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It's the ‘calm before the Group and Listed storm’ at Alexandra Park on Friday, but some of the big guns will show their faces at 'Northern Headquarters on Friday night. There will be 11 Group races and one Listed event at the December 9, 16 and 31 meetings. Star Galleria, one of the North island's best 3-year-olds, will have a busy December at Alexandra Park with the Group Two $50,000 Alabar 3YO Classic on December 16, and the Listed $175,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 3YO Open on New Year's Eve his main targets. The above average son of Art Major will start from gate five (of seven) in Friday night’s $13,500 Teng Tools Mobile for the R69 to R82 rated pacers. Star Galleria is currently ranked R75. Co-trainer, Simon McMullan wants Star Galleria to return to the form he had before finishing sixth in the $160,000 Sires Stakes Final at Addington Raceway on November 8. “We couldn’t be happier with him now. He has travelled back well and thrived since. We spoke to Tony (Herlihy MNZM) after that race and he was a bit disappointed he didn’t kick on and finish in the top four. “He just didn’t stick on like we thought he could. Sure it was a quality field but we were hoping for better,” said McMullan who co-trains Star Galleria with Steven Reid at Pukekohe. Star Galleria set a very solid clip out in front in the 1950m mobile Group One feature on Cup Day and was then mauled by the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen duo of Ultimate Machete and favourite More The Better. Star Galleria finished just over 10 lengths from the winner and McMullan knew he was better than that. “They went real quick (1:52.6 mile rate) and that day the good draw actually turned out to be a bad one for us because we did all the work in front on a New Zealand record pace,” McMullan said. Star Galleria has won three of his five starts including once over Friday’s 2200m mobile. He won his previous Alexandra Park and Cambridge Raceway starts before heading to Christchurch. ‘We are confident he will go a good race. Even though he’s not quite 100 per cent fit he will be in the next few weeks with all of the rich racing that lies ahead of him at Alexandra Park. “He goes into Friday’s race with a nice workout win behind him,” McMullan said. Star Galleria beat Hug The Wind, Kenrick, Alta Las Vegas, Joanednobettor, Vasari and Franco Cristiano in last Saturday’s 2050m mobile Workout at Pukekohe. Reid settled Star Galleria fourth along the markers before going to sit parked at the 900m before Hug The Wind went around and gave them cover at the 600m. In the lane Star Galleria pounced out of the one-one to win going away by one-and-a-quarter lengths. He stopped the clock in 2:38.2 (mile rate 2:04.1) and home in 57.2 and 27.1. McMullan was rapt with the acceleration the gelding displayed in the final 150m – a trait which stand him in good stead on Friday. “That run was encouraging and if he can repeat that he will be tough to beat. In saying that the Dickie horses do concern me,” McMullan said. By that he meant Bettor Think Quick and Motown who have drawn three and seven respectively. “Bettor Think Quick went real good when finishing third after a spell last start and Motown has won six races and is nearing a $100,000 earner. He has also placed in a Group One race (Emerald 3yo Jewels).. “They are the biggest dangers. Our other fella in the race – Mo Casino – could place if things went his way,” McMullan said. Star Galleria will be driven by Zac Butcher on Friday. Regular pilot Herlihy is committed to his stable runner, Bonnie’s Khaleesi. Meanwhile, December is the Auckland Trotting Club's busiest and biggest month. The big races on offer are: December 9: Group Three $30,000 Summer Cup Group Three $30,000 Caduceus Club Northern Breeders Fillies & Mares Stakes December 16: Group Two $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial Ladyship 3yo Fillies Stakes Group Two $40,000 Lyell Creek Stakes for the open class trotters Group One $100,000 Rosslands Queen of Hearts Fillies & Mares Pace Group Two $50,000 Alabar 3yo Classic Group Two $40,000 Franklin Cup December 31: Group One $150,00 Alabar Sires Stakes 3yo Fillies Final Group One $80,000 National Trot Listed $175,000 PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 3yo Open GROUP ONE $250,000 TRILLIAN TRUST AUCKLAND CUP.   Duane Ranger

The pre-Sires’ Stakes conversation between Steven Reid and Tony Herlihy today will be short. The pair combine with Star Galleria to take on the might of the All Stars, who have four or even five reps in the $170,000 three-year-old Group 1. Usually taking on that many Purdon-Rasmussen runners in a three-year-old race only ends in disappointment one way or another, as we learnt with Hughie Green in this very race two years ago. But after two brave and brilliant heat wins in the north were followed by a trials thrashing of Ultimate Machete last Wednesday, and then Star Galleria drew the best of the favourites, confidence in the Reid-McMullan camp is growing. “I have known he was a good horse for a while,” admits Reid without wanting to talk his new stable star up for fear of a fall. “A few weeks ago I worked him one windy afternoon at Pukekohe and he paced his last 400m in just over 26 seconds. That was as quick as I have ever had a horse work there, as good as Monkey King or Gold Ace. I am not saying he is as good as them yet but he has their speed.” So talent won’t be the issue for Star Galleria and Reid is confident he can cross to the lead after the positive feel he got when buzzed off the gate at the trials. But if he does lead Reid expects pressure from the likes of More The Better and Ultimate Machete. It is not so much team driving he fears, more the fact the Purdon-Rasmussen horses are so good and so fit they don’t let rivals away with dawdling leads. “I think he can lead but I also expect some pressure and then it will be up to Tony to decide what to do next," he said. “A couple of times in the past I have given Tony pre-race instructions but who am I kidding? He has been doing this for decades and I will let him decide what he does out there. “All I will be saying to him is that the horse is spot on and I think he isn’t just a speed horse, he has some bottom to him.” More The Better is still just the favourite after a dominant juvenile season but he has been good without being spectacular so far this term. Which sums up all the Purdon-Rasmussen reps, all look good enough to win but none to be totally feared. More The Better looks the most likely to settle handy to the speed with cover so appeals the most of their team but the race has the potential for an upset, not so much in the winner but definitely the placegetters. The punt: The Herlihy factor might be enough to get Star Galleria home but you would want cover with More The Better. NEW ZEALAND CUP 1: LAZARUS 2: HAVE FAITH IN ME 3: SMOLDA FACT BOX CUP DAY: What: NEW ZEALAND CUP DAY When: First race 12.05pm today. Where: Addington, Chch. Races: $750,000 New Zealand Cup; $170,000 Sires’ Stakes Final, $80,000 NZ Trotting Free-For-All; $35,000 Pacing Free-For-All. Punt: Fixed odds all races; head to heads; $50,000 Pick6. View: Trackside starts with preview show from 10am, the live coverage from 11.30am. by Michael Guerin

