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Smythes Creek harness racing trainer Emma Stewart holds plenty of aces in next Saturday night’s Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series finals. The three-year-old pacing fillies’ division appears to be one of her strongest hands. Stewart has four runners in the field and semi-final winner Whirily School’s stocks only rose when she pulled gate one at the barrier draw. “It was one of those cases where the wide barrier draw was actually to her advantage,” Greg Sugars said of Whirily School’s semi-final win tonight. “We were able to press forward and once she was able to take up the lead she was always the one to beat. “It’s probably a very honest and fair assessment to say she’s probably a length or so behind the very best of her age group, but she is certainly not far behind them . With a bit of luck in the final she is definitely in with a chance.” Whirily School (Courage Under Fire/Mayhappen) worked forward to eventually find the lead through a 45secs lead time and posted quarters of 30.5, 32.5, 28.9 and 28.9 for a mile rate of 1:58.7. Stablemate Rocknroll Magic will take a power of beating in the final though, despite drawing barrier 11. The filly by Rock N Roll Heaven out of All The Magic made it 15 career wins from 22 starts tonight, notching a 1:57.5 mile rate in the chair (55.2 last half) to overhaul leader Rockstar Angel by a half-neck. “I probably expected that is where I would land in the run but I was still confident enough she’d be good enough,” winning driver Gavin Lang said. “She’s one of the main players (in the final), as you know with Emma and Clayton’s horses this time of the year they’re always on song.” Rockstar Angel has drawn barrier eight so will follow Whirily School. In the three-year-old colts and geldings’ final, semi-final winners Soho Tribeca (American Ideal/Pixel Perfect) and Iceenothink (Art Major/Decethree Lombo) have drawn gates three and four for the Final. Iceenothink finished powerfully tonight for Chris Alford and trainer Larry Eastman (who combined to win this section last year with Menin Gate), holding off Mario Attard and Don’t Hold Back, who also savaged the line from well-back. Iceenothink posted a 1:57.4 mile rate. Soho Tribeca, trained by Jayne Davies and driven by Alford, scored by a half-neck over Carter Bromac, with Brallos Pass third in a rate of 1:57.4. “He was going to get a good run through, (it was) just whether he could stay in front of Brallos Pass. That didn’t work out but he (Brallos Pass) had to do a fair bit of work,” Alford said. “Just got to hope he gets a good draw and he can play a part next week.” Burrumbeet trainer-driver Michael Stanley is set for a busy Vicbred finals night once again, qualifying six pacers through tonight’s semis. His three-year-old Spiritwriter drew the pole in the males’ division and that brings him right into contention.   Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 3YO Fillies Final Barrier Draw 1: Whirily School 2: Ideal Lifestyle 3: Kalinda 4: Platinum Power (em) 5: Just Wantano 6: Nikkibadwagon 7: Flojos Gold 8: Rockstar Angel 9: Alessa 10: Celebrity Guest 11: Rocknroll Magic 12: Rockabella Starz 13: Champagne Taste Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series 3YO Colts & Geldnigs Final Barrier Draw 1: Spiritwriter 2: Battle Born 3: Soho Tribeca 4: Iceenothink 5: Keep On Rocking 6: Senor Macray 7: Brallos Pass 8: Herehecomes 9: Professor Tom 10: Showgun Thomas 11: Illawong Maestro 12: Dont Hold Back 13: Carter Bromac ..................................................................................................................................................................................... Advantage Sundons Courage and Princess Phoenix after the three-year-old trotters' barrier draws for the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series finals. Drawn on Friday night amid the pacers' semi-finals, Sundons Courage drew the front row in the colts and geldings and fellow heat winner Cruisin Around will start from barrier eight, while Sky Majesty will start from barrier 12 in the fillies, opening the door further for her rivals. The three-year-old fillies semi-final promises to be an evenly fought and engaging final, with several winning hopes. Among them is Princess Phoenix, a $1.80 favourite in the second heat at Bendigo last Wednesday, who led but was beaten into third by winner Into The Unknown, from Donna Lewis’ Toolern Vale stable, and Geoff Webster’s Rift Valley. The first heat was all about Sky Majesty (Skyvalley/Mystic Hush). Bacchus Marsh trainer-driver Jodi Quinlan was rapt with her filly’s heat win, which she said was one of her “best runs to date”. The 12m victory came after she found the front and careered away, and Sky Majesty should be right in the final despite the tough draw. “I was very happy with her heat,” Quinlan said. “She’s a good chance. There’s not a lot of difference between the horses in the grade, it is pretty even. “(Sky Majesty) can sit and sprint. She is not a class above them, but I think they have all come back to each other.” The three-year-old colts and geldings final also promises much, not the least of which is another showdown between Cruisin Around (Bacardi Lindy/Cloud Chaser) and Sundons Courage. Both won their heats, with Sundons Courage (Sundon/Truscott Photo) a 1.6m winner for Muckleford trainer Chris Angove and Bolinda driver Chris Alford, with Brent Lilley’s $34-shot Kyvalley Tinman running into second. Cruisin Around’s win was even tighter. Driven to one-out one-back by Myrniong’s Greg Sugars, Cruisin Around lost touch with front runners Calder Knight and Big Jack Hammer at the final bend but wound up sufficiently in the straight to win by a short half-head. Bannockburn trainer-driver Geoff Webster’s three-year-old Big Jack Hammer (The Press/Running Pinevale) punched on for second in the breeze and will be a threat come next Friday’s final, says Cranbourne’s Michael Hughes, trainer of Cruisin Around. “There are three or four really good horses,” Hughes said. “(Cruisin Around) has always had a ding-dong battle with Sundons Courage. Big Jack Hammer looked back on song, and a few others are also a chance. It will all come down to who has the best luck.” Hughes’ confidence about his own charge’s horse were only emboldened with Cruisin Around’s heat win. “I think he went pretty good. I was a little worried when he lost ground at the top of the straight, but he did a good job to pick them up in such a quick quarter,” Hughes said. “I give him a really good chance as long as he does everything right. The horse is really good, feels really good, there are no issues. He is a good sit-sprinter, but has also done it the tough way and led before.”   Barrier draws: Three-year-old colts and geldings trotters 1: Kyvalley Tinman 2: Skyflyer 3: Big Jack Hammer 4: Calder Knight 5: Sundons Courage 6: Cargerie 7: Sun Valley Road 8: Cruisin Around 9: Diamond Wes (emg) 10: Sky Me A River 11: Menewa 12: Shetland  13: Imahe Man (ODM)   Barrier draws: Three-year-old fillies trotters 1: Aldebaran Eve 2: Never Never Land (emg) 3: Princess Phoenix 4: Mizurri 5: Defence Power 6: Into The Unknown 7: The Cooler 8: Tension Seeker 9: Getthenet 10: Illawong Bliss 11: Rift Valley 12: Sky Majesty 13: Scottish Sardius (ODM) Michael Howard/Cody Winnell

