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Champion trotter Stig has been retired for approximately the third time but this time his trainer Paul Nairn is all but certain there will be no fairytale comeback story. “He is more likely to be seen at the Ellesmere show in October competing in the hack class than back on a racetrack,” says the eleven year-old gelding’s legendary trainer, Paul Nairn. “He has been offloading which has caused him to go in a hind suspensory,” advised Nairn. “He is still relatively sound but he would definitely need a spell and it is not easy to bring back an eleven-year-old gelding,” he added. “And I think he has earned his retirement, don’t you?” The war horse who stole the hearts of harness racing fans across Australasia will now live out his days as a riding hack for Stacy Whatuira, who works for Nairn at his Leeston base. When asked what Stig’s greatest attributes were, Nairn was quick to highlight his toughness and huge will to win. “When he was right he was just such a tremendous stayer,” said Nairn. “He simply had no bottom to him.” “The race that will always stand out for me is his Dominion Handicap win in 2008. I think Darren Tyquin called the race that day and it was a tremendous call. He was last and looped the field four wide and was simply too good. For those of you who can’t remember that day, Darren Tyquin’s words were: “Super Stig. Have a look at a real champion go. He is the best trotter in New Zealand and his name is Stig!” Sadly, just four months after this, Stig went amiss and after the gelding went sore again while being jogged up by co-owner Tim Butt, the son of Armbro Invasion was officially retired. But, somehow, through the deeds of a champion horse and a champion trainer, Stig made it back to the races in February of 2012 to start a campaign which saw him win the Rowe Cup in December in what was one of the most emotional victories ever seen at Alexandra Park. “He was doing the dual sulkies out at Lindsay Kerslake’s place and he seemed sound so I decided to give him another go,” recalls Nairn. “I’m certainly glad I did now,” he laughed. “His Rowe Cup win was an absolute fairytale and is definitely the race that stands out alongside his Dominion victory.” “If he had have had a sound career he could have been absolutely anything,” Nairn concluded. Nairn said he would like to pay thanks to his vet Lindsay Colwell, who has been an instrumental part of the second half of Stig’s career, as well as David Butt, who did a wonderful job of driving the gelding throughout his career. Nairn also thanked co-owner Jim Boyd, who became famous for his post-race songs, which included the hit single ‘Stigey boy’. “I think I need to thank Jim as he annoyed Tim (Butt) so much that Tim got sick of him and decided to offload him, as well as Stig, on to me,” Nairn quipped. Stig fact file: lifetime starts: 63 wins: 23 seconds: 12 thirds: 6 Stakes: $855,096 Sire: Armbro Invasion Dam: Naraya (Gekoj) Owners:  T G Butt, Mrs Andrea Butt, J S Boyd, Mrs R I Boyd, R G Thomas, Ms J A Gordon Group One wins: New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All, Dominion Handicap, National Trot, Rowe Cup, Great Southern Star heat. By Mitchell Robertson    

Harness racing prominent breeder-owner Pat Driscoll knocked down the three top-priced lots at the second Pryde’s EasiFeed Australasian Premier Trotting Sale held at Tabcorp Park Melton on March 23. Driscoll, who trades as Yabby Dam Farms, pocketed a cool $119,000 for his three-strong draft including the sale topping colt at $41,000, a son of USA superstar Muscle Hill out of the Malabar Maple mare Calder Luck, a half-sister to the multiple Group 1 placegetter Calder Sensation, Calder Image and Bella Cheval. The handsome youngster was bought for a syndicate by John and Maree Caldow, who developed and trained Calder Sensation, a winner of 16 races and $142,762. An Angus Hall colt out of Maori’s Dream, the grand-dam of the top priced lot, realised the second highest price of $40,000. He was knocked down to Romsey trainer Chris Alford on behalf of stable clients Phil Walshe and Craig Nott. While another of the Muscle Hill progeny, a colt from the USA bred Let’s Be Happy, the dam of Bathurst Gold Coronet winner Verbier, was garnered by Christchurch trainer Tim Butt for $38,000. Two Angus Hall youngsters, one out of the Muscles Yankee mare Lindy’s Two Step (1:57.4) and the other from the useful Sundon mare Pinevale Ellason, realised $30,000 and $28,000 respectively. Majestic Son, a leading sire of juvenile trotters, had three head sell including a gelding out of the R C’s Dee Jay mare Howdoudo, the dam of Vicbred champion Split Image, which was haltered by Chris Lang Jnr for $30,000. Two Majestic Son colts out of strong New Zealand-bred mares from Harness Breeders Vic committeeman Gerard Moloney’s draft sold for $22,000 and $20,000. Former local champion Skyvalley was the sire of the highest priced filly Aldebaran Eve, out of the Victoria Oaks winner Aldebaran Dream, consigned by Aldebaran Park and sold for $18,000, while a Skyvalley colt from the 2YO and 3YO Trotter of the Year Jauriol realised $20,000. Running Pinevale, also a Victoria Oaks champion, was represented by her second foal, a colt by NZ-based import The Pres, who was knocked down for $22,000. Of the 36 lots offered, 31 were sold for an average price of $16,359, up almost 25 percent on last year. by Peter Wharton

