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By Garrick Knight After three months on the sidelines, Todd MacFarlane is just happy to be back doing what he loves. The experienced horseman returned to race night driving last week after an extended period of convalescence thanks to a couple of grumpy horses. “I copped a decent kick in the back while out with a jog team,” he told HRNZ. “I had one in the cart and two on the leads and they were fighting with each other. I got caught in the cross-fire.” The result? Some pretty serious injuries. “The main issues were a bruised kidney and a split liver. “It meant two months recovery but for the third month I felt fine and like I could return. “But they wouldn’t give me medical clearance because they felt like it hadn’t given my liver enough time to heal properly. “So, even though I felt alright I had to watch from home.” The worst part, MacFarlane says, was that he was on his own when the incident happened and he had three horses in his control. “I just had to suck it up for a while there and try and get back to the barn.” Any good trainer is only as good the team around them and that more than rung true for MacFarlane, who had to rely heavily on his staff for a fair few weeks. “Luckily I’ve got a good crew and they all did their bit, keeping things going.” MacFarlane has his second night back driving at Alexandra Park this evening and will pilot three horses, including two stable runners. Maiden mare Royal went out very well-supported in her resumption last week off the back of an impressive trial on August 31. But she let her supporters – and MacFarlane – down with a middling effort to finish fourth behind Some Do last week. “She’s no star but I was a little bit disappointed with her last week. “I’m hoping for a bit of improvement this week because if she runs like she did in that trial, she won’t be very far away.” Bookies have let her go this week, opening her at $14, well behind race favourite, Down The Hatch ($1.70), who has drawn the ace for Steve Telfer and Benjamin Butcher. “He went super last time out and will be very hard to beat. “Hopefully we can settle handle and finish in the money.” Recent maiden winner Cyclone S Adams opened at $21 for the R47-55 trot and MacFarlane concedes that he’s still a wee way away from reaching physical maturity. “He’s still very much a work in progress. “I think once mentally and physically he develops, he’ll be a good honest horse. “He’s got a lovely way of going and generally his manners are really good. “But he’s a bit tall and immature and that’s just going to hold him up for now.” MacFarlane expects his race team to ramp up over the next month and is looking forward to the return of stable star Heavyweight Hero, along with a number of promising maidens, including Joshua Richard and Harvey Spector. “Hopefully one or two of them step up; in another month we should have quite a handy team around us.” Reprinted with permission of HRNZ

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

Two disasters from last Friday night should redeem themselves tonight and kickstart a huge weekend for father and son training team John and Josh Dickie. The pair have a host of winning chances at the two northern meetings, with Speeding Spur set to start a red hot favourite in the $50,000 Flying Mile at Cambridge on Sunday. But before then the South Auckland trainers head to Alexandra Park tonight looking for redemption with Motown (race six) and Sertorius (race five), who both failed in stronger fields last Friday. On that occasion Motown was poorly handicapped against Vincent and Heaven Rocks but still hung when under pressure. "There was no reason he should hang like that but he has been good as gold this week and we are still aiming him at the Auckland Cup next week," says Josh Dickie, who drives the team.   "So he really should win this week even though he is off 30m because the small field helps." Sertorius was trialling well before pacing early in the minor trot last Friday but meets an easier field tonight, giving Dickie confidence he can settle the four-year-old early before putting him into the race. "I think against this grade of horse he can give them a bit of a start and still win because we rate him highly enough to go through the grades." One of the horses Sertorius beat at the trials recently is the highly-rated Heavyweight Hero, who returns from some national record performances last term in race eight tonight. Trainer-driver Todd MacFarlane has been ironing out a few minor issues with the four-year-old but at his peak he has an open class motor. One of the better races tonight is the fourth, where talented three-year-olds Sheriff and Triple Eight clash, with the latter's experience at Alexandra Park potentially a deciding factor. Meanwhile, the Dickie camp are stunned with how Speeding Spur came through his comeback last week as they eye up an ideal target at Cambridge on Sunday. "He has actually put on weight since last Friday and seems like he is just thrilled to be back racing," says Josh. He will dominate betting on the main trot but Star Galleria will ensure there are at least some punters willing to bet against Vincent in Sunday's other group race, the $50,000 Futurity.   Michael Guerin

