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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

Mark Jones is hardly screaming from the rooftops but he is starting to find some confidence in Master Lavros. The giant trotter stepped away from the tapes and went on to a one and three quarter lengths win in Friday's Group III Canterbury Park Trotting Cup at Addington Raceway with a display that puts him right in the Group I Dominion Handicap scrap. Sure there was no Stent, but Jones is starting to feel that the son of Sundon could be close to the sort of form that saw him win the Dominion in 2013. "He was feeling that good at the bend I probably could have gapped them by four or five lengths at the bend," Jones said. The improvement this week gave Jones plenty to smile about after he was run down late by Stent seven days earlier. Master Lavros strode home to win in 3:18.8 for the 2600m and Jones gave the impression there was plenty left in the tank had it been required. But the trainer-driver has plenty to think about in the coming days and weeks. The logical next step would be Ashburton for the Group III Trotters Flying Mile on Labour Day but with Master Lavros' manners from his two stands back being so good, Jones is thinking he may be better off to avoid the mobile start at Ashburton and head to Kaikoura. "I just don't know if the mobile will help us at the moment," Jones said. But if he does head to Kaikoura, he could potentially have to skip the Group I NZ Trotting free-for-all on Cup day. "I just think that could be a bit too much to do those three so close together," Jones said. Wherever Jones goes, he knows he is past the issues that plagued Master Lavros' season last year. Master Lavros trotted to the lead mid race and Jones had the field right where he wanted them and never gave up the lead. The Greg and Nina Hope pairing of Quite A Moment and Harrysul were much improved when running into second and third. Greg Hope was rapt with the effort of both trotters and said they would now likely head straight to Ashburton. Sheemon was disappointing in the final 300m to finish fourth after racing in the one-one and trainer Kevin Townley will have the classy trotter vetted to try and better understand the underwhelming performance. A fresh-up Alley Way was fifth in his first start for the Colin and Julie DeFilippi barn but was five lengths of Master Lavros. Colin DeFilippi said he expected a little better but was happy enough first up. He will line Alley Way up again at Addington next Friday. Habibti and Kincaslough blew their chance with mid race breaks. David Butt, who co-trains Habibti with wife Catherine, said it was disappointing but he confirmed he was also likely to head back to Addington next Friday night. The talented mare was super last week in her first race back in 11 months after a suspensory ligament injury and Butt is confident Friday night's break was just a small bump in the road. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ   -   Check site here  

If Master Lavros can get the first 30 metres right, the next 2570 should be no problem. The 2013 Dominion Handicap winner starts his campaign at the harness racing meeting at Addington on Friday night as he heads towards the 2015 edition of the Group I. A $12,000 trot is hardly the glitz and glamour of the $250,000 Dominion but with Stent, Habibti and Kincaslough in, it shapes as an interesting leadup. Trainer Mark Jones has hardly had the perfect build up after Master Lavros missed a trial last week due to a minor illness, but Jones knows the giant 7-year-old son of Sundon is in much better shape than last year when was plagued by issues early in the season. Those issues made for frustrating times for Jones and his owner Kypros Kotzikas as manners continually blew his chances in races that should have been easy kills. In his only trial this preparation, Master Lavros skipped away from the tapes to give the field a 100m head start, something he cannot afford to do on Friday night. Master Lavros stepped perfectly in his final three stands last season and Jones puts the trial blemish down to being a bit fresh. "There's always a small question mark with him fresh up but I'm pretty confident he will step away this week, he seems very settled," Jones said. All the big bangers start off 30m with Habibti and Kincaslough off the unruly. "Because he's off 30m there isn't much in front of him and that's when he usually steps away best," Jones said. Jones is happy with Master Lavros' fitness despite missing the Rangiora trial and believes he could be fit enough to win. "Missing the trial could have been a blessing because the track was slushy," Jones said. "He's been trotting super so I'm pretty happy with him." Bookmakers currently have Master Lavros a $3.60 favourite to win the Dominion, with Stent at $3.80 and Sheemon at $5.50. Meanwhile, the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club has increased its minimum stake to $7500 from November 1. Club chairman Barry Dent said stakes and bonuses have risen 20 per cent at Addington since 2012. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ  -  Check site here

