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Harness racing recently saw the brilliant Monarchy gelding Sovereignty retired due to soundness problems and he has been joined in the retirement paddock today by another Monarchy gelding in Stylish Monarch who has also succumbed to soundness problems. Trained for all but one start in his career  by his Timaru trainer Murray Tapper, Stylish Monarch at his peak was as good as any trotter going around in New Zealand in the last ten years.  Between 2009 and 2011, Stylish Monarch was the horse they all had to beat in the big trotting races in New Zealand. Partnered with champion reinsman Ricky May through most of his career, Stylish Monarch claimed two New Zealand Trotting Championships (Group One) over the brilliant I Can Doosit and a stunning win in the Group Two Flying Mile at Cambridge over Sovereignty in 1:57.5. The biggest win for Stylish Monarch was undoubtedly his victory in the Group One $200,000 Dominion Handicap where he again defeated I Can Doosit in a stunning 4:02.9 for the 3200 meters from a stand. Plagued by soundness issues, Stylish Monarch was retired in August of 2013. However around May this year Murray Tapper took Stylish Monarch back to the stables because he was looking so well in the paddock. The plan was to use him as a training partner for the younger horses in the stable but Stylish Monarch was so impressive and sound that Tapper decided to try to get him back to the races. The first few trials were encouraging but after a less than stellar performance at his fourth trial, Stylish Monarch came up sore a few days later. So Stylish Monarch goes to the retirement paddock having faced the starter just 60 times for 17 wins and 21 placings for $500,620 in stakes. Harness racing today is dominated by the big stables in the main but Stylish Monarch and Murray Tapper proved once again that the little guy can still succeed at the top level. Harnesslink Media    

The curtain has finally been lowered on the harness racing career of the champion trotter Sovereignty. Plagued by soundness and foot complaints for a major part of his career, Sovereignty has been a major player on the New Zealand trotting scene since he announced his arrival as a three year old with a stunning performance in the New Zealand Trotting Derby. Sitting three wide for most of the last lap, Sovereignty only went under by a neck but then went on to dominate the three year classics with wins in the Great Northern Trotting Derby and the New Zealand Sires Stakes Final. Sovereignty ended his three year old season with a stunning win by over 5 lengths in the Harness Jewels in 1:56.9 and was duly crowned 3 year old trotter of the year in New Zealand Over the next six seasons, Sovereignty would race and beat the best around but was always under a cloud due to his soundness and feet issues. Australians never got to see Sovereignty at his absolute best as he only made two trips there in his seven seasons on the track and although winless in seven starts in Australia, Sovereignty picked up $94,313 in stakes which gives you an insight into his class. He was a constant in the Group One trotting races in New Zealand over those years with his half head second to Springbank Richard in the Dominion Handicap a highlight. Owned and raced throughout his career by the legendary Hall Of Famer Charlie Hunter and his wife Annette, Sovereignty was purchased on their behalf at the Christchurch yearling sales by noted Cambridge trainer Sean McCaffrey. He was trained throughout his career by Sean McCaffrey apart from a handful of starts for Greg and Nina Hope when a beach training regime was used to see if it helped him with his soundness issues. One always felt that a fully sound Sovereignty would have been something special on the track and to achieve what he did with all his issues stamped him as a trotter of the highest class. In all Sovereignty faced the starter 94 times for 28 wins and 34 placings for stakes of $780,386. Sovereignty went out a winner at his last start in early April and that was an appropiate way to end what has been a stellar career. Harnesslink Media  

Harness racing buyers at this years All Aged sale in Canterbury held the upper hand right from the opening lot. Most of the broodmares for sale had foals at foot by such well-established sires such as Badlands Hanover and McArdle but most failed to even make four figures. Lockerup, the aged dam of champion trotter Sovereignty $678,321 made $5,000 in foal to Monarchy but most struggled to attract interest. Good examples of that lack of interest would be mares such as: Keepalert - A Life Sign half sister to Mach Alert $394,945 with a Changeover filly at foot made a paltry $400 High Tops Hanover - A mare by Western Hanover from a Big Towner half sister to Holmes Hanover with a filly by Tintin in America at foot fetched just $700 Cullen Katching - A striking young  mare by Christian Cullen from a Western Hanover half sister to seven winners including Pacific Flight 1:51 $562,345 and The Unicorn 1:56.7 $488,524, who was not in foal sold for a touch more at $1100. The weanlings were much more in demand. Top price went to the stunning McArdle colt from the 13 win mare Lady Toddy who is already the dam of four in 1;58. He fetched healthy $15,500 which in the context of the sale was a great result for the vendors, Nevele R Stud. Other weanlings to attract interest included *Changeover / Last Port Of Call  colt--$8100 *Monarchy / Lockerup  colt--$6400 * Vintage Master / Joyful Holmes  colt $6200 *Vintage Master / Supreme Classie  colt $4600 *Dali / Tammy Franco  colt $4500 For full results click here. The North Island leg of the All Aged sale will be held at Karaka on May 30th, The day before the Harness Jewels at Cambridge. Harnesslink media