Pukekohe owner-breeders, Lindsay and Pam Turner of Top Notch Lodge, have won their first Franklin Park Yearling Parade after placing in the annual event last year. Their brown American Ideal – Tigerswish colt named Tycoon Tiger, won the supreme award at the Pukekohe track on Station Road on July 29. That victory came 12 months after Tiger Tycoon’s older brother, Bit Of A Tiger (by Bettor’s Delight) placed last year. Tiger Swift (by Mach Three and out of Tiger Tina) also placed at that same 2015 Yearling Parade. “Pam and I have always loved the annual Parade because it puts all horses and their breeds out there. It’s great for all owners. Todd Macfarlane is training Tiger Tycoon and he has had two preps now. “Todd thinks he will make an early two-year-old and wants to line him up in the Young Guns Series in December. So here’s hoping. We never get carried away with babies but we do have the Breeders Crown in mind this time next year if he’s good enough,” Turner (Lindsay) said. He said Tycoon Tiger was the only horse that he and his wife bred in 2015 so they decided to keep him. “He’s always been very independent since then. A loner you could say. Todd likes him and that’s good enough for us,” said Turner. Tycoon Tiger is the grand-son of the best horse that the Turners have owned - the late Butler B G mare, Tigerish. The multiple Group One winning filly and mare won 15 of her 79 starts and $491,957 in New Zealand and Australia between 1990 and 1996. Tigerish left 11 foals between 1997 and 2010. Tigerswish (by Holmes Hanover), who won one of her 12 starts, was foal number five. She in turn has left four foals between 2009 and 2015. Turner said Tigerish’s first foal, the 2009 Mach Three filly named Tiger Tamer, fetched $5,000 at the 2011 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale and was bought by Bill and Paulette Screen, before going on to be trained by Derek Balle and then Todd Mitchell. She won two races. Two years later Tigerswish gave birth to a Changeover colt named Haunui Tiger. That now brown gelding was sold for $35,000 to Rosslands Stud at the 2013 Australasian Classic Yearling Sale. "He had three starts here and then went on to win one in Australia. After him came Bit Of A Tiger in 2014. He's by Bettor's Delight and is three now. He qualified in January and is coming along okay for us," Turner said. Then in November 2015 Tycoon Tiger was born. "We have kept the mare empty this year. She breeds better when she is left empty for a season. We will probably take her back to American Ideal again," Turner said. He said he was delighted that Tigerish’s family had performed well at Franklin Yearling Parades over the years. “We will keep attending them. We want to thank all the sponsors and people who organised the day. We are very proud of what Tycoon Tiger achieved. “It would be a dream come true if he could be our next Tigerish,” Turner said. Tycoon Tiger races in the familiar Turner crimson and white colours. Results from the 2017 Franklin Park Yearling Parade: NRM McMillan Equine Feeds Yearling-of-the-Year: TYCOON TIGER (American Ideal – Tigerswish colt) TROTTING: Veterinary Associates Equine & Farm $500 product prize for first: SUNNYS LITTLE JESTIC (Majestic Son - Our Sunny Whiz filly) HR Fisken & Sons voucher for second: PEAKZ LUCK (Peak - Howz Lucky filly) The Stables Cafe Z voucher for third: ADELLE (Orlando Vici - Scusi Boyz filly) PACING: Franklin Vets – Equine $500 Voucher for first: SILVIA (Art Major - Hi Ho Silver Lining filly) H R Fisken & Sons voucher for second: ANAMAJOR ((Art Major - Mary Anastasia filly) The Stables Cafe Z voucher for third: EYESPYWITHMYLITTLEEYE (Mach Three - Eye Contact filly) PACING COLTS: The Vet Centre $500 voucher for first: JETSON HUNTER (Changeover - Saucy Operator colt) H R Fisken & Sons voucher for second: PALIO ARDEN (Panspacificflight - Ruby Morn colt) The Stables cafe Z voucher for third: FRANCO NIVEN (Christian Cullen - Nigella Franco colt) BEST OF THE REST: Dunstan voucher - RECKON IM SMART (American Ideal - Pacing Grace colt) Lincoln Farms Service fee to Sir Lincoln: THE BLUE BEAT (A Rocknroll Dance - The Blue Lotus filly)   (Horse was drawn out of a hat.)   Duane Ranger

Father of two, Ival Brownlee, believed his two children - Ival Jr (3) and Levi (2) - have indirectly helped him, condition one of the best maidens that has ever gone through his Pokeno barn. “You have to coax him a bit. It’s like playing a game with him. You have to give and take. If you tried hitting him it would be disastrous – you’d get nowhere. There have been times when I have started questioning myself with this fella. “It reminds me of parenting really. I have to treat this horse like he’s one of my kids,” Brownlee said. The three-year-old son of Art Major and Arden Banner he was referring to is Banner Of Art, who looks the ready-made favourite in the second event at Alexandra Park tonight - the Speight’s $12,000 Maiden Pace. Banner Of Art has recorded two eye-catching seconds, in his last two Alexandra Park starts on June 20 and July 7. He drew one and four respectively on those night’s, tonight he and regular pilot Todd Macfarlane have drawn five (of seven). If the bay gelding does get up, it will be Brownlee’s first win since he trained and drove G J Seelster to a neck victory, when favourite at New Plymouth on March 17, 2015. Prior to that his previous victory came at Alexandra Park on May 30, 2014, when he steered Charming Desire to win by a length at odds of $59.20. “I’ve spent a lot of one-on-one time trying to work out other people’s rejects, and to be fair after a lot of hard work, and give-and-take this horse is finally starting to realise what racing is all about. “It can be a frustrating game at times, and you often wonder if all the time with the horses, and not with family, is worth it. In this case it’s proving worthwhile,” Brownlee said. “He can stay and he’s got speed. It’s just great to have a decent horse to get up for every morning,” he added Brownlee said he got Banner of Art off Steve Phillips well before he started his career, with a 10th at Alexandra Park on September 30 last year. "He wasn't suited to Steve's training regime, and even though it's taken some time, the penny is finally starting to drop. "Steve said he had a few problems with him, and it didn't take me long to see the Art Major coming out in him. He was angry and tried to fight me all the time. He was a bit of a rogue," Brownlee said. "I'm so happy the patience and perseverance is starting to pay off," the 45-year-old Franklin horseman added. Banner Of Art’s last two placings have been his only first three finishes in 10 starts. Driver Macfarlane dubbed him as his ‘drive-of-the-night’ last start. “He just gives you a nice feel and will win one at very short notice,” Macfarlane said. With those comments, Banner Of Art looks set to break through for his maiden win tonight. Duane Ranger

