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With the top two harness racing mares in the country in Adore Me and Helena Jet having been retired recently, the title of New Zealand's best mare was up for grabs tonight at Addington in the $100,000 New Zealand Breeders Stakes. Venus Serena was the public elect from barrier three and she showed last night that at her best, there is no better mare in the country at present.. Driver John Dunn let the daughter of Mach Three work her way to the front after 250 metres and from there she controlled the tempo of the race. With a mile to go John started to up the tempo with Venus Serena and it was obvious a long way from home that most were struggling with the speed up front. The well supported New Years Jay worked around to the death at the 1000 metres mark and the race just hotted up even more. Down the back straight John turned the wick up again with a 27.9 quarter and most were struggling to make ground as they turned for home. The way the race had been run was set up for a swooper and Willow who had been last at the 600 metres flew home along the inner but Venus Serena was still a length to the good at the line. Pemberton Shard went her usual honest race running into third ahead of Here We Go Again who ran on well late for fourth. In the very windy conditions, Venus Serena paced the 2600 metres in 3:12, a mile rate of 1:58.8 with the last mile in a very quick 1:55.7 and closing sectionals of 57.3 and 29.4  John Dunn was happy to see Venus Serena back to something like her best. " That was such a gutsy run tonight and she felt more like her old self." " There is a really strong wind out there tonight and she ran into it twice so it was a top effort." " I eased off the speed early which I probably shouldn't have but once I let her roll she had them in trouble," John said. Trainer Geoff Dunn was a contented man post race. " She deserved that tonight as she hasn't really gone a bad race all season." "Bad draws have cost her a few times this season and that was the first time she had had a decent barrier." "Once she found the front, I knew she would be hard to beat." Geoff has deliberately given Venus Serena a lighter season. " Right through her two and three year old seasons, every race was a track or New Zealand record and that has to take a toll." "So we decided to give her an easier time at four in the hope that if we look after her now, we will be rewarded down the line," Geoff said. The only target left for the mare this season now is the Harness Jewels and last nights win has given her the bankroll to assure her a start in the May 30th feature. Harnesslink Media  

With the big night of harness racing at Addington tonight we thought we would preview some of the group races. This preview is of the New Zealand Breeders Stakes 1) The Fascinator - Starts: 30    Wins: 6    Secs: 10    Thirds: 5    Life: $92,380 Honest performer who always gives her best. Can follow speed so likely to get a good run from barrier one behind the likely leader Venus Serena. Hard to see her winning the race but a must include for those taking trifectas and first fours. 2) Here We Go Again - Starts: 56    Wins: 9    Secs: 9    Thirds: 9    Life: $162,181 Has had her issues lately and has been out with Bob Butt on the beach for the past fortnight. Handy mare on her day and for once in one of these mares races she has a good marble. Hard to see her winning but if the beach has worked its magic, she is more than capable of running in the money. 3) Venus Serena - Starts: 26    Wins: 15()    Secs: 1    Thirds: 3    Life: $707,053 Outstanding three year old last season who has had to step out against the likes of Adore Me and Helena Jet at four and has battled a touch albeit from bad draws most of the time. With those two gone, she is the one they all have to beat now. Will work to the front and if she can get away with even one cheap quarter, she will be very hard to beat. Top pick for us 4) Better To Be Bad - Starts: 78    Wins: 10    Secs: 8    Thirds: 5    Life: $94,426 Well performed mare who has won ten races in her career to date. However in career worst form slump and the runs are getting worst if anything. Hard to make a case for her to run in four. Not for us 5) Pemberton Shard - Starts: 56    Wins: 11    Secs: 7    Thirds: 11    Life: $217,164 A tough hard wearing mare who will appreciate the 2600 metres more than most. Had no luck at Menangle and didn't disgrace herself. With Dexter in the bike and a handy draw she is a major player here. Must include for trifecta and first four takers. 6) New Years Jay - Starts: 11    Wins: 7   Secs: 0    Thirds: 0    Life: $38,511 The enigma of the field who on her best behaviour would win the race but can be a bit wayward every now and again. Has won seven from eleven which is a great record especially due to the four misses includes two disqualifications where she won but ran about in the running and was relegated. Trialed brilliantly at Gore last week so ready for this and the biggest danger to Venus Serena. Include in everything. 7) Delightful Dash - Scratched 8) Whyamibettor - Starts: 64    Wins: 5    Secs: 3    Thirds: 6    Life: $39,673 Honest mare who gives 100% every time she steps on to the track Massive rise in class here to what she has been racing and with the wide draw thrown in we struggle to see her as a first four chance. Not for us. 9) Sell A Bit - Starts: 30    Wins: 8    Secs: 5    Thirds: 6    Life: $53,390 Right at the top of her game at the moment and a real shame she has drawn out here. Huge win at Winton last Saturday coming from the outside of the second line to win in 1:54.1 Not out of it from out there as she can work in her races as she showed last week. Include in trifectas and first fours. 10) Maddison Hill - Starts: 89    Wins: 5    Secs: 11    Thirds: 11    Life: $45,426  Honest mare who has been in good touch in her last couple in her own grade. Massive rise in class here and hard to see her running in four especially from the draw. Not for us. 11) Eva Sophnally - Starts: 24    Wins: 4    Secs: 4    Thirds: 4    Life: $31,263 Ultra consistent mare but not against the class she will face tonight. Can follow speed so that is a plus but some here look to smart. Draw to get soft run from the second line but outside first four player at best for us. 12) Willow - Starts: 15    Wins: 6    Secs: 3    Thirds: 3    Life: $162,082 But for the draw she would be a big winning chance for us. Draw makes it difficult but she can really finish over the top of them if held up for one run. Trialed well at Methven last Saturday and has Natalie in the bike so another tick. Danger to the favoured pair if she gets a run to suit. Include in everything. 13) Royal Counsel - Starts: 23    Wins: 5    Secs: 6    Thirds: 3    Life: $73,062 Another mare that if she had drawn well, would have been a huge each way chance. An out and out stayer who will love the 2600 metres. Won the Southland Oaks last season over some of these and will be put in the race at some point. Throw in for trifectas and first fours. SELECTIONS From the draw Venus Serena is hard to ignore but is no past the post certainty. She hasn't looked at her best lately but this field is more to her liking. New Years Jay and Willow are the big dangers for us with both capable of rolling the favourite with a run to suit.  The Fascinator,Pemberton Shard, Sell A Bit and Royal Counsel for trifectas and first fours. Harnesslink Media

The Cambridge Te Awamutu Harness Racing Club is proud to acknowledge the association with Sky City Hamilton as one of the two joint naming rights partners for the 2012 Harness Jewels. The Hamilton Casino partnered the event in 2010 and was quick to uplift the proposal to be associated once again.

The exponential growth of stakes in harness racing in New Zealand of recent seasons continued today when it was announced that $1.6 million is being injected into stakes for next season.

Trotting-bred mare Mystic Mink earned valuable black type when winning the $30,000 Group 3 Powell Transport North Island Breeders Stakes at the Franklin Trotting Club’s meeting at Alexandra Park this evening, May 23.

The Dunn family’s roller coaster ride of success assumed another dimension when little fancied mare Time To Fly upset the favourites in the $100,000 Gr 1 NZ Standardbred Breeders Stakes (2600 metres) at Addington tonight Friday 1 February.

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