Harness racing breeders in Australasia saw the passing of the great racehorse and sire Sundon this year but his impact on breeding downunder continues to grow. With the end of the season in New Zealand in sight, we thought we would have a look at his stats this season and yet again he has been dominant on all fronts. With his win in the 2015 sires premiership for trotters, Sundon took his 15th consecutive title as the leading sire of trotters in New Zealand. During that period he also managed to win two New Zealand Siring premierships covering all starters This year Sundon will also take out his fifth consecutive New Zealand trotting broodmare premiership with a lead of over $2,000,000 on his nearest rival. Even more impressive this year was his feat of winning the overall broodmare sires premiership with a lead of over $300,000 on last years winner In The Pocket The record across the Tasman is no less impressive. If he wins the premiership this season and he is $60,000 in front at the moment, then it will be  Sundon's13th successive title in Australia. The broodmare title in Australia is also a non event with Sundon nearly $2,000,000 in front of his nearest competitor. Sundon is currently setting records for premiership wins that are unlikely to ever be challenged. He is without doubt the greatest trotting stallion to have stood in Australasia and he isn't finished yet. Harnesslink Media

Harness racing driver Ashley Matthews joined the “Group 1 club” tonight at Tabcorp Park Melton with a gun steer aboard Chris Angove-trained trotter Sundons Courage in the Empire Stallions Vicbred Super Series two-year-old colts and geldings’ final. Matthews, whose father John is a trainer based in Havelock on the outskirts of Maryborough, remained cool as Sundons Courage – by champion sire Sundon out of Truscott Photo – slotted three back on the pegs in the run. “I didn’t think we’d be three the pegs,” Matthews said post-race. Down the back the final time Matthews had the opportunity to angle one-off the inside but chose to remain on the pegs, clearly pulling the right rein as the moving line runner he would have jumped behind dropped out and Sundons Courage saved plenty of territory before coming out after tearaway leader Cruisin Around. In the straight Sundons Courage pegged back the Michael Hughes-trained frontrunner and stuck his head in front when it mattered, taking the prize by a half-neck in a mile rate of 2:01.5. “It’s great… I’m a bit lost for words,” Matthews said. “We thought we were a real big chance. He’s got a ton of ability this horse. He never gives up, he’s got a great will to win.” Matthews is 35 and said he’d been driving for 10 years. “I’ve driven a lot of slow ones, but you’ve just got to keep going around and hopefully get on a horse like this,” he said. Big Jack Hammer ran third for Geoff Webster. Cody Winnell

It is quickly coming around to that point of the New Zealand harness racing season where we start to hand out the gongs for best performed in each age group and gait divisions. Harnesslink thought we would do a review of each of the categories with our view on where the contenders sit. This is our review of the three year old trotting fillies division 1) Habibti Ivy - 2015 Season:    9 starts,    3 wins,    0 seconds,    4 thirds,    Lt $46,629 Very smart Love You filly who raced the boys most of the season with great credit. Won the Trotting Oaks very comfortably and first filly home in both the New Zealand Trotting Derby and the New Zealand Sires Stakes Final. Has a better head to head record against both Sunny Ruby and Arya. Missed the Harness Jewels due to a foot issue but her dominance the rest of the season makes her the top pick for this award. 2) Sunny Ruby - 2015 Season: 20 starts, 4 wins,  4 seconds,  1 thirds,    Lt $78,469     Very busy season having been racing in September and still going now in June. Has gone from being a typical Sundon headstrong filly with a tendency to over race to a lovely mannered filly with a lethal sprint. Ran 2nd in the Trotting Oaks and capped off a great season with a stunning win in the Harness Jewels in 1:54.7 Has finished behind Habibti Ivy both times they have met which makes it hard to place her in front of that filly for this award. 3) Arya - 2015 Season:    9 starts,    6 wins,    0 seconds,    1 thirds,    Lt $118,692 Daughter of Angus Hall having a right old time of it in Australia as her record above shows. She seems a class above them but real question marks about the quality of the opposition. Came back to New Zealand for the Trotting Oaks but soundly beaten by Habibti Ivy when she ran fourth there. Again finished behind Habibti Ivy in the New Zealand Sires Stakes Final before beating that filly home in the Northern Trotting Derby when Habibti Ivy broke. Hard to make a case for Arya to be New Zealand 3 year old trotting filly of the year when she has one third placing in New Zealand from only three starts this season. 4) Yagunnakissmeornot - 2015 Season: 11 starts, 4 wins,  1 seconds,  3 thirds, LT $41,324   Very strong early part of the season but not so good when thrown in against the very best. Unlucky to have struck such a strong crop of quality fillies and did have a few issues especially left handed which explains her missing some of the big races down south. Selection Habibti Ivy - She has a better head to head record against all her challengers and won the big race restricted to fillies in the Trotting Oaks. First filly home in both the New Zealand Derby and New Zealand Sires Stakes  which gives her a big edge for this award. Harnesslink Media