  Todd Macfarlane has gone past the $200,000 mark in earnings for the eighth time this season – and expect that amount to increase even further at Alexandra Park tonight (Friday). The Pukekohe horseman has also earned $100,000 every year since 1997-98 and this season he has been driving as good as he ever has been. “I’ve been getting the odd outside drive which is great. It’s also nice to drive for Brian Hughes when Tony (Herlihy) and Maurice (McKendry) aren’t available. “I’ve been happy with my season. I just want to keep winning and keep putting those smiles on owners’ faces. I’ve got a couple of nice each-way chances on Friday,” said Macfarlane, who is also the chairman of North Island Trainers and Drivers Association. Macfarlane has driven 16 winners this season ($212,017) – one more than last year and $37,397 more in stakes. He has four drives on Friday and here’s what he had to say about the quartet: Race 1: The Brian Hughes trained Gooddealehemily (1) – "She's a two-year-old American Ideal filly who had been trialling well going into her first race (June 30). She got stage fright that night and galloped early. She’s normally good off the gate so if she can secure a nice trip then I think she is a nice each-way chance. She feels like a nice type and was second favourite on debut.” Race 2: The Dave & Clare McGowan trained Stunning Shadow (9) – “He’s going to need a lot of luck from out there. He can be competitive if the breaks go his way, but he will be relying on luck. I’ve won one or two races behind him. First four.” Race 3: The Ival Brownlee trained Banner Of Art (4) – “I think he can go pretty close to winning tonight because he went really well last week. He showed a lot of gate speed from the ace and if he can repeat that again then I think the race is his for the taking. I’m as confident as I can be, but it’s racing, so each-way.” Race 8: The Brian Hughes trained Kaitlyn (4) - “It’s a toss-up between her and Ival’s horse as to which one is my best drive of the night. This filly is having her second run back from a spell and even though she went well for second last week she needed the run. She will be a lot better for that on Friday night. You have to remember she had been racing against the best three-year-old girls like Partyon before she spelled. She is a better than the average pacer who seldom goes bad grace. She also has good gait speed. Each-way.” Duane Ranger

The chairman of North Island Trainers and Drivers Association is delighted at the Auckland Trotting Club's recent stakes boost announcement. Todd Macfarlane said more 'meaningful stakes' were a positive shot in the arm for the industry. "There would be no harness racing without owners and this week’s announcement is absolutely fantastic for everyone involved. We now have to come together and work as one. We have to be grateful for not just the proposed increases now, but for the long-term health of the industry up here thanks to the ATC’s vision," MacFarlane said. The ATC will boost stakes by $1.3 million for next season, starting August 1. They then plan to add another $40,000 per meeting the following season. The club’s goal is to race for $30,000 minimum stakes inside five years. Macfarlane said if the stake increases brought just one new owner to the industry it would be a success. “I don’t think owners will be so quick to sell now that they know we can race for more meaningful stakes. It just keeps everyone interested and puts a much needed smile on their faces. “There will always be people who won’t be happy but the increases will affect livelihoods in a positive manner, and that’s all we can ask for,” he said. The Pukekohe horseman praised the Auckland Trotting Club not only for its stakes foresight but also for its ability to communicate with his association. “Dominique (Dowding CEO) has been great. All lines of communication have been open and nothing is ever held back. We appreciate that,” he said. Macfarlane wanted the harness racing fraternity to know that the North Island Trainers and Drivers Association was a democratically elected body which met every month in Pukekohe. “Anyone can attend our meetings and join our Association. We also have good communication with Harness racing New Zealand. We think it is important that everyone has there say. Our AGM will be in August or September. “There has been a lot of talk on the handicap system but it is slowly evolving and to be fair the horse numbers just aren’t up here like they used to be. “Hopefully the stakes boost will put a smile on people’s face and give them something to work towards. The stake increases will cover the $150 trainers bonus. We need to be unified and work with the governing bodies,” Macfarlane said. “This is positive news. If it was a stakes decrease then we would have something to be concerned with, but this is all good news,” he added. No race at Alexandra Park next year will be for less than $12,000. Duane Ranger