Stig is becoming trotting’s version of the Never-ending Story. The veteran trotter, already the hero of one of the greatest comebacks in racing history, takes on rivals up to seven years younger than him at Addington tomorrow night. Remarkable as that is, if he performs up to the level trainer Paul Nairn expects, he will be on a plane to Melbourne next week for the A$350,000 Great Southern Star. Rising 12-year-olds embarking on Trans Tasman campaigns may be unheard of but Nairn says even after a disappointing season, Stig’s connections are keen for a crack at the richest prize in Southern Hemisphere trotting. “I know at times he hasn’t been as sharp as he can be this season, which you are going to get with a horse his age,” admits Nairn. “But he is trotting well now and feeling no real soreness. “I think he will improve on his last start (second) and if he races well this week he will head back to Melton.”
 Stig won a A$50,000 heat of the Great Southern Star at Melton last year before galloping in the final, although he never really looked happy on the Victorian track. But this year’s event, which comprises two heats and a final in the same night on Saturday, lacks a superstar in the form winner Vulcan was last season. So a fully fit and sound Stig could still out tough his younger rivals. He will need to be good to cement the trip as he meets one of the new breed of open class trotting in this country in Royal Aspirations, who has developed from a speed freak age group trotter into a genuine topliner. Nairn also expects a bold return tomorrow night from his Harness Jewels winner One Over Da Moon, who is over recent problems, but summer star Any Old Way is not and is heading for the paddock. If Stig does make it to Victoria he will join defending champion Vulcan, Stent and The Fiery Ginga in the GSS, as well as Kiwi-owned favourites Flying Isa and Keystone Del. But Vulcan’s high-profile stablemate Peak faces a long layoff after x-rays yesterday confirmed a splint bone issue, yet trainer Tim Butt says it could have been worse. “We were worried he had a suspensory issue but that scanned fine today,” says Butt. “But it looks like he has a splint bone issue, which is easier to fix. “So he will have an operation next Monday and hopefully can be back in work in three months.” Peak created a huge impression winning his first two New Zealand starts after being imported from Scandinavia last spring before being struck down by the issues. Meanwhile, tonight’s Manawatu meeting sees one of the great dropback tips of the new handicapping system in Jarcullembra. A former New Zealand Cup starter, Jewels runner-up to Terror To Love and the winner of over $200,000 in stakes, Jarcullembra hasn’t won for nearly two years so has dropped back to being assessed as a five-win horse. That sees him starting against horses who will never scale the heights he has been to in tonight’s $12,000 Palmerstonian, suggesting he will be at short odds in the 2000m mobile. By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)

Capable middle-grade pacer Cam Before The Storm, who was transferred to the barn of Geoff & Jude Knight after his last start win in the Cheviot Cup, looks set for a good couple of months in the South after a dominant victory in Yesterday’s Gore Grass Cup. The speedy McArdle five-year-old, who was victorious on 10 occasions for former trainer Tim Butt, was sent south to seek better racing opportunities, which is exactly what he got in yesterday’s $10,000 Gore feature. After starting from his 30 metre back mark, Matthew Williamson settled the showy five-year-old last of the pack, before asking him to slide forward at the 1300 metre mark. He then kicked strongly in the homestretch to hold of Run Fat Boy Run by three quarters of a length. The win took Cam Before The Storm’s stake earnings in excess of $100,000 Meanwhile, Colleen Negus, who is the wife of Waikouaiti trainer Bruce, notched up her first driving success when winning aboard Goodboy Tiger. “I thought I was going to have to pull right back to get a go put then a wee gap appeared up the inside,” said Negus. “He has had over forty starts but he is actually getting better and better with his trotting - more solid.” It was Colleen’s first driving success after 27 previous attempt, so has also finished a in the money on four other occasions. By Mitchell Robertson      

