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The words of a champion horseman are one of the few ghosts haunting trainer Steven Reid as he prepares Star Galleria for tomorrow night's $100,000 Taylor Mile. The speed freak pacer is the $2.60 opening favourite for the group one sprint, one of four group races as Alexandra Park kicks off its last major carnival of the season tomorrow night. Star Galleria has developed from a speedster lacking strength last season into one of the best pacers in the country behind Lazarus with a series of high-class victories over the summer, downing the likes of Heaven Rocks and Jack's Legend with ease. While he hasn't raced since his effortless win in the City of Auckland Free-For-All a month ago, the four-year-old thrilled Reid winning his Pukekohe workout last Saturday in a fast time on a soaked track. "He felt great and I have no doubt he is better than he was a month or two ago," says Reid. "He has got stronger again and I couldn't be happier with him. "The Puke track is fast at the moment but he still paced 3:2 for his 2400m on a wet track, his last 800m in 55 seconds so he is ready." The only concern Reid had after last Saturday's spectacular workout win was the words of champion driver Maurice McKendry, who drove runner-up Let It Ride. "Maurice sat on our back and never pulled out and after the workout he told me his horse was jogging," says Reid. "So maybe he has come over here in really good form, I suppose we will find out on Friday." Let It Ride is a member of Tim Butt's Menangle stable and was a close second to eventual Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu in the Chariots of Fire in February. He looked very impressive during last Saturday's workout and his gate speed and sprint prowess are honed by his Sydney racing diet so with barrier two he has emerged as a real danger in the race. A G's White Socks has the ace draw and More The Better is drawn on Let It Ride's back, suggesting all four favourites should be handy, almost always the key to Taylor Mile success. Trotting young gun Enghien has opened favourite against the older horses in the $100,000 Anzac Cup, with the aid of barrier two and the fact his connections believe he is more comfortable around Alexandra Park. But the favourite for one of tomorrow night's other group races Luby Lou goes into the $60,000 Sires' Stakes Trotters Champs with no experience right-handed, which may be why bookies are giving an appealing $2 for the superstar filly, keeping Renezmae safe at $5.80 after her impressive northern debut last Friday. The race looks one of the deeper three-year-old trot features at Alexandra Park in recent years as the breed continues to develop at the two and three-year-old levels through better breeding and more racing opportunities. That is also being reflected in the high number of two-year-old trotters racing this season compared with five years ago, the resurgence suggesting HRNZ's recent boosts of stakes for the three trotting races at the Jewels to $125,000 was the right decision. Michael Guerin

The cloud of doom hovering over the career of Auckland Cup winner Vincent is clearing. The exceptional four-year-old is now rated a good chance of racing again next season just weeks after fears he may need to be retired to stud because of a suspensory injury. Trainer Mark Purdon says the magnificent looking pacer could even be back at the races as soon as early next year. "We are definitely aiming him at getting back to the races, not a stud career," Purdon confirmed to the Herald. "Initially when he got injured it looked like that may not be the case we really feared it might be the end of his racing career. "But things since then have been far more positive." Vincent had just won the Auckland Cup and was favourite for the Ballarat Cup and Chariots Of Fire when he damaged his suspensory in late January. That also ruled him out of the Miracle Mile and he was brought back to New Zealand for a thorough veterinary inspection, which had it suggested he was finished as a racehorse, would have seen negotiations start with stud farms. "But he has been at the clinic at Matamata and they are hopeful that stem cell injections into the area can help it heal 100 per cent," explained Purdon. "He has already had one course and is now on his next and apparently the nature of the injury is not as bad as it can be. So it is very early days but I'd like to think he will be back racing." Even all going well Vincent won't be back to try and thwart stablemate Lazarus's attempt at a third New Zealand Cup come November or the Inter Dominions in Victoria a few weeks later. But if and when he does make it back to the track he will add much needed glamour to the New Zealand pacing stocks. It is almost unprecedented to have so many top horses leave the country or be retired in such a short period of time, with Have Faith In Me, Heaven Rocks and Waikiki Beach having left over the summer while Smolda was retired last year. Add to that the injuries to great mares Dream About Me and The Orange Agent and Auckland Cup runner-up Titan Banner and the cupboard at the highest level is awfully bare. For once the Australian ranks seem to have more depth, with My Field Marshal there now and horses like Chicago Bull, Soho Tribeca and Jilliby Kung Fu having emerged. A fully healthy version of Vincent has done enough to suggest he is as good as them and if he can return to the track he remains the heir apparent to Lazarus, who you would have to think would be retired at the end of next season. One of the genuine class acts to have emerged from the sparse local summer of pacing has been Star Galleria, who blew his rivals away again at Alexandra Park last Friday. After a roller coaster three-year-old season last term he has developed strength to compliment his raw speed but trainer Steven Reid will not stretch him out to 3200m in the Easter Cup at Addington in a few weeks. Even though Star Galleria was a brave fourth in the Auckland Cup over that 3200m distance on December 31, Reid will stick to his original plans and aim him at the Taylor Mile and Messenger at Alexandra Park in late April and May before the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in June. With some possibility Miracle Mile runner-up Jilliby Kung Fu could be lured to New Zealand for the Jewels a clash between he, Star Galleria and Jack's Legend would set that meeting alight. Michael Guerin