The cream always rises to the top – even at a low-key Waikato Harness Racing meeting on a winter’s day at Cambridge Raceway (Sunday June 12). One of the best drivers to ever sit in sulky at 'The Raceway' – David Butcher – drove four of the nine winners yesterday. He only had six drives for four wins, a fifth and a sixth. His quartet of victories came via the Peter and Vaughan Blanchard Pukekohe barn (two); one for Mike Berger’s Cambridge stable; and the other for his father, John, also of Cambridge. Three of his four wins were behind 3-year-old fillies. The latter came via Sundon gelding, Larch. Butcher trains the 5-year-old with his father, John, who is currently experiencing health issues. “Dad’s got scarring on the lungs. He struggles getting air sometimes but that doesn’t stop him coming down to the stable on his mobility scooter. “I think he just likes the company – and his advice is always valuable. It’s always great driving a winner for him,” 51-year-old Butcher said. Butcher senior was one of 13 Waikato harness racing identities aged over 80, who was bestowed with an ‘Over-80s Waikato Certificate' at a 170-strong Harness Racing Waikato function at Cambridge Raceway on Sunday May 29 The father and son combination have now trained six winners this season compared to five last year. They have also placed 30 times for $54,087 in stakes. “Larch has been racing fairly well all season, and finally got one. We usually work between eight and 10 and we’ve got two to three race horses at the moment. “He (Larch) was a nice third here two starts back and it wasn’t a bad effort today considering he started one from on the second line. “We just stuck to the markers all the way and then he sprinted well up the lane. That’s his second win now. He won a race down south before we got him in January. He’s no star but he had always threatened to win another one,” butcher said. Larch won the $6,000 Donegal Bettorgretch Mobile for C1 to C3 trotters by one-and-a-quarter lengths. He trotted the 1700m mobile in 2:08.2 (mile rate 2:01.4) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 60.8 and 30.5. The bay was the $9.40 fifth favourite, unlike the Blanchard trained duo of Aurora Bromac and Rockon Bye, who were the $2.40 and $2.20 favourites in races six and eight respectively. “I thought before I got on them that they were both good enough to win. Peter and Vaughan had them spot on today. Rockon Bye had an easier win but they both won well,” Butcher said. Aurora Bromac sat in the one-one for most of the 1700m mobile and got up to win in the last stride by a neck. The Rob Roy Mattgregor filly stopped the clock in 2:02.7 (mile rate 1:56.1) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 57 even and 27.9. It was her third win in six starts. Rockon Bye drew the ace and trailed early before going around to lead after 300 metres. Butcher dictated all the pace behind the 3-year-old Christian Cullen filly to win by one-and-a-half lengths. She notched up her second win in eight starts by pacing the 2200m mobile in 2:43 flat (mile rate 1:59.2) and home in 58 and 28 even. Butcher’s fourth victory behind the Berger trained Vivacious Madonna was supposed to be the race that his brother Phil notched up his 50th driving win of the season behind the Berger trained favourite, Spin To Win. But no, the elder sibling got the chocolates behind the $9.20 fifth favourite in the seven-horse fifth race. “I just wanted to keep him waiting a bit longer. He’s been on 49 wins for a wee while now so another week or two of stressing won’t hurt him,” joked Butcher. Butcher and Vivacious Madonna started from the outside of the front line and settled last early before Butcher set the Art Major filly alight down the back straight the last time. That was the winning of the race. Butcher got the best out of the 3-year-old at the 50m to win by three quarters of a length. It was her first win in 17 starts and she paced the 2200m mobile in 2:42.7 (mile rate 1:59 even) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 60.3 and 30.1. “It was a great day at the office. Things worked out well. I’m just happy to be back driving after an off-on year,” Butcher said. Butcher has driven 2,148 winners ($22.1 million) since 1982 – 68 ($639,503) of them this season. “I had a good run when I came back but there hasn’t been any real standout performances. I’ve just kept trying to win every race I drive in, so I’m fairly happy with where I’m at now. “Like I said I’m just happy to be back in the sulky,” insisted Butcher. You can’t blame him for thinking that way. Last July Butcher suffered multiple internal injuries after being kicked in the chest by a horse at his Cambridge stable. He was admitted to the high dependency unit at Waikato Hospital with a lacerated spleen, perforated bowel and broken ribs. He didn’t return to the sulky until late September 2015. That serious injury occurred just 18 months after Butcher tore his pectoral muscle when he was leading a young horse. It pulled back suddenly and stopped, whipped his arm back and the muscle was torn off. Butcher is currently sixth on the National Driving Premiership (NDP) and is the leading North Island reinsman this season - some 14 wins ahead of Tony Herlihy (MNZM). Since 2010 he has finished fifth, 16th, fifth, third, second, and second on the NDP. Duane Ranger