Ten horsemen and one horsewoman were inducted into the Noel Taylor New Zealand Trotting Hall Of Fame on Auckland Cup night last Friday. But it was harness racing legend, Charlie Roberts, who stole the limelight at the 4pm ceremony. He was one of four industry participants who were also bestowed with ‘Harness Racing Contribution Awards’. Mr Roberts, who turned 90 this month, left hospital on Friday especially to be at the function and to watch Adore Me run second in the Auckland Cup.  A renowned veterinarian, breeder, stud master and owner, Mr Roberts has been a driving force in New Zealand harness racing circles for more than 60 years. Initially involved in thoroughbreds it has been his association with Woodlands stud that has kept him a household harness racing name. For example at last year’s annual Harness Racing Awards he Christchurch Mr Roberts won five trophies including Owner and Breeder-of-the-Year, as well as awards for his champion stallion and broodmare Bettor’s Delight and Scuse Me. As co-owner of Christen Me and Adore Me, added to his status as a true harness racing legend. Mr Roberts is also the only person to be named Breeder-of-the-Year in both the standardbred and thoroughbred codes. Being an original shareholder in Sir Tristram is another one of the many feathers in his cap. Long before Woodlands Stud Mr Roberts was associated with Haunui Farm, and later qualified as a veterinary surgeon based at Takanini. He became an expert on the reproductive aspect of breeding and more than six decades ago he helped set up the original swabbing proceedings on a national basis. In 1976 Mr Roberts established the Riverside Veterinary and 11 years later the Auckland Vet Centre in partnership with Andrew Grierson, who is now the leading advisor to both codes in all veterinary matters. In partnership with Grierson, Mr Roberts in 1987, bought what was then ‘Harness World’ at a mortgagee sale. They returned its original title of Woodlands and revolutionised standardbred breeding in New Zealand by concentrating on shuttling stallions from the United States and then buying the Southern Hemisphere rights. In The Pocket was the first and his line changed the face of breeding in this country. Then Bettor’s Delight made an even greater impact, now dominating premierships on both sides of the Tasman as well as premierships in North America. He has also been our most dominant forces at recent yearling sales. The 15 people to receive a commemorative plaque and Hall Of Fame cap were: TRAINING ACHIEVEMENT (500 wins or more): Tim Butt – 583 wins and $7,406,072. Tony Herlihy (MNZM) – 670 wins and $8,304,330. Doug Gale – 524 wins and $4,809,758. John Hay – 530 wins and $4,168,136. Grant Payne (Mark Purdon) – 585 wins and $14,433,012. David and Catherine Butt ¬– 676 wins and $5,420,711 DRIVING ACHIEVEMENT (1,000 wins or more): Dexter Dunn – 1,232 wins and $12,047,272. David Butt – 1,100 wins and $9,789,301. Ken Barron – 1,024 wins and $8,557,176. Jim Curtin – 1,430 wins and $11,225,559. 3,000 WINS: Maurice McKendry – 3,002 and $25,452,271. OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO HARNESS RACING: Charlie Roberts. Alby Gain. Bob McArdle Pat O’Brien. Note: Statistics were as at March 10, 2014. By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing NZ)

SA BOTRA are pleased to announce that they have obtained not one but two special guests for their annual fundraiser Christmas in July in the form of Kiwi legends Anthony and Tim Butt.   The brothers have swept all before them in their native country across the ditch and now based in Melbourne they will provide great entertainment when they come under the scrutiny of compare Jim Jacques.   Last year's special guest Gary Hall senior had the crowd on the edge of their seats.   The brothers have won over the past few seasons Interdominion Pacers Final, three Interdominion Trotters Finals, two NZ Cups, two Auckland Cups, five Hunter Cups, eight Dominion Handicaps, four Rowe Cups and many more Group and Listed Races.   Tickets are about to go on sale so contact Lois Randall on 0402978424 to book your ticket for this July 13th event.   Annual Gear Sale   BOTRA is also conducting its annual gear sale at Globe Derby on Sunday April 13th. Lots can be registered between the hours of 8am and 10am with the auction to commence at noon. The famous BOTRA BBQ will be available throughout the day.   Australian Standardbred Breeders AGM   South Australia this year will host the annual Australian Standardbred Breeders Conference and AGM and high on the agenda this year will be the breeding season dates in attempt to bring Australia back in line with New Zealand. The conference and AGM will be held on April 5th. BOTRA will host the delegates from each state that evening at Betezy Park Globe Derby.   Gary Newton  