The North Island Trainers and Drivers Association have appointed Scott Phelan as Youth Development Officer for the region. The role has been created to assist the youth of the industry with their development and knowledge and act as a support role for any young person who may require assistance or advice. Todd Macfarlane of the North Island Trainers and Drivers Association explained that Phelan will be available for all youth in the industry on an open door approach. “There is a lot of talent out there and we want to help nurture them and help them be the best they can be,” said Macfarlane. “Scott will be available in a support role at race meetings and trials and can be contacted at any time.” “He can also assist in enquires and view race videos, and if a rule has been breached he can also help explain what could have been done to help drivers learn from mistakes. The stipendiary stewards are also very supportive of Scott and we feel that this is a positive support base for cadets and young drivers and trainers.” “The trainers and drivers association also would like to thank the North Island Amateur and North Island Owners association for their support financially in creating this role.” Anyone wishing to seek advice or support from Phelan is encouraged to contact him directly on 022-329-9455. The Northern Harness Racing Cadets in conjunction with the North Island Branch of NZ Trainers & Drivers Association will also hold an Industry Field Day at Franklin Park Training Centre. This will be on Monday 26 March starting with lunch at 12 noon and the activities beginning at 12.30pm. Both groups are encouraging the North Island harness trainers to send along their stable hands, cadets and junior drivers so they have the opportunity to gain knowledge from our industry leaders. Speakers on the day will be Graeme Henley on pedigrees, Tony Grayling on stud duties from getting mares in foal until they are ready for the next step which is Yearling preparation. This topic will be covered by Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson. Brent Mangos and Steven Reid will part with their knowledge and opinions for selecting Yearlings to purchase and then following on Derek Balle and Owen Gillies will demonstrate how the breaking and gaiting process works. Syndication with ATC Syndicate Manager Andrew Jamieson will be the last topic on the day. The day will have its share of fun along the way with quizzes, prizes and giveaways for those in attendance. Scott Phelan in his role as the Youth Development Officer along with a delegation of the North Island Trainers & Drivers will be there to co-ordinate and over-see the afternoon. The North Island Trainers & Drivers have organised for an MVP Award for the 2017/18 season with a trip to leading trainer Gary Hall in Perth. This will be points based with all cadets and junior drivers eligible. For any further information on the day contact Sally Waters the North Island Education & Training Co-ordinator on 027 494 2850.

Even holding all the aces may not be enough for Star Galleria to down Vincent at Cambridge tomorrow. But trainer Steven Reid knows it gives his speed-freak four-year-old maybe the best chance he will ever get. The pair dominate a five-horse field for the $50,000 Futurity at the twilight meeting and punters could be forgiven for thinking the 2700m mobile is a line-up-and-win job for Vincent. He was the best three-year-old pacer in Australasia last season and returned with a crushing win in the group two Franklin Cup at Alexandra Park last Friday, a rarity for that class of pacer fresh up for the season. Vincent was so dominant last week he is odds-on to win the Auckland Cup on December 31 but he is not past the post tomorrow because Star Galleria has already shown he knows how to beat an All Stars-trained hotshot. He came from behind the mad mammoth Heaven Rocks to win the Summer Cup in national record time for a 2200m standing start last time and is clearly one of the fastest pacers in the country over 200m. That gives driver Tony Herlihy options tomorrow. Star Galleria should lead and if he is feeling big and bold as a speedster sometimes can rolling around Cambridge on a sunny afternoon, Herlihy has the option to stay in front and make Vincent cover more ground to beat him. A more likely scenario is Vincent pushing for the lead and getting it but if Star Galleria can use the passing lane to beat Heaven Rocks he has at least some hope of doing the same to Vincent. "My fella had a slight virus after his Summer Cup win but is good now and the draw gives Tony options," says Reid. "Maybe Vincent will be too good but I think we have things in our favour a bit so we will get our chance." While you can make at least some case than Vincent is vulnerable, it is impossible to do the same with Speeding Spur in tomorrow's $50,000 Flying Mile Trot. With Monbet sidelined again, Speeding Spur is the best trotter racing in the Southern Hemisphere and while Temporale beat him at Alexandra Park a week ago Speeding Spur was magnificent considering his second line draw and that he had to come wide in his first start in nine months. His trainers believe he has improved with that outing and he has rolling gate speed so should be able to work to the front, which would surely be race over unless he underperforms. Michael Guerin