After emphatic wins at Alexandra Park on March 21 and April 4 Sovereignty’s season has come to an abrupt end meaning a third tilt at the prestigious Rowe Cup on May 9 has had to be abandoned. The Sean McCaffrey trained and Charlie (ONZM) & Annette Hunter owned 9-year-old came right into Rowe Cup calculations with three wins and five placings from 12 starts this season, but the plug was pulled last week – just hours before he was expected to line up in the third annual Anzac Cup. Hunter said he was disappointed that Sovereignty would now be spelled for the remainder of the season, but said the welfare of the 2007-2008 Trotter-Of-The-Year always came first. “We discovered a corn in his foot after he trained at Te Awamutu last week. We swam and jogged him on Thursday morning and then on Friday he was lame. “The vet looked at him again and we decided without a race under his belt it would be too big a mission for him to start against the best in a two mile race,” said owner Charlie Hunter. Sovereignty finished 9th in the time honoured event last year when ninth favourite, and in 2011 he was fourth when fifth favourite. The Monarchy gelding would have been vying for his third Group One victory since embarking on his racing career back on September 21, 2007. Hunter said it was a shame that he now won’t be able to claim his second Rowe Cup Jenner gave victory in the great race in 1984. John Langdon drove him that night because Hunter was still recovering from a smash he suffered in the New Zealand Derby. “He will be brought back in the spring and is likely to make a hit-and-run assault on the Dominion Handicap at Addington in November. “In hindsight we stayed down there too long last year. This time I think we will just head down for the big race and then come home. “He’s had a few injuries in his career and we want to look after him during his 10-year-old season,” Hunter said. Meanwhile McCaffrey said there was no point going into a big race like the Rowe Cup “half cooked” and withdrew his nomination today (Thursday May 1). “He’ll go out to the paddock now and will tell us when he’s ready to race again. There’s no way you can bring a horse like this back to a race like the Rowe Cup when he’s not ready. “For that to happen we really needed to start him last week. It’s a shame but it’s the best decision we could make for him,” McCaffrey said. Sovereignty has now banked $780,386 in 94 starts. He’s won 28 races and also placed 34 times. Two of those victories have come in Group One events - the Group One 3yo Northern Trotting Derby in 2008, and the Group One National Trot in 2010. He also won the then Listed 3yo Harness Jewels ruby Final in 2008 and has also placed in several Group One and Two events. He was bred by Roydon Lodge. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Top trotter Stent has been ruled out of the upcoming ‘Triple Crown’ at Alexandra Park by his co-trainer Colin DeFilippi and will now head for a well deserved spell. “I haven’t been happy with him since he got back from Australia,” advised DeFilippi. “He just seems jaded and has had a few problems with corns, so he will head to the spelling paddock before preparing for the Cup carnival. Stent’s brilliant Australian campaign included wins in both the Trotters Grand Prix and a heat of the Great Southern Star, while he also placed second in the Glenferrie Challenge and the Great Southern Star Final. “He won well over $A150, 000 in Australia, so I think he deserves a let-up,” he added. Meanwhile, the first leg of the ‘Triple Crown’, the Anzac Cup, will be run at on Friday night with a field that will include Superbowlcheerleader, Clover Don, Prime Power, Sovereignty, and Boizel, Flying Isa, and Zedalite, who will all return from Australia for a shot at Group One glory. One trotter that won’t be there is Master Lavros, with his trainer Mark Jones opting to steer clear of the mobile event with the giant gelding. “I want to stick to the standing starts with him so he will miss this week and race in the Greenlane Cup before eyeing up the Rowe Cup,” said Jones. By Mitchell Robertson  

Patchy trotting star Sovereignty looks back in top form after a dazzling display at Alexandra Park last night. And his return to form may have come at just the right time with the start of the Alexandra Park ‘Triple Crown’ just a few weeks away. After starting from a 40 metre handicap, driver Maurice McKendry settled Sovereignty in the one-one, before unleashing him in the home straight. He then dashed away from a comprehensive 5 & ¾ length win in a tidy time of 3-28.7. It was the nine-year-olds 27th career victory and 14th win at Alexandra Park. But, while he has won group One races at age group level as well as a National Trot, a Rowe Cup win would put the icing on his racing career. Other impressive winners on the card included classy three-year-old trotter Tout Noir, who extended his win streak to three, while Mach’s Gladiator remained unbeaten at the Park when winning in a smart time of 2-41.0. “We sent him up to Todd (Mitchell) to chase the good stakes on offer and it has certainly worked out well so far,” said co-owner Ronnie Dawe, who has previously raced Continental Auto with Mitchell. “He went through a patch were his form just evened out a bit, but he seems to have improved again of late and is now racing better than ever,” enthused Dawe. Meanwhile, Dawe is confident of success with Free Falling, who holds a NZ Derby nomination, at Methven on Sunday. “Phil (Burrows – trainer) rates him very highly, but I guess we will find out how good he is over the next few weeks,” he added. By Mitchell Robertson  