Ten-year-old Si Capisco will make its Queensland debut in the Trotter’s Discretionary Handicap at the harness racing meeting at Albion Park on Saturday night with his new Caboolture-based trainer Greg Eeles banking on the decorated Monte convert being fit enough to progress to a bigger prize the following week.   A versatile performer, Si Capisco is a multiple Victorian Metropolitan and Country Cup winner with two wins this year under saddle in Monte (ridden trot) races at Bendigo and Melton, in track record time.   Just last November Si Capisco also lined up in a Group One Final at Menangle (NSW) against some of the best trotters in the land and he has had multiple ‘black type’ race wins in trotting cup races in Victoria.   Among those wins have been the 2013 Stawell Trot Cup, the 2012 John Slack Memorial Trot Cup at Ballarat, 2012 Mildura Trot Cup, 2010 Ararat Trot Cup, 2009 VSTA Trot Cup Final at Moonee Valley and many other wins.   One feature of the big square-gaiter’s Cup wins has been that they have all been over lengthy distances.   “My target for this horse is the Trotters Marathon, I really want to get a guide on his fitness on Saturday to make sure we are ready for the longer race next week,” Eeles said.    “He has been trained for Monte races of late and it’s probably not the best preparation for the (sulky race) marathon but if I can get him spot on for next week he will be in his element over the long trip.”   Just three weeks has elapsed since Si Capisco a gelded son of Sundon and Sorry Hall joined Eeles’ two horse stable, after travelling to Queensland from Jodi Quinlan and Craig Demmler’s very successful Victorian barn.   On Saturday night he will start from the pole mark position off the front line in the $8000 handicap at Brisbane’s trotting headquarters.   “It’s not really the draw I wanted, I am a little bit worried about drawing the pole from a standing start at his first look at Albion Park,” Eeles said.   “I have Darrel Graham driving him and I want him to get the horse away cleanly so we can have a look at what he can do.”   “If he can strike the form he showed down south he would have to be a chance racing up here, some of his country cup wins were by big margins against good horses.”   “He won the Mildura Cup in record time by almost 45 metres.”   Eeles said Si Capisco has buddied up with his three-year-old paddock mate Rollon Chilli and has settled in well to his new home.   “It’s like David and Goliath when you see the two together, Si Capisco is a giant of a horse, lovely big type and Chilli is a midget, but they get on well.”   Vicki Rasmussen will harness up two of the top chances in Saturday night’s Trot, Goldstar Invasion, the 20 metre backmaker also headed for next week’s Trotters Marathon after finishing runner up in the distance race last year and Mister Malakye which will start from the 10 metre mark in this race.   Next week’s Statewide Taxation Services Trotters Marathon carries $14,999 prizemoney and will be raced over 3157 metres.   David Aldred