Dual New Zealand record holder Heavyweight Hero has been placed on the unruly mark by his trainer/driver for this Friday’s Group 1 $80,000 New Zealand Trotting Derby at Addington Raceway. Todd Macfarlane made the decision after Heavyweight Hero galloped in two Workouts behind the mobile arm at Pukekohe on Saturday. He recovered to win the left-handed way around and then later in the day galloped at the right-handed mobile start point and was pulled up. “If it had been any other race I would have just left it, but because it’s a Group 1 on Friday I just want to make sure he gets a clean start. I know I have to sacrifice that for a second line wide draw, but I still think he’s good enough to get around them and win,” Macfarlane said. Heavyweight Hero was scheduled to leave Auckland in the small hours of Wednesday morning and his flight would be in Christchurch at 7am. “Apart from being pulled up he’s won his last two workouts since his last race. It is a bit of a concern going into a Group 1 event without any recent racing. It’s been a month now, but I wouldn’t be taking him down there if I didn’t think he was competitive,” Pukekohe-based Macfarlane said. The 3-year-old Muscle Mass gelding will start from gate 12 in the Paintlab Racing For Jonty sponsored Derby. It will be his first trip away since arriving at Macfarlane's stable from Christchurch in May last year. “He’s in really good condition but on Saturday he was just too fired up. He just wanted to race and go hard no matter what gait he tore into. Once he settled he trotted real nice. The unruly mark is a safe and the right move for him at this stage of his career,” Macfarlane said. Heavyweight Hero settled last (third) after about 100m of Saturday’s 2050m (left handed) mobile and Macfarlane took him to the lead after a lap. They then led for the remainder easily holding out stablemates C K Spur (Josh Dickie) and Sertorious (John Dickie) by one-and-a-quarter lengths and two lengths. Heavyweight Hero’s winning time was 2:42.9 (2:07.8) and he came home in 61.5 and 29 even. A week earlier he beat open class trotter Scarrymcleary by a neck with a 2:09.2 mile rate. Heavyweight Hero has set two New Zealand records at his last two Alexandra Park assignments. Last start (March 10) Heavyweight Hero broke You Rock’s December 2011 New Zealand record by a whopping 2.8 seconds from 20m behind. He trotted the 2700m in 3:27.2 after getting well back and then sitting parked out. The week before he set a national record for 3-year-old trotters over the 2200m stand from his 10m handicap. His time of 2:49.8 was 1.4 seconds quicker than Rock Tonight's New Zealand record, also set at Alexandra Park in March 2015. “He did them both very easily to be honest,” said co-owner MacFarlane. “He is right up there with the best trotters I have trained and driven. He just feels nice.” Heavyweight Hero has now won three of his 10 starts and placed in four others for $61,531 in stakes. He's placed twice from four starts at Addington Raceway. That was when he was with his former trainer Murray Edmonds. Heavyweight Hero has won his only 2600m mobile start. Duane Ranger

Todd Macfarlane won’t tell you he’s got a good eye for a racehorse. He’s too modest for that. Instead he’ll say it was bad luck that ensured that he ended up with rising trotting star, Heavyweight Hero. The 3-year-old Muscle Mass gelding has set two New Zealand records the last two Fridays at Alexandra Park. Last week Heavyweight Hero broke You Rock’s December 2011 New Zealand record by a whopping 2.8 seconds from 20m behind. He trotted the 2700m in 3:27.2 after getting well back and then sitting parked out. The week before he set a national record for 3-year-old trotters over the 2200m stand from his 10m handicap. His time of 2:49.8 was 1.4 seconds quicker than Rock Tonight's New Zealand record, also set at Alexandra Park in March 2015. “He did them both very easily to be honest,” said trainer/driver MacFarlane. “He is right up there with the best trotters I have driven. He just feels nice.” The best trotter Macfarlane has reins is the former multiple Group One winning Special Force, who won 27 races and $624,823 between February 1997 and March 2005. He was also a former New Zealand record holder for his Pukekohe trainers Dave and Clare McGowan. “I ended up getting Heavyweight Hero through the late Eric Inwood who had Tarn (three wins) and Mr Natural (two wins) with both Murray and then latterly me. “He was from Christchurch and it was just bad luck that I ended up with Heavyweight Hero. When Eric passed away I knew his Estate were looking to move some stock on. “I always followed what Murray and his team were up to. I worked for him when I was a kid. He’s a very good horseman and taught me quite bit. That’s how Heavyweight Hero ended up in my stable – I just liked him from day one. “Then Aaron Lowe, who has had horses with my stable for many years got networking and a Syndicate of us now own him,” Pukekohe-based Macfarlane said. Heavyweight Hero had five starts for Edmonds and Macfarlane was always watching his progress with interest. “I just liked the look of him and the way he was coming home in his races down south. We bought him for a fair price back then, but after what he’s achieved now it is quite a cheap price looking back,” his Pukekohe trainer/driver said. Heavyweight Hero has now had five starts for Macfarlane for three wins (two in NZ record time) and two seconds. But Macfarlane, who is also the Chairman of the North Island Trainers and Drivers Association, was quick to point out he’d only beaten R70 opposition and there were many tough assignments ahead. “I think given the chance there’s probably a few good ones tucked away and ready to make the step up as well – and perhaps if they competed in the races we have raced in they might have set national records too. “But all of his racing from now will be age group racing. That’s when we will see where he stands,” Macfarlane said. Heavyweight Hero will next race the Group One $80,000 New Zealand Trotting Derby at Addington Raceway on April 7 and then a couple of weeks after that will compete in the Group Two Sires Stakes Trotting Championship at Alexandra Park on April 21. April 28 will then see Heavyweight hero take on the best 3-year-old trotters in the Group One Northern Trotting derby. Both are worth $80,000. Macfarlane said he would then take on his Jewels opponents at Ashburton on June 3 and the Breeder’s Crown in Australia in August was also in the back of his mind. “You have to remember he’s only won three races against moderate opposition at this stage, so I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I know in racing that is a foolish thing to do,” Macfarlane said. Heavyweight hero is currently ranked number one for the $100,000 3-year-old Harness Jewels ruby Final with earnings of $30,115. Fellow North Islander C K Spur ($27,327) is ranked second and South Islander Chevron Express third ($27,013.13). “I got him after he ran the Sires Stakes Final and then second in the Jewels so he came to me with some solid form and good ground work done by Murray. He’s also one of those type of horses who eats everything up. I think he’s a happy fella and really enjoys racing. “Now as he develops as a 3-year-old I can already see that he has the traits to make a very nice trotter one day. He has always had a beautiful constitution, good manners and a strong gait. He’s just getting stronger and stronger with each race. “He did it quite easily the other night (March 9), and even though I’m very proud of him I’m not one to get too carried away too soon,” the ever humble Macfarlane said. Heavyweight Hero is the fourth of six foals (and most successful) out of Canterbury breeder Gael Murray’s un-raced Sundon mare, Successor. Duane Ranger Heavyweight Hero winning at Auckland on the 10th March    