Not one for lofty claims, harness racing trainer Simone Walker freely admits that her eight-year-old trotter, Stoned I Am, is unlikely to bring down the great Keystone Del. But, on the verge of their showdown in the $30,575 Group 2 John Slack Memorial Trotters Cup, the Pearcedale trainer-driver made it clear she’ll be out there to keep her million-dollar winning opponent honest. “We will see what happens,” Walker said. “Ideally I’d like to be sitting on (Keystone Del's) back, but he can reel off a 27-second quarter and I don’t think my old fella has that in him anymore.” Walker said the Brent Lilley-trained gelding, who has won four straight and 39 of his 62 starts, significantly impacts the way a race is run. “The problem when you have a horse like that in the race everyone runs to that horse, not to what best suits them,” she said. “It is a small field and that can also make it more difficult. I think it will be definitely fast to the first turn, and then whoever leads will probably hand up to Keystone Del.” She hopes that will be Stoned I Am, who will start from barrier four, inside Keystone Del, and then use his sit-sprint preference to potentially challenge the favourite and hold off the remainder of the seven-horse field. There is reason for optimism in the camp of Stoned I Am, who is by Sundon out of Stoned At Midnight. After a strong showing in a Group 3 at Cranbourne when locked wheels potentially cost him a place, Stoned I Am won the Seelite Windows & Doors Coulter Crown last start, his third victory at Group level from 44 attempts. Group win number four will be at lengthy odds and Anthony Butt, who has driven Keystone Del in his last 11 starts to deliver nine wins, will be only too happy to again take the reins of the gelding by Dr Ronerail out of Flipside. “(Keystone Del’s) been the benchmark for trotters in Australia, he’s done a great job and is probably still going as good as ever,” Butt told RSN’s Inside Word. “He’s well trained and a great horse, driving him is the easy part probably. “He’s just got a big motor. He’s got a great will to win, just a real athlete and he tries really hard. The all-round game really, it’s just a pleasure to drive him. “He’s trotting beautifully, leaving the gate well and he has that high cruising speed and he just takes the sprint out of the others a long way from home. He’s got that ability to maintain his high speed for a long time and so the rest get tired before he does.” That’s the challenge confronting Walker and company in race four of Saturday night’s 10-race card at Ballarat’s Bray Raceway, which will also feature the $15,575 Flying Horse Ballarat 2YO Rising Star. There will be plenty of talent on display, with Laura Crossland’s unbeaten Grinfromeartoear sired colt Lochinvar Delight drawn the back row, while Emma Stewart will hope the pole draw will help Ferdinand (by Courage Under Fire out of To Die With Dignity) to go one better, having placed second at both starts. Marg Lee’s last start winner, Jilliby Kung Fu (by Four Starzzz Shark out of Slip Slop Slap), will also likely start short, but Glen Craven may need to find luck from barrier seven. Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Woodend based trainer and advanced amateur driver Miranda Hallett had 3x the number of reasons to celebrate last night after she was successful behind Tufflittlerooster. Not only did Hallett train and drive the 5yo Live Or Die gelding she also lease’s him. Drawn nicely in barrier 3, Miranda quickly had her charge in front where she was able to rate her drive to absolute perfection. While amateur racing is widely known to be run at fast speeds, Tufflittlerooster was able to get away with cheap sectionals thanks to the unusual lack of attackers. Striding down the back in 29.5, Tufflittlerooster always looked to have plenty in the bag winning by a nose over Red River Lochee (John McDermott) with ½ neck back to Cimarron (Wayne Low) in 3rd. The overall time of 3:16.6 and mile rate of 2:01.6 further kicked home how well the winner was rated by Hallett and the fight shown by the well named Tufflittlerooster should see these two visit the winners circle again. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Sunny Ruby and Sam Smolenski continue their path towards the Cambridge Jewels with a handy win in last night’s feature trot. Kept away from the Rowe Cup, Smolenski has kept his star mare ticking along down south. Known for her incredible high speed, Sunny Ruby looks the main danger to superstar trotter Monbet at the Jewels and is likely to start 2nd favourite. A comfortable winner by 1 ¼ lengths last night in a handy field, the 4yo Sundon mare cut out her last 800m in 58.2 with the last 400 in a slick 27.8. While from her 40m back mark she trotted the overall 2600m trip in 3.18. Le Lievre’s Gift finished runner up for trainer/driver Jim Curtin, with a further 5 ¾ lengths to Arran Chief in 3rd place for another trainer/driver Andrew Faulks. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Ray Green caused one of the upsets of the night when his smart 2yo Art Major colt Vasari won heat 3 of the Garrards Sire Stakes Series no33. Driven aggressively by David Butcher from a wide barrier draw, Vasari found himself in front after 400m and Butcher was able to dictate as he does best. With Mark Purdon launching More The Better around the field to find the parked spot at the 1000m, these two talented colts went to war, cutting out the last quarter in 26.7. Butcher was at his absolute best, stealing a cheap 31.2 quarter between the 800 and 400 which ultimately set up his 26.7 quarter and the winning of the race, being able to hold More The Better out by a head. Mongolian Storm finished 3rd beaten 2 ¼ lengths with a further ¾ lengths back to the 4th placed Pacing Major. Paying $10.10 and $2.30 on the tote, Vasari got value punters off to a great start and with Golden Goddess causing the major upset of the night, punters who love to stay away from the short prized favourites would have been laughing to themselves. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Golden Goddess and Michelle Neilson provided the most unexpected upset when they won heat 7 of the Nevele R Fillies Series by 3 lengths. While not a surprise to see an All Stars runner winning by such a large margin, it was the fact that the 3yo Art Major filly, owned by Merv and Meg Butterworth beat previously unbeaten and highly talented Dream About Me. Sent forward by Neilson, Golden Goddess was another allowed to dictate in front and with sectionals of 56 and 25.9, she was never in doubt. While beaten into 2nd and never looking likely, Dream About Me would have lost no admirers considering she was first up for 8 weeks and likely to improve off the back of a sharp 1950m event cut out in 2:22.4, with the last mile recorded in 1:57.4. The next up assignment for both fillies and Vic Oaks winner Piccadilly Princess is the Nevele R Fillies Series Final on the 14th May. These 3 smart fillies are set to clash 3 times over the following 5 weeks. There doesn’t appear to be much between the fillies with draws likely to dictate the result. Andrew Fitzgerald