Many harness racing trainers in New Zealand focus on trotters rather than pacers and one of the most successful in that regard is the Weedons horseman Fred Fletcher.   Whenever Fred lines a trotter in any of the classics it pays to take notice as he has had a great run for longer than I care to remember.   Today at Ashburton he lined up the smart Sundon filly Sunny Ruby in the Group 1 Harness Jewels three year old $100,000 Ruby and although the formline was impeccable, she went out at odds of twelve to one.   Away well to lead from barrier two for driver Gavin Smith, Sunny Ruby took a trail soon after behind the well performed Prince Fearless.   Monbet and Ricky May breezed up at the 500 metres mark and slowly started to wear down Prince Fearless.   Just when everyone was acclaiming Monbet the winner, Gavin Smith angled Sunny Ruby wider on the track and flew late to win a lot more easily than it looked.   Monbet battled on bravely for second in front of the pacemaking Prince Fearless.   Warm favourite Speeding Spur galloped wildly soon after the start and then produced a massive performance to run fifth just under seven lengths from the winner    Sunny Ruby trotted the mile in 1:54.7 which took a massive 1.8 seconds off the previous New Zealand record for a three year old trotter held by Prime Power.   Gavin Smith was quick to heap praise on Fred post race.   " Fred has done a great job with this filly to get her to race a lot kinder and he deserves a lot of the credit for today's win."   " I got a lovely run on the back of Prince Fearless and I thought I was a chance at the 200 metres when she was travelling so well."   "She has tremendously high speed if saved for one run," Gavin said.   Todays Harness Jewels win by Sunny Ruby was Fred Fletchers third and just further added further lustre to his reputation as a great trainer of trotters.   Harnesslink Media  

With only two horses in work at his Muckleford camp, harness racing trainer Chris Angove would achieve quite a remarkable feat if he were able to secure a Group 1 winning double at Tabcorp Park Melton tomorrow night. But he’s a genuine live chance with his pair of juvenile trotters both well in the market in the finals of the Empire Stallions Vicbred Platinum Home Grown Classic Finals. Sundons Courage (by Sundon out of Truscott Photo) has won three from four starts and defeated Charlie Runkle in his Platinum heat by 2.1 metres. Having secured gate one for tomorrow night’s final over 1720 metres, the impressive young squaregaiter has to be considered a huge chance at securing the lion’s share of the $50,000 stake money with reinsman Haydon Gray in the cart. Angove then puts the polish on Truscott Law (by Lawman out of Yankee Truscott) in the fillies’ final, the last-start Maryborough heat winner to come out of gate four for driver Ashley Matthews. The Home Grown Classics are Races 3 and 4 on the Melton card and will be run at 6.28pm and 6.57pm. VIDEO: Sundons Courage wins his Vicbred Platinum heat by Cody Winnell Related Links Fields for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 23 May 2015 Form guide for Tabcorp Park Melton, Saturday 23 May 2015

With two thirds of the New Zealand harness racing season over, we thought it was a good time to take a look at how some of our siring charts were tracking. The one that immediately caught our eye was this season's broodmares sires list which is currently headed by the outstanding trotting sire and now broodmare sire in Sundon. Second last year to champion broodmare sire In The Pocket, Sundon has established a healthy lead over his pacing rivals this season and is going to be hard to head off. As of today Sundon holds an advantage of $314,494 over reigning premiership winner In The Pocket  with Holmes Hanover and Christian Cullen close behind. There are few major changes to the list this season below the top handful with the exception being Live Or Die who has dropped down a few places after finishing fifth last year and the emergence of Mach Three whose mares have only left 84 foals old enough to race yet he presently sits in 20th place after finishing 41st last year and is obviously a broodmare sire on the rise. The ability of Sundon to lead the broodmare list is quite a stunning achievement as generally the trotting component  of most meetings is only three races on average yet he is heading off pacing broodmare sires who have at least double that number of races at most meetings. Armbro Invasion is making steady progress as a broodmare sire and has overtaken Chiola Hanover as number two on the trotting only side of things but is well over a million behind Sundon still. On the pacing side of things nothing else is really standing out but Bettors Delight is just starting out as a broodmare sire and after finishing 90th last year, is presently sitting in 62nd place. With Bettors Delight being widely recognized as the best filly sire worldwide by a lot of breeders and with the huge number of  his well performed mares heading off to stud in the next few years, it would seem only a matter of time before he tops the broodmare sires list as well.   Harnesslink Media  