One the potential greats of New Zealand pacing has been struck down by injury and is likely to miss the rest of the season. Two-time Derby winner and 3-year-old of the year Ohoka Punter has suffered a recurrence of the tendon problems which plagued him last season and will spell immediately. That ends any possible Auckland Cup tilt and puts the Taylor Mile-Messenger double in May in doubt, which would also rule out the May 31 Harness Jewels. While a scan of his troublesome tendon yesterday revealed the problem was not as bad as first feared over the weekend, the 4-year-old is unlikely to be seen until next season and will be treated with kid gloves afterwards. And he deserves to be because if trainer Tony Herlihy can keep Ohoka Punter in one piece he might be the best of a vintage crop of 4-year-olds and Herlihy's best chance to train a major Cup winner. While he was magnificent last season, Ohoka Punter always had the look of a genuine Grand Circuit star, with the scope and stamina to take the step into the big time. Last season he was not only good enough to beat Adore Me, Franco Nelson and Border Control in the race of the season, the Woodlands Northern Derby, but downed Aussie hero Guaranteed in the Victoria Derby. "It is disappointing he has an issue with his leg again but we will look after him and give him all the time he needs," said Herlihy. He wasn't the only disappointed trainer yesterday as Tim Butt reluctantly withdrew imported trotter Peak from the A$200,000 ($216,100) Glenferrie Farm Challenge in Sydney on March 2. Butt thought he was getting on top of soreness issues with the talented chestnut but now knows he won't make the great race, with his place in the five-strong New Zealand team being taken by The Fiery Ginga. Meanwhile, New Zealand's two Inter Dominion headliners Terror To Love and Smolda have drawn to dominate their $50,000 heat at Addington on Saturday night. Terror To Love drew barrier one in the 2600m mobile event, with Smolda at two and the rest of the six-horse field given no hope. While a top two finish would be good enough to get both pacers an invite to the A$750,000 Inter Dominion Final on March 2, a key question will be whether whoever finishes second still wants to go. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of the NZ Herald)

In Melbourne.--- A startling declaration from trainer Tim Butt could set up Saturday night’s $400,000 Hunter Cup for his fellow Kiwis. Butt is the undoubted king of Australia’s richest standing start race, having trained the winner five times while his brother Anthony has driven seven Hunter Cup winners. Tonight they have defending champion Mah Sish in the 3280m epic and their confidence has been boosted by a long overdue return to form in a support race on last Saturday’s Ballarat Cup card. Mah Sish seems to have lost all his speed but ground his opponents into the Ballarat track last week so Butt has declared he will adopt similar tactics this week, even if that means going to war with Australian pacing legend Smoken Up. Smoken Up has been greatly boosted by the Hunter race reverting from a handicap to a free-for-all and after drawing barrier four is expected by most to press on toward the lead, with many rival trainers happy to trail him. Not Butt though, who says he wants Mah Sish in front and if he gets there he won’t hand over to Smoken Up, and would even attack him if the latter leads. “I don’t think he (Smoken Up) is going as well as he can and the last couple of times he has lead he has gone too slow,” says Butt. “So we will race him for the lead if we get away well enough. “I know my horse has been struggling for a while before last week but he is back on the improve and he will be a better horse that last week.”
 The very real possibility of an early war in the Hunter plays into the hooves of the speedsters who are able to follow a hot speed, and two of the best of those are fellow New Zealand pacers Pembrook Benny and Christen Me. Christen Me was brave but still unable to win the Ballarat Cup last Saturday and after his New Zealand Cup third in November there are some doubts over whether 3200m really suits him. The best way around that is for him to be given plenty of time to find his feet and then swoop in the race later, which is how most sons of Christian Cullen perform at their optimum. Butt’s early attack promise suggests that could become reality. The fact Pembrook Benny is favoured in a Hunter Cup is one of the more unlikely stories of the harness racing season after he returned home from a Sydney campaign last season looking a spent force. But training genius Barry Purdon has the nine-year-old in the best form of his career and sitting just off the speed he only has to race up to his New Zealand Cup fourth to be a huge hope for young gun driver Zac Butcher, who didn’t even have a licence when Pembrook Benny started racing. Add in the enormously improved Franco Nelson and the surprise addition of Easy On The Eye and New Zealand has five chances in the race on the Australian Grand Circuit that has been kindest to our pacers in the last decade. But the horse to beat is still local star Restrepo, who was outstanding winning the Ballarat Cup after being three wide the last lap. The Ballarat Cup has been far and away the best guide to the Hunter Cup in recent years and Restrepo is a good standing start exponent with a top trainer and Australasia’s most successful ever reinsman Gavin Lang in the sulky. He may have drawn the second line but along with fellow Victorian hero Caribbean Blaster he is a better follower than leader over long distances so his draw only serves to increases his odds without greatly decreasing his chances. Earlier in the night Purdon’s pair of Our Sky Major (race one) and Our Maxim (race three) face tough draws in heats of the Victoria Derby set to dominated by Sydney’s all-conquering Team McCarthy. Courtesy of Michael Guerin and The New Zealand Herald