Everything went to plan for the four harness racing big guns tonight at the Auckland Trotting Club's meeting at Alexandra Park. Spanish Armada got things off to a flying start when she was successful in the $138,000.00 Group 1 Magness Benrow Sire Stakes Fillies Championship. Away nicely from barrier 6, co trainer and driver Natalie Rasmussen had the classy 2yo Bettor’s Delight in front and dictating after 300m. No one was keen to take the recent Caduceus Club Final winner on and she was allowed to stride along in front. While some punters who took the $1.30 around the favourite would have been nervous when the Mark Jones trained filly Delightful Memphis popped out of her 1-1 spot to issue a serious challenge, to wear the leader down to just a winner margin of a neck. The winner’s time for the 1700m trip was 2:02.3, Last mile in 1.55.7 – 800m 56.4 – 400m 27.7. The PGG Wrightson Yearling Sales 2yo Fillies Final set down for the 13th May will be the next clash of these two talented fillies. No doubt with a handy draw Delightful Memphis could turn the tables on the top seed Purdon/Rasmussen runner. Spanish Armada _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Tonight’s Breckon Farms Northern Trotting Derby victory for Marcoola once again justified owner/driver Clint Ford’s decision to not sell his star 3yo colt. With an offer reportedly around the $250,000.00 mark, Ford was quick to make it clear that he wouldn’t be for sale. Since that offer Marcoola has won just over $120,000.00 in stakes, while adding the NZ Trotters Derby, Sire Stakes Trotting Championship and now the Northern Trotting Derby to his resume. A 3yo Colt by Champion sire Sundon out of the Ford Family’s handy race mare Arabess – Marcoola is the horse most people dream of breeding and owner themselves. A smart drive from Clint tonight got the chocolates as he once again showcased his class by demolishing a top class field. Allowed to settle early by Ford, Marcoola was then set around to find the top, this move left 2nd favourite High Gait in a world of trouble covered up four back the pegs. In a surprise move, High Gait’s driver Natalie Rasmussen was happy to stay tucked along the rail and was seen storming home for an unlucky 3rd. Marcoola went to the line, with plenty in the tank as Ford only flicked the reins at his charge in the home straight to score by 1 length in an overall time of 3:23.7, Mile rate of 2:01.4 – 800m in 58.2 – 400m in 29.6. The Harness Jewels looks his race to lose on the back of this 7 race winning streak. Marcoola _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Field Marshal was another short favourite to salute the judge, this time doing the sort after Taylor Mile/Messenger double. After a huge performance in last weeks Taylor Mile, Trainer Tim Butt was confident his top class Art Major 4yo would handle every part of the 2700m trip.  Given a lovely trip by leading driver Dexter Dunn, Field Marshal was dominate beating Australia visitor My Kiwi Mate by 1 ¼ Lengths in a sizzling 3:15.8. With tonight’s victory, Field Marshal climbs over the $250,000.00 mark in stakes earnings, with a healthy record of 14 wins from just the 25 starts. While Field Marshal in a clear leader on top of the Harness Jewels leader board, Australian My Kiwi Mate catapulted himself into 22nd spot, just $10,000.00 short of the 12th place Captain Doimio. With connections chasing a jewels spot, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see My Kiwi Mate line up at Alexandra Park over the next few weeks in order to qualify. The 4yo Jewels invite is likely to go to the Amanda Turnbull trained Tact Tate, who will make their decision in the coming days. Field Marshal _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Superstar trotter Monbet was absolutely sensational in the 2016 Rowe Cup, winning from an awkward, inside the back row draw. Trained at Woodend Beach by Greg and Nina Hope, Monbet started one of the hottest favourites in history after arch rival Speeding Spur was stuck down by a suspensory injury that could see him sidelined for 10-12 months. Away nicely from the tapes, Monbet settled in before driver Ricky May sent the $1.11 favourite around to the lead with two laps to run. From there on after the 4yo Love You gelding never looks in danger. Owned by the Hopes and M J Molloy, they also turned down a reported offer of $600,000.00 a few weeks back. Since that offer Monbet has earn't a tidy $184,000.00. Co trainer Greg Hope confirmed last night that providing his charge recovers well they will look to take their place in the Cambridge Harness Jewels, where he will start one of the shortest jewels favourites ever. Waimate trotter Valmagne was the run of the race behind the winner. Co Trainer Josh Kennett was stoked with the performance of his stable star, “He has gone super, last week he broke just as he was getting into it” said Kennett. Monbet Andrew Fitzgerald