Brent White took two trotters to tonights harness racing meeting at Addington and he held high hopes for one and was just hopeful with the other. Trouble Rieu was his best chance Brent thought while Glendaloch was probably out of it from the unruly mark on ten metres.but a rough place chance if things went his way. Trouble Rieu was away well from the stand for driver Stephen McNally and quickly assumed the lead which he held until it was taken off him by his stablemate Glendaloch with Blair Orange in the bike who looped the field to lead with 1800 metres to go.   Keeping up a steady tempo in front,Glendaloch looked a sitting duck for his stablemate Trouble Rieu in the trail but it wasn't to be as Glendaloch fought off his better credentialled stablemate and then withstood a late challenge from the ultra consistent Xmas Joyella with Trouble Rieu battling on well for third.   It wasn't the result Brent was expecting.   " I thought with the run he got that Trouble Rieu would run straight past him but the old fella is pretty genuine and fought on well,"Brent said.   Glendaloch was purchased by Ross McCutcheon at Timaru one day from David McCormick after the horse had had one gallop too many.   Brent says he hasn't changed too much with the son of Sundon.   " I made a couple of minor changes to his shoes but apart from that we have just worked on leaving him alone really."   " He seems really happy these days and may not have finished yet going by tonights win." Brent said.   Fred Morris, the trainer/owner of Xmas Joyella was smiling post race.   " I brought both of Brent's trotters in tonight on my truck so we have nabbed the trifecta between us, Fred said.   Brent White has built up a great strike rate with a small team and is obviously a trainer on the rise.   PS: Brent made it a night to remember for the Yaldhurst trainer when he produced the smart racemare Sell A Bit to win the C2-C6 mares race in 1:55.3   Harnesslink Media

Nathan Williamson has been on fire since the Gore meeting just after Xmas and Saturday at  Invercargill was another stellar day for the young harness racing trainer. Nathan added another four training wins to the resume which took him up to eleven wins since Xmas while he has also driven sixteen winners in the same period. Nathan also reached another milestone yesterday when Splash Cola won the first race with that win notching up his 500th success in the sulky. Given out by Nathan as his best drive for the meeting in the Harnesslink weekly ringaround, Spash Cola won like a horse with a big future. Nathan though wasn't entirely happy with the mare's performance. "She has still got a fair bit to learn" "She didn't trot that well early but got better the further she went" " With a bit more experience I think she can go a long way," Nathan said. The second of Nathan's quartet for the day was the smart American Ideal three year old Tas Man Bromac who took 3.4 seconds off the old track for 2700 metres from a stand by a three year old when he streaked away for an easy win by 3 1/2 lengths in 3:22, a mile rate of 2:00.4. The mark was also 1.6 seconds inside the old New Zealand record for the distance set in 1999 by Seafield Raider Registering his fifth win from just nine starts, the colt is obviously well above average and Nathan was confident going into the race. "The trip away to Addington last week did him the world of good" "He was working great before the trip north but has worked better again since his return." "He is just such a lovely horse to do anything with" "Our longterm aim with him is the Southern Supremacy but he will still need to keep improving to match it with the likes of Pulp Fiction," Nathan said.  The third of Nathan's winners was the three year old Changeover gelding Cool Changes who improved from a first up fourth to take out the maiden 2200 metres mobile in a style that suggested that there are a few more in store. Nathan has a bit of time for the inexperienced gelding. " He is one of those horses that you have to keep after a bit." "He is a real lazy laid back kind of character but he keeps going." " He doesn't have real high speed but can still run time due to his strength, Nathan said. The fourth and last of Nathan's winners was the very smart Armbro Invasion mare Poppymalda who came from a long way off them at the 600 metres mark to grab Queen Kenny close to home and notch up win number three at just her seventh start. Nathan was thrilled with her performance. " She just keeps getting better and better."  " She was timed to trot her last 800 metres in 56.4 and that was after being out three wide so it was a great run. "Our longterm aim is the Harness Jewels at Ashburton and with that in mind we thought we might take her up to Addington this week for the experience," Nathan said. Nathan is having a stellar season to date training wise with twenty five wins in the bank and he is well on the way to beating his season's best of thirty five wins set in 2013. Nathan knew at the start of the season that he had a good team around him. " I kind of  figured we might be in for a big season but we did lose a couple of our most promising horses early on to injury  but other horses in the stable have preformed better than we thought so we haven't felt the loss of those horses as much as I thought we would. " Nathan said. Nathan, who has been driving for just ten years has quickly matured into a leading driver on the New Zealand harness racing scene, having already won five Southland driving premierships. Nathan continues to go from strength to strength and it looks a given that his stature in the industry will continue to rise in the coming years. Harnesslink Media   