One of New Zealand’s most promising young trotters again proved just how good he was when winning the feature trot at Alexandra Park tonight – but you can forget about him lining up in the prestigious Rowe Cup in May. “It would be silly to start him as a 4-year-old in an arduous 3200m race like that. He will however start against the open class trotters in the Anzac Cup,” said trainer-driver Todd Mitchell. Prime Power gave his 10 opponents a trotting lesson in the $20,000 Swiss Deli Handicap for the C3 to Open Class trotters. The 4-year-old Monarchy gelding stopped the clock in 3:30.6 with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 58.1 and 28.4. Mile rate: 2:05.5. He had 3-3/4 lengths and three quarters of a length to spare over place-getters Duchess Diedre (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and Sovereignty (Maurice McKendry. Prime Power, who started from the 30m is owned and was bred by Bryan Macey of Homin Hosed New Zealand Cup (1999) fame. He has now had 21 starts for 11 wins and five placings. “After the Anzac Cup We’ll target the Jewels and then next season we will travel a bit with him as a 5-year-old,” Mitchell said. Prime Power is unbeaten in four starts this campaign and his stake earnings now sit at $148,509. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

In our prominent harness racing stallion series we have reviewed American Ideal,  Art Major, Bettors Delight, Christian Cullen, Courage Under Fire, Mach Three and Western Terror so far and today we have produced an in depth review for the outstanding trotting stallion Sundon (In North America called Sondon) Enjoy the read. Sundon was bred in North America by prominent New Zealand breeder Sir Roy McKenzie whose father established the famous Roydon Lodge stud in New Zealand. He was a son of Arndon who was bred by Sir Roy from his good mare Roydon Gal. The dam of Sundon was the B F Coaltown mare in Sungait Song.  Brought to New Zealand with her foal Sundon at foot, this mare has established an outstanding record at stud in New Zealand. Apart from Sundon she has left Sungait Reb (US,1:57.1s), 15 wins 15 seconds and 8 thirds for $178,000 in stakes, Sunning ($95,077), Sunbeam Song ($14,475) and A Touch Of Sun ($37,576). Sunning is the dam of Burano ($105,000) and other daughters have left Roydon Flash ($214,000) and Solar Fire ($214,00) who is the dam of Sheemon ($137,964). RACE RECORD - Bred to North American time, Sundon was giving away six months to his age group competition when he stepped on to the track at two. But that didn't stop him winning 11 straight at that age and he started the same way at three winning 8 of his first 9. He carried on through to Grand Circuit company as a older horse and although he was a bit inconsistent at times, when he put it all together he was nigh unbeatable. All up he faced the starter 60 times for 27 wins and 8 placings on his way to earning $264,000 AMERICAN STUD RECORD - Sundon was known as Sondon in North America. He never stood in North America but he does have 81 horses who have been imported from New Zealand and they have compiled an outstanding record. They are headed by the brilliant Westland Sun 1:52.3s ($729,624) and include such talented horses as Locofoco 1:53.4s ($714,998), Lets Get Serious 1:52.2m ($621,912), Supreme Pat 1:54.3m ($322,891), and Ima Gold Digger 1:55f ($271,289).  As the stats below show his percentages and average earnings are up there with the very best. US statistics Eligible to race - 81 Winners - 76 $100,000+ winners - 34 Sub 1:54 - 4 Average earnings per starter - $119,716 Average earnings per eligible horse - $116,760 Total earnings to date - $9,457,553 AUSTRALIAN STUD RECORD - Surprisingly he has only produced 259 live foals in Australia (spread over 16 seasons with his biggest crop totaling just 44 foals) which given his complete dominance of the trotting sires list over nearly twenty years is hard to fathom. Never the less from those foals he has sired such standouts as the outstanding I Didn't Do It ($455,554) along with such smart horses as Donny Bouchea ($326,062), Red Samurai ($230,722), Compressor ($212,303), Right Interest ($202,096) and Aleppo Sunrise ($183,090) to name a few. Australian statistics Foals 3yr old and older - 259 Winners - 107 % of winners to foals born 3yr old and older - 41% $100,000 plus - 16 Average earnings per starter - $37,721 Average earnings per eligible horse - $22,000 Total earnings to date - $5,698,092 BROOD MARE STATS - Already his daughters have produced 47 winners in Australia headed by last years leading two year old in I"m Stately ($182,915) along with Sassy Pinevale ($176,195) and Spidergirl ($139,075) for stakes totaling $1,995,461 to date.    