The C4 and faster trot at Addington Raceway on Saturday night only drew nine runners but there was plenty of harness racing talent on display. The outstanding Sheemon led the way and even though he was off 40 metres, he was the public betting elect for the race. The enigmatic Waterloo Sunset was well supported as was Jag's Invasion but after that the runners were in double figures. Pyramaid Monarch jumped to an early lead for Brad Williamson and led for the first 1200 metres before John Dunn and Jag's Invasion took over with 1400 metres to run. Sheemon and Dexter Dunn were immediately up to sit on Jag's Invasion wheel and these two trotters looked each other in the eye a long way out from home. Going past the 400 metres mark, they had started to gap the chasing bunch and as they turned for home, the gap back to the bunch was a conserative ten lengths. Just as the public settled down to see which one of the two protanginists doing battle would win the race, Gavin Smith eased Sunny Ruby out from last of the chasing pack and then producing an exhibition of speed over 200 metres that is as quick as anything this writer has seen from a trotter at Addington. Not only did the four-year-old daughter of Sundon sweep on past Sheemon and Jag's Invasion and win by two lengths, but she did it with her driver Gavin Smith sitting dead still in the bike and not moving a muscle. The week before last Saturday night Sunny Ruby had been expected to go a big race but had finished last although Gavin said she had her reasons for the poor display. "It was blowing a gale and the removable hood came off not long after the start and after that she just grabbed the bit and never came back to me." "Trainer Sam Smolenski made a couple of adjustments so the hood couldn't fly off again but the plan on Saturday night was to just get around and get her to relax and let her run home late." "Her biggest problem is she can get really wound up on raceday and that is going to count against her in the big trotting races but if you can give her a run like she got on Saturday night, I think she is good enough to win one of the big ones," Gavin said. Sunny Ruby was privately timed to run her last 800 metres in 56.5 and her last 400 metres in 27.9 but Gavin only pulled her out at the 200 metres mark and she scooted that sectional in a blistering 12.9 and did it with ease. "I know her form looks a bit inconsisitent but it will always look like that because of the way Sunny Ruby races." "But she remains capable of beating any of the trotters going around if she gets that soft trip and has one run at them," Gavin said. Harnesslink Media

One of the trotting sires that continues to pop up in results in New Zealand is the Australian based son of S J's Photo in Bacardi Lindy 1:52.8. Bacardi Lindy is firmly established in Australia with a string of quality trotters on the ground including the grand circuit mare Claudy's Princess ($330,146) along with such smart types as The Boss Man ($148,365) and Bellmac Kody ($113,440) while another five have topped the $50,000 mark to date and he has done that off just 85 foals that are three year old and older. One of the Bacardi Lindy's bred here in New Zealand to find its way to Australia is the very talented filly Amarula who ran third to Speeding Spur in the Victorian Trotting Derby last season. His numbers in New Zealand have never been great and this years three year old crop numbers just 13 foals. But amongst that thirteen are a couple of very smart three year olds who look more than capable of mixing it in the classics in the next few weeks. Leading Southland trainer Nathan Williamson has a Barcardi Lindy filly in the shape of Dark Horse who has won two of her first four starts and in her last start she showed tremendous speed late in the race to fly home for second to the very well performed Pyramid Monarch ($70,570). Dark Horse is back on track at Forbury Park on Thursday night to continue her preparation towards the New Zealand Trotting Oaks at Addington on April 1st and she looms as a definite winning chance. Nathan named Dark Horse recently as the trotter to watch from his barn over the rest of the season. Another Bacardi Lindy to really impress is the Cran Dalgety trained Benchmark. Like Dark Horse, he was bred by the Grice brothers from Mid Canterbury who are two of the most successful breeders in New Zealand harness racing and who continue to produce age group stars year in,year out. Dark Horse and Benchmark are both from Sundon daughters of the Grice brothers champion trotting broodmare in Janetta's Pride  Benchmark has only had five starts in his career to date. A couple of handy thirds were topped off by an excellent win at Addington at his last start in a very slick 2:00.4 mile rate for the 1950 metres. What gave the run even more merit was Benchmark drew the outside of the gate at barrier nine and settled well back in the running before unleashing a powerful late sprint to win going away. Given a break after that victory,Benchmark should come back even better and with the the three year old trotters being fairly even this season, Benchmark is a chance to be a serious player in the upcoming three year old trotting classics.  So Bacardi Lindy from just thirteen live foals has managed to produce both a colt and a filly that are good enough to compete in the classics yet the number of mares going to him continues to stagnate. Maybe if one of these two three year olds in Dark Horse or Benchmark can impress in the classics, New Zealand trotting breeders may finally wake up and support a very talented stallion. Harnesslink Media