Six figure yearlings at the yearly sales have become common place in the last few years but six figure sums for trotting bred yearlings are still a bit of a rarity at harness racing sales. One of the biggest sales prices for a trotting bred yearling ever seen in New Zealand was that paid for the royally bred colt yesterday Eden. By the brilliant North American super sire Angus Hall, Springfield Eden was the second foal of the four win Sundon mare, Landora's Special who was a daughter of the brilliant racemare Landora's Pride ($426,857). Two half sisters to Landora's Special had made the maternal family the hottest in Australasia. First Landora's Gift produced the outstanding trotter Sundon's Gift ($1,275,264) while another half sister Invasions Pride left Let Me Thru ($453,945) The first foal from Landora's Special is the very promising Eyre I Come who judging by his super win on Cup Day in November is headed for the top. So all in all everything pointed to Springfield Eden being a star and hence why he made $127,500. Things started out promisingly enough when he finished fourth in the first couple of 2 year old trots in Canterbury behind the likes of Monbet, Ayra and Wanna Play. That was quickly followed by an easy win against the older horses at Waikouaiti but from there the wheels fell off with two unplaced runs in the 2 year old classics after early mistakes. Springbank Eden had started his 3 year old season the same way, blowing the standing start in both his early season races at Winton and Wairio. Yesterday at the Omakau Raceway in Central Otago, Springfield Eden had one thing in his favour - the race was from behind the mobile. Sent forward from barrier four by driver Matthew Williamson, Springfield Eden set a solid tempo right from the start and it was obvious a long way out that he had the field in trouble. And thats how it turned out with Matthew hardly moving in the cart as Springfield Eden went to the line a comfortable two length winner. Springfield Eden trotted the 2000 metres from the mobile in 2:33.4, a mile rate of 2:03.4 with closing sectionals of 59.9 and 30.2. Matthew thought it was the mobile that made all the difference yesterday. "He hadn't looked like stepping at his first two starts but he has always been good behind the mobile" "He has real good speed off the gate which is a plus," Matthew told Harnesslink this morning. Matthew thought that Springfield Eden still had a few issues to sort out before any thoughts of taking on the best 3 year olds were entertained. " We are still having issues with his gait but he is getting better." "There is no doubting the ability but you have to be doing everything 100% when you are taking on the best and he is not there yet. " He is as good a looking horse as you would see and lovely to do anything with so he is worth waiting for," Matthew said. The win continued Matthew's good run over the holiday period with him having racked up four wins and numerous placings since the Gore meeting on Boxing day. Harnesslink Media  

