners based out of Martin Denton's property in Mosgiel. "Marty has been great, the team are going super at the moment, I just hope it continues" Dunn also picked up another two wins with Music and Mr Meddle saluting the judge, both were driven by son Dexter. With the support of John & Robert Dunn this certainly won't be Craig's last winner, we look forward to following him over the following seasons. Andrew Fitzgerald

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