It may have only been an average maiden race but Steven Reid feels his 1000th career win could hardly have been more special. The Pukekohe trainer reached the rare milestone at Alexandra Park on Friday night as he and training partner Simon McMullen produced a treble. The third of those wins bought up the career 1000 and came with Samaritan, a cheapie purchase recording his first win.  “But to be honest I’m thrilled it is him because he is part-owned by my son Matty and its the first horse he has been in,” says Reid.   “So to get the 1000 with him and for it to be at Alexandra Park, our home track, is cool.” While he has a moderate record, Reid now thinks Samaritan can win a few more as he burned his last 800m in 56.8 seconds, pouring the pressure on in a sub 28 second 400m sectional down the back straight. “He has taken a while to workout and has a few tricks but he can run a bit and that would a good win.” Even better with the stable’s second winner for the night Utmost Delight, who remained unbeaten winning the first northern heat of the Sires’ Stakes for fillies. She worked very hard wide early but still kicked on too well for some handy fillies and rated 1:57.1 for the 1700m. A daughter of Victor Supreme, she is owned by the King Midas of owners, Charles Roberts. Reid and McMullen are now looking forward to Star Galleria heading to the Sires’ Stakes Final at Addington on Cup Day, via the trials there on Wednesday. “Obviously the draw is going to be important but I think he is turning into a good horse,” says Reid. “The other day we worked in at Pukekohe and he paced a 26.6 quarter and much of that was into the wind. “The really good horses I have had wouldn’t have gone much quicker.” Those “really good horses” include of course Monkey King, who Reid trained for much of his career along with Baileys Dream. “They were two very, very good horses and we all saw what Monkey did, some with me and some with Benny (Hill). “But I’d like to think he would have gone on to do the same job if he had stayed here so he has obviously been one of the highlights for me.” But Reid’s finest moments in training have come with Gold Ace, who he part owned and who started to really shine just after Reid had come out of two high-powered working relationships -- one with Robert Famularo and the other a training partnership with Graeme Rogerson. “His Sires’ Stakes win came when I was out on my own and of course I owned part of him so it was really important. “Then later on when he won the NZ Derby and outstayed Terror To Love, that was huge. That would be my favourite training success.”  McMullen deserves plenty of the current day praise too, with Reid saying his passion helps drive the stable. “But that can be hard too, for both of us. “Last year we had a poor season and he was getting down about it because it loves it so much. “We would go to the races, whether it was the gallops or trots and you have people asking why we aren’t training winners, what has gone wrong? “And that is hard to cop but it probably bothers Simon more because he is so passionate. “But he is a great training partner and we discuss things a lot.” The pair have 13 horses in work, with the smaller team having several who Reid has shares in. “I don’t mind that. To be honest, in the past the only time I have made real money is when I have had shares in horses. “But I don’t want a big team like I used to have, although that makes it hard because it reduces your chances of getting a good one. “So I’d take a couple more if we get offered them.   Michael Guerin

Don't be surprised if Steven Reid and Simon McMullan qualify for their first Alabar Sires Stakes Fillies Championship Final at Alexandra Park on December 31. The Pukekohe horsemen have never had a starter in the Group One $150,000 feature pace for the 3-year-old fillies, but after tonight's sixth event at 'The Park' Utmost Delight could change all that. The very well-bred daughter of Bettor's Delight and Victor Supreme is likely to start one of the favourites in tonight's $22,000 Second Sires Stakes Heat. The first heat, which was run at Addington last week, was won by Mark Jones trained $1.90 favourite, Delightful Memphis (Blair Orange), who beat Major Rocket (Dexter Dunn) and Smiley Sophie (Natalie Rasmussen). There are four heats - two each at Alexandra Park and Addington Raceway. Last year's grand final was won by the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen trained $1.10 hot favourite, Golden Goddess (Rasmussen). The Charles Roberts owned and bred Utmost Delight was an impressive one-and-a-three-quarter length winner on debut at Alexandra Park on October 14. She and David Butcher trailed her stablemate My Kiwi Lady (Zac Butcher) throughout the 2200m mobile and then in the lane surged away from her seven opponents to win in 2:45.2 (mile rate 2:00.8) and home in 56.9 and 28.1. “She drew one that night and got the trip, She’s drawn a bit wider this time (6) and will have to work harder for her win. It’s a very even field but she has kept on improving since the day we qualified her (six seconds under time) in May,” McMullan said. “She’s even improved a lot since that first run here a fortnight ago,” he added. Utmost Delight hasn’t finished further back than second in four workouts and trials since May. McMullan said she had the all-round game. “It’s a bit early to be speaking about how good she is after just one easy run but she has a nice gait and a nice turn of foot. We were surprised how quickly she has come up this time in. I really like her speed though. “We didn’t expect her to be so forward so soon. If she can get the run again she can win it, but it looks an even field with a lot of more seasoned horses in the race. This will be a good gauge as to where she sits,” said McMullan. Toughest for Utmost Delight to beat will be the two pacers drawn the inside of the front row – the Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained and driven crystal Sparkles and the Barry Purdon trained Lady Madonna (Zac Butcher) - who has been a convincing winner of her two starts this campaign. The last time Reid had a starter in the Group One Sires Stakes Championship Final was six years ago when Maid In Splendour finished seventh. McMullan said their stable’s best winning chance tonight (Friday) was Tuhimata Lass (David Butcher) in the last event – the $12,000 Auckland Co-op Taxis Handicap for the up to R48 trotters. Tuhimata Lass is rated 51 (conditions) and has the ideal draw of two over tonight's 2200m trot. “She’s working the best of our team lining up on Friday and is close to winning. She’s placed twice from a stand and gets every chance here to notch up her first win in six starts. “The mare has been knocking on the door with consecutive seconds here in September (30) and October (14),” McMullan said.   Duane Ranger