NEW ZEALAND STUD RECORD - He has completely revolutionized the trotting breed in New Zealand. From his first crop he has stamped himself as a sensational sire and any look at his record in NZ shows how dominant he has been for over 20 years. He has been voted New Zealand 'Stallion Of The Year' four times and he has been the leading trotting sire for many seasons and even managed to top the overall stakes won by all stallions in 2007 which considering the difference in stakes and racing opportunities in New Zealand is truly remarkable. He has left superstars galore with his male offspring headed by the millionaire and champion Sundons Gift ($1,275,264) along with such top performers as Springbank Richard ($651,245), Whatsundermykilt $510,484), Houdini Star ($427,327), Pompallier ($398,138) and Delft $353,910) whilst his females are headed by the brilliant One Under Kenny ($1,060,394) along with such stars as Allegro Agitato ($524,399), Martina H ($391,867), Our Sunny Whiz ($348,781), Some Direction ($307,804) and Escapee ($242,363). His latest star is Master Lavros ($210,868) who is currently the best trotter in NZ. New Zealand statistics Foals 3yr old and older - 1,706 Winners - 670 % of winners to foals born 3yr old and older - 39% $100,000 plus - 54 $1,000,000, plus - 2 Average earnings per starter - $28,622 Average earnings per eligible horse - $14,562 Total earnings to date - $24,844,368 BROOD MARE STATS - Going to be as dominant here as he has been in the siring barn. His mares have already left 278 winners including Vulcan ($858,793), Sovereignty ($716,496), Paramount Gee Gee ($497,100), Habibti ($258,790), Stent ($283,140), Royal Aspirations ($256,149) and Prime Power ($136,759). Stakes won to date are nearing 10 million and he has the opportunity in the next ten years to set benchmarks as a brood mare sire that may never be bettered. POSITIVES - A dominant sire in Australasia for near on 20 years and now doing the same as a brood mare sire. Completely changed the standard of trotting down under and his ability to lift non descript families is legendary. Credit must be given to his owners who have always kept his stud fee very affordable which has allowed the average breeder to access this great sire. NEGATIVES - The word "HOT" and Sundon have always gone together. Gelding was one of the first things you did when acquiring a Sundon colt, hence the absence of any of his star sons at stud. One that may have proved the exception was the speedy Last Sunset 1:55.2 ($312,423) who died prematurely when looking a very promising sire. He sired just 41 foals before his death of which 16 have started for 11 winners to date that have earned $568,198 in stakes to give him an average earnings per starter of a very good $35,512. He only bred the two small crops of 10 and 31. OVERVIEW - Without doubt the greatest trotting sire to have ever stood in Australasia. His  dominance at stud over such a long period has cast a huge shadow over his competition during that period. With over $40,000,000 on his card worldwide and his daughters now leaving the next generation of stars, Sundon has lifted the trotting breed in Australasia to a much higher level than breeders thought possible. A truly great sire and top brood mare sire. OVERALL RATING - 9.5/10 JC A Sire review - American Ideal A Sire review - Art Major A Stallion review - Bettors Delight A Stallion review - Christian Cullen A Stallion review - Courage Under Fire A Stallion review - Mach Three A Stallion review - Western Terror Harnesslink has had such positive feedback on our "forgotten sires series" that we are running a series of reviews on our more prominent harness racing sires. As they say in racing you can criticize some ones car, house or wife but never their horse, and that still rings true. As a disclaimer to our next chapter of analysis we look to provide educated opinion based on years of industry knowledge and the truest form of critique backed by statistical data. The above PREVIEWS are set to strip back any sugar coated publicity often associated with Stallion promotion and give you the cold hard facts as JC sees them.  (All statistical data was provided by TrackIt for North American stats and the official organizations of New Zealand and Australia)  And here is "The forgotten sires series" This is a series of stallion reviews that Harnesslink have already completed with a view to sheading some light on some of  the "forgotten"sires in Australasia. Elsu - Redemption awaits McArdle - The quiet achiever Santanna Blue Chip - On the up and up! Major In Art - Big and fast Mr Feelgood - Dual hemisphere champion Pay Me Christian - Blistering speed Monkey Bones - All class Tinted Cloud - Still going strong Real Desire - The real deal Washington VC - Continuing excellence Wetern Ideal - A superstar sire Bacardy Lindy - Blue blood Monarchy - Out of Sundons shadow Artiscape - Frozen semen blues? Dream Vacation - Frozen semen superstar Badlands Hanover - Great value Lis Mara - The quiet achiever Brylin Boyz - Potential fulfilled    