Overport Lodge trainer Mark Jones kept the wins ticking over for owner Kypros Kotzikas with a winning double earlier this week to end the 2014 racing year. He scored narrow wins behind close relatives, Charming Lavra, at Motukarara on Monday, December 29, and with Astrapi, at Rangiora on New Year’s Eve. Charming Lavra, first-up since last racing in June, stepped well from the outside of the front row and trailed up three back on the outer in the Phil Murfitt Orthodontist Trot. Mark switched her three wide with cover behind Native’s Brite Gem at the 600m and she unwound well wide out to just head off Tehoro Ruby (trail) and front-runner Need Success. She trotted the 2180m from a stand in 2:57.6, a mile rate of 2:11.6, with the leaders last 800m in 62.8s. Charming Lavra, a 3YO daughter of CR Commando, is the first foal from Lavra Miriam (1:57.4, four wins), an Earl half-sister to 2006 Melbourne Interdominion Trot Final winner Delft (1:53, US), Top Notch Lavros (five wins), Lavros The Great (one), Honky Tonk Hero (one) and Astrapi (now four wins from 27 starts). She only raced four times at two, picking up a third and a fourth against the older maiden trotters, before being spelled. Charming Lavra is raced by Kypros Kotzikas with partner Jane Campbell. Mr Kotzikas’s white and blue Lavros Lodge colours were to the fore again a couple of days later at Rangiora when Astrapi held Kowhai Whiz by a nose in the Bob Butt Sponsored by ‘The Yaldy’ Mobile Trot. Mark found a good trailing spot on the outer for Astrapi, with Kowhai Whiz (Glenys Chmiel) tracking their every move. The pair knuckled down to it over the final 30m with Astrapi, the 5YO gelded son of Sundon and Miriam, just lasting in a useful 2:32.3 for the mobile 2000m. His time, however, didn’t threaten Just A Cracker’s Rangiora track mark for trotters over the trip of 2:29.2, set four years ago. Courtesy of Jeff Scott - Mark Jones Racing Stables  -  Check site here  

The Gore Harness Racing Club was the scene yesterday of just another reminder of how talented the Williamson clan is when the family completely dominated the Xmas meeting. Phil tends to take a back seat this days as his three sons have gone about establishing themselves as top horsemen in their own right. Race one was a portent of things to come for the day when the Phil Williamson barn runner Brads Kenny absolutely bolted in on debut by 8 3/4 lengths with Nathan and Brad driving the minor placegetters for a "Williamson" tfifecta. A 3 year old son of Monarchy from the former 3 year old Trotting Filly of the year in One Over Kenny ($87,919), Brads Kenny was purchased by Phil Williamson for the Met Eight Syndicate at the 2013 sales at Christchurch for $26,000. Even though he qualified at two, Brads Kenny has been given plenty of time before making his debut yesterday. Driver Matthew Williamson was suitably impressed with yesterday's effort. " It was a real good effort for a young trotter having his first start" " He does have great manners though so I thought he would do things right," Matthew told Harnesslink today. " He is not very big like a lot of that "Kenny" breed but he is beautifully gaited and has a future," Matthew said. No one in the stable is getting too carried away at this stage and plans at the moment are to set him for the Northern Southland meeting on January 15th. "We will just race him in the grades down here and see how he progresses," Matthew said. Not to be outdone, Nathan Williamson trained and drove the short priced winner of race 2 in Statham. Another making his debut yesterday, Statham was sent out a $1:50 shot on the back of some impressive trials performances. The 3 year old son of Bettor's Delight is from a full sister in blood to the former Harness Jewels winner in Joyfuljoy 1:51.3 ($339,612). After qualifying Statham as a 2 year old in 2:00.2 for the mile, Nathan turned him out to strengthen up. " The owners have been really patient and I think it will pay dividends in the long run." "He won yesterday on raw talent and great manners but I don't think you will see the best of him until he is four" "He is such a big horse and when he matures he will make a lovely older horse," Nathan said. No sooner had Nathan won race 2 then he was at it again taking out race 5 with the talented Sundon trotting mare Dwindle Mist.  Starting off 40 metres behind, Dwindle Mist came with a strong staying run from well back in the field to grab her fourth win in her last six starts. Nathan thought the two false starts may have undone her yesterday. " She caused the first false start when she went through the barrier strand and then on the second attempt she got the tape around her legs. "On the third attempt she bounded away but came down quickly but settled well back so I didn't think I could win the race from back there." "When I looked up at the 800 metres, we were miles from the leaders but she ran home great," Nathan said. Trained for her first two wins by his father Phil, Dwindle Mist was sent to Nathan to give her a change of scenery and she hasn't looked back. "She is really in the zone at the moment and I don't think she has stopped winning yet." "We will head to Roxburgh next where she will be off 50 metres but I don't think that will stop her, Nathan said. To cap off a great day, Nathan trained and drove his third winner for the meeting when the Jereme's Jet 4 year old mare Kiwi Focus took out the last at odds of 27 to 1. Last early in the 14 horse field, Kiwi Focus was three wide for nearly a lap before finding the death at the 900 metres mark and then proved too strong in the straight for the Dexter Dunn driven Ohoka Royal in a 2:00.6 mile rate. Nathan was quietly confident of a big run prior to the race. "Her work at home has been excellent and everything pointed to a big run" "She finished close up behind Statham at the recent trials in a 56.6 half so I thought she would go good" " I cant believe she paid $27.00 but the owners are happy because they had a punt on her," Nathan said. All things considered it was a great day for the Williamson boys and the way their horses went it might pay to follow them over the holiday period. Harnesslink Media   