The Group Three Hambletonian Classic is next on the agenda for the classy Tim Butt trained three-year-old trotter Thebestlove, who set a new New Zealand record for 3YO trotters at Rangiora today. “He is a lovely trotter, who I think can go a fair way,” said driver Anthony Butt, after the gelding made it two wins from as many starts. “He has speed, he can stay, and the manners are there also, so he really is the all-round package,” he explained. Thebestlove had a slight bobble just as the gate got rolling, but Butt said that was more his fault than anything. “I had him way back off the gate, so he just panicked trying to chase it,” said Butt. “He came down quickly though and actually left the gate really well. After finding the front, Butt let the son of Love You and Kathy Galleon roll, before increasing the tempo further down the back straight. “I knew the hardest horse to beat (Lothario) was outside me so I wanted to make sure he worked,” Butt explained. Thebestlove had two lengths to spare on Lothario at the line, with a further two lengths back to K D Muscles in third. His time of 2-29.0 (1-59.8) shaved 0.4 of a second off the former three-year-old record of Paramount Geegee, who also set his record at Rangiora. Through a new incentive brought in at the last Rangiora board meeting, the connections of Thebestlove picked up an extra $3,000 on top of the stake due to the fact he set a New Zealand record, while his breeder also picked up $1,000. “He is out of a speedy type in Kathy Galleon (6 starts, 3 wins), while his sire Love You should add a bit of toughness,” analyzed Butt.  When asked if there had been any interest in the young trotting talent, Butt said that Thebestlove probably wouldn’t be for sale. “He is co-owned by the richest man in New Zealand (Graham Beirne),” quipped Butt. Meanwhile, Butt was very happy when news came through that Mah Sish had drawn number one for Saturday’s $A400,000 Hunter Cup. “He is generally a really good beginner, so I am very happy with the draw,” he enthused . “We will be doing our best to hold up and won’t be handing to anyone,” he added. Another to impress at Rangiora today was last season’s 2yo Harness Jewels runner-up Majestic Time (Majestic Son – Time To Shine), who trotted just 1.6 seconds slower than Thebestlove when effortlessly downing his maiden rivals by 2 & ¼ lengths.  He will also compete in the Hambletonian Classic on February 8. By Mitchell Robertson

Defending champion Keystone Del is among the list of horses being considered for the Australian team for the Glenferrie Farm Trotters Challenge at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 2. With five Australian trotters and as many from New Zealand to be invited to contest the $200,000 Group One, the Nicole Molander-trained gelding is one of nine that could possibly line-up for what already looks to be a strong Australian team. Others dominate in the minds of selectors include the David Aiken-trained duo My High Expectations and Cold Sister as well as star squaregaiter Blitzthemcalder. Kyvalley Blur who is trained by master trotting conditioner Chris Lang senior, former pacer Mister Zion as well as Elegant Image, Aleppo Midas and Stoned I Am are considerations also. While the Australian team will be finalised in the coming weeks following the results of races, the New Zealand representatives have been selected. The New Zealand team being selected early to allow for travel are Dullard Cup winner Habibti, Danish Derby winner Peak, Anzac Cup victor Stent, Hellers Dominion winner Master Lavros and recent National Trot winner Irish Whisper. Three reserves have been added to the team being Vulcan, The Fiery Ginga and Sovereignty who could be called upon if neccessary. Team New Zealand: Master Lavros (trainer Mark Jones) Stent (trainer Colin De Filippi) Peak (trainer Tim Butt) Irish Whisper (trainer Tony Herlihy) Habibti (trainer David Butt) Reserves Vulcan (trainer Tim Butt) The Fiery Ginga (trainer Alan Clark) Sovereignty (Trainer Sean McCaffrey) Team Australia*: My High Expectations (trainer David Aiken) Kyvalley Blur (trainer Chris Lang) Mister Zion (trainer Geoff Webster) Keystone Del (trainer Nicole Molander) Elegant Image (trainer Andy Gath) Blitzthemcalder (trainer Dean Braun) Aleppo Midas (trainer Michael Eastman) Cold Sister (trainer David Aiken) Stoned I Am (trainer Bill Walker) *Five to be selected and one reserve

New Zealand trainer Tim Butt is hoping a return to Tabcorp Park Menangle on Saturday night with talented mare Elusive Chick will see the Gr. 1 winner return to her best. The five year old will compete in the Teeny Teeny Stakes with the winner guaranteed a berth in the Ladyship Mile on Inter Dominion Grand Final day. "I'm happy enough with Elusive Chick and despite defeats at her past few starts I think the return to Menangle is going to be a good thing because she does race so well there," Butt said. "She can be a bit temperamental and she does need things to go her way in her races because she is a little bit one dimensional but in saying that with the right run she is a definite winning chance and I don't think this Saturday night's race is over strong so a better run wouldn't surprise me at all." Butt confirmed the mare's owners are considering sending her back home to New Zealand. "If she was plain on Saturday night there is some thought she would head home but there isn't much at home for her so it would probably mean retirement in the near future but I'm really hoping that even if she was beaten this weekend that I could give her another chance in qualifying for the Ladyship." Stablemates Mah Sish and Pass Them By are expected to start at Ballarat on Saturday week. "Mah Sish is battling a bit and he isn't the same horse that finished second in last year's Inter Dominion, I've had him scoped and checked his bloods and I can't find a reason for why he is so far off his best but I will give him another chance in the Pure Steel at Ballarat." "Pass Them By is a nice horse, I've got him in the Inter Dominion but I honestly think he is a length or two below the top ones right now but might be a realistic chance next year, his next target will be the Ballarat Pacing Cup and then the Hunter Cup the following week." Nancy O'Grady | Executive Assistant | Harness Racing New South Wales |     .            