Life in a smaller harness racing stable and plenty of pampering has been the secret to the rejuvenation of Pegasus Spur gelding Sin Bin.    The well bred squaregaiter started his racing life with Ryal Bush trainer Nathan Williamson who managed to get a win out of him and a number of minor placings.   "He rang me in August and told me he was finished with him." "He's a horse that takes a bit of work. John keeps him right with his chiropracting, and having Franksie (farrier Brendon Franks) in the ownership he keeps his shoeing right." "John does a lot of massage with him." "He seems to get quite sore around the girth and over the bum. He gets a lot of TLC from me and no one else drives him except me." "I think he likes the smaller stable and bigger tracks," said co-trainer Tracie McGrannachan who trains the gelding with John Cox at Winton.    Sin Bin is out of the talented Sundon mare Jo Anne who won twelve races including the New Zealand Trotting Stakes as a two year old. She was bred by Ashburton brothers Keith and Bevan Grice.    "I was just talking to Bevan." "He's going to be ninety in a couple of months and he's absolutely stoked with the win. They ring me every few weeks to see how he's going. They absolutely love it."   Yesterday's win was the geldings second in eighteen starts and caps off two thirds and a last start second.    "The only time he hasn't gone good for us is was when he got pushed over the pegs at Cromwell."    McGrannachan says the big gelding isn't worked by himself as he tends to get keen and is difficult for her to hold.     "A lot of his work is done on the lead. I'm not strong enough to hold him. If I drop in behind John's back he's perfect - doesn't tighten the rein. If we go out by ourselves we're a gone burger."    Sin Bin is owned by Tracie, husband Murray, their nephew Quinn Stewart, Tracie's dad John Cook, Brendon Franks and John Cox.     The win was the first of three for Ryal Bush reinsman Shane Walkinshaw. He won the next race driving Comic Book Hero and won later in the day with The Big Boss.  Bruce Stewart - Southland Harness Racing  -  Check site here  

West Melton harness racing trainer Clint Ford was more nervous than he has been for a long time going into tonights running of the Sires Stakes Trotting Prelude with his talented three year old trotter Marcoola at Addington Raceway. A trial last week where Marcoola hadn't trotted very well had Clint a bit worried pre race but Marcoola never looked like putting a foot wrong from the time the gate went. Out well to challenge hot favoutrite Conon Bridge for the lead early on, Clint slotted Marcoola into the trail after 300 metres and tracked Conon Bridge every where from then on. When the passing lane presented itself, Marcoola was quickly into it and slowly but surely wore Conon Bridge down before drawing clear by a length the last little bit. Conon Bridge fought on for second but was slightly disappointing after a soft run in front while Wilma's Mate provided a minor highlight of the race by rushing home for third after galloping badly after 100 metres. Clint was all smiles post race. " I was confident that Marcoola could match it with the good ones tonight." "He was coming in fresh after ten weeks away from the races but he races well in that condition." " He traveled lovely the whole trip and I was pretty confident a fair way out he would be hard to beat" Clint said. Clint has always had a big opinion of the son of Sundon and has been fighting off the agents lately. " I turned down huge money for him recently but the family has had a lot of smart trotters over the years and I think Marcoola could be the best of them" "His mother had all the ability in the world but was so difficult to manage." "Being a Sundon from her you would think he would be unmanageable but he is the opposite." A kid could drive him he is so laid back and nothing upsets him." " I would love to win the Trotting Derby in a months time so that's were he is headed," Clint said. Bob Butt was philosophical about the defeat. " He has over raced in front and that has cost him in the end. " I should have let him roll a bit more but I was getting a soft trip so I held him back to the field." " At least we have a month to sort that out," Bob said. The Ford family have been having a great run with their trotters lately and tonights win just added further kudos to what has already been a hugely  successful season to date. Harnesslink Media  

The late Sir Roy McKenzie had a long term influence like no one else on the harness racing industry in New Zealand with the possible exception of his father who started it all ninety plus years ago. With the importation of stallions and mares from North America, Sir Roy completely changed the New Zealand industry and gave it a lift that can still be felt today. From stallions such as Sundon to mares whose daughters have left us stars such as Monbet, Sir Roy McKenzie was instrumental in dragging the New Zealand breeding industry up to international standard. One mare that Sir Roy imported who initially was very disappointing was the Adios mare Tina Rainbow.  Tina Rainbow had plenty to recommend her from a breeding prospective, being a half sister to Vicar Hanover 1:59.1 ($266,323)  who was a star on the grand circuit in the 1960s in North America and a half sister to the dam of Vance Hanover who dominated the New Zealand stallion scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s However two of her daughters turned that initial disappointment around in the next generation with Tina Scott producing the brilliant racehorse and successful sire in Knight Rainbow 1:57.7 (22 wins) ($243,693) while another daughter in Rainship produced the brilliant racemare Waihemo Rainship 1:58.2 (8wins) ($99,270) Waihemo Rainship was just as good in the breeding barn leaving eight winners including such smart colts as Anvils Revival 1:57.7 ($162,810), Tempest Anvil 1:52 ($91,600), West Coast Anvil 1:58.9 ($69,047) and Anvil's A Christian 1:58.3 ($56,346). The fillies she produced weren't much inferior if at all, including the very talented Anvil On Fire 1:55 ($81,862) whose first foal Karmic Fire was a six length winner on debut recently. Another daughter in Waihemo Anvil 1:59.2 has already produced two classy individuals in Anvil's Big Punt 1:57 ($131,980) and the high speed mare Anvil's Delight 1:54.4 ($60,941) to carry on a trend of a family that seems to produce just as many smart fillies as it does colts. There are a few from this family in this years yearling sales but the one that took our eye was Lot 141 at the Australasian Classic Yearling Sale at Karaka on February 22nd. Named Bebe, she is a daughter of champion sire Bettor's Delight from the racewinning Christian Cullen daughter of Waihemo Rainship in Bella Anvil.. Being bred on the same cross as Lazarus and Chase The Dream is never a bad start for any horse at the moment when trying to impress yearling buyers and the individual herself has a touch of class as you can see from the photos. The Sir Roy McKenzie influence on harness racing in New Zealand shows no sign of tapering off and the performance of Waihemo Rainship at stud is just another successful chapter to add to the record. Harnesslink Media  