Todd Macfarlane jokingly hopes there’s an airport bomb scare when Tony Herlihy (MNZM) returns from the United States this week. Herlihy and his wife Suzanne have been in Florida celebrating their son Mark’s wedding. Last week Mark Herlihy married leading Canadian horsewoman, and multiple Group One winning trainer Casey Coleman.  “Hopefully Tony might not be able to get back into the country. That’s the only way I’ll get to drive The Orange Agent on Friday,” the Pukekohe reinsman joked. The Bunty Hughes trained The Orange Agent has easily won her three workouts at Pukekohe this time in. Herlihy drove her to win by three-quarters of a length on February 11 and then Macfarlane steered the daughter of American Ideal to two easy two-length victories the last two Saturdays. Her winning mile rates were 2:06, 2:00.9 and 1:59.5 respectively. “Bunty wanted me to drive her off the gate on Saturday so we led early and that was basically it. She led all the way and felt special. She’s certainly a very nice open class pacer. “She showed no signs of her previous injuries,” Macfarlane said. The Orange Agent led all the way pacing the 2200m mobile in 2:43.4 with final 800m sprints of a slashing 55.8 and 27 even. Robbie Burns, The Faithful and Arden's Choice were two lengths, a length and two-and-a-half lengths away. They were the only starters.  “She ran off the gate real nice. I think she’s primed to go a big race first-up. I’d love to be driving her on race-day,” said Macfarlane. The Orange Agent will resume from a 14-month spell in Friday's $25,000 Founders' Free-For-All at Alexandra Park. The Lincoln farms sponsored Group Three event is a 1700m mobile and if she shows the same explosive speed off the machine this week she is going to take some stopping. But trainer Hughes isn’t getting carried away and warns after what the 5-year-old has been through, she is still very much a day-to-day proposition. “When you have a horse go through what she’s been through then you can only take her one day at a time. One day she could be fine and the next she could end up lame. “She’s healthy now but you never take anything for granted in this game. It’s all about getting her fit for premier racing at Alexandra Park in March,” said Hughes. Friday’s assignment will be her first race after winning at Cambridge Raceway on January 8 last year when she triumphed in the Group Two Waikato Flying Mile in 1:56.3. The Orange Agent suffered two breaks in her hind leg and was boxed for three months at a time - twice. At the time of her injury she was New Zealand’s best pacing mare and then while she was on the road to recovery vets found another fracture in her pastern in July last year. The Orange Agent has raced 25 times for 18 wins, four seconds, and banked $562,175 in stakes. Her Group One wins came in the Northern Oaks (3yo), the Nevele R Fillies Final, and the Harness Jewels Diamond - all in 2015. She has had two starts in Australia for a Breeders Crown heat win at Ballarat on August 22, 2015 and then eight days later crushed her 11 opponents in the Group One $175,000 Breeders Crown Final at Melton's Tabcorp Park. She was also crowned 4-Year-Old Pacing Mare of the Year at the 2016 Harness Racing Awards in Christchurch. She is likely to race at Alexandra Park again in March and after that? “You can’t look too far ahead with a horse like this, but if she comes through her Auckland races okay then there are Australia options later in the season,” Hughes said. Duane Ranger

Waikato junior reinsmen, Ben Butcher and Dylan Ferguson, have won the North Island Trainers and Drivers Association’s Summer Series. The duo finished tied with 14 points – one more than fellow Cambridge driver, Mark Johnson. The juniors competed at five meetings starting at the Waipa meeting at Te Awamutu on December 28 and finishing at Tauranga on February 5. Northern Branch secretary, Dave Neal, said the Series was run in conjunction with Harness Racing Waikato with 14 juniors taking part. “It went right down to the wire with the Series not being decided until the last race. The first three all drove well, but others did make an impression as well. “Tony Cameron was one such driver, who only drove in two races for two victories, and Alicia Harrison who also only drove in the last two races for a first and a second,” Neal said. He said the North Island Trainers and Drivers Association were appreciative of the support given to these races by trainers, owners, and Harness Racing Waikato, which embraced the concept and ensured the races went ahead. “The standard of driving by our younger members made for an exciting finish. We want to maintain the support for our junior members who are the future of our industry. “We look forward to another series later this year. A presentation to the top three drivers will be made at a meeting later this month. They will receive gift vouchers courtesy of Rebel Sport and the Trainers and Drivers Association. Ferguson was delighted with his victory. “I didn't even realise I had won. It was great to win it because the trainers and drivers have really got behind the junior drivers. They have got races off the ground and sponsored the series which we are all grateful for. “It shows how competitive we all are with Ben and I dead-heating and then only small margins back to the next few drivers. Thanks very much,” Ferguson said. Butcher was also rapt. “It’s always good to win any race but this is a bonus. I just want to thank the Association and especially everyone who put me on their horses. “Big thanks go to Todd Macfarlane and his team for initiating the Series. I had some nice drives. I would also like to thank Dad (David Butcher) for supporting me as well. “I love driving and I love winning. I am rapt to have won this,” Butcher said. Macfarlane, the Association chairman, said the purpose of the Series was to give the juniors more opportunities. “We have a bit of sympathy for the juniors out there. There’s not a lot of opportunities for them and hopefully the series gave them a chance to accumulate points for National and Australasian competitions next year,” he said. Macfarlane said the points were allocated: five for first, four for second, three for third, four for fourth, and then one point for every other driver who lined up. “We just wanted to give something back to the industry and our committee believed this was the best option,” Pukekohe-based Macfarlane said. The Series was run on both grass and all-weather tracks. “It gave the young men and women a chance to get out in the middle more and at this stage of their careers, that’s all they need to improve. They are our future and we are pleased that we could be involved,” said Macfarlane. Final points were: 1st= Ben Butcher and Dylan Ferguson 14. 3rd Mark Johnson 13. 4th Tony Cameron 10. 5th Alicia Harrison 9. 6th Andrew Drake 6. 7th = Sean Grayling and Fergus Schumacher 5. 9th Jack MacKinnon 4. 10th = Trent Lethaby and Jacob Wallace 3. 12th Robert Argue 2. 13th Andrew Fitzgerald 1. Duane Ranger