Steven Reid thought he could win last night’s first 3yo Sires Stakes heat with Star Galleria, but when Tony Herlihy (MNZM) accepted the drive he knew he was on to a winner. “He’s always been a very nice horse but to have Tony on him was a real bonus. He seldom drives at Cambridge on Thursdays these days and when he didn’t hesitate to get in his car and come down and drive him, I thought this fella might be a little bit better than I originally thought,” Reid said. Reid and Simon McMullan trained Star Galleria at Pukekohe. Reid and Zac Butcher had been driving the son of Art Major at the Workouts and Trials and Herlihy only assumed the driving duties when the gelding resumed with a fourth at Alexandra Park on September 16. “That run was better than what the result showed. I thought he could win but to win like he did amazed me. He did everything – and then some – of what we expected of him last night,” Reid said. “Tony can have the drive for life now if he wants,” he added. Star Galleria opened the $3 second favourite in Thursday’s $20,000 NRM 3yo Sires Stakes Heat for 3yo colts and geldings. He started from gate three in the eight-horse field and sat parked throughout to win the 1700m mobile in 2:04.6 (mile rate 1:57.9) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 57.3 and 27.7. It was Star Galleria’s second win in three starts. He also won on debut on the same track on May 27 when he was a warm $1.70 favourite. “Tony said he relaxed early and then travelled beautifully throughout. Tony then said that when he asked him for an effort at the 300m the horse immediately responded. “He gave an effort straight away. He’s still learning what this racing game is all about, but he’s developing into a really nice horse,” Reid said. “I am very happy about heading to Cup day again. He’s the only horse of that quality in our barn,” he added. Reid knows what it’s like to taste Sires Stakes 3yo glory. The Reid trained and Peter Ferguson driven Gold Ace won the Group One feature in 2010 when they drew nine and won as a $13.40 fourth favourite. “I’m never one to get too far ahead of myself and he’s not quite in the Gold Ace class yet. Yes he’s better than Art Form, In fact this fella has more bottom to him, whom one four races before being exported to Australia in March,” Reid said. Reid said he was only well aware of what was yet to come out of the Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen 3yo cupboard. “When we head south we know we will have to step up to another class of racehorse. I will give him two more starts up here and then probably line him up in the New Zealand Cup Trials the week before the Cup. “I’m not saying he can’t beat the best on offer but we have only had one heat and there will be more good ones coming out of the woodwork. “In saying that I think the gelding could have gone 1:55 last night if he had to. I’ve liked him the day I saw him at Brent Donnelly’s. I don't usually go in on deals on young horses but this fella really stood out. “We can win the Sires Stakes if he keeps improving – and I know he can,” said Reid. Star Galleria was bred by Reg Caldow of Wellington. He retained a half share in him, while Reid has a quarter share, as do John and Terese Screen. The Barry Purdon trained and Brent Mangos driven Accumulator also qualified for the Sires Stakes Final at Addington Raceway on November 8 by finishing a head second. There was only a nose back to Favourite Spring Campaign (David Butcher) who was third. Star Galleria is now a loose $7 favourite to win coveted Sires Stakes Final while Accumulator is quoted by the New Zealand TAB at $18. Meanwhile $2.30 favourite Robbie Burns also had to sit parked to win the other feature of the night's racing - the $12,000 Waikato Equine Vet Centre Te Awamutu Cup for R70 and faster pacers. The 85-rated and Robert Dunn trained 5-year-old skipped early from his 20-metre handicap and was seven lengths last before going up to sit parked outside of the pace-making Stunin Banner (Todd Mitchell) at the bell. In the lane John Dunn got everything out of the son of Live Or Die to get up and win by a neck and a neck. Aliante (Brent Mangos) and Stunin Banner filled the minors. The winning time for the 2700m stand was 3:26.8 (mile rate 2:03.2) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 57.4 and 28.1. It was Robbie Burns’ first run back after a three-and-a-half month spell and his seventh win in 24 starts,. he’s also placed seven times for $77,805 in stakes. Last night’s Pick6 had a whopping $275,854 in the pool and resulted in a $13,903.90 shared payout.   Duane Ranger