One of the huge differences between trotting in the Southern Hemisphere compared to the Northern Hemisphere is the number of elite level trotters down under that still have a lot of pacing blood in their pedigree. With breeders in the south unable to access top line trotting bred sires until recently, a lot of the pacing sires that were available were bred over trotting line mares at the time with the result that they are still quite prominent in a lot of trotting pedigrees down under. The most famous of those trotters of course would be the brilliant Lyell Creek 1:52.4 ($2,130,319) who did a great job in North America late in his career but there are numerous examples of other pacing bred mares who are having an influence on trotting down under. One mare whose influence continues is Meriden. The daughter of the Race Time stallion Farm Timer only won a couple of races on the track as a pacer but at stud produced two elite level trotters, one to a pacing sire and one to a trotting sire. Merinai (19 wins) was a daughter of Tuff Choice, a son of Windshield Wiper who was a major disappointment at stud in New Zealand in the early 1990's. Her half brother Rosscoe (17 wins) was a son of the champion trotting sire Sundon so we are none the wiser there as to why they both trotted. Some times daughters of pacing bred mares such as Meriden do not breed on but that is far from the case with Merinai who has established a very strong trotting progeny record at stud. Top of the pile todate is Sunny Elegant 1:57.2 ($102,330) who was an age group star in Australia but she is just in front of Miss Pegasus ($86,391) and Wingsonhai ($62,626). The first daughter of Merinai to go to stud in Sun Mist has done a great job producing Pretty Sunday ($166,629), Sonofanearl ($117,798) and Rosemma ($82,994) from her six winners. It is a family that is finding itself represented more and more at the yearling sales as each season  goes by and this year there is a well bred colt at the Australasian Classic yearling sale at Karaka on February 22nd. Named Popcorn Sutton, he is the third live foal from Classic Armbro, a race winning daughter of Armbro Invasion and Merinai. The first foal from Classic Armbro is the Love You three year old Tough Love who has qualified for Lou Driver from Balcairn in smart time and looks promising. Sam Bourbon will not be a name known to a lot of Southern hemisphere breeders but he has been doing a fine job in Europe with his initial crops and is a highly regarded stallion by breeders north of the equator. The way Merinai has bred on at stud, which has now been continued by her daughters suggests Popcorn Sutton has plenty to recommend him to lovers of the trotting gait. Harnesslink Media  

Last-start St Arnaud Trotters Cup winner Irish Whisper will be chasing two cup wins in two weeks in the Cohuna Car Sales Bill Poxon Memorial Gunbower Trotters Cup on Sunday. The Tony Peacock trained eight-year-old has twice beaten New Zealand champion Stent, so he’s always had ability, but Peacock has him at the peak of his powers right now. He did plenty of work last Sunday but still proved too strong with Damian Wilson in the sulky. Wilson will drive the son of Sundon again this weekend. “We haven’t had him long but he’d gone all right at the trials." "He’s beaten Stent twice." "We knew he was going good and he’d run a good race,” Peacock said of the St Arnaud success. “He’s got ability that’s for sure.” Nicole Molander and Chris Alford will combine with former Kiwi Dead Cat Bounce, who attacked the line strongly last week after making an early break behind Irish Whisper, while Brent Lilley trained trotter Sun Of Anarchy is sure to have plenty of supporters.   CODY WINNELL

Leading Southland trainer-driver Nathan Williamson had another big day at the office yesterday at Wyndham. It started in the first when the well bred young trotter I'doitmyway lived up to her pedigree and cleared maiden ranks at just her second start By Sundon out of Whizz Way she's a full-sister to Appian Way (6 wins), Idid It Myway (14 wins) and Any Old Way (6 wins) I'doitmyway has big shoes to fill but in the space of three weeks she's made the initial step very well.   "When she qualified a couple of weeks ago, that was her first time off the place." "She qualified by herself so it was a big step into the deep end when she ran last week (at Wyndham)." "She handled that well and she was better today." "She's better off the place than she is at home so that's why we've carried on racing her."   "She also can be a bit of a handful at home - her nick name is Fizz." "She's got a liking for the big tracks so that's why we've started at these two Wyndham meetings." "She can have a wee break now and then race on the bigger tracks around Christmas time," said trainer driver Nathan Williamson.   The promising Bernie Winkle also cleared the maiden grade today to give Williamson an early double.   "Couldn't have wished for a better trip." "He was one out and one back and he ended up three wide with cover." "He pounced on them pretty quickly turning for home." "He's just got a bit of a habit of knocking off when he gets to the lead." "He did enough to get there quite nicely." " He's got a bit of speed and I think he'll get better as the season goes on."   After a slow start to the season, Williamson, Southland's leading trainer last season, is starting to get some runs on the board both locally and also in Canterbury.   Tas Man Bromac, the star of the stable ran second to Maverick on Cup Day while Statham improved on his second at Rangiora, coming out to win the Macca Lodge sponsored South Of The Waitaki Mobile Pace on Show Day at Addington.   "He's(Tas Man Bromac) just had an easy week and will have another one this week and then both him and Statham will be racing again in the cup races around Christmas." "Tas Man Bromac's main aim for the season is the Invercargill Cup at the end of January while Statham will probably go for some of those grass cups like Waikouiti and Oamaru - not that he's any better on the grass but a big horse like him will be suited by the big spaces."    Later in the day Williamson continued his good relationship with the much improved Machrie. The gelding has turned a bit of a corner after trainers Katrina and John Price changed his training regime. Bruce Stewart Reproduced with permission of Southland Harness Racing   -   Check site here      