It wasn’t quite like the late 1980s and 1990s when Todd Macfarlane was driving like a man possessed behind Special Force and Mac De Stroyer, but the Franklin reinsman showed he still hasn’t lost his prowess in the sulky at Cambridge Raceway last night (Friday). MacFarlane was the most successful driver at the Harness Racing Waikato meeting, steering home two winners and a close-up second from the seven races carded. He had good wins behind Better B Amazed (race 3) and The Lone Ranger (race 7), and was a head-second behind Youshallnotpass in the sixth event. He only had three drives. “It’s just good to be driving a better quality of horse now and I’m grateful to Steve, Chris and Stonewall Stud for the opportunities. Both horses I won behind have very promising futures,” the Pukekohe horseman said. MacFarlane made the favourite punters happy when he drove the Steve Telfer and Chris Garlick trained duo to victory. Better B Amazed paid $1.60 while The Lone Ranger returned $2.50. “Better B Amazed has always been a good pacer while The Lone Ranger has had ability but is only starting to realise it. I think they will both be in for very good seasons. I hope the stable keeps me on, because it’s been a while since I’ve sat behind good ones like these two,” he said. Macfarlane shot Better B Amazed around to the front 300m into their 1700m mobile from their widest front-row draw of seven, and from that point the race was for second. The talented 5-year-old daughter of Bettor’s Delight and Amazed stopped the clock in 2:02.4 (mile rate 1:55.9) and home in 56 even and 26.7. She had three quarters of a length and two and three quarter lengths to spare over place-getters, Lusty Mac (Philip Butcher) and Kenrick (David Butcher). It was her seventh win from 11 starts at Cambridge and 13th from 37 overall. Her stake earnings now sit at $125,755. "Any horse that can go a 1:55 mile rate has to be better than average. She's proved in the past that she's not far away from the top mares in New Zealand. She's a really nice pacer," Macfarlane said. While Better Be Amazed has confirmed her status as a quality standardbred, Macfarlane said The Lone Ranger still had some way to go. “I think the penny has finally clicked with him. Being gelded recently has obviously improved his manners. He’s always had a bit of a reputation and I think he should go on with it now. “The way he won last night was impressive. He is a high calibre pacer in the making and if he can run in amongst the field in future he certainly has the sprint to get over the top of some of the good ones,” Macfarlane said. Macfarlane eased the son of Sportswriter and Cruzee Lass away from his unruly second line draw and settled near the rear. Then with a lap remaining Macfarlane sent the 3-year-old three wide without cover and that’s where he stayed until the finish. “That was a gutsy performance. He kept giving and near the line I put the stick away. If he keeps racing like that he’s going to whip through the grades okay. It’s just a matter of nursing him early at this stage and then putting him in the race.” The Lone Ranger paced the 2200m mobile in 2:44.6 (mile rate 2:00.4) and sprinted his last 800m and 400m in 58.1 and 28 even. He had a length and a length to spare over second favourite Sem's Delight (Philip Butcher) and Stars delight (David Butcher). The Lone Ranger has now won two of his two of his 13 starts and placed in three others for $22,973. In January last year he made a nice debut winning in 2:43.5 (1:59.6 mile rate). That was also at Cambridge Raceway “It’s all about confidence with him now and I think he gained a lot of that tonight. He’s an exciting type who is certainly better than what he has shown in recent starts,” said Macfarlane, who is the chairman of the North Island Trainers and Drivers Association. Duane Ranger