Defending champion Keystone Del is among the list of horses being considered for the Australian team for the Glenferrie Farm Trotters Challenge at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 2. With five Australian trotters and as many from New Zealand to be invited to contest the $200,000 Group One, the Nicole Molander-trained gelding is one of nine that could possibly line-up for what already looks to be a strong Australian team. Others dominate in the minds of selectors include the David Aiken-trained duo My High Expectations and Cold Sister as well as star squaregaiter Blitzthemcalder. Kyvalley Blur who is trained by master trotting conditioner Chris Lang senior, former pacer Mister Zion as well as Elegant Image, Aleppo Midas and Stoned I Am are considerations also. While the Australian team will be finalised in the coming weeks following the results of races, the New Zealand representatives have been selected. The New Zealand team being selected early to allow for travel are Dullard Cup winner Habibti, Danish Derby winner Peak, Anzac Cup victor Stent, Hellers Dominion winner Master Lavros and recent National Trot winner Irish Whisper. Three reserves have been added to the team being Vulcan, The Fiery Ginga and Sovereignty who could be called upon if neccessary. Team New Zealand: Master Lavros (trainer Mark Jones) Stent (trainer Colin De Filippi) Peak (trainer Tim Butt) Irish Whisper (trainer Tony Herlihy) Habibti (trainer David Butt) Reserves Vulcan (trainer Tim Butt) The Fiery Ginga (trainer Alan Clark) Sovereignty (Trainer Sean McCaffrey) Team Australia*: My High Expectations (trainer David Aiken) Kyvalley Blur (trainer Chris Lang) Mister Zion (trainer Geoff Webster) Keystone Del (trainer Nicole Molander) Elegant Image (trainer Andy Gath) Blitzthemcalder (trainer Dean Braun) Aleppo Midas (trainer Michael Eastman) Cold Sister (trainer David Aiken) Stoned I Am (trainer Bill Walker) *Five to be selected and one reserve

As Maurice McKendry counts down to the biggest milestone in New Zealand racing, trainer Sean McCaffrey has become his new best friend. McKendry goes into the weekend on 2994 career driving wins in New Zealand, looking to become only the second man after Tony Herlihy to rein 3000 winners in either code here. In typical McKendry fashion he isn’t getting carried away, knowing he will double membership of the 3000 club sooner rather than later. “I suppose I’ll start thinking about it when I get to 2999,” he laughs. “But it is not that big a deal any more, somebody else has already done it.” Cambridge trainer McCaffrey provided McKendry with two winners at Otaki last Sunday and gives him two serious chances of trotting winners tonight. The best is Sovereignty, who comes in well even off a 40m handicap in race eight. He won well at Cambridge two starts ago and had to give key rival Flying Isa a 10m start and valuable field position last time, but meets him off level marks tonight. “He is still trotting well, even with a few little niggles, and he will be hard to beat.” So too will the McCaffrey-trained Mollyz Luck in race two, especially if she can get away safely. McKendry trains and drives Jetcraft in race 10 and while he won’t be a maiden for long he does meet some handy rivals tonight, especially the Steven Reid-trained pair of Destination Moon and Raffaello. “He is a handy maiden and was a good second last start so has a definite chance.” McCaffrey also provides three winning hopes for McKendry at the Gate Pa grass track meeting on Sunday. “I think Sodeska will be hard even off his big handicap,” he offers. “And I don’t mind Sean’s filly in the maiden trot Golden Future (race two) if she gets things right. “Strawberry Heart (race five) has been going good races in probably better fields so Sean’s team is going really well.” By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

Junior reinsman Jack Mackinnon will be rewarded for the time he has spent helping trotting maestro Paul Nairn over the past four years, when he takes the reins behind Dr Hook at Alexandra Park on Friday night. “It is going to be a huge thrill to drive him on raceday as he is a horse I have had plenty to do with,” explained Mackinnon, who started helping Nairn during his trips to Auckland about four years ago. “I met him through David Branch and things have just spiralled from there,” said Mackinnon. “He really is a pleasure to be involved with and he has taught me a lot,” he added. Mackinnon has been the caretaker trainer of 13 win trotter Dr Hook since his last start failure at Cambridge on January 10. “I have been training him on the beach out at Michelle Wallis’s and he is absolutely thriving on it,” enthused Mackinnon. “His work on Tuesday was super and I am expecting a very big run from him.” Through Mackinnon being a concession Junior Driver, Dr Hook gets a 20 metre let-up in the handicaps, which could just be enough to see the eight-year-old son of Dr Ronerail bounce back to winning form. “Flying Isa and Sovereignty are the two hardest to beat but they are both of 40 metres, while through the handicapping concession we are only off 20,” explained Mackinnon. “So all things being equal he should be hard to beat.” Mackinnon also has two stable representatives competing at Tauranga on Sunday, including stable newcomer Trotupastorm. “I have been working him on the beach as well and he seems to be really enjoying it,” said Mackinnon. “He’d have to be an each-way chance if he was on his game.” Mackinnon’s other runner this weekend is Ruby Castleton and while the ability is definitely there, the manners may not be. “She is a touch on mad side, but if she was to do things right she would she would take a lot of beating,” confirmed Mackinnon. Mackinnon has currently driven two winners, but looks a strong chance to add to that tally this weekend, hopefully with his old favourite Dr Hook. Meanwhile, last season’s Great Northern Derby winner Ohoka Punter is set to resume in the ninth race at Alexandra Park