Well known Pukekohe harness racing identity Les Purdon has been around horses all his life and like the rest of us accepts the ups and downs that goes with racing horses. Les has always had a big opinion of the Charles Brosnan four year old Blinding Light but the racing gods have rarely smiled on him on racenight. Les acquired the horse in payment for a debt as a yearling and initially placed the horse with his son in law Steven Reid for whom he had some success. " He won a race at two and another one as an early three year old but not much has gone right since then." " Little issues started to pop up and we would no sooner clean one up than another one would appear." " He was starting to go backwards not forwards so in the end we tipped him out," Les told Harnesslink this week. Back from a break, Blinding Light continued to have issues and at that point Les decided that maybe the horse just needed a complete change of scenery. " He just didn't seem happy in himself in the big stable environment at Steven's so I decided to move him to my daughter Angela's place." "She only has a small team and he gets a lot more individual attention there." " He has certainly thrived since being at Angela's and his work lately has been much more like the old Blinding Light " Les said. First up for Angela at Alexandra Park in late August, Blinding Light ran a great second to the very talented Motown, beaten just a neck. However Angela still thought she needed to iron out a couple of things and it wasn't until three months later that Blinding Light lined up again at Cambridge. Again he went under in a close finish, beaten a nose by Crocketts Cullen. Les was rapt with the run. " He was pretty short going into Cambridge a couple of weeks ago and to get as close as he did was a big effort." " He has come on big time since that run and from barrier 2 this week with Zac Butcher in the bike, he should be very hard to beat," Les said. After talking to Les Purdon at length, one gets the impression that Blinding Light has quite a few more wins in him yet. Harnesslink Media

The best chance for a southern hemisphere bred son of the champion sire Bettors Delight to make it at stud down under would appear to Harnesslink to be Gold Ace. A great looking entire who was able to mix it with the best in the age group classics in New Zealand, Gold Ace went on to win the Golden Nugget in Perth at four before winning the $150,000 New Zealand Free For All as an older horse He then went back to Australia where he won the Cranbourne and Shepparton Cups and was placed behind Christen Me in a Hunter Cup before finishing a great second to Adore Me back in New Zealand in 1:51.8 as he wound down a wonderful career. Purchased out of the 2009 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale for $27,000 by the Graeme Rogerson - Steven Reid training partnership, Gold Ace is bred on the hugely successful Bettors Delight - In The Pocket cross which has had so much success in Australasia. Gold Ace's dam was Hill Of Gold  and she has certainly been that for her owner A handy race mare for Geoff Small, Hill of Gold has excelled in the broodmare paddock. Apart from Gold Ace she has also produced the very smart race mare Gold Elite 1:57.3 ($70,037) and Strike The Gold 1:55.8 ($63,721) who raced in the classics last year against Have Faith In Me and Follow The Stars. Her last yearling to go through the sales ring in 2014 was Dark Energy, a full brother to Gold Ace who made $75,000. Hill Of Gold is closely related to the brilliant juvenile Smiling Shard 1:53.7 ($1,178,793), Sly Flyin 1:53.6 ($911,689) and Kiwi Ingenuity 1:52.1 ($523,200) so the family has been having a great run in the last twenty years. Gold Ace made his race track debut at Forbury Park in March 2010 as a two year old and while not dominant at that age, he did produce several smart performances. We think his best run was when he won the  $30,000 Sires Stakes Consolation at Addington. All up at two, Gold Ace won $23,740 but when he reappeared at three he was a different horse. Now trained solely by Steven Reid,  Gold Ace was at his best at three,winning 10 races including the $253,000 PGG Sales Race, $200,000 NZ Derby, $165,000 NZ Sires Stakes Final and the $150,000 Harness Jewels. All up he won over $500,000 at three in a season which was notable for his clashes with another rising star,Terror To Love. The pair met six times at three with Gold Ace winning four and dead-heating in another so even though there was not much in it on the track, Gold Ace was too strong in most of their meetings and was named three year old of the year. Never one to miss a challenge, Steven Reid set Gold Ace for the A$175,000 Golden Nugget final at Perth early in his four year old season in which he duly obliged. Staying with the Halls in Perth, Gold Ace so impressed Gary Hall sen that he made a A$1,000,000 offer for the entire but the owners said no. For the rest of his four year old season, Gold Ace had the appearance of a horse that just hadn't got over that big trip to Perth. He won the $40,000 Superstars final at Addington over Terror To Love and was placed in both the Noel Taylor Mile and the NZ Messenger but just seemed half a length down on what he had been previously. At five the highlight of the season was the win in the $150,000 NZ FFA at Addington over Terror To Love and a great second to Christen Me in the $100,00 Noel Taylor Mile. From there Steven and the owners moved Gold Ace to the McCarthy barn in Sydney where over the next 14 months he won over $250,000 with his best wins coming in the $100,000 Cranbourne Cup and $50,000 Shepparton Cup while he was also a great third to Christen Me in the $400,000 AG Hunter Cup. Brought back to New Zealand as a seven year old as he wound down before heading to the stallion barn, Gold Ace produced one of career best runs at the 1000 metres Cambridge Raceway. Sent forward from the gate by driver Todd Mitchell, Gold Ace tried to run them off their feet over the mile and it took the champion mare Adore Me to grab him late in a new track record to defeat him. Gold Ace was timed in 1:51.8 which is his best recorded time and he did it at start 67. So when you look at Gold Ace you see a horse who is by a champion sire in Bettors Delight from a top maternal family, who raced for six seasons, earned just under one and a quarter million dollars and was still trucking as good at the end of his career as he was at the start. The bonus is when you look at the individual in the flesh as Gold Ace is letting down into one magnificent looking entire. Standing at the outstanding Nevele R Stud in Christchurch, Gold Ace will be given every opportunity to prove that he can make it as a sire and it would surprise us if he didn't make his mark.  Harnesslink Media