Youshallnotpass has been a beaten favourite in all three of her starts, and even the quietly spoken and ever-humble Gareth Hughes believes she is due a winning turn at Cambridge Raceway tonight (Friday). The 3-year-old American Ideal filly looks one of the ‘bets of the night’ at the seven-race (71 nominations) Harness Racing Waikato meeting. Her natural progression and her ace draw should see her near or on the pace – and then win. “She’s trained on well since resuming from a couple of months away from the races. That night she finished an encouraging second and earlier on she has done a bit of work in her races so that will put her in good stead here. She’s been freshened well for this and Dad thinks she should go close,” Hughes said. The ‘Dad’ he was referring to is South Auckland trainer Brian (Bunty) Hughes. His son is the ‘silent training partner’ who does a lot of the hard yards at their Ardmore stable. Youshallnotpass will line up in the sixth event – the James' Waikato TAB Maiden Pace. All three of her starts have been at Cambridge Raceway. “She’s the only one we are taking to Cambridge and hopefully she will make the trip worth our while. She’s a big filly who still has quite a bit of developing to do. She’s starting to learn what racing is all about and will win one soon,” Hughes (Gareth) said, Youshallnotpass qualified 4.1 seconds under time at Pukekohe on January 30 last year and was then put aside before making her race debut with a second behind Opoutama on September 8. A fortnight later she finished third behind Lady Madonna and Brookes Rose, before resuming with a second behind Rocknroll Lincoln on December 30. Tonight’s she will have Todd Macfarlane in the bike for the first time after Maurice McKendry drove her in her previous three starts. McKendry is committed to the pacer he trains – Shanocon, who has drawn four on the second line. All three of Youshallnotpass’s races have been over tonight’s 2200m mobile distance. Her times have been and 2:45 flat, 2:49.1 and 2:44 even last start. “She’s got the ability to take the next step up. She is just a work in progress and even though we both like her a lot we are not thinking any further ahead than once race at a time with her. “To say she is a Jewels horse at this early stage of her career would be silly because we all know that racehorses can let you down and surprise you at the same time. All we can say is that she is a very nice pacer in the making,” said Hughes. “I think she will just keep improving because she needed those first couple of runs,” he added. Youshallnotpass also drew the ace last start and was beaten for speed early. She trailed fifth favourite Hezaluckygrinner and by the time she wound up in the straight Rocknroll Lincoln and David Butcher had stolen a march. “She unwound real nice that night and we were pleased with the way she sprinted her last 100 metres. She has the breeding to go on with it,” Hughes said. She was bred by Hughes (Bunty) and co-owner John Green. The bay filly is fourth of six foals out of the Artiscape mare, Twice As Great, who in turn was out of the five-win Butler B G mare, Twice As Great. Duane Ranger

Full Speed Ahead's versatility could ensure Todd Macfarlane's first Parawai Cup on the Thames grass on Saturday. The Art Major gelding was a gutsy last start winner of the $9,000 Armstrong Family Rotorua Grass Cup for the R66 and faster pacers last Sunday. He started from gate two and MacFarlane thinks he will again be tough to roll from the front (7) again this week. “He didn’t cop a handicap which should see him right in this. He’s such a versatile horse. You can drive him anywhere. I’d love to win my first Thames Cup behind him,” Macfarlane said. The Pukekohe reinsman drove the Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis trained 6-year-old like he was the best horse in the Rotorua Cup. They went and sat parked for the last lap and then out-muscled their nine opponents in the 2600m stand. Saturday’s Cup is the same distance. “They went slow in the Rotorua Cup and I didn’t want to get too far back so I went and sat outside the leader. He felt good and I knew he would have a bit to give because he had been racing against stronger fields in good times at Auckland,” Macfarlane said. Hackett said he would race Full Speed Ahead on the North Island Country Cups Circuit before going to Australia to complete his career. “He’s got a bit of speed and he’s won five races, so he’s no slug. You can drive him anywhere, but if he’s saved for the last run he can be very dangerous. “I like him as a driver because he gives you options,” Macfarlane said. “He’s my best drive at Thames,” he added. Full Speed Ahead will be having his first look at Thames, but proved last start that he’s more than adept on grass. He’s also won twice and placed from three starts over the distance. Toughest for Full Speed Ahead to beat could be the John and Josh Dickie trained Joanednobettor, who starts from 10m behind after winning the Te Awamutu Grass Cup on December 28. The 5-year-old Bettor’s Delight and (Josh) Dickie mare never got close in the Rotorua Cup when second favourite – and she’s way better than that. Only Hudy Haxwell (Scott Phelan) will start behind her from 20m. He’s also a winning prospect after ‘knocking on the door’ in his last three starts. The past 10 winners of the Parawai (Thames) Cup have been: 2016: The Tim Vince trained Celtic Warrior (Kyle Marshall) 3:32.8. 2015: The Arna Donnelly trained and driven Ideal Success 3:25.2. 2014: The Tony Herlihy (MNZM) trained and driven Spirit Of Art 3:30.3. 2013: The David Marshall trained Tyler Maguire (Kyle Marshall j) 3:33.2. 2012: The David Kaa trained Speedstar (Jay Abernethy) 3:55.1. 2011:The David Kaa trained Speedstar (Jay Abernethy) 3:23.9. 2010: The Mike Berger trained Phil B (Arna Donnelly) 3:25.2. 2009: The Mike Stormont trained Border Raider (Anna Stormont j) 3:34.1. 2008: The Ian Small trained Heez Justamachine (Philip Butcher) 3:28.5. 2007: The Gareth Dixon trained Tuffery (Peter Ferguson) 3:27.5. The remaining 2017 North Island Country Cups schedule is: The Wellington Cup at the Kapiti Coast on (January 27); the Otaki Cup also at the Kapiti Coast (January 29); the Tauranga Grass Cup (February 5); the Manawatu Cup (February 9); and the Wanganui Cup (February 12). Duane Ranger

Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis only train one pacer at Karioitahi Beach just west of Waiuku – and that 6-year-old gelding won the Franklin duo their first ever Rotorua Cup on Sunday. Renown for their expertise in trotting, Hackett and Wallis train a team of about a dozen and were delighted that Full Speed Ahead finally the got the reward he had been hinting at for some time now. The son of Art Major was convincing when winning the $9,000 Armstrong Family Rotorua Grass Cup for the R66 and faster pacers. Todd Macfarlane settled Full Speed Ahead second early from gate two and then went at sat parked at the bell. When most horses would have chucked in the towel in the straight, Full Speed Ahead dug real deep to beat Mo Casino (Zac Butcher) and Dikerry (Brent Mangos) by a head and a head respectively. “That was a real tough performance breezing like he did in slippery conditions. I think there is a few more wins left in him yet before the handicapping system will force us to take him to Australia. “He would be real competitive over there. He will be rated too highly here soon and there will be nothing left for him to compete in here. They’ve had six months to sort this new ratings system out it and it’s still a mess,” Hackett said. Full Speed Ahead paced the 2600m stand in 3:29.4 (mile rate 2:09.6) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 59.4 and 29 even. It was his first look at Rotorua and first win since scoring for Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen at Ashburton on December 26, 2014. He's now won five of his 22 starts and placed in five others for $36,845 in stakes. Full Speed Ahead was the $11.10 sixth favourite. "We'll just race him on the grass track circuit for now and then decide his future after that. We will start with the (Parawai) Thames Cup on Saturday," said Hackett. Full Speed Ahead’s dam Maheer Princess (by Christian Cullen) won four races for Steven Reid and Graeme Rogerson, and his grand dam Fern Glen (by New York Motoring) won 10 races for Irvin Behrns. He came north to the Hackett and Wallis barn in the middle of last year. “He’s got the breeding and is a bright horse who has nice gate speed. I think he would be a much better winning proposition on a dry Thames track,” Hackett said. Hackett and Wallis could nearly have had three wins at Rotorua’s Arawa Park. They finished a nose second in the up to R49 trot with Sundown In Paris and then three races later Princess Mackendon was a three-and-a-half length second from her 10m handicap in the R50 and faster trot. Hackett drove the former while Wallis got the chocolates on the latter. Duane Ranger

Super heroes will converge on New Plymouth Racecourse tomorrow (Thursday) and patrons will be hoping one such hero can see into the future. If he or she can do just that, then punters stand to win $150,000. That’s how much the Taranaki Trotting Club’s Pick6 will pay thanks to a $70,000 carry-over from Motukarara last week. Club secretary Carey Hobbs said it was ‘children’s day’ at the twilight meeting, and encouraged as many kids (and adults) as possible to come dressed in their super hero uniforms. “There will be more than quality racing. There will be prizes up for grabs for the kids and there will also be Kidz Kartz races and a celebrity sulky event,” Hobbs said. Racing-wise, the feature event is the $10,000 Woodlands Stud Taranaki Breeders Stakes for the 3-year-and-older R61-plus fillies and mares. It is the fifth leg of Pick6 and will be raced over the 1750m mobile. A similar $7,500 event will also be staged on Sunday at the Hawera meeting. It is a 1900m mobile. “Joining forces with Hawera was a positive move. Woodlands Stud has been a big supporter of ours for many years. We have gone above the minimum stake for this race and we are appreciative to everyone for their support,” Hobbs said. The Geoff Small trained and David Butcher driven 4-year-old mare, Ladytoro (Sands A Flyin - Lady President) won last year's edition of the Breeders Stakes on the New Plymouth grass. That event was raced on April 3 and she started from gate nine of nine. Ladytoro was the $4.90 second favourite. Small doesn’t have a representative in this year’s Breeders Stakes, but Butcher will drive the Roger Villiger trained Spare Change from a rough draw (8). Toughest for him to beat will be the Steve Telfer/Chris Garlick trained and Andre Poutama driven Rocknroll Princess (5). Butcher does have better winning chances in the first, second and fourth legs of Pick6 when he teams up three horses he trains at Cambridge. Larch (R3) has placed in his last three Cambridge Raceway starts; Chrissie Jet was a nice second two starts back at Manawatu; and Lynton Creek, ran an encouraging third, fourth, and third at Manawatu (third), and then at Cambridge Raceway. None of the 10 runners in the field have won at New Plymouth and the Fred Mitchell trained Aces N Eights (Kyle Marshall) is the only horse to have placed on the track. It’s also worth noting that the Todd Macfarlane trained and driven Millview Sienna, and the Sean McCaffrey and Ross Paynter trained Sweet Maggie Ryan (Scott Phelan) are unbeaten on grass. The former mare has a one-from-one strike rate, while the latter has won two from two on the green surface. HRNZ's Trot Tech selections to help you with Pick6 are: Race 3: Speedy Earl (1), Loki Brogden (8), Larch (3). Race 4: Collection (1), Strawb's Chippie (9), Chrissie Jet (11), Trixie Bromac (6). Race 5: Shantahlia Knight (2), This Excuse Is Fine (10), Kate Jackson (13). Race 6: Snow Raker (4), Everything (9), Tuherbs Two (1), Janron (11). Race 7: Rocknroll Princess (5), Alta Valencia (2), Sweet Maggie Ryan (9), Millview Sienna (6). Race 8: Magnum Rose (7), Anakena (1), Bubbles O'Leary (3), Mimoza (4).

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