tonight. “I have been happy with his last two trial wins, so he should be hard to beat,” said Herlihy. “Obviously he will improve with a bit of race fitness, but you have to start somewhere,” he added. Herlihy originally had Chariots Of Fire aspirations with the hugely talented Bettor’s Delight four-year-old, but after consulting his father-in-law, the legendary Roy Purdon, he may now opt to set him for the local classics. “Roy said it’s too early to rush him into the ‘Chariots’, and that’s why I we will probably give it a miss.” Ohoka Punter has drawn well in barrier three for tonight’s $13,000 Auckland Cup Festival C4 to C7 pace, his first race start since finishing third behind Border Control in the Group One Harness Jewels 3yo Final at Ashburton on June 1. “I’m really happy with everything he has done so far this time in. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won, but then again it wouldn’t surprise me either if blew out a bit in the final stages either,” said Herlihy. With the Chariots Of Fire most likely off the radar, Ohoka Punter’s main short-term targets will be the Auckland four-year-old features in May – namely the Taylor Mile and New Zealand Messenger. “After that we will programme his racing from there but there’s always racing for him here during the winter. Long-term there’s the Jewels and then hopefully at the end of the year, the New Zealand Cup,” Herlihy said. By Mitchell Robertson

The scratching of key rival Easy On The Eye has all but handed Christen Me tonight's $60,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge - on two counts. While the superstar pacer would have been a hot favourite even with Easy On The Eye in the race, the Pukekohe pacer's withdrawal has made life much easier. If Christen Me still has one obvious Achilles heel it is his nervousness in tight surroundings, especially at high speed. So having a brilliant beginner like Easy On The Eye pushing down on him at breakneck speed in the short run into the first bend at Cambridge might have been enough to make Christen Me think twice about life. Easy On The Eye is a noted front runner, who might have been happy to stay in front and park Christen Me, a position few open-class miles are won from. Those concerns disappeared for Christen Me fans when trainer Steven Reid scratched Easy On The Eye.   "He is clearly not right," says Reid. "He was never really travelling at the Park the other day [Tuesday], even before he galloped that shadow, which he would normally never do. "So, he can have a small break and get ready for Auckland Cup time." That leaves Christen Me with just four rivals and the likelihood of running straight to the front and winning easily. "To be honest it wouldn't have bothered me if he had had to sit parked because he is that well I think he still could have won," says his trainer Cran Dalgety. "But if we are lucky enough to run to the front now then all the better." Dalgety says Christen Me worked superbly earlier this week at Pukekohe and has taken no harm from a torrid start to the season. As a 1:50.5 miler who finished second in the Miracle Mile two starts ago, he looks the Pick6 anchor tonight and anything but a decisive victory will raise huge doubts over his favouritism for the Inter Dominions in March. Bettor Cover Lover now looks the most likely trailer and therefore the quinella hope, although Pembrook Benny was awesome at Alexandra Park on Tuesday and if he gets the right sort of run, or is even launched to the lead early, he could be the closest chaser. While the Flying Mile looks a done-deal, the main trot has a few more layers to it. Irish Whisper was tough winning the National Trot at Alexandra Park on Tuesday and deserves favouritism but he is still not bulletproof and local hero Sovereignty has the gate speed to put himself in the right place early. Victory for him would be appropriate as he is owned by one of the greats of New Zealand harness racing in Charlie Hunter, whose 80th birthday tonight's race celebrates. Horses spilling over from the just-finished Auckland carnival will be the key runners tonight, starting with Duchess Diedre chasing a Harness Plus bonus in race one. While local Mista Mara is the logical favourite in race seven, punters should include Windinherhair, who comes in beautifully tonight, having being reassessed to class four and also receiving a 10m mares' allowance. She has taken on Franco Nelson and Adore Me her past two starts so only has to handle the stand to test Mista Mara. Onlyforyou, who has been luckless for the past month, looks a good each-way chance against the Purdon-Rasmussen pair of Sabellian and Whisper Jet in race nine. Courtesy of Michael Guerin and the New Zealand Herald    