Its that time of the harness racing season that we see the emergence of the spring three year olds as they try to make the cut for the Sires Stakes final on Cup Day. The first heat is in the North next week and several of the prominent North Island three year olds who are targeting that heat are lining up in race 5 at Alexandra Park tonight. Horses of the caliber of Motown, Shandale, Kimani and Art Form give the race a real sires stakes heat look. Art Form is the one of the quartet that has most of the pundits unsure where to place him in the pecking order. The son of Art Major was a brilliant first up winner at two but his form tapered off when sent south for the big two year old races. First up at three, Art Form dealt to his opposition by seven lengths after burning early and in doing so sent out a reminder to everyone that he will be a player in the big three year old races this season. Trainer Steven Reid was pleasantly surprised by the first up run. " I didn't think he was ready for a run like that so it did surprise me a bit." " Art Form has come back a lot stronger this time in and I think he is in for a big season," Steven said. Looking at tonights race Steven was unsure how it would pan out. "Those small fields with a handful of talented horses are notoriously difficult to predict." " He has improved a lot from his first up run and David Butcher is in the bike this week so we are in there with a big chance." " However with the Sires Stakes Heat next week his main early season aim, we don't want to be giving him a gutbuster tonight either," Steven said. Art Form has always looked a horse who was capable of mixing it with the best and he looks a live chance in this years Sire Stakes series. Harnesslink Media

Last week was one of the better weeks overall for a while with our tipsters not far off all weekend. Six selected winners with Kyle Marshall leading the way with the $6 shot, JC Jock while Scott Phelan, Blair Orange, Tim Williams, Nathan Williamson and Ricky May also got the job done. What was so frustrating was the tipsters had eleven placegetters including ten second placings over the weekend. This week however we only have three meetings around the country and quite a few of our regulars are not in action this weekend but as usual it would pay to follow the tipsters selections on the first day at Blenheim on Friday to the second day on Sunday. Forbury Park - Thursday night Shane Walkinshaw - Thought Jetsdream just needed an ounce of luck to win race 2 Brendon McLellan - Thinks Mr Handleman is a chance at huge odds, also in race 2 Craig Ferguson - Rates Lamborne Road a big chance to bounce back and win race 5 Nathan Williamson - Thinks Betta Go Fernco can turn it around and win, also in race 5 Brad Williamson - Hopes to celebrate his 21st birthday with a win on Elusive Flight in race 7 Gavin Smith - Gives the two year old Late Mail a big chance of winning race 9 Matthew Williamson - Rates Springbank Eden a chance of upsetting them in race 11   Blenhiem - Friday afternoon Bob Butt - Quite keen on the chances of the first starter Dusky Eyre in race 1 Ricky May - Rates Delightful Jack as well overdue and thinks he will win race 2 John Dunn - Very bullish about the chances of stable runner Mr Meddle in race 6 Blair Orange - Gives Expresso Martini a big push to win race 7 Terry Chmiel - Thinks Art Exhibit is ready to strike and will win race 8     Franklin - Friday night Scott Phelan - Thinks Ideal Roman is a big chance from barrier two in race 1 Todd MacFarlane - Rates I Am The One a good each way prospect in race 4 John Curtin - Thought Bettormack second up from a break would win, also in race 4 Todd Mitchell - Reckons The Tracker can carry on his winning streak in race 5 Steven Reid - Gives Franco Nikau a chance of rolling them at big odds, also in race 5 Steven Richardson (TAB) - Rates Chosen Path fresh up a big chance of winning race 6 Kyle Marshall - Thought Kilkeel Lady from barrier two could upset them in race 10   Harnesslink Media