The second leg of the harness racing quaddie at Melton on Friday night is the Lenin Trotters Free For All (Group 3).  In a cracking field, the Tim Butt trained trotter Vulcan headlines the race.  The 2013 Australian Trotting Grand Prix and Great Southern Star winner has had three runs in Australia this season after running fourth in the Dominion Trot at Addington in New Zealand to Mister Lavros on the 15th of November. He’ll have plenty of opposition, starting with the Andy Gath trained Elegant Image.  To be driven by Kate Gath, the six-year-old son of S J’s Photo has been in sparkling recent form and the two will have a close up view of each other, starting from gates nine and ten off the second row. Hoping to give the more established trotters a run for their money is the lightly raced Sundon mare Aleppo Midas.  The winner of over $60,000 in prize money is trained at Marong by Michelle Eastman.  “She’s pretty green; she is a Sundon,” says Eastman.  “She has a real mind of her own, a real free spirit.  She won her MO at Melton earlier this year and the plan is to race her every week at Melton if we can so she can learn the job.” Aleppo Midas will have plenty of opportunity to learn from some experienced campaigners on Friday night from barrier one.  “It’ll be good for her; she’ll be surrounded by horses and will have to do what they do.  She can’t just do her own thing.”  Aleppo Midas is “a real personality” at home on the small block the Eastmans share in between Marong and Newbridge.  “She likes to go her own pace at track work and thinks when she’s ready to go, that’s when we go,” chuckles Eastman. “She has heaps of ability but she has to learn not to do what she wants all the time.”  When she learns her trade, the Eastmans have big plans for Aleppo Midas.  ' “We’d love one day to race her in the Great Southern Star.” by Lucy McCormick

Horsham Cup day is this Sunday and it looks set to be a sensational afternoon of harness racing action and entertainment.  With a temperature of 23 degrees forecast, an outstanding racing program, along with plenty of on course entertainment provided by the club, there is something for everyone. The Wimmera Mail-Times Horsham Pacing Cup (Group 2) will be the highlight of a fantastic program, with Australian pacing superstar and three-time millionaire Smoken Up taking his place in the field.  Coming off an incredible last start victory in the Laser Electrical Lightning Mile (Group 3), in which he earned a $10,000 bonus for breaking the track record in a mile rate of 1:53.1. ‘Trigger’ will be primed and ready for action and trainer/driver Lance Justice certainly won’t die wondering when he lays his cards on the table. His rivals will not be making it easy for the champ however, with the Tim Butt trained 2013 Del Re National Food Group A G Hunter Cup (Group 1) hero Mah Sish taking his place from pole position. Mah Sish showed he was back to his best with a great effort behind Smoken Up at Ballarat on Boxing night. Driver Anthony Butt certainly won’t be handing things to Smoken Up & Lance Justice on a platter – the wily Kiwi’s know they too have a gun racehorse and have their eyes  firmly planted on the hefty winner’s cheque and glittering gold Cup. Apart from last season’s Hunter Cup victory, Mah Sish won a heat of the Inter in Sydney, finished 2nd behind Im Themightyquinn in the Final, downed Sushi Sushi in the Ballarat Pacing Cup and got within a length of Caribbean Blaster in the Victoria Cup – enough said. Our main local hope, Abettorpunt, was bred by the Lewis family - Terry is Vice President and Life Member of the Horsham Club. “Our draw could have been kinder but you take what you get” Terry explained.  “We’re hoping for some fireworks early from Mah Sish, Smoken Up and maybe Keayang Steamer. Punter’s work this week has been as good as its ever been and we’re expecting him to run a big race.” Abettorpunt is ready to take the next step into the big time. A quick look at the form guide shows his outstanding record of 21 wins, 19 minors & $306,000 from just 51 starts. Punter’s recent form of a 2nd to Beautide in the Newcastle Mile, 3rd behind Smoken Up in the Cordina Sprint, 2nd to The Gold Ace at Menangle and a victory at Melton prior to Xmas are credentials enough to win on Sunday. The all-conquering Dean Braun – Chris Alford team could well have the Cup wildcard on Sunday with the former Kiwi pacer Im Corzin Terror. Solid recent performances in the Cranbourne Cup, Yarra Valley Cup and Tasmania Cup entitle the 6yo gelding to our utmost respect. HORSHAM IS HOT TO TROT SUNDAY ! By Lucy McCormick (HRV) & Tony Logan  