Trainer Steven Reid heads to Alexandra Park tonight expecting to win two races but hoping for three. And while that level of confidence is rare for almost any trainer on a strong Friday night, Reid has winter’s magic formula on his side. Every winter good two and three-year-old horses coming out of the classics and Jewels drop back into the grades and more often than not savage their inferior opponents. Reid has a double helping of that tonight, with Utmost Delight (race five) and Star Galleria (race seven) having been players in the group ones this season so they pick themselves even from wide draws in their respective legs of Pick6. Star Galleria struggled through autumn after looking like an equine jet in the spring but last start he led and smashed similar opposition to what he meets tonight. “He felt back to his best last time and I think he should win again because he has the option of using his speed early or later,” says Reid. Utmost Delight’s group one form is more recent, finishing third in Spanish Armada’s NZ Oaks before galloping at the Jewels. “On form she has to be the one to beat,” admits Reid. “I did take it easy on her after the Jewels and while I was happy with her at the workouts last Saturday she did come to the end of it in the last 100m. “But that outing has really brought her on and she will be ready for this.” Utmost Delight has a clear performance edge on her rivals but the up to Rating68 race is very strong for that grade, with plenty of winter winners to come out of it. While Reid is bursting with confidence with his three-year-olds, he is more hopeful with juvenile Rain Man in race one. “He has shown good ability and the half blinds go on him but he might just be coming to the end of his campaign.” While that race only contains six starters it is one of the highlight of the night, with both Aramis and King Of Swing looking potential Derby horses for next season if they build on their recent form. As the harness racing season starts to wind down domestically -- with Dexter Dunn’s record quest the main winter focus --- there is still some serious NZ talent racing in Australia. The best is NSW and NZ Derby winner Vincent, who faces a second line draw in the A$150,000 Breeders Challenge at Menangle on Sunday afternoon. The meeting also hosts his juvenile stablemate Sicario and the big boys Lennytheshark and Hectorjayjay in the Len Smith Mile   Michael Guerin

The Pukekohe 3-year-old Art Major gelding who earlier this season beat recent Emerald Jewels winner, Jacks Legend in a Sires Stakes heat (October 14), was back to his very best at Alexandra Park on Friday. Star Galleria didn’t beat any horses of Jacks Legend’s quality in the feature pace, but they way he left them to it by five-and-a-half lengths - in very good time (2:40.1) - suggests he’s as good as what his his Pukekohe trainer/driver, Steven Reid, has made out all all along. “It felt like the old Star Galleria was back. It was good to drive him tonight and get a real feel as to where he’s exactly at in race conditions. It can be different in work but he set some nice sectionals tonight. I was pleased with the way he paced strongly to the line,” Reid said. Star Galleria and Reid led all the way from gate four in Friday’s $14,999 Marlin Transport 2200m mobile for the R67 to R76 pacers. The bay paced a 1:57.3 mile rate and came home in 55.5 and 27.8 on a cold old Auckland night. He was the $3.30 favourite. Reid always thought Star Galleria was a solid Jewels prospect, but when he only qualified on the cusp of the rankings Reid decided to bring him back north, rather than start him against the guns in Ashburton. ““Earlier this season I thought he was just below Alta Machete and Vincent in the 3-year-old ranks. After those two I thought he had the measure of most of the rest. “That’s why I took him to Christchurch last month, but perhaps he’s taken longer than what I thought he would to get over his injury which put him back quite a bit,” Reid said. “And on hindsight perhaps I should have started him in the Final down south, but he wasn’t going like he did tonight, and his long-term welfare is what I’m most concerned about,” he added. Seven months ago Reid would have given Star Galleria little chance of winning so soon. He kicked out at a gate and suffered serious leg injuries. “He got a massive hole in his leg and I actually thought that might be his career all over before it hardly started. The vet told me if the hole had been three or four inches lower on the hock that would have been the end of him ever racing again. “His health comes first and I believe if I look after him he will make a very nice 4-year-old. As far as I’m aware he’s not paid up for the Breeder’s Crown, and now that he’s back healthy again, I think I’ll give him maybe one more race this season and then tip him out,” Reid said. Star Galleria’s fourth win in nine starts also provided Reid with his first driving success of 2016-2017 and first since he steered Mo Casino to win at Alexandra Park in January last year. Meanwhile, the feature trot – the $14,999 Riordan & West Transport Mobile for the R75 to R95 squaregaiters saw Robert Dunn pick up his first win in eight starts with Yagunnakissmeornot. Yagunnakissmeornot relocated from Sean McCaffrey and Ross Paynter's former Cambridge barn in January and Friday’s triumph was her first for the season.. The 5-year-old Love You – Dutch Annie brown mare has now won 13 of her career 41 starts – all 13 of them at Alexandra Park (from 35 starts). Her stake earnings currently sit at $131,129. Duane Ranger