The old saying in harness racing that the cream always rises to the top all things being equal is never more appropriate than in the case of young North Canterbury trainer Gavin Smith. After  a promising start to his training career, Gavin had struck one problem after another from blood issues to soundness problems and it seemed to be never ending and as a result, Gavin was on the verge of giving the training game away as recently as earlier this year. The harder he tried the worse it seemed to get and not surprisingly Gavin was having thoughts of getting a Monday to Friday job to pay the bills. This from a horseman who looked just a few years earlier to have a huge future in the harness racing industry after a stellar junior driver career. Gavin started out in the industry helping out Murray Hamilton during the school holidays. " Murray was a friend of mum and dads and I would help out there during the school holidays." " The first time I sat in a cart I was hooked and from that time on this is all that I have wanted to do," Gavin told Harnesslink this week. While his parents raced the odd horse, there is no family history of involvement in the industry. " I am pretty sure I am the only one from either side of the family who is involved in the racing industry as a career," Gavin said. Hooked by harness racing, Gavin got his first job in the industry at age 16 when he went to work for Doug Gale. " Doug was really good to work for and I was there for over two years before doing a three year stint with Mark Purdon." " You never stopped learning off Mark and he was always good to watch and learn from." " From there I did over four years with David and Catherine Butt and I can never thank them enough for all the opportuniities they gave me." "It was while there that I got established as a driver and I don't think I would still be in the industry if it hadn't been for their help." " After that I did 18 months working for Graham Rogerson when he was in partnership with firstly Peter Simpson and latterly with Steven Reid and like everyone you work for, you pick up little things from them that helps give their horses that edge," Gavin said. Deciding it was time to go out training on his own, Gavin returned to Canterbury and purchased a 20 acre block at Leithfield beach and it wasn't long before he brought another adjacent 20 acre block. While his driving for outside trainers such as Phil Burrows and Robert Dunn was going great, his own team was forever having issues. " I got a bad virus that went right through the stable and the horses struggled to get over it." " I could never get their blood right and I tested everything to try to get to the source of the problem with no luck." " I just had one of those runs where nothing went right." " It got to the point where I was thinking seriously about giving the training away." " Then I got the opportunity to lease the complex at Dancingonmoonlight and I thought a change of scenery might change my luck so I moved here on April 2nd this year." " The horses were coming right before I moved here and since the move they have continued to improve." "I have put a lot of time into understanding the results of blood tests and I now like to think I can nip a lot of things in the bud before they become a major problem,"Gavin said. Gavin is thankful to his owners who stuck by him even when things weren't going that well. "Trish Dunell has been with me since I started out on my own and she has been great to train for." "She has been so loyal to the stable and its good she is getting a bit of payback now," Gavin said. Over the last few years Gavin has brought a handful of cheaper yearlings at the sales with the aim to turn them over quickly at a profit and been reasonably successful in doing so but now the plan has changed. " I am not buying as many as I use to but the quality is a lot better and they are by better sires." "I really like three that I bought at this years sales." * Filly by The Pres from Howz Lucky for $16,000 * Colt by Muscle Mass from Whosinthenest for $19,000 * Colt by Artsplace from Sirius Flight for $38,000. " They have all shown plenty to date so I am really looking forward to racing them next season," Gavin said. Gavin is also breeding from three mares in Hanover Glory, Bute Falcon and All Settled Down and has covered them with high profile stallions with Hanover Glory going to Sportswriter, Bute Falcon to Mach Three and All Settled Down to Majestic Son. As with all stables Gavin has one horse that he has really high hopes for next season. " I think Scarlett Banner could be very competitive in the big fillies races next season." " I gave her one start this season when she ran fifth to Dream About Me and Arden's Choice and then had to put her aside." " She has just blossomed in the last couple of months and I am really looking forward to next season with her," Gavin said. Since the move to his new stables Gavin has really got his mojo back, racking up 15 wins as a driver and more importantly 10 winners from his own barn. The highlight though was undoubtedly his drive on the Fred Fletcher trained Sunny Ruby to win the 3 year old Ruby on Jewels day. " Fred and Sam did such a great job just to get her there." " She never started to come right until ten days before the race so to have her ready to run 1:54 was a great training achievement." " She use to over race quite badly but they have got her to settle now so they deserve a lot of credit for the turnaround in her attitude." "She has an all round game and I think she will measure up in the best company in time," Gavin said. With the massive turnaround in stable fortunes since the move to his new stables, Gavin is looking to the future with a lot of confidence. " The move has been positive on so many fronts." Not only with the horses but I get to see a lot more of the family not having to travel so much up to Leithfield. "Sara is running the breeding side with her father Robert and so we work in together a lot with the two operations." It is working out really well, Gavin said. Gavin knows how lucky he is to be in the position he now finds himself in. "I know how hard it is for people who don't have family in the industry to get established." "When I have a look now at all the drivers who were about in my junior driving days, only Nathan Williamson and Jay Abernathy have made it in the training ranks which shows you how hard it is for a young trainer to get established in harness racing," Gavin said. With the way his team is performing at the moment and the confidence he is gaining from driving so well at present, Gavin looks poised to reach the high levels that many astute judges in the industry always thought he was destined for. Harnesslink Media

Any NZ$60,000 race is a big one but for Gold Ace the Flying Mile at Cambridge tonight could be a life changer. Win and the harness racing speedster could head back to Australia for one last shot at making an impression for his future stallion career there. And not to mention the small matter of the A$1.6million worth of races he can contest in the space of just six weeks at Melton and Menangle. But lose tomorrow, most likely to Adore Me, and trainer and part owner Steven Reid has to think seriously about staying home and concentrating on the Auckland Cup and Gold Ace ending his racing days here in New Zealand. “I’d love to take him over there for another crack at the big races cause I feel he has some unfinished business. “He was great in both the Victoria and Hunter Cups last year and I’d also like to have a go at a really fast mile time at Menangle. “So if he can win, especially beating Adore Me this week, that is all on.” With that in mind the barrier draw was crucial, Gold Ace securing barrier two and Adore Me to start from four. “All I wanted was to draw inside the mare and have a chance,” said Reid. “We have got that now and I think everybody knows we will be trying for an all the way win. “If Adore Me can sit outside us and beat us then so be it.” Reid says Gold Ace is starting to feel more like the horse who won both the NZ Free-For-All and this race two seasons ago. “I actually think he is back to something like his best,” says Reid. “He has really seemed to come on in the last few weeks and you know that when he starts bucking. “When he was at his best as a three-year-old he used to buck in the prelims and sometimes even in a race. “And he has been doing in this week. I worked him on Wednesday and he bucked like seven or eight times in the warm up. “So he is feeling good. Whether that is good enough to beat the mare we will see.” The NZ TAB opened Adore Me a $1.40 to win tomorrow night, with Gold Ace at $3.40 to upset her, as he did when he downed Adore Me’s stablemate Smolda when he was hot favourite for this race two seasons ago. by Michael Guerin Courtesy of Harness Racing Victoria