Colin De Filippi could have been excused for turning to his left as Stent hit the line in Tuesday’s $45,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge and saying “Thanks mate.” Because Maurice McKendry, driving runner-up Sovereignty, deserved an unofficial training credit for his role in Stent’s come from last win in the group two sprint. McKendry has been the caretaker trainer for Stent for much of the last month, with De Filippi traveling north from his Canterbury base to put the finishing touches on the five-year-old. “Maurice has done a great job with him and I knew when I got up here the other day and he said he couldn’t be happier that we were in with a massive show,” said De Filippi, who trains Stent in partnership with his wife Julie. Not that the race panned out like De Filippi hoped. He had expected to press forward from his outside draw and try and get in front of favoured rivals Habbiti and Stig but that plan soon went out the window as Sovereignty and The Fiery Ginga rushed off the gate to lead and trail. That saw Stent settle last and when Stig trotted up to sit parked with Habibti on his back in the one-one, De Filippi had a lot of work to do. But last season’s Anzac Cup winner trotted into the race powerfully down the back straight and forced Habibti into a pocket, from where she galloped at the 300m mark. That left Stent to cruise clear for a one and half length win in a steady 1:57.8 for the mile. It was only his second win of the season and suggested once again, at this still relatively early stage of his career, he is most potent over shorter trips than the 3200m of the Dominion or Rowe Cup. He now heads to next Tuesday’s $80,000 National Trot at Alexandra Park before the De Filippis need to decide whether to chase the mega rich Australian double of the Glenferrie Farms Challenge and Great Southern Star in March. While the winner left his rivals with few excuses, the connections of local hero Sovereignty will be relieved with his vastly-improved second. He has lost all form during his most recent South Island campaign but showed how much he loves being home by blasting off the gate and trailing before punching home hard up the passing lane. But veteran Stig suggested his days of winning mile races, particularly on 1000m tracks, may be over as he was flat out keeping up parked so he is probably better staying in New Zealand than tackling the autumn Aussie features, which are over the shorter trips. Meanwhile, the Auckland Trotting Club will honour recently-retired champion trotter I Can Doosit at their premier meeting on Tuesday. The $1.45million earner will lead out the field for one of the trotting races before being presented with a special dress rug celebrating his career. Courtesy of  Michael Guerin

This great looking son of Balanced Image, one of the all time great trotting sires in North America is slowly but surely gaining the respect from breeders that his record says he deserves. Even though Monarchy won 11 races and took a mark of 1:56:2, you wouldn't say he was a star on the track. What he did have was great looks - gait - -and a lovely pedigree. At the time he was imported, no sons of the  leading trotting sire in the world at the time in Balanced Image were at stud in NZ. He was imported by Roydon Lodge to stand alongside their champion trotting sire Sundon. And there was the greatest hurdle that Monarchy had to face. Sundon got the larger books and by far the better quality mares and as a result Monarchy struggled to establish himself in his initial years at stud. In his first four years he served just 129 mares.   So it was up to those initial small crops to establish Monarchy as a sire. With the arrival of Sovereignty as a three year old, Monarchy showed that he could produce those top of the line trotters that every breeder is searching for. And Sovereignty went on with it as a older horse with his stakes earnings now in excess of $716,000. Numerous top liners followed in the form of Stylish Monarch $492,000  King Charlie $236.000  Prince Harry $113,000 and Kylie Ree $112,000. Sundon was still king but Monarchy was closing the gap. And with his first crop of any size which raced as three-year-olds last season, Monarchy has truly arrived. He produced three horses from that crop who earn't in excess of $100,000 by the end of their three year old season which is an outstanding achievement with the lack of opportunities and stakes for young trotters in NZ compared to their pacing counterparts. Royal Aspirations $229,000  Prime Power $125,000 and Sheemon $118,000 have flown the flag for Monarchy with real style. The three of them have started their four year old campaigns as they finished their three year old campaigns with each of them recording outstanding wins recently. Sheemon opening his season by smashing the track record at Timaru followed by Royal Aspirations winning his first start for the season by six lengths over The Fiery Ginga and company at Geraldine and Prime Power is unbeaten in three this season, his last win at Auckland over two of the better open class trotters in NZ in  Stent and Boizel. All three look headed for the grand circuit in a hurry. And being by a son of Balanced Image is a bonus as it is sire line that is renowned for leaving stock that get better with age. With total stakes closing in on $4,000,000, Monarchy is at last throwing off that shadow that Sundon has cast  on him for so long. JC This is a series of stallion reviews that Harnesslink are doing with a view to sheading some light on some of  the "forgotten"sires in Australasia. Elsu - Redemption awaits McArdle - The quiet achiever Santanna Blue Chip - On the up and up! Major In Art - Big and fast Mr Feelgood - Dual hemisphere champion Pay Me Christian - Blistering speed Monkey Bones - All class Tinted Cloud - Still going strong Real Desire - The real deal Washington VC - Continuing excellence Wetern Ideal - A superstar sire Bacardy Lindy - Blue blood  