It was Jim Phillips Memorial Cobram Pacing Cup Day on Friday December 28, with a bumper crowd of Murray River holiday makers enjoying the nine race harness racing card. Bannockburn trainer Geoff Webster having won three of the past five - Genuine Star (2008), Mister Zion (2009) and Lets Slash An Burn (2010), was looking to make it four with much travelled gelding Rakarebel, as was Melton based reinsman Greg Sugars aboard the Webster elect, after guiding Genuine Star, Lets Slash An Burn and Jaccka Clive to victory in 2011 for Avenel’s David Aiken. The $25,000 feature for M0 or better class (Discretionary Handicapped) over 2678 metres attracted a small but quality field, with prolific winning Jaccka Clive (one of four runners from the Aiken barn) the 20 metre backmarker. Last year’s successful trainer Tim Butt made it back to back cup victories, when five year old Grinfromeartoear - Against The Wind gelding Pass Them By with John Caldow in the sulky prevailed. Beginning brilliantly from barrier four, Pass Them By pounced on the lead, with Uncle Wingnut from outside the front line moving outside him, polemarker Washmepockets trailing the leader, Rakarebel (barrier two) one/one being followed by Wartime Sweetheart and stablemate Smudge Bromac from the 10 metre mark, with Jaccka Clive last. Composed settled three back the markers, with stablemates Lovable Larrikin and Jaydens Castle trailing him. With no moves being made until the last lap, Wartime Sweetheart was eased three wide to commence a forward move, giving Jaccka Clive a ride home and Smudge Bromac working between runners. Joining Pass Them By on the final bend, Wartime Sweetheart issued a strong challenge, however Pass Them By after a relative easy trip, rallied to gain the day by a head in a punishing finish, with Washmepockets using the sprint lane for third just in advance of Composed which also made use of the inside run. Rated to perfection by Caldow in quarters of 29.6, 30.1, 28.4 and 28.5 for the last mile, Pass Them By raced by a large number of stable clients returned a new track record mile rate of 1-59.5, bettering Mister Zion’s 1-59.9 by .4 seconds. The other highlight of the afternoon being the $15,000 Central Murray Credit Union Cobram Trotters Cup for TM0 or better class (D-H) over 2678 metres, with victory going the way of David Aiken’s all American bred seven year old Ken Warkentin - Kovel rig My High Expectations, obliterating the track record by two seconds. Well in on handicaps to start from a 20 metre backmark, My High Expectations stepped cleanly with old timer Oi You beginning best to lead from barrier three, before surrendering to the Kiwi Thanesan entering the front straight on the first occasion. Biding his time with most of the field ahead of him, My Expectations moved to be one/one mid-race when I See Icy Earl ahead of him eased away from the markers to lead up the outside division before taking cover on Bellingham from last. Taken four wide in the final circuit, My High Expectations quickly joined Thanesan on the home turn and raced away to score by 6.8 metres in a mile rate of 2-01.3 (last half 58 seconds – quarter 28.9) over Thanesan who was game in defeat, with I See Icy Earl (three wide last lap) third 5.1 metres away. It was My High Expectations 23rd victory from only 71 outings. David reaped all of the rewards, as apart from training and driving the winner, he also races him. An interesting winner on the day was nine year old Panorama - Regal Sarnel gelding Regalramapleasure for Chiltern trainer Peter Romero who despite winning eleven races (mostly in three year old and restricted events over the years), started in the C1 class Clydesdale Hotel Pace over 2170 metres thanks to the drop back system. Driven by Nathan Jack, Regalramapleasure led throughout from gate five, defeating Pelling and Smart Sista in a rate of 2-00.3 when having his first outing since Melbourne Cup Day. Videos of the two Cups are attached. by Len Baker Harness Racing Victoria