Gold Ace’s comeback to credibility has received another boost heading into tomorrow night’s stunning premier meeting at Alexandra Park. The scratching of key rival Pembrook Benny from the $30,000 Founders 1700m has removed the major obstacle from Gold Ace making it back to back wins in the small sprint field. Gold Ace opened the $2.30 favourite with the TAB yesterday morning but shortened into $1.60 after Pembrook Benny, drawn directly inside him, was withdrawn. “He banged a knee somewhere and we had to treat it, which meant he couldn’t race,” said trainer Barry Purdon. “It is nothing serious though so he should be fine for Alexandra Park on New Year’s Eve and the Flying Mile at Cambridge (Jan 9).” That means Gold Ace faces just four rivals in the group three race and greatly increases his chances of blasting to the lead as he looks to continue on from his all the way last start win. That was his first Alexandra Park success in over three years and his first win since re-joining Steven Reid and Simon McMullen from the McCarthy stable in Sydney. With his blazing gate speed and the Flying Mile just weeks away he could be in for a far more profitable summer than looked likely, especially as big guns like Christen Me and Terror To Love are having Christmas breaks. His early involvement and the Alexandra Park debut of Dalton Bromac in tomorrow night’s opening race sets up one of the stronger December premier meetings seen at Alexandra Park in years. Adore Me is the $1.22 favourite for the group one Queen Of Hearts even drawn the inside of the second line, with trainer-driver Mark Purdon indicating on The Box Seat TV show last night he would be looking to punch through early behind potential leader Helena Jet. “I think Helena Jet is the second best mare in the race and likely to lead so I’d rather do that than go back and try and come around them all,” said Purdon. Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen also have enormous roles to play in the $75,000 Peter Breckon Memorial and the $50,000 Alabar Classic. Linda Lovegrace, with the inside draw, was the first horse backed seriously when the feature race markets opened yesterday, and at $3.20 was nudging excitement machine The Orange Agent’s $3 quote last night. Purdon opts for Sires’ Stakes winner Have Faith In Me as narrowly the stable’s next chance of three standouts in the Alabar Classic but the bookies see it the other way, having Hug The Wind the $2.40 top pick over Have Faith In Me at $2.70. The other group race of the night sees Stent return to Alexandra Park and his beloved mobile short course racing in the $40,000 Rosslands Lyell Creek Stakes. That combination and a good draw have seen him open a $2.50 favourite over Prime Power at $3.60 in a line-up that also includes Sheemon and Irish Whisper. Courtesy of Michael Guerin + Harness Racing New Zealand

Steven Reid has been in the harness racing industry long enough to know that horses have a shelf life and that is why he he looking at the immediate future of his stable star Gold Ace in such a measured fashion. Trained by Steven all the way through, Gold Ace has provided the South Auckland trainer with some of his most memorable career highlights. A winner as a 2 year old, Gold Ace really came of age as a 3 year old winning ten races from fifteen starts including the $166,000 Sires Stakes Final, the $200,000 New Zealand Derby and the $150,000 Harness Jewels. Gold Ace kicked on as an early 4 year old when he trekked to Perth and took out the $50,000 4 year old championship followed closely afterwards by the $175,000 Golden Nugget.  Stabled at Gary Hall's during their time in Perth, the connections of Gold Ace knocked back an offer of $1,000,000 during their stay there from their host. From there Gold Ace has moved between New Zealand and Australia with some of his more memorable performances included winning the $100,000 Cranbourne Cup,  the $147,500 New Zealand Free For All and an outstanding 3rd in the $400,000 Hunter Cup. Numerous placings behind such greats as Christen Me, Terror To Love and Sir Lincoln are present throughout his racelines. Based in New South Wales with Luke McCarthy earlier this season and not quite performing up to his usual high standards, the decision was made to return Gold Ace to New Zealand to Steven Reid and to set him for the New Zealand Free For All in Cup Week. While he ran a creditable fifth in a super strong field, Steven is aware the end of his racing career may not be far away. "I was happy enough with his run at Addington as he didn't get much go his way but he was still a wee way off the speed." " He has done everything right heading into the Summer Cup on Friday night but I just don't know if we can beat Franco Nelson," Steven told Harnesslink this week.  "We will head to the FFA at Auckland before Xmas and then on to the Flying Mile at Waikato early in January and if he continues to improve and race well we will head to the Auckland Cup. "If he is not competitive in those races then maybe its time to retire Gold Ace to stud, " Steven said  A 7 year old son of champion sire Bettors Delight, Gold Ace has a pedigree to match his racetrack performances. He is bred on the "golden cross" of Bettors Delight over an In The Pocket mare and his pedigree is littered with high class performers. The full sister Gold Elite 1:57.3 $70,037 and full brother Strike The Gold 1:55.8 $45,759 are both smart types. The last two full brothers to Gold Ace to go through the ring at the Australasian Classic Yearling sale have both made $75,000. The grand - dam Touch Of Gold has produced Seeking The Gold 1:50.4 ($250,785)  Golden Son 1:54.4 ($86,585) and Golden Charm 1:59 - the dam of Coppertone 1:50.4 ($119,076) Gold Ace is closely related to the brilliant juvenile Smiling Shard 1:53.7 ($1,178,793) who is now at stud in Australia. Steven knows how hard it is in todays competitive stud scene but is determined to give Gold Ace his chance. " He has everything you look for in a sire - Breeding - Conformation - Performance - Longevity" " Priced right, I am sure he will get his chance to prove himself " " I will certainly be supporting him and so will a few close to the barn so he will get his chance," Steven said. So why one door on Gold Ace's career is starting to close, another one is starting to open. Harnesslink Media

Bit of the post Cup blues from last weeks tipsters with just Blair Orange, John Curtin, Tony Herlihy, Todd Macfarlane and Nathan Williamson nailing winners while the tipsters racked up seven placings as well. Jimmy Curtin went close with Juliette Bromac at Addington running second when paying $31 to win. This week there is plenty of racing in the south with four meetings and just one in the north and our tipsters have covered all the meetings. Due to the invited drivers series at Invercargill taking over the last six races there, we have no selections from our southern tipsters this week bar Nathan Williamson who is driving at Forbury Park.  Forbury Park - Thursday Night Matt Williamson - Thought Tachma was right in the zone and could win race 1 Nathan Williamson - Gives Strathmores Charm a real chance to go back to back in race 5 Tim Williams - Reckons with the big drop back in class Here We Go Again should win race 6   Alexandra Park - Friday Night John Curtin  (Harnesslink) - Reckons Hot Mach will be too good in race 1 Steven Reid - Likes Blinding Light  with a better barrier draw this week to win race 3 Todd Macfarlane - Rates Bourbon Street a big chance of clearing maidens in race 6 Scott Phelan - With Spanish Lustre scratched, his best drive is now Le Lua Invasion in race 9   Timaru - Saturday Afternoon  John Dunn - Likes Eilish Aimee to start her career on a winning note in race 1 Bob Butt - Rates Easy Rider a good chance to atone for Ashburton last week and win race 2 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Gives Major Patron a big show of turning his form around in race 3 Brad Williamson - Thought the standing start would make Goshawk an each way chance in race 7  Ricky May - Reckons Pay Me Art from the front line will be hard to beat in race 9 Terry Chmiel - Gives Stradowan a winning chance even off 10 metres , also in race 9 Gerard O'Reilly - Likes Jayceekay from the mobile to be too good and win race 10  Craig Thornley - Rates Real Life Hero a big chance to take out race 11   Banks Peninsula - Sunday Afternoon Robbie Holmes - Thinks Willie Shine is slowly turning the corner and can win race 1 Jim Curtin - Thought Franco Tyrone was a good chance to win race 12   Invercargill - Sunday Afternoon Maurice McKendry - Thought from barrier 3 Sheeza Shark would be tough to roll in race 8  Blair Orange - Rates Pepe Bromac,even from barrier 12 a chance to beat Sheeza Shark in race 8    Harnesslink Media