Steven Reid knows he’s taking a gamble but an impressive workout at Pukekohe last Saturday has convinced the Franklin conditioner to take Star Galleria south and try and qualify him for the Harness Jewels Final. Star Galleria and Tony Herlihy (MNZM) will start from gate four in tonight's Garrards New Zealand Sires Stakes Sophomore Classic for the 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings. The Listed 1950m mobile is worth $40,000 and Reid knows he is going to have to finish in the first two to qualify for the Group One $150,000 3yo Emerald at Ashburton Raceway on June 3. Star Galleria is currently ranked 21 and has earned $23,675 this season. He needs another $8,711 to make the 12-strong final. “It’s a bit of a punt. He went so well at the workouts on Saturday I just had to give him his chance to line up against the best. I honestly think he’s a very good 3-year-old and at his best would hold his own against the guns,” Reid said. Six months ago Reid would have given him little chance of heading south. The Art Major gelding kicked out at a gate and suffered serious leg injuries. “He suffered a massive hole in his leg and I actually thought that might be his career all over before it hardly started. The vet told me if the hole had been three or four inches lower on the hock that would have been the end of him ever racing again. “He left last night (Monday) and I’ll go down later in the week. Simon (McMullan) is looking after him,” Reid said. Star Galleria and Reid trailed Alta Intrigue for most of Saturday's left handed R64 to R77 Workout. In the lane they strolled passed the pace-maker to win by half a length under a huge hold. The gifted bay paced the 2500m mobile in 3:12.9 (mile rate 2:04 even) and home in 57.7 and 27.1. “I actually timed him to go 26.8. I never let him go. That was a pretty nice win and showed me that he’s back. He was once exceptional in work but it’s taken him a long time after his injury to get back to where he should be. “He’s starting to show signs of his old self and if he keeps improving like I think he can win on Friday. It won’t be easier but he is one of the better 3-year-olds I have ever put a bridle on and he feels like the old Star Galleria again,” Reid said. Reid said he regretted throwing Star Galleria into the deep end and then backed him up when he resumed from his spell at Alexandra Park on April 21 and 28. “They went 2:39 in his first run back for almost five months and then the following week they went 2:36.9. That’s a hell of a big ask after what he went through. You can’t change history but looking back now I shouldn’t have backed him up,” said Reid. Star Galleria was fifth in both of those races finishing two-and-a-half lengths and six lengths from the winners respectively. If he doesn’t finish in the first two on Friday Reid said he would bring the gelding home and then possibly look at the Queensland Derby in Brisbane in July. He is not paid up for the Breeders’ Crown. Star Galleria has raced six times this season for two wins. All-up his career record stands at seven starts, three wins, no placings and $34,44 in stakes. Reid owns him with his breeder Reg Caldow and John Screen and Terese Screen. Duane Ranger