The ever decreasing numbers of harness racing  mares being bred makes it essential that we get the best use of those horses we do have racing and there can be little doubt that the drop back system is helping in that regard. Available to all horses 4 years + older who have not won in their last ten starts, the drop back provision has meant a new lease of life for a lot of horses and kept a lot of horses racing when otherwise they would have been retired or sold. One of the latest examples to take advantage of the system is Friday nights winner at Addington Raceway in Dixie Commando.  A six win mare, Dixie Commando last raced before Friday night in May against the likes of Kincaslough, Jaccka Justy and Dr Hook and she finished a tidy fourth on that occasion. With the drop back to a nine rating Dixie Commando sneaked into the C2-C4 trot over 1950 metres and co - trainer and driver James Geddes thought she would be hard to beat. " It was a big drop back in class to what she had been racing and even though she drew barrier nine I thought she would be very hard to beat." " She has always gone good fresh in the past so she had a lot in her favour on Friday night," James told Harnesslink yesterday. James has always had a lot of time for the daughter of CR Commando. " She is such a beautifully gaited mare and lovely to do anything with." "High speed is her other biggest attribute so the mobile sprints suit her," James said. Badly injured as a 5 year old, Dixie Commando had a pastern screwed together but the injury has had no long term affects on the mare. " She doesn't do much at home at all to be honest" "She is quite an athletic type and we just keep her ticking over," James said. On Friday night James and Dixie Commando made a flyer from barrier 9 and were able to slip into the trail behind the tearaway early leader The Bog. With The Bog setting a quick tempo in front, James never had to leave the trail until 150 metres from the finish and quickly claimed The Bog for a comfortable victory with the best of the rest being Astrapi who was 2 3/4 lengths away in third. Dixie Commando trotted the 1950 metres in 2:25.7, a mile rate of 2:00.2 It was Dixie Commando's 7th career victory and along with 22 placings she has now earned $76,139. James said serious consideration was given to sending Dixie Commando to the breeding barn earlier in the season. " We did give it serious consideration but with the drop back system in play we thought their might be a win or two in her yet," James said. When Dixie Commando does retire to the breeding barn, she has plenty to recommend her for that role. Dixie Commando is a daughter of the Sundon mare Galleons Tribute who is a half sister to the outstanding broodmare Rob The Nest who has left such standouts as Galleons Assassin 1:55.4 ($327,286) and King Of Strathfield 1:56.8 ($253,950) amongst a plethora of talented trotters. The way Dixie Commando won on Friday night however means that may not happen any time soon. Harnesslink Media  

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