 Steven Reid’s New Zealand Free-For-All assault has taken two unusual turns which leave him with half the firepower he expected to have. Reid and training partner Simon McMullen will still have former winner Gold Ace in our biggest sprint two weeks tomorrow, but last season’s runner-up Easy On The Eye won’t be back. He has been sold to Australia where he has joined the Newcastle team of Shane Tritton. “We got fair price for him and in this business you have to sell them sometimes,” said Reid. “I am sure if he had stayed here he could have won what we got paid for him over a year or two but then expenses come out of that. “But I think he can do a good job for Shane.” Tritton is thrilled with his purchase and says the seven-year-old son of Christian Cullen has settled into his galloping work programme well. “We have liked him for a long time and we think enough of him that we are aiming him at the Miracle Mile. “We know that won’t be easy to get into but at this stage he will clash with Stuey (Suave Stuey Lombo) in the Newcastle Mile and we can see where he is at after that.” But Reid has been playing snakes and ladders with NSW’s leading trainers, sending Easy On The Eye over but getting Gold Ace back from the McCarthy stable. And he says he will only have one more trial before Cup week. “He is well and has come back looking good,” says Reid. “But he won’t have a lead-up race. We will go to the Cup trials, not for the main Cup trial but for something shorter that day. “Then we have two options. Obviously he is going to the NZ Free-For-All and that is his main aim and he will almost certainly go in fresh. “But he does have the option of the junior free-for-all on Cup Day if we think he needs a race, but that is unlikely.” Easy On The Eye’s departure to NSW and the recent loss of Lets Elope to Victoria, where he will have his first start for Brent Lilley next week, leaves the North Island open class stocks at their lowest ebb in years. Pembrook Benny leads that pack with some handy graduates from intermediate grade like Norvic Nightowl and Beyond The Silence coming through but even with five or six quality southerners coming north after Cup week, there could be some big races with class four type fronts around over the summer. Courtesy Of Harness Racing New Zealand

Last week we got a good old fashioned kick up the butt with just three of our tipsters selecting a winner and only six overall were in the money. Blair Orange, Terry Chmiel and Nathan Williamson furthered their good record as selectors whilst there were plenty of hard luck stories from others all over the country. They start with a clean slate this week and have come up with plenty of value for readers with plenty of runners whose form is not the best but who our selectors give a real chance to. Manawatu - Thursday night Scott Phelan - Even though he has drawn the second row thinks Art Magic should win race 3   Auckland - Friday night Todd Mitchell - Thought Elliesjet even from barrier 12 would be hard to beat in race1 Steven Reid - Very bullish about Unforgiving from barrier one in race 4 Steve Richardson (TAB) - Likes The Orange Agent to upset Unforgiving in race 4 John Curtin (Harnesslink) - Thinks Boizel even off 40 metres can win race 5 Tony Herlihy - Rates Downunder Stride from barrier one as hard to beat in race 6 Sean McCaffrey - Rates Le Lua Invasion a good chance against the fillies and mares in race 7 Maurice McKendry - Confident that Hughie Green will atone for last week and win race 8 Zac Butcher - Likes Saffron Castleton to turn her form around in race 9   Addington - Friday night Blair Orange - Rates Quaint Glen a big chance even from barrier 12 in race 2 Tim Williams - Confident that Adore Me's little brother Have Faith In Me can win race 6 John Dunn - Feedback from stable suggests Light Up Boss will win race 7 if driver at his best Brad Williamson - Thinks The Silver Fox just needs a change of luck to win race 8 Sam Ottley - Quite keen on Bird Of Paradise to turn her form around in race 10     Manawatu - Sunday afternoon Todd Macfarlane - Rates Hudy Haxwell a royal show on the second day at Manawatu Peter Scaife - Gives Johnny Vegas a big chance on the second day at Manawatu   Tuapeka - Sunday afternoon Dexter Dunn - Reckons Margarita can make it four wins from her last five in race 6 Matthew Williamson - Thinks Alley Way can go one better than last week and win race 7 Nathan Williamson - Likes stablerunner Onedin Mach to make it four in a row in race 8 Craig Thornley - Thought Drover's Eyre would be tough to roll in race 11   Ashburton - Monday afternoon Gerard O'Reilly - Confident that Never Fear can turn her form around in race 1 Jim Curtin - Thinks Star Of Dionysis is overdue and can win race 2 Ricky May - Keen on Brilliant Strike who has a decent draw for once to win race 4 Terry Chmiel -Thought That Guy Finn even in that super hot field can win race 6   Harnesslink Media

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