John Dickie thought all his Delightful Lady Classic dreams had come tumbling down early last week. His impressive debutante winner on February 10 – New York Rain was found cast and upside down in her stall. Dickie’s son and co-trainer, Josh and Canterbury trainer Paul Court assisted the promising 2-year-old and then vets were called in. “We had to scratch her from last week’s race. We got the vet in on Tuesday afternoon because she had tied up and the bloods showed that. Then we treated her throughout the week and she just kept rapidly improving,” Clevedon-based Dickie said. Remarkably the brown American Ideal filly the lined up at the Auckland Trotting Club’s Workouts at Alexandra Park last Saturday and went a quicker time than what she won on debut. New York Rain beat Alta Shangri La and Delilaah by one-and-a-quarter lengths and five lengths, pacing the 1700m mobile in 2:04.8 (mile rate 1:58.1) and came her last 800m and 400m in 57.8 and 28.5. New York Rain drew seven of eight in the fifth Young Guns heat at 'The Park' on February 10. She and Simon Lawson were last early and then three back on the outer before looming up three-wide on the turn and then proving way too strong in the straight. New York Rain was the $6.40 fourth favourite that night and paced the 1700m mobile in 2:07.2 (mile rate 2:00.4) and home in 58 even and 27.4 beating Gold Orchid (Tony Herlihy MNZM) and Purest Silk (Brent Mangos) by three quarters of a length each way. “It’s incredible to think how much she recovered in a week, and she’s trained on brilliantly since. The only thing we don’t like about her chances on Friday is the draw (13), but she’s still good enough to win it,” Dickie said. New York Rain will start from five on the second row in the Group Two $80,000 Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock Young Guns Delightful Lady Classic for the 2-year-old pacing fillies. Her dam Ohoka Moon (In The Pocket), who was trained by Steven Reid, won nine races ($112, 963), including a placing in the 2007 Northern Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. “She’s improving at just the right time. I think she has got a huge career ahead of her. She hasn’t got a lot of speed but she just keeps on truckin. She’s got a big motor and we are excited about her. “There’s plenty of 2-year-old races for her up here this season, so hopefully we can start off with a Group Two win on Friday,” Dickie said. New York Rain will be wearing the blue and white colours of Dickie’s good friend – the late Simon Pavlovich. “I requested Simon’s colours after he passed away last year. I had known Simon all of his life and we used to knock around together. He was a friend and a good horseman and someone who was very special to me. ”I got his colours as a mark of respect to him - so I can always remember him,” Dickie said. New York Rain is owned by Dickie (John) and his partner Linda German, and was bred by Cavalla Bloodstock. Speaking from Melbourne, Dickie said he rated New York Rain and Speeding Spur as his two best winning chances of the weekend. Speeding Spur has drawn the outside of the front-line in Saturday's Group One $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix at Melton's Tabcorp Park. “Just about every time we have taken the horse to Melton we have copped the visitor’s draw. It’s becoming more than coincidence. “But we’ve won from out there previously with him and I’m very confident he can do it again. He is very fit now,” said Dickie. Dickie advised Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) stewards on Thursday that Speeding Spur has suffered swelling in a hind fetlock.   The multiple Group One-winning trotter will be examined on Friday.     Duane Ranger

Three-year-olds will take centre stage at Alexandra Park on Friday night with two $30,000 races for the colts/geldings and fillies respectively. Both are New Zealand Sires Stakes/Rosslands-sponsored 2200m mobile events with the colts and geldings Graduate kicking off at 7.03pm (race 3) and the fillies Graduette starting at 8.21pm (race 6). One driver who would desperately love to win one or both heats is South Auckland reinsman Josh Dickie, who together with his father John, leases property off Rosslands Stud at Clevedon, and also works half a dozen of their horses. The owner of Rossland Stud, Kerry Hoggard passed away in Auckland in October 2015 when he was the Auckland Trotting Club president. But his wife Marilyn is still a strong supporter of harness racing and the Dickies, and thanks to her loyalty to the sport, Dickie (Josh) was able to pay $100,000 for Lot 72 – a Bettor’s Delight – Yankee Dream for a colt named Bettorstartdreaming at last Monday’s Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka. “It would mean a lot if Master George could win for Marilyn at Alexandra Park on Friday, because she is such a wonderful lady and has put so much faith in us. She deserves every success that comes her way,” Dickie said. “And the colt can get some of it despite his lack of form in his last two starts,” he added. Dickie currently sits on 299 career driving wins and said he would especially love to nail win number 300 on behind Master George. The son of Bettor's Delight and Lizzie Maguire has drawn well in the Graduate but meets a nice field of quality 3-year-old pacers. “I like him. He’s had terrible draws since I won behind him at Cambridge on January 6. He gave me a real good feel that night and beat quite a nice field. I reckon he can get a slice of the cake from three,” Dickie said. The 25-year-old was also upbeat about the Steven Reid trained Could Be Good in the Graduette, but said the filly would have been a better winning chance had she not drawn the outside of the front line. “She strung two good wins together at Cambridge a few weeks ago and then was an unlucky fourth. She’’s gone real well since then and has quite a bit of speed to call on. “It’s just a shame she has drawn eight, so I’ll have to play the start by ear. If she gets a nice sit the others will knows she’s in the race.,” Dickie said. Dickie paid a tribute to the New Zealand Sires Stakes Board for putting its left-over money into 3-year-olds just below the top echelon. “If gives the 3-year-olds just below the guns a chance to race for good money and I take my hat off to the sponsors for that. It’s exactly what this game needs,” he said. Dickie said C K Spur (race 5) and Kate Black (race 9) were also good winning chances on Friday. “C K Spur has been racing out of his grade recently and the drop-back will suit him nicely, while Kate Black won well here a fortnight ago and has the draw (3) to go on with it,” he said. Duane Ranger