Terror To Love’s Australian campaign is over but the confusion over his record there is no clearer to being resolved. The three-time New Zealand Cup winner has been pulled out of next week’s Victoria Cup in Melbourne after an embarrassing last placing in Saturday’s Miracle Mile. Terror To Love settled last in the A$750,000 race, hung badly and then improved wide before dropping in the home straight. It was his sixth failure at Menangle, where he has yet to win a race, and his connections are as stunned as any of the fans who watched him win his third New Zealand Cup so incredibly three weeks ago, “We have no idea what is going on with him,” said co-trainer Paul Court. “He just never seemed happy. He hung, which he can sometimes do in New Zealand but he also straightens up in the straights. “But on Saturday he actually paced roughly in the home straight too. “He just wasn’t himself at all and we have no idea why. “So we will miss the Victoria Cup and he can come home, but we are none the wiser as to what is going on.” His performances at Menangle are baffling because you can argue against any conceivable explanation. While some horses struggle with the intense Mile racing there, Terror To Love jogged a 1:51 mile at Ashburton back in June, when arguably not as screwed down as he was on Saturday. The Ashburton track and Menangle are almost identical and while driver Ricky May was concerned the track surface was hard on Saturday, that would hardly explain Terror To Love hanging so badly early in the race when he can’t possibly have been jarred up. He paraded before the event looking amazing and when you consider he gave Christen Me a 30m start and thrashed him in the New Zealand Cup, it is impossible to work out how he could perform 20m inferior to his fellow Kiwi rival just 18 days later. It also raises a serious question for his connections: whether they should even bother taking Terror To Love back to Menangle for the Interdominion Final on March 2? They would almost certainly win their Addington heat on February 15 but can’t have any great confidence he would bring anything like his A-game to Sydney. Whereas if they elected to bypass the Inter, they could aim as the Ballarat and Hunter Cups in Victoria in late January before the Auckland Cup in March, worth a total of $950,000. “The problem is we want a big Aussie win for his stud career,” admits Court. “It could boost his future service fee by $2000 or something, which is a lot of money over a few seasons. “But we almost don’t know where to start with that.” One of the great ironies of the race was that Terror To Love’s arch rival Christen Me looked far more at home at Menangle than he has been on his home track at Addington. He will now head to the Victoria Cup and could be best placed staying in Australia for the entire summer, culminating in the Interdoms. The Kiwi invasion on the Victorian carnivals started well on Saturday when Tim Butt prepared Vulcan and Pass Them By to win at Melton while Mah Sish was a greatly-improved third in a free-for-all. There rapid improvement matches their form last season in Victoria, where Butt’s team seem to grow another leg, suggesting they are in for another profitable summer. By Michael Guerin (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)

Mark Jones would love to emulate his father Peter and late grandfather Derek as the victorious driver of the Dominion Trot – but believes training the winner would be even more satisfying. “It’s a real test of horsemanship to get a squaregaiter to step away and trot over the extreme two mile distance. And there aren’t any bigger trotting races here than the Dominion. It’s a race I’d really like to win as a trainer-driver. “It’s rich in history and I’m proud my father and grandfather have both won it. The Dominion is raced during Cup Week and to me it is the New Zealand Cup of trotting,” Jones said. Jones trains and drives Master Lavros, the $4 third favourite for Friday’s Group One $200,000 Hellers Dominion Trot. Scandinavian trotter Peak is the $3.40 favourite and Stent is the second elect at $3.60. Jones said it would be an honour to join his family in the Dominion record books. Peter drove Tussle (1986) and Sundon (1990) to Dominion victories, while Derek drove the 1951 winner, Barrier Reef, at the tender age of 24. Jones, the 2003 world driving champion said Master Lavros worked well on Wednesday and was primed to go a big one come the 5.36pm contest. “I can’t have him any better going into the race. He is still not 100 per cent from the start but if he does step he steps quickly. “I’d like to lead and let him bowl along in front,” Jones said. All 10 of Master Lavros’s wins have been from standing start events. He has won 10 of those 16 stands and placed in two others. He’s drawn the luxury four gate on. Jones said he wanted to start him off the front because he was a better winning chance. “I think it would have been too tough for him from the unruly. I’m as confident as I can be that he will step,” Jones said. The 5-year-old Sundon gelding won his first two races this campaign at Addington in October and was then left parked outside Stent on a hot pace at Kaikoura two Mondays ago. He did a lot of work that day and still managed to get within four lengths of the winner, Boizel. All up Master Lavros has now won The Tim Butt trained Peak, who has drawn six, has been headed in the home straight in both of his New Zealand runs so far and has fought back to win. He is as tough as old boots and can only get stronger with his latest victory on Cup Day – albeit in a lesser quality field. Stent will also be hard to beat, especially from gate three. The Colin and Julie De Filippi trained 5-year-old impressed when winning first-up after a spell on October 18 and then went down by three-quarters of a length when dictating a solid clip in front at Kaikoura. No other trotter in the 15-horse field is paying single figure money to win the 102-year-old staying test. The 2008 Dominion winner, Stig is the fourth favourite at $10. Selections: Master Lavros, Peak, Stent. Boizel. Courtesy of Duane Ranger Harness Racing New Zealand

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