After their six winners on New Zealand Cup Day, a lot of pundits were predicting that the all conquering All Star barn could have an even bigger day on Show Day yesterday. Prince Fearless was the most impressive of the Cup Day winners from the All Star barn, bolting in by over 13 lengths in very quick time and he was a very short priced favourite in the first race yesterday. However as all racegoers know there are no certainties in racing and that's how it played out. Waterloo Sunset and Bob Butt made a flyer from the 10 metre mark and were in front after 200 metres. Bob kept the huge son of Sundon up to the mark in front until Prince Fearless and Mark Purdon looped the field with 800 metres to go and assumed control. Just when everybody thought Prince Fearless would cruise clear for an easy win in the straight, Waterloo Sunset and Bob flew up the passing lane and went straight on past Prince Fearless for an emphatic victory.  Bob thought he was a chance to roll the favourite. " Waterloo Sunset had been going super prior to Tuesday's run having run second to Stent the start before." " He wasn't a happy horse Tuesday, missing away and not trotting any good at all." " Paul (Nairn) thought a splint was troubling him and treated it after Tuesday" " Today he trotted the best he has ever trotted and I was confident a fair way out I would be tough to beat," Bob said. Trainer Paul Nairn was just happy to have his huge trotting star back on track. " He is such a big horse that he has a few niggles off and on so I am happy to have him back on track after Tuesday's effort." "We will look at the big trot at Geraldine at the end of the month with him next but Auckland in December is on the radar as well," Paul said. Waterloo Sunset has always looked a top trotter in the making and it is a credit to Paul Nairn that his patience is now starting to pay off. Harnesslink Media

The  victory of Master Lavros turned back the clock. The giant gelding led throughout to claim his second Gr.1 $255,000 Hellers Dominion at Addington in Christchurch defeating Alley Way and Sheemon in the 3200m stand start harness racing feature. Master Lavros scored in this event two years ago. The winning drive from Mark Jones, a former world driving champion, was inch perfect as he dictated terms nicely in front while race favourite Stent sat midfield in the moving line after a tardy beginning. Jones was able to quicken and slacken the speed which made it awfully hard for his rivals to find their groove. It was a perfect reminder that Jones is a truly gifted reinsman, one of the very best in Australasia. And while Jones is listed officially as the trainer, the man that pours his heart and soul into the gifted trotter is Regan Todd. Operating two stables, Jones is based at Burnham while Todd operates the Woodend Beach stables, of which Master Lavros is based and trained. Since winning this event back in 2013, connections have been left frustrated and perplexed as the gelding struggled to regain that dominating form that catapulted him to early stardom. The expectation and pressure created cracks and last season proved disappointing with only two victories from 11 starts, many breaks were made in running. But the seven-year-old has returned in solid form this season and the reason is simple, he’s sound and trotting perfectly. Master Lavros rated 4:05.9 which equates to a milerate of 2:03.6 while he covered his final 800m in a slick 57.6 seconds. The time was slightly slower than what he recorded two years ago. Master Lavros is now a dual Dominion champion while he has also collected the North Island’s major trotting event, the Rowe Cup. His earnings have now surpassed $500,000. The Sundon – Lavra Noblesse gelding is raced by his breeder, Kypros Kotzikas. Race favourite Stent finished fifth and had his chance after his early miscue, the Dominion proving to be his ‘bogey’ race. The next leg of the Australian Pacing Gold Trotting Masters will be staged on February 6, the Gr.1 $100,000 Seelite Windows & Doors Australian Trotting Grand Prix at TABCORP Park, Melton. by Chris Barsby

From the time he stepped onto a racetrack as a four year old, Waterloo Sunset has always looked a horse headed to the best grades. An entire by Sundon from the Rowe Cup winning mare Inspire, Waterloo Sunset is a blue blood in anyones language and he has the ability to go with the bloodlines. Last night at Addington Raceway he comfortably won his fifth race from just twenty starts and in doing so edged closer to being a genuine open class contender. Paul Nairn is a master trainer of squaregaiters and he has always thought that with time Waterloo Sunset would make it to the elite level in New Zealand. " I have always thought a lot of him from day one and I still think he will get better yet" " We have come a long way with him but I think the best is yet to come." "One thing I do know is that he is the biggest horse I have ever trained," Paul said. When you see Waterloo Sunset in the flesh you can understand Paul's sentiments as he is one huge piece of horseflesh. That in itself has meant waiting for Waterloo Sunset to fill out into his massive frame but as a six year old he now looks ready to kick on. Never afraid to back his horses up, Paul intends to keep Waterloo Sunset active over the next few weeks. " He can go to the big trot at Kaikoura on Monday and then race during Cup week," Paul said. Regular driver Bob Butt is confident that Waterloo Sunset has what it takes to be competitive in the top grade. " He is such a different horse this time in to what he use to be." " He use to get really fired up before the start and even during his races but the trips to Auckland have help turn him into a different horse" "He is much more relaxed these days and his manners are really good now"  " He gives you such a great feel when you are driving him and he is the best horse I have driven," Bob said. Paul Nairn has such a big opinion of Waterloo Sunset that he covered some of his own mares with the stallion last season. " I served three mares with him last season and the first of them is due shortly so he about to become a dad for the first time." " He has all the attributes of a top horse and I can't see why he won't leave them," Paul said. Waterloo Sunset has been very patiently handled to date and that patience looks like it is about to pay off. Harnesslink Media

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