The 4-year-old gelding who finished fourth in Vincent’s stunning New Zealand record win at Alexandra Park on December 31 is going to take all sorts of beating in Sunday’s 2017 Rotorua Grass Cup. In fact Mo Casino’s driver, Zac Butcher, rated him “a very good” winning chance, and easily the best of his four drives at the Harness Racing Waikato’s meeting at Arawa Park. If Butcher is right, the classy South Auckland reinsman will achieve back-to-back wins in the Cup. Last year he got up the passing lane with the Barry Purdon trained Hartofdixie. Hartofdixie paced the 2600m stand in 3:24.1. It’s a time that Butcher believes Mo Casino can at least match in the $8,000 Armstrong Family sponsored feature pace for the R66 and faster pacers – especially after his electrifying New Year’s Eve run. The Steven Reid and Simon McMullan trained son of Butler’s Delight has drawn six of 10. “This is ‘Mo’s’ first start back since he ran a real creditable fourth behind Vincent, and he felt superb that night finishing less than two seconds behind the very good colt. If anything that horse is the big mover in the New Zealand 3-year-old pacing ranks. “This is a big drop in class from city company and if I’m patient in the big long straight, I’m confident he’ will be too good,” Butcher said. Vincent set that New Zealand record in the $20,000 The Woodlands Yearling Parade Handicap for the R67 to R95 pacers. The 3-year-old Art Major colt stopped the clock in 3:19.6 for the 2700m stand beating Lancome's all-comers record of 3:20.9 set at Cambridge Raceway in 2011. It also beat Tas Man Bromac's 3-year-old record of 3:22 even set at Ascot Park in January 2015. Vincent is now headed for the Victoria Cup at Melton’s Tabcorp Park on February 4. “The standing start suits Mo Casino perfectly because he steps so well. He’s a genuine racehorse and if I drive him correctly you should see that come out in him on Sunday,” the 25-year-old Clevedon horseman said. Mo Casino is having his first look at Arawa Park and he is also having his first race on grass. The bay has placed in one of his two standing starts, and all-up he’s had 19 starts for three wins, thee seconds and a third ($29,003). Meanwhile Butcher said the Reid and McMullan trained My Kiwi Lady was the second best of his four drives at the meeting. “Simon told me today that they would scratch the filly from race nine (2) in favour of the seventh now that there have been a couple of scratchings.” That means the 3-year-old daughter of Art Major will race in the $6,000 - R48 to R56 pace, over the $6,500 - R55 to R64 rated event. “She’s been racing against some nice horses at Cambridge and Alexandra Park and gets back in grade here. “It’s an 1800m mobile so she’s going to have to do things right and then if I’m handy I just have to be patient on the bigger track. She can get some of it with the trip.” Here’s what Butcher said about his two other drives: Race 3: Charlie Harper (7): “ I drove him when he was fourth (and second favourite) at Waipa last start. He did a good job last start but will still need the run to suit in this. He’s the sort of horse who needs a bit of luck but if he gets it he can win one very soon.” Race 6: Delray (2): “He’s an honest entire (4yo) who people should follow. He’s lightly raced and not a big fella, and need to follow the speed. He has the draw and can go close if given one run at them. If not Sunday his time will come.” The Rotorua Grass Cup is the second race in the five-strong 2016-2017 North Island Country Cups Championship. The John and Josh Dickie trained Joanednobettor won the first race – the Te Awamutu Grass Cup on December 28. The three others are the Parawai Cup at Thames (January 21), the Wellington Cup at the Kapiti Coast on (January 27), and the Otaki Cup also at the Kapiti Coast (January 29). Duane Ranger

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

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