Stig could race until he’s 14 according to co-owner Jim Boyd. For now trainer Paul Nairn is just taking one race at a time with the 2012-2013 Trotter-of-the-Year. The 11-year-old gelding makes his return to racing at Addington This Friday night (September 6) in the $12,000 Sims Metals Handicap Trot. Stig will start from the 30m mark. “This will be his lead-up to the Ordeal Cup. He’s pretty sound at the moment. Any little niggles he’s had in the past certainly haven’t got any worse. “We’ve had no hiccups in his preparation so there’s no reason why he can’t carry on from where he left off last season. He’s certainly showing no signs of his age or soreness,” Nairn said. “And he’s still got that will to win which is encouraging,” he added. Nairn said Stig was in the same condition as what he was this time last year, but was starting his racing a month earlier. He said he would be better for the run but his natural talent would take him close to winning. The more seasoned fellow 30m back-markers The Fiery Ginga and Sovereignty will be toughest for Stig to beat. The son of Armbro Invasion started last season with a second behind Sovereignty at Addington on October 5 and then went on to win six of his 12 starts and $227,029 – including the Rowe Cup in May. Now the winner of 23 of his 53 starts and $816,486 Stig is looking to make amends of his second behind I Can Doosit in last year’s Dominion. His Hamilton based co-owner Boyd, who is renowned for writing and then singing a song about Stig after each of his victories, said he was set to put pen to paper again this season. “I wrote one when he won Trotter-of-the-Year and I also wrote one when he won the Rowe Cup. I’m getting one ready for the Dominion,” Boyd said. Nairn has won two Rowe Cups with Inspire in 2006 and Stig this year. He will have a three-pronged attack on the Group Ones this year with Dr Hook and Raydon also representing the stable. “Dr Hook is also coming along nicely and Raydon was sent to us from up north from Matt Hickey and is progressing well. We should see him at the end of the month,” Nairn said. As for another Australia mission with Stig, Nairn replied: “I’m playing that one by ear. There are not many 2700 races over there and he would have to line up in sprint races against much younger horses. “There’s also not as much money on offer over there for the trotters as what there is here. We’ll attack the Dominion and then head north for the racing at Alexandra Park and Cambridge again. We worry about Australia then,” Nairn said. As for Boyd: “I just want to keep writing songs about him,” Boyd said. Stig is also owned by Tim and Andrea Butt, Mrs R.I. Boyd, R.G. Thomas, and Mrs J.A. Gordon. He was bred by Jessleigh Harness Bloodstock. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Even without his two not-so-secret weapons trainer Robert Dunn is going into tonight’s Addington meeting with his trademark confidence. And he says punters should follow him with at least three winning chances. Dunn has come off the back of a record training season but has had to engage stand-in drivers tonight as his all-conquering sons Dexter and John are overseas. The pair drove over 300 winners between them last season but are holidaying in Hawaii after Dexter’s Breeders Crown triumph last Sunday with Bit Of A Legend. “They both deserve a break after last season but we still have business to take care of here,” says Dunn. That includes the stable’s open class star Mach Banner looking for his third win in his last four starts in the main pace at Addington tonight. After some easy winter kills he takes on more serious opponents in Four Starzzz Flash and Ohoka Texas tonight but has a huge race fitness edge over them. But even with that advantage, Dunn says he hopes stand-in driver Gavin Smith can secure cover with Mach Banner, rather than the front-running role which has proved so successful for him in the past. “I have been talking to John about it a lot and we are sure he is a better horse with a sit,” says Dunn. “And in a small field this wee we should get the chance to drive him like that. “He is flying in his work and he really should win again.” Four Starzzz Flash hinted on occasions last season that he is a genuine New Zealand Cup contender but his second at the Ashburton trials last week suggested he will need an outing or two to clean his lung out and trim up his amble belly. And Ohoka Texas is a prime example of a horse whose relentless racing style makes it hard to for him win when even slightly below peak fitness so Mach Banner should have the drop on them both. Later in the night Dunn steps Kotare Mahal well up in grade but after a recent hat-trick he says the four-year-old can keep winning. “I know this is a new level for him but he is a very good horse and I am confident he will handle the standing start so he hasn’t finished winning yet,” he offers. And he expects a big run from Comenche in race three where he has drawn well in a poor field. “He has been racing well in slightly better fields so he has to go close.” The other highlight of tonight’s meeting sees group one winning trotters Sovereignty and Stylish Monarch clash in race for their new trainers. Greg and Nina Hope are looking after the usually Cambridge-based Sovereignty until summer while former Dominion Handicap winner Stylish Monarch is now in the care of Margo Nyhan after being dogged by unsoundness. Up against last-start winner Thanesan and the omni-present The Fiery Ginga their race provides a rare winter taste of the big time. By Michael Guerin Harness Racing New Zealand

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